Monday, April 6, 2009

The Hope of Warlords

Once I said if I could be anything in history, I’d want to be a pirate. Now, I think not. By then it was already too late. The world had begun to end, to flatten. Colonialism was the first step. Wooden ships sailing across oceans, putting alien boots on alien soil, would be part of the problem – Even as one of the predators. Predation didn’t slow it down any measurable amount.
I look in the mirror and piracy is not what I want. I want to be a Pashtun warlord, tucked away in the mountains. Horseback and high, with my muskets, and Khyber knives. Killing traders, wanderers, adventurers. Letting enemy armies batter themselves against my mountains. Watching their wills shattered by the stones and the cold as I slip ravine to ravine in shadow.
If I could be anything else, at least tonight, I would be high, dry, and cold with my warhorses, my tribe and my wives.

That day may yet come. Am I wrong to hope?


He’d made the best coffee in the world. He’d had this old aluminum dripolator. Boil the water, pour it in via the top and let it drip through. She’d almost stolen it when she left. But it wouldn’t have tasted the same not in his kitchen. In her kitchen, the one she was going to have, it would’ve tasted bitter, or not bitter enough. Too much of aluminum, or not enough. She’d left it, sitting in the early morning sun on the kitchen counter.
That was really the problem with leaving. She had to leave everything, could take none of the perfection with her. Anything she took would’ve been too little, or too much, once removed. Once not in his house, not in his vision or touch, the magic would be gone. Not in their house, their vision. Even she had to be someone else.
Her key slipped, rasping, into the slot. Flecks of chrome fell from the keyway, sticking to the red car door. She wondered if he’d been in it for the car. The old blood red Volvo 1800. She smiled as she slid behind the wheel. It had been hers, and never his. She would take this with her. Let him keep the coffee pot. All the good it would do him.
The little car rumbled, happily, as she backed down the driveway. The last of her clothes already in the trunk, and one last thermos of coffee on the passenger seat. She’d always wanted a dog, tried to get him to buy a dog. Now she was glad, her hand on the warm steel cylinder, to have that seat free. A dog would remember, and try to take things that had to be left behind. But it would’ve been such a terrible thing to leave a dog. Without food especially. Though, she guessed, he’d have eaten eventually.
She rolled down her window, and listened to the wind and tires. No radio, not yet. Wait until she was in another broadcasting zone. Then she would find an oldies station, and listen to music they had never shared. Dangling a hand out the window, she played in the air currents. Fingers splayed, then closed, angled up, then down. Like an airplane wing.
“I wanna fly, daddy,” she said to the air rushing past, “like a little bird.”
She looked at the gas gauge. Enough to cross the state line before she needed to worry. She’d thought about not taking his money. But money changed so many hands, what could it possibly take with it? She had plenty now, and could claim it as hers. She’d also thought about siphoning a little gas. But why spend the extra money? She’d never yelled at him for smoking in bed anyway, it had been part of the perfection.
Another mile marker rushed up and she began to play a counting game. She was going backwards, towards mile one. Smiling, hand soaring out the window, she wiggled down into the seat for the drive.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Her breathing comes in ragged gasps. Too shallow and quick, too struggling each one a violent shuddering of the thorax. I hold her close, one hand pressed to her side to still her. The other holds the stethoscope against her side. Her left lung sounds like a squeaky toy, or two balloons being rubbed together. Beneath the wheeze, the thick sounds of fluid. It rises to her nose and sprays with each breath. Thin and clear mucous. She is weak, lethargic and anorexic. I listen, and cannot hear her heart for the protesting of each breath. Replacing the stethoscope to my bag, I use my fingers to locate a femoral pulse. I am relieved to find it strong and constant. But the pneumonia is taking its toll. Her brown eyes are desperate, looking at me frantic with hope. Fix it. A cough racks her body and she closes her eyes. Looking takes too much energy better used for breathing.
That was yesterday. When her desperation for breath was only matched by ours for money for the vet. For antibiotics. For anything to help.
Today, her lungs are less filled. Head hung over the couch she drained for hours last night. Ran a fever. Coughed. Fought harder for breath. Finally slept, or lost consciousness in the gunmetal morning. She woke breathing easier, tail up and eyes full of her usual precocious curiosity. Still, she blows snot. She wheezes a little. I can hear her heart today though, strong and constant. She is on the upswing.

Yesterday again. We scrounged and found antibiotics. A human sized dose for just a couple of days. Too much for a dog who weighs less than a sack of her own food. I broke a capsule and weighed 500mg of Amoxicillin on the reloading scale. Then I weighed out a fifth of that. Twenty times over.
I had already pulled the high flow oxygen regulator from my bag, and given her oxygen. Holding her, with the canula just below her nose. Blow by, they call it. Canulating a dog doesn’t work, usually. Just put so much in front of their nose they have to breath it. We took turns doing that for awhile.
Checking her pulse, using the stethoscope to listen to lungs and heart. Listen to her fight. Dosing antibiotics. Holding her, pushing oxygen. Simply loving her, and watching her. Its paying off.

I’m proud of us. Worried for her, but not scared anymore, and proud of us. This is capability. The fundamental ability to care for your loved ones, two and four legged, when they need it the most.
I wonder, with so many others out of work and suffering poverty, how many can actually do that. How many are capable, much less prepared, of providing for their families that well?
I’m proud to be one of those few, although that pride feels strange. I cannot imagine being any other way. I grew up like this, around people like this – A functional element of the lifestyle. Yet, how alone am I, are we? We few who can actually do this.
Is the society at large so crippled by consumer culture that we’ve sacrificed that much?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Human Rights

"The results should have been predictable, since a human being has no natural rights of any nature."

Mr. Dubois had paused. Somebody took the bait. "Sir? How about 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness'?"

"Ah, yes, the 'unalienable rights.' Each year someone quotes that magnificent poetry. Life? What 'right' to life has a man who is drowning in the Pacific? The ocean will not hearken to his cries. What 'right' to life has a man who must die if he is to save his children? If he chooses to save his own life, does he do so as a matter of "right'? If two men are starving and cannibalism is the only alternative to death, which man's 'right' is 'unalienable'? And is it 'right'? As to liberty, the heroes who signed that great document pledged themselves to buy liberty with their lives. Liberty is never unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it always vanishes. Of all the so-called 'natural human fights' that have ever been invented, liberty is the least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost."

"The third 'right'?--the 'pursuit of happiness'? It is indeed unalienable but it is not a right; it is simply a universal condition which tyrants cannot take away nor patriots restore. Cast me into a dungeon, burn me at the stake, crown me king of kings, I can 'pursue happiness' as long as my brain lives--but neither gods nor saints, wise men nor subtle drugs, can insure that I will catch it."

From Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein.
I'll post something substantial, of my own, later. I promise.