Prodigal Son: Chapter 1

Elijah sat back and stared at the computer screen. Flexing his aching hands, he read the words he had typed, “extra set of hands for hire.” Three long years it had taken him to get to this point—to be able to read, to be able to write, to be able to use his hands. Madison said he didn’t have to work, but he knew she and Hal were having a hard time making ends meet with all his medical bills and the new baby coming. Whenever Madison convinced Hal to talk to him about working, Hal would pat him on the shoulder. His grey eyes that could be cold like a killer’s would get a warm twinkle, and he’d say, “Just make sure you keep up with your school work, son.”

He had a lot to keep up with. He had never gone to school when he was younger like most kids. He’d never even thought about school until he’d met Madison and Hal. His father had never…

He stopped that thought. He didn’t like to think about his father even though Dr. Ross said he needed to start facing some of the bad memories. She said they would haunt him forever until he learned to face them, until he realized he wasn’t responsible for the things his father had done.

Shaking his head, he focused on his Craigs list ad. He hoped someone would see his ad soon.

A couple of days after posting his ad, someone finally called him. A little old lady who needed some yard work done. He pulled up to the house on Emerson Street. The lady lived a couple of blocks from Washington Park. Unlike a lot of houses in the neighborhood, her house was really run down. The brown paint was peeling on the trim and one of her shutters hung askew. If you asked him, she needed a lot more than yard work. The yard was in pretty bad shape, too. The grass was at least a foot high, and the bushes in the yard were overgrown. Looking at the crumpled piece of paper in his had, he hoped he’d written down the address right. He was picturing a little lawn-mowing or maybe raking the leaves. He hadn’t pictured something like this. Slowly, he climbed out of his car. Madison and Hal had bought it for him when he turned sixteen. That was another reason he wanted to get a job. He wanted to be able to pay for his gas and insurance himself. He walked up the cracked sidewalk to the peeling screen. The mesh of the screen was ripped. Nervously, he knocked on the door. He winced a little at the ache in his knuckles. Little things, like knocking on a door, still hurt sometimes.

He could hear someone talking inside, then footsteps, as someone approached the door. The door opened and a beautiful girl looked through the screen at him. She had long dark hair like Madison’s and sparkling brown eyes. He swallowed. He kept his distance from girls. He didn’t know if he could trust himself around them, so he decided it was safer that way. That was another thing that Dr. Ross wanted him to work on. She kept trying to tell him that he wasn’t like his father, but he wasn’t sure he believed her. The girl frowned at him, and he realized that he was staring at her. He cleared his throat.

“I’m looking for Mrs. Roberts. I’m here about the yard work.”

“Grandma, the guy you hired to work in the yard is here.”

She opened the screen and let him in. He frowned. She just let him in without even checking to see who he was. He could be anyone, a psychopath with a razor sharp knife in his back pocket that he would…

He stepped into the house.

Anodyne

anodyne
Photo by Matt Briney on Unsplash

The self-help industry makes $9.9 billion a year to improve our self-image, increase our confidence, boost our physical fitness, and promote our mental health. A plethora of gurus stand ready to take our money and assure us that if we just think this certain way or live that way or eat this particular way, our lives will be perfect. We will be at peace with ourselves, become positive thinkers, and finally find our ideal weight.

I have to admit that I have contributed my fair share to that $9.9 billion figure. I have many negative qualities I would like to cure. I procrastinate. I’m a negative thinker. I’m overweight. My house is a mess. I own too much stuff. I worry about how my problems might influence my son. And, for each of these problems that plague me, there is a corresponding book: books that tell me how to tweak my to-do list so I can get more done; books that tell me how to eat or how not to eat; books that tell me it’s okay to be overweight as long as I’m healthy; books that will make me a more resilient person if I just rewrite my negative scripts.

Right now, I am reading a book that will help me transform into a warrior goddess. In ten easy lessons, I will learn to embrace my true self and become the woman I am meant to be. Through meditation and self-reflection, I will become a beautiful, compassionate, all-powerful, all-knowing being–a warrior goddess. And did I mention, for a small fee, I can meet the author of this book and walk on a hot bed of coals?

For $495, I can sit and meditate with complete strangers. I can attend a bonfire and walk on hot coals. I can do yoga (which I hate). I can learn to “commit to myself” and “align with life.” But first I have to “purify my vessel.” Yikes! That last one sounds uncomfortable! Maybe, that’s what the hot coals are for.

I saw a picture of a circle of women at this retreat. As I looked at the picture, I realized that while one or two of the women were smiling joyously, most of the women looked discomfited. With their arms around total strangers, their faces were turned away from the circle and they were not smiling. Another picture shows a group of women sitting on a pile of rocks, their arms reaching to the sky. They look like they are in rapture, but I kept wondering, how comfortable can they be sitting on that pile of rocks? There is even a picture of women walking across hot coals. Again, some of the women look transported, but most of them look afraid. Who wouldn’t be afraid? They are being peer-pressured into walking on hot coals.

Unfortunately, after all the self-help books I’ve bought (I haven’t read a lot of them I purchased because of that habit of procrastination I have!), I am still the same insecure, messy person. Recently, I have begun to make some changes in my life, but they don’t arise from a book, but from my own determination. I am starting to realize that change has to be internal rather than external. It has to be one step at a time. I have to make my changes on my own terms. And I don’t need to spend $9.95 for a book or $495 for a retreat to do it.

Maybe, that could be the title of my self-help book: Change on Your Own Terms Without Spending Any Money (except for the $9.95 you will pay for this book). I could market a companion workbook and a retreat. I could become a motivational speaker. I could travel the world, bringing my message of change to people everywhere. But where do I start?…..Hmmm….Maybe, there’s a book on that.

It’s My Universe: A Conversation with a Killer

 

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Photo by Elti Meshau on Unsplash

In his book, The Cat Who Walks through Walls, Robert Heinlein theorizes about the nature of reality and time. In his universe, Heinlein presents a multitude of worlds and realities all existing side by side. The universes created by writers are just as real as the readers’ universe and are waiting…

 

“Excuse me.”

“I can’t talk right now. Can’t you see I’m writing my blog post?”

“I can see that, but I have a question.”

“Make it quick. I don’t want to lose my train of thought.”

“When are you going to use my name?”

“Your name?”

“Yeah, my name. When you were outlining my, I mean, your story, you kept calling me Killer, but that makes me sound like some drug dealer’s 100-pound rottweiler.”

“The only drug dealer I’ve ever met with a rottweiler called his dog Lestat.”

“See–that’s the name of a killer.”

“It’s not your name.”

“I know, but I have a name. I’m not just a faceless person who goes around killing people in your novel. I have a life. I have a past. I’m not just a killer.”

“I did give you a son.”

“No. I already had a son. You just tapped into my reality to use for your own gain.”

“No, I didn’t. I wanted to tell a story and your son happened to be in it.”

“See–there you go again. My son has a name. It’s Elijah. And I have a name.”

“I haven’t thought of your name yet.”

“No–you just don’t know my name. Just like you don’t know a lot of things.”

“Like what? You like walking in the rain and watching the sunset?”

“No–like, when I was eight, I wanted to be a fireman.”

“So, instead of killing people, you wanted to save them?”

“It’s ironic, I know. But, you see, I never had a chance. My dad was never satisfied with who I was. My mom was busy with her career.”

“Wait! Wasn’t your dad a violent drunk and your mom a prostitute?”

“That’s just wrong. Just because I’m a sadistic killer that means I had to have a rotten childhood. I had everything I could want as a child, but the one thing I craved.”

“What was that?”

“My parents’ understanding.”

“Ouch. But that’s no excuse for doing what you do.”

“I’m not trying to make excuses. I am who I am. But the point I’m trying to make is that I have a name.”

“And that is?”

“Call me—”

“Yes?”

“Paul. My name is Paul.”

“That’s not the name I was going to give you.”

“I know, but it’s my universe.”

 

 

 

Book Review: Echo Volume II: The Taste of Ashes

Kischan Atriya is a man with a mission–get into Cityscape 87, clear out a warehouse full of Dissidents, and get out alive. He has one problem–his commanding officer is out to get him.

The main character of Echo Volume II: The Taste of Ashes by Kent Wayne lives in a brutal world where honor is usurped by political gain. Piss off the wrong person and a soldier could find himself facing the muzzle of a gun. Knowing that he’s as good as dead doesn’t keep Atriya from committing to the mission–but, if he’s going to die, he plans on taking a few of his enemies with him.

The second in the Echo series, The Taste of Ashes begins with a vivid battle that seems to last forever, but, in fact, takes place in a day. A lot can change in a day, however, as Atriya finds himself facing insurmountable odds to survive.  Wayne’s lyrical descriptions weave haunting images in the reader’s mind that are difficult to forget. Readers who have never been in the military experience a taste of what going into battle against all odds must be like.

Book Review: Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter by Kent Wayne

Echo Volume 1:  Approaching ShatterOn Echo, an Earth colony in the distant future, the ruling class and its military fight a group of dissidents looking to overthrow the current regime. Despite the focus on military conflict, Wayne portrays the internal conflict of Kischan Atriya, a seasoned warrior. Atriya’s credo, “refuse to be weak,” has enabled him to attain a measure of success with the elite military unit, the Crusaders. Yet, with each achievement, Atriya continues to doubt his abilities.

While the novel contains one brutal, but crucial, fight scene, there is little external action. The important events occur within Atriya’s own mind as he attempts to pin down the source of his doubt. The introspective hero is a refreshing change from other all-powerful protagonists featured in other dystopian series. Wayne has crafted a protagonist with insecurities that many readers might share.

This novel presents a unique vision of Earth’s future. The writing is vivid. Wayne provides unexpected twists in the plot that keep the reader guessing.