Indians, Cowboys, and the Environmental Cavalry: The Battle of Lake Earl

Indians, Cowboys, and the Environmental Cavalry:
The Battle of Lake Earl
by Ed Wolfe – Published: 03.13.01

 

The Indians

Aside from technological advances, the biggest change in our society today compared to 200 years ago is how involved that mutant servant of ours called Big Government has become involved in our local affairs.

Once upon a time there were still Indians who went about their lives without having to worry about hunters, explorers or United States soldiers interrupting their affairs by shooting at them, massacring them and nearly wiping them off the face of the land. One such group of Indians was the northern California Tolowa tribe.

 tolowa-girl

Tolowa girl. circa 1921

They never thought of it as California though. To them it was home, and they were “the people.” If we were to compare where they lived then with the cities most of us live in today, we would have thought they lived in Eden. The Tolowa lived at the uppermost tip of California, just below where the Oregon state line is today. The land they inhabited was a topographical smorgasbord featuring mountains behind them, ocean in front of them, a lagoon/lake between their village and the ocean separated by a natural sand barrier, pastures, creeks, rivers, etc. Try to imagine a setting like that and at the same time, blot out any thoughts of cars, buildings, telephone poles, or any kind of mechanical noise.

The Tolowa lived off the natural resources provided by the abundant wildlife and wilderness. As does anyone who maintains their existence with natural resources, they knew how to strike a balance between their needs and the respect they held for the plants and animals. They did not hunt or fish for sport. They did not cut trees to make convenient paths through the forests. But neither did they leave everything in its native state out of a reverent worship for the earth and the things that grew, walked and swam on its surface.

The Tolowa Indians could teach a thing or two to today’s “environmentalists” about how to live on and respect “Mother Earth” at the same time. When they needed to make canoes, they cut down trees. When they needed hides, they hunted deer. They fished, hunted birds for food and feathers and killed predators when necessary.

 earl-tolowa

Earl off to the left, Tolowa to the right

In addition to using the natural resources for their sustenance, they also engaged in what we might call land management. The Tolowa lived on the edge of what is now two lakes called Lake Tolowa and Lake Earl. This is a lake sitting right in front of the ocean but separated from it by a sand bar. (Technically, it’s a lagoon, but it’s considered today to be Lake Earl and Lake Tolowa, so that’s how they’ll be referred to here.) Unlike most lakes, Earl and Tolowa don’t have a way to provide natural run-off when the lake water rises continually from heavy rains. Some of the Tolowa Indians lived on land near the twin lakes and had a cemetery close to them so they naturally had a vested interested in the lake water not rising too high. Their solution was to breach the sand bar by hand thus allowing the lake to slowly drain into the ocean. The natural ebb and flow of the tide would gradually fill the breach in again. It was a fairly simple solution to what could have been a huge problem requiring them to relocate completely.

Although they had the option of relocating, it’s doubtful that the elders at the time would have approved of relocating their deceased tribal members buried there. But this solution of slowly draining the lake on occasion worked out well for them. The process was simple and had the added benefit of drawing out some waterfowl for easy hunting. And so, life was good for the Tolowa. And it remained good while elsewhere in the nation indigenous people were fighting for their lives and waging war with U.S. Cavalry, settlers, trappers, traders, etc.

The Tolowa may have been among the last to join the fray, being situated as they were as far as anyone could possibly be in the West without going into the ocean. Apparently though, all good things must come to an end, and they surely did for the Tolowa people.

In 1828 famed explorer Jedediah Smith passed thru northern California on his way up North. According to local Tolowa history, he did what explorers and traders usually do when encountering a new culture – he introduced them to things they’d never known about before. Although our history books describe Smith as man who didn’t drink or smoke and was believed to have very strong Christian morals, the Tolowa say he introduced to their culture via their young women such things as rape and gonorrhea.

After their encounter with Jedediah Smith, things only got worse from then on for the Tolowa. They would never again know the peace and tranquility of their village by the sea. Eventually, many of their tribe were massacred and buried by the lake that bears their name. Later, the descendants of the survivors were mostly relocated by the U.S. Government. Those that agreed to the relocation (tribal dispersement and dilution) were given official status as “federally recognized Native Americans” and the attendant (welfare) benefits of such status. The hold-outs may as well be listed as Irrelevant Endangered Species.

 

The Cowboys

Original article sidebar

“Numerous vigilante type paramilitary troops were established whose principal occupation seems to have been to kill Indians and kidnap their children. Groups such as the Humbolt Home Guard, the Eel River Minutemen and the Placer Blades among others terrorized local Indians…

The handiwork of these well-armed death squads combined with the widespread random killing of Indians by individual miners resulted in the death of 100,000 Indians in the first two years of the gold rush. A staggering loss of two thirds of the population. Nothing in American Indian history is even remotely comparable to this massive orgy of theft and mass murder.” — Professor Edward D. Castillo, “Short Overview Of California Indian History”

After the Indian massacres and the Gold Rush hysteria ended, life went on as usual. People settled in the area near the lake which became Crescent City in the county of Del Norte. The area was rich with old growth redwoods and a mill established in 1853 cranked out redwood lumber for the next 100 years. In addition to the timber industry, fishing and agriculture were mainstays of the area.

To people not familiar with the California and Oregon coasts it appears odd at first to see cattle and sheep roaming pastures with the Pacific Ocean in the background, often times less than 1/2 a mile away. The people that set up ranches on the fertile ground near Lake Earl quickly learned the customs of those who lived and worked the lake area before them. They had to keep an eye on the lake to keep it from rising higher than four feet above the Mean Sea Level (MSL).

For generations, this was never a problem. Eventually the county took over the task and it would appear that everyone was happy. The ranchers in the area like Helen and Brian Fergeson who kept dairy cows on land adjacent to the lake never anticipated that there would be a problem. The lake only flooded after heavy, prolonged rains and the county was good about breaching the sand bar when the water surpassed four feet MSL. An investor named Andrew P. Tell certainly didn’t anticipate a problem with the lake(s) when he sub-divided and sold 1500 lots, many on the lake’s perimeter. The California Real Estate Department had no reason not to allow Tell to sub-divide the land north of the lakes into 1500 lots. The buyers, mostly southern California retirees had no reason to believe there’d be any problem with the lots they rapidly bought from Tell with the intention of building their coastal getaways and retirement homes.

In the mid to late sixties Viet Nam was starting to become a serious issue. The Beatles had invaded America, and flower-power was making its debut in larger metropolitan areas. But small town life in Del Norte County was much the same as it had always been. Timber was harvested, salmon were fished and dairy cattle were milked for cheese. Crescent City, the heart of Del Norte County had recently lived thru a tsunami that destroyed the downtown area and killed nine people, but the area was being rebuilt and people were getting on with their lives and businesses. But then a new force seemed to suddenly appear on the American landscape at the tail end of the sixties and early seventies. Since then it’s become a problem for landowners across the country. The man who takes credit for starting it all lived in Crescent City near Lake Earl from August of 1997 to February of the following year – accommodations provided by Pelican Bay State Prison.
The Cavalry

 manson

Father of the Enviro-wackos?

Although the genesis of the American environmental movement has probably not been traced to a single person, there is one man who can be described as one of the very first environmental wackos, though he became notorious for reasons completely outside the scope of land and animals. I consider Charles Mills Manson to be the founder of all the flakes following in his footsteps – whether they realize it or not. Although Manson specialized in brainwashing teenaged runaway girls into seeing him as some sort of messiah, you wouldn’t see a recognizable difference if he had spent his time teaching environmentalism to a modern class of earth worshippers.

Along with teaching his followers that the Beatles were sending him secret messages that could only be heard when you played their songs backwards and that these messages were instructing him to provoke a white/black race war, he also taught them the sanctity of the “Air, Trees, Water, Animals” which he called ATWA and that they needed to be “ATWAR” with pollution and environmental degradation. “Charlie” takes credit for starting or planting the seeds of today’s most extreme environmental groups such as “Earth First!” and the Animal Liberation Front. There is no discernible difference between Manson’s sentiments on nature and the way today’s environmental extremists feel about nature – giving any living thing, including flies and snails supreme importance and sanctity over human life and welfare.

Few enviro-wackos would argue with this quote from Charlie:

“…God’s coming is not for the glory of people but the kingdom of life and that’s bugs, birds, bees, wildlife, trees, fish.” – Charles Manson

Left-wing extremists in general probably agree with this one:

“All must have a one world government, money, army, all in order to bring order in fast…” – Charles Manson

With the most extreme of the environmentalists now engaging in bombings, arson and sabotage of timber woods, none of them would appear to be at odds with Manson’s directive to the U.S. population about getting in tune with the environment: “Do or die.” Manson was ready, willing and able to kill in order to bring about what he believed was some sort of solution. His environmental heirs don’t seem to be too far behind him. This extremist cavalry that has ridden in to the town of America to save every creature that walks the face of the earth (people not included) have done what other liberals and wackos seem to have also done nationwide – they’ve insinuated themselves into our civil service. As their radical counterparts cause mayhem for the timber, fur and fishing industries, the more low-key among them are on government payrolls, turning their ideology into policy.

 GPSA-FPS.lnk

Evening at Lake Earl near the Fergeson’s

In 1972, the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act became law. California quickly adopted a state version of the Act to implement the federal act. The effect this act has had on the people living around Lakes Earl and Tolowa is being felt to this day. One of the first ramifications was a regulation imposed on the Pacific Shores 1500 lot sub-division that basically said that anyone who actually intended to follow through with building a house on the ocean or lakefront property they had just bought could not include any type of septic system. It’s almost impossible to understand and keep track of all of the city, county, state and federal agencies that have been involved in the war over Lakes Earl and Tolowa so I won’t even try to cite each of them and their specific regulatory restraints that have made life hell for some citizens in the area. The first that seems to have jumped into the act though was the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. In addition to disallowing septic systems to be put in on any of the lakefront lots, they also required that there be “zero drainage” of any “pollutant” into the lakes. If you watered your lawn and runoff made it to the lake, that would be considered a pollutant.

This effectively stopped anyone from building on their recently acquired property and moving in. The purpose appears to have been to preserve the lagoon and the “wildlife habitat” in and around it. (It could just be a coincidence that the State of California wanted to make a wildlife park on the land that the subdivision sits on.) As part of California’s self-imposed responsibility for implementing the federal coastal management act, the Fish & Game Department conducted a study of Lake Earl and published their recommendations. Nevermind that it had done just fine by itself and with the occasional help of locals, (starting with the Tolowa Indians over a century before.) The official environment cavalry had to have its say in the matter, and to the surprise and relief of many, it said that the lake should be left the way it was, including maintaining the water level at 4 feet. This was good news for the ranchers because it meant the state was not going to force them to be flooded off their land. It was also good for the Pacific Shores lot owners, the Tolowa Indians, and the wildlife that lived in the area or stopped in along the “flyway.”

For some reason, everything changed in 1986. Despite the Fish & Game study that was authored by four Wildlife Managers and Biologists, a Fisheries Biologist, a Marine Biologist and a Coastal Wetland Program Coordinator, the Fish & Game Dept. decided that the lake could no longer be breached until it had surpassed the eight foot water level. This decision seems to have been made with the thinking that “Mother Nature should be left alone for the good of all wildlife concerned.” But it is in complete contradiction to the Department’s own study of the lake and the observable effects that flooding has on the wildlife that depend on the lake being at a lower level. Don’t expect to find reason or sanity though when dealing with environmentalists.

With the new, higher water levels, mandatory flooding became the norm. The effects have been disastrous for the ranchers, the lot owners, the Tolowa Indians and the endangered species that are alleged to benefit from the higher lake level.

 PacificShores

Flooded Pacific Shores “homeowner lot”
(2 weeks after an emergency breaching)

Ranchers with land that extends to the lake now have to deal with flooded pastures. This requires the expensive relocation of their herds. The subdivided lots become what the owners would call a swamp, but the green-freaks call a “wetland,” which although it doesn’t exist without the flooding, must now be allowed to remain as though it were vital to the wildlife and waterfowl. However, the flooding wipes out the habitat of the endangered Silver Spot Butterfly forcing it to land and frolic elsewhere. It also wipes out the greenery that the Aleutian Geese, (recently taken off the Endangered list) normally eat, forcing them to go further inland for food and nesting areas. This results in adding insult to injury for the ranchers since the land of theirs which isn’t flooded gets raided by geese. The geese have the run of the land since they’re still a protected species, which means the cows have to be moved if they haven’t already been moved due to the flooded pastures. The endangered Coho Salmon that used to take advantage of the lake breaching to gain entry to the lakes and streams no longer have a way in and are forced to go elsewhere. And lastly, the Tolowa Indians who’ve been all but wiped out in the area now have the further indignity of having the burial grounds of their massacred ancestors flooded.

None of this makes sense when the whole point is supposed to be the protection of these species and the habitat they depend on. And it makes the least sense of all to the landowners who have reasonable expectations of rights to their land. One logical proposition to solve this dilemma of high water or low water for the lake would be for the state to purchase all the land around it and then flood it to their heart’s content. This presupposes that the state would be willing to spend a sufficient amount of money to not only buy all 1500 lots in the Pacific Shores, but to also sway those ranchers that don’t want to move and have lived in the area for generations with no desire to leave. The state is not willing.

 Erickson

Bill Erickson looks down at the ocean from his
property. The subdivision is behind him.

Former County Supervisor Bill Erickson has endured a unique problem as a direct result of the forced flooding. His property is on the ocean front, adjacent to the subdivision lots, but it is not subject to the flooding despite its proximity to the subdivision. However, the county roads that were put in to serve the subdivision do get flooded and they provide the only access to Erickson’s land aside from coming at it from the other side in a boat.

Bill says, “You can’t develop, sell or even use land you can’t get to, so my property was effectively taken from me years ago when an out of control State Agency considered itself above all laws [including] the State and Federal Constitutions.” As far as he’s concerned, the forced flooding is a crime. If his land is going to be rendered unusable, then he should be compensated for it. If the state doesn’t want to buy it, then they need to recognize and respect it as being private property.

Others like Helen and Brian Fergeson don’t want to move. They’ve lived on their lakeside land for generations and don’t see why the lake can’t continue to be breached as it has been for over a hundred years, and as the Fish & Game Department’s 1975 study said it should continue to be in order to keep the lake at four feet above MSL. Helen and Brian have been battling this issue for a while and at times, the battle has gotten fairly ugly, especially on the government’s side. At one time when the lake was flooding in the 80’s due to the required eight foot above MSL that the Fish & Game Department insisted on, a Fergeson cow pasture was being destroyed, as was the subdivision properties. Someone called the President of the Pacific Shores Property Owners Association and he flew up and had someone go out and breach the lake. It was a defiant act of preservation. The Fish & Game department only saw the defiance in it and charged him with violating federal laws. What’s worse is that Helen Fergeson was charged with conspiring against the government since telephone records revealed that the president of the association was called from her phone. Helen gives the impression of a woman who has never walked away from a battle and the 14 counts against her didn’t change that. She fought the state, and just when the state was about to lose in court, all of the charges were dropped.

 Litz

Subdivision lot owner/resident
Terry Litz flies a distress signal

Of the 1500 lots on Pacific Shores, the majority of them have become ruined, sandy pastures. The lake water when allowed to flood, turns the normal green grass into swamp grass and kills the trees. When the area is covered with water, it’s useless to the Silver Spot Butterfly and the Aleutian Geese. When the water is finally allowed to drain out into the ocean, the dried out land looks more like a coastal wasteland than a “wildlife preserve” or a place anyone would now want to live on. There are a few people who have decided to take up residence on the lots they purchased so many years ago with the dreams they entertained of a new house near the lake and the ocean. Getting there is sometimes impossible though when the roads are flooded. They have almost none of the services they expected to have long before entering the 21st century, like street lights, garbage service, cable TV, etc. The state doesn’t want anyone living there and has made it too difficult for most people to go to the extreme measures it takes to do so.

Although a few people are determined to exercise their rights by living on the land they own, most of them want the issue resolved one way or another, once and for all. As Bill Erickson puts it, “The state can’t have it both ways.” The land around the lakes is either going to remain private property without being subjected to forced flooding, or the state needs to buy it and do whatever it pleases with it. “Anyone should know that farm and residential land — and flooded wildlife habitat — cannot possibly exist together in the same space. Those two uses are absolutely incompatible in the same area,” he said.

Far from being near a conclusion, a new chapter in this battle has just begun. On March 8th, the Fish & Game Department held a public comments meeting in Crescent City to gather opinions from concerned citizens regarding the state’s intention to come up with an official plan for managing the Lake Earl Wildlife Area. It’s not clear to anyone why the state can’t use the study results it published in 1975 that recommended in part, that “No project be permitted which would alter the water level or characteristics of Lake Earl in a manner adversely affecting fish and wildlife. Any significant change in these conditions would result in damage to the existing natural resources. The periodic breaching of the barrier dune to reduce floodwater level is an acceptable practice as long as water levels are not dropped below those presently existing,” which was at the four foot level and had been for over a hundred years.

 DelNorteCounty

Fish & Game public comments meeting
in a packed Del Norte County courtroom

The meeting that was conducted to solicit public comments filled the courtroom it was held in. Approximately 125 people attended, filling every seat and taking up wall space and standing in the doorway at the back of the room. People were given a few minutes each to express their opinion of what should be done about the lake water level and what things they wanted the F&G to consider when drawing up their new plan. The majority of the speakers were logical and sometimes angry landowners who have been denied their rights for many years and often at great personal expense because of the flooding. Their arguments would go without saying in a sane world. They own their land, and they are entitled to live on it without the state flooding it. What more needs to be said? One angry land-owner concluded his comments with a simple solution that was met with cheers and applause, “If you flood it, you buy it!”

Several greenies were also in attendance and made pleas that rested less upon logic, rights, reason or even science than they did on emotion and imbalanced sentimentality. In fact, being that no real valid argument exists in favor of flooding private land and the endangered species’ habitat, they were forced to ramble on about un-related issues and rely on un-supported claims that had no bearing on the matter. One of them claimed that “…left to local control, every Redwood would be cut down today.” Not only did the meeting have nothing to do with Redwood forests, but cutting down every Redwood in the area in one day would be physically impossible. Such is the typical method of the greenies when “arguing” for their cause.

Another one suggested something that I found to be ironic and disturbing. This spacey ambassador for the environment insisted that the lake only be allowed to breach naturally and at worst, only be allowed to be breached manually after exceeding a 10 foot water level. This would mean that the county could only come in and do emergency breaching after the lake surpasses by two additional feet, the eight foot level that it currently waits for before doing emergency breaching. Not only is this far too late for the ranchers and property owners surrounding the lake, but there’s another problem that results from emergency breaching that one would expect the Mother Earth worshippers to have some serious concern about for several reasons that are visibly obvious and disturbing.

When the lake fills up to eight feet and beyond, and the county comes in to breach it, a tremendous volume of water suddenly escapes through the opening in the sand bar and flows rapidly out into the ocean. This causes coots (shorebirds that float on the water) to be sucked under water and drown as they are not able to take flight quickly enough since they require time to get a running start. After an emergency breaching of the lake, thousands of dead coots litter the shores. You’d think this would be enough to show the wackos how well their solution protects the wildlife they love so much. But even more disturbing (to some anyway) is that this rapid water drainage also pulls away dirt and sand with it. Remember, this isn’t just lake-bottom sand, but dirt that had previously been dry land as well, such as that in the Tolowa Burial Grounds. After being flooded over, the dirt pulled away from the graves by the escaping water leaves the bones of massacred Tolowa Indians exposed. This is an additional insult and injury long after they thought they were finally resting in peace, put in those graves by people who had just as much disregard for their well-being then as the environmentalists do now.

 

Interview with a Pearl Harbor survivor

Pearl Harbor: A Survivor Talks About
Then and Now
by Ed Wolfe 12.07.01


(Bandon, OR) – Once there was a young, Vermont farmboy who wanted to be a sailor. His father had been in the military before him and his mother supported her son’s wishes to follow in her husband’s footsteps. In 1940, there weren’t politically correct admissions standards for the U.S. military. You made the grade, or you didn’t get in. And just being physically fit wasn’t good enough. The armed forces wanted big, strong, young men to populate their ranks. This particular young man weighed in at just over a hundred pounds and was rejected for service in the Navy.

Determined to enlist, his mother put him on a weight-gain diet and on the day of his third enlistment attempt she stuffed him full of bananas and water and got him to successfully weigh in at the minimum required weight of 110lbs. After boot-camp, which he was told he’d never make it out of, he was sent cross country from Norfolk, VA to Long Beach, CA to serve on the U.S.S. Ranger.

U.S.S. RangerU.S.S. Ranger

Sixty-two years later, this sailor looks back over a long and interesting life that includes such memorable events as shaking the hand of the ‘leader of the free world’ and getting shot off the U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor.

What follows is a candid interview with one of America’s unsung national treasures – George Miller. Although we present this interview to you on the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, it isn’t George’s status as a Pearl Harbor survivor that makes him special. The greatest thing about George is that he’s, well… George. We were interested in talking to him and did so because of his unique experience, but aside from Pearl Harbor and World War II, George is also a man who’s lived in completely different eras in our nation’s history and has come through this long, slow time-travel with his mind and memories intact. He remembers what this country used to be like; what people used to be like and what a free country we once had. In this interview, George Miller discusses his Pearl Harbor experience, politicians, the attack on the World Trade Center towers, the decline of America, and plenty more. We hope you enjoy it and find some food for thought. We also thank George’s family for letting us take the time with him for this interview. – Ed Wolfe


SierraTimes: What was the first memorable thing you experienced in the Navy?

GeorgeMiller: One Saturday morning during inspection [on the Ranger] we were lined up according to size, and naturally, I’d be clear down at the end because I was the smallest. Along came this entourage of brass and civilians on the flight deck, inspecting us. This man stopped in front of me in civilian clothes and asked me where I was from. I said, “Woodstock, Vermont, sir.”

He said, “You’re not very big, are you?”

“No. I’m not.”

He said, “Well, it’s not the size of a man, but the size of a man’s heart that makes a good sailor,” then he shook my hand. That was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

From there, they shipped me cross country from out of Norfolk, Virginia to Long Beach, California where I boarded the U.S.S. Arizona.

uss-arizona
U.S.S. Arizona

I was tickled about that because my Daddy served on there as a marine in World War I. We left Long Beach and we got to Pearl Harbor where the Arizona didn’t want me and the Ranger didn’t want me so they transferred me to the U.S.S. Pennsylvania. Most of my class is on the Arizona at this time. But again, being one of the small guys, they got rid of me and a couple others.

ST: You were the runt of the litter?

GM: You got it!

Well, we fiddle-diddled around in Hawaii of course, as all sailors do in peace time and so forth. And being as young as I was, I didn’t hear anything about war or know anything about war. I’m sure the older people did, and maybe even the civilians at home did. I don’t know.

ST: But it wasn’t the talk of the ship at the time?

GM: No… [On Saturday, December 6th] I got liberty and went back over to the Arizona to be with my buds and to get some civilian flight training. I wanted to get a pilot’s license. I stayed overnight; me and my buds and the following morning they had church services. If you go to church service, which starts at 8 o’clock; ends at 9 o’clock, that means you can go on the beach. Otherwise, you have to stay aboard and work. It wasn’t a case of being religious, it was more a case of getting on the beach and having some fun.

So while we were standing on the quarterdeck, we were in dress whites – I don’t think you’ve ever seen them, and that’s the last time I wore ’em. We were on the quarterdeck, that’s where you come aboard the ship from the gangway. Then something happened – and we was in the water. There was fire and oil and so forth…

U.S.S. Arizona
U.S.S. Arizona

 

ST: That was Sunday morning?

GM:Yeah. December 7th. Sunday morning. And of course, you don’t know what happened. There was no way of knowing what happened.

ST: You didn’t hear anything before the attack?

GM: No, we were gabbin’. You know how guys gab.

ST: Was this after church?

GM: No. Before – it hadn’t started yet. About five minutes before church started.

ST: So, you were going to go to church and play on the beach and the next thing you know, you’re in the water.

uss-pennsylvania U.S.S. Pennsylvania

GM: Yeah! And I never knew how I got out of the water. I made it back to the Pennsylvania okay and made it up to my battle-station. But I never knew how, because it was really about a nautical mile from the Arizona to where the Pennsylvania was in dry dock. And it was 50 years later that I found how. This ensign was running around in a captain’s [boat.] This was a real fine boat, all dolled up for captains and admirals, ya know, and he went around fishin’ guys out of the water, and I was one of ’em.

ST: So you went from standing on the quarterdeck of the Arizona, into the water, then back on your own ship, the Pennsylvania and didn’t have any idea what was going on?

GM: Yeah. And of course, your readers know the rest of the story.

ST: Were you unconscious and then just woke up back on the Pennsylvania?

GM: No. I was never unconscious as in a state of being unconscious and helpless. I might’ve not known what the hell was going on.

ST: Were you shell-shocked?

GM: I would say ‘bewildered.’ That would be a better word.

ST: Did they pull you out of the water and pump water from your lungs?

GM: No. Not to my knowledge.

ST: So you found yourself on the Pennsylvania, kinda dazed?

GM: Oh yeah, oh yeah. Definitely. but you work by instinct from your training and the first thing you think about is getting back to your own battle station. You have a feeling of, ‘Boy, that’s the place to be. That’s gonna be the safest place.’ Which is of course, not true.

By the time the second wave came, I’d made it up to what we called ‘the bathtub’ – that’s the highest portion of the ship. It had four machine guns up there – water-cooled, .50 machine guns. The only problem was, the Pennsylvania was in dry-dock and there was no water. We laid into ’em anyhow. We were shooting. We got some shells off. And I thought I got one of them Jap planes, but so did the other three guys, so they awarded us each a quarter of a plane.

After the raid was over, that was really the horrible part. Because we had to take care of all the people that were deceased.

ST: So, while most people would think that the worst part of the experience would be getting attacked, at that time, your adrenaline’s rushing, you’re engaged in activity…

GM: Yeah. There’s not a soldier, sailor, marine or anybody during a time of action that knows what the hell is going on. Because the word is ‘survival.’ People lost their lives. You don’t give a shit who the President of the United States is, who’s Republican, you don’t care who’s a Democrat, you know, you worry about who you are and who’s the guy next to you.

ST: Just recently, at least three of our soldiers were accidentally killed by one of our own bombs…

GM: Oh, I predicted that. I told Mrs. Miller that two, three days ago. That happens all the time.

ST: We could have guys doing special ops that others don’t know about in a target area?

GM: Let’s be honest; Men in uniform are the toys of politicians, no matter how the hell you look at it. There isn’t one damned politician in uniform over there fightin’. You know it and I know it. And they’re blowin’ a lot of smoke.

ST: So this is a regular occurrence then? Guys getting hurt by our own munitions?

GM: Oh sure! Happens all the time. Friendly fire? Happens all the time.

ST: It seems like whenever we have a reported casualty in some military operation, It’s usually the result of a freak accident while unloading a stove from the back of a truck, or the amount of people killed is initially smaller than it actually turns out to be later…

GM: I know what you’re saying. You’ve got to understand something. You heard on TV, well, you know, ‘he lied,’ ‘he didn’t tell the truth,’ ‘be sure to take an oath,’ – well, hell – Everyone’s a liar. So are politicians, so’s the President of the United States, so’s guys in uniform. I mean, anyone that tells you anything is a liar. So, that’s the end of that story. You know they lie. [laughs]

I think what’s disturbing out this is that they made [the World Trade Center attack] sound like a Pearl Harbor, when it isn’t even close. And listen, I have all the sympathy and feeling in the world for the people that were killed there in those buildings. Believe me. But remember something, the federal government was formed for one reason and one reason only: to protect the 50 states that we have now. They didn’t do it – at Pearl Harbor, and they didn’t do it now! They screwed up! So, what did they do? They covered it up real fast. Didn’t they?

ST: They always cover their own asses.

GM: You heard what they said: ‘This is war. This is…’ What the hell does Bush know about war??

ST: How would you compare what Bush knows about war versus what FDR knew about war?

GM: FDR didn’t know anything about war. He was just a fantastic politician. That guy could twist a knot better than anyone. I loved him. For twelve years of my life, he was my President. And I’ll back Bush too. He’s my president. I don’t have to like him.

ST: What if Clinton was in office conducting this “war.” Would you back him?

GM: Well, you gotta look at it from [my viewpoint]. I’m 80 years old, and I’m tired of boys becoming president. It’s not good for the country. It really isn’t. You have to have more maturity than that. And we don’t have an elected president. We have a selected one.

ST: Do you think the 35 year old age requirement to become president is too young?

GM: Oh, sure! Sure. All you have to do is listen to him on TV. Listen to him talk. He’s a broken record. Same thing, over and over and over. But like I say, this is our system and I’ll protect it, and I’ll back my president and I’ll back those politicians – but I don’t have to like them.

ST: How would you compare the casualties at the World Trade Center with the number at Pearl Harbor?

GM: ‘Bout half. Bodies? – about half. We also lost a bunch of ships, and so forth. The difference now is this is people fighting against a certain class of people. Then, it was a country against a country…

ST: That’s a weird thing about this war. We’ve never declared war against Afghanistan and yet we’re committed to knocking out their governing body.

GM: I really don’t give a damn what they do over there and I’m gonna tell you why. Those people have been around. We’re a very young country. I’m 80, so I’m almost half the age of this country. We’re a little over 200 years old. China’s what? 5,000, 6,000 years old. We’re babies. We’re still growing in the eyes of those people and their leaders and so forth. They’re just waiting for us to stub our toe, to stumble. Anybody on top usually gets knocked down. You know, that’s the philosophy.

ST: It’s been said that Japan brought about the destruction of Germany by attacking Pearl Harbor. Now a comparison is being made that Bin Laden has brought about the destruction of the Taliban by attacking New York.

GM: That could be.

ST: But wouldn’t that presuppose that there’s a possible end to a so-called war on terrorism.

GM: There never will be an end to terrorism!

ST: That was going to be my next question. We were able to bring about an end to Germany as it existed at that time, but how do we bring about an end to people fighting for a religious ideal or concept?

GM: There’s a baby being born today that will be a terrorist. There’s a baby being born today that will be a doctor or a lawyer. Every generation has its downside.

ST: Especially when you have kids growing up today in Afghanistan being told that the United States killed their daddy.

GM: Well, that’s what they’re taught. We are what we were taught as kids. Let’s not kid ourselves. Your faith is what your mom and daddy told you. Your schooling is what your mom and daddy helped or didn’t help you with.

ST: And they’re already taught over there that America is the great Satan, so that’s compounded now by the death of loved ones caused by Americans…. So there could never be an end to a war on terrorism.

GM: Of course! What did we do when they bombed Pearl Harbor? What’d we say to that? I didn’t even know what the hell the Japanese was until the propaganda came out. Holy Heck! They had them raping my mother and my sisters and everything else – pictures all over the place gettin’ us mad.avenge-dec7

ST: I imagine that back then, people called the Japanese any name they could think of…

GM: Some still do.

ST: Do you think that in today’s military, soldiers are not allowed to use names such as towelhead or camel jockey or whatever derogatory nicknames as soldiers have always done in wars?

GM: They can’t do that now. That’s one of the freedom’s that’s gone now.

ST: In your 80 years of life, what other freedoms would you say you’ve lost?

GM: I can’t go anyplace without feeling that I’m in a police state.

ST: Most people today wouldn’t know that…

GM: No, there’s no way of knowing. I wouldn’t blame them.

ST: What do you think of the news today?

GM: You know, I told Mrs. Miller, ‘Gee, I always thought we were the only ship fighting in the South Pacific till I came back home after the war and saw Victory at Sea and I said, ‘Gee, there was other ships? Wow! I didn’t know it was that big!’

[laughter]

ST: How about modern news reportage compared to the news 40 or 50 years ago?

GM: The media today has a bunch of idiots. An example, this morning on CNN. I forget who the lady is, a pretty lady and all that. [In a stupid sounding falsetto:] ‘How did you feel about your brother being killed when you first heard it? Give me your inside feelings….’ My wife and I go up the wall when we hear that. [laughs]

ST: Were reporters that stupid when you were younger, listening on the radio?

GM: They weren’t like that. They were really factual people. CNN does it because they have to fill time slots. Walter Winchell – he didn’t have to fill anything.

ST: I talked to a guy once who said he was at Pearl Harbor and that he knew for a fact that we knew in advance about the imminent attack on Pearl Harbor but that there was deliberately no warning given so that the attack could be used as a justification for entering the war in Europe.

GM: Oh, there’s no hush-hush about that. There’s a book that’s been written on it. We knew we were gonna get hit, but they didn’t know where it was gonna happen.

ST: I guess it might be a conspiracy theory then that we knew the exact location where the Japanese were going to attack. Apparently FDR promised during his campaign that he would not bring our country into the war, but then allowed the Pearl Harbor attack to take place so that Americans would demand that he break his word and enter us into the war.

GM: Well, that’s what you’re hearing now. How much of that is true – I don’t know. I think Churchill had something to do with that. He wanted us in. We were isolationists. I can’t remember the name of the book I read about it, but if you ever pick it up, all your questions will be answered. And in the back of the book, he had a statement in there that there is still stuff that the United States Navy will not release.

ST: Stuff dating back to WWII?

GM: Yes. A lot has been released under the Freedom of Information Act. But to have things remain secret is a piece of cake. I worked for the government at one time. Everybody had Secret stamps. If you didn’t want anything to go anyplace, you went [stamps an imaginary paper] ‘Top Secret’. It could be a piece of toilet paper and it would still be Top Secret. That’s common. They do that all the time. That’s another freedom we’ve lost. It used to be you could know what was going on.

ST: It seems to me that there was a time when reporters would resent being given “spin” and they worked to find out the truth of a matter. Now they see it as their duty to deliver the spin to us as provided to them by the White House. What happened to the old style, real reporters?

GM: That kind of guy – the classy reporters are gone. Today, it’s showmanship. It’s a big difference. You can blame the boob tube – a lot of these reporters today were born with that. That’s the only life they know.

ST: Getting back to the World Trade Center…

GM: I had a guy come up to me and ask me what I thought about the towers being hit. I said it was a terrible tragedy. Just terrible. But I said to him, ‘You’re talking to a guy whose generation saw England bombed. France bombed. Germany all wiped out. Japan. We’ve seen it before.’ It is terrible. But what’s the motto of Pearl Harbor survivors?

ST: I don’t know.

GM: Stay alert. Keep America as it always has been, and it always will be. But they didn’t do it. They screwed up. But you can’t blame anyone. We had a president before this one, and one before that one, ya know. You have to say that the federal government who was supposed to protect these states – these independent states – that’s what we are – we have different laws. The only laws that are the same over all the states are the federal laws….

ST: Do you think the federal government is too busy being involved in all the duties that it’s taken upon itself rather than doing the specific 19 things delegated to it by the people?

GM: When they take it upon themselves, that’s terrible. And sometimes they do. But what happens is when John Doe citizen or Mrs. Citizen says, “There oughta be a law… I’m gonna tell my congressman. I’m gonna tell my senator.” Then the politician tries to appease him, and he gets [the law] through. What’s that mean? 50% like it and 50% don’t like it. I had a judge tell me that the minute they pass a new law, there’ll be five thousand new people in jail.

ST: Every time you pass a new law, you make a new class of citizens into criminals that weren’t criminals the day before.

GM: You got it. You see, what was permissible when I was a boy isn’t permissible today, but that doesn’t mean we were criminals then.

ST: Like bringing guns to school today.

GM: [laughs] You know, I’ll tell you something. Before going to Vermont, I lived in New York City in Brooklyn. And the Mafia was running everywhere, Dillinger was running around, BabyFace Nelson, you know, they were shooting each other up and all that stuff, but they didn’t bother civilians with their crap. And we had cops all over the place, walking the streets. They had their own streets. A city block was mighty long. And I never saw a city cop with a gun.

ST: They didn’t have them?

GM: I’m sure they probably had them underneath their long coats, newyork-policebut I never saw one. Now you look on TV – God, I saw a woman policeman who looked like she was a Green Beret. [laughs]

ST: Have you seen the ones that look like some kind of armed, commando ninjas?

GM: Ever since Viet Nam, they’re all dressed in fatigues, and when they surround a building, God Almighty, they have 50 cars and it’s all for one or two guys inside.

ST: Speaking of the loss of liberties in our country, what do you think of the USA PATRIOT Act that’s supposed to increase the government’s power to track down terrorists?

GM: I don’t like anything that gives the federal government more power. I don’t like that. If they can specifically say that it will protect the 50 states – it doesn’t say Florida, it doesn’t say Vermont, or Texas, any of the 50 states – if they could come up with something that would do that, I’m for it. But what they do is say, ‘let’s try this and see how it works. Let’s just try this.’

ST: The government’s response to every crisis situation is to grant itself more power to prevent situations that the excessive power they’d previously granted themselves was insufficient to prevent, because the solution is never more power for the government, so it’s a never ending cycle.

GM: You gotta be careful how you say that. You’re saying ‘government.’

ST: Federal government.

GM: The federal government is made up of people. Like you and me.

ST: But we’ve also got various law enforcement agencies, the Justice Department – and they want less restraint.

GM: Americans love to screw each other. I don’t understand it. I’ve been to other countries and gee, those people love to get along with each other. For some reason, over here, “You sonofabitch! I’m gonna sue you!” “I’ll blow your brains out!”

[laughing]

GM: What the hell’s the matter with us?

ST: Are we just more combative than other people?

GM: Of course we are. Are you kidding? That’s our nature. Because that’s the way we was raised ever since Paul Revere started riding from the British. You know, after we got through with the British, we took care of the Indians…

ST: I read that our country has been involved in more military operations than any other country on earth, but many of them we wouldn’t know about…

GM: Since WWII, there’s been over 350 wars on this planet.

ST: We say we’re a peace-loving nation, and yet we’re always involved in, if not an actual war, some type of military “conflict” or operation somewhere.

GM: That’s the biggest mistake we ever made, when we became the police force for the entire world. And that’s why you get people P.O.’d at you.

ST: You said earlier that when someone wants a new law, lawmakers will try to appease people and pass the laws. Do you think that perhaps the federal government has been involved in that type of thing, not only in this country, but world-wide appeasement and thus creating problems as a result of not focusing on those specific duties that the government was instituted to perform?

GM: Let me throw this at you. Just prior to those planes hitting those buildings, all over the news were stories about some senator [Gary Condit] screwing some girl [Sandra Levy] who then disappeared, and mom and pop were on TV all the time. They still haven’t found her. The next day, you never heard a word and I haven’t heard a word about him ever since. And they’re not even thinking about firing this guy. Now, doesn’t that answer a question for you? What do we really care about? Dramatization. Ya know? ‘It sells! It sells!’

ST: It’s almost like ambulance chasing.

GM: There ya go. That’s a good way of put

ting it.

ST: Like this morning there was a shooting at a workplace in Goshen, Indiana and that became the big ‘breaking news’. Reports of a hundred officers on the scene. SWAT teams there. Up to thirty-five people shot….

Police in Goshen, Indiana at the Nu Wood shooting
Police in Goshen, Indiana at the Nu Wood shooting

GM: Localization has been taken away from us. When I was a boy, running around Brooklyn, do you think Texas gave a damn what John Dillinger was doing in New York?

ST: No.

GM:Hell no, they didn’t. Texas had their own Rangers chasing someone else. Each state in the country was taking care of its self. Now, we’re becoming a state. Not fifty – we’re becoming one state.

Lost Father

Lost Father
by Edward M Wolfe

When Lisa hadn’t heard from her father in three days – no return calls, no text replies and no email responses – she drove to his house and found the front door open. She cautiously walked in without knocking, fearing what she’d find. She heard her father’s voice and breathed a sigh of relief. He wasn’t dead. He was alive and talking to someone in his office. She went down the hall and started to enter his office then suddenly stopped.

“I know that’s what it looks like, but you know me better than that, babe.” After a few seconds of silence, he said, “Exactly! That’s what I’ve been trying to say. You’re as smart as you are beautiful.” He was alone in the room and was not on the phone.

Lisa stood watching, confused. He had to be on speakerphone. The room was silent. Maybe the person on the other end was thinking of what to say.

“Oh? That’s what you think,” her father said, laughing and smiling.

Okay, so he’s responding to someone who isn’t on speakerphone. He has to be wearing a Bluetooth headset on his other ear. She tapped gently on the door, not wanting to interrupt him, but also not wanting to stand there eavesdropping.

Her father turned at the sound, seemed to glance right through her as a question passed over his face like a shadow, then he turned his head away without even acknowledging her presence. When he briefly turned to face her, she saw that he was not wearing a headset on his other ear.

“I have been working on that. All my life, it seems.”

Who was he talking to? Lisa felt what she thought of as an irrational fear come over her.

“Dad,” she spoke loudly to get his attention for sure this time.

Her father reclined back in his chair, getting into the groove of a conversation he clearly seemed to be enjoying. But with whom? Lisa wondered. And why was he ignoring her?

“I fear I’ve wasted too much time trying to convince others of each thing that I was learning; not knowing that each of us learns our own lessons in our own time and you can’t really expect to be lucky enough to have someone right beside you on the same path.”

Lisa stepped into the room. She couldn’t take anymore of watching her dad clearly engaged in a conversation with someone but in a way that made no sense, and being ignored was creeping her out. Her dad never ignored her. She was his favorite person. At least she always had been up until three days ago. Now she wasn’t sure any more. Had her dad fallen so in love with someone? He didn’t even care that his daughter was standing in the same room with him.

“Well, it would be nice if we had a little help from time to time. Earth is so very difficult, and going it alone just makes it that much harder to make any progress. Even when you do make progress, you’re never sure, and there’s rarely anyone there to validate you and let you know you’re on the right path. Does everything have to be shrouded in doubt on top of mystery?”

“Dad! Look at me!” Lisa yelled, close to tears.

Her father laughed. “Well, yes, I did. But god damn it wasn’t easy. I went most of my life thinking I was fucking insane.”

The last word he spoke sent chills down Lisa’s body. It was a fear she hadn’t known she was feeling until it was brought to the surface by him speaking the word “insane.” She was afraid her father had lost his mind.

“Dad, speak to me. Right now. I’m serious. You’re scaring me!”

“Thank you. It’s nice to finally be acknowledged. What happens now?”

Lisa could not get over the surreal feeling of her dad saying things that echoed her feelings. She would love to be acknowledged – by him! And she also wondered what to do next. Something was seriously wrong here.

Drugs. He must be on something.

“Dad? Are you on something?”

“That’s it?” he asked.

“Is that it? Are you high on something, Dad? Please answer me.” Lisa started to cry. This situation was scaring her. She knew her dad had used drugs long ago, before she was born, but it was unlikely that he had started again at this age. And he didn’t appear to be on anything. Strangely, he had never looked better. His skin looked healthy. His eyes were bright and alert – except for their apparent inability to see her.

“Okay. In that case, I’m going to lie down and relax. It’s been a long life and I can’t wait for it to be over.”

Lisa thought she was scared before, but now she was terrified. Was her dad suicidal? Had he lost his mind and decided to kill himself? She had to do something, but she didn’t know what.

He got up from his desk chair and walked around the room, heading toward her where she was standing a few feet inside the doorway. He was looking through her again and she felt like she was going to scream if he didn’t see her and talk to her.

“Dad, I love you!” she yelled at him from just two feet away.

“How much? Please don’t tell me we have to start at the beginning.”

He bumped into her as if she wasn’t there at all as he went to walk through the doorway. Lisa stepped to the side and screamed in a terrified panic.

Lisa was pacing back and forth on the sidewalk in front of her father’s house when the ambulance arrived. She was smoking one of her father’s cigarettes and coughing. She hadn’t smoked since she was in high school several years before. When the paramedics approached her, she tossed her half-smoked cigarette into the neatly cut lawn.

“You’ve got to help him,” she said as one of them approached her. The other one went to the back of the ambulance, opened the door and retrieved a bag.

“Is he inside?”

“Yes. He was laying on his bed, still talking to himself when I called you. I don’t know what’s wrong. My dad has always been the sanest person I’ve ever known, but now I think he’s lost his mind.” The fear that she’d been holding inside of her finally came out in a gush of tears as she spoke it aloud to another person.

“It’s okay, we’ll take care of him. Just show us where he is,” the paramedic said.

She led them inside and walked to the hallway, then pointed.

“The second room on the left,” she said, then her father laughed loudly and she shuddered. Was that the sound of a happy person, or a maniac? She hugged herself and cried as she watched the paramedics walk down the hall and into her father’s room. She feared that she’d somehow lost her father and might never see him again the way she’d always known him. She wanted to just wake up and have this be another normal, boring day.

“Thank you for coming, Lisa. I’m Dr. Hobbins. I’m pleased to meet you, but I’m sorry about the circumstances.” He extended his hand and she shook it with a weak grasp. “Please have a seat,” he said, gesturing to one of the two cloth-covered chairs in front of his desk. She glanced at the top of his desk and two words jumped out at her from the spine of a thick book titled: DSM-IV-TR Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Mental Disorders

She tried to swallow a lump that suddenly formed in her throat. She sat down and began biting one of her nails, occasionally spitting out bits of fingernail and chips of polish without even thinking of about what she was doing.

“After your father’s seventy-two hour hold at County General, he was brought here and placed in my care.” Lisa withdrew her fingertip from mouth and started to speak. The doctor raised his hand and she stopped. “I’ll probably cover most of what you want to ask, but if I don’t, then you can let me know, but it will probably be faster and less painful if you let me finish first.”

Lisa nodded and looked at the light reflecting off of his bald head. She was breathing rapidly and feeling claustrophobic although the doctor’s office was fairly large and had windows with a view to wide expanse of green lawn with a busy street beyond it.

“Your father’s condition hasn’t changed at all. He hasn’t spoken directly to anyone since he was admitted to County General. He also hasn’t stopped conversing with someone that only he can see and hear. He appears completely oblivious to his physical surroundings and so naturally, he hasn’t eaten. We’re having to feed him intravenously for the time being.”

Lisa’s eyes became watery and threatened to drip tears. She went from biting on her fingernail to biting her fingertip, pressing down on the center of the nail with her teeth as much as she could stand the pain. She felt like she her mind was going to spin out of control and she’d be given her own room in the mental hospital. The pain from biting her finger helped to keep her grounded and focused.

“I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but your father’s case is a bit remarkable. I’ve never seen anyone suffering from such a deep delusion engaged in what seems to be such a rational conversation – at least the half of it we can hear. It’s no different than listening to one side of a perfectly sane person having a conversation.”

Lisa squeezed her eyes shut and rubbed at them with her knuckles which came away damp. She didn’t want to hear about how fascinating her father’s psychosis was.

“Nevertheless, he is quite delusional despite the unusual display of rational thought and intelligence. Your father may be a experiencing nothing more than a temporary psychotic break from which he could return to his normal healthy state of mind. If he does, he may have no memory of what has happened, or he may recall it as one would a dream. That’s the best case we can hope for. It’s also possible that he’s suffering from a sudden onset of schizophrenia, in which case, there is treatment, medication, and therapy that can assist him with managing his illness.”

Despite being in a daze of unreality, because there was no way this could be happening to her or to her father, Lisa understood that she really didn’t know anything more now than she knew before she had come here. They didn’t know what was wrong with her father, and that meant they couldn’t help him. Not really.

“Is there any history of mental illness in your father’s side of the family?”

“No. None at all.” She removed her fingertip from her mouth and began biting the first layer of skin in the center of her upper lip.

“Does your father use, or has he ever used hallucinogenic drugs?”

“Um, I know he smoked pot before and I think he used cocaine a long time ago.” With every question she answered, the doctor wrote something in a chart. She hated the sound of the pencil lead moving across the paper. She wished he would use a pen.

“Has he been under considerable strain or experienced any unusually stressful events lately?”

“No. Not that I know of. My father has always been perfectly sane – saner than most people, in fact. He doesn’t even allow people with “drama issues” as he calls it, into his life. He’s a very calm, peaceful and happy man.” Lisa was aware that she was speaking in a present tense way that didn’t describe her father in present time.

“I’d like to have you fill out a complete family history to help us as much as possible with a diagnosis and treatment plan. Will you do that?”

“Right now? I’d like to see him first. Can I please see my dad?” she asked, her voice trembling at the end of her sentence. Of all the people she could have ever imagined losing their minds, she never would have thought it possible for her dad to do so.

“Yes. That might be a good idea. How about you spend some time with him, then come back and fill out some paperwork for me? Sound good?”

“Yes. Thank you.” She stood up and smoothed out imaginary wrinkles on her Levi’s.

The doctor came around his desk and walked out into the main hall of the institution. Lisa followed, glancing around at everyone and everything. She hated being here and she hated it even more that her father was here. As they walked through the open recreational area and then down an empty hallway, Lisa kept expecting to see someone acting totally crazy which would add to her feeling that her father didn’t belong here and that this wasn’t happening; couldn’t be happening. The doctor eventually stopped a few feet from an open doorway.

“This is your father’s room. Don’t be surprised if he continues to be unaware of your presence. Remember, that’s how this started, so if he doesn’t respond to you, nothing has changed, and he hasn’t gotten worse. It just means the medication we’re giving him isn’t aiding him in seeing the real world yet. But we’ll make progress with him soon, I’m sure.”

“Okay,” Lisa replied. Her mouth had gone dry. She’d already seen how her father was at his house and yet the thought that she was going to once again see him acting strange, acting crazy really, terrified her. This wasn’t right.

“I’ll send someone for you in five minutes. Okay?”

Lisa nodded. The doctor smiled and quietly left her alone to enter the room on her own. She approached the doorway and looked inside. Her father was lying on his back with his eyes open and a pleasant smile on his face.

“Daddy?”

The smile on his face widened. Lisa’s heart skipped a beat. He’s responding to me, she thought.

“Thank god!” he said.

“You’re back! Oh, Daddy! You had me worried to death.” She rushed into the room, relief flooding through her and bringing tears of joy to her eyes.

“I can’t wait to get started, but I have to say, I’m not looking forward to coming back. I hope I get a long break this time. This could be a really beautiful planet if it wasn’t for the god damned people!” he said, and burst out in joyous laughter.

Lisa froze, standing right next to his bed and looking down at him, realizing he wasn’t talking to her. He hadn’t said, “Thank god” because she was there to see him, or perhaps take him home. He was still talking to someone in his head. She sensed her knees unlocking and turned what would’ve been a collapse into an abrupt act of sitting, holding on to the bed as she suddenly sat on the floor beside it. She took one of her father’s hands and held it in both of hers. She cried now without restraint.

“Please come back, Daddy. Please, please. I need you. Oh god!” She dropped her head onto the bed cover and cried into it.

Her father didn’t react to his hand being taken away from where it had rested on his stomach atop his other hand, nor did he seem aware that Lisa was crying out to him. She lifted her head and looked at him. Her makeup was streaked and smeared on her face and on the bed.

“Daddy, please wake up. I’ll take care of you. I promise. Just wake up and let me take you home.” She put her hands on his chest and shook him as if she merely needed to wake him up from a deep slumber where he was talking in his sleep.

“Can we go now? I’m quite ready to leave,” he said.

Again Lisa’s heart jumped in her chest. Did she wake him? Was that all he needed – someone to shake him out of a crazy sleep?

“Yes, Daddy. We can go. I don’t care what the doctor says. They can’t keep you here. I’m taking you home.”

“There’s just one more thing I need to do. Before I leave, I need to say goodbye to my daughter. She’s the only person I’ll miss.” His smile faded as he spoke this, but the bright clarity was still there in his eyes, hinting at the deep serenity of a man who knew peace in his heart and had no doubts about who he was or what his future held.

“Oh god!” Lisa didn’t know what to think anymore. She felt like she was losing her mind too.

“You’ll wait for me? Okay. I’ll be just a minute, Kiera.”

Allen turned to Lisa and his eyes opened wide and a smile lit up his face as he saw her.

“Lisa, honey!” He reached out to her and she fell onto the bed, embracing him and crying on his shoulder.

“Daddy! You’re back!” she cried.

“I never left, sweetheart, but I’m about to leave. I just couldn’t go without saying goodbye to you first. I didn’t expect it to be so easy though. I thought I’d have to drive to your house. But here you are. This is perfect.”

“We have to get you home. I can’t stand seeing you in here.”

Allen looked around at his surroundings for the first time and was amused to see that he wasn’t in his room at home as he had assumed he was when he “awoke.” He laughed as he realized he’d been away for a while. He understood where he was without asking. It made sense – as far as other people would be concerned. They didn’t know what he knew, or who he’d been talking to.

“I’m sorry, Lisa honey. I must’ve frightened you. I assure you I’m just fine. But I can’t go with you. I’m going home now. You’ll find papers in my office that finalize all of my affairs and leave everything I have to you.”

“I don’t understand… what are you saying?”

“I also left you my journal. It will explain everything, but you can probably figure it out without reading it. You know me, sweetheart. I just wanted to hold you one last time and tell you that I love you. You enriched my life by being you. Thank you. I love you, dear.”

Lisa hated hearing what her father was saying, but even still, something inside her calmed and she felt at ease. She didn’t know why she was feeling okay with the terrible things her father was saying. Part of her was aware that everything was okay; that this was a good thing that was happening. A great thing, actually. But she wanted to deny that knowledge and dramatize the loss of her father. She didn’t want him to go. But she knew he would. He had waited a long time for this day.

“I love you too, Daddy; more than anything.”

Her dad looked into her eyes and she felt his love and his energy. He had guided her through her life and made her love living and learning and becoming the best person she could be. She looked into his eyes and sent her love back to him.

“I’ll always be with you, Lisa, in one way or another. You know that. But for now, it’s time for me to go.”

She nodded and smiled, looking at him through bittersweet tears. She kissed her father one last time and said,

“Goodbye, Daddy.”

“Goodbye, sweetheart.” He leaned back against the headboard, closing his physical eyes and re-opening his inner eyes.

He saw Kiera standing next the bed, smiling and patiently waiting for him. He could not see Lisa anymore, but he saw her energy in the space she occupied. He smiled at Kiera in gratitude for her being there. She was always there. He just hadn’t known it all the time. He wished she had made her presence known more often and more obviously.

Kiera reached for Allen’s hands. She took hold of them and gently pulled him toward her. He came forward out of his body and moved close to her. She released one of his hands, but held on to the other as she began walking, leading him out through the wall, across the flowerbed, over the grass and into the beyond.

It had been a long time since they’d been together like this.

A whole lifetime.

###

11-3-13
Tulsa, OK

The Storytellers

The Storytellers
by Edward M Wolfe

 

The storyteller awoke before dawn. He opened his eyes and saw just a little less black than when he was looking at the back of his eyelids.  Off in the distance was the fire. He saw the orange glow peripherally and did not turn to look at it directly. It occurred to him that it would be good to look over there and confirm that the firekeeper was still awake, but he wanted to utilize the darkness and the not-quite-awake state of mind that he awoke in.

He used this time to practice the art of perception. What could he sense right now without his eyes? He smelled the musty, tangy odor of the animal skin he used as a blanket. Of course he could smell the fire. It almost went unnoticed because it was always there and it was usually only noticeable upon re-entry from outside. But he could smell it now because he was focusing his mind on everything he could possibly smell.

He could smell the remains of the charred meat from last night’s meal. It was barely there since it emanated from the sticks that were held over the fire to cook the meat, but it was definitely there. Noticing it made him hungry for the first meal. He tried to ignore that feeling and return his focus to what else he could perceive.

He could smell the people. That was another odor that was always present and then faded out due to its constant presence. He could smell their old sweat. It wasn’t the same as it was just after they had labored. It was strong at those times and assaulted the senses. Now it was the way they smelled some time later after they’d relaxed and it had dried.

His sleeping place was far from where the little ones slept, but still, he could smell that some had released their waste during the night and needed to be cleaned. This was the worst of the smells, and it was strong, even way back here. He was sure that the wind carried it all the way to where he slept.

He thought he detected a trace of the much nicer smell of the women, some of whom rubbed the pleasant scent of flowers on their skin, but the nice scent was overwhelmed by the odor of waste from the babies. He would like to be alone with a flower-smelling woman and have the opportunity to fully enjoy that pleasant smell untainted by all of the others. But so far, that was just a wish.

Among the people, he was almost as revered as their leader. He had a special duty, and because of his high status , women did not approach him and speak to him as they did the other men. When he spoke to them, they smiled and looked away. They enjoyed his attention but none could return it as his equal. His status was too high, and so they adored him, but feared him at the same time. It was a sad irony. He was gifted with the adoration of everyone, and yet he was equal to none, and therefore, he was set apart, excluded from so much that was a normal part of life with the people. He had never coupled with a woman. The desire to do so grew stronger every day. Perhaps he should discuss this with the leader. He was wise and could probably offer a solution. But no, he knew what he would be advised: Take one when you need one. He could, and he should do that, but for some reason, he only wanted one who wanted to be taken by him.

Just as he was about to shift his focus to sounds to see if he could detect anything behind the chorus of respiration between his place and the entrance, the wail of a baby who had just woken filled the cave.  Most of the clan would wake now. The normal sounds of the day would take over as the people got up and performed their morning tasks and started a new day. The time for practice was over.

He shifted his focus from what he could perceive around him to thoughts of the day that awaited him. He stretched out on his fur and yawned. He looked forward to the day and the excitement it promised. The hunters were going out. He and one woman would accompany them. Their responsibilities were no less important than that of the hunters.

Before he rose, he mentally expressed a wish. May the hunters find food quickly and safely, and may the medicine woman heal any who become injured; and may his mind be sharp enough to bring the story back to the people well enough so that they could feel the excitement of what it was like to have been there. He added one more secret desire. May the hunt and the story of the hunt be good enough (and told well enough) that the leader would command that it be added to the cave wall.

Such a story would outlive him and it would be there for those not yet born to be read and be enjoyed long after he was gone.

cave_drawings

***

The storyteller placed the wedge on the table alongside all of the other wedges. He was relieved that his work was complete. It was tedious, boring, and in his opinion, barely useful. Maybe someday people would actually want to read about the daily activities of the king, but not every day included anything worth writing, or reading. He wished some days could be skipped, or that he could at least be able to write, “Nothing important happened today.“

But how would he even write that? Maybe he could write the words for rising sun, the king, and then the rising moon. With nothing in between, maybe people would understand that the king was simply king for another day, and the absence of anything else would be the clue that there was nothing significant to write that day.

Although his job was often tedious and boring – chronicling every day in the King’s life – he was well aware that it was a far better job than his fellow scribes had. Most of them worked for merchants and they toiled day after day, recording transactions. He thanked the gods he didn’t have to write receipts each day. Being the King’s scribe was certainly a better post in life. But it wasn’t one filled with glory and prestige as his merchant scribe friends assumed it was. It was often as dull and routine as their own jobs.

He cleaned up his work area for the night, wrapping his wedges in a long piece of leather and tying it off before placing it at the edge of his table. He carefully moved the tablets one at a time over to the drying rack. He returned to the table and used his hands to sweep the clay debris into one spot on the table then carefully brushed it with one hand toward another hand pressed against the edge of the table.  He dropped the small pile into a basket to be given later to a vegetable grower who used the small dried pieces to throw at birds who descended on his fledgling crops.

After cleaning his work area, he returned to his room and lay down, letting his mind wander. He was still thinking of his friend the farmer and he imagined a bird like none in existence coming down to steal a tomato. He imagined this bird being so huge that it was undeterred by the pebbles hurled at it by Ur-enki.  He watched the story play out in his mind.

The giant bird of the air took one tomato after another into his mouth, swallowing them whole. He suddenly becomes aware of Ur-enki and the steady barrage of pebbles pelting his left wing and turns to look at Ur-enki with eyes that reveal no emotion or soul. They are cold and unfeeling, but alive and glaring. Suddenly the bird hops toward the man who is attempting to assault him, flapping his wings just a little to aid in his forward progress, but not enough to take to the air.

Ur-enki jumps up and runs, at first not knowing where he is going. His only thought is to run away; to reach safety and escape the pursuing bird. Then he thinks in terms of fighting this beast. If he doesn’t, it will eat his entire crop and Ur-enki will become a beggar. He turns and runs toward his farming tools. He spots the best possible weapon which he hasn’t used since the beginning of spring. He reaches the row of farming tools and grabs his harvesting sickle. He turns and braces himself for confrontation with the beast-bird.

The bird is undeterred by the sight of the harvesting sickle and charges Ur-enki, bending his long neck and leaning forward, his snapping beak coming in for the kill. Ur-enki swings the sickle, embedding it in the large bird’s neck. The bird screams out an awful squawk as it falters, turning its eyes upward to look at Ur-enki as it falls to the ground. Ur-enki then imagines the king and his guests having a feast with the bird as the main course. It’s delicious and everyone praises the unlikely hunter who provided this remarkable and rare feast.

Late that night, Ur-enki sneaks into his workroom, walking slowly and concentrating to keep from spilling the oil in his lamp. He fetches his tools, then goes down into the cool room and takes some clay. He is aware that this would count as stealing since what he is about to write does not involve any activities of the king, and even worse, this is nothing but the product of his imagination. How could he justify the waste of materials for a story that has no truth? It is like scribing a dream. He laughs. He’s about to scribe the dream of a scribe.

He quickly imprints his story on tablets and places them in the window to dry quickly. The idea thrills him despite his fear; to tell a tale that never even happened, and to do so just for entertainment. Maybe one day he will be bold and offer it to the king as a gift.  He might be applauded and gain status for this rebellious act. Or he might lose his head.

heirglyphics

 

***

Stephen finished reading the latest edition of Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur and extinguished his lamp.  As he lay in bed with his mind swirling with thoughts of Arthur and Merlyn, he wondered if he could pen his own ideas someday, and then somehow find a way to get them printed. Maybe he would be lucky enough to have occasion to drive for the passenger he had driven earlier today; a man by the name of Gutenberg who talked about an invention of his that would revolutionize printing forever.

But even if he was able to get in touch with Gutenberg one way or another, he doubted the man would publish his ideas. Stephen was nothing but a carriage driver and he would never be a nobleman. His only chance of being recognized as an author and getting his work printed would be if he married into royalty or acquired friends in very high places.

It wasn’t fair. Malory was known in multiple countries, and everyone who could read talked about his tales of King Arthur – which weren’t even his own tales. Malory didn’t come up with them. Stephen however, had ideas that had not been told over the centuries. They had not been acted out on the stage. They were his original conjurations. He had thought them up.

Stephen decided that the following morning, since he was free of his duties for the day, he would spend his savings to purchase parchment, a quill, and ink in sufficient quantity to write down one of the story ideas that swam about his mind day after day. He had no interest in poems and he only thought of his stories as just that, stories, but he felt they were good enough for the stage, and possibly even good enough to be read – if he could get them printed.

The next day he returned home with his supplies. He couldn’t wait to get started. His only problem was deciding on which tale he would commit to parchment first. Eventually, he decided to write the tale of the thief who snuck into a Lord’s castle and ended up getting caught by the Lady, who became smitten with him and carried on a love-affair with him until the Lord died one day. The thief believed she would then allow their relationship to become public and perhaps even marry him, but in the end, she rebukes him for she first must mourn, and then after sufficient time has passed, she must entertain suitors to re-marry someone of noble blood.

The first half of the story was one of Stephen’s fantasies that he daydreamed about on long rides to pick up a passenger from far away. The second half was how he assumed such a scenario would eventually play out if it should ever happen in real life. But an audience could be led along by the story and hope for the hero to win the Lady’s love.

Stephen began writing the story. He infused it with frightful tension as the thief snuck into the castle. He imagined the audience being jolted with fear as the thief is caught by Lady Wexford. Then the mood would change and the audience would be shocked and outraged as the Lady falls for the thief and kisses him while the Lord lies sleeping not far from where they stand. He knew this scene would be controversial, but he felt the world needed something new, something modern, and something theoretically possible.

Stephen ended up using more parchment and ink than he had ever imagined. He hadn’t thought about the fact that he might make mistakes and have to start entire pages over again. But eventually, he finished the story and felt a supreme satisfaction that he had never known before. And now the truly hard work began; finding a publisher and praying that someday his story would make it to the theatre.

early_printing

 

***

The old storyteller sat in his house and cursed the cold draft that chilled his stocking feet. He could not get them to warm up unless he dragged his chair over to the fire. He was born with the arrival of Halley’s comet and he knew for a certainty that he would die with its return in just over a few weeks. If his conviction was correct, he didn’t have much time left. With the house blessedly empty for a change, there were a few things he wanted to do before everyone returned and ordered him back to bed, which was the right and proper place to die as far as all were concerned.

He had enjoyed success around the world with his books and his speaking engagements where people gladly paid to hear him tell stories. But now at the end of his life, he did not derive pleasure from looking back on his career. He’d had a good run as an author. He’d made a lot of money, but he’d lost a ton of it too. Life was funny that way. He almost wondered for the millionth time, what if he had invested in the Linotype instead of the Compositor, but he swatted that thought like a fly. He’d kicked himself in the head enough already. He no longer had the luxury of wasting time on fool’s errands; not even mental ones.

He glanced over at his vanity bookshelf that held one copy each of the books he had written. He felt a calm and grateful assurance that Clara would not have trouble providing for herself. Intelligence is not hereditary, but money will suffice in its absence, he thought, resisting the temptation to ponder another age-old mystery. He second-guessed his decision to allow Clara to publish his most controversial manuscripts which he could never bring himself to burn. The Christians will probably dig up my corpse and give it a lynching. Man loves to hate as much as he loves to love, and the object of one is equally good for the other.

As he thought of his long-awaited good fortune at finally being relieved of this confounding coexistence with a populace consisting mainly of idiots, he shook his head and resolved to turn his last thoughts to the few good things in life. The bad things had consumed his energy and good will for far too long already. He took a deep breath and let the force and lure of negativity deflate along with his lungs.

He thought of sunlight flashing like diamonds on a stream. Roses startled and trembling under assault by drops of rain. Gay smiles and fairy laughter from pretty and still innocent girls. Ah… his Angel Fish. Now there was a fine place to lay his mind to rest in advance of his body doing the same. A sad smile slowly reshaped his face, pushing through the resistance forged by anger, grief and melancholy.

His Angel Fish girls were among the few things that could make him smile since the loss of his wife and two of his daughters; the second one just several months ago. Dorothy. Sweet Dorothy. His favorite Angel Fish. She deserved a goodbye letter from him. And if he was wrong about the comet and still alive after it passed, he wouldn’t post the letter. Best to write it now, no matter his fate. What if he did survive Halley’s comet, regained his health and took a walk, then got smacked into oblivion by one of Ford’s motor-cars driven by a jubilant friend racing over to celebrate his revival? The raspy sound pushing through his whiskers would’ve once been recognized as laughter. Best to write the letter now to be safe.

My Dear angel-fish Dorothy,

      It is with the utmost regret that I must inform you that your upcoming trip to Redding, should you decide to follow through with it after reading this letter, will not include a visit with me in which I will be able to engage in conversation. It is not for lack of desire, nor physical illness, but for the reason that (I believe) I shall no longer be an animated member of the human race.

      I implore you to not feel sadness at this news. By the time you hold this letter in your hands, I will already have been deceased for several weeks and be finding the experience quite enjoyable. Consider me to be re-united with Jean and Susy. If there is an afterlife, and the evidence suggests that there must be, I will not rest until I find them. No man or spirit will have sufficient strength to prevent such a reunion.

Before my departure which (as I indicated to you on your last visit) will coincide with the departure of Halley’s comet, I wanted to convey my immeasurable gratitude for your friendship, the joy you brought to my final years and the light that still shines in my heart when I merely contemplate that someone as wonderful as you exists and breathes and lightens this world which can be such an awful and cruel place for some.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, dearest Dorothy.

I will be leaving something behind for you that is not mentioned in my will. (Jervis will contact you directly.) In addition to that material token of my love, I will attempt, if the metaphysical landscape in which I find myself allows for it, to watch over you and keep you safe.

You are in my heart as I leave, and I hope I remain in yours.              

Love eternally,

marktwain

 

***

The storyteller knew that he was born to be a writer. He had always been one, although not one who could point and say, “There. That is a book that I authored. See it on that bookstore shelf.” He knew that writers were born and not made, and that he was born one. To the world though, he was nothing and nobody. Few people knew he was a writer. Those who were most acquainted with his manuscripts were the editors of the publishing houses who sent him rejection letters over the years. He might never be known as a writer to anyone else – at least not with his track-record of rejection.

He sat in the guard shack looking at his laptop screen. He had just completed his fifth, and he insisted to himself, his final revision of his latest novel.  He felt an absurd mixture of emotions. On one hand, he was elated. This was his best work ever. He loved the story, and he was sure that others would too. A lifetime of escalating skill had gone into this book. He felt he had reached some sort of peak in his creative ability.

But that meant it was time for the next step – submitting it to publishers and living with the ensuing hope, fear, and eventual depression that came from the rejection. Did editors even read his submissions? It was true he did not have an agent and his submissions were unsolicited, but did they ever think that there were talented people in the world who were capable of writing a good book but who were perhaps lacking in the skill of acquiring a literary agent?

This was the source of the other half of his feelings which countered his happiness. He was elated at the completion of what he was certain was a great novel, and yet facing the ridiculous task of trying to find someone willing to give it a fair reading and whether or not it would be allowed to see the light of day; to let readers have a chance to make their own judgment of it.

“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” had been rejected 121 times before someone finally decided to grant Robert Pirsig access to readers by publishing his book, and then it sold over 5 million copies. Was Pirsig’s book of poor quality before the 122nd publisher accepted it? No. He just wasn’t given a chance. The first 121 people who looked at it decided for the reading populace that they wouldn’t be interested in it. And thus Pirsig was not a good author, or even a real author until William Morrow Publishers signed him on.

Ted couldn’t imagine being told 121 times that his book was no good and continuing to seek out someone who felt otherwise. He didn’t want to do it. He couldn’t go through it again. He didn’t know how Robert Pirsig, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and others could just keep submitting their work, rejection after rejection. The system was broken. The same thing applied in music. Ted wondered how it felt to be the man who turned down The Beatles. Or one of the 33 people who told Jack Canfield that “Chicken Soup for the Soul” would never sell, before it sold over 80 million copies.

Ted tried to tell himself that maybe it was just a matter of time. Maybe this time, someone would realize that his story was good and people would at least like it, if not love it. Maybe he wouldn’t be rejected this time. He tried to convince himself to go out and buy some envelopes and stamps and go through the motions once more of submitting to the all of the publishers he had addresses for. But he couldn’t do it.

He imagined yet another editor reading the first paragraph of his unsolicited manuscript, tossing his ten months of mental labor into the trash, printing off a pre-written rejection letter and giving it to his secretary to place in the next day’s outgoing mail. He couldn’t go through it all again. Each rejection letter was an invalidation of his ability as a writer.

He started to feel depressed and thought maybe he wouldn’t even bother this time. He’d just write for himself. But that didn’t make any sense. Stories were meant to be told. If he was going to just write for himself, he might as well not bother letting the stories out of his head and on to the page. He couldn’t stop writing even if he wanted to. He didn’t choose to be a writer. It’s just what he was. Ideas came to him. Characters were born in his mind, unbidden. Plots formed, tensions developed, love and betrayal happened.

A writer’s mind is like a small universe where a Big Bang happened and worlds go hurling through it, waiting to observed and communicated to others. No one chooses to have this burning passion to create characters and bring them to life just to have them float around in their minds forever. A writer writes because he’s a writer. Not because he wants to, or to make money. Whether it was a blessing or a curse, it’s what he was.

If he couldn’t stand another rejection letter, he conceded that there was one other option. He could self-publish. But then he remembered a man who lived down the street from his childhood home. He had a garage full of boxes containing copies of a book he had printed by a vanity publisher.  He probably still had all of them decades later. Ted did not want to be that man. But he decided to see what his options were these several decades later.

One week later, after studying self-publishing every night at work, and reading every blog post that JA Konrath had ever written, Ted felt sufficiently knowledgeable about the process to self-publish his latest book online. He felt confident that he could have this book online and available for purchase by the end of the weekend.

By Sunday night, his book was “live” on Amazon.com, but no one in the world but him knew it was there. He didn’t know what to do next. Now he had to find a way to let people know that the book was published. It existed now and could be read anywhere in the world. It felt great not having to rely on someone employed by a publisher to allow him through the gate and become a published author.

But, he wondered, was he an author now? Did self-publishing count? At what point could he distinguish himself from someone who typed “poop” on a page and uploaded it to the internet? How could he gain recognition as a serious and talented writer when he was unknown to the world?

Would he only truly become an author once he made it onto a best-seller list? Or was he already an author because he had written several books – whether or not they were published by himself or anyone else? Ted thought about this for a while and pondered the question: what is an author?

The dictionary said he was an author because he had written books. Society would more than likely only see him as an author when they saw his books on shelves or on tables in bookstores. He could describe himself as a self-published or “indie” author, which did not have anywhere near the clout of a traditionally published author – not until a traditional publisher picked up the indie and put the publisher’s name on the book.

Ted continued thinking about what an author was and eventually concluded that an author was a storyteller, no matter how the story was told. The dictionary said that an author was the writer of a book. But what about in the time before there were books? Before there was such a thing as printing. Before there was even a form of writing by which a story could be recorded? Well, there had been storytellers long before the printed word existed.

Storytelling went back to the dawn of time. Ted snickered as it occurred to him that his craft was the true “oldest profession.” He was a modern day man engaged in a craft that boasted a legacy older than just about any other in the history of man. It was ancient, and uncommon. There were seven billion people on the planet. The percentage of them who could conceive a story idea and then have the necessary skill to put that story into words and entertain others with it was relatively small.

For the sake of the argument he was conducting with his own internal monologue, he decided to pick a practical number. If there were 100,000 authors in the entire world, that would mean that they made up only 0.00001% percent of the global population.  If a million authors existed in the world, then they were still only 0.01% of all people. Ted saw clearly that he belonged to a very special and elite group of people on the planet. Not everyone could be a storyteller.

Ted didn’t know what the future held for him as far his storytelling went, but he was proud of himself for being one. It was a gift that he was born with, and through his effort and dedication, he had honed his skill and made it better and better as he aged and practiced his craft. He felt it was definitely something to be proud of.

He closed the lid of his laptop, grabbed his clipboard and keys and stepped outside into the cold, windy night to drive around the facility. It was boring, and no one ever trespassed or tried to break into the chemical plant, but that was his job so it had to be done.

He got into his security vehicle and started the engine. He thought that he should go back in and give the car time to warm up, but he decided to just brave the cold. It would take longer to warm up the car than it would take to drive around the entire property at five miles per hour.

He sat there watching his breath for a minute and was thankful for modern technology. In a few minutes the vents would begin blowing warm air into the car. He imagined a time before technology, when heaters didn’t exist. He thought all the way back to how the first people must’ve gathered around a fire to keep themselves warm. His smile was lit up by the dashboard lights. They probably had storytellers back then too.

It occurred to Ted that he was keeping the flame of creativity and entertainment alive by telling stories in modern times. His book on Amazon may not ever reach a million people. It might not ever appear on a bestseller list. But some people would read it. If it entertained those people and they had joy in their lives for some small measure of time, then he was glad to be the author who gave them that joy.

His was a special calling. He decided not to tarnish it or belittle it based on such modern measures of success as, number of units sold, or published by so-and-so, or two thumbs up by John Doe of the Daily Blab. Just being a storyteller was sufficient. The only difference it would make if a million people bought his book instead of ten people, is he’d be able to quit his job and write full-time. But then again, he laughed to himself, being a night watchman with nothing official to do for 55 minutes out of every hour, he was already getting paid to write his books.

He shifted the car into drive and slowly cruised the property, smiling and thinking about the plot of his next novel.

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