The Fierce Urgency of Now
Gradualism burns the wooden tracks that carry us to progress. Languidly chugging up a manufactured hill of disparity, the gears of forward motion are greased with the souls and bodies of the sacrificial Now.
As more fall under the weight of future expectation, their suffering and loss are heralded divine. To suffer is to be like Jesus: the expectation of living as a saint, of striving for the perfection of loss and suffering for the good of the many has been placed upon the shoulders of those least deserving of sorrow, those who already bear the brunt of suffering and degradation.
An inconvenience of time or petty cash is all it takes to tip Poverty from scraping the bottom to being crushed under the barrel that holds those scraps of insecurity, crushed because so many dip into the barrel furiously, clamoring over one another and crowding, yet their ladles come up empty. Now is all there is; for those with no future to speak of, to drink excessively, to eat badly, or to buy impulsively is the only true pleasure they can afford.
The immediacy and ease of procuring the unhealthy–because affordable consumables in the US don't even considered food in other countries–further impedes the impoverished person’s ability to contribute to the economy. And their taxable income seems to be the only determiner of society’s estimation of their intrinsic value.
Those whose incomes and housing and healthcare are secured are allowed to simply be. Their human value isn’t determined by their immediate productivity; leisure is allowed. Leisure has been earned, whether by birth, luck, work, or a combination of the three.
Their value being established by the tax dollars they unwillingly contribute, they are free to overindulge without excessive consequence. Paid sick leave can be used for hangovers; gap coverage and car rental coverage can be used for irresponsible driving and endangerment of others; retirement funds and house equity can be used for overspending and financial irresponsibility. And all this is aboveboard, protected, acknowledged as appropriate citizenship. And nothing more is required; no accusations are made against their humanity.
The most precise weapon of oppression is abject poverty. Poverty looks different now than it did decades ago. Poverty has a flatscreen TV and a cell phone. Poverty has internet access, soap, and a used car. But, Poverty has little else. And everything, for Poverty, is the urgent now.
Let the People Sing
Oh Freedom, Elysian, in these Fields
One hundred years later, Lord
One hundred years later, and more
in the great hymnals of the World
Now is the time, not when We've grown
Now is the time, not when We've moved on
Now is the time, not when We've settled for...
some Comfort in the backyard,
Now, and Then,
We cannot be satisfied, with pleasant Sounds
We cannot be satisfied, with screens of Distraction
We cannot be satisfied, with wine and water on Tap
No, We cannot be Satisfied
with I have a Dream nor with
Let Freedom Ring...
For, all these years, Glory be
It is Time, child,
To wake up.
More than a Dream challenge @AJAY9979
Justice Like a Stream
"No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." ~Martin Luther King Jr.
Water is one of the few forces of nature that is virtually unstoppable. If you have ever seen the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls, you understand the power of water. This seemingly gentle, unassuming element is capable of cutting through rock through sheer perseverance. The process may take centuries, but it is inevitable. The stream never stops; it just keeps flowing, cutting a deeper and deeper chasm.
Maybe that is the justice that Martin Luther King Jr. imagined – an unending justice, a justice that perseveres, cutting a gorge through any obstacle.
It might be disappointing to note that we have yet to achieve Reverend King’s dream, but we can still have hope. Justice will continue on as long as there are still people who are not satisfied with the way things are. The stream continues to flow.
The Worthless Check Constable
The Man reported to work every day, punctually and dutifully. As the Worthless Check Constable for this fine state, it was his duty to recommend for prosecution those who would purposely write bad checks. Justice isn't bankrupt, after all.
Worthless Check Constable. Yes, that was thing.
On this day, January 15, a man named Martin knocked politely at his door. "Come in," offered the Worthless Check Constable, and Martin approached his desk, hat-in-hand. "What can I do for you, Mr. um — "
"King," Martin said. "Martin L. King, Jr. I was wondering if you could advise me."
"As I understand it, writing a bad check as a negotiable instrument that proves worthless is a Class A misdemeanor."
"That depends, Mr. King. Penal Code 476a PC — you're familiar with penal codes, aren't you Mr. King. Of course you are," he added with a tone of judgment. "476a makes it a crime to write or pass a bad check."
"You mean, knowing that there are insufficient funds in the account, right?"
"Yes," answered the Worthless Check Constable. "Normally it's just a misdemeanor, but doing it can be prosecuted as a felony if the value of the bad checks is more than, say, $950.00."
Martin held out a check.
"This is a blank check, Mr. Martin."
"Right. Is it worthless?"
"Depends. Is there anything to back this up?"
"I don't think so. I think whoever wrote this has defaulted on a promissory note. I have been given a bad check, and it has been returned as "insufficient funds."
"Happens all the time, Mr. King."
"So," Martin surmised, "we can certainly agree that I have been written a very bad check." He regarded the Man behind the desk. "And that the bank is bankrupt. And that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation?"
"Like I said, Junior..."
"Happens all the time."
"But not to everybody."
"No, not to everybody. And the one who writes the checks is the one who determines who can cash them."
"You mean, successfully. Thank you very much. You've been very helpful."
"Yes, Mr. King. I usually am — but like you said, not to everybody. Have a blessed day."
Hold fast to dreams
My title is from a poem by the poet, Langston Hughes, entitled, Dreams.
Hold fast to dreams
for if dreams die
life is a broken-winged bird
that cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
for when dreams go
life is a barren field
frozen with snow.
It is among my favorite poems, one of the few I know by heart, because I feel its universal truth. Dreams don't have to be grandiose, merely something that gives us purpose, a reason to get up in the morning. Otherwise, why bother?
Published in 1923, I suspect Dr. King had read it and was a firm believer in its message for he was beyond a doubt a purveyor of dreams, dreams much bigger than an individual life.
If you have never done so, or even if you have, I would encourage a reading of the entire speech - or listening to it. The "I have a dream" passage is towards the end and while moving, it is only a small part of what he said that day in 1963. So much has changed since then, and yet many of the images he paints of the country he loved are still in evidence today. The history he describes is no less true. His counsel, "Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred" should be held aloft and remembered as much as, "I have a dream."
Despite their fame, the words he said that day are not the first ones that come to my mind when someone asks me my favorite Martin Luther King,Jr. quote. In November, 1957, in a sermon he gave in Alabama, he said,
Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
My second favorite is from a sermon he gave in November, 1956: "Let no man pull you low enough to hate him." This comes from a longer paragraph that I had not read before I began to write this essay, but which I find to be perfect insofar as it reflects both history and our present as well as portending the future. A rather bleak one, sadly. He said:
As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.
The tentacles of chaos are visible across the world for humans seem incapable of conspicuous acts of kindness as a route to peace.
Even so, I hold fast to dreams, and make every effort to be love and light to all whose paths I cross. I may not change the world, but I can emulate the change I want to see.
Who Killed the Dreams?
drenched in sadness—
“Who shot JFK?”
& who slew
in a restaurant,
squeezin’ through a crowd.
with guns & screams
shouldn’t be allowed.)
But what are we to say,
when killers have their day,
if nobody dares to stop them?
In this tale a time traveler and his best friend pay a visit to Alessandro Volta. A scientist I've always admired for his experiments with electricity that, following a sequence of historical events, led to the invention of automobiles.
Traveler had the annoying habit of skipping a briefing prior to his temporal excursions with Rædis. This often left the machine with no idea as to why they turned up in the places they did.
By his very nature Rædis craved information and Traveler’s deliberate withholding of it irritated him. Traveler claimed that it was for his own good. That as little people as possible should know only as much as they needed about traveling in any given time, past or future.
The most constructive advice Rædis ever received was what to wear. Traveler would never steer him astray in fashions of the times save for once when it was absolutely, irresistibly hilarious to see him appear at the ordination of a 23rd century Pope in the exact colors and proportions of 20th century’s TV’s ‘Sideshow Bob’ from The Simpsons. (Which was still actually on the air 50 years prior to the said ordination.)
Presently the pair sported hip waders over warm clothing because the swamp water they were slowly mucking their way through was kind of cold.
It also smelled completely revolting due to the fart-like atmosphere of methane gas bubbling up in patches here and there. But they were not on some alien planet in a primordial period of its history, they were in northern Italy, in a swamp skirting a lake called Maggiore, in the year 1776.
As they progressed, Traveler expounded more on the reason for this out of character nature hike.
“Today we shall cement the invention of one of our absolute, all-time favorite things into future history so that...well, they’ll be there when we want to play with them. Today, we ensure automobiles as fact.” As he said this, he tripped on a sunken log. Rædis stopped him from hitting the water by clutching the straps of his waders with great speed. Traveler’s face hung an inch above the putrid surface of the stinking swamp. His exhaled breath creating tiny ripples on it.
“Outstanding catch.” He said, not daring to inhale the foul fumes that popped up from tiny brownish green bubbles.
“Thank you.” Rædis said, relieved he would not have to endure a smelly, uncomfortable and miserable companion for the duration of what was an incredibly interesting outing, eager to find out how they were to accomplish this.
As much as Traveler loved to smoke when telling stories, he refrained from lighting up in an area full of flammable gas fumes. Never the less, he continued.
“Not too long ago a man called James Watt created a steam engine that wasn’t as efficient as it could be because of the loose tolerances of the cylinders involved in its action.” Rædis listened while making envious, smooth progress next to his friend, simultaneously preventing low hanging branches dripping with crud and various crawly things from interrupting him, without him knowing.
“Another man called Wilkinson invented a boring machine that could make very accurate cylinders as well as a process for making high quality cast-iron.”
“Hmmm...must have been beige.” Rædis said.
“Huh? What was beige?” Traveler asked, looking slightly perplexed.
“Wilkinson’s machine. You said it was boring.”
Traveler wondered if Rædis was putting him on or being serious. The machine had trouble with sarcasm sometimes.
“No, no...not as in uninteresting, that’s what the machine did. Bored holes in things. Specifically gun barrels, at first. I mean, not the most exciting thing, I admit but it was exactly what Watt needed to make his engines work real good, ya goober. Precision cylinders.”
“Ah, I see.” He said, now clear. He had been genuinely confused by Traveler’s diction after all.
“Right. So Wilkinson had a smarmy brother-in-law called Joseph Priestly. He married Wilkinson’s young sister but largely sponged off his in-law’s fortune. He was supposed to be a Protestant minister but was much better at fiddling around with different types of gasses. I believe he discovered something like nine elemental gasses. More elements than any other person, one of which was oxygen. Oh...He also invented soda when playing around with vats of brewing beer.”
“No shit. Soda? Really? How’d he do that? Rædis asked, getting more into Traveler’s story.
“For real. He noticed a layer of heavier ‘air’ in the vats, just above the brewing beer that would extinguish candles and kill mice but when he would dump water from one glass to another within this layer of gass, it became an effervescent and quite a pleasing thing to drink. Pop! Well...minus the dead mice, of course.”
Rædis smiled at the happy fortune of Priestly’s curious meddling.
“Priestly expanded his gaseous research by using his brother-in-law’s high quality gun barrel/cylinders to attempt to ignite other gasses he would generate in various ways using some kind of sparking device.”
They worked their way through the odorous patch of underbrush they were in and it began to open up more into wide, twisty trunked trees with damp, frosty looking moss hanging from their low branches.
“This is where we come in.” Traveler said. His child-like eagerness creeping into his manner.
“Awesome. Do we get to save him from Vatican assasins? Or maybe distract the attention of a malicious lover?” Traveler grinned and kept steadily stepping through the stagnant water as the terrain evened out more.
“I know! We get to race him to a critical juncture in space and time to make the right shit happen. Wow...cars. That’s big, Trav. I love cars. Cars and...” he paused. His imaginations reaching a climax. ”...Is there a cat involved? Oh man, that would be the best.” Rædis loved cats.
Traveler laughed as his friend’s ideas grew in extravagance and scope.
” Hahaha...all wonderful possibilities but no. All we have to do is deliver this...” Traveler said slipping a letter from the breast pocket in his jacket, drafted on fine paper and sealed with blue wax marked with an ornate design Rædis did not recognize.
“What, simply deliver a letter?” Rædis said, sounding disappointed.
“If you call wading through this stinking swamp simple.” Traveler retorted, nearly falling again. He shrugged off the machine’s help this time.
“Well it is.” Rædis replied as he deftly avoided the branch that nearly ensnared his friend
“Anyway, we’re not looking for Priestly. We’re looking for him.” Traveler said pointing to a man roughly 50 meters ahead of them. The man was bent over in the swamp, scooping marsh gas into a glass tube.
The man was also equipped with a metal disk attached to a handle with two twists of wire protruding from the grip. With it, he was attempting to use a static charge stored in the disk to create a spark powerful enough to ignite the gas trapped within the tube.
Rædis and Traveler watched the man attempt his experiment. They smiled appreciatively when, after a few misfires, zapping himself once and having to recharge the static trapped in the device, ignition was finally acheived. The cork he had sealed his test tube with popped satisfyingly off the end of it. They could hear his joyous laughter at the success of his efforts.
“Alessandro!” Traveler hailed the man who spun to face the two unexpected men. He waved them over to him, smilingly as he recognized Traveler easily.
“Ah, my friend!” He called back. “Come see what I have discovered.”
Traveler and Rædis began trudging the distance between them and the man. Traveler tripped and fell again. Rædis deftly plucked the letter from his hand before it could be dunked in the muck . Traveler felt a cold rush of putrid brown water surge into his waders but righted himself before completely collapsing into the knee deep filth.
The man joined them having closed the distance with great dexterity as Traveler got back to his feet, brushing a lock of his currently longish brown hair back and out of his eyes. The action smeared a dab of green tinged mud along his forehead.
“Traveler, my friend. How good to see you again. And so soon!” The man said while noting the time on his pocket watch. “We’ve only just departed four hours ago. How on Earth did you get all the way out here with such haste?” He said, slightly astonished. Traveler winked at Rædis. Although it had been months for Traveler personally, he loved appearing to his friends in time shortly after their last meetings. Often much more abruptly than just a few hours after leaving them wondering how he managed such trickery. It was a cheesy temporal trick Rædis knew Traveler allowed himself. Rædis flickered a knowing smile in return.
“Oh, you know me Alessandro, when something fun is afoot. I can move like a cat. Rædis, I would like you to meet Senioré Alessandro Volta. Alessandro, meet my best friend Rædis.” Traveler said, his coolness regained with the fixing of his hair. The other two men clasped hands heartily.
“I have a few things for you sir that couldn’t wait.” Traveler began to explain. Volta kept studying Rædis’ waterproof waders.
“I say, those britches are fantastic. You remain totally dry within even when submerged in water?” He asked, feeling the texture of their composition where they covered Traveler’s chest. He marveled as the water beaded and fell from the suit. “How incredibly practical in such a wretched environment.”
“Yes. Completely dry. Well, provided one can stay on one’s feet.” Traveler chuckled. “We’ve brought you a few pairs as well as some other equipment. I also have a letter for you from an Englishman called Priestly. I feel it may prove to be very insightful.”
“Well then. I propose we relocate to more a hospitable location. It seems we have much to discuss.” Volta said cheerily, clapping both men on the shoulder. Follow me. I know the easiest way out of this mire.” He said, taking the lead.
Volta’s path out of the swamp was indeed easier and quicker than the way the other two had come yet Traveler still managed to stumble two more times and had become the smelly, wet, miserable mess Rædis had feared. Traveler watched the other two men make their way without incident, conversing casually, getting to know one another. He lagged behind, his waders full of water and the woolen layers of his clothing now weighing significantly more than when he had first stepped foot in the swamp. He was flummoxed by their agility in such slippery footing and was slightly resentful. However, after reaching Volta’s lodgings, cleaning up and changing he had become much more amiable.
Once back at Volta’s place, all clean and dry and enjoying some of Alessandro’s most welcome food and warm drinks, the trio were quite comfortable and excited to catch up. Traveler and Rædis had changed into period attire but with modern additions such as machine stitching, modern, synthetic fabrics and zippers. Both looked fantastic and Volta, being a great fan of fashion, eyed their suits with envy. Rædis noticed this.
I see you like our suits, Alessandro.” From their luggage he produced two sets for his new friend. One in subdued earthen tones and the other in striking scarlets. He also had two sets of the waders they had worn in the swamp. He presented the ensembles to Volta, as well as the waders.
“Here you are, my friend. A gift for you. Crafted by my favorite tailor back home.” Traveler said with pride as Rædis unfurled the clothing and smoothed out the wrinkles. Volta’s eyes widened with glee.
“Oh my friends, this is a fine suit, indeed. I’ve never seen its like! Such precise workmanship and this device...er, what did you call it?”
“A zipper.” Rædis said as Volta moved it up and down on the garment studying its action. He did the same on the jacket, zipping the much longer zip up and down at various speeds. In seconds he had worked out a catchy little beat/tune with the garment. He laughed. Traveler started beat boxing. Volta caught on and repeated the rhythm with the zipper a few times.
All laughed. “You two should be in a band.” Rædis chuckled, commending their impromptu musical ability.
“Haha...sometimes we are!” Traveler laughed.
“Musical clothes. I love them.” Volta said. “Thank you so much! I shall be the finest dressed scientist to ever muck through a swamp.” He jested, laughing.
Finally Rædis produced Priestly’s letter that he had saved from being dunked in the drink by Traveler on his many stumbles in the swamp and presented it to Volta.
“Ah yes...the letter.” Volta said, breaking the sealing wax stamp and uncreasing it. He handed the letter to Traveler.
“Would you mind reading this to me, friend Traveler. Although he tries, reading Priestly’s missives aloud is an affront to the Italian language I want no part of. Paragraphs of colorless Protestant prose...” He sighed.
Chuckling, Traveler took the letter and drew one of his cigarettes from a dull metal case he was holding. He offered one to his friends. Both men were aware of the strange effects of Traveler’s particular brand and declined. After breathing putrid marsh gas all day they were satisfied breathing the refreshing northern Italian air. Traveler moved to a point in the room most dramatically lit, as was his style when he was the center of attention, ignited his smoke and began to read aloud.
“Dear sir, I’ve only just received your last letter because it was delivered by an Italian singer who only just arrived...”
Once Traveler had worked through the niceties of the letter Priestly got down to the point. He went into details about his own research with inflammable gasses and the method he was using to ignite them. It was as Traveler explained to Rædis earlier. Using Wilkinson’s cylindars and some sort of electric spark to see what they would do.
Priestly was a sport in that, where most scientists were anxious to make discoveries and publish their findings before anyone else for whatever reason be it personal glory, profit or both, Priestly openly and eagerly shared his work with pretty much anyone who was interested. This was perhaps to his detriment but Traveler never thought so. He reckoned the man was credited with plenty enough for anyone.
Upon concluding the correspondence, Traveler stepped from the haze of pale blue smoke that had gathered around his head as he read. His eyes had taken on a mischievous sheen as his brain reacted to the drugs in his cigarette. Rædis knew this look well. It made him comfortable as it was a sign that events were progressing as they should be.
Volta had been pacing the room excitedly as Traveler read Priestly’s letter. He was encouraged that he was seemingly on the right track as far as his studies of ‘inflammable air’.
“I knew there was significance to this research.” He said proudly.
“Hey Alessandro, now that I have a bit more time to chat than I did...er, earlier today. You can show me what you are actually working on? That’s sort of why I dropped by in the first place. Uhh...Sorry about the horse. How’d that go?” Traveler asked. Rædis, as inquisitive as always, also looked amused.
“It was fine. I gave the horse to the magistrate, slipped him some coin and told him I had no idea who you were.” Volta explained. Then Traveler explained to Rædis.
“I had to park quite a way out of town earlier so I procured a horse.”
“Ah, you mean you heisted a horse. Understood.” he laughed. His handsome human disguise acting accordingly.
“Senioré Volta, what was that disc on a stick you ignited the marsh gas with in the swamp?” Rædis asked the scientist. Volta grinned.
“It is my eternal spark.” Volta said with a flourish. “It’s sort of like a Lydon Jar without the water. You ‘charge’ it up, so to speak, by rubbing it with this catskin.”
Volta picked his device up from the table on which it sat. He retreated into his workspace and returned in a moment waving the grey skin of a cat.
Rædis, who adored cats, was immediately horrified.
“Did you deliberately skin that cat?” he asked Volta. His bright eyes wide with dismay.
“Well, yes lad. Feral cats abound in the town and they’re skin is uncannily ideal for this.” Volta said and vigorously rubbed the disk with it. Before Traveler could soothe his friend, Rædis reached out to grab the skin away from the man, accidentally making contact with the leads protruding from the handle and zapping him with a stiff electric charge which he easily ignored. He clutched the remains of the former cat close to his chest. Traveler stepped in at this point.
“Alessandro, understand my friend is a great lover and protector of his feline friends. He wasn’t expecting that.” Traveler’s tact was spot on. He diffused the awkward situation without apologizing for Rædis who was well within his rights to be offended and avoided making Alessandro look like a total, primative savage. It was actually Volta who offered the apology.
“I’m sorry Senioré Rædis. I was unaware you were a man of such...sensitivities.” he said with a slight bow. He was also puzzled and slightly intimidated about Rædis was completely unphased by the potent electric discharge from his device. Rædis extended a hand and Volta clasped it firmly.
“No worries, Senioré Volta. I understand. ” he assured the scientist but did not return the skin. (Later, privately, before they left for their own time, he would bury it in the side yard of Volta’s dwelling at the base of a grand tree.)
With the situation diffused, Traveler once again prompted Volta to show him what he originally came to see. The scientist led them to into his workshop and there, on a table, amidst the remnants of its construction, stood a column of metal disks sandwiched between equal sized disks of damp cardboard. The column was held up within four wooden dowel rods anchored in a wooden base and capped off with a removable top with two wires protruding from it that made contact with the column when secured.
With a flourish of his fingers, Volta presented his creation.
“Here, gentlemen, is my rebuke to Luigi Galvani’s claim of ‘animal electricity ’. You see, my fellow researcher believes animals, including us humans are infused with this sort of electrical powered fluid.” he explained.
“But I think this is preposterous. He based his assumptions on being able to electrically stimulate motion in the servers legs of frogs.” Volta said, throwing his arms up in a sign of incredulity.
“What is it with you guys doing such horrible things to animals?” Rædis asked. His expressive face rendering an appalled and disdainful look. Having derived from a world devoid of animals, he initially did not comprehend the human compulsion to experiment on other living creatures. When he eventually came to understand it, he still could not abide it.
Volta, thanks to Traveler, now understood Rædis’ concern but merely suggested in order to discover things, they had to work with what was around but then defended himself with his invention.
“That is why I invented this device.” he said proudly. “It continually produces electricity! Well...more or less. Where my sparking disk you’ve already seen merely stores a static charge that needs to be replenished, this device consistently provides electricity!”
“How does it work, Alessandro?” Traveler asked, walking around it. He was delighted to be able to see the actual, original, working prototype and Volta was anxious to explain.
“I discovered that if you stack disks of certain alternating metals, in this case, copper and zinc, and between them wedge the pieces of cardboard soaked in brine, an electric...” he hesitated, searching for the right word.
″...current, I suppose, is a good word, is produced. The taller you make the column, the more electricity is produced. That is why I made the top removable. One can adjust the amount of electricity needed for whatever purpose you have in mind.” he said with pride.
Traveler did not want to give too much away about what would become of Volta’s invention but he couldn’t help asking the man what he had thought about doing with it already.
“Well, the first thing I’m going to do is show Galvani that he is wrong about his electric frogs legs. The movement that he generates within them is not due to some electrical force within the legs but merely the external electricity he provides traveling through the fluids inside them. Like the brine soaked disks in my column. I’m sure if the frog legs were all dried out, he would not achieve the same effect.” the scientist concluded smugly.
The time traveler wanted so badly to hook a simple, small light bulb he had in his pocket to the leads protruding from the top of the column to see Volta’s expression when it lit up but knew for the sake of the causality of his world, he could not do that. Rather than press the scientist for a demonstration he knew it best just to let things progress as they would. They had delivered Priestly’s letter and that was enough to allow events to play themselves out to the desired end. Except for one last, crucial thing...
“I think you’re onto something extraordinary, Alessandro.” Traveler said. He then prompted Rædis, who had fallen into sullen silence.
“Rædis, give Alessandro the final piece of equipment we have brought for him.”
Rædis snapped out of the mood he was in and put on a more amiable expression. He produced from his pocket an elegant glass pistol with a cork stuck in the end of the barrel. Inside was a delicate twist of copper wires with two leads sticking out of the butt of the gun. He handed it over to Volta.
“Here. This will help you with your inflammable air research. It is much easier to fill with the gasses you wish to test. Upon trapping the various gasses within, touch these two leads to your eternal sparking disk and if the gas ignites, it will pop the cork off the end.” the machine explained.
Volta’s eyes widened at the sight of the beautifully crafted object.
“Thanks you very much, my friends. This is brilliant!.” he exclaimed as he turned the pistol over in his hands, rubbing his fingers over its smooth contours.
“And that is what I wanted to bring you Alessandro. Just a few items to help you along. Oh, and the letter, of course. I’m afraid we must be going now.” Traveler said, extending his hand.
Volta clasped it and shook it heartily.
“I appreciate your gifts, Senioré Traveler. And, it was a pleasure to meet you Senioré Rædis.”
“My pleasure, Alessandro Volta. Good luck with your endeavors.” Rædis said with a smile.
“See you around, Alessandro.” Traveler said as they made their way to the door of Volta’s house.
They began their walk to the barn on the edge of town where Traveler had hidden his time machine. He was thankful they did not have to trudge back through any swamps to reach it.
Rædis was silent most of the way back. He had disappeared for a moment after leaving Volta’s place. Traveler noticed he no longer had the cat skin with him he had taken from Volta earlier but did not ask what the Robot had done with it.
“What’s wrong?” Traveler asked after about a mile.
“Nothing.” Rædis replied.
“Oh, come on. Don’t be like that. Is it the cat and the frogs business?” Traveler persisted.
Rædis didn’t say anything for a few paces then looked over at his friend with his hands in his pockets as he walked.
“No, it’s not that. I just thought our mission would be...well, more exciting than that. Y’know, more stuff to do.” he said, genuinely disappointed.
Traveler smiled, pausing to light a cigarette. He shielded the match he used from the breeze blowing the cool air with a cupped hand. The flare of the match lit up his brown eyes as he looked at his friend.
“I told you when we first arrived all we needed to do was deliver Priestly’s letter and give him the glass pistol.” he said, exhaling a stream of smoke that mingled with the warmth of his breath as he walked. “We’ve set in motion a chain of events that will ultimately lead to the creation of automobiles in oh, about a hundred years from now.”
“How?” Rædis asked simply.
“Like this: Priestly’s creation of carbonated water goes on to be used in health spas, across Europe. It is put into bottles that spray it out of nozzles that atomize the liquid. Like in a perfume or cologne spray. In about sixty or so years, a man called Drake will discover oil in a place called Pennsylvania near the city where I was born. It will be realized the oil can be refined into a combustible fuel which will power the first motors but not until a way is figured out how to ignite it efficiently enough to burn evenly.
Priestly’s atomizing scent spray nozzles will prove an ideal way to inject the atomized fuel into a smaller version of Wilkenson’s cylinders via a carburetor, which will be ignited by...” he let his sentence hang for Rædis to make the connection.
“Volta’s spark. From the glass gun we just gave him.” Rædis said, finally smiling.
“Exactly. The dudes who put it all together are called Maybach and Benz and they name their creation after one of their daughters. I forget which one but her name was or will be, rather...” Traveler urged Rædis on with a gesture to fill in the name.
“I bet it is Mercedes”. Rædis finished, completing the chain of events, the whole picture now forming in his mind.
“Yep! You’ve got it. The first car. You see Ræ, proper and good time travel isn’t always about saving planets from horrible cataclysms or altering the future of everyone in the pool of time, it’s about gently nudging causality and promoting meaningful and fun change without causing conflicting ripples in the pool of time. It’s a very delicate and difficult thing to do. I’ve spent half my life learning the skills to do it without fucking up how events in the universe play out. Well...without fucking up too much.” he concluded. “So cheer up. We did good work today.” he said cheerily.
They reached the time machine and boarded, taking their usual seats.
“C’mon. Let’s go forward a couple hundred year, procure ourselves some bitchin’ rides and have a race. What do ya say?” Traveler offered.
“Okay.” Rædis conceded. “But I get to pick them.”
“Fair enough, my friend.” Traveler said, clapping Rædis on his shoulder. “Yer on.”
“Why, out of all the people in this chain of events, did you decide to help Volta?” Rædis asked as the time machine’s engines were engaged.
“I like Volta. He’s Italian. He’s got syle.” Traveler smiled. He was extremely pleased with the trip. Normally, he hated traveling to olde tyme eras of his homeworld. Most of the population was ignorant, annoyingly religious and violent. Disease and plagues were rampant. Hygiene was typically an afterthought, at least his standards of hygiene and the vehicles were lame, slow and depended on animal power. This mission, however, would change the vehicle problem at least and he was satisfied with that.
With a job well done, they slipped into the future to enjoy what they had set into motion.
“Shoes on the Danube Promenade”
Jews in Budapest
(doing what they thought best)
stepped on the bank
of the blue Danube.
“Remove your shoes!” —
shot them dead…
60 pair of iron shoes
at river’s bank,
an empty ghost-filled crowd.
after war-torn souls
stepped into Eternity,
leaving their footprints behind.
THE GUNPOWDER PLOT
'It was that gent! Mr.Robert Catesby. He planned it all!'
My dress suffocates me! I really do hate the black tailcoat which itches my body very badly. I feel the ruffles. Well, I need to get accustomed to it now of course. The black hem wraps itself around my slender body. My hands are sweating beneath the white gloves and my hair neatly combed behind. I need to keep an eye everywhere, well, just in case.
The day has come, the big day! For both of us- me and the King himself! I will be proclaimed the minister of King James I. For me and the Catholics, a dream come true and for him- a lasting memory! I could feel eyes peering behind me, doubting my actions. I walk forward, following His Majesty and bow down- respectfully. The hall is brightly lit and decorated. The parliament, where the ceremony was taking place, was filled with world-class delegates. And suddenly, I hear the sound of marching feet. 'It was that gent!' I turn to find a trembling finger pointing towards me. Fawkes! And that's when my destiny, my fate changed~ Forever and ever! And I hold myself responsible!
November 4, 1602
The carriage moves over the rough road. I doze off to slumber. My head nods quietly as my body rocks side to side. My trusted mates sleep by my side- well aware.
The whites- the oppressors. Us Catholics? Well, the oppressed. The red burns on my father's back turns pale- just to show up all over again tomorrow. The lashes go down on his back. The boot thrusts his gut. The eye of the English peers down upon the Catholics. And we suffer. Daily.
The thumping of hooves reminds me of the whips that sucked my father's blood. I inhale the unforgivable stench of pure Catholic Blood in the England air.
"The persecution of Roman Catholics by the English government has to end. In the hope to replace the country’s Protestant government with Catholic leadership, my blood boils.....Our blood boils."
March 6, 1603
"I, King James I introduce to thee my trusted assistant- Robert Catesby!" I hear my name. I see people applauding, cheering. I see people making a toast in my name. I see people- the whites, The English. My blood boils.
The steps down the cellar creaks. I am well aware of the fact that now I hold a big name in the King's heart. Well, this comes with multiple privileges! "Uh, I need to check for documents in the cellar." A well said lie. I open the door of the parliament cellar to find my accomplice surrounding the table, formulating a plan.
"Let's do it on the 7th of the coming June."
"I agree, anyways, 7th is 'perfect number of God' "
"No way! Not so fast!"
I put my hand up and a hush fills the room. Well, what can I say, I like to be in control.
"We do it on a busy day, with hundreds of delegates. We do it on 5th of November 1605. The day when I gain the full trust of the King himself. The day when hundreds of delegates would come together in the Parliament. The day I supposedly become the minister. The celebration is so important that planning has already started. We will make this a success. To the glory of Catholics!"
"To the glory of Catholics!"
November 3, 1605 (T-minus 2 days)
Our beards have grown. The strong framework of ribs can be seen through our emaciated body. We look a little better than stick ourselves- well, everyone but me. I am well-fed by the King's maids and live my life to the fullest. The fact that this will all be over in two days lingers at the back of my mind.
The carts are loaded. The goods have been transported through the secret passageway and into the dark cellar, kept well away from the mice. No men are supposed to light a cigar inside the cellar for two days, well just in case.
I just had a major fright. The second minister, Mr. Carros found me lurking by the cellar. I just smirked and told that some documents had to be retrieved from the cellar. I have not told this to my fellow teammates. I just hope Mr. Carros did not find anything suspicious. I remind myself that All is Well.
November 4, 1605. (T-minus 1 day)
I have not slept a bit. My teammates are snoring away like they have not a care in the world. I pray to Mother Mary for the ripened fruits of success.
The sleepless nights. The empty stomachs. The dry throats and the burning backs with red lash marks. We need Justice! We need Freedom!
"Mr. Catesby! You are needed at the chamber."
This shook me back to reality.
Had they suspected anything?
Oh Mother Mary! This cannot be happening!
A commotion follows.
I move forward, wanting to look behind but stay impotent. I stay aloof, the fear lingering at the back of my mind.
(The soldiers march down the cellar. The door is broken open to reveal six men sleeping soundly, now wide awake.
The mice scurried away as the hands are cuffed uptight. The young man, Fawkes is taken into custody and the goods discovered.
"How many of them?"
"36 barrels of gunpowder sir!"
"Thirty-six! Oh Lord have mercy!")
"Mr. Catesby, we have found six men under the cellar who were planning something big. We have them under our custody. We also found them having thirty-six barrels of gun powder!"
"Thirty-six! Oh Lord have mercy!" I exclaimed. Really, Lord have mercy upon us!
November 6th, 1605 (MISSION FAILED)
"Let the six men be executed for treason and treachery! May no such devils reign over England ever again! Long live the King!"
"Long live the King!"
(The ring of those last words still in my ears)
BREATH IN LIFE
hello, look who's here.
Is it a boy or a girl?
The new wonders of our mini world.
Day One the start of your life
and you don't even remember what it took
for you to take that first breath.
Some took forever, some almost never made it,
but it is never easy for any of us when taking that first breath.
It IS the hardest thing you've ever done and you don't even remember.
Day One without that first breath
there is no day two.
Day One the day we come to earth making our way
taking that first big breath
not knowing what's ahead.
Day One did you take your first breath
under the full moon or rising sun?
Day One The Most Improtant Day,
the day you took your first breath.
and you don't even remember.
That is a shame.
THE MOST IMPORTANT MOMENT OF EVERY LIFE
IS YOUR FIRST BREATH.