From Where Does Evil Come?

From where does evil come, to lurk so deep in the human heart?

From where or whom was born the dark art, this diabolic part?

Why does humanity so suffer, and where is the heavenly buffer?

Why so much sin that begins again and again with no end in sight?

And how do we fight our depraved nature, light our own dark path?

Why so many white-washed sepulchers in endless rows in sight?

And who hears the newborn cries of life as another aged dies alone?

Mark an appeal to the God of mercy amid the controversy of existence

In persistent chase after an answer without resistance, but assistance,

But how shall we know that holy quiesce never having tasted peace?

So comes the Prince of Peace to grant us lease on an eternity of serenity,

And joy without tears, fear, spears of war and battle gear for earthen drear

Dark At Night; Dangerous Without Light

Oh how the Evil One can appear as an angel of light, indeed, and how so very attractive the promises made! In my mytho-poetic series, this was my second encounter with wickedly alluring Bast. And would I give myself up to her death? This piece is an altogether dark beginning of an unsettling episode in my mythic journey. If you have not before, please enjoy now. (Also, this represents a continuation of my exploration into poetic narrative; not to everyone’s taste, to be sure, but poets do experiment!)

moon1“It’s dark at night and dangerous without light,” she said, while holding candle by bejeweled, golden handle. “Vandals run as wild here as desert beasts… You are alone?” She was an altogether radiant maiden, fragrant with exotic oils and incense, and made no pretense of threat. “You should get up and come; you’re only some way from water and better rest in nest of greenery and flowers, neath protective bowers.”

Yes, of course I’ll follow. Why lie here so hollow in desert sand, waiting to be killed by wandering band? And so I struggled to my feet in complete determination to go where she led to be fed from clear, cool watering hole, though tottering on weak legs; nevertheless, in such state as this, whose soul would not beg to go on? So I approached her; she reproached me not, but smiled and beguiled my heart.

The candle? Now where? No where, but how? Still the flame with which she came … No, more expansive, impressive … even growing more massive. Wonder overtook me and shook me. Moving, flaming ball, practically brewing in her hand … changing colours ranging the artist’s palette. What mystic talent does this one possess? Her smile only widened but seemed all the more kindly, so I blindly tread forward toward this sprite of the night.

With every step the flame began to elongate more and more into some kind of straight slate. She could see my confusion, but remained sedate, content to await my arrival. But for what? To help or end my survival? All began to take more shape and I could not escape noticing that fire now burned underneath what looked like funeral pyre… Funeral pyre! I suddenly looked straight into the wickedly beautiful eyes of Bast, who’d cast her spell once again without warning bell.

“No wait! I throw out no bait,” she said in near desperation, as in exasperation I’d started to turn away. “Come no closer, then, but stay where you are; stand away thus far, but hear what I have to say… Stay.” I looked at her again — foolish sin — and she appeared differently, intently gently. Innocent yet magnificent. Calm. Herself numinous balm for all my wounds, hurts and pains and strains. “Don’t go away. Stay.” And so I did.

She looked sad, but under glow of bright light of the moon, not at all bad. Neither was she mad, but upon my stopping and turning back toward her, just a bit glad … mournfully so, but not scornfully as she had been when we’d met before and she’d set about to emasculate me! Had she changed? Perhaps she has a story, too, so why should I worry to hear her tale? Can I not bear as much, or shall I so utterly fail as a man?

“I was thrown out by my mother; blown out by God to live forever upon sod of earth,” Bast began as if in answer to my thought … but what had I just bought? “I am wicked, twisted, afflicted, and unacquitted. Restricted here … convicted of crimes I never committed, I admit I’ve become addicted… Oh! But hear me, dear one! Let some other sun shine in your heart! Give me mercy’s part, and let our relationship begin again without stain of past nor strain of lies!”

I began stepping forward toward her again. But what of funeral pyre? Is she still the same liar? Will she set me to the fire? Desert wind blew threw and somehow I knew … but I came well within reach of arm and potential harm, yet strangely with no alarm. She changed, I could clearly see; wrapped herself around me, bound me. I made not a sound. Nothing of this seemed to confound. “You have only to pass through the fire as if in a chasse.”

But pyres are for funeral fires, I thought to myself, though I’d already brought doom upon myself. I didn’t care; to escape the DarkWomangloom of this world was enough for me to assume any change would be fresh breath, even death. How to pass through, though, when lying down and dying is what’s called for here? Bast laughed, but not half as cruelly as she could, and coolly explained, “I was speaking metaphorically, but not horribly, my love; certainly not with austerity or in vulgarity.”

Cold. Cold in her hold. Breath. Her breath smelled of death.

“Only lie down and drown yourself in the flames, and do not blame yourself for so doing… You’re going to be mine.”

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Red Viper Strikes Again

And so the Red Viper enters in again,
With splinter bits of poison and sin.
Who left the door wide open for her
To slither along the floor with black-
Painted core of soul to score quick
Bites in the thick of her profusion
Of confusion?  And tis not illusion;
Only self-delusion if you think she’s
Safe when she’s put you on the brink
Of another collapse, relapse into fog
Of war you never meant to fight, blight
On your heart,weak now with no might
And rescue out of sight; sheer height
Of cacophony drowning out all reason;
Red Viper’s never quite out of season,
No plague ever is, and so never should
You have left the door open … again;
Now you’re on the floor, and writhing
In pain with no gain or torpid victory.
Ah! But you should’ve know from history
Not to leave your life’s door wide open
For the Red Viper! Who is on your side?
She’s slick and now you’re deeply sick
From poison coursing through your thick
Heart, so sensitive; tis the part you
Chose to play, right? And now you pay!

Forward in Going Back to Uruk, Kheba

Wind blew slew of sand around us, between us, engulfing us; then the Watcher was gone … but still I felt eyes upon me. So now would it be that he and I should travel together? But why not attack? Was someone holding him back? If so, why let him so near? To cause fear, perhaps; to see if the man be sincere? Such divine test seemed almost grotesque! Had I been blessed only to be made an heavenly jest? This was too much to ingest as I slowly, painfully progressed, possessed with determination. But would Watcher now molest me along the way, and that, perhaps, at God’s behest? There was no reason to express my distress. Who would hear my voice, or see my tears? I’d made my choice — I alone — though now I could not rejoice.

Then the eyes again, spies of hell, guise of lies. But only the eyes, sweeping in, keeping watch; sweeping out but ever about me. I knew, so surely as the wind blew. And who slew the Giant? I was no David, and stones would not fell one with no bones anyway. Or was the Watcher now made of flesh and bones, so freshly thrown from heaven? Had he known what it is to groan, to be disowned and wander alone with no throne for such might and power and beauty, now confined to obscurity of earth? And what do you know of heaven and earth? Your own birth upon dirt so recent, so indecent? What do you even know of the place of your birth; your own lack of eternal worth? Whisper questions to my mind, but I was in no bind to answer. Instead, unexpectedly, I laughed and sang, played the part of happy dancer, fool prancer to throw off the cancer-thoughts!

Angel2“Meleği, my meleği, remove this blight; slow down the fading light of candle of hope; give my heart greater scope!” I swirled and twirled in the burning wind and churning sand. “Even still … even still, my sweet meleği, thank you for the light now by which I may plow ahead. And when the dark comes again, as surely it shall, mark my place and with you beside me it shall be not so stark, and when the sun rises again, as surely it must, we will again embark on our journey … on our journey home, and not on gurney, but our own two feet to the beat of victory won and, yes, in dignity! No longer in captivity, I’ve been given ability to walk in freedom with no chain to fetter; I’ve been given the better part of me, my sweet meleği, so bid the crotched Watcher turn his eyes elsewhere to burn some other sight, for there is nothing here for him, save spear of divine defense!”

Ah! Plenty of faux courage, yet how many times have I heard this cry to deny my power! You dance and sing like a fool, woven from the spool of Dyēus, divine ghoul seated upon his celestial stool! You believe you have received blessing, but you’ve been deceived. Dyēus only means to interweave you into his slave-service, but do you perceive his help here, now. You are naïve and will achieve nothing! Nothing! No matter the ‘new’ life you conceive, you will only bereave yourself.” In his words I heard something of the well-honed tone of Bast, cast again in disdain to profane all goodness. Oh! Goodness? S/he heard my thoughts, which brought a bit of a chill. Does the thought of ‘goodness’ thrill you, then? But what is ‘goodness,’ really? Isn’t it silly for you to assume by the spume of your mind filled with fume that you know ‘goodness?’

“I may be limited, and even ill-fitted to be philosopher or guru; no astronomer, prophet, or scholar; yet I am a man, and though short be my span of life, I began my journey in flurry of confusion and profusion of pain and stain of guilt; this much I know and will gladly show. But this man I am now has been somehow changed, rearranged, no longer deranged. And I can see with heart and soul as well as with my eyes, and this is the better part from the very start. Of this I have been convinced amidst much trial and terror, so no one need question in deceitful tone. But rather heed what I say: Goodness is life and bright light, and star-filled night; rain to wash away the pain; the gentle breeze that sings through the trees; everlasting hope by which to cope; beauty and serenity, duty to family and friends; peace that gives lease to quiet harmony; charity without disparity … and so much more. Yes, even I know what is good and it is food for my whole self… But you? You left all of this and are now bereft and starving for even a farthing’s worth of this banquet.”

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Meleği  —  means angel (der. from Turkish)

In Fire On Funeral Pyre

AjnaThirdEyeThe fire never seemed to burn, and I did not turn. I just laid there, completely bare, as Bast looked on quietly and more than slightly pleased that I’d appeased her. I knew my body was being consumed, and assumed by the night air beneath bright light of moon, and I would soon be gone. There was no liturgy for my funeral; no synergy of seen and unseen worlds. There were none who mourned my passing; none who adorned the pyre now set afire. But there was Bast holding my hand as I died on desert sand with no demand upon my fading life.

She smiled. “You are but a child. You’re lying to yourself in thinking you’re dying. I’m not grilling you!” She laughed again. “I’m not killing you; I’m filling you with life and thrilling you with freedom you’ve never known, liberty you’ve never been shown. There is no right or wrong, no light or dark … only the song that long plays for those who pay the price to be set free and forever be at liberty. This is what you do now, my love, and you’ll no longer bow to fraud of a god, who hides behind facade of holiness and righteousness!”

Indeed you are lying to yourself as you’re dying in the fire of funeral pyre, the inaudible voice came unexpectedly. Choice. You have choice. You need not blindly bind yourself to this fate; there is an open gate … even now. My mind was torn asunder as I wondered to whom this voice belonged and longed to know, for her to show herself. I am Ajna, your third eye, and I heard your cry, your mournful sigh, ever before they escaped your soul, which now descends into deep, dark hole. Rise up now; you have the strength! Surprise Bast, who will flee as you truly set yourself free!

The flames rose higher, fire fuelling self-induced blame and shame. What could I do? What should I do? Why try anymore? Why not lie here and die? Precisely because you will die, and never be able to try again; never to begin again. Life may be rife with pain and seemingly no gain … but life is living, and living is in giving, not in swimming in self-pity! And you see no celestial city because there isn’t any! What? Did you expect Dyēus to respect you so much that he’d create some special place for you to recreate? 

“Stay. Day is almost upon us, but deed is almost done, before arises again the sun,” Bast calmly intoned, but now in my mind’s eye I could see her enthroned in tower of power brought low by blow of Dyēus. “Ah … you do well to sell you soul to me to keep forever deep in armored heart that never seeps. You will be mine forever and never again worry nor scurry about in fear, for fear shall never draw near. Hear what I say this day: You will never feel again, as I peel away all emotion and commotion of heart, mind, and soul.”

You haven’t long before you forever belong to this witch-bitch, came silent voice of Ajna. Leap up now, and keep yourself from evil power! Now is the hour … the moment! Sun is rising on far horizon to lighten, but you will be poisoned and unenlightened, imprisoned forever by wicked siren… Leap up and run!

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Note: This “episode” is the continuation of Dark at Night; Dangerous Without Light. To fully appreciate this installment, the reader really ought to read the previous “episode.” Thank you and all the best w/blessings! Peace and cheer!

Also, Ajna — obviously somewhat personified here — is taken from the fourth Chakra in the Chakra “system” or perspective of the human being. Ajna is associated with the heart and, thus too, with love and relationships. However, this is one of the most important as Ajna is “the center through which all energies must pass in transit from one group of chakra layers to another and from one reality to another. This chakra and its associated chakra layer filter all energies, thoughts, and experiences, which ultimately affect us emotionally, physically, and spiritually Linked to the “feeling body” the heart chakra is the central focus between the lower and upper chakras (White, R. (2009). Using your chakras: A new approach to healing your life. New York: Barnes and Noble Books).

Terror: Blast of Bast and the Meek Seeker

bast6How the hell did I get here, I wondered. But now that’s a pretty question: Here is not there where I was, but where is here? It is cold and I haven’t even a coat to fold round me. It was warm with Kheba, and she promised no harm, but this … this does alarm!  And then I heard the laughter — cruel and mocking — I turned and churned inside, and was instantly beside myself. There she was, seated upon regal crystalline throne; hauntingly beautiful; tauntingly majestic. Poisonous pied piper, I knew her with only some few glances before… Bast.

“Did you think you had gone unnoticed, my little fawn?” Sprinkle of mystic evil and twinkle in her eye, she could easily spy my fear, though I shed not a tear. “Oh … my mother? Perhaps sisters or brothers? No, they are not here, my dear; and Maftet and Ma’at cannot be sought.” She rose, striking an altogether magnificent pose, looking as if she were deciding just how to dispose of me, nothing more to her than an insignificant bumble-bee. Her smile was meant to beguile as she stepped down from royal chair with barely any sound, and I instantly found myself in arm’s reach.

“Yes, I’ll loosen your fetters and teach you better, for I know what you want — your deepest secrets and desires, hardwired into your soul from foul bowl of Dyēus — and there’ll be no more frustration after your castration. Ah! No, no, no … this is not damnation; this will be the foundation for new life, not an aberration nor stagnation of existence. Nay! It is in your persistence in mere subsistence of what you now are, which is far from what I will make you, that causes such aggravation and exasperation.” Finger to my lips to hush, shamefully causing me to blush.

It seemed every beam, the floor and ceiling was coated in ice, bloated by an ongoing winter, so I knew without asking and wondered how it was Bast was basking as if in glory … but, perhaps, she had another story to tell? Evil may not mind the bind of freezing cold too bold for mortals… Ha! The slice of ice that kills may fill her with a measure of pleasure! But what of me? Shall I be made a eunuch by her wicked blade?  With that thought, the very laugh of Bast half killed me… In one very real sense, I’d have preferred to seal my death than endure the coming torture; I desired complete departure.

“Why do you think this will hurt when I’m expert in this skill; it will not kill,” Bast circled around me and bound me by her very presence. It was then I noticed the irregular, eleven-pointed star on the floor, with seven longer than four, which bore grotesque images of creatures only to detest. What meaning did Bast invest in this symbol, and what black majik did mingle within? “Ah, so many numbers, eh? And so many say what each means, but they lean on their own understanding, misapprehending.”

She seemed intent to explain, but that without any strain: “The seven pointed rays represent perfection — and upon reflection, you’ll remember learning as much, such as your learning goes — and the seven flow out further, which means they are read first, said first. The four shorter rays display rebellion … rebellion by an hellion like me!” And Bast shook the palatial tower of power with her tremendous laughter. Stupendous, to be sure, and certainly horrendous. So she imagines herself the perfection of defection from heavenly realms; highest infection upon the earth … without much reflection?

“You doubt me!” came the angry shout. “We’ll have a bout, then, to convince you of my clout! Whom do you think could rise so high and sink so low; higher than the heavens, below even the Abyss? Lies in guise of truth! Flies of lies from Dyēus, the Tri-Mater witch-bitch, and their score of whores! But now for you, my pet; I have you in my net! And you are mine to sign and seal, so let’s be quick about this and you’ll not be sick for long. Ah! But you will belong to me and only to me for all to see forevermore! Now you’ll be my whore!”

Down went my pants quick as lightening — frightening — and out came blade so precisely made for emasculation with no duration. And I could not help my imagination of the very real possibility of invagination to follow. So would I be forever changed by such deranged and fallen goddess? Oh, but the change I could bear, but ne’er life cast with Bast; I’d already Bast1determined to die, yes, and fly even into the Abyss in order to miss such prolonged torture. How to make such departure, though, elluded me … but, then, I was already deluded into believing hope was long gone.

“Wake up for the gods’ sake!”

Kheba?

“You’re quaking and shaking! Wake up, I say! It’s not even day, but wake up … wake up for my sake!”

Kheba? I bolted up in bed nearly knocking her head, and screamed from the hellish dream! Dream…? Was it just a dream? It didn’t seem so, but…

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Note: First image, “Bastet,”  by Susan Seddon Boulet & Michael Babcock; Second image/photo, “Bast Statue,” found at Isis Books & Gifts  … Also, Please Kindly Consider Visiting J D Noble Publications on FB and “Liking” It.  I Plan on Utilizing This FB Page More Effectively in the Future … For Updates, Inside Info, Short Commentary on Stories and Other Blogs, etc. You Can Find the Icon-Box in the Lower Righthand Corner on This Page! Thank You!

Sélená and Secrets of Life: Revelation, Part IV

rollinggreen“‘Something is there, hidden in the deep!’
Did weep the ancient sage in the sweep
Of such insightful revelation, so frightful,”
Sélená said as we walked the grass bed.

We stood in lush green rolling hills serene,
Clean, pure with gentle trees and fennels
Filling pretty scene with aromatic delight;
Quiet, smooth-running brook took course
Through the field and forest, ne’er to yield
To any objection or rejection to projection
Of liquid liberty; here was glory complete.

“Mystery wraps the cosmos and all history
And destiny and all glittery fantasy, too!”
Sélená laughed, and then grabbed me tightly
And tumbled us lightly to the soft ground
With hardly any sound, on inclining mound;
“Truly, you will never understand all truth,
For that call is far too tall for any mortal.”

Silent stream meandered like silky dream,
Snaking its way thru the day, like python
In the wild, child of new-birthed earth,
Feeding springs and tall trees with wings;
… with wings, tendrils, seminal tentacles?

Suddenly shrill screeching from nowhere
Tore through the air, and Sélená was up
And on her feet in less than a heartbeat!
Sun seemed to blacken, light shun to an
Enveloping darkness; phantoms swirled
Around us, and hurled lightning lances,
While wraiths pranced upon the goddess!

WarriorW4bWhat horrid scene, so foul and unclean;
No gleen of goodness; only thick screen
Between earth and heaven, and caisson
Of hellish ammunition for the destruction
Of Sélená and me; no more to be, to see;
Of air free to breath, but Sélená seethed
With blistering anger, warning of danger.

Star-sword drawn, moving, deftly swinging
And bringing down dæmons one by one,
Sélená was jungle tigress, wild and free,
Riled to uncontained wrath; bath of blood
— putrid black — flowed down and around
Each of the hills, filling the small valleys
With skein of evil now so skillfully slain.

Ah! tis earth so young from Dyēus sprung,
Where Sélená thought best to bring lover
For much-needed rest…

In the beginning…

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Heaven, Oh Help!

viper_woman_by_chepan[1]Oh holy heavenly host, pantheon of spirits divine, do I need your assistance now!

Now when again I bow to pressures, succumb to dark illusions, cry out in profusion

Of petitions to clear this battle field, bring victory near, and harness fear;

For enemies old attack again so bold, no more to be told of their evil austere.

And she wakes and crawls along the web o’er sprawls life; she hatefully mauls

All goodness, light, and gladness to kill; to blight my sight with cunning skill;

She is the toxic human insane, what lives in two worlds, bane to my existence

In persistence to destroy all I adore, and close every door with exacting skill;

And now shall the viper win, retelling every sin of mine; so thin her veneer

Of sweet smiling charity, in seeming clarity, promised charity; only vulgarity,

Barbarity under guise of God with knowing nod to the Prince; it’s all a façade;

And when will it end, saints and angels above, and I again live in peaceful love?

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Luce Featherwit Faces Failing Fen Sloughheart

Luce was probably as surprised to find himself in the hospital room with Fen Sloughheart as Fen was to see him standing by his bed. Neither one of the men really wanted to see, much less talk, to the other, but there had been at least some tangential connection between their families from as far back as anyone could remember. Not close, but close enough they had to say they were related; besides, which, Luce had kind of grown up with Fen’s father, Bog. Fen knew all of this, of course, so he didn’t rant and rave or ask the old man to leave. He figured he was basically stuck in place to hear whatever ole Luce had come to say. And thankfully, Luce got right to the point.

“Now I didn’t particularly care for Charger, no surprise there, but I’ve always said he was generally a man of upstanding character and integrity. And every once in awhile he’d say something really kind of profound, statements I’ve remembered ever since,” Luce importantly reminisced. “It was an important guiding principle you’re daddy never learned, and one you’ve never really learned. Not that I’ve ever been particularly religious, but what he was talking about really had everything to do with being upfront and honest, consistently disciplined, and ‘walking your talk’ day in and day out, so to speak. At least that’s what I got out of it.” He pause and held Fen’s bleary gaze for a few moments. Sloughheart was still with him. “Yep, Charger said, ‘It’s not enough to believe the Word of God; you’ve got to live the Word of God, the whole Word of God. And it’s not enough to believe Jesus; you’ve got to believe in him and follow him. And it’s not enough to believe in the Spirit; you’ve got to be filled with the Spirit, filled to overflowing so that everyone with whom you come into contact cannot help but feel the overwhelming presence of the one, true, living God.’” Luce paused again to let Charger’s words sink into Sloughheart’s thick and muddled mind.

Fen still felt the painful, tight ache in his chest, along with some mild discomfort at the back of his neck and head. The rest of his body was just thoroughly spent, so much so he couldn’t have gotten out of bed to get away from Luce if he’d wanted to; it was physically out of the question. All said and done, the medical team attending to his care preliminarily conjectured that he had experienced a mild heart-attack, followed by an unusual combination of a slightly more severe heart-attack and mild nervous breakdown. They were running other tests but had already pretty much decided there was no compelling reason to transfer him to Grand Oak. So … there he was … with Luce.

“I’m not blind, Fen; I know you don’t want to hear any of this, and I know you want me to leave. Well, all in good time. I don’t really want to be here either, but I never got the chance to talk to your daddy before he just dropped dead… I’ve always felt guilty about that, even though I never intended to preach to him. Bottom line is, your dad should never have taken the pulpit at Ebenezer. He should never have entered the ministry, and I knew that as sure as I’m here talking to you now. And even though I didn’t know all of the details of his life, I knew enough to know he was making the lives of other people a living nightmare … maybe hell. So even though we were only barely related, and never really close friends, I felt compelled for some reason to go and talk to him … about three days before he passed, in fact. I didn’t do it, and I’ve regretted it ever since.” Now Fen was really listening closely. He’d never, of course, heard any of this before.

“Anyway … here you are, his son … and here I am to say what I probably would have said to Bog.” He paused again, looking deeply into Fen’s eyes. “Like I said before, I don’t know all of the details of your life, your relationships, or your ministry, and I don’t want to or need to, really. I know enough, and I can … sense enough. I’m not a deaf, dumb, blind and stupid man. So I’ll get right to the point. You and I both know you’re in trouble – doubtless, a lot of trouble – and I’m not going to preach to you; that’s someone else’s job as far as I’m concerned. However, I do know a few things you definitely need to do, and I’m just going to lay it out, plain and simple.” Fen still maintained eye contact as best he could, giving full attention to Luce.

“First, you need to come clean, Fen. You need to voluntarily make an unadulterated, full confession to the authorities, no ‘if, ands or buts’ about it, with no excuses. Just lay all of your cards on the table, period, and be willing to accept whatever may come as a consequence … like a man … with character and integrity. This is your opportunity, Fen, to stand tall and actually become what your daddy never was … well, to be more like Charger, at least in his good traits. Second, you need to immediately resign your ministry, and publically commit yourself to never, ever entering the ministry again … in any way, shape or form. Like Bog, your daddy, you should never have taken over Ebenezer, Fen. You were too young – not a criticism, just an honest observation – and I really don’t think you wanted to be the pastor of Ebenezer … not at first. You were more or less pushed into that position when you could have moved out and away, into something more fitting, and done so much more with your life. But … that didn’t happen, and so here you are; you definitely should not remain ‘here,’ that is, in the ministry, or in this area, whenever it might be possible for you to get out of Dodge. For right now, though, resign and remove yourself completely from that profession, Fen.

“Third,” Luce continued very business-like, “however it might be possible – and I pray it is – you need to make restitution and reparation when and where and to whomever you can, to the greatest extent you can, no holds barred. However much you may be despised, and even hated, you need to do this, Fen, not for yourself … but for those you’ve harmed. And, again, I don’t know all the details, but I have a gut feeling there’s plenty of this work to do to keep you busy for quite awhile. Fourth, and finally, you might be surprised to hear me say this, but … Fen, wherever you end up – even in jail or prison – you’ll have the opportunity to do something you’ve never done before, something you need to do. You’ll have the opportunity to learn. Your daddy never really gave you that opportunity, not really. Instead, I fully believe Bog did nothing more than poison you, but no matter how many people you’ve hurt, and no matter how many folks may understandably despise you now, you still have this opportunity. You’re still fairly young, and if you do the first three things I’ve told you to do, then you’ll have an undeserved, second chance to remold and remake yourself into something fairly respectable… Of course, this will probably, ultimately mean moving far away from here, as I’ve already said, but you’ll have the opportunity to live life as an almost brand-new person … maybe.”

Now, Luce was a good man, all in all – brass and crusty, but good – and he was an intelligent man with fairly good perception. He knew he didn’t have all the details, and so he knew there was probably an awful lot of reprehensible facts that might make his advice seem kind of naïve. But Luce also knew his advice was not naïve; incomplete, perhaps, but not puerile in the least. Luce was not a professional counsellor, or psychologist, or clergyman; he was an educated man, but his field had been in civil engineering. Oh, he knew what he believed and why he believed what he believed, but he was not in the hospital room with Fen Sloughheart to counsel or to pray with him. He was with Fen now to do something he very strongly felt like he should’ve done years ago with Fen’s father, Bog. He should have confronted Bog, but he let that opportunity slip by. Now, though, he had an opportunity to confront his son, and he wasn’t about to let this one by-pass him!

“Well, Mr. Featherwit, I umm … appreciate you’re coming by, and I’m sure you…”

“Have you heard a word I’ve said, or are you that thickheaded and incredulous?” Luce stood up and barked at Sloughheart. “You’re lying here in the hospital, lucky to be alive; you’re now constantly on the verge of totally falling apart, and your life and ministry are falling apart. Is this what you want, Fen?” Fen was rather shocked by the virility of the old man. “Can you see past the end of your nose? Hell! I know you can; you’re too self-concerned not to be able to see what’s coming down the line … and it’s like an 18-wheeler going 90-to-nothing, heading straight for you, while you’re just standing in the middle of the damn road, looking at its headlights! Hells bells! I know you’ve done some pretty reprehensible things in your life, even recently, but you can’t make me believe that if there’s any hope … even just a sliver of hope for you now, you’re not interested.”

Fen Sloughheart blinked, then rubbed his eyes and looked back at Luce. He nodded his head while he pushed the button on his pain pump – it was about time, and he couldn’t stand to be in pain – and then reached for his cup of water. He took a couple of long swigs and set the cup back down on his side-tray. Fen nodded again at Luce and sighed deeply. It really was over, wasn’t it? But maybe, just maybe, he didn’t quite have to go down in flames. Maybe what the old man was telling him was good advice … or, at least, some of it. His mind was ticking now. Perhaps he could use Luce’s astute suggestions to his advantage, with some modifications, of course.

“Alright… alright,” Fen answered Luce. “Can’t argue with age and wisdom, so … well, if you’re right, you’re right. I just don’t know exactly how to go about resigning the church. And besides that, I own the land the school is on.”

“What you do now, right now, is you pick up that phone,” Luce pointed to the phone by Fen’s bed, “and you call your church. You tell your secretary to grab pen and paper and take down exactly what you say. You tell her that due to major health problems as well as ongoing family and legal difficulties, you can no longer serve as pastor of Ebenezer Independent Fundamentalist Bible Church; therefore, you are resigning your ministry, and any and all positions, effective immediately. You then instruct her to call each and every member of the board, or council, and have her read your statement to them, clearly and word for word. So far as the land is concerned, you could do no better than to then call … well, the Verdure County Ministerial Association to inform them that you intend to sign over 50% ownership of the property to the Association, and 50% ownership of the property to Ebenezer Church.”

“Furthermore, you need to request that the Association procure the services of an auditing agency – very reputable, of course – to immediately go through the books. You also need to make it clear to Ebenezer Church that, even though you do not want the basic nature and … constitution of the school to change, you do intend some input from the Association in the continuing educational program. Does the school have a board? Then at least one out of three need to come from outside Ebenezer. Does the school have an associate principle? The principle will probably still come from the church, I know, but his associate should come from outside Ebenezer. How many teachers does Ebenezer have? I’d say you need to bring in some outsiders there, too, and you need to have all of your teachers evaluated… If I’m not mistaken, there is an Independent School Association for Better Private Education, the ISA-BPE? They administer yearly academic evaluations of teachers to try to better ensure quality education. Get them on board, immediately. Make it happen concurrently with your resignation.”

“O.k.” Fen Sloughheart surprisingly acquiesced. “If you don’t mind, please hand me the phone. I’ll put in my resignation, using the very words you suggested, in fact, and then I’ll call the principle of the school to have him contact the ISA-BPE for membership application, with the understanding that we stand prepared to both have our current staff evaluated and to be audited by their choice of an auditing agency. The association may choose to do this as well with one of their choice, but that remains to be seen; after all, they may not want to get involved.”

“Oh, something tells me they will,” Luce responded with half a smile. “We’re talking about prime property. Besides this, when you add the fact that they will not only own half, but also comprise at least 1/3 of the Board, fill at least one administrative position, and some teacher slots, well… It’s an opportunity, to be sure. It’s also a matter of avoiding unnecessary confusion and trouble. Your school has quite a few students, and the public school is packed full as it is, so … better to keep your school up and running, for awhile anyway, rather than letting it crash and burn overnight, so to speak. And if it can end up being genuinely improved academically in the process, so much the better … and you’ll be completely out of the picture.” Luce had to add the last emphatic statement just to make certain Sloughheart understood he was cutting all ties.

Resigning from the pulpit didn’t seem to bother Fen Sloughheart now. At this point, he figured if he were going to lose the church anyway, he may as well do it with as much grace as possible, and hopefully engender some sympathy along the way. So, too, for giving away the land, which would not really affect his pocket book that much. Fen had squirreled away quite a bit of money in savings and municipal bonds, CDs, land and precious metals, and had successfully done so under a pseudonym – with the help of an unsavory, ex-FBI member of his church – all completely unconnected with the name of Fen Sloughheart. No, he had plenty of money and then some. So now his mind was churning on how he might be able to come through this hellish debacle better than expected.

He chuckled unexpectedly. Hah! The devil take them all! I may yet have my day!

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