Three Bad Wolves

Sep 25

The three little pigs were holed up in the brickhouse and no matter how hard Big Bad blew, it wasn’t coming down. Big Bad figured that was the way it was going to be-but he had to try anyway and give compulsory effort. He trudged away, head hung low and belly empty.

The pigs mocked him from within the brick house: “Maybe you need to hit the gym more, Big Bad!” the Brick Pig called. It was an intentionally ironic comment, of course. Brick Pig and his brothers Straw and Stick were notorious consumers of junk food and-strangely enough-diet cola. They spent long hours reclined on Lay Z boys watching-again, strangely enough-sports television.

Big Bad made no reply. The words stung his ears. However, despite the pride he took in being Big Bad, the wolf wasn’t too full of himself to not seek assistance. As long as it was from his own family. Big Bad made his way to the pool hall where Mid Bad sharked it with foxes, badgers and other unsavory types.

“Man, I’m game.” Mid Bad said when informed of the situation. He packed his Baretta and a stilletto and the two wolves went back to the Brick House. The candor of football blazzed out of the house. Within, the three pigs sat in a stupor, glutted on cola and video.

“Little pig, little pig, let me in!” Mid Bad intoned-it was an age old refrain. Silence followed. Mid Bad looked to Big Bad, wondering what to do or say next.

For lack of a better idea, Mid Bad repeated, “Little pig, little pig let me in!”

“Huh?” one of the pigs-it was hard to say just who-responded. There was a loud belch. “What? Are you kidding me? Jesus Christ, give me a break!”

The reply was non-traditonal and very disrespectful. Enraged, Mid Bad roared, “Then I’ll shoot you full of holes!” and he opened fire with the Baretta.  The bullets made pock marks in the brick, but could not penetrate the walls. Mid Bad, in his rage, emptied the entire clip. Disenhartened, the two wolves left the premises.

They agreed to go to Little Bad Wolf, who was at that time, engaged in a debate about supply side economics with a squirrel at a local pub. Little bad agreed to assist his brothers and the Three Bad Wolves went to the Brick House.

“Little pig, little pig, hey-we just want to talk.” Little Bad said. The TV inside was booming, but suddenly turned down and the rapping of cloven hooves on the floor drew close to the door.

“What? Talk? About what? You ready to come to terms?” it was Straw Pig speaking.

“Well, sort of.” Little Bad said.

“What do you mean?”

“Here’s the thing-we’re wolves, right?” silence followed. Little Bad continued, “we’re apex predators. That means we have to prey on you-you’re our game. Without you, we couldn’t exist.”

“Yeah? Well, I guess we just out-Darwined your ass!” Stick Pig broke in.

Little Bad chuckled and waved down Mid and Big, who were both incensed at these words. “You have and you haven’t.”

“What do you mean?” Brick Pig asked.

“Think about it. We’re apex predators, we need you to survive. But you see, you need us too. Without us to cull your ranks, you’ll overpopulate, consume all available resources and the next thing you know, instead of one of you dying, you all die. And a slow death too, as opposed to what we offer. You’ll starve to death. Just think, no potato chips, no diet soda…hell, I bet the way things go, you’ll lose TV too.”

This was unthinkable to the Pigs. But Little Bad’s words added up, they made sense. “Wh-what should we do?” Brick Pig asked.

“I’d kick the other pigs out, Brick. You’re obviously the fittest. You’re the one who built a house out of bricks while these losers were lazy andwent for straw and sticks. Kick ’em out. We’ll sort out the rest.” Little Bad replied. The sounds of a scuffle and squealing followed, and momentarily, the door popped open and Straw and Stick came flying out.

“Let’s get ’em!” Big Bad said hungrily as the Little Pigs dashed about madly looking for refuge.

“No, wait, wait.” Little Bad said and held his borthers back. When Straw and Stick exhausted themselves and waited for the end to come, Little Bad approached them.

“Are-are you going to eat us now?’ Straw asked.

“No-no. Look, this is an opprotunity for you to learn new behavior, adapt, evolve. We could enter into a enw partnership, inter-species cooperation, you know, symbiosis.”

“Okay, what do we have to do?” Stick Pig asked. Little Bad got the Baretta from Mid Bad and handed it to Straw Pig.

“Plug Brick Pg and you’re in.” Little Bad said. Straw Pig took the gun and went to the Brick House. He knocked on the door.

“Straw?”

“Yeah, quick, let me in. I got away from the wolves. I was too fast for them, so much for all that apex predator stuff.” Straw said. Lonely and guilty, Brick let his brother in. Within minutes the flash of igniting gunpowder lit the TV dark room.

The wolves went in, taking Stick with them. They made short work of Brick’s body, and it was soon roasting on a spit in the hearth. Straw and Stick were made to wait outside.

At one point, Little Bad, in between mouthfuls of roast pork said, “Thing is, fellas, you got to let the Pig let you in. Do that and you got it made.”

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The Lion’s Paw

Sep 19

There was a man who got laid off of his job. However, he was of high enough position to get a decent severance package. He swiftly grew bored with the inordinate amount of idle time that was suddenly his. So, the man went off into the desert in imitation of the weekend warriors he once knew. However, a torrential downpour stranded his SUV and the man sought refuge in a nearby cave. The man soon became aware that another shared the cave with him: a lion shuffled about in the darkness.

To the man’s surprise, the lion did not try to eat him. Instead, the lion showed the man one of its paws; a thorn was deeply embedded within. The man plucked the thorn out of the paw, and thereupon the lion showed the man a great amount of gratitude-chiefly, this was by not eating the man. As far as the lion was concerned, this was a great sign of magnanimity.

Unsure of how long this amiable situation might last, the man left once the rain ceased and the ground was dry enough to drive away. Once he returned to civilization, the man found that he was implicated, along with many others in his former business, in a corporate fraud scheme. The Emperor declared that they should all be thrown to the beasts at the next public spectacle (which was soon, it was Thursday night when this transpired). When the time came, the man and his fellow workers were thrown to the lions. While short work was made by the others, the man was spared by the lions-who were all aware of the kindness the man showed one of them.

Of course, the crowd was amazed by this. The Emperor offered the man amnesty if he would only tell the Emperor just how he managed to convince the lions not to eat him. The man told the Emperor everything, sparing no details upon fear of losing his  life. The Emperor then went out into the desert in search of a lion in similar conditions, and finding one in a cave, pulled the thorn from its paw.

The lion thereupon ate the Emperor. He had heard from the other lions that the thorn was a good way to get a man to approach closely. And it seemed they were right.

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HELL by Robert Olen Butler: A Review

Sep 14

I’m a slow reader, ask anyone. I’m not one to zip through a book. I take my time and slowly stroll through the world contained in the pages of a good read. I’m there to see the sights, to take in the smells, to meet the people there and get to know them. Because of this, a good book can take a month or more for me to finish. I’m in no rush. This is the literary version of a long-term relationship, not a one-night stand. I want to read things that impact me, that leave me thinking. A good story leaves you a different person than when you started. As a result of this, I’m fairly picky about what I read. If I don’t like it, I don’t torture myself through it-I set it down. Life is too short waste what little  good reading time we have to ourselves on something that isn’t worthy of the endeavor. The testament of a really good book is the ennui when I am finished. I don’t want it to end. We put it away to think about, tide our selves and wonder just when that magical set of incidenced will lead to the discovery of another great read.

A lot of this is done by word of mouth. About a month ago, I started HELL by Robert Olen Butler-and was so struck by the power of the voice that I immediately began posting it on my status headers on Facebook. Some people didn’t get it-“why are you so excited about this book?” Dude-don’t you get it? That’s the way good reading works-you get excited about it, you want others to read it so you can talk about it with them. You want to share. A truly excellent book enters into the social millieu and what better way to have it do so than tell your friends about it?

HELL is part satire and part social commentary; as if the case with all fiction, really, whether or not the writer or the audience is fully aware of this. The main protagonist, Hatcher McCord, was an anchorman during his life on Earth and is now forced by Satan to perform the same duties in Inferno. Perhaps the most popular-and most salient-piece of Hatcher’s reporting is the show “Why Are You Here?” Wherein Hatcher interviews various members of the rich, famous and powerful.  The rank and file includes Ann Boleyn, the Bush Presidents, Jerry Falwell, and the Brothers Gibb. As the story progresses, it becomes painfully apparent that most, if not everyone who ever lived on Earth is to be found among the ranks of the damned. We could ask ourselves, does this question pertain only to Hell? Why are any of us here? Why are we made to suffer so?

Hatcher learns, during his investigations and ambulations about Hell, that another Harrowing may be waiting in the wings. Upon hearing even a hope of this, he sets himself about the task of finding the when and where of it. He weaves his way through the machinations of Satan, his minions, and the petty personal intrigues of his fellow Damned. Along the way we are faced with a host of questions about the human condition, about the existentialist dilemma. The questions aren’t presented simply, and there are no clear cut lines, in fact between the answers (if there are any) and the impositions that begged for them.  Are we doomed to endlessly repeat ourselves, and reenacting our behavior-even though it’s what’s damned us to begin with-over and over  for eternity? That is, is there free-will or pre-destination? What is Hell, exactly, aside from a place of mere physical torment? 

This was the journey I took as I went cover to cover, a trip across a bizarre postmodern Inferno. The lessons and conclusions are muddled and not the linear moralizing of Dante’s Renaissance. They are muddled as one might expect for a modern audience, this is a Hell that we can know by not understanding. When the tale came to a close, I felt that familiar sense of satisfied ennui. Another good book ended. Something that got me to laugh and to think. So-read this book, its satire burns like dry-ice on the eyeballs. Its commentary will make you wrap your brain around it. Read it, so I can talk about it some more.

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Requiem

Sep 12

I remember that day very well. My wife, Lisa,  had taken our daughter with her to her mother’s house. I was still at home and hadn’t left for work yet. Lisa called me to tell me a plane had crashed into the World’s Trade Center, at the time, details were still sketchy. I assumed it was an accident, the truth that would later be unveiled, was at that time unthinkable. I turned on the television and watched a live CNN broadcast of the disaster: burning, smoking wreakage. Then, another plane careened by. I expected it to come out the other side, behind the Towers. I expected that the second plane was, in fact, behind the towers. It didn’t. I saw it smash into the second tower in a conflagration of fire, glass and twisted metal. Minutes later, the President appeared on television and announced that our country was under a terrorist attack.

I worked for BellSouth at the time. A state of emergency had been declared, and everyone at work scrambled to get phones and service ready for government facilities in the Metro Atlanta area. Not really knowing what to do, in a bit of a daze, I went to work. On the way there, the radio reported that another plane hit the Pentagon.

At work, we had TVs set up so we could watch the events as they unfolded. I watched people jump to their deaths to escape the fire, saw people scramble about the smoking streets of New York-confused, frightened, not sure of what to do. I saw the Towers collapse. My Uncle John was in New Jersey when it happened-he took photos of the smoking Manhatten skyline, scanned them, and emailed them to the rest of us throughout the day. Shaken, I actually emailed all the members of my family and tried to get them to pray with me.

My Father was in Korea that day. He went to a Buddhist temple, donated a brick-it’s still there, it says: FDNY

My Grandfather was in the FDNY.

When I write my posts, I try to have something positive to say. I try to impart some parcel of inspiration that comes to me-usually as I write the text itself. Here, even eight years after this tragedy, it seems that the best and most honest thing to do is to report the facts of what happened to me personally that day. It’s a day that we all remember. And perhaps the best way to honor those who passed is through memory. There is honor in memory.

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The Grasshopper and the Ant

Sep 02

There was an ant. It lived in a nest along with thousands, if not millions of other ants. They lived in relative peace and prosperity underground. Most, perhaps all of their time, was spent attending to the various needs of the nest. For the most part, this meant foraging for food to sustain all the nests members. Other chores consisted of building or repairing the nest and guarding the eggs and pupae that would one day hatch and develop into workers. The ant lived a collective existence, all the while, in devotion to an unseen queen that was the mother of all them all. The father had been kicked out of the nest long ago, after he served his purpose. He died quickly, a bird ate him before he died of exposure.

One day, as the ant foraged, it noticed a grasshopper, sitting peacefully on a stalk of grass.

“What are you doing?” the ant asked as it searched the ground for food.

The grasshopper looked down. “Nothing.” it replied.

“You’re not doing anything?” the ant asked in disbelief.

Mmm-nope.” the grasshopper shook his head. The ant stared incredulously, and then realized it was wasting time in casual conversation. It quickly went back to the serious business of foraging to maintain the nest.

The next day, the ant saw the grasshopper again. “Still not doing anything, eh?” the ant asked, reprovingly.

The grasshopper looked thoughtful. “Well, I thought about it. And I realized I am, in fact, doing something.”

“And what is that?” the ant scoffed.

“I’m enjoying myself.” the grasshopper replied with a grin. “But let me ask you something,” the grasshopper said, perhaps a little mischievously.

“What’s that?”

“What are you doing?”

“I’m foraging. Gathering food. You know, working. Being productive. Contributing to the community. That sort of thing.” the ant replied.

“Uh-huh.” the grasshopper didn’t seem convinced, even though this was, in fact, what the ant was doing.

“No-really!” the ant insisted. “That’s what I’m doing!”

“Okay. I didn’t say anything.”

“You don’t understand.”

The ant stomped off on its six legs. The next day it just happened to forage in the same place again. The grasshopper was still there, lazing in the sun.

“So-you don’t work or anything.”

“Not if I can help it.”

“Well, what about winter, when it comes? You’ll be in deep shit, then, won’t you?”

“Mm. No, not really. I’ll head south where it’s warm. Don’t have to worry about it then.” the grasshopper replied.

“You got it all planned out don’t you?” the ant accused. It was offended by the grasshopper’s blase and effortless challenge to its own established order of things. The grasshopper didn’t reply, but smiled and kicked its legs.

The ant returned to the nest. But it just didn’t seem the same anymore. It was hard to mill about on endless tasks knowing that the grasshopper was reclined on a stalk of grass without a care in the world. The ant avoided the grasshopper for a few days, as their conversations had deeply unsettled it. But then, finally, decided that enough was enough.

The ant returned with to the grass stalk with the intention of forcing the grasshopper to contribute in some way. The grasshopper would serve as foodstuffs for the nest. But when the ant got to the grass stalk, the grasshopper was long gone. Incensed, the ant went back to the nest.

“Ants!” the ant implored. “Ants! Cease your laboring!” the ants looked up in wonder, and in fact, ceased their work, if only to hear what one of their members was saying. “Why are we doing this? Why are we working? We’re only working to sustain the nest-our efforts aren’t for any other purpose! We perform our daily chores only to ensure that there will be others to do the same long after we’re gone! Think about it!”

Many ants grumbled and returned to their labor. Many others, including many soldiers, were alarmed at the speech. The alarm resulted in two reactions: some determined that the wayward ant must be dealt with (and harshly, it would be fed to the young), the other half took to its side. Soon, the nest was in an uproar. Ants fought each other, the nursery was destroyed, the nest fell into disrepair. The queen was found to serve no real purpose, aside from generating more young to sustain the nest which only existed to sustain itself, and so she was terminated. A small committee of ants were elected to rule in her stead. The ant who instigated the rebellion against the social order was not one of these-found guilty of insubordination, it was dismembered and devoured fairly early in the days of the provisional government. However, with no queen to keep up the population, the days took their toll. Within a few weeks, only a few dozen ants were left, wandering amid the ruins of their nest in a daze.

The grasshopper bounded by and observed the state of the nest. “You can’t take the ant out of the ant, I suppose.” it sighed. With a remorse that faded into a memory, and an experience that became an anecdote it shared in conversation with other grasshoppers, the grasshopper went south for the winter to breed.

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