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The Fletcher Legacy

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Monday, January 12, 1903, 8:45 p.m. Conrad Fletcher lay dead, or seemingly so, on the floor of his capacious upstairs library. A crystal highball glass lay ...

Rendezvous

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Mirabelle weeps with the coming of dawn. She does not know why. Nor does the dawn. She knows only that she smiles upon the rising sun each morning, and it ...

Arrival

It is months, brother. Months we’ve been at this. Nigh on a year even. And are we any closer? We have searched every nook, every dark corner, only there’s no way out.   Indeed, brother, the search is long, arduous, and yet even now there appears in the distance a pure white light that may be our salvation. Lead on, brother and I shall be fast behind. For have I ever left your side throughout our long travail?   Push on. We shall yet be free. Only, Jesus, the light it blinds. And the hands that draw us from the darkness, while oh so cold, seem also to welcome and nurture, as though searching, brother, searching for us all ...

Free-fall

It was none of my doing. After all, what did I know? Only that it was my turn, my place and time. A chance to blaze a trail, carve my mark on the face of it. But no one told me how or what or even why. No manuals were provided. I was simply flung from the precipice, out into space with all the rest. And now, as I fall, I do what I can to make a difference, change a life, create something where there was nothing. All the while glancing down at the fast-approaching bottom, redoubling my effort to finish what I started, so that later, when another passes by, they will know I was ...

Iron Law

The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world. — Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. ...

Animal Instinct

My father prowled the plains of the Serengeti, crept stealthily among the vines of the Borneo jungle.   In those long blacked-out grand mal moments, as he lay broken at the foot of the stairs, I imagine him striding proudly over the land, flinging himself effortlessly upon the face of Everest.   His life, his legacy is now how I choose to remember it. Whether real or imagined, I can make of him what he could not. And I see his weathered face gazing up defiantly at a god who gave him nothing but pain, I watch as he smiles and says out loud,   Is that all you ...

Two Roses

I planted two roses this evening, and they seem content enough with their places in the garden. Out of sight of one another, so no cause for jealousy. Each free to do its level best, to reign supreme among humble hydrangea and pedestrian plumbago.   When spring at last returns, each will throw itself skyward in search of accolade, insecure in the absence of blossom, uncertain of its place.   Until there comes a day both roses reach a height where each comes in sight of the other, and in that moment there will ensue a febrile rush, to be first—taller, brighter, more fragrant than the other.   Only we do not know their souls, their foibles and insecurities. We see only the outcome, the wondrous outburst born of envy and ...

The Queue

“Damn, it feels like we’ve been standing here forever!” Flynn shifts his weight from one foot to the other and back again. He removes a tissue from his pants pocket. It’s already crumpled from previous use, but he wipes his brow one more time and exhales with loud exasperation. “Is this how it’s supposed to work? Seriously?” he continues. “We haven’t moved an inch in, like, an hour.” Flynn Simon has, in fact, been in the queue for over an hour and a half, which is how long it’s been since he drove his 2007 Toyota Highlander into the back end of a stopped eighteen-wheeler on the Long Island Expressway. He had looked away for only a second at the sound of his cell phone ringing on the passenger seat. He never got a ...

Alabaster Egg

Leave it be, the alabaster egg, alluring as morning, tenuous as rain.   Touch it and the mother will never return, the chick consigned to abandonment and death, she cursed to a life of regret and recrimination.   Only leave it be and the chick will one day burst through, moist, dazed, confused at the world, uncertain who to believe, unsure why he has come, not at all clear what’s expected of ...

Everything Old

Who could have imagined that the universities would be the first to go? Anyplace where you went to learn how to think. The trades turned out to be much harder though. They can make you a competent contract attorney or psychiatrist in fifteen minutes, but if you want to learn plumbing or welding, you still have to go spend a year or more in a trade school, just like back in the day. When the technology first started to emerge in the late twenty sixties, it was driven by the work of Columbia neurobiology researchers Pelton and Yamaguchi, who had collaborated decades earlier on identifying specific sites in the human brain where learning occurred, research that had subsequently earned the pair Nobel Prizes in medicine. With the benefit of ...