Tag Archives: Short Story

The Elita Theorem

[a short story by  Sha’Tara]
(Inspired, in part, by Isaac Asimov’s “Prelude to Foundation)

 Ansar and Elita were what you would call lovers.  Ansar was a member of the galactic arch-council located at that time on the pivotal world they called Juno.  Elita was mathematician and social historian at the famed university of Urtank, in the central high mountains of Sector T-41 of planet Quatl-Iln.  The following is a time-captured record of a brief exchange that took place in those long ago days after Elita worked out a program from a theory that stated that “time” was primarily a recording device in which could be read both past and future events.  The sharper the “reader” the more accurate would the reading of the sought events be.  It is all old hat now, as they say, but in the years prior to mankind’s initial scattering from his original galaxy (circa year 22,000 old reckoning) this was considered very naïve and pseudo-scientific.  But let’s hear what they were saying…

“We have a past, you know, Ansar.  A real past, which to this day society insists on dubbing a myth.  I’ll be brief.  We originated on one world only and you’ve heard that “myth” before, I’m sure.  You don’t buy it, but I do.  And then I don’t.”

“Make some sense, Elita.  Don’t speak to me in your usual riddles.  Either you do, or you don’t.  You can’t have it both ways.”

“No riddle.  Just simple fact which I can have “both ways” as you so eloquently put.  Our world of origin in the preserved language was called earth.  There mankind evolved, so it was thought, and taught, and from there he spread his wings and flew away to discover the galaxy.  And now, we are once more precariously balanced upon the horns of an old dilemma.  For centuries our real growth has been in decline.  At the same time, mankind is again looking beyond his doorstep, this time looking to jump to other galaxies and perhaps begin again.  And I can generally predict what is going to happen.  We are going to make the jump.  We will “begin” again and what we leave behind will continue to decline, to shrivel upon itself and die.  As did earth.”

“How do you know this?”

“Mathematical projection says so.  Observation says so.  Simple statistical projection says so.  Increasingly indolent ways of a pampered population says so.  Breakthroughs in non-ship-non-moving travel says so.  Shortages in resources marginalizing and starving millions of poorer planets says so.   The leadership vacuum says so.   Before rebellions and total war engulf the galaxy, you will have a scattering.  These scatterings are the seedings, and every time a group of humans seeds itself upon a new world as yet untouched by previous human presence and exploitation, that group is irreversibly changed.  Those who survive become, to the eyes of those left behind (if they are able to see) either monsters, mutants, or super-human depending on the point of view.  And, what was left behind fears these who have escaped.  Their authorities pursue them, hoping to control them and to feed from them.  Failing that, trying to destroy them.” 

“But what does any of that say to your belief that some mythical world called earth was man’s original world?”

“Don’t you see?  Earth man was a seedling.  It was planted on that ancient now long-gone world and it flourished there.  But it did not actually originate there.  It did not, as was then claimed, physically evolve from the muck and mire of the planet, anymore than we evolved from the rocky strata of this stony world.  The early people of earth were ruled and enslaved by their forebears but in their fevered discovery of new-found abilities, they shook off the yoke of their masters, of the sowers, and unmindful of the consequences, literally exiled themselves upon their world with no means of leaving, or of contacting any other possible sown worlds.  So engrossed did they become with self-discovery and exploitation of their world that they soon forgot how they got there.  New leadership, fearful of having to share power with galactic powers, ordered the re-writing of history and established religions that relegated the real-life human sowers to ineffable divinities to be idolized in worship.  

It would be thousands of years before the ever-present urge to resume the sowing cycle would obsess these Earthians and they would abandon their internecine warfare to concentrate on going to the stars.  Predictably they did so, for we are here.  And predictably, they carried with them the belief that they originated on earth, thus making that world the ruling world of the galaxy.  Sadly, that is why it was slagged by the “new” children who did not tolerate that a backward little planet so far from galactic centre would rule over the whole.   Much was lost in the destruction of earth but the greatest loss was in records of what happened so long ago, before Earthians were solidly established on their new world.  Records of previous generations, previous intelligences, previous star-farers who gave birth to Earthians and thence, to us.  We must re-discover those records.”  

“You make a persuasive argument but I remain unconvinced.  You have no real proof that what you have conjured could ever have some basis in  fact.” 

“Proof.  People put so much faith in that word.  But perhaps there is proof.  If I could actually and correctly predict a specific future event using certain formulas I’ve developed, would you consider that proof that we can draw out reality from the chaos of the unknown?”

“If, indeed!  Yes, if you could predict exactly a certain future event, I’d see that as proof.  But what about the past?”

“But don’t you see it?  There is no difference.  If we can accurately predict the future, we can just as accurately “predict” what happened in the unknown past.  Let’s say that your family drove to a certain town while you were in your mother’s womb.  Once in that new town, you were born there.  The family possessed a past that was not yours.  However, when old enough to drive, you could choose to drive forward from that town, or to, in a sense, retrace your family’s steps by driving back down the road into the past.  Some things would be different, but you could verify that the world they spoke of did in fact exist. 

I believe that my computer program and my calculations can do this for mankind and perhaps much more.  Certainly we will be able to “verify” not only where we are going, but where we come from. There are those who are so intent on destroying all vestiges of the old myths.  They want to destroy the old religions that have clung to mankind from the earth days to now.  The way to demystify the past is not by pretending or claiming it did not happen, but by proving it did happen, and demonstrating how it did so.  The ancient “gods” then become simple humans with what would be to us very primitive technology and were neither eternal nor all-powerful non-material beings as fabricated religions have falsely claimed for so long until now.” 

“Interesting.  With our funding, you claim you can develop this new science that will show not only how our future will develop but prove that the mythical past did in fact happen?  Will there be more to your argument when you present it to the Council for, what must certainly become, substantial additional funding?”

“Do I need more?  Are you not curious?  Would you not risk a few billion credits to find out where you came from and where you are going in, say, a thousand years from now?  If we, as humans, must continue to bootstrap our ways across parsecs and eons of space-time, can’t we at least secure stronger and longer straps for ourselves?  Must our existence continue to be an endless, chaotic gamble against the forces of time and the universe?  Must we forever be running from our enemies, be they competing intelligences or depleted environments, and towards unknown conditions that may test us beyond our abilities to resist and overcome?  I think that what we term “expanded awareness” has to include an ability to remember the distant past and to appropriate to certainty a much longer portion of the future.  We cannot continue to launch ourselves as dandelion seeds in the winds for the day will come when we will literally fall in among an inimical race that will destroy us, probably out of fear of our predatory ways coupled with our unnaturally prolific birthrate.  We are predators, Ansar, and represent a very real threat to any other intelligent species already established around us.  It would be extremely naïve to think we have not been noticed.  If we know the future, we can avoid such an encounter and prevent catastrophe to ourselves.” 

“My curiosity is certainly not as expanded as yours, love.  But I’ll support you on Council even though I don’t share your enthusiasm for socio-history.  I would be satisfied if you could predict the next day of windless sunshine so we could go mountain climbing.  What do you say to that?”

“Just the two of us?”

“Just the two of us.”

“Would you accept an educated guess?”

“I will, but I have one condition.”

“Ah?”

“Will you accept my ring?  It will be a year tomorrow since the last time you said ‘no’ to me.”

“I accept your ring, Ansar.  Without conditions. As to the weather, my guess is the wind will have to be reckoned with but safe enough for experts like us.” 

 It was ten years later that Elita’s group in Urtank saw the first fruits of her efforts.  It was another twenty-three years before the theory was fully tested when a no-ship “fleet” consisting of seventeen billion people jumping off from Juno would have encountered an enemy force that would have destroyed them had they not “seen” this prior to departure and changed course accordingly.  Two hundred years after that, as this inimical intelligence began to seriously encroach upon new human settlements, it was caught in a 5-pronged attack by humans and was annihilated.  These perfectly timed attacks were devised using the Elita Theorem of time recordings.  

To add a little explanation to this theory, let me just say that it resembles the reading of those old movie strips.  Once a “time line” is focused upon, the computer can “play” the “image frames” either forward or backward.  An identical “time line” can be read from any number of different places, even distant galaxies, without distortion.  Hence the possibility of simultaneous action at vast distances. 

And so we are in the process of conquering the universe.  What will we do, should we discover that our universal space-time model does not apply beyond our universal borders?  Who will break through the next mystery should the Elita theorem fail at that point? Are we still curious enough to dare go and find out? Do we even have a choice?

 

A Rhetorical Question

Short story by Sha’Tara

“Don’t mean to pry but that’s three buses you let go by. You look at them, stare inside then you sit down again.”

“Yes, you’re right. I wanted to ride around town but I really have no clue about these buses. I don’t even know how to pay to ride.”

“Oh! My name is Amelia. How come you know nothing about city bus transit?”

“My name is Ben, pleased to meet you. I just came in on a train down from Slago.”

“Slago? What’s a Slago?”

“It’s actually a place no one’s heard of unless they live in Slago, with the possible exception of some lowly clerk in the revenue service.”

“Slago… that’s some name for a town.”

“Slago’s not a town Mel. It’s an abandoned gopher hole in the middle of a forest, half of which is dead due to a wild fire two summers ago.”

“You called me Mel. Why is it that everybody when they hear my name, they have to call me Mel?”

“You don’t like it?”

“I don’t give a damn, really. It was a rhetorical question. You do know about those?”

“Rhetorical question? I’ll ask you one: can you introduce me to these labyrinthine buses if I buy you dinner, or are you working today, or otherwise engaged?”

“That is not a rhetorical question; it begs a few answers.”

“So I don’t know what a rhetorical question is. Do you have any answers for me?”
“Sure, OK. No, I’m not working today, I was going to do some shopping. I can explain some bus basics, get you started. It’s not rocket science. Think: if the bozos you bump into on the sidewalks can do it, hey! And yes, I’ll accept your dinner invitation. Do I get to pick the restaurant?”

“You’ll have to, I don’t know anything about this city.”

How was I to know that a simple conversation in a bus stop would deliver a fun day, a great dinner, a whirlwind romance, two children, a house with an unaffordable mortgage, a philandering, abusive drinking husband and a bitter divorce eleven years later? How’s that for a rhetorical question.

We the People: a Grim Fairytale

[a short story by  ~ burning woman~ ]

Once upon a time (well, that is the usual opening for a fairy tale, is it not?) there was an empire that covered an entire world. It was not a peaceful empire, in fact it was terribly dysfunctional. However, the kings and other rulers of the various kingdoms, duchies and quaint inventions called “nations” liked it that way.

There were endless wars which greatly benefited the elites and allowed the peasants and serfs or citizens to pretend at being “somebodies” by fighting and killing each other on a regular basis. For that world such behaviour was considered entirely normal. People who thought otherwise and who refused to fight and kill their neighbours were classed as traitors and in some periods, were executed, in others simply jailed. One thing for sure, at all times they were mocked and called cowards.

Such conditions are conducive to bringing forth cowardly and corrupt leadership and at times some group of people would overthrow such leaders and change the status of their land from, say, a kingdom or a colony to, say, a democracy. None of them actually understood what a democracy was since there had never been any to learn from, but they made it up as they went along and lo and behold, before they knew what had happened, their “democracy” had become a totalitarian regime quite identical to what their history books told them of the times before their revolution.

But, they cried, how can this be when it is “We the People” who decide how things should be run? So they talked, loud and vociferously about the role that “We the People” played in this drama and why things had turned on them. They blamed one-another for failing to vote, or for supporting the wrong party and those who were blamed, blamed right back. They blamed the politicians, well, of course! They blamed their elites, just as their forebears did. The problem was that now the elites operated with impunity within the democracy that “We the People” had presumably set up precisely to prevent such a thing from happening.

As things heated up, there even began talk of another revolution. It was a lot of angry talk and no one really knew how to bring about a revolution. It seemed that would require much organization and really, no one was up to jump starting such an irrevocable step. They needed the support of “We the People.”

In keeping with the propaganda relating to the previous revolution, it seemed logical that once again it would be “We the People” who would have to rise up, overthrow the entire corrupt system of religion, government and finance/business, and establish a new system. That made sense, so those with the loudest voices decided to bring “We the People” together.

And children, that is when those who wanted a revolution discovered that “We the People” was a complete chimera. There was no such thing as “We the People.” The idea that a majority core group held the real power of the democracy had always been pure propaganda by the two-party system of government so that the people would continue to believe that at the heart of it a legitimate, patriotic, educated, aware watchdog group of citizens kept tab on its government and had a tight leash on its politicians.

It was a terrible blow to the ego of those who would stop the corruption to discover that there had never been a “We the People” force in the land but exactly the opposite: a ragtag collection of people who distrusted one-another and often hated one-another for being of the wrong skin colour, or from the wrong ethnic background, economic level or religion. Instead of unity, they saw mass shootings and mass incarcerations of innocent individuals. They saw greed, hubris, abuse, violations of every known human rights and widespread destruction of the environment. They also saw that the masses, those who should have been “We the People,” identified with these destructive ways and participated in them, often with gusto while supporting and defending their blatantly corrupt leadership.

“Sadly children, they did not live happily ever after.”

“What happened to that world teacher?” asked a small boy.

“As to be expected, it destroyed itself and all the people on it died.”

“Oh!” echoed the children in horror.

“But it’s only a fairy tale, isn’t it?” Ventured an older girl in the back row.

“Well… no, it’s not really a fairy tale at all.”

“Life Aboard Ship”

[a short story, by Sha’Tara]

Star date: 190623-I haven’t spent as much time on this as I would have liked to but I am choosing to post now rather than wait two weeks when I return from an “Island” job. There is no internet where I’ll be working, though I will be doing some limited blogging on my cell phone. “Enjoy” this bleak story – it is what my heart is showing me these days.
_____________________________________________________________

“Maybe what I really need is sleep, he said to himself. A sort of twilight of living, with only the background sound of Beethoven audible. All the rest a blur.

No, he decided; I want to be! I want to act and accomplish something. And every year it becomes more necessary. Every year, too, it slips further and further away.” (A Maze of Death – Philip K. Dick)

I awoke, as does everyone sooner or later, aboard a strange craft, a ship that sailed through emptiness, bound for nowhere; a ship that would never find a port of call or ever crash on any shore. I knew this long ago, although no one ever spoke of it. In the daytime, the closest non-ship entity one could see was, of course, the sun. At night, if one happened to be on deck, one could see the stars out there, forever out of reach, the ship never getting any closer to any one of them. Sometimes one could see the moon, and although much closer than any star, or sun, it too remained aloof, at an unreachable distance.

One did not board the Ship, one was born on it and was automatically made a member of the crew. Everyone on board was crew, no exceptions. What you did as crew was determined by others and their perceived, claimed or stated needs.

Since Ship itself was quite automated, there really was nothing to do as far as sailing it. So crew served crew until that was the only thing that anyone knew how to do. The more people were born on Ship, the more it all became self-serving, with those who became leaders demanding more from their underlings. Of course the underlings had to find ways to please their masters so they learned to delve down into Ship to find resources that could be made into objects that would please or titillate the masters. Most of us became resource extractors, all to stay alive, some to seek promotions.

I don’t know the exact day, but an idea came to me: what was the point of all that? Who were we all, why were we on Ship and where were we going? I stopped my drilling, much to the annoyance of my partner, and sat down to think about this.

Where did I come from? Nowhere. Where was I going? Nowhere. What was then the point of my existence? There was none. Even if I found the strength and motivation to fulfill and surpass my quota of diamonds; even if I finally got a promotion, I would be old and near death by then. What could I expect then? Nothing. I would cease and my body would be thrown overboard, as all were except for the Captains and other rich and powerful who had themselves encased in crystal caskets and buried with much pomp and ceremony down the empty shafts of what had been our most productive mines. The shafts were then sealed and commemorative plaques put on the entrances. I leave the question with you: how much better off were these rich dead than the dead flung overboard?

Although I would become one of the outcasts, I left the mine and went up on deck to feel the noonday sun and the wind; to hear the waves beat against the hull and listen to the endless sounds of people everywhere talking, laughing, crying, cursing, praying, cheering and some even singing. These people were, in a sense, alive, but what is life without purpose except to satisfy the immediate, to seek a bit more pleasure or to avoid punishment for any and all reasons? It seemed to me that they were simply going through the motions of something they believed in, not as happening now, but as some sort of hope that it would happen by and by.

I do not need to tell you that there were many varieties of official and quasi-official beliefs aboard Ship that most people adhered to. The gist of those beliefs was that one’s soul would go to another ship once separated from one’s dead body and life would be vastly improved in that new place. The new masters would be benign and merciful… of course.

I asked myself why people believed such things when no one could furnish any evidence of their truthfulness? There was a simple enough answer: why not, when life on Ship was general misery and pointlessness and there was nothing better to believe in? If nothing came of it after one’s death, one would be none the wiser. Meantime this bit of hope made life’s tenuousness, fear and misery a bit easier to bear. It was a simple mechanism grossly exploited, of course, by those who pretended to know about life after death. 

Without dependents being an outcast is not as bad as it sounds. You can use your skills to help others and be paid back in food, clothes and temporary shelter. Survival is not difficult when one has been toughened in mining for diamonds deep in the lower bowels of Ship. On deck at least there is a pretense of freedom; there is fresh air, water can be skimmed from water barrels, left-overs and discards can be looked through before they are incinerated or recycled.

Thus I lived the later years of my life and thus I discovered a new ‘connection’ to Ship. It came to me gradually that Ship was talking to me, had always been talking to me but the people noise had blocked Ship’s communications from my mind. Now that I had more freedom I could, and did, move away from people whenever possible and in relative quiet I heard Ship.

I hadn’t known that Ship was aware of what the people were doing on board and in particular, how they were damaging Ship by their greedy delving for ever more esoteric ‘resources’ below deck and down, down, into its deepest accessible bowels. Ship’s voice was sad.

‘You are killing me,’ she said to me in an old woman’s voice, ‘and when I die, you will all die too. That should be obvious to as intelligent a race as yours but somehow your lack of purpose has deadened your understanding of cause and effect. Where are your logicians? Where you philosophers? Where is your empathy? When those things die, you die. No intelligent, sentient and self aware species can guide itself without logic, philosophy and empathy.’

What happens now, Ship?’

‘Like you I am going to die. My lifeless hulk will continue to haunt this orbit for millions of your years. Perhaps, in time beyond time I will return and bring it back to life again so I can be another ark. Perhaps.’

‘Everything, everyone, on board will die then?’

‘Yes, everything.’

Gimpy

(A short story, by Sha’Tara)

I was starting my third grade year when I got to know a scrawny first grade little kid with large beautiful brown eyes everyone called “Gimp” or “Gimpy.” I just want to quickly write up how it was we actually met, I mean to talk to each other.

It was lunch time and most of the kids who didn’t go home for lunch gathered in one large room of multi-purpose usage. There were tables and benches and the odd older desk too for those who liked to sit alone and perhaps read, or draw. Remember that was a while ago, even transistor radios didn’t exist then!

I had picked one of the old desks because I wanted to continue reading a book I’d just got my hands on: Treasure Island. It promised well right from the beginning and I was eager to find out if Jim would get to go sailing.

I had opened my lunch kit and was inspecting my food when there was a bit of a commotion. A scrawny kid was being called names and laughed at. One of those at the ‘bully’ table called the kid over, dangled a chocolate bar in a wrapper in front of him, then threw it down the aisle. The kid raced after it, got it, tore open the wrapper to find that it had been stuffed with dirt.

Amidst the jeers and laughter, I looked at that kid’s sad, confused and disappointed face. He saw me looking at him and realized I wasn’t of those making fun of him. He carefully put the chocolate wrapper still filled with dirt into the garbage can and limped over to my desk. He stood there and I saw his eyes grow even bigger as he eyed my lunch.

I may have been only eight years old but I came from a large family and I knew a hungry look on a kid’s face when I saw one. I asked him to come over and sit beside me, then I offered him half of everything I had packed for myself. The kid ate every crumb and I realized that he was starving. So I gave him more and kept less. I felt, I dunno, something warm and good and powerful rising inside me as I watched him devour my lunch. I didn’t even feel hungry anymore.

We became friends, and I think he sort of adopted me as a big sister. So I decided to help him with his school work as well. He was, from my point of view, terribly slow. Obviously he’d never been shown how to read, write or even do simple arithmetic at home before coming to school. In fact, when I asked him his age, he reluctantly admitted he was also eight years old. He looked no more than five.

“How come you didn’t come to school when you were six like the rest of us then?”

“My mom said it was too much bother and she couldn’t afford to buy me new clothes, that school was useless anyway. So I stayed home and on the street until a lady called a social worker came to see my mom and after she got some clothes for me, I came to school. Is school really useless, Deena?”

“No it isn’t, Gimpy. School is like being on a holiday where you get to practice your imagination, you get to learn things only adults would normally know, and when you know how to read, oh boy, all those books, all those amazing stories you can make your own, like you can accompany those people in the stories, become one of them, play along, have endless adventures.”

“Why doesn’t my mom know this?”

I had no answer but to admit I didn’t know. My own parents loved reading all sorts of stuff and they made sure we would not be kept in the dark. I had learned about measurements from reading labels on cans and bottles. I had already tried some recipes printed on the back of cereal boxes. I knew how to tell the difference between several ‘medicines’ stored in the bathroom medicine cabinet, as well as those stored in the milk house to be used for the cows, pigs or chickens.

A couple of weeks after I had gotten to know Gimpy I had to miss a day of school. After school Gimpy came to my house crying, his jacket torn and with a terrible black eye and split lip. My heart raced when I saw that. Even more so when he told me that the bullies had assaulted him at afternoon recess and beaten him severely.

“What about Sister Blanche? Didn’t she see what was going on, or heard anything?”

“I dunno. She watched, didn’t do nothin’.”

“Did nothing… Oh, never mind, let me fix you up as best we can and we’ll deal with this tomorrow.”

As I remember that day, so many years ago now, it wasn’t one of my best days. I wanted to be a truly good person. I never wanted to get into any kind of trouble and certainly did not want to get involved in a fight with other kids, particularly bullies. But I knew I still had to confront them. After all they had assaulted my ‘little brother’ and this was a blood thing from my point of view.

I kind of started it wrong the next morning when I waylaid the chief trouble maker who had assaulted Gimpy with, “Hey chicken shit, are you so scared to take on someone your own size you gotta beat up a little kid?” And I walked right up to him, sticking my face practically in his. “That’s unfinished business you left yesterday and I’m here to make sure it is finished so you’ll know not to mess with us.”

That was the trigger. He threw down his books and came at me. Now I may have been a girl but my dad had taught me a few fighting tricks of his own, some of which he had warned me never to talk about or brag about. He taught me about men’s particular weakness down there between their legs and I saw my chance to test that particular move. Needless to say it worked like a charm. When the others saw their leader down on the ground moaning and crying, they not only backed off, they ran.

I suppose that would have been that except a sister of those bullies went to tattle to Sister Blanche who immediately stepped over to us, grabbed me by the arm, pinching as hard as she could and made me stand by the blackboard in front of the whole class. When all were settled she ordered me to bend over her desk and she certainly didn’t hold back on the strap. When I yelled that “they” had started it, I got more, so much I couldn’t sit straight the rest of that day.

I didn’t cry and swore I’d get even, not on the bullies, I knew they’d stay away from me and Gimpy from now on, oh no, my aim was Sister Blanche. Whatever was her problem I’d make her pay. And I did, though not in any way I had thought possible if quite impractical. What I needed was something practical, and that’s what I got, from a very practical source: my mother.

After school (and after I managed to give the evil eye to Sister Blanche) I took Gimpy home so I could do a bit of sewing on his clothes, and put more salve on his shiner – that left eye was almost shut by then. It happened that mom had come in from the fields and of course wanted to know the story behind the black eye. So I told her, and Gimpy haltingly told his own version, without embellishments, including my punishment at school.

I should tell you, my mom has a fiery temper. She doesn’t “take any shit” as dad would often, and proudly say and she’d tell him to “shush George.” She didn’t say anything but I knew that she was brewing something up; I heard her and dad talking later that night.

Chores done, lunches made and time to head for school and here’s mom, in her Sunday best outfit, holding the door open, then walking with me to school.

“What’s going on, mom?” I asked and got the predictable answer,

“You’ll see.” And that was it. She went in with me and stood at the back of the room until the kids were settled at their desks then walked up to Sister Blanche and stated, loudly and clearly, “I want to have a talk with you, Sister. Now, and no excuses. Either right here in front of your class, or find us an office to talk in. Just know that I’m in no mood for games, savvy?”

I liked that “savvy” the way she said it. It was like reading a novel. I was so proud of her at that moment I swore to myself that I would become just like that some day. Anyway, Sister gave the class a reading assignment, put an older girl in charge and she and my mom left the room.

Sister Blanche came back a while later and let me tell you that if looks could kill, I’d have been six feet under and Sister Blanche in prison for life! I didn’t feel uncomfortable though. I gave her the same look right back, you know the kind when you feel that palpitation in your eyelids? The danger look full of hate and anger? It was at that moment that I realized Sister Blanche was just as much of a bully as those who had beaten up Gimpy. I grew up a lot that day!

That had been a Thursday and when Saturday morning was well engaged mom told me to get dressed, that we were going to see Gimpy’s mom. I was surprised but not terribly. Mom did things like that. If she had her mind on doing something it got done, (case closed as I liked to add for myself). That was mom.

When we got there, we had to bang heavily on the door to get an answer. Gimpy’s mom (who seemed too young to be a mom by my standards) stood there, holding on to the door, bleary eyed and her hair a total mess. She didn’t smell clean either.

“Where’s Gimpy?” asked mom.

“I dunno. It’s Saturday, innit? He’s probably roaming the streets looking for stuff.”

“You mean looking for something to eat, don’t you Violet?”

“I feed him. I got food here.”

“Yeah? Let’s see what you have that your kid could eat and live off of then.”

“Not today, I just cleaned out the fridge yesterday. I was going to go shopping today.”

“But you spent the money on booze, didn’t you, Violet? Look Vi, it’s none of my business what you do with your own life, OK? But the whole village is talking – not that those hypocrites are any better – but you’re going to lose your boy sooner than later. My daughter here has been seeing to getting Gimpy food at school, but that’s not enough. We could do more, but where would be your responsibility? By the way, I need to know your kid’s real name, Vi. What is it?”

“It’s Vidal. Don’t say I told you, and please, oh please, don’t call him that, he just hates it.”

“I don’t blame him. OK, at least I know. Now is not the time but later this afternoon I want you to come over to our house for tea, and I want for you and me to have a very, very serious talk, OK? You were a good girl not so long ago Vi. You babysat my kids and did a great job. It’s never too late to get back on track. If you don’t, Gimpy will be taken away from you and there won’t be anything any of us can do. Deena and Gimpy are very good friends and I’d hate to see them separated. Promise you’ll come?”

“I promise I’ll come Mrs. Bennett, I promise.”

“Good. I have a few dollars here for you to buy some decent groceries. Do something good for your boy, it’s high time to make him proud of you just as my kids are proud of me, if that makes any sense. Go shopping, hold your head high and ignore the snotty noses. Right now you have one thing in your favour as far as I’m concerned: you’re not a pew warming hypocrite. Not much but it’s something to go on. See you later.”

We walked home together, mom and I, and I held her hand as if she’d been royalty and I’d just been adopted. That kind of pride. And she taught me a new word. She said, “there’s a name for people like Sister Blanche and that’s a bigot. She thinks Gimpy’s mom is a bad sinner because she doesn’t go to church and she ‘entertains’ on her own. That’s why she didn’t help Gimp. You don’t ever want to be like that Sister Blanche.”

That was my mom. That was the shining light of humanity I swore to myself I would learn from, and I did. My mom didn’t actually die, she just moved inside me where I had left a big part of my heart for her to live in. She is there still.

I need to finish this, so here goes. Violet, that is, Mrs. Atkinson did choose to become responsible and raised her boy properly from there on. Gimpy became Doctor Vidal Atkinson, now retired. Sister Blanche was transferred halfway through that school year – she was not regretted by anyone, and isn’t it sad to not realize when one’s character is faulty and needs changing? The ‘bullies’ grew up and did change their characters… I even dated a couple of them and we had some pretty wild times. When my dad was dying, his last words were, “Don’t take any shit, Jane” as mom sat by his bedside crying and saying, “It’s so hard all of a sudden Todd. You were my life, my whole life. What will I do now?” But he passed on without an answer for her, or me.

And me? Well I’m still Deena Bennett and I’ve been sort of a writer of stories and tales and of the stuff that any observing person can see. Some of us just know how to put it in words so that others can also remember. Have I been successful? That depends. I was there for Gimpy and how many lives did he save as a good doctor? I grew a heart big enough to accommodate my mom and I and quite a few Violet type strays over the years. I never had to beg for anything.