Microfiction: ”Broken”

Broken

“Happy Mother’s Day!” the clerk chirped, all brightness and light.

The smile the lady returned was genuine.  If that smile was a bit slow, it still was sincere and heartfelt.  “Thank you.  My son…Mother’s Day is always special.”

The woman gathered the flowers into her arms and headed out.  More smiles and greetings in the parking lot.  Those were exchanged with strangers for the most part, but there were moments with those she knew, too.  Those moments mattered, she thought.  Those moments, with those she knew, they offered depth and color to the day.

Green was finally taking hold again as she crunched through the last vestiges of winter.  The flowers were starting to grow on the verges of the rapidly greening grass…could summer be far behind?  With summer life would return.  With summer would come warmth and visitors and new life.

New life.

She hadn’t cried, not for a month.  She’d sworn she wouldn’t cry that day, either.  Not for Mother’s Day.  He loved Mother’d Day.  He always did something special, even when he didn’t have the time or the money.  She wouldn’t ruin that; she wouldn’t cry.

She just wouldn’t.

The lines were still sharp and clear when she approached.  Wind and rain had not had time to wear them away, but…

Nor had they had worn away the paint, either.

The flowers were laid gently, her few tears breaking that earlier vow.  A choking gulp, convulsing her entire body, as she forced the words into being, “It’s been a great Mother’s Day. Thank you for the flowers.”

She rose and turned to leave. The brown of the leaves marred the black of her dress. A step and she had to turn for a last glance.  The fresh lines and clean whiteness of her son’s headstone were marred by the hateful black paint she’d tried so hard to ignore: God hates fags.

Some of those in the parking lot that morning had been among those who had painted those words.

“I love you, son,” she whispered, heartbroken.

{Musical Note — I have written 5-6 pieces trying to touch on some of the emotion and reality of the piece above, but I’ve held them all back. It’s complicated. “It’s complicated” — what a shitty, stupid excuse. But it’s an excuse I’m stuck with. Anything else I have to say is going to cause problems, so I will let the piece above, and the song below, stand for themselves.}

Welcome To The Jungle

Today’s flashfiction: “Welcome to the jungle…”

You would think the smoke would be all the impetus you needed.  Okay, so maybe the smoke and the explosions…

How do you miss all of that?

Easy.  All you have to do is decide it doesn’t apply; not to you, anyway.  That smoke, those explosions…those are someone else’s problem.  My passport…my passport is blue.  My passport has an eagle on it.  My passport says no one can ever fuck with me.

My passport aside, the bomb still struck.  My passport aside, the smoke and the fire and the violence, they all still fucked with me.

“One minute!” my friend screamed from a thousand miles away.  Weeks ago, we had worked out our escape plan.  One minute to gather our shit and get out.  One minute to grab everything and run for the one car we had all ensured had a full tank.  “One minute!” my friend screamed from right outside my door…

How do you grab a life in one minute?

My books…

My first editions of Tolkien?  Of Dostoyesky and Tolstoy?  My Shakespeare folios?  Hell, my volumes of Japanese manga, even?  When the building is crumbling, who the hell worries about their Norigami collection?!

I do.

Or…at least…I did.

Then the smoke.  And the explosions.  The sirens, and the screams…

The screams…

My life exists in a pair of boxes, and a lifetime of screams.

p.s.

I have friends in Ukraine.  I have friends I have not been able to contact since the Russians invaded.  I have friends in the Baltics, too.  I have friends that fear — as do I! — that they are next.  The worst thing I have ever had to flee was a vengeful ex-girlfriend.  Falling mortars?  Enemy snipers?  Mines?  Yeah, I top out at the fucking Call of Duty series…

Some of my friends are terrified…

Others of my friends are already refugees…

“…as you have done to the least of these, My brothers, you have done to Me…”

This is not a thing of Trump versus Biden…no matter what FoxNews wants you to believe.  This is not a thing of capitalism versus socialism…no matter what MotherJones wants you to believe.  This is a thing of human suffering.  This is a thing of war, and death, and the threat of far, far worse…

In the years before WW2 we as a society missed the signs of the worst that was to come.  We as a society were far too complacent in our isolation and self-absorption, to be honest.  It took violence and blood to break that isolation and self-absorption.  In today’s world, we have missed many, many signs…

Just how much blood is it going to take for us to realize that we are actually a part of this world?

Just how much blood and violence will it take for us to realize that things are not as we want, but as others demand?!

Just how much suffering will we endure before we decide true leadership is more important than partisan infighting?!

My friends talk to me about their fears.  My friends talk about tank divisions, and speed of advance.  My friends talk, even, of chemical and nuclear weapons.  My friends talk of what is to come in the same way Jamie Lee Curtis talked of Michael Meyers fifty years ago…

My country, on the other hand…

My own country…this beacon of strength and freedom…

We can’t get over Donald Trump’s speeches, or Hunter Biden’s emails.

We are so fucked.

{Musical Note — I looked and looked for the perfect song for this post. I failed. Then I decided to look at the music choice not as a commentary or an appenage to the writing, but as a (pretty blatant) subtext…}

I Don’t Usually Do Silver Linings…

Okay, so I’ve spent the last couple of days deciphering government websites.  And staring at spreadsheets, playing with variables & formulae.  Good Lord, do I need a beer — I wish there was a brewery around here!

Ahem.

Okay, so…I’m gonna switch gears for my own sanity.  My big (first world) problem is that I have two things I want to write about; two things that, I should add, have absolutely nothing to do with each other.  Of course, after spending hours upon hours reading government regulations, thinking about & doing two opposing things at once seems perfectly normal!

Alright, so the first thing…Russia.  And Ukraine.

Yup, startin’ off light, ain’t I?

In 1938 Hitler annexed Austria to the German 3rd Reich in the Anschluss.  The rest of the world worried and fretted and shook their fingers at him.

Six months later he appropriated the (badly misnamed) sudetenland from Czechoslovakia.  The rest of the world worried and fretted and shook their fingers at him.  There was Peace In Our Time.

In 1939 the first shells started falling at the Battle of Westerplatte as he moved to take Poland.  The rest of the world burned.

In 2008 Vladimir Putin took a large chunk of Georgia.  The rest of the world worried and fretted and shook their fingers at him.

In 2014 Vladimir Putin took the Crimea.  The rest of the world worried and fretted and shook their fingers at him.

In 2022 the first shells started falling on Ukraine.  Do I need to go back to my Yeats from a couple of posts ago and talk about that rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem to be born?*

*If you don’t get the allusion, go read some freaking poetry!  Harrumph.

As I write this, the fighting is hottest around Kharkov — for those whose historical perspective is a bit lacking, Kharkov is (previously) best known to history as the sight of the largest tank battle in history.

Now, to counter that dark cloud with something a bit more silver lining-ish…

On February 26, 2022 Christian Eriksen started a game for Brentford in the English Premier League.

Gee, I hear you mutter, that’s nice, but who the hell cares?

On June 12th, 2021 Christian Eriksen died on the field during an international game in Copenhagen.

He died, but the medics started CPR within seconds…

He died, but the doctors got his heart going again…

He died, then he lived.  He had a tiny, permanent device implanted to keep his heart going later that year, but no one expected anything more.  It was a great story, for a world-class athlete to die and then live again, but who could expect more?  How could anyone do anything more than live again?  Hug your kids, watch a new sunrise, and just get on with a new life…

Christian Eriksen just played the first game of that new life in the toughest league in the world.

How’s that for a freaking silver lining?

{Musical Note — because Irish music makes everything better!}

Lambs Beat Bungles in Superb Owl!

Okay, if you’re not a fan of American football, this post’s title very likely means nothing to you.  Even if you are a fan, if you don’t take part in the time-honored fan traditions of snark and sarcasm towards other teams — not to mention the internet slang/jokes the title is pulled from — it still likely means nothing.  Bear with me, all will (hopefully) make sense as I try to work a whole bunch of random, unrelated thoughts into a coherent post.

Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday here in the US.  Now, the Super Bowl is one of the biggest events in the American media universe.  Whether you love or hate it, the Super Bowl dominates the landscape in a way almost nothing else can touch.  Hell, we’ve had twenty years of the freaking Puppy Bowl solely as an anti-Super Bowl for those who hate football…and if that ain’t impact on culture and life, I don’t know what is!

Okay, but…

Yes, there’s always a but!  But the media landscape is changing.  It is changing as surely as is the socio-cultural landscape.  That is no bad thing, by the way.  Nor is it a new thing.  Things change.  Things have to change.  Life and love and progress are built on dynamism, on imbalances in the system and the alterations those imbalances drive.  Think of it as a physics problem, if you will; unchanging stasis is an utter impossibility.

At present, the change to the landscape is a splintering, and a devolution.  Oh, not devolution in a bad way, but devolution in the sense of de-centralization.  No longer do we all watch the same TV.  No longer do we all experience the same programs and thoughts and cultures.  We, for the most part, are far more active in our viewing today; we pick through Netflix and Prime for the best movies and TV.  We follow Youtube and Twitch and TikTok creators who are the definition of niche — our niche.  We actively choose our viewing, rather than the simple passivity of absorbing what someone else chooses for us.

Individuality is the order of the day, and that is a change very much for the better.  For the most part.  It has its negatives, too.  The splintering of the media landscape also reflects a splintering in the socio-cultural fabric of our lives.*  This is why I mentioned the Super Bowl above; its power is on the wane.  It still is a media behemoth, and an arguably over-powered presence in the American media landscape, but no longer is it an absolute, automatic dominator.

*Or is it a cause?  You can argue that one from both sides and make a good case either way.

I don’t do “regular” TV in any way, I only stream.  Over the last couple of years the Super Bowl has been far more of an afterthought than it a must-watch.  For anyone with similar viewing circumstances — a large and growing percentage of us — to watch and get overwhelmed by the Super Bowl requires actively seeking it out, rather than having it thrust upon us.  Now, that is no bad thing since American football is not for everyone.  Nor does it, in and of itself, say much of anything about our culture.  But…

But, the Super Bowl used to be one of those touchstone, shared-experience things.  We all saw it because we couldn’t escape it.  We all talked about it the next day because there was nothing else to talk about.  That no longer applies.  One of our shared experiences — one of those things that unifies a culture — is no longer filling that role.  Another crack appears, another splintering of our shared experiences.

The question of the day, of course, is what comes out of those cracks and fractures?  What culture emerges?  History is, in this, not much of a guide as “today” really is unique (a concept I am usually loathe to assert).  In the past, the slow pace of communications meant culture was essentially a local thing.  There could be no real splintering as, try as they might, folks living next to each other experienced the same things everyday.

Today?  Today I doubt my neighbors watch the same things I do.  Yeah, a whole lot of folks have experienced The Book of Boba Fett on Disney+ right alongside me, but how many followed that up by watching the Millenial Farmer on Youtube?

Yeah, the Lambs beat the Bungles on Sunday, but I didn’t watch it.  I didn’t care.  Instead I binge-watched Apple’s attempt to turn Asimov’s Foundation into a show (hoo boy, is that a post for another day!).  Thanks, Mr Yeats, for touching on this:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Wait…was that another crack I heard beneath my feet?

Okay, so this part of the post started as a mere Musical Note appended to end, but it grew a bit from there.  It grew into an explanation and an exploration that I think merits inclusion into the main body.  Music exerts tremendous power and influence over me.  I say it all the time, but it bears repeating: music has power.  I don’t do a terribly good job of explaining the particular how’s and why’s of that power, so I thought I would take a stab at it again by using an explanation from this particular song’s writer/singer as a way to illustrate:

I write quite a few songs where the sort of issue is faith – having faith, keeping faith. And this song in particular is about the difficulty in having faith in things, and finding things to have faith in. In yourself, in God, in like he said, a woman. Faith is a weird thing, it in a sense it is all about waiting. It’s not actually about getting anything, you know, faith is about the wait, because once you get something there is no need anymore. So a lot about faith is just the willingness to sort of throw yourself on a fence and hang there for a while. That’s a very difficult and bitter thing, you know. In this song, I keep saying the main character, *I*. I said, “All my sins, I would pay for them if I could come back to you.” It’s not just about finding things to believe in, it’s about wanting to be able to believe in anything too. And it’s about all the voices that get inside your head and whisper for you to do it or not to do it as well.”