Shifting David

David Stinson was a cautious young man. At twenty-four years, he had done little in his life without carefully weighing the pros and cons of each decision. Whatever led him into the dark backstreets of New York on a particularly cool October night remains a mystery but, in his haste to get home, he shrugged off the nagging threat to stay on the main streets.

On occasion, a cat would rummage through aluminum trash bins and startle him. He turned up his collar against the biting wind and carried on his way. Brittle leaves danced across his path, the scuttling sound they made reminded him eerily of rats in an attic. If it weren’t for the distant chaos of car horns and the loud ramblings of crazed homeless men, he’d be utterly alone in the world.

To calm his frazzled nerves, David escaped to the safe place in his mind that his high school counselor helped him create when he suffered from panic disorder. So in tune he was to his fabricated surroundings, he didn’t register the alien sound of footsteps swiftly closing the gap until they were upon him.

For a moment, he was walking in his own little world and, the next, he lay face-first on the ground with the metallic taste of blood flooding his mouth. He rolled onto his back to cast a reproachful glare at a group of four men, but quickly changed perspective. The absence of light in the dim street cast shadows over their features displaying deep, obscure eyes and malevolent sneers. David swore they were demons. As they punched and kicked, they shouted out to him; aggressive, angry, and oddly joyful voices rang out, but he hardly registered what they said. He did understand one word–a name–repeated several times. Mitch. Desperation set in as he tried to guard his face with his arms. His muffled protests went unheeded. Efforts to convince the men that they had the wrong guy fell on deaf ears as his universe turned black and he fell blissfully unconscious.

Although David lay in the street for hours, lifeless and vulnerable, before anyone found him, he did have a visitor soon after his attackers left. He didn’t sense the man’s hand rummaging through his pockets to locate his wallet, nor was he ever aware of what the stranger left in its place. In time, David was rescued, and he came to several days later in a brightly lit hospital room. His throat was raw and constricted from the tubes running from his mouth and nose and a contraption reminiscent of many psychological thrillers secured his head. He had no idea how the rest of his body looked. An intravenous liquid pumped a narcotic through his veins in a steady rhythm and he felt gratefully calm. It wasn’t long before darkness overtook him once more.

When he woke again, it appeared that he had only just fallen asleep, but it might have been days. The only thing he recognized for sure was the instinct which alerted him that he wasn’t alone. His eyes darted around his limited field of vision, and a face came into view. His face. Blinking a few times to refocus, David stared back at his own image smiling down at him. Many thoughts ran through his head; at the forefront sat the possibility that this was a messed up out-of-body experience. The question flared in his expression and the “other David” seemed to have understood.
“You’re not crazy,” he assessed. “I’m Mitch Bailey. Or … I used to be.” His eyes shifted to one side as he deeply considered the statement. “I’m actually David now, and you get to be Mitch.” He walked around the bed, temporarily removing himself from the prone man’s line of sight. “I know it’s confusing, but I’ll explain. It’s the least I can do.” Mitch–or David, as he now called himself–shared this new information. Born identical twin brothers, David’s adoption happened early on, but Mitch faltered in the system and ultimately turned to a life of crime, making powerful enemies. He was aware David existed only because he saw him one day from a distance. With skilled conniving and a little investigative work, he learned what he had to of David’s situation. His brother’s current demise wasn’t a result of any plan Mitch had made, but it worked in his favor. He witnessed the assault David took on his account. When the group of men finished and left, he ran over and switched their wallets, so David would be mistaken for Mitch when the hospital checked him for identification.

“I have to admit,” stated Mitch, “I wish they killed you right away. I need Mitch to be dead now, or they’ll never stop looking for me.” David’s eyes widened in horror as his brother’s plan became clear. “Don’t worry about your folks, though, as far as they know their darling son is alive and well.”

David tried screaming out, but no sounds came through the tubes in his throat. With all his might he tried to move even a single finger, but his paralysis was enduring. The familiar beat of his ventilator pumping life-sustaining oxygen into his battered body suddenly ceased and his lungs began to burn. His eyes bulged as he struggled to breath, his expression pleading with Mitch to reconsider. No alarms sounded alerting the nurses that he was in distress … nobody was coming to save him. David’s brain fired off the last few occurrences of activity it had left and everything went dark. Vacant orbs stared into nothingness and Mitch gently closed his eyelids, delivering him ultimately to the unknown. Before Mitch slipped from the room, he methodically plugged David’s monitoring equipment back in and enveloped the room in high-pitched alarms. The nurses would think he simply passed in his sleep and think no more of it.

After all, David Stinson was a cautious young man.

~March 16, 2017

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Frownin’ Red Ryan

Ryan was barely a man when he first climbed aboard the Sea Witch. Having been fortunate enough to be born into a family of nobles, his upbringing included etiquette and a finer education. To his parent’s dismay and utter humiliation, the young man had been expelled from the finest school in all of Britain, when it was discovered that he had repeatedly failed to attend classes, instead opting to hide away in the school library pouring over history books and news articles outlining pirate activity. Now, the shaggy red-headed eighteen year old stood tall among a line of ragged sea dogs, his inexperience doing nothing to diminish his pride.

“So, this be me new crew!” a deep, raspy voice bellowed across the poop deck.

Barossi had been the captain of the Sea Witch for over thirty years and had managed to retain most of the original crew during that time. A recent battle with his rivals ” the Diamond Sail ” left his ship depleted of manpower. Many came to the call of his recruitment and they hollered out the expected “aye” in response to the captain’s obvious statement. A high-pitched, cracked voice rose above the roar of men’s voices.

“Yes sir!” Ryan replied,

Barossi slowly made his way towards the boy. The heavy heels of his boots pounded against the wooden planks and echoed loudly across the bay. The ship’s crew was deathly silent. He stopped in front of Ryan and took him fully in from head to toe and back up again. Ryan was impeccably groomed. His tan waistcoat and matching breeches were perfectly tailored, and his polished knee high boots reflected the captain’s irritated expression. Ryan had a wide, toothy grim stretched across his pudgy cheeks. Barossi sneered.

“What’re ye smilin’ fer, boy?” he hollered. “Suren yer on the wrong ship. The fancy-pants crew is dockin’ from the other pier.”

“Oh, no sir,” Ryan replied proudly. “This is the Sea Witch. This is where I belong!” The boy’s smile never faltered. The old captain walked away, wide-eyed and defeated.

“This crew’ll be the death o’ me,” he muttered as he entered his quarters. “Well, get on it, then!” The ship ain’t gonna set itself out t’ sea you scurvy dogs!” He slammed the door behind him, ineffectually hiding away from the noise of his bumbling new crew.

They had their heading. The Sea Witch was on a direct course for a small uncharted island off the coast of Somalia. Barossi received word about a pirate’s bounty stored in a cave there, protected by a voodoo witch. He had his doubts, but the reports of the treasure were far too great to pass up.

The six week journey was uneventful. Some minor storms had hit in the second week out to sea, but Ryan smiled through each tribulation as the annoyed captain repeatedly threatened to wipe the grin off of the boy’s foolish face. The summer sun had turned Ryan’s cheeks into bright pink apples and that, along with his shock of red hair, soon earned him his pirate name, Red Ryan. He carried the moniker like a badge of honor.

The Sea Witch reached the island in record time, mostly due to Red Ryan’s knowledge of ships and because of his uncanny ability to mediate between the edgy crew members, preventing fights from breaking out. A happy pirate was a working pirate and little time was wasted in settling scores.

The ship was anchored and the captain set out with a small crew in a rowboat. Red Ryan, being the only one who could read other than the captain, was awarded a place upon that rowboat so that he could read the vague instructions printed lightly on the map.

The captain had been following the map’s general direction to the large red X. Near the marking, was a simple cryptic phrase.

The height of the X
When sun’s low in the West

After about an hour’s trek through the thick undergrowth of the islands forest, they reached a clearing. It was no more than a basin, surrounded by mountains and sporadically dotted with Acacia trees, some dead and bent over another as though they were looking for support.

“Well!” Barossi roared. “This be the spot on the map, so where’s me cave?” The men started scanning the base of the mountains surrounding them, looking for a possible entrance.

“Sir,” Red Ryan approached the captain, “I do believe this is a waste of time. We should instead be trying to decipher the meaning of the diction on the map.”

“Diction?” Barossi repeated the word cynically.

“Yes, sir. It means ‘phrase’.”

“I know what it means!” the captain bellowed, angry at the boy’s indignation. “Don’t be wastin’ yer prissy words on me, boy. Ye ain’t a pirate, and ‘til ye stop smilin’ like everythin’s a game, ye’ll never be a pirate…savvy?”

The corners of Red Ryan’s mouth dropped, but a hint of a smile still played upon his lips, as he went back to studying the map. A thought suddenly struck him. He walked to the west side of the basin and turned his back towards the mountains. There before him, stood two trees, crossed over in an X formation. He looked to the tops of the trees, the height of the X, but there was nothing indicating that a cave was nearby. His eyes fell to the ground, and that’s when he saw it ” a perfectly formed X created by the shadow of the trees. The top of the X pointed toward the base of an eastern mountain, but it had already been determined that there was no cave there. Red Ryan looked behind him and up over the top of the western mountain. The sun was still fairly high in the sky, so he sat down and waited, watching the shadow move as

the sun made its way toward the horizon.

Just as the sun was falling behind the western mountain the X shadow rose up to the highest peak of the eastern mountain. As it did, the sun shone brightly against the face and illuminated a small passage only visible within the sharp angel of the X shadow. Red Ryan jumped to his feet in excitement.

“Sir! There it is!” He ran over and grabbed the captain’s sleeve, shaking it violently. If it hadn’t been for the fact that Red Ryan found the cave’s entrance, the captain surely would have run him through for such an act.

The group started their steady climb into the mountain, and before long, they had reached the entrance. Barossi peered in and tried to adjust his eyes to the gloomy interior. It was a tunnel, and the treasure was surely somewhere at the end of it.

“Well, boy. Yer the one who found it, so ye should be the first one in.”

Barossi bestowed a great honor upon Red Ryan, and the boy beamed with pride. What he didn’t realize was that Barossi didn’t care to be the first one to meet the voodoo witch. They lit torches and followed the boy through the tunnel at a fair distance. It wasn’t a long tunnel, and they soon reached a chamber. It was empty except for a small coffer that sat alone in the middle of the cavern.

“Go on boy,” Barossi gave Red Ryan a nudge, “get it and let’s get outta here.”

Red Ryan took a few steps towards the chest when a cloud of black smoke temporarily blinded him. He rubbed at his eyes, and when the stinging dissipated, he found himself face to face with a short, round woman wearing a dress made entirely of dried branches and leaves. She crinkled her nose at him and her lips opened to expose several blackened teeth ” the rest were simply gone. Red Ryan jumped back a few paces before regaining his composure.

“Oh,” he said. “I am pleased to make your acquaintance, my fine lady.” He smiled widely and imitated a long sweeping bow in her direction. The witch regarded him suspiciously.

“Whaddya want?” she screamed. Red Ryan could hear the rest of the crew behind him, shuffling quietly as they back away.

Clearing his throat and attempting to sound as refined as possible he answered her.

“We have come from afar in hopes that you would be willing to allow us to partake in that lovely chest by your dainty feet.”

The witch lifted an eyebrow incredulously and looked past Red Ryan, to the captain who stood quietly by. Barossi only shrugged. Snapping her attention back to Red Ryan, a wide grin appeared on her hairy cheeks. It contrasted significantly with the smile the boy had managed to retain the whole time.

“And what would ye be willin’ t’ do t’ get yer hands on me treasure?” the witch asked. Ryan stuttered, unsure of what the homely-looking woman wanted in return.

“Would ye give an old woman a tender kiss?” Her smile widened and Red Ryan’s face blanched at the notion. He straightened his back and did his best to strengthen his resolve.

“O…old? M…my fine lady, you are not old,” his smile this time was notably fake and he glanced back to the captain who now glared at Red Ryan, warning him not to do anything stupid. “I would be most honored in sharing a tender moment with such an endearing young creature.”

“Lies!” the witch screamed again. “Ye dare to speak lies t’ me? Ye want t’ stand there, smilin’ in me face and mockin’ me intelligence? Fer this, ye will never smile again!”

The witch uttered a few unintelligible words and flung her hand out toward Red Ryan. He felt as though he’d been slapped hard in the face and fell back, landing on the ground with a thud. After he caught his breath, he lifted his hand to face and felt the corners of his mouth turned down into a scowl. He smiled ” he knew in his heart and his mind that he was smiling ” but on his face remained a frown.

The crew watched in fear, cowering by the cavern’s exit and hoping the witch would forget they were there. She didn’t. Instead of punishing them, however, she grinned at them sweetly as she walked over and placed a hand on the coffer.

“The chest be yers, capt’n,” she stated kindly. “Take it and go. Ye are never t’ return.” With that last statement, she disappeared as quickly as she came.

When the crew returned to the ship, Red Ryan went below to sit on his bunk and sulk while the rest gathered around the chest, eager to see what was inside. The captain broken the lock and slowly lifted the lid. As the crew drew in closer to get a better look, a vapor rose up from the chest and surrounded them. They didn’t notice it at first, as they admired the collection of gemstones contained in the chest, but one by one, the crew began to collapse. The vapor stole away their life force and within minutes, every crew member aboard the ship was dead…except for Red Ryan, who was safely

hidden below.

Red Ryan heard the thumping on the deck above and decided to stop brooding long enough to see what was going on. He reached the deck just as the vapor returned to the chest and shut the lid, laying in wait for the next victim to come along. The young man understood immediately what had happened here. He had read enough in books to know when a treasure was cursed. He picked up the heavy chest and hoisted it into the sea, hoping that it never found its way back from its watery resting place.

The crew was given a decent sea burial, and once it was done, Red Ryan stood atop the quarter deck with the captain’s wheel steady in his hand. He set his course toward the Caribbean. He would acquire a new crew and spend the rest of his days as Frownin’ Red Ryan, captain of the Sea Witch and the most educated pirate to sail the seas.

The Lost Art of Tuning Out

As a child, I was mesmerized with the extraordinary ability my mother had to simply “tune things out”. As she sat, nose in book, with the telephone resonating it’s urgent message, demanding to be picked up, and the dog barking through the window at the cat across the street, I often wondered if her quiet mastery was somehow related to a hearing problem. It wasn’t.

I spent my years in quiet frustration as a student, trying to study with the distraction of my two sisters arguing, and the washing machine spinning, secretly envious of my mother’s special power and wishing I had inherited it. I would eventually learn that the art of tuning out was a skill, long years in development with the requirement of specialized equipment – namely, children.

I have three children. Noisy, argumentative distractions that have a keen sense of the perfect moment to hit me up for some money or ask for a privilege that would have normally been denied. As I sit, typing away at my latest epiphany of a novel, I hear them asking me…something. Eager to finish my thoughts on the screen, I’m all too happy to give them whatever their heart desires, often to my own demise.

My mother had balance. That is what I was missing. She knew when to ignore, and when to really listen – an adroitness I failed to pick up. I spent hours in silent meditation, looking for the difference between perfect solitude and a general lack of reasonable thought process. Meditation worked wonders for my inner sanctity and is still an important part of my every day life, but I still failed to find harmony in my chaotic life. I recently spent some time studying my cat – the master of oblivion – only to realize that his little ear-jerks meant that he heard everything.

It came to me then. I called my cat’s name and it went unheeded, until I shook the little pouch containing his favourite treat and he was at my feet within seconds. The art of tuning out doesn’t mean that you hear nothing – you hear everything, and allow your mind to subconsciously decide what is important. All this time, I’ve been practicing the act of ignorance – the desire to be alone forces one to react in a negative way.

I have since detached myself of my desire for quiet (nearly), and have found that some things are better heard. My children are happier with a mother who takes the time to listen, no matter what daunting tasks build up before her, and I find myself a more patient person. Accepting that life has it’s distracting moments has made me less agitated as I feel the gentle tap on my shoulder, accompanied by my husband’s voice in my ear, “Honey? Didn’t you hear the children fighting?”.

Little Soup Pot

Little soup pot, short and wide,

What memories are found inside.

A recipe from grandma’s book,

When, as a child, I learned to cook.

 

Little Soup pot, chipped and worn,

When family merged and love was born.

Happiness was just the start,

And in that pot I found my heart.

 

Little soup pot, years have passed,

As I wipe the dust from you, at last.

Grandma’s gone and I’m alone,

My heart is longing to be home.

 

Little soup pot, live again,

Grandma’s soup – a perfect blend.

An eagerness I cannot hide,

For a taste of home dwells deep inside.

Little Child

Little child, so far from home
What do you seek out there while you roam?
Your heart has been broken, your dreams have all died
The ache in your soul you try so hard to hide

Listen child, for I’ve felt your pain
I know of the anger you fight to restrain
Despair is a dagger that cuts to the bone
But running away makes you feel more alone

Dear child, the horizon can never be yours
Return to your life, open your doors
The past is forgotten, the future unclear
So focus your strength on today, while you’re here

My child, your colours are beginning to show
Your purpose in life permitted to flow
You may be one person, but shadow your fear
Your conviction speaks loudly to those who are near

Brave child, the world needs your strong embraces
People look to you with hope on their faces
The battles you win will make your hands steady
The universe waits upon you to be ready

Go child, the time has come to be strong
This has been your path all along
You’ll change the world and cast off the night
You’ll be a hero, but you must stand and fight

The Awakening

My weary mind passed through into another world, another time.
The visions that enchanted me were morose, but yet sublime.
Through forests deep and intricate my aching heart could roam,
and silent whispers called to me and told me I was home

It seems I walked for ages, when I saw a wondrous sight,
and thought my eyes deceived me in the failing of the light;
but there he stood, great and stark, protector of the wood.
I had no need to speak a word, the shepherd understood.

He led me to an unusual place, where the Calendula grew,
and showed to me the abandoned tomb of someone I once knew.
My tears flowed down like a river stream, and drowned me in regret;
it pained me to remember, so I had let myself forget.

My fingers softly brushed across my lordship’s name in stone,
and for the moment I suffered like I was once more left alone,
but something summoned my attention, a solitary plea;
my king begged me not to despair, for he was still with me.

Concord

A fate of a twisted moon beyond
becomes a love’s dedication song
to weld the soul’s brittle bond.

To see how harsh winter’s wind still blows
a distance traveled desert rose
come to cease my adverse prose.

Row upon row of anguished hearts
a battle to find true love imparts
to vanquish pain’s dramatic arts.

Look no more upon my tears
but heal the wounds bane of spears
and facilitate my mind of fears.

My weary anger no more resists
your lips upon my unclenched fists
as we steal away into the mist.

No more, no more, malevolence exists…