Spring Snow by Ryan Golden Larsen

Today I had only a moment to witness the spring snow

Like down feathers being sprinkled down from above

The sky was dull and the clouds gray

Through breaks in the clouds sun beams shown through

Each snowflake glistened, glowed and rocked back and forth

While slowly descending from the heavens

I felt I was inside a snow globe looking out at the world

It was a perfect moment

A moment that was wasted on the tasks of the day

Only to witness, not experience the beauty on display

A beauty that grazed my heart like a stray bullet

The wound left behind was regret

The pain that followed was want

For life to go by as slowly as the falling spring snow

ubc-spring-snow-flower

False Dreams By Ryan Larsen

          Mel awoke in a cold sweat to her alarm going off, she had the nightmare again.  She rolled herself out of bed and made her way to the bathroom for a shower, she had college and work today.  The warm water in the shower reminded her of her dreams.  Every time she had the dream it was the same.  She was in the dark and in warm water and she could not move or see anything.

            She is a student at the local college.  After dressing she grabbed a quick meal of toast and orange juice and hurried out the door with her backpack.

           School was the same old thing for her today.  She was just about to graduate with a double major in Chemistry and Microbiology.

            It was in her biology lab class that she had the strangest feeling that there were people in the lab staring at her the whole time.  She had had this feeling before, like everyone does, but this time it was different.  There were at least three or four people this time.  Strange as it was she shrugged it off as some weird thing that just happens.  Until it happened again later that evening at her job. She worked at a local grocery store to help put her through college.  This time she was sure that it was happening.

            “People are dying! This is not working fast enough, it’s only on stage two” Raymond said. 

            “We are pushing it as fast as it can go” his colleague said.  “Give it time we will get there. How about your team?”

            “The team is the same, every time we do what we think we should be doing the virus responds differently.  It is unlike anything ever seen before.  We need Dr. Robinson back, she was on to something before it happened.” 

            Years earlier the VT107 virus began spreading throughout the earth faster than anything had before.  After billions had died survivors and scientists migrated to colder climates, because virus replication, mutation and infection rates were dramatically decreased. The virus is constantly mutating and the world fears that it will gain resistance to the cold and continue to spread.  Scientists in all the major countries of the world have set up research laboratories north of the Arctic Circle. Now any travel above and below the Artic Circle is prohibited and it is likewise with Antarctica and the southern hemisphere.

            Mel readied for bed, flipped the covers open and climbed in.  Like all other nights since the bad dreams had begun she fought sleep, afraid of what would come; the occasional dream of the still darkness, or a dream that is normal and erratic? After an hour fighting she gave in and fell asleep.  Her fears were confirmed. She was in water and could not see anything, dreaming.  Only this time she felt a shock like her whole body had been put into a light socket.  She felt hands all over her body and lips on hers.  She coughed and took a deep breath and woke up.  Only this time she was not in her bedroom inside her apartment.   She was lying on cold tile floor.  Her arms were free, her body wet, but not submerged in water.  There was something over her eyes.  She heard a male voice, “she is stable, go get her some clothes.”  She felt her body with her hands trembling and she was completely naked and shivering.  She reached up for what was covering her eyes and heard the male voice say, “No, don’t. It will hurt, you haven’t seen a real light source for a long time. Dim the lights in here, we are removing her ocular stimulators.”  A hand slowly lifted off what was on her eyes.  Her eyes now adjusting to the dim light of room she was in, she looked up and saw the dark silhouette of a man.  He took his lab coat off and laid it over her and said, “You are ok. Don’t try to get up we will help you.”

          “But I am cold,” Mel said.

           “We have some warm clothes coming for you,” the male voice said. 

           “I want to get up.”

           The man put his arm around her and helped her to her feet.  She felt weak and could barely stand without his help.  She looked up at the man helping her.  He said, “I am Dr. Stephens, but you can call me Ron.” 

           “I am Mel Robinson.” She said faintly.

           “I know who you are Doc…um…Miss Robinson.  We know everything about you.”

           “I am tired, I want to sleep, can I sleep?” she said in a strained voice.

           “No, we have to keep you up to get checked out to see if you are healthy.  If you fell asleep know you could fall into a coma and die.”

           “What? Why?” she cried. 

           “We will answer all your questions in time.”  

            She was dressed, put in a wheel chair and pushed into a small cafeteria where she was fed what felt like her first meal in months.  She was in what looked to her like a hospital or lab.  After her food settled she was wheeled into an office where a man with a beard in his early 40’s sat behind a desk.  He said, “I am Dr. Balkin, but everyone calls me Ray.  What I am about to say is going to be a shock to you, I want you to be prepared for it.”

          “Uh…ok,” she said. 

           He began with a deep sigh and spoke slowly.  He explained to her, about five years ago there was a virus that began to spread throughout the earth killing a quarter of billion in the first year.  Whole cities and towns full of people were now gone.  The virus continued to spread and had now claimed over a billion people.  There was a talented researcher who was helping us figure out a cure.  She had told us that she thought she had found the cure, but then there was an accident and she was killed. We merged our research with some groundbreaking brain and computer research, because the fate of the world was at stake. We were willing to try anything.  Six coma patients were chosen to have memories of that talented young doctor implanted electronically into their brains.  The simulated memories alone took a team of 50 people 8 months to create.  The memories were of this doctor’s whole life down to the last detail and implanted in stages over periods of months.  The simulations were also interactive.  The coma patient would feel like they were living this doctor’s life.  We were also able to monitor the patients’ progress within the simulation by hooking ourselves up to the same equipment. 

         “It was our hope that throughout the simulations the “mind clones” would stumble onto the cure for this virus when they reached the final stage of the simulation.  There was a power surge and one of them woke up.

          “You were in stage two of a six stage process,” he said slowly and calmly.

          “What are you saying?” Mel said as her eyes welled up with tears. “You are kidding! This is a dream or something.”

          “That young doctor I spoke of was Mel Robinson,” he said.

          “But I am Mel Robinson,” she said. 

          “In your mind you are Mel, but in body you are a Jane Doe coma patient and we still want your help.  While the other coma patients finish their simulations we want you to try and pick up where Dr. Robinson left off.”

         “Take me to a mirror. I don’t believe this,” Mel asked.

         “There is a mirror on the back side of the door behind you.”

With a little difficulty Mel turned herself around in the wheel chair and rolled herself to the mirror. She looked at the stranger in the mirror tears began streaming down her cheeks and she felt sick to her stomach. She was just confronted with the fact that she is not a real person and that the fate of the world may be resting in her hands.

Worth It

“This is not worth it,” I say to myself as I close the door to my car. The freezing air burns my nostrils. I take a deep breath, and a slight shiver runs through my body. Throwing my backpack over my shoulders, I put my hands in my jacket pockets and start to walk. The snow crunches beneath my feet, icy with a thin coat of fresh snow that had fallen during the night. I duck my head to avoid the pine needles of the large trees near the street where I parked.
I yawn. I’m not completely awake yet and I am still tired. “This is insanity, I can’t keep this up,” I say to myself, the fog from my breath rising through the frigid morning air. ‘I can’t keep working and going to school full time, it’s killing me’. My mind starts to wander further and further with every step I take. I worry about the choices I made in life, were they the right ones? And the choices I haven’t made yet, how will I decide? Did I choose the right major? My mind races so much lately that my heart beats fast even when I am still. These never-ending thoughts keep me up at night and linger on throughout the day.
It is dark and the air still. The light from the buildings I move towards is dull and the light behind me is unsteady as cars rush by. A slight haze hangs over the houses and the tops of buildings. The fog does not move, like a dimly lit photo, only I am walking through it.
Why go to class at all and what for? There has to be a point to all of this. I have been going to college longer than I was in the Navy and college was the reason why I joined. More than four years is a long time to have nearly nothing to show for it, an Associates Degree. Wow, that will get me far. The four-year bachelor degree you hear about is a myth. Unless you are well funded and can devote all your time to school it is impossible.
I tread up the slight incline of campus and I remember a conversation I had heard the day prior while walking to class. One guy asked another guy, “How many hours is a full work week?” How would it be to go to college and not need to have a job to worry about? Obviously the guy doesn’t have to work or he would know there are 40 hours in a workweek. I wanted to throttle and yell at him “it’s 40, grow up!” But I held my contempt.
The Wasatch Mountains can be seen on a clear day but today the lower slopes disappear into the cloudy haze. It was if the artist that paints the day’s beauty every morning was weary and painted only what they saw, a dull gray, opaque scene full of dim light and shadow. This walk through the fog mirrors thoughts about my life. I feel lost in a storm but I must keep going in some direction if I want to live. To live? Live for what? Love, Passion, Vanity, Power, Money, Children, Marriage and Happiness?
The ground is slick and my steps are careful. Looking around I see nothing, no panoramic view to comprehend. The lack of light and color in a busy world is calming. Halfway to my destination and the skin on my face is cold and tight.
Most people going college are the ones whose parents can afford to send them. How will I ever fit into their world? I already do not fit in with lower class people, nor do I want to, but it is where I come from and where I am. The lower class, people who have made mistakes and were forced to give up on their dreams. They live a simple life, a cycle of rest and work, and the same thing week after week. Their only dream is to have enough money for a trip to The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone or Disney Land once in their lives. To live only for a moment among the privileged, only until they are forced back to near slavery having spent their savings on Mickey Mouse T-shirts. Their only hope is to work enough to save enough and go somewhere else in the next five years, if they are lucky. I may still have time I am only 26. Twenty-six, John Lennon was 26 when the Beatles recorded Sgt. Peppers. I have not done anything yet let alone anything great. I refuse to lie down in the cold and die.
The low temperature had just begun to affect me. My lips quiver, and I pull my arms in tighter to my body.
It becomes clear to me; the disconnection between the Privileged and the Poor will never be connected. The privileged people who own everything and run the country are the people who, during college, do not know how many hours are in a workweek. They never have the experience of working for themselves and paying their own way. Everything is handed to them, cars, money, education and eventually jobs owning and running the country. The rich breed more rich becoming richer and the poor breed more poor becoming poorer. The middle class does not exist, only those who live paycheck-to-paycheck and those who have enough money to do what they want.
The frost and snow that covers everything sparkle from what little light shows on it. The thin coat of powder is especially brilliant on the streets, shimmering like spilt salt over a dark counter top.
The poor are no better than the rich, after all the poor get the handouts. If I was more of a screw up things might actually be easier. The single mothers and former criminals get more help than I ever will. They use charitable and state assistance like it is owed to them. It disgusts me that the hard workers work harder getting nowhere and the lazy people work less and get all the help and attention.
Will I ever be privileged enough to take a trip to Europe for a month without losing my job or have my bills become overdue? Or enough time and money for a 3-month journey down a river? Currently I do not have the luxury of fun and risk; it is a big enough risk going to college without having a clue of where I am heading in life. I have worked so long that I am not sure if I know what fun is anymore. I can’t afford fun. I’ve worked since I was 16 and two months after graduating high school I was serving in the Navy. A month after I was discharged I enrolled in college. Is everything I have done a waste of time?
I feel completely alone as I walk thinking. I know there are others who were making their way through the cold, but our paths may never cross on this morning or ever. The only visible signs of life are worn footprints left behind by others making their way through the snow. I try to follow in some of their footprints, but make my own along the way.
I could fail miserably and be forced to live life as a person that I pity and feel sorry for. I would rather die than feel the shame and pity for being a self-proclaimed failure. I am not sure how some people do it, being happy and content with their small lives and needing no more?
Surrounded, but alone. There may be people in the cars on the street, but I cannot be sure. A series of paired lights zipping along in straight lines traveling both north and south tow their shadowy masters. Their masters are not people, but dark shapes. A person is not a person until they can be seen in enough light; shadows can lie. The shadows can draw a person in with mystery and wonder of what lies beyond, but it may be an illusion. I must take care not to be caught in the shadows.
An extra glimmer is seen in a person’s eyes when a child, a glimmer that for the lucky few remains through adulthood. The sparkle remains until they figure out their dreams will never come true and that life did not deal them the hand they wished for. I watched the sparkle fade from my brother’s eyes. Once a finely conditioned athlete he is now a broke and broken recovering drug addict. The glimmer of hope is gone from him; the only thing keeping him alive is the involuntary function of breathing. The love for his children helps him, but it’s not enough when you have lost your dreams and do not know what you need to live for. I am truly worried about his son, my nephew. The sparkle in his eye is beginning to fade and he is only 8. He has experienced some of the harsh realities of life far too young. I feel helpless, because I cannot fight back the shadows for him.
My eyes are moist as I approach the stairs; they were slick with ice. I grab the railing and instantly a chill goes through my hand and then my body. Having a cold hand was better than falling. I stop at the top of the stairs, slightly out of breath.
I take a few deep breaths and think about how out of shape I am. I gained fifty pounds since beginning college. I have time for three things, school, work and sleep. Catching my breath I continue walking towards the business building that my class is in.
It is getting lighter. The sun is just beginning to rise above the ridge of the mountain towering over campus. Heat of the sun starts to burn through the haze still hanging in the air. Slowly the shadows turn to shade and the color of life returns to the world.
I reach the door to the building and I open it. A warm welcoming gust of air from inside greets me. As I step inside for class I say to myself. “This better be worth it.”

The Pink Bicycle

The dull ring of an old small bell was heard as the door opened into the shop. The clerk watched as a tall heavyset man entered the shop carrying a pink bicycle.

The tall heavyset man in his late 20’s approached the clerk. He had to position the bike just the right way so he would not knock over any of the used TV’s, VCR’s, and speaker boxes as he walked towards the back of the shop. The man set the bike down near the glass counter case that the clerk leaned on. He placed his hand on the counter top as he stood up straight while looking into the case at the knives and guns displayed in it.  He looked to the right at the next glass counter at the video games and game machines that had seen better days in the hands of a child.

“How much can you give me for this” the tall heavyset man asked in a shaky voice.

The clerk looked the man up and down briefly.

“Let me come around and take a closer look.” The clerk came out from behind the counter through the space between the gun/knife case and the video games and bent to one knee and looked at the bike. “A Disney Princess bike, these are popular.  Yours still has the original doll seat attached to the back and the training wheels still look new.  Haven’t got much use out of it, have you?”

“No I haven’t. My daughter has trouble peddling and can’t use the kick brake. She’s just too little still.”

“Oh yeah… All kids are different. Some get it early and some don’t.”

“We had the bike about a year now and she never rides it that much. She just can’t get the hang of it.”

“Maybe next year.” The clerk said.

“Yeah, we thought we could just get a little money for it and get her some other stuff.” the man said as he looked around the shop and wiped the sweat off his forehead.

“How old is your daughter?”

“About 3 or 4” the man said.

“Is she 3 or 4?” the clerk asked.

“Four” the man said quickly.

“The bike is in good shape, why didn’t you just return it to the store and get ALL your money back?”

“It has been too long and we don’t have the receipt.”

“That’s too bad. I guess I can give you about $15 for it.”

“Fifteen!” the man groaned. “It was like a $65 bike.”

“Sorry” the man said. “I have a policy on bikes. Fifteen dollars max. You should know that, you’ve been here before.”

“Not with this bike.”

“Take it or leave it.” The clerk said.

“Take it.” The man said in a hurried voice as he rubbed his elbow and then his chest.

“Let me get your cash and slip.”

“Ok.”

“Here is your $15 and your slip. You know the policy right?”

“I got it.” He said as he shoved the money and slip into his worn pair of baggy denim shorts and moved quickly away from the counter towards the exit.

The clerk lifted the bike carefully to avoid the counter and walked it to the back.  “I bet that sucker stole this bike and doesn’t even have a daughter.” He said to himself just as the bell on the door rang and the man exited.  With a sigh he set the bike down in the back room and mutters, “Business is business.”

Waiting for the man outside the shop was a woman sitting in the drivers seat of what was once was a black a Chevy Caviler, now just a beat up car.

The heavyset man got in the passenger side and said, “Lets go.”

The car pulled out of the small parking lot into the street.

“How much did you get” asked the woman.

“Not as much as I hoped.”

“Well how much!” She asked as the car came to a stop at a traffic light.

“Fifteen” the man said.

“I thought we could have at least got 30 or 40 off that bike it was barely used.”

“The damn guy has a POLICY on bikes” he said.

“15 dollars is barley enough to get anything,” she said.

“I know, I know, we’ll just have to figure it out. How much money do you have on you?” the man asked.

“I think I got a few bucks on me,” the woman said.

“We have to have a least 20,” he said.

“I gotta check my purse.”

“Well how much do you have,” asked the man.

“Calm down and hold the wheel so I can check real quick.”

The man reached over with his left hand and held the wheel and the women shuffled quickly through her purse.

“2, 3, 3.25” she counted to herself and then said, “I’ve got three fifty.”

The man stretched and groaned as he reached into his pocket to pull out the $15 so he could put the $3.50 with it.

“What the hell, there is only a dollar here?” the man said breathing heavily.

“Check your other pocket, I think you put the 15 in your other pocket.” She said.

Once again the man groaned as he reached into his other pocket and pulled out the $15 and the slip.  He shuffled the money together and dropped the slip on the floor of the car.

“Wow that was lucky, now we have $19.50,” she said.

“Yeah that was lucky. But we are still short 50 cents.”

“Is fifty cents going to really matter,” she said.

“Yes it does, I don’t want anyone to think they are doing us a favor.”

The man reached into the cup holder in the center console of the car and sifted through mostly pennies.

“Here is a couple dimes and a nickel,” he said.

The car swerved a bit, as they looked down between the seats in hope of seeing something shiny, round and silver.

“We will get out and look really fast once we are there,” he said.

“I think we are almost there, which house is it again,” she asked.

“It is the one in the middle over there” he pointed “ the white one with brown trim.”

“I don’t see it,” she said.

“The one with the knocked over garbage cans in the front and the pile of garbage sacks in front of the garage.”

“Oh I see it now.”

The women pulled the car into the driveway shut the car off and they both opened the doors and got out of the car and down to their knees.  They began looking through the car for loose change.

“I got it,” she said as she held up a quarter that she found under the child seat in the back of the car.

“That was quick, give it to me” he said.

She reached through the car and handed the man the quarter.  They stood up shut the doors to the car and walked to the porch.

“Do we need to knock,” she said.

“Yes,” the man said as he pounded on the door.  A voice from inside said, “Come in.”

 

A blonde haired blue-eyed little girl with a round face sat on the floor in a room while she played with her dolls and watched TV.  She was watching one of here favorite shows, “Sponge-Bob Square Pants.”  She looked up at the TV off and on while she combed her Barbie’s hair and hummed a song that existed only in her head.  She heard the door to the house open and footsteps.

“Daddy!” she said excitedly as she dropped the doll and stood up.

“Mommy!” she yelled with even more excitement as she walked out of the room and around the corner into the kitchen where the noise from people entering the house came from.

“Daddy!” She said as she ran to him with her arms raised.  “ I missed you so much.”

“I know sweetie we have missed you too,” her father said as he lifted her up into his arms and gave her kiss on the cheek.

“Have you had a fun couple of days with grandma”? Her mother asked as she closed the door behind her.

“Yes, mommy, I love gramma, but why were you gone so long mommy?” the little girl asked.

“Me and your dad had to go on a short trip, but we are back now,” her mother said.

“I want you and daddy to stay here all the time, I don’t like it when you go.” She said in a sweet soft voice, she put her arms around her father as far as she could, laid her head in the crook of his neck and squeezed him with a hug.

“Mommy and daddy can’t stay with you all the time sweetie,” her father said.

“Why not, daddy!”

“Cause sometimes me and mommy have to go a do things by ourselves,” he said.

“Oh, ok daddy”

“Mommy, Daddy! Will you take me outside?  I want you to play with me.”

“Ok, but just for a minute, mommy and daddy are tired,” he said.

Her mother opened the door and the three of them stepped outside.

“Where is your brother?” her mother asked while they walked towards the backyard.

“He’s at school mommy.  He gets home at free-furty.”.

“How do you know that? You are so smart,” her mother said.

“Gramma teached me.”

“Lets go to the swing-set and I can push you in the swing.” Her father said as he set her to the ground.

“I don’t want to swing daddy.  I want to ride my new princess bike.” She ran to where she thought she had left it last and looked around.

“Where is my princess bike?” she said looking confused. “Daddy I want you to help me ride my bike. Help me find it daddy.”

She turned and started running towards the front yard.

“Stop sweetie, come back here please.  Your bike isn’t in the front.” Her father said.

“Where is it daddy?” She asked with a smile as she skipped back to where they were standing and looked up at them.

“Your bike is gone sweetie,” her father said.

“We had to talk it back to the store,” her mother said.

“Why mommy.” She said, the smile on her face now gone.

“We needed the money.” She said.

“But I got the bike for my berfday mommy.” She said on the verge of crying, but holding it in.

“We will get you a new one as soon as we have some money.” Her father said.

“Oh” she said softly as she continued frowning and turned her back to them.

“Come on over to the swing and I will push you.” Her father said.

“Yeah mommy wants to see you swing like a big girl.” Her mother said.

“I don’t want to play outside anymore” she said, “I want to go inside and watch Sponge-Bob and play with my dollies.”

Hong Kong

I was drunk, in a cab and driving through Hong Kong.  Sitting in the back seat on the driver’s side next to the door, my two friends in the seats next to me.  I was not just drunk I was “sick drunk” and needed to throw up.  My friends and I just came from some bar in the middle of Hong Kong where I drank more beer and had more shots than I can remember.  How the hell did I get myself there? It was my first time in Hong Kong and little did I know that day would turn into a story I will tell with embarrassed delight until the day I die.

This six-month deployment with the USS Tarawa was my first and with came many more firsts for me. It was the first time I had ever touched the soil of foreign land.  By this time I traveled to as many foreign countries as I had different U.S. states.  Our ship pulled in to Victoria Harbor and right away I knew my shore leave in Hong Kong was going to be different from my last in the Seychelles.  The Seychelles Island was very small while Hong Kong was a massive city.

It was the first week in January; the sea was choppy and gray.  The sky was cloudy and sprinkling with rain.  The many piers in Hong Kong were full of cruise ships most likely there to celebrate the Chinese New Year.  So we could not pull directly into a pier.  The captain planned to drop anchor in the harbor and then hire ferries to take the crew to the city for shore leave.

Dropping the anchor this time was literal.  The braking mechanism that stopped the chain gave out!  The anchor and the entire length of chain fell to the bottom of the harbor.  Although rare, when this sort of thing happens the end of the chain will whip and kill anybody in the area, because the links in the chain are the size of watermelon. Thankfully nothing was seriously damaged and no one was hurt.  The ship’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal team (the EOD team), who were trained divers, dived down to locate it.  A local crane company was hired to help pull it up, but they were unsuccessful at finding again in the deep murky water of Victoria Harbor.

After the anchor debacle and hours of waiting, those of us who had shore leave were able to board the ferries and head into Hong Kong. My first impression of Hong Kong was that it was huge.  It was bigger than I had imagined, the movies did not do it credit.  The first thing that I had noticed on the shore as the ferry was pulling up to the pier was a McDonalds.  This made me happy and disappointed at the same time.  It was great that there was a familiar sight, but it is not exactly what a person thinks of when visiting a foreign country.  After having a hamburger I realized something. I had eaten a McDonalds hamburger in four countries during this deployment and amazingly their hamburgers taste the same no matter where you eat them.  I had heard a rumor once that McDonalds puts chemicals in their meat to improve the taste.  I am a believer now.

As the familiar greasy goody was settled and my American flatulence came back, my friend Adam and I started to walk through the city.  Once we were in the streets the “Hong Kong” of the movies started to show through, the neon business signs seemed to be endless and stacked one on top of the other like dominoes.  This is the sort of thing you can’t see from the harbor.  Happily, I pulled out my disposable camera and took a picture.  It was perfect, just like you think China would be at street level.  It made me think about all the car and foot chases I had seen in movies like Rush Hour 2 that took place in streets like these.

While walking through the city for a bit I noticed that there was a 7 Eleven about every two blocks, most of them on the ground levels of much larger buildings.  This was strange to me.  All the 7 Elevens I had ever seen were gas stations.  My friend and I stepped inside one and it was like any other 7 Eleven selling the same items like Slurpee’s, Doritos and condoms. But they also sold fish and weird dough balls.

We had heard there were some interesting tourist attractions at the top of Victoria Peak, a tree-covered mountain that looked like it grew up right between all the buildings.  The only way to the top that we knew of was the Peak Tram; trolley cars pulled buy a cable up the mountainside at nearly a forty-five degree angle.  Among the various gift shops on the top were also Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, a 3-D motion theater ride, some botanical gardens and art galleries.  Well the gardens and galleries were out; flowers and pictures sounded too exciting to us. We thought what the hell and went on the 3-D ride. It was funny because of how bad it was. So bad that Adam and I were the only ones in the theater.  We thought maybe we would have more luck with the wax museum.  Who would have thought that lifeless wax figures would be more entertaining than a 3-D motion ride?  In the museum, I clicked a few pictures of Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, and even the members my favorite band The Beatles pre-LSD days, gray suits and everything.  Pretty good likenesses at certain angles, Paul’s hair and eyebrows were all screwed up when you looked straight at him.

We figured we had to pay the money to ride the Peak Tram to get to the top of Victoria Peak so we decided to look through all the gift shops.  We were just killing time walking around and Adam struck up a conversation with a female gift shop attendant.  Adam was known as a ‘Casanova’ with the ladies, but to me he just seemed like some sleazy guy that might try to sell you a used car and then try to bum a cigarette from you.  I introduced myself to the clerk with Adam, but figured I would let him do his thing.  As he was trying to work her over with his ‘so called’ charm I just walked around and looked at the various things for sale. I noticed that while he was talking to her she was looking at me.  Her name was Michelle and she was about five and a half feet tall, slender and originally from Sri Lanka.  She had curly dark shoulder length hair and big beautiful brown eyes accented with dark make up.  Adam gave up trying to butter her up to him, so I decided to take my chance and started chatting with her.

Showing off my American naivety I asked her, “How long has she spoken English?” To which she responded, “my whole life.”  I shook that off and with a little bit of Adam’s help asked if she had any friends and if they would like to go have drinks later.  She said she had a friend and that she could only have a quick drink after work because she had to work in the morning.  ‘Awesome’ I thought, she was into me, not him.  I felt like I was on top of the world although it could have been the mountain I was on.  All we had to do now was wait until she and her friend got off work.  Her friend worked at the wax museum and strangely enough we had met her earlier when we bought our tickets.

We met them both at nine in the shop where Michelle worked.  Michelle’s friend was nearly as beautiful as she, but with a bit of a large nose and more of a plain look; her name was Jasmine or something.  ‘Scraps go to the loser’ I thought about Adam, even though the scraps weren’t half bad either. We chatted with them as we walked and boarded the Peak Tram back to the city below. I looked out at the city to soak it all in.  There were two great ways to see Hong Kong, one was from the water in the harbor and the other was from the top of Victoria Peak.  I had now seen it from both vantages. Nearly every building was elaborately lit; Hong Kong celebrated three holidays one after another this year, Christmas, western New Year and Chinese New Year.

Once at street level the four of us walked a bit and then ducked into the first bar we saw.  It was a bar that had no front wall and was open to the street.  We sat down and ordered a few drinks and continued chatting.  Some other sailors that Michelle had met earlier waved her over to their table.  She left and went to their table.  After a few minutes I was a little pissed.  I went over to her and asked, “Are you here to have drinks with me or them?”  She said, “you” and she came back to our table.  We finished our drinks then Michelle and ‘what’s her name’ had to be off to catch the subway home.  We agreed to walk with them.  Michelle told me that she was sorry that she just didn’t want to be rude to the other guys.  As we left the bar I gave the bird to the other sailors.  They decided to come out after us, but by that time we were too far ahead for them to want to catch up.  Michelle was a bit standoffish with me as we walked off like maybe I had made her upset somehow.   Casanova walked with ‘that other girl’ in front of us and was doing about as good as I was doing with Michelle.  We got to the subway and it was unlike any I had ever seen before, because it was actually clean.  It looked like a damn shuttlecraft bound for the starship Enterprise.  Before they left we asked if we could get a few pictures with them.  We took pictures and then they got on the subway bound for home.

I asked Adam how he did with his girl and it was not good.  He felt like a loser because ‘what’s her name’ was not into him, but I felt like a rejected loser.  What does any good sailor do when they are full of pity and sorrow?  They try to drown it with booze and a lot of it.  We walked away from the subway knowing what we were both looking for without speaking. We were looking for the closest bar to get completely hammered in.

Found it.  The bar was dimly lit and there were dancing girls up on a stage, perfect! We ran into a guy from our ship.  I didn’t know his name, but Adam did. He seemed like a good enough guy to get trashed with.  After an hour or two, beer, shots and more beer the ship stranger bet me to do a body-shot off of a female dancer in the club.  The woman was a beautiful Chinese woman, she had a number pinned to her black bikini bottom, and twenty-three comes to mind.  The number could have been 76 trillion; I don’t know I could barely hold myself up next to the bar.  The number was for identification purposes in case you wanted her for sex.  You would notify the correct person at the establishment and they would arrange a room for you.  It was too bad for me because I didn’t have sex with prostitutes.  And it was too bad for Adam, because he did have sex with prostitutes, but was broke. Number twenty-three had overheard the bet and walked over and sat down next to me at the bar.  She took it upon her self to order two or three shots of tequila, which ‘stranger’ paid for as part of our wager.  I think she ordered one for herself, I can’t remember.  I drank the shot and she quickly flipped her top down and held the lemon to her nipple and squeezed it.  I eagerly lapped and sucked the juice from her nipple.  Partly to help kill the taste of the death juice I had ingested and partly because it was a titty after all.  Before I knew it I was doing it again to the other nipple after the second shot.  I was so drunk before those shots that I could have swallowed gasoline and wouldn’t have known it. I hope I gave her a good tip.

As if I was not drunk enough already, after those two tequila shots I was now hammered, MIA, DOA, but at least I could still stand and barely walk.  Foreseeing the night ahead of me throwing up in my rack on the ship and possibly dying in my sleep.  I took it upon myself to stumble to the restroom and fell down to my knees to make myself throw up.  It took me a second to work up the courage, my drinking had never came to this before.  I stuck my middle finger in my throat and up it came.  Adam thought I had passed out on the floor of the restroom and came in to check on me.  He looked in on me by boosting himself up to see over the top of the stall.  After seeing I was upright and still breathing he asked if I was OK and left.  I finished gagging myself, washed up and wandered back into the bar.  It was late and we had to go.

We hailed a cab, got in and after traveling for a moment it felt like the driver thought he was Mario Andretti.  I needed to throw up again, only this time it was involutary. I was going to throw up and I knew it.  My two friends pleaded with the Chinese Mario Andretti to slow down and stop, but Mario did not.  Since I was sitting next to the door I thought ‘what the hell’  I opened the door bent over and threw up.  My friends grabbed a hold of me, afraid I would topple out of the car to my death.  Then there was a THUD as the door smacked my head.  It felt like the car had hit something. In fact, the door I opened did hit something.  Mario stopped, to my stomach’s relief.  He jumped out of the cab and the three of us stumbled out after him.  He said, frantically “you hit my car…there a dent and scratch now…I got call company!!”  He called the cab company on his cell phone, spoke in Chinese for moment then hung up and said, “They say $800 (HK),” around a hundered and fifty U.S. dollar.  I attempted to say as clearly as possible,    “A.T.M.”

He drove us to the closest ATM he could find.  It was on the other side of the street and for some reason we had to cross using a foot bridge that went over the street.  I got to the ATM, withdrew about a thousand Hong Kong dollars, and gave “Mario” all of it. We asked if he could please take us back to the pier where the ferries for the Navy ship were.  He happily did so.  I feel fortunate to not have seen what a Chinese jail cell looked like, but my night was not over.

Mario dropped us off at the pier where the ferries to the ship were.  It was cool but not cold while we waited for the next ferry.  Once aboard I took refuge inside the cabin and sat down while my friend ‘the ever smoking car salesman’ smoked outside on the cat walk.  Once the ferry started moving I relized this ride to the ship was going to be as good as the cab ride.  It picked up speed the water had not calmed down at all since this morning.  Instead of a gental rocking motion the ferrier felt like it was a speed boat skipping across the water, this did not help my condition.  I felt sick, I had to ask if their was a bathroom, it was up front.  I opened the door stepped in and locked it behind me.  My body wanted me to throw up again, but as I knelt down in the small cramped space all I could do is dry heave.  I stayed in the bath room until it felt like the boat was slowing down.

It was time to get off the ferry.  I found my friend and line up ready to get off.  As I approched the exit I noticed that the barge that was tethered to the side of my ship was moving up and down.  This was going take all I had in me to not fall between the two and drown or get smashed to death.  I had to time it just right.  As the barge came up the the ferry went down and then again in reverse.  Luckily there was a ferry attendent there to help everyone make this leap of faith.  It was my turn I stepped and made it safely onto the barge.  Now I had to survive going up the narrow metal stair case that was lowered from the catwalk thirty feet above us.  The ended of the stair case a had a metal roller at the bottom so it would not scap what it was set on.  As the barge move up and down and side to side the stairs rolled back and forth.  There were two way to do this, fast and quick or slow and steady.  I don’t think I had a choice, slow and steady for me.  I climed the steps and with a little work I made it to the top.  Once at the top I had to hold my self straight enough and flash my id to the watch and ask, “permission to come aboard.”   I made it through, now to get my rack and my sweet bed that I now longed for was going to be easy.

I stumbled to my rack took off my shoes, threw them to the end of my bunk and crawed in.  I was fortunate enough to have the bottom rack so falling down and crawling on the floor like an animal was easy at this point.  A two inch thick mattress had never felt so good.  As I layed there it felt like my body had sunk six inches into the bed and then I fell asleep.

The Princess and the Well

Once upon a time there was a princess who was sad. She couldn’t stop crying because she had a broken heart. She ran away to hide, but got lost in the forest. She found a well in the forest and made a wish to un-break her heart. The wish did not come true and the princess cried even more. The well overfilled with water. Soon the water was so deep that the princess had to swim or she would drown. She swam and swam, but did not know where, she still cried. The waves grew and the sky darkened. The princess swam and swam with all her might, but she was getting tired. Just then she saw a light in the distance, it was a boat. She thought she could make it so she swam harder. The clouds began to part and the waves began to calm. She was getting closer to the boat. She could see people on the boat. They were her family and friends. She swam even harder because she was so happy just to see them. Just then she noticed she could touch the bottom with her toes. She stood up and was so happy just to be out of danger that she cried.  She looked around and what was once an ocean was now a pond. And the boat full of her friends disappeared into the sunshine. She smiled because she was happy to be alive and wanted to see them again. She turned around and in front of her was the well. It was not overflowing with water anymore and the water that surrounded the princess was now gone. She walked to the well and looked inside. She saw her reflection and smiled. A single tear of joy fell from her face into the well and the water dried up. She could see now that she was not lost after all.  She walked home and the well disappeared.

Conflicts of Emotion

Close distance

Sharp dullness

Silence spoken

Deafness heard

Reaching nowhere

Found alone

Dreams reality

Hope desperate

Communication void

Screaming whisper

Conversation mute

Certainty confusion

Presence away

Moments missed

Clarity dust

Positive sadness

Helping passively

Direct un-sureness

Claustrophobic space

Breath vacuum

Doubtful wishing

Smile frowning

Comforting tears

Scarred happiness

Time infinite

Movement waiting

Settling chaos

Fantasy future

You and me