Empty Sky Chapter 16 – The Gardens of the Moon

Sometimes the most beautiful gardens can only be seen at Night

Read Empty Sky Chapter 15 – Pangiosi and Tom


A cold wind roughled Jamie’s bathrobe against his pajamaed legs. Thick animal fur warmed his face like a blanket, its smell filling his nostrils with each breath.

But not Shem’s fur. It smelled…heavier than Shem’s fur…more urgent than Shem’s fur.

He raised his head, his hands stiff from clenching Graywolf’s coat.

“We’re almost there, Jamie.”

They moved through a rush of trees. White barked birch and scotch pine, gray ash and winter oak towered over him, their branches alternately pine needle and leaf and snow covered and offering a canopy through which the night sky, its stars and planets, could still be seen.

High overhead the moon still sailed through the sky, full and rumbling like a big church organ. The Aurora walked back and forth across the cold night sky, crinkling like cellophane candy wrappers, sounding almost like words just beyond his ability to understand, like the Aurora were people talking at a party, like when Mom and Dad had people over and Jamie and Shem listened from the top of the stairs.

The wind moved through the trees and sounded like long, low, breathy, conversations, as if the world talked all around him, ignorant or perhaps unaware or maybe even uncaring that he and Graywolf ruddaRumped underneath. “It sounds like everything’s talking,” he said.

“Everything is, Jamie. The world just waits for someone to listen.”


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A Tale of the Woods: The Little Flower

Our greatest decision is deciding who we’ll be

I started writing Tales of the Woods during Winter break in freshman year of my first time through college. In the mid 1990s I contributed a Tale each month to a New Age magazine. Sometimes I wonder if I should gather them together and publish them as a children’s book of some kind.

Let me know what you think.


A Tale of the Woods
The Little Flower

 
Once upon a time a beautiful flower rested in a Woods. All that came by stopped and wondered because few had seen a flower with petals so bright and stem and leaves so radiant. Many creatures stopped and sniffed the air as they passed, carrying with them the scent of her beauty. This flower, small and delicate and thirsting farther and farther, always reached for the rains and lights that brought her life.

One day as she sat and looked upon the hillside she noticed a lone elk wandering through the Woods. The elk walked strong and proud, his coat showing scars from the many contests he’d been in. Watching the else, she grew sad. “He is alone,” she said.

The elk didn’t come near the little flower at first. “Perhaps he can not see me,” she wondered. “Perhaps he is afraid.”

Each time she saw the elk she talked gently to him., each time the elk drew nearer to her. Finally he would come and sit beside the flower, telling her of things he’d done and things he’d do. The little flower listened and nodded. “We are not that different,” she thought. “We both have hopes and dreams.”

The elk came often and shared stories of the rest of the Woods and especially the things he had done, grateful for her listening and the time they had together.

One day the elk came bearing a long scar down his flank. He neither flinched nor stumbled as he moved but the little flower knew some horrible thing happened to him, something he would not share, something she could not understand.

But in all the Woods, the elk came to her for rest and comfort, for solace and quiet. Although only a small flower, she spread her leaves and stretched her petals as wide and as far over the elk as she could. And an amazing thing happened!

The little flower found that she wasn’t as little as she thought! Her leaves and flowers offered a shade the elk could find no where else in the woods; a place to rest and leave thoughts of conflict behind. She offered herself gladly to the elk, and the elk, unaware that the little flower had grown, slept quietly underneath.

Soon the elk awoke. He got to his feet and shook his mighty head, strengthened for the time he had beneath the flower’s leaves, the scent of her petals clinging to his coat.

The elk came and went many times thus. Each time the flower spread her leaves and petals. Each time her soft, flowery perfume rested upon his coat and gave him strength.

Each time the little flower thanked the Woods and all those in the Woods for her gifts. Many others came — small flurrying birds and scurrying little mice, wise old owls and ancient wizened oaks — to see the beauty of the little flower’s petals and leaves, and to heal their hurts with her gentle, fragrant scent.

But sometimes the love we give is not the love we receive.


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Empty Sky Chapter 15 – Pangiosi and Tom

What Real Monsters Are Like

Read Empty Sky Chapter 14 – Detective Colodnie Johnson


Earl Pangiosi poured himself another two-fingers of Macallan and turned on the stereo on low, Sinatra, soft and not distracting. Above the train’s rumblings and Sinatra’s croonings, he heard movement from the bedroom.

“Ah, Mr. McPherson, are you ready to join us?” He opened the door and flipped on the lights, turning the dial to full brilliance.

On the floor, straightjacketed and gagged, Tom McPherson closed his eyes and rolled away from the harsh lights.

“Well, Mr. McPherson how are you today? It’s such a relief to know you’re still with us. I was concerned, you know.” Pangiosi He helped Tom sit up then raised him up so both could sit on the edge of the bed. “It’s okay, Mr. McPherson. I am your friend.” He laid an arm across Tom’s shoulders and gave a gentle hug.

Tom hesitated, resisting Pangiosi’s gentle pressure, squinting at the silhouette Pangiosi made against the lights.

“Oh, so sorry, Tom. May I call you ‘Tom’? Let me turn those lights down a bit.”

Pangiosi walked to the switch and back. When he stood over Tom, Pangiosi adjusted his sportcoat to reveal his 92X in a sling holster.

Tom’s eyes went wide and fixed on him.

“Do you know, Tom, your wife, Eleanor, and I were quite close friends? Did she ever mention me?”

Tom’s eyes narrowed and his brow descended.

“God’s truth.” Pangiosi held up his right hand. “What became of her, Tom? Do you know? Can you tell me?”

Tom looked around the room, his eyes moving quickly, taking in the richly paneled walls, the dresser and vanity and entertainment system, the phone and computer recessed on the far wall, the slightly ajar lavatory door showing the hints of marble within, the other door showing the working table and chairs and paper stacks thereon.

But he never took his eyes off Pangiosi for long.

“Let me tell you what I know, Tom. Let’s see where it all fits.”

Pangiosi sat on the edge of the bed, his left foot touching the floor and his right leg crooked over the covers. He folded his hands in his lap and canted his face and eyes to the ceiling as if the memory was written there.

“I’m not sure where we recruited Eleanor. Oh, I have the information in the other room.” He waved towards the open door. “But that’s not important right now. I’m sure you agree. Don’t you, Tom?

“What I really want to discuss with you is the matter of her departure. It is most interesting and quite puzzling, to be sure.

“Now just so we’re clear, Tom, what I’m about to tell you is quite confidential. Top secret, hush-hush, eyes only and all that. I’m happy to tell you, of course, but then, as they say, I’ll have to kill you.” He laughed, looking sideways at Tom and punching a straight-jacketed arm. “Oh, laugh, Tom. I’m kidding.”

His voice grew quiet, confidential. He leaned in to Tom, an arm around his shoulders.

“The first thing you need to know is that I’m involved in dream research. That’s where all this begins, and Ellie got herself involved in it with us. Did you know Ellie is what some people in the field call ‘a gifted dreamer’? I don’t think she even knew it. Basically, she had the ability to go so deeply into her dreams they became her reality. Now this is something right out of mythology. Australia’s aboriginals have been telling us about this kind of thing for years but let’s face it; dreams become realities? You have that whole wishes-horses-beggars thing and nobody wants that.

“But back to Ellie. At one point Ellie was fully in D-sleep — that’s ‘desynchronized’ or ‘dreaming sleep. That’s what we call it, D-sleep — and had been for days. It almost seemed as if she’d been waiting for us to come along and help her succumb to Morpheus’ charms. Except we didn’t. My hand to god, we didn’t do a thing to her.” He slapped Tom’s thigh as if the two were enjoying a joke. “Can you beat that? We didn’t do a goddamn thing and, as soon as she can, she’s fast asleep and twitching to beat the band.”


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Empty Sky Chapter 14 – Detective Colodnie Johnson

Questions Without Answers

Read Empty Sky Chapter 13 – John Nighthorse


Detective Colodnie Johnson huffed and puffed her way to the Lake Shore Limited‘s security station at the rear of the kitchen car. Despite the smoothness of the ride she waddled in the narrow train aisles and pulled herself along as if climbing uphill. She hadn’t eaten before leaving Chicago and didn’t want Games or McPherson to know she followed them onboard so she stayed in her berth all through supper chain smoking. Her stomach moaned in disbelief.

She sneered into one of the security cameras as she passed underneath and wondered what whoever was on the other end saw. A big, black woman? She wasn’t really all that black. She could have passed for a dark skinned Mediterranean, maybe a Sicilian or a Moroccan, her features were soft and her skin rarely ashed. There was an Italian girl in college with Colodnie, big like Colodnie. The BSU, the college’s Black Student Union, approached her to join but not Colodnie. She found out years later they were so embarrassed by their first mistake they didn’t dare make another so never invited her to join.

In the beginning she thought she wasn’t good enough, maybe not black enough or not militant enough or not cerebral enough. Maybe they found out about her Aunt Connie, who ironed her hair and passed for the thirty years she worked as a secretary downtown, and that’s why they never spoke to her or called her “sistah.”

Or maybe they were just fucking morons, such totally inept fools, clods, and idiots they didn’t deserve the likes of her.

She got her degree, enrolled in the Chicago Police Academy, and started eating two portions instead of one with every meal all in the same week. Smoking came much, much later.

She tapped on the patrol station door. It was ajar and no one answered. She withdrew her GP100 7 Shot .357 Magnum from its holster and slammed herself against the door, ramming whoever might be on the other side into the wall.


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Empty Sky Chapter 13 – John Nighthorse

Teach Your Children Well

Read Empty Sky Chapter 12 – Shem


John stood before Earl Pangiosi in the latter’s private car, the two men still on his shoulders and showing no sign of strain.

“Mr. Nighthorse.” Pangiosi sat at the far end of the table, his chair tilted against the wall on its rear legs and his hands behind his head. He stared at John, cocking his head first right, then left, evaluating. “That’s quite a story.”

“Yes, it is, sir.

“Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You’re confident Mr. Steyle is the only one compromised?”

“As I said, Mr. Pangiosi, there were three suites I didn’t enter. Considering — ”

Pangiosi interrupted him. “Yes, yes. Well.” He rocked forward and got up. “Would you put what remains of Mr. Steyle on the floor, please.”

John knelt and lowered his comrade’s body without a word.

Pangiosi knelt beside the body. He arranged the shirt and sportcoat. He picked some lint from the lapel. He sighed.

The billy, still gripped in Steyle’s right hand, caught Pangiosi’s eye. He lifted it and the hand and arm came with it. Pangiosi tried to pry it free but Steyle claimed it even in death.

“Mr. Nighthorse, jacket that one in the next room, please, then bring me some sheets of plastic, a hammer or better, a mallet, and a knife, the sharpest you can find.”

“Yes sir.”

John gathered two plastic straws from the wetbar then lay Tom’s sleeping body on the bed in the next room. He pulled a straightjacket from the closet, gently maneuvered Tom into it and strapped it tight. He put the straws between Tom’s lips, took out a tube of SuperGlue out of his pocket and glued Tom’s mouth shut. Lastly he gently placed Tom on the floor and put a pillow under his head.

He returned with Pangiosi’s requested supplies.

“Thank you, Mr. Nighthorse. Spread out the plastic and center Mr. Steyle on it, would you?”

John did as instructed.

“Now stand back, please.”


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