Tagged: surface

March 16, 2017 Scribble 0

A chance to bleed.

I spent the morning re-writing explanations of my writing tools so they would make more sense. I actually found a few ideas I had forgotten such as planning climaxes and struggles. I think most of these things are apparent, for instance, you tend to see them pop up. But that is the pantser in me; plotters get ahead faster. I used to be just a pantser because it fit better with my observational nature. However, if you fail to notice a detail, it will show in the story. So you have to think about the plot to help build up the scenes. Anyway, plotting is much better than pantsing when you get to the middle of part two and you have no idea what comes next.

***

What’s better: a comb-over or buzz-cut? The buzz-cut aficionados swear running a blade through their hair solves so many problems and looks better. If a bunch of round heads looks better, then fine. The comb-over set swears at least they have a few hairs to shape up their head. Of course, they look ridiculous if only two hairs cover the bald spot. Maybe it is time to think about a toupee?

***

Four women stand like a choir bunched up against the rosemary wall separating the federal courthouse from the sidewalk. They can stand on the path and protest as long as they keep it open for visitors. Together they hold a sign; “Justices for Our Brothers.” On the back of the sign slashes tally up the number of hugs offered to anyone who passes. The count totals more than 600.

***

Chicken and Wild Rice soup simmers in the kitchen. The wild rice resembles black-eyed peas with the brown speck surrounding the white kernel. Orange rounds of carrot float on the surface. The perfect soup for a cold day. But, it’s nearly 90 outside. For some reason this year, I dislike the warm weather. With nearly 400 inches of snow I want another storm  to dump more frozen water. Might as well see if additional records are broken. Towards summer, the melt may lead to a second round of records as the most snow leads to the most runoff. Maybe a new lake will form in the Fallon desert. Lake Tahoe has enough water to keep the Truckee flowing for three years. And more is on the way. Northern Nevada lies under piles of snow and ice. Send some of that south; we need a few more days of winter.

***

In my present condition, the only thing left to eat is dirt. Dirt contains no cholesterol and no sugar. Depending on the source, dirt contains iron and other minerals. Free-range dirt sounds organic, but even it can lead to problems; the raw soil might contain natural asbestos or arsenic. Even dirt has its limitations.

***

Mark Twain spent a sojourn in Territorial Nevada. Some of his observations in the gold and silver camps of the Sierra Nevada ended up as well-remembered short stories. Other pieces found there way into longer novels from his office in Hartford, Connecticut. The school room scene in the Adventures of Tom Sawyer originated at a schoolroom in Carson City. Always be on the lookout for interesting events or scenes. They will prove useful at another time.

***

I still like to ramble adding unneeded words to sentences. My mantra has become, “Get to the Point!”

***

A nine-foot stone wall stands across from the Spanish mission with water flowing over red sandstone rocks. Two fat pigeons, one grey and other steel, each splash through the puddles of water before they fall to the pool. The artificial river meanders passed a canyon of concrete, Mexican fan palms, and under flat tan rocks until the water reaches the pump. With a whisk, the water starts the climb again.

A potable water truck pumps rainwater from Utah into the pool. This is water trucked 500 miles to make the desert green. A  pet project of a former mayor who demanded a water fountain between the city courthouses. At the end of the river, the Poets Bridge features Earth House Hold poet Gary Snyder and 19 other poets and Las Vegas artists.

My Life Soon Ends 0

Enlarge

mars-image
Pixabay

Sunrise bounced through our carbon polymer dome inching closer to my eyes on the pillow. I looked at the divergence of yellow and red light flaring through the bubble and then across the room. The sixth day of Shepard seemed it would shape up as a typical butterscotch day. I saw the sun’s reflection on MaxPol.

The sun woke me every day, but it didn’t always reflect from MaxPol’s dome. Pioneers colonized Mars 160 years ago by surviving the solar flares shielded from the neural damage of radiation. Those before me found a way to release water, and they invented calendars, fashions, and traditions. They built the central dome of MaxPol and spread out from there.

I understood the privilege the pioneers gave me. Every person born on Mars understood the sacrifice required for the next generation.

Maggie put on a white dress for the afternoon matching ceremony. She transfixed me with her beauty. I looked past her to the mirror as she added a garland of chamomile to her hair. She resembles Aleren.

When she is matched my life soon ends.

Maggie stood still admiring her reflection. She finished up her hair and let her arms fall straight down. “You will make a beautiful bride.” She blushed and turned away.

“At ceremony you will be matched with a partner. Then you will make handsome babies.”

“And go like you,” she added.

“You must produce at least three children as a Last Born,” I reminded her. “That is the contract.”

“And when those children are born, I will go.” She sighed.

“All Last Born villein must repay steerage,” I said. “And you are the last to repay.”

A generation before myself, then me, and now my daughter all expected to settle the debt.

“This planet requires too much,” Maggie said.

“It only seems that way because of all the work we must do.”

“No. Mars owns us until we die.”

Grandmother Viola agreed to the villein contract with the Interstellar Transport and Exploration Company in an attempt to escape Earth. She wanted to make her mark and she wanted to escape the marriage her mother had arranged.

With Vi’s signature, she agreed her next three generations would work as miners, scientists, and in my case, a Last Born. We married and raised a family, taught the Martian traditions, and prepared our children for the needed work. Some of our children left MaxPol for distant settlements and some became apprenticed to a scientist. In most cases, like my middle son Adam, we never see them again.

When Maggie reached the age of viability at one sol, roughly when the fear of her dying passed, her mother walked out of our pod to end her life. Aleren birthed three children according to the contact and had nothing left to do but complete transformation.

On that day, she dressed in a white robe, weaved flowers through her hair, and slipped out of our pod onto the soil of Mars. Beyond the dome the air was thin, and Aleren had only a few precious minutes to reach the transformation pedestal.

I stood with my two boys and cradled my daughter as Aleren walked away. I was proud of her and I kept the boys from noticing my tears. When she finished walking, Aleren raised her arms upward, and turned toward our window. Adam held my leg and hid his face, Zach stood like a soldier, and Maggie slept. Aleren ended her life on Mars as we watched.

She kneeled and her whole body began to swell. Seconds later, her white robe exploded upwards in the wind. Aleren was gone. She aged 16 sols, gave birth to three children, and in that instant completed her transformation.

After that day, I continued teaching our children the Martian traditions and duties passed down by the pioneers. In time, the children forgot their mother as the picture of her face faded in the hallway.

When he turned 16, Zach apprenticed to a climatologist. Later, Adam went to the far colonies to work in the mines. Maggie was born last, roughly three sols after Adam, and being the baby she never knew Aleren. She was a handfull and the elders of MaxPol let me add two sols to my life due to her difficulties.

Looking at her today, you would never know she struggled to learn. When she leaves our dome, I will have aged 27 sols, fathered three children, and will walk on the surface of Mars to join Aleren.

“Father, are you thinking?”

I shook off my melancholy. It struck me I should not upset her before the matching ceremony.

“I was remembering your mother.”

“I only know what my brothers have told me,” Maggie paused. “Why did she leave us?”

“She realized her purpose,” I replied. “Her benediction and death allowed you to live.”

I needed Maggie to understand the gift Aleren gave her.

“I barely passed one sol,” Maggie said. “I never had a chance talk with her, learn from her, or gain her wisdom.”

“All Last Borns have one job; to ensure life goes on. She spoke to you often in your crib about your future.”

“A baby maker, you mean,” Maggie said. “Enough. It is time us breeders became naturalized freemen.”

“Your mother was very proud you would be a Last Born,” I said. “Your children will be citizens,” I paused to look her in the eyes. “The first generation of Free Martians.”

“And I will not be able to see it,” Maggie said.

I gave Maggie credit for grasping the gravity of her journey. And it gave me pause; I would not see my family earn citizenship either. Zach and Adam would never be freemen, but at least they had the chance at a long life. I did have that comfort to fall back on. And Maggie would be the final Last Born. My grandchildren would decide the future for themselves and their children.

I placed the freshly pressed robe on my dressing table. After the matching ceremony, I would come back alone and prepare for my transformation. Maggie would be off to her Last Born colony and will miss it. Just as well; Maggie didn’t remember Aleren’s passing and she wouldn’t remember mine.

Under the central dome of MaxPol, the matching ceremony candidates stood on a transparent stage. Maggie embraced her friends and I could hear their laughter float to my seat. All the parents sat away from the Last Born children. The audience cheered as the chancellery read the names of all of us preparing to transform.

As a group, Maggie joined the rest by holding her right hand equal to her head and reciting the vow. Each swore to build up the community, teach their children, and carry out their purpose as a Last Born. At the end, the chancellery invited the parents to stand. The crowd cheered as the chancellery thanked us for completing our service.

Everyone became silent for the marriage partner epistle. Maggie gasped when the chancellery chose Charles, a tall, black-haired Last Born, for her partner. I imagined their handsome babies.

At the end of the ceremony, Maggie found me. She pulled Charles behind her. She seemed assured and ready to begin her new life. I tried to act casual, but my happiness betrayed me. Tears welled in my eyes and I pulled her close.

“They made a good choice,” I said. “Your children will be strong.”

“Yes, I suppose.” Maggie took a furtive glance back at Charles. “He is as good as anyone.”

“I guess you two are off for your training?”

“Yes. We learn the private bits about each other,” Maggie said.

“Don’t practice too much.” I couldn’t help myself. Maggie punched my arm and Charles became scarlet.

“It looks like they want you to go.” I pushed Maggie and Charles toward the stage. “I am sure everything will be fine.”

Maggie wrapped herself around me dropping her head on my shoulder. She wept and pulled me closer. I rubbed her back and whispered, “You make me proud.”

“I love you too,” she said.

Maggie saved me from an awkward goodbye. I stood with the other parents watching her leave. Soon I stood alone with nothing left to do but return to my pod.

I dressed in my transformation robe and reflected on my life. None of my children died, they each learned something from me, and there was nothing left to teach them. The last thing to do was complete my transformation.

Before the matching ceremony, I transferred my credits to Maggie, uploaded my last words, recorded a congratulatory video for my grandchildren, and pressed my robe with an iron. I fingered the trim on the collar feeling the intricacy of the lace. Everything seemed in order.

At central day, an alarm sounded and a happy voice reminded me to proceed to my transformation. This was it. I would perform the last part of my vow.

I climbed up to the airlock between our pod and the Martian sand. Across the complex, I watched as other parents also entered their airlocks. I counted as many as six other men and three women. Not as many as in the past, but still a sizable number. I realized I had never spoken to any of them.

Over the speakers the Requiem Aeternam began to play in the airlock. I decided it was a fitting anthem for my last minutes on Mars. I took a deep breath and let it out. The door opened and the atmosphere blew out the rupture in the dome.

On Mars, I lived a total of 27 sols. On Earth, I would celebrate reaching 50 years. For the first time I felt tired.

Aleren and I practiced this final moment of my life sols ago. We let out our breath like we were coming up for a dive. We giggled when we had to breathe in.

Now on the sand it was difficult. I felt the effects of the vacuum on my face and my lips tingled from the lack of oxygen. I failed to realize how hard it would be. Yet, I wanted to experience this. The moisture in my eyes evaporated and my lungs started to freeze with my slow exhalation.

Aleren made it roughly 40 steps before the wind scattered her across the surface. I wanted to walk at least as far as her. Except I had not counted on the difference in our age. I struggled and my heart pounded hard in my chest. I walked less than 20 steps before I managed to reach a small rise in the dirt. I climbed over it, dropped to my knees, and realized death was near. My eyes began to burn, so I closed them, and let the sun warm my face.

As I gave in to it, the ground under me opened and I dropped beneath the surface. I tumbled down and landed hard in a dark hole. The fall took my breath away and I could see nothing but black; did somebody dig me a grave?

“Place him in the bateau and run to the compression chamber,” a male voice said.

The taste of oxygen differed from the thin nitrogen and carbon dioxide of the surface. I took a shallow breath. It felt cool in my aching lungs. Around me I heard voices, but my eyes were blind. Nothing took shape.

“It may be too late,” said a female voice.

The transformation prepares us for the responsibility of ensuring life begins on Mars. Each Last Born teaches, scolds, counsels, and nurtures their children. I took a final breathe.

“We must save him. He deserves to know the future.”

“Adam?” I thought I heard the voice of my middle son and realized it was a dream. His voice took me to my memory of all of us standing together for a portrait under the main dome of MaxPol with the yellow sun shining behind us. I smiled thinking about my family as my transformation ended.

I knew Mars was a better place.

A Moment of Pure Truth 2

Enlarge

pexels-photo-356968

Pixabay

Christopher stood over the maze of workday and eyed the sea. A thin fog cloud floated passed his perch on the 45th floor. On the docks, sea lions barked at tourists. East Bay traffic sought a faster path, ships hauled electronics in and almonds back out, and the blood-red sun sunk into late afternoon north of the Golden Gate.

In the conference room, five people sat in executive chairs around a table. Their faces reflected gloomy sullenness. They might as well said they intended two more hours of arguing and defensiveness. He crushed out his cigarette and flicked it at the trash can.

Across from a camera hunched a nervous man with a woman perched to the side wearing a mask. Christopher thought he could use some oxygen too. While the man told his story, the woman repeated what he said.

“Does she have to do that?”
“We need an accurate record,” said an attorney seated at the end.
“Isn’t the video enough?”
“I want to read it tonight.”

Christopher rocked forward. He ran his right hand through his gray hair and looked over at the man. “Forget the transcriber, Mr. Wells. The faster you answer, the faster we can get out of here.”

The nervous man explained his one-of-a-kind process. It required this and that and one thing or the other. It mattered little to those at the settlement conference. The questions rolled and the answers landed in a flat dud. Each person rubbed their eyes and wished for sleep.

Christopher turned to the window daydreaming of places far from this evening. He watched the sun drop into the ocean until the dying light filled the room.

~

Five hours over the vermilion bridge, he rolled down the fabric roof. Clammers walked along the beach carrying clam guns and pails. They smiled in the ocean air. Christopher breathed deep taking in a feeling of warm relief. The sea smelled sweet. Sentries of redwoods stood on the cliff and a lone tree marched out to the shore. He longed to join its rush to the sea. Away from him, he picked up the faint smell of skunk. Humboldt County Fog, he guessed. A guy in a beanie and a girl in flannel shirt smiled and waved.

He touched the dash. It felt solid although he still wore his virgin wool dress pants. He closed his eyes for a moment and opened them quick. A pair of 501’s and a wool cardigan replaced the virgin wool. He looked in the mirror and dark sunglasses reflected back. He settled into the car seat steering the wheel away from the sand.

The redwood forest rose above the ocean. Ferns and grass bunched up crowding the road. The path intruded on the stillness giving way to silence. Sentries of trees towered until only darkness touched the sky. The forest seemed to ignore his intrusion of their assembly. Christopher came to seek solace and the forest ignored him.

He slowed the car into a clearing. The tires crunched over cones, broken branches, and fronds. A hard thump echoed from the closing door. He regretted disrupting the surrounding cathedral.

He wandered over fallen trees and rocks. Over a ridge he scanned for the tree tops watching the breeze sway each branch. The trees reached a height beyond his imagination. He leaned against a trunk rounder than his height. He followed the ridges and cliffs of bark as high as he could see. It never ended. He guessed this tree stood stories tall long before his great-grandfather saw California.

The width of the tree circled around and Christopher stepped over ferns as he rounded it. A black ant carried a golden speck of pollen at the end of a mile long trek. It rushed to disappear under the surface of leaves going deep into the humus. Christopher looked around the clearing not seeing his starting point.

A beam of light surrounded a smaller tree with a pathway from the sky. Dust and insects crisscrossed the dancing light. Christopher stood in awe breathing in the serenity.

Christopher walked away from the big tree to stand under the light shaft. The illuminated tree stood tall like the last one except for its pure white branches. His shoulders shuddered and every tree seemed to step back with appreciation and respect for the tree. He reached up stroking an albino cone of pure whiteness as a subtle spark passed through his hand twinkling in the light. He rubbed together his fingers feeling the soft white powder. Energy flashed from his finger tips and floated to his core. He felt alive and full of wisdom.

The light around the ghost tree grew brighter and he stood alone looking up. In the light glow, Christopher’s face expressed joy.

~

“Is that what a nervous breakdown looks like?” asked Mr. Wells.

Christopher jumped back from the table. The room grew larger and a crowd standing around him snapped to attention. The transcriber braced Christopher’s back. He sank into a chair confused by the way everyone stared. A hand pushed him a glass and he sipped the water allowing himself to return to the meeting.

He surveyed the balcony. Stars touched the rooftops of the city and a helicopter searched over the bay. He stared outside while the others waited for him to say he felt alright. Christopher cleared his throat and everyone turned to him.

“Answers come at the strangest times,” he said.
“How do you mean?” Mr. Wells asked.
“All this means nothing. None of you should win.”
“But we are so close.”
“A settlement over a little slight?”

Christopher pushed himself away from the table. He stood for a moment before the people seated opposite him. He nodded, smiled, and looked up. They followed his gaze to the ceiling tiles where he saw his answer. The other people in the room only saw a crisscross pattern.

As they tried to understand the truth, Christopher gathered up his papers, turned away, and walked out the door.