Disvillage Story 7 – Red, White, and Blue

It was that time of year again – hot during the day and cold during the night.  Michael lay on his futon in his underwear.  He was a tighty-whitey guy.  The heat and sweat had made the gathering around his legs loose and it seemed that every time he moved his underwear slid uncomfortably up his ass cheek giving him a wedgy.  He thought about getting up and doing some chores as he adjusted his underwear for the umpteenth time, but he was sad today and his body felt heavy, so heavy he could hardly move.  Some Saturdays were about staying in bed.  

Michael was micro living in the attic of an old house whose inspiration was a southern plantation. These had probably been imagined as slaves’ quarters, he mused, perhaps they had been for a nanny.  The apartment consisted of four rooms – four rooms crammed into four hundred square feet of an apartment.  Michael did his best to make poverty look fashionable and he was grateful that his occasional guests thought of his pad as cool.  However; no insulation and single pane windows (that did not always shut completely) kept the apartment freezing in winter and sweltering in summer.        

He had bought the plastic, tape, and heat gun necessary to insulate the windows.  But it was a meticulous job he wasn’t feeling up to. He thought about calling up Dulcinea and seeing if she wanted to go to yoga, but sometimes yoga (oddly enough) put him in a bad mood.  Thoughts of Dulcinea gave him a wedgy in a different direction and he rolled on his back.

Later he found his way out of bed and into a bath.  The apartment didn’t have a shower as there wasn’t room for one due to the sloping ceilings.  Most of the apartment wasn’t even useful as the ceiling sloped to 4 feet of wainscoting. He was forever bumping his head. The bath was wedged in an acute angle of wall and corner – four feet past a dormer window.  If the toilet and bath could switch places, there would have been room for him to stand showering while looking out onto treetops.    

He was a shower guy and it had been a challenge to relearn how to clean himself.  Now he had come to find a bath as a guilty pleasure.  He waited until his little plastic rubber temperature duckie reached 105 and then got in the tub.  A little porcelain pitcher and sponge helped him rain water on himself.  He had found it was a very relaxing way to get clean.

Cleaning was done. His body was scrubbed, and his hair was rinsed.  He lay lethargically in tepid water.  He found his thoughts returning to Dulcinea.  Had they really been naked together in this very tub three days ago? Why did pleasure always seem to be so temporary while this pain in his heart seemed so constant.        

Dulcinea, he mused, the town witch.  She certainly was magical.  And, she certainly had him under her spell.  It had amused him to find out that this was how she was referred to in town after they first met – the town witch.  A co-volunteer he was working with at the respite center for the homeless had been impressed by his casual conversation with Dulcinea.  “Chatting up the town witch, handsome?” he had asked.  Michael had laughed back and asked, “what makes her the town witch?”.  

As far as he could tell it had something to do with her always wearing black when she first arrived in town and the fact that her one piece of jewelry had been a necklace of quartz crystal wrapped in silver wire.  That had been enough in this town to have her “burned at the proverbial stake”. 

She was remarkably comfortable to be around, and they had found so much stuff to talk about.  One conversation flowed into the next effortlessly. They never ran out of things to say to each other and things to ask each other.  They could discuss scientific books and wonder at their meaning then revert to playful imaginings – abstracting the science, telling each other wild stories trying to make the other guess if they were true.  

One time after church Dulcinea had turned to him and told him that she had a dream a few weeks ago where she had been humming a song that she had heard in this church.  She said she had woken up singing it and had sang it for an hour until her mind had been caught up by something else.  It must have been an hour later, she said, that when she tried to remember the song again, she had completely forgotten it. She had been listening in church for the congregation to sing it again but so far they had not.  “I think maybe I never heard it here,” she confided.  “I think it must be a song from Fairy.  They don’t let you remember everything you know,” she continued.  “And even when they do let you keep a memory, it’s no guarantee they will let you have it forever,” she sighed wistfully.  

Michael loved these flights of fantasy.  He wasn’t even sure it was a lie.  Maybe she did visit Fairy.  He knew from experience that time occasionally ran different for him – faster sometimes, slower others.  Sometimes he even thought he could feel the presence of things that weren’t there – like the evil presence near the train tracks.  He had meant it playfully when he mentioned it to her at dinner when she had spoken of her dark cloud.

“On the path near the train tracks?” he had inquired.  “Why would you say that?” she had asked.  He had taken her hand reassuringly and then the waiter had arrived and they both let the moment pass – like the moment had been stolen from them by Fairy.  That night had been their first intimate night together.  And later, a bath.  It was as he was sponging water onto her back that she began to talk to him of the serial killer that the town did not have.       

She became the first person he shared with about why he was here.  That he was looking for answers about his best friend Presley.  He had died here.  It had been ruled a suicide.  He had been lying on the tracks and had been hit by a train.  Dulcinea reclined into him and reached back to stroke Michael’s hair as they lay still in the tub.  They could almost hear each other’s thoughts.  A coincidence that they should both meet?      

Much like Dulcinea, Presley was otherworldly.  And like Dulcinea, they could spend hours and hours talking and talking.  They had worked together as Mounties on the Canadian border.  They had spent a lot of time in remote areas staying in rarely used cabins as they patrolled the boundary between Canada and the US.  Presley had been perfect in so many ways.  His clothes were always ironed, and his bed was always made.  He was someone you would describe as “type A” personality. Presley could talk to anyone.  Whenever they came to a town, Presley would know everyone by the time they left.  He had a gift of gab and comradery that Michael envied.  Isolation, video games, and semi nudity had provided the perfect environment for the blooming of their bromance.  

The little apartment reminded him of the cabins that they had stayed in.  His time with Dulcinea reminded him of the times they spent together. 

Their intimacy had scared Michael even as he hungered for it and he had been terrified he was turning homosexual – maybe this is why he had never really had a connection with a woman. One night they had gotten drunk and horse play had led to caressing and kissing.  To Michael’s dismay It had grossed him out.  He had even thought he was going to vomit.  It had just seemed so – against God’s plan.  He had laughing pushed Presley away saying “well, that was a mistake.”  At the same time he said this Presley said “I love you”.   

They spent the rest of the winter coming out of the closet to each other.  Michael as a straight man and Presley as a gay one.  Presley explained that Michaels reaction to him was exactly what he experienced when he tried to be intimate with women.  Michael in turn confessed that sex with women had come easy to him and he enjoyed it tremendously, but he had never been in love. He had never enjoyed the easy way he had of being with Presley with a woman.  “I love you dude.  And I always wished for someone to love me like you do.  I wish I could love you back in the same way.”

They both agreed to put in for different partners after their winter patrol.  At the time it had seemed for the best, but Michael had always wondered if they should have found a different way.  With no role models of their own, maybe they could have explored being role models for someone else.  

They had promised to keep in touch but then Presley had found a boyfriend – of course he had.  They had lost track of each other for a few years and Michael had been surprised to find out (from someone they had both worked with) that Presley had slipped into depression and mental illness and then drugs (or maybe it was the other way around).  A year later he ran into their mutual friend again and had discovered that Presley was dead – last seen in this American town on the west coast.  

That’s why he was here. To find out what had happened to his best friend – the only person he had ever loved.  Presley had brought him here, he thought as he got out of the tub and into a towel.  Presley had brought him to Dulcinea.  It was a sudden flash of insight – his old love was introducing his new.  

Disvillage Story 6 – Dulcinea “The Mother”

Her head moved to a position that her ears thought made them hear better and listened for a train.  No train appeared to be coming.  What had caused this unexpected wave of emotion? She didn’t know.  The overwhelming sensation had abated, but the feeling of horror clung to her.  It was not terror, but horror.  It was not a feeling she felt often.  It overwhelmed her and upset her.  It was the second time she had felt it at this spot on the trail that ran along the train track she used as a short cut between her house and her brothers.  She picked up her daughter Tabitha, who had started crying.  

“What is that mommy?”

Dulcinea looked at her daughter. Her heart tightened and a little tear escaped her eye.  Tabitha had felt it too.  Yesterday she had thought she had made it up.  Now she wasn’t so sure.  She looked around.  It was quiet. There was no train.  No birds either.  No rabbits or squirrels rustling in the bush.  The feeling of being watched made her grab her daughter tighter and hurry on.  Running seemed pointless as anywhere to run was to far.  It seemed best to pretend that nothing was happening – to discourage a confrontation.

“It was just a stick, baby. I thought it was a snake too.” She said aloud, inventing a reason to be upset.  Miraculously, Tabitha said nothing and stuck her finger in her mouth.  As she walked away, the feeling left her.  Maybe she had made the whole thing up.  

She was almost in bright spirits when she reached the door of her brother’s, Jamison Lee.  It was hard to shake the feeling that her spirits were so bright because she had just escaped something.  She thought about the non-existent serial killer that didn’t live in her town.  Had he recently killed there?  Had he been watching her?  Did she fit his profile?  Did she seem vulnerable?  Was she an outsider?  She knew she wasn’t main stream, but she had never thought of herself as “that” different. Somewhere inside of her head she heard a voice say, “Nice girls don’t walk alone in the woods.  Nice girls aren’t single mothers.”  If this was her mind saying these things it was a betrayal of everything she believed about herself.  Or… maybe she was just making the whole thing up she thought firmly to herself.  

She had walked the same way at the same time of day more than she could count.  She had created a pattern that, imagination running wild or no, she would not repeat.  The path had been a staple of her routine.  Before this week she had walked it many times in enjoyment.   She was sad to lose it.        

She knocked on the door of her brother’s house.  He and his spouse Tyco had agreed to watch Tabitha so she could go out on her date. Tabitha escaped her grasp as just as the door opened so that she could bust in.  “Uncle Jamie,” she yelled running past her uncle Jamison Lee searching for Tyco.  

“We look nothing alike, but somehow being a couple has made us twins,” remarked her brother inviting her into his house.  

“Thank you so much for doing this.  I can’t stay. If I don’t leave now I’ll be late,” she said declining his invitation with a kiss on the cheek and a step backwards. 

“Pick her up in the morning. Sometime before noon,” said her brother in goodbye.   

Dulcinea continued her walk to her date.  There was a new pedestrian overpass and now access to downtown was more readily possible. When they had originally put in the freeway it had completely cut off walkers from the town.  Progress always seemed to be designed for someone else. She was pleased to be utilizing progress that seemed to benefit her.  She felt reunited with community.    

The mood of the path near the train track was wearing off and she was starting to get excited about her date.  There were no expectations.  She was just excited to be hanging out with a handsome man.  

She had run into him while she was helping a homeless person find a church that was offering food and respite.  Michael had been arguing with a neighbor of the church about the line of homeless people with shopping carts in front of the building.  The neighbor was trying to sell his house across the street.

“Are you even zoned for this?” he had demanded of Michael.

“We are zoned to be a church.  Helping those in need is the work of the church.  What do you think a church is?  A country club?”

“You know, I’m a Christian too!” the neighbor snapped and then stormed off.

Michael had sighed with frustration and then turned to Dulcinea to ask her if she needed help. Dulcinea explained her situation and waited patiently for Michael to explain the services to the homeless person – who then left them suddenly, alone together, heading into the respite of the church.

The absurd situation had made them comrades and after a brief pause of silence between them, he said. “I get it.  I mean, if it were my yard, I would like it to be free of needles and human feces too.  But helping these people didn’t bring the problem here.  They were already here.” He finished turning to her with a sigh clearly eager to change the subject.  “I’m Michael.” 

“I’m Dulcinea.”

Michael was a Christian. At first that had concerned her. The bible had a tenuous relationship with those gifted with magic.  Sure, there had been magicians at Christ’s birth, but the book also gave instruction on avoiding witches and killing them when possible.  In the bible magic was the soul property of prophets.  

But Michael wasn’t a Christian of the “dreadful sort”.  Which seemed to mean he asked more questions than he pretended to have answers to. She had even gone to church with him. When she had lifted her hands in prayer, she had felt power.  There was magic in that old church.  While it hadn’t made her want to “come out of the broom closet” to him, it had turned out that him being a Christian was not a show stopper.    

She wasn’t sure what she would tell him or even how to broach the subject.  I’m a witch?  What did that mean anyways?  For her, witchcraft wasn’t so much about a belief system or a deity structure.  It was more like a language not everyone could speak.  

Regardless, Michael made her feel good.  It had been a pleasure to help him go through his closet looking for things to donate. They had found an old uniform of his. Michael had been a Mounty – of course he had.  He was one of the good guys.  She couldn’t help leaning into the feeling that this Christian Canadian was the Dudley Do Right to her Penelope Pit Stop.  

She hated that analogy. It was too accurate and at the same time not at all who she was.  She was perfectly capable of getting herself out of any jam she got herself in. However, it was undeniable she was always getting herself into trouble.  Or that trouble had a way of finding her.  Eglantine attributed it to her green eyes. “The lipochrome attracts magic, wild magic, unpredictable magic.  It creates a vortex”, Eglantine had once explained.  What ever the cause, it might be nice to have someone who’s hand she could depend on taking from time to time.  It was exhausting figuring it out by herself all the time.    

Dulcinea reached the restaurant and descended the stairs into the lower part.  They would not be dining at the fancy restaurant on top, they would be eating at the bistro underneath – listening to the Celtic Rock Band playing in the corner.

Michael smiled when he saw her come through the door and stood up to pull out her chair.  “How was the walk?” he asked her.

“Funny you should ask. I feel like I just walked through the worst cloud of evil,” she replied dismissively as she took her seat with a little chuckle expecting him to take it as a joke.  

“On the path near the train tracks?” he inquired.  The question caught her by surprise and she almost fell into her chair.  

“Why would you say that?” she asked.  

Disvillage Story 5 – Eglantine “The Crone”

“Is this dough ready?” asked a mousy albeit flamboyant girl who was probably closer to middle age than childhood.  She really had no business being so thin in this occupation.  Her small waist certainly kept her young – that and the big silly bow in her vibrant red hair.  In reality, anyone younger than Eglantine by ten years was considered a girl in her head. She was careful to be patient with herself when she had these ageist thoughts.   She hated growing old, but it did make each season dearer.  She had always loved autumn.  Now she wondered how many more there would be.      

It was early morning, about an hour before sunrise (or late at night, depending on which circadian rhythm you were dancing to).  The first chill of the season could be felt outside, but they were warm and snug in the little shop.  

“It needs to be kneaded” replied Eglantine to her assistant baker.  

“I need you” whispered Dulcinea setting her head at level with the bread dough.  

Eglantine wondered if the girl were simple, trying to be funny, or gifted.  It was a thought she often had in the many years she had known her. Not for the last time, she was sure. 

They both set about adjusting the shop getting ready for customers.  They flipped the sign open, turned on the customer music (for some reason they preferred to work in silence) and sat down to one of the small bistro tables.  Eglantine with her croissant.  The croissant being the shops signature bake.   On the inside was all the chewy doughiness of an American croissant.   On the outside was a crisp explosive French inspired shell guaranteed to blast crumbs all down your front.   And, Dulcinea with her paper and black coffee.  Coffee was their other signature.  It was roasted especially for them by a roaster in the mountains hundreds of miles away.  It had a unique and delicious flavor.  People drove almost as far to buy it from them. Together they waited for customers. 

“The serial killer has struck again”, stated Dulcinea absently as she continued to read and sip her black potion.  

Eglantine wasn’t exactly sure there was a serial killer in the area – even with all the mysterious deaths. However, she did know there was a demon in the city.  There had been for 20 years.  

Eglantine was a witch. She knew these kinds of things.  Her gift had always been identifying the supernatural.  Just as Dulcinea always seemed to know the difference between truth and lies and could guess the truth when she heard a lie.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you looked at the situation, neither of them knew (if there even was one) who the serial killer was. Funny, she thought to herself, she was always one-hundred percent sure of her own gifts and only fifty percent positive of anyone else’s.  Eglantine, Dulcinea, and Tabitha; Dulcinea’ s daughter, made up their little coven – the maiden, the mother and the crone.  Tabitha was not yet even five.  It was hard to know what her gifts would be.  

Dulcinea was the daughter she never had.  She had come pregnant and desperate to the little shop some years ago looking for work. The shop had crackled with magic as she walked through her door alerting Eglantine to the presence of power.  She had thought she was barren, yet she knew this was her daughter the moment she walked in to her life.  

A few years later when relationships had been established and Eglantine had shared her first impression of Dulcinea with her, Dulcinea had asked, “does that mean Tabitha is your granddaughter?”

“Good heavens no,” stated Eglantine emphatically.  “I will never be anyone’s grandmother!  I will be her fairy godmother.”  

Tabitha had started preschool this year.  Eglantine looked wistfully to the corner of the shop where her playpen used to live. 

The bell over the door rang announcing a customer.  It was Gwydion their demon, and first customer always.  She greeted him warmly and without pretense.  Yes, Gwydion was always their first customer, followed by the truck drivers, then you had your business owners, followed by laborers and professionals, and finally ending with students and those in service.  

It had scared her when Gwydion had first walked into her shop.  She had been terrified.  Even more so when she learned he had purchased the local hot springs and was to stay.  She had never thought of her town as the type to attract a demon.  But, apparently there had been just enough indifference in the community for him to settle.  

A young man had been murdered 21 years ago.  He had been pushed by a pack of boys off a bridge.  One of the boys who had pushed him had been the chief of polices son. The only eye witness had been a homeless person that soon after disappeared.  The young man that had been murdered had an effeminate way about him that made a lot of people uncomfortable.  It had been ruled a suicide.  There had been no outrage from the town.  No uncomfortable questions were asked of the police, just silence came from the community.  It was enough.  It was enough for a demon to slip in.  

She was the third generation to own her family’s business, but she had seriously considered selling and moving.  She knew what the blight of a demon looked like.     

But, Gwydion (it seemed) would not fulfill her expectations.  Mysteriously he seemed to be hell bent on doing good.  His business attracted an upscale clientele and like many shops in the town, her little business thrived.  She often made deliveries to the resort.  She was amused by his use of old magic to organize the hot springs.  Old magic, gray magic, magic that had not been designed for the service of good or evil.  It was the same magic given to the earth to spin and the sun to burn.    

Gwydion had arrived looking well worn for a man in his twenties and now looked well preserved for a man in his forties.  When the time came, he could probably pull off claiming fifties.  But, unless there were amazing breakthroughs in plastic surgery, sixty he would have a hard time claiming to be.  She wondered if his time here was coming to an end.  An immortal could only pretend at mortality for so long. Just as the serial killer could only pretend at being God before mortality caught up to him.  She was old and knew the strength of youth did not last forever.    

While his evil nature and demon spirit had not attracted the crime one expects to follow his goblin footsteps, perhaps it had attracted a serial killer. It was a serial killer that made accidents happen to homeless and vulnerable people insisted Dulcinea.  A body found floating in a canal, someone hit by a train, a person slipping and cracking their head while walking in a ravine – these scenarios hadn’t happened just once.  They happened over and over again.    

Evil always makes way for evil.  Even she had fallen to the snares of his charm.  Here she was every morning genuinely welcoming him to her shop – breaking bread with the devil.  Yet the world was complex.  She trusted in the fact that her vision was limited.  Maybe the larger picture was a combination of prettier colors she did not have the view to see.  

Disvillage Story 4 – Cat and Mouse

Tasteful wall paper greeted Gwydion as he entered the light airy room of the empty resort suite. It was one of the better rooms – large, spacious, and… impersonally decorated. It was a place to make memories, not a place to face your memories. His opinion was that a hotel room should not remind you of your home or your ordinary life. Like a fantasy novel where the main character retreats from the common world to an alternate one, the hotel room should provide escape. Gwydion catered to fantasy and enchantments – the fantasy and enchantments of the rich.

Today Gwydion would not be indulging in fantasy.  He would be addressing the very practical reality of cleaning a room.  He had come to this suite to meet with his new employee Donny.  House keeping had alerted him to spoiled towels.  Towels meant for decoration (and occasional guest use – by those indulgent enough to use the ornately patterned towels in place of the lush white ones) had been used to clean the floor.  

Donny had used the wrong towels, Gwydion explained.  He had used the good towels.  Gwydion handed him a pair of rubber gloves and they began instruction in housework. 

As they talked about the finer art of cleaning a room, Gwydion eavesdropped on Donny’s mind.  Donny had not grown up with good towels.  He had grown up with working towels or towels that needed to be retired.  The idea of a leisure class towel had never occurred to Donny.  Donny was a good towel, Gwydion chuckled to himself, and he was too common to appreciate the art of not working.   

Gwydion took the opportunity to measure Donny’s soul.  It was something he did with all new employees.  He required good in his employees.  Evil was for the guests.  The evil Gwydion desired grew best in good soil.  

Donny had a small stain of theft and lies on an otherwise blameless soul balanced by an aftertaste of guilt and remorse.  It was a flavor Gwydion did not enjoy, guilt and remorse; it ruined the taste of sin. But there was no need to worry. The environment that Gwydion would provide Donny would soon scrub his heart and leave it pure.  

Occasionally true evil did reside in the poor, but it was rare.  True evil grew best in the hearts of the rich and privileged.  If a beggar had to choose to steal or starve than the sin was with the person the beggar stole from.  True evil did not grow well in necessity where things done the wrong way for the right reasons had a habit of working out for “the best”.  

He had one such soul almost ready for harvest – that rare person born to poverty capable of true evil. It was a boy born of the wrong cast and color – born to loving and generous; but, poor parents.  

The man had been born with two balancing gifts.  He had been born with a gift for charity and a gift for cruelty in equal measure.  This was a man destined for greatness who could do great good or great evil.  

Gwydion had ensured that a path to success was paved for him – a path to privilege.  He had been oppressed along the way, of course, human nature being what it is – always looking to kick a perceived inferior.  The oppression had made an impression on the man and the seeds of desire were sown.  The oppression had created a crossroads of destiny.  This man could go down either path.    

Gwydion had made sure that there was always a balance of someone helpful – to provide charity for him. Someone that got the man into an Ivy League college his parents could never afford – someone who had shown him grants not readily known about.  Another someone that introduced him to the right people to get him a cushy elite job – a job never posted to a pool of candidates.  And finally, support to implement a rise to power in his corporation – the right over qualified secretary, an HR manager charmed by his meager beginnings, a boss ready for retirement that never got in his way or took credit for his work.  In other words – “luck”. 

The man had rejected any notion that he was charmed believing all privilege he had acquired had been his own hard work.  He, who was beholden to everyone, believed he was beholden to no one.  It had been a gamble by Gwydion to provide him with charity in hopes that the man would not recognize what was being extended to him (goodwill) and invest that understanding in fostering his own talent of benevolence.  It was a gamble that had paid off.  It had made the corruption of the man’s soul that much more delicious.  Things could have gone a different way.  He could have recognized the generosity of others and been humbled by it.      

By providing luck, Gwydion had groomed and fostered a talent of disregard and callousness until it had led the man to the great sin of his soul.  It had led him to a turning point.  

The man was faced with someone who had helped him climb his mountain of success.  It was someone like the man.  Someone born to all the same disadvantages and blessed with none of the charms and assistance.  Instead of raising this fellow up and passing on his good fortune, he had done the opposite. He had chosen to oppress him.  He had treated the employee as an inferior and had reveled in his authority and power over the employee.  He who had been oppressed celebrated the joy of providing oppression.  The man had realized that he had not been working for riches but for power.  He now had the power to inflict harm on the innocent.    

The man had chosen to never invest in his gifts of charity and had allowed his soul to tarnish leaving no path to redemption.  Ironically, an investment in altruism would have provided the true greatness this man envied in others – greatness only found in humility. Now he would always be dissatisfied because a part of him would forever know that he had missed his opportunity to be the great man he could have been.  The man was dissatisfied and cruel – flavors Gwydion relished.  His soul was ready.  Gwydion would devour it.  Like a cat bating a mouse, it was time for him to pounce.  

Gwydion was a demon.  

Gwydion thanked Donny for his work and dismissed him taking his gloves and then removing his own. Donny departed the room and Gwydion was left with the back of the hotel suite door.  And a mirror – that (had he been hungry) would have been blank.  Because he was full, the mirror provided Gwydion with an image of himself. It revealed his true visage; what humans would describe as a classic vampire.  But unlike a vampire, Gwydion did not drink blood.  He drank souls.  These souls needed to be sweet, delicious, and corrupt beyond redemption.  And while no one was beyond redemption, these souls had rejected it.  They had rejected a call to humanity and embraced their selfishness.  They no longer had a desire to be good, to do the right thing, to think about others.  

Gwydion looked good. He did good.  He fostered good in others.  But he was evil.  He needed to be surrounded by these very good people to bring out the evil in others that he so desired.  These wicked humans that could be feasted on.  

Gwydion was a being of selfishness and soullessness.  And, the soulless had no reflection.  When Gwydion was well fed, he had a soul and could see himself.  The mirror; however, did not show him what his magic hid.  A glamour allowed him to look living, hid his fangs, and made his livid red eyes brown.  It was a glamour the mirror did not replicate.  While he was full of soul, he could reflect on himself and indulge in humanity.             

An Angel had once asked him if hell approved.  It had been an amusing question.  Hell did not approve of anything.  Hell was not organized.  There were no allegiances.  It was every demon for himself.  Hell was not a place but a state of being.  He wondered if heaven was really a state of being as well.  He wondered if the cooperation of the good created a community that gave the illusion of space.  It was a question he was not capable of, except when devouring the souls of the living. These sorts of questions were almost repentant.  They required a statement of “I” which led to a realization of self which led to a realization of others.  The irony amused him.      

Gwydion approved. That was enough.  His motives and alliances were his own.  

Disvillage Story 3 – Treble Makers Under a Rest

Fruitless mulberries had once lined the street – with one in front of every lot.  Or, so she had been told.  She had met another “nosey neighbor” at an open house. When she had described which property was hers (to see if the two of them were neighbors), the elderly lady had exclaimed “oh, the house with the perfectly sculpted tree!”

It was… perfectly sculpted.  The trunk had been pruned to resemble a hand.  With her second eye, she always saw a tree house sitting in it.  She wondered which alternate reality that was in.  Yet, maybe it wasn’t an alternate reality.  Maybe it was the future. 

When she had first bought the house, she had thought about cutting it down.  It provided no fall color and no fruit.  However, the love that had gone into the maintenance of the tree could not be denied. 

One year she had it pruned back to the “hand”.  The summer after had been unbearable inside her house as the tree struggled to regrow its canopy.  She had discovered what the tree was for.  It was for shade.  The lesson had solved another problem.  The neighbor across the street who had constantly complained about it, never complained again.  She guessed it had been a hot summer for them as well. 

The tree had proven it’s worth.  Moira would keep it.  Taking the under canopy up, she provided a space for undergrowth trees and populated it with Dogwood and Japanese Maples. These under canopy trees would provide the fall foliage she needed.  As a day dreamer she recognized the importance of keeping and celebrating the passage of time.  In a place where seasons were not distinct, she tried to provide some structure for mother nature wherever she could. 

While the tree thought of itself as ancient (it was probably the oldest tree in the neighborhood), it was (in reality) a mere fifty.  Since she had decided that the tree would stay, Moira bought a boulder for it to have as a friend with the hopes that the much older rock would impart some wisdom to the provincial tree. 

Moira was sitting under it now on that very boulder as she mentally prepared herself to go to work.  There was nothing hard about her job, but she liked to be in the right space before she arrived.  Also, Donny, her neighbor Jakes housemate, was going to catch a ride to work with her.  So, she was also waiting for him.

Gwydion, her employer, had given Donnie a job in house keeping in the café at the resort and hot springs she worked at teaching yoga.  She was also preparing for her meeting with Gwen regarding expanding her role there.  Gwydion was trying to establish music for the grounds and was hoping to start training talent as they were having some difficulty securing local musicians.  As with everything with Gwen, it was long term thinking – seeds planted now for shade trees and fruit tomorrow.  She also suspected that Gwen was laying out the first steps in a path to make her his second in command. 

Gwen had laid out four areas of focus for the resort – water, earth, wind, and fire. 

Water was represented by the hot springs and bathhouse.  It was a chance to be clean.  To wash things away.  It also represented the heart and was the most social part of the resort.

Earth was represented by the grounds.  They were laid out with a compliment of edible, medicinal, and ornamental plants.  It was a place devoted to the care of the body.  

Wind was represented by the amphitheater.  It was a place where ballets, lectures, and concerts were given addressed the needs of the mind.   

Fire was represented everywhere.  It could be found in the heat of the drawn bath.  It could be found in the oven of the kitchen.  It could be found in the illumination of the theater.  Fire was transformative.  It addressed the needs of the soul. 

Moira’s instrument of calling was Double Bass, but she played all the string instruments.  She had taught both her grandchildren violin – her little treble makers as she liked to call them.  Adjacent to the amphitheater, Gwen had plans for a school.  One of the classes taught there would be music, but Gwen had hinted that her role would be one of a “principle” of sorts. 

Moira had the background to pull it off.  She had started her life in classical music and dance before moving on to university and then a corporate position of leadership all the while dabbling in fine arts to amuse herself. 

It was corporate life that had introduced her to the concept of “retreat”.  These “work vacations” had become important to her as a time of deconstruction and reconstruction.  When she retired, she found herself gravitating to all sorts of retreats.  Yoga retreats, music retreats, writing retreats, ceramic retreats – you name it.  Moira enjoyed it all. 

It was at one such retreat she had met Gwydion, sailing.  He had discussed with her his resort.  They had a likeness of minds and a relaxed way of speaking to each other. He was also very easy on the eyes which made her school girls heart glad.  He made her feel young.  Before she knew it she had been recruited to join his team of workers.   

Which brought her to now – under this tree – sitting on this rock.  Yoga instructor hadn’t really felt like work.  It had felt like a calling.  But the resort also had the feeling of a calling.  Taking on more didn’t feel like signing up for more somehow.  It felt like another step down her right path.  It was a path that had brought her to this house, this neighborhood, this town.  There was magic here.  She could feel it. 

A noise distracted her and she looked up to see Donnie on his way accompanied by her other neighbors Tyco and Jamison Lee.  They were delivering fresh eggs and had dropped some off at Jakes just in time to escort Donnie over. 

A new friend, a new opportunity, and fresh eggs.  There were even blueberries on the bush and peaches on the tree.  At a time in her life that she should be thinking of how to wrap it up, it felt like she was just beginning.  Her wandering soul was at rest.  She had arrived.  Like the tree her reason for being had not immediately been apparent.  It was time for her to start providing shade for others to sit under.    

Disvillage Story 2 – Lemons to Lemonade

There was a little fountain outside the office window playing a melody of nature that (thankfully) distracted from the silence of the room.  The faintest hint of incense kept his nose busy searching for it. Sometimes the fragrance was there and sometimes it wasn’t – as if his mind had made it up.  He fiddled with his hands noticing that three of his fingernails were dirty.  He hadn’t slept very well stressing about this interview and had rushed to get ready this morning.  Fiddling with his hair, he noticed that it felt funny and he wondered if he had remembered to rinse the shampoo out.  His clothes were clean, of that he was at least sure of.  Jake (his new roommate) had made sure he had washed his small assortment of clothing with detergent and in hot water.    

One month ago, he had been homeless (One month ago.  One lifetime ago. Already, he was somebody different).  He had been earning enough to eat as a street performer juggling.  But, not enough for much of anything else.  He had been sleeping under a bridge enjoying the summer outside – vaguely worried about winter.  That’s how he had met Jake.  

Jake was a puppeteer and his puppets had fascinated him.  Donny had always loved dolls but (as a child) his opportunity to play with them had been very limited.  He was shocked to come face to face with a grown man playing with them in public – dressing them up, making them tell stories, making them sing and dance…

In return Jake had been fascinated by Donny’s juggling abilities.  

Donny came by them honestly. His mother had been a fourth-generation circus performer from Czechoslovakia.  She had been teaching him since he was a little boy.  She had taught him other things as well.  Like how to pick pockets.  He hadn’t shared that with Jake and hadn’t used that talent in many years – at least not for keeps.  He enjoyed practicing and so would sometimes pick peoples pockets and then put the stuff back before they had a chance to miss them.  

He remembered all the stories she had shared with him about the old world and how they had come to the good fortune of their tract home on the end of the cul-de-sac.  She had been on tour in the United States when she had met his father.  In a whirl wind of romance, she had left the circus to become a wife and then a mother. She had been eager to leave the road and settle into a suburban life.  As a little girl she had come into a windfall of old Life magazines.  The ads had seemed like a story out of fiction.  The magazines offered a reality so different, the United States might as well have been on Mars – their reality was so different. By marrying his father, her fantasy of being an “American” had come true.    

His father was a miner. They had lived well until the mine closed when Donny was eight.  His father had gone to Alaska to look for seasonal work on a fishing ship while his parents figured out what to do next.  That had been ten years ago.  

His mother had been killed in a car accident while his father was away.  Donny had been put in foster care while they looked for his father or other close relatives.  The state hadn’t found either and he had been in foster care until he had turned eighteen. 

Eighteen had come six months ago.  Until that time, he had had three sets of foster parents.  He had never felt like a son to any of them.  He had felt like a job and duty.  He had been invited in to help pay the rent; and, he had never been allowed to forget that.   He had never been close to his last set of foster parents.  They had been strict and religious.  The foster parents before that had moved out of state and had left him to be rehomed so he had only know these latest foster parents for a year – his last year in social services.   

All of his foster parents had been a series of middle class, mid-western people who had been disapproving of a circus background and suspicions of his talents.  He had once overheard his circus abilities described as “unnatural, like witchcraft”.  

It seemed everything important about himself, he had overheard.  With his last foster parents, he had overheard them talking about what he was going to do when he turned 18.  They had been worried about how he was going to move out.  He had a little money saved from mowing lawns and knew it was enough for a bus ticket to a city large enough to have street performers.  He would juggle.  If necessary, he would steal.  He could get by and figure out a life for himself.  

Donny told his foster parents he had been in touch with some family and would be going to stay with them. They had been relieved to hear he had someplace to go and had never pressed him on the details of his lie. It had broken his heart a little more to be cared about so little.  These little heartbreaks were the worst.  It was as if pieces of him were disappearing every time someone disappointed him – making him nobody.    

One morning Jake had spied him tumbling out of the bushes on his way to the old part of town where they both did side walk shows.  Donny had emerged tousled and bed worn, maybe a little dirty.  It had been impossible to disguise what was going on – that he was homeless.  After a brief morning greeting, they walked in silence for a while as if they met each other like this every morning to stroll to work.  

“Is this where you’re sleeping?” Jake had asked him.  

“Just for a little while,” said Donny casually, trying to reassure Jake, “until I get enough money for a place”.   

They had a long talk after that while Jake pressed him for details about his age and background.  “You can’t stay under the bridge anymore.  You are going to have to stay with me until we figure you out,” Jake had told him firmly.  

And that was it.  Like a miracle Donny had gone from being lost and thrown away to having people again.  Where once he felt himself going feral – losing parts of his mind and soul that made him human and connected, the reverse was happening now.  Jake felt like family.  He was introducing him to community.  Donny started remembering things about himself.  He was remembering how to smile.  He was (slowly) remembering how to groom himself.  He was remembering how to hope, as the glimpse of a future presented its self.  He was remembering possibility and pride.      

Now he was at this interview – a possible job.  

The man he had been expecting came into the room.  “Hi, I’m Gwydion,” he said with a big smile and a friendly demeanor extending his hand to shake “but everyone calls me Gwen.  Sorry to keep you waiting.”

Donny took his hand and smiled.  Gwen was a handsome, tall, athletic man that made people feel immediately at home.  He possessed a smile that made his eyes twinkle. He had a face that should have been lined but wasn’t.   He had hair that should have shown silver but instead was chestnut brown.  He seemed older than time; and, (at the same time) newly born.  Donny relaxed under the enchanting gaze of this handsome man.    

“I’m Dominik.  But everyone calls me Donny. Thank you for taking time to meet me.”  

Grandma Number One “Thank you God”

She had scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed, but nothing had worked to clean (what looked like) black tar from the children’s skin. Yvonne’s two grandchildren had broken into the construction yard (that was being used to build the freeway) next door… to play. They had returned home covered in a spider web of black lines. Jackson and Olivia had taken sticks and had stuck them in some sort of black -toxic-waste-like-grease and with the help of the wind had drawn intricate patterns all over themselves like some sort of demonic modern painting.

“What did you think you were doing?” she asked. There was no hiding the distress in her voice as she tried in vain to remove the noxious substance from their cheeks.

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“We were trying to be like Jackson Pollock. Grandma, am I named after him?” Her grandson answered innocently (pretending?) not to understand how angry she was.

“I have told you a million times not to play in that yard.”

“But we like sliding down the gravel mountains.”

This made her angrier than ever and she took them both by the arm and shook them, before she could stop herself.

“You need to promise me that you will never go into that yard again! Don’t you know that the gravel could avalanche and cover you up so we would never find you again?” The children looked down ashamed and did not answer. “Good Lord, I’m going to have to clean you two with gasoline,” she continued putting away her useless soap and shampoos. The clothing would have to be thrown away.

Later as she got them ready for bed and prepared to read them a story, Olivia asked “Granny, what is politics mean?” Never a dull moment with these two she thought – always the million dollar random questions.

“What does politics mean”, she corrected her, “Well, it’s a little complicated and I’m not sure your ready to understand, but we’ll give it a go. See this apple?” she continued holding up an apple in her hands. “Suppose you want this apple, and you want it from me. Your politics is how you get it from me and my politics is how or if I give it to you.”

“I don’t get it granny. Republicans and Democrats just want apples?” Jackson asked her perplexed.

Yvonne sighed. This was the last thing she wanted to explain before bed. Not when she had this lovely pre-written story all ready to tuck them in with she thought looking at the short story clutched in her hand. But, she was suddenly struck with inspiration so she persisted. She had a story telling gift and she was as surprised and entertained as anyone with what came out of her mouth sometimes.

“Politics is the word we use to describe the process in which we divide resources. So,” she continued, “to understand that, let’s make it very personal. Imagine your parents as the government and you two as its citizens. Your governing parents give you stuff – distribute resources to you. How do you think they decide that?”

“Which one they like best?” Jackson answered.

Yvonne chuckled “well they might do it that way. That would be one type of politics, but what if they like you both the same?” The children looked at her blankly as if that thought had never occurred to them. “If your parents love you both the same, they may look to give you resources that best suit your need or ability. As we know, Jackson likes to paint” she said sarcastically, “So maybe they would buy him brushes or art books. You like to swim, so maybe they get you access to a local pool. That would be their politics – finding resource and distributing them based on need and or aptitude. This is what we hope they are doing in Washington”

“I think daddy likes me best and mommy likes Olivia best. What kind of politics is that?”

“That politics would be called ‘Favoritism’. And that’s the type of politics we are hoping is not being practiced in Washington. And that, children, is the politics of the government. What do you think your politics are as it’s citizens? Or, in this house, as your mommy and daddy’s children. How might you position yourself to get these resources? What can you do to get mommy and daddy to give you what you want?”

“I can give mommy flowers before I ask her to enroll me in swim?”

“Exactly! That’s called a ‘bribe’.” She said pinching Olivia’s cheek with amusement, “That would be your politics. That’s another thing we hope is not happening in Washington. And, Jackson, how about you? What could you do to get art supplies?”

“I could get an A in Art class?”

“Very Good! You would be displaying aptitude.”

“I understand politics now, granny.”

“Well, thank you God! Now come sit in my lap and hear this story before you have to go to bed”, said grandma Yvonne pulling them close ignoring the lingering sent of gasoline.