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Archive for the ‘Romantic babblings’ Category

(originally published May 26, 2009 @16:12 EST)

All day long yesterday for Memorial day I found myself recalling various men I have felt proud to know in my lifetime and the stories they would tell; at fishing camp, at hunting camp, around campfires, over beers, among friends. Stories of their time in the service and in some rare cases of their times on the front lines. (although those recollections were more frequent in the old timers, and even then generally focused on things that had happened only to them)
It didn’t occur to me to pass any of them along until this morning, so I thought I would go over some of them in brief to share their tales (as I recall them) and pass them along.

So here’s to Reese from Sheep’s Pasture, to the stories he would tell of a bunch of young marines trained in Florida deep in the everglades running on unseen boards made to resemble walkways in rice paddies, feeling their way with sticks and risking splashing down with not only the murky waters, but the gators hiding within.

US Marine Patrol

US Marine Patrol

To stories of young leathernecks going on first leave after having it drilled in their heads for weeks that they were the meanest, roughest, toughest, baddest sons of bitches to ever walk the face of the earth – and to the stories of the fist fights and timely flights (from authorities) that soon ensued.
Here’s to the young marine finally coming home after his tours in Viet Nam in a full leg cast who got off the plane to see his family across the tarmac and becoming delighted, only to be confronted head on by two dirty, long haired protesters who spat in his face screaming baby killer.
And here’s to the two cops who scooped him up after he busted the first one’s face open while balancing on his crutches and was already going after the second, who in spite of the screams from the activists to “arrest him!”, brought him through the security entrance, smiled and said “semper fi brother, now get the hell out of here or we ‘will’ have to arrest you”
(Reese told no stories of the time between basic and coming home – Rest in Peace)

Here’s to Smitty, also from fish camp at Sheep’s pasture, a thin older gent who told us of the time he was brought before his superiors for a samurai sword he had found. It turned out to be an officers sword that he had picked up after entering a cave to see a smiling Japanese soldier holding his hands up in the air saying in broken English “I surrender” – and here’s to the fellow soldier behind Smitty that caused him to look down only to see the tip of a Thompson open fire from where it had been inserted under his arm, and to the hand that grabbed the back of his neck to fling him back out of the mouth of the cave just as the grenade the Japanese officer was holding in his upraised hand fell free and detonated.

Okinawa Beachhead

Okinawa Beachhead

To the story he told of when the zeros buzzed the Okinawa beachhead and he took (he thought) two shots in his arm, to the medic that bandaged him up and secured his arm to his side so he could, with the help of another soldier that was wounded in the opposite arm, still manage to assist in moving wounded on stretchers for the remainder of the hours of fighting that ensued. Only after which did he think to seek out a field surgeon to actually get treatment, where they discovered the third shot that had gone right through his lower abdomen.
Upon hearing the shot was more than 4 hours old and seeing where it passed, the triage nurse pronounced him essentially ‘already dead’ and went to attend to other ‘more hopeful’ patients. Obviously he was not about to settle for this and had to argue considerably to even be treated due to all the other wounded on the beach. He was made to wait even longer and eventually wheeled in to a dirty side room, given no anesthesia, cut the length of his side and ‘sloshed back and forth’ with a liquid poured into the incision that he described as having the look and smell of urine. (it wasn’t, but was some low-frills antiseptic that they could justify ‘sparing’ on a ‘dying man’)
He showed us the scars including the marks where they had sewn him back up with wire staples, as they didn’t want to waste any sinew on him either, hoping to spare it for men they actually thought could be saved.
And here’s to that stubborn man who passed out only to wake up 3 hours later in a hospice wing of a makeshift tent, damned them for leaving him to die and walked back into the OR where he finally received proper sutures and ultimately got a real bed in intensive care to continue his recovery.
(rest in peace Smitty! And thanks for the hand made net, it’s still one of my most prized possessions)

And here’s to Kenny from Spud farm who told us of how he was on board the USS Franklin when a Japanese Kamikaze nearly broke her in two.

USS Franklin listing

How he and some of his shipmates had to navigate a catwalk on the backside of the control tower to avoid the flames, suspended on nothing but a 6″ ledge more than 4 stories above the ocean. About how he turned just in time to see one of his best friends for the very last time falling to the ocean below after a secondary explosion shook the whole ship.
Here’s to the three hours he spent in near freezing waters after the second kamikaze hit sent him into the frigid waters as well. And to the simple apple that helped keep him alive – as when he would grow tired and almost give up, he would see the apple bobbing 2-3 wave crests away, just briefly enough to give him something to keep swimming after.
Here’s to the guys that eventually showed up to scoop up the dead bodies onto their already overflowing flatboat, only to tell Ken that they would send a crew back for him as they had no room. And here’s to them agreeing to pick him up after hearing him say “if you do that, you’ll be picking me up instead along with the rest of the dead!” (try to imagine that ride back, where the only room is on top of the bodies!)

Here’s to Mike who’s story I almost didn’t want to include as I didn’t want to make him look bad, but the state of mind it details I doubt anyone reading could imagine doing otherwise.
Still trying to shake off the experiences of combat, he decided to accept an invitation to ‘relax’ by going hunting on a friend’s private property. As he walked to his blind, some ‘slob’ who was trespassing and poaching on this friends private land, apparently thought it was a good idea to shoot at any sound of movement.
Being fresh out of the service, Mike told us (trying to be funny but still showing in his face how much it disturbed him) the sound of the shell hissing by his head caused instinct to take over and the next thing he knew, he was hiding behind a 5″ ball of dirt and had emptied his shotgun in the direction of the fired ‘near miss’. (fortunately enough missing as well)

US Marine Escort near Baghdad

US Marine Escort near Baghdad

(thank you Mike for teaching me your variant of Darwin’s rule, “people that are prone to do stupid, dangerous or self-destructive things…. should!”)

Here’s to my cousin Jim who also didn’t go into a lot of detail about his experience in Iraq, but did comment on the frustration he and his other marines had when coming within sight of Baghdad during Desert Storm – only to be pulled back at the last minute. I still remember the certainty in your words back then that “we should have been allowed to finish, we’ll only end up having to come back”.

To my namesake Webster Abial Wood who dodged musket fire and cannon balls at Gettysburg in the war to preserve our union. Who at first I wondered about his ‘bravery’ as he was a member of the drum core and played the fife in the 24th Michigan band.

Thomas Nasts Drummer Boys

Thomas Nast’s Drummer Boys

That is until I read more on the civil war… about the battles on fields covered in white smoke from black powder muskets and cannons. Story after story where men wrote in their diaries of looking to their immediately left and immediately right to barely make out just one of their fellow soldiers through the smoke and to hear the pace of the drum to match their steps as they had been trained. The drums marking the pace to keep the line in step, the steady beat as a heart to the line signifying their ranks had not been broken. And the stories of returning fire where the sounds of the ‘enemy’ drums and the bugles on the other side of the field often gave you the only point of aim through opaque clouds of smoke.
To stories of friends, neighbors and brothers meeting as opponents in our nations bloodiest war, but still being civil enough to pass letters, foodstuffs and other token items in small boats across the blood stained rivers separating their lines after the sun set and fighting subsided for the night.
And to the knowledge of Webster leading the army band for the melancholy honor of playing for an assassinated president’s funeral procession in Illinois.

Here’s to my grandfather ‘Woody’ who also didn’t speak to much around me about his time in the first world war while in the Navy. But who raised my father and consequently passed on to me an understanding of the values that made this country great and an appreciation for the men that helped make it that way.

—-

You may have noticed by now what I already eluded to. These men would tell stories of the good times, of the times before the war or immediately after. Of things that happened only to them where they got out alive in spite of adversity. But many of such a story would bring up a name, or refer to a person and the story would finish, the men would either bow their heads or stare off into space and go silent for a long time. After which they would turn to one another as only their fellow veterans could understand, raise their glasses “To them!”

There was yet another theme that ran through the stories as well. I ran across an interesting quote yesterday from none other than George Orwell:

All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.

All the men I named believe in their country, treasure their freedom and would fight for it with their lives. Some of them signed up voluntarily out of a sense of duty and honor, others out of little more than need and no where else to go, and still others were drafted and answered the call. None wanted to repeat their ‘unspoken’ experiences, but I have no doubt any one of them would join up with such a cause again if the need arose and our country was threatened.

But don’t be mistaken!

The only man standing is in a wheelchairAs every one of them told their stories, it was easily understood. When they were in the line of fire, on the front lines and in the middle of a firefight, they no more fought for ideals of freedom or country then they did out of a sense of duty or honor. No, they fought for their fellow soldiers – their friends, and for the hope that someday soon they would be home with people they loved.

So most of all, here’s to the men I never met, to the stories I never heard, to the laughs we never made about the good times. Here’s to the horrors I never learned from those that did return, from the stories they kept to themselves and their sleepless nights. Here’s to the silent moments, the hung heads and the solemn toasts. Here’s to the old man in his dress uniform shedding a tear over some memory only he holds – always trying to keep it out of his mind but making sure he never forgets. Here’s to the unknown soldiers in the unmarked graves on battlefields far away, and to the events that never made best sellers or Hollywood movies.

I never met any of you, never heard your stories but be damn sure, I will never forget you!
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After hearing of the passing of two of my teachers this week, I was again considering something I learned from the movie ‘Big Fish‘. At the end of the movie, after struggling with his relationship with his father, the son says of him:

“… a man tells his stories so many times that he becomes the stories.  They live on after him.  And in that way, he becomes immortal.” – Will Bloom, Big Fish
  (written by Daniel Wallace (novel), John August (screenplay))

I am a story teller, a skill I learned by watching my father. My father is also a school teacher. I would say ‘was’ a school teacher, as he is retired. But I don’t really think that good teachers ever stop teaching and they don’t even necessarily need to seek that as a profession to be a good teacher.

After hearing of the most recent passing of professor Ron DeRoo, whom served as an accompanist and co-clinician for a music group I was involved with in High School and from whom I also took jazz piano instruction later on while attending college, I got to pondering those words from the movie again.

Specifically, I got to thinking about what kinds of pursuits in life are most prone to fit with the nature of the Big Fish ‘story telling’. I came to the conclusion that the three that most stick out in my mind are those of teachers, writers and philosophers.

Teachers

More so than any other life pursuit or profession, (good) teachers will influence the most lives. The nature of teaching is to influence others. To provide them with information to help form their thoughts and ideas. Of all the teachers I can think of, those who influenced me the most were those that did not simply provide me with information in a given subject but instead provided insights in a way that they could be applied to any subject.

A truly good teacher, whether by vocation or their very nature, will lead you to look at life and reality in a different way. They will not simply provide you with information and knowledge, but will help you to formulate how you absorb such knowledge and further teach you how to continue to do so when you are no longer benefiting from their direct tutelage.

When you watch others speak fondly of people they have known, people that have had the greatest impact on their lives, they more often than not speak of people that taught them things or gave them insights that helped improve their minds, their lives or there way of approaching any variety of circumstances.

Writers

I originally considered ‘artists’ in general for this grouping, but decided instead to focus just on the art of writing. Writing consists of using words that represent concepts to convey ideas. Even if writing fantastic fiction, the author above any other art form, has the most direct connection to specific concepts and manners of creating and influencing thoughts.

The practice of any art form that is well mastered will require that the artist puts a great portion of their heart and soul into the results of their art. But where an actor can only show you their skill in portraying a role, a painter can only show you their mastery of creating images with their pallet or a dancer can only express ideas through motion, the writer has to convey those concepts and conceptualizations that they possess through combinations of words directly representing those concepts.

Other mediums fall short of passing along such vivid combinations of ideas. The use of words, word phrasings, combinations of perceptions and circumstances, and the ability to portray all of them only through the written form requires a direct link into the mind of the artist writing the words.

Philosophers

The category of philosopher is actually a bit of a redundancy when included with the other two, as the best teachers and writers generally will also require a foundation built upon a good philosophy. Actually all of them are somewhat redundant, as they all tend to overlap — even someone who’s primary means of communicating their ideas is through telling them directly must create those ideas not-unlike a writer does. Even if they are doing so in-the-moment.

Philosophy, directly translated, means the ‘love of knowledge’. As a branch of scientific examination, it is the study of knowledge as it relates to reality.  As Ayn Rand (the philosopher who has had the greatest influence on me) once said (paraphrasing), everyone has some kind of philosophy – a way of living, dealing with their surroundings and making choices – whether they choose to see it that way or not. Some of us  spend more time and effort defining and examining our philosophy, and some arrive at distinct conclusions that they communicate to others who find them worthy of consideration.

So whether they are formal or informal philosophers, it is those who help us to form our way of interacting with the world that will ultimately influence us enough to spread on part of their own essence and way of thinking in us. Thus, I am reasonably certain that those who will live on the longest after they perish from this world will be the teachers, the writers and the philosophers.

As a final thought, I’d like to re-post my statement in the guestbook for my beloved teacher:

… I remember Mr. DeRoo fondly from my [many years of knowing him.] It is quite sad to hear of his passing, but he was the sort who touched many lives and inspired many smiles. He shared his love of life and his joy and knowledge for music with many and will be remembered by all.

Whenever I hear of someone passing, I reflect on a lesson I learned from the movie ‘Big Fish’ – those people who touch the most lives, live on forever in the hearts and minds of those they influenced and never die so long as people speak of them or share and pass on what they gained from knowing them.

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How many times have you ever heard someone say that they want a love that is unconditional?  That love itself is selfless?  Has no strings attached?  No preconditions?  I say hogwash!

First off, most people that tell you this are generally people who are telling you what they ‘desire’ in a loving partner. The same people will tell you that love itself is a form of desire. Yet ‘desire’ is a form of want and want a matter of selfishness.

When someone is describing the ‘kind of love’ they desire (want) they are essentially telling you what their selfish desires are. Thus it is a bit odd when their ‘selfish’ desire is to find someone ‘selfless’.  Furthermore, when they describe such a partner, it is generally implied that they have the full intention of offering the same kind of ‘un-conditional’ love in return.

Emotions

Love is of course an emotion. I was a big fan of Leo Buscaglia growing up for a number of reasons. He used to host various television shows and series on the topic of love as well as published a number of books on the subject which I read. Buscaglia described love as a ‘learned’ emotion and discouraged people from using terms such as ‘falling in’ and ‘out’ of love. In fact, he often went on to describe most if not all emotions as being ‘learned behaviors’ and I share this way of thinking.

Consider this. Our minds are rather complex mechanisms that process various stimuli and information on a number of different levels. As we go through our lives our minds create concepts to allow us to sort through the various individual and combined sensory data that our various sensory organs collect for us. For more complex combinations of multiple concepts, our minds will create an amalgam as a new concept. For example when we see a fist sized white leather ball with red stitching we think ‘baseball‘ rather than ‘fist sized white leather ball with red stitching‘.

In our early years we are taught many concepts before we can attach words to those concepts and many of these concepts are the fundamental building blocks on which the rest of our lives will act out. Various schools of psychology place a great deal of emphasis on this early development as key factors in the formation of our personalities and traits. Many of our concepts for emotions are formed at this time in the manner of the way a foundation is formed under a house, and we build upon those concepts over our lives.  But how often do we stop to look at what that foundation is actually made of?

Emotions themselves are learned behaviors and responses, often quite complex combinations of multiple multiple sensory data that relates to either past experiences (concept formation) or to notions we have formed through our process of learning (fantasy scenarios).  If you are told over and over and over again that Love is a magical feeling and is some kind of mystical state of bliss, if you hear or see many stories told in books and movies about fantasy love scenarios that make you feel good (remind you of past experiences or fantasies) you will incorporate those into your fuzzy-wuzzy feel good conceptualization of ‘love’.

Then when you meet someone who’s behaviors and interactions inspires enough of those many many combined concepts that helped you build your notion of love combined with your own excitement, or apprehension, nervousness, shyness, sexual arousal or other factors – woah, it feels like those concepts your brain pieced together over the years! This must be love!!!

You so want love to be ‘magical’, like you have been told over and over and over again, that you don’t stop to realize you have been hyperventilating and your adrenaline is spiking as you are trying to work up the nerve to ask that cute girl for a kiss.  You conform to your concept and believe it to be ‘real’ magic.

Love is a Concept

When in fact you step back and look at all the various factors of what you both believe and think are parts of what love actually ‘is’, if you are honest enough with yourself and thorough enough in the integrity of your reduction of the concept as you know it, you will find that in fact it is based on real factors.  Factors that are for the most part based on things that you consider of benefit to you, but in some cases that you were either convinced were something they aren’t or that may even be irrational in nature.

So if love is just another amalgam of multiple concepts, then you can not only rationally approach the concept but you can strive to both control it and seek to maximize it.  As an ethical egoist, my suggestion of course is to optimize it rationally to your maximum benefit.

So is Love really Un-Conditional?

As I described above, most people that describe love as unconditional ‘seek’ out that form of love.  i.e. they desire it.  They place as a condition, the pre-requisite that the person they seek shares their (flawed) view on what love is.  And upon doing so, they do so by way of selfish reasoning!  The sad part is, that means they are half way there – but they never quite make it the rest of the way.

The truth is that none of us would really ‘want’ a ‘selfless’ love or for someone to love us ‘unconditionally’. For someone to do so absolutely without condition it would mean they gain no individual benefit from doing what is considered ‘loving behavior’ whatsoever.  Just stop and think what this really means:

  • They are not with you because they ‘want’ to be with you, but out of a sense of duty to their concept of what ‘love’ is.
  • They don’t do things for you because they desire you to be happy, but because they feel obliged to do it.
  • They cannot have any pre-conceived notions at all of what ‘they’ think is right or even what ‘you’ think is right. For you to ‘want’ is just as ‘conditional’ as for them

Does it sound a bit robotic?  A tad idiotic?  It’s being mutual slaves out of obligation to self-sacrifice. It makes you ponder that the ultimate ‘unconditional love’ is a suicide pact.  Who wants that?

As for me, I ‘want’ a selfish lover. And I seek to be a selfish lover. When I am with someone, I desire someone that I ‘want’ to be with and take great ‘joy’ in being with them – and them with me.  I selfishly crave a partner that greedily craves my company. I willfully desire to offer of myself to them in exchange for their offering of themselves to me.  I want them to be happy, because it brings me joy for them to be that way. And I fully expect them to meet my pre-condition of seeing love the same way.

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Well, the Christmas season is over and perhaps this should have been a post for before the Christmas gift giving season, but it’s a topic that came up a few times after Christmas rather than before, so I thought I would write on it now.

Christmas is the season of giving!  We get bombarded by all sorts of altruistic phrases, greetings, cards, songs, TV Specials, movies, plays, etc. all talking about the spirit of giving.  So what in the world could selfishness possibly have to do with Christmas?  Well what doesn’t it have to do with giving gifts at Christmas?

What am I talking about?  Well, let’s step back a second and consider some worn out Christmas clichés that people often bemoan this time of year.  How many times have you heard the line about getting a ‘tie again’? (or fill in any other item that you have too many of already and therefore don’t need)  Or worrying about what to get for someone that ‘has everything’ or ‘needs very little’?  How many times have you worried about whether or not someone will ‘like’ a present or even something as simple as whether or not it’s the right size/color/style, etc.?  And of course, since it is after Christmas, we are all more than aware of the returns and re-gifting that goes on, and most of us don’t want to find out that something we gave ended up there!

Well, if it’s about the giving, why should any of that matter?  Sure, part of the Christmas spirit is accepting any gift graciously and showing appreciation.  But I’m not speaking from the receiving side.  I’m talking about the concerns people have when gifting in the first place.  And the magic word is in the last sentence of the prior paragraph: ‘want’.  Most of us want to get something that the people we are giving the item to will actually like or be able to use.  i.e. something of value.

And value is the important thing to consider here.  Unless we are a completely braindead altruist, we are generally giving to people (or in some cases charities) that we value in the first place.  Our giving is an expression of our appreciation from us for the receiver in some way.  And we not only want to give them something, but we want that something to be of value to them.  We want them to like it, to be happy, to have something useful, to improve their life or their emotional state in some way.

Why do we want that?  Because of the value the person has to us.  Because it makes us happy in return to know we could do something of value for them.  And that is another important phrase: ‘in return’.  It is an exchange.

The spirit of Christmas does not have to be a notion of thankless giving nor should it be.  The act of giving, and giving real value – value that is important to the receiver of the gift beyond the act of giving itself is a selfish thing and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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A recent discussion involved ‘how’ we get the way we are.  Speaking in regards to myself, the following story came to mind:

I was only partially raised this way.  A number of the conclusions I came to were forced upon me; not as a preached system of belief but as a response to or resulting from the unreasonableness of others.

It really sounds almost silly, but I seriously think the fact that I was entered into kindergarten half-a-year earlier than I should have and thus ended up in grade school a year early helped me think this way.  The result was being a smaller kid and having to compete with others that were ahead in years to try to fit in.  As a result I was drawn more to academic pursuits and was physically smaller than most kids.  This made me seem nerdy and made me subject to teasing.

Being a younger brother didn’t help this much because older brothers are good at exploiting weaknesses to teasing and conditioning you to them – making you a preferential target for bullies at school.  In 4th and 5th grades it didn’t bother me because I had a small group of friends I hung out with.  But then my best friend’s family moved to Arizona. Most of the other guys in our ‘click’ were neighbors of his.  Meanwhile, most of the kids in my immediate neighborhood weren’t the sort I preferred to hang around with.  So I ended up pretty much by myself in 6th grade and it led me to step back from it and start to examine it.

The Academy SingersAcademy acceptance letterI continued to do so after changing to junior high and pretty much faded into the woodwork. I got into music and on a fluke got into a semi-professional regional group known as the ‘Academy Singers’. (it was pretty much a scaled down, regional version of ‘Up with People’)

The group came to my school as a result of our choir teacher and the group founder made me sing a solo in front of the whole school. Everything changed!

That group had been brought to my junior high school before — that’s how I got interested in it in the first place.  At that time, it was all high school kids.  I was the youngest person ever accepted to the group at that time.

The year before, most kids thought, “Oh yippee, a school assembly to watch choir fags!  Joy! At least we get to skip class.” Suddenly they got to see someone they knew performing with a bunch of other people close to their ages doing a good job — even if it was in doing something they themselves wouldn’t.

When told we were coming to my Junior High again and that I was expected to perform a solo, I wasn’t to keen on the idea.  I hadn’t done too many solos up to that point and the only song I was working on at the time was “Always on My Mind”.  (It was one of the few I saw at the local music store that I both knew and reasonably liked.  Despite the fact it was originally made famous by Elvis Presley, the song was popular at the time as a result of nasally Willy Nelson – that didn’t make things much better)

Singing for my Junior High

Scott Wood sings "Always on My Mind" for Sashabaw Junior High school assembly

I expected the bully types to boo or at least the general opinion of me by the majority of the student body as the ‘skinny, nerdy, choir boy‘ to lead to a less-than-enthusiastic response. Instead, I got a standing, screaming, cheering ovation from my entire school and blushed for the first (and one of the few) times in my life.

[I remember one event in particular.  One of the dreaded rites of being bullied in Junior high was riding the bus.  There was a group of ‘burn-outs’ that used to ride in the back of the bus and when they got bored, they’d look for people to torment.  My bus was no exception and although I wasn’t necessarily the primary target, I was by no means exempt.
After singing that night, I got out to the bus and sat up near the front as I usually did.  One of the more notorious guys on the bus came in, and when he saw me flopped down quite deliberately into the seat across the isle.  He sat there for a good 30 seconds just staring at me.  Finally I was just like “What?!?!?”  He simply leaned across the isle and extended his hand shaking his head saying “Dude, that took balls!”  I shook his hand, he got up and went to the back of the bus with all the other rowdies as per normal, and never bothered me again after that day.]

It took over a year for that to sink in, but I realized that people recognize achievement, especially when they can identify with it in some way. I didn’t seek popularity after that any more than I had before.  I was still nerdy, I was still a choir boy.  t changed my entire outlook and I no longer tried to ‘fit in’.  I started to do my own thing.  I turned what had previously been simply ‘fuck everyone else‘ into, “fuck everyone else, I’m doing is right!

I continue on that course to this day.

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The ObjectOpus

Be sure to check out this and my other works of fiction on the new multi-contributor objectivist fiction showcase:
The ObjectOpus


“I do hope you know how beautiful you are,” he told her sincerely at a recollection of how much he treasured their conversations.

She blushed at the compliment but her modesty quickly changed to dismay when she noticed the look on his face.

“Don’t!” he said simply but sternly.

She stood on, looking perplexed and confused.  Ashamed at something she had done which had disappointed him.  ‘What did I do?‘ she wanted to ask but couldn’t find the words.  He understood anyway.

“Don’t blush.  That type of modesty is very unbecoming upon you.”

She didn’t know how to respond.  She didn’t quite understand.

“Do you understand the meaning of those words?” he asked.  “Unbecoming?  To become means to ‘come into existence’ – to ‘be’.  Unbecoming is the process of going out of existence.”  He paused a brief moment to let the words sink in.  “Listen, I understand to an extent that your blushing is an homage to me – your respect and admiration for me.  But that’s not the whole of it.  What do you have to be ashamed of?”

“Ashamed?” she uttered not realizing fully she had said the words, failing to comprehend the meaning entirely.

“Yes, ashamed.  And do you think so poorly of me that you would do it?”  She looked at him again with a look of one that had disappointed their superior.  “Oh stop,” he said bluntly but affectionately, “yes, I see by that look in your eyes that some of it is from respect.  But have I ever treated you as any less than my equal?”

“No, of course not!” she replied plaintively.

“And have you ever known me to be dishonest with you?  Or given you cause to think I tell you things I do not know are entirely true?”

“No.”

“Do you think so poorly of my ability to think or to reason that I should utter something ridiculous or unfounded or that I arrived at without considering it’s accuracy fully?”

“Of course not,” she said flustered.

“Well?” he said with a slight smile.

She paused a moment and was struck with a thought.  “But… one is not supposed to think such things about one’s self.  It’s unflattering.”

“According to whom?” he asked pausing to look at her inquisitively.  “By what sense of reasoning?  By who’s creed?  By what ‘moral right’?”  He waited again to let the questions sink in.

“Have you ever known me to ask anything of you without offering you something of equal value in exchange?” he continued.

“No,” she replied.  “In fact sometimes you go overboard to make sure you don’t.”

He smiled and nodded.  “And would you ever know me to offer something to you that was worthless and that would provide you no value whatsoever?”  She shook her head in response.  “And do you think that by that reasoning, the things I give you I do so without having gotten something in return?”

She stopped to ponder this and her face lit up a little as she realized, although she had never considered it, that it must be so.  Anything else from him would be simply out of character.

“And do you suppose I would ever give you anything as a bribe in expectation of something you hadn’t offered me first?  As means of buying your attention or affection?  Or in placing a burden of guilt upon you?”  He looked directly in her eyes again and she could sense some of that same emotion of disappointment that her blush had caused a few moments before.  “That is why I was disappointed.  That you do not consider I would tell you that because ‘I’ wanted you to hear it.”

He waited a brief moment for her to consider what he had said.

She stared at the ground a moment considering the words, eventually raising her’s to his again and said as sincerely as she could muster.  “Yes, it was selfish of  you and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Thank you for the compliment.”  She didn’t blush this time but still showed some slight hints of shame, not for the praise but for her reaction to it.

“But there is more to it than that.  It also disappoints me to see how you think of yourself.  And you shouldn’t say thank you.”

“What?” she asked, somewhat astonished at the notion.

“No, you shouldn’t say it.  Not to me anyway.”  He shifted his weight a moment.  “When you go to your job, and you put in a hard week’s worth of labor for someone else, then at the week’s end you go to get your pay check – do you have a duty to thank them for paying you in exchange for the work you did?  Something they are required by your agreement to work for them to do?”

The thought had truly never occurred to her but he was right.  Her face lit up again as he spoke further.  “When dealing with someone that offers such a compliment without fully understanding the words or what they are offered to acknowledge, saying thank you may well be appropriate as they will understand that to be the typical response.  But from what you know of me, do you think that I would compliment you by saying you are beautiful simply based on your outward appearances?”

She let in a quick breath because she intrinsically knew it to be so.  She didn’t realize it but she was starting to blush again.  It quickly became apparent to her when she saw what now was an almost angry look on his face.  Her face suddenly dropped to a look of horror.  In a brief moment she saw in his eyes a look as though he wanted to slap her and at first she was frightened by the look until she realized something else she had missed.  She was ashamed for hearing him repeat the compliment.  She had felt guilt.

“You looked as though you might slap me.  I was blushing again wasn’t I?”  He nodded again, but didn’t say anything.  “I’m beginning to understand, and had you struck me I would have deserved it.”

“I wouldn’t have struck you,” he said solemnly “and you know I wouldn’t.”

But that look, from ‘him’ was worse than any blow she thought.  She understood more than she did but she still didn’t grasp fully the totality of her crime in his eyes.   Again, he could sense this and sought to enlighten her further.

“You said earlier that you are supposed to be modest.  That it is what is expected of you.  That you don’t think to yourself about whether or not you are beautiful.  Why do you suppose others do not encourage such thoughts?  Why do you think ‘modesty’ is important to their virtues?”

“And do you suppose that such a person who has no understanding of what it even is to be beautiful can ever begin to know it in themselves?  They can’t! Because it does not exist within them.  They must make it their moral virtue to deny beauty of one’s self, because to acknowledge it is to understand that it is a vacant quantity.  They must convince you that it is ‘your’ moral virtue to deny it within your self, because for you to understand that you have an abundance of it is to over shadow their lack of it and their lack of understanding of why it is even important to begin with!  They must lower you to re-affirm themselves.”

“And do you suppose when such a person gives you a compliment that it has any ‘value’ to you at all?  You should spit in the face of anyone that dares speak to you of beauty when they neither possess it or contain within them the capacity to understand it.  They don’t compliment you based on a sense of what it means, but as one would throw a coin to a beggar to receive the satisfaction of having done a favor for someone they desire to see as their ‘inferior‘.”

He said the last words with added emphasis and they rang through her ears.  ‘It is so true,‘ she thought.  She could picture the types of people he referred to in flashes of faces in her mind.  Shallow sorts with no self-esteem, who’s only means to validation was to deprive others of their worth.  Seeing the comprehension in the flash of her eyes, he spoke further.

“When you deal with one who is your lesser in ability, but should you detect that the compliment they grant you is sincere, they make it to you as an homage.  Such praise is an acknowledgment of your ability, an ability they do not currently possess.  Something you have shared with them through no requirement of your own.  Even if they were to compliment a singer after paying to see them perform or the painting of an artist after purchasing it for themselves, and especially when their lack of ability won’t even fully let them appreciate the nature of the art and skill they witness.  To those are the sort to which a ‘thank you’ is an appropriate response.  Their compliment is an admission of having met one’s superior in a given context.”

“But when you deal with one that is your equal or greater in ability, they are no less indebted to you for the sharing of your skills and talents.  Yet, they have a full understanding of what those talents mean and what the nature of your abilities truly are.  They can fully appreciate the mastery of your abilities, the power of your mind, the grace of your efforts and the integrity of their execution.  As something you ‘earned’ by your achievement.  To thank such a person as that is to negate the repayment they are offering you for what they have shared.  To render it to the same status as that beggars offering.”  He gave her a look that inspired her confidence rather than re-inspire her shame.  It was a look that she was fully capable of grasping what he was saying and that he knew she had.

“When you think of yourself, of your abilities, your accomplishments, of the things you do, you feel pride in those things do you not?” he asked her.

“I do!” she replied confidently.

“Yet you feel no pride in the beauty of all that?  You exalt the nature of your conquering the tasks you place before you, but never stop to praise yourself for the beauty required within you to even consider doing, no less actualizing them?”

She thought of the guilt she sensed and hung her head slightly.  He lifted her head again till her eyes met his.

“I tell you that I do not give you things freely.  When I say that, what I am telling you is that have earned them.  That I expect you to earn them.  And when you grant me something of value, I make it my personal duty to repay that debt.  When I give you a compliment such as that, I do so because I know it has value – because I know it to be so.  I can see the proof for myself, not just in your appearance but in your actions and character.  I do it because you have ‘earned’ hearing it.  And I do it because it pleases me for you to hear it.”

He grabbed both her hands and drew her directly in front of him and smiled a pleasant, approving smile.  “Let’s try this again.  Now… that you understand.  My dear, my friend, my equal.  I do hope you know how beautiful you are.”

With this he smiled the most wonderful of smiles that communicated so many things to her; that it was true, that she knew it, that she could not deny it, that she had earned hearing it, that he selfishly wanted her to hear it – and to know it.

She seemed to lift her entire frame up even higher to match her spirit, in proud defiance of the burden of the modesty inflicted by the envy of those that could not understand such things.  Those that had no concept of beauty.  Those that knew not the selfish pleasure of hearing those words and knowing they were true before they were spoken.  Her smile now lit across her face in that understanding as she thought a moment before responding so as to select the right words.

“To hear those words from you, it is a compliment that is the most appreciated,” she said proudly, understanding now his suggestion and avoiding the knee jerk response to say ‘thank you’ in response to something she had earned.  ‘This will take some practice,’ she thought, ‘old habits die hard.

Again he seemed to see into her thoughts and smiled yet again approvingly, not failing to notice the careful wording that fit the compliment without discounting it’s true nature.

He bowed his head slightly in a sign of admiration and respect and said quite simply, “It was my pleasure.”

She chuckled to herself at the thought that popped into her head upon hearing those words.  ‘Yes, I have no doubt that it was.’


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Wife TrophyIt’s a real shame that the term “trophy wife” has taken on the connotation that it has.  (but then again, it’s a shame people see selfishness as evil, greed as sin and profit as the worst thing you can seek)  The negative usage of the term ‘trophy wife‘ inspires thoughts of a “useless woman” (beyond ‘looking good’) used as a material adornment that is assumed to be unearned and more akin to a ‘purchase’, generally by a rich, older man, as an ‘object’ to show off.  An object he has only earned through the price he pays.  An object that only stays with him because he pays it.  This interpretation of the phrase is not what I refer too in this instance.

If you think about the term ‘trophy wife’ it would seem to be a noble distinction.  The word trophy itself is synonymous with award, keepsake, prize or ‘gold-medal’.  It is defined as “something awarded or granted, as for merit“.  The last of the list of synonyms specifically is a worthy example of what I mean; ‘gold-medal’.  Gold being a standard of value.  The highest standard of value.

The origins of the word ‘trophy’ originally dealt with military conquest.  It derives from a greek word tropaios meaning ‘of defeat‘.  But I am speaking more to the modern interpretation of the word ‘trophy’ as relates to merit and a sign of achievement.  As ‘gold’ is a ‘worthy’ example of a trophy, ‘worthiness’ is an appropriate word for the reason one is awarded any trophy.  Or at least one worth having.

What made me think of this was a combination of events. (a combination interesting enough that I may post a follow-up entry on the genesis of this entry tomorrow)  But the events were culminated when I saw a link to a YouTube video blog posted on a friend’s facebook wall.  The link was to the vBlog of Cristina Rad titled, ZOMGitsCriss.

...In My Pants

... in my Pants!

What I saw, I must admit, was what a typical guy might when seeing such a link – all summed up in two words: ‘hot blond!!!’  Upon clicking the link I very quickly started to forgot about her looks and got drawn into what she was saying.  That particular vBlog (or at least the links that were visible to me) appeared to focus mostly on religious topics, a subject I have been speaking up a great deal about lately.  Not only did she seem to reflect some of my views, but she did so intelligently and in a very creative and entertaining fashion.

k-rina

I have many talents. All of them fictional, like God.

After watching a couple of her videos I started to look around the page for more information.  There was a link to a [written] blog, (one she had mentioned it at the start of the most recent video linked by my friend on Facebook) titled K-Rina.  I went to it as well.  It too was very well done; intelligently written, creative and entertaining.  And yes, Cristina Rad would make for an exceptional ‘Trophy Wife’ by this standard.

I must admit that when I saw the picture at first on my friends wall and as I clicked it was when the words ‘trophy wife’ first popped in my head – somewhere way in the background – and in the less flattering colloquial sense.  With a meaning more akin to that Greek origin of a ‘conquest’.  She knocked my socks off so quickly with her ability to use her mind, I felt embarrassed for thinking it at all – but then changed my mind when I stopped and thought of the words.

Any woman like this (this applies to all women of that caliber, but I happily write this entry as my own tribute or trophy to Cristina) is not likely going to be swept off her feet by any rube with a slick first-line and a pretty face.  No, any guy that is going to not only gain her attention but keep it by living up to her expectations is going to have to earn that privilege.

Am I referring to doing airs for her or showering her with meaningless material gifts?  No.  He will have had to earn it long before he has ever met her, as she has long since earned it, and has in regards to the tribute I am giving to her now.

The kind of woman that I refer to is one that is not only self-confident and intelligent but is someone who has high standards.  And those standards too are earned.  One earns such standards by living up to them… every day.

So yeah, I want me a trophy wife.  One that is of the sort that I will have to have earned.  That is as much a testament to her as it is a challenge and testament to me.  Not to ‘win’ a woman such as that, but to live my life as such that I deserve one.

I would like to add a final thought before I leave this topic.  Among the notions I listed for the ‘negative’ connotation of the phrase ‘Trophy Wife’ was the concept that it is something one would ‘show off’.  This concept carries over in to what I am describing.  If I had such a wife, you’re damn right I would show her off!  She would have earned the privilege.  And if a woman like that chose to be with me, I would have earned the right!

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The ObjectOpus

Be sure to check out this and my other works of fiction on the new multi-contributor objectivist fiction showcase:
The ObjectOpus


A man awoke early
determined and assuredly
upon the annual election day,
He looked quite dearly
upon casting his vote yearly
to be sure he had his say.

He hopped in his car
but he didn’t get far
before he ran into trouble,
The engine did choke
and blew out lots of smoke
so he went to the shop on the double.

“I need my car fixed
and please make it quick”
he told the mechanic in haste.
“But time and money are tight,
so if you just might
please sir, my money and time don’t waste.”

The car was pulled in
so the shop could begin
to return the engine to rally.
The mechanic worked fast
until finally at last
he returned from the shop with the tally.

“The plugs were near shot
and engine ran hot,
but I fixed you all up in a jiffy.
But mind you I saved
the money you craved
and made ‘er all brand new and spiffy.

By spraying the coil
and filtering your oil
through some rags I had in the back.
It may sound a bit funny,
but I saved you some money
to help get you right back on track.”

The man pondered the smarts
of not replacing the parts,
but was in a hurry to take part in the election.
So he settled his bill
and had a slight thrill
as he headed back in the poll site’s direction.

He’d made barely a block,
when the engine did knock
requiring his turning around.
So he told the mechanic
with just a slight panic
of this new found troublesome sound.

“I know you’re in a hurry,
so please don’t you worry,
I think I have just the right trick.
I’d noticed the air-filter
appeared slightly off kilter
so I’ll blow it out for you right quick!”

The grease monkey went to it,
then said “that should do it”
and accepted more cash as largess,
A compressed air blast
through the filter fast
with no parts replaced in the process.

But the man was contented,
he thought the guy was just splendid
for saving such time and money.
So off he went again,
until at the next bend
the car resumed acting quite funny.

So back to the shop,
without making a stop,
and the car once again was inspected.
This time the technician
spared no time for suspicion
telling shop hands to do as directed.

They did work and toil,
till all covered with oil
when at last the car was ready for leaving.
Their efforts looked sincere
over belt, hose and gear
to suggest no act of deceiving.

The record was long
of what seemed to go wrong
that the shop had set forth to put right,
“We sprayed down the wires,
put air in the tires
and checked that every bolt was on tight.

The hoses were cleaned,
the belt drums machined,
the radiator fluid was topped.
The list barely finished,
of all they replenished
before their labors had stopped.

Every repair they attempted
in the back was preempted.
Not a single thing found replacement.
Instead they just fudged,
not an old part had budged
from it’s original state of debasement.

Alas he paid once again,
before he began
one more trip to the election station.
Again came the knock
before making a block
this time accompanied with vibration.

‘The time left is waning’
thought the man now complaining
as the engine continued to spout.
So he continued to drive on,
despite the commotion
fearing his time would run out.

Barely making it there,
with time just to spare
he limped into a parking place.
His car loudly wheezed
as the exhaust system sneezed
and the engine finally died in disgrace.

Now you might not believe,
but I would not deceive
when I tell you this last point of concern.
Though it might sound redundant,
his vote was entirely incumbent,
I guess some people will just never learn!

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The ObjectOpus

Be sure to check out this and my other works of fiction on the new multi-contributor objectivist fiction showcase:
The ObjectOpus


“Do you feel like going out for a bit?” I asked her as I was shutting down my web browser and email before closing up the laptop itself.

“I don’t know, I have a couple of things to go over for work tomorrow,” said said looking up from some papers she had pulled out of her attache.

“Awww, come on,” I implored, trying to look earnest.

“What do you have in mind?” she asked.

“I wanted to go up and just check to see if the woodies are at the pond up at the chain lakes.  It shouldn’t take more than an hour or two.  What do you say?  Take a little romantic walk around the lake with me?”  I raised my one eyebrow a couple of times suggestively.  I knew she wouldn’t resist that.

“Oh… alright.  I guess I can play a little hooky from the homework tonight,” she said, trying to act like it was a hard decision.  But my asking came out more like a kid asking ‘want to come out and play?’ and her accepting was far more enthusiastic than she was letting on.

The ride to the state park wasn’t too far and I told her I needed to stop to pick up a day pass for the truck at the park office.

“It won’t take but a second,” I said pulling into the ranger station.  I ran inside quick and came back out with the pass, shoving the envelope containing the receipt into my pocket.  She looked up with a slight smile from the front seat, but I could see she was trying to covertly put away her papers from work.  She thought I hadn’t seen her smuggle the attache in behind the seat.  I pretended not to notice, hopped in and put the sticker in the corner of the window before heading up the dirt road toward the small lake.

Along the way, one of the rangers passed by in a small carry-all and waved with a small nod.  I slowed the truck a bit while I watched him turn off a small service road in the car side mirror, following him with my glance as he went down the hill a bit before eventually fading into the trees.  I slowed the car a bit more and began to look around at the canopy of leaves.

“It looks like they trees are just starting to change color!” I said and she nodded in agreement, but in fact she wasn’t quite noticing.  No doubt still running through numbers and figures from the work papers she had snuck on board.  She eventually leaned forward to peer up through the wind shield and let out a small “oooo” under her breath.  She stayed leaned forward the rest of the way to the boat launch scanning up and down through the trees.  It was obvious now that she was finally leaving the work thoughts behind.

“What’s that smell?” she asked as we got out of the car.  I had noticed it but not really thought about it so I took a few short sniffs.

“It smells like citronella,” I said and looked back down the road a second wondering to myself.  Turning back to the lake I added, “It must be coming from one of the campsites at the day use area over the hill.”   But as I scanned the ground I could see one or two of the fresh holes in the mud.

A small trail headed off to the right of the dock. I knew it to go all the way around the lake and re-intersect the road about 30 yards behind the truck.  She had already gone out onto the dock and was looking down into the water.  While she was distracted thus, I pulled out the small envelope with the receipt to check something I had seen written on the back.  It seemed cryptic but I tried to make heads or tails of it as quickly as I could.  It read as follows:

Scribbles on Envelope
Bandits seen past 3 nights … 7-ish, 50-100 yds W. of Dock
GBH – E. end – leave abt 7:45
Song still OK @ same
Extra!!  ‘Ole Whitey’ is back under log
Good Luck!!

I shoved the envelope back in my pocket and looked at my watch.  It was just past 6:30.  ‘Bandits 7-sh eh?  hmmm‘ I thought to myself seeking to make the best sense of the words.

“When do they usually come in?” she asked referring to the ducks while walking back down the dock.

I slipped my hand back out of my pocket. “Usually about 20 minutes before dusk or so,” I answered.

She looked up toward the setting sun shielding her eyes.  “How did you do that again?” she said holding her other hand out flat, making a shadow just across the bridge of her nose.

“If you hold your hand out like that at arms length, each finger is approximately 15 minutes of daylight when the sun is approaching the horizon,” I said holding out my hand as she was.  “It looks like about 5 fingers,” I added.

“So that’s an hour and fifteen minutes?” she said, half question and half her answering herself with some quick math.

“Or about an hour till we know if the woodies are coming or not.” I answered.

She turned back around to the dock, “So what should we do till then?”

“Enjoy!” I said simply, walking up behind her and wrapping my arms around her.   The air was starting to cool a little and a slight mist was just starting to show at the surface of the water.  ‘Before too long it would begin to get quite thick,’ I thought to myself before adding out loud, “Just look around, it’s beautiful!”

She nodded in agreement as we scanned the trees around the small pond.  Just a hint of colors were starting to show.  The sun, now low above the trees, was lighting the colors ablaze above the line caused by the shadow of the forest on the west side of the lake.  The elms and maples always started to show the colors first, the latter being the most dynamic in the forest.  Small poofs of brilliant reds, blazing oranges and bright yellows dotted the remaining, still green oaks and other hardwoods.

“And just smell!  I love the smell of that fall air.”  She breathed in deep and just began to notice some of it herself.  The citronella smell still lingered a bit, but well over it you could smell the damp mosses and fresh fallen leaves, the turned earth from foraging animals and the mists of the swamps.  She hugged my arm where I had it wrapped around her and twisted side to side causing us both to pivot playfully about.  She leaned her head briefly to kiss my arm.

We just stood there for a good five minutes taking in the sights and sounds.  The frogs, crickets and other creatures had started to take up song and the air was full of the noises of the marshland.  Small birds fluttered about and we tried to identify as many as we could, each taking turns pointing out a new one that came into view.  An occasional fish rose at an emerging insect on the lake and eventually I asked her if she wanted to make a few casts?

She wasn’t as avidly interested in fishing as I, but she enjoyed it considerably when she got the chance so she nodded enthusiastically.  I went around to the back of the truck to get out the small ultralight I always kept back there.  Tying on a small Rapala, I made my way back to the dock.  She motioned for me to take a few short casts but I told her I’d gotten the pole so she could fish, so I only made a cast or two into an open spot of water where only a few nibbles from some small pan fish came, barely enough to jiggle the lure in the water.

I handed her the pole and pointed to the end of a submerged falldown sticking out of the water a few yards down from the dock.  “See if you can get it to land up near that fallen tree,” I suggested.

She made a few awkward casts but wasn’t quite satisfied with them and reeled the line in almost as soon as it hit the water.  Finally she turned to me with a frustrated look holding the pole out in my direction.  Rather than grab it outright, I again wrapped my arm around her, taking the pole with my right hand after doing so and made a single cast putting the rod right back into her hands.  It landed right on the part of the log that was sticking up, out of the water.

“Smooth move ex-lax!” she said but I told her it wasn’t a problem.

“Just give it a short tug, and  it should land in the water right next to the log.”  She reeled in a little line and lightly tugged, it almost hung up for a second but then rolled off into the water.  “Now just give it…” I began to say, but I could already see the water moving around the log as I said so and before I could get out the word ‘twitch‘ the water exploded around the lure.  I quickly changed mid sentence to an exclamation of “SET IT!” instead, uncurling my arms around her and stepping back a few feet.

She gave the pole a jerk upward and it immediately bent over into a half-crescent.  Her eyes lit up and she almost lost her footing but reset herself and began the task of hauling the monster in.  The fish put on quite a show too, coming up to rise and dancing out of the water 3-4 times.  She continued working the big-mouthed leviathan in toward shore just like a champ, side stepping a time or two as he turned back toward the deadfall, allowing the drag to feed out line when he dashed away.  But after a good 4-5 minute effort, she had him almost to shore.

I had my shoes off by then and waded into the shallow water to help her get the fish up onto shore.  I grabbed it by the bottom lip and pulled it out of the water removing the hook as I did so.  She set the rod down on some short grass.

She was a little spent from the fight but was still wound up with adrenaline.  She ran right back down to the water to mock pet it in awe of her accomplishment.  Still it was obvious she didn’t want to touch it tonight. (she didn’t have a problem with touching fish, but why bother when you don’t have to? was probably her thoughts on the matter)

“Ooooo, he’s a nice one!  Aren’t you proud of me?”  and I was.  I nodded in acknowledgment!  “And look at that big white spot around his eye.  That’s unique!”  I just held in a smile to myself as I winked at the fish where she could not see.

I held him up a bit longer for her to admire her catch before laying his belly back down in the water.  “I’d put him probably about three pounds.  At least a good 22 inches.  A real nice bass indeed!”  She gleamed at the thought.

“Bye bye fishy!” she said as I motioned it into deeper water.  ‘Bye ole’ white eye’ I said half under my breath, ‘until next time…’

I looked at my watch and it now read 6:50 while I slipped back into my shoes.   She walked with me to put the fishing rod away. I washed my hands in the water back down by the dock, dried them on a towel I kept behind the seat of the truck and we clasped hands to begin the walk around the lake trail.

Not too far down the trail I knew there would be a small bench were we could sit for a few more minutes and watch the sun set.  As we approached the bench she noticed something and let go of my hand.  She eyed me suspiciously as she ran forward to pick up a single purple wildflower that had been cut cleanly at the base.  “How did you get…?”

“It wasn’t me,” I shrugged, “I’ve been with you the whole time.”   She lifted the flower to her nose to smell it.  “Someone must have forgotten it and left it here,” I stated as she did so.

We sat down on the bench and marveled like a pair of school aged kids when the fireflies started to show up all about us in the fading sunlight.  The mist was growing thicker above the water now and the shadows from the trees stretched out to all but the very tops of those above the opposite shore on the far end of the lake.  The sky was a deeper blue than before and not a single cloud was in sight.

I heard some rustling in the brush not far down the shore and pointed.  A raccoon with half a dozen little ones was coming down to the water’s edge to forage for crayfish.  She clenched onto my arm with one hand, the flower still clasped in the other.  You could just make out their purring chatters over the growing sounds of the frogs and crickets.  ‘Bandits!‘ I thought to myself.

It was about then I caught sight of the fowl, wings curled down,  coming in over the trees to land.  I again pointed and she turned to watch as a small flock of wood ducks came to land in the open water surrounded by  thick aspens and tamaracks down at the swampy back corner of the lake.

“Is that them?” she inquired.

“Yup!” I said, standing up again.  It would have been nice to sit longer, but I knew the walk around the small pond would still take a good 30 minutes if all went well.  “If we can remain stealthy maybe we can get up close enough to see them.”

“Do you think they might sing for us?” she asked excitedly, rising up herself and being careful not to bend her wildflower.

“We can hope so,” I said holding out my hand again.  She moved the blossom’s stem to her other hand and took hold of the outstretched hand in hers as we again resumed the walk down the lakeshore path.  Not too far ahead, I knew the trail would turn away from the lake for a short distance and I craned my neck a bit to see.  Sure enough, the mist was almost pouring over the edge of the lake down into the shallow alley and a small beam of sun was breaking through an opening in the trees to the left, lighting up a small area in the middle.

As we came down the turn, the both of us ended up emitting a slight ‘ooooo’ this time.  The mist was beginning to collect in small droplets throughout the small ravine on every wild plant, low hung limb and small alder bush.  The beams of sun were almost solid lines pouring down through the narrow opening in the trees and the glow from where they struck the ground lit up every little droplet with bright reds and yellows.  They looked like little crystalline jewels everywhere they precariously hung.

We both marveled again like little children at the wonder of it all, walking along slowly to be sure as to take it all in.  The mist parted way about our feet as we occasionally snuggled close to one another along the way.  The trail turned back up the slight grade toward the alders and tamaracks at the back end of the pond.  I pulled my finger to my lips in a gesture to say ‘be as quiet as you can.’

As I did so, a sound of crunching leaves erupted in the small alders to the left and we looked up to see a mother deer and her yearling fawn running across the trail in front of us.  They hadn’t detected us but I could see the mother’s tail twitching as though she had caught wind of something out of sorts.  I felt the pressure again squeezing on my arm tighter, almost crushing the flower as a hand upon my cheek pulled my face down to receive another a gentle kiss.

We again continued slowly uphill  out of the mist filled swale as we watched the two deer disappear further down the ravine into the forest. I guessed the time to probably be somewhere around 7:30 now or shortly after.

Before we breached the small rise, a new sound began to ring out over that of the crickets and chirping frogs.  It was the melancholy song of the wood duck.  I felt her squeeze at me tightly now almost like a kid at Christmas time and could sense her all but bouncing up and down with her pent up excitement.

“It’s so pretty!” she said under her breath.  “Even prettier than you described it!  And so sad too!”  I turned to see her making a wounded puppy face as I put my finger to my lips again to keep her voice low.

As we tip-toed up the trail, suddenly another whistle cried out it’s sad song just over the edge of the water.  In the darkening light of the sunbeams now fading to but a sliver in the trees behind us, we could just make out a pair of wood ducks weaving in and out of the small wetland brush covering shallow water.  I could feel her trembling with excitement now, her gentle embrace on my arm ever increasing just the slightest any time they one of the fowl let out their sad song.

I spied out across the lake, and right on queue I could see a large bird stretching out it’s wings on the far end.  I crouched down a bit and gestured for her to do so also, then pointed so she could see it too.  The great blue heron (GBH) began to flap and slowly lifted it’s massive wingspan up off the water.  As luck turned out, it was coming right toward us and eventually passed right over head as it flew off above the trees.  I could hear the muted sound of an elongated exhale and wondered if it was because she had forgotten to breath as the magnificent bird flew by.

The moon was just starting to appear above the lower line of trees back near where the truck was parked and it’s long reflection stretched out through the misty fog on the water.  It’s blue-white light slowly replacing the fading red glow from the setting sun to the west.  We continued to walk around the trail, quickening our pace as the mosquitoes began to make their presence known.

Before too long we had made our way back to the dock and the truck and we stood one last moment looking out at the now darkened sky full of millions of sparkling white stars. An owl somewhere out in the darkened trees let out it’s “who-cooks-for-you!” hooting.

She looked to me inquisitively to which I replied simply.  “Barred owl!”  She nodded in a modest thank you, smiled and again kissed my lips.  “Let’s get before the bugs get us!” I said finally, but not before briefly savoring the taste of her lips on mine.

She squeezed my arm one last time, still clinging to her purple wildflower and nodded.  Her intense and ever deep-dark eyes reflected the light of the moon now higher above the trees behind the truck.

I mentioned that I wanted to stop into the ranger station again real quick  and in response she openly dug out her attache again, turning on the small map light on her side.  ‘Duty calls,’ I thought.

The small green carry-all had just pulled up to the station as I turned the truck into the driveway and I waved to Steve as he got out of it.   He opened the door for me to the ranger station as I walked up.

“How did it go?” he asked.

“Good!” I said nodding and smiling.

Closing the door behind us, he put a hand on my shoulder with a half chuckle.  “Those damn woodies made it hard on me.  You owe me,” he patted my shoulder.  “They went right down to the third wet spot just like you said they would, but I had no choice except to come in from that side.  They had me working up at the camp grounds just before you got here.”

I smiled and re-assured him it was quite alright.  “I had to circle around the other trail and get out on foot to get them to head back up to where you two were at without spooking them away entirely.  So they sang on queue I take it?”  I nodded an affirmative, turning now to Marie.

“Was it your idea to bring the tiki lanterns up there Marie?”  She blushed and nodded.  “The whole damn area smelled like citronella!”

“Oh my!” she said holding a hand to her lips.  “I hope it wasn’t too bad!  I didn’t want you two to get eaten alive by the mosquitoes up there.”

“Nah,” I said, “I just said it was probably coming from the day-campers over the hill.”

“Good thinking!” she responded.

“Oh, and Steve… thanks for the tip.  She really got a kick out of hauling in ole white eye!  And the raccoons even showed up too!  I owe you an extra donut on opening day.”

“With sprinkles?” Steve asked slyly.

“Done!” I said.

“But walnuts if you can get them, no peanuts.”  I just rolled my eyes.  “Oh, and by the way… did that momma dear and her fawn make it up to you?”

“That was your doing too?” I asked amazed.

“Well I saw them when I was walking up to the third pond.  I was already on the back trail so I just followed it around a bit in hopes I could kick them up your way as well.”

“Definitely walnuts then!” I said returning his pat on the shoulder before I turned back to Marie.

“And I suppose it was it  your idea to put the flower on the bench Marie?” I asked.

“Flower?  What flower?” she said trying to hide a self-satisfied smile.

“Fine, if that’s how you want to play it.  But try not to over do it if there’s ever a ‘next time‘, ok?”  Marie had turned away but I could sense she was again blushing a bit.  “But if it’s any consolation, she absolutely adores it.”  Her blush faded and I could see her raise her shoulders a bit proudly, no doubt in a gesture of ‘I told you so!’

“And let Mark know that the extra emails on the dew point were quite helpful.  His tip on the swale was just like he said.  Jewels on everything.”

“Will do!” said Marie, waving a hand behind her head and pretending to be working on something.  Likely hiding her smugness still.

“We were afraid you were going to miss the window on the sun shining down through that opening in the treetops out there!” added Steve.

“Well I had to wait for the wind to be coming out of the north west for the mist to pour down just right didn’t I?  That’s what Mark said at least. Anyway, I have to get.  Be sure to let him know I’ll have his special coffee ready opening day too.   I owe all you guys, big time!  Thanks a bunch!”

We waved our goodbyes as I closed the door to the ranger station behind me.  I glanced briefly around the side of the building and thought I could make out among the wildflowers planted there, a single cut-off stem in the faint glow from the patio light around the back.

Walking back to the car, I made a mental note to myself to delete the extra emails from Mark off my laptop just in case and to clear my recent browser history and the handful of new bookmarks on moon phases, sunrise/sunset schedules and migratory bird observations.  As I climbed back into the car, despite having her work out on her lap I could tell in the dim glow from the downcast map light that she was just sitting there quietly sniffing her flower.

“Thank you for talking me into coming.  It was absolutely magical!”  She put her flower down for a second to lean over to give me another kiss.  “And I thought you said that magic doesn’t ‘just happen’?”  She eyed me a moment suspiciously but affectionately.

“What?” I said, “You say that as though I had something to do with all those things happening tonight?”  I thought briefly to myself,  ‘magic doesn’t just happen, but if you know of seemingly magical things that happen on their own, you can predict them, react to them, and even subtly influence them a bit in your favor.’  On the outside my poker face held.

I rejoindered with, “What was it you said to me once?  ‘I don’t have powers over the vocabulary of singing birds’?”

She continued to look at me both affectionately and half-suspicious before saying quietly, “True, but if there was some way to get them to sing in their own words, you no doubt would be the one to figure out how to get them to do it.”

I struggled to maintain my poker face saying simply, “Yeah, I guess — for you I probably would.”

I smiled sweetly and genuinely and gave her one last kiss before pulling back out onto the road.  She resigned to setting her work aside, turned off the maplight and continued to smell her flower all the way home.

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The ObjectOpus

Be sure to check out this and my other works of fiction on the new multi-contributor objectivist fiction showcase:
The ObjectOpus


Wouldn’t you know it?  I was minding my own business reading a book when she came in and sat down.  I got a feeling that something was up but continued reading and pretended not to notice.  She didn’t go out of her way to get my attention, but something was obviously on her mind.

Eventually, I casually put the book down and looked at her and smiled, but her expression didn’t change.  I held my smile through a pregnant pause but after a few more moments I ventured into dangerous territory by asking nonchalantly, “What’s up?”

She let out a muted sigh and said simply, “Oh nothing.” She sighed again and said not so much to me but to the room in general, “I just have a lot on my mind.”

I had a feeling I hadn’t yet dodged the bullet, but I reached over and gave her a re-assuring squeeze on the wrist, smiling again and pretended to resume reading my book.

A few more seconds went by and she dropped her stare off into the room and I could perceive that she was again looking at me.  Then she hit me with it.

“Why do you love me?”

I knew she was not the type to be insecure, and all of us can probably use some reminders from time to time, but wow!  What a trap question!  She wasn’t the sort to set traps for me either, so she must have been amidst some heady thoughts to lay that one at my feet.

I set the book down and thought for a second.  She also wasn’t the type to be satisfied with a bunch of trite, small examples such as comments on her looks or specifics about her personality.  She would be looking for something more profound.  I decided to quote from Ayn Rand, knowing she’d be familiar with both the quote and the sentiment.

“[Love is a] response to [one’s] highest values in the person of another”

She recognized the citation immediately but wasn’t satisfied. “Yes, I understand that much.  And I agree, but I don’t mean in someone else’s words.  Why do ‘you‘ love ‘me‘?”

Ugh, again bullet not dodged.  I scrambled through thoughts and possible words but decided to stick with that sentiment.  “Because you represent the kind of person I would like to spend my time with.  And frankly, because I seem to be the type of person you like to spend time with.”

“So,” she pondered a moment, “you’re saying that a big part of why you love me is because I love you?”

“Well, that’s part of it, yes.  I wouldn’t much want to spend a lot of time around someone that didn’t feel about me as I did them.”

She nodded to herself and again stared off into space.  I knew she wasn’t quite yet satisfied so I too stared off across the room in thought.  Then I saw the picture and a thought hit me.

“There!!!!” I exclaimed, standing up and pointing at the same time.  I did it so suddenly, it startled her in my doing so.

“What?” she said snapping out of her thoughts looking around frantically.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you, but there is a great example.”  I pointed to the picture.  She looked at the picture then again at me with a puzzled look.  “Do you remember what I said when I took that picture?”

“Of course, you said it reminded you of me,” she answered.

“But what did I say just before that?  Do you remember?”  She thought a moment but couldn’t seem to recall.  “First I pondered about the guys in the boat.  I said ‘they have no idea how they are framed right now – the clouds, the birds, the setting moon.  Sure they might see and revel in their own thoughts as to each, but they have no perception as to how we see them – all of them together – here from the beach.  Picture perfect.‘”  She nodded remembering.  “Then I mused that ‘had we been here but five minutes later we would have never seen it or gotten the picture.‘  Remember?”

“Yes, I remember.  You always are a philosophical sap.”  Considering the current situation I thought to myself ‘And you aren’t?’ but decided it would be best not to say it.

“Don’t you see?” I asked imploringly.  “It was our perspective on the beach that let us see them that way.  Well that’s how I see you all the time.  It reminds me of you because of where I stand in relation to you. Because of the things we share in common and because of the ways I understand (and appreciate) how you are different. I see you the same way I see that boat and those clouds and that moon – all together, picture perfect!”

She lit up for a moment delighted at that though and she even showed the hint of a blush.  But I could still see the gears churning in her head.  She sat back again in the chair rolling something over before resuming.

“But…. if I had come along five minutes later – or you – you might not have seen me that way and we might not be together?”

“I’m not saying that, but who knows?  We could speculate all day long.” I said, knowing that I’d just lost a lot of the ground I had just gained.

“So it’s a Minchin thing isn’t it?” she said looking right at me, but I could detect a slight twinkle in her eye now.  This all wasn’t necessarily a test, she was just interested in hearing my responses.  I wasn’t fully off the hook, but at least some of her motivation for the questions was mischievous – outside of simply looking for reassurances.

I decided to play dumb.  “Minchin?” I asked.

“You know, that song you like by Tim Minchin.  ‘If I didn’t have you, I really think that I would have somebody else’?”

I knew what she meant but was playing along now.  We’d discussed that song before, and although she didn’t appreciate it as much as I did, I was satisfied she at least understood it.

“It’s more complicated than that.  Remember, he also says in that song that ‘the connection is strengthened, the affection grows over time’.

She seemed to be mulling those things over.  I thought I caught a faint hint of a smile, almost as a sign of ‘you’re doing better than a I thought you might‘ with that faint glimmer in her eye, but I wasn’t quite sure.  So I walked over to the picture.

“OK, imagine – for example – that I happened upon this sailboat with my camera.  And I liked taking pictures of sailboats with my camera and of seascapes with birds and moonlight or sunsets.  Then along comes this boat.  And it just so happens that this boat likes to have it’s  picture taken.  As luck would have it the boat crosses under the moon catching my attention.  Serendipity!  And I just happen to have my camera. Blind luck!   And the boat sees me taking it’s picture and comes to shore to see what I took.  Correlation!  And the boat likes the picture, and I like the picture.  Mutual satisfaction!  So rather than my going back home and the boat sailing off to sea, we decide to stay together a while, the boat sailing along the shore, me walking along taking it’s picture, both of us enjoying the pictures I take (of the boat sailing on the sea).  We’re both doing what we want to do and enjoy doing, but for our mutual benefits and changing our plans to that end.”  I was rambling now and got a bit sidetracked, but she wasn’t giving me any indicators that she was getting the point I was making.

She just stared a moment at the picture then pondered out loud, “Then, you think at some point I’ll just sail off and leave you on the shore when I get bored of having my picture taken?  Is that it?”

Now she was being outright mischievous.  She was satisfied a while ago and probably only wanted to see me squirm a little, but now she was just looking to see what other tidbits of ‘great wisdom’ on the subject of ‘us‘ and ‘love‘ she could squeeze out through sheer brutal teasing.

“Now!  I did not say that!  Sticking with the analogy – you like the ‘pictures‘ I take of you.  Besides, I could always go home with my camera too you know!”

“You wouldn’t dare!” she said, grinning and standing up to come along side me to look at the picture.

I looked at her, my eyes now full of the passion I feel for her.  “It’s not just that you are here with me, but that you have been here with me and I’m reasonably secure that if I continue to treat you with respect and affection (and vice versa) you will be here (and I with you) for the unforeseeable future.”

“You damn well better treat me with respect… and affection!” she said still half-teasing and kissed me on the cheek.  Then she added, “You really see me like that all the time?” first looking at the picture then looking up into my eyes.

“Yes.” I said.

“Well, sticking with your metaphor then… thank you for taking my picture.” she said, her eyes now full of love.

“Thank you for staying near shore,” I responded.

be sure to check out some of my other ‘romantic fiction‘ shorts:

A Beautiful Kind of Plain

Coffee and a Kiss

Here I am, This is All You Get!

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