H- slowly read, “United States of America.”
I took back the card and scanned for the line I intended her to read and be impressed by, and then reattempted my quest, this time with my finger as a guide for her eyes.
“Flight Instructor, H-. Flight Instructor. I can teach people how to fly.”
She was not impressed.
“Oh, look at this. These are the two guys who invented flight,” I said, showing her the back of the license.
She scanned it, displaying deep resolve to not feed my ego.
“Wait,” she finally said as I took it away. “Let me see it again.”
This time her eyes studied the images.
Her turn to impress, she dispassionately declared, “They look like the Wright brothers.”
“It’s called ergonomic,” he informed H-, taking a moment to verify that he believed the mug’s slightly twisted handle was in fact designed that way, and not just poorly made.
“I would rather call it a foal. Or, like, a stallion or parents.”
“What?” he asked, confused and trying to not lose focus on what he was reading while they ate their donuts. “Why would you call a coffee cup’s handle’s shape a horse?”
After taking a moment to recount the conversation in her head, she replied, “You said,” then she paused before continuing, “Wait, what did you call it?”
“Ergonomic-” he repeated mechanically.
“-Right,” she said, recognizing the big word this time. “Then I said, ‘I’d call it a foal’—I didn’t say a horse.”
“Right,” he confirmed, belaboring the word. “Then I asked you, ‘Why would you call it a foal?’” Then, deciding that H- was not going to let him off the hook easy, he refocused all his attention on their conversation and, for clarity, asked, “What is a foal anyhow?”
Eyes wide in disbelief, she answered with an impassioned yet restrained increase in volume, “A foal is a baby horse!”
“Okay, okay. I remember now. But you still haven’t told me why you would call it a foal?”
Seeing that her father did have a point and finally hearing his real question, she answered, “Because they’re cute!”
She had plugged the laptop directly into the wall outlet. I couldn’t believe it. One year has passed, but it still sticks out in my memory.
Before the babysitter left, I tucked H- in for the night. After paying her and saying, “Thanks again!” I showed her the door and she exited. There was always a peculiar tension to our interactions, likely due to the fact that she was young and happily married and I was divorced and didn’t buy it.
But she had plugged. The laptop. Directly. Into. The wall. Who does this?
Moments like these confirm that I am not meant for marriage.
Did she not know how much a laptop costs? Or how much of me she placed at risk?
Quickly, I double check that, sure enough, the surge protector is on the ground, visible, and within reach of the wall outlet–right where I left it.
But come closer now. There is something else. I want to tell you something that I already feel guilty for sharing. There is a part of a lover that I miss dearly. I don’t hear much discussion of it among the ranks of men, but I find it to be enchantingly erotic.
It is the feel of the tender, meaty flesh of the inside of your upper arms. You only offer it as you lie naked beneath me, having willingly allowed me to push your arms over your head in worship.
Now there is only longing. Longing for my thumb to again devotedly caress the skin that spans from the bones of your wrists to the muscles of your arms as I finally and firmly enclose this part of you in my palm.
Vulnerability, your scent intoxicates!
And what of this confession?
And she said, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of Yahweh.”
Cain’s shoulders rose and fell. The deed done, his fight for air was not over. Eve had watched him come to her from the field. He ran at first. He walked the last length before stopping with his face before hers.
The moment was no different than any other for Eve. As long as she could remember she had known precisely how she felt and what she wanted to say, but often, and again on this day, she did not have the words.
Cain slowly regained his breath while he watched Eve walk from tent stake to tent stake. Her course never wavered. She simply would look at Cain then bend down and pull the stake out of the ground. In response, the animal skin previously held taut would slacken. Cain stood still as he watched his mother. When she pulled from the ground the fourth stake, the tent no longer held its shape. But when she grasped the fifth stake, the earth did not release it so easily. She calmly tried again. The land still held tight. Standing up, she looked once more at Cain. Then she pushed her sleeves back and reached down again.
“Stay!” she cried out as Cain began to move towards her.
He obeyed as the wood sliced through her palms, her own blood now adding to the difficulty. Unable to be still any longer he walked towards her. The noise she made was so loud it stopped him. She seemed to break her voice with it. But what he did not expect was the speed and force with which she pushed him back. He looked down and saw two dark hand-prints on his skin. He watched his right thumb raise and slowly smear through her blood. Her rapid, wild strikes against his shoulders then his chest awoke him from contemplation. He did not resist. Only when she wildly began to beat his head did he cover her fists with his own and restrain her.
Then he caught his mother as she collapsed before him in exhaustion. Watery tears fell from her eyes and guttural moans escaped from her mouth. Then she lifted her head towards his. She grasped onto his hair and pulled his ear to her mouth.
“You are Cain. My son.”
“It’s so hot, it melted butter!” H- exclaimed as we entered the car after the service.
He immediately and uncontrollably voiced aloud, “Why is there butter in the car?” While silence filled the air, he recounted the latest and most butter filled experiences of their past.
Sure, there was the camping trip to the mountains wherein they stopped at the convenience store to pick up the butter necessary for successful and tasty breakfasts which he forgot to pack–the convenience store who’s possibly-attractive-enough-to-turn-men’s-heads-nine-years-ago-in-high-school-blonde-haired clerk suggestively asked him, “Whaaaaaaa-tcha makin’?” as she rang up the butter-
(A suggestion that he might have accepted if first, he were younger, second, he was not presently reconsidering leaving his daughter alone in the car for so long, and third, he was less aware of divine commands against extramarital fornication with heathen women.)
-But no, he could distinctly picture that box of butter and its remaining three sticks in the door of the refrigerator at home.
The salacious and provocative memory addressed, he now returned to the warm car and continued his interrogation of H-, asking, “H-? Why is there butter in the car? What are you talking about?”
Unperturbed by the question, H- answered, “It’s just a little bit, here on the handle.”
Without turning to view the location, he asked, “Okay, but where did it come from?”
Then he remembered that her bagel was simply buttered–no schmear.
“H-. I still don’t understand,” he rejoined, “Why is there butter on the handle? Where did it come from?” he continued.
“It’s not a lot, daddy,” she said. “I just, you know, had a little extra butter on the bagel and used the napkin to wipe it off and put the napkin in the door handle.”
‘Okay,’ he thought to himself. ‘So we’ve got the origin of the situation explained. Now we need to discuss the how-and-why of the fact that butter does not quite possess the right attributes to base exclamatory remarks intended to indicate uncomfortable realities of life in a car without air conditioning.’
“Yeah, well next time, H-, just eat the butter. Okay?”
“Ah, what’s going on here?” he said, upon seeing the “Road Closed” signs ahead.
Our pair were on their way to their downtown church, and as often was the case, some Sunday mornings more people chose to use the city streets to communally run/walk in circles than travel to worship the LORD.
“Daddy, why don’t you use your phone?” H- suggested from the back seat.
In previous and similar situations H- must have noticed that her father fared better when he let the voice of his GPS keep him oriented to the church’s location as he attempted to navigate the detour.
“Well, H-, here’s the thing. I feel like one day I am going to really understand how to navigate downtown Denver,” he paused for effect. “And today, well, today just might be that day.”
He looked into the rear-view mirror and saw what can only be described as volumes of doubt.
Let me pause this tale to ask you, the reader, a question. How many words can a little girl’s look contain? By my count, at least fifty. For H-‘s look said, clearer than any voice can utter, “You think today is going to be that day, daddy? Of all days, you actually think the day you understand downtown Denver is today? When we’re already late? I cannot tell, daddy, if you’re joking or not? So I’m asking you directly, ‘Do you really think that day is today?'”
Suffice it to say, it wasn’t that day.
Harsh wind enraged remnant embers
“Cain, my love!” his mother cries
She bids him, “Here!”, she scrambles near.
A Sestina is form of poetry–a restrictive form of poetry. It has six stanzas of six lines, then a three line stanza. The last words of each stanza are the tricky part. After the first stanza, the last words have been chosen. The full pattern is as follows:
- ECA or ACE (called envol or tornada–it must also contain the other end-words, BDF, in the course of the three lines so that all six appear in the final three lines.)
We now pause our regularly scheduled programming (three more Cain and Abel re-writes on their way) to bring you some of Robert Louis Stevenson’s best sentences.
From Treasure Island
Silver was roundly accused of playing double–of trying to make a separate peace for himself, of sacrificing the interests of his accomplices and victims, and, in one word, of the identical, exact thing that he was doing.
From Prince Otto
(This first one hits strikingly close to home–perhaps ol’ Bob stumbled upon Ecclesiastes?)
Do you not know that you are touching, with lay hands, the very holiest inwards of philosophy, where madness dwells? Ay, Otto, madness; for in the serene temples of the wise, the inmost shrine, which we carefully keep locked, is full of spiders’ webs. All men, all, are fundamentally useless; nature tolerates, she does not need, she does not use them: sterile flowers!
And this one (Prince Otto, too) persuades whatever inner-workings lie behind the long development of some men’s seemingly hard, dark faces to rush to just beneath the surface the brightest and rosiest hues of red.
There is nothing that so apes the external bearing of free will as that unconscious bustle, obscurely following liquid laws, with which a river contends among obstructions.
Of all creatures, man is set apart by his ability to respond at length. Other creatures appear to be able to make inquiry and even reply through a series of grunts and gestures, but man alone has been endowed with the responsive power so-called reason.
Lowering his chin almost imperceptibly, Adam slowly closed his eyes. With an increase of force likely to be noticed solely by his closest family, he exhaled the entirety of the deep breath he had been holding as he watched his sons. He leaned his head forward until his chin rested on hand, which was on the top of his staff, as he reopened his eyes.
“What?” Eve asked.
He didn’t look at her. Though his eyes were open, he did not see anything but the garden.
“What?” Eve repeated.
Worried by Adam’s silence, Eve did not notice the look on Cain’s face. Adam did not have to.
“Abel!” he called at last. “Here,” he motioned for his son to come close.
As Abel listened to his father’s words, he looked towards Cain only to see that Cain was staring at him. Some new feeling arose in Abel, one whose name did not yet exist but which he wished would never have surfaced.
The next month was not pleasant for the family. Adam would not let his sons out of his sight. Eve worried.
“What are you saying, Cain?” Abel asked when the two brothers were in the fields, some distance from Adam.
“I’m saying He-” Cain motioned towards the entire sky, “-He spoke to me after that day.”
“And what did He say?” Abel replied.
“He told me If you do well, will not your face be lifted up?”
Relieved, Abel said, “That sounds true.”
“But then He said,” Cain continued, “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you.”
Alarmed and looking for Adam, Abel said, “Why wouldn’t you do well, brother?”
Adam awoke from his daydream and did not immediately see his sons. Scanning the horizon with growing panic, he soon calmed down. The two men were seen facing each other, apparently talking about something. Then Abel took a step backwards, as if to place some distance between Cain and himself. Adam grabbed his staff and began to run, cursing himself that he did not stay closer.
“STOP!” Cain commanded Adam, Abel lying lifeless on the ground. “Do not come any closer, father.”
Adam stopped and closed his eyes and saw the garden. Cain bumped Adam’s shoulder as he left him there with Abel’s body. Then Adam buried Abel.
That night, Cain had nightmares of the voice saying, “You must master it. You must master it. You must master it.”
He awoke to the sound of thunder, soaked in sweat.
Then Yahweh said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”
I don’t post as much as I used to. My studies have kind of skerred me away from writing anything which carries an implicit, “If you only read what I write about Scripture THEN you’ll understand it.” For I cannot see how most theological writing is any different than every poor soul who does willfully add their own writings to Scripture. However, I still love reading and writing (am into some Robert Louis Stevenson at the moment), so I’ve decided to go a different route. To challenge myself literarily and spiritually, I am going to re-write some Old Testament stories that have caught my attention.
To be clear, what follows are totally for enjoyment. There is no added value or significant meaning. It just helps me to remember Scripture if I can discern between something that is not Scripture and the real deal. To begin, because a friend of mine has me re-examining the story of Cain and Abel found in Genesis, I am going to see if I can re-write it five times–each in a distinct genre. As “fabulism” or “post-modernism” or what I think is just as aptly labeled “anything goes” is essentially the latest genre to emerge–certainly not present in Moses’ mind–I will start there. Enjoy.
she was not quite awake as he pawed her legs apart dawn had not yet broke they were alone somewhere in the middle of another barren land where the few nearby leaves rustled she soon caved to his passion it frightened her she bit his lip and was rewarded she bit harder he responded harder he slowly twisted her long hair around his hand and suddenly jerked her head back roughly she dug her fingernails into his back seeking blood in return he leaned his face towards hers again he held his foul breath in and by this she could tell he was close she bit his lip almost clean off as he finished tasting his blood he recoiled and instinctively smacked her hard seeing only the shadow of him through her own dark arms she screamed with sheer terror he had only witnessed such fear once before and that time he didn’t stop on this morning something was different on this morning he stayed his fist then his hands favored her soft chest to the hard ground and he squeezed violently one last time before he pressed himself to his feet food he thought catching his breath he walked towards his fruitless garden in the morning darkness
i do remember said abel i remember yahweh looked well upon my offering and did not look well upon yours then cain said i heard the voice of yahweh he spoke to me then abel said what did he say then cain said yahweh said to me if you do well then your face will be lifted up but if you do not do well sin is crouching at your door it wants to devour you you must rule over it then abel said to cain what are you going to do
the distant thunder slowly rolled closer as if weary from the journey as cain tore into the flesh of his brother abel and the blood of abel began to mix with his sweat on his skin and the thunder grew in speed and strength only yahweh saw everything but had you been there had the skies not become as night you might have seen that it was precisely when the first blood of abel landed on the earth that the deafening thunder clap stopped the intoxicated fury for one moment cain cowered in fear but abel was already asleep then cain completed his murderous act with renewed heart and vowed to never be interrupted again
cain wrapped his cloak around him as he sat alone on the side of the rocky mountain cain gazed far beyond where the heavens touched the earth the wind squinted the eyes of cain and then yahweh said to cain where is abel your brother cain was still as the mountain he sat upon then cain said i do not know am i my brothers keeper
then cain said to his wife who was with child there is no more food here