Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Dead End...

You live and breathe and go about your day as if you were programmed to do so.

People are programmed to be the most efficient of their time, ultimately to make someone else more money. Lately I've been hearing all of these stories of what people have done to get more money...or to protect their money. It makes me sad. Those people make me sad because they missed out.

They missed playing in the snow as a kid, or they forgot. The missed watching the sway of the trees in the wind. They missed watching the helicopter seed drop so slowly to the ground in front of them. They missed the feeling of cold rain on your tongue on a hot day. Whatever beautiful thing this earth did that they missed or chose to forget is lost to them.

People do these terrible things and you want vengeance, not even knowing you already have it. They have to be them. Don't forget to be you.

I really miss my brothers tonight. I miss them being in this world. Some things serve as a reminder that there is so much beauty in the world and it is terrifying that some people would want to reject it. Maybe we should focus on other things...productive things. But maybe some times spent at random mean more than anything else.

These random times are the ones I miss most.

I miss the time Will and I got arrested together. I miss the time we took apart an entire car and didn't know how it went back together. I miss when Joe would lose a game and would always yell at us, "You're Screwing Me."  I miss those Thursday nights at the movies when we made a deal with our wives to leave us alone until 3AM every Thursday so we could have time family. I miss driving all over the places we used to go and wishing we could watch our lives happen all over again.

We had so much fun. We got hurt along the way, but we were immortal in our minds. We shot out windows, threw people's trash cans, pretended to be bird catchers, went fishing and always put anything we caught into the video store drop box, hunted geese with blow guns, woke up in strange places, stole things we didn't want for fun, bought nasty coffee in the middle of the night and lied to the cashier, saying we were musicians in transit, and invented games that no one will ever get to play.

I really never wanted to believe there was a dead end. But somehow I knew it. We had spent intervals of time worrying about each other and working to keep each other alive. We had no desire for money and they died anyway. And left me. Still standing right here, in the same place they left me.

So here I am. Everywhere I look is still a dead end. But I have so much still. Hindsight would show you that they had so much to live for, but for different reasons, they didn't see that.

I do.

I'm not a good person and don't have any wisdom about life or death to give anymore, but I do have the memory of my brothers and the beauty of my wife and children. Maybe the focus should be on the beauty.

I would die for any one memory I had with them. So doesn't that make life beautiful? Isn't that a great reason to cease our love of money and love those in front of us? I don't know about you, but the times I've spent in beauty have made me look to the sky an weep.


Thanks for reading...Z

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Descent

I played the piano while staring at her picture. The way her eyes looked back at me under the flash of lights, and that glimpse of her happiness. Her eyes spoke to me every time I sat down on that wooded stool. She whispered her dreams into my ears at night. I saw her everywhere I went. At the grocery store, I saw her pushing the cart with a kid in the seat, and a kid on the end holding on. She would be buying grapes and bananas. I would look at her and look away to avoid an awkward moment. She knew and I knew. People are always in tune to when they are being preyed upon.

I had worked as a steel worker in a factory where no one really has a first name. I was Jonesy. My real name was Gabriel Allen Jones. I am one of the guys who have a trademark behind their name. I wasn't just Jonesy for Jones, I was also "Loverboy," the name of the angel of love. Gabriel=angel and Jones=jonesing. As if I were Jonesing for drugs. Which I'm not, it's just an example.

I gave her the world when we met. Our first date, I took her to this house outside of Houston and we watched the fire works under the light of the moon in the bed of my F-150. She didn't need to know the fireworks were in celebration of the execution of Robert Miller, a wife killer.

A mother killer. My mother's killer.

I took her to wherever and made her whatever she wanted. I didn't want to know the details. I have never been a person to want to know exactly what is tormenting me. She would ask and I would look off in another direction. I was never a person to dwell on the details.

The detectives tried to tell me about my mom so I turned up my iPod and looked straight ahead.


So many things happened. I'm not the same guy. I haven't been Jonesy for a while. My wife left me because of my obsession with my mother's death. She took my kids and went across the country. I lost everything else pretty fast. I applied to a school of music and someone saw something in me.

In my audition, my fingers crossed over the keys like they were the next step in a scientific pattern. I refused my face an expression. I let my heart out because I didn't care anymore. My entire person danced with my anger and rage and sorrow. This was my last chance.

Letting everything out is likely to produce your greatest performance. The real problem is in finding that second beauty. I worked so hard in school but I found no inspiration beyond what I had given at the audition. I gave all of me at the audition and found myself empty after. After that, I could only copy the same chords of my sorrow from before. There was nothing before or after. I was just living in the vibrations of the strings of my one wonderful performance. The one time I was able to open another person's eyes and show them my heart.

I eventually left school before I lost my scholarship. I didn't much care. I didn't have anyone left to be ashamed of me. I just lived.

Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I would play piano for the Weston hotel bar. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays I would teach the piano at a local music shop.

Sundays were church and then alcohol. Repeat and repeat and repeat.

One week before I was to give up, I found him. The killer of my mother.

We were at an AA meeting. I had just started AA because they found me passed out on the freeway without a car. He showed up to the meeting wasted and talking too much. At first, I accepted the distraction from the day old donuts and coffee smell in the moldy basement of a moldy church. But as he spoke, things became familiar. He told me that he had done some jail time for assault, and that he had hit his wife with a bat. I only saw my mom's smashed head.

He spoke about the woman's husband being blamed and going to death for it and I lost my mind. My head tilted to the side and stayed there, blazing into him. He looked at me funny. He asked me "You ok?" "Yeah, I'm ok'" I would reply. I wasn't ok. I instantly realized that I was somewhere else. I found myself later standing over a bloody body and brain fragments all over the room.

The police found me laying in a corner of a small room in a nearby factory a quarter mile from his body. His blood was all over me. I didn't remember anything.


My fingers passed over the keys like they were the next stroke of a painting. The guards looked at me and shook their heads. My peers looked at me in amazement. I was special.

In that place I played things live, that my mind wouldn't conceive of in public. I played my entire heart into the air for only murderers like me to hear.


Thanks for reading...Z

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Man on Mars

Sam walked into a smaller room than the one he left...his little space, filled with stuffed animals and wrestling figurines. The television blared behind two closed doors in front of him. His hands are sweaty. He gets that way when he is unsure of the moment that he is in.

Sam gets confused sometimes during the day. He isn't always clear where he is or how he got there. He could be learning about mathematics, then black out, only to return to more mathematics without knowledge of his travels. The bell would ring nevertheless earlier than he had expected, and he knew he had gone somewhere else for a while.


Three years earlier when he was 10, his little brother had died of bone cancer and his older sister two years later drowned in a pool after taking too many pills. He was the only child left of a mom that drank too much, and a dad that was never home. In boredom, Sam watched television. Wonderful, beautiful, and hilarious stories of happiness and loss. He learned what it meant to be a man in a fictitious and colorful world.

Sam's real life lacked color. He always knew there was something more than what was in front of him, but never had gotten to see it. People would speak to him and he would nod and smile. People would ask him questions like: "What are you doing Saturday night?" He would say, "I'm gonna watch some TV, conquer, and eat pizza."

Sam never wanted a friend because he didn't understand friendship. Sam had never had a friend.

Sam stands staring at the noise that awaits him just two doors in front of him. He opens the first to another bedroom. This one is full of old storage and photo albums. The entire room smells like history. He opens the next door to find his mom in the bed with someone other than his dad. He wouldn't see his dad again. Sam stared for a moment to figure out what was happening. He stared because he was alone and she wasn't alone anymore.  Sam realized on this day that he was really alone. He was a kid living in a rat's nest, hoping to die before he had to see his mother die. So Sam left.


He went from state to state, picking up odd jobs and farm work until they couldn't afford him anymore. Sam was a vagrant, but entirely impressive to speak to.

So impressive that he impressed a person of great interest to him. That person was so impressed that he granted Sam a chance to change his life. What if Sam could ride the very first mission to Mars?


It was a strange time in America. People had grown tired of government lies and false hope. The elitists were trying to sway people back. The smart thing to do would be to put an astronaut on Mars first, they had earned it, but the strategic plan was to put a regular person up there and let him step foot on Mars for the first time. This would be a huge story and a testament to the everyday human. It would be the bastard son of a school secretary that would plant that flag on entirely foreign soil.

He went through the training. He was going to be the only human on the ship, controlled by mission control in Houston. He lost two dozen pounds from throwing up and eating prepared meal packs, similar to an MRE for soldiers.


The day came and he showed up with his mother at the launch pad. He put on the orange suit and stood before her with tears in his eyes. Neither of them knew if he would return or what he would return to. It would take four years to get back to earth. His mother looked at him and said "You deserve to see something that no one else has ever seen before." He smiled and dropped his head to his chest. "It's not easy leaving you mom," he says. "It's not easy for me to say goodbye either, but it is really easy to let you go," she replies. "There is nothing here for you, Out there, the entire world will look as small as the moon through your eyes," she says. He smiles and kisses her on the forehead, then walks into the rocket.


Two hours later, Sam is looking at the earth from outside of it. All of the blue makes him squint at first. He recovers and truly believes that there are not enough places in his brain to store all of the beauty he sees. The feeling of being so small overwhelms him. He is the only person in space right now, yet for the first time in his life, he doesn't feel alone. The grey earth and salted snow on the side of the roads he grew up with were a lie as to what existence really means. The television showed him pictures that he only knew to be false of something different. This night, there was a whole new life.


About a year later, he catches his first real glimpse at the Red Planet. At first, the red makes him squint. He recovers and begins to understand that every move he makes and every thought he thinks will be the first in human history to be done right here and right now, on Mars!

Days later, he orbits and lands on Mars. He gets out of the ship, pretending to be Neil Armstrong. He knows the entire world is watching. They will get the feed in a half an hour, live in their time. He thinks of the right thing to say. How do you outdo the "One small step" speech? He turns on the camera and opens the airlock and drops the stairs. As he steps down onto the red sand he says, "This is the future of America, but the history of the universe." His feet land and he feels the sand beneath him shift, then harden underneath. It was the feeling of never being stepped on. He grabs the flag and slams it down into the sand 30 feet from the ship and it occurred to him that he was on TV and some kid like him was watching and actually wishing he could be him...Sam.

Sam walks back to the ship and begins tearing out wires from the control panel and from the thrusting mechanism itself. He tears them out and sends them into the air where he can never find them. In several minutes, the radio is chirping with really smart people asking smart questions that only he knew the answer to. Sam refused to say. He tore out the radio and sent it into space. He bent over and looked into the camera and made a "blowing a kiss" gesture and drew a heart with his fingers on his chest. The camera went black moments later as his hand passed by the lens.


Only Sam's mom knew what that heart meant. It was a symbol of the only thing he left behind on that planet...her. He was the man on Mars now. She could see him every time she looked into the sky.

They would eventually return to Mars and find him laying on his bunk frozen. They would find his notes about what happened on Mars the last five years. And they would find his personal journals that would be published and become the single most important book of the century. Little Sam became legend.


Thanks for reading...Z

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Black Box

6: 32 PM Monday August 4th 2023

Taurus Flight Commander Arnold- "Houston, we have reached apogee, over."
Command- "Taurus, prepare for ejection, over."
Arnold- "Roger, sequencing ejection path, over."
Pilot Hogan- "Altimeter reading safe for separation, over."
Command- "Systems checks, over."
Arnold- "Commencing systems checks, stand-by Houston, over."
Command- "Roger, over."
Arnold- "Thruster is a go, over."
Hogan- "Path is a go, over,"
Dr. Parks- "Specimens in place, biology is a go, over."
Command Module Pilot Teague- "Airlock a go, life support a go, system warning a go, over."
Arnold- "Houston, we are ready for ejection, over."
Command- "Taurus, free to commence ejection, God Speed, over."

Arnold- "Everyone ready?"
Teague- "I've had quite enough of looking at the red planet, let's go home."
Arnold- "What? You don't like a little dust and sandstorms? Soft."
Teague- "276 days until we get home and I have a 16th birthday party to get to, let's go!"
Arnold- "When did you get so old?"
Teague- "Like we didn't walk the same stage. Oh, yeah, you were supposed to walk a year earlier right? Awe."
Arnold- "Mhmm, did you see my Flight Commander patch anyone? I think I may have dropped it while second-in-class Teague was rambling. Hey Teague, getting lonely in the Independence yet?"
Hogan- "Pissing all over the place! Can we go losers?"
Arnold- "It's been a pleasure meeting you Martians, you weren't very hospitable, I mean with no one showing up and all, but we have some of your rocks, so...Let's go!"
Hogan- "Initiating thrusters, commencing ejection in 5-4-3-2-1-Ejection activated."

A high frequency clip in the audio. Static. Radio silence.


Houston- "Taurus, status check. Systems are down on your side, confirm?"

Houston- "Taurus, confirm systems failure."

Houston- " Running full systems check on Taurus."

Houston- "Complete system failure on Taurus, can we get satellite visual?"

Private Monk- "Uh...sir, you may want to look at this."
Houston- "Patch it to me."
Monk- "Done."
Houston- "Debris. They're gone."

Houston- "Check the history on the box, see if you see anything malfunction."
Monk- "Right away sir."

Monk- "Thruster two systems check alarmed right before ejection."
Houston- "Exploded?"
Monk- "Seems like it sir."
Houston- "Get PR in here, and call in their families for a meeting. Call the President first."


4:30 AM Tuesday August 5th 2023

The Independence- "Static."
Monk- "Hello? Independence? Confirm, over."
The Independence- "Static, he-static, hell-static, hello? Houston? Static. This is Comma* Modu* *ilot Teague, ove*"
Monk- "Call Mission commander Reynolds! Changing bands for optimal frequency. Teague, great to hear your voice. Are you ok? Over."
Teague- "I'm ok. I feel pain everywhere, but I'm ok, over."
Monk- "Patch him in. Commander Reynolds, we have communication with The Independence and Teague, I'll patch you in."
Reynolds- Teague, what happened? Are you ok, how is everyone else, over?"
Teague- "Gone sir. The Taurus exploded. I can't see much, I'm spinning pretty fast, but I can see pieces of the ship around me through the window, over.
Reynolds- "Have you performed a life support systems check on The Independence, over?"
Teague- "Yes sir, everything is operational, over."
Reynolds- "Monk, check the status of The Independence's power and operational functionality."
Monk- "Yes sir."

Monk- "Sir, only two power cells remain on the The Independence."
Reynolds- "Not enough. Teague, can you confirm the rate of power consumption? Over."
Teague- "Yes sir, losing power at 2,000 Joules a second, source is at 85%, over."
Reynolds- "Are any thrusters working Teague? Over."
Teague- "No sir, fuel gauges read empty. In fact I can see fuel in the air as I spin, over."
Teague- "Monk, get the United States Ambassador on the line. We need another rocket."
Monk- "Right away sir."

Monk- "Sir Ambassador Kelly is on the line. Patching now."
Reynolds- "Ambassador, hello."
Kelly- "Reynolds, I've been filled in. I'm afraid the only available rocket is in China and it isn't ready for launch until 2024. There isn't anyone on the Mars station right now to intercept. I'm sorry."
Reynolds- "Yes sir."

Radio silence.

Teague- "I heard sir. It's ok. Any radio contact from anyone on the Taurus? Arnold? Over."
Reynolds- "No, sorry, over."
Teague- "Any ideas. Over?"
Reynolds- "I'm afraid not. Over"
Teague- "System power at 65%. I know how this ends. It ends in an icicle. Over."
Reynolds- "I'm sorry son. I don't know what to say. It's going to start getting cold in a few hours; then really cold. Do you have any sleepers? Over"
Teague- "I have two. I'll get in one and zip the other over the top. I also have three hot packs from the med kits. I'll throw those inside the sleepers. But sir, if I have to go anyway..."
Reynolds- "Your family is on the way. They will be here in 4 hours. That's as fast as it gets. Over."
Teague- "That is a really good reason to stay warm....over."


7:30 AM Tuesday August 5th 2023

Reynolds- "Teague, you still with us? Over."
Teague- "Yyyeah, roger."
Reynolds- "Hold on kid, your family is 15 minutes away. How are you feeling? Over."
Teague- "Ppppretty cccold ssir. Ovver."
Reynolds- What is your system power? Over."
Teague- "I ccan't mmmove ssir."
Monk- "The Independence system power is at 0% sir. He's working with insulation. It won't last long."
Reynolds- "Talk to me kid. Stay awake."
Teague- "Thhey ssaved mme sir. Mmmy wwiffe and kidds. Mme and Arnnold were rraised in the ssame orpphanage. Wwe would look at the sttars and ssee our futture. Arnnold was smmarter than mmme. I was alwwways in ddoubt of mmyself. Shshe made me abbove huhuman. Ththen they were born and I llost all fear... Oover."
Reynolds- "Did I ever tell you that my dad left before I was born? He just up and left us. For most of my life, I wanted him to come back and save me. I got through high school...barely. My mom cried at night, not knowing I could hear her. She would come to my bed and pray for me when she thought I was asleep. I went away to college to study the same stars you are looking at right now. I wanted so badly to be where you are right now, but I couldn't pass the physical test. My eyes are too bad. It broke my heart, but I fought because I knew that there was something out there and I was born to find it." I could tell you that the stars saved me, but it wasn't what you are seeing. It was my mother, who chose to keep living and pushing me to be better than my father. I saw him after high school at a grocery store. He was buying dog food. He approached me. Isn't that nuts? He approached me after all of these years. Do you know what he said? He said "How's it going?" I nearly spit up the grape I was stealing laughing. I realized then that I didn't need saving anymore...he did. So I gave him my phone number. I met him once a week to talk. He was boring and didn't know anything about physics or molecular structure, but he went along just fine. You're a fine kid Teague. The best astronaut in space right now. If only there were one more...sorry...bad joke."
Teague- "Hmm Hmmm Hmmmmhaaa hahahahahahaha
Monk- "Commander Teague, you are acting commander now I assume. I look up to you. I just wanted to say that. I was radio'd to tell me your family is in the building.

Sarah- "Baby? I'm here. Honey!"
Teague- "Hehey bbabbay."
Sarah- "Sweetheart, I love you. I've always loved you. They tell me you don't have much time and I don't know what to say. How do I say anything to you without saying everything?"
Teague- "HhhHhhhhhhhh."
Sarah- "Here is your daughter."
Elizabeth- "Daddy?"
Teague- "Iiiiiiiiimmm hhhheree bbbaybay."
Elizabeth- "I remember lying on your chest. I would listen to your heart beat. It was hard to hear, but I tried to listen to my own. Once, I put my fingers on your wrist and on mine and it made music. That's why I learned the piano. It was for you daddy, I love you."
Teague- "IhIhhhhI Lollloollve yyouou llllitttle fffoott.

A long breath. Vital sensor reads 0 heart rate. Internal temperature 32 degrees Celcius. Radio Silence.


8:45 AM Tuesday August 5th 2023

A clinking noise. A swoosh.

Monk-"That's the airlock!"
Reynolds- "Are you sure?"

The sound of a bee hive mixed with a low frequency, and the sound of what sounds like doors creaking (Description edited). A breath sound.

Monk- "Teague's heart rate monitor reads 110 BPM!"
Reynolds- "Impossible!"
Reynolds- "Teague! Are you there?"

A gentle hum and low frequency rhythm.

Monk- "It sounds like a song sir."
Reynolds- "It does. Hmm. It's music."


Thanks for reading...Z