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gymbrall's Journal
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Date:2006-10-19 15:08
Subject:A Three Ghost Night

He is asleep when I find him. A tiny man in a giant bed, pillows tossed around the room. His face, normally full of life and color, is pale white, the skin of a dead man. It takes nothing to wake him, and when I do, his face flushes with momentary anger, and then he recognizes me.

“You look as if you’ve seen a ghost,” I say to him.

“I’ve prayed I would,” he says, “but none have come.”

He is not the first patient of mine to feel this way, and he will certainly not be the last, but the sound of desperation in his voice is strong, and I feel a moment’s pity. I stay for an hour and listen to his story, knowing it already before he begins, wishing that like a joke heard before, I can merely say the punchline and avoid the repetition.

“I’m so unhappy with myself,” he cries, “and there is nothing I can do. I awake every day to the same life, the same problems, the same failures, the same vices. I am the unchanged man, and I long for change! I wish for a night like Ebenezer’s. I wish for a three ghost night and the transformation it would bring.” It is hard to pay attention to everything he says. I have heard it all from him before.

Finally, he finishes speaking and I give him my advice. This too is nothing new, but he nods and pretends to listen. “You’ve been such a help,” he says, a tiny smile appearing on his tiny face. Afterwards, I gather my things and prepare to leave. I watch him as he turns upon the bed, preparing for sleep and then I leave without a word. There is nothing else for me to see here; I know his routine well: beside the bed sits a tumbler of water and a Bible; without thinking, he will drink the water in one gulp, and then read the Holy Scriptures in much the same way. Perhaps five minutes, perhaps less. Then he will close his eyes and sleep, dreaming desperate dreams and hoping for a touch of magic.

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Date:2005-08-16 09:10
Subject:Living by reflex

While reading a friend of mine's blog today, he had this to say:

Occasionally, to use an inadequate parallel, it’s as if I’ve been going through the motions of my life fairly unquestioningly, when, in an instant, my predicament strikes me as amazing and strange [full text].

It's as if we've been living our lives by reflex rather than deliberation. If a reflex is an involuntary response, a command to the body that bypasses the conscious mind, what is its spiritual counterpart? A response that bypasses the Spirit?

I know this is in a different direction than he was going, but it reminds me of when I had a 30 minute commute to work each morning. I would get in the car, put the key in the ignition, and at my next conscious thought I was puling into the parking lot, with no specific memory of the actions that had brought me there. Occasionally though, something would happen on the trip that would snap me from my thoughtlessness, and I would actually see my surroundings. I have never noticed that graveyard before... when did they build that housing development... when did that gas station burn down?

Sadly, my spiritual life has this quality as well. There have been many weeks where I leave church, get into my car, and at my next thought of God, I am sitting in a pew again. Daily devotions help, but I've found that anything, even the Word of God, can become routine. And so, I've come to crave these moments of awakening, to depend on them. In the end, they remind me that revelation is not something we can choose to receive, that it is, in fact, the gift of God.

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Date:2005-07-12 12:24
Subject:All understanding of information is revelation

Jeremiah 5:21 Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not.

Ezekiel 12:2 Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.

Matthew 13:13 "Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand."

Luke 16:31 "And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."

Ecclesiastes 3:11 "He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end"

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Date:2005-01-01 15:54
Subject:To my wife

My love,
I have been writing this now for several years,
trying, and failing to capture the heart of the matter,
struggling ineloquently, and stepping away in frustration,
feeling the desperation of an unexpressed thought and returning yet again.
I hope it has not been in vain.

These are the things that are never said,
the foundation beneath the words we say each day,
the structure that exists beneath “I love you”,
the truth that makes those words so real.

I remember the night that we met,
The way my heart leapt within my chest at the sight of you,
And the surprise I felt at its doing so.
You were beautiful, of course, but what transpired went much deeper than that,
You were mysterious and exotic, but that was insufficient,
You were intelligent and charming and altogether lovely,
but these things in and of themselves did not and could not explain.
I loved you then and did not know you,
I know you now and love you still.

It is strange to look back and know that my love was far more than that feeling.
To see the choice beneath the moment,
the same choice made a million times since then.

These are the things that are never said,
the foundation beneath the words we say each day,
the structure that exists beneath “I love you”,
the truth that makes those words so real.

These are the things that are never said.
I say them now.

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Date:2004-12-16 13:37
Mood: sad

Almost no time lately to write, so all I've got is excerpts. Here's one from the other day:

Her hands, once soft, once smooth, now rough and torn, were touching my chin, were gently scratching at my cheeks, were tenderly cutting my face. I looked into her eyes – I should say this, I have seen photos of my mother as a young woman, I have seen her brown eyes radiant, I have seen them full of light – and they were dead, they were dried seeds, they were hard brown earth. She knew my name that day, remembered it, is perhaps more accurate, and she said it over and over, her thin voice pitched high and then low, bright and lilting one moment and then trailing off to dark unheard mumbling; a child’s nonsense song, nothing more. I took her gently by her fingers, pulled her hands down from my face, and wept into that wasteland. I was there, perhaps for half an hour, staring into my mother’s dry dead eyes and rubbing her palms with my tears while she softly sang my name.


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Date:2004-09-24 21:30
Subject:The First Amendment

This is a bit of text that I had posted in someone else's journal a while back, but whether through forgetfulness or unwillingness, they neither replied nor unscreened it. I thought I'd post it here as I spent a little bit of time doing the research.

The whole point of the First Amendment was to prevent the establishment of a national religion (such as the Church of England, or Baptist, or Episcopalian, etc). I've read through the minutes of the meetings of the Constitutional congress, the comments of specific states as they reviewed the Constitution and ratified it and the comments there were that this was something they definitely did not want the Federal Government doing, but should be left to the states.

One of the things that I think gets lost more and more today is that there were states before there was the USA. I know, I know, it sounds obvious, we are the United States after all, but I've talked to many people who think that the Federal Government gives rights and power to the states, when in reality, it was quite the other way around. I.e. the states bequeathed a bit of their sovereign power to the Federal Government.

Anyway, I'm getting off track here, I could go on and on about the steady erosion of state's rights. But the point is that, the First Amendment had nothing to do with preventing the government from having religious aspects or from recognizing God. The following are a series of quotes that I've dug up over the years as I was seeking to know what the Constitution really says (and therefore what things those who swear to uphold the Constitution are swearing to - and in my studies I have come to wonder how many of them have read it.) Many of them are from the Minutes of the Ratifying Conventions and express the underlying intent for what the wording was meant to convey.

Justice Joseph Story (first Dane Professor of Law at Harvard University and Supreme Court Justice from 1811 until his death in 1845) said the following concerning the first amendment:

Thus, the whole power over the subject of religion is left exclusively to the state governments, to be acted upon according to their own sense of justice, and the state constitutions

From the House of Representatives, Amendments to the Constitution Aug. 1789Annals 1:729--31, 755, 766

Mr. [Elbridge] Gerry [of Massachusetts] said it would read better if it was, that no religious doctrine shall be established by law.

Mr. Sylvester had some doubts of the propriety of the mode of expression used in this paragraph. He apprehended that it was liable to a construction different from what had been made by the committee. He feared it might be thought to have a tendency to abolish religion altogether.

Mr. Sherman thought the amendment altogether unnecessary, inasmuch as Congress had no authority whatever delegated to them by the Constitution to make religious establishments; he would, therefore, move to have it struck out.

Note: this last one is of particular interest, because it brings us to another point about state's rights. Because the states were only giving a portion of their freedom to the Federal Government, the Constitution was written so that any power not expressly given to the Federal Government, was left to the states and the people of those states. This is summarized in the Tenth Amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Anyway, I'm out of time. I enjoy discussion like this with level headed people. I'd love to read any comments anyone might have.


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Date:2004-08-30 15:00
Subject:[Flash fiction] Late have I learned

The sound of the heart monitor wakes me from unpleasant dreams. My wife is standing in the doorway.

"Melissa," I begin. I pause. Something seems wrong. I was dreaming about a Melissa. My wife's name is...

"It's Kate, Dad." And my wife's name is Elizabeth. Melissa is...

"They must have taken out my contacts." Kate will be 18 next month. Or is it 17? I remember Beth at 18. She was beautiful. That was the year we fell in love. I smile slowly.

"You look a lot like your mother. To be honest, you look a lot like a woman-shaped blur." I grunt a tiny laugh and my chest burns in a thousand places. My laugh turns into a groan. In the dream, Melissa was my lover.

"Do you want me to call the nurse?" Kate's voice is gentle and sounds just like Beth's.

No. I shake my head slowly. It is very difficult separating the memories from the dream.

Kate is saying something else. Something about school and tests, but I'm not really listening. I'm starting to remember. I am not a good man.

Now Kate is talking about college, and about her boyfriend. She is thinking about breaking up with him. "It may be for the best," I hear myself say. Sometimes we're handed a second chance. Sometimes, we wake up before it's too late.

I interrupt her in the middle of a sentence. "Where is your mother?"

"She's outside." Probably filling out paperwork.

"Ask her to come in." It will be good to see her. It will be like seeing her for the very first time.

There is a long and heavy pause. I wish I could see Kate's face clearly.

"Mom knows, Dad... I know." I can hear the tremble beginning in her voice. "Someone from the hotel called."

I look at my daughter, saliva pooling in my mouth. I swallow.

"About Melis... About everything?"

"Everything." My daughter's voice is soft. She still loves me. She's young.

"Where is she?" I think about one hundred candles, and the most expensive ring I could afford. My voice cracked when I asked her, and she cried.

"She's in the car. She's waiting."

For one second, I think she means, for me. For one second, the car outside is red and is covered in shaving cream. For one second, I am wearing my father's blue tuxedo and there is rice in the air. It last for longer than a second.

It ends all too soon.

"You'd better go."

Kate looks at me, seems unsure of what to say, and decides to be safe. "You'll be ok?"

"I'll be fine." I smile to reassure her. I smile so hard that my cheeks burn. So tight, that I can hardly feel the tears.


Inspired by a freewrite.
crossposted to thebackporch

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Date:2004-08-11 22:56
Subject:Steam: a work in progress

It's late when I get back to my apartment and I fumble with my keys before I manage to open my door.

"There's going to be a storm," is the first thing I hear. The voice, somehow both hard and wavering, comes from the darkness of my living area. I know the speaker immediately, though I can not see him. Caudil. He's been smoking, and the heavy smell of smoke is everywhere.

I hit the switch on the wall and hear the whoosh of gas and steam flowing through the pipes behind my walls. A moment later, the lights kick on, and I see Caudil sitting in my father's leather chair.

"That's my favorite chair, Caudil." I set my bag down, and step into the kitchen to get a drink.

"Did you hear what I said about the storm?"

"Did you hear what I said about the chair? It's going to take me a week to get the smell of whatever it is you're smoking out of the house, let alone the leather"

I hear him get up and walk into the kitchen. He's holding the pipe up like a teacher might hold a model of the heart, ready to explain. "It's vandian root, Reg. It'll be gone tomorrow," he says as he rounds the corner. There's a touch of irritation in his voice, and for the first time I see his eyes. They are red-rimmed and heavy and he looks much older than I have ever seen him.

"Tell me about the storm," I say.

Caudil opens his mouth to speak several times before actually beginning. I wonder when he has last slept. When he does speak, his voice quavers, and though it is quite deep and the lines in his face and the heaviness of his eyes suggest otherwise, he seems less like a man telling a tale and more a child recounting some terror in the night.

crossposted to thebackporch
story idea from the alt.fiction.orginal August Challenge

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Date:2004-05-19 21:34
Subject:Because I have seen beauty I must say these things...
Mood:so very tired

This is a piece I started a while back and dusted off the other day. I may add more to it at some point, but I also like it as a short mood piece for the questions it raises about beauty and our perception of it.


This is a love story. There is a girl. There is a boy. It is traditional.
I should warn you though, you have already been lied to.

She is twenty-one and she is beautiful. This is necessary.
Eighteen is no good, it's too young, twenty-five is a bit too old.
She could be twenty-three, and things would probably end the same,
but even then, she would be less than perfectly prepared for what will happen to her.

She is unnoticed.
I said that she is beautiful, and that is true. She is fairy tale beautiful.
She is pale and thin with soft dark eyes, and her black hair falls in what no poet would fail to call "raven tresses".
How could she be so beautiful and go unnoticed, you ask? A good question.
Ask the city. Ask the world. Ask yourself.
There are girls more beautiful than she in your own town.

Her apartment is tiny. Her walls are white and bare. She lives alone - no pets, no friends.
She calls her mother once a week and leaves a message on her answering machine. Her father is dead.
She has not cried since she was ten.

She has one pleasure in her life. She reads. Classics mainly, but contemporary works as well. She goes to the library every day at lunch, and most days after work.
She sits in an empty alcove and reads until closing time. She goes home. She falls asleep with a book on her chest.

Her story begins here, written in flaming letters and spoken with a tongue of fire.

What happens next. Where goes the tale?

Ask the city. Ask the world. Ask yourself.
There are girls more beautiful than she in your own town.



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Date:2004-05-07 15:46
Subject:Because I myself have nothing to say,

I bring you, straight from Hogs on Ice, the scariest recipe ever. Suffice it to say that the phrase "lard IV" is used in the post. (that's eye-vee by the way and not four. As in, "the hirstute nurse gave me an IV". We're not talking about the third sequel to Lard the movie here)

To the one person besides myself who I believe reads this journal (but to anyone else as well in case I am wrong about how many readers I have accumulated), have a good weekend.


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Date:2004-05-05 15:20
Subject:The Math Fairy and Vampigra!?!

I saw this on Dave Barry's blog today.

Click here to see a gallery featuring the Math Fairy and her Arch Nemesis Vampigra.

If anyone is interested, I want the large dragon wings on this page for my birthday, so I can dress up as Trogdor the Burninator. On the other hand, if I get something from this page , I'm gonna get ticked. You do not want Trogdor the Burninator to get ticked...

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Date:2004-05-03 11:44
Subject:The Phoenix Cycle: Rise of Flame and Shadow

Another piece I started a while back. I'd had the idea playing around in the back of my head for years, but had just never gotten around to writing it down. I've gotten a chapter or so written past the prologue but I'm currently reworking it. Anyway, here's the opening:


It is said that when the first phoenix died, two birds rose from the ashes.

The first was like his father. His fiery wings blazed red and gold, and his eyes were newborn stars. The other, was darkness itself, his flames a roaring smoldering blackness. He gave no light of his own, but his pale cadaver eyes reflected all his brother’s glory back.

They circled for a moment, then sped apart, a streak of flame burning toward the east; a spreading shadow aiming west.

It was a year before they met again.

“You look sick, brother,” said the flame, his voice a roiling fire.

“It is the brightness of your eyes,” came the shadow’s hissing reply.

“Truly, brother? I do not mean to hurt you,” returned the flame, and his roaring voice held sorrow.

The shadow’s words were a bed of ancient embers, soft and distant, “It is not of consequence. We were born for conflict.”

“I know that we must battle, and I do not fear it,” said the flame, “but for how long?”

“Until there is no need of day or night,” said the shadow, and he launched into the sky.

Their chase began above the plain where they were born; a circuit of fire and darkness that grew until they wrapped around the world, one eye staring toward the earth and one outward into space. Day and night were born from their struggle – the bright phoenix and his blazing eye, and the dark brother, his great pale eye waxing and waning and staring ever down.

Light and darkness, day and night, war without end. They fly there still.

-- from The Anaeliad, Book of Greater Legends

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Date:2004-04-30 16:22
Subject:On writing...
Mood: restless

I wrote this a while back, almost a year ago, when I was going through a dry spell in my writing. I say dry spell, but it was more like I had a short wet spell and I wrote this afterward. Anyway, there's not really that much to say about it, so here it is:

Here's a struggler for the muse, looking for the rush of insight, the thrust and turn of thought, meme blades seeking out the real, the true, the blood to spill onto a page. Here's a wonder, sitting at a keyboard, a sheaf of paper, the edge of some class notebook, fingers poised, pencil raised, ready for the flood to come. Here's a vandal, sneaking through classics, crawling through anthologies, randomly reading the first lines of novels, dragging his sponge across the page, seeking unspent thoughts for his own. Here's a dreamer on the hillside, watching clouds and stars and dancing shadows, treating thoughts like seeds, and words as leaves, begging nature for its freshest breath. Here's a child rhyming madly, playing stories, making, laughing, loving the sound of her voice, the rhythm of nonsense, the taste of surprise.

Here's a writer...

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