The Ferryman’s Vacation

Charon pulled the oars through the water for the billionth time. He found himself crying for the first time in a thousand years. He didn’t understand why. His transport was not a particularly tragic story. The man sitting at the opposite end of the boat was Jonathon Summers, an investment banker who had lived in a two story house with his three children and wife, until they all left. His three children grew up one by one and his wife died in a plane crash. He mourned and after three years moved on. On his fiftieth birthday he decided to finally start living again. He took a four month vacation and saw the Grand Canyon, the Coliseum and the pyramids. He died at the age of eighty six watching a Raiders game alone. But he was loved and died happy.

That was not the reason he cried. Charon pushed the oars through the bodies of people so far dead that they clung to the boat just to feel something. He did not pity them. In fact, he wanted to join them. He could feel them clamoring over him, grabbing him, taking him, pulling him down so far that his name was lost and his face was washed away into the river. He thought about it and his bones felt cold. But he knew the rule given to him before the stars lit. It was the only rule worth remembering.

“After the last soul goes to the water, you to shall die.” He smiled, as if he was sucking on a piece of chocolate, savoring each taste.

“Did you say something?”

“Nothing of importance.”

“What happens now?” the old man asked hoping the ice had broke.

“Now you are going to the other side, and I will go back to bring the next one.”

“After that?”

“I don’t know. Heaven? Hell? Hades? Elysian Fields? I stopped asking.”

“If I give you five dollars will you just turn away?”

“You know people used to pay me to take them to their fate. Now you want to pay me to take you back?”

“So you’ll do it?”

“Jonathon Summers look around you.”

Jonathon looked “Was their anything in particular I was supposed to look for?”

“See that woman touching the edge of the boat, the one with blue eyes and red hair?”

“The one that kinda looks like Rita Hayworth?”

“Yes… looks like. Grab her, pull her into the boat.”

“Will that tip us over?”

The ferryman shook his head.

The investment banker grabbed her only to feel her slip out of his hands like water.

“If you go back to the world you will not be seen or heard and you will barely be felt. Your son and two daughters will live their lives completely unaware of you and with only the faintest damp cold feeling when you are around. You will not be happy and they will be confused and scared at something their five senses could never truly comprehend. Sooner or later you’ll come back here and join them. Do you want that?”

“No.” the old man said defeated.

The old man looked up at him “Who are you?”

“I am Charon. According to the Greeks I was born of Erobos and Nyx, god of darkness and the godess of night respectively, but that is because the Greeks had to make everyone gods. In truth, I’m much less a god and more a natural constant.”

“Care to explain that?”

“When the first died, I was born of necessity. Someone needed to give them a distinct border between life and death and so I rowed. Back then these waters were still and virgin.”

“Who was the first?”

“You know… I can’t really remember. It was a long time ago. I know it wasn’t human and it was long time before this world had begun.”

“How long have you been doing this?”

“A lifetime. I can’t really remember any other measurements. It’s about as futile as numbering the grains of sand on a beach.”

“Do you ever take a vacation?”

“Once in a pink moon.”

“Really when?”

“Didn’t I just tell you?”

“Oh.”

The rest of the trip was silent. The beach was near, he could feel the change in the water. As always he kept his eyes towards the lake, so he didn’t see the other side.

“Hey, give me your wallet?”

“Why should I?”

“Cause I could still hit you with this oar and knock you overboard.”

“You wouldn’t hit me? Would you?”

“No but you might as well give it to me. From what I hear everything in Heaven is free and the demons I’ve met tell me Hell’s currency is pain which isn’t transferable.”

John smiled “I would like to have met you when I was alive.” he presented his wallet to the rower.

“Maybe you did.”

John left Charon and everything worldly to him. As John disappeared beyond the veil Charon began pawing through the wallet. Quickly Charon memorized the numbers on the credit cards left to him and the verification code. If he was gong to Aruba he would have to act fast.

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The Problem With Eternity

“I’m ready love.”

She speaks in a sweet voice but I can’t help think about where that voice came from. I remember reading the medical charts. Her name was Juanita Henderson and she was a gifted singer who sadly proved to be no match for a knife. They called it a mugging but I’m pretty sure the man who did it would have no problems with money: my wife pays handsomely. Anyways, who goes looking for a wallet and steals a larynx instead.

It’s not all her fault, we’ve got kind of an abstract grip on what death is. Most people have a problem with dying, we don’t. It’s not that we accept death, it’s just that we don’t die. We’re just too rich. Was a time when even us elite of the elite would have to die but with money and the amazing professionals that money can buy we’ve overcome these hurdles.

She’s got a bit of an organ habit actually. I don’t condone it, but she doesn’t seem to mind me being angry at her for a decade or two. She knows that she can wait me out and I’ll forget about it. Truth be told, my memory sort of overwrites every twelve years. I guess I’ve been overusing it; got a bit of a habit myself I’m afraid. That’ll be fixed soon as the experts finally finish that memory extension.

I use to jones for organs too but somewhere along my fourth heart, I got tired of replacing the damn things and set to finding me a better one. So after twenty years and fifteen models, I finally settled on a model that comes with a little mp3 player and stereo. I wanted surround, but seemed like a poor sticking point when talking about an artificial heart. Has worked for the last hundred years, although I’ve had to replace the mp3 player three times.

That’s when it hit me, I’ve saved lives just by not needing a heart. I don’t need a heart, so my employees don’t have to find me one and nobody has to lose one. I’ve save even more when you consider how many people are alive today thanks to my assembly line model synthetic heart. It lacks the mp3 player (tested poorly anyways) but it functions just the same. Now, I’m replacing all my organs with artificial models. By and by, of course.

I’ve really gotten interested in reducing my death toll. By next year, I won’t even be killing people for fine china. It’s really a wasteful practice and I can’t even taste the lack of human suffering. Plus, porcelain does look better. The only downside to my hobby is I can’t really enjoy my wife’s voice anymore. It’s just so wasteful, she doesn’t even sing.

Ships At A Distance

Somewhere deep inside a coming wave, David’s future ends. He knows the wave is coming for him, not that he could explain this in any scientific or logical way. It is something he knows: like a man knows there is a god. It is a belief so overwhelmingly prime that David’s internal language would fall to gibberish if it ever proved false. For the fifth time in ten years David is on vacation on the coast, waiting, accepting.

From six to eight in the morning, he sits. His legs are crossed indian style and he’s focused on the horizon. If he is force to move or flinch, he does so but he’s working only on a reactionary framework. His self is gone, projected outwards towards the future wave that will take him somewhere else.

It has occurred to him before that this is just a hustle his subconscious is playing on him. It could be a way of letting him take risks outside of the coast. If it is a con it is a long con, a very long con. He has been sure that he will die by the ocean’s hand since the age of eight when Werner Herzog changed his world. As he watched George Clooney break against the waves, David knew that he too would be taken by the sea. Monkey see monkey do maybe.

At the age of thirty two, he should be over this but he finds he can still see himself somewhere on the horizon between fishing boats and oil rigs. The weird thing is, David thinks he’ll be happy on the other side. It has to be better than the moments in wait of moments more important. It has to mean something.

Anyways, it is now 8:05 and he’s back to life. He turns away from the ocean and decides to get some tiger shrimp. Maybe later, he’ll visit that battleship he passed on the way.

Matt Sinclair’s Lesser Demons

Matt was down and hurting. He had taken the shin kick and that beautiful jab that exploded on his chin but a simple gut check put him down. Two minutes and forty seconds ago, Matt was watching a domestic dispute. She was small, he was big, they were loud and then he slapped her. Something in Matt turned to hero and he came running at the son of a bitch. Back to the future and Matt has regrets. Fourteen black and blue splotches painted his body from the inside out.

A pricey cross trainer came into Matt’s side. The shoe came knocking once and Matt winced. Twice it came knocking and Matt whimpered. Thrice and the shoe robbed Matt of a scream. Matt opened his eyes to find the woman gone. Matt was free to fight like he wanted to. Today’s beat down is brought down at the number 3. Three was the last knock this hulking bastard would get.

The letter of the day is A  is and A is for animal. An animal is what Matt prefers to be in moments of life and death. He grabbed the thick leg as it came in for a fourth hit. Matt bit down above the ankle and with much cursing the fight was on the ground. Matt was on top and whaling down with a third wind fueling him. There was a part of Matt that fell sorry for the guy but that part wasn’t big enough to stop him.

After about thirty seconds Matt noticed the big bad wolf had given up the fight. Wheezing like an old man, he didn’t strike back as Matt sloppily stood and turned away. Matt’s delusion of heroics had left him as he had bit down on the man’s leg. As Matt limped he felt ugly wash through him as a sort of terrible spiteful happiness. He was victorious or at least the one able to walk away, which was close enough. The woman was gone and Matt was soon to be hurting again but the moment felt good.

Matt had met a lesser man inside himself and Matt was not afraid. This was of course a mistake on Matt’s part.

Failure Tastes Like Lemon Drops

Let us all have a pause for the magical moment that could have been. Neil and Katrina could be looking into each others eyes longingly. They could be laughing. Most of all, they could have already allowed their feelings for each other to boil over in the back of Neil Sr.’s Monte Carlo. That won’t be happening, not now.

Neil is currently sitting at a booth at the Shelby Diner. Katrina is currently in the bathroom washing out her mouth with whatever is at hand. What is at hand is pink liquid soap, which she deeply regrets but it does taste better. It could have been a much better evening, except for the idiocy. Considering Neil, 16 that is a big exception.

Neil was nervous about his first date and to a lesser degree, his first chance to score. He didn’t want to want it but it took Buddha thirty years to kill desire and he was a professional. Neil couldn’t be a 46 year old virgin; Judd Apatow would be much too long dead to make a sequel. So he began to search for alternatives and the liquor cabinet was open, as it always was.

Some say that alcohol is great for relaxation and for some this may be true. Neil is not to be trusted with such advice. Limoncello tastes too damn much like candy for the boy to stop at the tear drop’s worth his system can handle. The world started shifting as he put down his brother’s sippy cup and realized that four ounces was probably more than enough.

He really held it pretty well. The bicyclists barely cursed him for intruding on their lane. Katrina was beautiful, as her eyes sparkled with worry and fear. She was mainly worried about the fact that he was constantly staring at her while driving. He was drifting, but he wasn’t worried. After all, thats why cars have horns. It didn’t occur to him that neither children nor dogs have such devices.

As they entered the diner, Neil ran straight for the bathroom and proceeded to feel the french fries he ate for breakfast return sweetly, sickly and involuntarily. Neil’s amazing optimism allowed him to go on under the assumption that the date was going well and it did for a while. Sadly, a while isn’t forever, it’s more like forty-five minutes.

She reached for his chips, he misread and reached for the hem of her garment. It was wonderful and spontaneous. Then it all turned wretched, there was just a little bit of sickness in her mouth but that failed to dissuade her panic. He screamed apologies, and stuttered as she ran towards the bathroom.

The outcome of this night will be long lasting, much like Robert Frost’s two roads. Neil will never drink Limoncello again. He will also learn not to sweat over what might just be happiness. Katrina will learn that the 2003 Monte Carlo handles pretty well and has enough trunk space for a tarp and a drunk. The road less taken is bumpy.

Lost In A Metaphor

“Oh god, why am I in a bar?”

Melvin found his answer two stools over, where a prominent scientist sat talking away at the fourth wall. This scientist had a special running on PBS. Melvin was lost in someone else’s metaphor, again. It had becoming a recurring theme in Melvin’s life that cough syrup and educational television tended to cause a bad trip. That was all fine, Melvin wanted a beer anyways.

“Hey barkeep, cerveza por favor!”

The bartender only stared at with a confused look on her face. This metaphor didn’t speak Spanish.

“Sorry, would you please get me a beer.”

She kept that confused look, it was beginning to seem like she was stoned but she did reply.

“I’ll see what I can do.”

She took a glass off the rack above her head and began pouring from the tap. As she handed it to Melvin, he noticed that it didn’t smell quite right. Taking as little heed to this life threatening bad omen as possible, Melvin drank. Afterwards, Melvin spat like a fire sprinkler.

“This is urine. Why do you have urine on tap?”

“You had an equal chance that it would be anything else.”

“I didn’t even know that there was a chance that someone would pee in a keg. Why would someone pee in a keg?”

“And you think I know?”

“I guess not.”

“Want another try?”

“Sure.”

This time it tasted like tang. Things were looking up.

“So is this show any good?”

“Ah, he’s got a good enough presence but this metaphor sorta sucks and he uses it over and over again.”

“Least it pays the bills.”

“So what do you do when you’re not a metaphor?”

“I’m an actress.”

“Oh right, think there’s any chance we could hook up?”

“Depends, you live in the Los Angeles area?”

“Alas, no. Plus you’re a delusion caused by cold medication.”

“Well, there is that. However if you ever meet me in real life give me a call.”

He paid his bill and left the bar. Outside the bar there were willow trees everywhere. He assumed this was because he liked willow trees. This metaphor wasn’t all that bad. Beat the hell out of killing cats. Schroedinger is one scary son of a bitch.

The Trial of Dorado

How does a dog become a man?


If he dies, if he was very good, and if he endures, he just may be born to walk this earth again, with two legs. Many good dogs have fallen by the way in pursuit of this prize. Dorado sits in front of those who would judge him and neither whimpers, nor whines. His mismatched eyes are not focused on the judges, who are each sitting on top of giant pillars, covered in shadow. He is more concerned with the scales sitting in front of him.

On this scale sits his heart, in stark contrast to the feather it’s weighed against. Amazingly, the feather does not fly away, no matter how shaky the scale becomes. As they move up and down Dorado worries. Like a duck knows North, he knows what is at stake in the balancing of these scales. He knows that if his heart weighs a grain more than the feather, he will be born a squirrel. It is the worst fate he can imagine.

Brenda always called him a good pup, but she was his person and biased. The coyote probably held less esteem for him. He had no regrets over that, if you are to try and hurt his person you deserve nothing but ire and teeth. If he has a regret, it is the pain. No one ever tells you how much bravery hurts. It hurts even as he looks at the scales, without scar to his name.

Even with the pain, if given the choice again he would throw every ounce of his fifty five pounds, speckled fur and all, against that coyote. In defense of friends and family, Dorado does not know retreat. Against the smell of rubbing alcohol maybe, but if his own are in peril he would solider on. Together they were survival, love and everything. Without them, he is lacking landmarks and legend; lost in the big lonely world.

The scales come to a stop. If his heart wasn’t being weighed across the room, it would be in his throat. He just can’t believe . He dances, he yelps, he almost pees. Being a good dog, he restrains himself from the latter. The voice of the judges speaks neither English nor any dog tongue but is understood. The voice speaks simple truth.

“Good pup, good boy.”

It was then and there that light engulfs Dorado. Dorado remembers, the beep, the sickly synthetic smell, the tired women crying. It was a bad place but somehow, it’s a good place now. In time he will forget that he was once a dog, memories pushed aside for more relevant things. He will even forget his own name. He will not forget what a friend is. He will not forget how to be brave.

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