Necessary Evil

There was a full moon over the cornfield, lightening the night sky to a dark blue. Yet, the trees and houses and fields and valleys all lay in utter blackness. The headlights from two utility trucks pooled together in the center of a cornfield, cutting through the darkness as they met like a handshake. Two shadows fumbled in the cabs of their trucks, getting their equipment ready.
“Hell of a storm last night,” Earl said.
“What?” Henry asked, unable to hear him.
“I said it was a hell of a storm!” Earl said, raising his voice. “Imagine if Farmer Joe-Schmoe here hadn’t already cut his corn. It’d be a goddamn mess. Probably would have lost the Conduit in all of the shit.”
Henry had not heard half of what Earl said, but did afford the field a cursory glance, seeing the jagged remains of cornstalks in the haloed pool of the headlights. He pulled on his thick rubber safety gloves and walked toward Earl. To avoid looking at the Conduit in the pool of light, Henry stared up at the two power poles on either side of the field, barely discernible from the dark knobs rimming the horizon.
“Maybe if we had a stabler source of electricity…” he began to say.
“Don’t start that shit again,” Earl said, pulling on his own pair of safety mitts. His bald head gleamed in the light from his utility truck’s cab. “You know the boss hates hearing that shit.”
“It would not be so unreliable…”
“And I hate hearing it, too,” Earl put in forcefully.
Henry fell silent, helping Earl with the rolls of iron wire as he hauled them out of the truck. A lazy fog curled slowly up from a nearby creek, lounging over the field; glimpsed only where the headlights shone. Moonlight glossed the silver domes of the twin silos near the blackened house, burnishing them just enough to clean them of shadows and separate them from the sea of darkness all around.
The rolls of iron were heavy. Earl grunted, groaned, and let his end of the spool fall to the ground. Henry kept his end lifted, though the sudden imbalance jerked his arms and upper torso toward the ground, stooping him like an old man. He was eighteen years younger than Earl, but a hundred years ahead of him in other ways.
“Goddamn,” Earl swore, “I hate working out here in these bum-fuck boondock hick places. Can’t see shit, and everything smells like shit! And they are so goddamn pissy out here about their power! As if nobody else didn’t lose their power last night! Fuck, I pissed myself because I couldn’t see in the dark when I went to use the bathroom. So it wasn’t exactly paradise for me!”
Henry waited, still holding his end of the spool of iron wire, bent over and hoping that the sudden ache in his shoulder was not a pulled muscle.
“And they should know by now,” Earl went on, “that we get the city’s power back on first, then, eventually, if they are lucky and we feel like it, we get theirs back on. They should be grateful we don’t just let them live in the Dark Ages. Self-sufficient farmers, my ass!”
Henry did not say anything, but Earl gave him an outraged look as if he had.
“And don’t you start with your ‘Solar power and wind power is the solution to all of our problems’,” he said in an unflattering voice that was nowhere near accurate to Henry’s voice. “If we went to those, we would be out of a job!” Earl frowned, considering. “Probably.”
Henry waited patiently until Earl remembered what it was they were doing. With another grunt and groan and grumble, Earl squatted down and lifted up his end of the heavy coil of iron wire. They carried it— huffing and puffing—to the pool of conjoined headlights and set it near the Conduit. Earl squinted at the Conduit, a sour look on his face.
“Goddamn it,” he growled. “This one’s more than half-used up. It will need to be replaced soon, which means we have to come back out here again to stomp through cow shit. Probably in the Winter, by the look of it. Fucking hate this goddamn hick county…”
Henry did not like looking at Conduits, even if he had to install them everyday.
“We’ll have to order another one,” Earl continued, griping. “But for now we gotta use this one.”
The two utility men both knelt down beside the Conduit, the headlights at their back while they worked, readying the wire. Earl grumbled off instructions to Henry, even though Henry had been working for the company for more than two months now and knew the job as well as any of the old-timers. He was sharp to the uptake, even if Earl did not like to admit it.
“Don’t cut the old iron off until we attach the new iron,” Earl said. His wrinkled face was demonized by the headlights.
“I know how to do this,” Henry said, his blue eyes baffled by the white glare of the headlights. He kept his gaze to the side as he worked.
“Ouch!” Earl exclaimed, putting his finger in his mouth. It had been pinched between the iron coils as Henry unwound them. “Pay attention to what you’re doin’, dummy! What the hell’s the matter with you?”
Henry shrugged halfheartedly. “I don’t like to look at Conduits like this one,” he admitted.
Earl was apoplectic with disbelief. “Why the hell not?”
“They look like Cassie,” Henry said. “It just…just bothers me, is all.”
Earl raised his eyes to the heavens, shaking his head. “This Conduit’s a hundred years old. Likely even older! She ain’t some spoiled eight year old brat too mollycoddled by her momma to wipe her own ass. It’s just a goddamn Conduit. Jesus, man, try to be professional.”
Henry sighed heavily, then looked at the Conduit as he worked the wire. They unrolled the coil until they had enough, then cut it with a portable laser torch. Looming above them, the power poles stood tall, the old power line sagging between, snapped in two and laying in the cornfield like wet noodles. After a few moments, Henry sighed again.
“It’s just…it’s just she looks just like a little girl,” he said. “It doesn’t seem right.”
Earl was all utter slack-jawed disbelief.
It is not a little girl,” he said firmly. It is not a she. It is a goddamn fairy. All right? They’re not fucking human. I mean, she’s got goddamn wings. Have you ever seen a human with wings?”
“But they have feelings,” Henry said. “They are alive and sentient.”
“Whoa-ho!” Earl said. “Big word for a repairman to use. Don’t hurt yourself with it, now.”
“They can think, is what I mean,” Henry said. “Look at her! She’s scared!”
“I know what ‘sentient’ means, smart-ass,” Earl shot back. He shook his bald head like a dog breaking a rabbit’s neck. “But I can’t see that she thinks at all. Or that she’s scared. The goddamn breaker helm is covering her glitter-spitter face! Fuck, man, she’s barely alive anyway. She doesn’t even glow no more. Not like those that are used in the movies and shit.”
“I know she’s scared,” Henry said resolutely. He had stopped working the iron wire around the fairy’s willowy body. “I can hear her sobbing. There are tears on her cheeks! Look!”
“That’s dew,” Earl said. “This fucking fog is all clammy as three-day old piss.”
“They can sing songs, you know,” Henry said, rallying. “Beautiful songs, like a choir of children.”
Earl snorted. “Never cared much for songs.”
“But you watch the movies with them. You just said so.”
“Sometimes I do,” Earl said gruffly. “So what? I also masturbate to porn with them in it. Doesn’t mean nothing. Doesn’t mean I want to marry one and let it vote.”
A silence fell between them. The silence subsumed the entire county and its dark neighborhood. In the nearby house, on the other side of the field, the sound of fumbling and cussing could be heard. A flashlight split the darkness in the house, glimpsed through the lightning flash of an illuminated window. A fat face appeared through the pane, and a flash of fire as a candle was lit. The face was porcine and disgruntled, like a beady-eyed boar ready to charge with its teeth gnashing and its tusks aimed to gore. It disappeared into the darkness once again.
“Maybe we should just let it all stay dark,” Henry said. “All of it. Everything. Leave it dark for everyone so we don’t have to do this anymore.”
Earl laughed wryly— humorlessly. “And for little Cassie, too?” he said. “What if she needs surgery? What if she needs to have her appendix out? Use the old ways? No modern tools and anesthetic and all of that shit that saves eighty percent of the population from dying slow, miserable deaths by age forty?”
Henry wavered, not saying anything. He could only stare down at the fairy. He knew the wetness streaming from under the breaker helm was not dew.
“Not to mention,” Earl added with a rogue’s relish, “all those people that would start burning other people at the stake just to stay warm, or to ease their hearts, or just for a single fucking laugh in an otherwise joyless grind of existence. People do fucked up things in the dark when they don’t have electric toys to distract them.”
“It doesn’t have to the Dark Ages,” Henry said. “Just the 1700’s. Or the 1800’s. Before industrialization began to poison the earth…”
Earl rolled his eyes, and continued rolling iron around the fairy. “And how exactly is Farmer Joe-Schmoe over there going to process enough food to feed everybody? It takes a lot of electricity to plant a cob of corn, harvest it, and bring it to precious little Cassie’s belly. Power for grocery stores and trucks and processing plants. Fairies power it all. If they didn’t, we’d have to use Brown people again.” Earl grinned like the Cheshire Cat about to pounce on the White Rabbit. “But that’s a big No-No nowadays. We can’t have Colored people out in the fields, picking cotton. I guess we could use White people to do it. You and me, I mean. Why not? Every color’s been used throughout history. I’m a little biased in favor of the fairies, though, because I wouldn’t make a good slave, myself. I’m too ornery.”
Henry shook his head. “There has to be another way…”
“And Winter’s on its way,” Earl said thoughtfully. “How many people would freeze to death without power? Or die of pneumonia? Lot of lives on your hands, Mr. Crusader.”
Henry could say nothing else. The immensity of the dilemma overwhelmed him. The argument was too big for a single man to grasp, and the problem enormous beyond comprehension. After a few moments, he took up the iron wire and continued binding the fairy. When she squirmed or whimpered, he paused, exchanging glances with Earl— the former distraught, the latter sardonically resolute—and then hurried to entwine her in accordance to OSHA safety standards. After a while, Henry spoke.
“I guess fairies are kind of backwards,” he said. “Like Neanderthals. And they all died out because of it.”
“That’s right,” Earl said with a sly smile. “They’re not even Stone Age. It’s almost a favor to them, really. What would they be doing otherwise? Just playing around like stupid fucking kids forever. Totally meaningless. At least now they’ve got a purpose to their backward lives.”
“Yeah,” Henry said. “It’s…it’s a necessary evil.”
“Not even an evil,” Earl said. “Just necessary.”
The two utility men finished binding the new wire around the Conduit, then cut off the rusted and snapped strands of the old wire. They spread the Conduit’s arms out at its sides, spiraling the new wire there, too, then Henry climbed into the lift on the back on his utility truck and they began to string the new wire—and the fading Conduit— up between the poles. They worked efficiently and had no problems following protocols. Henry was proving himself a very competent utility repairman. Even Earl was impressed.
The sun rose hesitantly above the foggy horizon, as if averting its gaze. Inevitably it spilled its light over the knobs and farms and fields and sins and guilt. Before leaving, Earl and Henry glanced up at their work one final time—the fairy T-posed in the center of the power line—and Henry was reminded of someone. Who it reminded him of, he dared not say.

Sword And Sorcery Politics

Words can be as a sharp sword
grasped by the adept tongue
to cut down many a horde,
yet therein among
are foes defter at the thrust
when they fight you, those skilled
beyond your means, so you must
use truth as your shield
to deflect their subtle lies
and such black magic spells
that can kill heroes, likewise,
when a true tongue fails;
for such warlocks can conjure
phantasms of falsehoods
to overmaster hearts pure,
but lost in the woods.
Such conjurers breathe black smoke
to suffocate swordsmen
till they cannot see, and choke,
lost to dark lords when
they use the truth against you,
their alchemic spellcraft
warping facts until untrue—
a dizzying draught.
All you can do, then, is bow—
bow to truth’s fickle blade
and maybe survive, somehow,
perhaps by the aid
of a good PR wizard
whose power extends
to charisma points, his word
a spell that rescinds
the curse that has unmanned you,
whether from your false foe
or by your own false hand, too,
for he may well know
the coveted counter-curse
to restore your honor
or keep it from getting worse…
Nope, you’re a goner.

Firewater Odyssey

Beware the witch’s hex of corn
that is bane to the Great Spirit—
so dangerous for the Native-born
that they had much cause to fear it.
In rotund bellies of white oak
charred by the cruel kiss of fire
and aged by the neverending spoke
of the seasons, Time’s turning gyre,
the drink doomed them all, by and by,
with its sweet Calypsodic taste—
the firewater spirits fly so high
while Native souls wither and waste.
And how generously it flowed!
Like venom from a spiteful fang
or Lotus nectar from the abode
of the Cyclops, that one-eyed gang
who coveted their fat-flanked sheep
for which hunger ached in each man—
and Natives passed on, as if asleep
beneath both flock and searching hand,
Not all could escape, nor so many
returning to the life they knew,
but were wholly lost, each, when he
drank deep of the forbidden brew.
And what of men driven mad so
to drink that which both drowns and slakes
and leaves parched, a drunken Wendigo
whose walk creates terrible quakes?
Was a cup of Lethe, brimming,
that made shades of the tribes;
their songs forgotten, their minds dimming,
their history gone—all for bribes
which cost them all more than the worth
as the intoxicating pox
of liquor rose in a drowning surf,
like hot blood spilling at peace talks.
All empires have been born of more
than mere bloodshed and death and strife;
to crush a people takes more than war—
kill their culture, their way of life.
Thus, while Odysseus was lost
far from his family and hall,
the Natives paid a heavier cost,
exiled on waves of alcohol.
So whiskey was the siren song
that subsumed the songs of their souls,
calling them to Conquest’s coral throng,
their bones sinking within Time’s shoals.

13 Ways Of Looking At A Hoodie

As embers flaring
amidst midnight shadow,
her baffling freckles flashed
within the black hoodie.

He heard his name called,
his head down, hidden
in his camouflage hoodie—
huddling stubbornly in his
anonymity.

The two figures shouldered their way
through the rain,
black hoods over heads
like monks on pilgrimage
to the drop-off/pick-up point.

The dark depths of the hood
were void of feelings
when hung on the wire hanger
and upon his head.

Their relationship was like a
tight hoodie—
used overmuch, washed overmuch,
and difficult to pull on
for a comfortable fit;
difficult to take off.

For him the hoodie was
his own
hooded headsman—
if worn at night
in a White neighborhood.

His father’s old hoodie
lay upon the floor,
stained and crumpled and empty
of significance.

Homeless and hitchhiking
along the highway
he wondered how life had carried
him so far astray,
like a Greyhound bus
snagging his black hoodie
and dragging him backwards
miles a minute.

How jolly the bulbous belly
beneath the red Santa hoodie—
how menacing the
bearded leer
beneath the hood.

The rainy night hung heavy
upon the clammy earth
like a woolen hoodie
drenched with a cold sweat
as the smoking muzzle
kisses the forehead.

Fall was only half-ready—
a grown man in
swim trunks and beach sandals,
a hoodie reluctantly up top.

The pouch pocket
on the XX-large hoodie
engulfed his small hands
reminding him that the measure
of a man’s size
and size
can be variable.

Ever ironic
and trendy,
the Grim Reaper cloaked his old bones
in a new black hoodie
with understated text that read
“Passing Fad”.

Aphantasia

The mind’s eye asleep
when she is awake,
images hidden deep—
no shapes to make
as she writes stories
in her prolific head;
facts, dialogue, plot trees,
but the visuals dead.
Her mind is a secretary
rummaging among files,
reading them, but nary
letting her sift the piles
to read them for herself
or look down memory lane,
each cabinet and shelf
at the back of her brain,
but under lock and key,
the secretary condescending
and not letting her see
all that is hers, pending;
her memories of faces,
of music, of smells,
of visited places
and vivid details.
She is utterly blind
on the inside,
the forefront of her mind
blank—dark-eyed.
And yet, when sleeping
her mind’s eye wakes,
finally peeping
each dream it makes.
This is alien to me
and the eye in my mind—
I see things so vividly
whatever the kind
of thing I imagine, whether
image or smell or song
or one and all together;
it is not so wrong
as the black screen
inside her head,
the one where each scene
of the reel is misfed
and so fails to show
on the projector,
not even the glow
of a make-see specter,
and yet the reel turns,
every frame intact,
no cigarette burns—
just no connecting tract.
Just the same, she loves books
as much as I do,
even if her internal looks
don’t allow the same view.
While she may not see
the phantasia as well,
she still loves the library
and a well-told tale.

Fire Ritual (For Falon)

Fragrant as fresh cut cedar
in early morning cold
and as waking
with the welcoming spread of your
love,
you baffled yourself with the scents of your
wilderness,
dryad concealed behind civilized
shyness.
You cling to embarrassment like roots
in snowpack-buried soil.
Willfully deceived against your own feral
womanliness,
you flush as flame
when passion flares;
you are a
virgin to the knowledge
that love and shame were never opposed,
but complement in devout trust
like a flame-hearted hearth
redolent of cedar
and made of cold stones
hewn from the icy river.
Fret not for the purple heartwood
as the sacred fire burns between us.
My love, let us
commune in the ashen aftermath,
hot embers alighting upon Winter’s winds.