An excerpt from Mind Dust, a short story from Fog Banks In Time available on Amazon Books or by linking to the Book Store above.
Frank Hamlin had been a Seattle cop for nearly twenty years, counting his five years in a patrol car before moving to the homicide unit. He had received several commendations for solving seemingly unsolvable murders over the years and had a reputation for an uncanny ability to see evidence that no one else could spot.
Only Frank knew how he did this, and it wasn’t always that appreciated by his peers or his superiors. In fact, it had nearly cost him his job and his freedom.
It had all started the last month before he moved up to detective. A call came across the radio about a shooting at a convenience store just a few blocks from where he was patrolling. He turned on the lights and siren and responded.
When he got to the store, a young man, no older than eighteen, was bleeding out on the sidewalk in front of the building. Several people were around him trying to help, some trying to give first aid, and most paralyzed with fear.
Frank quickly surveyed the area for any sign of the shooter. Satisfied that there was no danger to him or the civilians, he called it in, “I’ve got a white male down, a possible gunshot victim.” Frank always thought that was funny, saying “possible” when the victim was lying there with a hole in their body, but he understood you assumed nothing until the team got there.
“We’ve got an AID car on the way, along with backup.”
Frank moved to where the boy lay. “Hang in there, son. The Medics are on their way.”
One of the people kneeling near the body held a compress on the wound and told Frank she was a nurse from Harborview Hospital. The victim was obviously in shock.
“Can you tell me anything about who shot you?”
The victim looked at Frank, but it was clear he wasn’t seeing who he was talking to, or perhaps anything at that point. There was a gurgling sound in the boy’s chest, a sound somewhere between a grunt and a groan. The body convulsed, his eyes lost their luster, and the young boy died.
Frank told everyone to stay put until the SPD could take any information they had about the shooting, then asked the store clerk if they had a towel or something to cover the body.
Frank placed the towel over the boy’s face. As he did so, his hand brushed the boy’s cheek. Something flashed in Frank’s mind. It was so quick that Frank wasn’t sure what it was, thinking that perhaps it was static electricity.
Read the full story in Fog Banks In Time
Note: This book is in rewrite, but still available on Amazon
Everything is evolving. Stars are exploding and imploding like kernels of popcorn in a giant pot of hot oil. Planets and galaxies disintegrate, and the debris from these massive detonations coalesces into new planets. Entire solar systems and galaxies are devouring one another like a hotdog eating contest at the state fair. And, human spirituality is and has been changing as well.
In the beginning, 4.5 billion years ago, according to current science, our earth was a cauldron of liquefied rock, boiling oceans, and what must have been devastating earthquakes and unimaginable atmospheric events. And, if we don’t address the causes of climate change, we may get the chance to experience some of that turbulence in the future.
Notwithstanding the continuing earthquakes that thrust the continental plates against each other, and the mighty volcanoes spewing layers of flowing lava and ash to blanket the earth as it creates fresh territory, our planet is relatively quiet. Typhoons, monsoons, tornadoes, and tsunamis change the course of rivers and wash away the land and almost everything in their path, but compared to our fiery beginnings, it’s not so bad.
All of this is the essence of evolution. Everything in motion, planets, atoms, and human ideas bumping into each other, setting off a chain reaction of both physical and psychological changes.
Whether you believe that a God, or multiple gods were responsible for creation or not, it seems obvious that the first edition of that God’s work was far from perfect, and what might someday be the finished product will most likely be the return of our planet to the cosmic dust whence we came.
Will another planet that supports life be formed here or in another solar system or galaxy and our history begin all over? Who knows? Maybe it has already happened. They tell us that whatever may happen to our solar system is still billions of years into the future, but it will come.
Like our universe and our world, religion has also evolved, and like our earth and the universe, often violently over the course of human history. And it is this evolution of religion that I find both fascinating and distressing. It is bewildering in the way it seems to play out, and it is that evolution about which I’m going to share some history I have researched, as well as my thoughts on the topic.
Warning! If you are devoutly religious, or even casually so, and if the questioning of the various teachings to which you subscribe, be they Christian, Islam, Jewish or any other practiced belief, or the idea of someone challenging the existence of God will cause you to go into an uncontrollable rage and send you in search of high-powered automatic weapons, then I strongly suggest you read no further.
This is an excerpt from one of the short stories in the Fog Banks collection.
Donald Little sat with his back against the shady side of a stone wall, the remnants of what had been a small Iraqi business in Fallujah before being reduced to a pile of rubble.
The heat from the sun beating down on the other side of the wall leaked through the stone, making him feel like he was sitting in front of a blast furnace. He had no way of knowing what kind of business it might have been or what had happened to the owner, and frankly, he didn’t give a shit. He was hot, miserable, and after six months in Iraq, he wanted to go home to the Reservation in the Pacific Northwest.
He graduated from the Lummi Nation High School, if you could call it graduation, but far from the honor roll. He had played basketball for the Black Hawks, but mostly he kept to himself and was an average student.
He worked a couple of crappy jobs flipping burgers in nearby Bellingham after getting out of high school, but that sucked. There were no other job prospects besides working at the Silver Reef Hotel & Casino. He couldn’t imagine the idea of waiting on all these rich white people. The white people probably didn’t think they were rich, but they sure as hell were by Indian standards. He decided maybe the military would be an option. If nothing else, he might get in some schooling that would help him when he got out. So he had joined the Marines two years after leaving high school.
The military was, and probably would still be, an option after Iraq, but he didn’t know what a hellhole Iraq could be. He was on a couple of lists to get in a school to learn a trade, but that was all he knew. When they told him he was being sent to Iraq after basic training, he thought it was fantastic; he’d get to put all those war skills to use.
Well, he was right about the training part, but cool didn’t happen. Not only was it not cool climatically, it also was not cool in terms of an assignment; gathering up body parts in a plastic bag is not very cool and probably not a skill that would serve him in civilian life.
His full name was Donald Little Squirrel. His people were from the Lummi Nation in the far reaches of the Pacific Northwest, near the Canadian border where, for centuries, they had fished salmon, harvested shellfish, and gathered berries and other edibles in the forests.
Two Humvees rolled past on the street in front of him, covering him with even more of the fucking dust in this shit-hole that seemed to envelop and penetrate everything, finding every crevice in your body. God, he hated this place. Back home, it rained a lot, but at least it was cool and green. He used to curse the rain and dampness, but he would never do that again.
His platoon sergeant popped around the end of the wall as Little watched a scorpion creep across the dirt a short distance away like a Marine doing the belly-crawl. He hated those little bastards, too, but his instincts were to respect all that nature put in his path. You had to put your socks over your boot tops when you went to bed at night to keep the little fuckers from crawling inside and then stinging you the next morning when you put your foot in your boot; there were no scorpions in good old rainy Washington.
“Hey, Little, any news from your secret Indian shaman or whatever? Will we be okay if we go in and clear that building?”
Donald looked at Sergeant Daft as he pointed to a two-story structure about fifty yards away. It was hard not to laugh at his name, but Daft seemed to take that in stride. He was a huge, muscular man who could break most men in half but took the ribbing about his name in stride. Everyone assumed that after spending some part of his childhood fighting every kid that teased him about his name, he just accepted the chuckles and bullshit when people first heard it spoken. Little knew how he felt about being bullied over his name.
“My sources tell me it’s okay, Sarge.”
“Good. I’ll take Parnell’s squad in and verify it’s clear of any Muj. You stay here with your squad and watch for snipers.”
“Okay, Sarge.” As hot and miserable as it was, staying outside was better than wandering into buildings with little or no light and with a hundred hiding places for people who wanted to kill you and drag your sorry ass through the streets of Iraq.
His source that the Sarge didn’t know he was joking about was an Iraqi Pied Crow, or Mesopotamia Crow, or a Raven as Little thought of him. Of course, he had told no one he was listening to an Iraqi Pied Crow. They would Section-eight his ass out on the next chopper, with him flying higher on anti-psychotic drugs than the air-jockey lifting him out of there.
Here's a favorite story from the book, and because our Seattle Mariners are on the cusp of making the playoffs for the first time in twenty years, it seems apropos. Al was a guy I worked with in San Diego and one of the most remarkable people I've ever known.
At Cubic Corporation, I met a man who would become one of my best friends for several years. His name was Al Backlund, and he was one of the most remarkable men I've ever met. I think Al was in his forties when we met, and I was in my mid-to-late 20s. He was a scheduler in the planning office at Cubic. He had a great sense of humor and always had a big smile for everyone. Al liked his beer, and we became beer-drinking buddies.
When Al was a small boy, about six, I think, he and his older sister were on their way to the store; doing a little math, this was probably somewhere in the 1930s. His sister was pulling him in a wagon when an out-of-control car jumped the curb and struck both of them.
Al's sister was thrown across the street, breaking both of her legs. Al's right side was wedged between the bumper and the radiator of the old car. The woman driving the car panicked and dragged Al under the car for about a block, breaking nearly every bone on the left side of his body.
Al spent the better part of the next twelve years in and out of Shriner's hospitals, getting numerous operations to repair the damage to his body. When they were finished, Al had at least one steel plate in his head, he was blind in the left eye, two or three fingers on his left hand were stiff, and both his knee and ankle on the left side were pinned in such a way that they wouldn't flex. The fact that he survived in those days with that much damage is miraculous.
Most of us would probably have curled up and waited to die rather than go through all that. Al Backlund didn't; he was about a seven handicap golfer, carried an average in the upper 170's in bowling, and loved to play volleyball at the company picnics, not to mention heading off into the brush with some good looking woman from the front offices.
Al also had the best memory for baseball trivia I have ever encountered. He was a baseball fanatic. During his many years in the hospital, he read, listened to, slept, watched, ate, and breathed baseball. You could ask him who won the National League batting championship in 1948, and he would not only tell you who it was, he would give you the average, the RBIs, strikeouts, and walks. He had a great baseball mind.
My favorite baseball story about Al was in 1969, the year the Mets won it all. I think I made about three hundred dollars in baseball pools that year and $50 from Al. As I said, Al was a baseball pro and a walking baseball encyclopedia, and he was also a big Baltimore Oriole fan.
Like most people, I was tickled with the underdog Mets getting into the World Series. If I mentioned the Mets to Al, he would go ballistic. "They don't even belong on the same fucking field with the Orioles," he would bellow.
The Orioles won the first game of the Series, and Al and I were having a beer after work. I mentioned the game, and Al went bonkers. I couldn't help chiding him a little and suggested that the Mets were going to win the whole thing. Al was so mad at that comment that he was spitting on me when he talked. The madder he got, the cockier I became. I finally declared," Not only are the Mets going to win, but they are going to sweep the next four games and win it in five."
That was more than Al could handle. He was hot, beet-red in the face, hot. He couldn't get his wallet out fast enough as he spat, "Bullshit! I have $50 that says the Mets can't win, let alone sweep the next four games! Those bums don't even belong on the same field as the Orioles."
I wouldn't let up. "I would hate to take your money, Al." and pushed the money back toward him.
I think Al came as close to knocking me on my ass as he ever had since we had been friends. I think he would have tolerated me berating his mother easier than making that kind of statement about his Orioles. The bet was on.
If you know baseball history, you know that the Mets did sweep the next four games and took the Series in five games. I don't think Al ever forgave me for calling that one right; I know he never forgave the Orioles. I’d been totally talking out of my ass about the Mets.
I tried to refuse the money, telling him I was full of crap, that I was just shooting off my mouth, but Al insisted on paying. He said a bet was a bet, and he always paid his bets. I felt terrible for Al because his Orioles had betrayed him; it was like being jilted by a lover for him. He was right, the Orioles were the best team and should have won walking away, but the Mets had hitched a ride on a shooting star that year. Like they say, "On any given day…".
Next to the Ellis' was another house owned by a woman we'll call "The Crazy Lady." I use this term as an endearment, not disrespect, as you will see by this story. I'll call her Crazy for short. If I ever knew her proper name, I have long since forgotten it.
Crazy was mentally challenged; even we young boys understood she was special. She had built a "space ship" in a wooden shed behind her house. This thing was little more than a piano crate, perhaps six feet high, five feet wide, and eight feet long, and full of things that should have been in a landfill. But to us, it was the nearest thing we had ever seen to a spacecraft other than on TV.
Crazy had painted jar lids and various everyday household items to simulate gauges and dials in a spaceship. She had star charts and a spring-loaded lever that struck a large, five-gallon metal can with a stick, simulating lift off with a loud and vibrating bang.
She had hats that looked like something you see on employees of a fast-food-burger operation today; you had to wear those hats to board the spaceship. And Ms. Crazy carefully monitored the entrance to the spacecraft. There was a door at ground level, used, I suspect, for moving equipment into and out of the spaceship. That was locked, and you entered by climbing a ladder up the side of the shack, dropping through a hatch in the roof, then climbing down another ladder to get inside.
Once inside, the space was cramped, even for little guys. But surrounded by gauges and dials, star maps, and the healthy imaginations of young boys and one moderately retarded adult, you could swear you were rocketing through space. Crazy never let more than about three boys at a time in the spaceship, and only if she was there to make sure we messed with nothing. She padlocked the ship when she wasn't there.
I recall adults at the Home warning us not to go there. I think they knew Crazy was a little daft and were probably afraid to have her around young children.
Now that I'm an adult, I have seen and know the irrational fear that swells in us adults when we meet someone radically different from what we have so arrogantly determined to be the norm for behavior in our society. And, while there is some basis for this fear, I suspect statistics would support my theory that a great deal more harm has been visited on children by their parents and so-called normal adults than has ever been wrought by those folks born with fewer synapse connections than the rest of us, or maybe they are more visionary.
I’m sure that by now Crazy has moved on to whatever reward her simple mind envisioned after death, and somehow I think her vision was probably more fun than most of us hold for ourselves. What I know is that Crazy never harmed me or anyone that I knew. Quite the contrary, she understood the need for young minds to imagine and experiment with what might one day be possible. She brought countless boys hours of fun, and looking at what we've accomplished with space travel in the last fifty years; Crazy may have been more of a visionary than anyone realized.
This is the first of a series of excerpts from Almost An Orphan for my readers;
My father was Clarence Edward Davis, born in Malvern, Iowa. He was 36 years old at my birth, and they listed his occupation as "civil service employee." I don't know his date of birth. That's something else I hope to get from my brothers. I don't have complete names for his parents, but they were Grandpa Jack (I'm sure his given name was John) and my Grandma Minnie, with whom I lived for a couple of years before going into the Boy's Home.
I know almost nothing of my father’s life. I only remember seeing him once on my fourth birthday. He came to wish me a happy birthday at Grandma’s (his mother), and I remember him picking me up and holding me in the air. I also think he gave me a little stuffed chicken. The chicken was my most prized possession, probably because he gave it to me. I never heard from him or saw him again. He undoubtedly has died at this point; if he were alive, he’d be about 90 years old, and I would have heard something.
2020: My father would now be about 115 years old today; if he was still alive, I’d have heard about him at that age. 2020
I am almost sure that my mother was born in Omaha, Nebraska. She must have been born in 1905 since they listed her age as thirty-seven on my birth certificate. Her birthday was September 6, and I've had trouble locating a birth certificate. She hoped that Tracy, my daughter and firstborn, would be born on her birthday, but she missed it by two days.
Several years ago, I tried to get a copy of my mother's birth certificate. The Douglas County Health Department in Nebraska said they couldn't find one. That was my first and a relatively weak attempt at tracing my family history. That task takes a great deal of time and a good plan. I didn't have either, so the effort petered out. I plan to pursue that again when I retire.
I lived at home with Mom and Dad for a couple of years after I was born, based on the stories I've been told. The stories also revealed that my brothers had fun with me; I'm not sure that a baby brother wasn't more of a toy than anything else.
I remember one story where they said Mom had walked to a local market to get some groceries. Bill and Bob wanted to play on the roof, but Mom had charged them with looking after me. After what I presume was a full thirty-second debate, they took me up on the roof with them. I might have been a year old at the most. So up to the rooftop I went.
While they played on the roof, they kept a lookout for Mom coming back from the store. When they saw her, Bill, maybe eleven and as the oldest, scampered down the trellis to the ground, and Bob leaned over the roof edge, holding me at arm's length, and dropped me to Bill on the ground. This process worked just fine (fortunately), but they didn't have the nerve to tell Mom about it until many years later.
Memory is a strange phenomenon. I have some pretty clear memories of events in my early life, but faces fade with time. A short distance from where we are at this point in my story, I will talk about Grandma, a man named Duck and, a neighbor called Ada. I cannot bring up an image of their faces, either. As much as I loved Grandma and Duck, I can't clearly remember their faces.
Suddenly, one day my brother Bill wasn't around anymore. I don't remember any discussion of where he had gone, and I don't remember asking where he was. He was just gone.
One day Bob was no longer at Grandma's. Again there was no explanation that I remember — he simply disappeared. Suddenly, it was just Duck, Grandma, and me. I guess I adjusted to that because I don't recall any trauma; the trauma would come later.
This little man came into the house and started talking to Grandma; I didn't like him from the start. Small, bald, and with a mean look about him, he spelled trouble. He sat in my rocking chair by the window. It was where I used to sit, pretending to take pictures with an old broken camera. He sat there cleaning his nails with a pocket knife as he talked to Grandma.
I couldn't hear most of the conversation and didn't understand what I could hear, but at some point, Grandma told me I was going with this man. I panicked. I didn't want to go anywhere with this evil man, and he had to get me into the car forcibly. I was being kidnapped!
I was crying harder than I had ever cried. I didn't know what was going on, but I knew I didn't like what was happening. I looked back at Grandma as we drove away, unaware that I would never see her alive again.