The Third Day 1st Ten Pages

BosnianWar
Vlad was lying in the rubble of a bombed out building amid the chunks of concrete and twisted steel. The buildings look like tattered paper, their facades ripped off and their interiors exposed, furniture still inside and the rooms look strangely like doll houses, blocks of concrete with steel sticking out of them twisted into abstract sculptures of war. Bricks and concrete pour into the streets like frozen streams. All shades of gray, black and whites, war bleeds the color out of life.

Vlad wasn’t trying to blend into the rubble so much as to become part of the rubble. His rifle jutted out in front of him looking like nothing more than an errant piece of pipe. His face was caked in dust, his lips were parched and cracked “Pfft”. He spat out some concrete dust as soundlessly as he could. He lowered his head back to the sights of his rifle. If someone spotted him up here they’d send a patrol to flush him out. He had a vision of an armed militia bursting through the door to the roof, machine guns blazing as Vlad scrambled across the rubble like a wounded spider trying to get away until his body gave out to the invasion of the bullets, and fall dead. The crimson of his blood pooling on the gray-white powdered plaster before soaking in, and absorbed away until it became nothing more than a dark blotch, part of the lifeless color of war. Even worse, he could imagine all someone on the street below had to do was simply aim and fire a rocket launcher toppling what was left of the ravaged building. These scenes played over and over again in his movie mind.

The sky was starting to lighten to a robin‘s eggshell blue, he could hear the twitterings of the first birds of morning, the sound of the birds, the last remnant of when life had been normal. Sarajevo is a beautiful ancient city of traditions, culture and history. It looks like any other European city. A Platz at the city’s center, ancient architecture, balconies lined with plants, the streets, empty at this time of day. Along with that history came rivalries that were long submerged and simmered for generations, and when the lid was thrown off, war came. Vlad saw a mangy looking dog sauntering down the street, stopping occasionally to forage in the rubble, suddenly the peaceful morning is shattered by the first gunfire of the day, the dog’s head snaps up looking in the direction of the gunfire, his ears perked up, at the sound of the next volley of gunfire the dog scampers off.
“Even a dog has sense enough to avoid war.” Vlad thought to himself.
No more of the birds would be heard either that day Vlad knew, leaving not silence, but an eerie emptiness.

This was the third morning he was lying in wait. The third morning without sleep. The third morning without eating. The third morning without a cigarette. The third morning without his wife, his daughter. And the third morning of going over the events that brought him here to kill his best friend, his life had become an act of remembering.

The last argument I had with my wife before I left, we were in our kitchen trying to keep our voices down so our daughter wouldn’t hear us fighting. My wife Kaja, the war and its deprivations had scrubbed her face of make-up down to its sheer beauty, her blond hair cut short, her clothes, once fashionable were worn but assembled for as much style as possible, she looked haggard, but her eyes shone with life and love, her smile brightened my world and my life. She was still beautiful the war hadn’t been able to take that away.
“Why does it have to be you Vlad?” She demanded.
“Because no one else can, no one else knows him like I do. Maybe I’ve been stalking Janus all my life, or maybe providence put me here to study him, someone to know his habits, traits, idiosyncrasies, to be the balance to his counter balance.” What I had said was true, and with each passing day it became more and more true, it seemed I was put next to Janus for a reason. Even from the beginning we were destined to be friends or rivals, we were a little bit of both.

I was thirteen when me and the other members of the national shooting team first heard of Janus. It was a time of great hope in our lives we were training for the Yugoslavian national shooting team. I had been recruited because I was thought to have been one of the best shots in Yugoslavia, but so had the other members the team, it was a great honor for us to be chosen. I was elected captain of the team because I was the best shot on the team, maybe in all of Yugoslavia. We had heard rumors of Janus before we ever met him. He was rumored to be the best shot in his province, and that he never missed.

One day shortly after that, we were out in the woods, our training field carved out of the forest, we were surrounded by lush, verdant trees. We were practicing on the firing line with our targets at the end of a rope and pulley system to deploy and retrieve the human shaped targets from the far end. We were all dressed in the team uniform, navy blue sweat pants with a white polo type shirt with the National emblem over our hearts. We were all shooting as one of the coaches walked down the line.
“Krystof!” He barked at one of my teammates, “aim at what you’re shooting at, don’t point the rifle and hope for the best!” We were of course the best shots in Yugoslavia, so we knew enough this was just a coaching tactic to motivate us. The coaches were all of the same mold, barrel-chested bullies, aggressive and belligerent, some ancient idea it would make men out of us. They acted as if they were drill sergeants and we their recruits. They thought they would tear us down and rebuild us in their image, they parsed out their praise for only what they couldn’t refute, excellence. It was our talent that made us rebels, we mocked and mimicked the coaches when none were around.
“Tomko! You’re not holding your breath as you squeeze the trigger, don’t jerk it!” and as he walked farther down the line I could hear him getting closer, “Ranko! Concentrate on what you’re doing! You can’t bully the bullet into the bullseye!” The coach got to the end of the firing line where I was just as I had finished my shooting and had retrieved my target. He grabbed it from me as I took it off the line and held it up as he looked it over. I could see the light shining through the holes, it was almost perfect only one errant hole outside of the bullseye.
“Vlad! Your shooting is exemplary!” I remember the coach in his overblown tones, “the head coach is right, someday you’ll lead this team to Olympic gold medals. Boy’s come look!” My teammates gathered round and all admired my shooting. It was then the head coach brought Janus out to the practice field.
“Boys! Boys! Settle down,” he said, “I want you to meet the newest member of our team, Janus. Janus is a remarkable marksman and I’m sure will be a leader in our goal to win at the ‘76 Olympics. Vlad as team captain you will make sure Janus is welcomed and acclimated to our team.”
“Yes sir.” The coaches stepped back and there was an awkward moment, he was dressed in a black leather jacket and a white button down shirt with far too wide of a collar, the fashion at the time. In the future the brilliant white shirt and black leather jacket would be a trademark of his, he was already developing his style. Janus saw my practice target.
“Not bad,” he said, looking at the target, “I bet I can shoot better than that.” Ranko being a friend and faithful to the team said, “Vlad is the captain of the team, and the best shot.”
“Are you the captain because you’re the best shot?”
“The team voted me captain.”
“Then it is an honorary title?”
“Let’s see what you can do.” I said, handing him my rifle. As I sent the target down to the far end of the firing line he said, “Your sights are a bit off but I think I can compensate for it.” Then Janus shot and when he pulled back his target, the bull’s eye was in shreds, five shots through the bull’s eye, it was clean; NO other holes.
“You always shoot like that?”
“Always.” There was another awkward silence then he said, “Let’s shoot again!” Because we had nothing else in common we shot, that was how it always ended. I shot well, Janus shot better, perfect.
The light was getting brighter in the morning sky, the sky was a now a robin’s eggshell blue. Soon the hunger would return, but he also knew the hunger would go away. Of more concern was the craving for a cigarette. He hadn’t had one in almost three days now. He hoped today would be the day Janus would return to his sniper’s lair. Vlad didn’t know how much longer he could hold out against the cravings, the elements, the boredom.

Vlad raised his head just enough to see a larger view of his surroundings. His city used to be so beautiful, the birds landing on the streets to pick at some errant morsel of food, the plants that lined the balconies, the architecture of ancient buildings. Now…all smashed, rubble pouring into the streets like a waterfall. Buildings methodically bombed by artillery, then ransacked by militia and burned, left for ruins and sniper’s nests. He hoped Janus hadn’t detected his stalking and changed positions, or he wasn’t now in Janus’ cross hairs at this moment. Vlad lowered his head back down to the sights.

With Janus on the team we became unbeatable, Janus lead us in victory. As the best marksmen on the team we were destined to either be friends or rivals, maybe we became a little too much of both. The memories were like snapshots in his mind that he liked to take out, look at, and remember those times.

One summer I had broken my leg I was laid up in the hospital my leg up in a sling. One afternoon Janus came in carrying a bunch of magazines.
“What happened there, tiger?” He asked, knowing fully how I’d broken my leg.
“What’re you doing here?”
“Visiting a fallen comrade.”
“What about the others? Are they here?”
“No, the coaches wouldn’t let them come, they’re making them practice.”
“Why aren’t you there?”
“I don’t need the practice as much as they do.” And he smiled slyly, I couldn’t tell if the coaches let him come or if he had snuck away.
“We may go back to find them better shots than us.”
“We won’t be gone that long. So, what’re you doing here?”
“Oh, remember when you’re a kid and some kids come back from vacation with casts on, and everybody gathers around signing the cast, I was always jealous and hoped I’d break something so everybody would gather round me and sign my cast.”
“Yeah,”
“I just thought it was time to join them.”
“Looks like you did it a little too well, it‘s laid you up and I‘m the only one here. Is it everything you thought it would be?”
“No, it hurts, I’d trade places back in a minute.”
“Well, you’re lucky you didn’t break an arm or the coaches would be having fits and you’d be off the team.”
“Then you’d have no competition for the number one position.”
“Ahhh, that’s not much of a worry anyway!”
“It isn’t, is it?” I threw one of my pillows at him, and he grabbed it and tossed it back, just goofing around for a minute before I noticed the magazines he’d brought with him. “Are those my computer magazines?”
“Look in the middle, I smuggled you in a Playboy.”
“How’d you get it?” I asked, amazed at such a prize.
“The old man’s a bureaucrat, they get everything, even decadent capitalist literature, so I liberated it from the state for you. So, where’s that pen? I want to be the first to sign that cast.

Over the years we had become best friends vacationing with each others’ families. One summer I went to Janus’ family cabin in the woods. It was a typical wooden hunting lodge, wicker furniture, rustic furnishings, hunting trophy’s on the walls, a fancy wood cabinet filled with rifles, and stairs that went to the upstairs bedrooms, the railings made of tree branches or made to look like them, a big living room table and big overstuffed leather coaches around a sunken living room near the fireplace. Janus’ parent’s were well off.

Janus’ father was older in his late 50’s or early 60’s with gray hair, a neatly trimmed mustache. It was made clear that dinner would be formal, a jacket and tie. When I came downstairs Janus’ father was sitting stiffly at the head of the table, which was set with a white tablecloth, china, crystal goblets. Janus came downstairs wearing his usual white shirt and leather jacket.
“Janus, go back upstairs and into the proper attire for dinner,” his father said, sternly.
“But this is going to be my trademark, so people will remember me after I’m dead.”
“It’s easy to die when you’re young and immortal,” Janus’ father grumbled, “people will remember you for your deeds not your clothes. And as for dying that’s not going to happen any time soon, is it?”
“Probably not.”
“Very good, since we’re in agreement that when you’re at the dinner table you will wear a proper coat and tie like you’re friend here, Mr. Smirtonev knows how to dress for dinner. Please go change.” Janus went back upstairs to change. Janus’ father smiled weakly at me, he seemed embarrassed, “so, Mr. Smirtonev, how do you like being the captain of the shooting team?”
“It is a great honor the others have bestowed upon me.” Which was the stiff formal answer the coaches demanded if I was ever asked the question.
“Good answer, that attitude will take you far in life.” There was an awkward silence both the old man and me didn’t know what else to say, the shooting team was the extent of what we had in common. Janus came back downstairs dressed as his father had decreed, and took his place at the table.
“There that wasn’t so bad was it? Why do we have to go through this every time Janus?” It was a rhetorical question, Janus sat there glumly, his father raised his glass in a toast, Vlad and Janus followed suit, “To my son, the only pleasure he has brought me in life is when he made the Yugoslavian National shooting team.”

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An Artist’s Life and Jim Morrison

Even if Michael Lawrence had never met Jim Morrison a memoir of his would still be interesting. Lawrence’s father was actor Marc Lawrence and Michael met actors such as Errol Flynn and Humphrey Bogart, both of whom were impressed with the younger Lawrence’s drawings. Lawrence spent his formative years in Rome and at a young age decided to be an artist. He packed up his easel and paints and started his career as an artist. In his travels, he attended UCLA and met Jim Morrison. Later he met writer Paul Bowles, and had romantic adventures in Europe as an artist.

Besides being a gifted artist Lawrence is a good writer. He captures your attention right in the beginning with an encounter with Morrison’s parents, and then entrances you with a seque into the past with Morrison meeting Lawrence’s mother and they talked film and philosophy.

“Tripping with Jim Morrison and Other Friends” isn’t strictly chronological jumping around with the speed of a thought in the stream of consciousness. Lawrence has a subtle, elegant writing style. Lawrence is as comfortable on the page as he is with his easel. The hook in “Tripping with Jim Morrison” is of course Jim Morrison, but if you’re interested in art Michael Lawrence is someone you’d love to sit and talk with, and “Tripping with Jim Morrison and Other Friends” is the closest we can get to that conversation.

Tripping with Jim Morrison and Other Friends” is available now on Amazon.

 

The Doors Examiner – The End

This would have been the 7th anniversary of The Doors Examiner. As most of you may know (or maybe some of you don’t). On July 1 AXS entertainment which owned The Examiner closed columns without notice. AXS did invite some writers to come over to write for AXS including me. Upon sending in my first article AXS edited/censored it because it was “a rant”. I decided since there is a lot of controversial issues within The Doors and I didn’t want to be arguing with their editor/censor I thought it best not to pursue providing any content for AXS. Since that time I have been justified in that assessment since I’ve heard from other writers that AXS has interfered with their articles for what seemed to be trivial matters. Since mid July I’ve been considering whether to carry on writing Doors related material, people have very kindly been messaging and emailing me telling me how much they enjoyed my articles and looked forward to them. Taking all things into consideration over this short sabbatical I’ve decided The Doors Examiner has run its course and to pursue more of my creative writing projects.

I started writing The Doors Examiner because a woman knew I was a writer and she had started writing for The Examiner and thought I could write a Doors Examiner. I was sure that they would have had someone writing about The Doors already but I thought maybe if I sent in a writing sample and they liked it I could at least find another subject to write about. A couple days after sending in the writing sample I got an email from The Examiner saying they liked the writing and that they did need someone to write about The Doors. I took the assignment not knowing how long it would last. As a matter of fact I thought it wouldn’t last very long because The Doors hadn’t been an active band in close to 40 years. I thought that I would write some Doors history articles and it wouldn’t go much further. To my amazement about six months after starting The Doors Examiner The Doors started releasing CD’s and DVD’s on a fairly consistent basis so I had new material to write about. I also ventured into different areas of The Doors experience that I hadn’t seen before offering some of my own ideas on the band.

In the almost seven years of The Doors Examiner’s life the column went from subscriptions of me and my sister to over a couple of thousand, and with about 600 other writers writing on music subjects The Doors Examiner grew to be in the top 10 most widely read music columns and for the last year The Doors Examiner was a top 5 read column.

I want to thank all The Doors’ fans for their support over the years for reading, subscribing and telling your friends about The Doors Examiner. I’ve had a lot of fun writing the articles and learned some things about the band I never knew and probably never would have known if it weren’t for writing the articles.

I’ve been a Doors fan since around 1978 or so and I’m sure I will be the rest of my life and with the 50th anniversary of the release of The Doors first album coming up there are sure to be some cool things coming out (Robby Krieger said so!). I’m sure I’ll have an opinion and I’ll write about those things as they come up. One thing that is coming up is the release of Michael Lawerence’s excellent book “Tripping with Jim Morrison and Other Friends” which will be released September 5, and I’ll write a proper review of it closer to its release date but if you want to preorder it you can at Amazon.

Because I’m no longer writing The Doors Examiner doesn’t mean I’ll no longer be writing. I have a few writing projects I’m working on at the moment that include a memoir on the band Hunger! and a novel I’ve gotten into a rough draft. You’ll be hearing from me again. I’ve been exploring a crowding funding site called Patreon that I’ll be sharing with everyone once that is all set up. If you would like to keep up with my writing you can visit the Jymsbooks page on Facebook, I also have a blog on WordPress Jymwrites that I’ll be improving and adding more content as soon as the electrons line up in the correct order. You can also keep up with blogs and books at my Amazon Authors Page. I hope you will follow me as I delve deeper into the creative works I know I have in me and that you will read and enjoy them as much as you have with my writing The Doors Examiner.

The Third Day Excerpt: Confronting Janus

An excerpt from my novel in progress The Third Day. This is a tension filled scene in which the two main characters confront each other.

After seeing Janus at Ranko’s funeral I went straight to my workshop in the store, I took off my suit coat, loosened the tie and rolled up the sleeves of the dress shirt. I hooked up the battered hard drive we had found at the house Janus had told Ranko he was living at. The dirty and dented hard drive had been sitting on my workbench for a couple of days, I hooked it up and made some adjustments and suddenly it lit to life spewing out directories onto the monitor the neon green glow illuminating the surrounding darkness. I went through file after file that Janus had thought deleted or destroyed and found lists of safe houses and names of people who supported his effort, payments made to him in large sums. I had everything I needed to find Janus and stop him. Next to the hard drive was the book of matches Ranko and I had found in the ruins of Janus’ house, the Club LAMERIKA, Ranko had said that’s where all the war profiteers hung out. I had to give Janus the same chance he had given me I owed it to my friend.

It was easy to find the Club “LAMERIKA, I walked into the club and the first thing that hit you was a wall of sound, a throbbing emanating from the darkness. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness there were POPS of reds, greens, and blues from Christmas tree lights blinking on and off. I could see people dancing on a cleared section of the club, others standing around a bar and around the walls of the club, booths, and in one sat Janus wearing his white shirt and leather jacket surrounded by beautiful women. I walked over to the booth.
“Vlad! My old friend! you look terrible.” He was obviously drunk.
“It’s raining out.”
“What’re you doing here?”
“Looking for you.”
“How did you know where to find me?”
“I didn’t, I was told that people who profit from the war come here to celebrate.”
“We aren’t celebrating, we’re trying to forget the death of an old friend and the war for a few hours.”
“I know you’re the sniper.” Janus looked at me cooly while he sipped his drink.
“What sniper?”
“The sniper everyone is talking about. The sniper that can shoot great distances. The sniper whose gun has such a unique report that the victim hears the shot that kills him.”
“What does that have to do with me?”
“None of that sounds like a champion marksman with a Mauzer awarded to him by Tito himself?”
“I know what you think of me Vlad, as some kind of predator. But it seems like you’re the one stalking me, who’s the predator here? The sniper could be any of us, all of us on the team have those guns.”
“I’ve accounted for all the guns except one, where’s your gun?”
“Where’s yours?”
“At my store.”
“I haven’t seen mine in years, the last time I saw it was at my father’s cabin.”
“It’s not there, I was there with Ranko when he was killed.”
“The cabin has been abandoned for years anyone could have taken it from there. Anyway, you shouldn’t have been there.”
“You suddenly seem to have a lot of money to celebrate while others suffer.”
“It’s what’s left of what little my father left me as an inheritance.”
“I’m just here to warn you, you warned me, I’m returning the favor, to give you a chance to leave.”
“Leave?” He looked around feigning shock.
“Leave the country, I’ll help you, otherwise…”
“Otherwise what?”
“I’ll have to stop you.”
“I doubt it.”
“You’ve courted death your whole life, but you can’t live with that knowledge, you’ve lived your whole life in fear of it, and what has it brought you? Has it made you any wiser than others? It hasn’t brought you any peace, just violence and death, you’ve always been hunted, more haunted than hunted.”
Janus smiled at me, “your arguments have gotten better over time, but then you went to college.”
“You had the same opportunities as me, maybe more, you were the hero of the Olympics.”
“So, you’re going to kill me, is that it?” I stared at him coldly, hoping to see my friend in the eyes of this person I no longer knew. “You told me before this war began that I haven’t learned compassion, if you kill me or try to murder me, where has your compassion gone?”
“It’s still there, it’s there for the innocent people that you gun down in the streets, the people who can’t escape your sights. And it’s there for the boy who was my friend that I’m trying to save.”
“Better to save yourself.”
“When we try to save someone it’s not the body we’re trying to save, it’s the person, the mind, the individual, that unique perspective on the world that makes each of us special, important, and Janus was important, important to me, important to the world.” This enraged him.
“Innocent?! Who is innocent? No one I tell you, and that boy you knew is dead and I killed him.”
“You’re not the boy I knew.”
“Has it occurred to you I could just kill you here?” He pulled out a gun from under the table, pointing it at me. He looked at me, I think he was hoping it would scare me. “You’re right a lot of people here are from a darker side of the war, they’re my friends, I could kill you and they would help me take your body out and throw it in the street, another victim of the war.”
“That’s not part of the game for you, you can’t kill anything or anyone face to face, you like your killing impersonal, abstract, safe, a target down range.”
“I’m not going to kill you,” he said, putting the gun down on the table, “not because you’re right, but because I’m right about you, you’ll never do it, if you could do it, you would have done it already.”

The Third Day Excerpt: The Rabbit

The next morning I came down the stairs, Janus was sitting on the coach in the living room smoking a cigarette, I had one of my computer magazines with me.
“Where’s your father?” I asked.
“He left early this morning, he didn’t even say goodbye.”
“It’s really cool that your parents let us stay at their cabin.”
“Yeah, my father is a very giving man. You really read those magazines?” He asked nodding towards the computer magazine.
“What do you think I do with them?”
“I thought maybe you just used them to make people think you’re smarter than you really are, or to carry around those centerfolds in decadent American magazines.”
“The only decadent American magazine I ever had was the one you gave me when I broke my leg.”
“So, why computers?”
“Computers are machines of the future, we’ll be able to run everything with them, we’ll have access to information and whoever knows how to run them will have the most power.”
“What about shooting?”
“No, guns are machines of the past, gunpowder, gases, grease and bolt action, straight from the 19th century, they’re history. Just like the old men with old ideas you talked about last night.”
“We’ll always need guns, they’ll probably even have them with your computers in them.”
“No, I don‘t think a computer will ever be that small.” Obviously my prescience wasn’t present that day.

Janus put out his cigarette and went over to the gun cabinet, as he fished around on the top of the cabinet looking for the key he said, “I’m going hunting, want to come along?”
“No,” I said, “I’ll stay here and read my magazine, maybe look for that centerfold.” Janus took a rifle out of the cabinet, found some shells for the gun, and in the bottom drawer pulled out a silver flask, shook it to see if anything was in it, opened it and drank what was left in it, and then went over to the bar to fill it.
“You want any?” He asked.
“No thanks.”
“I’ll be back in a few hours, and if you’re really interested in finding that centerfold they’re in the bottom drawer of the gun cabinet.” He said, with that sly smile of his.

Later that afternoon, I was sitting on the front porch of the cabin reading and smoking, enjoying the afternoon. The cabin was really out in the woods, there was no road to speak of just two worn tire tracks in the dirt. It was early fall there was just a little chill in the breeze, the trees were all burnt with gold and red, the grasses brown, and the woods only about a hundred feet from the stone and wood cabin. When Janus came back, walking up the dirt path towards the cabin holding up two pheasants by their limp necks, he smiled and yelled, “dinner!”
“How did you catch so many?” I asked, as he walked up the stone steps of the porch.
“The smart hunter let’s his come to him. You should hunt, you’ll enjoy it walking around in the fresh air.”
“And kill living things.”
“Come on, we have to kill to live, we’re both marksmen, man is a predator, we have the right to hunt, we’re at the top of the food chain.”
“Who say’s we’re at the top of the food chain?”
“No other creatures hunt us.”
“But it’s not on equal terms, you go out into the woods with a rifle and a scope, and your prey doesn’t even see you. Maybe if you approached nature on its own terms. If you went out into the wild with only a knife or a spear, on natures own terms then you’d discover who is at the top of the food chain.”
“You mean like hanging from a tree limb in a loincloth with a knife clenched between my teeth.”
“Come on be serious,” I said.
“You should hunt, you’ll enjoy it.”
“I don’t like to kill.”
“What do you shoot for?”
“For the art of it, the sport, as a challenge.”
“The sport of it is hunting.”
“It’s something I do well, I like being the best.”
“I’m the best.” Janus chided, laughing, “besides, I do not expect the hunted to understand the hunter. Everything kills, it is the natural order of things, there is no innocence.”
“Animals kill for survival, to eat, to protect their young, to live, only man kills for sport, and once you justify the killing of one creature, no matter how small and insignificant, you can justify the killing of any other creature. It‘s an illusion.”
“What’s the illusion?”
“Your imagined power over life and death.”
“What are you a bleeding heart? Janus looked towards the woods and saw a rabbit hoping along the tree line, “here, watch.” He pointed his rifle at the rabbit, he shot in front of the animal. Panicked it turned and ran in the opposite direction. Janus jerked the rifle fast and shot in front of the rabbit again, the bullet kicking up dirt right in front of the rabbit’s nose. The animal froze in fear not knowing where it’s attacker was.
“Jesus, leave the poor creature alone.” I said, Janus tired of playing with the animal, he took his time sighting it, and with one fluid stroke of a finger ended the rabbit’s life.
“I’ll make a hunter of you yet.” He left the rabbit where it died. Thereafter Janus and I agreed to disagree. Although, thinking back maybe it was a trait I shouldn’t have tolerated in a friend. Maybe it would have made a difference, maybe it wouldn’t have. But that’s not the way kids think. I was his friend and that’s all I understood. Over the years Janus and I would debate it many times over, neither of us conceding or conceiving an argument to convert the other.

The Third Day Excerpt: Meeting Kaja

It had been four years since we’d won the Olympics and I had grown up, I walked with more confidence in my stride as I lived the life of a college student registering for classes, living in a dorm room, attending classes, working on computers, talking with my peers none of whom knew who I was, the anonymity gave me freedom. I had managed to get through almost all four years of University until the day a reporter for the student newspaper discovered me. I was totally unprepared when one day a man came running up to me and said, “you’re Vlad Smirtonev, aren’t you?” But I guess it would have happened sooner or later and I was fatalistic about it. I admitted it right away.
“Yes, I am.”
“The Olympic shooting team captain?”
“Yes, and who are you?” and then he started talking fast making his pitch.
“I’m with the school newspaper, and I was wondering if I could do an interview with you? And maybe we could take a couple of pictures for the article too?”
“I don’t think so, I left that behind a long time ago.”
“It wasn’t all that long ago, and people would really like to know that a national hero goes to the school.” I hesitated, maybe it was my vanity and the reporter sensing my indecision pushed his advantage.
“Look, the photographer is right over there, and we can take the pictures right now.” He waved over to someone on the sidewalk behind us to come over. I turned and I saw her for the first time, Kaja the woman who would become my wife. She was beautiful, a round face with long blond hair cascading down her back, a camera around her neck and her hair falling around it, she walked over smiling, her face shone in the sunlight, or maybe the light emanated from her. The reporter kept talking as I watched her approach us, “and then go to a coffee shop and do the interview before your next class.”
“How do you know…” My thought trailed off, distracted.
“I looked up your schedule. What year are you?”
“This is my last year.”
“How have you managed to remain anonymous?”
“I didn’t want anybody to know so I didn’t talk about it. I just wanted to be like everyone else here.” When she walked up I asked, “you’re the photographer?”
Her answer was a simple, “yes.”
“This is Kaja.” The reporter said, knowing he had me.
“Well…, I guess I could talk to you.”
“Great!” The reporter said, “let’s do the pictures.” He stepped out of the way and I smiled at Kaja as she aimed the camera and with the bright flashes of light the pictures were taken and the memory of the interview washed out of my mind.

Then coincidence, or synchronicity or plain fate intervened. That same night I went to a party, the house was jammed with people. I was off talking in the living room with a group of my friends, when from across the room I saw Kaja come in the front door. She was dressed in a white peasant blouse and black jeans. I kept my eye on her as she talked with her friends until finally she was off by herself and I could pry myself away from my friends.
“It looks like we were destined to meet again,” I said.
“Or to meet,” she giggled. Looking into her gray eyes I could see forever. I could see the future, our future. Her smile was the sun and brightened the room, and for the first time in my life I was filled with hope for the future. “You’re the gun enthusiast, right?”
“Well, it was a little more than that,” I said.
“I know, I’m just teasing a little. Mikal is a big fan and when he found out you were at the school, he made it his mission in life to hunt you down. So, you were on the Olympic shooting team?”
“I was the captain of the team.”
“Does that mean you’re the best?”
“One of the best. Not many people in the world can shoot better than me.”
“What made you so good?”
“A lot of natural ability, good hand eye coordination, and a father who was glad I was good at any sport.”
“Do you still shoot?”
“I thought I did the interview this afternoon?”
“Well, you didn’t answer the question.”
“No, I put that part of my life away after the Olympics. I thought it was time to do something else with my life, it was something I was good at, but not my life.”
“So at the risk of asking a clichéd question, what’s you major?”
“Computers, they’re the future, and I want to be part of the future.”
“And you couldn’t be, in shooting?”
“I guess I could be a coach, but it’s a lot of politics and I had six years of politics and politicians on the national team.”
“What’re you going to do after graduation? Design computers?”
“No, I don’t think I’m smart enough for that I guess I used all my natural ability on shooting, but I’m good with my hands so I can fix them, maybe have a shop and sell them.”
“When are you going to open your shop?”
“After graduation, for my services to the state I got a scholarship for University and a small stipend to get me started in life.”
“You gave better answers to me than to Mikal.”
“I didn’t want to talk to him, I only agreed to the interview when I saw you.” She smiled, she was clearly impressed and flattered by what I had said.
“What about you?” I asked, “are you going to be a photographer?”
“Sure!” She said, confidently, “Kaja Valorc girl photographer! Sounds like it comes straight out of a comic book.” We both laughed at the joke, as only two people can who are sharing a private joke and a private language that lovers speak in, “it’s maybe not as ambitious as you, but I could see myself working on a magazine or newspaper.”

We spent the rest of the night talking to only each other looking into each others’ eyes. As the night progressed slowly the crowd thinned out, and we sat on the couch in the living room, talking and holding hands until we were the only two left. About two or three in the morning the hostess came in, she wasn’t angry she only smiled tiredly at us.
“Kaja, I’m going to bed if you two leave, can you lock the door on the way out?”
“Sure,” Kaja said, “we’re only going to stay a little longer anyway.”
“Or you can stay the night.” She turned out the light in the other room, and we were bathed in a soft light and everything that followed seemed to be happening in a gauzy impressionistic film, like in the movies. We talked until we couldn’t talk anymore, and we stretched out on the couch holding hands until we fell asleep. The next morning we awoke on the couch still holding hands. It was the most beautiful night of my life. As we awoke I noticed that her makeup had worn off and for a brief moment I was taken aback, not all looks are classical, Greek in symmetry or precision, parts of her face, taken out of context she might not be pretty but as a whole she had context. but the moment passed and I saw the true beauty in her. In that moment you also catch a glimpse of yourself reacting to our superficial ideas of beauty, but you quickly forgive yourself when you let these superficiality’s wash away and you see her and the underlying beauty that is there, and the makeup was only magnifying the beauty that is always there. I could see myself waking up to her every morning. The night seemed to take us out of ourselves, out of time, we became immortal, at least for a little while. Later when I told her of this feeling she said, “it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” Although I hadn’t known her very long, and we hadn’t had much of a chance to talk of many things I felt comfortable with her like I’d known her and about her for a very long time.

Words to the Ether

Words to the Ether

I

I wanted to give you the world you want.
I gave you words & worlds
To believe.
You returned those gifts
w/ gilded ignorance.

There is no faith
For the faithless.

II
I grew up in an ideal world,
I played in the grass,
The tree’s
& the streets.
I looked to the stars
& dreamed
Of the world to come.
I was brought magic.
This Eden was childhood
I want to return to that Eden,
But I can’t.

III
I was brought magic
By the words
Of my ancestors
& it changed me forever.
You know their names
Carved in your mind
Waiting for me to join them.