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SUSPENDING ALL BELIEF

MakepeaceRandall Makepeace stood at the edge of the town of Craven. It was a strange hamlet, a glimpse of Armageddon long before the first volley of war. A hellish lot, Makepeace believed, not fearful of death or the wrath of God. He had plans to change all that.

There on the outskirts, his entourage set stake to ground and proceeded to raise the tents for the planned revival. It was a matter of their spiritual survival, Randall reasoned. He was sure he need to go extra heavy on the brimstone this time out. Standing at the top of Harding Avenue looking down the center of the town, he readied himself for the service.

The lack of curiosity of the town folk bothered Makepeace. Usually the looky-loos come out of the woodwork and he could “grease” the crowd; get a feel for their needs as he saw it. He wondered how to get into their heads. Randall decided to venture into town.

It seemed deserted. He could faintly hear the sounds of a radio broadcast coming from the General Store. Peering into the front window, he saw no signs of life. Strolling further up the main thoroughfare, he felt the uneasy feeling of being watched. It was starting to spook him out. In his head Randall searched for the words of Psalm 23. He couldn’t remember the passage; he just repeated “The Lord is My Shepherd…, The Lord is My…”

There, nailed to the telegraph pole he saw it. A handbill of sorts… a memo to the townsfolk(?). The memo was yellowed and faded, some letters stood out from the other as if highlighted for visibility.The entire text read:

THe town has ISsued a restriction on unwelcomed vISitors HEre. Leave us aLone!

Makepeace read the message and searched over his shoulder for a sign of some life. He found none. He heard a thumping sound emanating from his chest. His heartbeat was loud and rapid. Sweat beaded on his forehead. Out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of the memo again. Now all he read was:

THIS IS HELL

“In the name of all that is Holy, come out and be seen!” Randal demanded.

The sound of sinister laughter echoed from vacant doorways. Unseen eyes peered at him, seeing into his soul to view the hypocrite Makepeace truly was.

A thunderclap of a voice reverberated.

“GET OUT!”

“I CAN SHOW YOU THE LIGHT!” Randall Makepeace defied loudly! “IF HIS WORD DOES NOT SOOTHE YOUR HEARTS, MAY I BE STRUCK DEAD!”

The voice was silenced. The laughter resumed. Randall Makepeace should surely have made peace with his maker. His distorted body lay sprawled on the dirt, eyes wide and heavenward. His mouth grotesque and misshapen; a look of pure terror on his face, as if he had seen the devil himself.

Brother Jeppison came searching for his pastor. Strolling further up the main thoroughfare, he felt the uneasy feeling of being watched. The sound of laughter was horrifically familiar. Jeppison had heard it before. It was surely Makepeace.

“Pastor Randall?” he called.

The thunderclap of a voice resounded again.

“GET OUT!”

It was the pastor. Jeppison turned tail and ran for the tents.

“THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD, THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD, THE LORD…”

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GOSSELIN’S GALLERY – 5 JULY 1913

EXHIBIT #1 – THE COMELY WENCH

ComelyWenchCome hell or high water, she always gets her man!

Gwyneth Smulders learned young. The ways of her father were not lost on this striking lass. What she lacked in class, she made up for with her seductive glances and her handy side arm. Her wile with that revolver had resolved many a conflict and passed judgment on many an ill-advised suitor who thought her cuter that the mermaids of Clareon. Little did they know, that when this siren wailed, even Neptune swam for cover. Just over 5 foot tall, although small in stature, Gwyneth was a dynamo in a ship battle.

She had come by her skills as honestly as one of her ilk could. She inherited it along with all the booty her illustrious grandfather had pilfered and pillaged from his adventures in the “re-appropriation of bullion”! Blackbeard knew how to party. His granddaughter learned well.

Solomon Diggery would follow where ever her ship traveled. Revenge was an option Diggery always kept holstered, and bolstered by her almost apologetic glance as she left him bloodied after shooting off his jib sail, he had sought her favor. She had fancied the cut of his jib once and thought of cutting it off then and there, but a blast from her Galeon 357 handled that task with a bit more of distance between them, the way she liked it!

Gwyneth Smulders carried a torch for no man. She carried a loaded revolver for one. And come hell or high water, she always gets her man!

EXHIBIT #2 – “NIGHTINGALE’S SHADOW”

SilhouetteShipTerence Foxx had been dead, lo these many years. Pirates who lived hard and fast don’t last very long with a target on their backs. Foxx bore one that sped him toward that goal. And although his murder was neither celebrated, nor decried, it is recalled each year since his passing.

Foxx died on the third Thursday in September; an ominous and rare happenstance. It appears over the sullen horizon, a Pirate’s Moon, they call it. For in the misted evening, before the stroke of midnight’s toll you can see it balanced precariously in the distance. Round and bright and surreal, you can feel her burn. Her wrath is as fiery.

And in her brilliance you can discern the mast and trussed sails; a silhouette in the darkened skies. Foxx’s “Nightingale” sails once again, a captain-less wheel and nary a man on the rudder. A random path to hell, tacking the shadows to oblivion. Every third Thursday in September.

EXHIBIT #3 – JEPPISON’S CREST

compass1The trunk had been retrieved from the murky depths, waterlogged and in stages of deterioration. Salvage crews find the best “booty” when left to their own devices. But the Jamaican government had a strict policy. Any findings, unless direct ownership can be proved, become Jamaican historic artifacts, and that fact irritated Clavin Beauregard Jeppison. Clavin was heading up this search mission a mere knot into designated Jamaican space. One nautical mile stood between the treasure and some politician’s greed.

Jeppison and his crew had a plan. They would use tow lines and gently drag the chest across the ocean’s floor. But this was not an easy task the floor was ragged and uneven. There were wide depressions where the trunk, if sucked downward, would be lost to Poseidon. Slow and steady would be their only hope.

Clavin’s salvage boat moved methodically, as if trolling for snails. But the better part of madness would not allow him to relent when many years and dollars were exacted into this project. The submersible vessel monitored the move and all seemed on course.

But the jutting rocks hidden in the sands had other plans. A section of the rock pierced the wooden shell of the container. The only way out was up, and that would spell disaster to Clavin and his men. One last attempt to carefully coerce the box from it’s obstacle did little to dislodge it, it merely rotated it to the right.

“Hold it!” Clavin instructed. “I need a front view of that chest!”

The diver in the submersible circumvented the boulder to sit in front of their find.

“Hoo Hoo!” Clavin’s exuberance beamed. “Bring her up! Bring her up!”

The objections of the crew went unheeded. Jeppison had seen something that sealed his decision.

As they lifted the trunk to the surface, the crew remained puzzled. They did not understand why Clavin would jeopardize losing this treasure in a moment of excitement. Jeppison placed his hand over a casting emblazoned on the cover of this chest. It had the dull shimmer of tarnished silver. It was elaborate; ornate in a calamitous way. A crest. Clavin knew the crest!

The men gathered around their find, thinking Clavin has surely lost his mind. Oh, he was crazy all right! Crazy as a fox. Raising his hands to quiet the clamor, Clavin drew in a calming breath. Then, grasping his shirt he pulled it open to reveal a tattoo. A crest. The Jeppison Family Crest! It matched the adornment exactly. The chest was not a historic artifact. It was a Jeppison family artifact. Clavin had cause to celebrate. He had made the best discovery. He found himself. At least a small part of himself.

A SHOW OF SIGNS – DEMON DESCENT

tears3_preview

image courtesy of Digital Blasphemy

The Warrior knew.

Armageddon was at hand. Hell be damned.

He had seen the mark of Man left behind when He had descended, for this battle needed its Supreme Commander. Hell would be damned for sure. But not without a fight.

The agents of evil had infiltrated the gates, posing and passing as obedient servants of He who is to come again. The temptation is strong for those who are not prepared. Thankfully, Michael’s sword cut swiftly to separate the rebels from the Defenders.

The Warrior had been a Defender. He still was actually, But his “assignment” had been changed. He was to wait for the Coming and the Downfall. The mark of Man had affirmed the Arrival of Him. Now, the Warrior awaited the descent.

He remained vigilant; a sentinel charged to protect all that was Holy. His eyes were trained on the horizon. Tranquility took residence briefly, but he knew it was a matter of…

A thunderous rumble reverberated in the distant sky. A cacophony of screams and explosions; cackles and war cries. The sky became inflamed with the brightness of a million stars released from hope, each star a fallen soul discharged from the multitudes to avenge their infiltration. Plummeting to earth, scorching all that surrounded their impact to stand erect and strong; a combatant in the name of Darkness. The Warrior unsheathed his weapon; it’s glistening a signal to all.

The battle had begun.

The Warrior knew better this time.

Heaven and Hell be damned.

***

This is a continuance of one of my earliest FLASHY FICTION pieces. From “A SHOW OF SIGNS” (https://wallegories.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/a-show-of-signs/) Posted at FLASHY FICTION on 19 Jan 2010

GONE FISHING

Phil-bee woke up early. Before his mom. “Before the roosters”, like his grandpa used to tease. Actually, it was thoughts of his grandfather that enticed him to carry out this quest.

Philbin Barrett, Phil-bee for short, was grandpa’s pride and joy. Gramps was the only father Phil-bee knew, his own “a flash in the pan” as he heard his mother mention on the phone when she thought Philbin was out of the room. A mistake. A one-night stand, mom spoke in confession. Until then, Phil-bee had thought his father had died when the boy was three.

“The only redeeming quality of that man, was the little guy in the back bedroom” she was heard to interject.

So Phil-bee’s grandfather assumed the part as role model and teacher. A creature of habit was Jackson Barrett, and he taught his grandson the things Jack felt Phil-bee needed to learn in this life if he expected to go far.

All that changed as grandfather’s memory started to fade. Mom blamed some guy, an Al Shimer, for that. Ever since this Al showed up, grandpa just wasn’t the same. It was hard for Philbin to watch the only man who mattered in his life slowly become someone else. As Jack deteriorated, Phil-bee had to rely on the lessons learned from this good man. He tried to remember that man more than the person who did not recognize him any longer. Mom called it a “blessing” when Jackson Barrett had passed away.

“Gramps isn’t suffering any longer” she tried to explain to a tearful Phil-bee.

Phil-bee knew that along with being his grandfather and his teacher, Papa Jack was his friend. Phil-bee lost his BEST friend. If there was anything good in that revelation, it was that grandpa would live in his memory as long as Phil-bee kept him there.

The young boy’s mind was elsewhere as he stood next to his mom at Jack’s graveside. Philbin stared at the pile of dirt behind the square hole, watching the worms peek out and scurry back into the soil. The crowd of people that came to pay their respects was small. A few cousins, a couple of Jack’s friends from the service, Mrs. Burgess from their old apartment and the undertaker were Papa Jack’s only mourners.

Phil-bee remembered the talks he had with Jack as they sat at lakeside with their fishing line in the mossy green water. This was their classroom; where they had their best talks. Philbin needed to talk to Jack. But Jack was no longer there.

worms

“he reached into the tin can that held the wiggly worms”
(Photobucket)

Phil-bee dressed quietly, slipping his blue jeans over his spindly legs. He zipped his jacket right up to his chin and grabbed his ball cap. He gave the doorknob a soft turn and stepped out onto the back deck. Reaching down behind the deck chair, Philbin took the dented tin can that he had placed there last night.

The sun was coming up over the treetops as Phil-bee settled on the shore at their favorite fishing spot. The boy nestled into the moist grass as he reached into the tin can that held the wiggly worms that were distracting him at Grandpa’s funeral. With a shaky finger, Phil-bee hooked a fat worm. As he baited his hook (just like grandpa had taught him) Philbin started to talk out loud.

“Hey Grandpa Jack. It’s a good morning for fishing. I saved your spot…” Phil-bee started his long monologue.

In the early morning mist, a boy and his grandfather shared another moment discussing life and the future. Well, Phil-bee talked, and he was sure grandpa was listening. He had cast his line into the water a few times, but wasn’t having any luck. But it didn’t matter. Jack always said a bad day of fishing was better that anything he could think of.

Phil-be had talked himself out. He had told Grandpa Jack all he needed to say. He thanked Jack for being his Gramps and for teaching him stuff; for not being “a flash in the pan”. Phil-bee was honored to have been given time to be with Jack Barrett. He found peace there. Phil-bee forgave Al for taking Jack so soon.

“I love you, Grandpa!” Phil-bee tearfully whispered.

Philbin felt the tug on his line. He knew his grandfather loved him too.

HONORS AND AWARDS

ShoesIt was the greatest tribute he could have been given.

He lived a honorable life; a loving husband, a doting father. He was the perfect son and brother, a hard-working employee and he did works of charity. Christopher Blandings only did what he had been put on this earth to do.

There were times that he wondered if it was all worth the trouble. Christopher was never one for accolades and acknowledgements; most of his meanderings were done in the strictest anonymity. It was just that the world seemed so out of step with the morals he was raised upon. People never seemed to understand or appreciate the way things were. Blandings was baffled.

His wife sympathized with her mate, but being almost a decade younger than he, she straddled the fence between the generations. But she believed in his good and kind heart. She loved his honesty and his loyalty. He surprised her on occasion with breakfast in bed or a tender back rub. And he had a fire burning deep within him that made Jessica lose control. There was nothing bland about Blandings.

She loved her man. She loved Christopher right up to the day he died. Sadness and grief were not emotions to which she prescribed. Jessica knew life was a celebration. And death was clearly an extension of that celebration. In his passing, she saw that her Christopher did not go unnoticed. As the funeral processed to the cemetery she became aware of something. The telephone wires were adorned with shoes. Their laces bound together, they were tossed aloft to wrap around the overhead lines. There were well over a hundred pairs hanging; she witnessed people removing their footwear and adding to the milieu.

Puzzled, she questioned the undertaker. His explanation brought a tear to her eye and a flicker in her already gracious heart.

“When a person passes, tradition had the mourners remove their shoes and by draping the secured pairs over the wires, pay homage to the person so loved. The more shoes that dangled, the more respected was the deceased.” he informed.

Again Jessica looked. And the tear were more abundant now. The entire route to his resting place was graced with shoes. Hundreds and hundreds of pairs pointed to his life as one well lived; having touched many hearts.

It was the greatest tribute he could have been given.

GOSSELIN’S GALLERY – 25 Jan 2013

'Twin bicycles stood near the front entrance of the abode"

‘Twin bicycles stood near the front entrance of the abode”

EXHIBIT #1 – IN TANDEM

Twin bicycles stood near the front entrance of the abode. It was cozy. A lovely little cottage where life found a way to flourish. Richard used to tease Talia that it was a great home for a swinging bachelor.

“Or for a young couple just starting out… if they were really in love!” he teasingly amended.

It remained home for him after she had passed. He was reluctant to change anything. Richard felt that Talia had worked so hard to make this a proper home and besides, it reminded him of her loving hand in every nuance of this place, he decided to leave it intact.

For forty-three years, they had shared a simple home; their hovel was more of a palace in their eyes. The lack of offspring became a convenient reason to stay.

“This is a great place for the two of us” Talia would mimic, “if only we were in love!” We couldn’t possibly squeeze any children into this small space.”

There was always sadness in her voice when she admitted this. Oh, how much Richard wished it was a problem with his “plumbing”, and not her cancer riddled ovaries. He was glad that early detection had bought them so much time. So what if the had no children, it was the trade-off that gave Richard and Talia a lifetime together.

He held fast to his resolve. The divan would remain by the window. Their chairs would remain side-by-side at the far end of the living room. And the bicycles they used to ride around the villa would stay shackled near the front door. Talia would have wanted it that way.

EXHIBIT #2 – WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM…

"She wanted more out of life than a 32 inch phosphorous screen."

“She wanted more out of life than a 32 inch phosphorous screen.”

Chester was a glutton for information. Where everyone had a favorite television program that they would watch and comment upon, Chester’s show ran four times a day. He could be found as a fixture on his couch, remote control at hand at five and six, ten and eleven.

News was his addiction; his obsession. He could tell you the price of oil in Kuwait, and which despotic dictator ran roughshod over his populace. Which celebrity did what with whom. What parts of the county could expect heavy snowfall… Any bit of minutia was fodder for Chet’s fertile mind.

And the world around Chester still went around. Neighbors came and went. So did his wife. She had enough of the constant barrage of depressing news. She wanted to laugh. She needed to dance. She wanted more out of life than a 32 inch phosphorous screen.

And his show continued on. Daily death and destruction. Weekly features about foregone conclusions. Analysis and more analysis. But life as he had once known it had changed. It had been interrupted. And he had never noticed.

—–

"The leather valise landed on the chair near the desk."

“The leather valise landed on the chair near the desk.”

EXHIBIT #3 – HIDEAWAY

Daniel Cavanaugh had finally found success. The latest of his manuscripts had been accepted for publication. It was indeed a proud moment and just the encouragement he needed to further pursue hid ambition.

Cavanaugh had “pretended’ to be a writer for twenty-two years. Always with something to say, or so he thought, he had ideas galore but very little time to hone his already precarious position.

So Daniel packed a small bag and headed for the cabin near Fielding Lake. It was an escape that his family had taken advantage of all these many years. Peace and serenity oozed from the landscape and Daniel knew it was his best shot at completing his latest project.

The place was… rustic. It needed some work, but that would have to wait until he had finished his draft. Cavanaugh took note of the broken hinge on the screen door. A family of birds had nested under the south eave. They added atmosphere; character. It was just the right setting.

He removed the coverlets from the furniture. He dusted off the desk near the rear picture window overlooking the water. Daniel set a pot of coffee to brew. The leather valise landed on the chair near the desk. He stretched his arms out wide and breathed the fresh lake air.

It had been years since his parents had gone leaving him this property. It was almost as many since his face had graced this place. It was always a home away from the confines of home. It was peaceful and serene.

“Work can wait” Daniel mused. “I’ll just enjoy being ‘home'”.

Amidst the water’s splash and the wilderness noises, Daniel fell asleep upon the couch. Work waited. It had little choice.

LIFE AFTER DEATH

“It is required of every man,” the ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and, if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death.”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Marley’s ghost haunts still. It was His will to offer me absolution and contrition, but Marley’s mission seems to go beyond that. He has become somewhat of a practical joker. Never mind the poorhouse, Marley had better go to the nuthouse and reduce the surplus population of whatever plane he is assigned to remain upon.

I praise high heavens for the transformation I was afforded. Nephew Fred has embraced the opportunity to take this old fool back into the familial fold.

Cratchett is a devoted partner and friend; more friend than Marley ever was, I’d say without a doubt. But if it was without young Tim, I’d never had gotten him to branch out and become the clark I expected.

Tim. He walks amongst us as if his deformity was not at all normality. I assure him it was we who were crippled in our minds to find him less alive in his malady.

I work less; I walk more. More involved as a human being than being a businessman. And all the better for it, I might add.

The true spirits visit as well, but in celebration of the man I have become. Even the Future Spirit smiles more; at least he does not waggle his boney finger in my direction as much. For that I am most grateful. A fool and his money are happily separated when it is used to fete humanity. To Hades with vanity, Scrooge will be as good a man as this world has seen lo these many Christmases. God bless us, I have tried.