Plummeting down a steep hill on 146th Street toward Greyhound Pass peddling hard, my bike reached top speed, whatever that is. It was wind-in-the-face, bugs-in-the-teeth exhilarating. The front wheel caught a rut at the bottom causing bike and body to obey the laws of physics. It took two construction workers, an EMT crew, and the emergency staff at St. Vincent’s four hours to put me back together again. |
That was three weeks ago. On the outside I’ve healed remarkably well with practically no visible marks remaining. Inside is another matter entirely. Injuries that include a bruised sternum, separated right shoulder, torn ligaments in my right arm, and several broken toes still nag. For sure I don’t bounce back like I once did. Why, oh why, can’t my aging body be an exception to the rule? My daily physical regimen is a major component of keeping me sane, and now I’m severely restricted for who knows how long. It’s downright depressing.
To add to my depression, I’m in the sixth month of a search to find a new literary agent with no prospects in sight. Also, several entrepreneurial projects in which I’ve been toiling for years are stagnant, and thanks to the economy, the prognosis is horseshit. (Maybe not the best choice of words, but it communicates well, don’t you think?) Anyway… Damn! Damn! Damn!
So feeling pity for myself, I dragged my sorry ass down to my subterranean man-cave and fixed a nice, refreshing adult beverage—vodka tonic. The dizzying effervescent and pleasing opalescent bloom of the quinine water momentarily buoyed my spirit; that is, until I took a sip. See, I’m one of those rare individuals that doesn’t imbibe when depressed. For me, cocktails are best enjoyed when in a celebratory mood. I set the drink aside, put on a light classic (“Carmen” by Bizet), and began reading Longfellow’s “My Lost Youth”. About halfway through the poem I started bobbing and weaving like a prizefighter. I remember reading and re-reading the line, “And the dead captains as they lay” numerous times with no recall of what went before.
When I looked up at the wing chair beside me I ascertained a rather misty form that took three-dimensional size and shape right before my eyes. He was a devilishly handsome fellow with medium-length, blond, wavy hair, high cheekbones, and a dimple in his firm chin. A modern-looking, swept-back, one-piece lens covered both eyes. He wore a dark blue, form-fitting, jumpsuit with matching slip-ons on his feet. He regarded my shocked visage with some amusement.
“Take your time, and finish your poem,” he said pleasantly, “I’m in no hurry.”
“I’m having trouble concentrating,” I said suddenly wide awake (I think). Then blinking in amazement, “Who the hell are you?”
He laughed loudly. “That’s an excellent way of framing the question,” he mused. Then in a frighteningly serious, almost threatening, tone he added, “You know who I am.”
“Well… I think so, but you look nothing like I expected,” I said still checking him over head to toe. He removed his shades and revealed eyes with no eyeballs. Each opening was simply 100-percent blue, changing from deep sea blue to sky blue as he moved his head. They were captivating and mesmerizing.
“Ah, yes, the old renaissance painter images of me featuring horns, tail, pitchfork, and fangs—that sort of thing. I suppose they wanted me to look fierce so the faithful (Hah!) would be frightened into Roman Catholic obedience. Truth is I was the fairest of all in the heavenly kingdom. Further, I project my appearance to be exactly whatever image any race, culture, and creed assumes is attractive in either male or female form. That is, I become what each individual perceives as beautiful.” Then catching my glance into his optical scanners he said, “I do not observe surroundings like you do. I simultaneously see everything, day and night, light and dark, that’s occurring everywhere on this planet. Before I was banished, I could see the entire universe, which by the way, is more vast than your scientists imagine.”
“Why were you banished?”
“Adonai asked for a plan of salvation for all mankind. He chose another’s over mine so I (naturally) rebelled. You see my plan redeemed everybody whether or not they had faith. There was a war the likes of which Earth has never seen. My minions and I did not prevail, and were cast down to this wretched place where we rule. You know how your idiot insurers call hurricanes, and the like, acts of God? Those are my doing not Adonai’s! That's a title, by the way, not a name.”
“Is your name Satan, Devil, Shaytan, Baal-zebub, or Lucifer?” I decided to fix my visitor a vodka tonic and rose to do so.
He smiled sardonically. “Those are names people of Earth gave me. My real name you cannot pronounce, but it means, Son of the Morning.” He took the offered cocktail and nodded his thanks. I also offered some beer nuts and pretzels, but he waved them off. “I dine only on the souls of the damned, which (by the way) is why I’m here.”
I became even more frightened, if that was possible. “A-are you here to take my s-soul?”
“Not yet. I came to commend you for good (Adonai would say bad) behavior, and encourage you to keep it up. Your soul will be tasty unlike most I must suffer that are incredibly bitter even when washed thoroughly in the river Styx. Politicians of whom I claim 100-percent are especially rancid.”
Confusion and a sense of unfairness filled me with dread. “Come on! I’m not a bad guy. I take care of self and family, watch out for my fellow man, give to charity, and even work for Habitat for Humanity!”
He smiled knowingly. “You forget that I see and sense everything even your thoughts. As an example, do you recall what you said under your breath when you left the grocery store a few hours ago? I’ll help you out: you asked the rotund lady ahead of you in line how she felt. Remember? She said she couldn’t complain, and what did you snidely retort under your breath?”
“Um…I don’t recall…”
Excellent! Now you’re lying! Good job; keep it up!”
I felt lightheaded. “I said she must not be concerned about weighing three-fifty and the moustache. I was kidding. It was a joke.”
He looked delighted. “More lying. Great! You know the old saying of not being able to bullshit a bullshitter? Well, I’m the best of all. You will never fool me.”
I bent to pick up my vodka tonic then turned my gaze back to the wing chair. It was unoccupied. Had I imagined it? The open book of poems and prose was still on my lap so I turned back to Longfellow. “My Lost Youth” was no longer there replaced instead by Poe’s “Spirits of the Dead”. The first two lines leaped from the page and gave me chills:
“Thy soul shall find itself alone
Mid dark thoughts of the grey tombstone—“
Now I was really depressed. Might as well go for a bike ride…
By Gene Myers literally he who was cruisin’ for a bruisin’.
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