Old Man Lost

“Shh, old man,” Reggie mumbled to himself as he eyed the TV. “It’s not the end of the world yet.” He leaned closer to the television. “The end of the world hasn’t come yet, for we old soldiers still sit in purgatory uncalled. Surely that devil would call us if he knew we sat at ease.” The TV blared, for Reggie used the sound against the loneliness of his soul.
News reports troubled him: the president declaring war actions, kids dying, no one understanding why killing was so easy for the man, volunteers sent packing as democratic pigeon minders, told they got no business, old people dying and no one caring.

”Hush, Reggie, pray he doesn’t call you. You can barely keep time at a social dance with the old women down in the basement of the church. Not much of a social, all of us left by families that know our minds are going. Not much to be happy for, to care for, to do. Puzzles and number thingy squares. Old women knitting. Women ruminating like cows, no brains left. Young folks and nurses bugging folks to be active. Folks showing us computers, damned machines. Shh, damn it, man, don’t get so upset. Don’t call attention to your dark soul. You don’t want the attention of that type. They bury us with trumpets blowing and our service honored, but there is little honor in what we did. We killed, oh that we served as God willed. Oh, that peace was close, but it ain’t coming.”

The news flooded the room. Missiles launching from planes, children laying dead, yellow gas coating everything. Reggie looked down at his hands. His hands, beautiful hands, that had held a child when it was born, helped it learn to walk, paid with labor to send his child to school, and watched with pride at the start of the Great War III. Strong hands that had served him, that had held his wife as she sobbed at the telegram from the War Department, now sat idle in his lap. Sad hands that watched the news take his wife’s will to live, that buried her.

“Reggie, man, you have to keep quiet, man. Don’t say your thoughts too loudly, or they’ll have you out the door as a traitor. I’m you, you know, still you. I’m me. I was…I am, I get so confused these days.”

He moved the food on his plate around in circles. TV food, the folks next door brought TV food to him each night. They said it was okay he didn’t know them. He hated that. They told him names. They had no faces. The food was placed on his TV tray. One plate, one fork, one spoon, one glass of water. His teeth were worn and so his food was precut, mushed by him into the catsup. He took a bite, swallowed, and took another. Food had no real meaning, it just kept him alive. It all tasted the same.

“When’s it morning, old man, when’s morning coming? Not soon enough. Devils on the TV, devils in church, next it will be devils in my home.”

The door to the room he sat in opened and closed. Reggie didn’t bother looking around.

“What do you want now?” he asked. “You don’t normally come for the dishes. Got something for me?”

Whoever had entered the room hissed at him, “Good evening, Reggie.”

“Don’t know why you bother me every night. I’m an old man. Got a devil for president, a war to begin more wars, ain’t nothing going to ever be okay again.”

“Your pain, it seems worse tonight, Reggie. Shall I take it from you?” The stranger moved to the front of the couch. He pushed the plastic container of pills in front of Reggie.

“Pain means I’m alive. I’m an old man. Ain’t nothing going to matter ever again. Leave me alone. I don’t want nothing from you.” He watched the TV change to a game show. “See they roll that wheel and people guess words. Fools always take too long. You want to watch this show with me? I ain’t about to go out with all that fireworks on the news going on.”

“I can take your pain away, Reggie. I can ease the burden of your heart.” The stranger sat down and rested his hand on Reggie’s knee. “I’m worried about you, Reggie, you don’t do anything but watch that idiot tube. The news will make your heart stop, if you keep watching it.”

“Heart stopped years ago when the wife died.”

“Reggie, all you have to do is tell me that I can take your soul to a different plane. But you have to say it.”

“Hell, you think you’re the devil or something? Take my soul to a plane. A plane to a place where no-one gives a damn. Nah, you get out. I’m not going with no devil. I have my own devils inside me. I live my own hell, don’t need to go to one.”

“Heaven won’t come to you, Reggie, not ever. You’ll never find relief sitting here. Come with me, Reggie, you’ll be warm and with family.”

Reggie watched the wheel spin. “Hey, weirdo, you know that phrase right there? Daniel Webster said it.”

“Fine, Reggie, fine. What’s the phrase?”

Turning to the illusion beside him, Reggie laughed and said, “Get the hell out.” He leaned back in his couch and closed his eyes. “Devil wouldn’t want me, I’m too much of a grumpy old Gus. Close the door as you leave. Damn curmudgeon needs his rest.”

The devil stood and smiled. Reggie was one of his favorites. He could bide his time. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Reggie.”

Thursday Photo Prompt: Protective Dark

Thursday Photo Prompt – Passage #writephoto

“What is it?”

The walls were silent. The steps were worn with a banister of varniducshed pine. Lights shone to light the corners and to keep the shadows of the past at bay. Humanity had lived here for a very long time. The garden at the top of the stairs had see lovers come and go, hidden from their chaperones by windows and a willingness to not see certain things that would make life uncomfortable under ground. Life here was cool, but not chilly. Life was quiet without being unbearable. Life was vented so that even in times of trial, the air with the fresh smell of flowers or snow would flow down to those held beneath.

Two sisters walked along the path, moving awkward students before them. Fall was a good time to move briskly through books of knowledge. It kept the students and faculty from being distracted by the uncertainty of winter. The stores from the summer’s harvest rewarded the community at dawn and dusk. Evenings flowed into music, drama and literature. Mornings were resplendent with the study of science and the explosions that sometimes resounded. History, mathematics and languages filled the afternoon, puffing student’s chests out and egos up.

“What is it?” An eight year old child peeked down the hallway at the courtyard. Her brother pulled his jacket close and then buttoned her coat.

“Shh, don’t make any noise. We’ll be heard.”

The sound of metallic doors slamming and booted feet marching filled the hallway. The children were lucky, no one had entered the hallway yet or looked in their direction. The boy pulled the girl backward, away from the light, away from the sound, away from the marching feet. They couldn’t avoid the speakers that blared.

“All persons are required to move promptly to the courtyard to begin deportation screening. Any person avoiding screening will be subject to arrest and prosecution for violation of the Homeland Security Act.”

“Children, come away. Come away now.”

Holding hands tightly, the children followed Sister Cecelia into the dark. As the Sister moved them into obscurity, the sound of gunfire filled the courtyard.

Five Words to Play With, structures

Weekly Writing Challenge #61

Challenges are fun. This type of challenge is one of my favorites. Give me a word list and I’ll make you a poem. So here are the five words I have to use: broke, bridge, judge, story, lake.

A haiku using 17 syllables in either sentence or three line format.

Judged by a lake of
Bridged stories, heroes gain truth,
broke foes gain but naught.

Broke of common truth,
Before the judge, man swims 'neath
lakes of false stories.

Sometimes changing the form of a word gives it more power. 

Judged, the lake bridged by
Lies, these storied villains broke
Are redeemed by truth.

Then of course shapes can influence the words used:

           broken lake that carries the
       the                              judged
Bridge                                       past their stories.

Sometimes free verse works best for me:

I was the daughter of a coffee pot
and a lake of tears.
Judged by no one but myself,
I swam an ocean of grounds,
Lay upon black beaches of grounds,
Bridged the distance between a story
Explaining my tardiness,
Or a trip to visit my secret garden of regrets,
I would chose instead a broken biscuit
With a dab of butter and jam.

Or you can assign me a form that is required in its fierceness.
A Cinquain which requires a five-lined poem using first 2, the 4, then 6, then 8, then 2 syllable format:

Our Justice gone?
Finding the judge asleep,
Under a lake of lies, bridged by

Or perhaps you prefer a Nonet?

At the top, a lake of storied
lies told to a judge with eyes
Closed and clouded. How to find
A bridge to open heart
And mind. Broke the soul
That pushes lies,
Hidden by
A poet's

Well, maybe not that one as much. But with a different structure.

At the top,
A lake of storied lies
Told to a judge with tired eyes.
How to find a bridge between
What is said and what they mean?
Broke the soul that pushes
Past the line that
Formed of truth
At last.

Anyway, those were five words rolling around a challenge...