Getting The Edge

100 words –

Everyone tries to get the edge sometime.

You know what I mean. The old leg up. Getting over someone. Vying to be the first or last. Cutting in line. Buying a faster car. The competitive edge. Close to the edge of sanity in the pursuit to win.

Edgy behavior transforming into cults is common in our culture. Pulling up to the edge of a cliff thrills as eternity teeters, and you either live or die. There’s myriad ways to get an edge. Not all are deadly.

Just remember the edge is a two-sided sword with no concern for the seeker.

A Paean For Trash

100 words –

What you call trash is another person’s treasure. Be not proud throwaway consumer, for you created trash as surely as Auguste Rodin was a sculptor without peer.

Leftovers have a future when imagination is given free rein. Digging through ancient trash gives us insights into other cultures and what they used on a daily basis. It puts us in touch with the common man who history rudely ignores in favor of kings and queens.

Alley cats fight over scraps of food mingled with trash.

What a tale my trash tells until my wife can stand it no longer, and yells!

Dawn of the Gods

In a time before time was even kept, the gods assembled on earth.

They came from throughout the universe, and galaxies far away. Each a splendid specimen of their race seeking dominion over the man creatures crawling out of caves.

The competition turned to war as the gods fought in the sky and on the earth. Conquering gods rose, and fell, with civilizations. Their otherworldly presence having influenced cultures from many nations.

The gods could be bloody, or benign.

Very few gods are worshipped today. Most have been slain by atheists. The end time draws near for the rest.

Immigrant

I spied a young illegal immigrant lying in the street

badly beat

with bloody feet

asylum dreams crushed into the concrete

with nothing to eat

his goal incomplete

his hopes in full defeat

with nowhere to retreat

he quietly died there in the heat


The Philosopher

It’s time,” his executioner said.

He knew he was paying the price for making prominent Athenian’s look like fools. His supposed crime; not believing in the gods of the state.

His wisdom, once sought after throughout the civilized world, did not save him from his fate.  Justice and the pursuit of goodness led him to this last moment on earth.

He became the purifying remedy for Athens’ misfortunes despite his contributions to the state. The sacrificial goat. But he had the last laugh, eternal fame for his wisdom.  

Drink this,” the executioner offered, handing Socrates the cup of poison hemlock.

The Last Shaolin Monk’s Story

kung_fu_monk_by_tamnguyenk

1928 – A Shaolin Temple in Henan province, China

Jian held his hand over the bullet hole in his side and watched helplessly as the temple’s master, Miao, was hit by a hail of bullets from one of the warlord Shi Yousan’s sons rifle.

In spite of his pain, he used his mastery of kung fu, closing the gap between him and the shooter in one swift move, disarming him. Still moving in the Explosive style of kung fu, he kicked the mans head! He dropped, dead before he hit the ground. Jian ran through the burning temple looking for other survivors. The seven main halls were burning and scattered with the bodies of his fellow monks. Finally, before the smoke could overcome him, he stumbled outside into one of the three gardens the temple was famous for.

May 1, 1928 – London

It was a grand day of celebration, and Detective Edward Blaine was feeling optimistic, a state unusual for the notoriously grumpy senior detective who ran roughshod over Scotland Yard.

Crowds gathered to watch the inauguration of the North Eastern Railway’s Flying Scotsman, a steam-driven express train. It connected the 393 miles between the East Coast Main Line from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh. It was a celebratory crowd that kept growing long after the train steamed away accompanied with well-wishes from all. They slowly drifted apart into the pubs or went home, content that they’d witnessed history.

Detective Blaine day was coming to an end as he casually strolled down a street, when he heard a cry for help! His trained eyes and ears took him to a nearby alley where four thugs were attacking an old man with clubs. Pulling his “Billy Stick” as he ran, Detective Blaine slammed into the group! His ferocity held them off at first while he got some good solid blows in, but their superior numbers began to tell. He took a shot to the side of his head that almost dropped him. Reeling, his vision blurry, and bleeding from the head, it looked like his career was going to end in a stinking alley.

Then there was movement in the corner of his eye and his attackers turned away to  direct their attention to a small Chinese man who moved like a demon and was kicking their asses! In minutes it was over. The thugs were unconscious. Spread about on the cobblestones like broken puppets. The Chinaman came up to Detective Blaine who was slumped against the brick wall and asked, in broken English, if he needed help?

“Blimey! I never seen anything like that. I’ll be fine. I need to check on the old man,” he gruffly replied.

As Blaine kneeled over the man and checked his pulse, he asked the Chinaman his name.

“Jian.”

“That’s it? Jean!”

“Jian,” he corrected him.

“What are you doing this time of night Jean? Most people have gone home or are still in the pubs.”

“I was sleeping over there,” he pointed to some trash cans in a nearby alley, “When I heard a man cry out for help. So, I went to see if I could offer assistance.”

The old man was awake and sitting up with Blaine’s help.

“Are you here illegally?”

“I came here in a ship as a deckhand. I had to leave my country or the warlord Shi Yousan would have taken my head and put it on a pole, along with my dead Shaolin brothers.

Blaine finally thought to blow his whistle. Within minutes, bobbies were swarming the area. He instructed them to take the old man to the hospital and to take down a report. The thugs were hauled off to jail.

When everyone was gone, Blaine thanked Jian again for helping him.

“It’s brass monkeys outside. We can’t have you freezing to death, now can we? Why don’t you grab your belongings and I’ll take you to my flat.

“I wouldn’t want to inconvenience you, sir.” Jian said.

“No problem. I’m a bachelor and live alone. My couch is comfy enough, I warrant. Stop calling me sir. My name is Edward.”

“I have no belongings…Ed..ward,” he said, bowing his head slightly while following the burly detective into the night.

One year later.

Jian lived with a Chinese family in London’s Chinatown, located in the Limehouse area of the East End of London. The entire Chinese population in England set up businesses, houses of worship, and neighborhoods in the area. Chinese sailors often frequented the Docklands (the old river front and docks), looking for prostitutes and opium dens. In this bustling little community Jian found his niche as a teacher of Zen Buddhism. He chose not to pass on his mastery of kung fu to eager students. He did give demonstrations of his power sometimes in an entertainment setting. People came to him however, for his sage advise and knowledge of Zen Buddhism.

Among his many visitors, was detective Blaine who came by often to discuss cases and to just visit with Jian. The two had become unlikely friends. Blaine lived in a very racist world where Chinamen were considered beneath the English race. They were tolerated however, and said to make good servants in fine homes throughout the country. In spite of the stiff societal norms, Blaine respected Jian as a wise man, and warrior. They formed a firm bond over time.

One day Blaine came by to give Jian a warning.

“Listen up, mate. My snitch down at the docks says there’s some blokes looking for you. Chinamen. He’s not sure how many there are. They’re going around the East End asking about where you live. They’re also offering a reward for you dead, or alive.

“They must be warlord Shi Yousan’s men,” he said with a resigned note in his soft voice.

“You’ve mention this warlord before. Why does he want you so badly?

“I killed his son,” he replied.

“How can I help mate? You know you can count on me.

“Many thanks my friend. You honor me. But I will take care of it.

“I owe you a life Jian.

You owe me nothing. If you wish to honor me let me deal with these men. I know they are deadly assassins skilled in martial arts. Few can stand up to these rogue warrior/assassins that I’m sure Shi Yousan has hired. Short of shooting them, you won’t be able to stop them. And you, Ed…ward, don’t even carry a gun.

“I can’t just stand by and let someone threaten you. There must be something I can do. I have a lot of good men who can come running to help no matter where I’m at…and that includes Chinatown.

“Forgive me…this is your country and laws. Perhaps you can keep me informed with your snitch as to where these men may be found. I must warn you, and your men, these assassins who seek me can kill with their fingertips. Their whole body is a weapon. Use numbers if you confront them.”

After Blaine left, Jian went back to his humble room and meditated. When he was done it was dark outside. He blew out the lone lantern in his room, and stealthy entered the night.

He went up and down the alleys where he lived, like a cat seeking it’s prey. The three assassins looked like gray ghosts in the fog. Jian, whose senses were supernaturally keen heard then before he saw them. When they saw him they fanned out without a word, forming a semicircle in front of him. He recognized their golden silk robes with dragons emblazoned upon the back. Shi Yousan’s personal bodyguard.

A stray dog barked, and a cat screeched while streaking across the dirty lane where the four men stood silently looking at one another. Jian wore his orange monk uniform.

“Go away now, and never come back. I don’t want to kill you,” Jian said as he slipped into his fighting stance.

“We will avenge our master!” they cried out and rushed towards Jian.

The ensuing battle was deadly and ended in minutes. Jian was ready for their move and jumped high in the air, coming down with hand chops on two of the men’s necks! Bones cracked! The third attacker kicked Jian’s chest, shattering his ribs! He backed up but didn’t go down despite the severity of his wound. His brain blocked the pain and he wheeled around and caught the third attacker with a kick to his head, shattering his skull. The short but deadly fight did attract attention and soon bobbies came running to the scene.

When Blaine arrived Jian was stretched out on the ground and two ambulance drivers were preparing to load him onto a stretcher.

“Whooo there laddies! Is this man dead, or alive?

Before they could answer Blaine’s question one of the bobbies came over to him.

“He’s barely alive govnur. Those blokes have croaked,” he explained while pointing at the bodies lying nearby with sheets on them.

“I’ll meet you at the hospital,” Blaine shouted out to the ambulance driver.

Eight hours later.

“Doc says your going to live mate!” Blaine said happily when Jian regained consciousness.

Jian tried to rise up in the hospital bed but was too weak and slumped back down.

“Take it easy, me bucko,” Blaine chided him. “You got all the time in the world. The threat is over now.” 

“I wish it were so Ed…ward. But as long as my enemy lives he’ll send men after me. I must disappear to a place where I can live alone, and in peace. Out of sight of others. Is there not countryside like that in England where I could go?”

“Yes, there is somewhere mate. When you heal up I will take you there. It’s not far.”

“May I humbly ask for a favor?” 

“Of course mate! anything!”

“Will you report that four Chinamen died last night?”

“Consider it done.”

In Henan province, peasants still talk about the last Shaolin monk and how someday he may return when the time is right.

As It Stands, this is my humble tribute to the martial arts.

What Happened to ‘Popskull’ Watkins?

3449583706_9022b00836 (3)Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry

Sheriff “Popskull” Watkins was a poster boy for corrupt southern law enforcement in Georgia during the turbulent 60s. His good ‘ol boy charm was only present when he was around Whites. The genial smile disappeared when dealing with Blacks, who in his beady mind, were dumb brutes to be kept in line.

One morning ‘Popskull” whose birth name was Dewey, was driving his official police car down a rough country road when his front right tire blew! He bumped along on the rim for a hundred feet before finally coming to a stop in the middle of the crude dirt road. Because he seldom got any exercise (and ate like a starving black bear), he was overweight and had high blood pressure.

He grudgingly got his girth out of the car, took off his straw Stetson, and wiped a river of sweat from his forehead while looking at the flat tire in utter disgust. He was a long way from town. At least a two-hour drive. There was no way around it. He’d have to change the tire. Something he hadn’t done since he was 17 years-old running moonshine with his cousins. It was during that time he earned the name “Popskull” because he always delivered the best moonshine in the valley, and he could out drink an adult.

As he opened the trunk to get the jack out someone said, “Can I help you, sir?

Surprised, he wheeled around and reached for his gun.

“No need of that. I’m just offering to help you,” the Black man said.

Relaxing, Popskull asked, “What you doing out here boy? No one lives in these parts.”

“Did you bump your head on the steering wheel when the tire went? Sounds like your vision isn’t quite right. I’m, no boy. I’m an adult college professor.

“Don’t you go sassing me now boy! Where did you get that fancy suit?”

“It looks like it’s time to give you an education, Mr. Popskull Watkins. You may call me Professor Lincoln.

Popskull moved angrily towards the professor who took a small device out of his jacket and pressed a button. That was the last thing Popskull remembered before waking up wet on a well-trimmed front yard with sprinklers noisily doing their job. He looked over to the front of the house and saw the professor sitting on a chair and drinking what looked like Long Island tea in a tall thin glass.

He awkwardly got to his feet and looked around. The professor held his glass up and gestured for him to come over. He walked up to the porch and sat down on a chair near the professor who acted like it was perfectly normal for him to be sitting there soaked to the gills.

“I trust you’re okay? The first time someone goes through the transition it can cause disorientation and even a bad headache.

Where the hell am I? What’s going on?”

“Yes…I understand. So many questions, and so little time to answer them all. For now, you’re in the future. It’s January 2008, and the country just elected the first African-American president, Barack Obama.

“African-American? You mean Black? There’s no way this country would let a darkie run it!”

The professor sighed and handed him a copy of Time Magazine, and a current newspaper. Popskull looked at them skeptically, but the professor could see the mounting panic in the corner of his eyes as he looked them over.

“Please, step inside, and I’ll get you something to drink and you can watch the TV.”

Groaning, Popskull stood up and stretched his aching bulk and followed him inside. There were two leather lounge chairs in the living room directly across from a big screen TV. The professor told him to pick one while he got him a cup of coffee. When he returned, Popskull was watching the TV with his mouth open in obvious awe.

Look at the color! It looks real! Is this something I can look forward to getting in the future?”

“That, and much more. I’m glad you know where you are now. There’s more things I want you to see. But drink your coffee right now, and we’ll go to breakfast after this news segment is over. 

When they got out of the professor’s new Cadillac, and walked up to a restaurant, Popskull stopped outside the front door.

“I reckon there’s a side entrance for you.”

The professor opened the front door and a white maitre d’ meet them with smiles. Popskull couldn’t believe his eyes and numbly followed the waiter they were assigned. He suddenly felt terribly out-of-place in his sweaty sheriff’s khaki shirt and pants. He had no idea what happened to his hat. Looking around he could see people of all races dining comfortably. The meal was the best food he’d ever had. When they returned to the professor’s house he was full and relaxed.

“We’ve only got one more day, and there’s still a lot I want to show you. I suggest we go to bed early. You can sleep in the guest room downstairs.”

That night Popskull had nightmares. He saw men in white robes (his fellow Kluxers) hanging a black man from a tree and setting him on fire! They were dancing around the body like devils frolicking in hell. He was glad when morning finally came.

The next day they went to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina. The professor gave him a tour, like the ones he given to many others, and explained how the world changed from 1960. He realized that he was a racist because it was all he knew. He was raised that way. He grew up with stories of his ancestors fighting for the South’s rights. He grew up in a black and white world where there was no respect for people different from him.

When they went back to the professor’s house Popskull was conflicted. He didn’t think he was a bad man. But after seeing the things he did with the professor, he realized he couldn’t keep living a life degrading others, and told the professor that. The professor smiled and pulled out the same device he first saw him with…and pushed the button.

After Popskull changed his front tire he pulled out a sealed mason jar from under the front seat and took a few healthy swigs. His world was turned upside down. When he got back to his office he saw an old black man sitting in a chair in the corner, obviously being ignored by the staff.

He went up to him and asked, “Can I help you…sir?”

That was the day his staff, and folks in town, thought Popskull lost his mind.

As It Stands, awareness of other races history is one way to fight bigotry.