Sunday, December 6, 2009

bob and june: the fourth vision

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous episode, click here

and when the quahog opened the fourth cage, and he heard the sound of the tsunami, the fourth creature swam out to the abandoned oil tanker.

and there joe beheld a green horse, with seven jockeys riding him, and pulling four chariots behind him, and he was the most fearsome beast of all and his name was dependence.

and the seven jockeys were alexander, barbarossa, constantine, diocletian, enobarbus, frank and jesse.

and the four chariots were driven by snow white, rose red, cinderella and rapunzel.

"what war?" joe repeated.

"well , take your pick." the little man answered. "there's wars everywhere."

joe thought about this for a while. the rain was falling more heavily, and the windshield wipers of the little truck were being overwhelmed. the little man seemed unconcerned and kept a steady speed.

"if there's wars everywhere," joe finally said, "how can you come back from them?"

"ha, ha! that's a good question, young man. it shows you're thinking. but there's a simple answer."

"and what might that be?"

"you come back from one war and home to another."

"sounds like just words to me," said joe.

"well then what isn't just words?" the little man asked.

joe looked at the windshield. "this rain isn't just words. and those windshield wipers aren't just words."

"true enough. but they are fighting a war, ain't they?"

"who will win?"

"hard to say. guess we'll find out."

i don't mean to be rude," said joe, "and i appreciate your stopping and giving me a ride, bit mightn't it be a good idea to stop and pull over?"


"why not?"

"got to get where i'm going."


"don't worry, i got a pretty good idea where i am."

"are we almost there?"

"hard to say."

joe thought carefully about his next question before asking it. "if you've got a good idea where you are, why is it hard to say if we are almost there?"

the little man laughed. "you ask a lot of questions, don't you? that's good."

"thank you. i have another question."

"go ahead."

"has anyone ever told you you look like rasputin or appolonius of tyana?"

"no and no. and that was two questions."


" nothing to be sorry about. questions are good."

"then i have two more questions. are you rasputin or appolonius of tyana?"

"not so far as i know. maybe in some other life."

"you mean you believe in reincarnation?"

the little man took his eyes off the streaming windshield. "what! of course! what kind of durn fool doesn't believe in reincarnation?"

"do you believe in the transmigration of souls?"

"we can discuss that at some other time. because here we are."

the truck turned on to a dirt road. the trees were so close and overarching on both of the road that the effect of the rain was diminished. suddenly the rain stopped beating on the roof and the truck stopped. the little man got out. joe got out too. they were in a barn. there was no light but joe could just make out a horse in a stall staring at him.

the little man took a lantern off the wall and lit it. joe could see that the horse was very old.

"that's an old horse," joe said.

"yes, he is. follow me."

joe followed the little man back out into the wind and rain. he could see a house about a hundred yards away with a single light in a lower window.

"my name is bob," said the little man. "bob smith."

'i'm pleased to meet you, bob."

"you should be."

bob smith and joe went inside to the one room with a light. it was a kitchen. a woman was sitting at a table drinking coffee. she had sharp eyes and gray hair in a bun with a big pin through it like a weathervane. an old purple sweater was thrown across her broad shoulders.

"this is june," said bob smith. "she's in charge of the new arrivals. she rules this place with an iron hand. isn't that right, june?"

june didn't answer but looked at joe over the top of her coffee cup. "we've got three rules in this place," she told him. "no filth. no arguments, and no bad things. got it?"

"yes, ma'am."

"he needs everything, i think," bob told june.

"one thing at at a time," june answered. "first thing he needs is a face. then we can get him a new name and a reason to live."

"sounds good," bob agreed. "we'll do all that first thing in the morning. right now maybe you can make him a pallet on the floor."

"he can make himself a pallet on the floor, if he can find anything to make it with." she looked at joe. "isn't that right?"

"yes, ma'am."

"you're dismissed." june picked her cup up again. bob jerked his head at joe and they moved back into the dark corridor.

"just find a place to sleep anywhere," bob told joe. "you'll be taken care of in the morning."

"will you be here?"

"maybe. don't worry about it. you're safe now. the war is over."

"what war?" thought joe. but he just nodded.

next: down by the river

Sunday, July 12, 2009

a dream reborn: the third vision

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous episode, click here

and when the parrot opened the third cage, and he heard the sound of the rain, the third creature swam to the bank of the flooded river.

and there joe beheld a black coelacanth, with a black dog riding him, and the dog balanced a tv remote with 5000 channels on his nose, and his name was control.

joe ate his burger slowly. he didn't know when he would get another one. farmer brown was consuming his burgers, fries and onion rings with quiet determination. then his cell phone rang in his pocket. he let it ring while he swallowed his huge mouthful of food, then answered it.


he listened a while then hung up.

"i have to go. i'll have to leave you here." he put some money on the table under his plate.

joe's heart leaped. maybe farmer brown would leave the food he hadn't eaten and joe could take it! an even wilder flashed into joe's brain. maybe he could take the money from under the plate and saunter casually out. but how far could he get if he didn't get another ride right away?

both hopes were dashed when the farmer called pierre over to the table and asked for a doggie bag for his food. pierre took the money without counting it.

a bus boy came over with the bag and filled it. with a nod to joe, farmer brown took the bag and his giant coke and left.

joe never saw farmer brown again, except on television. but he never forgot him. he was a good guy.

joe left as small a tip as he could without asking for change and snuck shamefacedly out of the superburger. outside on the highway there was even less room to walk along the side than before. the cars, trucks and buses came up behind him and went by even faster and closer to him than before. walking sideways with thumb out was slow and tedious, but what else could he do? he had no idea where he was or where the next rest stop or other break in the highway might be.

despite his hunger and fear, his mind began to wander, and his old dreams, so long buried under job, family and responsibility began to surface.

in his youth joe had dreamed of founding his own religion, like buddha or darwin or l ron hubbard. he remembered his terrible embarrassment when his mother had searched his room expecting to find copies of playboy and penthouse and instead found professor max muller's history of world religions in ten volumes.

"why were you hiding this?"

"because i was ashamed."

"oh? and why were you ashamed?"

he started to cry. "because - because i couldn't afford the illustrated twenty volume edition."

that was a long time ago. joe had given up on, then forgotten his dream when, no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't think of a new religion or new dogmas. he had gone to school, studied diligently, and success, marriage to an ambitious woman, and a place in the cabinet had followed.

the old dream returned, with a new twist. in his youth, happily reading max muller or sir james frazer or the oxford history of religion in his comfortable middle class bedroom, he had never thought to connect religion with money. now, with night falling, his stomach growling, and instant death in the form of big rigs and greyhound buses roaring past him, he thought - if i had my own religion and i had one follower, just one, maybe that follower could slip me a little something and i could get a burger or a doughnut.

it started to rain. as soon as it started to rain, the first truck that passed, a little pickup badly in need of paint and with no lettering on it, stopped. he ran forward to it.

maybe people weren't so bad after all.

maybe his luck was changing. he got into the passenger seat of the pickup. to his mild surprise, he did not recognize the driver from television. the driver was a thin little man with long hair and a beard. he immediately brought to mind popular representations of appolonius of tyana or rasputin.

"thank you," joe said. he fumbled around for a seat belt but couldn't find one.

"raining," answered the little man.

"yes, it is," joe answered. "but not everybody would stop."

"they should."

joe nodded assent, they drove a few miles in silence. it occurred to joe that the driver hadn't asked him where he was going.

"you back from the war?", the little man finally asked.

war? what war? "no," joe answered.

next: bob and june

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

the broad highway: the second vision

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous episode, click here

and when the octopus opened the second cage, and the heard the sound of the waterfall, the second creature swam to the bank of the river.

and there joe beheld a red brontosaurus, with a red barracuda riding him, and the barracuda balanced a portable air-conitioner ion his nose, and his name was behavior modification.

joe reached the end of the driveway, and the beginning of the world. he found himself by the side of a busy highway, with no sidewalk or accommodation for pedestrians. he began walking along sideways so that he could keep an eye on the traffic, and stuck his thumb out. there were a burger king and a wendy's on the other side of the highway but no way to get to them. he was hungry - after the disaster with the dessert fork, he naturally hadn't gone on to the main course.

the cars, trucks and an occasional bus whizzed by, not even slowing down as they passed him. he hoped desperately that someone would stop before a police car came by. the police had been joe's friends for years ... but now... and his feet began to hurt, as he was wearing dress shoes.

after he had been walking for an hour, a small cream colored van stopped. red lettering on the side read: farmer brown's air conditioning. joe opened the passenger door and got in. farmer brown himself was driving - joe recognized him from television ads. joe exhaled as he closed the door and lay back in the seat.

"hot day for walking," observed the farmer, as he pulled out onto the highway.

"it is, that," joe answered.

"where you headed?"


"well, i guess i'm going there."

they drove in silence for a while.

"say," said joe finally, 'you wouldn't be doing any hiring, would you?"

"no. i ain't doing any hiring any time soon."

they were quiet again. joe noticed that the van had no radio, but didn't mention it.

"you know anybody doing any hiring?", joe asked after a while.


"i probably can't get hired anyway," said joe. "i don't exist any more."

"one of them, huh?"


"must be tough."

"must be tough for you, too."

"oh? why is that?" farmer brown glanced over at joe.

"oh, you know, having your own farm and all - and now you're selling air conditioners."

"nothing tough about it - i'll take an air conditioner over a cow or a pig any day."

joe looked out the window. it was starting to get dark.

farmer brown slowed the van slightly, as they passed a sign saying: rest stop 1 mile. "want to get something to eat?"

"sure." joe squeezed his wallet out of his back pocket. "i can pay."

"i guess you can. i ain't paying for you."

they pulled into the rest stop. a superburger was the only restaurant. they went in.

joe immediately recognized another face from television - mr wong, the superfather. mr wong greeted farmer brown with profuse laughs, hugs and backslaps. then he stepped back and looked at joe. "who's this guy?"

"he's my best friend," said farmer brown.

mr wong laughed and slapped farmer brown on the back one more time. joe followed farmer brown to a booth in the back.

"that was the superfather, wasn't it?"

the farmer looked at joe curiously. "sure. who did you think it was?"

"i wasn't sure - i thought he might be the worldfather."

farmer brown opened the menu. "let's eat."

a waiter with a towel over his arm and a drooping mustache appeared beside the booth.


"farmer, my good friend!" more hugs and backslaps.

pierre looked at joe. 'who's this guy?"

"just a guy."

this answer satisfied pierre. "ready to order?"

"i am." said farmer brown. "i'll have four superburgers, onion rings, two orders of fries, and a giant coke."

"and you, sir?"

joe was checking his wallet. there wasn't much cash in it. "i will have one regular burger - with everything on it - and a small coke."

"sir, that won't contribute much to the economy."

"i'll tell you what," joe answered. "i have these credit cards - they are probably no good. but can you check them? if any of them are good, i'll have what he's having."

pierre took the credit cards. "i guess i can do that. meanwhile, you want one regular burger with everything on it - everything on it means lot of lettuce, right?"

"of course. it's free, isn't it?"

pierre left. joe tried to think of something to say.

"thanks for picking me up like that."

"no problem."

"you know, a guy like me, just a couple of hours ago i was one of the elite. i'm not sure how to act with regular people, people like you who are on television and all."

the farmer made no reply but continued to read the menu he had already ordered from.

pierre returned with farmer brown's four burgers and joe's one. he gave joe back his credit cards. "you were right. these are worthless, quite worthless. and they were a bit short of lettuce in the kitchen, so you didn't get extra."

"thank you," said joe. he wondered how much of a tip he should leave.

they began to eat.

next: a dream reborn

Saturday, June 6, 2009

the first horseman: the first vision

to begin at the beginning, click here

and joe smith beheld a narwhal, an octopus, a parrot, and a warthog, each holding a cage containing a creature.

and when the narwhal opened one of the cages, and he heard the sound of the waterfall, one of the four creatures swam to the bank of the river.

and he beheld a white pterodactyl, with a white australopith riding him, and the australopith held a doctor pepper in his left hand and a bag of spicy nachos in his right, and his name was addiction.

joe walked up to the first chauffeur, the one smoking a camel.

"hey buddy," he said to him. 'you have to help me out."

the chauffeur looked at him through his cigarette smoke and laughed. he looked back at his three fellows.

"have to help you out? why is that, i wonder ?"

the other three didn't even bother to look at joe.

"because i'm desperate," joe answered. "i have nowhere to go. where can i go?"

the chauffeur pointed to the end of the long driveway. "the world starts at the end of the driveway. you can go there."

"thanks. that sounds like good advice. can i ask you one more question?"


"what's your name?'

"alf." he pointed to the other three. "and my mates are bennie, chalkie, and digger."

"thank you. can i ask you one more question?"

"another? i thought that was the one more question."

"please. you always get three questions. it's traditional. just one more, i promise.'

alf laughed again and took another drag on his cigarette. "and this is absolutely the last one?"

"yes, i promise."

"ok, what is the question?"

"what is the name of a person i can look for?"

"eddie. you can look for eddie."

"thank you," said joe. "thank you so much!" he started down the driveway toward the world.

"hey pal." alf called after him. "i got one more piece of advice."

"and what is that?'

"if you can't find eddie, you'll never find frank."

next: the broad highway

Sunday, May 24, 2009

incident at dinner

"do you always have watercress and radishes for dessert?"

joe smith looked up at lady gortney and her pearls and down at his right hand simultaneously. his hand was indeed holding his dessert fork. in that instant he knew his life was over but his brain forced him to put on a front and smile at lady gortney. but what could he say? "i've had a long day"? "we all make mistakes"?

he compromised. "i've had a long day and we all mistakes."

"of course." her smile was without pity, flowing down the blue nile in a thousand white swan boats.

joe stood up. "excuse me."


no one else at the long table seemed to have noticed anything. he walked around to the other side where his wife was talking to senator stirnweiss.

he clutched her bare upper arm and whispered, "we have to leave now. something has come up."

her green eyes looked into his. "i don't think so, joe, you've done something terriblle, haven't you?"

joe didn't answer. he released her arm and walked around the table and out the door as casually as possible with his head down. as he descended the front staircase and approached the foyer he could hear the voices and laughter behind him.

outside on the wide driveway, four chauffeurs were hanging out. two of them were smoking joints, one was smoking an unfiltered camel, and the fourth was sipping a bottle of wine in a paper bag. joe realized right away that they weren't only chauffeurs, they were the four horsemen.

next: the first horseman