Art and the philosophy of life

Posts tagged ‘Short story’

How they met…Neon…a short story

Love You To The Moon & Back neon signage photo

“This is a great bookstore,” she said excitedly, throwing a few more things onto the counter.  “I absolutely LOVE it, to the Moon and Back.”

“We’re opening another shop on the moon before Christmas.”

“Interesting,” she muttered.  “And how, exactly, will the customers get there?”

“People are already living on the Moon. The government just doesn’t want anyone to know,”  he said, conspiratorially.  “Don’t tell anyone I mentioned it.”

“Oh, believe me, I won’t,” she laughed, crossing her heart with her finger.  “You have a lot of unusual books.  Things I’ve never seen anywhere else.  It’s wonderful.”

“Thanks.”

“We need a lot more independents.  So many closed, but perhaps they’ll start opening again.”

“I wouldn’t hold my breath,” he said.  “It’s a tough business with on-line shopping, offering lower prices.”

She nodded.  “Makes it difficult for everyone.”

“It does.  You get price cuts from publishers, according to the number of books you order.  Who can compete with Big Box stores and Amazon?  No one, that’s who.”

“It’s not fair,” she said.

“No.  It’s not.”

‘How are you going to deal with radiation poisoning on the moon?”

“Tin foil.”

She burst out laughing.  “Great idea.”

“We think so,” he said, smiling.

“Have you read any of the books in my stack?”

He looked at the books and nodded.  “I’ve read all of them, but you won’t like this one,” he said, pulling it out of the pile.  “The blurb is great but the book is terrible.  Bad writing and weak plot.  The characters are so dull I don’t think the pages would catch if you put them into a roaring fireplace.”

She stared at him.  “Thank you.”

“This one is great, and I’d recommend buying the second book. They may be going out of print.  Once that happens, the price will skyrocket and people will be selling their copies on line.”

“I’ll do it.”

“On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst, this book is a five, if you like reading about the misery of others.  I don’t, but you might.”

“No,” she said, putting the book aside.  I don’t.”

“This one is fantastic.  Great writing and characters you’ll never forget.  You might even want to be one of them.”

“Perfect,” she said, smiling.  “Have you been to the moon?”

“Excuse me?”

“The moon.  Have you ever been there.  Did you go looking for a proper bookstore site?”

“I’m not supposed to talk about that.”

“Why not?”

“Because no one is allowed to know about trips to the moon.”

“Are the people there aliens or humans.”

“Those are the same two things,” he said.

“Hmmm.  I guess they are, when you think about it.”

“We’re aliens on earth.  All of us,” he said.

“You can’t be an alien, if you’re born here.”

“I think you should look at these two books,” he said, reaching for a couple of hardcovers on the shelf behind him.

“Okay.”

“Don’t you want to know what they’re about?”

“No.  I trust you.  If you think they’re great, I’m willing to read them, but only if you read two that I pick out for you.”

“Really?” he said, grinning.

“I’ll be right back,” she said, disappearing into the shop.

When she came back, she had two books in her hands.  “Read these.  No questions asked.”

“Promise,” he said, taking them from her.

“I’ll come back in two weeks and we’ll discuss the books, okay?”

“Yes.  That will be fun,” he said, putting her books into a cloth bag.

“Is the moon beautiful?”

“Not really.  It’s a man-made orb, metal and hollow inside.  It’s cold on the dark side and nothing really grows on the outside.  The government has people working inside the orb, making weapons, lots of things.  It’s a dead place and living inside is horrible, like living in a house with no windows.  Artificial light, is artificial.  Drives you crazy in no time at all and you long to be outside on earth.”

“What if I told you I was CIA and you could be disappeared for what you just said?”

“I’d ask you to kiss me, before you shot me.”

She grabbed his shirt, pulled him forward, and kissed him.  “You need to be more carful, Timmothy Larken,” she whispered.  “Please don’t make me erase you.”

“People should know,” he said softly.

“They can’t know,” she said, picking up her bag.   “I’ll see you in two weeks.  Hope you like the books I chose for you.”

 

Photo:  Dalal Nizam
Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

Vincent…the interview

Lamp, Light, Spotlight, Art, Picture, Frame, Vincent

“Hey, Vincent, got a minute?” she asked.

“A minute,” he said.  “Don’t want the sunflowers to wilt.”

“Are they in enough water?”

“I think so,” he said.

“Because they’re really thirsty and can go dry very quickly.”

“I’ll check again.”

“I just wanted to know how your ear is.”

“Oh, that.  I’m fine.  I’m a fast healer.”

“Glad to hear it.  I was just wondering why you did it.”

“To show how much I loved someone.”

“Did it work?”

“No.”

:Yeah, I get that.”

“You do?” he asked.

“People don’t like getting body parts as gifts.  It’s rather off putting.  Try a ring or necklace next time.  Even flowers would have been better.”

“Good to know.”

“If you’re not sure what to do call Theo.  He’s married and had practice.”

“I just thought…”

“Thought what?” she asked.

“Well, anyone can buy jewelry or flowers.”

“While that’s true, few women enjoy getting a bloody bit of flesh as a gift.  I mean she can’t wear it, can she?  What did you think she would do with it?”

“It was the point.  I was wiling to mutilate myself for her.”

“Trust me.  Stick with the jewelry.”

“Okay.”

“Sorry about the whole Gauguin thing.”

“I had such high hopes.”

“I know.  Both of you were a bit too high strung to really stay together in a small space.  Besides, he was jealous of how fast you worked, as well as how brilliant you were.”

“We inspired each other.”

“That’s true, but if he had stayed, one of you might have ended up dead.”

“Maybe.”

“You had quiet a few problems of your own, Vincent.”

“I did.  Actually, I still do.”

“I feel bad for all the things you’ve been through.”

“Why?  It’s your fault and my quirks made me the artist I am.”

“Quirks?”

“That’s what I decided to call the things that are wrong with me.”

“Whatever works.”

“Whatever works,” he agreed.

“You’re going to be loved by people and you will be more famous than you can ever imagine.”

“You think so?”

“I know so.”

“I don’t even have money for ale.  I try to pay with my paintings, but no one wants them. That’s one reason I did the ear thing.  It didn’t cost anything and I’m a passionate man.  I guess I could have picked the flowers.”

“The money thing will change.”

“In time for me to enjoy it?”

“No.  Not in time for that.”

He looked down.

“You will live on, for as long as art and human beings exist. Your story will live on as well.”

“What about Theo?”

She shook her head.

He paled.

“I wish I could help you, or make things turn out differently, but…”

“Why can’t you?”

“Excuse me?”

“Why can’t you change things?  What stopping you?”

“I…I would be changing history,” she said.

“So?”

“Who knows what would happen, if I did that?  You might never become our Vincent.”

“Save Theo.  I don’t care about myself.”

“After he’s gone, his wife manages your work.”

“Save him.  Please.  Can you do it?”

“He just needs penicillin.”

“Then give him whatever that is.”

She stared at him, as he walked toward her. He embraced her and she could feel him trembling. “Please.  Save my brother,” he whispered.

“I will,” she said, squeezing him tightly.

In a parallel universe, Theo lived to a ripe old age, surrounded by his wife and children.  He cared for his brother’s work, selling it and making sure that in hung in important museums across the globe.  A universe where Monet, Gauguin, Picasso and several others did not exist.

Sometimes someone changes things a bit.  Truthfully, it happens all the time and not always for the better.  There’s nothing that can be done about it.  If you time traveled, you’d do it too.  Trust me…you would.

 

 

 

 

 

The Queen who wouldn’t run…a short story

woman holding silver-colored crown

“Take it,” she said, holding out the crown.  “Please Lady.  Hurry.  They’re coming.”

“I don’t want it,” said the girl, stepping over the body of her murdered mother.

“It’s your birthright.  Take it and run.”

“No,” she said, her hands balled into small, tight, fists.  “I won’t run.  I’ll never run.”

“They’ll kill you, my sweet. Like they killed her. Go,” said the woman, pushing her.  “I will hold them off as long as I can.”

“If this is to be mine,” she said, grabbing the crown, “then I’ll wear it like the Queen I am meant to be.”

The woman bowed and backed a few steps away. “My Queen,” she said, softly.

The child put the crown on her own head, a little crooked, but she didn’t care.  She unclenched her fists, straightened her shift, pushed the hair out of her eyes and said, “Let them come.”

She heard the thunder of hoofbeats and smiled.  She listened for the clatter of footsteps and heard the men crash through the door, pushing the guards aside.  The men saw her and stopped.

She stood there, looking tiny in her bare feet, her somewhat grimy shift, tangled hair and crooked crown.  “Gentlemen,” she said.

“I…  You’re nothing but a child,” said one of the huge men.

I am your Queen,” she said, softly.  “What is it that you seek, in such a dishonorable manner?”

“Dishonorable manner?”

“You have hurt my guards and insulted me, by breaking in, rather than asking for an audience, or knocking politely.”

“Politely?” laughed, a huge man who was dressed for battle.

“Did your mother teach you nothing?” she asked.  “Common courtesy is its own reward,” she said, softly.  “I would see to my guards and if you are still here when I return, I will either listen to what you have to say or, I will kill you.”

The men watched her walk past them and tend to her guards.  She went for help and made sure the guards were gently carried away.

“Now,” she said, once again standing in front of them.  “What do you want?”

“Did you say you would kill us?” asked the obvious leader of the group.

“Indeed.  I don’t like bullies and you do, after all, work for me.  You are part of my army, are you not?  You wear my crest.”

“We were part of your army.”

“So, you are no longer under my protection, you are an…enemy?”

The three men looked at each other. “Enemy is a strong word,” said one of them.

“Not to me,” she said.  “You are either one or the other.  Which is it?”

“We’re taking over the empire,” said the leader, making a decision.

“I don’t think you are,” she said, silver sparks starting to fall from her tips of her fingers.

“Who’s going to stop us?”

“It should be obvious by now, that I am.”

He threw back his head and laughed.  He was laughing when he hit the ground.  He wasn’t laughing when he was rolling round screaming in pain.

“And you?” she asked, looking at the other two men.

They both went down on one knee.  “We are here to serve.”

“How nice,” she said.  “Your first job is to remove this man from the room.  When you return, we’ll talk about your new positions and what will be expected of you.”

The men stood, bowed, and dragged their friend from the room.

***

You can’t always tell a book by its cover and sometimes size really doesn’t matter.

 

Photo:Jared Subia
Unsplash

 

 

 

 

Life…

She stood on the balcony, looking out over the ocean.  Time takes everything, she thought.  People, the sound of their voices, places, memories, everything.

She closed her eyes and felt the sun on her face.  She’d had a good run, with the best of everything.  Life was one big party, a never ending gala ball.  What was it that they said?  LIVING WELL IS THE BEST REVENGE, yes that was it.   And they lived well, no one could ever say they didn’t.

She pulled a cigarette from the sterling silver case and put it between her lips.  Those had been the days, she smiled, flicking on the lighter and inhaling deeply.  And what else is life for, if not to live well, if not to squeeze every single bit of excitement and wonder out of it and leave it drained and exhausted, by the time you make your exit?  She laughed and brushed the hair out of her eyes.

But then how cruel life can be, to take all of that away.  There are those who would say that she should be happy to have lived it at all.  How silly those people are, she thought.  They don’t miss what they never had.  How can they possibly understand what it’s like to have had everything and then, just because the years continue to pass, little by little, your life is ripped away.

“Well.  No matter,” she said to herself.  “That time is over, never to come again.”

Her cat looked at her, as if he might be expected to answer.

“That’s the thing,” she said.  “Things can never happen twice, my darling.  There will never be another Scott and Zelda, another Sara and Gerald, another…”

“Rooowrrr,” said BeBe.

“You’re right, of course.  I’m being silly.”

“Meoooow.”

“Yes, yes, darling, I know.  But the memories are so fresh.  I can still hear the music, the laughter, the clinking of glasses, the dancing.  I can feel the days on the beach.  The creativity was touchable then, but I won’t talk about Ernest.  He was a beast and a bully.  No, my sweet BeBe, will shall talk about sun-kissed children and delicious picnics.  Love and breakups, war and warm beds.”

The cat stretched out in a sunbeam and began to doze.

“Those were the days.   And it’s not as if I want to live in the past, my love, I want the past never to have gone.  I want the past to be the present.  Is that too much to ask?” she said, lighting another cigarette.  “I suppose it is,” she sighed.  “The Riviera, darling.  Paris, sparkling like diamonds, rain or shine.  Yes, BeBe, nothing can compare.  But Lee Miller, now there was a woman who was gorgeous and brave.  She was with Man Ray for too long, but then, what is too long?  She was brilliant on her own and didn’t need anyone.   Not really.  And did I tell you about Sylvia Beach?  I know I did, BeBe.  A lovely woman.  She was very sweet and generous to a fault.  I never saw her angry.  Not once.  I’m telling you, darling, it was magical.  Every moment of it and I’m not exaggerating in the least.  Magical.”

“Purrrrr.”

“But someone also said that, all good things must come to an end, although for the life of me,  I don’t know why,” she sighed.  “Everyone is gone and while books are written about that magical time, no one gets it exactly right.  How can they?  They weren’t there.  It’s also because each of us experienced it in a different way, so we were all having different moments, during the same moments.  Isn’t that the strangest things, BeBe?  We were all together, doing the same the things while having different experiences.”

The cat rolled over.

“And times change.  The wars are different, the feelings, the clothing, the attitudes.  Nothing stays the same.  All we can do is be in love with the things that happen during the moments we are alive.  But it seems such a waste to let that special time pass.  Let it go, so that no one can ever feel it again.  The poetry and theater, the art.  It was all so amazing and that’s the thing, BeBe, we all knew it was amazing.  We knew it then.  We knew we were living magical lives, when we were living them.  Oh, yes, yes, you’re right.  Not everything went smoothly.  There were fights and hurt feelings, jealousy and even envy, now and then, even poverty, but for the most part, we all got along.”

An alarm went off, the cat woke up.

“Did you hear that BeBe?” she asked looking around.

The she heard the honking of a car horn and ran to the balcony once again.  Zelda was waving and telling to come and join them.  She waved back and told them she’d be right down. And with that, the dying woman left her worn and battered body, and went to once again join the party.

 

Adam, Eve and other things…

Adam And Eve, Religion, Albrecht Dürer

“Wow, we look terrible in this picture,” said Adam.  “And there’s a sign there, which is silly since writing hasn’t been invented, and who will read it anyway?  You look lumpy.  Definitely not a raving beauty.  Where should w hang it?”

“I don’t know why artists make us look horrible and I don’t know why your hair never grows,” she said.  “But, I’m lumpy?  Have you looked at yourself lately?  Nice abs but I wouldn’t pick you out of a crowd, that’s for sure.  And I think your leaf is poison ivy, so good luck with that.  Where’s Lilith?” she asked, looking around.

“I don’t want to talk about Lilith.”

“Why not?  She left for a reason, you know.  And your fear of reptiles is ridiculous. It’s just a snake.  There are a million of them around here.  Get a grip.  The only reason he hangs around is because snakes are cold blooded and he likes to sleep with us to get warm. They’ll do that with others, later on.  Do you want an apple?” she asked, taking a bite.  They’re really delicious.”

“Sure,” he said, picking one off the tree.  “And Eve.  I like boys.”

“Really?  How do you know that?”

“I just know,” he said.  “I mean we could be friends, but that’s about it.”

“I’m happy for you,” she said.  “That makes it easer to tell you I’m leaving.  I’m bored to death living here.”

“Do you know any guys?”

“Seriously?”

Adam nodded.

“LOOK AROUND, ADAM,” she shouted.  “You refuse to go anywhere, how do we know what’s out there?”

“Do you want to take a walk.”

“Sure,” she sighed. “Why not.”

“How are we conversing, if there’s no language?”

“We’re made up, Adam.  We aren’t real.  We don’t actually exist.”

He brightened.  “So what comes after us?”

“There is no after us, or before us, there is no us.  We are a silly tale made up by men in order to diminish females and pretend that males are all that.  It’s a patriarchal lie, like all the other ones.”

“Why?”

“It’s called MANIPULATION, with a side of EGO, GREED and HATRED.  Now, I think there’s a bar somewhere around here, called,  SPURS AND SUSPENDERS.  It might be just what you’re looking for.”

“Sounds good,” he said, wiping the apple juice from his chin.  “I hope you understand, Eve.”

“Of course I understand.  Not a problem.  I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

“So do I,” he said, smiling at her.  “Where are you going to go?”

“New York,” she said.  “It’s a city I’m imagining into being.”

“What’s a city?” he asked, touching her cheek.

“It’s a place with a lot of tall buildings, cars, people, guns, transportation, pizza places, fountains, parks, cops, stores, where I can finally buy some clothes, theaters, and other things, as well.”

“It sounds nice.”

“It will be,” she said, happily.  “At least for awhile. I plan on building things all over the place.  That way I won’t be bored and I won’t have to live in a garden, where I’m eaten alive by bugs.”

“If only we had calamine lotion.”

“True enough,” she laughed.  “Or bug spray. You know, now that I understand who you are, I think you’re a great guy.”

“I like you a lot better too.  I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

“I’m looking for someone named John Wick.  He’s a fictional character, but so am I.  I’m going to see if I can find him.”

“I wish you the best.”

“Thank you.”

“Do you think I’d like him?”

“Everyone will like him, but he’s mine, so no.  You’ll have to make up your own men.”

“Okay.”

‘If you ever get to New York, look me up,” she said.  “If I’m not there, I’ll be in Chicago, or Paris.”

“I will,” said Adam.  “Eve.”

“Yes?”

“How could anyone ever believe we were real?” he asked.

“People will believe anything,” she laughed.  “I’m not sure where the dinosaurs fit into this, but people don’t care.  Things don’t have to make sense to be believed.  Some even believe that kids played with dinosaurs and read stories to them.”

“How are you going to make your humans?  What will they be like?”

Eve smiled.  “They’ll be a little of everything.  When you go to the bar, whatever you’re looking for will appear, so watch yourself.  We’ll both be making them up as we go along.”

“What if we make bad things?” asked Adam.

“Look Sweetie, that will just make things more interesting.”

“This could go horribly wrong,” he said, nervously.

She smiled.  “They made us up, so look what they already did.”

Adam picked another apple off another tree and took a bite.  “Good point, Babe.”

“That more like it,” she laughed.  “Have fun.”

“I intend to,” he said, throwing the core over his shoulder.  “See you, Evie.”

“Believe it, Adam.”

“You don’t look anything like that picture,” he said, smiling a her.

“I know,” she said, running her hands through her spiked up hair.  “I’m thinking of getting a tattoo on my arm that says FREEDOM.”

“Cool.”

She laughed and turned to go.

And they went their separate ways because the stories we make up, to hurt and control people, often take on a life of their own and then everyone pays the price for that original lie.

The talk…a short story about life and love

Child, Daughter, Father, Female, Girl

“Tell me again, Daddy.  What was it like before, when we didn’t have to wear masks and stay home?  When kids had friends and could go out and play.  Tell me everything.”

“It was a different world then.  One that we didn’t think would ever change.  No one could have known what was about to happen.  I mean, scientists told us a virus was going to hit, eventually, but humans have a way of disregarding things they don’t want to hear, or believe.  It’s called denial, Sweetie.  We didn’t pay attention and no one believed anything could ever hurt us.  We were…”

“Over confident?” she said, looking at him.

“Yes, but it was more that that.  We were egotistical and thought we were untouchable.”

“Stupid too,” she said, seriously.

“Yes, without a doubt,” he agreed.  “You’ve seen the pictures and movies, of what life used to be like.”

“But the problems were still there,” she said.  “For those who were left out.”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you do something about that?”

“Some of us tried, but the elites, those who always ran the country, from the very beginning, had all the money and power.”

“They were bad men.”

“They were and they still are,”

“I want to do something about that,” she said.  “I don’t want the world to be the way it is.”

“What do you want to do?”

She shrugged.  “Make sure everyone has food and a place to live.  Books, toys and a stuffed bear, for starters.  Maybe coloring books and a big box of crayons, medicine and clean sheets, shoes and forks.”

“All excellent ideas and you know what?”

“What?”

“Let’s do it.”

“Okay,” she said.  “How?”

“Let’s make a Teddy Bear to end poverty.  We can sell them and use the money to do all the other things you want to do.  We can buy and distribute food and…”

“Daddy.”

“Yes?”

“We won’t make that much money from the bears and that won’t solve the problem, it will just tide people over, like you always say.  Mom said things are stmic, whatever that means.”

“It’s systemic, Sweetie.  It means the problems are built into the system and all life, everything we do.  That the problems are so much a part of our lives, that we don’t see them.”

That’s what I want to fix and I don’t think the bears can do that, can they?”

“No.  The bears can’t do that.”

“So?  How do we fix that?”

“I don’t know,” he said, looking at her.

“Not knowing is why nothing changes.  If I didn’t know how to make my bed and brush my teeth, they would go undone, so we need to know how to stop the bad things from happening, because this is the world we live in and it doesn’t have to be this way, does it?”

“I don’t know that either.”

“You mean you don’t think we can fix it?  We have to let the world die?”

“I don’t know,” he said again.

“Why did you let things get this bad?”

“I don’t know.  Apathy, greed.”

“Everything is dying.  Some places are already under water and animals,” she cried, “are disappearing.”

“I know, Sweetie.  I’m so sorry.”

“Why did you have me?”

“What?”

“Why did you and mom bring me here, to this dying and awful place?”

“We…

“Did you think this was a place for a child?”

“I…”

“If you love me, you’ll help me change things.”

“I’ll do anything I can, but…”

“But?” she said, her eyes wide.  “You always tell me that an excuse comes after the word but.

“It does, you’re right.”

“How can you not know what to do?  All of you.  All the grown-ups.  How?  How could you all let this happen to US?  To poor people, to girls and women, to all the people who suffer, to the animals and to the earth itself.  How could you DO that?”

He held out the hand that wasn’t holding hers.  “I don’t know.”

“Then I’ll just have to fix it,” she said.

“How?” he asked, looking at her slight form.

“I’ll start by believing that I can.”

 

 

 

Starting over…22

“Well, gather ’round children.  You too Jerry,” said Kit.  “I talked to the Draknotues.  They never realized they were being played by the universe.  They weren’t happy about it, which was good.  I told them that your side wants a truce, so you won’t have to fight and kill each other for the amusement of a third party.”

“And what did they say?” asked, Lilly.

“They are open to negotiations.”

“What kind of negotiations?” asked Jimmy.

“They want Utah, Nevada and parts of Texas.  They said Vegas will remain neutral territory, of course, but the rest of the state will belong to them.  They said your side can have the rest, as long as you keep D.C. away from them.  If the government gives them trouble they’ll eat them.  I told them they could do that now and if they did, we would give them part of California for their trouble.  They’re thinking about it”

“Wait,” said Lilly.  “They want to live here?”

“Some of them do, yes,” said Kit.  “Openly.”

“Why Utah?” asked Jimmy.

“They’ve always been fascinated by mormons,” said Jerry.  “I think they want to study them.”

“And you think we should let them?” asked Lilly.

“Well, seems a small price to pay, when you consider the alternative.  Full out war.  There will be a lot of causalities across the board.”

“I don’t get it,” said Jimmy.  “Once they’re here won’t they expand?  What if they eat the humans around them?”

“Always a possibility,” said Kit.  “None of them can be trusted, but humans kill each other all the time, so it’s just a matter of semantics.”

“Is there room for more negotiation?” asked Lilly.

“A little wiggle room, I suppose,” said Kit.  “Why?  What do you propose?”

“I don’t know,” said Lilly.  “What do you think we should do?”

“I guess you could offer them parts of New Mexico.  Some of them love dry, open spaces.  And there’s always Washington, since it rains a lot and the wet ones would like it there.  Maybe they’d give up Nevada for those places.  it’s good to keep them on the coasts, as much as possible.  Having them in the center of any country could be a problem.  I told them they couldn’t have France, but they wanted Germany and India.  They said we can keep Sweden and Norway but they are interested in Australia.  Africa is quite hot, and many of them melt, so that’s off the board.  I told them Australia can get boiling hot as well, so they were thinking the arctic area might be another place.”

“No.” said Jimmy, standing up.  “They can’t have any of it.”

“Excuse me,” said Kit.

“I said, NO.”

“But why?” she asked, brushing lint off of her blue robes.

“Because it’s ours.”

“That’s not really a reason, darling.”

“It kind of is,” said Lilly.

“Well, sweeties, if you don’t give them something, they won’t agree to a truce.  You can’t expect them to just stop playing, if they can’t take home a goodie bag.”

“They lost last time.  They agreed to a one time deal and they are not going to make demands because they’re sore losers,” said Jimmy.  “Go back and tell them no deal.  Tell them that if they don’t honor the contracts they signed last time, they have no honor and they will bring disgrace upon themselves,”

“Wow,” said Lilly, smiling at him.  “Way to go Jimmy.”

“Yes, yes, darling,” said Kit, “very nice speech, but they really don’t care about things like honor or disgrace.  If you don’t give them something, the war is on.”

“Then the war is on,” said Jimmy.

“Wait,” said Lilly. “Do they have females?”

“They do,” smiled Kit.  “What do they have to say about all of this?”

“The females of most species think males are insane. None of the females want war. With the exception of PNOWKYYTR’S, a species where the males give birth, anyone who carries and gives birth to offspring, don’t want them dead, or wounded.  It’s jut men, who aren’t physically involved, who don’t seem to understand that part.  They’ll kill anything.  Keep in mind that females are vicious fighters, but they mostly fight to save their offspring.  Men will fight just to fight.

“Do you think if all the females of all the species got together, we could stop this from happening?”

“I seriously doubt it, sweetie,” said Kit.  “Males like to kill things, and there doesn’t seem to be anyway to stop them, no matter where they’re from, including here.  The losers don’t actually care about a rematch, they just want war.”

“Well,” said Jimmy, “if it’s war they want, then that’s what we’ll give them, but they can’t live here and they can’t…”

“They already live here,” sighed Jerry.

“What?” said Jimmy and Lilly, at the same time.

“You’d be surprised how many different species live or vacation here.”

“He’s right,” said Kit.  “They’ve been here since the beginning.  They just don’t have any say in how things are done, because their side lost the war.  They want to come out of the universal closet and be seen.  They want you to know they’re living here, by showing their true selves.”

“Do you think that’s a good idea?” asked Jimmy.

“It’s a terrible idea,” said Kit.

“I can’t believe they actually live here,” sighed Lilly.

“Oh, my tiny darlings,” laughed Kit.  “If you only knew the things that lurk and live around you.”

“That’s enough, Kit,” said Jerry. “No need to…”

“Scare the children?” she laughed.

“Yes,” he said.  “Besides, it’s bad business.”

“You’re right,” she said, turning toward Jimmy.  “So war, then?”

“Can we win?”

She smiled at him.  “Let’s just say that it will be a bloody mess, like it was last time, but I think enough fighters will return to help you, and there are so many more of you humans nowadays, and you’re mean as….”

“I get it,” said Jimmy.  “How about you Jerry?  Do you think we can win?”

“No idea,” he said, honestly.  “Many of them have advanced weapons, they all know more than you do and some of them are just plain killers.  The nice species won’t leave their planets, or galaxies.  They don’t believe in fighting.  Then there are those who will pretend that wha’t happening isn’t happening, so they’re useless, and then there will be those who think that by thinking good thoughts and worshiping their gods, that will make a difference, while people and others are dying to save the world for those who are actually doing nothing at all.”

“It’s always that way,” sighed Lilly.

“Yes, darling,” said Kit. “It is always that way.”

“There has to be a way to stop this from happening,” said Jimmy, pacing back and forth.

“Well, you don’t have much time,” said Kit.  “The troops are preparing, so let me know what you decide asap.  Meanwhile, since I’m already here, I’m going to get my nails done.  Would you like to join me Lilly?  My treat.”

“No. But thank you,” she answered, smiling.

“Okay, darlings.  See you in a bit.”  And she was gone.

“What are we going to do?” asked Jimmy.

Lilly shrugged.  “No idea.”

 

 

 

 

Starting over…20

“Look,” said Jerry.  “I don’t know what to tell you.  I don’t know if we’ll have any warning, or if it will be a surprise attack.  I’m guessing it will be the latter.  Suddenly the sky will be filled with waring ships and the battle will have begun.”

“Then how am I supposed to gather the troops?” asked James.

“It just happens.  I don’t know what triggers it, but you’ll light up and those on our side will appear.”

“So basically, the universe is using me to do it’s bidding and I have no say in it at all.”

“The universe is USING all of us to do its bidding, James.  Each and everyone of us.  We’re just pawns in whatever game it’s playing.”

“That sucks,” said Lilly.  “Basically we’re toys.”

“And not well loved toys at that,” agreed Jerry.  “You’re disposable, that’s why you die.  You become boring and the universe keeps hoping the next batch will be more fun.”

“Can we attack the universe?” she asked.

“I don’t see how,” sighed Jerry.  “Think about it, Lilly.  No one even knows what the universe IS.”

“That’s not fair,” she said.

Nothing is fair,” said Jerry.  “None of us have any choices, or control, over anything.  That’s simply an illusion, my girl.  Nothing is real.”

“So what, exactly, are we fighting FOR?” she asked.

“Ah,” said Jerry, “Indeed.  What ARE we fighting for?”

“Just so the universe can have fun playing with us?”

“Perhaps,” sighed Jerry.  “I wouldn’t doubt it.”

“What if we refuse to play its game?”

“How would we do that?  Let the others just kill everyone?”

“What if we white flag them?  What if we want to parlay and get them agree to stop the fighting?  What if we show the other side how we are all being used to kill each other for the fun of something we can’t even see?”

“Lilly,” said James.  “That’s a great idea.”

“Why should we fight and die because someone, or some THING, is bored?”

“You make a good point,” said Jerry.  “I just don’t know if the others will agree to a meeting.”

“It can’t hurt to try.”

“No,” said Jerry.  “I suppose it can’t.”

“What are you babbling about now,” said Kit, who simply appeared sitting on his desk.

They told her.

“Well, this is a fine mess,” she said.

“Tell us something we don’t know,” said James.

“And you,” she said, laser gazing at Jerry.  “How long do you plan on stay here, among the humans.”

“Aw, come on, Kit.  I was just having some fun.”

“That’s what he always has to say when he’s shirking his responsibilities,” she said, looking at Lilly and James.

“I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”

“I know that,” she said.

Jerry grimaced.

“Now, about the war,” she said.  “I’ll talk to a few people and see what I can do to set up a meeting.  I doubt they’ll go for it, bloodthirsty things that they are, but I guess it won’t hurt to try.”

“Really?” said James.  “That would be great.  Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me yet,” she smirked.  “And I can see that you and Lilly are no longer an item.  What happened?”

“They told her.”

“Seriously?” said Kit, laughing  “Heather?”

James turned beet red and nodded.

“I can see why you like it here, Jerry.  They are endlessly amusing. And you,” she said, looking a Lilly.  “That boy Tommy is trouble.”

“I know.”

Kit smiled.  “Go for it,” she said.  “Jerry was like that once, before he turned into what you see before you now.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Jerry, frowning.

“You’re not what you used to be, that’s all.  All the bad boy has run away and now your just…this.”

“That’s not fair!” said Jerry, standing up.

“Let’s not fight in front of the children, dear,” sighed Kit.

“About the war,” said James.  “Could we get back to that?”

“Of course,” said Kit.  “I’ll see what I can do.  And as for you,” she said, looking at Jerry.  “If you don’t return soon, I won’t be there when you get back.”

“Come on, Kit,” he said.  “I’m just…”

“Don’t care,” she said, turning her attention back to Lilly and James.  “I’ll let you know what I find out.”

“Thank you,” they said.

And she was gone.

“I think you’re in trouble, Jerry,” said James.

Jerry ran his hand over his face.  “Won’t be the first time.”

“It might be the last,” said Lilly.  “I get the feeling that she has someone else in her sights.”

“I better go back,” he said.  “The school will have to get someone else to finish the semester.”

“The kids won’t like that,” said Lilly, smiling.  “No more practicing on each other.”

“True,” said Jerry.  “But they’ll just have to deal with it.”

Once outside James looked at Lilly and said, “Love seems to be messy no matter where it’s happening.”

Lilly nodded.  “Tell me about it.”

“I hope she finds a way to set up a meting.”

“So do I.”

“I wonder what will happen if we all refuse to fight?” said James.

“I don’t know but I want to be there to find out,” she said smiling.  “I think it would be fantastic to stick it to the universe.”

“So do I,” he laughed.  “Let’s see if the toys can trip up the universe.”

“That’s the attitude a champion has, James.  It’s kind of scary to think that the universe might have a temper tantrum.”

“Maybe.”

“No.  It is,” she said, throwing her arm over his shoulder.  “Trust me.”

“Uh, no.  I’m never trusting you again,” he snickered.  “Not after last time.”

“I can understand that,” she said.  “Let’s get something to eat.”

“Okay.”

“We can talk about your thing for Heather.”

“No.  No we can’t.”

“Aw, come on, James.  What is it about her you love?”

“I don’t know,” he sighed.  “It’s too stupid to even talk about. Your sister is mean and horrible.”

“Is that what you like about her?”

“I just think there’s more to her than that?”

“Like what?”

“No idea.”

“Love is strange, don’t you think?”

“More like insane,” said James, smiling at her.  “Even I know that my feelings for her are crazy and that I’m walking into a den of hungry bears who are just waking up from hibernation.”

“And?”

“We’re going out next weekend, if we’re still alive.”

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.”

“It’s not that funny,” he said, laughing.

“Then you’re not paying attention,” cried Lilly.

“Just keep walking.”

 

 

Starting over…19

“What do you want, James?” asked Lilly, standing in the doorway.  “I thought you hated me and never wanted to see me again.”

He looked down.  “I’m sorry.”

“For?”

“Being an idiot.  I don’t hate you and I know you were doing what you thought was right.”

“Did Jerry tell you to say that?”

“No.  Not really.”

“Come in.”

“Thanks.”

“What do you want?” she asked, again.

“I want things to be the way they were.”

“I’ve moved on.”

“What does that mean?”

“Things can’t be the way they were, but have anymore people offered to fight with you?”

“What do you mean you’ve moved on?  It’s been like five hours.  And yes, everywhere I go people tell me they are here to fight.”

“I’m not in love with you.  I doubt that I ever was. I think it was just the whole being dead together thing that I was feeling and do you have any idea when the fighting will begin?”

“You don’t love me? Why?  Because I don’t know how to fight, or is it because of that Snake person.  I saw the way he looked at you, you know.  He’s crazy about you and I think the fighting will begin soon because the way things are going politically, and because of the unrest in the streets.  That’s the beginning of everything.”

“I’ve known him all my life and yes, we love each other, but it has nothing to do with whether you can fight or not.  I agree, the battle has begun.  What are you going to do about it?”

“So, we’re just working together now?  That’s it?  I’m just supposed to stop caring about you?  I have no idea what I’m supposed to do about ANYTHING in my life right now.”

“Do you want to hold Snowball?”

“NO, I don’t want to hold a hamster, thank you very much.”

“He’s really soft and sweet.”

“Lilly, you are driving me insane.”

“We should talk to Jerry.”

“Why?  He never really has anything useful to say.”

“He told you how to heal yourself.”

“Besides that.”

“Right,” she said.  “Well, here’s what I think.  I think that when the aliens, or whatever they are, start to fight, it will be above the planet, at least at first.  Remember the woman who said the ships were beautiful?  Well, she didn’t mean boats.  So, unless they’re cloaked, like on Start Trek, we should see them.  I think when that happens your light will be so bright that it will call to those on our side, letting them know that it’s time to fight.  I honestly don’t know what you will do after that, but you are the champion, so I suppose whatever will happen, will happen.”

“This whole thing is stupid.”

“I think so too, but it’s what we have.”

“I should have eaten the carrot again.”

“Don’t be silly,” she said.  “How would that help?”

“How am I going to help now?  All I am is a human lightbulb?”

She started laughing.  “A lightbulb.  That’s funny,” she snorted.  “I think you’ll be more like a beacon, or a lighthouse.”

“Great,” he sighed.

“Hi, James”

“Hello, Heather.”

“Have you found out how crazy my sister is yet?”

“She’s not crazy, Heather.  Why are you so angry with her all the time?”

“I…”

“She loves you and you’re always mean to her.”

“I…”

“What did she ever do to you except be born and that wasn’t her fault.  Go hate your mother and father for that.”

“Screw you James,” said Heather, stamping her foot.

“Maybe, if you turn into a nice person, we can talk about that.”

Heather gasped and stormed from the room.

Lilly just stared at him.  “That,” she said, “was brilliant.”

“I’m not a total idiot,” he said.  “She needs to get over herself.”

“James,” said Lilly.  “I think you like my sister.”

“You have to be kidding,” he said, gagging a little.  “She’s horrible.”

“But?”

“There is something about her,” he admitted, looking at his feet.

They both started laughing.

“Fine,” he said, give me the hamster.”

Snowball sat on his palm and stared at him.  “He’s very conflicted,” he said.

“The hamster said your conflicted.”

“The hamster is right,” said James.

“He doesn’t have to worry,” said Snowball.  “The hero doesn’t have to make plans, the hero simply reacts to circumstances.  All he has to do is be there.”

“Really?” said James.  “That’s what Snowball said?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.  I feel better.”  James kissed the hamster and handed him back to Lilly. “Then I guess I’ll do whatever it is that I’m supposed to do at the right time.”

“I guess you will,” agreed Lilly.  “Do you want me to get Heather for you?”

“Oh, great goats, no.  One battle at a time.”

“Goats?”

“I read a book when I was a kid.  It had goats in it, so I started saying that.  I guess it just popped out,” he said smiling.  “So, are we good?”

“We are,” she said.  “I’ll be there with you no matter what.”

“Thanks and about Heather.”

“Oh, please.  Take her will you.  I’d be so happy if you did.”

“You sure?”

“Absolutely.  You have my blessing.”

He smiled.  “She’s so terrible.”

“I know.”

“Do you think I’m insane?”

“Without a doubt,” said Lilly.  “But love doesn’t care about that.”

“Do you think the people will know there’s a battle going on?”

“I think they know one is happening right now.  They can see it and they’re already dying.”

“I mean will they be able to see the outsiders, or aliens?”

“I don’t know.  I doubt it,” said Lilly.

“I don’t think so either.  I mean how would that go down?”

“Look, all we can do is guess.  We can ask Jerry.  He’s our best source of information,” she said.

“He’s currently our only source.”

“Let’s go,” she said, getting to her feet.  “You can say good by to my sister, if you like.  I’ll meet you out in front.”

“Funny,” he said, frowning at her.  “But, okay.”

Lilly tried to control her giggles and failed miserable.

“Oh, be quiet,” he snickered. “Worse things could happen and they probably will.”

“Worse things than Heather?” she chuckled.  “I seriously doubt that.”

“I’ll meet you out in front”

 

Starting over…18

Lilly was sitting on her bed, pillows against the headboard, Snowflake on her lap, Rex, Cleo and Bitsy toward the bottom of the bed.

“No, you can’t play with the hamster,” she said.  He’s not a toy, he’s a living breathing person.”

“He’s not a person,” said Cleo.  “Not even close.”

“She’s right, you know,” agreed Bitsy.  “A hamster is not a person.”

“I saw Tommy yesterday,” said Lilly.

“Ooooh,” said Cleo, arching her back.  “He was such a pretty one.  I really liked him.  I let him pick me up and…”

“Get over yourself, Cleo,” hissed Bitsy.  “We know you loved him.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” said Cleo.  “He liked me better than he liked you, so you’re still mad about that and besides, you liked the mailperson.”

“I don’t know why she’s like this,” sighed Bitsy.  “Normally, she’s a reasonable cat. I never liked the mailperson and I’m not the jealous type.”

“She had a kitten crush on Tommy and never outgrew it, right, Cleo,” said Lilly.

“No.  Yes.  Maybe a little, but how could I not?  He’s was so adorable.  Those dark eyes, that black hair, those bulging muscles that made me feel that he’d never drop me,” she sighed.  “How does he look now?”

“Still gorgeous, but you can see him yourself, since he’s about to climb through the window.”

“Hey,” he said. “We need to talk.”

“You could have used the front door, you know.” said Lilly.  Cleo was kneading the blanket. hoping to be noticed.

“Is that my fluffy little kitten,” he said, grinning at the cat, who was rolling onto her back.  “Come here,” he said, and she launched herself into his arms, purring loudly.

“Am I the only one who is disgusted by this horrible show of…of…I don’t know what it is, but it’s disgusting,” said Bitsy.

“You’re grossing out Bitsy,” laughed Lilly.

“Aw Bits, don’t be mad at me, you know I love you too,” he crooned, picking her up with his other hand then kissing her neck.

He was holding two purring cats and Rex was sitting in front of him wagging his tail.  He put the cats down and petted the dog.

“The hamster’s good,” chuckled Lilly.

“Why won’t you marry me, Lilly.  You don’t want to be with that weakling, do you?”

“You know that you’re just a normal guy, don’t you.  I know who you are, remember?  Snake?  Really?  You’ll always be Tommy to me.”

“Tommy doesn’t scare anyone Lil, but Snake does.”

“You don’t have to scare people.  You didn’t have to join a gang.”

“I think I did,” he said, shoving her over and laying down next to her.

“That’s silly.”

“It’s not,” he said, watching the cats, settling themselves on his body. “It just seemed right, somehow.”

“Okay, but it’s not a life I would want for myself.”

“I know that,” he sighed.  “But I won’t stop asking.”

“You know I love you.”

“I know,” he said.  “And I love you.”

“We just decided to walk different paths,” she said.

“Don’t you think the paths choose us?” he asked, looking at her.

‘Maybe.  I don’t know.”

“I mean, what if the paths in front of us were different from the very beginning?  What if we never even saw the same paths?”

“That’s a good point.”

“I’ve been think about you a lot, since you brought that James kid to us.  He’s not for you, you know that don’t you?”

“I do.  It was our being dead together that made me think there was more to us than there was.”

“That makes sense.  Could have happened to any two dead people.”

Heather slammed the bedroom door open.  “I thought I heard your voice Tommy.  What are you doing here?”

“I’m talking to Lilly, what does it look like I’m doing.”

“I hate you Lilly.  You get all the good stuff,” she said, and slammed the door closed.

“NICE TO SEE YOU AGAIN HEATHER,” he yelled, trying not to laugh.  “Doesn’t she know how awful she is?  I’d be surprised if anyone ever liked her.”

“She not that bad,” said Lilly, petting the hamster’s ears.

“I think she is.”

“Why are you here, Tommy?”

“Wanted to see if you changed your mind and wanted to marry me, and I wanted to ask you more about the upcoming battle.  And before you say no to the first thing, what if I leave the gang and come back?”

“You love your gang.  I’d never ask you to do that.”

“I’m offering.  You never asked me to do anything.”

“The guys would be devastated.”

“I have someone picked out who could take my place.”

“I can’t believe you’d do that for me.”

“I’d do anything for you.  Seeing you again, just reminded me of that.  Besides, you can fight as well as any of them.  You took a beating, time after time, but you always came back and the guys respect you for that.”

“I’m really not old enough to get married right now.  People used to get married right out of high school but they don’t do that anymore.  They want to do other things first, before they settle down.  You’re two years older than I am, but I promise that if I decide to get married soon, you’re the love of my life.  So give me time to think about things, okay?”

“Okay,” he said, kissing her hand.  “What about the battle?”

“I told you everything I know.  James really is the champion.  I don’t know why, or how he’s going to do anything, but he’s the one.”

“Whatever he’s going to do, it won’t be fighting.”

“I know, right?” she laughed.  “I don’t know why he’s so afraid of everything, but he is, and he really hates me for leaving him with you.”

“I know that,” he laughed.  “He kept his eyes closed almost the entire time.”

“Oh, tell me you’re kidding.”

“I’m not.”

Lilly, scooted down on the bed and stared at the ceiling.  “Not everyone is cut out for the arena, Tommy.”

“No.  Not everyone is, Lilly.”

The hamster, ran down Lilly’s arm and up Tommy’s body, where he burrowed into his shirt pocket.

“I think Snowflake likes you.”

“Don’t tell the guys, okay?”

“Promise,” she laughed, as their fingers entwined.

 

 

 

 

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