I saw Jesus at the bus stop again today.

Paris. (backstreet) 1992
Paris (backstreet) 1992

 

I saw Jesus at the bus stop again today. We met in rehab about ten years ago. We hit it off and kept in touch for a few months when we got out. Then I met a girl and found work across town. He just dropped away. We had plans to rent a house together once. When you have to make a new life you stick together. You realise how alone you are. He wanted a place with a work shed, somewhere he could work timber, maybe up in the hills away from the noise, and old friends and old ways we needed to let go. I agreed, we both liked restoring old wooden furniture and making things. I found him one day in the workshop back at the Centre, we talked for hours about old timber and projects we’d done and ones we wanted to do. Worn out broken men dreaming and healing. He crossed my mind many times but I didn’t know how to reach him. He never owned a phone. We’d made a connection. I knew he was a good man.

I’ve seen him around town now and then over the years. We never talk about the old plans or rehab now. Life moves you on. He asked how I’m getting on and always wants to know all about my boy Jack. I told him I’m not with that girl anymore and we rolled a smoke and sat talking at the bus stop for about a half hour. He explained he was doing it hard. Couldn’t get work, past his prime and nobody needed his skills these days. Back on the drink. I could smell it. I knew his health wasn’t the best. He had a smile as ever and was happy to see me but I sensed his act. I think he was carrying his life in that old rucksack. I offered my tobacco pouch and he reached up to take it reluctantly, his eyes smiled with a wink of humble gratitude. He asked all about my life now and how I was getting on. He said he knew things would be okay for me. Never said much about himself. He’d been in town getting some test results from his doc and bought a few groceries. Said he was going to watch an old western on the TV tonight and we laughed and talked about westerns, and science fiction movies, and tried to remember the names of a few old classics.

His bus arrived five minutes late. It was the one that headed an hour down along the bay to a quiet little backwater where the docks and an old shipyard and salmon cannery once did a good trade. They all closed years ago. There’s a pocket of a few hundred ramshackle tin roof asbestos workers cottages and a pub. The school closed in the eighties. He hollered out the bus door before it closed, “Tell Jack I said hello! Give him my love! You’re a good man!” and the bus pulled away in a blast of burnt diesel.

Rain fell hard on a wet black road as another bus pulled into its place and a gust blew cold grey people suddenly all around me. I doubt he saw my thumbs up and a smile in return as his bus moved off down the lane.

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Aliens & Monsters

littleboys

Will you love me for a while? She scared him a little but he was falling. She knew he was the one and he had kind eyes.

Who ever fails at life? What is success? Why do we invent such categories? Who invented them and for what purpose? This may well be the pertinent question. Follow the patterns and repeat. Seems to be what they do around here when they ‘grow up’.

We’ll need you on deck at 6am sharp, we depend on you. Can you work Saturday? Oh look we’re cutting hourly rates to help the boss he’s got his golf fees due and his wife’s Range Rover Evoque needs a service. Let me repeat, we need to run a tight ship as you know. It’s competitive and it’s all about “Productivity and Innovation!” Or something. It was a great company. They told us at the meetings. Except Penny who moaned like a broken record over coffee at morning breaks and everyone rolled their eyes. “Burnt out old bitch…” Jim offered in the wash room. We laughed. I nodded. Jim had his finger on the pulse at work. She was clearly no good for morale. We need team players here. It’s my boys birthday on Saturday. Fuck.

Your doing alright and you’ll go far here son. Sign this tax form and we’re good to go.

The children had wide innovative mind’s and eyes that looked at wondrous beginnings and saw infinite miracles. But they’ll need a good job. We love those kids. We’re working for them you know! Then they left for work and nobody spoke at that hour. Grab a coffee and go. The child care arrangements were almost perfect. The sports news was what they talked about and the kids got the idea. Facts are facts and Santa ain’t real kid. They never saw their little five-year-olds lonely tears behind her pink bedroom door. She held dolly so tightly and she sobbed gently into her blanket. Sally was always such a happy girl. They took her to MacDonald’s for her birthday. Such a lucky girl. Day care on Monday.

“I want to die.” Heather said flatly and I thought it was a deadpan joke. I had just remarked about the rainy day and she says that. Sat next to me. Wet umbrella folded in her lap. Then she got off at the next bus stop. I still wonder who she was. I call her Heather just so she has a name. She looked about 19 or 20. She seemed lonely. Lost. Never forgotten her. Never saw her again.

Contrary to popular belief, not everything society does is written on tablets of stone as if in some master instruction manual thoughtfully passed down by the gods aeons back. The slavish repetition of pointless and detrimental customs is arguably a form of belief, or faith, in Idiocy. Either that or a form of mass psychopathic dementia. Could all those staunch atheists actually be true believers in the neon God they made? Perhaps ‘God’ has been staring at you from billboards and tempting you with cheap fares and better holidays. Church morphed into the café strip down town and that hip bar on Fridays after work. Well, there were 100 different beers on tap and the music was ok. Happy hour 5 – 7 and the wine was cheap and cheerful. Tony was 30 and had a certain charisma which got her attention about eight months ago. He joked that he was praying for that new role in Marketing and pictured himself in a new Audi A3 Cabriolet Quattro in metallic shiraz. He knew it would impress and he worked the room well. We don’t do religion they told friends at dinner parties smartly trying to sound hip as they headed into middle age. “Only fools believed”, they said and everyone laughed. She believed in Tony and his smile. More Chardonnay Maxine?

Maxine?

Work on suckers and slaves. Pay tax. It’s the law. We care about each of you. It’s department policy. Take a number and wait over there. Next!

Some things have long been written in stone. But you ignore all that it’s not relevant to anything. Ancient what? Those pyramids are amazing we did a package tour in 97 heaps of fun. Experts said something that sounds awesome and somebody sounding important said it on television so it’s true. Gerry at work saw it too and he agreed. “True as a turtles turd!” he says. He’s a funny guy Gerry. History – it’s what you get on the History Channel – plus those kooky Aliens shows. We sponsor a little African boy can’t recall his name. We’re doing South Africa and Egypt at the end of the year. Six weeks. Work will be piled high when I get back oh boy! He smiled then looked pained. He flicked on the plasma just as Brien threw to Ashlee with a witty segue and a twinkle in his eye. Flawless. Polished. Ashlee took the cue with precision and seamlessly launched into the weather report. She was perky and upbeat so he always caught the evening weather report. Hottest June day in Melbourne in recorded history. She had a cute smile which was etched in his imagination.

He and Maxine hadn’t touched in six years.

“I don’t fit into this fucked up world…” Alex whispered to the drab walls as he slammed a hit. It was a clean place for a squat house and the junkies left him alone. There was running water in the back lane. Alex was good at algebra and liked electronics. Built a computer from scratch when he was 15. They said he’d be an electrical engineer once. He hadn’t eaten in two days he thought fleetingly then he pushed the needle into his arm and pressed. Bliss.

He hated that fucking job. He had no choice. The fucking bank and this pissant cyborg petty micro managerial-guru fuck head line manager owned his lily ass. He had wanted to be a fireman when he was seven. Or an international hot air balloon pilot sailing the skies of the world. Being seven was fun. He could picture the gang as he daydreamed from his neat office work cubicle with grey partitions and pinned minutes of the safety meetings. A small framed picture of his boy was pushed haphazardly back behind the computer. They laughed and climbed trees in somebody’s yard and shot at aliens and monsters. Now they needed to create ‘brand energy’ and ‘facilitate visionary synergistic relationships with clients because ‘time is the new currency!’ Fuck. He was becoming more forward thinking with each passing day and couldn’t stop thinking out of the box. He could smash that window and jump it was 15 floors. Freedom. He hated their fucking tin pot buzzwords with every fibre.

The world seemed an enormous mystery that extended well beyond the far edge of the next block where little Sam and his big brother Brett lived and who knows how far it goes! Whoa! Transformers! Cool! They had a little black terrier called Pete and their dad made stupid jokes. Those days felt as if they’d last forever because we felt like we had forever in front of us. Life was one adventure after the next.

Does anything else in this world seek such nonsense? Tigers looking for a promotion. Roses out-bidding the competition. Baboons gazing into space thinking of that perfect getaway.

What should this tell you? Think hard now.

Humans are strange creatures. So stuck. So fearful but so full of their own imagined worldly schemes, schemas and paradigms.

Lost you could say.

Love your children and teach them well. Question authority and find determination in your belly. Put the fire in theirs. You may save their lives. Give them love and hope. Make it unconditional and let them fall. Hearts get forgotten in a world trying to make sense. Be present in moments and laugh lots. Do your best and be gentle with each other.  Strive to be happy.

It’s broken. People are broken. They gloss it up and you’ve got your life to worry about. You can change the world. Oh wait you’re late for work and the house payment is due. You’re treading water and staying afloat can’t be happier they say! Got to pay for that holiday now too. Shit they’re going to cut off the gas on Thursday.

I’ll look cool in these Ray-Bans. Black or tortoise shell? Can we have tacos dad! Need another script the Valium runs out tomorrow. Shit.

I’ll call work they might have extra shifts. Fuck.

They were all in stunned disbelief when they heard the news. Found hanging by his own jeans tied around his neck from the steel rafter in the ceiling of his garage. The old couple next door called the police. A week or two was all they said. The smell had got beyond a joke. Tom was 85 and says he knows the smell of death and that were no rat. His frail wife looks into the space between the trees as clouds drift past like puppies and sky dragons. He was 23 and unemployed someone said. Truth was he hadn’t seen his mum in twelve months. They’d argued about money and who said what in just another family row. He ran out that night nowhere to bed down. Then they didn’t speak. Couldn’t talk to dad wouldn’t know how.

A quiet kid seemed reserved. They didn’t know his name. A month later when they’d worked out who he was it got page 6 with a dozen lines in the town news beside a half page advertisement for a kitchen ideas showroom grand opening sale with never to be repeated crazy prices. Maxine shifted her gaze and noticed the flooring tiles. She paused and for a fleeting moment she imagined her kitchen floor with those gorgeous Italian marble tiles, and that stainless steel induction cook top was to die for. Bliss.  In that moment she  broke and cried in grief and utter despair. The wind blew cold and she cried and shivered as twilight dimmed her lonely kitchen and tomorrow autumn would turn to winter.

He was always a good boy who loved climbing tall trees and shooting aliens and monsters with the gang.

Once when he was 13, he picked a fistful of Mrs Stevens daffodils on the walk home from school and banged on the front door to peeve his poor mother. As she opened that damn door her heart melted as her little boy says I love you mum and he holds out the flowers. He has the face of an angel with those beautiful kind eyes like his father.

He had always loved his mother with all his heart. She’s been putting daffodils on his grave each Wednesday for three years even on rainy winter days. He would be turning 26 in May.

moments

“I’ll miss you when I’m gone”
His words from the previous night had lingered in her soul.
She went upstairs in the morning to check on him and found only an empty bed.
The days were becoming longer now as the seasons slowly moved.
Sunlight kissed her cheek as it slipped in quietly through the curtains.

A Chance Encounter.

(stories from, ‘Tales of The Traveller’)

She didn’t just walk innocently into his life. No, she had surely plotted her move through the preceding months with the determination and precision of a seething terrorist with a vengeance. His mind raced. She would save him but he didn’t know that yet. He’d spent so many weeks alone he wondered if he was going mad. Another living human.

She rolled herself a smoke and a fleeting smile creased her pretty face as she remembers times past and her wet long hair steaks are clinging to her forehead and cheeks.

The Storm had taken all the day to build it’s wrath and it lingered above like it had now decided on this part of the land to punish. It was never like this before, he says to himself trying to recall exactly how perfect the weather once was, and the days when life was gold and his son didn’t die. Some thoughts need to be killed. Pain stabbed his strong lonely frightened heart like it came in on the ice Wind across that dead Ocean.
The Sky darkened down two last feeble tones of grayblack and the chill air whipped at his face as he rolled the car window down. “Hey do you need a lift?” he called to her from the driver’s seat.

She smiled with her eyes to him and nodded affirmative. “yeah sure!” she mouthed from across the street trying to animate her sullen face. Her eyes held life and they held his gaze. she stubbed her smoke on the pavement where she squatted against a wall. She climbed in beside him in his warm car. He drove and started talking about the bad weather to fill the air with something better than silence he hoped. But it was those eyes that were flashing through his mind – and that smile. His brain like a fever now.
Who was she, he wondered. Where did she come from? Why him? Then out of the dark quiet of nowhere she breaks the awkward and useless conversation silence with, “Do you know the road is a dark mystery, but then life was always like that.”

“Life is a fucking hell. What’s the point of even being alive?” he answers reflexively but flatly and without feeling or forethought.

Thunder clouds closed the sky and driving rain hit the windshield. They drove through this night, and then kept on through the next day. They felt at ease together very soon on their journey through the distant lands and forests. Trust was unknown in this place. They followed the narrow coastal road which remained above the new shore toward the Western horizon where no known towns survived into the New Era of Hope and populations were decimated in the End War.

Fierce winds pelted hard rain and the tall dark trees were losing the long fight. The forests withered and smelled of death. The Black Ocean spilled with rage at the shore of sand and rock and the remnants of fishing boats tugged at their moorings at a small wooden jetty only visible at low tide.

The small world obediently followed it’s orbit in the darkness and turned on its axis silently in a dance with the gray scarred Moon to face the Star. There was endless peace in the quiet of the void and all things were as they should be and as they had been throughout all the aeons of the Cosmos, and the Stars had always been witness.

The Forgotten Room

A Short Story for My Son, Jackson

Stillness

Prologue

Have you ever had one of those moments where you walk into a room for a reason, and then when you get there you’ve forgotten why?

Today I was out with my 12-year-old diagnosed autistic son Jackson (or just ‘Jack’ as he prefers). I take an exception to that ‘diagnosis’, but then that’s another story. We had just enjoyed a glorious Spring day in the sun riding our bikes by the river. I had been away for some weeks and only been back in town a week or so. We had some serious father-son catch up time to do – and this was a very special day for us both (in more ways than one).

As often happens, he asked me something profound, apropos to life and death, quite out of the deep blue sky. If ever there was a ‘Jack’, he sure is one straight down the line like an arrow and tall and slim. He will be a heart-breaker that boy, and hopefully a good basketballer.

Now this particular topic is big and important to Jack these past few months: death and going to heaven, or, plainly: mortality.

Actually, it’s just a big topic right there – for us all.

“I’ll be sad when you die Dad.“ he says out of nowhere, as we’re driving home.

I paused and re-focussed my thoughts from whatever was in my head, at that moment. I decided to tell him the following little story I invented as I drove the car.

It’s a “forgotten room” story.

Here is that story, with some slight detail added in the writing of it.

The Story

“Imagine a room” – I begin.

okay Dad, I’m imagining.

Now imagine you have just come through a doorway into that room.

yeah…and?

The room is full of mystery and wonder. There are many things to play with and many things to learn, and so very much to do.

Sounds like fun Dad!

It’s a very, very BIG room – as you soon discover. As you move forward on into the room you make your way around many strange and unfamiliar obstacles. You meet some people as you walk on. Some are your family, some are strangers, some become your friends, and some you may even fall in love with!

Yuck Dad!

Before you know it you are doing everything that the others seem to be doing in the room. Some will tell you things and some will be good and some will be bad. You need to be careful in this room, you soon learn.

Yep, I will be – I’m always a good boy Dad!

Hmm…

Anyhow…listen up boy…

The room seems endless! You realise you’ve been in it for what seems to be a great big long time and you might even think that all that is, and all there ever was, is in this room. But you know there are little twinkling lights up above in that far away darkness, and sometimes you see – the man in the Moon!

Yep, I’ve seen him Dad! Is the moon made of cheese?

No.

Some people in the room even taught you songs and rhymes about these things. You look up at this thing everyone in the room calls “The Sky” – and you wonder endlessly about that.

Yeah I LOVE looking at the sky with you Dad!

You spend sunny days with someone special gazing up watching clouds pass in front of it and you day-dream of far away wonders which fire your imagination. Your heart may suddenly pound faster. You might even want to hold her hand, and find yourself telling her you love her! She will also say with a smile, “I love you too – with all my heart Jack – to the moon and back!”

Yuck! Hey! Mum says that to me! I like that when Mum says it.

But what you don’t realise is that the room isn’t really that big after all – it’s really just a bit of a fancy trick. The room is actually very, very tiny but cram packed with all these wonders and mysteries! Some you will discover and understand. Others will always be hidden. For that is the way of this room.

That’s a bit weird, Dad.

One day, after a while, and as you wander around the room (sometimes aimlessly and a bit lost), you begin to sense with your eyes… something in the far distance. But it seems very dark down that end of the room, a little bit scary even! At first you are very frightened. But you realise by now that it’s the way you have to go. There is no way to go back. From what you can work out, you realise that maybe, just maybe, there is…A DOOR down there!

Wow! Another door! Cool!

But this door is a little different. Though you can’t really even remember the door you came in through now anyhow. It’s a distant memory.

Yeah I forgot about that door already, Dad.

Good.

This door has a small ‘exit’ sign above (just like the ones at school) and you know that this is the way you need to go.

Yep, my teacher told me about that!

The room has been very interesting and you have learned so much in this room.

Faces have come and gone, you’ve been in love and you’ve had your heart-broken. At times you got lost and had no idea where in the room you were and you felt very alone and frightened. Quite an experience you could say!

Whatever, Dad.

Now, you never knew it, but someone has been watching you very closely as you worked your way through this little room. They hoped with all their might that you may make it to the other side of the room and find that other doorway. You have actually been helped a little along the way by this secret one who watches you, and who always cared deeply about you, and who has always loved you unconditionally. You know in your heart that this has been the case. Suddenly everything starts to make sense and you feel drawn to this dark mysterious door that you now do not fear.

Okay Dad if you say so. What’s ‘uncondishilly’?

Tell you after this. Listen up.

You walk on, slower now, you’re a little tired by this time, and you feel that the room has given you all it has to offer. You feel at peace and all your fear is gone completely.

You approach this new door.

You turn and see friends and family and familiar faces back in the darkness. As now you realise that, what at first seemed dark, is now light and the other end from where you came seems dim and dark and far away. You cannot see that door.

You stand now before this new door. Still a little hesitant. But that soon fades and it’s as if someone is lifting your hand to turn the handle – and you are happy to do so. You feel in your heart, want to go through this door.

The door opens!

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT DAD?!”

MAGIC appears! Now you see it! Your eyes are wide and you cannot quite yet understand what you are seeing and for a moment you feel very, very frightened. But soon you feel no fear at all. You begin to shine brightly from inside you.

Light brighter than you have ever experienced in the old room comes washing over you also, and you feel it’s goodness. It’s warm and glowing and you feel your heart fill with the brightest light, love, and happiness.

You feel it deeply within you to your core – deeply in your soul.

You notice that you feel lighter. You go to take a step through the door and you don’t feel your feet but still you move forward. It’s like being in space! Floating now through the door as if some wondrous magic has taken you over. You ARE light.

Wow! Just like an astronaut, Dad!

Yep, just like an astronaut.

As you float now, you feel yourself being almost pulled through the new door, as if into the arms of a loving parent. There is a warmth. It feels safe and you feel no fear. In fact you feel love.- and a little dizzy!

You realise, with a big smile, and to your utter astonishment, that – it IS your parent!

It’s YOU, Dad!

Yep. It is me. I say softly.

I tell you it’s good to see you Jack and how I’ve been waiting for you and how I’ve been watching you in that old room. I tell you it was me guiding you and helping you up when you fell or lost your way. It was me who helped you mend that broken heart – oh but how I wept sometimes as I helped you from here, beyond that old room. Sometimes I laughed too! As I watched you rise and fall and live your life. I watched you dream, and I knew those dreams.

I cried for you when you were frightened and worried, but still I whispered to you and gave you little signs that I was there. My gaze never left you Jack. I tell you that I know how you often wondered at times but were never certain. You smile with a twinkle as you now recognise those moments were just me – your old Dad!

I never left your side my boy – I just got to that other new door a bit sooner than you, and so I had to move on. I am sorry, I tell you, but that is the way.

You hold out your hand to shake mine and I pull you into me, as I always did, to give you a great big Dad Hug, and rough up your hair – and we each feel a wondrous glow inside and such a feeling of pure love surrounds us. It is a truly wonderful moment of essential joy. Everything now is clear. Everything now is pure light.

I tell you that now we will be together forever, and you smile and a I see a tear of happiness. I also shed a momentary tear – of utter joy.

We each turn, and stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder. Father beside son.

I cannot help but notice how your shoulder is a little higher than mine. I smile to myself. The old room now just a faded dream, as we walk on together.

You trust me, as I am your father. We step forward. My hand upon your shoulder.

I tell you that it’s all ok and now you are safe and never ever have to worry about those things you experienced in that old room. We will meet up with old friends here in this new place, and even Nan and Pop are here! We shall meet them soon and they are doing so well, I tell you.

What about Mum’s friend Bob? He was nice Dad!

Yep he’s here and happy.

Cool!

What about your friend Cheryl, Dad? I liked her too.

Yep she’s here too my boy, you will meet them all very, very soon. I watch closely over all my friends and guide them also.

From this moment on we will be together forever and throughout eternity. So now you don’t need to worry about losing me ever again. That was just a test you only have to do once.

Awesome! I hate tests Dad!

Me too.

We now have all eternity to explore the wonders of the whole universe! I tell you of some of the amazing things that I have seen, and you look at me with eyes wide in awe. I tell you that this is just the beginning.

Come now Jack, walk with me, Take my hand, I’ll show you.

Our adventure has only just begun.

Forever lays ahead. Together once more. For all eternity!

There are stars all around us and more colours than the rainbow we once knew. Magic and mystery to dazzle us in every direction. This is our destiny Jack. We are filled with light.

We turn to each other and smile, and you shake my hand and say,

Lets go Dad! I love you!

And I too,

Love You My Son.

The End…and…The Beginning…