Thursday, December 21, 2017

An Ethereal Relationship - a short story for our times

May 14, 2030

1:00 pm

My wife, Ethereal, has been missing for three weeks, and now the unthinkable has happened. A policeman - an Officer Savvy - stands at my front door.  He says they think my wife is dead.  He wants me to come to the morgue and identify her body.  I'm stunned.  I realize my iPhone is in my hand.  I put it in the case that's attached to my belt, grab my coat and iPad and follow the policeman to his squad car.  I'm glad he has offered to drive me to the morgue.  I'm in no condition to drive myself.

Officer Savvy is a young guy - just a few years older than I am, I guess.  He seems uncomfortable.  Maybe he hasn't been a policeman long enough to be used to this sort of thing.

When we arrive at the morgue, a detective in plain clothes joins us on our walk down a long hall - Detective Bygone.  He's an older, gray-headed fellow, wearing a neatly pressed suit and speaking with a raspy voice.  Double doors are at the end of the hall, and they grow larger with each step.  We're not half way there, but I stop.  The policeman and the detective keep walking until they realize I'm not behind them.  Then they turn.

"Are you alright?" asks the blue uniform.

"I don't think there's any point in my going in there," I hear myself say with a confidence that seems out of place.

"But Mr. Numbman," the detective says, "we need you to make an identification.  I know this is hard, but . . ."

"I just don't think I'll recognize her," I say.

Officer Savvy tries to reassure me by telling me that my wife is not disfigured in any way.

"Oh, I hadn't thought of that.  No, it's just that I haven't seen her in years."

The policeman and the detective exchange confused looks.

"I didn't know," the detective says slowly, "that you and your wife were estranged.  When you filed the missing persons report, you said that you and Ethereal share a residence."

"We do," I reply, "I mean we did, but we really didn't see much of each other."

"I guess your work must take you out of town a lot?" Officer Savvy suggests.

"No, no. Neither of us is out of town very often." I feel weak, so I sit down in one of the plastic chairs in the hallway.

The detective and the policeman sit down, too.  They seem like kind men, and I think they're beginning to wonder about my sanity.

"Mr. Numbman, you said you haven't seen your wife in years.  How can you be in the same house with someone everyday and not see them?" says Detective Bygone.

"Well, you know," I begin to explain, "we watched TV every night. And we both did things on our iPads."

"You mean you did these things in separate rooms?"  Neither of these men seem to understand.

"No, we were always in the same room.  We just didn't look at each other," I say.

"But surely you did other things sometimes," the policeman says, "like - maybe - eating out together?"

"Of course, of course.  We ate out often, but we always had something to check on our iPhones, and - well, we just didn't notice each other much."

"You had no personal communication?" the detective asks in disbelief.

"Well, sure. We had personal communication.  We texted each other.  We posted on Facebook.  We even sent each other personal messages on Facebook. Sometimes we even talked on the phone."

I'm feeling a little indignant at their suggestion that Ethereal and I didn't have any personal communication.  We communicated all the time.  We just never looked at each other.  Why is that so hard for these men to understand?  Maybe the detective is too old, but Officer Savvy ought to understand.

"Anyway," I go on, "you can see why there's no way I can identify my wife."

There's a long pause, and then the policeman says, "Wait right here."

He and the detective go into a room that opens off the hallway.  They close the door.  I can hear the low buzz of conversation, but can't make out what they're saying.  The policeman is doing most of the talking.  There's an occasional grunt from the detective. They're coming back out in the hall now.

"Look here, Mr. Numbman," says Detective Bygone, "Officer Savvy here found your wife's photograph on her Facebook page.  He's got it right here on his phone.  You, me, and Officer Savvy are going to go in there where your wife is.  We'd like you to look at the woman lying in there on the table, and then look at the picture on Officer Savvy's phone, and see if you can make an identification based on the photo.  You know - maybe it will jog your memory.  You must have known what your wife looked like at some time in the past."

2:30 pm

The double doors close behind us as we walk back into the hall.  Truth be told, I'm a little embarrassed that I needed a photo to come to the conclusion that the woman lying on that table is not my wife.  But I console myself, knowing that if I were lying on that table, Ethereal would need a photo to identify me.

"Mr. Numbman, we're going to continue to look for your wife, and when we find her, I hope to God you'll look at her," says Detective Bygone. I don't appreciate his superior tone.

Officer Savvy smiles.  My phone rings as we're shaking hands.

"Gotta get this," I say with urgency. "It might be important."

"Yeah," says Detective Bygone, "maybe it's your wife."




Monday, November 6, 2017

Amid Fiery Beasts

Our ancestor, King David, was not sentimental about lions.  He was a shepherd in his youth, and had engaged in close combat with lions when they threatened his sheep.  If a lion rose up against him, he grabbed hold of its mane and struck it until it was dead.  (1 Samuel 17:34-36)

Later in life David spent years as a warrior.  No doubt his experience with vicious lions caused him to describe his enemies as lions.  In Psalm 57 he says, "My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts — the children of man whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords."

Yesterday as I drove home from church, my daughter called my cell phone and asked if I had heard about the massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas. I had not.  I listened in horror as she told me what had happened.  Like most of America, I can't stop thinking about it.  Twenty-six people killed and more than twenty wounded by a 26 year old man with a gun - during a church service.  The youngest killed was an 18 month old baby, the oldest a 77 year old.  Among the dead are six year old children and a young woman who was eight months pregnant.  

I don't know what to say.  What can be said?  Terror increases in frequency.  When 9/11 happened, we had the audacity to hope it would be the last attack, but they just keep coming.  They vary in method and scale, but they are horrifyingly persistent. Nobody thinks that yesterday was the last terror attack.  Like David, we are becoming well acquainted with fiery beasts — the children of men.  The beasts are among us, and safety - even in a church - is not guaranteed.

We can speculate about what causes human beings to commit these heinous acts - mental illness, an abusive childhood, drugs, post traumatic stress disorder - but the fact is that evil stalks our world.  It always has.  David was as weary of war as we are of terror.  No wonder he cried out, "Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!  Let your glory be over all the earth!"  Amen and amen.  May Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Little Sleuthing


I'm working on photographing and cataloging Confederate monuments in our area.  There used to be a monument in the middle of North Blvd. in Baton Rouge.  Several years ago, the city decided to create a park there, and the monument was removed with the understanding that it would be re-installed in due time on the grounds of the Old State Capitol Museum, but it has never reappeared.

I called the Old State Capitol this morning.   I told the person who answered about my project and asked the whereabouts of the Confederate monument.  She seemed flustered.  She couldn't answer me.  She put me on hold.  When she came back a few minutes later, she said I would have to talk to someone at the Secretary of State's office.  She gave me the name and number of a particular person there.

I called this person and put the same question to her.  She was pleasant enough and told me that the "soldier portion" (not the base) of the monument is part of the Sarah Morgan Dawson exhibit at the Old State Capitol.  "Because," she said, "Sarah Dawson wrote about Confederate soldiers in her diary."  I told her that I have read Sarah's diary, and she did indeed write about Confederate soldiers (Yankee ones, too, but I didn't mention that).

I said that I wondered why the Old State Capitol didn't tell me the monument was there when I had called them earlier.  She said that since monuments are such a sensitive subject right now, they probably prefer to steer any discussion of them to the Secretay of State.  

She went on to tell me that the "soldier portion" on display is the property of the City of Baton Rouge.  It is classified as an "artifact on loan."  She made a thinly veiled reference to the fact that the current city administration is difficult to deal with.  I had the impression that this person may be sympathetic to our pro-monument cause, but of course, can't say so.  I think she was letting me know that the hostile city administration does still own our soldier.

About a half hour after ending this conversation, I was kicking myself for not asking the whereabouts of the monument base, so I called back and got to speak to the same person.  She has no idea where the base is, but the City may know.   I asked if there are any documents that record what was engraved on the base.  She said she doesn't know, but if there are any, they would probably be held by the City.  

I don't think I'll pursue any detective work on the monument with City Hall.  No good can come from bringing a Confederate monument to the attention of a corrupt and hostile city government - not now, anyway.  

There are some excellent photos of the original 1886 monument.  In the 1950s the monument was placed on a new base, and there are photos of that as well at this link

I plan to visit the Old State Capitol soon and will take some photos of the "soldier portion" where it is now.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Catalyst for Confederate Renewal

Removal of the Jefferson Davis monument in New Orleans

All except one of the wars Americans have fought throughout our history have been fought on foreign soil.  Our soldiers and sailors left home to fight an enemy abroad.  But in that exceptional War of 1861, Southern soldiers fought on their own soil.  The enemy was on the doorstep of their homes.  In some cases the enemy had set up camp inside their homes.  What man would not fight to protect his home and family?  

While some could and do question our involvement in foreign wars, one would think that we could all agree that if an enemy is threatening your home and your family, you have a right - yea, a duty - to fight.  In spite of the conflicting views about the causes of the War of 1861, you would think we could agree on that much.  But the irony is that the only veterans in our history who are now denigrated and subjected to ridicule are the ones who fought on their doorsteps to protect their families.  

Prior to the 1960s the memory of the Confederate soldier enjoyed almost universal acclaim.  Our northern cousins may not have agreed on the causes of the war, but they understood and appreciated the Confederate soldier's valor and tenacity.  At the same time most Southerners acknowledged that the Union soldier was bravely doing his duty as he saw it.  I'm old enough to remember when there was some goodwill on both sides about this awful part of our history.  It required a measure of memory suspension, but most of us were willing to suspend memory to achieve harmony.  

Sadly, those harmonious feelings are stretched thin these days.  But the demographics of this conflict have changed since the end of that war in 1865.  156 years is a long time.   It's not our cousins presently living in the north who are clamoring to assassinate the character of the Confederate soldier and remove every monument that reveres his devotion to home and family.  Our enemies live among us.  We've put some of them in positions of power.  I hope we remember that in upcoming elections.

In the meantime, the purging of Confederate heritage continues.  In the wee hours of the morning on May 11, the Jefferson Davis monument in New Orleans was dismantled and hauled away by Mayor Mitch Landrieu's masked henchmen.  They may remove our Confederate heroes from public property, but they will never succeed in removing them from our hearts.  They may find that this holier-than-Thou purge of theirs may be the catalyst for a renewal of Confederate spirit.  And those of you who are apathetic about the Confederate soldier should ponder the fact that the movers and shakers behind this war on Confederate heritage will eventually be coming after what is near and dear to you - the American flag, American history, and the American soldier.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Perennial Confederate Spirit


The destruction of historical Confederate monuments in New Orleans has begun.  Yesterday, in the wee hours of the morning, the Liberty monument was dismantled by a crew who wore masks and bullet-proof vests.  They were watched over by snipers on rooftops, in case some violent Southern patriot showed up to protest.  They need not have worried.  Most Southern patriots know that their jobs would be in jeopardy if they showed up to protest the removal of a Confederate monument.  Political correctness only offers freedom of speech to those on the left side of the political spectrum.  Nonetheless, there were a few brave, but law-abiding, Southern patriots who showed up with candles to mourn the monument's removal.  Most of them had gray hair.

Ever since Lee surrendered at Appomattox, it has been assumed by many that this love for the South and its devotion to freedom and limited government would eventually disappear as the generations who remembered the war of 1861 died off.  They were disappointed in their assumptions, but they continue to hope.  Recently, a prominent celebrity opined that the world will be a better place as soon as the current generation of old Southern white people are dead.  This celebrity is one of the elect who is allowed free speech.

This state of affairs is often blamed on Yankees and other outsiders, but I don't think that's quite right.  I know Northerners (I won't call them Yankees) and immigrants (legal ones) who hold the South and its values in high esteem.  And there are native Southerners who worship at the altar of political correctness.  Many of those hold positions of power like the mayor of New Orleans.

Some try to say this is strictly a racial issue, and certainly race is a factor; but to think that it is all explained away by race is to oversimplify the situation.  There are blacks who have joined the efforts to preserve the Confederate battle flag and Confederate monuments.  And, at the same time,  these Confederate symbols have as many or more enemies among whites as among blacks.

No matter where you stand on this state of affairs, you can be sure that it will not be resolved any time soon.  Those who hope for the end of the Confederate spirit with each passing generation are always disappointed.  You can suppress truth, even for long periods of time - but you cannot kill it.

Sunday, March 19, 2017


Woolgathering: indulgence in aimless thought or dreamy imagining


Self-talk motivation or life is a mind game:  I've always had to work at motivating myself.  I used to talk to myself like an angry parent talks to a lazy teenager.  "Get in there and clean up your room!  You're a lazy bum!  Why can't you be neat like other people? When are you going to grow up?!" It never worked.  Now I talk to myself like a I'm a toddler.  "Come on, baby, let's get a little work done.  I know you want to play with your toys (aka books, art supplies, sewing), but just spend 15 or 20 minutes in the kitchen, and then you can play."  This works much better - and I usually end up spending 45 minutes working in the kitchen.  The moral to this story: Be gentle with yourself.  It's easier to cajole a toddler than to bully a teenager.

oppressors disguised as benefactors:  Jesus said, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves." (Luke 22:25-26)  
Relate this to our government. It takes from us in the form of social security, medicare, medicaid, and a host of other taxes.  Then when our prepaid government services (aka "benefits") are passed out - a small return on the taxpaying public's investment - our civic leaders act like they are our great benefactors.  The moral to this story: We fall far short of Our Lord's standards.

from small houses on big lots to mansions on postage stamps:  Fifty years ago everybody's dream was a little house in the suburbs with a big yard.  Now the dream seems to be a mansion on a lot that is scarcely bigger than the house.  Fifty years ago, people wanted to be outside.  Today they want to be inside.  I guess it's understandable.  Although people had air-conditioning fifty years ago, they were't quite as addicted to it as we are.  And they didn't have the electronic devices we have - devices that work better if you're not in the glaring sunlight.  Fifty years ago moms were at home to supervise the kids playing in the big suburban yard.  Now mom and dad both work until 5:00 or 6:00 and the kids are still at school in after-care.  What do they need a big yard for?  But I've been thinking - fifty years ago there weren't a lot of depressed people.  Today there are.  Antidepressant use has increased by 400% just since 1988.  No doubt there are a variety of reasons.  I think a major reason is not enough time outdoors.  The moral to this story: Go outside and play.  It's cheaper than antidepressants.

Monday, February 6, 2017

InCoWriMo and Sealing Wax

February is International Correspondence Writing Month, InCoWriMo for short.  The idea is to send a letter, postcard, or note everyday in the month.  This is the second year I've participated in this postal extravaganza. 

Today I wrote a long overdue letter to a penpal, and I thought I would embellish it with a wax seal.  I'm a pretty crafty person.  It's not often that I have a craft failure, but my history with sealing wax has been dismal.  I am a sealing wax klutz. But the memory of my last wax disaster had faded, so I thought I'd give it another go.  

After burning my thumb, setting a paper towel on fire, and ruining an envelope with an ugly seal, I remembered that I had ordered a sealing wax spoon right after my last wax failure.  Miraculously, I found it in my craft room without having to tear the place up.  Then - for the ka-zillionth time - I settled down in my chair with my iPad and watched videos about sealing wax.  I even found one that showed the spoon method.  Here's the happy result.  If I were a rooster, I'd crow!
 As per the Youtube instructions, I held the spoon over a lighted candle and rubbed the stick of sealing wax around in the spoon until I had a nice pool of melted wax.  This nifty little spoon has a tiny spout so I poured the melted wax on the envelope and stamped it with my crown wax stamp.  Success!  Of course, some people have success by simply holding the wax stick over the candle until the end begins to melt and dripping melted wax directly onto the envelope.  When I do this I end up with burned fingers and black soot in the melted wax.  From now on it's the spoon for me! -------- By the way, if you want to participate in InCoWriMo, but don't know who to write to, my address is on the envelope above.