Long overdue, and I’m trying to get back into the swing of things, especially after the disastrously long pause of “Miracle Man” (which I haven’t forgotten). Tap on the EEWR link above regarding a new World Meteorological Organization article.
The following Monday was the day I had to break it to my manager. I wasn’t quite sure how I’d explain it, and I certainly had a certain amount of fear that she’d leave me with the options of “don’t do this” or “get fired”.
I waited outside like normal, coffee and plastic bag of lunch in hand. I remember it being refreshingly cool, and I do mean refreshing. The breeze was crisp, happy, blowing by in short drafts that were strong enough to catch your hair but lacking the maliciousness to pierce your clothes. It really was a beautiful day, a pure spring day, where after months and months of Indiana winter, just the sight of the nascent green leaves and multitudes of flowers recoloring the streets and neighborhoods renews your purpose and desire to see the day through. Where the winter provided a soul-depleting tapestry of white and greys and the familiar stink from trampled slush at any building’s entrance, spring, here spring meant something. Which is why I didn’t mind waiting outside like this for my ride.
Several minutes went by before he finally showed up. Michael, Mike, usually referred to by his last name at work, Roberts, showed up at 7:36 that morning in his Honda CRV.
Mike was a good guy. He was the average sort of nice, always had a ready smile to greet you with, brown eyes, hooked nose, and a vague look in his eyes that was reassuringly pacifistic; the kind of person you knew meant no wrong. He was also always ready to help you, so long as it didn’t cost more than two hours time, ten dollars, or cause him to be parted from something that was ultimately an inconvenience. Like I said, an average sort of nice.
As soon as he came to a stop, I got into the passenger seat. My apartment complex was on his way to work, and I subsidized the convenience of him saving me gas and the higher likelihood of a stroke.
“Hey buddy, good morning.” There’s that affable smile, bless him.
“Morning Mike.” The Honda starts moving. “How you doing?”
“I’m ok, ok, uh, had a pretty nice weekend. Me and Alicia had a nice evening downtown, dinner and drinks. Have you been down South Main lately? There’s a lot of new places. In fact, we just stayed around Colfax.”
“Yeah, I haven’t lately, it’s been a while. I’ll check it out though, maybe this weekend. You, uh, read the paper?” Ever ask questions you know the answer to just for the sake of conversation?
“Newspaper?” A chuckle to break his dialogue. “I mean, I read the news.”
“Yeah, I read something about a guy at the hospital who.. um..,” I stopped. At that moment, the words dissolved in my mouth, I couldn’t explain it, couldn’t explain who this person was or why I should even bring it up. This was dumb. “Er, well, I read about a guy,” if I had any commitment to this idea, I had to just get it out, “who sounds like he may be special, someone to really talk to, to meet, um, you know for people who have a sort of sadness in their hearts they want something done about.”
Mike, thankfully much more engaged in a left-hand turn through traffic, nodded thoughtfully. We were almost to the bank. Being a loan officer wasn’t glorious, exciting, or really what I ever imagined I’d be doing in all the childhood years of parents, relatives, school teachers, and kindly pediatricians asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. However, as I said before, I’m comfortable, and I stay fed.
It wouldn’t be until several hours later that I’d have the opportunity to talk to Karen. Karen Whitmore, a Protestant woman of her late-forties, four children, drove a Ford Expedition. Some people would follow up with their emotional description of their boss, great person or tyrant, but to be honest, our interactions were so brief and sterile, I had nothing. In fact, I had no idea how the conversation was to go.
“Excuse me, you want to do what?”
“Karen, I want to take an extended leave from the bank. You know I rarely take vacation, and I want to roll up this and next year’s vacation periods into one.”
A porcelain angel next to a coffee cup full of pens stared at me. Its cherubic face smiled. I pursed my lips.
“Josh, I’m a little upset that you’ve put me in this position of having to tell you that I can’t authorize that. You’ve been with this bank long enough to know our policies. I can’t let Terri be the only loan processor in this branch for that long.”
“Karen, I know, but please remember that I didn’t take any time off last year.” I started to slump in the chair, a little exasperated at the resistance, but I didn’t know how to explain this. This wasn’t me just taking time off for the sake of recouping lost days, this was something that “I need. Karen, I-I need this. Listen, I just need to get out of here for a while, and you know that I’ve been here every day, I don’t linger or take my time with accounts, and I do a good job. I am very detailed and careful with what I do. And, and I don’t ask for anything from you or anyone else around here, but God as my witness, I need this, I’ve just got to try.”
She leaned in from her desk and propped her elbows on the polished faux-wood surface. The wall clock became very noticeable in its time-telling. She was quiet, working her lips around as she was probably deciding if I was worth taking the flak later if someone higher than her wanted to ask a couple questions about staffing allocation and “policy”.
“Ok Josh, fine.” She smiled, with a light irritation still in her eyes. “You have last year’s and this year’s vacation and not a day more. You need to take care of yourself, and if this will help you, then I hope you find that help.”
I sat up immediately, planted my heels into that office carpet, and stood to shake her hand. “Thank you Karen, really. Thank you.”
She wished me the best of luck, and with that I was off.. to finish the work day and wait for my ride.
There I was, sitting on my patio with a cup of coffee and a breakfast burrito, cell phone in hand with St. George Hospital’s number queued up. My tongue was numb from that breakfast burrito. Nuke it for a minute and a half, let it sit for twenty, or wind up not using the afflicted part of your mouth for the better part of the day. I didn’t know how to start really, and I thought this was the best, most feeble way to go. I called the first number listed on their website, got a hold of “Wendy”. While the name brought up certain mental images, and hunger, the sound of her voice conjured images suiting a sixty-year old or so volunteer who probably devotes her time at the hospital to guide the grieving toward the necessary floor. Part of me felt presumptuous, the other part really hoped she was a good soul. I don’t know why it mattered.
“Hello, St. George Hospital, my name is Wendy, how may I help you or direct your call?”
“Hi Wendy, my name is Josh, and I’m calling about a Miracle Man? Do you, uh, happen to know who I’m talking about?” You know those old samurai war masks with the really exaggerated frowns? Pretty sure that was the look of utter cringe on my face.
“I’m sorry, no, I don’t know who that would be.” The disappointment wasn’t genuine, but there was conviction in that answer.
“Yeah, I’m sorry, I know that’s a strange question to ask. There was an article in “The Observer” yesterday, someone writing in about a man she said she met there at St. George’s, and I was wondering if you knew had seen anyone there lately, of if there was any talk or mention of such a person..?” The more I said that out loud, the dumber I felt for the effort.
“Oh, you know? We were talking about that this morning, yes, it was a nice article. Someone brought that article in. It was very nice. You know, since you asked, hold on please.”
“Sure thing, absolutely.” I took a big honking bite of that burrito because you don’t let a beefy delicious serving of alternative egg, cheese, probably ham, and likely real sausage go cold. So delicious.
“Yes sir, so I just talked to one of my co-workers, the one who brought the article in. She was here that night in fact. Would you like to speak with her?”
I couldn’t believe it. Breakfast burrito and a break in one morning? The hell you say…
“Absolutely! If she’s able to, please.”
“Sir, I’ll put her on, one second please and have a great day.”
“Thank you Wendy, you too.” Sip of coffee.
“Hello? Hi, are you the one who saw the Miracle Man?”
“Yes sir, well sort of, you see. I heard them talking while I was updating the check-ins for the day. They were in the lobby, and the woman who wrote that article was standing just in front of him, so I couldn’t see his face. But it was thankfully slow, and I could hear their whole conversation. He seemed real sweet. They chatted a little while after that whole piece you read about in the paper, just polite talk.”
While she was talking, that cup of coffee disappeared to just a little aromatic ring at the bottom of the cup. My mind was reeling. “Sounds like a great person! Did you happen to catch a name, job, anything at all that might help me find him? I know, I mean I know it sounds weird, but I’m hoping to find this guy, talk to him, you know?”
“Oh, I don’t know if it’s much help, but he did say he was on his way for business to Jackson, Mississippi I think.”
“Jackson? Jeez, he’s not exactly taking the quick route if he’s taking a pit stop here, is he?” I laughed, sort of. The polite attempt-at-casual-conversation sort of life.
Well, so did she. “Oh I know! I don’t understand why he’d be at a hospital if he was traveling on business, well, he didn’t say he was waiting on anyone. But he said he was driving to Jackson from Chicago, trying to make a trip of it.”
“Ma’am, thank you. He didn’t happen to mention when he had to be here, did he?”
“No sir, but I hope you find him. The way he sounded so sure, I think maybe the Lord did speak through him.”
After I hung up, I chewed over the last of the breakfast tortilla with a lot on my mind. The dense flour material clung to my molars, and I felt excitedly stuck – what the hell was I going to do with this information? It was feasible, certainly feasible, that this guy, whoever he is, was truly on his way to Jackson. Being that he was in a hospital, maybe a doctor, maybe a miracle man in a figurative sense. Do I need to find someone like this? A kind stranger with nice words and a specialty in dermatology?
A quick login to my bank account helped with the decision making. When you have no one to spend money on and no reason to go out, it becomes significantly easier to save. I knew I could survive a month without pay, the trick was to get my employer to buy on a leave of absence that long without being replaced. I knew then if this was going to pan out the way I wanted it to, I’d need a full suitcase, a couple hundred dollars in cash, and no need to look behind, at least for a little while.
It took two months before I wound up here, staring in the mirror at this Budget Inn just outside the middle-of-something Mississippi. A stack of newspapers as high as my knee are laid out on top of the queen-size mattress, and according to the bathroom mirror, I look like hell. I know I’m close though, God, I’m so close to finding him.
The idea hit me on a Sunday, April 8 in fact, hovering around that period where you might want to call it the morning if you’re lazy, or strictly afternoon if you’re a purist, or someone who believes that high noon still means something. I was sitting on the couch, the Sunday newspaper in my hands, and the exorbitant innards of ads laying on the coffee table. I hit the funnies first, laid the page with the crossword puzzle next to me. Sixty percent of the newspaper to me was worthless, but damn did I like reading the letters to the editor and that self-help section.
She caught my eye. It was a letter from a woman named Abby (not TO Abby, not the famous Abby), who said she met a man in the lobby of St. George’s hospital downtown. I read the column, the tight black type on reassuringly resilient gray, and it was one particular line that really caught me. “You know what he did? He grabbed my hands, held them so gently, and he said, ‘Abby, your husband is going to be fine. The Lord is with him, and he is going to be fine.’ I thought it very sweet of him to say so, but I also thought you might expect a lot of people to say those kinds of things in a hospital. Well wouldn’t you know, when we met the doctor that afternoon, he said that the chemotherapy was showing some very positive results! He even said that my husband kept that sort of progress, we may have that awful cancer in full remission before the end of the year! Oh, I was so happy! If I can find this Miracle Man, I want him to know I said thank you!”
I was sitting on the couch at the time, feet nestled among several empty beer cans on the coffee table. I ran my thumbs along the edges of the paper and folded it on my lap, looked at the ceiling, wondering if God had any quick words of wisdom for me. No. Just the ceiling fan, dust-caked on the leading edges, still. “Miracle man, huh?” I chattered my teeth, a bad habit, some stupid habit whenever I realize I mentally come up to a crossroads that’s either going to lead me to some sort of glory or a whole hell of a lot of disappointment. I was mighty experienced in the latter.
My apartment was simple, kept it simple, but dirty. An empty pizza box from last Friday night was still out, just past the beer cans. Ash tray, but that was clean at least. Maybe I needed to meet this guy, probably could use a miracle or two. I stood up from that couch to look out the front window, a stunning view of plain bushes, parked cars and another row of brick-façade apartments with ugly brown trim and balconies. I can tell you, I lived comfortably enough, my job saw to that, and I put in just enough effort to make sure the bills got paid on time. But there wasn’t enough motivation left in my bones for anything else in life. The angel on the shoulder told me a few months back that everything was alright, that the plus side of having most of my small family dead from dementia or disease, that it just wasn’t very probable to have another loss anytime soon. Bastard angel. The devil told me to forget anything the other spirit says. The way to heaven is through donation, and you can’t donate unless you’re at Church, and only sinners go to Church, so drink up son, grab another bottle, another can, drink on up, it’s the only way.
I figured on a Sunday, it couldn’t hurt me to try to look, find this “Miracle Man”. I was bored, and my Sundays weren’t going to be occupied with approved company anymore, so what did I have to lose? A job, maybe, depending. So on that Sunday, I looked up St. George’s and called the lobby, see if I could get any sort of information. And that’s how all this started.
Just to give myself a clean entry, whatever you see on here until I say it’s done, will be a story that I’m updating on the fly. I’m writing it in Word and copying/pasting to FaceBook (to prevent another fiasco like yesterday) as well as this website for those who are on the look-out. The idea is just iterative installments on a periodic basis whenever I see fit. This way, I can give my brain a release instead of trying not to get overwhelmed at writing larger pieces.
I’m not re-reading these things, not trying to edit them, they’re coming out as they originally are. Hope you enjoy, and I guess we’ll all find out how the story ends right about the same time!
Update to “Older Stories” is a lengthy story, the first one written following a lot of day-dreaming waiting for my Organic Chemistry class to start. It was the first in a series of stories I lumped together as “The Chronicles”, and as my first, on my re-read of it, I can’t help but call it rough. My goal was to write an action-packed story that was reminiscent of the simple “we’re good, they’re bad, so we get to blow them up” story-telling of ’90’s Saturday morning cartoons, because those were awesome.
As the first of these stories, it winds up in the middle of the Chronicles’ timeline, with the lead character, Samuel, having mastered his abilities and quite capable of dealing with any challenge sent his way. His world has become one where very frequent incursions by “demons” have finally tapered off, allowing him and the others like him to finally rest. The Morningstar’s influence has grown quiet. But the Morningstar introduced the world to a new form of terror and biology, and those who can best capitalize on these new possibilities are the ones most willing to test their technologies. Those who first unveil the means to defeat Samuel are the ones who can market the means to own the world.
Time flies by faster and faster with the passing years. I once heard that it’s all perception – when you’re a kid, it seems like forever between birthdays because each year is such a significant fraction of your life span. That span from 5 to 6 years is an eternity as you added 1/6 of all your potential memories in that time. Get to your thirties, and any given week is a blip on the radar. I digress.
I haven’t made it through the stories I intended to, but I have added a short something to the Older Stories section. It’s a standalone, nothing to do with Vedin or our guy Samuel. When you read it, I want you to imagine sitting at the bar, arms folded while you’re holding onto an empty glass of bourbon on the rocks. You got all the world on your mind and not enough liquor to wash it away. A woman in a blue dress is singing, the band behind her, people chattering and the bartender sympathetic. Smoke is in the air, and that’s fine by you as you linger somewhere between disgruntled and lost. Outside, the city air is cold, a wet snow sliding in between buildings at an angle, and you know at some point, the drinks’ll run out and you’ve got to get back out there. The music is comfortable, the voice embraces you and sings to the pit in your chest that can’t let go. That’s where the new short came from. And I mean short this time.
We spent part of the weekend cleaning up and cleaning out the office, so I took the opportunity to do an inventory: 100 soft-cover and 24 BookStub (digital copies), and the hard-covers are gone. Well, there’s one, but it’s not in very good condition. So! Website is updated to reflect that. Soft-cover copies are still $16.99 and access to a digital copy is $5.00.
Meanwhile, I’m still going through a separate series of stories, loosely titled as a whole as “The Chronicles”. They’re unrelated to House of Torunthane, and I’m adding just to add something else to the website. With a new semester starting this week, I hope to finish one story. By that I mean, make sure there weren’t any overt errors or things that just absolutely don’t make any sense at all.. which I’m sure there will be even after going over them. In my mind, “The Chronicles” played out in segments, almost episodic, and I think they would have been much better served as a comic book. If I could draw, I would have definitely gone that route. Definite influences from Paradise Lost and “Dragonball Z”. Seriously, not joking. I’m sure someone else can come up with a lot of other comics/cartoons that have similar themes, but I’m just not “hip” anymore. Posting “The Chronicles” is catharsis. I’m airing out dusty tales of things that made sense 17 years ago of a simplified “they’re bad, we’re good” sort of world to provide that mental escape from the complexities of real life. Because the villains aren’t always clear in reality, but if they’re a demon that’s just out to eat people, there’s no question that sucker’s gotta go. Stay posted.
I’ve updated the “Older Stories” page to include a short I wrote back in the early ’00’s. The Torunthanes are gone, and Earth is revisited by the Jortasha, another dominant power in this particular area of the Milky Way. While the story has roots in texts-not-yet-written, I liked it because it barely touches on the main characters of The House of Torunthane but shows how the world that they were forced to leave behind has to carry on in the wake of the major events that brought the world into the interstellar fold. And it gets me away from Menver and Vedin who’ve been the main characters for years and years. Please take a read, I hope you enjoy it and get to learn a little more about the grand storyline that is The House of Torunthane.
Take a look at Energy, Environment, and the et cetera for a new post giving the short on the South Carolina V.C. Summer nuclear power plant debacle and my two cents on how that affects the industry.