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Those Who Speak, Ch. 1 &# ...

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June 20, 1955   1955 was barely half over and already it had been a year of auspicious beginnings and hopeful changes. President Eisenhower had, in ...

Those Who Speak, Ch. 5 &# ...

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March 18, 1963   “Reverend, you picked quite a day to be out here trying to do that all by yourself.” Cyrus was so engrossed in what he was doing ...

The Antique Shop

A couple of blocks east of Jackson Square, in New Orleans’ French Quarter, wedged into a narrow alley abutting St. Louis Cathedral, stood a small single-story antique emporium called The Alcove. The building, viewed head-on, appeared a bit twisted and of dubious structural integrity, in the same manner as certain ancient pubs in remote English townships. You had to push hard on the front door to get it to open. On the rare occasions when someone did so, a small bell affixed to the top of the door would tinkle brightly, conveying positivity that a subsequent look about the place would promptly cast doubt upon. Mere words could not do justice to the interior of The Alcove, but if they could, they would include words like hodgepodge, ...

The Fletcher Legacy

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 unbroken beside him, its contents spilt out and soaked into the carpet on which Fletcher lay. Oddly, none of the assembled guests leapt to the aid of the stricken man. Instead they simply stood about the library, a few looking at Fletcher, but most making a point of not looking at him, as though either seeking some measure of plausible deniability or perhaps expecting others to do whatever was appropriate to the situation. At last, however, Giles Prescott knelt beside Fletcher’s prostrate form and leaned in closely, his hand, then his ear to the fallen man’s mouth. After a moment so ...

Rendezvous

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 smiles back, but with a glow reserved and pleasing, saving its harsh glare for later, for those unfortunates crossing open desert or bearing life’s great burdens.   For now the morning is only Mirabelle and her sun. Each morning they meet this way, not because she has anywhere to be so early, but because there is no one else in her life who lifts her up like this, who makes her face glow and imbues her with warmth. And yes, Mirabelle weeps, but it is not the weep of sadness. No, she sheds her tears for the emerging day, and for the joy of a love once only dreamt of, but now made ...

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 ...