Atrocities of War

In that moment Paulette stepped outside anything that had ever hurt her before. Harve needed her more than she needed herself.

But she had nothing to say. Nothing to offer him. She came up empty.

“I may not have shot any of those babies in safety seats, but I took out my share o’ guys in a country I started thinking we had no right bein’ in. I could tell myself they’d signed up for it, knowing they might not go home, but that just didn’t cut it after a while.” …

… “Oh, they were scumbags, alright. Other guys in my unit’d be ready to just level the kids too, cause they were getting in our way, but I said, Wait. Let me try goin’ in first. Let me come at ’em from the rear.

“Other times I just lost myself in the righteous glory of cluster bombing the hell outa those bastards.

“And for that one moment, in all the cheering and explosions it’s like all was right with the world. It was John Phillip Sousa at Disneyland.

“But then you wake up a little. You just snuffed out future generations. Maybe bad guys can have good kids if you let ’em. We’ll never know now.”

He was coming close to crying.

“And then you see all those pieces; kid parts lying everywhere.

“And their little faces.

“If they even still had faces.

“Once you finish throwing up, and then toss back a few at camp pub, your next job is to find something inside you that you can bury that under.

“And then … what? Just go on living?”

– From “The Gardens of Ailana”

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Depression

Depression is a non-life. It just sits there, not stirring. Like you’re mired in the silence and sludge at the bottom of a stagnant sea. Now and then a dim, fuzzy wad of something hangs above, a brief distraction from your comforting gloom, but it hurts to be reminded there is still life in any form. So you snuggle back into your sludge. Snug it in like a thick, fuzzy blanket around your heart, welcoming the dull, slow non-rhythm of pain and numbness.

Depression sticks to your soul, layers around and within you, suffocating all hope.

I may have lost years to this emotional cancer after Julie pulled away. Depression is a timeless state. Each second is interminable. This hideous strangling darkness drew in ever tighter and more dank, closer than my skin because skin is only on the outside.

There was a big ugly hole in my world, and nothing to plug it with but misery.

– Excerpt from “Entertaining Naked People”

Heart pain can lead us Higher

When my arms grew long and strong enough I started pulling myself up onto the roof to lie back under the stars, praying for their vast peace to drain off some of this hurt. I ached for something higher, richer, undeniable, and there were moments when I was teased with just a glimpse. I could lose my heart in a picture of Jesus or Mary, in a rainy autumn sunset, or a field of stars, and it was like I’d gone home. Everything dissolved into pure, aching sweetness. How vast love can be when we don’t hack off a chunk and hoard it, call it ours, or chain it to someone; when it isn’t love for some thing or someone, just love.
I was only allowed brief visits to this world beyond worlds, though, and couldn’t bring the bliss back with me. Trying to hold on to that soul piercing, excruciating sweetness was like tearing my heart apart; but maybe that was exactly the point. Broken hearts show us we’ve grown out of one stage, by ripping us wide open for the next.
We’re forced to choose what we do with all that pain: turn it against ourselves, aim it at someone else, or tap all that power and reach higher.
– From “Entertaining Naked People”

“Entertaining Naked People” – My new novel.

Excerpts:
I had to learn from experience that death was only temporary.
As a small boy, frail in body and spirit, I reached so far beyond the world of the living I didn’t bring all of me back. I tapped into lives that had been lived and maybe lost. They just kind of reached out and grabbed me. Other people’s pains chewed through me like lingering nostalgia for days I couldn’t quite recall. I took on the hurt of others like festering sores draining the spirit out of me.
Our family didn’t talk about what churned and ate away at us. Dad said all we needed to know was in our little catechisms or brightly colored Bible tales. For anything too deep and hurtful; that didn’t make any sense, just wasn’t fair, and we really, really needed to come to grips with; he’d just say, “Well, that’s just one of God’s glorious mysteries.” End of story.
Not for me, it wasn’t.
Blind obedience was our nemesis and inspiration.
I couldn’t resist questioning encrusted old beliefs, though questioning was the worst of all sins.

Pathologically sensitive, young Ed feels what people hide even from themselves. His world churns with matters so terribly unfair that he can’t accept them. Overwhelmed by hopelessness, he’s afraid to reach out into life.
Ed leaves for college as the Vietnam War deadens souls and riots tear cities apart. He has to deal with hippie artists trying to out-weird each other, police attacking innocents, and friends committing suicide.
In one month he drops out of school, turns twenty-one, his father dies, and he is drafted.
He refuses induction. He knows that if he ever finds himself in a paddy facing an armed enemy soldier, he wouldn’t be the one pulling the trigger.
Hitching a ride west with a strangely wise cowboy, he is pulled ever deeper into the bizarre and the impossible. He meets healers and miracle workers as he sorts through his own darkness and power.
He camps in deserts, sets out to sea, even walks out into the fury of a hurricane, trying to touch God close up and in all His power. He has given up on finding Him in any one religion. If He is out there, you may have to kill yourself to find him.
He teaches massage school in southern California, his life spilling over with unbridled passion now of a more erogenous sort. And yet for a while longer he must still taste darkness, failure, and bitterness.
Sometimes we have to be destroyed so we can be reborn. Anything that can be ground out you by another may need to be let go of anyway before you can see what you truly are. Crawling from the wreckage of his own being, Ed finds wisdom and healing one naked truth at a time.
He discovers that we don’t have to search for God, soul, magic, and truth. They have been with us, inside us, since our childhood.
In the end it is all about love, knowing that when you hug a child, or scratch a dog, you can find everything that is most magical and beautiful in your own hands and heart.

Slipping awkwardly into romance.

Across the street, a retired couple strolled, rocking to a shared rhythm it had taken them years to co-ordinate.
Slowly, luxuriously, the day slipped away. The restaurant dimmed. Waiters ached to go home. In the plaza, the fountain couldn’t quite touch the stars, but certainly reached for them, the cool comfort of sky and spray mingling along iridescent edges. Sam and Clara went for a walk, holding each other in changing, experimental grips, all awkwardness and bliss.

It was late, well past midnight, but Sam couldn’t sleep. He inhaled the aroma of Clara’s long bubble bath as she lingered in there and he missed her.
He had no idea she was waiting, hoping he’d join her. Soaking as the water turned cold, she kept picturing ways he could slip in and “accidentally,” catching her naked: He’d forgotten his watch. He’d forgotten she was in there. Or the best of all possible scenarios: he’d just missed her and wanted to hold her as she sat so completely vulnerable, fresh, and hungry in the tub.
But he never came.
– From “The Mourning After,” a novel by Edward Fahey.