You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, a fantasy adventure novel available at Barnes and Noble Online.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Mel Patterson felt the love of Jesus. He had been saved for eight months, and he felt the love of Jesus every day. It was glorious, and Mel wanted to share it with everyone. That's the way it was with the love of Jesus. It was the love of Jesus that brought Mel to the Sunshine Home that very morning.

Mel knew that showing the love of Jesus through good works was how he could express that love and maybe bring others to Jesus. He knew that old people had many needs, and his general lack of experience in the world was not an obstacle in finding good works to do for them. At seventeen years of age Mel was quite aware of his lack of useful skills. However, he could do little tasks, useful tasks. And, he could listen.

Moving up the steps of the Sunshine Home Mel spotted an old man sitting on the porch. The old man had claimed a nice spot of morning sunshine, and appeared to be planning to make a day of it. He looked surprisingly like the old man character in the movie "UP."

"Quit staring, boy." said the old man. "I am not Ed Asner, or his damned cartoon character."

Mel halted in his ascent of the stairs, goggling at the old man and wondering if he was psychic.

"I don't have to be psychic to know what people think, boy." the old man said. "I've been around, that's all. I've seen everything. Twice. I wouldn't go in there, if I were you."

"Uh, why not?" Mel asked.

"Blatherspider." said the old man.


"Education hasn't improved much in the past eighty years." mumbled the old man. "Blatherspider." he said more loudly. "Talks excessively. Lays in wait for any pair of ears. Hunts for sympathy. Tells the same stories over and over. Not interesting stories, either. The Blatherspider will drain the life from you, boy."

Mel smiled. "Are you talking about one of the ladies living here?"

"Ladies?" queried the old man. "Oh, most of them will talk your ear off as well. Nothing like the Blatherspider, however. The ladies don't cast an invisible web over you, binding you to your fate. No, she may look like a lady, but she's a spider. A Blatherspider."

"I guess I will just have to take my chances." said Mel. "For Jesus sake."

"Better pray to that Jesus of yours, boy. Pray for strength to endure."

Mel smiled and nodded his head as he walked past the old man and began to open the door to the Sunshine Home.

"Oh, and if you survive would you bring me a lemonade?" said the old man.

"I would be happy to, Sir." said Mel, as he stepped inside.

His eyes adjusted to the gloom. It seemed a bit darker inside than he had expected. Looking about he saw nobody in the large guest lobby. Then he detected a shift in a distant corner. Something small and white. A face came up out of the gloom. It was a lady.

Her eyes locked on him from the depths of coke bottle glasses. She smiled and gestured toward him. "Come in, young man. Come in!"

He moved toward her, a growing trepidation waring within him with the love of Jesus. He reminded himself of why he was here. Putting on a smile of his own he moved more resolutely toward her in her dark corner.

"Good morning, ma'am. My name is Mel. I am from the church just down the street."

"Oh, a good Christian boy." she said, looking up at him. Mel nodded. "Would you care for some tea?"

Mel said he would love some tea.

"The tea things are over there." she said, gesturing toward a kitchenette near the back of the lobby. "It is a bit hard for me. Would you mind making the tea?"

Mel said he wouldn't mind at all, and moved to the kitchenette. As he began she started to reminisce about her church experiences and her sainted husband. Mel worked, responding where appropriate. He brought her a cup of tea. She tasted it and requested a bit of sugar. As he got the sugar she moved on to another subject. Someone from her past, someone who had not treated her well.

He returned and assisted her in getting a bit of sugar in her cup. She was frail and her hands shook. Her eyes were steady, however, behind those coke bottle glasses. She moved on to someone else who had done her dirt as he settled with his own tea. He attempted to interject from time to time, but she had the bit between her teeth and was running fast and hard with the conversation.

Mel wanted to tell her about the love of Jesus, but every turn in the conversation led back to her and her well rehearsed stories about nothing. Most were laced with bitterness and deep longing. He knew that the love of Jesus could cure bitterness and fill that longing, but he could never get in a word to share that good news with her.

Eventually he realized that he was just there to respond to her conversational needs. In the name of Jesus he settled in for the duration, replying with a polite sound whenever it seemed appropriate. His tea grew cold, and his butt began to feel like it was going to sleep. It was going to be a long morning.

It was close to noon when he stepped out onto the porch with two glasses of lemonade. He handed one to the old man, who accepted it without comment. Mel sat next to him, sipping at his lemonade and watching the nothing happening on the street.

"She must have needed to go to the bathroom, or I wouldn't be seeing you here." said the old man. "Pumping her full of tea is you best defense. She must have a huge bladder, though. She can go on and on and on..."

He expected the old man to gloat, but he just drank his lemonade and watched the same nothing. The nothing was eventually broken by a young woman walking up the path to the Sunshine Home. Mel recognized her. Jennie from the church youth group.

She bounced up the steps, waved to Mel, and put her hand on the doorknob.

"I wouldn't go in there." Mel said.

"Why not?" she asked, holding the door partway open.


"Oh." she said with a smile. "You met Mrs. Loomis, did you?"

"You know her?" asked Mel.

"Yes." said Jennie. "That is why I knew that Jesus wanted me to do the good work of serving meals. I don't know if I could have stood another hour listening to her. Jesus loves her, but she sure makes it hard for the rest of us."

"Gives you a pretty good idea of what Hell is all about." muttered the old man.

Jennie bounced on into the Sunshine Home, skirting the lobby and avoiding eye contact with Mrs. Loomis. Apparently her webs only covered her dark little corner of the lobby.

"You know, boy." said the old man, "Jesus might just be calling you to clean toilets. The staff does alright, but mine could use a little extra attention. No spiders, there, either."

"I'll think about it." said Mel, sipping at his lemonade.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Can Suicide be Painless?

Former correctional officer Matthew Kershaw knew something about suicide. Twenty eight years in jail can give a person some insight into such things. The question came up with every intake. There were constant classes in the subject dealing with indicators, inmate management, and dealing with the aftermath. Matt had participated in suicide preventions, interventions and debriefings.

He had seen numerous attempts by various techniques. Slashing, diving onto hard surfaces, hoarding medications and subsequent overdoses, and most often attempted hangings. Few were successful. He was of the opinion that most were messy and inconvenient calls for help. The correctional and medical staffs did their best to provide that help, but most of the time the clients were definitively screwed up human beings. The point at which help might have tipped the balance was long past in most of those messed-up lives.

Matt knew of messed up lives. Following his retirement he had lost his only daughter in a car accident. A drunk driver, like one of the many he had clothed, fed and accounted for in the county jail. It had hit him hard, but his wife harder. Her drinking got out of hand, and the only way Matt could save himself was through divorce. The end of their marriage left him with a profound sense of failure, which spiraled into a deep clinical depression.

He sought help, and it worked for quite a while. Then came news of his wife's death. She had not been drinking hard long enough to suffer from the alcohol related debilitations Matt had observed in chronic alcoholics who washed through the jail on a daily basis. No, she simply got very drunk one night, vomited and drowned in her own puke.

Though he had left her in order to save himself, he still loved her deeply. The vague hope of some kind of turn around, a miraculous reconciliation, died in a pool of vomit. He stopped taking his meds, and stopped going to see his counselors. He began spending a lot of time down on the wharf, looking out to sea. He took a lot of his meals at the restaurants there, and became pretty well known to the wait staff in several emporiums of  the Crab Louie and clam chowder.

He had thought about this a lot, when dealing with botched suicides in the jail. They lived next to the biggest suicide machine Matt could think of. The Pacific Ocean. Huge. Cold. Unforgiving. Just step into the water, begin swimming for Japan, and let exhaustion and hypothermia do the work.

Matt felt pretty good walking down the wharf that foggy morning. He had determined that foggy was the way to go. That way, if the swimmer changed his mind, nobody could find whoever it was that was calling for help until it was too late. If the goal was successful suicide, help had to be kept at bay.

He turned down the stairs that led to the platform at the water level. There were no sea lions on the platform this morning, which was good. The sound of a gun being fired would probably drive them off, but it would attract attention. No intervention was the goal, so the less attention the better.

Matt stood on the platform and looked into the water. Relatively calm. A ladder into the water allowed for an easy entry without the noise of splashing. He stripped off his clothing quickly, and laid his glasses on the pile. He wouldn't need them. The icy water hurt his foot as he stepped onto the ladder. He climbed down quickly and struck out toward the West.

He began shivering almost immediately as he swam toward the end of the wharf and the end of his days. The shivering passed surprisingly quickly, followed by a numbness and then a sense of warmth. He could still feel the cold just beyond the phantom warmth, but feelings were feelings. A mild euphoria came upon him as he moved past the end of the wharf and headed out to sea.

He rolled onto his back and swam slowly toward the Orient. Gentle rollers occasionally broke across his face, causing an occasional sputtering return to awareness, but for the most part he was able to lose himself in the fog that permeated his brain. It was like the fog sitting on the sea was seeping into him.

The first time he faded from consciousness and went under, his instincts brought him struggling back to the surface. He calmed himself, picked a direction he thought of as West, and struck out again. The next time he was less aware, and could not recall just what it was he was doing. Only for a moment did he think of turning back, but he couldn't recall where back might be. Back to what?

He swam. He swam forever. Angels swam with him, barking angel barks. The fog and the sea melded into one gray mass, an ocean sky filled with barking angels. A suicide sky. A theme song from a long past television show played somewhere in the gray.

This time when Matt came to himself he was deep under the water. The sense of invasion caused by inhaling that first draft of the sea caused a momentary panic. The panic caused a brief struggle for life, but Matt had insured his failure in that struggle. No gestures. No botched suicide. Matt relaxed into the darkness as the sea claimed him.

There was only darkness. Only darkness.


Little Bobby Trenton was playing near the water's edge. He could hear his mother calling him, and he intended to respond. However, something was laying on the wet sand with the waves lapping around it. The object had peaked his curiosity. It was covered with kelp, whatever it was.

Bobby padded across the wet sand, reveling in the feel of it and in the warmth of the sun on his shoulders. He wanted to see what was there on the beach. Soon, he did see, and in seeing planted the seed for an endless crop of nightmares and his own pending suicide in the year 2028.

Bobby responded to his mother's call, but it was too late.