Outlook, Violation, Thumb

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Lemuel sat at the bow of the ship staring at the thin line that his elders had told him was land. Born on the boat, he’d never been to land, but he was told it was like the deck of a ship that never rocked and often stretched as far as the eye could see. Lemuel was also told that there was no need to ever go there. The ship and the sea had everything they needed. Except for the lemons and a few other supplies.

To go and live on shore among all the evil that existed there was one of the main themes Lemuel was taught time and again. For the lemons and other necessities, special crew members called thumbs were designated and even then, they traveled ashore in groups of three; one with a blind fold, another with a gag in his mouth and the third with earplugs. Each specialized in a sense. The eyes (gag) surveyed and looked for the appropriate vendors. The ears (blindfold) listened to the side conversations of vendors to make sure they were not being taken advantage of. The mouth (earplugs) spoke for the fleet belonging to the Lemonmouths.

Lemuel looked down at his first tattoo, a small black lemon on his right wrist. Made from the ink of octopi and squid pulled up, boiled down and inked by the “daubers”. According to his grandfather, the Lemonmouth needed very little to communicate and in a picture a thousand conversations could be had. By looking at the other’s eyes and down to their tattoos, Lemuel had learned to communicate.

The lemon wedged in Lemuel’s mouth was still fresh, the rind had not yet broken down or been accidentally punctured by a tooth. He wiped away the steady stream of saliva with his water cloth, a strip of sail each Lemonmouth carried around for that purpose. His was brown and crusted by salt but that was normal.

In Lemuel’s world, the lemon was a sacred object. Geronimo Coolidge, their forefather, the lemon prevented scurvy, but it also kept out evil spirits, from entering the body or the world. A world, that for Lemuel, consisted of water and wood, yet he would stare at that thin line near the horizon and wonder what it was like, evil or not.

Strap, Navy, Onion

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Wiping away the tears under an orange sky. A peach-orange hue mixed with fog, chemicals and city lights. The knife pushed into the onions sending up its own natural recipe of tear gas. One wrinkled hand picked up the cutting board and another used the knife to slide the chopped pieces into a pot.

Sizzling and hissing, the onions surrendered with a delicious smell.

BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. The hands dropped the knife. The ships guns were starting their one-way messages. Boom. Boom. Boom. This time more distant, another ship in the fleet reiterating the firsts statement.

Picking up a potato, the hands deftly maneuvered the root vegetable into little starch squares. After each one, the hands picked up the cutting board and slid the pieces into the pot, adding to the onions smell.

After the potatoes came the carrots. The hands cut little circles, roughly the size of the squares and dropped them into the pot. Halfway through, a message from the enemy came through and rocked the ship back and forth. The hands dropped everything and grabbed a leather strap fastened to a steal handle on the kitchen wall.

The hands and strap swayed with the movement of the ship, both attempting to stay upright. It was only water that had been disturbed but the waves let the ship know it wasn’t pleased. The hands grabbed at the knife and carrot, now working slower, a little shakier.

A bead of sweat dropped onto the cutting board, a reminder. The hands grabbed a shaker of salt and sprinkled it into the pot.

Another message was sent from the enemy on shore, this time a BOOM. The ship’s lights turned red and the hands, fumbling for the strap, found themselves grasping for something as they slid on the floor, back and forth. Steadier, the hands pushed of the ground and shaking, attempted to pick up the knife. Realization. The knife set down, the hands grabbed the salt and a wooden spoon, stirring in salt with the other vegetables.

One hand fumbled for something inside a shirt. A necklace made of wooden beads all cascading down on a fishing line that ended in a lower case “t”. The other hand wiped sweat from a brow and scratched a temple.

“Who had cooked the last supper? Were they aware of the impending doom forecasted for later that evening? Were their signs?”

The pot steamed and the hands relaxed, back to their work.

Is Jesus coming before the Police?

A short piece written about a loved one’s suicide attempt. 2003.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

“Is jesus going to come before the police do?” a stampede of swine grunting, squealing and snorting away from the long splinter-scarred finger of gods only child run whole-heartedly off the edge of a cliff. The creator of everything Ferrero Rocher and pneumonia, sits behind the belt-buckle tightened around Orion’s waist. The long wrinkled finger of a guilt infected old man leads a boys gullible gaze to the twinkling stars, winking and nudging the darkness. One finger towards god but four curled back to underline the butt of his cosmic joke. A shitty Korean car idles in a closed garage. A special snorkel from exhaust to cracked window helps the old man understand the punchline. The swine fall through the roof before the chicken can get to the other side. The stars wink and nudge the darkness. “Is jesus going to come before the police do?”

Birth and Illness as a Child

A short piece written in 2009.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Images of incubators, IV drips, tubes and a wrist band. Memories conjured up by repetitive whispering echoes. Stories on repeat for the benefit of the teller. Any deviation from the script might yield a moment of truth. The voices chant visions of a baby with chicken pox, red bumps, itching and bloody. Collective sighs of relief ease out of the peanut gallery. The boy is catching the right diseases at the right time. Praise god, thank you father and continue to bless us. A telling symptom for the diseases of the soul, an unquestioning heart and a reluctance to embrace the shit. While the doctors poke and prod, the peanut gallery; the gloria-inexchelsis-deo-gawkers destroy their knee caps and hold sweaty palms together. Oh what a friend we have in jesus. Indeed, while the doctor stabilizes gods little pin cushion, grabs a cup of coffee and announces to the gawkers as they rise from their diligence, “the babe will be fine.” The doctor takes a bow. The peanut gallery once again takes a knee and as they look up to god, the angels hook the doctor by the neck and pull him off stage. The illusion practically flawless; as solid as a slice of Swiss cheese.

Of grunting and groaning

Thoughts on politics, more specifically, the September 29, 2020 presidential debate.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Like a good American I am more concerned with what I’m having for dinner, playing with my dogs, checking to see who liked that picture of me on social media and protecting my right to leave the house freely and unencumbered. I wear a mask, of course, mostly to ward of judgement, but I do it. I’ve been keeping my distance from all of you all my life, so it’s great that everyone else knows to stay 6-feet away now as well.

A presidential debate, you say? Sure, I’ll watch. I care about the future of my backyard.

So it began.

I got up in the middle of the “debate” to roll back the sliding glass door to the back yard. My dogs ran out and sniffed for their spots in the dust patch I call a yard. The English Bulldog on left and the Boston Terrier on the right.

The bulldog scooted his hind legs underneath and pushed out his rear dumping a couple mocha jumbo-sized carrots. The terrier scooted her hind legs underneath and pushed out her rear, dumping a few dark-chocolate tootsie rolls. If I get up close to either one, I can hear them grunting.

They kicked up dust and ran back into the house.

The debate went on but I had a realization: That I could not watch my dogs take shits anymore. Why should I know so much about them as to describe the length, girth and color? All I can do as their owner, is pick up the shit and keep the yard clean and free from stench. I thought about a scenario in which I would no longer need to pick up after my dogs. When (and I hope this day is long in coming) I would have to put them BOTH down. I’d never want another dog again. A big change for sure, but a different life could be found afterwards. I could manage.

The debate ended and I thought about my grunting dogs and cleaning up their shit.

Ages 12 & Up

A short piece written in 2008.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

This is the age of dissonance and divide, of fuck-you’s at school and prayers at home. The age of staring at girls. The age of exploring with fingers and untimely boners. The age of fantasizing about teachers and noticing mothers. This is the age of anger, of threatening teachers aids with a baseball bat. Of starting a reputation of unsportsmanlike conduct and hot-blooded tantrums.

Was it emotional, physical, spiritual or sexual trauma? A combination of all or any of the aforementioned? I don’t know. I hardly have any child hood memories. I feel stunted, less mature to deal with different stages of life and only until I’ve moved on to a new era or age do I feel all at once adept and inadequate all over again. Walking around pretending. An actor who highlighted the wrong parts of the script. Always wondering what it is that I am lacking and what it is so obvious to everyone but me. A theory, a specific method, a grammatical rule, a particular pronunciation, an author, a book, a piece of music or art, a historic event, an historic figure, the latest news, a cooking method, a social cue. So anxious and apprehensive about impeding my progress by misquoting, declaring a stupidity. I speak to strangers in a series or pattern of jests and facts; the language of the unconfident, the vernacular of the low-self esteemed. Sticking to things that are only true or saying things that are so over the top no one could dispute their falsehood, which is another type of truth. Steering clear of conviction or opinion or belief or individual truth. That isn’t easy. That is an un-lubricated trajectory.

What is my identity? What is my heritage? My background? My culture? I was born in the hospital of a city that was built around it. A mecca for Seventh-day Adventists wealthy enough to afford private schools but connected enough to get a discount. Long lines of last names trail the university’s history. New faces same names. A thriving enterprise in the middle of a decaying county/city. The navel-gazing institution growing to the tune of its own demand.

It’s a part of the story but not yet.

My mother was born in Spain. Emigrated to California at eighteen because she met my father. My father the son of an American soldier/missionary and a converted ex-catholic. He lived in Spain, Kenya, the pacific peninsula, and Oakland, California. From what he tells me, Oakland was tougher on him than the African wild ever was. Being the only white boy in a predominantly black school is the wrong reason to stand out. I was born the son of a teacher and a part-time hustler. My father taught Spanish, physical education and history at a small Adventist school in Redlands, California. My sister, four years younger was born the daughter of an attorney and a part-time hustler. In the time between my arrival on earth and my sisters, my father had quit teaching, moved us all to Canoga Park, Los Angeles and finished a law degree in two years.

I’m not sure how confident people are in their memories but I am not. I don’t know whether my active imagination recreated images to go along with the stories I was told so many times or if they are actual memories. In either case, none are very vivid. Foggy glimpses more than anything else. I’m also not sure if it’s my focus on the present or moving forward that makes me apprehensive about remembering things. What I do remember are emotions and lessons as they relate to this idea I have of the big picture. How things fit into the grand scheme. Exactly what or whose scheme it is, I don’t know. But I feel that I am constantly trying to zoom out, to view things from a more global perspective. When in fact I envy those who wear their hearts on their sleeves and keep the truth on the tips of their tongues.

A healthy amount of anxiety should also accompany the sudden thought of a memory. I become anxious because I have doubts that things actually happened as I remember them. And of course their are those vivid moments of drunken times that are ironically remembered. The moments of clarity that are the most clear in all the fog of the mind. Which I believe have to do with the reason why I drank. To come to terms with the way things are, to deal with life, to know that I live with a certain amount of privilege unearned brings a sharp dissonance. I do not call it guilt bit it’s a feeling of being the teacher’s pet, of being chosen first, of winning the lottery. It makes me think that god has less than pure motives for me if I am the teachers pet. But god and all the infinitesimal constructs that keep his wobbly frame standing have one fault. A fault that I will never be able to get over, even on my most optimistic days. Knowing that belief is a leap between two cliffs of knowledge or more often a leap off a cliff. The very fact that the idea of god was planted early and everything that comes with it, both good and bad are man made. Everything is man made. Our narratives put humanity at the center of the plot. Adam and Eve were to take care of the animals and the earth. But who would take care of Adam and Eve? Save for our meddling, the animals seem to be getting along fine. I will never be able to move past the thought that men continue to be confident about god. I myself can be confident about love, anger, sadness, hatred, integrity, etcetera. But what does that have to do with god? If I create my own god who is serving whom? Because I wish not to drink alcohol anymore, there are some who say that a belief in a power greater than myself is the only thing that will save me. Again if I create my god, what is saving me? And another rickety construct is born and it climbs in a jagged fashion along with the rest of the thin, beams to support an idea. An idea we call god (or whatever name) with infinitesimal foundations.

I continue to struggle with these existential thoughts but then ironically Jesus comes to mind. He was mostly about people. There are people around me all the time and when this thought crosses my mind I get disgusted with myself for staring up at the sky and ignoring what’s around me. People in my family, the people I was born to and those who are in close proximity, the people who have similarities and empathize. The people who help me and the people who need help. So I help and then I notice all the people that need help. We are everywhere. The more I help the more I realize I need help. And because I was raised to love myself as I love my neighbor I stop helping others and turn the help inwards. Some people call this selfish. They can go fuck themselves. (Which we all do anyway but because no one likes to talk about it or even recognize that it’s a normal part of life, we are offended when someone says go fuck yourself).

My interpretation of the golden rule is a good example of the constructs. Someone might hear my belief and hold a similar belief, the pastor of a mega-church may share their belief and an entire congregation will send up thousands of supports to hold up their version of the vagaries we all seem to insist upon. While I might knock down some people’s constructs, some other constructs will rise in its place, directly as a result of my cutting others down. There is no action that adds without subtracting or subtracts without adding. The idea that one is good and the other is bad is simply another part of the same vagaries we all maintain. Every person in a giant sphere. Close, but no one exactly on the same plane. Each one of us with a slightly different perspective than the person next to them. Each perspective growing more and more different until you look up and see the person directly opposite you in the sphere. You will think he is above and you below. The problem, is he may think exactly the same thing about you. So we draw lines. Lines from person to person, creating understanding. Yet this mostly fails because each line has a motive, so in reality there are two parallel lines running from person to person rather than a two way exchange, back and forth. There is instead a line for one and a line for the other: while one person shows their perspective, the other person does the same, simultaneously. Neither one paying attention to the other.

Orion’s Belt

A short piece written about my grandfather in 2017.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

My grandfather was a mechanic. I remember the bar of soap he used to clean off his hands. A dry bar with deep black and grey grooves. I wasn’t sure which was doing the cleaning; his hands or the bar. At the dinner table I distinctly remember how clean his hands appeared. The smell of his shirt a mixture of sweat and grease. It was a comforting smell. A smell I wanted to emit when I became a man. Before every meal I would hold hands with my grandparents while my grandpa blessed the food. After dinner he would read his bible, old and worn with nearly every page highlighted, underlined or dog-eared. His favorite book was Revelation. He always talked about Jesus coming back and taking us home. How he couldn’t wait for the day Jesus came back. How it wouldn’t be long now before Jesus came home. He pointed out all of the signs in Revelation and said how we were living in end times.

I remember the things he said. At the time they didn’t mean very much but now thinking about him they make me sad. My grandfather isn’t alive anymore but before he died in his nineties he tried to end his life in his seventies.

Entering my grandfathers garage from inside the house I was met with the heavy smell of grease mixing with my grandfathers body odor. After walking My grandfathers garage was a monument to tools and craftsmanship.

Looking back now the things I wish he would have taught me like how to change the oil in a car, change the brakes, check the fluids, take apart and re-build an engine, all of those things he always stopped when I got to his house. Instead he taught me about the bible and about Jesus. I think I’ve gotten past deconstructing everything he told me. Now I’m at the point where I am reconstructing Jesus, the bible and my cultural/religious upbringing for myself.

From what I’ve gathered, everyone, upon reaching adulthood does some relearning and reconstructing of things they were taught as children. Well this has been the most painful, slow remodel of all the constructs so far. The way life goes, the reconstructing will probably never end.

When I was four years old my grandfathers white Chevrolet station wagon broke down on the 5 interstate on our way from Oakland to Redlands, CA. I was in the back seat by myself, my grandma in the front passenger seat and my grandpa driving. I only know this because my grandma doesn’t drive. The rest of the story I’m not sure if I remember or if I’ve heard so many times that I’ve mixed it in with my memories. I’ve filled in a few details. It doesn’t matter.

The Chevy breaks down, grandpa grumbles and grunts out of the drivers seat and lifts the hood of the car. Grandma’s jet black beehive hair turns around and she smiles showing the wide gap in her front teeth. She gets out of her seat, grabs some blankets from the trunk and sits with me in the back. Grandpa walks back from using the call box and gets in the back seat on the other side. It’s a cold night and I’m snuggled between grandpa and grandma while we wait for the highway patrol to show up. We’d been waiting for a couple of hours. While we sit their Grandpa points out the stars through the sun roof.

I have a vivid memory of his finger dotting the sky, leaving tiny bright lights in ancient shapes. My grandfather did this on more than one occasion. I remember my grandpa telling me where Jesus would come from when he came back to earth.

“You see that star right in the middle of Orion’s belt? That’s where Jesus is right now. That’s where He (capital H) is going to come from to take us home. That’s where heaven is.”

Presumably where Jesus cleansed the temple, leaving many disappointed millerites and thus a new cell of religions virus split off and they called it Seventh-Day Adventism.

After my grandpa said this, they tell me that I sat their staring at the middle star in Orion’s belt . They tell me that I looked like I was thinking. Then, they tell me I said this, “Is Jesus going to come before the police do?”

They did. The police came and drove us to a motel 6. And that’s it.

At the hotel, they tell me I was so restless I jumped from bed to bed before crashing. A couple of hours later my aunt came and drove us the rest of the way home.

But when they tell me, they stop after what I said. And while they are laughing and smacking the table I think about that little kid and everything he saw after that night. Everything I remember.

11 years later, when I was 15. My grandparents now living in Redlands, a few minutes away from my house. My grandfather started his car, closed the garage, and breathed in the exhaust from a hose he pinched in the driver’s side window that ran into the exhaust pipe. He sat and waited for Jesus to come.

But again, the cops came before Jesus could. My grandma found him in the garage and dialed 911 just in time.

Then I ran. I ran from everything, including my roots in the Adventist church, a part of my culture. I denied any affiliation with Adventists and hated the fact that I knew what Nuteena and stripples were. That I knew what the blood of the lamb was supposed to mean even though I didn’t really understand it. I hated the fact that I felt guilty about listening to music that made my head bob and felt guilty about smoking and drinking. So I drank more and thought about a god that let my grandpa down. If jesus couldn’t save my devout grandfather, what chance did I have?

But I never blamed my grandpa. In fact for many years I defended him saying that suicide is taking matters into your own hands. I would tell myself that he was like Hunter S. Thompson and went out on his own terms, knowing that he always would. I was kidding myself.

I don’t know about a moral to these stories.

The questions of god, purpose and existence zip around in an infinite loop in my head. I do know this, the pedestal I built for my grandfather no longer exists but the love I feel for him is still alive. I remember giving him a hug at the behavioral medical clinic where they took him on a 5150 after his suicide attempt. He was wearing a gown, his eyes glassed over from the cup-o-pills, and his few remaining hairs tousled. he gave me a dopey smile and a big hug.

I experienced my own great disappointment and it was my grandpa that disappointed me. He clung to the church like a lush grips their liquor. And now he’s a husk of what I remember. If spirituality is the ocean and religion is the vessel my grandfather never learned how to swim. And when the storms came, the foundation he clung to didn’t hold up. The great disappointment wasn’t a singular event, my grandpa relives it every single day.

The Fool’s Pleading

A short piece. I don’t know.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The panting dogma of nuns, “O God, God, wherefore art thou God?”

A burlesque bureaucracy.

Earthen gates whisper of conspiracy. They have no plans other than “hold on tight, stick to the script.” Creativity be banished, taken down into the fires of hell where they will be forged with the devil’s brand. Rising as dead souls battling the young. A past that has already traveled and seen fighting against a speeding future. And the present whispering into the ear of tomorrow, “full steam ahead, cowboy.”

The mulling query of Darwins, “O Truth, Truth, wherefore art thou Truth?”

An algorithmic disco.

Where am I to derive the juices flowing from the nut in my skull, its fruit spilling viscous memory and fantasy in the same drop? What’s in my head? Will I be the breath of tomorrow’s baby or the mustard gas of victory’s soldier? Standing in a smoky battlefield, squinting through tears to find a shape like mine. Whom will I become?

The pandering memes of Narcissus, “O Me, Me, wherefore art thou Me?”

A tango of mirrors.

Follow me and I shall follow me. That is the golden rule. Achievement of the cracking of the nut, opening to a seed of nothing. Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you only lies. Traveling through the haze maze, the last marine on the beach. The spirit testing my muscle with its fluttering.

Watch the temple crumble in its own skin folding under the coat of gravity. Destruction by the hands fumbling in the dark relying only on memory. Is it where we be or where we are from that twists and pulls at our subconscious minds? Shaping us through the heavy bars of past and future tense, our hands only need to reach out and grasp the memory of cold metal, that taste of iron on the tongue, our memories and all the agony as useless as our blood. Never present.

We survive as animals but live as more. Begetters impossibly tasked with protecting fresh souls. Those tenacious in their duties receiving only resentment as thanks. Push them, gripping at the bars, to the signs ahead. God is the time we have here. Love it. Nourish it. Worship it. Find another life and share it with them, living one and living an others’ vicariously.

The collapsing heart of the writer, “O Wall, Wall, wherefore art thou Wall?”

A decaying waltz.

The lonely freedom of a star in the sun’s sky.

To become un-tethered from the darkness of all we think we know, only to find we’re suspended in a vast emptiness, alone on that island of confidence. Peering over the edge, tilting that careful balance of assurance and sending the mind spiraling down again. Sit in the middle. Creating tethers. Battling the force of emotion, so fast and fickle with its betrayal of memory. The force of wounded spirits capable of wounding. The blind lead the blind, those that can see, stop and look. We cannot help, we can only hope to carry each other. To feel the weight of another is to realize it’s heavier than our own. To love.

I want to cage that spirit living within, but I must sit in the middle.

The echoes of rejoicing muted by the island’s sands. Drowned by waves of realization that we are sound itself reverberating off of infinity’s pretzel-ed pipe.

The muted programming of Eve, “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”

Would that we could hold hands, screaming forever, licking the juices of that forbidden fruit.

I was a lover

A short piece from 2013.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I was a lover before this war and don’t tell me that mental pictures created by TV on the Radio don’t have the power to change chemistries. I am weary, sick and scarred from too many battles in the war of who could care less. When Uncle Ben Folds Five times and still doesn’t learn that the house of the Rising Sun never loses. We know then for whom the bell tolls. A sickening ring that continues its echo, repeating its cold brass answer.

It tolls for thee, for me, for she, and for he. And I refuse to continue wincing at questions of christianity (lowercase, improper noun) or other. It’s not as simple as loving my brother. So I shrug my shoulders at religion, at theology, and democracy, my politics apply only to me. I shrug at the dividing notions of this versus that because I wish to see through he and through she before I get to me.

I walk barefoot on the sand to feel the process of my steps. In the sun or in front of the stars. I open my eyes to fill my mind with everything the light reflects. My ears are open to fill something inside that can’t be described. To write is the most frustrating thing because there are emotions and experiences that will never exist in words. The contrast between black shapes on white space.

I was a lover before this war and I already know the ending. The question of my last breath is either sober or whiskey soaked. The continuous monologue in my mind reaches the end of its reel. I am not making sense but its my senses that make me. I don’t wish to Confucius you but the way of the tao (lowercase, improper noun) is better paved than that of christianity (lowercase, improper noun). If christ (lowercase, improper noun) was the way then that way was tao (you know).

Belief, Obese, Death

A short story incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Stars, sun and moon pattern canvases of purples and blues.

Bloated fingers stuffed through rings dab foreheads, stomachs and shoulders.

White hairs spill from Mitres jabbing at the sky.

Oceans of pink pressed hands squeezed white.

Fire licks spit roasted gluttons.

Salivating teeth taste smoke.

Souls peep morning skies through dewy windows.

Stars stab sun.

Moon kill sky.

Sun kill moon.

Project, Farm, Worship

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Behold the great sheep, humble and woolly, providing cotton for all of us. Let us raise our hands and lower them to gently sweep the grasses on which the sheep graze. We shall write songs of its soothing bleats, its gently spirit and that wool that keeps us warm when the god of ice exacts his wrath.

Let us erect a statue in the image of the sheep, a ram and a ewe. The pair representing the balance between protection, violence and calm, gentleness. We shall conduct the lambing as a sacred rite. A new lamb represents the Spring, life, growth, harvest. Let us cut the grasses as gently as we sheer the wool, for us the wool, for the sheep, the grasses.

We shall project our needs and desires onto the careless bleating of the sheep. We shall make our most important decisions upon which direction the flock chooses to graze. Let us not take responsibility for our actions but place the burden of our actions on the paths our flocks choose to tread. Through bad harvest and good, all blame and credit will be given to the sheep.

Why? Because we need the wool to stay warm in the Winter’s, to maintain our temperatures during the winds of Fall. We need not take responsibility when we can hoist our burdens onto the sheep. All praise the sheep!

Let us remove our shoes and walk upon their dung to feel the earthly wisdom that is excreted from their nether regions. Let us hold golden goblets to their golden showers and drink of their peace.

Nothing is our fault. We are blameless. We are humble servants of the sheep as the sheep humbly provide their wisdom through their very nature.

Let us sacrifice our children if the sheep suffer from illness or disease. Let us kill one another when there is dispute over the treatment of the sheep. We shall not bother with our own doubt. Let us ignore them as the sheep ignore the sandy earth. Let us dismiss the questions that forever run through our minds of whether the sheep belong to us or whether we belong to the sheep.

Let us remember that when one sheep dies, we must kill one of our own to make up for the loss.

Let us never forget that we belong to the sheep!

Let us write down our decrees and thinking at this moment and forever follow them blindly, as the flock follows their ram. No matter what changes befall us, no matter what discoveries we make, let us never forsake the wool and the wisdom of the sheep.

Let us raise our goblets of sheep urine and drink to the wool and the wisdom of sheep, never to think for ourselves but only to remain faithful to the sheep.

Amen!

My last confession

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman
1,407 words

I must be falling. My suit jacket is bunched up under my arms and flapping around my head. A strip of polka dots slaps around my face. My calves and white cotton socks exposed. Shoe laces whip my shins. The wind changes pitch as it passes through the circle I’ve formed with my lips.

Forgive me father for I have sinned; it is…

     The air is getting colder. I look down and see flecks of shine coming and going on a canvas of blue. The ocean coming up to greet me. I make out, almost directly below me, the Golden Gate bridge.

I pray I hit it so the story ends.

The bridge whistles past and out of instinct I point my toes to the water and press my arms to my sides. The air rushes into my lungs just before water rushes in my nose and past my ears. My eyes are shut but less and less light makes it through my eyelids. I put my arms out to slow the dive.

     I open my eyes. All around are people. Some swim gracefully above, others motionless and fall past me. I see a man in shorts and a polo pushing past a motionless woman in pearls and an apron. Her hair wrapped around her face, pointing her way to the surface. People were everywhere, submerged, floating and swimming, looking around confused.

I look down. A mass of behemoth black shadows swirls below me. I look up. Pants, belts, socks, skirts, blouses, bras, thongs, ties, jackets, shoes falling toward me. People kicking and thrashing toward the light. I see people at the top burst through the surface and take a breath of air. My chest starts to burn with envy. Naked bodies fall toward me.

I need oxygen.

O’ my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee…

     I started to push up as if there were solid objects below my feet and hands. I am heavy with wet clothes. A woman removes her shoes and fights upward. I pull at the water to fight up. I kick off my own bloating leather soles and pull off my socks. A loose tie wraps around my neck as I push upward. I tear it off and begin removing the rest of my clothing, always gyrating upwards toward the light. The burning in my lungs starts to feel like the image of a film reel being eaten up by a flame. I’m feverishly kicking like a frog while my hands tug away at the belt. I pushed off my pants. The shirt doesn’t tear quickly enough. I look down and begin to panic.

     The shadows seem closer and the light farther away. Something touches my foot and instinct kicks in. I look straight up, now completely naked and cup my hands for full force. I’m beginning to exhale in short bursts that grow longer with each snort. I’ll run out of air soon and then, out of habit, inhalation will take over.

I am sorry for these sins and all the sins of my whole life…

     Next to me, a man grips the legs of the person above, trying to pull himself up. He exposes the man’s ass and they both fall further down. They reach for me while their mouths fill with water and sink to the swirling black masses.

A woman below me reaches for my leg. I kick at her hand, but she grabs my ankle. A bubble of air leaps out of my throat but the muscles tighten their grip on my body, and I pull both of us forward. 

     I won’t make it to the top with her extra weight. The burning in my chest has been replaced by spasms. My lungs pounding in their cage. I begin to sputter. Whatever air is left in my lungs turns to bubbles in the water. The light is just a few strokes above me. I look down and see a man grabbing at the woman hanging on to me. I kick at her hand, she lets go, now fighting off her own leech. I push forward and in another two strokes, the light blinds my eyes.

Thank you, father.

The light disappears.

#

In an abandoned house off the 215 freeway I go to confess my sins. The minister sits behind a plaster wall from 4:00 pm to 4:52 pm. He enters through a hole in the outside wall because the front door is boarded up. Sitting in the master bathroom, he takes confessions through a glory hole. 

I walked in with the dead eyes of a junkie, unsticking my eyelids from the caked cocaine and running eyeliner. Another day wasted. Given up to the night before. I had time to confess before Father Ibsen spent the rest of his night suckling at any booze he could find, nursing his own demons. I stooped to put my face by the hole. Parting my dry lips with my tongue, I recited the script.

“Father forgive me for I have sinned again.  I know not what I did but I know a blue-eyed, red-haired devil in fishnet stockings made me do it.”

A lighter clinked and hissed. Tobacco hit my nose. Smoke poured through the hole and made my eyes well up. His words curled through the haze.

“Tell me son, what have you done that you say the devil made you do?”

My eyes tried to focus. I listened to my breathing and my mind clarified for a moment. Guilt has a queer way of turning me into a saint. The few moments in between coming to and my next blackout I find myself curling into a ball and begging my inner child for forgiveness. My ego quenches the thirst, but my self flushes it into oblivion. However, feelings don’t mean facts, so I answer honestly.

“I don’t know but the evidence keeps piling up behind me.”  Father Ibsen passes the cigarette through the glory hole, filter ripped off. I extend two yellow fingers to accept. 

“Son, in my terrifying experience the demons don’t scratch, tear, bite, claw, scream or yell, rip, shred or gnash their teeth. No, they brush your hand, touch you lightly on your thigh and whisper in your ear. They’ll give you sweet words and pour confidence down your throat, inject self-esteem into your veins and breathe life into your nose. It’s a slow seduction.”

I took a long pull from the cigarette. With no filter, the smoke punched a hacking cough out of my lungs. I choked it down to hear the rest of Father Ibsen’s sermon.

“They make you think you are doing all the work. That you make the decisions and take charge of your destruction. So that by the time you feel the scratching, tearing, biting, clawing, screaming, yelling, ripping, shredding, and gnashing of teeth you think it’s the demons but it’s really the angels giving all they have to try and pull you back. While the demons lay back, pissing and blowing snot bubbles all over themselves with laughter at the violent struggles of their boy scout doppelgängers.”

Father Ibsen stuck two fingers back through the hole. I handed him the cigarette and he continued.

 “That is the devil’s greatest pride. She twists her forked whiskey-soaked tongue around yours until you can’t tell the difference and when you think you know, she has you.  Her trick is making you think all the rules and regulations will save you, but the fortress is really a prison.”

The words were ironic coming from the fiery, vodka drenched breath spurting out of the hole. He chuckled and finished his impromptu sermon to the choir.

“So, it makes me laugh, son, until tears stream and sides ache, when I hear one of my children say, ‘the devil made me do it’ because son, aren’t we just the devil?”

His final words sounded like an admiring mother mildly scolding her mischievous child.  I heard his chair creak as he stood up. He passed his collar through the fuck hole, spotted and stained with sweat and semen, and spoke the last words I ever heard from his mouth. “Time for this devil to change costumes. But you should sit on this side of the wall. Hearing the insanities of the other, keeps one’s own in check. Their ain’t no glory on this side of the hole, any stone age queen will tell you the same.”

end

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Dinosaurs and Jesus

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman
576 words

I picked up Saul after work. He was standing outside of a hole-in-the-wall Taqueria, smoking a cigarette. He got in the car and we headed to his girl’s trailer home. 

            “While I was standing out there a cop rolled by and stared me down.” Said Saul.

            “That’s always annoying no matter what you’re doing.”

            “Yeah and I was smoking. Loma Linda has a ban on smoking.”

            “Jesus, they’re making weed legal and banning cigarettes all in the same state.”

            “Someone told me there was a proposal to ban cigarettes or all nicotine stuff in the military.”

            “There’s no way.”

            “Yeah, some health nut politician.”

            “And replace them with what? Prayer beads? Crystals?”

            “I can barely walk outside without needing a cig, I can’t imagine sitting in a foxhole, bullets flying, you die right next to me and I’m not supposed to smoke?”

            “If that’s not the time, then when?”

            “Right.”

            He pulled out another smoke just as I pulled up next to the trailer home.

            “I just need to give this money to Paula’s mom.” He said, his lips pressed around the cigarette. Then he disappeared around the corner of the motor home.

Saul was in town for a few days before he moved out to Santa Barbara. He traded in his TV and PlayStation to get Paula a guitar. His plan was to find a campsite, set up and tune out. Off the grid. She would panhandle while he looked for a job. Her disability checks were also mentioned.

I was envious. The thought of my girl, some trees, cigarettes and booze were better than any heaven I had been told about in school. And those were the same people who denied the existence of dinosaurs while standing in front of the nearly intact skeletal structure of a Triceratops, their imaginations must have been out of this world. But Saul was looking everything right in the face and saying no.

He came back around the corner and hopped back into the car.                                                        “Jesus, not another second with her.”

            “You’re my hero.” I said, shaking my head. He grinned.

We had talked about shutting off the world many times and he was a few days and a couple details away from freedom. Tracking time in cigarettes and answering only to his bodily functions.

I changed the subject.

            “Stell?”

            “Sure, I could go for a cup of coffee.”

I made a right. We laughed at all the things we passed and listened to classic rock. Too soon we walked into the coffee shop. 

            “A mug?”

The lady got it right but today I was unusually optimistic. 

“A mug and a cookie, please.”

Saul ordered a beer and excused himself to the restroom.

Saul and I met in rehab. We got sober together. A few months after, Saul had jumped off the wagon.

Would they really take away cigarettes from soldiers? How would they cope with stress? I couldn’t imagine a soldier right after a battle also needing to fight off a craving. It was not likely to happen.

Our drinks slid onto the counter. I grabbed them and took a table outside. Saul came out, lighting a cigarette as he sat down.

I restrained my need for nicotine.

            “You still not smoking?” said Saul.

            “Yeah, but it’s a horrible feeling.”

He took a long drag.

            “Good for you man.”

Saul’s going to live off the grid. He’s winning the war.

end

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Survive, Laughable, Sacrifice

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by https://wordcounter.net/random-word-generator

19 minutes left to decide. Do I smoke this J and risk getting caught? or do I risk my sanity by delivering another mind numbing sermon?

The danger in the latter is that I may really let them know how I feel. That I became a priest because it’s a cushy job with plenty of time to myself. Because everyone looks up to and reveres the collar.

Today is Easter Sunday. I won’t survive, however, if I can’t do this high or a little drunk. One of the two days out of the year in which the church is full. A fact about the faith so laughable I find I cry myself to sleep at the thought.

So I will eat this cupcake full of THC and if it’s the lords will that I expose myself for an unbelieving fraud, then so be it.

If I deliver my sermon as normal, then I’ll have to go through all this mental, emotional, and spiritual torture next Sunday.

For now, I’ll have a cup of wine while the cupcake digests, then maybe have an Easter wank.

Douglas, the little 9-year-old isn’t due in for another hour, so I’ve got time.

What if i talked about the devil as a loving, caring entity who is only misunderstood? That would be too far left to be funny.

If I touted the benefits to marijuana and tied it to the creation story, would that go over well? They would definitely know I was high.

Now I’m beginning to get the giggles.

What if I preached only the parts of the bible which have lists? The lists of ancestors going on and on about who begat whom. Or the lists of supplies and resources. What if I tied it to a ludicrous message that god wants his children to make lists, then read through all the lists and say something like “make lists and think of god because the devil is in the details.”

The infuriating part is that no one would question the sermon. Even those that thought it strange would simply leave and move on with their days. THAT above all things is the most frustrating part of being a priest, lack of accountability.

The members of the church believe the clergy answer only to god but the clergy really only answer to themselves.

There is no accountability from god, or those cunt-priests touching kids would have been fried by lightening by now instead of moved around.

Maybe I’ll just go out and talk about love. If I quit now, some asshole will spew hell fire and brimstone

Imbricate, Pongee, Zucchetto

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by Dad

In the museum I was mostly bored save for a few minor details that caught my attention. Supposedly, at one time there were these organizations, run mostly like clubs with memberships, that had the benefit of being tax exempt. Religious organizations.

Each one claimed to be different but after millions of years of doubt, questioning, corruption, and frivolous rules, the obvious simply became too obvious to ignore.

There was no catastrophic event, it was only a “last straw” sort of situation.

Now I was passing an exhibit that was part of the Catholic section (one of the largest section of the museum). The guide pointed at an old pink colored hat, just large enough to fit on the back of a skull, and said “Notice the pongee on this Zucchetto. Pongee the Chinese silk fabric on a cap traditionally worn by Catholic clergy. Quite the contrast of cultures and beliefs in one little cap.”

Indeed, the irony was right in front of their faces (or on their heads) the entire time.

We passed a display with all sorts of symbols. The Christian cross was pointed out as another symbol of irony; a torture device used by the Roman Empire became the symbol of a supposedly peaceful belief system.

The Jewish star, a symbol of the merging of heaven and earth, or to others, the merging of male and female. It turns out a symbol of tangled confusion. Most, if not all the symbols had more than one meaning, which, the tour guide pointed out, should have been another clue into the ambiguous nature of religious truths, if it could be called natural.

We passed by books that had been called holy but were now simply considered old and outdated.

We passed miniature cathedrals, temples, churches, synagogues, mosques, etc. All destroyed now and replaced with museums, art installations, libraries or public parks.

When the tour ended, I walked back to the section with miniature versions of the once erected places of worship. They must have been truly magnificent works of architecture and they were inspired by awe, wonder and a deep reverence for something they believed to be as real as the stones, wood and stained glass used to build them.

I stared at one rooftop in particular, the plaque read “This rooftop was built to mimic the imbrication often found in nature. Notice the uneven staggering of tiles, not like a snake or fish but more like that of a pine cone or blossomed flower.”

What was it all about? Who was it really for?

Surface, Sandals, Nail polish

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by @ninajo47

He picked at his finger nails, chipping off the black and red polish. On the surface of thee white linoleum floor, flecks were starting to become noticeable.

Usually, these appointments were nothing to worry about but since his last visit he’d been exposed to music.

Every month he was to meet with his Selector, the person managing his life experience as a clone. His original had long since died, and now he was allowed to live a sorta life of his own.

At first he was confined to the compound. As he learned to socialize, comprehend and maneuver complicated social situations, he progressed to excursions. These were day trips with his selector beyond the compound.

He went out to eat, had a drink, watched a movie and went bowling. Then returned home and processed everything through the machine covered in buttons labeled with letters.

He was allowed to leave longer and more often until he reached maximum liberty, as it was called. He could live outside of the compound if he was able to sustain himself with some sort of job and checked in with his selector once a month.

It had been two years, and although he had lived outside of the compound, he stayed within the confines of the life experiences he’d been taught at the cloning facility.

Once, he had caught a glimpse of the manual the selectors used to manage clones.

“Managing the Living Experiences of Like-Humans: A Manual and Practical Application of Puritanical Mores”

None of that meant anything to him but he liked the words.

Now, waiting for his next meeting he was beginning to feel just a hint of an inclination of what the Manual’s title was supposed to mean.

He had been invited to a concert, “the Trashy Cans” was the name of the band, an all female group. The experience changed his life. For two hours it was as if the “application of puritanical mores” were stripped from his being like slow-motion footage of a bomb blast: First burning off the clothes, then melting the skin, peeling back the muscles and tendons and finally disintegrating the bones.

That was rock ‘n’ roll.

Now he was in that all white building of his origins, feeling bad but uncertain as to why. Though he had a hunch that the nail polish, flip flops and beard wouldn’t go over well.