Returning the Favor and other Slices of Life

Returning the Favor
Returning the Favor
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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sundays are for Poetry

Visit for the latest. Next chapters of Choices coming next week.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


So in an effort to begin to consolidate my lighting design photos, photography efforts, writing and blogging into one place, I've relaunched my personal website. Please change your links, RSS feed readers and plans for daily reading over to This site will remain live, but I will be posting here less frequently, as I try to make this other site happen.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Choices, Part 9.

“So how exactly do you propose we continue our little extravaganza? If you recall, I rode here on a motorcycle, and somehow I doubt you came rolling up in a minivan.”

“I have a car. It seats four. I’ll drive.” Emily offered.

“I’ll drive.”

“No way, mother. My car, I’m driving.” Myra looked like she was about to say something when Michael piped up.

“I’m sure there will be ample time for all of us to share the driving. After all, by my calculations it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of a 15-hour drive to get to Eve. And since she is the closest, that should be our next stop, don’t you think?”

“And where, exactly, is Eve?” I asked.

“Well I don’t know exactly, but as far as I can tell, she’s in New Orleans.”

“What the hell is she doing in New Orleans?”

“She’s…working. Yeah, that’s it. She has a job there.”

“Michael, there’s obviously something you don’t want to tell me, so of course that’s what I want to know. What is she doing in New Orleans?” I loomed a little, but the little shit was unperturbed. That’s what comes from being God’s Own Enforcer, you get to be a little hard to intimidate.

“She’s working. And if you want to know exactly what she’s doing, then I guess we’ll have to find her.”

“Alright then, let’s roll. Emily, keys.” I was already heading for the door with my hand stretched out behind me, but Myra’s voice drew me up short.

“Freeze, buster. You might be able to fly the coop at a moment’s notice without so much as a hairbrush, but us womenfolk are going to take a few minutes to pack. So why don’t you and your little friend just sit there and enjoy each other’s company while Em and I go pack a couple of bags. We’ll be right back.”

Now I’m not going to say the thought of hopping on Lucky’s bike and rolling east didn’t occur to me, but I knew that would only doom me to a trip with a naggin archangel as my only company, and besides, since her presence was evidently required, I figured this would be a good time to get to know my youngest living child. They didn’t take that long, especially considering their gender, and it didn’t take us long to catch I-49 east and get the wheels on Emily’s Camry to humming. We stopped for the night in Tyler, a little town on the appropriate side of Dallas, and got a couple of rooms at a Quality Inn.

Michael volunteered to stay outside with the car to “better commune” with his Lord, since angels don’t really need sleep, and Myra just laughed when I raised on eyebrow at her as I headed into my room. She turned around and followed Emily into their room and I tossed my backpack onto the other bed and stretched out to watch a Law & Order rerun for a little while. I didn’t feel much like sleeping, and since there’s always a Law & Order rerun on no matter what time you turn on a hotel TV, I just kicked back and tried to process a day, that even in my nearly limitless experience, had to deem was pretty screwed up.

I had processed myself into a nice solid sleep with my boots still on when I heard a soft knock on my door. I grinned and smoother my hair into place as I crossed the room, popping an Altoid as I took the chain off the door.

“I knew you wouldn’t be able to sleep with me laying just a few feet away…”my words trailed off when I looked down at Emily standing there in a t-shirt and sweatpants, looking up at me nervously.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t meant to…I should just…I’ll see you in the morning…Oh fuck I’m suchanidiot…” she turned and started to bolt but I caught her arm before she finished the turn.
“Hey, hey, hey what’s wrong? Come in, sit down, I’m sorry, I just…” I trailed off myself as I realized I was rambling.

“Just what? Just thought I was my mom?” She arched an eyebrow at me in a perfect imitation of the look I’d given her mom a couple of hours before. “Not bloody likely, as your divine friend would say. She’s out cold. I think today was a lot for her to handle.”

“I know the feeling. I thought I was going to lie here and watch TV for a while and didn’t even know I was asleep until your knock woke me.”

“Oh God! I’m so sorry! I’ll go, I didn’t mean to wake you, I just assumed you’d be up. I mean, Michael doesn’t sleep, so I guess I thought that maybe you didn’t either.”

“Michael’s an angel. I’m human, or at least pretty much human. I do sleep, not as much as most, but I do sleep. But I’d rather talk to you. I’m sure you’ve got a few questions for me.”

“A few? Yeah, that might be an understatement. But I guess, I mean, I guess my only real question is why?”

“Why? Why what?”

“Why did you make my mom fall in love with you? Did you love her? I know why you came back, you didn’t mean to, but why did you leave in the first place? And don’t give me that shit about not watching people die, I can see that lie in your eyes.”

Sometimes I wish I had normal kids. All these years, and every single one of them has been a precocious little shit. All the way back to Abel, who knew what our Father wanted almost before he did. And Cain, who was so quick and strong. They’ve all been amazing kids in some way. Take Matthew, my last son. He was the bravest kid I’d ever seen. I didn’t want him to fight in the war. I knew better than to think that the Redcoats actually had a chance – free will has been winning out ever since Eve ate the fruit, but Matthew had a fire in his soul. He burned with so much righteousness that he would have blinded that little putz Michael, and he felt the injustice of the British rule so sharply that I never had a chance of talking him out of the war. I only went along to protect my identity, and in the hope that if I was with him, I could keep Matthew from doing anything too terribly foolish. I was wrong, of course.

It wasn’t even that much of a battle, really. We were far from any of the major incursions, just fighting with a bunch of patriots in Winnsboro, SC when a Loyalist group decided to follow up on the recent surrender of Charleston by wiping out the patriots throughout South Carolina. Our ragtag bunch beat them back pretty handily, but not before Matthew was shot in the leg. It would have been easier on him if they’d hit him in the chest. The doctor, or what passed for one there, didn’t even try to treat the wound, just hacked his leg off above the knee with a crude saw. The doctor knew nothing of disinfectant, and all he had for a painkiller was a stick to bite down on, and a little whiskey when he woke up the next morning screaming in agony.

He lasted for six days before the pain, the shock and the infection killed him. I sat beside his bed day and night with my musket across my legs, daring anyone to try and move him. I held him when he shook with chills, I mopped his brow when the fever started, and eventually I wrapped my arms around him and cried into his sweat-soaked hair as he lay still. I looked down into Emily’s eyes, blazing truth the way Matthew’s eyes used to glow with righteous anger, and I started to tear up.

“Alright. But if we’re going to have this conversation, I’m going to require some mental lubrication.”


“A drink, kiddo. I don’t tell these stories sober. It’s a rule I’ve got. Think your mother will be good to sleep through the night? This could take a while.”

“After the day she’s had? Yeah, I gave her half an Ambien, so she’ll be out for a good eight hours.”

“Then let’s roll.” I started toward the stairs, heading for the bar a couple hundred yards down the street, when I heard Emily clear her throat. I stopped, and looked at her standing there, barefoot, 24 years old, wearing sweats and a T-shirt that obviously served as pajamas. “Good point. You wait in there, I’ll go get us a bottle and a couple of glasses, and I’ll be right back.”
No, I didn’t ask her what she liked. I didn’t really care. The booze wasn’t for her, it was for me. She would probably need a slash or two before we were done, but I was gonna need a couple good belts before we ever started.

“That’s not good for you, you know.” Michael said as I walked past the car. He was sitting on the hood leaning back against the windshield looking up at what stars he could see through the sodium vapor parking lot lights.

“If I want your opinion, angel, I’ll beat it out of you.”

“I’m just trying to help.”

“If I ever ask for your help, please stick that fiery toothpick you carry around up my ass.” I didn’t wait around to hear his response, if there was one. I walked to the bar, flashed my best smile at the bartender and asked her how much for a bottle of Johnnie Walker Green. After a few minutes of negotiation, I slipped him a ridiculous amount of money and walked back to the hotel with two highball glasses and bottle of good whiskey.

I knocked on the door, walked in, poured two fingers of amber firewater for Emily and knocked back a stiff shot of my own. I decided to dilute the second belt with one ice cube and knocked it back, too.

“Geez, Dad. Is it that bad? You’re hitting that stuff pretty hard.”

It had been a long time since anyone called me Dad, or anything like it, and her words made my hand shake a little more. I poured myself a third drink, added a couple of ice cubes to this one, and sat down at the ubiquitous round table that you find in every cheap hotel across the US. Emily sat cross-legged on the bed nearest the door, and for a long time she just looked at me.
“Well, go ahead. You wanted to ask me questions, ask.” I said when I could no longer stand her looking at me like she could see everything without giving me the benefit of lying about it.
Her voice was very small when she finally spoke, but it was loud enough to bring the walls of Jericho down all over again. “Why didn’t you want me?” She looked up at me through a curtain of her own hair, and those eyes, those eyes that could see straight into the heart of the matter, were full of tears.

I was on the bed with her before I knew I’d moved, and I was holding her as she cried little girl tears. She sobbed like the little girl I’d never known her as, and all I could do was sit there stupidly and wrap my arms around her and rock back and forth. After a few minutes her crying started to slack off, and I smoothed her hair back out of her face and wiped her face dry with my shirt sleeve. I looked her straight in the eyes and said, with all the sincerity in my soul “I never knew about you, baby. I was gone before your mom even knew she was pregnant. If I’d known you were coming, I could never have left you. And if I’d ever seen you, I could never have left you. I’ve had hundreds of kids over the years, and I’ve never been able to stand leaving after I’ve seen their eyes. It’s not that I didn’t want you, baby, it’s that I never knew there was a you to want.”

“I know. I mean, I’ve always known that. But it never mattered, you know? At least, not until you were here to say it to me.”

“I get it. But it’s true. You know that, right? I didn’t leave you. I just left. It might not have been the right thing to do, but it felt like what I had to do. At least then.”

“I know. So why did you make my mom fall so hard for you? You know she’s never had a third date in my life?”

“Wow. No, I didn’t know that. That wasn’t the plan. That’s not the way it was supposed to go. We were just supposed to be a summer thing, a couple of young people sowing oats, or at least one young person sowing oats and one person who still looks pretty good for a really, really, really old dude.” She laughed, and I knew we were good. If I can make ‘em laugh they can’t stay too mad at me. And it’s harder to throw things when you’re laughing.

“So you were supposed to just be a fond memory and maybe the face she saw every once in a while when she looked across the breakfast table at her husband?”

“Something like that, although I’ll admit in my vainer moments to hoping I was remembered in slightly different moments than those taking place at the breakfast table, unless you have an unconventional idea of breakfast.” I arched one eyebrow and got a punch on the arm and a golden laugh as my reward.

We talked through the night, mostly inconsequential getting to know you crap, but it was nice to take the time to connect to someone, someone who I didn’t have to hide my true nature from. By the time the sun came up and her mother came in from the room next door with coffee we were friends.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Choices, Part 8

Chapter 2

‘Talk.” We were sitting in the back booth in the diner, Myra next to me, Emily on the inside seat facing her mom while Michael and I took the outside. There was no one in the diner but us, the cook and a Mexican kid washing dishes. The dinner rush was over, and the diner would be closing soon, so Myra locked the front door as soon as we came back in through the kitchen. She got coffee for all of us and a fresh towel for Michael’s nose, and we took over the back corner of the diner where we wouldn’t be disturbed.

“I said, talk.” I leaned into Michael and put a little more menace into my voice.

“Oh really, Adam, don’t try. You caught me off guard, and I need you, which are the only reasons you’re still mobile. I can kill you, remember? It’s what I do.” And he wasn’t kidding. Michael was the Lord’s enforcer, the one who dealt with anyone who broke the rules seriously enough for Dad to take a personal interest. I remembered.

“Mr. um, Michael. Please. Won’t you tell us what is going on and why you brought Adam back here after all this time?” Looked like Emily learned negotiation from her mother. 'Cause she sure as hell didn't get that silver tongue from me.

“Of course, since you asked nicely.” The little prick actually raised one eyebrow at me with that line. If I had any regrets about punching him in the snoot, they were gone.

“Now, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, there is coming a time of Choice, where a representative of humanity will make a decision between Order and Chaos, Good and Evil, the Light and the Dark. This human will decide the fate of all mankind for the rest of time, and it is up to you, Adam, to find him.”

“Huh?” Sometimes I’m less than eloquent.

“Was there a particular part that you didn’t understand, or was it just your general stupidity shining through?”

“Let’s take another look at the bit about me finding him. Why me?”

“Because you were there at the time of the first Choice, of course. Everyone who was there for the first Choice must be there for the final Choice.”

“So you’re saying that because I was there when Eve took the fruit…wait a second, you said everyone?”

“I believe I did.”

“Well, that’s gonna be a problem, seeing as how Abel’s suffering from a bad case of dead and Eve won’t be in the same time zone as me.”

“Your latest offspring shall fill the void left by your second son, and as for Eve, well, you’ll just have to be persuasive, now won’t you?”

“And Cain?”

“Cain, too, Adam.” Michael managed to lose the smug for just a minute at the mention of my oldest son. I hadn’t seen Cain in a long time, even for us, and it wasn’t a situation I was looking to change. Eve and I both had some issues with forgiveness: she couldn’t forgive herself, and I couldn’t forgive Cain. The last time we saw each other was the kind of meeting that country and western songs are written about, the kind of songs that feature destroyed bars, at any rate.

“No deal. I’m not going to put Even through that, I’m not going to deal with Cain, and I’m not going to let Emily get anywhere near either of them. Period.”

“This is not open for debate, Adam, son of God.” Michael turned The Voice on me, and his had more behind it than just a few thousand years of practice. His Voice came complete with Power, the kind that comes from a guy that sits on a big throne, and I knew that the floor was closed for debate.

I looked at Myra, then at Emily, and closed my eyes for a second. “This is tough. I know this is going to hard to believe, but everything he said is true. And we do have to do this. He can’t lie when he uses The Voice, and he can’t support a lie with it, either. We have to do this, and we both have to go.”

“Both? You mean all three of us, right?”

“Actually, Myra, you don’t have to go. Emily’s presence is all that is required.”

“Oh hell no! I sit here for almost 25 years waiting for my one true love, and the day he walks back into my life you tell me that he’s just going to ride off with my daughter and some snotty angel with a bloody shirt? Well you’ve got another think coming, Mr. High and Mighty Archangel, there is no way in hell this woman is getting left behind while Captain Immortal rides off into the sunset again. He’s stuck with me, at least until I get to find out if he snores too much or can’t figure out how to put the toilet seat down, and that means you’re stuck with me, too. And if you don’t like it, I can bloody your damn nose for you again real quick-like.”

“Adam, you always have had a taste for, shall we say, volatile women.”

“We can say that. And Myra’s coming with us. I just met this daughter today, so I can’t rightfully just swoop in and take her with us, can I? Don’t answer that. I know you’ve never been the most subtle of the seraphim.”

“Comes with the flaming sword, old chap.”

“Alright, all bullshit aside, where are we going? Where’s this guy who’s gonna decide the fate of the world?”

“Well, he’s not the first of our concerns. First, we have to find Eve. And she might not be as easy to persuade as you three. And she could be even less thrilled at my appearance,” said the angel.

Choices, Part 7

“So why did you come back?” Myra asked me after a long moment.


“Why did you come back? After all this time, why come back now? I don’t think I’m going to believe that you suddenly developed a misplaced parenting gene and decided to pop in to see if you had knocked me up and had a daughter to raise, and I’m sure as hell not going to believe you came back to see me again for another tumble after all these years.”


“Oh don’t be all outraged, Em, I’m pretty sure he’s heard it all before.”

“I have, and more besides. But to answer your question, I didn’t.”

“Didn’t what?”

“Didn’t come back. At least, not intentionally. I was just riding along on my way back East, and got hungry. So I pulled in at the next stop. It wasn’t until I walked into the diner that I remembered that this was your place.”

“You…forgot me?”

“No! No, I didn’t forget you, I just didn’t remember that this was your place until I walked in. And honestly, if I had remembered, I probably would have kept on rolling. You know, trying not to reconnect and all that.”

“So you stopped because you just happened to get hungry near my exit?”

“Well, not exactly.” This from Michael, who had apparently forgotten my instructions to keep his mouth shut, and had either forgotten or was choosing to ignore the outcome of our last interaction, that last day in the Garden.

You see, Michael was the right hand of the Man. The hand that held the flaming sword, and was in charge of enforcing Dad’s edicts. So when we were tossed out of the Garden, it was Michael that did the tossing. Or at least, it was Michael that started the process. In the end it took several of the archangels to get the job done, and some of them looked a little the worse for wear when it was over. Michael particularly had seen better days. I’m pretty sure I broke his nose in the scuffle.

That may have been the first day of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but my sense of right and wrong was pretty deeply instilled long before, and when he put his hands on Eve and she cried out in pain as he twisted her arm behind her back to remove her from the only home we’d ever known, I reacted without thinking. Further reflection brought me to the conclusion that had I thought before I socked the head of the militant Archangels in the snoot, I would have done the same thing. Every time.

So there was no love lost between Michael and I, and this revelation that he may have had something to do with this uncomfortable reunion (not to mention the repeated slapping of my face) led me to turn, very slowly, and face the immaculately dressed scion of heaven.

“What do you mean, not exactly? And let’s have an answer without any of the standard angelic obfuscation, if you don’t mind too terribly.” I can affect a pretty solid posh British accent of my own when the situation warrants, and I felt like it definitely warranted.

“Wouldn’t dream of it, my boy.” He knew I hated it when he called me that. I always did. “I may have manipulated your hunger pangs a little to bring you to this place. These ladies are very important, and have a very important role to play in what is coming.”

“And what, exactly, is coming, Michael? And what do you have to do with it?”

“Well, Adam, ever since you and Eve left the Garden, things have been moving toward this final confrontation.”

“You’re obfuscating. What confrontation?”

“Just because you’re obtuse does not mean that I am obfuscating. The final confrontation of Good and Evil, Adam. The choice between Right and Wrong, between God and Satan, between Order and Chaos. The Choice.”

“Oh.” I knew this was coming eventually. Dad explained to me back in the Garden that when he gave us free will, he knew that eventually we would have to make a final choice between the Light and the Dark. I always thought the “we” he was talking about was each individual, that everyone made their own choice, but Michael was making it sound like there was one big Choice that was going to happen that would decide the fate of the whole human race.

“Of course there is,” he said when I expressed my thoughts to him. “There was one Choice all those years ago in the Garden, and Eve made it. She chose Chaos, and you were removed from the Garden. Had she chosen us over your friend the Lightbringer, you and all your descendants would have grown and lived in the Garden forever. But she chose poorly, and humanity has suffered for it for millennia. This choice is like that one, and will be made just like that one was, by a random human on behalf of you all.”

Silence hung heavy in the afternoon air as we all contemplated the angel’s words. Michael couldn’t lie, the Archangels never learned how, so what he said was certain to be truth. It might not be the whole truth, since angels certainly knew how to hold things back, but this didn’t feel like one of those times. Of course, I hadn’t had any of my long talks with the seraphim in a few thousand years, so I suppose they could have learned a few new things.

“That’s not fair.” My head snapped around and my eyes locked on Emily, who stood beside the picnic table, eyes glistening as she stared a hole into Michael. “I’m not going to abide by the decision of some person who hasn’t even been chosen yet who knows nothing about me and has no right to make decision that will affect my whole life and the life of generations to come. That’s just not fair and I’m not going to put up with it!”

“My dear girl, not only is it fair, it’s the basis for your entire country!”

Michael laughed. “Your entire idealized existence is run by people who don’t know you and couldn’t care less. This is just more representative governance, dearie, and you will deal with it because no one asked your opinion. Leave the grown-up talk to the grown-ups and go back inside to your dishes. We’ll call you when you’re needed.”

Emily walked up to Michael, looked him square in his sky-blue eyes, and slapped the shit out of him. Then she spun on her heel, marched over to the picnic table and sat there, jaw set, daring anyone to try to make her move. Yep, that’s my kid, I thought.

“You deserved that one, Mikey. Now what’s the deal, really? Somebody somewhere is going to run into Lucky, get tempted, and they’re going to make another Eve-level Choice? I thought we were a little far along the road for that.”

“Oh no, Adam, not at all, not at all. This Choice will be so much more that Eve’s little choice that she may as well be forgotten by history. This Choice will determine the true outcome of humanity. You see, now they’ve seen what Chaos is. They’ve seen the Dark. When Eve made her decision to bite the fruit, you two had no idea what the Dark was. You had no frame of reference, so Eve’s decision was made in a vacuum. A little unfair, really, that she’s taken so much blame for it for so long. After all, it is human nature to want to know what’s behind Door #2. I should know, I helped write that bit.” Michael had to stop to spit a little blood from his mouth halfway through his pretty little speech, which diminished the impact somewhat, but the words sat me on my ass just the same.

“So you’re saying Eve was set up?”

“Excuse me?”

“Eve. Was. Set. Up. The whole thing was planned from the Beginning. She didn’t have a choice after all. She had to take the fruit.”

“Of course not. She could have refused to eat the fruit. Of course, if she had, we would have come up with something else. Eventually you were going to have to leave the Garden. It was the only way you could see the world, after all.”

“So for thousands of years Eve has suffered, thinking that she brought all the evil into the world, that if she had been just a little stronger, or if Lucky had caught her on a better day, or if she hadn’t wandered off alone that morning, that she could have said no and spared the world a wealth of suffering, and now you tell me that if she’d said no you would have just kept on coming until eventually one of us gave in?” I might have been yelling a little by the last bit.

“Pretty much, yes.” The smug smile was what did it. I knew he was trying to push my buttons, and he was always the second best manipulator out of the angelic herd. At that precise moment, however, I didn’t care. I just knew that he had allowed Eve to suffer with the guilt of falling to temptation since the dawn of time, and I was, to put it mildly, pissed.

So I hit him. I swung from the knees, and I punched the leader of the Angelic Host right in the nose with everything I had. Angels aren’t really that different from the rest of us when they choose to take human form. They bleed, even though they can’t die. They can hurt, though, and a shot to the nose stings like a son of a bitch. So when I put everything I had into a roundhouse that connected solidly with Michael’s nose, I felt the satisfying crunch of cartilage under my knuckles and I knew that I’d broken it once again. Damn, that felt good. I highly recommend punching out a pompous archangel once an eon or so, it’s good for the soul.

“Dammit, Adam, that hurts!” He was lying on his back in the dusty parking lot and I liked him a lot better with blood spattering his French Blue dress shirt than I had just a few seconds earlier.
“It wasn’t meant to tickle, you prick. Screw you and your little games, I’m outta here.” I turned on my heel and headed back towards my bike, determined to leave Texas and Michael behind me as quickly as I could.

“Dad.” I stopped. There’s only a couple of words that can stop me in my tracks, but that one’s a lock. “Please don’t go.” I turned, and there was Emily, not looking at me, but looking at me all the same. “Please?”

“Why?” I asked. Like it mattered. She was my kid after all. If she wanted me to stay, I was staying.

“I think this might be important. And I think you might have to do this, no matter how big a douchebag this guy is.” Well, that cut right through it all right there. Sometimes there are things you just have to do, whether you want to or not, whether the people you have to do them with are douchebags or not; sometimes things have to get done. And sometimes you’re the only one that can do them.

“This is gonna suck.” I said as I walked back over to her.

“Probably.” She agreed, and she tossed Michael a dishrag to stop his bleeding nose.

“I’m gonna need some coffee.” I was walking back towards the rear entrance of the diner by now.

“I’ll handle it. The lunch rush is over and you never could make coffee worth a shit.” Myra said as she passed me on the way into the diner.

“Hey! Wait for me!” Cried the warrior archangel as he tried to get his bloody nose to cooperate enough to let him follow us into the diner. To quote one of my favorite philosophers, I had a bad feeling about this.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Choices, Part 6

So let’s take a good look at my afternoon so far. I was driving cross-country on a motorcycle I borrowed from Lucifer Morningstar on my way to look for Eve, my long-lost and content to stay that way immortal first love when I encountered a woman that I had relations with a couple decades before, along with the offspring of said relations, when the friggin’ Archangel Michael showed up demanding that I tell the women the truth, of all ridiculous things. I did the only thing I could think of, I walked briskly across the dusty parking lot from the diner to the run-down bar that shared the interstate exit and ordered myself a shot and a beer. There are some situations that just cannot be addressed properly without a certain level of mental lubrication, and this was shaping up to be a Cuervo-sized situation.

Once I felt that I had properly fortified myself for the confrontation that was coming, I made my way back across the parking lot to the picnic table where the archangel sat chatting idly with my daughter while her mother smoked a cigarette. These are not situations that occur every day, not even if you’re immortal.

“Myra, I think I owe you an explanation,” I started.

“Explanation? Explanation?!?” Usually when a word of four syllables involves more than two octaves, whatever follows is not going to be good, so I decided to head her off before she could get a head of steam going.

“Yes. Explanation.” I used The Voice. It’s nothing supernatural. I really don’t have any abilities other than the touch of ESP that everyone has and a ridiculous lifespan, but with age does come a certain level of authoritative voice, and I had elevated mine to capitalization status through a long period of study with the Greek orators. Those boys could talk, let me tell you.

“I know that I left without any warning, and I know that I showed up here again the same way. But I did warn you when we first became involved that I wouldn’t be staying very long, and that one day, you’d likely wake up to find me gone. We agreed that we’d enjoy the time we had, and that we wouldn’t put any strings on each other.”

“Yes, but that was before…” she trailed off and looked down, suddenly very interested in the scuffed sneakers she was wearing.

“Before what, Myra?”

“Before I fell in love with you.” She said, in a very small voice, this confident woman near fifty suddenly teenager-shy again, and looking for all the world like she wanted to be doing anything else in the world other than having this conversation. I knew the feeling, and I’ve had these conversations before. I could only imagine what it must have felt like going through it for the first time, and from the other perspective.

“Myra, I loved you too. I still love you, after a fashion, but there are some things about me that you didn’t know then, things that make it hard for me to fall in love.”

“Hard, Adam?” another party heard from as Michael decided to remind us that we weren’t having a private conversation.

“Michael, when I need your particular input on human relationships, I’ll look it up in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Until then, butt out. Myra, I’m not really sure how to put this, but it’s probably pretty obvious that I’m not exactly normal. I look about the same as I did when I left, and that’s been”

“24 years and three months, give or take a week.”

“How do you keep track of it that closely…” I trailed off as I looked over at Emily, looking about twenty-three and a half, and decided that finishing the question would make me look infinitely stupid and lead to more unnecessary input from my good buddy Michael.

“Yeah, a little over 24 years. So, the thing is, this is not easy to explain…”

“Adam, you’ve had work done. It’s okay. We’re not LA, but we’re not complete bumpkins, you know. There’s even anesthesia for facelifts in Texas nowadays, and most folks don’t even assume guys are gay if they get a little Nip/Tuck action. Well, most folks don’t, anyway.”

I laughed. A lot. I’ve had this conversation on more than one uncomfortable occasion in the past few millennia, and I’ve never been accused of cosmetic surgery before. This was certainly a day of firsts. I laughed, and was so taken aback by the idea that I just blurted out the truth without thinking a second about it.

“I didn’t have work done, honey, I’m immortal. I don’t age. Remember the Adam from Genesis? Yeah, that would be me. And Moses got most of that stuff right, because I told it to him while we were hanging out in Israel.”

“Yeah, whatever. You’re immortal and I’m Farah Fawcett.”

“No, really. I look the same because I always look the same, at least since we left the Garden. And I left without saying anything because I’m not strong enough to stick around and watch the people that I care about grow old while I stay forever young.”


“He’s telling the truth, love. If you just take it at face value for now we can get on to the grand reconciliation and we can all leave this dump of a town. Honestly, Adam, why you insist upon finding trysts in such father-forsaken holes in the cosmos I will never understand.”

“Michael, for the last time, Shut. Your. Mouth. And when did you decide to be British?”

“Just now. It’s a pretentious decade and I can’t possibly fit in without an appropriately posh accent.”

“I think you’ll manage just fine. Anyway, Myra, like I was saying. I’m immortal, and the reason I left was because I really did, I mean do, care for you, and it’s just too hard staying in one place for very long because of the inevitable questions about not aging, and that coupled with the whole watching the people you love grow old and die thing, well, it’s just gotten to be too much for me over the centuries, so now I relocate after a couple years at the most, and I stay less time in places where I’m afraid that a real connection might be starting, because I figure it’s easier on the people that I leave behind if I leave sooner rather than later, you know, giving them a chance to move on with their lives and that sort of thing, and…I should probably stop talking now.”
“Yes. Stopping talking now would probably be a safe move, Adam.” Her voice was icy, and the look on her face made me inch out of arm’s reach, fearing another slap might be forthcoming. Instead, she looked down at the ground, took a deep, shuddering breath, and looked me straight in the eye.

“You. Son. Of. A. Bitch. You selfish, uncaring, thoughtless, chickenshit son of a bitch! You ran out on me after I laid in your arms every night for six months! I told you things I’ve never told anyone before or since. I told you my hopes, my dreams, my fears, the embarrassing things that I’ve never once dreamed of having the courage to tell another living soul, and then one morning I come in after my shower and you’re gone!

Gone, without a note, without even a slap on the ass and a thank you! You worthless motherfucker, you leave me without any reason, without any hope of ever seeing you again, and then you have the unmitigated gall to come back in here twenty-four years later riding on your big motorcycle spouting some bullshit about immortal and scared to love and expect me to fall for it just like I fell for your line of shit the first time you were here?

Well fuuuuuuck you, buddy, that train left the station a long time ago, and the only thing I got out of the deal was a beautiful, smart, darling daughter that you don’t ever, ever deserve to try to be part of her life. So get back on your motorcycle and ride off into the sunset you came out of, and don’t you dream of coming back into my life or my baby’s life!” By now she was full-on sobbing, screaming and looking for things to throw at me, so before the cook decided that it was probably worth it to come through the screen door where he was watching the show, I reached out to Myra, put my arms around her, and held her.

I pulled her to my chest, and so many memories came flooding back. Memories of waking up with her naked lying across my chest in the middle of the night, the ceiling fan doing nothing to cut through the heat of the day that still lay across us like a blanket. Memories of sitting on a hillside by a pond watching the sun set and pretending to give a damn about the corks we had floating on the ends of our fishing lines. Memories of watching her sling coffee and hash browns along the length of the breakfast counter to long-haul truckers and locals alike, each served with a smile and a saucy shake of the hips. I held her as she cried like a baby that’s just lost her favorite toy, and more than one tear of my own slipped down my face to dampen the curtain of hair that hid her face.

But finally she cried herself out, and got tired of hitting my back with her fists, and she pulled away.


“Yeah, I just needed to get that off my chest.”

“Good. It’s good to see you again. I’m glad you’re well.”

“Well might be stretching it most days, but I’m still here. And I think I’m glad to see you, too. But why did you really leave? And really, where is your fountain of youth, because most days, especially the way my feet feel when I pull a double, I’d like a swig.”

“Well…you see, here’s the problem.”


“I was telling the truth.”

“About what?”

“About the hard to believe bits. You know, immortal, Garden of Eden, Adam. That stuff? That was real. I’m that Adam, and I left because I didn’t want to fall in love with you and watch you die, and because I thought if I left soon enough I could be gone and you could move on, leaving me as just a faded, but pleasant memory from your youth.”

“So let me get this straight. You’re the Adam of Adam and Eve, fig leaves, snakes, apples and Cain and Abel?” This was Emily, who had been content to sit and watch things unfold to this point.

“Yes to all of the above, except Luck-Lucifer wasn’t really a serpent, just kind of a snake in the grass metaphorically, and the fig leaves really were just inserted by uptight artists. We went straight from naked to woven grass skirts, actually.”

“So if you’re Adam with a capital A, and I’m your daughter, which you seem oddly willing to accept at face value without any mention of DNA testing or other proof…”

“It’s the eyes. I recognize them. My eyes always breed true in the first generation, so I learned to recognize them after a while.”

“Okay, so you’re Adam of the original humans Adam and Eve, and I’m your daughter, and you’re immortal, so what does that make me?”

“From what I can tell, lifespan tends to follow the norms for the period when you’re born, so you won’t end up immortal. At least, none of my children since Cain have been.”

“And exactly how many of them have there been?”

“437.” I now remember how much I disliked certain aspects of hanging around with angels. They keep a lot of trivia floating around in their heads, because they can I guess. And Michael, being ridiculously honest and forthcoming even at the most inopportune times, felt that he had to share my exact offspring census with the gathered family at a time when some obfuscation may have been the more tactful approach.

“437? That’s not a family, that’s a regiment! Jesus, what do you do, just leave a couple of bastards in every town where you stop for lunch?” Emily was a little outraged at finding out that she was part of such a large family.

“No. Please remember that I’ve lived for eons. When you look back across the entirety of the human race, I am not responsible for an inordinate number of offspring. In fact, with the notable exception of the time of the Roman Empire, I have been very particular with the… I do not have to explain myself to my own daughter!”

Slap! “You do not have the right to call her that! You were nothing more than a sperm donor, she is my daughter and nothing of yours!” Again with the slapping.

I fixed Myra with my steeliest glare “Nothing of mine? You can’t even pretend to tell me that you’ve looked in those eyes every day for 23 years and not seen a piece of me looking back at you. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to finish this conversation without getting hit any more.”
“So I had 436 brothers and sisters down through history, are any of them alive now?”

“One, but you might not want to spend much time with Cain. He has sibling rivalry issues. You mother is the first woman I’ve shared enough of myself with to have a child in some number of years, so you’re the only…”

“How many?” A small voice from Myra.

“Excuse me?”

“How many years? How long has it been since you ‘shared enough of yourself?’”

“About 1755 or so. I had a son. He died in the war.”

“Which war?” Emily asked.

“The Revolutionary War. We fought together. He caught a bullet in the leg and it had to be amputated. It got infected, as so many of them did, and he died. It wasn’t pretty. I held his hand when he went. He was 24.”

“I’m sorry.” Myra said softly.

“It wasn’t the first time I’ve held one of my children as they’ve died. It’s not something that gets easier the more often you do it, though.” We were quiet for a moment, then, both of us lost in thought. I flashed back on the dozens of times throughout history that I had watched my reflection dim in my child’s eyes, and Myra shuddered slightly as she thought about losing Emily.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

More scribbles

I'm not done with Adam and his cast of characters yet, I was just travelling last night and didn't get my writing in. Here's something on the poetical front while I prep another entry.


Colbie Callait’s singing Mistletoe on the XM holiday station
While a little Mexican boy sits cross-legged
On his brown front yard
Looking down the street expectantly,
Searching traffic for a Greyhound sleigh
to bring Poppi home.

Two fat women,
One white with a bad dye job and a
Trailer-park linoleum kitchen hair style,
One black with a Santa hat and a wifebeater
Walk side by side along a busy street
Hauling their Wal-Mart groceries
And government cheese
To the efficiency apartment with the Toys-for-Tots gifts
And Methodist-donated decorations.

All the flowers in the cemetery
Are fresh
Except one.
What happened to you,
Mr. Robert Keziah 1953-2009?
Was he the last
Is he forgotten
Does nobody care
Is everybody busy

Why not him?

I like to walk among my ghosts
On holidays
To remember where I’m from.

Not just a river in Egypt

I never think of you anymore,
Until I see a picture of us some asshole put on Facebook,
Standing on the steps in front of my college dorm
Decked out in our finest freakwear to go out on the town,
Nineteen and smiling like we’ve got our whole lives in front of us,
Or something equally stupid.

I never even notice we’re not together anymore,
Until I hear a song on my iPod that you just had to had to haaaad to have
So I got out of my very warm and comfortable bed,
And bought the MP3 for you off Amazon so you could play it
Seventeen times
At least
That night before you fell asleep with your head on my shoulder
And your hair tickling my nose.

I never turn my head when I think I hear your voice,
Unless maybe it’s at that Starbucks on 7th St. where we almost got
Thrown out for being just a little too friendly
On the couches which just happened to be in front of the windows
And there might have been a complaint from a mother
Or three
Walking her kid to the comic book shop next door.

I never, EVER, don’t go somewhere just in case you might be there,
Except for what used to be our grocery store,
Or VisArt,
Or that Cajun joint in NoDa with the bread pudding you used to love.
I guess you
Still love that bread pudding.

I never miss you at all hardly,
Except at night.
Nights are a little tough, I’ll admit,
When there’s not anybody snoring so gently beside me
Nobody hogging the blanket
And putting cold feet between my legs just as I’m about to fall asleep
Then giggling and kissing me breathless
Before looking up at me with those kitten eyes and asking
“But you love, me, right?”

So I’m fine. Really, I don’t ever really think about you.
Much. To speak of.

Better Home

He set his banjo on a peach crate,
Picked up a mason jar full of clear liquid,
Tore himself off a slash and said,
“Sing for me, Vera.”
Her voice wavered like a robin’s song,
High and clear across the smoke-filled room
And everybody drew still as Grandma sang gospel.

“I was standing, by my window,
on one cold and cloudy day”

Grandaddy’s fingers skipped across the banjo strings
Like Mama through a Carolina cotton field,
Bare feet kicking clods of red dirt while her patchwork dress
Snagged on branches, snatchin’ notes out of the air like
Grandma’s song floating through the kitchen while she made collards
For Sunday dinner.

“Will the circle be unbroken,
By and by, Lord, by and by.”

The whiskey stole his fingers,
Hard living and twelve children stilled her voice.
There was no music in them by the time I came along,
But every once in a while, when I played freeze tag with my cousins
In the back yard and hid behind the laundry hanging out in the sun to dry,
A bird would carry back a hint of melody, and I could hear the song
In Grandma’s eyes as she stood at the sink washing dishes
And watching the kids play in the yard.

“There’s a better home a-waiting,
in the sky, lord, in the sky.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Choices, part 5

Anybody still out there?

“Yeah. I think she knows me. Or at least I think she thinks she knows me. Or thinks she knew me. Or something like that.” Just for the record, I’m never flustered. It’s not like this is the first time I’ve had a kid. It’s not like this is the first time I’ve found out some time after the fact that I’ve had a kid. This is, however, the first time I’ve been inexplicably drawn to a diner in the middle of Monkey’s Nut, TX while en route to find my estranged wife of some innumerable number of centuries only to be confronted with the unmistakable evidence of a past indiscretion. So I might have been a little more rattle-prone than normal.

“Well, how does she know you? ‘Cause I don’t know you, and it ain’t like this is that big a town, and really, I’d remember anybody as close to my age as you who looks like you if you’d come through any time recent.”

Yeah, that whole immortality thing? I look like I’m about 28. Forever. It has its advantages, like never having to worry about Grecian formula, but one of the drawbacks is that if you see the same person with a ridiculous amount of time between visits, you look the same as the last time they saw you. This becomes somewhat inconvenient when you’d rather the mother of your most recent offspring not drop a cup of coffee into the middle of the floor upon your arrival.

“It’s a long story. Look, here’s a buck for the coffee. I gotta roll.” And I stood up to head for the door. Except, of course, there was a problem with that. There’s always a problem. I mean, I understand the need for some dramatic conflict, but seriously, the last guy to write about me was Moses, can’t I give up a little on the conflict by now?

Myra had made it back into the diner and was headed my way, an inscrutable look on her face. It was almost a cliché, the way she ran into my arms, grabbed me by the back of the neck and kissed me like she was checking for recent dental work. Then, after she held me like there was no tomorrow, she pulled back, hands on my elbows, and hauled off and slapped the ever-loving shit outta me. I saw it coming, figured it was coming from the moment she dropped the coffee cup, really, but didn’t bother trying to stop it. I just took it, and let me tell you, a woman who’s spent a couple decades slinging hash at a roadside diner in Texas knows how to lay one on a guy.

“I deserved that.” I said, whipping a little trickle of blood from my lips. Yes, we can bleed. We can be hurt, we just don’t die from it. You don’t want to know exactly how exhaustive some of our testing of that fact has been. The details are a little disturbing, and the memories of those times a little embarrassing.

“You’re goddamned right you did,” Myra said, drawing back to lay another on me as I turned the other cheek. I didn’t turn the other cheek out of some retarded sense of pacifism, that’s just what naturally happens when somebody slaps the piss out of you, you turn the other cheek. I caught her hand before the blow landed, and did the only thing I thought might defuse the situation: I kissed her.

In retrospect, kissing Myra in her heightened state of emotion only had about a one in three shot of ending the violence, but it was a better shot than anything else had, and I really didn’t want to get physical with her. Not just because I don’t like hitting women, but also because the cook had come out of the kitchen to watch the floor show, and he looked like he could cause some serious damage if so inclined.

So I kissed her, and I poured everything I had into the kiss. It’s not like I have any supernatural abilities, other than immortality and a little bit of extra-sensory perception where Eve and Lucky are concerned, but after a couple of eons you pick up a few things. And since I spent most of the 15th century in France, I learned from some of the best.

When I felt the iron melt out of her spine, I stopped kissing her, looked into her eyes, and said “We should talk. Outside. All three of us.” And I led her to the door, Emily in tow. We walked out of the diner, around the side of the building to a couple of concrete picnic tables that I remembered from my last trip where the crew took their smoke breaks, and I sat Myra down. Emily sat next to her, and I sat on the table cross-legged facing them.

“So, I guess I have a little explaining to do,” I started, trying to figure out how I was going to get part of the story out without telling them the whole thing, when something new happened.

Now let me interject something here. This was something new. That’s a big deal. I hadn’t really been surprised by anything that happened in the world since Alexander made his great sweeps across the world. And that was just more me being impressed by his audacity and drive than actual surprise. But what happened next had never happened to me before, at least not since we left the Garden.

“You do indeed, Adam. You do indeed. And I think both of these young ladies deserve to know the truth. The whole truth, as they say.” The voice came from behind me, and I knew it instantly. It was Michael, the first unfallen angel I’d seen in the flesh since we left the Garden, and he did not look happy to see me.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Choices, part 4.

So I've decided that this little story has a name: Choices. And I think I've figured out where its going. I'm not sure how long it will take to get there, or who will join the party along the way, but it's good to have an ending in sight, I think.

I crashed in Flagstaff for the night, and rolled on east the next morning. I’ve always been a morning person. It was always my favorite time in the Garden, and nothing had happened in a few thousand years to change that. There’s something fresh about a morning, when the promise of the day hasn’t been spoiled by having to deal with other people yet, that always makes me look at the world with a little lighter eye. So I rolled east. I knew I’d eventually start to feel where Eve was. We could all always find each other. Me, Lucky, Eve, Cain. Yeah, Cain’s still around, too. I tend to steer pretty clear of my firstborn son, not because I haven’t gotten over what he did to Abel, but because he hasn’t. He and Eve stayed in better contact with each other than with me. I guess they feel like they both carry a burden I can’t understand. Families are like that, I suppose.

But I had no hint of Eve, Cain or Lucky this time. I headed East because I’d been living in the West for so many years I assumed Eve would be somewhere far away. I last knew she was in America a dozen or so years ago. I was in Los Angeles and I felt her. She never made contact, and I knew better than to try. I figured she’d probably stayed pretty close to the East coast since then. It’s also got more big cities, and Eve’s done a pretty good job of losing herself among people for a while.

I love America, with its big wide expanses of country. Europe has nothing like Texas, where the whole world seems flat. There are some parts of Africa that are similar, but yet not. America has a vibration all its own, a youthfulness that carries across even though the land is no older or younger than any other piece of dirt. You see, a country tends to take on the characteristics of its inhabitants, and Americans are quick, vibrant types. Always impatient, like kids. So the country feels young. I like it, it makes me feel like I’m only 2,000 again.

I got hungry around Amarillo, and I swung into a little diner I’d visited once acouple dozen years before. The same tinny bell rang as I walked through the door, and the same (or more likely so similar to be interchangeable) old men looked up from their places at the counter as I strolled in. My boots clicked across the same checkerboard linoleum, tracks worn colorless near the door and in front of the cash register. I nodded to the cook behind the counter as I crossed the room, knocking the road dust off my jeans as I made my way to a booth near the jukebox.

It was late afternoon, and the sunlight streaming through the dirty windows had taken on a golden-amber tone as that big ball settled low in the sky, just starting to tinge the horizon with fire. I’d just turned to slide my jeans across the cracked red pleather seat when I heard a gasp and a crash of broken crockery.

“Shit, Myra! What the hell’s the matter with you?” the cook yelled at the woman who stood, stock still in the middle of the floor with coffee spilling all over her feet. I took one look at her and my heart sank a little. I knew her. Biblically, as they say. And if anyone’s qualified to use term, it would be me. She was older, of course. The blonde hair that once spun gold out of that afternoon sunlight was now a dishwater bland, with more than a few streaks of grey shot through it. The little crinkles that used to appear in the corners of her mouth were permanent lines now, and she didn’t seem to float across the floor like she used to. She was a little heavier than when we last met, but not fat. Just a woman’s body, not a girl any longer. Not a girl for a long time, I suppose. But her eyes were the same. The eyes never really change. As long as there’s still a person in there, the eyes are the same.

And her eyes held more than just a spark of recognition, they held an entire bonfire. They burned into me with 25 years worth of questions, answers, speculations, loss, love, forgiveness and more than a little pain. But oddly enough, not a hint of regret. I was glad for that. I didn’t want her to regret anything about our time together. I certainly didn’t. Of course, I knew it was fleeting at the time, and she obviously had waited for me to come back. And when I did, it was two decades later. And I still looked exactly like I did the day I left that little diner, intending never to return in her lifetime.

That’s the key to being who we are, to living like we do. It’s not to refuse to make connections. We’re human, and we need those connections as much as anyone. It’s to know when the connection has to be severed, for both our sakes. It would be impossible to live with someone who doesn’t age without growing to resent them as your youthful vigor fades. Love can turn to hate very easily, and there’s nothing worse than being hated by someone who once loved you like you were the only two people on earth.

Just trust me on that one. I’ve got a little perspective.

It’s just as hard on us, giving our hearts to someone we know will die in what is just an eyeblink to our lifespan. So we hold back. We can’t give ourselves completely to a mortal, and that’s the kind of thing that perceptive lovers pick up on. And after a few millennium walking the earth, you’re not interested in dating rocks anymore, so you’re going to have perceptive lovers.
So we make brief, incredibly deep, incredibly vital, soul-touching connections. And then we sever them before it gets somebody really hurt. We hope. Sometimes we miss, and the person we leave is in stasis for the rest of their lives hoping we’ll come back. Dad, I hope that’s not what happened to Myra.

So I sat there, and I looked back at her, and she looked at me, and I looked at her, and after a minute she seemed to convince herself that I wasn’t really me. That’s the logical choice, after all. I mean, who goes through 25 years and still looks like they’re in their twenties? Other than Dick Clark, and I know his secrets, so don’t sweat it. After an eternity that couldn’t have been longer than a few seconds, Myra ran to the back, where I heard her ask someone back there to “cover for me.” Seconds later I heard the screen door out the back of the kitchen slam, and then I could just barely hear the sound of someone sitting on the back stoop, striking a match, and taking the first long drag off a cigarette.

“Boy, mister, you got her wound up tighter than a clock spring at midnight. What’s the deal? She know you? Cause I’ve never seen you before, and I’d remember you.” The voice came from my elbow, and as I looked up the arm from the coffeepot I saw a nametag that read “Emily,” an apron over a uniform and the pretty face of a twenty-something blonde girl with a pixie smile and a cute upturned nose. And then I saw her eyes. Or more to the point, I saw my eyes in her face, and I knew that my life had just gotten a little more complicated.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Continued: meeting Eve

It had been a few centuries since I last saw Eve, and that didn’t end well. Not for us, not for anyone watching, and not for the residents of the surrounding countryside. I found her in London at the turn of the century, the 17th century that is, playing ratcatcher in the sewers just to see if she could catch plague. Eve liked to live on the edge, and ever since that whole tossed out of the Garden thing, she had been trying to die. This was her third go-round with the Plague, and it wasn’t working out any better than the last two. I’d heard of the mad ratwoman all the way up in my home in Austria, and I knew right away who it was. I also pretty much knew the outcome of our meeting before it happened, but that didn’t stop me from going after her. Again.

I found her outside the Rose, one of the new style of theatres. She looked like hell. Eve had never been classically beautiful, but over time she came to revel in filth, as if she could hide the mark on her soul if she layered enough dirt on her body. This time around her hair was long, hanging nearly to her waist, and matted with things I’d rather not describe. Never a tall woman, she had affected a hunched-over posture and a limp that I suppose made her less obtrusive in her current surroundings. That’s one thing about the both of us: unless we go to some lengths to hide it, after a time it becomes obvious to anyone around that we’re not exactly normal. We looked the same, after all we are the original people, but there’s something just a touch off. We have no clearly-defined ethnicity, because there wasn’t such a thing when we were Made. And there’s something in our eyes, something about the weight of a few dozen centuries that’s impossible to hide. So we don’t look to many people in the eye. It’s nothing personal, too much eye contact just leads to questions most people aren’t interested in the honest answers to.

Eve had gone to remarkable lengths to hide herself, dressing in the filthiest rags she could find and apparently taking a daily bath in the sewers for good measure. Her face was char-woman dirty, and a cloud of stench hovered around her like a cloud of hungry flies. Come to think of it, there was more than one fly hovering around as well. She was, of all ridiculous things, sitting on the steps of the theatre playing a recorder.

“This isn’t Hamlin.” I said as I stopped just outside ground zero of her odor.

“Bugger off.”

“Good to see you, too.”

“I wasn’t jokin’. Bugger off. I’m spending quality time with my friends. And they don’t like you.” That’s when I realized that maybe Eve had spent a little time with that Pied Piper fellow after all, since there were a dozen or so rats starting to gather. Most of them were the size of large mice, but a couple of them looked like small cats, and one reached nearly as high as my knee when it reared up on its back legs and hissed a warning at me. If it had been a few hundred years later a witty remark about Mrs. Frisby might have come to mind, but at the time I just kicked it in the guts.

“Why’d you do that?” Eve screeched as her “friends” scattered back into the shadows and sewers.

“I don’t like vermin.”

“Really? And here I thought rats of a feather and all that.”

“Eve, what are you doing here?”

“Don’t call me that! And I’m doing what I please. Just like you, doing what you please, in your little chalet or whatever you call it up on your little mountain. Why’d you come down here bothering me anyway?”

“I heard about a crazy ratwoman who goes into the deepest plague pits and comes out none the worse for wear. I thought it might be you. I guess they missed that “worse for wear” part, but I did find you.”

“Like you been lookin’.”

“I have, Eve. I looked for you for thirty years after you left me in China.”

“Well now you found me. What. Do. You. Want?” She spoke slowly, precisely, as though to a mental deficient. Which, I suppose, in her eyes, I was.

“You. Me. Us. I want us back.”

“There hasn’t been an us in a thousand years, and won’t be an us for another thousand. Now bugger off and leave me to my friends!” With that, she played another shrill tune on her pipe, and rats streamed out of the sewers at us like a roiling tide of furry, smelly water. I couldn’t hold my footing and was swept along with the rats out of town and across the bridge. All I needed was the Ramones in the background and it would have been classic crowd-surfing. Except I was rat-surfing. And the Ramones wouldn’t be born for another couple centuries.

So there I stood, on the outskirts of London, watching helplessly as thousands of city rats took a holiday from London, clearing out most of the Plague from the town, but with the unfortunate side result of spreading it throughout the English countryside. I suppose I should have felt guilty, but they were going to die anyway, so did it really matter that much when? Sometimes taking the long view of things can make one seem a little heartless.

So I headed back up my mountain and spent the better part of three decades learning to ski and paint landscapes in Austria. I lost track of Eve again, and when I hopped a ship to the New Country I figured she’d either find me someday, or she wouldn’t. Again, that whole “long view” thing. But now, I knew I had to find her, even though I didn’t know why. I just knew that if we weren’t together the next time I ran into Lucky, it was going to be very bad for us. And if I didn’t classify what happened to us the first time we both hung out with Lucky as “very bad,” even I was a little nervous about what this time might bring.