A Distant Drum Roll
We stand in full regalia
In solemn ranks under the sun,
All mindful of the same idea,
Our duty clear, we cannot run.
Though fear may gnaw inside each breast
No outward sign will brave men show.
What painful inner doubts attest,
We grit our teeth, let no one know.
The line stands firm, as each awaits
A distant drum roll, marching feet.
What lies beyond those stony gates?
Our victory, or grave defeat?
But hark, the drum roll beckons us
The rigid line begins to move
In quiet wonder, no more fuss
It's time for valor now to prove.
The gates are open, we approach
With heads held high and manner cool.
Our courage is beyond reproach.
We start the year at our new school.
* Across from my office window is the school where all 5th and 6th graders in Shaker Heights go, leaving their familiar elementary schools behind. Every year, I watch as the brave new 5th graders wait in line for the opening bell.
Monday, August 22, 2011
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Excerpt: Ragnarök (opening scene)
“Don Newton ragnacked last night. Closed the garage door and turned the car on. I can’t believe it.” Ken stood in the sunny kitchen, telephone still in his hand, forgotten in the moment.
Carla shook her head, looking dismayed but not terribly surprised. “Irene must be so upset. I’ll give her a call later.”
“Don’t bother. Don left a note. Irene ran off with that piano teacher who’s been giving lessons to their daughter, Marcia. What is the world coming to?”
As if he had to ask. Everyone knew what the world was coming to, and even when. The mother of all asteroids, estimated by scientists to be six times bigger than the one that killed off the dinosaurs. The astronomers called it Asher-Lev 14, but some joker had nicknamed it Ragnarök, and the name stuck.
Within days, the name spawned its own vocabulary. Rag off: run away from your spouse with a new lover or old flame. Ragnabber: person who ransacked and looted to get things he or she had always wanted. Ragnack: take your ending into your own hands.
“I don’t get it. Three weeks to live, why kill yourself now?” Ken stared at the phone, which had started beeping, and slammed down the receiver.
“I understand it.” Ken could barely hear her. Carla leaned against the wall as if she couldn’t hold up her own weight. She stared out the window at Lucy, playing in the back yard. After a silence she continued, “It’s the waiting that’s so bad. Waiting and knowing what’s going to happen. Lucy’s the only reason I keep going, wanting her to have a last few happy weeks, but watching her… She’s never going to get to grow up.” Carla looked at Ken with tear-streaked eyes. “She’ll never have a first kiss, or go to Prom, or have a baby of her own. She’ll never know any of that.”
Ken crossed the small kitchen and put his arms around Carla. While she cried, he murmured reassuring words he didn’t believe. Mostly, he tried not to shake. A couple of times a day, he found himself shaking uncontrollably, unable to cry, unable to do anything. As Carla’s sobs subsided, he turned her to face him and said, “We need to get out of here. Take Lucy and get away, away from all the craziness.”
Carla shook herself free, not angrily, but with determination. “You know we can’t do that. We can’t leave your mom; she’s too sick to travel, and she won’t leave her church now—she spends most her days there, praying. Besides, Lucy needs to be near her friends. This is all confusing enough for her.” She wiped her eyes and put on a resolute, if lopsided, smile. “Lucy’s not going to get a whole lifetime, but I’ll be damned if she can’t have a few happy weeks of normal childhood, or as normal as I can make them. Besides, maybe the experts are wrong. Maybe this is all a big mistake.”
Ken tried to smile, but couldn’t. “Yeah, maybe it is.” He knew it wasn’t, and she probably did as well, but why push the issue? There were plenty of doubters, or had been when the news first broke on the internet.
A couple of Chilean astronomers blogged about the asteroid, and nobody would have paid any attention if not for the U.S. government’s ham-handed efforts to deny the rumors. By the third Presidential press conference in a week denying the reports and expressing simultaneous complete confidence in the U.S. military, everybody knew. By the time the President admitted the truth, the internet was overflowing with evidence. Somebody even set up a live astro-webcam at the Mt. Hamilton observatory in California. Watch your doom approach in real time!
To read the rest of Ragnarök, visit Smashwords at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/81721 or wait a day or two and it will be up on Amazon and B&N. Only $0.99, Ragnarök celebrates the ability of the human spirit to transcend the ultimate catastrophe.