Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Afternoon Stroll

Two tiki men took a walk from their village to enjoy the beautiful day.  The sun was shining on the light-blue water, which sparkled like sapphire, a true paradise.  Both men thoroughly enjoyed each other's friendship, and saw their walks as a true bonding experience.

While walking, they approached a palm tree.  To the first tiki man this had no significance, but to the other it was of great importance.

"Oh, how I love this tree," said the second tiki man, "every time I see it, it makes me so happy.  I used to climb it every day as a boy, and enjoy a fresh coconut beneath it's shade."
"How wonderful," said the first tiki man, "but I have no connection to this tree.  Let us move on, and continue our stroll."

With some reluctance, the second tiki man followed.

After several minutes they approached a rock.  It was big, grey and plain.  It sat on top of a small hill, overlooking the ocean.  The first tiki man took a quick look and carried on, but the second stayed back.

"Oh, how I love this rock," said the second tiki man, "every time I see it, I feel great peace.  I would come here as a young man to reflect on my life.  Whenever I needed peace and calm, I came here.  This rock always served me well."
"How wonderful," said the first tiki man, "but I have no connection to this rock.  Let us move on, and continue our stroll."

With greater reluctance, the second tiki man followed.

They walked in silence together now, following the sound of small waves crashing onto a shore.  After several minutes, they made it to the beach.

And the second tiki man grew ecstatic.

"Oh, how I love this sand!" he exclaimed, "for it was here, on this very sand, where I learned that this world is filled with wonderful things.  Everything around us is good, and pure, and perfect.  Love comes from everything, and everyone, and we must savor it as much as we can.  Oh, how I love this sand!"

The first tiki man stood near him, looking into the distance.  He noticed something looming near in the distance, but the second tiki man didn't notice.

"How wonderful," he replied with a worried tone, " but I have no connection to this sand.  Let us move on, and continue our stroll."

"No," the second tiki man snapped, now laying in the sand.  "I will not leave this sand.  You took me from my tree, you took me from my rock, but you will NOT take me from my sand.  I am staying right here."

"Very well," replied the first tiki man, "just know that dwelling on it too long can destroy you."

The second tiki man didn't respond, for he was lost in the in his dreams of the past.

Looking around, the first tiki man saw a mountain, and began to ascend, wondering what could be at the top.

A massive wave came moments later and crashed on the beach, swallowing all things in its maw.  It left no trace, other than the surreal memories of a hapless tiki man.  Carried back by the receding water, the memories fled, fading away in the shifting sands. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Musician

There was once a prestigious music school renowned through all the world.  Countless bright and talented people could only dream of admittance into this university.  Year after year, thousands of students applied to study within and hone their skills under the tutelage of the best music instructors that the world had to offer.  But only a select few were permitted to enter and within the hallowed halls.

A young musician shared the dream of other hopefuls and sought to study at this university.  Accomplished, prestigious and hardworking, the young man had almost no trouble gaining acceptance.  He was a prodigy, and somewhat famous in the musical community.  Growing up, his teachers helped him develop his remarkable talent quickly, reaching a nadir of skill that few could dream to achieve.  After several years of instruction from the best teachers near his hometown, he became known as a "perfect musician" to those who knew him.

Perfect.  If only he could become such.

He was accomplished at many instruments, but his favorite of them all was his violin.  Due to his affinity for the instrument, he decided that he would be the most satisfied with his higher education by professing in violin performance.  Carrying his instrument on his back, he ascended the steps into the main building of the campus, and was immediately greeted by the faculty.

"Well here he is, our newest and brightest student," said a woman, clearly the authority of the group.
"We have long awaited your arrival and are excited to work with you and you're god-like talents.  Shall we get started then?

The musician looked blankly at the faculty.  Several professors, all world-renowned, were gazing at him with wondrous eyes.  It were as if he were some kind of divine entity, or royal aristocrat, gracing them with his presence.  Many other people, both teacher and student alike, stopped briefly to have a look at the legendary violinist.  Whispers grew louder as the crowd grew bigger in front of him.  Amongst other words, he heard the word "perfect" resonate in the hall perpetually

When the whispering and staring almost became unbearable, the young musician broke the silence.

"I am ready," he said, "but I have much to learn.  Who will be teaching me?"
"Oh, if anything we will be learning from you," said the woman, who the student soon gleaned was the headmistress.  "Nonetheless, your teacher will be this young woman here, the absolute best violin teacher the world has to offer."  the headmistress beamed, very pleased with what she had just said.

The musician had heard of this teacher before.  Every violin student sought her out, spending years, even lifetimes, to earn just a moment of tutelage from her. And here he was, standing there, with the most prestigious violin teacher in the world at his complete disposal.  What did I ever do, he though, to earn this honor?

The headmistress beckoned him to follow, and he obeyed.  The crowds slowly dispersed as he walked through the halls, although their eyes never left him.  Every person he passed by gave him a look of admiration, envy, jealousy, or even malice.  Nonetheless, all eyes caught his presence, except for one pair that was looking the opposite direction towards a window.  That pair belonged to an old man, a janitor, busy at work cleaning the windows.  The musician was momentarily intrigued, but soon forgot about the man.

Anxious to begin, the musician didn’t waste any time.  He began to have daily lessons with his teacher, sometimes lasting for hours.  At first he was thrilled to learn from her, and he felt like she had a lot to offer him.  So thrilled was he, in fact, that he never once questioned or innately doubted her methods and experience.

This sentiment, however, was short-lived.  He began to notice that he was teaching HER more the she was teaching him.  It felt as if she had never taught him anything at all.  After a few weeks, she began to hail him as the “perfect violinist,” saying that there was none in comparison to him.  He was, in her eyes, the zenith of all musicians.

All of this flattery perturbed him, and one night he requested to end his lesson early.  She was puzzled, but he merely said that he wasn’t feeling well and needed to rest, which in a sense was the truth.  He dismissed himself, and left her office.

It was nighttime, and all the halls of the university were empty and dimly lit.  Stars shone through the windows, slightly illuminating the dark hallways.  He had always loved the stars, their majesty impossible to comprehend, and one of the few perfect creations that he knew of.  As he walked through the halls, he was accompanied only by the echo of his footsteps, softly echoing the troubles of his conscience.

And then he heard something.  It was faint, yet distinct.  Distant, yet fulfilling.  Piercing, yet graceful.

It was the sound of a violin.

The musician briskly followed the sound, running through the halls with exasperation.  Where was the music coming from?  After a few moments of searching, he turned a corner and found a small, dimly lit room with the door slightly ajar.  He crept slowly to the door, dominated by curiosity.  The music emanating from that room far surpassed that of his teacher, the world’s foremost authority on violin.

Approaching the door, the boy timidly pushed the door open to get a look at this mysterious instrumentalist.

Grey hair fell from his head.  His skin was slightly wrinkled, his posture bent yet mysteriously regal.  He wore simple clothes and sat in a chair facing away from the door.  In his hands he held an old violin covered with black notches an cracks, spotted with patches of old varnish that had long since faded, all indication that the instrument that was older than the person that was playing it.

As the boy pushed the door further open, a small creaking noise underneath his foot immediately compromised his skulking.  The man stopped playing, but didn’t turn around.  He remained silent for several seconds, and the boy out of fear didn’t move or speak.

“You are a gifted boy,” the man said in a slightly harsh tone.  “Some say you are the greatest prodigy to have ever come here, the master musician.”

The boy stood frozen.

“The people here worship the very ground you walk on.  They look to you as their perfect little brainchild,” the man said with a hint of distaste.  He turned around, revealing a serious yet wizened countenance, along with a pair of darker grey eyes.

“Sir,” said the boy, “that is some of the most immaculate playing I have ever heard.  Why are you not on the faculty?  Why does no one know of your skill?”
“Don’t flatter me,” the man said sternly.  “Sit, boy.”

The boy scrambled to a chair facing the man, giving himself a perpetual view of the man’s piercing grey eyes.

“Sir,” the boy continued, “I am amazed at your skill.  If any of the other professors knew of you, maybe they would let you teach me instead.”
“The woman who supervises you is an excellent teacher.  Why are you not with her now?”
“I…” the boy mumbled.
“Because she thinks you’re perfect,” the man interrupted, “and withholds her tutelage despite what she has to offer.”

The boy nodded.

“Well I am here to tell you,” he continued, “that you are not perfect.”

The boy was shocked.  No one in his life had ever uttered such a thing to him.

“Why do you play?” asked the man, his eyes fixed on the intimidated boy.
The boy chose his words carefully.  “I play because I want to develop my talents and become the best violin player I can be.”

The man gave a disagreeable grunt.  “Fool,” he snorted, “you’re teacher’s assertion about your perfection is both correct and incorrect.  When it comes to the technicality of playing, you show no flaw, no weakness, and no mistake.”

The boy leaned in, preparing himself for the imminent earth-shattering disclaimer.

Instead, however, the man posed another question.

"Who do you play for?" he asked sternly.
"Ummm...," the boy muttered, "what... what do you mean by that, sir?"
"WHO do you play for?" the man repeated with an annoyed undertone.

The boy pondered for a moment.  The question was, who HADN'T he played for?  He had played for large audiences in massive, prestigious venues.  He had played private concerts by invitation of magistrates, world leaders, and very rich men.  He had played for people of all castes, faiths, backgrounds and circumstances.  All of this, and yet he still found himself completely dumbfounded with the question that was just asked of him.

Seeing the boy's struggle to answer, the man broke the silence.

"It doesn't matter what you play, but whom you play for," the man said.  "You commented on my playing when you first barged in here.  Did happen to catch what song I was playing?"
"Yes, it was... an old tune, something simple I learned in my childhood."
"And yet, how could the sound of it, the beauty of it, surpass even your most legendary and complex sonata?"

The young man finally got it.  "Because you play for a different audience.  It must be... it must be an audience that you are familiar with, one that you play for often.  One that you know personally."

The man stared, slightly taken aback by the young man's epiphany.  His eyes grew soft, and his countenance changed from one of stoic severity to one of a sad fondness.  He stood up from his chair, reaching for a small framed picture on his desk.  He handed it to the young man.

In it, there was a young woman and a small boy, sitting on a blanket, looking up into the camera.  Both countenances radiated happiness.  The young man could feel love emanating from this picture.  It touched him greatly.

"They died, many years ago, in a car accident on the way to one of my performances," the man said softly, a tear welling up in his eye.  "I spent so much time playing for large audiences that I forgot my most important one, the one closest to me, the one that lived with me, the one audience that truly loved me."

The young man sat quietly, all attention focused on the old janitor.

"When they died, all I could think of was all the private performances I gave to people, but never to them.  I soon left playing professionally, and ended up here, cleaning the halls that once celebrated my existence."

The young man looked at the picture again.

"I found that the only audience worth playing for was gone.  That picture is all I have left of my family.  So who do I play for?" said the old man, "I play for them... I play for them."

And in so doing, the young man realized, the old janitor became a perfect musician.

In a small house, a woman held her young son, no older than eight months perhaps, his eyes looking about with wonder and excitement.  A man walked through the door, wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase, exhausted from a long day at work.  He looked over and saw his beautiful wife holding their child, a sight that always made him so happy.  Going briefly into the bedroom, he returned with a violin and begin tuning.  The child looked over with interest, and the man began to play an old, simple tune.  The cherubic look on his son's face was the best he had ever gotten from any audience member.  With the sun shining through the window, the cool breeze flowing into the room, the world's most loving and attentive audience watched the man in awe.

And, unbeknownst to the world, the man became a perfect musician.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The House Pet Chronicles

The family was always close.  They did everything together, and forged many memories that would last a lifetime.  Living in a modest home, they maintained a house full of harmony, love and animals.  These animals, consisting of two dogs, two cats and a parakeet, were very much loved by the family and were well taken care of.

Unbeknownst to the family, their pets had also grown close to each other.  When the family retired for the night, it was prime time for the animals to come out and commiserate.

"Ugh.  I feel like crap," said the doberman that came swaggering into the living room.  He was a decent-sized dog, but smaller for a doberman.
"You have no idea," echoed a voice from underneath the couch.  A black cat lay there with his belly up and his eyes closed.
"What, exhausted from a long day of ABSOLUTELY NOTHING?!" yelled the doberman.
"Mate, I've been up since sunrise.  I spent all morning partitioning up my food rations to last me the whole month, and I got chased around ALL DAY by the children."
"I'm not impressed."
"C'mon, mate, I've been a bit hard-pressed lately.  Give a man the benefit of the doubt."
"Okay, first of all, quit saying 'mate,' you're not Australian.  Second, you're not a man, you're a cat.  And third, you're life is not NEARLY as hectic as mine, so don't complain."
"But I want to live in Australia..."
"WHY?!"  bellowed the doberman.  "America is so much better in every way."
"Oh yeah?" replied the cat.  "Despite the failing economy, ridiculed presidency, a lazy population, and not to mention a supreme lack of Tim-Tams, tell me WHY America is better than Australia."

The doberman hesitated.

"...Sports..." he muttered.
"Is that all you care about?  And how is your life more hectic than mine?  Too many tennis balls for you to retrieve?"
"What's all the bickering about?" said a bloodhound that trotted past, completely bent on getting an evening snack.
"Oh, you know, just having our usual 'crush the cat's dreams' conversation.  Nothing important." the cat replied.

A howl came from the kitchen.

"WHOOOO ATE ALL MY FOOD?!" yelped the bloodhound.  "I specifically designated those last dog biscuits as mine, and someone ATE THEM!"
"Eeeemmmmmmm...." moaned the doberman, "I'm... sorry?"
"You would, you lousy mutt." mumbled the bloodhound.
"I was actually apologizing for that stupid red cat, I blame it all on him.  Speaking of which, where the fetch is he?" said the doberman, as he trotted over to look out an open window.
"Probably out swooning some poor, defenseless siamese cat to be his mate," said the black cat, "and I don't mean it in the Australian sense."

"I heard that," said the red cat, hopping through the easy-access hole in the door.  "I am offended that my friend and kin would think so unfavorably of me."
"That WAS what you were doing though, wasn't it." replied the black cat.
"WHO do you think I am?" he snapped in retaliation.  "I am not some kind of ravenous beast that you take me for."
The black cat sneered.  "The evidence is stacked against you, my friend."

All of the animals had convened at this point into the living room, sprawled out in various animal positions, extremely comfortable.

"I don't understand you," said the black cat to the red.  "How do you get all of these women?"
"I don't," he replied, "in fact I have no idea what you're talking about."
"What about indifference?" the bloodhound piped in.  "That always seems to work well for you."
"Yeah, if you want to attract some siamese nut-job." said the red cat with disdain.
"Mate, siamese cats are all good.  Just because you just got dumped by one doesn't mean they're all nuts." said the black cat.
"THEY'RE ALL INSANE!" yelled the red cat, flopping onto the couch.
"I need a girlfriend..." muttered the doberman.
"Don't we all." said the black cat, rolling over onto his stomach and giving a large yawn.
"Yeah the ladyfriend situation has been bad for all of us." said the doberman.  "All of us, except bloodhound boy and that fetchin parakeet up there." beckoning to the bird cage next to the couch.
"I don't know what it is with that guy, but he can sure land himself a good woman." said the red cat.  "Hey bird-boy!" he yelled towards the cage.

He was greeted with the sound of ruffling feathers.  "Yeeeeeees?" the parakeet replied.
"How's your love life?" yelled the doberman.
"Pretty good, that one girl that wanted nothing to do with me had a major turnaround, so we've been seeing each other pretty often." he chirped.  "I guess I can't complain."

"This is what astounds me about that bird," said the black cat.  "The family NEVER lets him out of that cage.  Even if they did, he has his wings clipped so he can't fly anywhere.  How is it, then that he meets all of these women?  The laws of physics clearly do now allow that bird from leaving that cage, going out of the house and meeting a significant other."

All of the animals pondered for a moment.  How the parakeet was ever able to meet somebody and maintain a relationship was beyond them.

"Any other questions?" the bird said eventually, "because I'm kinda busy and need to get back to work."

The animals eyed each other with complete astonishment.  "Uh, nothing else, man.  You get back to doing... whatever it is you do up there." said the red cat.
"Thanks." replied the bird, hopping back into the middle of the cage.

"So, what are we doing tonight?" said the bloodhound after the brief pause.
"We?!" said the red cat in astonishment.  "You mean your woman isn't coming over tonight?"
"Nope.  She is going to DC for the weekend, which means I have plenty of time to watch movies and play video games with you guys."
The doberman looked up.  "Um, do you remember what happened the last time we tried to play video games?"
"Yeah, you left all those fetchin' teeth marks on the Wii controller." said the black cat, now rolling out from underneath the couch.
"Oops," replied the bloodhound.  "Well, if video games are out, what are we gonna do?"
"Go to sleep?" said the black cat.
"Gladly." muttered the doberman, his voice muffled by an over-sized pillow

There was a brief pause.  After a few moments, the red cat piped up.

"I guess we can do what we always do, and go to the window and yell obscenities at unsuspecting animals."
"Yeah I could use some of that," said the black cat.
"Wahoo!" barked the bloodhound.

The doberman laid quiet on his giant pillow, face buried into oblivion.

"Hey, you comin'?" said the red cat.
"Yeah, alright," he finally replied.  "If that freaking wiener dog is out in his backyard, I have a few choice words for him."

And all the animals of the house, in friendship and harmony, went to the window and heckled hapless animals together.  Not a care in the world was found among them.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Bridge

In a valley, surrounded by mountains, away from the cacophony of society, lived a man and his boy.  The father, hardworking and vigilant, was always mindful of his son.  The boy, energetic and naive, was always mindful of the world around him. Fascination with what lay beyond the homestead drove him to explore this new world, and every discovery he made, in his eyes, was mysterious and magical.

His father was aware of his son's meandering tendencies and occasionally warned of the dangers of excessive exploration.  "Son," he would say, "Don't let your legs get the best of you.  If you allow them, they will take you places that you do not want to end up."  The man understood that personifying his son's legs would help bring the message home.

And that is precisely what happened.  The allusion to the supposed sentience of his legs caused the boy to be very conscious of them, oftentimes speaking to them verbally to ensure they obeyed his every command.  The father chuckled at this behavior, but was nonetheless satisfied with the result.

On a beautiful afternoon, the boy received permission to go explore the surrounding forest for a while.  He started his journey by taking the usual route, a familiar well-beaten path winding through the woods.  The leaves had already begun to change color with the season, the foliage emanating with a bright collage of gold and orange and burgundy, the majesty of autumn.  This, however, did not concern the boy nearly as much as a doe he spotted grazing in a nearby clearing.

Excited by this discovery, the boy and his legs crept up to the doe for a closer look.  Hearing the sound of approaching legs, the doe shot a frightened look directly into the boy's innocent eyes.  Captivated, the boy stood immovable, lost in the eyes that were timidly yet serenely staring back at his.  Minutes passed, but to the boy they seemed like hours, so ensnared he was by her gaze.  When she deemed him harmless, she turned and leapt into the forest.  With no hesitation, the legs took off in pursuit.  The boy, still reeling from his transcendental experience with nature, felt he had no choice but to follow them.

After several minutes of the chase, the boy lost sight of the doe and grew tired.  He stopped to catch his breath, and heard in the distance the babbling of flowing water.  When he approached the sound, he found a small river with flowing lumps forming around the rapids.  This beautiful scene, however, paled in comparison to what he saw next.

A bridge.

Every boy has a fascination with bridges.  This one in particular was especially fascinating because it was old,  there was no clear path on either side, and the dense magical forest lay just beyond the end of it.  Where does it go?  Why is it here?  What magical place could this bridge possibly lead me to?  All these thoughts entered the boy's mind simultaneously as he beheld his wondrous discovery.

The legs began to quiver with excitement.  They knew that this bridge would satiate the boy's wanderlust, and thus they proceeded to approach it.  Having finally recovered from his encounter with the doe however, the boy was able to consciously chastise his legs and order them to return him home.  Reluctantly, they obeyed.

Bursting through the door, the boy ran to his father to tell him the news.
"Dad, I just found the coolest thing in the forest!"
"What is it, son?"  He replied.
"A bridge!"
He chuckled.  "That's quite the discovery, son.  Where did you find it?"
"It crosses the river in the woods.  I think I'm going to back and see what is on the other side!"

The father donned a look of concern.

"Now son," he said, "I want you to be careful.  There are many old bridges around here that are no longer used.  Many of them have begun to break or rot.  And if you cross a bridge without checking to see if it is safe, you could fall and hurt yourself."
"I know I know,"  The boy replied.  "I promise I'll be careful."
"I know you will, son.  Just be sure that when you do, you do it with eyes wide open."

That night, the boy's thoughts were consumed by what he had seen that day.  The forest, the doe, and that bridge!  Oh how his sentient legs wished to cross that bridge and wander into the world beyond.  Remembering his father's advice, the boy reminded himself to check the integrity of the bridge before he crossed it.  And as in any young boy's mind, that thought remained strong for roughly five seconds until his subconscious dismissed it forever.

The next day the boy ran from the house for his afternoon appointment with the bridge.  When he arrived to the spot, the bridge he dreamed about all night was still there, exactly how he remembered it.  His father's voice echoed in his mind, "...eyes wide open...," and for a brief moment he remembered his duty to inspect the bridge for lack of integrity.  As he approached, he was suddenly aware of a familiar sight on the other side of the river.

The doe.

Once again captivated by the serene grace of the creature, the boy immediately went into auto-pilot.   His legs, fixed on their target, walked slowly towards her, his eyes transfixed on hers.  They took their first step on the bridge, and paid no heed to the loud creaking noises that followed.  They ignored the faulty structure underneath, the snapping of old rope and the cracking of rotted wood.  They brushed off the sound of the rushing water below,which was loud and full of rage.  And, to the amazement of the boy, his hand suddenly became aware of its own existence and raised up horizontally, completely bent on touching the elusive animal. The boy had lost control of his limbs; his legs refused to stop walking, his hand resisted his plea to lower, and his eyes had long since betrayed him.  The doe, with her beauty, stared back with the same look she always gave him.

With a sudden crack, a board gave way and the boy plummeted to the water.  He fell with a thud and a chilling splash, and, much to his surprise, on his own two feet.  Fate had decided for the bridge to break right over an eddy that was directly underneath.  With the water a little more than knee-deep, the boy regained control of his limbs, which he verbally chastised for putting him in that position.  Although all of his limbs had disobeyed him, it was his legs that got him into this mess in the first place, so he blamed it solely on them.

Moments later, the father emerged from the forest and came to his son to help him out of the water.
"Dad, how did you know I fell?  I didn't yell when it happened."
He replied "Son, I knew I had to follow you just in case something happened.  I even called your name when you were crossing the bridge, and you seemed as if you were deaf."

Much to the man's astonishment, the boy was making no attempt to get out of the eddy.

"Son, why are you standing there?  That water is freezing, and if you're in it any longer you may catch a cold."
"I know dad," said the triumphant boy, "I'm just teaching my legs a lesson."