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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…”

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.

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.

CHANGING THE CHANNEL


Penelope sat in her study. Once her husbands den, she had claimed it from underfoot when he had the audacity to die on her before their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Surrounded by her beloved books and her feathered quill waiting to be usurped from the well, she was of a mind to write.

She was the author of several books, putting her on par with Browning, and the Bronte sisters, and Alcott. And her style was rather random. She could perfectly mimic Samuel Clemens (which she preferred to Mark Twain), and she loved to emulate Whitman. But she grew impatient. Penelope dreaded to be kept waiting.

Her pampered Persian cat began to stir. Chantel rarely fussed. It was finally time. Penelope closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. When she opened her eyes, they remained rolled back into her head with only the whites visible.

With implement in hand, Penelope started to scratch the nib across the parchment rapidly. Pages flipped and fell; she blotted as quickly as she wrote. Page became chapter; chapter turned to volume, and thus she created.

With the last word written, Penelope slumped face down on her writing desk, smudging India Ink on her right temple. Her eyes returned to normalcy. Her session was over.

Penelope raised into a more formal sitting position, brushing a tendril of brown hair behind her ear. And she spoke to no one in particular.

“Thank you, Mr. Wordsworth! That was a remarkable exchange!” she smiled very much pleased with herself.

“And William? Let us be prompt next time I summon. I hate to be kept waiting” she resounded a final parting shot.