User:MathPoet/People Of Good Character
People Of Good Character
Mildred drove a bus and chain-smoked. She never said hello or goodbye to any of the passengers, only "exact change, please". Having quit drugs and alcohol six years prior, she was more bored than anything else, being ready for her up and coming retirement. She was counting the days - thirteen days left. Her brother was waiting for her to arrive in Florida. The house was sold, lock, stock and barrel, and she couldn't wait to be on the plane, heading south for the winter, and for good.
Her brother was a piece of work. He was in recovery from alcoholism, drugs, cigarettes, codependency, clutter, debt, depression, gay self-denial, marriage, Catholicism and anxiety. Other than that, he was normal. Perhaps because of that, he was normal. He couldn't work because he spent all his time in, coming or going from, meetings. He was thirty-six and lived alone. His schizophrenic twin brother lived next door, but they didn't talk. He couldn't be supportive of someone who thought he heard the voice of God. He hadn't been recovering from Catholicism for very long. His name was Bill and his "ill" brother's name was Bob. Curiously, Bob apparently had nothing wrong with him except his mental illness. Bob was not "in the rooms" for anything. He was, on the contrary, quite well-adjusted.
Surprisingly, Bob was a militant atheist, which is to say that he believed that God didn't exist, even though he heard a voice that he knew was the voice of God. He tried not to believe, but found himself asking for advice and taking the suggestions of the voice that answered. Sometimes he found himself arguing out loud with himself over the non-existence of God. After all, he had a definition of God derived from the dictionary and his experience with various religions. He was held back from certain certainties, so to speak, but sometimes couldn't argue against his own experience. He was torn between his idea of God and his experience of God. He thought that to endorse his experience meant madness. And yet, the voice often offered sound advice. He spent a lot of his time writing in his journal and reading things in the hopes of striking a balance between his ideas and his experiences. And he collected guns.
So. Fourteen days later, and Mildred arrived at Bill's house. Bill answered the door and looked out into the bright morning at Mildred. Just then, Bob came running up to them from next door.
He blurted, "Hello Mildred, hello Bill. No it isn't, yes it is. I'm not talking to you, yes you are. You don't exist, no, you don't exist. STOP IT!" Bob finally looked at them both and said, "Do you have a cup of sugar? I'm having coffee and I need some to last me until I can get to the store."
Mildred and Bill looked at each other.
Mildred said to the wild-haired man who'd run up to them, "You must be Bob, and you're Bill."
Neither of the men said anything.
The genius known as Harry was anything but magical. So he wasn't a pagan. He was simply really smart, which is to say that his mind worked in many directions at once. Appropriately, he never shaved and had allowed his hair to grow very long. In some photographs, he would be mistaken for a terrorist. But the truth was, he wouldn't hurt anyone, perhaps not even to save himself. He was the only child of two only children and they knew how to raise him well. He had no complaints about them.
His father had been wrongly convicted of killing his employer and it had taken more than a year for him to be exonerated. He was never the same again. The thing was that no matter how engaged he became with his wife and son, there was a haunted look in his eyes. As I said, he was never quite right again.
His mother worked in clay. She had a pottery studio in her basement where she made all sorts of sculpture and helped Harry to do so as well. She was interested in "organic" shapes whereas Harry was interested in "slab" constructions - geometrics and other objects requiring the assembly of pieces. They understood each other's work, but remained true to their own calling. This was something both she and her husband attempted to inculcate into Harry. He should follow his own calling. So, Harry became a genius, quite by self-defense.
The thing about being a genius is not getting caught. You must read several books at the same time, in case you're ever caught with nothing to do. Harry had a type of restlessness. He couldn't be quiet for very long. He always wanted to be entertained. He dabbled in mathematics for a long time, but found some difficulties with accepting terms like "infinity" and "uncountable". And he found that he was an unpopular genius, for there were very few who wanted to discuss these things with him.
He made his living writing software for a certain company. At least they left him alone there. He was actually quite good at software design. However, he hadn't very many friends. In fact, he only had two. One was a friend who lived nearby and also designed software, and the other was a friend on the internet named, "BrotherOfBill". The latter was quickly shortened to "Bob". Harry knew that Bob had his problems, but he wasn't overbearing or overly intrusive, and they had long chats when there were gaps between jobs. The friend who lived nearby was a little more aloof, but they met occasionally for coffee at a nearby coffeehouse and discussed philosophy and mathematics. As for being a genius, he decided he might as well be thankful. After all, he could have become a poet.
There was a mediocre poet named Ed. Sounds almost like the start of a limerick, doesn't it? He went to school for a long time, and did a lot of drinking and stuff, and carried around a small tablet of paper and multiple pens. He wrote for many years, but never got better than "mediocre". Perhaps this was because of using quotation marks and placing the punctuation outside of them. He found a literary home on the internet where he met Bob and Harry.
At this point, I would introduce Tom and Dick, to go with Harry, but I know a Tom and a Dick, so they are strictly out of bounds. Awww.... But take heart, all of you, we still have Bill and Bob (not BillyBob), and a Harry genius.
Feed me another dragon.
Today, I'll tell only the truth,
But give me another chance.
I would have just fed my son to the monster.
But I hadn't a son or a monster.
Let me go again
Among the wilds in the rain.
The world is intruding into my mind.
There is a foot print
Where some god walked through
And seemed not to notice me.
I breathe, you breathe.
We have that in common.
Tell me if any of my stories can help.
They are grave and lively,
As if I had a right to wisdom.
Finally, it was a storm, not a god,
And it took everything.
My home, my wife,
My safety and my sanity.
And somehow I had to manage
With only one more line to write.
This story was not about the painfully shy writer but he made an appearance, nonetheless. He understood about recovery, and insanity, though he never got the hang of either one very well.
His randomness was unapproachable. But no matter how he tried, he couldn't lift the mask of shyness from his face. Nor could he write all the time, since he was so obsessed with what other people thought. It was always about that. He'd been trained from a very young age to find what others thought - never did he trust himself. It was ironic that he was so terribly shy since he almost never wrote just for himself. Until now. His name was Phillip.
One of his problems was that he believed in God. The other one was that he didn't believe in the Devil. Most people could agree upon what God was, but few could agree upon a definition for the Devil, thus making it a far more slippery entity.
He tended to write very short chapters. This was his key in creating his stories. He'd skip from character to character, letting the thing generate itself. He was only along for the ride. And a wild ride it was. He eventually realized that he'd found his niche and settled into story after story. When someone suggested that it was time to share his work with others, he became very agitated and filed his stories away for someone else to find.
He lived a long life, never publishing anything, and died alone and unknown, sitting in front of his computer.
So Mildred got Bob a cup of sugar for Bob so that he would go away. After Bill calmed down, they both went into his house and relaxed in the air conditioning. Bill had a lighter in his hand, for no particular reason. He kept lighting it and letting it go out, which made Mildred very nervous.
Bill said that he had to go to a meeting. Mildred almost asked for more information, thought better of it, and remained silent, watching him leave.
When he was gone, she made her way next door and knocked. Bob opened the door and then turned abruptly, going back into the kitchen to fetch Mildred a cup of coffee. She followed him in and took a seat at the modest kitchen table.
Bob returned quickly with a cup of coffee. "Sugar?" he asked.
When she said no, he swore to himself. "I deliberately borrowed the sugar for you! I take it black, myself. Oh, well."
Mildred took a sip of her coffee and thought what to say next. After a moment, she said, more to herself than anything, but out loud nonetheless, "So this is the big brother no one would talk about." She smiled.
Bob grunted, then said, "What did they say about me?"
"That you're crazy and dangerous, especially when you haven't been taking your medication."
"I always take my meds. It's not right that they should accuse me of that. And, by the way, I was only openly vicious as a child. Today, I wouldn't hurt anyone, at least not on accident."
It just so happened that all these people ended up in the same small town, Ravine, Florida, which had one coffee house, one bar, and one bank - population 16,542. All of our characters loved coffee and the coffee house was equipped for the web. Oddly enough, they never ran into each other. You know how personable people can be when they are having coffee.
Our man Harry found a way to create explosives out of toothpaste and went online to offer his discovery to the highest bidder. This was not very intelligent on his part, as his computer was being monitored by the government. They came the next day to arrest him, but he wasn't there when they arrived. He was hiding in plain sight on a computer in the coffee house, wondering what to do. How could he have been so stupid?
He emailed his friend Bob and asked him if he had any ideas. Bob surprised him by suggesting that he come stay with him until he could make other arrangements. It turned out that Bob lived just up the street and he had an extra bedroom.
When Harry got there, he hesitated to knock on the door, but finally did. When Bob came to the door, Harry sized him up - greasy hair, wrinkled clothes, looking like he hadn't slept in days.
Bob sized Harry up as well - hippie hair, but plaid shirt, with horn-rimmed glasses - a neo-nerd. And young! How could he be so young? Bob invited him in.
A woman was seated at the kitchen table. She waited for Bob to introduce her to the newcomer.
When that didn't happen, she offered, "My name is Mildred."
"Harry," and he extended his hand to her.
"Coffee?" asked Bob.
"Of course," Harry replied.
"How do you take it?"
"Black. No sugar."
"Damn," said Bob, and he turned away to go fetch the coffee for his friend.
The painfully shy writer named Phillip that this story is not about watched from across the street as the woman left Bill's house and went over to Bob's and then the hairy young man who came later. He was enjoying the day mainly because he was thoroughly stoned. In fact, he didn't know how to do anything without smoking weed. He had his notebook on hand, but couldn't think of anything to write.
When two neatly dressed Mormons approached him, he said hello to them but quickly turned to his notebook, sensing the birth of a new story. He began writing furiously and so ignored the two young men. He was totally into what he was writing and completely zoned out. There was this short story that happened.
Section Nine (Plus A Little)
There was this little demon that wanted to go to heaven. It saw the angels flying overhead and longed for wings of its own. So it asked Satan what it had to do to go to heaven. Satan said it had to give up something that wasn't its and take something it'd never owned. The little demon was puzzled and could not think what the riddle meant.
So it prayed to God, explaining that it needed help to understand what Satan had said. An angel appeared on its left shoulder and whispered into its ear that he had to forget about solving the riddle and do the one thing that only it could do for itself, in fact the only thing left for it to do. After some time, a thought came and the little demon realized that the idea was, in fact, the answer to the riddle! Of course in hindsight it was obvious but the little demon still thought it was wonderful! It went all around hell, telling others of the revelation until Satan himself grew tired of hearing it and cast it out of hell.
Being free, it chose to approach heaven. But as it passed the world, ascending, it decided to ask God if there was something it could do to help. The angel on its left shoulder told it that it could appear in the world on the right shoulder of every person. For every one, it would pose the same riddle until each person understood the lesson and began practicing the it. This was not to mention that doing so would keep the guardian angels from becoming too cocky.
The demon has a riddle and the angel has an answer. Somewhere between the riddle and the answer is your life. Listen hard.
We come to the part about the monk, Brother Ignoble, or Iggy for short. Now his problem was that of having a rather difficult dark side. He was always in his mind tearing the heads off of babies and strangling women and stabbing men, and stuff like that. These things tortured him a great deal, as he thought that if he imagined such things, then he would do them as well. Further, he was afraid of telling anyone, for fear of what they might think of him.
Iggy was unsure why he had such visions, and wondered how God felt about the whole situation. Apparently, God had no comment. Now at first, there was nothing he could do but pray. But gradually, he came to entrust the visions to a journal he called "Dreams of a Lesser Man" which he kept tucked away under the mattress of his little cot in his private cell.
Over the years, he found that a lot of the content was repetitive and in fact had nothing to do with the people he "saw" but more particularly patterns of violence, until the whole thing became a series of reruns, much like a psychotic "Let's Kill The Beaver" in which "the Beav" gets killed and resurrected several times on his way to school each morning.
There was no escape, but reality came to resemble the only true model of sanity - the commercial - and Brother Iggy eventually left his order to found the "Brotherhood Of The Ninety Second Salvation" who's only requirement was that each member memorize a different commercial every morning and spend the afternoon chanting the jingle or motto under their breaths while sitting on stuffed cushions rocking back and forth until they began to drool on themselves, at which point he hit them with a stick and asked them produce a haiku involving a weapon. Nothing much came of it, except that Iggy amassed a huge collection of a new sub-genre called "Killer Haiku."
All this made Iggy feel quite at home until one of the brothers found his little journal, which by now was in its seventh notebook, and accused him of bad form. He left the monastery in disgrace but decided that he was better off in retail, anyway. He eventually wrote a screenplay that consisted of one hundred twenty-seven minutes of gratuitous violence and death, with children singing in the background, "Ring Around The Roses." It was made into a computer game that looped so there was no escape, which satisfied a large portion of idiots in the general population.
Wake up. Wake up. You will sing the following song forever.
"Medications are being handed out in the Atrium. Please come for your medications." He looked up at the grating where the voice came from. It was a bodiless voice. It was God's voice. He was home.