Two Traveling Thoughts — Prose by Aime Lyn Helbane

Some Prose About Two Travelers
I have chosen these two short pieces of prose by Aime Lyn Helbane, which are about two different subjects who,  each in their own ways, are travelers. They don’t merely travel across physical space, but also travel across epistemological and spiritual…

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FIREWORKS

imagesArticle by Barbara Cornell.

Syndicated from Barbara Cornell’s personal blog.

New Year’s Eve 1984, through the prism of time, has oddly begun to encapsulate an entire decade for me. That evening was just so «80’s», it would have been impossible to reproduce it in another time.

December 31, it was approaching midnight and the party was at our house, as it usually was, and consisted mostly of the other men from my father’s unit and their families and other military members from our church. We had chosen to live «on the economy» about 60 km from the base in central Germany. I was aware of snippets of conversation around me that were fairly normal…

…my father with a group of his colleagues bantering in inscrutable pilot humor. «…So they’re screaming across the jungle and their radio man says, ‘Tower, we don’t know where in the bloody hell we’re going, but we’re making damn good time.'» «Hyark-hyark-hyark.»

…a pair of women conversing. «I tried to find the same inlaid wood like I got at the OWC bazaar last year…»

…a lady gritching to another wife. «…Since we have to replace our ration cards again…»

KA-BOOM!!!

A noise so loud, it froze all activity. For a moment, all was silent, and then there were the sounds of children and a woman screaming, muffled because of the impact on my eardrums. I pulled my hands away from my face where instinct had pulled them to see, through the fog that had taken over my mind, shards of glass and blood dripping from my hands and arms. All around me were the remnants of every window in the house and scraps of the hyper-effective «rolladen» that had been splintered by the explosion.

My mind provided an immediate explanation: «Bomb. War. It’s finally happened.»

We’d all spent the last years being trained and retrained in what to do in the event that the cold war heated up. Terrorist threats were so commonplace to our everyday lives that checking our cars for explosive devices was just another checklist item, and hours upon hours of waiting in the snow in the soccer field for the school to be checked for bombs taught me never to go anywhere without my coat. Now it was real. Somehow I always knew it would be.

By the time I’d gotten my head in order, my father was already on the phone and several of the men had begun to collect people from other rooms to organize everyone into family groups and take a head count. The younger children were scared but it seemed that (nearly) everyone else knew what he was supposed to do. I fit into the group in the part of the older child and teenager segment and our job was to stay calm, out of the way, and help to calm the younger children.

But I noticed there was one woman…well…at least she had stopped screaming. Thank God for that. But now she was yammering hysterically, “This is what we get for putting that RETARD in the Whitehouse!!! How long have I been saying that idiot Reagan was going to get us ALL KILLED!!!” I thought, “Lady, this is precisely the wrong crowd at exactly the wrong time to be badmouthing the enormously popular Commander in Chief.” Apparently, her husband thought so as well because he was whispering to her in attempts to calm her down. They were accepted and loved but they had always been, well, peculiar. He was a civilian contractor. He actually wore a beard — you know, like, hair growing out of his face; she couldn’t discern rank or unit from a uniform. Odd.

…More snippets…

“….Major Proctor’s trying to get through to the base to find out about our orders…”

«…Has anyone heard from the 132nd? They’re supposed to be on call for…»

«…Where’s Kyle? I can’t find Kyle. Has anyone seen Kyle?»

Someone had turned on the radio. “You’re listening to Armed Forces Network. It’s twelve o’clock in Central Europe. Do you know where your children are? Beep beep…The Red Cross is attempting to reach…”

Red Cross travel searches? Charlie Toona? Top 40 music? AFN was broadcasting nothing on the bombing? How was this possible? It had to have been at least 15 minutes!

My father came into the room, “The base has nothing on this. Security level is normal.”

The sound of sirens, every police car, ambulance, fire truck for miles disturbed the German night — a truly rare occurrence. We followed the direction of the emergency vehicles down the street and gazed down the hill to see…where just this morning had stood the three-story, 30,000 square foot Feuerwerkfabrik (fireworks factory) now was an empty charred field, several large angry fires and miscellaneous chunks of smoking steel and hadite. The warehouses which were set somewhat apart from the main building were emitting the most spectacular fireworks display ever hosted. We all stood for a long time watching the greens, blues, reds, golds, silvers, laughing at our assumption, and breathing in the relief.

We would not be sending our men off to war.

This time.

WE ARE EVERYTHING

IMG_0663Short Story by Ari Juniper.

I remember a time when I felt powerful, and the world, the universe, vibrated at my feet. I was a sunflower sprout, stretching, reaching toward the bright energy above, drawing me in magnetically. A natural pull that made me know I was growing tall.

It all began with a seed, a thought pushed into the dark and fed by the world. The little idea began to shake, tumble, like a snowball pushed down a hill by gravity, the little seed gained momentum as it grows, gathers nutrients from the soil, and explodes.

The first step is hardest, we want to test the water before we jump. What if it’s cold? Hesitations and justifications like stones weighing our feet to the ground. But the seed, as it’s nurtured, pushes its little head toward the sky, slowly unveiling the light. Then we jump.

Head first is best, we’re thrown into the chaos, sending ripples resounding around us. Waves rock our bodies as we gain balance. But we can’t stop here. We choose now to swim, or sink.

Engulfed in idea, we begin to transform our visions into reality. I push my arms into the water surrounding me In any direction, I pull myself closer toward somewhere new.

I move slowly at first, as I feel how the water surrounds my body and how to best move through it. I roll over onto my back, breathe air into my lungs, and float in peace, letting thoughts and waves rock me. My arm is a pinwheel and my cupped hand is submerged, and I am moved. Then my other arm follows lead and begins to act in patterns, thoughts guiding actions guiding thoughts. I slide gracefully over the surface.

I appreciate the sky and begin to wonder what lies below the surface. I have almost forgotten what it was like before the jump and remembering makes me see how far I have come. I flip, taking in air as I submerge my body, reaching my arms below me into the darkness. I pull, like a rope guiding me up a wall, and my eyes are adjusting to the lightless world below.

lake sunsetI come up for air, keeping my eyes open to take in the light. Small steps give introduction to the unfamiliar, and as I explore, I am not afraid, for fear will pull me back to the shore. The little sprout never feared, for the sun was always there, telling the sprout, “all you must do is reach, then rest, and you will grow tall.” And so the seed stretched and shivered as it inhaled the life from the light, and when the light had gone to teach others, she would rest, awaiting another lesson.

As the seed grew into stalk, she learned about leaves, from her ancestors who speak to her through her own body. She found the leaves helped her to grow faster and stronger and so she made many. And at the center was the bud, the flower waiting to bloom.

As I float, moving through the water, this new world begins to feel natural as my body discovers and learns to be one with the medium. I begin to realize that all along I knew how to move but I just needed to throw myself into the waves and remember to move to stay afloat. my ancestors taught me how to swim as I mimicked their fins and trained my lungs to hold my life.

I dive again and see a fish dive below me, shaking his tail and body to propel himself. I see his way of moving is effective and try new methods of movement, slowly discovering better ways. I practice movement and reflect on my progress, and then resurface to rest and breathe.

Breath to energy; photosynthesis to light. I begin to see how I am the seed, slowly reaching and becoming more than a seed, but a stalk, a trunk, leaves, petals and more seeds. As I grow, my thoughts grow and I am able to know that one day I will send these new seeds, grown from another seed, out into the world, scattered in the soil to be nurtured as I was.

man-on-beach-at-sunsetAs the sunflower opens herself to the light each morning, her bright eye follows her muse across the vast blue ocean above and she shines, they shine together. I reach forward, my body submerged and moving toward the other shore. I am thankful for land and rest. As I pull my body, emerge from the depths, water droplets cling to my skin like burrs, soaking into my pores. I may be moving on from this pond but the pond has become a part of me now, just as the earth and sun become and create the sunflower.

I am the seed, the sun, the swimmer, the sea. I am my ancestors, the ancient biological knowledge that pulses in my veins. I am this place, the land below and sky above that nurture my body and soul and are home. I am the fish that shows me the way, I am the rain that quenches my thirst as I grow. I am myself, I am you, I am the universe, the stars and sand and energy. I vibrate at your feet, I am the world, we are all the world. We are everything. So, jump!

THE NATURE OF CHARITY

1151ab454aeca285248a3eb69711f3f8Article by Barbara Cornell.

Syndicated from Barbara Cornell’s personal blog.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was originally published on 07 September 2013.

Nearly 4 months ago, a friend of PJ’s called and said he and his fiance (we’ll call them Lerry and Alissa) could no longer stay with his mother and they needed a place to stay for «2 or 3 days until the new house was ready to move into.»

While they stayed with us, they did considerable damage to my house, let their children run loose to destroy my property and endanger my pets. Neither of them had jobs, although Lerry claimed he would go back into self-employment as a contractor, and because they had no way to get around, I let them use my car (the one I used to commute and conduct business; I have another one for personal use). They never washed any dishes, they never cleaned the room they used, they left their dirty underwear piled up in the floor literally knee deep, they played the television loudly all night. Also, while they were there, Lerry remodeled my kitchen and did a fantastic job of it, so it was a mixed bag.

welfareworkDuring this time, I was forced to face down the worst of my demons: resentment. Alissa, a woman of 23 years, has already birthed and abandoned 4 babies (2 of them she dumped off on her sister, one of them she dumped off on her ex-boyfriend’s grandmother and the other she’s never said where she dumped that one off.) She collects food stamps and public assistance for each of these children, even though they are nowhere to be seen. She does nothing. All day every day. She does nothing. On the days she gets out of the bed at all (which is about half of them), she sleeps 16 hours, then she visits the bathroom, then she sits on the couch watching television until she goes back to bed. Lerry brings her food to the couch then either she leaves her dishes on the couch (or on the floor or in the bed) or Lerry takes them to the kitchen. When Lerry paid for her to go to school to get her GED, she flatly refused to go. She makes no effort whatsoever to contribute to her own survival. I found that my resentment of her was overwhelming. She lives off of me, makes zero effort whatsoever to contribute, impedes my ability to earn a living, and while I am working at my job or building a business to support my family and her, she sleeps. I would like to think I don’t have such ugly emotions as resentment, but her presence in my house proved to me that was a lie I told myself.

But even after all of that, I still was willing to give them (or at least him) the benefit of the doubt. He seemed to be a hard worker and did good work, and if he chose women poorly, well…we all have our faults.

He showed me a house that was for sale (big, beautiful, two-story Victorian era house with hardwood floors) for practically nothing (squabbling among the estate’s heirs). I agreed that I would buy the house and he would remodel it and then we’d resell it and split the profits. It was a good deal. And it would help him get back on his feet, and give him a place to stay while he worked. By this time they’d been living in my house for over a month. The project should have taken a month.

The project went fine for about a month. Then he just stopped working. I would show up there at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, and they were both still in bed. Or they weren’t there at all. He took off a week to «grieve» over a friend (whom he hadn’t heard from in 20 years) who shot himself. He took off a day for Alissa’s birthday, took off 3 days to go to a doctor’s appointment and get a prescription. This, that or the other thing, and pretty soon, he hadn’t done a thing in an entire month. About every couple of days, there would be someone new I’d never laid eyes on living in the house with them (he told me they were homeless and willing to work in exchange for a place to stay.) I lost count of how many of these people he brought in, but it was at least 20, and they all live on welfare and have no intention of ever doing anything else. I was shocked to discover the size of the pool of these hopeless people living in this small town. Quite often, I would go to the house to check on the progress and it would be filled to the rafters with people I never heard of and Lerry would not be there. Gone…somewhere. I addressed with him repeatedly that I was allowing him to use my car as a favor and to make it possible for him to conduct business but he was not to loan it to anyone, and still many times I would see it around town being driven by someone I never saw before in my life.

As of today, I’ve given them a place to stay, a job, a car to drive, insurance, utilities and quite a bit of cash for going on 4 months.

other-peoples-money-98518703623Now, I’m willing to overlook a lot of things. All this time, I was perfectly aware that he was taking advantage of my generosity, I suspected he was skimming off the top of the project (kickbacks from the crew, stealing construction materials and pocketing the money, possibly charging rent from all his misfits, he claimed one of his crew stole a generator, compressor, tools and supplies but I suspect it was him) so I reined in his ability to do that, but I never removed all faith from him because I believe in generosity for its own sake, even if the recipients are not entirely worthy of it. That is the nature of grace, and I embrace that. People in desperate situations sometimes make desperate choices. «There but for the grace of God go I.» Also, I think we improve our character the most when we’ve been shown grace, been given things that we know we don’t deserve.

But there is a fine line between generosity and corruption, and there is a point at which generosity reduces the recipient’s ability to survive (not to mention the giver), at which point the giver becomes the corrupter. And we’ve far exceeded that. So, it was time to put a stop to it. I communicated to him last week that I was removing his authority over the project, sending a new foreman to supervise the job and he was to take instruction from the foreman. I still intended to carry through with my agreement to split the profits with him, but he had to be at work every day, he had to cease lying to me (he told me many bald-faced lies) and the project had to progress significantly from that point forward (we are already over budget and over-schedule and the project is far from done) or I would have to fire him from his job, repossess the car, and evict him from the house.

Yesterday, a member of the crew communicated to me that Lerry had stated that he intends to steal the car and leave the state. I’ve decided I need to repossess the car because (besides the fact that this morning it has a dent in it and he has not offered any explanation for that) I genuinely do not want to be in any way responsible for sending the man to prison, and if he steals my car I will have no choice but to report it stolen (I’m not so wealthy that I can afford to lose an entire car, I will have to file an insurance claim and that will necessitate having a police report).

Now, I’m not saying that every person who receives assistance is corrupted by it. But I think it is a rare person who can receive unmerited assistance for very long without being corrupted by it.

Lerry probably could redeem himself, but it’s obvious that further welfare would do nothing except harm to him.

Alissa, however, is irredeemable. She’s spent her entire life being paid to produce offspring for whom she shows no degree of responsibility. She is, as we speak, producing the next generation of people who are incapable of survival. If at any point, she had been forced to face the reality of having to do something to stay alive, she probably would have done that. But she is supported by a faceless state and she will never do anything to support herself as a result. She is the living, breathing personification of the destruction that is wreaked upon long-term recipients of welfare. The welfare system destroyed any chance she may ever have had to survive on her own.

I see the proof of the damage that is done by the guilt of the masses every day, first-hand. I suspect that if you are of the opinion that welfare systems help people, then you have never actually sat face-to-face with any of the people the systems cripple. And by advocating these systems while remaining ignorant, you are responsible for the damage done to peoples’ lives.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since this story was written, Barbara and PJ investigated Lerry’s work progress and misuse of funds.  They found that he was defrauding them, as well as the welfare system, and was not getting any work done whatsoever.  They gave him notice of eviction and notified him of breach of contract.  Lerry subsequently sued them for breach of contract.  He lied to the lawyer who was representing him.  When the lawyer was presented with the evidence that PJ and Barbara had accumulated, he immediately dropped the lawsuit in exchange for a promise that they would not pursue criminal charges.  Lerry was evicted from the premises on 25 October 2013, as ordered by the court; he was not in the house when PJ arrived to evict him.  Lerry’s things were still inside the house.  After the police granted PJ and Barbara permission to enter the premises, they proceeded to throw away Lerry’s belongings.  Lerry attempted to muscle past Barbara with a gang of 6 thugs, but decided not to when he saw that she was armed with PJ’s 1911 .45 caliber hand gun (PJ had to go close out some business with a gunsmithing client of his; we speculate that Lerry waited until PJ left, thinking he would overpower Barbara once he was gone — PJ was only gone for 20-30 minutes; fortunately, he had the presence of mind to leave his firearm with Barbara).  All of Lerry’s belongings were promptly picked up by the sanitation department.

A VERY FOWL DAY

chickenshot-300x225Submission by Barbara Cornell.

Syndicated from Barbara Cornell’s personal blog.

May, late 1970’s, the family was hanging out in the «airport,» a generous term for the row of puddle-jumper hangars and the aluminum trailer with the dispatcher inside and the wind sock overhead. While we waited for the plane to be fueled, we ate my favorite: Colonel Sanders’ Original Recipe Fried Chicken in all its grease-dripping glory. Gawd, it was hot; hot in that sticky, lung-clogging way that only South Central Texas could be hot, but it was a good day for flying and I was getting to miss school besides. All was right in my kid world. We were coming home from a trip to my father’s parents’ farm in my father’s toy: a four-seater, cloth-skinnned Mooney.

It was tiny propeller-driven plane, and it made a brum-bra-brum-bra-brum-ratta-tatta-tatta-ne-ne-ne-neneNNNNNNNN sound when it cranked, jalopy-style, except it was MUCH MUCH LOUDER than your boyfriend’s jalopy!!! To talk to the other people in the plane you had to SCREAM AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS!!!! At top speed, it streaked across the sky at a blazing 85 miles per hour, but there were no traffic jams, no roads to dictate our path, and I was the only kid I knew whose Daddy could fly us anywhere we wished to go.

I never laid eyes on the machine again after that day.

A few preparations, my father reading the gauges, removing the chocks from the tiny rubber wheels, verifying the checklist, his deep voice as he leaned out the pilot’s window to yell «CLEAR!!!,» the loud rumble-roar of the engine and we were tearing down the runway with the windows open! It was indeed a good day to be a kid.

A couple of hours of blissful noise-induced solitude and we were almost home when I heard the most terrifying sound I’d ever heard in all my 8 years of life: complete, gravely silence followed by my father’s, «Um. Uh-oh.»

My father had volunteered for back-to-back tours of Vietnam as a fighter pilot, lead men, stood square-shouldered, toe-to-toe with whatever life threw at him. There had never been a situation that had gotten the better of him. His «uh-oh» was equivalent to any other man’s «WE ARE GONNA DIE!!!!»

chicken-truckBeing the observer of the group, I’d gauge my reaction based on the cues from those around me. Daddy was busily flipping switches, thumping gauges, chattering into the microphone, «Tower, this is Mooney XXX, South of Brenham, request….» My mother (who once told me one reason she married my father was because she knew if anything could be handled, he’d be the one who could do it, so there would be no reason she’d ever have to worry about anything again) looked about casually, occasionally shooting mildly interested glances at the activity in the pilot’s chair. My sister, always the drama queen of our crowd, was desperately heaving and pushing on the tiny window to pry it open, presumably to climb out, and breathing rather choppily with intermittent UHN-UHN noises. I thought somewhat casually, «Welp. There ya go. I guess we all die now.» Suddenly the smell of that greasy chicken, comforting and lovely just a few hours before, began to be nauseating. In fact the whole world was a bit nauseating.

After identifying a reasonably uninhabited cow pasture, we began to descend. It was eerily peaceful until I observed how quickly the ground was rising to meet us. Many HUGE, rough, jarring, teeth-rattling THUMPS and BUMPS later, and we were skidding across the ground, spinning slowly, heaving up and down on the rolls of the Texas hill country, completely at the mercy of gravity, inertia and friction.

«Well, at least there’s a nice wire chicken coup at the end of the field to break our skid,» I thought.

CRASH!!!! SQUAWK!!!! BRAWK!!!! BBRRRRAWR!!!!!

Feathers flew, appendages severed, birds panicked and fled. Never has the world seen such chicken carnage as our mangled propeller preceded the remainder of our god-forsaken machine into the fowl nest, almost as if the flying monster, mortally wounded and no longer able to fly itself, was taking out its rage on those who still could.

img_3035I climbed out of the wreckage, lip mildly bleeding from biting it on impact, but other than that, none-the-worse for wear and began to look around. The chickens that weren’t dead or mangled, squawked their indignation, CROWKA-CRAWKA-CRAWK-ing protest at our contraption’s invasion. By the time I focused my attention, I noticed my sister was probably half a mile away, barreling down the field, screaming something incoherent regarding explosions. I stood fighting the urge to heave up all that warm, greasy chicken.

We stood dazed for a while, then flagged down a passing farmer/rancher who, for some reason, was hauling his chicken crop somewhere pre-slaughtered and had chicken carcasses piled up 3 deep in the bed of his truck. (In the years since, I’ve imagined some species of «HA! Take that ‘proportional response!'» kind of incident at Farmer Brown’s residence earlier that day.) My parents sat in the front while my sister and I made places for ourselves in the bed of the pickup among still more chicken carnage.

It was a sad, sad day in chicken world.

Subsequent events showed that something had lodged itself in the fuel line of the aircraft which is what caused the failure. Hindsight told my father he might could have saved the plane if he had not let down the landing gear and skidded in on the cloth belly instead.

Who knew?

I still cannot stomach the smell of KFC to this day.