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Commentary On History: What Is History And The Art Of Not Teaching It?

cropped-12301412301.jpg“Teachers open the door; but you must enter by yourself.” Chinese Proverb.

History is not taught anymore. The epic that is known as history is the most fascinating of all human subjects. History is not boring. The only thing boring about history is done by those who fail to understand it’s full story and or nic-pic what they will teach or take notice of and leave out. There are boring teachers or at least teachers who I really wonder like the subject they are teaching except as soapbox to vent at the history their teaching. That’s the problem with the modern classroom for the history student, it’s not about history anymore and it becomes a room for the bored and those who had no interest in the beginning and will never have an interest in the subjects being taught. History should not nic-picked to make a political point more than actually studying the why’s and who’s of the events studied. What happened to history was that it became taught by those with agenda’s and it wasn’t to teach actual history. I wonder sometimes if the teacher changed because they became bored with the subject and the political cause-effect of today is to turn on history and make it a call for social justice and demand for the destruction of the monuments of history sounds so much more gratifying. Their not teaching history and they have no desire to educate their students. Their bored because there is no public recognition for their efforts to simply educate the kids in their classrooms.

I’ve had a few dull teachers of my favorite subject. Dull might be too strong a word for the teacher in question, but he didn’t inspire much for one to look deeper into the subject at hand. It’s possible to be someone with the historical facts at hand and think you’re being a good teacher. Being a good teacher isn’t about simply reporting facts and figures to those student’s actually paying attention. To teach is to inspire thought and a desire to look further into the subject being talked about. Some teachers inspire nothing except the belief that history is boring; which it isn’t if taught correctly. I think most teachers are pretty average in their abilities and passions for the subject; some are just better at it because they care about history not an agenda of some kind. Teaching is also a two-way journey to understanding of past events. It’s basic teaching 101 that it’s a two-way collaboration facts and thoughts and the interchange of the teacher-student. What is so difficult in conveying the importance of Alexander The Great, (365 BC-232 BC), and his impact and influence on the Hellenization of Judaism  and it’s impact on the history of the Jewish people and their culture; what’s the problem? This is not a very complicated history to relate to people so they would understand that Greek culture probably had a double-edged sword impact on the history of the Jewish people that is still felt today. What is the problem? The Hellenization of the Jewish mind and culture in some ways is what preserved the Jewish people from complete extinction? In some ways it did. It forced them to once and for all declare, define, and defend what they believed and what they thought of God, themselves, and their relationship to history and the future.

History is not a difficult subject to teach if you have a passionate love for it and simply love to teach it. If you passionately love the subject then it should never come across as anything but very interesting and never dull. Teaching is the ability to convey a subject so passionately and so needful for further research into the subject at hand. On has to have a deep rooted interest, passion and even hunger for a subject and have the ability to convey it’s importance to be a good teacher. The subject needs to be told, retold, and told again in such a way that it’s impossible for the student to not want to know and know more than the teacher is relaying. Teaching information is easy because that’s what names, dates, and places are at home in. Names are easy. Anyone with a small amount of historical learning knows who Thomas Jefferson, (1743-1826), is and what he said and did; though in this present climate of education one never knows what facts and fiction is being taught as the same thing. Sadly what is being taught isn’t even basic history anymore, it’s more opinion and rewriting of the history than actual facts of the man and works of Jefferson; mostly what is taught is he owned slaves as if that and that alone was his sole occupation of the 3rd President of the United States of America. Most students are not taught a passion for a subject anymore, they barely get taught history enough to form any sense of a liking for history. It’s lazy dispensing of information that with never spark any kind of fire to influence the student for further reading and study. The teacher who never inspires is not a teacher but simply a talker with not much to say or a propagandist with an ideology to indoctrinate their students with. That is what education has become and that is why students don’t have a real love or understanding let alone desire to understand the subject of history. What is taught as history when it comes to Thomas Jefferson seems to begin with Sally Hemings, (1773-1835),  and end with Sally Hemings and not much else. Slavery is the only thing I believe most students of today will ever be taught as worth knowing about Jefferson. Ask an average student who Jefferson’s best friend was and what their relationship was and when did they both die; July 4th, 1826 they both died. There is a history of men and a friendship worth studying and worth the teacher’s effort to gain a fellow lover of history and it’s quest for more information, but it wont happen. History today is no longer about history, it’s about ideology of revisionist history and of political correctness that is only interested in the sins of history and certainly slavery as their primary teaching and never allowing it to be forgotten. It’s the tragedy of Thomas Jefferson and his friend, John Adams, (1735-1826), that their lives have been reduced to historical soundbites; unless of course slavery can be introduced. The real men have been replaced with political correctness and the historical revisionist pen and what is put in place is one-dimensional men with only one thing on their minds and lives worth discussing and that would be their stance on slavery. The teacher of history is not history if you are simply choosing what you want to teach and ignore the rest of the story as Paul Harvey, (1918-2009),  would have said on his radio broadcast.

History is about the obvious and that is humanity. To be a teacher worth listening to let alone worth remembering one must have a quality that makes a student listen with all their attention. For me personally my first real teacher of history was in my Freshman year of High School at Valencia High School in California, Mr. Cyrus; he had a special fondness for Cyrus the Great, (600 B.C-530 B.C), and I wonder why. What I remember was his teaching on Ancient Civilizations; he made it fascinating to me and sparked an interest in those people’s of so long ago. How can one not like the history of those ancient names and civilizations of the Sumerians, Chaldeans, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, and of course my favorite, Jews, and all the others before and after; Greeks, Romans, etc. Mr. Cyrus started the spark with making the subject interesting, putting a passion behind his teaching, and making the subject worth learning more about. It was a spark, it was a beginning toward a passion for history. I’ve had a few other good history teachers, mostly Mr. Bruggerman from Century Collage in Minnesota; though he pushed me more to learn more of Minnesota history than anything, he was a good teacher. I enjoyed his classes on World History, United States History; I took enough of them so he must have been fairly good at his job. The other was Professor Moran who taught a class on Asian History which I found very fascinating.

The point of these three men of teaching history is they had an impact on a student. That is the major point and goal of teaching anything. They inspired a student to simply think outside the text book and classroom. They had a level of passion for the subject that they were able to show that was important in their daily teaching. It’s a shame that too much of what passes as teaching is nothing more than parrot teaching that teaches nothing, inspires nothing, and creates nothing in their students because it’s nothing but names, dates, and places with no filling in the important minute details of the human life and condition. When did teaching become so lazy and without a real point other than a ideological one with a political correctness spin to it? Maybe Rudyard Kipling, (1865-1936), was correct about our modern view of how to teach history, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” But isn’t that what history is at the core? Isn’t that what every life really is? But would Kipling’s philosophy work even today in this era of political correctness and rewriting history because the historian didn’t like the way it went the first time around. We don’t live in the era of looking at all sides of history, no, we are in the era of picking and choosing what one will like and what one will ignore because it doesn’t pushes an agenda.

The history being taught today is not about the past anymore as a real flesh and blood story but of an agenda by those not interested in the human side of history. Today’s historian is more about real or imagined wrongs being dragged through the modern sensibilities of the modern era where one must be offended by something. The idea of tearing down statues or changing the names of lakes is going to change or erase from history the origins of those things is foolishness. You cannot erase history  by destroying that which you convince yourself as offensive to your view of history. History is a fact of the past and rewriting it doesn’t change that one single second. The P. C. crowd or revisionists of history thinks they are doing a great service by this idea that anger and violent actions will solve the wrongs of the past. They’ll destroy history to create their own in a sterile version where no one wants to do anything but keep up the status quo. The history of the P. C. crowd seems one of simply wanting to be angry that the past was what it was and can’t be changed. The facts of history is that slavery existed in Colonial America. It’s a fact. No one argues the facts of the horrors and inhuman treatment of slaves in this country. No one denies the facts of this of the human condition for the African’s forced into slavery. It’s not a sole black history issue, it’s a human issue because both sides were part of the historical ramifications of the slave trade. But to listen to certain historians and P. C. believers one would think that America invented slavery and still has slavery in this country.

The American Civil War, (1861-1865), ended slavery in this country at the cost of over 600,000 America lives in a very bloody and costly war. But to listen to some teachers of American history all that matters is slavery and only slavery and all things slavery must be constantly brought up because slavery is the sin of all Americans whether they owned or didn’t even see a black person their whole lives. It doesn’t matter that history contradicts their teaching of American history as a whole they only see slavery and will only see slavery and never the people who actually fought against the practice and spilled their blood to destroy the practice in this country. If one is going to teach the history of American slavery then teach it all not just pick and choose what you’ll talk about and ignore that which you don’t want to hear or know about. All of the Americans of the Colonial to the opening of the Civil War did not support slavery. But if you are a student of the modern education system one would get the idea that the moment an American was born they were given a slave to rule over. There were many who rose up early in the cause of anti-slavery in America and loudly and sometimes violently opposed the practice of slavery; ask the Quakers. But is this taught? No, what’s taught is that all Americans owned a slave and that all Americans are guilty of the slave trade because they are Americans. That is not teaching history because real history is far more complicated when it comes to human behavior.

Benjamin Franklin, (1706-1790), was a slave owner; 1735-1781 to be exact. His early views on the subject of the African was that they were unable to be educated. His own newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette, also was known to advertise the sale of slaves and was known to post notices of escaped slaves as well. But oddly enough  he also published anti-slavery pamphlets against slavery by the Quakers. After 1758 he was gradually changing his views on the subject of slavery when his friend Samuel Johnson, (1709-1784), introduced him to one of Dr. Bray’s schools for black children. Dr. Bray’s Associates was a philantropic association affiliated with the Church of England. In 1759, Franklin joined the association. In 1759 he met Anthony Benezet, (1713-1784), Quaker, teacher, writer, and abolitionist and founder of a school in Philadelphia and later co-founded the Abolitionist Society. In 1765, Franklin wrote that African shortcomings and ignorance were not inherently natural but come from lack of education, slavery, and of course the negative impact of slavery upon them as a people. He also wrote that he saw no real differences in learning  of Africans and European children let alone Americans. In 1787, Franklin became the President of the Philadelphia Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage-The Abolitionist Society. (The Society was formed by a group of abolitionist Quakers and Anthony Benezet in 1774). The Abolitionist Society was the first in America as inspiration for the formation of abolitionist societies in other colonies. The group was also focused on education, moral instruction, and employment.

In an open letter on November 9th 1789, Franklin wrote wholeheartedly against the institution of slavery. He finally came to the conclusion by his associating with the Abolitionist Society that slaves have long been treated as brute animals beneath the standard of the human species. Franklin advocated that blacks be educated, given moral instructions, and employment. On February 3rd 1790, a few months before his death, Franklin petitioned congress to provide the means to bring slavery to its end in the colonies once and for all. When his petition was introduced to the House and Senate it was of course defeated by pro-slavery states of the south. A committee was finally selected to study and see if anything could be done to pass the petition. On March 5th, 1790, the committee claimed that the United States Constitution restrained Congress from doing anything about the issue of slavery in the United States of America at that time. Congress would would do nothing on the issue of slavery or the slave trade. Benjamin Franklin died on April 17, 1790 at 84. On January 1st, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Emancipation Proclamation freeing about three million slaves; Franklin’s petition was finally ratified and signed into a reality in the United States of America at the cost of a long and bloody civil War.

Franklin would have been pleased with the progress the nation he help create was going in. How much of the above history of the Colonial era of America let alone one of its founding fathers is even mentioned except in passing and only to say Franklin was a slave holder! Where is the real and honest history in stating one single moment in a great man’s long life of 84 years? Quoting from, ‘Vindicating The Founders’ by Thomas West’s book, ‘Contrary to what one would expect from these quotations, all the leading Founders affirmed on many occasions that blacks are created equal to whites and that slavery is wrong. Here are a few examples; George Washington: “There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it.” John Adams: “Every measure of prudence, therefore, ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of slavery from the United States…I have through my whole life, held the practice of slavery  in…abhorrence.”..(Pg 4-5). Other places in West’s book, “We have shown that the leading founders said that blacks were human beings and that they said that enslavement was unjust because it denied blacks their natural human rights to liberty. But did they know what they were saying?” (Pg. 5). Did they understand their own high-sounding ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Did they really believe that all men are created equal? More from West’s book, “John Jay was an early governor of New York and the first Chief justice of the Supreme Court. He summarizes the change of opinion in America during the founding era: Prior to the great Revolution….our people had been so long accustomed to the practice and convenience of having slaves, that very few among them even doubted the propriety and rectitude of it. Some liberal and conscientious men had indeed, by their conduct and writings, drawn the lawfulness of slavery into question…Their doctrines prevailed by almost insensible degrees, and was like the little lump of leaven which put into three measures of meal.” (Pg 6). West continue’s, “The whole Revolution was an antislavery movement-for the colonists. The political logic of the Revolution pointed inexorably to the eventual abolition of slavery for the blacks as well.” (Pg. 6). Other points on the issue of slavery in the era of the Founders, West’s book, “…In a 1764 publication endorsed by the Massachusetts legislature, James Otis said, “The colonists are by the law of nature freeborn, as indeed all men are, white or black.” John Jay stated the problem vividly, “That men should pray and fight for their own freedom and yet keep others in slavery is certainly acting a very inconsistent as well as unjust and perhaps impious part.” In 1776 the house of representatives of New York, a slave state, formally resolved that slavery is “utterly inconsistent with the avowed principles in which this and that other states have carried on their struggle for liberty.” (Pg. 7). This very short list of examples should destroy the idea that slavery was agreed upon as good and just and should always be part of America and never fought against and that in the early days of the founding of the United States of America there were voices rising up and declaring the inhuman, barbaric, and unjust practice slavery was for a country declaring by words and deeds that all men are created equal. But is this aspect of the American character and people even taught anymore or even acknowledged by the modern teacher of American history? American history isn’t taught anymore unless it’s to condemn the past with slavery and never once bring up the fact that while there were those who supported slavery there were those against the practice in the land so proclaiming liberty and freedom and all men are created equal.

“In a 1774 petition to the government of Massachusetts, one group of slaves said, (W)e have in common with all men a natural right to our freedoms without being deprived of them by our fellow men, as we are a freeborn people and have never forfeited by any compact or agreement whatever…But we were unjustly dragged by the cruel hand of power from our dearest friends, and some of us stolen from the bosoms of our tender parents….We therefore beg…that we may obtain our natural right, our freedom, and our children be set at liberty at the year of twenty-one.” (Pg. 7).

What else is being left out of the history books and not told students about the Founders of this country? What other events and people are not being mentioned who’s lives were dedicated or lost to the cause of ending slavery in the young Republic’s early years? What is being left out of the education of the student sitting there in that classroom? From West’s book, “The growth of slavery was quickly limited by reducing or abolishing the slave trade. Delegates to the first Continental Congress in 1774 pledged to stop the importation of slaves into America. By 1798 every state had outlawed slave importation. South Carolina renewed the slave trade in 1803, but Congress abolished the trade altogether in 1808. During the founding era, eight states proceeded to abolish slavery, either gradually or immediately. (Like almost all public policy, slavery was then regulated by the state governments). Abolition came quickly only in states where few slaves were held. The first to forbid slavery in its constitution was Vermont in 1777. Court cases and the actions of town governments ended slavery in Massachusetts and New Hampshire in the 1780’s. In the other Northern states, abolition came harder. Pennsylvania passed the first law for gradual emancipation in 1780. Rhode Island and Connecticut followed in 1783 and 1784. After long struggles, New York and New Jersey finally did the same in 1799 and 1804..” (Pg. 10-11). Is any of this taught in school? Is any of this brought up and discussed by the teacher? No, of course not because it doesn’t follow the PC agenda that slavery must always be talked about as having never really ended and taught as if everyone wanted a slave and every state did nothing about the problem. There is only one word for such teaching and that is called laziness. What other facts of history are not told because it does not teach an agenda on the past of America’s dealing with slavery. Other moments not taught, West again, “At the federal level, Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance in 1787, forbidding slavery in the territory where the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin would be formed. This law proved to be of critical importance to the end of slavery in America….Proposals for abolition were presented to the Virginia legislature in 1778 (Jefferson authored it) and again in 1796 and to the Kentucky constitutional convention of 1792. Societies for abolition were established in Delaware and Maryland, whose legislation debated abolition in 1785 and 1786.” (Pg. 12). The point of all this is that when a teacher stands up and says nothing was done about slavery or even attempted it proves them either lazy in research or simply lying for some agenda that only works if all the facts of history are ignored which contradict what the teacher wants the past to be.

The Founders were normal men with an idea of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, not supermen without sins of their own to deal with. Who ever said Thomas Jefferson was without sin on the question of slavery? Yet to listen to some teach on Jefferson the only thing the man is known for and will ever be known for is slavery and Sally Hemings. Not much else is taught about the 3rd President of the United States except slavery as if the only thing he did was be involved in slavery. Jefferson was a flawed man with high ideals he himself knew he failed at living up to. To listen to the modern teacher of American History one would get the impression that Jefferson and the other Founding Father’s had only one reason to found the country and that was to keep slavery alive and well in the American colonies. Well, this is far from true let alone accurate for the American colonies or it’s Founders. History is not taught when it’s a one-sided review of the American experience and history of a people founding a new nation founded on the idea and ideals of that all men are created equal and have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Founders, and certainly not all of them, knew full well that the idea and practice of slavery was going to be absolutely at war with their high-sounding principles and writings about and of liberty that all men were created equal. They weren’t stupid men, but they were men of their time and place and knew at some point there would be a confrontation and one would have to give way to the other; the American Civil War being that terrible moment. As a delegate from the slave state of Maryland stated, “Slavery is inconsistent with the genius of republicanism, and has a tendency to destroy those principles on which it is supported, as it lessens the sense of the equal rights of mankind and habituates us to tyranny and oppression.”

Thomas Jefferson wrote in his famous, Notes On Virginia, “The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submission on the other…The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives a loose to his worst of passions, and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it with odious peculiarities. The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances.” Is any of this taught in our present history rooms about Thomas Jefferson? Probably not because it doesn’t promote a political agenda for some who only teach the history they wish to acknowledge as being the real and whole story and the rest of no importance. If you can’t teach history from all directions then stop teaching and just admit you have a political agenda and nothing else to talk about but a one-sided view of American History in particular.

Teaching history is to teach even those parts you don’t agree with let alone like. That’s the point of teaching history and that’s to see all sides as a story of passions and ideals and hatreds colliding into the landscape of the human experience. It’s show the best of the human experience and the worse that a human can inflict on another or even themselves. Teaching history is to teach the fact that human nature despite all it’s highs and lows is still about the fact that we as humanity have been born, lived, and died not in a vacuum but as a member of the human race. Teach all aspects of the problems of America or any nation is only the correct way to teach anything but to only talk about one aspect of American or any nations history is laziness and destructive to the students need for a well-rounded education. But today’s classroom isn’t about a well-rounded education anymore. It’s about teaching that the only thing that matters is the wrongs of any or all societies must be constantly on trial and found guilty in the court of the Politically Correct court of modern sensibilities and everyone in the past is guilty whether they owned a slave or not. Students are not taught history anymore. They are taught to be angry at a past they cannot change and are never taught why the past was the way it was.  It’s one thing to teach the faults, wrongs, and sins of a nation it’s quit another to pretend that was all the nation had to offer world history. Teach the faults, teach the wrongs, teach the sins, but don’t leave out those who lived, struggled, and died to right those wrongs as if they didn’t exist. That’s lazy gutless teaching to promote a political ideology and to rewrite history to fit some narrative that fits one’s wishful thinking. Teach history is to teach that the Founding Father’s where all too human in their pursuit of their ideas and ideals of that all men are created equal in their beliefs in the new nation they were founding from the ground up. History is about facts not want we wish history had been because we don’t like how it turned out. Maybe Kipling was correct that if history was taught as fiction it would be remembered better and more often taught better? It might help but then again we do live in the age of the short attention span. It would be nice to believe that it would help Mr. Kipling’s idea for teaching history but I have my doubts. Teaching history requires a love of the subject not a need to accuse or condemn the subject because it offends one’s modern sensibilities. The Founders were men and woman of their age and time and beliefs whether we as the modern world like it or not. Teach history as they lived it not as we wished they had lived it is the only honest and just way to tell the story worth telling. Tell the story of the saints and sinners of history as they were not as we wish they had been. Jefferson nor any of the other Founders can change their story so tell their story as they lived it is the job and duty of the historian not rewriting it. History is about people not your personal view or opinion of it.

“Historical fiction is not only a respectable literary form, it is a standing reminder of the fact that history is about human beings.” Helen Cam.

REFERENCES/RECOMMENDATIONS.

The Federalist: James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay.

The Anti-Federalist.

Vindicating The Founders: Race, Sex, Class, And Justice In The Origins Of America. By. Thomas G. West.

John Marshall: The Man Who Made The Supreme Court. By. Richard Bookhiser.

Liberty And Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto. By. Mark R. Levin.

Miracle At Philadelphia: The Story Of The Constitutional Convention May To September 1787. By. Catherine Drinker Bowen.

Lion Of Liberty: Patrick Henry And The Call To A New Nation. By. Harlow G. Unger.

The Last Founding Father: James Monroe And A Nations Call To Greatness. By. Harlow G. Unger.

John Hancock: Merchant King And American Patriot. BY. Harlow G. Unger.

Washington: A Life. By. Ron Chernow.

Hamilton: A Life. By. Ron Chernow.

Fallen Founder: Aaron Burr. By. Nancy Isenberg.

Henry Clay: The Essential American. By. David S. Heidler, Jeanne T. Heidler.

Henry Clay. By. Robert Remini.

John Quincy Adams. By. Robert Remini.

Daniel Webster. By. Robert Remini.

Andrew Jackson. By. Robert Remini.

John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life. By. Paul C. Nagel.

The Histories. By. Herodotus.

History Of The Peloponnesian War. By. Thucydides.

History Of The Jews. By. Paul Johnson.

A History Of The American People. By. Paul Johnson.

The Complete Works Of Livy.

The Complete Works Of Christopher Hibbert.

The Complete Works Of Michael Grant.

A Study Of History. By. Arnold J. Toynbee.

Meaning In History. By. Karl Lowith.

What Is History. By. Edward Carr.

Jefferson: A Great American’s Life And Ideas. By. Saul K. Padover.

Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate Portrait. By. Fawn Brodie.

Thomas Jefferson: A Life. By. Willard Sterne Randell.

Washington. By. Willard Sterne Randell.

Thomas Jefferson And the Tripoli Pirates. By. Brian Kilmeade, Don Yaeger.

Friends Divided: John Adams And Thomas Jefferson. By. Gordon S. Wood.

John Adams. By. David McCullough.

John Adams. HBO Mini-Series.

James Madison: The Founding Father. By. Robert A. Rutland.

Founding Rivals: Madison vs Monroe And The Election That Saved A Nation. By. Chris DeRose.

John Jay: Founding Father. By. Walter Stahr.

His Excellency, George Washington. By. Joseph J. Ellis.

Founding Brothers. By. Joseph J. Ellis.

The Quartet: Orchestrating The Second American Revolution, 1783-1789. By. Joseph J. Ellis.

The American Primer. Edited By. Daniel J. Boorstin.

The First American: The Life And Times Of Benjamin Franklin. By. H. W. Brands.

Andrew Jackson. By. H. W. Brands.

John Quincy Adams. By. John T. Morse, jr. (American Statesmen Biography Series).

John Marshall. By. Albert Beveridge. (American Statesmen Biography Series).

Samuel Adams: Father Of The American Revolution. By. Mark Puls.

 

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The Girl Who Wasn’t. (Short Story).

cropped-12301412301.jpgThree years ago.

Her name was Natalie Christine so the old man had told Darryl one day as he sat in the small town historical society library reading a book on ghost stories of the state.

The old man was leaning on his broom, “Yes, I’ve heard the stories about that property. Been there once out of interest, saw nothing worth all the stories of the place…but you might find it interesting I suppose…” He studied the young kid of probably fifteen, “It’s said that she haunts the property mostly beginning in October….she’s buried in the pumpkin patch…” He could tell the kid was buying the tale he was telling, “Strange things happen up there…it’s said the family practiced the occult…” He spent another ten minutes talking to the kid and making up most of it.

Darryl was bored so he decided to visit later that week.

Present day; late October.

“What’s so special about this particular pumpkin patch, Darryl?” Anna asked as the truck slowly came to a halt on the gravel dirt road.  “Seriously, what’s so special about it that we had to drive out here….”

Darryl laughed, “It’s supposedly haunted, Anna.” He sounded so happy thought the girl sitting next to him in his beat up old blue truck with no air conditioner. “And I simply want to see it.” He looked about the wooded landscape and the lone road slowly vanishing as it turned way up in the distance.

“Haunted?” Anna rolled her blue eyes, “You’re weird, Darryl, and by what it is haunted by or whom?”

Darryl liked that she humored him, “Supposedly by a young girl named Natalie Christine. She died during the influenza epidemic in 1918…it lasted until 1920, it’s said that almost a hundred million people died because of it…”

“You read that off the internet didn’t you?”

Sheepishly, “Well, ya, like I care about the history part, I just wanted to know what she died of and that’s part of what it said…”

“I never heard of it.”

He studied the surrounding woods with a smile, “Well, she was about ten I think, died in the house. Buried in the back yard…”

“Sounds like a sad life.”

“I don’t know what kind of life she had but she died young and supposedly she haunted the property around this time of year…”

“Doesn’t like Summer?”

Darryl looked at her with a look, “Why do ask that?”

“Well, this is a the old Henderson road and that is the Henderson place we are heading to, Darryl. And I’ve been here for five years and I have heard of the Henderson place. Not much about the ghost I can believe…” She looked out the window, “I was here last June with Emma…”

“You’ve already been here? With Emma, my sister Emma?”

She always got the impression he was jealous of her time with his younger sister Emma, “The only one I know in this town of Noslen, Minnesota, population of about three thousand people…”

“What did you do there?”

Anna liked to get his attention, “I took pictures of course…” She patted his always present backpack that sat at her feet that held her ever present camera, “Emma and I were bored last July so we decided to explore the place and I wanted to take pictures as well.”

Darryl spoke up as he rolled down the window, “See anything interesting?”

Anna curled up her petite legs and sat on them, “I didn’t see a ghost if that is what you are asking. Actually it seemed rather peaceful and somewhat quiet on the property. I saw the old abandoned house; looks like it’s been there a while. But sorry, Darryl, no ghosts or anything that felt like one. It looked very abandoned.”

He laughed a bit.

“What’s so funny? It was abandoned, very empty. I saw nothing and heard nothing…”

“Abandoned, huh?”

“Yes, Darryl, it was just me and Emma.”

“Well, nothing happens there during the Summer months, that’s why people don’t mind going there during the hot days of summer.”

“I see, what, the ghost is picky when she will show up?”

“It’s her home, Anna, so I guess she can haunt when she wants. I’ve been there during the summer and I agree with you, nothing happens and I saw nothing.”

“Is that why we are here in October? Too see if she shows up?” Anna studied her latest boyfriend of about three months. In the five years she had been in the small Minnesota town she saw no reason to take the idea too seriously as she had no intention of living her whole life in Noslen! Darryl would probably last a few more weeks and she would move on to someone else; mostly because Darryl was becoming dull. He was likable as most small town boys can be when they understand the ground rules set down by Anna from somewhere down south; she refused to tell people where she was from. She didn’t dislike Noslen that much but it was a typical small town and she was easily bored by such things as the lack of much to do that she wanted to do. She knew Darryl was watching her and waiting for her to say something, “I don’t know if I believe in ghosts, Darryl. I like a good ghost story or horror movie, but it takes a lot for me to believe that any of it is real…”

“Don’t believe in ghosts, huh.”

“I think I just said that, Darryl, and yes, I have no real belief in them, but, I am willing to have my mind changed…”

He laughed.

Studying him, “What’s so funny, Darryl?”

“Well, I think their real.”

“I thought we were here to get a pumpkin anyway?” It was partly the reason and she knew what he was expecting from her later. Sex starved country boys were easy to read Anna thought to herself, “Tell me more about Natalie Christine. About her ghost I should ask.” Might as well humor the guy before the real fun begins for at least one of them she reasoned, “What happened to her family? What does she look like?”

He was still being humored as he studied the quiet of the road, “Actually she wasn’t the only one to die due to the influenza. Her mom died first and then Natalie Christine died a few weeks later. Her dad survived for a while becoming scene less and less as the years went by. People started avoiding this area until one day someone decided to find out what had happened to him…” He looked at her as she looked back with a curious look, “Do you really care about her?”

“I’m curious about her story and why we are here? It isn’t just about pumpkins.” It was a truthful enough answer she thought, “I didn’t see anything last time I was there. Neither did Emma.”

“Emma wouldn’t admit it if she saw the ghost standing in front her. She has no interest in anything beyond her limited interests…”

“Hey, be nice to my best friend, I like Emma…”

He grunted, watched the aspen trees with their naked limbs and a few reddish-orange leaves clinging for life to the trees, “I like the Fall. It’s so refreshing the cold…so you saw the house?”

Anna studied the boy knowing where his mind was and some of it had nothing to do with a ghost or haunted anything; she did have great legs so she understood their effect on the kid. He was just going to have to wait thought Anna. Besides the chill in the air made it rather unlikely they were going to be doing anything but walking around and standing still while the boy next her thought about them being spread apart; which also wasn’t going to happen any time soon. It was tough being the only redhead in school she thought with a silent laugh; very tough indeed.

“I saw an old weather-worn house yes. Looked like all the windows were broken. It looked kind of sat sitting there all alone in the woods…” She sensed he wanted to get out of the truck, “So, why are we still sitting here, don’t you want to show me this place anyway?”

He spoke up as if he had been thinking of something else, “Do you even believe in ghosts?”

She had to think about that a moment, “I don’t doubt they can exist. I’ve never seen one.”

“Would you even know if you were seeing one, Anna?” He was looking at her intently.

Not liking the look, “I suppose I wouldn’t really. Unless of course I could see right through them when I saw them….”

“The old Henderson farm is supposedly haunted at least by the young girl….” He was watching the surrounding landscape as he spoke as if watching or looking for something to validate his comments, “No one really visits the house anymore. Certainly not in October when the pumpkins begin to get ripe on a farm no one is living on but every year their they are in the garden growing and some claim waiting…”

“Waiting? Waiting for what?”

“I don’t know, but people when they did visit never liked be there around October or at least the first few months of Fall…” Amused at something, “Some of the stories I have heard about the farm simply sound silly or just too weird to be true, Anna.”

“Tell me one.”

He looked at her with a look that still bothered her, “I believe the stories.”

“Okay, you believe them. Tell me one.”

He returned to staring at the cloudy grey sky, “Some years ago some guy decided to prove that one of the stories was stupid…”

“What story?”

“Supposedly she doesn’t mind if you take one or two of her pumpkins but don’t touch the one in the middle. Leave it alone….”

“She, the ghost?”

“Natalie Christine is protective of her pumpkins, it’s said she’s buried somewhere in the patch…”

“Buried there? No marker or cross?”

“Nothing but the pumpkins that seem to always be growing…”

“Always growing?” She looked at him with deep skepticism, “Sounds like a story to me to scare little kids. Pumpkins that don’t die….”

“Well, not the pumpkins themselves, just her.”

“You’re making all this up, Darryl.” Joking, “Don’t quit your day job.”

He laughed anyway, “I’m just relating what I was told.”

“Well, continue, what happened in your story?”

“I love the Fall, things change so much….”

“So, what did this guy do or see?” She didn’t remember seeing a pumpkin patch when she and Emma had been there but then again they never went to the back of the house; Emma wanted to go home suddenly. Maybe she did see something?

He slowly spoke up as he took notice of the chill in the air, “Aren’t you cold?”

“I don’t get cold, Darryl, just tell me your story.” Oddly enough she wasn’t as cold looking as Darryl seemed to be. “I ski in shorts, Darryl, I don’t get cold. Continue.”

“Supposedly he drove up here and parked and walked a bit toward the Henderson place. It was about this time of year and it was a typical Fall day….” Turning a bit to face Anna better, “It’s said that if you want to see her you quote a poem…”

Laughing, “A poem?” Her look said it all as she folded her arms across her chest, “I am finding all this rather stupid. Stephen King you are not, Darryl…” Asking anyway, “What’s the poem? Where did it come from? She didn’t write it did she?”

He smiled of course at her questions he couldn’t really answer, “No one’s really sure, it seemed to evolve over the years. It doesn’t make any real sense anyway but some people thing if you quote it in the pumpkin patch she will appear….”

“And some guy in your story did this?”

“Yes, he did.” He pulled on the seat lever and leaned back a bit, “Well, it’s assumed he did anyway.”

“What does that mean?” Anna wasn’t so much interested in the story just how far Darryl would take his badly told story, “What happened to him?”

Darryl liked the fact she was taking him somewhat seriously and he was sure she knew what he was after when this trip was over. Why did she have to wear those damn cut-off shorts! And he was sure she was on the verge of dumping him anyway so she owned him a little fucking of some kind. Maybe later once they explored the Henderson house and got the pumpkin they had also come to get. He knew she was waiting for him to continue.

“He was eventually found on the property dead.” He stated it bluntly to see if she would react; she didn’t.

“Dead? How? You’re a terrible story teller, Darryl.”

He smiled of course, “I never claim to be good at it, Anna. I’m just telling you they found his body entangled in the vines of the pumpkin patch. He somehow managed to strangle himself…” He stopped a bit, “Well, that’s the official story. What’s never explained is how he managed to get himself entangled in the vines to the point where his throat was crushed…” He actually smiled, “In fact he was so entangled that it appeared he was almost ripped apart…”

A little bothered by it, “You’re making that up. How could he get so entangled that he strangled to death…”

“He probably tripped over a vine and simply panicked and somehow managed to crush his windpipe and did I mention he was found half buried into the ground…” He looked at her, he enjoyed the look in her eyes because she was actually believing him for once, “They spent three days trying to find him before they searched the Henderson place. They found the rotting body and it was rotting only after three days as if he had been there for weeks….” And as if the pumpkin patch was absorbing his body into the ground.

“How do you know all this?” Adding, “What panicked him?”

“I read the police report. And I wouldn’t know.”

“Sounds like you know more than your telling me, Darryl.”

“He was found basically entangled in the vines of the pumpkin patch as if he had been fighting something. The police report simply reported that he was probably drunk when he went there to steal a pumpkin, something scared him or startled him anyway and he panicked, tripped over the vines and somehow managed to wrapped several, not one, but several vines around his throat and somehow managed to crush his own windpipe and then somehow managed to almost bury himself into the ground. Simple story of a not so simple man scarring himself so much he strangled himself…and party tried to bury himself…”

She let him ramble.

“…I read the official police report. How does a man panicked so much that he trips and somehow gets himself not only strangled by vines but they bloody found him half-way into the ground and looking as decomposed as he was. I saw the pictures…” He looked over at Anna who looked back with deep brown eyes that he never got tired of looking at.

Anna forced a smile at the odd look he was giving her, “What’s that look for?”

“I was wondering if you believe me enough to go and see the place where all this took place?” Asking again, “Do you believe in ghosts?”

“Your story is a little odd, Darryl. I get the impression there is more to it than your telling me…I wonder what you are leaving out…”

“Only that he wasn’t the only one to vanish up on Henderson place…”

“Vanished? You didn’t say anything about vanishing.” Anna wasn’t sure what the point of Darryl’s little and badly told tale was. Well, other than getting into her pants she wasn’t sure where this was going. “Who vanished? And I suppose the pumpkins have something to do with it?” She so badly wanted to laugh but he seemed to be actually quit serious about all this ghost crap; so she didn’t laugh. No reason to be mean just because the boy was horny as hell and thinking this somehow was going to get something out of it.

Darryl was talking, “…”Some years ago a local guy, I think his name was John, drove up here in his car, probably drunk as he was known to be a drinker, and simply vanished…”

“Okay, again, leaving out details, Darryl.” He was doing it on purpose was her only theory because he seemed to be making it up as he told it. “How did they know he was up here?”

“They found his car…well, what was left of it.”

A little annoyed, “You are leaving so much out, Darryl. What do you mean what was left of it?”

Actually he knew what he was doing, “They found the car like they found the other guy I told you about. It was a battered and beaten wreck and it too seemed as if something had tried to drag it into the ground….” He stopped a moment, “The car looked like it had been torn apart by something and all around it was broken and shattered pumpkins rotting in the sun but his body was nowhere; they never found it.”

“It was attacked by a pumpkin?” She had to laugh at this, “You’re a terrible story teller, Darryl. What the hell could posse a pumpkin plant!”

He smiled at that statement, “It’s said that her dad was so grief stricken that he tried to bring her back from the dead and he tried by black magic or witchcraft if you like that word better…but he did try but what he brought back wasn’t human anymore…” Looking out the window, feeling it was time to head to the house, “Anna, I am just telling you what I was told by the old man I ran into who knows about the history of this place…her dad tried to bring her back from the dead and well, Anna, he failed and something came back….”

“What came back?” She was beginning to suspect he wasn’t lying about the story but just telling it badly, “What became of the girl?”

“She’s buried in the backyard, that’s very true.”

“What happened to her father?”

“He went insane by all accounts.” Adding as he reached for the door handle, “He died in an insane asylum and screaming about the thing buried in the pumpkin patch behind his house…to not bother the pumpkins, don’t touch them….” He pulled his legs out and sat with them outside the truck, “I love the Fall, Anna, the coming of cold, snow, falling colorful leaves…” Softly, “I love the feel of October in the air…” Looking over his shoulder at her, “There is something about that property, Anna.”

“I was there, Darryl, I didn’t see anything or feel anything. Even the house looked normal for a very long ago abandoned house, Darryl…” He had such a far away look that bothered her briefly, “Well, I didn’t see anything and neither did Emma….” Though she did seem awfully preoccupied with something or was that Anna’s imagination as well.

“So, you saw the house?” He asked looking at the surrounding woods.

“Yes, of course I did. It was old looking, I was surprised that most of it was still standing after so many years…”

“You didn’t see the pumpkins?”

“We were visiting last summer, Darryl, I saw only a old house but not much else.”

Darryl smiled as he watched a lone dark brown squirrel scurry about the few trees that had leaves still clinging to it, “Ready to go see the place? It looks very different in October…”

“What is it with October lately?” Getting out of the truck and noting the chill in the air, “It’s gotten cold….”

“It’s October, Anna. And it’s still Minnesota.” Also getting out of the truck and walking toward a trail opening, “Come on, Anna, let’s go wake up Natalie…”

Anna followed with a silent nod.

Still talking, “…There are other stories of this property if you want to hear them, Anna?” And he hoped she did want to hear them as it was important. “I mean only in the last few years several people have simply disappeared in this area…”

He was simply trying to scare her she thought and was doing it badly, “Really?”

He trudged on the trail that looked as if it hadn’t been used in a while, “Oh, three years ago a student from our school disappeared on her way home…” He could hear her foot steps falter a bit but continue to follow him, “She simply disappeared and was never seen live again…”

“What does that have to do with where we are going?” She wished he would slow down a bit; what was he in such a hurry for? “What are you in a hurry for?”

Too focused on the path ahead, “She was never found anywhere until it was decided to search up here on the property and that was where she was found.”

Trying to catch up, “Slow down, and why was she up her?”

He decided to humor her and slowed down a bit, “No one knows but her body was found up near the house….” He slowed down a little bit more as he could tell she was getting a little winded; he wanted to laugh. “Sorry, it can be a bit of a climb at times to get there…”

“I don’t remember going this way with Emma.” It did seem a very different path to the house, “Seems a different trial…”

“It is.”

“Then why are we going this way?”

He stopped, looked at the dense trees about them, “It’s beautiful isn’t it?”

Frowning, puzzled at his behavior, “You’re getting weird Darryl.”

He said something too low for her to hear.

“Why are we going this way? Seems a rather long way to go and I might add tiring as well….”

“Well, it’s a rather winding path that will eventually take us to the back side of the property…” Amused at her look, “We will see the pumpkin patch. Her last resting place and we will see what happens…”

“How are we going to wake her up? If you don’t mind me asking?” Slowly catching up to him as he slowed down.

Looking at her with a smile, “I will think of something. How hard can it be to awaken a ghost?”

“I don’t know I have never tried to….” He started walking on, “So, you said others have vanished in this area?” She followed because what else was there to do, “I mean really, what do you really expect to find or show me even once we get there. I was already there last June, I saw nothing!” She wasn’t sure why she shouted the last part but all the walking and mostly up hill it seemed was getting tiring and probably pointless, “I agreed to come with you to see this house you seem obsessed with lately because we had nothing else to do today…”

He didn’t stop walking, “Come on, Anna, almost there.”

“Aren’t you even tired?”

“I have never felt more alive…”

Anna didn’t like the comment and wasn’t sure why, “What’s that suppose to mean? Seriously, Darryl, lately you have been acting very strange…even Emma said of late you have been talking a lot about Natalie Christine…and going to the historical society library and reading about the Henderson’s and their property as if you found something of great importance…”

His pace slowed a bit, “Did you know that the original name wasn’t Henderson?”

Slowly responding as they began to walk less up hill it seemed to her, “No, what was their original name, Darryl?”

“It’s called Henderson property only because it was easier to say and pronounce than their original name and that was something else I discovered while doing my research…”

“Why were you doing all this?”

He stopped abruptly and faced her, “Anna, it was first for a school project on the history of Noslen. I thought it would be an interesting topic….”

She could see a clearing up ahead, “Are we there yet?”

He smiled with a look, “Anna, this property use to be the homestead of a family that arrived in this state during the early 1850’s from Norway…” He turned around and started toward the clearing, “Come on, Anna, almost to the property line…”

“Property line? What property line…” She was getting tired and even a little winded even for the runner she was.

“You just have to know what to look for.”

Anna noted the climb was evening out finally, “Why did we come this way anyway?” Another thing was why was he avoiding answering her questions? “What was their original names, Darryl…”

He entered the clearing and waited for her to catch up, “They were a quiet family, secretive about their lives on their property. It was said that the wooden fence encircled the whole property…”

“You still haven’t answered my question…” She asked again as she entered the clearing, she stopped next to him, “See, the house looks normal?”

“Normal being a relative term, Anna, but look at it. Beautiful house.”

“It’s an old looking house I’ll give you that.”

He smiled at her comment, “It’s been standing here since the first of the family arrived from Oslo, Norway carrying with it the beliefs of the family…” He stood looking at it proudly as if something about it was very familiar to him thought Anna as she listened to his voice and studied the old house that had seen better days. “….The family believed in the occult, Anna, they practiced black magic if you need a term you would understand. People in the town shunned them for the most part….they simply didn’t understand their beliefs…” Softly, gently, “They worshiped the old gods some in Noslen said, practiced unholy arts and consorted with the Devil himself so the stories went…” Pointing at the trees, “Those are oak trees, Anna, brought over with them.”

She knew what an oak tree was she was going to say but changed her mind. Anna wasn’t really following anymore as she didn’t like the feel of the place that looked like it had been recently used, but she spoke up, “I don’t see the pumpkin patch…”

“Their real names were never known but some in town suspected that the ‘Henderson’ name wasn’t really theirs….”

Walking a little toward the house, “So, this place is suppose to be haunted by Natalie Christine? That name doesn’t even sound Norwegian…”

He laughed at that as he walked passed her and toward the side of the house hidden a bit by the rise in the ground, “It’s not. It’s the name they gave the ghost some claim to have seen wandering about the grounds by those I guess brave enough to venture unto the property…There was a Natalie Christine who lived and died here but the stories of the place go farther back than her short lived life.”

“You’re story has too many rabbit trails, Darryl.” Adding with a uneasy laugh, “It’s a busy little piece of dirt the way you are telling it.”

“You don’t notice it do you? That feeling in the air, the house seems to be waiting….”

She again found herself catching up with Darryl, “Feel what? It’s chilly but it’s late October in Minnesota, so it’s cold…and besides, Darryl, you’re creeping me out with how your acting…”

“I’ve seen her, Anna. I saw her the first time I visited this place…”

“When?”

He stopped again near one of the massive oaks that over looked a long forgotten garden; except for the pumpkins growing just fine and healthy, “See, pumpkins, Anna.”

She frowned at the site in the small garden, “Well, pumpkins do grow in October, Darryl, not really a shocking moment…”

“Except the fact no one comes up her to grow them. They are just always there, Anna. It’s one of those oddities of this property that people in town don’t like to talk about….as I said, the original owners practiced the occult, worshiped the old gods of the Norsemen…”

“You mean they actually worshiped Odin and that bunch?” Looking at the pumpkins that she had to admit to at least herself that they did seem out of place.

Softly, “One should show some respect to the gods, Anna, even if you don’t believe in them.”

Laughing at him as she noticed something next to the pumpkins, “Who dug that…”

The shovel to her head ended the conversation; she was dead for all practical purposes before she hit the ground with a loud unpleasant thud that Darryl actually enjoyed hearing. “Finally, silence.” He knelt down and checked her pulse, “Well, sweet little Anna, soon you will learn to respect the gods…” He smiled at something.

He heard a door slowly open.

“You talk too much, Anna.” He stood back up and over the body of the crushed in skull of Anna, “I don’t think I could have keep talking if I had to…” He heard the movement behind him, he turned around. “Sorry, I am late…”

Emma stood at the old house’s door frame with a disappointed impatient look, “What took you so long, Darryl?”

Looking at the naked girl who stared back with dead eyes of a long dead god, “Took the long way up to tire her out a bit, but I promised you a worthy sacrifice, Natalie…” It should have bothered him the fact she was completely naked and seemed a little angry with him; and the fact he wasn’t disliking the view.  “I almost had to go through the whole history of this property…” He again looked at the thing inhabiting his sisters body; he stopped asking why it needed another so early but somethings you don’t question the gods about. “I hope she will do this time?” He looked down at the crumpled body of the pretty girl he wanted to fuck so badly but of course that was out of the question now. She wouldn’t wake up from the hit to the skull and probably would never feel the moment that her body was taken over by the thing standing at the porch waiting for him to continue the sacrifice. He started dragging the body toward the hole in the ground.

“Put her in gently, Darryl. Show some respect for what she is giving up.” The creature admonished as he pushed her gently into the shallow grave, “Very good, Darryl.”

He stood over the hole and studied the girl lying so still and breathing in minor shallow breaths that only he could really see. It was a shame he had to kill this one. He was beginning to like her or at least like the idea of liking her. He looked over at the creature who still stood her ground with that same long dead look and out of place smile.

The creature inside the body of Emma started laughing and didn’t stop for a while; neither did the voices in Darryl’s head.

The pumpkin vines started moving toward the hole; Darryl started laughing with pleasure.

 

Day At The Circus. (Short Story).

cropped-12301412301.jpg“I’m here with my mommy. You?” Little Mia asked the other young girl who sat next to her waiting for the acts to begin in the center ring, “I’m suppose to sit here and wait for mommy to return. She had to use the bathroom.”

The other little girl in the unkempt clothes nodded but still didn’t say anything.

“You don’t talk much….” She took notice of the young girl in what she guessed was wearing hand me downs, “Your mommy should be brushing your hair more….so straggly looking…” Adding, “Mommy likes to brush my hair…”

The other girl smiled a bit, shrugged her shoulders, but still said nothing.

“I once got lost at the circus…” She waited a bit for the other girl to say something, “I am not sure how but me and mommy were walking about and somehow I let go of her hand. Next minute I knew I was crying and asking where mommy was…” The eight year old was getting a little frustrated at the silent girl who looked about her age, “Don’t you know how to talk?”

She nodded that she did.

“Don’t you like talking?”

Again she nodded.

“I suppose your parents told you to not talk to strangers?” She smiled a bit, “Names Mia. See, we’re not strangers anymore….”

The younger girl smiled at bit, slowly spoke her name in a whisper, “Elizabeth.”

“Hello, Lizzy, I am Mia.” Adding as if it might help the girl be more comfortable, “I’m eight. In fact I will be eight next week, this is just an early birthday present…”

“Seven and a half.” The low voice replied.

“Are you here with your parents?”

She nodded slowly as if not certain of the question.

“You certainly don’t talk a lot. Mommy says I talk too much.” She looked out into the three rings of the circus, “I have been sitting here a long time and so far haven’t seen mommy…I wonder where she is…” Watching as a high wire act started up, “They fall a lot, Lizzy….but they never hit the ground….” Looking at the younger girl, “I don’t like the clowns, they scare me…”

Lizzy nodded but said something very softly that Mia couldn’t hear.

“You need to talk louder, Lizzy. It’s rude to talk so low one cannot hear you. It’s okay though, it’s just me and you here at the moment….” She frowned at that statement and looked about the huge tent, “I mean the clowns are funny but I don’t like them when they look at me…” She looked at Lizzy again, “It’s chilly in here, why don’t you have a coat on? Your mommy should have given you a coat to wear…”

“Don’t have one.” Lizzy said softly as she stared straight ahead at the present act in the center ring of jugglers; she couldn’t really see what they were juggling though. “I came here on my own….” She frowned as if something came to her young memory, “I ran away from the home…” Looking at Mia with a strange far away look, “I don’t have a mommy, Mia….but I wanted to see the circus, I wanted to see the animals…I sneaked out of the home and came to the circus….”

“You ran away from home?” She was shocked, “Why? Didn’t your mommy miss you?”

Lizzy frowned again, “I don’t have a mommy, I live in a big building with other kids and we all don’t have mommies…”

“Oh, okay.” Mia replied not really understanding the statement, “So, you ran away to the circus?”

“Yes, I said that, I wanted to see the animals…”

“You should have brought a coat, Lizzy. It’s chilly in here…” She watched as the next act started up; bears. She wasn’t interested in bears. “I’ve seen this act before, they balance on balls and do some tricks and…..” She looked over at one of the vendors, “If mommy was here she would get me some cotton candy….” Frowning a bit again, “I don’t know where she is….but I know she will come back for me….”

“I like the elephants…” A smile came and went softly across her young freckled features,

“I like the lions. I like it when the guy in the cage puts his head in the mouth. I wouldn’t do that….”

“Elephants are so big…” Her large eyes seemed to delight briefly in that thought.

“….We have a tabby at home called Kitty, he’s my lion even though he looks like Tigger…”

“One should always be careful around elephants, they can step on you without knowing it…”

Pointing to the center ring, “See, look, lions…”

“Elephants….” Looking at the girl with the long brunette hair, “I like the elephants more….”

Feeling a little annoyed, “I like the lions, mommy likes the lions…” Looked about the big top, “I wonder where she is? She’s missing everything….”

Lizzy studied the scene before her with a delightfulness in her face, waving her little arms at the great grey beasts as they slowly thundered by, “They didn’t mean it….”

“What, Lizzy?”

Lizzy looked at her, “I said I liked elephants…”

Mia shrugged her shoulders and smiled, “Okay, Lizzy, you like elephants….”

Pointing, “Well, Mia, their right there going around the ring…” The smile was there as she was pleased by the lumbering beasts. Standing up and stretching out her arms like a plane, “I wish I could fly like Dumbo….”

Amused, “You’re funny, Lizzy, you might run into something flying in the air…”

Sitting in a huff, “I still wish I could fly.”

“I’m sorry, Lizzy, I shouldn’t say that.”

Lizzy remained silent with her hurt thoughts.

Mia felt bad at the look on the young girls face, noticing the clowns, “I don’t like the clowns, Lizzy, I hope they don’t come over here….” It did seem odd to her that barely anyone was in the big top and yet the acts were going on as if it was full.

Lizzy watched the scene of the clowns and hoped also that they didn’t look in her direction; it always made her uncomfortable. “I just don’t like the way they look at me…”

But the clowns didn’t seem to notice the two young girls; except one. He just stood there looking lost or was it sad for some reason thought Mia, but he stood there staring at them as if he was actually looking through them. He didn’t smile nor move nor seem to have an act to perform except just standing there staring at the barely occupied grandstand seats.

Mia spoke up, “Why is he just standing there?”

Standing up more scared than defiant, “Stop staring at me!” Closing her eyes tightly.

The clown seemed perplexed by something, smiled a bit, and actually bowed, and then vanished.

Mia was puzzled, “Where did he go?”

“As long as he is gone!” Still standing with her eyes closed, “Is he gone, Mia?”

Slowly, uncertain of it all, “Yes, he’s gone, Lizzy. He simply disappeared. Maybe he was a magician clown?” Made sense to her young mind, “Maybe he was just getting ready to do his act…”

“He was staring at me, Mia, I didn’t like how he was staring at me…”

Mia sensed her new friend was about to panic and still had her eyes closed, “It’s okay, Lizzy, he’s gone….” Looking at the frightened girl who was actually shaking a bit, “He’s gone away.”

He wasn’t.

Slowing she opened her eyes and screamed as the fire was everywhere; Mia was standing up staring ahead at something she didn’t want to see anymore.

And screaming, “Mommy!”

The caretaker was speaking as they approached the huge big top, “This is our major attraction at the museum. An actual full sized replica of a circus big top….” He was proud of this part of the tour of the Circus Museum, “We have some actual pieces from circus’s long gone….” Looking at the large tent they were about to enter,  “It’s the pride and joy of this museum..” Entering the entrance with the small crowd of visitors and hoping his own nervousness wasn’t evident to his guests.

A young kid spoke up, “What is that grandstand from, looks old?”

The caretaker knew without looking what the young kid was asking about, “It’s an actual piece of the Hartford Circus…” How the owners acquired it was a bit murky but it was sitting there and so where they. He refused to look in the direction too directly, “It’s a piece of circus history and tragedy…”

Another voice spoke up, “Isn’t that the circus that caught fire some time during World War Two I think.”

He still didn’t look at the relic of the past too long and he was somewhat impressed that someone knew about the Hartford fire, “Yes, the Hartford Circus Fire was on July 6th, 1944, in Hartford, Connecticut. hundred sixty–seven people were killed; over seven hundred hurt. It was a horrible tragedy.”

Someone spoke up again, “I feel like I am being watched from it…”

He would have smiled but he knew the feeling all to well. “Yes, some people have that uncomfortable feeling from it….” He still refused to look to much in the direction of the seats and simply pointed out the many sights and attractions under the big top. It was a magnificent replica of a circus big top with all the trappings and wonderful sights and colors of the circus; it even smelled like a circus. But he was uncomfortable at times because he knew like a few other’s knew it was haunted. Yet, oddly enough or maybe not so much odd but the majority of the ghosts took no notice of the caretaker or anyone else actually alive. They seemed to go about their business as if the circus was going just fine and there was nothing wrong with what was happening with a performance that never ended.

“Is it haunted?” Another voice spoke up. Looking about the huge replica of a circus, ” It’s cool looking and it certainly smells like a circus, but I could imagine this place being perfect for circus ghosts.”

The caretaker smiled a bit but he didn’t react to the obvious, “I have heard stories from employees and former employees that they don’t like this part of the museum. Claims they hear the sounds of a actual circus going on. Some even have sworn they can smell elephants and popcorn…and some even hot dogs….” And some he knew even claimed to smell burning wood and tarp; one even claimed to hear a scream of a little girl asking for help. And one employee arrived for work and vanished; that was a year ago. The employee walked into the big top to clean up any trash and simply vanished into thin air. No body was ever found; he simply ceased to exist.

“Have you ever seen anything?” An elderly lady asked.

He quickly answered, “No, not really. Granted it can be rather a strange feeling at night when I am alone closing down the building, but I have never seen or heard anything to suggest it’s haunted in this one room….” He had to lie. It was worse on July 6th; it was the reason why he wanted to close the museum on the 6th of July every year but the owners refused. “I personally have never seen a ghost…” What he was seeing sometimes was more than a ghost and at times it was too much so he simply denied the obvious; this place was haunted. And today was July 6th so it was time for them to replay their last moments of life.

“Not once?”

He forced a laugh, “Been the caretaker of this museum for over ten years and not once have I seen a ghost let alone a strange smell.” He could see in their faces most believed him, “I suppose it can be rather an odd feeling is this one room looking like a real circus big top looks like. It’s a true replica down to the manure you see on the ground…” Some laughed at that and that pleased him a little bit, “But I can honestly say I have never seen anything like a phantom walking about the grounds or strange sounds or smells as I said. Sure, there are moments I think I hear something I can’t explain but the building itself is old and old buildings make odd sounds sometimes….” Actually it was once an old toy factory long gone out of business and forgotten.

Someone spoke up, “I don’t know, it feels like I am being watched just standing here…”

Some more laughter from a few; other’s didn’t laugh. The caretaker wished it weren’t true.

He noticed a young boy looking back at the old grandstand as if he saw something. The boy looked puzzled and seemed to be amused but a look of fear seemed to be growing in the eyes that stared back at the caretaker. The boy kept looking over his shoulder and did give the impression he wanted to say something but his mother kept shushing him. He finally refused to look behind him anymore but the unpleasant look was still there. And once the tour was over he did ask the young boy what he kept looking at.

“A clown, he was just standing there and smiling at me…Not mean or anything, but smiling at me…” His mother called for him so he ran off before he could be questioned further; but the caretaker already knew. The clown was one of the first he had seen in the big top replica one night going about it’s routine of entertaining an audience the caretaker couldn’t see but the clown seemed to see them cheering and clapping. Though to be honest, he sometimes swore he could hear an audience reacting and not always reacting to the clown who showed no sign of hostility to his presence. In fact thought the caretaker he felt clown seemed to know that he was indeed dead and entertaining an audience that was also dead. Was that possible?

He continued on with the tour and answered some of the questions best he could; he had to look back once and he wished the two little girls were not sitting there but they were. They were always there and would always be there. So would the clown. So would all of them trapped in the last moments of their lives or simply going about their acts to an audience they only saw.

He hoped one day to join them.

Family Connections. (Short Story).

cropped-12301412301.jpg“If you have to be anything, Son, be a Christian, don’t be Jewish…” The old man had stated a few times to Ben whenever the subject came up. “Pick a denomination, plenty out there, but don’t be a Jew. It’s a fatalistic religion…” So spoke the man behind the solid oak desk in his office of the used book store he managed and owned, “I’ve seen too much wrong with the way that particular religion operates and I simply have no interest in it…” Looking up from the desk with that look that Ben knew so well, “Be a Christian, real or fake, I don’t care, but, Ben, please, going to that synagogue is a waste of your time…”

So, Ben became a Christian; a Jewish-Christian? Well, the second part came later.

Ben’s thoughts were getting ahead of him as he thought about the conversation so many years ago in his dad’s bookstore; he sold it a few years ago to pursue other interests. You do like to over-think stuff don’t you, Ben? Did it really matter anymore? Not much had changed with the man’s thinking on the subject.

“Why, Dad, I liked attending their services.” He had been going only a few months to the Temple of Aaron. “I see nothing wrong with going, Dad.”

He studied the then twenty-four year old son with a patient look, “Son, Benjamin, it’s just a fad right now, after a while you’ll see the pointlessness of going to that place. You’ll find something else to do every Friday night…”

He remembered disagreeing with that statement. It lasted another month; much to the annoyance of the man sitting at the desk. What changed, Benjamin?

The knock at the office door came, “Mr. Faulkner?”

“Yes, enter.”

Sheila Nelson entered, smiled at Benjamin who smiled back awkwardly, and that was want changed in his life. One Sheila Ruth Nelson, all that brunette hair and nerdy looking dark green glasses, entered the pictured that week as a new hire for the bookstore was what changed his life.

“Yes, Shelia?”

She began slowly, “Um, Mr. Faulkner, I know I told you about it but I can’t work next weekend, a church function…”

A hand went up, “I’m sure you did but I don’t recall saying I could do anything about it. So, unless you can find someone to take your place, you’ll be working when you’re scheduled…”

She looked unhappy, “I go every year to Camp Shamineau, this year I am volunteering…”

Again the interruption, “I am sorry, but I do not recall promising you that weekend off. Find someone to replace you or show up for work, Sheila.”

It was obvious she was going to have to find someone else to take her place or miss this event she wanted to attend. He felt sorry for the girl who simply agreed and walked out of the room with a look on her face he didn’t like. But he couldn’t do much about it so at the moment it wasn’t his problem.

His dad was talking again, “That’s one reason I don’t like religious people, Ben. Every little reason to avoid working they will come up with.”

“Don’t think that was her motive, Dad.”

“Sure.”

“Then why did you hire her?”

“She has a pretty face, will bring people into the store. Certainly the boys will come in.” He looked dead serious in what he was saying, “She’s also a friend of your sister who needed a job…”

He thought about that statement as he pretty much knew all of Brits friends, “I don’t remember her?”

He looked at his son with a tired looked, “They met a few weeks ago. Seems once again your sister is the friend maker in this family.”

“Well, she seems like a nice person.” It sounded stupid because it was stupid thought Ben. Softly, “I hope she is able to find someone…”

“She wont, Ben. No one volunteers to work weekends.” He scribbled something in the ledger he had been occupied with, “I hired her to take care of that issue around here. I don’t really feel like hiring another person right now.”

“Well, maybe someone will take her shift.”

His father frowned as he returned to the ledger book, “I doubt it.  Besides the Minnesota State Fair starts this coming Thursday, people like to take Saturday off to go.”

He smiled at himself as he forgot about it, “Oh, ya, the Great Get Together. I haven’t been there in a while…”

The man grunted, “Well, she’s going to have to work and not go off to the fair…”

“She said she had a church thing to go to, Dad.”

The grunt again, “Ya, right, sure it was.”

He simply stood there a bit watching the old man scribble away in the ledger, “Well, maybe someone will take her shift…” He looked about the busy office of a man who thought only of just that and that was running a business and not much else. It was a small office with no personal touch to it. In fact thought Ben, it was a dull drab office of someone with no imagination and with no need for the unimportant in his mind.

The older man spoke up, “Maybe you can go to her church and get this Jewish nonsense out of your system, Ben.” He looked up at his son in all seriousness, “Become a Christian if you have to, I don’t care. Just enough with the Jewish nonsense.”

“It’s not nonsense, Dad.”

“It’s a archaic religion. It’s the past that is no longer relevant.”

“It’s an incredible history of a people, Dad, our heritage…”

The eyes changed to a cold stare, “Not my heritage or history….” The hand went up as Ben was about to say something, “Do me a favor and just go to her church and drop this nonsense. Be a Christian if you have to be anything. Maybe she can convert you…”

“I like Jewish history, Dad. It’s fascinating…”

“Then study Christian history then…”

He wondered why it was his dad was pressing him so much toward the church; he never found out.

Joking, “Maybe I’ll become a Catholic…”

He stared at his son with a look, “As long as it gets rid of this Jewish crap out of your system. Be a Catholic all I care, just don’t talk about it around me. I don’t like religion, Benjamin, it’s a crutch for too many people. Religion has caused way too much pain and suffering in the world for me too even think about it. If you want to be religious then be religious, just don’t do it around me.” As a thought came to him, “Not even sure she’s a Catholic anyway, I didn’t ask nor do I care.” He returned to his work on the clean organized desk, “I don’t like Catholic’s anymore than I like you involving yourself so much in that place you go to every Friday. But I would rather you do that….” It went on like that for a while.

“Okay, Dad.” It made no sense to him his dad’s little long-winded tirades but he allowed the man his say in the matter.

He took her shift of course with the promise she would go on a date with him; they were married within five years as he managed the store at that point.

He looked in the rear view mirror at his sleeping son, William, age eleven. The surprise kid for the then thirty-nine year old Ben. But his wife, Sheila, was happy with a son finally to add too the daughter they already had; after three daughters and two with their mother’s flaming red hair, a boy was a delightful change of scenery in her life as she nursed William one day. She was eventually paint the scene as she remembered it; one of her hobbies.

William was excepted by the old man.

“Finally a son, Ben, I was beginning to worry about you…” Was his first comment when he phoned the old man with the news, “I mean after three girls, which is a little too much, you finally give me a grandson…”

His dad didn’t approve too much of daughters let alone normal girls going about their business being female. He seemed to have a great deal of issues with two little red headed twins running semi-wild in his well ordered little world. Stephanie and Stacy were the red-headed league that threatened his peace of mind as they zoomed about and then had the nerve of their red hair to touch his stuff and play with stuff that too them looked like toys to be played with.

“Why do they have to touch everything, Benjamin…” So went the usual complaints.

“Their curious about your stuff you’ve collected over the years, Dad….”

“Their going to break something…”

Not once did anything ever get broken but his complaints continued until they simply lost all interest in asking questions or even caring. They simply stayed more outside and visited the barns and busied themselves with the sheep their grandfather was trying to raise on the small farm; it kept them out of his sight they told him one day. As for the third daughter of too much brunette hair, Susanna, was the least of his issues; she brought a book with her and sat down and read and ignored everyone else; she certainly ignored her grandfather as much as he ignored her. They seemed adjusted to his indifference with a nod that his attitude was his loss not theirs. It was sad actually but he wasn’t going push them to try harder. The twins had too much of the stubborn streak in them too care that much anymore and Susanna seriously seemed to not care; she had her sister’s if she wanted to do something on the farm. They knew who grandpa liked and why.

The old man greatly approved of his grandson William James Faulkner; of course he did. Grandpa James Faulkner got his name attached to the boy so that unpleasantness was avoided. He actually canvassed and beg that the boy have his name; it was pathetic. But he got what he wanted in the end. Actually Sheila’s own grandfather’s name was James, so strangely enough it worked out with a look from the red headed wife with the blue eyes. And that James fought in the Second World War with the First Marine Division.

In a couple of weeks the whole Faulkner clan was off to Duluth to attend the 75th birthday party of the man who had no use for some of those attending. It was a blunt fact that if only he and William showed up the old man would have been fine with that. But the three girls liked to explore the shore line and even go swimming a bit in Lake Superior and as it was closing in on October the leaves with would changing colors as well. There might be even some fishing attempted but of course the girls, mostly the twins oddly enough, would beg to be allowed to come and fish. Their grandfather would grumble of course and state that fishing was for him and the grandson but they would be allowed to go if they were quiet. Quiet on a boat while fishing was not their way and they liked to fish while talking in hushed whispers; Susanna would stay with mom or sit on the shore and again read a book or paint with mom.

“Don’t know why they need to go fishing with me and William…” So the complaint went, “Why aren’t they doing girl kinda stuff…”

“Dad, they like to fish…” William actually didn’t like fishing only because the old man wouldn’t stop talking and telling William what to do and how to do it when it came to fishing. “They like doing outdoors activities, Dad, they even want to take up bow hunting when they get older…” The old man simply gave him a look and walked away muttering something about that he couldn’t even tell the twins apart still. In Ben’s mind the old man wasn’t actually really trying to tell them apart as he simply just didn’t like them around. Steph was a bit rounder in the face than her sister, left handed, and laughed a little bit more than sometimes too serious Stacy but the two of them got along very well which he was grateful for. William preferred to be around Susanna more often than not only because Susanna was quieter, didn’t push him to do stuff if he didn’t want to do, and simply put she was his person he could talk to. Ben was grateful that the kids got along so well. He just wished the old man would notice that his granddaughter’s had something to offer him that William could not.

William shifted a bit in the car seat but didn’t wake up.

He of course knew what the real problem was at the moment. Benjamin, you are thinking too much; just get through this day and enjoy your day with your son. Just take William to Como Zoo and enjoy the day with your son.

His dad’s last few emails were the reason for his preoccupied thoughts. It was the usual stuff about his life and about the coming 75th birthday party and then of course there were the ground rules for his own son and certainly the kids. Rules for the kids? Yes, he had actually written a few rules for the kids to follow.

And ground rules for the actual party as well.

It was the third paragraph, “Son, I want to be blunt and straight to the point. I do not want any religious talk in my home…” That was the general point of the long paragraph, “I don’t care to hear about your religious stuff, I have no need for it in my home…” It went on like that for quit a while via the letter; it was a long paragraph. “I’m not a religious man, Son, never saw the point of a religion. I didn’t grow up in a religious home so I see know reason to start now…your grandfather wasn’t an observant Jew and neither  am I…”

William stirred a bit in the backseat, “Dad, we there yet?”

“We’re just passing Como Lake, William.”

“Can I ask you something, Dad?”

“Sure, William, what’s up?”

He seemed uncertain of his own question, “Why does grandpa not like God?”

He looked briefly at his son in the mirror, “Why do ask that?”

He again seemed uncertain of his question, “I tried to tell him about my camping trip with Mr. Hadden to Camp Shamineau with the youth group last month…” He stopped a moment and watched a guy walking his dog, “Grandpa told me to stop talking about it.”

“Grandpa said that too you?” He wasn’t that surprised but he wished the man would have the good sense to be a loving grandfather and simply listen to be nice to his grandson.

William continued, “I was just trying to tell him about the stuff I did.” He was staring out the window, “I was trying to share with him how much fun it was. I did have fun.” He took notice of another dog, “I just wanted to tell him about the camping trip, Dad….”

How does one explain such behavior to one’s eleven year old son? How do explain such behavior that your own grandfather only wants to hear stuff about your life that makes him comfortable? What made the man comfortable? Not talking about religion or anything related to it would be the answer.

William was still talking and watching the scenery go by, “My friend Mia was there as well. I like Mia, she’s fun…”

He eyed his son with a curious look, “Who’s Mia?”

“A girl.”

“That part I kind of know, who is she, William?” He noted the slight smile on his face, “What’s so funny?”

“Mom said the same thing. Mia’s just a friend from church, she’s in my class with Mr. Haddon. She’s into ballet and stuff….”

He enjoyed the look on his young face as he explained his relationship with the girl.

Still talking, “Mia likes to be pushed around in a trash can on Wednesday nights by the janitor….”

He frowned at this bit of news, “Pushed around in a trash can?”

“Ya, she gets in and he pushes her around a bit mostly downstairs as fast as he can without crashing. She says she likes to create memories. She says he’s fun to be around and let’s her help clean up the building…” Watching another dog walk by.

“The janitor, Mr. Nickelson? That guy?”

“Ya, Mia likes him. She says he’s easy to be around and her mom trusts him. Besides, it keeps Mia out of trouble…”

“Mia told you all this?”

“Yes, Dad, last Wednesday’s Expedition while she waited for her brother’s class to be over….” He was getting bored talking about Mia, “She likes to help him do stuff in the church, he doesn’t seem to mind. Nora also likes to help but not as much as Mia…”

He was slightly amused, “Well, if her mom doesn’t mind her hanging around him, keeps her out of trouble which is a good thing…” Kids did seem to like the short guy with the fast paced stride and always seemed to be thinking of something; he certainly was always reading. He was also rather proud of being the only Jew in the church; it amused him to no end.

William returned to the original thought for some reason, “I wasn’t going to mention God or Jesus to grandpa…” He sounded a little unhappy about that, “But I don’t understand grandpa’s dislike for God or Jesus. What did Jesus ever do to grandpa?”

Curious, “Did you ask him?”

“I once did.” He went silent with a look, “asked him what Jesus had ever done to him.”

He waited a second or so, “And, William, what did he say?”

It was very apparent he didn’t want to answer, maybe he was even thinking of his friend Mia because the look on his face at her name was priceless. His son was growing up too fast.

Softly and hurt William spoke up, “He stopped talking to me the rest of the day.” He returned to looking out the window as they turned and he took notice of the golf course; William liked golf. “He simply ignored me the rest of the day.”

“I don’t understand.” Actually of course he did but he wanted William to talk about it.

“Well, he got up from his chair and left the room without a word and for the rest of the day he ignored me.”

“What did you do then?”

He shrugged his shoulders, took notice of a guy taking a swing at the ball, “I went to find Susanna. She told me to not take it personally and so we outside…”

“I meant about grandpa?”

Again the shoulders shrugged, thought about something, “I left him alone for the rest of the day. If he didn’t want me around then I went to do something else. And Susanna wasn’t too busy with school work…” He played with his jacket zipper a moment, “Dad’s what’s mycology?”

Puzzled by the sudden change of subject, “Um, I don’t know, where did that word come from?”

“Oh, Susanna is reading a book on someone who likes mushrooms I guess. Susanna called it mycology…”

Susanna Lynn Faulkner was too smart and curious for her own good at thirteen he thought with a inner laugh at his brilliant but quiet daughter. “Who was she reading about, William?”

“I don’t know, she wrote about rabbits as well…”

“Oh, Beatrix Potter.”

“Well, Susanna told me all about it and I was seeing if she was making it up by asking you.”

“No, if she said it’s the science of mushrooms then that is what it is, William.”

He returned to the original subject again, “Grandpa doesn’t like Jesus, Dad.”

“No, he does not.”

“Did he eventually talk to you?”

“He spoke to me the next day, but he told me to never bring up that subject again…but he did speak to me again.” He spoke disappointed, “I guess I will not be telling him about next weeks class party….but he is talking to me again.”

“Well, that’s good, William.”

A brief silence followed.

“Isn’t it Susanna’s birthday next week?” It was said softly as if his mind was somewhere else. “She’ll be thirteen?”

“Fourteen. Yep, next Thursday, we will be going to the Viking game that Sunday.”

He was thinking again out loud, “why doesn’t he like church? I like church, I like all my friends there and Mr. Haddon is fun.” Looking at his dad, “Grandpa told me I should be thinking for myself on what I believe and not simply follow others religious opinions…”

“He actually said all that?” Of course he did thought Ben, “What did you tell him?”

The skinny shoulders shrugged, “I tried to say I do…” The look was unhappy, “…But he told me I wasn’t really thinking for myself. He said I was just repeating what you and mom told me to say and believe in…”

He had to ask, “Do you think we push our beliefs on you?” He turned right, “I don’ think we force you to believe anything.” He wondered if the other three had these thoughts; maybe?

The young face frowned at the question, “I don’t think you do, I don’t think so. I simply go to church because you all go and I like it there…” Adding with a laugh, “Susanna loves the library and it’s librarian, Miss. Taylor is her favorite person in the whole world she likes to tell me. She likes books more than I do I guess…” Watching a couple walk along the sidewalk briefly, “Steph and Stacy don’t mind reading but prefer to be outside doing stuff with each other. Their always together, Dad….”

“Well, they are twins, goes with the territory, William, with those two…” Had to ask, “Do they like church?”

Again the shrugging, “I guess they do, they have lots of friends there.”

“Susanna?”

He was quiet a bit, “I think she does, she knows a lot of stuff and Mr. Haddon thinks she knows a lot…” He trailed off, “Susanna doesn’t tell me everything, Dad.”

Laughing at the look he was giving him, “Okay, okay, I get it….”

“She’s looking forward to the next activity….”

He had to smile that at least his kids got along and had no dislike of their church.

“…It’s bad enough that you had to go into a religious vocation…” He was attending Northwestern at the moment, “…But you seemed to see no problem with the waste of time it is…are you making good money which for me would be the only good thing about it…” It was all written via email but the caustic tone was there, “…You act like I should be proud of my son the religious peddler…”

He was getting use to these little comments among his dad’s other comments.

“…I’m not proud of any of this waste of time. You’re wasting your life, Ben….” The tone never changed, “It’s a disappointment that you had to not only become a Christian, but you decided to actually work for them. There’s no money in religious peddlers…”

A disappointment? That’s a fairly new one. He was attending Northwestern to become a teacher, he had four great and very different kids, a great wife in Sheila, he became a Christian because the old man told him to and not become a observant Jew! This of course only seemed to anger the man even more.

“…Waste of time, Benjamin, waste of ….” The cursing had to come at some point, “Why are you  going to that religious school?”

“Teacher.”

The voice didn’t change, “Teacher? No money in teaching, Benjamin.”

“I like teaching , Dad….” He helped teach one of the senior youth kids on Sundays and sometimes Wednesdays with Todd Dahl and his wife, Emma. “I find it great fun and a challenge to teach those older teens…”

The old man grunted a response, “You’re not a teacher, you’re peddling religious fairy tales…”

One always got the impression he was being baited thought Ben; he simply ignored it.

“I disagree, Dad…”

The tone continued to be caustic, gesturing with his hands as he always did when making a point, “Of course you do, Son, because you are never wrong in your religious opinion on this subject…” The finger pointed, “I will not have any religious talk in my house. It’s not much to ask that you tell your children to refrain from talking about their religion because I am also having some friends over. Their business associates and I don’t need them to feel uncomfortable…” The arms folded tightly, the look never changed. “I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable when they come over with any talk about your church; tell the children that as well….” It went on like this for a bit and he repeated himself quit a lot to the point that Ben had to ask the question.

“Dad, what is it about church you so dislike…” He didn’t get very far.

“Benjamin, I do not like talking about religious subjects with you or anyone. Religion is fine for other people who need some religion in their lives. I don’t need religion. I don’t want to hear anything about church while you or the kids…”

“You said that already, Dad. I got it, no talk of a big part of their life with their grandfather….”

“Don’t try to paint me as the bad guy, Benjamin. I’m not the bad guy in all this. It’s my house, so it’s only correct that you and the kids follow my rules. This includes your wife as well. I simply do not need my friends to be made uncomfortable. I want them to come over, meet my family and get to see my grandson…”

Benjamin wanted to say something but didn’t.

“…I want them to see what a fine young boy he is growing up to be….”

“And your granddaughters? You remember them, Dad?”

“Yes, yes, them as well. But I want them to behave themselves in my house, Benjamin. They get out of control in my house…”

“Their kids, Dad, kids like to have fun….”

“You’re not listening, Benjamin. I am asking you as their father to tell your kids to behave themselves and keep their religious talk for later. I don’t like religious talk, I don’t have any use for it…”

“You say that a lot, Dad. What’s so wrong with having a spiritual belief…” He could see the man was getting upset, “You take a great deal of time telling my kids what they will not be allowed to do in your house to the point that one of them sits in the chair and reads and the other two go outside and play just so they don’t have to listen to it. They get it, Dad, their grandfather doesn’t want them around because one of them might mention what they do on Sunday or worse yet it seems act like a normal kid. Their growing up without having any real connection to you or the family…”

The interruption came loudly, “I’m the bad guy in this? All I ask is that they keep their religious talk to themselves and not talk about their religious life. I’m the bad guy?”

“Dad, they simply do not understand why you have such a dislike for that part of their lives…”

Bluntly, “Because I have no interest in that part of their lives, Benjamin.”

“They are your grand kids, Dad. Their growing up with no connection with you or our family’s past…”

“Nothing to connect to, Benjamin. It’s best left in the past and not bothered with.”

“I know so little about our family tree, I wish I felt a connection…”

The look said it all, “Connection with a past not worth looking into, Benjamin.”

“Why is it so important that we forget the fact we are Jewish, Dad.” Of late Susanna was asking questions about her family tree and he couldn’t answer any of them very well. “My kids are asking questions…”

He grunted, “Benjamin, tell them to stop worrying about it and move on to something else…”

“Move on to something else? Dad, their kids, their curious about family they have never met.” He would have mentioned their grandmother but that was a painful subject so he didn’t. “They know they have Jewish blood in their veins. They, mostly Susanna, wants to know where they came from…”

The features seemed to get harder, “What is so important about looking into a past I have no interest in. Let it go and tell them to let it go.”

“Their kids, Dad, they don’t understand the concept of letting it go. Susanna wants to know who that Jewish face is that’s looking back at her in the mirror….”

“No one.”

“No one? What does that mean?”

The old man stared at this son with that same cold look, “Your daughter needs to stop staring into the mirror, Benjamin. It’s unhealthy.”

He was puzzled, but he had to ask, “Who does she look like?”

He slowly answered with a cold hint, “Benjamin, we stopped being Jews a long time ago, we stopped being religious a while ago and I don’t want it discussed in my home. I wasn’t born in a religious home, I didn’t raise you to be religious but you decided to go your own way and believe in something you are forcing on William…”

He tried to interrupt.

“…Let me finish. I do not like you forcing my grandson to believe in something against his will. It’s child abuse to force a child to believe as you do and not allow him to think and choice for himself what he wants to believe…” The hand went up again to stop Ben from interrupting, “William is my grandson, you are forcing him to believe as you do and hopefully when he is older he will see the folly of a religious faith of any kind…”

He had to ask, “And your granddaughter’s religious faith?”

Ignoring the comment, “….I want my grandson to think for himself, Benjamin. Not blindly believe in a some deity that can’t be proven. My father was not a religious man. He saw no reason to believe in a god of any kind and certainly not after events of the Holocaust…” The look changed for a second or so but it didn’t last long, “Six million Jews were killed by religious men…”

“The Nazi’s were not Christians, Dad….”

Still ignoring him, “….My father’s father survived Bergen-Belsen and came out of that an atheist. He was an observant Jew until that moment. He saw nothing in those camps to inspire in him any belief in a God. He raised his son to be an atheist and I was raised an atheist…”

Benjamin refrained from interrupting because this was the most his father ever spoke of the family he never knew.

“….You want to be religious, then be religious. But don’t force it on me in my own home and you really need to see that you are forcing my grandson to believe as you do. It’s abuse. Maybe he doesn’t want to believe in your religion, Benjamin. What are you going to do about that? Force him to convert?”

“And if he converts to Judaism?” He had to ask.

The look said it all, “He is a smart boy, he’ll see the folly in all religious peddling.”

“And if he doesn’t? He’s a lot like his sister, Susanna…” They might as well be twins he thought with a silent laugh by their behavior around each other; they were close and actually Benjamin was glad of that.

He didn’t like the question, “Maybe you should tell your daughter to stop forcing her views on her brother. Let William make up his own mind on the subject of religious belief. My father did…”

“Grandfather Aaron wasn’t completely an atheist the last few years of his life, Dad, and you know it….”

Ignoring most the comment, “Your grandfather wasn’t foolish enough to believe in religion, Benjamin….”

“He was reading books on the subject of Judaism, Dad, at the end. I know  because he gave them to the kids to read. Their sitting mostly in Susanna’s room…” Amused at something, “My daughter the book collector. You use to have a bookstore…”

He ignored the comments, “My father was indulging in his passion for books. He didn’t believe in any God, Benjamin….”

Benjamin remained silent with his own thoughts.

“It’s simple, Benjamin, I was not brought up in a religious home. My grandfather would be horrified by what his grandson William has become and does for a living. It’s not a living….”

“I enjoy it…”

“Well, Son, your being stupid….”

He bit his tongue.

“It’s stupid to have faith in something you can’t see let alone prove, Benjamin. My grandfather survived the only hell that has ever really existed called Bergen-Belsen. He picked himself up and immigrated to what would one day be Israel and was there for ten years and not once did he see God or a miracle….”

He had many questions but he knew they wouldn’t be answered unless the angry man across from him wanted to talk about it. It was a rare moment when the old man talked like this or about the subject of family history. Well, he could at least tell Susanna something.

“….I have no desire to search into the family tree like you…”

“The kids just want a family connection to people they didn’t know, Dad…”

Angry, “Their all dead but a few because of  religious people, Benjamin. I don’t need to know anything but that to understand the value of religious peddlers and that is they have no value. They sat around singing their hymns and clapping their hands over their ears from the screaming and dying of people in gas chambers, Benjamin, and did nothing else…” The hand went up as Benjamin was about to say something, “Let me finish, I don’t need any talk of religion in my home this coming weekend when you visit. Just tell your daughter’s to keep their religious talk to themselves….” He looked at his son with an odd look that said much that was on his mind, “Bergen-Belsen killed my grandfather’s faith and it didn’t seem to really matter in the long run that he stopped believing in anything. He was a religious man before he was shoved into a cattle car and sent to die….when he arrived in Palestine he was remained an atheist to his dying day….” He stood up from his chair, “I do not need any family connections to a past or religion that simply convinced people to walk like little dumb sheep into the hands of their enemies and then die in the millions for simply being Jews” It was obvious he didn’t want to talk about this anymore. .”..There is nothing special about being Jewish, Benjamin. We are not special nor is there a God with a special purpose for the Jews…”

“Your grand kids lately, all four of them for a change, want to know just how Jewish are they…” It was true. Even Steph and Stacy asked about it. It was apparently a united front from the four of them this bit of knowledge hunting of their past; Susanna of course leading the way.

“Doesn’t mean you have to indulge their foolish wants. Let it go, Benjamin. It’s not worth the effort. Just be the religious family you are already and leave your family connections dead and buried in the past.”

“They wouldn’t agree, Dad….”

He grunted his displeasure and walked away; Benjamin felt sorry for the man.

He parked the car and took notice of William getting ready to get out of the car.

He had to ask, “William?”

William looked up from his seat, dark brown hair in his darker eyes look at his dad, “Ya, Dad?”

“Do you think me and mom are forcing our faith on you?”

William seemed to have thought about that question, “Well, I do have questions sometimes, but you do answer them when I or Susanna ask….” He opened the door and hopped out of car, adjusting his Spider-Man t-shirt.

Benjamin got out of the car, “So, you don’t think me and mom make you believe what we believe?”

He seemed amused by something, “You sound like grandpa….”

“Well, he thinks I and mom force our faith on you.”

He shrugged his shoulders as he headed toward the main entrance of Como Zoo, “Dad, I don’t know, I don’t think you do and if I had questions I always come to you or mom…”

He laughed and stopped bugging his kid with questions, “So, what do you want to get Susanna for her birthday?”

With a pleased look, “She wants a menorah. What’s a menorah, Dad?”

They entered the building and William turned right.

“Let’s go see the plants…” He ran ahead a bit.

A menorah? So long ago William’s grandfather demanded that his own son have nothing to do with being Jewish or anything Jewish related at all in his life. Well, apparently Susanna had better ideas; he wasn’t going to stop her. Maybe she would discover what he stopped looking for so many years ago.

Then again thought Benjamin with some sense of bitterness and regret, he never should have stopped looking in the first place. He had simply stopped looking for a lost heritage. But it appeared one of his kids was more stubborn on that issue of their lost heritage and wasn’t taking no for an answer from anyone let alone a stubborn old man who didn’t like her in the first place. That thought left an unpleasant taste in his mouth, how can a grandfather not enjoy all his grand kids? Well, Susanna had excepted it on some level but he could tell at times it hurt his sweet quiet daughter with the large inquisitive blue eyes that was the family bookworm; actually the only kid with blue eyes.

The old man’s closing remarks in the last e-mail, “…No more talking about our lost Jewish heritage, Benjamin….That daughter of yours…” Susanna of course, “….I want to you to tell her no more of those religious books in my house, Benjamin….” Everything about the last e-mail was one long defense against getting too close to his granddaughter let alone the wrecking crew called the twins. “I didn’t appreciate her bring that religious book into my home…”

He had responded briefly, “It was a book on Jewish history, Dad, nothing more than a history book…”

“I don’t care about our so-called religious history, Benjamin. I don’t want any connection to that old archaic history or beliefs in my life or home….” Benjamin could see the bony fingers stabbing at the keyboard in annoyance, “Just tell them if they come they need to bring a different kind of book…” He meant it to. Well, she had plenty of them in her room.

Benjamin could see the man yelling while typing the e-mail.

“I am not Jewish!  I don’t want to be Jewish or have anything to do with it!” Benjamin could hear the anger in the voice as he wrote the e-mail. The old man probably even pounded the table a few times he had no doubt, “There’s no value in it.” All his reasons were the cliches Benjamin had heard before. “Just make sure they don’t bring any of their religious books with them and if they have to talk about it go outside!”

“Look Daddy, the naked fountain…” William ran to the water fountain and sat on the bench, “I like this fountain…”

He had to laugh at the boys interest he of course had with no idea why he had, “Of course you…” Or did he? Maybe his son was growing up faster than he thought? They always grow up too fast; he still missed the twins being little red headed creatures toddling about after each other.

The last letter finished with an angry finality of his emotions on the subject, “I am not Jewish, I have nothing to do with that heritage and you would be better off if you did the same, Benjamin….I would prefer not see them at all if they can’t respect my demand to not have to listen to them talk about it in my house!” He meant it to but Benjamin wasn’t leaving his daughters let alone wife behind in St. Paul while he and William went to visit the man in the isolated life away from what interest his daughter’s lives. Not happening dad he told himself but he would try and explain things to his family. The farm was big enough to occupy their time away from the man who didn’t understand or care to understand their interest in their heritage; his loss in the end.

He sat next to his son on the bench, “Susanna wants also to one day visit Israel….”

He smiled at his son, “Maybe one day she will, William….”

After a brief thought, “I think I will go with her, Daddy….”

He hugged the boy gently, “I think she’d enjoy that, William.” And he hoped they both found what they were looking for in those wanderings called their lives. “I think you two will do wonderful things, William….”

He had sent a short reply to the old man’s last e-mail, “You don’t know what a life you’re missing….” He got no answer back and he didn’t expect one.

His loss?

Things Of The Flesh. (Short Story).

cropped-12301412301.jpgEarly morning at the cafe ‘The Happy Goat.’

“Doesn’t it bother you at all what you write?” He sipped the coffee, “Doesn’t it bother you at all?”

“Sex and lust sells, Jeff.” Professor Joseph Petterson, “The basic human life is eating, sleeping, and of course having sex…well, sex slash mating slash everything else that involves the flesh…” Professor Petterson of Sociology and mostly a writer of late of the bestseller, ‘Things Of The Flesh.’ Adding with a laugh, “Pornography is healthy, Jeff. There is nothing wrong with sex and lust and all those other things people are so offended by of late. I write erotic fiction that crosses the line many times because I am not a prude afraid of my own naked shadow. If people don’t like what I write they are free to not read it, Jeff.”

“A lot of people find what you write goes beyond just erotic fiction. In fact it borders on simply enjoy the act of torturing your characters because you actually enjoy writing about it…”

“They don’t have to read it.” He wasn’t defensive, “Some people like my fiction, I have made a good living at what I write, Jeff. I enjoy my craft…”

“You seem to enjoy describing some horrific scenes, Professor Petterson.” He sat with his arms folded, “I’m kind of surprised that the bookstore is still allowing you to have a book signing after all the controversy over this latest novel of yours…”

Still unmoved by the tone of the guy sitting across from him in the used bookstore basement cafe area, “What controversy? I simply pointed out the hypocrisy of people when it comes to sex and how people act when confronted with their own private lives and fantasies. I simply rip away the false mask they all wear and show them their true selves and what they wished they could do. We’re all deviants in something, Jeff.” Tapping the pen on the open notebook, “I am simply writing about the true nature of human beings and that is we would all love to be able to do what I write about to someone they know or wish they knew.” He smiled a bit, “We all have sexual desires that we hope no one finds out about. People don’t need to be ashamed of their need for pornography, Jeff. It’s a healthy outlet.” Amused with himself, “Always remember that one man’s pornography is another man’s theology…”

“Clive Barker.”

He smiled, “Ah, you’ve read him.”

“I just know the quote, Professor Petterson.”

“Always fun to talk with a well-read individual, Jeff.”

“Is that you’re philosophy then? You’re theology, your god, is pornography?”

He leaned back a bit in thought of the question, he liked the question, “Pornography is healthy, Jeff. Nothing wrong with a healthy dose of the real purpose of the human body and that is pleasure…” The look he was saying all this with said much about the pleasure he got in the subject thought Jeff, “….I make no bones or excuses for my writing or what I write about. There is nothing wrong with the things of the flesh and the pleasure one can derive from it…”

“It’s healthy to dehumanize people via pornography, Professor Petterson?” He leaned back a bit in the wooden chair that had seen better days; he studied the man of forty-seven. “It’s healthy to torture women via the disgusting machines that they are forced to endure, that’s healthy? It’s healthy for scenes of rape and gang rape even, that’s healthy to watch?” He knew he wasn’t saying anything new to the man who simply stared back with a look of a man well satisfied with his life and the money he was making off the publication of his books. “I’ve tried to read one of your books, I couldn’t get through the first chapter…”

Flippently, “Your loss, Jeff, my readers like what I write.”

“They probably do the kind of people who read that stuff.”

“I repeat myself, Jeff. Pornography is healthy.” Petterson tapped the pen he was holding on the yellow note pad, “Look at my research with a clinical eye and would and will see that my research is correct and that my theories that it’s quit healthy. The sexual impulses is an amazing primitive drive to mate, to procreate, and it’s damn fun and you know it, Jeff. Damn fun.” Looking at the younger man with a smile, “Have you even read my latest book?”

“I said I did.”

“Yes, of course you did, sorry. And yet you still don’t see the groundbreaking importance of my latest work. It’s not even a novel this time, it’s pure scientific research into the subject of sex and it’s various outlets shall we say.” Adding with a laugh, “But, Jeff, even you have to admit that sex is damn fun!”

Jeff barely reacted, “So, it’s not all about scientific theories and research this fascination with sex and pornography in general?”

He looked down at the yellow note pad, scribbled something that came to him for his next project, he finally spoke up calmly, “Jeff, it’s all scientific inquiry in my mind and writings. I don’t deny I enjoy my work; I enjoy it very much. But I also take my work and research very seriously. I am very interested in human sexuality and it’s effect on both body and mind….and even society….” A young woman walked by clattering away on her cell phone; he of course sized her up and put the information away for a further story he might write. Pretty brunette with long legs, pixie cut hair cut, and so on and so forth he thought to himself. He continued, “…Natural selection has evolved over millions of years the sexual urge and drive to find and preserve the human animal. We are animals after all that must procreate. We are nothing but primates with normal sex drives and sex is a powerful drive indeed. The human animal is what we are and always will be…”

“The human animal?”

The arms folded across the skinny chest, “We are all subject to out fundamental evolutionary natures and drives, Jeff. I believe we need to stop acting as if somehow we are not simply a higher form of anything. We are primates with a high degree of sexual drives and attractions to a mate. Evolution proves and shows us to be related to an ancient ancestor who if he hadn’t had sex with the first available mate to come along we would not be here. We are animals with a higher level of intelligence and drive toward each other…” The arms un-folded, “We are nothing but the result of evolutionary cause and effect…”

Jeff held up a hand, “I read your book, Professor Petterson. Some of what you advocate is not just sexual attraction, You advocate that any or all sexual attraction is normal…” He lowered his voice a bit, “You spend an entire chapter advocating sex at any age is normal. Not just pornography, Professor Petterson…” Pointing to the book that sat on the table, “You actually defend pedophilia, Sir.”

Not phased by the remark, “Jeff, I defend the sexual psychological aspects of this subject. I do not play the hypocrite on this subject, Jeff. I simply write about the truth of things and the truth is that we as humans are driven by our sexual desires whether we like them or not.” He took a sip of his coffee; Jeff waited. “Look at the websites of those porn site and tell me those girls are actually the age they claim they are.” Grunting with pleasure, “They are not! They are pretty much younger and you know it. I am simply tearing away the blinders of this society of Puritans and expose the naked truth that there is nothing wrong with those sites.” Adding, “You look at them. All men do you know.”

“No, thank you.”

Amused of course, “Oh, please, you’ve never ever looked at pornography?” Again the arms folded across his chest, “Not once in your entire life you have never once looked at pornography of any kind? Not once?”

He would be at least honest about it, “When I was younger I did.”

“Then I will assume you still do, Jeff.”

“You’d be only half correct then. I fight against it. I found it to be too much of a drag on my life. It was and does ruining things in my life…” It was enough details to make his point he believed.

“Ruining things?” He studied the younger man with a penetrating look of a man scrutinizing his thoughts. “I have never understood the philosophy that pornography can ruin a life. It’s just porn. It has no real life of it’s own and it’s not real…” He noted the same woman as before walking out the cafe; nice ass. “Pornography has never done me anything but a good healthy outlook on life. I’d be interested in your story…”

The left hand went up; the wedding ring was still gone he would always be reminded by the action, “Let’s just stop with me and my life, I’m not the subject of this interview…”

He chuckled, “If you wish. But you know you really have nothing to be ashamed of. Sex is normal and healthy, so is pornography, Jeff. It’s healthy thinking put into action…”

He leaned back a bit, “I find nothing healthy about your advocating and defense of pedophilia, Professor Petterson.” The fellow liked to repeat himself he noted, “I read enough of the book to see what you believe in and what you are advocating and defend as just a normal lifestyle. It’s not normal, Professor Petterson, nothing normal about what you wrote in that book.”

“Non-sense, Jeff. It’s very normal in this day and age of society that the sexual so-called norms be called into question. Society must grow passed the old fashioned notion that sexual desires have their limits…” He sipped the coffee again which was growing cold; Jeff waited with his thoughts and besides he was allowing the man to do most of the talking for a reason. He continued, “Jeff, pornography and the selling of sex has been around for centuries. It’s nothing new under the sun. Have you ever seen some of the paintings still preserved in Pompeii?”

“Yes, I have.”

“Some of them are just as pornographic as any thing on those sites let alone magazines. It was normal, Jeff, quit normal.”

“The Roman Empire fell, Professor Petterson, from within I might add.”

“Pornography didn’t destroy the Roman Empire, Jeff.” He didn’t wait for the response back, “Sex didn’t destroy the Roman world, Jeff. The Romans and certainly the Greeks were quit open about their sexual lives…”

“They also eventually collapsed as an empire.”

Slightly put off, “Not because of their sexual philosophies, Jeff.”

“It didn’t help.”

“Sex, Jeff, has been part of human history since the very dawn of human existence. We’ve learned to enjoy it and to improve upon it and to even create robots that can have sex. Look at the robotic technology that we have in this day and age of computers and microchips. Good grief, I’ve seen websites that you can order a specifically designed and made sex doll. What an age of human history to be alive.” Adding with a laugh, “I’d order a few if I could, but I am too busy on this book signing tour, but I would…”

Jeff knew of the sites.

“I make no excuses for what I write, Jeff. I will not apologize for writing about a very normal and nature human action…”

Jeff was letting the man talk. He wanted him to talk and keep talking. Jeff had planned ahead for this day and was in no great hurry.

“….You’ve latched on only part of my new book, Jeff. You’re a moralist to some degree I don’t agree with in this day and age.” Too make a point, “Or worse yet, a Christian fundamentalist with no sense of humor about anything.” He sipped the cold coffee, thought about getting up and getting a new one but decided to wait, “I believe, Jeff, that sexual psychology would be less a stigma if we as a evolutionary species would stop acting as if it mattered whom we are attracted to or why.” He stopped a second to see if the guy wanted to say something which Jeff didn’t, “Yes, I advocate no real age limit on the sexual psychology of the human animal for we are just that, Jeff, a evolutionary product of material and natural selection.” Leaning forward a bit, the eyes bore into Jeff with fascination of the subject, “Listen, I believe we need to stop acting the hypocrite toward those who simply follow their basic biological desires. There is a reason, a very big reason, that pornography is so much in the millions, probably billions of dollars, and there’s a reason those girls look younger than they are and that is because they are and paid for it very well…”

It took a lot for Jeff to remain silent a the remark.

“….Because the basic sexual psychology is our basic evolutionary need to mate, to reproduce, to even enjoy what is basically a biological need and let’s be honest with ourselves, Jeff, we damn like it!”

Jeff spoke up finally as he felt it was about time, “So, it’s not just about sexual psychology as you keep calling it, but its in fact about youth is very desirable…” He had to say it, “Even at fourteen?” He studied the man for some kind of reaction. All he got was a hint of a reaction and Jeff was disgusted. “In your book you have a case study on that particular age of thirteen-fourteen…”

He quickly thought about it, “Yes, case study number three.”

Jeff struggled to barely react to the mains calm demeanor, “Can I ask what happened to Vanessa?”

No reaction but a look of thinking, “I don’t know of that particular case studies life after I do the interview, Jeff.” He shifted a bit in the chair, sipped the last of the cold coffee, “As I said in the book some of the case studies simply were not able to be found…”

He leaned back a bit, took notice of a young man entering the cafe and heading to the backroom; employee apparently running late?

The older man was still talking, “…I interviewed many people on both sides of the issue of pornography and it’s industry for that chapter. I can’t expect to remember everyone I have talked to, Jeff…”

“Do you even care what happened to Vanessa McGill?”

“Of course I care, Jeff, of course I do…”

He felt the cold anger in his voice, “She slit her wrist, Professor Petterson, at twenty-two.” It was taking a great deal to not slug the man, “She went into her small bathroom, sat in her tub and apparently was crying as she slit her wrists; she bleed too death alone in that little room….”

Without thought, “Pretty girl, sorry to hear about her death.”

“How do you get a seventeen year old girl to talk about such things?” He was sure he knew the answer, “Because I note in the book you don’t answer that question or where you found these girls to talk to.”

A little put off, “You, Jeff, sound like one of those hypocritical moralists who deny to their dying days they ever looked at a young girl and would deny to their dying last breath that they ever had a lustful thought. I’m at least upfront about my sexual philosophy of life and my writing. O don’t pretend that when I see a pretty young girl I don’t think how pretty and what she will look like naked at eighteen. I’m not a hypocritical moralist…” He frowned as he sipped the last of the coffee, “Damn it’s cold.” Getting up, “We shall continue this when I get back.”

Jeff watched the man walk away and toward the cafe. Poor Vanessa, Jeff Brock thought with inner anger he hoped to hold in a little longer. Slit her wrists and his only thought was she was a pretty girl and then the man moved on. Dead and buried and forgotten by nineteen should never be a young girl’s final epithet. Vanessa deserved better. He glanced over at the cafe and saw the man talking to one of the young ladies who was making his coffee; it wasn’t difficult to know what he was thinking.

He returned with a comment, “So, where were we in your accusations of my life and work?”

“You were justify your actions and research.”

“I was defending my research and my life needs no defending.” Sipping the freshly made coffee, “Ah, that’s much better.” He placed the cup next to his note book, quickly wrote something down, was amused by something, “Lovely young girls they have working here. Quit lovely.”

Ignoring his comment, “Well, Professor Petterson, I have been doing some research of my own on your last book…and you as well.”

Pleased by it, “Have you now?” Adding to it with a smile, “Well, I have nothing much to hide. What did you find out, Jeff?” Laughing, “I was married three times before finally realizing I was not husband material and so did my three wives. My kids….well, they seem to think I don’t exist. But they seem to be doing okay….” The coffee was sipped, “I’ve had a few affairs along the way, worked for a few magazines here and there…”

“Yes, a few magazines that deal with your favorite subject, mostly articles about sex and it’s healthy benefits.”

“No crime in that. One should enjoy one’s work.”

“Yes, I’m sure. I have however been doing much research about your methods of research…”

“I stand by my research methods.” He studied the man across from him with a look, “I’ve spent my life researching sexual psychology as long as I remember and stand by my methods of searching for material to work and write about.” Again the coffee, “I’m sorry for case study number three…”

“Her name was Vanessa, not case number three. She had a name, Professor Petterson. She had a life to live and not to be dead by nineteen was in her plans let alone her parent’s plans for their only daughter.”

Interrupting, “I enjoy my research into sexual psychology and I stand by my research into the evolution of natural selection in the human thinking on the subject. I am sorry this girl is dead, but she was helpful in my research. But I had nothing to do with why she was in that particular profession at her age. I simply asked her questions about the direction her life went…”

He forced himself to remain silent; let the man talk.

Still talking in his usual clipped manner, “I didn’t push her or make her enter that industry, Jeff..” Looking at him with a cold look, “Do you even know why she was in that world, do you?”

“I read the book, Professor Petterson.”

“Then you know full well blaming me for her choices is completely uncalled for.”

“I don’t blame you for that, I accuse you of taking advantage of her after the brutality she went through. You used her for your own benefit and then walked away once you got what you wanted and only what you wanted from her. As a human being you cared nothing about.”

“I recent that remark, I cared enough to write about her and put her in the book…”

“That’s not caring for a person, that’s using them.”

“I didn’t use anyone. I asked for an interview and she agreed to be interviewed for the book. I didn’t force myself on anyone let alone this girl.”

“This girl has a name, Professor Petterson. Her name was Vanessa.”

The anger was there, “Yes, fine, her name was Vanessa. I am sorry for her life and it’s tragic end. But I didn’t kill her by writing about her…”

Interrupting, “Actually, you barely wrote about her. You seem to have wanted only so much information from her as you needed and then moved on. I’ve read the book, Professor Petterson, I read every page of that book you pass off as a non-fiction book on sexual psychology bull crap. You simply like talking about it and don’t give a damn about who the victims are.”

“I recent that accusation, Jeff, I wrote a well-written and researched book that is doing quit well with those who read it and understand the point of the book.” The anger was there, “It’s not my fault that the sexuality I discuss in the book bothers your puritan beliefs that all sex is a sin of some kind. That’s your issue, not mine. I’m comfortable with my sexual life and my enjoyment of it. It’s a blatant and obvious fact of society that kids, young teenagers, are having sex and exploring their sexuality earlier and earlier in their lives.” He seemed on the verge of getting up but refrained, “I spent two years on this book, I interviewed both sides of the issue. I made sure all sides of this issue was addressed and discussed and given a clear avenue to talk. I was fair, Jeff, I was fair on all sides…”

“Did you know that Vanessa kept a journal?”

He seemed take aback a bit, “No, I did not.”

“I didn’t think you did.” Finally took a sip of his hot chocolate which was lukewarm but he didn’t care; the look in the man’s eyes was enough.

“I’ve read it so I can quote from it, so I quote, ‘It hurts, everything hurts, and I feel sick. But what choice do I have…another day, another day of being hurt and that horrible taste…’ I’ll stop there because I think it makes my point. She was fifteen when as she stated in the journal when she was first introduced to that particular industry as you called it…” Staring at the man who stared blankly back, “Fifteen. She was fifteen, not eighteen as you wrote in that book you’re so proud of. She was barely fifteen, Professor Petterson. Should I read more?”

The arms folded, “She was eighteen, I stand by what I wrote. And where did you get this so-called journal?”

Jeff was actually enjoying the defensive attitude of the man, “Her mother gave it to me. She never had the heart to read it anymore. Too painful and too much of what her beloved daughter had gone through to read it all; she read enough.”

“This is nothing but slander, libel, Jeff. Nothing but a contrive journal written probably after her death by a grieving mother. Nothing more than that…”

“Oh, she never mentions you. I have read the journal, so calm down before you blow a casket from guilt you claim you don’t have.”

“I’m guilty of nothing.”

“A lot of what she wrote is quit graphic. In fact some of it you actually would have no problem with as you advocate some of it as normal sexual and healthy activity for people to explore themselves and their beliefs. She was quit graphic in her details; I think she felt if she said it it would stop haunting her. It apparently never did….” Looking at him with a look he didn’t like, “She even writes about her first sexual experience…”

“I wrote about that in the book…”

“No, you told your version of it.”

“I wrote what she said in the interview, Jeff.”

“You wrote a version of it as if you were writing one of your short stories, Professor Petterson, you rewrote her story of being raped at fourteen to her simply playing coy and hard to get but eventually allowed three boys to rape her. Doesn’t it bother you that you lied in your book about Vanessa and her life at all?”

“I wrote what she told me, Jeff. I recent this attack upon my credibility as a researcher. I don’t know where that so-called journal really came from but it’s apparently written by someone with an agenda of slander against my well-researched book…”

“You lied about her. You rewrote her entire interview to suit what you wanted for the book you wanted to write to salvage your writing career because of bad sales lately on your last few books on your favorite subject….”

Angry but he quickly regained himself, “I find your attack slanderous, Jeff. I interviewed that girl and I wrote what she said to me.”

Continuing, “….I also have taken notice that you spend a great deal more time on the predators than the victims in your book. You seem more fascinated by those who brutalized her than the fact she was brutalized and treated like their personal punching bag when she didn’t want to do what they wanted her to do. They filmed her being raped, you left that out of your book, Professor Petterson.”

“I left nothing out, Jeff.” Pointing a finger, “When did you become so moral and self-righteous all of a sudden. You forget, Jeff, I know you as well….”

Jeff knew at some point it would come up, “I know my own past, Professor Petterson. I was there last time I checked my past.”

“Because I interviewed you as well, Jeff Brock, I know all about you as well…” The threat was there, “You can sit there and be as moralistic as you want, but I still have my notes on our interview.”

Amused actually, “Yet, nowhere in the book is my name mentioned. Though I did note that I showed up as unidentified source as I recognized the some of what was said to you and you picked what you wanted for the book and left a huge chunk of my story out of your book. Why is that?” He already suspected that the man would attempt to derail the conversation at some point; so let him.

The tone was still defensive, “Much of what you said was not usable, Jeff. No one wants to hear about your religious experience because you felt bad about what you did as a living…”

He still kept the amused look on his face, “Actually I am writing a book on the subject for a local Christian publishing company, their interested in my story. So, whatever accusations or threats you have will do you no good because I am writing my story and I have no reason to not be completely honest with my behavior and sinful choices I made…”

Grunting annoyed at the word, “Ah, the sin word is finally uttered by the moralist. There is no such thing as absolute morality, Jeff, have you not met your fellow human beings. Morality is just a word used by people afraid of their own damn lives and urges they try to hide from everyone around them. Morality is for cowards, Jeff. Cowards afraid to expand their understanding of the human condition…”

“How is raping a young girl expanding any understanding of the human condition?” He struggled again to not fold his arms, “How is dehumanizing a young girl of seventeen or any age a way to understand the human condition let alone justify your so-called research into the world of what you call sexual psychology? How?”

He sighed loudly in annoyance of the question, “When did you become such a deep moralist, Jeff? I don’t force my views or beliefs on others like you of late have been doing. I’ve kept track of your latest attack on my book in your blog, Jeff, and it boarders on slander in my opinion.”

“You advocate all sexual acts as normal for the people involved. You actually defend the violence and brutality and dehumanizing of pornography as just realistic roll playing…”

He remained cold, “Funny coming from you, Jeff, of all people to condemn the very industry you worked for. Very hypercritical.”

“That would be true if I still worked for that abomination.”

Smugly, “How long did you do the exact thing you are now condemning as immoral? When did you start again, what age? You can act the religious man all you want, but I know your story because you told it to me…”

“You left most of it out of your book as I said before.” Leaning forward a bit, “You felt my so-call religious conversion wouldn’t be of any importance to your readers. You left a huge chunk of my story out of your book, Professor Petterson….”

“My readers do not nor would they care to hear about you turning to religion to ease your conscious after all you have done to those girls….” Sipping his coffee, “My readers want to hear about sex, lust, pornography, and everything else associated with that industry you now condemn so self-righteously, Jeff. My readers don’t care how you had a religious moment and found Jesus. They don’t care about that and only care about tits, ass, and pussy, Jeff…”

Jeff was sure the man was about to lose it.

“…What my readers care about is that pornography is healthy and not to be reminded that many of those girls are not acting the pain and humiliation their going through. They don’t care if it’s acting, they like it!”

He remained calm as the best policy for the moment, “I found Christ a little over a year ago. I didn’t discover religion, Professor Petterson, I discovered Jesus Christ…”

“Not important to me or my readers.”

“I guessed that when it didn’t show up in the book. In fact what I did notice about the book is that you spend a great deal more time, as I said before, on those who dehumanized these girls more than the girls. You seem to really enjoy listening to them and their stories. In fact I am quite certain you got off on their stories…”

“I’m not ashamed of what I like, Jeff. Unlike you I have remained true to my beliefs that pornography is healthy. I find it very healthy. You apparently were made to feel guilty for a natural and normal healthy activity and now are hiding behind this newly found religious belief.” The fist hit the table, “I have never found religion a very healthy lifestyle, Jeff. Too many don’t do this, don’t do that, and don’t do anything in fact.”

He thought about something, “I actually grew up in the church, Professor Petterson, I also told you that in the interview and you left that out as well. I grew up in a Baptist Church here in Minnesota; Faith Baptist Church and School to be more exact…” He saw the interruption coming, “I spent the first eighteen years of my life going to church and I didn’t believe one word of it. I went because my parent’s made me go. I could quote scripture with the best of them and play the role of good Christian son when required….”

“So, you were hypercritical from the very beginning.” He smiled at the thought, “Typical religious attitude I’ve noticed.”

“I was very religious because it was easy to be so. I played the part required of a deacons son…” He could see the boredom growing in the man’s features, “I simply went through the motions…”

He interrupted with a laugh, “Why did you not believe in all that religious crap? A deacons son you said?”

Jeff had to be honest, “I simply didn’t believe what I was hearing. I didn’t see much difference between all branches of the church. I didn’t see much of a difference between them even when I did ask my dad….”

He laughed again, “And you wonder why I don’t care much about religion or those who claim to believe in them. It’s all rubbish. It’s all about don’t do anything that involves living life and enjoying the pleasures of the flesh…”

“That’s were you’re very wrong, Professor Petterson. Very wrong.”

“I’m not wrong, Jeff. I’ve met many religious people completely at ease in their church lives and live just find with an occasional pleasure trip into pornography. If you had read the book you would have read that chapter on that point….”

“Yes, I read the chapter. I found it interesting you never once named these people or what church they went to…”

“What are you implying?”

“That your whole book is a fiction and that you enjoyed listening to those men and their tales of raping, brutalizing, and torturing those women and gave a short space for the victims to speak because that wasn’t the point of your book…” Leaning a bit forward, “You glorified those men’s deeds and patronized the victim’s pain and humiliation.”

“I recent that.”

“I don’t care what you recent. I read your damn book and read the mind of a man I knew quite well. I saw myself in that book because I was one of those men.” Lowering his voice a bit as the cafe’s regulars were arriving. “I was one of those men. I was one of those monster’s and I didn’t care what those girls were going through….”

“And I suppose this new found religious insight has made you clean as the wind driven snow? Ha! Religious non-sense and simply avoiding the responsibility of your actions!”

He forced himself to be calm, just be calm, “No, being forgiven doesn’t make the memories go away or the sense of feeling like crap go away. One is still responsible for the actions as I am still accountable to them as I have to still deal with the out-come of my life….”

“Ah, so Jesus has washed away all your sins and guilt, ha! Religious crap at it’s highest. You enjoyed what you were looking at and you simply want to avoid any responsibility for your actions…” He didn’t bother controlling his voice, “Jesus saved you from what? Being responsible for your own lust filled life and enjoyment of those young kids being used for the pleasure of those watching. You said it yourself, you were one of those men, one of those guys who got off on watching the pain of others. And what, Jesus simply forgave you for all that just that easily? Tell that to this Vanessa you care about so much!”

“Jesus forgave my sins doesn’t mean I don’t have to deal with the consequences of them, Professor Petterson.”

“I stand by what I wrote in that book, pornography is healthy, I stand by the interviews I conducted and what I wrote was the truth…”

“It was fiction. It was all fiction.”

“I tried to find those men you talked to, I couldn’t one single name you mentioned. I tried to find the girls you interviewed, I couldn’t find all of them but I did find two.”

“I did interview…”

“You interviewed no one. You made them all up from the experiences of those girls. You used them for your book.”

“That’s slander.”

“It’s the hack work of a man who’s books and stories no one is reading anymore because even your own readers can’t stomach what you are write anymore.” He wanted to stand up and leave but fought the urge for the moment, “I was one of those men, I became the worse of men to satisfy a horrible carnal lust I allowed to enter my life early. I simply didn’t care what my dad preached and he was a great preacher; still is actually. I choice the life I went down and it was an evil life. I simply liked sinning because it was fun to sin and I simply had no intention of repenting of anything…” Softly, feeling it was time to say it, “I knew Vanessa. She use to go to my church…”

Actually taken back but still stared back angry.

“I knew her from the first day her family showed up at the church. You were right, she was a pretty dark haired girl….” He still felt the urge to stand up but didn’t, “I simply followed my carnal mind into sin and into deeper sins. I got away with it because I knew how to play the part of a good dutiful son. It was all an act.”

“Religious hypocrisy at it’s best and you just stand there thinking your Jesus has washed away all your sins and you can simply walk into heaven with clean hands…”

“Only Christ and by Christ can I do that, I have nothing to do with the grace of God but I still have to deal with the consequences of my sins. I still am dealing with it.”

“How did you know this girl?”

“Because I was one of those guys who raped her when she was fourteen.” He got up feeling very tired, “I was one of those monster who destroyed a sweet innocent girl’s body and life with my carnal behavior. I know you don’t care, but I have to live with the consequences of my actions against a young girl who killed herself because of something I did to her. I might as well have taken the razor blade to her wrists myself that day. That’s what I have to live with since the day I truly found Christ in my life. I have to live with the consequences of my actions. Yes, my sins are forgiven in Jesus Christ, doesn’t mean I don’t remember what I did to Vanessa, because I do…I remember almost every day…”

“I find it hard to believe you can say all that religious crap with a straight face. I wrote the truth about sexual psychology and I stand by it. If you feel guilty about it that’s your problem. I find nothing unhealthy about sex or pornography. It’s normal to have sexual thoughts about someone you’re attracted to If you want to hide behind your new found religion that’s your problem.”

He studied the man as he stood there, “She wrote her journal as if she was pouring out her heart to God..The pain in that journal is heart wrenching,…something drove her to take her life finally. Depression will do that..I hope she is at peace….what I did that to her, I have to live with that, I will never get the sound of her crying or begging me to stop out of my head….a man with a conscious is a haunted man my father told me once and he was correct…”

Mocking, “And why did you become so religious? To make yourself feel better?”

He studied the man and actually felt a moment of pity, “I read her journal….her journal lead me to Christ….”

“Not my problem.”

“I came for a reason but I have changed my mind. You’re too pathetic to even think about it. I didn’t become religious, I was already that in the beginning.. Being religious made my behavior very easy to do and justify….”

“People get into religion to avoid their responsibilities for their lives and actions, Peter. It’s all religion is good for and that’s avoiding one’s personal behavior and to justify their behavior behind religion…”

“That’s true, that is what religion is good for. I know, I met enough people very religious but had no problem with drinking, watching porn, and abusing their kids. Saw plenty of it but that wasn’t Christianity….”

Mocking, “Oh, save me from the religious justification police. You simply got religious to avoid actually having to hold yourself accountable for anything. Religious history is full of the self-righteous justifying all sorts of crimes and evil it inflicts on anyone who doesn’t agree with it…”

“Yes, it has and always will. It’s why I didn’t become religious, I became a Christian…”

“The worse religion of them all, Peter!” He stood up, “I don’t pretend to be something I am not, Peter. I like what I do, I like what I write, and I get paid well for my efforts….”

Peter bent down and picked up the back pack, “I came here to do something but you are a waste of time…”

“You’re just another religious guy who’s hiding behind the idea that Jesus saved you and now you don’t have to deal with any of your life you don’t want to admit to. I stand by what I wrote…”

He slung the backpack on, he felt the journal hit his back slightly, “What you wrote was fiction to justify your behavior.” He studied the man who stared back with anger, “I simply choice to live as I did, I can’t afford to justify my sins anymore…”

“You know I am right you hypocrite…” He finished off his coffee with a satisfied smile.

He smiled somewhat, “Welcome to being human, but it doesn’t mean you have to stay there.”

“There is nothing wrong with my life. Nothing wrong with what I write either!”

Peter thought about saying thing else but felt it was time to go. He had come and said what he felt had to be said to the best of his ability; time to walk away.

“That’s what I said to. I was wrong.” He walked away knowing he had more to say but simply felt what was said was enough and it would change nothing with the man.

“Damn hypocrite.” Professor Petterson muttered as he left the small cafe and walked toward his car with a deep satisfaction that he was correct.

He drove home; he never saw the truck that ran the stop light.

Six Days. (Short Story).

cropped-12301412301.jpgThe two men sat in the pastor’s large office. Kevin’s wife, Gwen, statement coming to mind a few days ago.

“You knew it was going to happen, Kev. It was going to happen because some people don’t see Scripture as written…” Gwen had stated as she sat at the dinner table; the two girls waiting patiently as best they could for mom’s post roast to be allowed to be eaten. “But it was the correct thing to do, but we both know what is going to happen…”

He agreed.

The voice was firm but friendly, “Does it matter if the earth is young or old?” The older man asked as he bit into his BLT from his favorite deli, “Don’t see how it’s a major doctrine to argue about.” Brian smiled a bit but continued in the same train of thought, “The issue is mute, Kevin, is it not as it is not really a central pillar of the Christian faith…” He bit again into the sandwich, “I’ve never understood the conflict people are having in this non-relative issue of the age of the earth. It’s not a big deal to me.”

Kevin McPherson thought about the statement before responding to an issue he knew was going to come up, “But without it doesn’t it make complete non-sense of the cross of Christ?”

The beefy hand went up, “That’s complete rubbish, Kevin. Making a mountain out of a small point of theology…” The little eyes seemed to be trying very hard to change Kevin’s mind on the subject, “The major doctrines do not need a young earth let alone an old earth. They just are not that important to the central issues of faith.”

Kevin let the man talk.

“…The doctrines of the Incarnation or even the Resurrection or even salvation does not hinge on the age of the universe…” The sandwich was bitten into again, “Jesus Christ’s ministry has nothing to do with what happened or when it happened at the moment of creation. It just doesn’t have a connection to His life and ministry…” He leaned back a bit in the old chair, “Look, Kevin, you were hired as the new youth pastor to teach the kids and to keep them out of trouble….”

Kevin smiled to be polite, but does that include your own son? Because he’s becoming an atheist right in front of you, Pastor Nelsson.

Assistant Pastor Brian Nelsson was still talking, “We hired you to teach the kids about Jesus Christ and to reach them with the Gospel. We’ve done a very good job. We have no complaints…” The coffee was sipped, “We hired you and we have no regrets on hiring you. You get along with the kids, they seem to really like you…”

Kevin smiled good humored, “Thanks, their great kids.” They were great kids but some of them seemed not all that interested really in either Jesus let alone the Gospel. Some seemed down right hostile to it? Was that the correct word? Well, maybe for one of them it was, Pastor Nelsson.

Pastor Nelsson was still talking, “…We hired you from a long list of candidates. We chose you because we of the Elder’s board went through a long list of individuals who could have easily worked in the position…” The coffee was sipped, “And for the most part there has been no major issues….”

“But?” He knew this was coming; he had been warned this meeting was going to be arranged by the Elders and the Pastoral staff; it was apparent he was not invited to this meeting for obvious reasons. He had been warned by one of the deacons who supported him but had no intention of stating it other than to Kevin.

The expression on the man changed a bit, “Kevin, I’m here as your Christian brother…”

“I have no doubt.”

“yes, no doubt, so please take what I am going to say in that vein in Christian love and fellowship…” He smiled good natured, “It’s come to our attention that in the Junior High class, your class, that you are going through the Book of Genesis. Correct?”

Still in a good mood but cautious, “Yes we are, Pastor Nelsson. With my wife Gwen helping.”

Still smiling but to the point, “It has come to our attention that you are letting your own personal views to be part of the teaching on Genesis. Correct?”

“Personal views?”

The look seemed to be fighting what he wanted to say more bluntly, “It’s come to our attention that your personal views on the historical or literal views of the Scriptures is quit possibly undermining the parent’s authority with their kids….” The Assistant Pastor Nelsson continued with a forced smile, “Some parents think you are over-stepping your teaching on the subject of the literal view of Genesis….” He sipped his coffee with a nervous look for some reason thought Kevin, “I’m not saying you don’t have a right to a personal opinion, not saying that at all, Kevin. You have a right to your views on Scripture like anyone else.” The coffee again was sipped, “Some parent’s just feel that you are forcing your personal views on the kids in your class…”

Kevin was suspecting the constant drinking was a nervous habit, “Forcing my views? Some parent’s?”

He was trying to relax, “I have my own personal views on the subject of Genesis and whether it’s completely historical or allegorical in parts, but I keep my views to myself. My views on certain doctrines is my personal thoughts, I keep them to myself, Kevin. Certain doctrines are not major issues with me…”

“Certain doctrines?” Kevin was sure where this was going, “Not really following. I teach from the Bible, the Word of God, Pastor Nelsson. I simply teach from the Word of God. I am not seeing the problem with what I am teaching the kids.”

The beefy hand went up again, the smile remained in place and frozen in place, “No doubt, no doubt, Kevin. No one is really questioning what your opinion or views are, it’s just that some parent’s feel you are pushing a private interpretation of Scripture on the kids…”

“Pushing it on the kids? Pushing the Word of God on the kids? I teach the kids…” Well, he tried to anyway. Some of them seemed more preoccupied with not paying too close attention to the actual lessons and more into the events around the time of teaching. “I grant you some of them need a little push in the right direction to care let alone listen, but what I teach is the Word and only the Word…” He could see it coming in the eyes of the man, “I do not force my views on the kids…”

The hand went up again, “Kevin, please, take this as a brother in Christ. All I am saying is for you to take this in the spirit it is being given. Please hear me out, hear the parent’s out.”

“I’m listening.” Did he has a choice in the matter?

Pastor Nelsson seemed to relax just a bit, “It’s come to our attention that you’re being, well, rather dogmatic on certain stories in your teaching of Genesis. Mostly the creation story as written in the first chapter of Genesis.” The features seem to be trying awfully hard to be patient, “You are teaching a complicated issue to kids, they are not theologians, Kevin. Keep the stories simple and convey some life lesson and go with that.”

“Go with that?”

“There is no reason to be so dogmatic that Adam and Eve may have actually been real people.” Looking at him over the rim of the coffee cup, “No reason to be so dogmatic on this particular issue, Kevin.”

He repeated the word somewhat puzzled by the accusation, “Dogmatic? What’s there not to be dogmatic about the literal history of Genesis…” He fought the urge to fold his arms; bad habit Gwen told him more than once. “Yes, I am dogmatic about the truth of the Book of Genesis, certainly the first eleven chapters…”

The smile said it all as the hand again went up, “It’s come to our attention, Kevin, that you’re being too dogmatic about the six days of creation in the Bible. Those six days could mean anything for the writer of Genesis….”

“Well, that is what it says, Pastor Nelsson.” Adding as the man was about to interrupt with the hand in the air, “Exodus 20:11, ‘For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth and…”

He interrupted of course with a tone, “I don’t need the verse quoted at me, Kevin. I’m aware of it.” He studied the younger man and it was apparent he was struggling to be patient, “It’s simply has come to the attention of some parents that you are not respecting their view that they don’t agree with you on what it means…”

Kevin leaned back a bit, took a silent breath to relax, “So, Exodus 20:11 doesn’t mean what it plainly states? That God literally and historically created in six days as recorded in the Bible. God Himself told Moses how long it took and He explained why…”

Again the hand, “Kevin, that’s not the point of this meeting. Their are parents that feel you’re being too dogmatic and not leaving any room that you could be wrong in your own private views. You can have your view, but you have no right to force your opinion on their kids as if you and you alone know the truth of something…”

Kevin interrupted calmly, “Pastor Nelsson, the Scriptures say six days and those days were twenty-four hour long days because that is what the Bible teaches. Why would God tell Moses it was six days if it wasn’t how it happened?”

The tone was less than patient, “Kevin, you are not listening to the concerns of the parent’s at all. Some parent’s have different views on how they see these particular versus in the Bible. We don’t really know what those days were like or how long in Genesis. Could be any length of time in fact those first moments of creation. I wasn’t there and neither were you. Those six days could be very symbolic and you’re trying to force Scripture to conform to your view. I see nothing contrary to believing in those days being either symbolic or even simply days that were actually not normal days as we have now….” Reaching over to his closed Bible on his desk, opening it to II Peter 3:8. “You have of course read Second Peter, three-eight?”

The tone said it all thought Kevin, “Yes, of course, but…”

The hand went up, “Just listen again then, the Apostle Peter is speaking of course, ‘But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.’ So you see, your interpretation of those days as literal days in Genesis could be very wrong…”

“The Apostle Peter wasn’t talking about the days of creation, Pastor Nelsson. The Apostle Peter was telling his readers that God is outside of time, that time means nothing to God. It has nothing to do with the days of creation…”

“So, you’re going to state you know better than the Apostle Peter who was lead by the Holy Spirit to write his epistle? Highly proud of a boast, Kevin.” He closed the Bible, “Those days of creation could mean any amount of time, Kevin. The time span between Genesis one and two could be a huge amount of time as well. We don’t really know how long those days were.”

He finally said it, “So, do you believe in death before Adam?”

The man didn’t like the question, “Kevin, what I believe personally is not the issue here.” The tone was sharp, he tapped his fingers on the closed Bible, “I am telling you that some of the parents don’t see Scripture as you do or interpret them as literally as you do.”

“Pastor Nelsson, it’s a simple question, do you believe in death before Adam?”

The tone was not happy, “I am not one of the parent’s complaining, Kevin.”

He wanted to smile but didn’t, “Because to believe in death before Adam is to undermine the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus came because of sin which entered the world when Adam and Eve fell and brought death into the world by their act of sinning.”

The man tapped the pen on the Bible sharply, “Kevin, some of the parent’s are questioning whether we should keep you on staff as a result of their concerns about what your teaching their kids. Do you understand the problem?”

He heard the threat but wasn’t that surprised, “All this because I take Genesis literally as God wrote it, Pastor Nelsson? Because that is all I am doing. Taking the message and history of Genesis seriously just as Jesus did when He spoke of Adam and Eve, when He spoke of Noah as actual people and events…” He could see the interruption coming, “Jesus believed in the historical accuracy of Genesis, He preached it’s message…”

“Kevin, you are pushing your own private view of those verses on the kids. It will stop!” He stared at Kevin a moment, “Whether there was life or death before Adam is a minor doctrinal point, Kevin. Very minor! I have been patient, I have reached out to you as a brother in Christ and have tried to show you that you are causing division in this church via the kids.”

“Causing divisions by defending what the Bible clearly states, Pastor Nelsson?”

“You are causing division in this church, Kevin, because you think you and you alone have the truth of those days of creation. You were not there, I was not there. No one who was there has come forward and told us anything about those days…”

“God was and wrote it down through Moses.”

“That’s your opinion, Kevin.”

He was sure that the entire staff was hearing this conversation by now; thin walls. “It’s what the Bible says, Pastor Nelsson….”

“You are misquoting Scripture, Kevin. You are simply not listening to the correction of the church…”

Kevin remained calm as it seemed better course of action, “It’s death before Adam, Pastor Nelsson. If there is death before Adam then what is the point of the cross of Christ?” He could see the man becoming flustered, “Pastor Nelsson, your own son asked me last Sunday if death was before Adam then what exactly did Jesus die for? He’s a smart kid and asks a lot of questions of what he is taught. He stood up in class and wanted to know what was the point of the death of Jesus…What did He die for?”

The silence was unpleasant.

“Pastor Nelsson, your son sees no reason or point in believing in Jesus Christ if he can’t trust the reason He was crucified let alone what Genesis states so clearly. Why bother with Jesus dying for the sins of the world when one isn’t sure how sin entered the world and why we have death in the first place…” He could see the look in the eyes and it was unpleasant, “Your son sees no reason to believe in Jesus as anything special or what He taught. Why should he believe in Jesus if Jesus entire message is undermined by believing…”

“I will not be preached at, Kevin. You will correct your behavior and follow the teachings of this church…”

“Or what?”

“You know what?”

He had nothing to lose at this point as far as he could see, “Pastor Nelsson, Your son simply doesn’t see the reason to believe in Jesus. If the history in Genesis isn’t factual history then there was death before Adam, because sin and death came into the universe because Adam fell and brought sin into the world. If death was already here before Adam then Jesus died for no reason and the message of the cross is of no importance to anyone…”

He tapped the Bible sharply, “I will not be preached at, Kevin. You will correct your teaching in the class and you will keep your views to yourself. You want to believe that Genesis is factual history you are free to do so, but you will stop imposing your opinion on those kids…”

Kevin had very little to lose, “The foundation of his faith is being corroded away by such preaching and thinking, Pastor Nelsson. He says I know what it says but it doesn’t mean it last Sunday. He doesn’t see Jesus as being all that important…”

“My son believes in Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior, Kevin. He’s been baptized by me personally. He professed Christ…” He was getting angry, “My son is a good Christian young man and will go into ministry when he is older….”

He’s an Elmer Gantry in the making Kevin thought to himself; he doubted that Pastor Nelsson even knew who Gantry was.

Still talking, “….He goes to all the youth functions, he’s even gone to ‘Feed My Children’ last month. He’s a good Christian young man who will make his father proud…”

“He doesn’t believe in the Bible as written, Pastor Nelsson, he simply states that he sees what it says but it doesn’t mean it. He simply states that if all those stories in Genesis are more symbolic than truth, what’s the point of believing in any of it…” He could see it coming, “I asked him where the universe came from? Life came from? You know what he said?”

“What?”

“The Big Bang. Evolution and maybe God used evolution in creating everything…”

“Maybe God did, you can be wrong, Kevin. You talk as if you have all the answers. You’re a proud man, Kevin…”

“I read the Bible as written, Pastor Nelsson and God doesn’t need evolution. Evolution would indeed be a cruel way to create life and certainly would bring death before Adam. The message of the cross is that Adam brought sin and death into the world and the life and death of Jesus Christ…”

He stood up abruptly with in anger, “This meeting is over, Kevin. Correct your teaching or we as the Elder’s will find someone who will teach as we believe in this church. It’s as simple as that.”

Kevin looked at the man who glared back, “We’re destroying the foundation of their faith when we deny…”

Sharply, “I will not be preached at, Kevin. This meeting is over.”

“Were turning our kids very religious but not into Christians, Pastor Nelsson, who can defend what they believe…”

“I will not be preached at, this conversation is over.”

“We are destroying them spiritually, Pastor Nelsson…The Prophet Hosea said in four-six, ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…”

He said nothing as he turned away and shoved a book back into it’s place on the shelf.

Kevin got up slowly, looked at the man with his thoughts and simply left the room; he could tell who had been listening and who had better things to do than ease drop on the private conversation.

He walked toward the main entrance and glanced up at the Scriptural verse over the door to the worship center, ‘For other foundation can no man lay than is laid, which is Jesus Christ.’ First Corinthians, three-eleven.

He spoke to himself, “I wish that were true…” He sat in his truck a bit waiting before calling Gwen with the obvious news. He slowly answered the ringing phone with the ‘Ode To Joy’ ringtone.

“Hey, Gwen, I was going to call….ya, time to find a new job….” He waited a bit before hanging up. Thinking out loud as he started up the truck, “I sometimes wonder if it’s worth it….” He drove away.

Dust To Dust. (Short Story).

cropped-12301412301.jpgThe light drizzle came down from a very grey sky as it did all day yesterday. The traffic was it’s usual heavy flow for late afternoon Monday thought Marc from the driver’s side as he thought about yesterday’s discussion with the older man of ten years or so. Gary had started the conversation before Marc even started the car.

He had of course tossed the book sitting on the front seat to the back seat without a thought of the owners thoughts on the subject. That was Gary’s attitude about most things he didn’t like thought Marc as he watched his book on the history of the early church get tossed the back seat.

“As I said before, Marc, I’d rather believe in little green men from Mars than believe in the Bible as some divine revelation from some God out there.” Gary Johnson repeated the same thing as they left the church after listening to the guest speaker, “The guy was talking nonsense, Marc…”

He smiled good natured, “I found it interesting.”

“Of course you did, Marc, of course you did as you actually believe this crap.”

They had just pulled out of the church parking lot and headed toward Gary’s condo in Roseville. Gary had agreed to come only if Marc drove as he didn’t wish to be seen driving into the church parking lot by someone driving by he might know. Chances of that happening of course was nil but Gary was deadly serious.

Marc was still commenting, “Well, I thought he made some good points, Gary…”

“Good points?” He looked at the younger man with a look of disbelief, “It was nothing but religious wishing thinking at it’s very worse. Scientific rubbish as well…not even sure why I even agreed to come to this thing with you, Marc.”

“Because I asked and it did give you a chance to get out of the house.”

He grunted a reply of understanding his meaning of the last part, “Yes, well, it was a good excuse to not be in the house tonight.”

The rain seemed to increase a bit; a low rumble of thunder came from somewhere.

Marc of course noted his mood, “Well, I’m glad you came, Gary.” He was actually surprised the man had agreed at all. He knew that Gary Johnson was an atheist and he let people know what he believed when certain subjects came up; mostly his dislike of religion of any kind. Marc managed for the most part to avoid religion as a subject; mostly the religion Gary hated and had issues  with called Christianity let alone the church on any level. So it was a surprise when he agreed to come to a church and even a church that was having a guest speaker. Though his personal life and troubles may have been a cause for his coming to avoid being home. He agreed to get out of the house and told Marc that the moment he entered the younger man’s truck. The man looked unhappy and in deep thoughts that Marc was sure had to do with his falling apart marriage. The guy was talking.

“….Yes, sure, anything for a friend I guess…” He was staring out the rain dropped window at the passing cars and scenery of White Bear Ave, “She’s now demanding we either see a counselor or she really will get a divorce.”

“Counselor seems less painful than a divorce, Gary.” Adding, “Divorce is never a pleasant option. How are the kids handling all this stress?”

The tension in his face increased behind the short trimmed red beard, “Taking sides.” It was a sharp reply.

“How do you know their taking sides? Do they know about the problems that much?”

The tension remained, “They know enough to take sides, Marc.” Gary continued to simply stare at the outside traffic and rain, “Robert, my oldest, seems to be the only one certain of who’s side he’s on.”

“Robert’s what age?”

“He’s nineteen.” Adding as if it’s important, “He just started going to the U of M.” Proudly, “He’s a good kid, will do well.”

Marc agreed.

“He’s done well.” Thinking about something as he spoke of his son, “Robert I think is trying to be fair in all this. I’d like to think he is anyway.”

“I’m sure he is, Gary.” He could tell that it pained the man was he was going through.

“He’s a good kid, will do well…” He seemed lost briefly in his own thoughts, “Going for a degree in horticulture, maybe even botany if that is a degree…”

“I believe it is.”

He watched the cars go by for a bit, but he started up again, “And Maria is being a typical seventeen year old girl; taking her mother’s side in almost everything. But then again they have always had a close relationship.” He seemed lost in thought again for a bit, he looked troubled thought Marc really not sure if saying anything would do any good, “They look so much like those two. Same red hair, same blue eyes, even their smiles are the same. She’ll stay with her mom that I have no doubt. I don’t blame her, not really been a close relationship me and Maria….”

Marc agreed; so what else he to do except listen.

“…Maybe when she once much younger we had a connection. I remember we did as a family took a trip to Disney World…” He seemed a little pleased by the memory, “Maria at eight with her prized possession of Mini-Mouse ears.” Softly, sadly, “Not my little girl anymore….” He studied the cars going by, rained dotting the window, “She was such a tomboy when younger…” He went silent with some deeper sad thoughts and it was obvious he was troubled by them.

A long silence came as both men waited for the other to say something; March spoke up.

“You have a younger son, Bryan?”

Gary grunted softly, “Bryan is being a typical fourteen year old kid in high school. He doesn’t like school and his grades show it. He’s the none reader of the three of them…” Amused at something, “You should have seen his tantrum when he had to read a short book for English class. You’d thought he was being tortured via the English language via a damn book….”

“Remember the book’s title?” Keep him talking thought Marc as if seemed a good idea.

Gary had to think about it, “I think it was Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man And The Sea.’ I think. Sounds about right.”

Marc was getting the impression that Gary simply wanted to avoid talking about the speaker he had just heard at the church. He had come very reluctantly to this church but it got him out of the house he had told Marc as they drove to the building that he was dreading to enter. Gary made no bones about his dislike of the church let alone God but for the most part on this particular day he was controlling his words; Marc was more amused than bothered by how hard he was trying to not say something unpleasant.

Gary was talking again, “…I don’t see how going to some complete stranger and talking about our issues is going to solve anything. She wants to give it a try, I really don’t see the point, Marc….”

“Why do you think it will do know good?”

Gary looked at him with a look, “Because it will not change anything. I’m simply being more honest with myself than she is, Marc….” Watching a truck rumble by, “Like the speaker tonight, he proved nothing because it is a waste of time…”

Ah, back to this again, “What do you mean?”

He stared cold at the young man, “Because evolution is a fact of science, Marc. God or no God, and there is no God, but if there was a God, evolution is still a fact.”

Had to say it, “God doesn’t need evolution, Gary.”

“Then we or I for that matter don’t need a God then, do we? No! It’s that simple, Marc.” He returned again to staring out the window, but he was still talking, “Human evolution is a fact of the fossil evidence. Your speaker proved nothing by talking about the…what did he call it?”

“The Piltdown Man.” He knew the comment from the speaker would cause Gary to react and he did with a loud grunt of distain for the comment. “As Professor Jenkins said, the Piltdown Man was claimed to have been discovered by Charles Dawson in 1908. It was mostly excepted by the evolutionists of the day…”

“Ha, it still doesn’t prove God had anything to do with humanity…” Looking at him with a look, “Don’t you teach at that religious school?”

“I teach science…” It took a while he thought going to school and working but he got there and enjoyed teaching.

“Ha, you teach fairy tales and wishful thinking as science.”

“Professor Jenkins was very clear on the facts and history of the Piltdown Man, Gary. He was correct on everything he said. The Piltdown Man was believed because people wanted there to be an ape-man.” He knew the man was simply growing angry, but he had to say his piece, “I teach science, Gary. I teach the history of scientific thought and discovery, so does Professor Jenkins. I’ve read his books and heard him before….he teaches from the Bible the importance and truth of Genesis…”

The annoyance was still there, he was agitated, “He proved nothing to me.” The eyes of the man seemed to grow cold as if struggling with something unpleasant and maybe he was thought Marc, “What he did prove to me is that people will cling to anything to deny the reality that death is it! It’s final, nothing after it and no one comes back from it, Marc.” A motorcycle slowly drove by noted Gary, His message was for the uneducated in that building. He simply assured those present of their own simplistic beliefs that beyond this life their is a person waiting for them with open arms. Death is final, Marc. There is no God or spiritual beings waiting for them with loving open arms to welcome them into a never-ending paradise…” It went on like that a bit longer. “It’s not important to me whether any of the fossils are real or fake or just a hoax, Marc, I know full well that there is no God and I simply don’t care if there is one anyway. I just don’t care what scientific evidence your speaker spouts as fairy tale truth…” Looking out the window briefly, “Death is final, Marc, and nothing more to it than that. It’s a fools wishful thinking to believe other-wise.”

Marc got a word in, “It doesn’t work that way, Gary. The Christian life is a little more complicated than what you think it is…”

He continued to be annoyed, “People are born, people live for a while, and then they die. It’s that simple, Marc.” He looked away as if to regain his temper, “I don’t need God nor have I ever needed a God to live my life.” Under his breath, “Don’t care if there is one anyway.” Looking at his hands briefly, twisting his wedding ring, stops abruptly, “She wants to go to a religious counselor of all people.”

“Really?” Marc was actually surprised by this, “I thought she didn’t believe in God either?”

He grunted very annoyed, “That was before she made a new friend at the school she works at. Lately she has been taking Maria with her to her new friends church.” Looking at Marc, “I allowed it because she kept this to herself and didn’t try to force this stupid religion non-sense on me.” He again seemed lost in thought for a bit, “I’ve met the woman once and that was all I needed to do. A religious flake, Jesus this and Jesus that and Jesus everything else. Then apparently she recommended the counselor at her church…”

“She was probably just trying to help, Gary.”

Angry, “She should be minding her own business.”

“Well, me and Isabella went to a counselor for a while at the church we are now going to…”

He looked at him puzzled, “You and your wife went to a religious counseling? You two seem to do well together. I’m surprised.”

Marc was amused by the reaction, “Well, it was pretty unpleasant for a while, Gary, after a few years. The first few years went fine, but things started going bad…”

“Yes, well, you two seem to have your marriage together.” As an after-thought, “You have kids don’t you?”

Fondly, “Yes, twin daughters. Mia and Emily…”

He actually slightly smiled, “Twins, huh. Sounds like an endless trouble. How old are they?”

He laughed as he turned unto the freeway, “They will be twelve next month, February 2nd to be exact.” Amused, “Goundhogs day.”

Gary didn’t smile, “What does one need a God for anyway, Marc?” He didn’t wait for an answer as he didn’t want to hear one, “My dad was an atheist and it didn’t do him any harm.” Looking at him with a look that said much on the subject of his father, “He was eighty-one, he saw no need for a God and didn’t care if there was one. Simply went about his life and saw no proof or reason to believe in some God up there in the sky who cared a bit about the human condition. God doesn’t need us and we don’t need Him. We are doing just fine without God pestering us with His existence…..Dad didn’t need Him and He didn’t need Him at the end of his life..”

Marc noted the past-tense of the comments.

“He fought in the Second World War during the Bulge, saw no other action if I remember correctly. He didn’t talk about it much but when he did it was blunt and clear that God was not needed…” He looked at Marc, “He went on to his own business, still saw no reason for a God.” Shifting a bit to get a better look at Marc, “You know he even went once to a Billy Graham crusade because a girl he was dating wanted to go…”

“really?”

“He found it boring and silly and told her so. They didn’t date much after that as she became way too religious for his taste. He was right of course, it is silly and for those afraid to die. Your speaker seemed to imply that people deny there is no God because they don’t believe in an after-life. I simply don’t believe in a God because there isn’t one.” He went quiet again with some inner thoughts, “I was shocked when he told me he had gone to a Billy Graham crusade. Though he said it didn’t change his mind it still bothered him for a while but he slowly got over it.”

“Did he?”

Looking at him coldly, not liking the question very much, “Why do believe in a God?”

Marc knew it was coming, “It’s a little long a story, but the short version is that I was an alcoholic; had been drinking pretty early…”

“Don’t drink anymore? But go on?”

“Not anymore, no, not anymore.” He stopped a bit, “I drank a lot, I needed it and I wanted it. Izzy knew of course I drank but I don’t think she quit realized how much I drank. I couldn’t or wouldn’t go a day without a drink or two…”

“Why did you stop drinking?” Not waiting for an answer, “I suppose some religious reason…”

“No, Gary, not really.” He felt baited but he continued, “We both simply got married probably too early. My dad thought we had and he was probably correct. He thought us too young, which was true we were all of twenty and nineteen.” He glanced at the picture dangling from the rear-view mirror of the girl he married; two young girls flanking their mother with cheerful smiles of ten year old’s. The picture had been taken on one of their trips to Lake Superior in the Fall as one could see the leaves had changed to a myriad of colors with Lake Superior in the background. “Yet, we made it despite the critics and those convinced we would be divorced in three years; it was actually almost done in our fifth year, but we beat the early odds anyway.”

“What about the drinking?”

That seemed to be all he heard thought Marc, “I was young, started a new job helping manage my dad’s small restaurant; he was boss and owner and ran a tight ship.” Adding fondly, “He was ex-Navy. It was actually enjoyable work.”

“What kind of food?”

He seemed almost interested in his own question thought Marc Zeece, “Greek food mostly, my dad’s grandfather came over from Greece.”

“Okay, never had Greek food, but continue.”

Marc wasn’t that surprised, “Well, about the fourth year or so, me and Izzy were having some major issues and I must admit my drinking was not helping. Not at all was it helping. It was getting worse.”

“Why?”

The look simply refused to change thought Marc, “I was stressing out over the restaurant and I was taking business management classes at Century Collage by that time and finding I was not enjoying it as much as I use to. I was finding myself getting angry at the least important things…”

The expression never changed, “I drink, Marc, I have no issues like yours.”

Marc simply smiled at that to be nice, “Well, my behavior wasn’t so nice at times.”

“So why didn’t you simply get a divorce?”

He looked at the picture quickly, “I still loved my wife, Gary.”

He grunted, “I suppose that was a good enough reason.”

“It was around this time when things were really getting bad that Izzy met her new friend from church.”

“Ah, yes, church again.” Looking at him sternly, “You know people don’t need religion to change, Marc. People change because they want to and they don’t need religion to do it. Sounds like you simply allowed some emotionalism on your wifes part  to change your behavior…”

Be patient he told himself, “No, because I actually didn’t want to go to the counselor at the church in the first place. But Izzy did and because I really wasn’t so drunk to throw away a marriage that wasn’t too bad when I wasn’t drinking.”

He grunted a response, “Sounds too religious to me of an excuse to change. Religion is for those who simply can’t or won’t pick themselves up and change something. My father didn’t need it and I don’t need it.”

“No, what changed my mind was that she got pregnant around the same time. As much as I had your attitude about the whole thing about talking to someone I simply couldn’t say no to that unhappy face with the two of my girls growing inside her.”

“Sounds like emotionalism to me created by a pregnant wife…”

Be patient he again told himself, “She had had already by then two miscarriages, Gary, by then. Two dead kids in her life was enough for her. And yes she was crying when she begged me to at least give it a try…”

“Sound like you gave in?”

Marc simply smiled at the man with a look he didn’t see, “I was willing to give it a chance because despite it all, Izzy was important to me and the two little lives in her womb were important to me….I still drank, of course I did…still even then alcohol was a little more important than her or my two little angels….”

“So you were guilt tripped into staying married by a crying wife and then you became religious as well…”

“Gary, I didn’t become religious. I went with her because she asked me to because she didn’t want to end the marriage anymore than I did. I had a drinking problem, a very serious drinking problem and it was costing me a great woman and possibly my two little girls. I went because I was willing to give it a shot as a possible way to salvage our life together. My dad even encouraged me to do this…”

Grunting annoyed, “You allowed your wife to run the marriage, Marc. My dad would never even think of sending me to some religious counselor to solve my marriage problems. Solve them yourselves he would have told me. He’d point at me and make it clear that religion and religious people don’t have real-world solutions to real-world problems they are the last people to go to.” He smiled at something with a look of distain, “We must solve are our problems and not wait around for some God or religious institution to solve them for us. We as human beings are quit capable of solving our problems without some religious dogma being part of the solution…”

Interrupting, “The counselor we went to saved our marriage, Gary.”

“Who was this person?”

“Our present pastor….”

“A religious man has no business giving any advise about what is good for or not good for a marriage. Stick to preaching your religion and keep it in the church. That’s my dad’s opinion and it’s mine. My father would not have stood for such a person telling me anything about how to fix a marriage….”

“I think you really don’t understand the Christian faith very well, Gary.”

He looked at him with a look, “Religion is fine for the weak minded and those who convince themselves that their is a life after death or need something to cling to as the time of dying comes. Death is final, Marc. Religion, and yes in my opinion, the Christian religion has been a stain on history from day one. Death is a fact, nothing beyond it..”

He turned off the freeway.

Gary was still pontificating, “….You simply allowed yourself to be forced to do something you didn’t want to do by a crying pregnant woman who had become indoctrinated into a religion I find an offence to my own personal beliefs. I’m sure there is some good from all that religious crap, but that’s for other people with no self-control..”

“All I know, Gary, is that the counseling of Pastor Nelson did us some good.”

“Emotionalism, Marc, is the foundation of most religions.” Adding, “Religion is a cop out for dealing with the real world and it’s problems. Nothing good has ever come from religion…”

“I found my life changing, Gary, and it wasn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t due to getting emotional about anything. It took a while to change and it took a while to stop drinking…”

“My father would disagree very strongly and so do I.” Looking out the window as they passed the Har Mar Mall, “You found a religion that gave you a reason to change from one thing to another because it effected you in some emotional way you simply don’t want or can’t see. I see it very clear and you don’t, you were guilt induced to go to church to avoid a fight and then you simply followed suit by becoming just as religious as she is…”

“You don’t understand Christianity, Gary, it’s not about be emotional about things. It’s a personal walk with God in Christ by the Holy Spirit…”

Interrupting angry, “We are primates, Marc, somewhere in the distant past of earth’s history we have a remote ape ancestor. That is your real Adam, not some fair story about Adam and Eve. We are the result of evolutionary forces, Marc. Not God! We are born, we die. We are simply the product of an evolutionary moment when a primate started changing. You’re speaker proved nothing to me about his long list of problems with his human evolution chart Nothing!”

That was another point the speaker irritated Gary over. Adam and Eve defended by the speaker as being actual people and factual history.

He was still talking of course, “…We are not created by some God from the dust of the earth, Marc. We are a evolutionary fact of the natural world via evolution.” He seemed on the verge of yelling, “I am so sick and tired of religious people shoving their beliefs down people’s throat’s as if it’s their damn business to do so. Keep your religion to yourself, Marc! You were made to feel guilty by your wife and you simply followed orders and became just as religious as she is….” My father was quit happy without God and he had no interest in having one interfering with his life. He hated religion, Marc. He saw nothing good in it…”

At least this explained the man’s opinions Marc thought as he listened.

“Where you not already happy with your life before all this religious non-sense?”

Marc responded with some thought to it, “Not really, I was drinking too much to know if I was really happy or just too drunk to be honest. I suppose I was happy enough but it seemed to need that extra push of a drink to make it really worth the effort….”

He didn’t like the answer, “One can be happy without religion or a God, Marc. My father excepted life and death as the natural order of things. Death was a normal event because that is what people do, they die.” As an after thought, “He spent the last few days in a hospital bed feeling no need to believe in a God or an after-life.”

“So, he just lay there waiting for what?”

He seemed to go sullen a few seconds in thought, “Well, for a few days he was just as cheerful as any man who has lived a good long life…though he did complain of not being able to to sleep well, complained of bad dreams…”

“Bad dreams?” He turned down the main road of Gary’s condo.

It was apparent he was troubled by something, “My dad didn’t believe in ghosts or anything else he could see, Marc. He was man quit staunch in his beliefs….”

“So I have noticed.”

“He claimed the medication was causing him to see things, kept him awake…” He looked out the window, “Kept complaining he was seeing something….”

“Something?”

“He claimed that the medication was making him see ghosts.” He looked at Marc, “He was dying, Marc, the medication was effecting his senses…”

“Ghosts? Seriously?” Marc studied the man carefully, “Not sure I even believe in such things.” Though when he was younger he did listen to Art Bell’s late night radio show and found it all interesting if not hard to believe sometimes.

He again grunted in annoyance, “Dad said it hovered in the corner of the room. It just stood there watching him.” He seemed to shudder a bit, “Dead eyes dad said just staring at him. He said it just stood in the corner staring at him with dead blank dark eyes…” He looked at Marc briefly, “Said it was smiling at him as well.” Under his breath, “We had the medication changed after that.” Feeling he had said too much, “He was a sick man and the medication was causing these nightmares.”

“What do you think he was seeing?” He had to ask.

Sharply, “It was the medication, Marc. Nothing more than that, just the damn medication was causing him hallucinations.”

Marc sensed the man didn’t believe his own words on the subject.

“So he died peacefully?” He had to ask.

Gary said nothing for a bit, “He was a sick man, he didn’t know what he was saying let alone seeing….”

“Did he die peacefully?” He asked again as he felt he had to ask. The light drizzle had slowly ceased a while ago as he slowly turned into the condo parking lot. “He sounds like he was firm in his belief that there was no God?”

He seemed sullen in his reply, “He was sick toward the end. He seemed fine one minute and then, well, looking at something as if something was in the room with us that he didn’t like…”

“A ghost?” He was trying to draw the man out because something in his features made it clear that whatever his dad was seeing it bothered the son a great deal, “What do you think he was seeing, Gary?” He pulled into the parking space next to the man’s own car.

He looked over at his own parked car a bit, “It stopped raining finally. I hate the rain.”

Marc waited, “Yes, finally letting up.”

Gary finally spoke up as if his thoughts were a struggle, “He swore he saw a creature in the room; ugly thing staring at him with dead eyes…” Looking over at Marc, “I should have sued St. John’s for whatever medication they were giving him was causing horrible nightmares….” Looking away, “I don’t believe in an after-life, Marc, because there isn’t one. There is no God, there are no angels to take you to a heavenly peace, and there certainly are no demons to torment you. It’s a big vast universe out there, Marc, and evolution doesn’t create demons…” He seemed unable to look at Marc, “As I said before, I’d rather believe in space aliens than believe there is a God out there keeping track of my life. It’s none of His business what I do with my life or who I do it with…” He looked at Marc with a strange look, “I don’t like religious people, Marc.” He started opening the door, “Their delusional, their entire religious beliefs are dangerous…” He stood at the door staring at Marc with a look of a man not quit convinced of his own words, “He died screaming, Marc, because of religious people forcing their views on his life and attacking his beliefs as an atheist! He was just fine with his beliefs, and so am I!” He wanted to slam the door, “He died screaming about….he was a sick man, you people couldn’t leave his beliefs alone!”

“Who or what are you talking about, Gary?”

He stood there a bit in deep annoyance. The face was agitated, “Your speaker was wrong about everything, Marc. Everything! God did not create us from the dust of the earth! The Bible is the worse of the religious books out there…”

“Gary, what’s gotten into you?”

He tried to calm down, “He was quit firm in his beliefs, Marc. He never once had a need for a God, but oh no, you people couldn’t leave him alone! He was fine!”

“Gary, what happened at the hospital?”

Gary stood his ground, “Marc, just leave my beliefs alone. Your speaker was simply feeding off the fears of those terrified of the unknown. Spouting all that crap about the historical accuracy of Genesis! How we are God’s creation and how God makes the rules. I’ll follow my own rules thank you!”

“So, all this anger because you don’t like the idea that God makes the rules for life? Let alone that there is a God?” Asking again, “What happened in the hospital?”

Wanting to Slam the door shut with a comment but he held it open still, “Keep you damn religion to yourself, Marc! I don’t need religion to be happy or save my damn marriage! There is no God, never has been a God, and no God gives a damn about mine or your life! I’ll stick to my beliefs and you keep yours to yourself!”

“Why are you so angry at a God or belief you don’t believe in, Gary,  in the first place? You really shouldn’t be this angry at someone who doesn’t exist.”

“He doesn’t exist! Standing up there babbling that religious garbage at the gullible and terrified of their own mortality. God makes the rules because He and He alone created us! Bullshit all of it! I’m the one in control of my own life, my father was just fine before you religious wackos started preaching at him…”

Marc was somewhat puzzled, “What are you really angry about, Gary? You’re all over the subject. What happened in the hospital that has set you off?”

He simply stood there a bit looking as if he wanted to rip the door off as he held unto it so tightly, he found his voice, “My father died screaming at something that wasn’t there! He was just fine before he started remembering things about what some of you religious fanatics told him….” He shoved his hands into his pockets, stood his ground with rage, “He was fine before he started remembering….he had his beliefs….he was happy with his beliefs that their was no God…..he had lived his whole life with the sure knowledge that their was nothing after death but death….”

“There is a God, Gary, no amount of denying His existence is going to change that. Sounds like your father was beginning to doubt his own beliefs toward the end of his long life of denying that there was anything after death. Maybe it was the medication, I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but it sounds like he was seeing something that was mocking his denial of God, of the spiritual world, that his beliefs were not true…” He could see the main on his last rope of being able to listen, “Sounds like what your father was seeing was very real…and it was mocking him.” He could see the violence coming as he continued, “I’ve listened to everything you have said and have been I think fairly fair in my comments. But you simply don’t want to believe in anything but yourself, Gary, and it sounds like before your father died his beliefs failed him…He built his whole philosophy of life on one foundation and that was that God was a myth and there was nothing to deal with after death. His beliefs failed him at the very end…” He was surprised that Gary was little him say so much, but it wouldn’t last long he was sure, “Your beliefs are the same as his and in the end his beliefs failed him. He simply saw death coming and the foundation of his atheist beliefs crumbled at the horror of the idea of dying. It’s simple, Gary, when he needed his beliefs to support him as death approached they simply failed him because he had nothing to hope in or hold unto or even actually believe in….” The thought came to him, “You’re terrified that when your time comes you’ll also go screaming into an eternity you don’t believe in….” He saw the rage in the man, “Admit it, Gary, you simply resent people who have a hope in something that you simply refuse to believe in let alone see.”

The door slammed shut with violent force; Marc was impressed the window didn’t shatter it was closed so violently. He watched the angry man enter his condo and as the lights where all off Marc assumed no one was home at the moment. He pulled away from the parking lot wondering if he would hear from the man again. He probably wouldn’t was his final thought as he headed home. He felt sorry for the guy as it was apparent something had happened those final days or hours of his father’s atheistic life that Gary wasn’t saying. The lone picture of his wife and kids dangled from the rear-view mirror reminding him of where he was going. He headed home silently praying for the man.

What else could he do?