Tag Archives: reality

Brush Up Your Vampyre

25 Jan

 

 

Brush Up Your Vampyre

By L. Stewart Marsden

“First of all, the real vampyres — the epitome of bloodsuckers — are conclaved in Washington, and have been on the seat of government for years. Not even a notch below are the Religionists, who have throughout all time preyed on the innocent.

“But you already know this. They don’t hide in coffins, or lurk in dark castles. What is the saying? Ah, yes … they are hidden in plain sight. They campaign from their soap boxes and pulpits, and spread the fabrications that if elected, or in the case of the priest, obeyed, all will come to see the light.

“You know Jesus was a sanguisugent? That’s the preferable term for us. It’s so much more palatable than vampyre, which is archaic and not at all modern or correct in its connotations. And, yes, I know it’s an adjective — but we use it as a noun. 

“You are surprised about Jesus? I don’t know why. Do you know your scriptures? Let me refer you to the upper room the day before he was to meet his fate by crucifixion. He and his disciples were at table. What a stupid lot they were! Oblivious of the schedule, save one. Poor Judas. Talk about your holy scapegoat!

“In my own inadequate translation, Jesus took the bread and broke it, and told his disciples to take and eat. This is my body, he said, to a pack of twelve pathetic wolves, one whose ambitions were to overthrow the Roman government at this man’s behest. Eat me, he basically said. Was that anything like today’s use of the terms, Eat me? Wouldn’t that be ironic! The Lord of the Universe telling his hairy dim-witted companions to go bugger themselves! Ha! 

“And, to top it all off, he poured out the wine. I happen to know on good authority where that chalice is, and guess what? It contains no more magical powers than a plastic sippy-cup a toddler uses to learn how to drink.

“This is my blood! You could say that Jesus was the very first sanguisugent. The first vampyre. Imagine the Holy One embracing the horrific. Like eating pork if you’re a Jew. And so they drink. They all drink. I can hear Jesus encouraging them: that’s it … drink it all up like a good boy! You dripped some on your chin!

“Then he said out of the blue, one of you will betray me. First, if Jesus already knew that, and if Judas was the designated betrayer, how exactly is that betrayal? He nods at Judas, while all the other dupes are protesting Is it me? He says, go do what you must, and Judas slinks off. He had no choice. Which kind of fits into Calvin’s philosophy of predestination. So years earlier, when Judas is suckling from his mother’s teat as a baby, she gently rocks him and coos, ‘My little tee-nok! One day you’re going to be so effing famous!

“Each was infected by the blood of Jesus. No, you say! It’s wine. It’s symbolic. Tell that to the Pope. We make sanguisugents the same way. They drink our blood. Like a transfusion. So Jesus was a vampyre, plain and simple!

“Given your knowledge of us is based on so many misconceptions, I feel the obligation to correct you on the matters of sanguisugents. In this day of false news, it goes without saying a great deal of harm has been propagated over the centuries. The correct information is out there for all to see. We hide nothing — and operate in the open like the politicians and religionists. But’s it’s deteriorated into so much Hollywood crap that I and my colleagues are quite embarrassed. 

“So I offer you this oral primer in order that the record be set straight. I mean, sanguisugents matter, too! By the way, quite a bit of information can be found on Twitter and other social media. You have only to know where to look, and how to validate its veracity. I don’t think snopes.com is particularly helpful in that regard, but you can type in #sanguisugents when you have the time. Makes for excellent bedtime reading, by the way.

“Shall we begin, then?”

The Origins and Characteristics of Sanguisugents

“Shall we begin, then?”

“It’s not known how long sanguisugents have roamed the earth. I believe since the beginning. As with Man, who began either millions or thousands of years ago, depending on your science or religion, he and she were very primitive compared to us today. Their baser instincts of survival kept them busy. Included in survival was the necessity not to draw attention to themselves. Hence they were loners, and did not travel in hoardes. 

“How we were introduced onto this earth again remains speculation. Oh, there are a few sanguisugents who are practicing anthropologists, but their research has so far yielded nothing in that area. Plus they have to be very circumspect about their work. What university, pray tell, would fund a project on the Origins of Sanguisugents? Too bad Darwin wasn’t one of us. None of us wanted to volunteer for the crews of his ships going to the Galápagos Islands. 

“Some speculate that we are aliens, planted here as an experiment. Well, that’s just crazy, if you ask me. I have yet to see a UFO, by the way. Is there life out there beyond our galaxy? Not sure. Don’t care. Until ET smacks me in the face and garbles out “phone home,” I’m satisfied with the status quo. I mean, can you believe the things people get into?

“What is true is there was a spate of time when things that go bump in the night became the trend. Mary Shelley’s monster. Stoker’s Dracula. And who the hell knows where the werewolf thing developed? Somehow I can’t see the connection between shape-shifting and Riding Hood’s grandmother. But it was excellent fodder for stories that amused and thrilled. We do so love our hair-raising moments, don’t we?

“Like the population of the earth, one would expect sanguisugents to be everywhere after all this time. Especially if we resembled at all how we are portrayed. But there are only so many castles. Eventually, we would have gone through our supply of lifeblood and everyone would be a Sanguisugent. Then what?

“The truth is we maintain a reasonable and constant percentage of sanguisugents in proportion to the total world population. And we never grandstand. No Tee shirts, no parades, no National Sanguisugent’s Day, no protests, no political movements. Really … when you have a good thing, why upset it?

“We are in every nation on all continents and you rub shoulders or bump into us everyday. Why, you might even have friends who are sanguisugents, or you might work with a sanguisugent! We are of every color of the human spectrum, and are common, everyday people as well as accomplished scientists and artists. Some of your favorite movie stars or entertainment celebrities are sanguisugents. How have we accomplished being so much part of the fabric of civilization? How have we blended in so well? How have we mastered hiding in plain sight?

“There are so many things sanguisugents are and are not. Over the centuries quite a list of attributes has grown involving their nature, mostly due to the hysterical reactions of the clergy, and the lack of true understanding of medicine and biology. 

“For example, we do not sleep during the day in the dirt of our graves. Frankly, I find the graveyard a bit creepy to my liking. I’ve owned several Sealy Perfect mattresses, and one memory foam mattress (for which I am most disappointed). Sleep technology has come a long way since corn shuck mattresses and plank bed platforms. And I like pillows, and sheets and blankets — especially if they are color-coordinated. 

“I love to snuggle! I sleep best on my right side, and am pretty sure I have a deviated septum — but seeing as how I am perceived to be a deviant, I suppose that comes with the territory. As a result, I’m told I snore.

“Oh, by the way — I sleep at night, like everyone else, save those who work third shift. I pity them.

“We do not burn up in the sunlight and crumble into a pile of burnt ashes. I go to Cancún during the winter to tan and rest. The Carpathian Mountains are not — I repeat — not a vacation destination for us! Look at my skin — it’s not pale at all! I’m hardly anemic! On the contrary, my red count is just fine, thank you. It baffles me how these myths come to be! 

“Oh, and this — this is my pocket mirror which I use to see myself to comb my hair. See my reflection? Also fake crap.

“I don’t need you to invite me into your home in order to cross the threshold, and you can put out as many garlic wreaths as you like. I love garlic — especially in Italian dishes! Roasted garlic is the best.

“One more … there are so many of them proliferated in novels and on TV these days … make the sign of the cross all you like; throw holy water on me; say the typical exorcism commands in a loud and forceful voice — it doesn’t make any difference to me. Personally I’m tolerant of the beliefs of others. I respect your right to have archaic and senseless beliefs despite the results of making you a pawn to organized religion. Or disorganized religion. Either way, that’s your right. But your beliefs do not constitute truth to me. And if that’s the case, those efforts at warding me off with your spiritual blathering are wasted energy. Whatever makes you happy, I say.

“I don’t die. So you can’t kill me with stakes or lopping off my head or any of the countless ways the “good guys” dispatch us “bad guys.” That’s because I’m not alive — not in the sense you are. 

“That’s why the blood thing. My bone marrow doesn’t make blood cells. And since I have to have blood flowing to bring both oxygen and nutrients to my body so that I can move and think and speak — just like you in that regard — I must transfuse. I don’t even know what my blood type is anymore, and forget donating to the Red Cross Blood Drive! Now, I won’t say I haven’t made the occasional withdrawal from the blood bank — but that’s really frowned upon by sanguisugents. 

“Yes, it’s a bitch, but the payback is unbelievable! I mean, there were times I’d look around and have a BA-SINGAS! moment. I’d tell myself, YES! H.G. Wells got that right! And when I look at those silly memes on Facebook — the ones that tout people born in a certain year? Who have lived through so many times and technological advancements! I laugh out loud! Actually, that’s one way to tell if someone is a sanguisugent. They burst out laughing almost spontaneously after reading one of these ridiculous statements! YOU think YOU’VE lived through a lot!? I lived through the War of 1812. I was at Dunkirk. I jumped headlong into a VC burrow in Cambodia. Those historic events still reside in some part or parts of my body.

“I could have my PhD in World History and teach at Cornell or Harvard if I so chose. But that would be dangerous. Somewhere along the way I’d probably slip up and start talking about The Battle of the Bulge as if I were there. Which I was.

“But I digress …”

My Rite of Passage

“But I digress …”

“I became a sanguisugent in the year 1725. As we say, I “passed over.” Not exactly dead. Not exactly alive.

“I was a third-generation cobbler in the small village of Kisilova, which lay at the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains and east of what is now Belgrade in Serbia. I know … Stoker’s stomping grounds. What can I say?

“At the time I was considered old at fifty-six. Humans did not have the modern day advantages of the medicines and science of today. A simple cold or infection of a small wound could result in death. And as a poor man, there was no consolation of inheritance, nor absolution by the Church. The rich, as with today, prevailed; the poor, died and were forgotten.

“So it was that I had no grand expectations beyond my skills and meager ability to provide for my family. I benefitted from no family name nor inheritance. There was no lottery. There was no Silicon Valley. There was no promise of anything more than what a man could scratch out with hard work and honesty. At least in that regard, I was proud. 

“Then a man came to me from Belgrade — someone who was well above my state in class and education — with a strange request. I had made him several pairs of boots over the years. He wanted me to cobble more than a dozen pairs more for him, and made this proposition:

“‘I would like to invest in your company.’”

“‘But I have no company, Sir.’”

“‘At the moment, that is true. However, in the New World, there is a great need for your skills. And I propose to move you and your family to a place called Boston, and there finance your industry, and help you grow it.’

“‘You will apprentice other cobblers — as many as you need in order to supply that new land with good footwear. I will be your benefactor, and will extract a small portion of your proceeds as my part of the arrangement.’

“‘I don’t understand why you would do this, good Sir.’

“‘It is to my advantage. You have a very practical and unique skill. I can’t even buckle my own belt without someone else to help me!’

“We laughed, I shook his hand, and the deal was struck. Within weeks all that I owned of value was packed into shipping barrels, and I and my family began the long trek and sail to America, and the town called Boston.”

“We arrived in the spring of the year. Boston was the center of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, overruled by a governor appointed by King George, and who had the remotest senses of empathy toward its inhabitants.

“In an instant I understood what my benefactor had envisioned, as all about the port and as far as the eye could see, building and industry was loud and robust.

“He had the good sense to send an advanced emissary, who not only procured housing for my family, but also bought a sizable warehouse. A large sign adorned the two-door opening, which read  Blagojevich & Company, Ltd. I remember standing and staring at the sign, as if in a trance. 

“‘In this location you will employ and train a dozen apprenticeships in the arts of cobbling,’ my benefactor told me. ‘Instead of shoes and boots customed to the fit of each wearer, we will develop a scale of measurements that will fit the majority of feet. The unusual foot will not be within our parameters. That way, we can sell a range of shoes and boots throughout the colonies.’

“This was a marvel to me. Who thinks of things such as these but the man with unrestrained imagination? And I was instantly under his spell and vision.

“We began, and had to turn away applicants. Mere boys were our choice, as suggested by my benefactor. Not one person with any experience, he had directed. That way, there were to be no preconceived notions of how things must be done. I was to be the master, and they, the disciples of a new approach.

“The apprentices slept, ate, and worked in that warehouse. The unwilling were let go. The slackers met with the same fate. Only those who were able to catch the fire of what we were attempting made it. Eighteen and twenty-hour days were standard. And soon the warehouse bins were crowded with shoes and boots of many styles, from dress to work.

“My benefactor toured many potential customers through the establishment. Not those of ordinary ambition. These were primarily men, with an occasional widow of means, who looked to the inevitable westward expansion of the colonies. Shoes and boots fit a necessary niche. Most of the prevailing business was in trade of cotton and tar, tobacco and lavender. 

“I never questioned his reasons for anything. My part of the pact was to produce, and to produce en masse. The future, as far as I could tell, seemed very bright.

“Until the day I fell ill, that is. The new climate, the long hours, my age … all began to work to the detriment of my health. Congestion, fever, lack of balance all combined to confine me to bed. 

“A barber was called in, who consulted the Saints’ days and determined the best times for bloodletting, which was common in the day. I smile today because of what I now know, that the best of physicians is only as successful as his knowledge is broad. Daily I weakened, growing more and more feint and anemic. While the business continued in my absence, my benefactor realized all was in jeopardy as my condition worsened.

“One night, when I was nearly delirious, passing from a state of consciousness to delusion, my benefactor came to my bedside, after shooing out my wife and closing the door. He drew a candle to my face and sat, smoothing my sweated brow with his warm hand.

“‘My friend, you are not well.

“‘No,’ I replied. His face was lit by the flickering candlelight, and his shadow was cast on the wall and ceiling.

“‘I have something that will give you both strength and longevity. But it comes with a price that I cannot explain at this moment. I ask that you trust me — as you did when I first came to you with my business proposal.

“I didn’t care about either strength or longevity at that moment. I was sick, and perhaps with an illness unto death. I only wanted to return to my work and my family. There was too much at stake for me to consider any long-term prices — or consequences. Who worries about consequences when the only way out of a burning building is to jump from a third-story window?

“As for trusting my benefactor — well that was of no consideration at all. Of course I trusted him! And if this was a life-death situation, which I believed to be true, there could be no hesitation on my part.

“He took from his vest a barber’s razor ornately fashioned of silver. He then unbuttoned the sleeve of his shirt, and rolled the cloth back to reveal his arm. I could see the deep blue-green of his veins coursing his forearm. He took his ascot, and tied the arm tightly near his underarm, then tapped his veins. They pulsed and engorged with each touch, the blood underneath nearly visible to my eye. 

“I was mesmerized. I could hear the tell tale thump-thump as the rich liquid pumped methodically. The tips of his fingers reddened and swelled, as though they would spew forth fountains of red. 

“‘Tip your head back, and arch your neck,’ he commanded. I obeyed, feeling the strain from muscles connecting my chin to either side of my neck, and running down to my sternum.

“‘Open your mouth.”

“I did. He lifted and turned his arm over, making a quick slice with the razor with a horizontal stroke. He untied the tourniquet from his arm and his blood immediately spilled into my open mouth. At first, I gagged.

“‘Swallow quickly! Do not spit it out!’

“I did as he ordered. I fought my reflex and swallowed, as though fighting to ingest something foul and putrid. His blood continued to flow into my mouth, and slowly its metallic taste changed into a flavor I cannot begin to describe. It was an elixir — an exotic aphrodisiac — a rare red wine from the finest vineyard — and it warmed my throat and whole chest area, then seeped down to my loins. Whatever wonderfully surprising taste you’ve ever experienced can only pale in comparison.

“As the fountainhead flowed into me, all of my senses awakened to incredible levels. Smell, touch, sight. I heard him repeating, as if a mantra, ‘For this is my blood of the new covenant …’ He spoke it in Slovakian, ‘Toto je moja krv novej zmluvy.’ Slowly he repeated the phrase, and with each repetition, began to slump as I gained more and more strength. It was his strength I gained. His lifeblood. It was … his life.”

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“My metamorphosis occurred over a time span similar to that of a newborn. Feedings were more frequently needed, and for shorter bursts of time. Also, since my teeth had not yet come in, I lapped — decidedly more messy than later on when I could siphon. Hence the sources of my early diet were from the freshest and most undiluted. Later I was better able to appreciate more aged supplies. I am trying to be mindful of your possible revulsion in these descriptions. 

“My benefactor was obliged to ‘shop’ for me and provide the nourishment I craved. Luckily — or maybe etiologically-speaking — there is no such malady as colic among sanguisugents. I never experienced stomach cramps. I would get hungry, yes — but that was normal. And, believe it or not, I could supplement my diet with regular food such as I would have eaten before my transformation. In fact, those foods were necessary to keep my teeth clean. I’ve known many sanguisugents who were on a strict blood diet, and their teeth began to turn slightly pink over the years. Today those purists have new dental products, like teeth whiteners, to do the work. Frankly, I prefer the broader food spectrum, which also has the benefit of keeping my breath as well as — well, how shall I say this? — my expellations a bit sweeter than if I dined only on blood.

“To those on the outside, there was no indication anything had taken place — that I was different from anyone else. At least at the start. Later, over the years, family and friends would marvel at my continued youthful appearance, and my lack of wrinkles or age spots or hair color changes. Throughout the years there have been instances when people suspected something about me was not right — when I had to be especially on guard. 

“Hence the energies expended to stay out of the limelight. Do you know where that term developed, by the way? Before modern theatrical lighting, stages were lit using cylinders of heated lime. These cylinders were placed at the apron of the stage, and produced an intense white light. I have a thousand tidbits of information like this learnt throughout the centuries.

“But, I have wandered afield once again.

“Now I was in debt to my benefactor on two counts: my growing business in Boston, and my very life. While he continually poo-poohed any intent to reap from what he had sown in me, the thought nevertheless lodged in the back of my mind that something never comes without expectation.

“From my growing shoe concern, my benefactor was able to explore offshoot industries, and, as he had with me, invested in other businesses, such as mercantilism. He would help help his mentees set up stores, where customers could find all manner of supplies for their homes and industries. He bought en masse from blacksmiths items such as nails and cookware; from weavers various cloths (and he also imported cloth as well); from farmers, grain; from importers, sugar and the dreaded teas (he found no way to avoid the tariffs, and grumbled loudly and often of the insult to injury heaped upon his enterprises as its results).

“As civilization slowly edged westward, so did his mercantile investments. Again, it was a niche that he predicted would help usher in the total colonization of America. Even local Indians came to trade at his mercantile stores.

“I remember he and I had a long conversation about the future one night beside the hearth in my home where he was a frequent and welcomed visitor.

“‘Peter, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I feel the restless spirit of this people straining to be loosed. It is not only the potential of this Promised Land they smell and taste, but the desire to be ahead of what will become hoards from now until whatever end God has planned. Being first means being in control. It means power and wealth. And these are folk who, in their original lands, had no access to either. It was all a matter of birthright — and that stream of selectivity did not produce the very best results. Now, common and plain men such as yourself — and I mean this in only the most positive way — have every opportunity at success. Only they themselves can impede their ascension.

“It finally became clear to me as we talked, what my benefactor had done for me by plucking me from my homeland, where generations of my ancestors had toiled in the same mud, along the same streams and fields, and answering to the same power mongers. 

“‘I owe you everything I am and shall become,’ I told him.

“‘And I tell you that nothing is owed me. You are the right person at the right time in the right place. That you realize that, and that you pledge to yourself to always be at the fore of this vanguard is all the gratitude I need.’

“Yet that still small voice in me spoke clearly, ‘For the moment.’”

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“Over the next few years, it was clear my benefactor had more than retail in mind. That trade was strong, but with the growing tension between the colonies and England, another form of commerce began to appear; another niche. He encouraged me to branch out into other related products made of leathers, such as belts and straps and horsewear items such as bridals and reins — even saddles. 

“I have met many of the men of history you have only read about. I knew Paul Revere, for example. And there were others. John Hamilton. Thomas Jefferson. And most importantly, I met George Washington.

“I rose economically and socially, and took every opportunity to invite whomever to tour my warehouse at their convenience. I also travelled extensively to New Amsterdam before it became New York. I went often to Philadelphia, where my friend Ben Franklin and I broke bread and drank many a stein of lager together. I knew Aaron Burr, but at a distance. My benefactor warned me that Burr seemed more calculating than sincere, which proved to be the case later when he shot and killed Hamilton. 

“Philadelphia was also the site of my second shoe-making warehouse, albeit there the concentration was on the other leather products. While I understood the reason for product expansion and diversity, I didn’t understand the timing, and asked my benefactor during one of our fireside chats.

“‘You are like a turtle with your head inside your little world! Look about you and sense what is coming.’

“‘And what is coming?’

“‘War. As surely as the rings about the full moon warn sailors of an impending storm. It will be hastened by that urge you and I have discussed. King George is the only barrier to these colonies completely breaking from the stockade, and like wild horses escaping, we will run amok. But first, the war.’

“‘That will be disastrous!’ I said.

“‘Only to those who are not prepared to ride the current. Do not be swept aside, Peter. All we are doing is to advance not only our prospects for wealth and power, but the country’s as well.’

“‘Country?’”

“‘America, my friend! We have only begun to tap into what this land has to offer. It can be fallow field no longer. It must be cleared and plowed and planted and worked! The leaders of the colonies are no fools! They see this, and gnash at their overlord. The wealth they have come to know is only the gleanings as far as they are concerned. They itch to possess it all, and no king across the ocean can, or has the right to deny them! You cannot be satisfied, Peter! As you now know the exhilarating power and sensations of blood, as you begin to realize you are no longer a pinpoint in history and have no limits, you, too, must not be satisfied. I am not satisfied! I will drink of this country to my fill, and then drink and drink again!’

“‘In this unequaled Paradise, you and I are gods! Remember what the Christ said, In my Father’s house are many mansions …’

“‘So we will prepare for war, you and I. We will supply all and whatever is necessary for the conflict, however long it will be, and for the ultimate victory!’

“‘The idea of war is foreign to me.’

“‘It cannot be. You cannot stand on the bank of a great river and expect to go anywhere. You have to jump into its midstream and be carried off.’

“‘Off to where?’

“‘To eternity, Peter. That is our destiny. Eternity.’”

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“At the time I wasn’t sure if my benefactor meant we would be on the fields fighting or not. It was only later, when the conflict began, I knew we would be suppliers of war. That our main course of action, aside from the actual products of boots and backpacks and other supplies essential to victory, was to propagate the rumors of war. We were to remain inconspicuous to the efforts of freedom, and hence, to becoming a highlighted part of that history.

“We were also able to dismiss ourselves — for the moment — from the direct link to death by “keeping our hands clean” of armaments. I thought it was a conscious separation from the blood of battle by not investing into tooling and forging of muskets and cannon, gunpowder and bayonets.

“But my benefactor had deceived me on that count, and was studying more efficient ways of mining the ores essential to foundries and their product. Like the manufacture of shoes, he had envisioned mass production of many components for both westward progress as well as war.

“‘Imagine,’ he proposed at dinner one evening, “How quickly the world would have been tamed into a progressive culture had Gengis Khan or Atilla the Hun — even the Romans — only had possession of gunpowder during their reigns! For centuries the bow and the arrow was the only way to avoid the far riskier tactics of hand-to-hand combat. 

“‘Even with muskets and canon, one soldier can only carry so much gunpowder and musket balls. Plus shooting and reloading is multi-stepped and time-consuming. It’s one thing for hunting, but quite another for facing a battalion of the enemy marching straight at you.

“‘And as far as canon? A horse is necessary, and there must be roads to avoid harsh terrain. And that doesn’t count the cannonballs and the difficulty of transporting them!’”

“While he fixed his attention on more mundane items such as wagon rims, I could tell he had set one portion of his thoughts aside to develop concepts of war machinery. 

“The majority of his efforts were dedicated to production and assembly methods. For example, he developed the idea of round casting wheels for items like screws and triggers guards and stock butts. He envisioned long lines of quickly-produced parts, at the end of which another conveyor belt took the parts to lines of assemblers.

“‘It is possible, in my mind, to have a fully-functioning long rifle assembled from start to finish in less than a day, and at least 30 to 50 rifles total from each production line!’”

“So while his plants and warehouses produced primarily non-lethal items, his mind whirred continuously on what he called The War Machine.”

“And among those people of influence with whom he mingled, it was not a difficult task to stretch both their imaginations as well as their pocketbooks to invest in his dreams.

“As uncomfortable as I was over this ominous trend of thought, I comforted my conscience with the thinly veiled thought nothing I produced actually killed anyone.

“Which may come as a surprise to you, given what I am. How could a sanguisugent be so ruled by conscience when his very life and continuation depends on the death of another?”

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“I would ask that you please remember the power of eternal life is such that certain types of reason are rendered useless. I know it sounds little more than an excuse to say it, but it is far more complicated to the one who struggles with such a dilemma than to those on the outside who have not one iota of understanding.

“I suppose I could actually blame the Church, because without it and its myriad of rules and boundaries, of exacting perfection to become perfect, I would have never agreed to the transformation in the first place.

“No priest, no pastor, no evangelist would ever dare diminish the power of the blood. That would be sacrilege — and a one-way ticket to eternal hell. At least among the Christian believers. Purgatory is one of those Catholic beliefs — which the ‘true’ believers discount (depending on who is calling themself a true believer) — and involves more purification. In a way, it discounts the power of Christ’s blood and introduced a reason for the money generator of the Catholic hierarchy — indulgences.

“Anyway, I digress again. For the sanguisugents, to appease our human sense of on-going and religiously-produced guilt, we have come to adopt a fairly common mentality about our sources of blood. No, we don’t rob the blood banks (unless in absolute desperation); nor do we drain vermin or other animals of their blood. That’s almost too horrible to think about.

“Our practice is to help not only ourselves, but society, in selecting sources who — if left unchecked — would either do or continue to do evil and harm. We refer to them as The Dregs. Fortunately for us, and perhaps unfortunately for humanity, there is an endless supply of The Dregs in life.

“These are those who are mean-spirited, self-absorbed, chronically bad people. They are recognized in all walks of life, although they tend to dominate in certain areas. Politicians come to mind right away. As do others. 

“Luckily our feeding, as I mentioned earlier, is not constant. We have a healthy diet of various foods. And our need for fresh blood is not spontaneous. We maintain control and can choose the when and where. I am not, for example, overwhelmed by temptation at the sight of a pulsing carotid artery in an exposed neck. As a rule, in fact, the neck is not the location we use — but rather the femoral artery along the inside of the leg. Less likely to be detected, and certainly doesn’t splatter the provider’s blood all over their shirt or blouse for the world to see and panic over. 

“Perhaps you would entertain an account of one of my sources?”

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“Once my teeth came in I was on my own in terms of sustenance. Of course they were sore for a bit (no pun intended), and not exactly how I had imagined, which was big fangs growing where my incisors were. Nope. My fangs, and those of other sanguisugents are more like the hollow fangs of a rattlesnake. They lay flat in the ridges of the roof of my mouth. When I am ready to feed, the tissue surrounding the fangs engorges in anticipation, and the fangs basically pop out. I inject into the wound saliva from a cavity in my sinuses that thins the blood, making it much easier to flow into the teeth. I use my tongue to lap up any spillage during the process.

“My fangs are replaced often — especially whenever I eat roast corn — and they snap off. I have to be careful not to swallow them, and normally discretely pull them out and cover them either in a napkin or under some other food item on my plate.

“There is nothing quick about feeding. Even though I bite the femoral artery, I have to linger down there for quite some time. Depending on the cleanliness of my donor, it can range from a very pleasant time to something more like a ‘hold your nose and bite’ experience. Like voting.

“The duration of what we now refer to as the ‘transfusion time’ is several hours. Many considerations come into play, such as where can I take my donor so that we will not be interrupted or discovered? Also, there is a fine balance of keeping my donor alive, should I choose, and them expiring during the meal. That was definitely a learning process. 

“Thankfully, if I am able to keep my donor alive, the fang wounds heal quickly — within an hour. And the donor has no recollection of anything. They awake in the morning with a pretty severe headache and feeling drained of energy. Within a day or two, all returns to normal. I don’t make it a habit to revisit a donor continually. Plus I like to spice things up with a variety of bloods. For example, it is quite true that the Italians are hot-blooded — spicey-hot, that is. Norwegians have a slight fishy taste, but if you are into sardines, it’s rather good. 

“Another consideration is that whenever I dine on blood, I tend to puff up to the point it’s noticeable, as I’m normally lean-faced and on the trim side of body size. Sometimes I take to bed after supping, complaining to those who know me that I am suffering from a bit of indigestion — which is not far from the truth. My father used to lecture me, ‘moderation in all things,’ but that would be like telling a child in a candy shop to restrain himself. Alas, I’m afraid I lack the self-discipline to restrain my appetite when I feed. As, I imagine, is the difficulty with those unable to take small portions and not overdo it at dinner. 

“That is the process normally. While there is some selectivity involved, targeting a donor is normally a passionless rote. Except where the goal is to rid the neighborhood, or town, or country of a person who needs to be removed. In other words, the process is predetermined unto death, and the donor is someone either the individual sanguisugent (or a group of sanguisugents) has targeted. These targets are not only hated by my kind, but generally by the majority who are aware of their true natures.

“As I’ve said earlier, while the gamut is wide, these people are tainted by similar traits. Power, greed, lust — perhaps the seven deadly sins best describes these abhorrent excuses for humanity. They tend to be hypocrites at every turn. They prey on the lowly and the poor. They take advantage to profit themselves whenever opportunity arises. They are rude and uncaring people. Literature abounds with these characters, as does real life.

“So it came to happen, shortly after I had passed over and adjusted to my new life, that I came across one of these odious and foul fiends. He was my very first ‘kill,’ and I shall always remember not only how he came to cross my path, but how I initially struggled to come to plan and carry out his demise.” 

* * * * *

“He was the father of one of my apprentices, Jacob, who was a hard-working, intelligent and enthusiastic lad of twelve. Jacob’s father brought his son to me as a result of an advertisement in the Boston Gazette. The man told me his wife had recently died, and that he was the sole caretaker of five children, Jacob being the eldest.

“This was before I fell ill and went through the passage. When I first met the man, I sensed there was something amiss with him, but passed it off. Over the months, however, I became increasingly worried about Jacob, who seldom expressed a desire to go home to visit his family. The boy was thoroughly caught up in learning his trade, which I had assumed was due to his enthusiasm. 

“I sent all apprentices home for Christmas Eve and Day as a rule. Jacob was reluctant to leave. 

“‘I’d as soon stay here, if you don’t mind. There’s not much room for me at home anymore.’

“‘I insist, Jacob. I planned to let the hearths die out, and it will be too cold for you here.’ So he obeyed me. When he returned, his head was wrapped in muslin, and his left eye blackened. He moved slowly, and winced as in pain. I called him aside at midday.

“‘Tell me about your eye and head, Jacob.’

“‘I fell cutting firewood. It’s nothing.’

“‘Pull your shirt up, son.’ He revealed a torso bruised black and blue. I reached out to touch his side and he dropped his shirt and put up his arms defensively, ‘NO!’

“I was beat at the hands of my father when I was young — but I early on decided the beatings were justified, and even the result of something I did or didn’t do. But the memories of both the physical and emotional hurt had lingered, and I knew what was going on.

“Consequently I did a little sleuthing of Jacob’s father. I found he was poorer than I had first imagined, and there were more than the four of Jacob’s siblings crammed into a dilapidated wooden shack of a home. He had also taken in a woman — not older than a mere girl — to watch his children and provide for some of his baser needs, which included more than cooking or keeping his house tidy. The woman also provided services to others, bringing in barely enough money to survive, which her keeper took half and spent at the local pub for drink and other favors.

“He himself did odd jobs — when he was sober — which meant he worked very little. His demeanor was dark and brooding, and he complained of ‘God’s curse’ on his life, and was in the verbal habit of shifting blame from himself to whomever for his condition. He treated his children with the same disdain, shouting, shoving, and threatening when he came home after long spells of drunkenness. 

“I wondered how such a man could not end up in jail, or at least in the public stockades on a regular basis, but most chose to ignore him and leave him to his own designs.

“I knew what I must do, which I had never done before. A semblance of acknowledgment regarding ‘Thou shalt not kill’ remained after my rite of passage. I know people who mince words on ending someone’s life to fit their particular point of view. I’ve heard the term “consistent view of the sanctity of life. These days, a woman who is impregnated ‘by accident,’ — though for the life of me I don’t know how the term ‘accident’ is reconciled — sees ending the pregnancy by abortion as nothing more than terminating a fetus. The soldier who peers down his rifle scope at his enemy, is vanquishing a foe. The executioner is ‘carrying out justice.’ 

“I am no more for the wages of war being killing, to the wages of sin being execution. But I am convinced there is a time and a place and a reason to intervene on the behalf of the innocent — which is how I came to justify my actions then, and how I now justify my actions. Ecclesiastes says as much — a time to kill. It doesn’t address the whys nor the wherefores. It doesn’t differentiate as far as motive, or justice, or revenge or self-defense. It simply says there is a time to kill. There was really no considering to be done, other than when and where. Since the man was a constant threat to his children — who were helpless against him — so, I reasoned, it must be soon.

“One night I followed him to his favorite pub, where I awaited him in the shadows of the night. At last he emerged, waving his arms for balance, and staggered into the streets. I approached him face on.

“‘Well, if it’s not my Jacob’s benefactor, Mr. Whoever-you-are …’ he slurred with barely recognizable diction.

“‘I wonder if I might have a word with you Sir,’ and pointed to the muddy alley bordering the ale house, ‘… in private.’

“‘For you, my most illustrious acquaintance, anything!’

“The timing and location were perfect. As I fed, I held his wrist to monitor his heartbeat. Instead of concluding before the pulse stopped, I held fast, my head and heart beating and swimming in rage. It was as if I were a conquering lion, tearing open his prey, stopping to roar with victorious might and finality.

“The Gazette ran a small item on him that was buried deep within it’s pages.” 

The body of Jonathan Hooker was discovered in an alley adjacent to The Flying Boarhead early Tuesday. Hooker apparently died of exposure, having passed out sometime during the night.

“No one ever claimed the body, and his remains were interred in the paupers’ cemetery down near the harbor. He was not missed, and I noticed a decidedly happier and content aura around Jacob from that point on. I also regularly visited Jacob’s home where I donated both items as well as currency for the subsistence of his siblings.

“We are not so black-hearted and evil as we have been made out to be.”

ƒƒƒƒƒ

“Fear and ambition. Two marked traits of the colonists, and not at opposite poles from each other. One motivates the other, as I have observed. During those last few years before war with King George finally broke out, each was in a race to dominate the minds and souls of we who had left everything behind to stake out our futures in the Americas.

“Once established and, having conquered the basic necessities, each man realized that the constraints of position, wealth and power that had once ruled over destiny were no longer as oppressive and limiting as in the various fatherlands. To some extent, of course, it existed in the colonies, but we soon drew strength from a common cause and purpose: to be finally unshackled from Britain, and to turn our eyes to beyond the Appalachians. I believe someone called it our manifest destiny some years later.

“But that ambition was tempered by the presence of the native Indians, who had been slowly routed from their homelands on the eastern seaboard to areas west. Initially, they were at a disadvantage with their spears and clubs and arrows, which were no match against the long rifle and cannon. Perhaps it was that frustration that stirred the innate savagery they displayed in war and in defense of further migration of the White Man. 

“The French were more than delighted to arm the Huron nation in helping claim territory along the Ohio. As to that, the British were similarly inclined to supply the Iroquois and seek them as allies. This war with the French and the Indians ultimately pushed our adversaries across into Canada, but with much bloodshed. Despite the losses, the gain was more than worth it: access to the Ohio and the rich lands beyond.

“For me, with my business growing faster than either my mentor or I could have believed, the opening of the west was opportune for two very important reasons: enlarging our mercantile influence, and providing us a chance to relocate — very important when you do not age, and those around you do.

“Tragically, my wife died in giving birth, as did the child. I put my heirs in charge of the business concerns once I knew them to be competent. And then I left under the excuse of seeking continued growth. It also removed me from the distinct possibility that as matters with the Crown worsened, I would be expected to provide leadership on the field. That was something I did not want, not only because I detest war in all of its fashion, but the fact I could be wounded, or worse. How embarrassing to be carried into the surgical tents with a mortal wound and the doctor not find any trace of a musket ball in my body! It might arouse more than a little curiosity, which I knew would not be good — for me, but especially my family. We were not long past that era during which suspicion and fear of was considered sorcery caused the deaths of many, many mortals. That would put in jeopardy those I love, and was unacceptable.

“And so, buckskinned and supplied with items to use for trade and purchase, I employed the services of an older Cherokee named Kanuna, which means “bullfrog.” While thin and creased with age, Kanuna’s deep voice was marked with confidence. He was a loner, and made his way through the years avoiding antagonizing others. He was also a bachelor, and told me once he had no time for wives or children. 

“‘They are like carrying a heavy load of brush up a steep slope.’”

“While I didn’t entirely agree, I knew that my future would eventually become a life like Kanuna’s, where love and commitment to another person would always end the same way — with the death of that loved one. Unfortunately, love doesn’t care for one’s philosophy, and finds a way. The same with friendships.

“Kanuna was to be my very first fast friend, and someone who would know everything about me. He was also the first I chose to transform.”

ƒƒƒƒƒ

“I’m far more discriminating when it comes to transforming someone who will face an unimaginable future. The vast majority cannot handle such a change. My peers are not so — how shall I say? Intuitive nor demanding. They are those who give the vampyre a very bad name. Ask anyone about vampires, or rather, sanguisugents — and they will recite nearly chapter and verse on traits and behaviors of my kind without so much as an iota of real and practical knowledge. Like witches. So misunderstood! So wrongfully mistreated. As was my friend Kanuna and his people.

“In conversations about the Cherokee and the Pawnee and other tribes, we danced about truth and fiction late into the evenings, huddled around our dying campfires as we travelled. 

“‘The White Man has only one image of us, and he sees us as savages who stand in the way. He does not value nor respect us as hosts, who allow him to enter our lands and cut our forests and deplete our deer and beaver and buffalo. We are like the grizzly to him — to be feared and overcome — not valued for our knowledge of the ways of the Great Spirit, or the other spirits he has peopled this land with.

“‘A man can stand but so much disregard for himself and for his land. Then a man must respond.’

“‘Yet the White Man sees that response as savagery,’ I would comment. 

“‘We are men of peace. We are not those who foul the land or steal from it. You White Men take and use as you see fit. Yes, even you, although you are not as bad as your brothers. And you are distinguished among men as well. You cannot die. Your prey are deserving of your hunt — they are the sick of heart and mind. I know you practice a code of honor that I admire. You do not take for the taking. 

“‘I am an old man. My warrior days have ended, and I chew on berries and leaves because my teeth cannot tear meat. My bones whisper to me, the trail soon ends, and it is time for me to lie down with my father and his father. And though I understand death is a part of all men’s destiny — at least until I met you — I would rather walk on and hunt and thrive once again. You have the power to help me through that gate, do you not?’

“‘I do.’”

“‘What I fear is the wisdom of the ages slips away. Great men die with their treasures of knowledge before they can pass it on. Though I am leathery and feint of breath, I am a great man, too.’

“‘Yes, you are.’”

“Shall I join my father and his father and not share what I have learned? Shall I turn my back on my brothers and bid them good fortune on their journey without showing them the path?’”

“‘Kanuna, as much as I love you, as much as you are my brother, you don’t know what you are asking. You will not return to the young man you once were. Yes, you will have new strength and new teeth, and no longer pay attention to Death’s shadow. But there is a curse to my life as well. I outlive everyone I care about. I hide who I am from nearly everyone — not in fear for myself, not for my kind, and not because we would be killed. But because I cannot imagine anyone not wanting eternal life. Not the eternal life bespoken of in the Christian Bible — so remote and veiled. But one of this world, of flesh and blood and feeling and experience. This wisdom is not for everyone.’

“‘And yet you told me.’

“‘And yet I told you.’

“‘Will you allow me to be haunted and teased by this? Do you not find me deserving?’

“‘It isn’t that. You, of all I know — even of my mentor — are the most deserving of all.’

“‘But?’

“‘I want to know you have measured your desires against the truth. I cannot abide the guilt I would have to endure if you have the slightest doubt, and if you regret your decision later.’

“‘For me it is like climbing a hill at sunset. Perhaps like your Christian Bible suggests. The light is fading and darkness grows about me. The path is more difficult as night falls. Yet I know that as I crest the hill, I will see the sun and feels its warmth on my face and my breast. I will breathe and my lungs will glow. I will raise my arms to the West, and make my chant, and smoke my pipe. I know it is a selfish thing I ask, and as you warned me to be unerring in my choice, I would too ask you to deny me this if you are in any doubt. Either way is fine with me. Search your heart, too, my brother.’

“I did not transform him at that time. I took his words as truth and intent sincere. I also took his advice to search my own soul deeply. You thought Sanguisugents had no soul? Think again. Some of us would rather not have one. They turn, and then realize in horror what they had begged for; what they had against what they wanted, was forever more, lost in the transaction. I cannot tell you how many Sanguisugents I know who mourn their decision. But, too late. Too late. Too late!

ƒƒƒƒƒ

“Kanuna was adept at reading trail signs — the minutia I could never detect, such as a strand of hair, or a broken twig or an impression in the mud. He knew the tracks of bear and deer and raccoons and rabbits and more, and could tell how many and which way or even how fast the animals traveled. He was serenely connected with all around him, and he mystified me. 

“‘How did you learn all of this, Kanuna? You look at the sky and predict the weather. You smell the air and know a certain animal is lurking about, tracking us. How?’

“‘At the beginning, The Old Man made all from the same dirt, and fashioned us in the same way. He gave us eyes to see — but then with a sight that went beyond what you and I see now. We once saw into the hearts of all his creation, from the bear to the brook. Each then had a purpose and a place, which was to be a part of his perfect will.

“‘The Old Man gave all ears, to hear our brothers and to soar with the music of the land — the whistling grasslands, or the strong voice of the river. The last thing he gave us was our mouth, so that we would see and hear first, and only then speak. Then, his wisdom was in everything, and no one spoke before carefully considering his words. Of all the weapons I carry, from the long stick to my knife, my mouth and the words I choose are the most dangerous.’

“As I listened to him, I marveled at his wisdom and understanding. I compared this simple man’s outlook to the vast majority of people I knew and had known. None matched his eloquence at explaining how the world was once fitted together, with each piece dependent on and in harmony with the other. I vaguely knew of various religions whose practitioners were of similar disposition. I had once met a man from China when I lived in the old country, who talked to me of a philosopher whose sayings directed life with simplistic sayings. But Kanuna didn’t talk philosophy. He talked of what he believed as real and tangible elements. Of spirits, and of a universal brotherhood with all the living. For example, before he took the life of a deer or other animal necessary to feed us, he would thank that beast for its sacrifice. It’s flesh and blood were to be our communion. Much in the same way I came to know of and appreciate the power of the blood I drank to empower me. It was his respect and care for the donor that astounded me.

“I could only liken it remotely to the Jews, who slaughter their animals with a holy prayer performed by a rabbi.

“May it be your will,
Jehovah my elo’ah and elo’ah of my ancestors,
the most Merciful of all,
the One who desires the repair of every being that has transgressed without exception,
even those who have angered you many times —
If she is delivered for slaughter trapped as a gilgul being,
Caught within the body of a domesticated animal, wild animal, or bird I am slaughtering,
Then may her spirit be repaired by the blessing that I have said over her slaughter
and over the kashrut of the knife
as you have commanded it.

“So sacred is the life — of man or beast — . Since that time with Kanuna, learning about his beliefs and becoming convinced in the purpose of life, that I began to revere and respect each and every sacrifice I administered. And while not Jewish, nor adherent to any particular religion, I began uttering that Jewish prayer each time, which I began at the transferring of Kanuna.”

“Not exactly your image of the scary, evil vampyre, eh?”

ƒƒƒƒƒ

To be continued …

 

 

 

 

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Things That Go Bump in the Night

24 Aug

Things That Go Bump in the Night

By L. Stewart Marsden

Since a kid I’ve been susceptible to my imagination at night, seeing things or hearing things that weren’t there. The jacket hung on a door hangar, transformed into a ghoulish being by the dark tones of night. The darkest corner of the ceiling, harboring a shapeless “thing” that would suddenly jump out at me. Things skittering about on the periphery of my vision.

I saw “King Kong” down at the beach one summer, and was effected for life. Years later, “The Time Machine,” also at the beach, had me turning my back on the one window in my bedroom, assured that if/when I turned to look, I’d see the red eyes and white-haired blue bodies of the Morlocks staring in on me.

Karloff, Lugosi, Lon Chaney & son, Price, Christopher Lee were the men behind the monsters, and I loved them all. I devoured magazines on horror make-up, anxious to uncover the magic behind Frankenstein, the Mummy, Dracula and the Wolfman.

Like Cosby’s great schtick on the radio show, “Lights Out,” I loved being scared. Not horrified, mind you (the advent of Nightmare on Elm Street and other blood movies was not to my liking at all), but scared.

Everything was filmed in black and white, even though Technicolor was available.

Yeah. Scare me to death.

The night before I left for prep school I watched a horror film called “Blood of Dracula.” It was about a girls school where one of the faculty had somehow procured the blood of the vampire, and along with a magical pendant, could turn students into creatures of the night. I wondered if one of the faculty members – maybe the science teacher – was likewise preparing for us boys and I would meet my destiny with horror.

At prep school, I was quartered in an old wood frame dorm, House C. I shared one of the second-story rooms with my roommate who was from Savannah. The rooms were spacious. My window looked out onto the delivery court of the Walker Building, a combination dormitory, office, and dining hall structure of brick and antebellum design. Several floodlights illumined the delivery court – a large square with a loading dock along one side. It was the favorite haunt at night of dozens of feral cats, who gathered to fight over garbage and other night-time activities. When late evening fog would roll into the square, and the cats would begin to fight, screeching and growling, it was the perfect soup for my imagination.

After lights out, I would pull out a flashlight, bury myself under my bed sheets, and read from Bram Stoker’s classic horror tale, “Dracula.” The fog, the cats’ yowlings echoing  in the courtyard, were the perfect visual/aural background, and more than elicited my ripe and visceral imaginings.

As I grew older, I outlasted my childish fears. I revisit them for entertainment, as well as escape from the real and far more scary realities of this day – the things that really do go “bump” in the night.

 

Hmmm.

Charleston, SC

21 Jun

Charleston, SC

By L. Stewart Marsden

The Old Slave Mart Museum of Charleston, SC, is located on Chalmers Street, about eleven blocks south of Calhoun Street, where Mother Emanuel AME Church stands.

Historians cite close to forty percent of the slave trade from Africa to the thirteen colonies came through Charleston.

According to Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in an article published by PBS.org

100facts_slaveslanded_lgThe most comprehensive analysis of shipping records over the course of the slave trade is the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, edited by professors David Eltis and David Richardson. (While the editors are careful to say that all of their figures are estimates, I believe that they are the best estimates that we have, the proverbial “gold standard” in the field of the study of the slave trade.) Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America.

 

And how many of these 10.7 million Africans were shipped directly to North America? Only about 388,000. That’s right: a tiny percentage.

[http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/how-many-slaves-landed-in-the-us/]

outsidemarket-287x300Between the years 1525 and 1808, when foreign slave trading was outlawed in Charleston [http://oldslavemartmuseum.com/charleston-slavery/], one can extrapolate that close to 135,000 Africans, primarily from the west coast of the continent, found themselves on the auction stage to be sold into slavery.

Interesting that Gates, a black man, uses the term only about 388,000.

More about 21-year-old Dylann Roof is slowly rising to the surface of the media blitz. And, when his profile is compared to those of other 21-year-old males, he is clearly an outlier. His opinions, biases, and compulsion to do harm are not those of the vast majority. As he might have wished himself to become somewhere in his skewed perception of the world, he is the exception to the rule.

Roof and his ilk are out there, embedded throughout our nation. We could categorize him in a Venn diagram with Islamic radicals, Christian radicals, and political radicals. He would share space with the likes of Timothy McVeigh, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Eric Rudolph and James Holmes. He would be elbow-to-elbow with proponents of al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban. He would share his space with the KKK, Nazi Germany, and a host of infamous groups.

FDR said during his tenure as POTUS, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

As a white man who grew up in the south during the 50’s and 60’s, I have seen a lot of change. Hailing from Minnesota, my dad often said he wasn’t prejudiced against black. “We didn’t have any in Minnesota,” he would allege. Hence his innocence. But along the way by his side, I heard enough to know otherwise.

I was a Republican and rooted for the Republicans because my parents were Republicans. As a kid, it would be like growing up in a household of Mets fans, ergo you were a Met fan.

So was I also biased due to my parents’ attitudes towards blacks?

Mom hired black maids to help keep the house, do the laundry, cook the meals and look after the children so that she could be a part of the Garden Club and the other socialite groups in our southern town. The importance of that was more so because she was a Yankee by birth. Dad’s and her financial success mitigated that fact somewhat.

Mom learned to count the silverware because “it goes missing.” The terms “shiftless,” “non-trustworthy,” and a host of other stereotypes passed to her mindset due to friends’ and neighbors’ input.

When I think about that now, I wonder she could trust her children to be reared by these shiftless, non-trustworthy sorts. Seems a bit counter-intuitive looking back.

Virgie Mae Brown with my brother.

Virgie Mae Brown with my brother.

Virgie Mae Brown was my and my brother’s surrogate mother. She reminded me of the Aunt Jemima illustration — a large, round and brown woman with thick kinky hair. Her bosom was the heart of consolation when needed. Her homespun remedies were as effective as any store-bought medicine (try slicing a potato and wrapping it in a damp cloth and putting it on a feverish brow).

There was a distinct difference between Virgie Mae and my mom. I could talk trash to Virgie Mae and get away with it. I fired her on many occasions, though the firings never stuck.

There was a hierarchy.

Schools I attended were lily-white until junior high. There was no busing. The city was laid out in stereotypical quadrants, with the two quadrants below the railroad tracks occupied by the less-fortunate (as they were politely referred to) and the blacks.

Water fountains were segregated, as were the bathrooms.

Signs declaring “Whites Only” didn’t exist to my memory. It was implied that if a store was on Main Street or other street frequented by whites, “coloreds” were not allowed.

The Paramount Theater had a side entrance for blacks, and those moviegoers climbed steps to a small second balcony. They were monitored for disrupting noise.

I was in the ninth grade before I played basketball with a black student. He was the lone black person on the team. He dressed and showered with us, and traveled to away games on the same bus as we did. Our coach, who we called “Stumpy J,” must have stuck his neck out pretty far to let the guy on the team. The student didn’t start. We were an all-white starting five.

As I grew older, the derogatory words, comments and jokes began to pry into my world. I won’t repeat them here.

Then Little Rock.

And Malcolm X.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Malcolm X’s assassination.

The assassination of JFK.

King’s assassination.

RFK’s assassination.

George Wallace.

Televised marches and police responses.

The Freedom Riders.

The KKK.

Greensboro sit-in.

Vietnam.

Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act.

And more.

A vortex that sucked all I knew at the time and spun it so fast and hard it was like having your bell rung in a boxing ring.

Then gradual change.

The first black mayor of Atlanta.

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” types of films.

Busing and integration of schools at all grade levels.

Affirmative action.

More blacks elected to local, state and national positions.

Black studies at the college level in what were predominantly white schools.

Professional sports cracked open to receive black athletes.

Black personalities coming to the forefront in a variety of areas.

So

What

Is

Going

On?

Was no progress realized? Have no changes occurred? Are we, as some suggest, going back to Jim Crow days?

Are white Americans, who will not soon, if not already, become less in overall numbers than “people of color,” digging in and refusing the tide of change?

Is there a tide?

All I know is things are different for me. Perhaps not as much as I’d like. I still live a rather secluded life as a white person. I know the advantages I have today largely have to do with the fact I was born white and to white parents.

I feel the stigma of my whiteness when a black instructor or FB “friend” states, “You are racist,” as though it automatically comes with my pigmentation. Perhaps I am. But I’m also addicted to cigarettes, and I haven’t smoked one since the late 1980’s.

I feel the helplessness of the repeating news stories of blacks seemingly accosted by both white and black law enforcement because of their color and where they live.

It is difficult not to agree with a pervading attitude that we are seeing only the tip of the iceberg.

I don’t know what the solutions are. I only know that calmer heads need to prevail for meaningful dialogue and change to occur.

Wow! More change needed. We still fear one another. Thought that one got checked off years ago.

Then Charleston.

We were wrong. The struggle is not over. We might have seen the mountain, but we are far from conquering its summit.

Notice, I said “we.”

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 21 June, 2015

Fantasti-gal

18 Jun

 

 

Fantasti-gal

by L. Stewart Marsden

 

Hi!
Um, hello?
May I come inside?
Do I know you?
I know you.
You do?
All your wants, all your needs.
Um, have we met?
I know all about you.
Really?
Even so, I don’t care.
You don’t?
I like what you’ve done to the place.
It isn’t much.
Even so, it’s so you!
I need to clean up.
No — it’s fine as it is. You are fine as you are.
I am?
You seem tense.
Just a bit.
Mind if I do this?
Um — wow!
And this?
B- but . . .
No buts. No ifs. And no ands.
I don’t . . .
Understand? It’s simple.
It is?
I am yours.
You are?
And there is nothing I won’t do.
Really?
Really.
Am I on Candid Camera?
No cameras.
Are you a cop?
No.
Am I awake?
Yes.
Ouch!
See?
Yeah . . . what’s the catch?
No catch.
None?
Ningun. Nada.
I could get used to this.

 

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 18 June, 2014

The Rock and the Knight

23 May

 

Don Quixote by Salvador Dali

Don Quixote
by
Salvador Dali

 

 

The Rock and the Knight

by L. Stewart Marsden

 

I was the rock you chose to scale
The pinnacle from which to see
The leeward shelter from each storm
The harbor into which you’d sailed.

I was the knight you held aloft
Who rode a noble valiant steed
Whose armor shone like polished steel
Whose heart was strong, yet warm and soft.

Who matched the meter of your verse
Who fleshed your fantasies to fact
Who knelt and bade you for your hand
Forever good, or ever worse.

Now but a rubble — stone and sand
where no advantage can be got
where there’s no protection from the storms
Nor from the seas or from the wind, and

Gone the stalwart, strong brave heart
Who’s now astride a boney nag,
Whose armor’s but a rusted shell
Who’s lost the luster from that start

And goes to find another trail
Perhaps to other distant lands
Where lasses aren’t idyllic there
And stories can be ended well.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 23 May, 2014

The Love Trap

25 Mar

image

The Love Trap

by L. Stewart Marsden

If love’s a pit in which you fall
is it possible at all to scrape and claw
your way back to the top?

Or is it more a dark abyss
which, entered into quite amiss,
was thought to be a safe and shallow drop?

Those first few pangs of laboring love
are portents to the struggles of
idyllic joy ‘gainst stark reality.

For no mere mortal here
can stave off doubt or hide from fear —
to think love would exude such falsity.

There is yet no like emotion
whose depths compare to vast, deep oceans
that swell and crash upon the heart’s lone shore

And, pounding quite relentlessly
erodes the will to be left free
like castles in the sand and nothing more.

So as I stop and consider this
and how the innocent first kiss
can lead to such an endless spiraling down

I sound with all my will and might
my troth to fight such future plights
that would force me to my knees upon the ground.

So please, if you’ve an ear to hear
take note when love approaches near
lift up your guard — be wary to the end,

And do not trip or slip or fall
if you can, avoid at all expense and say,
“Can’t you and I stay just friends?”

Absolute Divorce

16 Jan

Absolute Divorce

by L. Stewart Marsden

The second one.
Less of a hassle than the first —
but not without worse effort and strain,
and moments that burn memory and flesh.

More technologic.
Emails and texts —
Cleaner, meaner (in the sense of commonhood).

Like the first — victims in the wake,
seemingly at ease and safe above the water line.
Yet, legs thrashing to keep afloat,
Clothing soaked with a heavy past and unclear future,
pulling down,
tiring noble efforts.

Absolute, though?
On paper.
Documented. Decreed.
Yet sinewy strands of connection —
nearly translucent —
intact and resolute despite the absolute absolution.

The hand to the switch.
The ax to the trunk.
The genuflected stamp of man and God.
The notarized death of what once was.

The thought or the hope that one last strong wave will wash the beach clean,
leave amber foam and bubbles to dissolve and burst silently in the salty breeze.

A vague, momentary watermark on wet sand.

Absolute.

And, gone.

The Voice (not to be confused with the reality show)

10 May

The Voice
(not to be confused with the reality show)
by L. Stewart Marsden

A person gave advice to me
(and, by the way, hers was free)
she said, “You need to go and find your voice.”

I think I said, “Well, thank you, Ma’am,”
While in my mind thought “I’ll be damned!”
Wond’rin if I had another choice?

‘Cause, you see, I’m sixty-two,
Don’t really know just what to do —
Been speaking with this voice for quite some time.

To turn around and suddenly
Find another voice that speaks for me?
That’d be just like a poem that doesn’t rhyme!

“You’re work is scattered here and there
“and rambles almost everywhere!
“Focus is the thing you’ve got to do!”

“Enhance a speci-al-ity
“Become the voice you’re meant to be
“All eyes and ears will then be trained on you!”

“Well, thank you much, and God bless you,
“I know your comments must be true
“‘Cause I haven’t sold a novel nor a tale;

“And it’s pretty plain to see
“As far as all my poetry
“No agent has his eye on me as well.”

“But I’ve had this voice since I could talk
“which was long before I could walk
“It’s the only one I’ve really ever known.”

“And when I write it’s in my mind
“And speaks to me ’bout all the time
“and to it quite accustomed I have grown.”

(That last line that I just wrote —
the one that’s captured ‘tween the quotes —
Is what my Voice told me to write down).

Tho it may not be like Willie S,
Or any of literature’s best,
It’s exactly how my voice does sound.

So, shall I find another voice?
Dump this one for some other choice?
I think I’ll keep the one that found . . . me.