The House of Flushing

toiletmary

The first fish in our story was named Five. Five died trying to live out of water because Claymore insisted, as a goldfish, he could do it. Five believed and leapt from the water. Goldie tried to stop him, but Five wanted to believe so badly, nothing Goldie said could dissuade the ambitions of the follower. Five flopped for a bit on the tank stand after his leap of faith. After a several minutes Five expired and began bloating.

This all took place in and around a small aquarium, in a small apartment in a large building in a big noisy city. The walls of the apartment, where the fish could see, were dingy gray except in the bathroom where the walls were a soothing green-gray. The toilet sparkled cleanly from where the sunlight streamed in from a small window that wasn’t visible from the tank.

The remaining fish in the aquarium were: Claymore, a beautiful maroon Betta fish, Goldie who shone like the sun, Flipper who had black fins, and Tipper who had a black tipped tail.

Claymore was an intelligently charismatic Betta fish. He loved to coax the unintelligent goldfish that lived with him in the aquarium to believe in silly things. His nemesis, Goldie, a voice of reason, couldn’t be convinced of the nonsense. Goldie never believed anything Claymore said because Claymore was always wrong.

When Five died, Claymore held a meeting.

“Tonight, when the human comes home, we’re going to watch as Five is carried away in holiness. He will be released into the water where he will become baptized as a new fish, then sent to a better place. Behold, the holy fountain filled with rejuvenating water!” Claymore gestured with his fin towards the porcelain stool visible in the bathroom. Hanging above the toilet was a beautiful wall hanging with a human woman wearing a blue robe and pointing to a rose encircled heart on her breast

“I can see it. I believe it. Oh, Claymore, you’re so smart. Will I be sent to the fountain when I become like Five?” inquired Flipper. “I do hope so.”

“Of course, Sister Flipper.” Replied Claymore with false wisdom. “If you follow me, I’ll make sure you get there. The Mother of the Holy Fountain will guide your way if you only believe.”

Tipper, the follower, decided that if Flipper was going to do it, so would he. He wasn’t very good at coming up with ideas of his own anyway. He depended on his friends to show him what was right. If he ever felt like he had an idea, he’d just talk to Claymore or Flipper and they’d set him straight.

But Tipper knew that if he went to Goldie, all that fish would tell him is, “Think for yourself. Don’t be a follower.” Goldie made it impossible to get anything accomplished.

That evening, their human returned to find Five bloated and quite ripe next to the aquarium. Claymore called Tipper and Flipper to the worship service.

“Just as I predicted, our human has discovered the failure of Five to survive his leap of faith.” Stated Claymore in a stage whisper which caused Goldie to burble angrily.

The female human set down her belongings with a frown on her face. She disappeared into one of the rooms that couldn’t be seen, returning with a pair of long slender tongs.

“See how the human won’t taint the body with her flippers? She is using tools…”
“What are tools?” inquired Tipper.

Without allowing the interruption, Claymore continued, “As she carefully lifts Five, watch as she transports him to the holy fountain. Pray with me.” He intoned as the human dropped Five’s body into the commode. “Dear Mother of the Holy Fountain, accept the body of our brother Five. Rejuvenate him into a whole and living flesh.”

The human pushed the holy fountain’s silver button, a whoosh of swirling sound, and Five’s body was carried down the tubes.

“And now, my dear brethren, we wait. In three days, a new living Five will return to us.”

If goldfish could blink, Tipper and Flipper would have been in rapturous prayer. As it was, Tipper blubbed a bit, imitating Flipper. The wait began.

During the period of waiting, Goldie spent a lot of time swimming around, thinking deep thoughts. Like Claymore, Goldie taught himself to read by observing anything the human set near the tank. He could even proudly recite his address, understood there was more than just the aquarium they lived in, and despised Claymore for toying with the others of his kind.

As predicted a new fish showed up on the third day, a fancy-tailed goldfish with white tipped fins and tail. Tipper and Flipper rushed to greet the new Five.

“My name isn’t Five. I’m Gardita,” flounced the newcomer. “Why do you keep calling me that?”

“Because! You returned to us, just like Claymore told us you would, Five.”

“I told you. My name is Gardita, not Five.”

Gardita hid in the plastic plants near the bottom, avoiding contact with the two lunatics. She and Goldie watched as Flipper and Tipper followed Claymore around the aquarium as if he were a God. She watched as two of the others gave up extra shares of food. Claymore grew larger.

The two leaders of the aquarium approached the new fish at the same time.

“My name is Claymore, welcome to our place of holy pilgrimage.” Articulated the Betta-fish. Tipper and Flipper swayed behind him with pure faith seeping from their scales. “I apologize for the ardent fervor which my disciples are enraptured by, but they just saw you resurrect as the new Five.”

“Don’t pay attention to him. Welcome, Gardita.” Interrupted Goldie. “I’m the only sane one around here, it would seem.”

“Why do they keep calling me Five?” probed the pretty new fish. “No matter how many times I tell them.”

“That,” said Claymore as he slapped his flipper over Goldie’s mouth, “is because I showed the way to holiness to my swimming friends.”

Goldie bit Claymore’s fin.

“No, that’s because he lied to them. He told the last fish here, whose name WAS Five, that he could live outside the bowl. He convinced him to jump to his death.”

“No, I showed him the path to righteousness.” Countered Claymore.

“You killed him just because he believed you.”

“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” Disrupted Gardita while swimming between the fighting fish. “Claymore, you killed Five?”

Tipper and Flipper swam in front of the large Betta-fish. “Not at all. He showed Five how to become holy by taking a leap of faith.” Chorused the submissive fish. Claymore merely watched as his two faithful followers described the rousing tale of Five’s glorious death and subsequent resurrection into Gardita.

“But, I’m not Five. I’m Gardita. I was hatched in a giant store among many other fish. I was chosen because I was the prettiest one of all of them as you can tell,” the pretty fish fluttered every so prettily. “I am a girl, not a boy.”

“They can’t hear you. They believe anything that idiot tells them,” urged Goldie. “You’d be best to avoid them.”

“I think you’re right.” Agreed Gardita.

But her promise didn’t last long with Claymore constantly whispering in her ear. She fought valiantly against Tipper and Flipper reassuring her of Claymore’s holy message. Gardita couldn’t take it anymore. She committed to Claymore’s message. She became Five.

Five died trying to live out of water because Claymore insisted, as a goldfish, she could do it. Five believed and leapt from the water. Goldie tried to stop her, but Five wanted to believe so badly, nothing Goldie said could dissuade the ambitions of the follower.

Five flopped for a bit on the tank stand after her leap of faith. After a several minutes Five expired and began bloating. The cycle continued.

 

The Black Hole Swallows

You gave to me the end of forever

The taste was bittersweet

Our humble time no longer together

Our lips can’t ever again meet

The black hole has spoken

It’s taken our life

Just a void that is broken

On the edge of a knife

 

I sing for the afternoon that we met

The sun barely shining, we wept as it set

We crawled in our walking, our first baby steps

While the world spun around us the time

We forgot

To be careful and then

We fell to our deaths, in love

To the end

of us.

Lady Di’s Crown Royale

Your friend for life, Bill

Bill Busing was a well respected man in Oak Ridge, TN. Heck, anywhere he went he was thought highly of because of his chemistry knowledge, his humanitarian efforts, and his advocacy for people with mental health issues. He was a positive ask-anyone-about-him type of fellow. Because of this, I don’t want to tell you about that. I’d like to tell you about my friendship with him.

Each Sunday at ORUUC (Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church), I would seek out and find those that needed hugs. It was my thing. Some people, like my dad, for instance, bring candy to church for the wee ones. I brought hugs in abundance. I hugged the old, the young, the feeble, the in-betweens, but I always sought out Bill. Not because I preferred him above others, but because he was born decades but days from my birthday. I felt a special bond with him that I can’t really explain.

When he didn’t show up for church, I’d miss him something awful. When he gave me his phone number so I wouldn’t worry about him, I felt like I’d been given the golden ticket. It wasn’t long before we decided to go for coffee. He seemed both pleased and genuinely surprised to discover that I really did seek his company.

We arranged and met at Starbucks on the Oak Ridge Turnpike. I got there first and I scored the corner seats with a table in between them. When he arrived he insisted on paying because he bought special fund raising cards from the church and he wanted to make sure they got used. I thought that very philanthropic, he thought it very practical.

Coffee in hand, we sat down in the corner and chatted for nearly two hours. We covered topics such as family, life events, careers (mine far shorter and less stellar than his), marriage and faith. He was not one for easy laughter, even with me. But when he did, it was rich and full-bodied and worth the effort to coax it from him. He was quite serious but not really; more like a human paradox (like we all are).

After that initial meeting, we met frequently at different venues around town. Sometimes we’d go to Panera Bread where he’d bring his close friend Cherie with him. It was always a delight to see the two of them interact because she was far more vibrant than he, but he seemed to find her antics amusing. Our conversations never stayed on one topic for very long. We’d cover a gamut of issues from politics to religion. He never shied away from anything. He was a brave conversationalist in that aspect.

Once, after I’d moved away, I had returned for a visit. After I walked him to his car, I hugged him extra tight, his hunched shoulders seemed to melt as he held me warmly.

“Bill, I’m so glad I got a chance to see you again. I want to make you a promise.”

“Oh, you don’t have to promise me anything. It’s okay.” He rebuffed me gently.

“No, really. I want to promise you that as long as I’m able, I’ll write to you every time I get a letter. I won’t forget you.” I said with earnest and sincerity.

“Oh, I thought you were getting serious on me.” He chuckled. “Then I will promise you the same thing. As long as I’m able, I will write you letters.”

From that day on, a card would arrive about once a week, most commonly bi-weekly. I replied as soon as I got one as did he. His favorite way to write letters was on the inside of various greeting cards. He talked about his daughter, Lesley, and his growing concern for her but also his joy that he could have dinner with her during the week. He told me about his adventures with Miss Cherie and the people he helped along the way.

During a particularly rough patch of grief, I wrote to Bill and lamented my despair. “I’m lost. I just feel like giving up some days. I miss my people. I miss my tribe. I miss my home.” Those aren’t the exact words, but they are close. His reply was gentle.

“Knowing grief is just a part of life. It comes and it goes. There is only one way to deal with it, just keep living. Being sad all the time isn’t going to make it better. You have to live. You have a new place to be with your husband and family. Don’t give up when there is life to live.” (again paraphrased).

At that time, I remember just crying harder because he, and people like him, are the very reason I was grieving in the first place. I held on to that March letter, in essence breaking my promise, pondering the words he’d written. By early April I’d decided he was right and I was not going to give up easily. I wrote him a letter telling him as much. I wrote the letter up and sent it out on Monday the 11th of April. He got the letter on the 12th. He passed on the 14th. No letter returned.

As I sit here on the first of January 2017, I think about how many times I’ve cried about giving up in this past year as I’ve battled a scary bout of depression. Even with people I love cheering me on, how he signed his letters is one of the key elements that keep me going. He really did teach me something better than chemistry.

Your friend for life, Bill.

 

End War

​Will you take me to the river?

Will you take me there today?

Will you wash away the blood?

Will you join with me and pray?
Pray for peace among the suff’ring

Pray for tragedy to end

Pray for their sweet comforting

Pray for love till world’s end.
Will you join me at the river?

Will you meet me there today?

Will you help me cleanse the blood?

Will you meet with me to pray?

Cycle turns

flowergarden

I am an untended garden, riddled with forget-me-nots and weeds

My earth has not been furrowed asunder; tilling life to the topsoil

I have grown fallow, un-supporting of life, but yet, there are some

perennials that cling to a hope of return, of vibrancy dallying

But I can only roll over in my floral nightgown, whimpering in my bed

allowing the blistering son to scorch my once glorious stance

I admit, I’ve become self-watering. I needn’t wait for the gardener

My groans of grief roil the soil, creating bitter roots exposed as lies

Everyone knows that when the earth laughs, people die.

She accepts their bodies back to her world, but I could still breathe

so I am not granted respite from the overabundant fertilizer spewed

over my once lush landscape. But, I will rise, for the weeds can’t hang on

when I forbid grasping of my rooted passion for life. Here she comes

the one that removes the rot with compassionate hands.

Here he comes, the one that scratches that spot in the very middle

She tends to me while singing lightly a childhood song forgotten

He digs deep with his grip, releasing the tainted, blighted plants

She opens the earth to expose me to the warmth of attention

He plants perennial seeds to grow through the coming seasons.

I inhale deeply, knowing that my rebirth will again grow fruitful.

My cycle continues in ample countenance to their loving attention.

I await my own fruition. I will grant only the very best of myself

to create the most beautiful garden I can create. This, is why I weep.

September

Autumn

The glaring green leaves cling to their false lives.

They whisper their imaginary self righteous recital

A breeze offers intimate intonation

the bravest warms considerably, accepting

abandoning the tittering siblings

whom are dressed in last season’s fashions.

Not to be outdone, the sisters join the fray

Out come the plaid jackets and flannel shirts

Apples burst the buckets, turn to mulled cider

Fall squashes, root vegetables, homemade soap

the scent of subtle decay burning in offering pyres

remnants of summers hopes setting in worldy sunset.