Testing Tires

It’s hot. It’s summer in Southwestern Texas. I’m sitting on the hood of a 1974 Thunderbird that we’ve nicknamed the Thunderchicken. This piece of crap of a vehicle that I’m stuck with has been driven millions of miles since it rolled off the assembly line in Detroit more than a decade ago, and it’s not even the oldest vehicle in the tire test fleet. That honor went to Bronco Billy, an off-white Gran Torino sedan that wished it could have been the sexier coupe, but instead was the four-door sedan that nobody wanted. That car was waiting at the shop, probably destined to take the Thunderchicken’s place, even though the floorboard on the drivers side had been patched with plywood so that the driver wouldn’t mistakenly put their feet down while traveling and lose a leg in the process. This is the life of a test car driver, if the tests you are doing are tire tests.

The Thunderchicken, in typical Murphy fashion, has picked the farthest point from home to break down. We’d just made the turn-around outside of Comstock and were heading back towards San Angelo, the shop, and home. That description cuts the story short a bit. We’d drive the North loop up towards Robert Lee first and then go through the stop and goes and then finally back to the shop and rest, but all that stuff was a few miles from home. A hop, skip and a jump away from home compared to being able to see the US-Mexico border from your car window.

The car just stopped in the middle of the road. I don’t mean the motor stopped running, I mean one of the front wheels stopped turning as if it had never turned before in it’s life and wasn’t about to turn again no matter how much gas you ran through the engine. So I gunned the thing to the side of the road leaving a skid mark and a crease in the asphalt the whole way, and then radioed ahead to the rest of the convoy who promptly turned around to see if the breakdown was something we could fix.

Tire tests were run in convoys of four vehicles, back in the 1980’s when I was working as a test driver. The lead driver was generally in charge of the crew and would make decisions for the convoy as a whole. I was not the lead driver. I drove tail when I was lucky. I was driving tail that day, which is how you can have a catastrophic vehicle failure and yet have no one from your crew notice it.

A brief inspection ensued when my buddy Harold, who was driving lead that day, came back to check on me. I’d met him at trade school a few years previously. When my job in Abilene fell through, I called on him to see if he had someplace I could sleep. I wanted to see if a change of scenery might make for better job prospects and I’d heard good things about San Angelo while living in Abilene. I knew there was no future for me back in Sweetwater with my family, just more dead-end work to kill time until time killed me. So I wasn’t going back home to Mom.


“Dispatch, this is Lickity Split.”
“I hear you.”
“We had to leave Palomino down on the river. Her car was trashed by some Javelina hogs that are running wild on the road. She was safe on the roof of the car the last time we saw her. Could you get a wrecker and some game wardens out there to her? I’m kind of worried about her. We didn’t dare go close with all them hogs milling around her car. We didn’t want to loose another one.”
“Will do Lickity Split. Be careful out there.”


Harold said “sure, come on down” and so I moved to San Angelo and started looking for work that might suit my interests. That was when we stumbled across the job that had left me stranded in Southwest Texas in the noonday sun, a business that was peculiar to San Angelo, Texas in that time and place.

Every tire sold in America is certified by a tire test that travels a route from San Angelo through Eldorado, Sonora & Juno, making a U-turn at the Camp Hudson historical marker. I think we even stopped to read it once. Don’t remember what it said. You then drive all the way back to San Angelo and proceed onto the North and East loops I described previously. Every manufacturer in the world was required to have this test performed on these roads by a testing company certified to do the job. We worked for one of these companies and the tires I was testing had fallen prey to a mechanical malfunction. Their time as test tires was over.

As it turned out, the fault wasn’t something we could fix. The lower a-frame on the driver’s side front wheel had come loose from the ball joint and jammed itself into the rim of the wheel. Had the a-frame missed the rim, I wouldn’t have been able to move the vehicle at all since the frame would have dug into the asphalt, tearing itself loose in the process and rendering steering useless. At least this way I wasn’t in the middle of the road, but I was still stuck; and after the relay call came back the rest of convoy was ordered on to finish the test. I was told to wait with the vehicle for the wrecker.

Harold wished me luck and headed back out on the road with the two other drivers in tow. As I watched them vanish over the farthest hill, I gripped the tire iron that was my only weapon that much more desperately and prayed that the wrecker would show up before dark.

It did, but just barely.


“Hold up Lickity Split”
“What’s the problem Palomino?”
“A deer ran into my car”
“You hit a deer?”
“No, it ran into my car. Ran headlong into the driver’s side door. Scared the shit out of me.”
“Wait a minute. It looks like it is getting up.”
“Nope, it broke something. Poor thing is suffering. Dammit, I don’t have a knife here! Wait, here’s a screwdriver. I’ll be right back.”
“Okay Lead. I’m ready, let’s get going.”
“You put that deer out of it’s misery with a screwdriver, Palomino?’
“Yeah. I’ve got to get a knife. I can’t be using a screwdriver to do the job every time.”
“Are you planning on hitting more deer, Palomino?”
“It ain’t got nothing to do with planning, Lickity Split”


Harold had been working for McDonald’s and he was sick of it. He had injured himself throwing milk for Gandy’s dairy and decided that the fast food job offered more interesting work than loading milk trucks, but had soon discovered the grind that I already knew fast food work to be. Winter was just around the corner, and we needed work if we were going to keep a roof over our heads while the snow was falling. If it fell.

This was West Texas after all, so snow might not fall at all. It wouldn’t be the first warm Winter on record for San Angelo. It’s hard to say what the weather will be like in Texas, from season to season, sometimes from minute to minute. “If you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes” as the old timers will tell you.

It was all fine and good to smoke our way through the summer in San Angelo, spending time down on the lakeshore getting stoned with the college students who flocked there over the summer. Summer was over now, the students were all back in school, learning to do jobs that paid better than the shit work we could find with our technical degrees from TSTI.

He had gotten a lead on a different kind of job than what we had both done before. It just required a drivers license, which we both had, and a clean driving record. Our driving records were clean, even if we weren’t. We decided that we would go see if we could get a job at the same place and thereby share the commute to and from work.


“Dispatch this is Red Squirrel”
“Go ahead Red Squirrel”
“I’ve just hit a cow.”
“Do you need an ambulance?”
“No, no. I’m fine. I think the car’s fine too.”
“I thought you said you hit a cow.”
“I did.”
“Well then, how can the car be fine? You don’t just hit a cow and drive away.”
“Well, I saw it just in time to brake. I had them brakes locked down so hard that the nose of the car went under that cow’s ass. She was so shocked at the intrusion that she shit all over the hood of the car and then ran off. So I’m fine, the cars fine, but the shop boys are going to have one hell of a mess to clean up when I get back in tonight.”
“Did you get that dispatch? Dispatch?”


We started out at Texas Test Fleet. They hired us pretty much on the spot, but we went ahead and went across the street to Smithers and put in an application there as well. Word was that Smithers paid better and their cars were of better quality. We didn’t really care, we just needed jobs that paid real money to pay the real rent that was going to be due soon.

We came back to work our shifts that night. Just two idiots who had no idea what we were doing other than that we would have to drive for eight hours at a stretch. I had driven that far on my many trips to see family in Kansas over the years. I could handle eight hours of driving that would see me back home at the end of the day. At least, that is what I told myself.

Five miles from the shop, the passenger side rear tire came off of Harold’s car. “I looked up and the tire was passing me in the ditch. I was wondering whose tire that was when the horrible grinding noise started, and that is when I realized it was my tire.” So the lead driver called in the tow truck for the now permanently disabled vehicle, and the three remaining drivers, myself included, continued on down the road to Sonora and the Devil’s River, leaving my best friend and my ride back home in the ditch waiting for a tow truck. The rest of that night’s work was largely uneventful, which was good. I don’t think I would have wanted to go back to work testing tires if we had lost another driver that first night.


“You aren’t going to believe this Lickity Split”
“You hit another deer Palomino?”
“No. I just drove over one.”
“What?”
“It jumped off that ridge you just passed on the right. When it hit the road it’s poor legs went out from under it and I was too close to do anything but keep driving.”
“Do we need to stop, Palomino?”
“Hell, no. Damn thing is blood and guts all over the road. There isn’t enough left to pick up without us risking getting run over trying to collecting the pieces.”
“Roger, Palomino. We’ll report it’s location when we get back in.”


We were offered jobs at Smithers the next day, which we gladly took. Their cars certainly did look nicer, the shop was cleaner and they did pay better than TTF did. Within a week the lead driver we had been following flaked out and left, and Harold was promoted to lead in his place. This meant that he and I were entrusted with the lives of two other people and the value of four automobiles each and every day that we drove test cars. I don’t think they understood who we really were, but we were happy for the work.

We usually drove day shift five days a week. There were weekend crews that worked part time, and there were frequent vacancies for anyone who wanted to work a sixth day during the busy driving week. We were subbing for some missing drivers one night not to long after we had started our new jobs. This was the second time I had been down on the river at night. It gets a little freaky down there at night. It is a hundred miles in any direction to civilization on that stretch of the river. The only light that is visible comes from your headlights. The sky is pitch black, with piercing white holes of light for every visible star. It reminded me of my bygone boyhood camping days, but there were no adults on this trip to protect us from our own stupidity.

It’s called the Devils river. The name gave it the ominous tone that we drivers assigned to it. In addition to being remote it was also out of radio range for the CB radios we had. We called it the hole. We were functionally alone through that stretch of road and as I said, it was dark that night, no moon in sight. In the light coming from our headlights we saw a jeep on the opposite side of the road, off in the ditch.

This thing looked like it had been on the losing end of a three-way bear fight. Blood, bullet holes, no windows, dented, etcetera. We didn’t dare stop. Not without functional radios to radio in help with. We called it in as soon as we got back up out of the hole. That wreck was gone before we drove that way again a few days later. I never did find out what the story behind the jeep was.

On another night we came across yet another wreck, this one in the clearing stages. A car had run head-on into a tanker truck. Everyone in both vehicles was dead, as far as I could tell. I found out later that a baby had survived in the back seat of the car, because the backward facing child seat had saved it from being crushed. As I’m sitting next to the wreck waiting to be allowed to go on down my hellish road that night, a highway patrolman wanders over and casually kicks a shoe, a shoe with the foot still in it, back over towards the wreck. I had to look twice to make sure I saw what I thought I saw. At least they had a tarp over the car by the time we got to the wreck. I did not want to see what was inside of it. I’ve never had a stomach for blood. To this day I curse at the looky-loos who stop to gawk at roadside accidents. Stop looking and drive unless you want to be a statistic too.


“Hold up Lickity Split”
“Another deer Palomino?”
“Yeah, I finally hit one. The knife came in handy, just like I knew it would.”
“Do I need to turn around for you, Palomino?”
“No, no. We got it. Third here grabbed some rocks and we wedged the headlight back into place with them. I should be good till we get back to the shop. I think I’m going to call this car Rocky from now on, though.”
“10-4 Palomino. We’ll look for your lights before we continue then.”


The tow truck driver laughed when he saw the damage the car had left on the asphalt, all the way to the edge of the road. “Damn! It’s a good thing you got it to the side. Otherwise you’d have been stuck out here waving people around the car all day.” I explained to him that he was the one and only person who had been down that lonely road since I had my accident with the steering, and that I was really, really glad to see him. I could finally stop gripping that tire iron in fear because I at least had someone to talk to, even if all I had to do was ride shotgun all the way back to the shop, a full three hours away.

I started thinking then, though. I need a weapon the next time I’m caught out here like this. Something better than this dumb tire iron. Something I can carry in my pocket. Maybe a knife? I’ll have to get someone to show me how to use one, though.

Featured image: Michelin 10 wheel Poids Lourd Rapide

Eternity vs. Finality

“Join us in undeath” she said, in a quavering voice. It was definitely a female voice. I was just as sure that I had misheard her.

“Beg pardon?” I asked.

“Give in to the truth.” she whispered. “Join us in undeath.”

“I’m afraid I can’t understand you. Are you saying you are not alive? Then how are you speaking?”

“Many things speak that have not life.” The voice replied. “Do the rocks not shout their permanence at you? Does the water not speak of eternal motion? Is it so hard to believe in undeath?”

“Well, since you put it that way” I said “why don’t the things that speak as you suggest not use words that I can understand?”

“Can you not understand permanence? Can you not comprehend endless motion?”

“I began and I will end.” I said. “That is the truth that I know. What can I really know of permanence? What temporary being can comprehend eternity? I can grasp the concepts. I can’t really know the meaning.”

“Then join us.” The voice repeated. “Join us in undeath.”

“Let’s say I believe you are undead.” I replied. “What does that mean? Do you have substance? I can’t see you.”

“We are all around you. You cannot see us because your impermanence will not let you see. You have but to speak assent, and you will be one of us.”

“I will assume then that you do have substance. Are you confined within that substance forever? Or can you change what you are?”

“We are not water and we are not rocks. We are neither permanence nor fluidity. We are undeath.”

“Ah. So you are defined by what you are not. You are the alternative to death?”

“We are undeath”

“Yes. I think we’ve established that fact.”

“Do not mock that which you cannot understand.”

“No offense intended. I beg your pardon ma’am. I just want to know why this choice is being offered to me now?”

“All who face death are offered this choice at their moment of transition.”

“You mean my time is up then?” I hadn’t thought about where or when I was until this very moment. Where was I? It wasn’t home, wherever this place was. It was too… fuzzy. Worse than my usual myopia. Were those my bookshelves? No. No, mine were not that large. Or were they smaller than mine? Were they even shelves? Bars, maybe? It was so damn hard to see. Where were my glasses? I started to reach out and realized that I had no arms. I didn’t have legs either, now that I tried to move those. They were simply not present. I started to panic. “What has happened to my body? Where am I?”

“Your people have many names for this place. The place of transition? Translation? Perhaps you wait for the ferryman? Purgatory? It is hard to say what concept that you would find meaningful in its description. It is the place of gathering. It is the place of weighing and judging. All come here before taking their place in the universe.”

“My wife and children? Are they here too?”

“All come here before taking their place.”

“Are they here now?”

“All come here before taking their place.”

“Can I see them? Can I talk to them?”

“This is your time and place. Yours and yours alone. Choose now.”

“All right then. What are my choices?”

“Ending or remaining are your choices. Choose.”

I contemplated existence. It had been a good life. She was beautiful, my wife. Maybe not beautiful to other people, but beautiful to me. She showed up just when I needed her in life, and stayed with me through all the ups and downs. We had beautiful children. They grew and moved on and had their own children.

I had work that had been rewarding. I had made the world a better place, I hoped anyway. It had been a good life. “What is there here that would make me want to stay here?” I asked.

“There is continued existence.” The voice said. It sounded impatient now. Demanding. “You will not cease to be and will continue on as you are now. Choose.”

I surveyed my existence. I couldn’t really see. There was little to hear other than the voice. What feeling there was was vague, but not unpleasant. It was a feeling like the edge of sleep. I could go on dreaming like this forever if I wanted. Surveying the landscape of my past life, possibly glancing other times and worlds. “Is this all that there is here?” I asked.

“Choose.” said the voice. It was definitely impatient now.

I wanted to see Terry again. I wanted to see her and Susan and Bill. To see them and their kids. I wanted to see mom and dad again, though they have been dead for years now. Now? What is now anyway? Eternal presence? I wanted to see my grandparents again, lost to me so long ago that their faces are blurred by time itself. I wanted to live, but living was over. Living was not a choice that I had now.

“Let me go,” I said.

“The choice has been made.” said the voice.

There was a blinding light. I blinked my eyes. There was a field in front of me. In the distance I could see Terry and the kids, and their kids in front of them. Behind them was mom and dad and their parents and their parents, parents waiting. Waiting in a field of flowers.

I had made the right choice. I ran to them with open arms and they opened their arms for me in anticipation. “I’m free,” I thought. “I’m fr…”

Afterword

This is the kind of thing that sprouts up in your head after you’ve spent a solid 36 hours straight turning other players and non-player characters into zombies during the pre-patch event for Shadowlands. Featured image is a screencap from the Shadowlands cinematic trailer.

A Purloined Purse

I finally make it to work. I have missed several days. Weeks? Months? I don’t know how long I have been gone. I have been gone so long I have even forgotten what the business I work for does. I have forgotten where the time clock is. I have even forgotten how to read the time clock, how to operate it, and what language the time cards are written in. It took so long to find and to operate the arcane contraption that I am several hours late clocking in. I think to myself “I will be blamed for this.”

The office is decorated in glass and chrome like an 80’s bar. It has swag lamps on chains like someplace straight out of the 70’s. The chairs are overstuffed and upholstered in cream-colored plush leather. The entire room is so bright that I feel like I’m being blinded. Like I’m having vertigo and a visual migraine at the same time. “Is this really an office?” I ask myself as I squint through the glare.

I park myself at a table in an empty chair next to the son of a friend. I hadn’t realized we worked at the same place. I remembered him being in high school. The snooty bastard won’t talk to me in anything more than clipped sentences. I remember that I asked him about clocking in, and he had seemed mad even then. I thought he had been mad because I was late and couldn’t make the simple machine work properly.

He’s probably mad because I stole his mother’s purse. I decide to go visit her to take her back the purloined purse, and so I get on the bus that is in front of me. The bus takes me to a familiar place that is not my friend’s house, but rather to a mall I know that isn’t in the city I think I am in. Thought I was in.

I think to myself “this is weird” as I push through the crowded street making my way to the mall. As I am walking in this bustling crowd of people I look down and realize that I am walking in my stocking feet. There is glass and other debris in the road. I need to put on some shoes if I am going to keep walking.

I stop at a convenience store in the mall to buy some shoes. The aisles are long and narrow and snake everywhere in the mall for no apparent reason. I have to go down several dark hallways to find the only pair of sandals in the place. When I get back to the register to pay they charge me $24 for the retread sandals that I had owned as child. Just as weirdly as finding my own sandals in a mall that shouldn’t be where it is, and then having to pay to keep them, my childhood sandals still fit my adult feet perfectly, even with my socks on.

I am now broke from being overcharged for the sandals that I already owned, but I figure I can make it to my friend’s house on foot now that I am wearing shoes, so I start walking again.

As I am walking I notice that the stolen purse I am carrying is turning inside out. I have to change the way I am carrying it so that it still looks like a giant brown pleather purse and not an animal that has somehow turned inside out at the end of my arm. As I am making the purse look right I stumble across my friend stabbing garbage in her yard with a spiked stick. The spike is a sewing needle on the end of a wooden broom handle. I notice that she is bent and wizened like a cartoonish old woman and when she speaks the voice comes out of her cracked old lips in Natasha’s fake Russian accent.

I ask her “what have you been up to? I haven’t seen you in awhile,” and she replies “I’m being quiet after my honeymoon.” and then cackles at me. I wake up in a sweat. What time is it?

Audio of me reading this article. If I get positive feedback I may do more like this.

Editor’ note. I recorded some bad audio of me reading this article. It should be visible directly above this note. I will probably replace the bad audio with some other bad audio, but I also might not. I might just make it and most of this editor’s note disappear. Which one of these event will happen is a coin toss away. Audio is harder for me these days than it was when I owned those sandals. I notice that I slur and mutter. I don’t know if I can correct that or not.

I probably owe a hat/tip to this episode of Radiolab,

Radiolab – The Voice in Your Head – A Tribute to Joe Frank – January 22, 2018

In which Jad Abumrad and Brooke Gladstone muse about the passing of Joe Frank and what his life meant to the two of them. Meant to all of us. I had never heard of Joe Frank before that episode, and I probably would not have listened to his radio program. The inside of my head is weird enough all on its own. I need my distractions to be more pedestrian than the inside of my own head. Am I as good at creating as Joe Frank was? No. Not on my best day. He had to do what he did every week like clockwork for decades. I’m nowhere near as imaginative as that.

Galadriel

The most underrated of all the characters in Tolkien’s created universe.

Galadriel was born into the glory of the Two Trees, in Valinor. she was born when the Noldor were at the height of their power and knowledge, sitting at the feet of the Valar. She was descended from both the Noldor and the Vanyar through the blood of her grandmother Indris. She was also descended from the Telari through her mother, the daughter of Olwe, high king of the Telari.

The Vanyar elves were the favored of the Valar, who sang Arda into existence at the direction of Eru Iluvatar, the creator of all things. The Vanyar responded first to the summoning of the huntsman Orome. Orome, alone of the Valar to seek combat with the creatures of Melkor in the dark times. Orome, who brought a message from the Valar who hoped to shield the firstborn of Eru Iluvatar from the perils of the world that Melkor had secretly seeded into his song of Arda.

The world lived in darkness when the firstborn came into being. Melkor had destroyed the works that the other Valar had sang into the world as part of their songs, including the towers of light used by the Valar to illuminate their work. All the works that Melkor could not destroy, he perverted.

The only light in Arda when the firstborn awoke came from the stars that Varda set alight before time began. Varda understood Melkor’s intentions before all the other Valar, and contrived to put her creations beyond his reach so that the world would not live in complete darkness after he destroyed the sources of light that were within his reach. Melkor hated the light, and especially hated the stars of Varda that spied down upon him.

Varda alone provided revelation to the elves in their time of birth. This is why all elves revere her, even the dark elves, the Sindar, who never set foot on Valinor where Varda dwells, or saw the light of the two trees. The light that lives on in the Eldar and can be seen by the keen-eyed and those that are near to death. This is what separates the Sindar from the Eldar, the living light of the two trees that resides in the bodies of the Eldar.

The Noldor followed the Vanyar to Valinor. The Noldor were the most powerful of all of the elves, and spent their eons of time in Valinor learning all that the Valar would teach them of the making of things. After the Noldor followed the hosts of the Telari elves. The Telari loved the night and the stars and did not want to go to Valinor, even though they would be safe from the creatures of Melkor there. They stopped short of entering Valinor and lived on the edge of the light, on an island in the great outer sea of Arda.

King Olwe’s daughter Eärwen was the mother of Galadriel. Her father was Finarfin, son of Finwe, high king of the Noldor. She carried the blood of all three of the tribes of the Eldar, and was born in the presence of the Two Trees, whose living light was captured by Feanor in his greatest creation, the Silmarils. This was in the first age. This was the beginning that Galadriel knew.

When Melkor became Morgoth, stealing the Silmarils, killing Finwe and escaping from the other Valar, renouncing kinship with those who kept him captive in Valinor, the stage was set for the tragedy that was told in the Silmarillion. The Noldor left Valinor in pursuit of Morgoth, even though they knew that they had no hope of defeating him, whose power was equal to that of the Valar in the beginning. But they refused to sit idle at the feet of the creators of the world, who appeared to do nothing to right the wrongs that Morgoth enacted upon their creations.

What the Noldor did not understand was that the song had been sung already. The Valar could do only what they had woven into the song of the world before time began. They had agreed to be constrained by the limits of time when they entered into the world of Arda and made it what it was. But they were not powerless, as they soon demonstrated.

It was then that the sun and the moon were created and set in the sky, and Galadriel was there on the beach in Beleriand to witness the first dawning of the moon and then the sun, along with the rest of the Noldor that had pursued Morgoth. She stayed with her brother, Finrod Felagund, as he established one of the longest lasting and largest kingdoms that vied with Morgoth for control of Beleriand. But her desires led her away from the Noldor and their hopeless pursuit of vengeance. She stayed for a time with her Sindarin kin in the realm of King Thingol. But staying safely hidden from the threats of Morgoth’s creatures was what chafed on her in Valinor. So she left Menegroth and passed beyond the girdle of Melian in search of places that were not safe. Challenges that were not hopeless.

At the Telerin port of Alqualondë before the betrayal and the leaving of Valinor, Galadriel met Celeborn, who would become her husband. Her companion and fellow traveller through the ages of Middle Earth. Together they passed beyond the Ered Luin, and so were not present when Finrod fell into darkness. Did not die in the sacking of Nargothrond or Menegroth. Could not be drowned with the rest of the inhabitants of Beleriand when it was destroyed at the ending of the first age. Destroyed in the War of Wrath that saw Morgoth defeated by the Valar and thrust, bound, into the outer darkness.

She and Celeborn lived on through the long millenia of the Second age. She gave birth to a daughter who became the wife of Elrond half-elven, who in turn gave birth to Arwen Undomiel. They witnessed the pinnacle of Noldorian achievements in the harnessing of power within the great rings by Celebrimbor, a grandson of Feanor. Celebrimbor who was betrayed by Sauron when he created the One Ring to rule over all the others, and thereby gain control of Elves, Dwarves and Men. A feat that was denied to his former master, Morgoth. Sauron,who we met first as a mere lackey in service to Morgoth, beaten in battle by the hound Huan who, with Luthien Tinuviel, rescued Beren from Sauron’s dungeons.

Sauron who had been defeated by a dog of the first age, was in turn defeated by the Numenoreans when they came against him in their quests for empire in the latter part of the second age. Galadriel witnessed all of this from her kingdom in Lorien.

Likewise she witnessed the beginning of the third age, when the world was changed, curved, so that Valinor would always be beyond the reach of mere mortals. Changed when the king of Numenor, the descendants of Elrond’s half-elven brother, grew so bold that they challenged the Valar for dominance of Valinor. Sauron had bided his time, worked his magics, had been made a counselor of the king of Numenor. Had put the idea of invading Valinor into the head of the king, hoping to be rid of the Numenoreans so that he could continue his own personal conquest of Middle Earth.

…Only to be caught up in the change that Eru Iluvatar inflicted on the world, his physical form destroyed in the drowning of Numenor. Forced to flee back to Mordor as a mist, where he had to lay quietly reconstructing himself before he could take up the one ring once again. This too, Galadriel saw.

She saw it, because she was the keeper of one of the three Elven rings.

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

The Lord of the Rings

..and so she knew when Sauron had returned. As did the holders of all of the other rings of power. They waged war on Sauron when it was known that he had survived the destruction of Numenor, many thousands of bright elves slain in the course of war. Galadriel witnessed all of this. The fall of Gil-Galad. The betrayal of Isildur. The loss of the one ring to time.

She knew it would re-emerge one day. That story is told in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings and I won’t duplicate it here. I’m telling this story simply to say that when Frodo sees Arwen glow with the light of the Two Trees in Fellowship of the Ring, I knew immediately that Peter Jackson really didn’t understand the story he was telling. When I watched The Two Towers, I knew that Peter Jackson was no J.R.R. Tolkien. But that is a tale for another day. I will say only this. Arwen is Galadriel’s granddaughter, Mr. Jackson. A mere wisp of a girl compared to her. She does not glow the way that Galadriel glows, having been in the presence of the two trees. Galadriel who knew true power, in the form of Melkor and the Valar. You should have paid more attention to the lore, sir.

…And I also tell this story to observe that of course Galadriel left Middle Earth after the destruction of the one ring and the banishment of Sauron, the retiring of the last of the Ainur back to Valinor. The Ainur being present in Middle Earth in the form of the great wizards. She left because there was no real power left in Middle Earth now that wasn’t transitory. Mortal. Impermanent. The immortal that is surrounded by the mortal can either retire into obscurity, or rise to power at the expense of mortal men. We saw what she thought of that kind of power.

Galadriel, the Great and Terrible.

The Wife said, on reading this “So you finally got to finish that argument, ten years later.” Yes. Yes I have. That’s what happens when you become a writer. Featured image from lotr.fandom.com.

NaNoWriMo. I Think I Can.

As is, with writing, means you find a desk or a table where you promise yourself, as a debt of honor, to write one page or passage or for one hour a day. (Well, let’s say five days a week.) You start somewhere, anywhere. It doesn’t matter where, because it will almost certain go badly. It is supposed to. But maybe you can describe, badly, the place where your book takes place.

NaNoWriMo, Anne Lamott

This was the intro for the novel I’m working on.

Outside Was Death

This is the intro to a work I’d love to finish some day. I’d love to finish it before the dark future it predicts comes true.


We had Denver. For awhile anyway, we had Denver. Then a particularly bad stormfront passed over the rockies dragging the Earth-bound poison with it, and after that the Denver radio station that we had looked to as the last hope for humanity went silent.

There were plenty of survivors at first, don’t get me wrong. Submarines at sea, for example. Stealthy death machines that were suddenly without purpose or much hope for long-term survival. Their mission to rain death upon an enemy successful without their having to kill a single person directly. Mission accomplished. They were among the last to go. Those nuclear fueled, hermetically sealed pressure vessels were perfect for long-term survival, except for one thing. No way to re-supply without opening the hatches and suffocating with the rest of humanity.

A few of them teamed up. They linked their death machines together in the hope of maintaining life-sustaining atmosphere for long enough for the outside to be livable again, but that just meant they took longer to starve to death. In the end, you can’t live on fungus scraped from the damp walls of a submarine. Not for long, anyway.

Before the last of them went silent, we lost the crew on the orbiting platform. The not-quite-ready for primetime gateway to space. The hopefully self-sustaining first effort at off-world colonization brought to a halt before it even had a chance to fail, the beam-jacks suffocating in their orbiting barracks after the air scrubbers failed. Those were particularly ugly deaths to witness.

Ugly deaths, compared to the vast majority of human beings on the planet surface. Most of them simply lost consciousness and suffocated in their sleep. How I envy them. They didn’t have to face the knowledge that humankind had committed willful suicide. As surely as the redneck who said “hold my beer” and “watch this” knew that he could do the impossible, humanity continued to poison the mother that gave birth to them, always thinking that they had one more year. One more month. One more day. To enjoy that latte. Hamburgers in discardable wrappers. Sweet, sweet sodas in plastic bottles. Disposable diapers.

How I envy the unknowing dead.

It happened suddenly, if suddenly means that glaciers moved at lightspeed. I mean, we knew it would happen eventually, we’d been told about it for decades. But it didn’t matter enough to the average person. It wasn’t going to happen tomorrow. It was going to be hard to change everyone’s habits. It was going to cost a lot of people their jobs, as if jobs were the most important thing about life on Earth.

So we ignored the warnings. We pretended that there was an all-powerful god who would make sure we didn’t destroy ourselves, as if the stories about him hadn’t included cautionary tales about him nearly destroying us all himself in a fit of pique. We ignored the truism “god helps them that helps themselves” and went on feeding poison into the systems that sustained us, pretending that the red warning lights and klaxons weren’t raising hell all around us. Hottest years on record. Raging wildfires that burned entire states to the ground. Storms of a size and speed that we had never seen before.

Miami had to be vacated, as did Houston. New Orleans was already a lake by then. Venice’s great experiment with sea walls had already failed, and the seas had reclaimed the areas of the Netherlands that had so carefully been pulled from the sea in the first place. China’s attempts to build new islands in the South Pacific? Laughingly thwarted by the oceans that gobbled them right back up. The Indian ocean now covering a lot of low-land india and where the Amazon rainforests had been before they were burned off was now several feet underwater. The vast oceans had gotten even more vast, but sadly no less acidic.

I wonder if the transplants from Miami who were handed bottles of disposable water to refresh themselves with refused to accept the water, insisted on drinking straight from a fountain? Did any of them make the connection between death and plastic? I don’t remember any stories like that, but then there were a lot of stories and not much time to see them all, there at the end. When that last coral reef died. When the krill ran out and the whales starved to death. When the great encircling ocean was returned to its most primitive primordial inhabitants, and their waste by-products rose up out of the oceans and engulfed the land.

What was it like to be on the beach that day? I don’t have to wonder what it’s like today because I have that feed on 24/7 now. No birds, no animals of any kind visible today. But what was it like on the day, the day that being outside was a death sentence? Could you smell the rotten egg smell before the poison killed you? Did you notice the birds falling out of the sky, squirrels out of the trees, before you yourself lost consciousness?

I tend toward the maudlin. I used to wonder what the eyes in a severed head recorded as it flipped lazily through the air on its way to landing on solid ground. Decapitation humor. The truth is far less entertaining than the fiction. The truth is that the loss of fluidic pressure in the head causes consciousness to cease in the brain. There is no thought after the neck is severed. There is just blissful death. No more rigid procedure to follow. No more same-old, same-old protein packs to consume.

The video feed I watch most frequently has a bench in the foreground. In the early days there was a man’s head visible there, as if he was still watching the waves lapping the eerily familiar beach. His head blew out of screen a few weeks ago, either severed from the rest of his body, or the whole thing slumped over, it would be hard to tell without going out there to look, and we can’t go outside the habitat. Outside is death.

Escapism

“His caseworker was one of those people who say the word “escapism” as if it’s a moral failing, a regrettable hobby, a mental-health diagnosis. As if escape is not, in itself, one of the highest order of magics they’ll ever see in their miserable mortal lives, right up there with true love and prophetic dreams and fireflies blinking in synchrony on a June evening.”

Alix E. HarrowA Witch’s Guide to EscapeApex Magazine

A Lakeside Encounter

Naked and wet, she stumbles out of the tall grass near the lake’s edge and collapses at my feet. To my eyes she looked like a goddess, limned in a halo of light from the far-off city streets behind her, as I caught first sight of her. It’s probably the alcohol we’ve all been drinking affecting my judgement. Or maybe she was a ghost, a vengeful spirit come to exact her toll upon unsuspecting campers and night fishermen. And then there she was as real as the beer can in my hand lying at my feet in her birthday suit.

“I made it” she giggles and then burps prodigiously, shattering the unearthly image. “Excuse me!” she exclaims and seems genuinely mortified. “I’ve had a little too much to drink” she offers “maybe even a lot too much” she adds hesitantly, looking around and suddenly noticing things are not quite adding up right, that there seems to be a few things missing.

“You’re gonna want to go find your clothes” I offered helpfully. Ever a gentleman, I think to myself. “Yep” she says “I am naked alright” as if finally figuring out what was missing in the equation. “How did I get naked?” she starts to cry “Where are my clothes?”


Editor’s note. A fictionalized intro to the true story I created a narrative for in this article.

To Know the Truth

Woke up from a nightmare a few minutes ago. In my nightmare, something was discovered in the desert that was said to answer the question “is there a god?” to look at this thing causes instant death, but in the moment of death it is said that you will know the answer to this question.

Well respected leaders of various factions go to see this thing, only to die (pick your favorite names out of a hat in descending order) with the last words “it’s true” on their lips. Both groups, skeptics and believers alike, claiming that this thing confirms their belief. That there isn’t a god. That there is a god.

Do you go look? People are dying by the thousands on the belief that this thing answers the question. Does it matter?


This is what happens when you fall asleep watching Dylan Ratigan and Michael Shermer (The Believing Brain) discussing the latest doomsday predictions on MSNBC. To me, this is the essence of Heisenberg, and an example of Schrodinger. No, of course the world’s not going to end. But because you can’t know what will happen tomorrow until it becomes today, people will line up based on their tendency to believe either X or Y position on the subject of god.

I just don’t understand why it matters enough to spend money on the subject. If the world ends tomorrow, will god care that you gave money to the right organizations? Really? Of all of this, I find that assertion hardest to believe. This is bad news for the religious organizations hoping to part me from my money, when it comes to the subject of the (latest) predictions of doomsday.


When I woke up and watched the rest of the show, only to see Willie Geist pitching his book Loaded, I was reassured by the sarcasm that all was indeed right with the world.

(yawn) I think I can sleep again now…


I got a comment from a poster over at dancarlin.com suggesting that this sounded like a Twilight Zone episode; how would I complete it? Thinking I might engage in a creative writing experiment, and see how many endings could be spawned, I wrote this paragraph;

You choose to make the trek, to take the hajj. After weeks of travel, you find yourself in the remote location that your guide tells you the object can be found in (he smirks when you pay him his final fee. Why is that?) traveling the final few feet to the location seems to take as long as the journey up to this point has taken. In front of you is a mound of stinking corpses which conceals the mystical object; a tribute to the common man’s need. Apparently you must climb the pile. A final indignity to be suffered before gaining the knowledge you seek.

Apparently there aren’t any creative writing types on the Dan Carlin boards; or maybe they just don’t hang out on a thread titled Atheism is not a Belief System. In any case, I gave it a week or so, then completed the story in the fashion that came to me in the shower a few days after having the dream;

You climb the stinking pile of bodies. As you step on the face of what was once probably an attractive woman; someones cherished child, perhaps a loving wife and mother, before she became just anther corpse in a pile of tribute, you realize that you are mere inches from the top. Mere inches from the cherished knowledge, the answer to that most important of questions, is there a god?

For one last instant you pause. Even in the reeking atmosphere it feels so good to breath, to feel the pulse in your veins. But the knowledge. The knowledge will be worth the sacrifice. The task must be completed.

You struggle the last disgusting few inches, and your head crests the top of the pile. Suddenly you realize that the object is before you. Your first thought is “that’s it?” but the thought is erased by the agony of your heart convulsing in your chest. The pain is unbearable and you release your grisly handhold in the hair of the last person to gaze upon the object, but this causes you to loose your footing and you topple back down to the bottom of the pile.

The thought occurs to you that you are dying, and you still don’t have your answer. You rage at the injustice of it all, to come so far only to be robbed of the promise. The whispers all said that the answer would be given. Where was your answer. But your rage is impotent, the pain is flowing out of your body, and you vision begins to cloud.

Laying there gazing into the dimming distance, you see a figure approaching you. Could it be?

As the figure begins to form from the haze, you notice that it is crowned with horns, and is shaped as a satyr, but reddish in color. The demon chuckles softly to itself and speaks. “You were a fool to sacrifice the greatest gift in the universe, the gift of life, for such fleeting knowledge. Little good will it do you now” He reaches down for you.

Your last breath comes out as a whisper. “it’s true”


Editor’s note. This partial outline of a story is now a page on the blog named the Godstone. I’m still looking for feedback.