Not ready, yet

I know you like to go by Charlie. My name is Charlie too. Not really, I hate my name. I think that Charlie sounds better. Better yet, call me Charles. That sounds more regal, something with respect. Somebody with respect.

I haven’t felt respect in a long while. Most people look at me with that “Oh, you’re that guy”-look. It doesn’t help that my picture floated around surrounded with phrases that started out fine: “Missing Man, Have You Seen Me?, He is Found!” They later changed to the more absurd and tabloid: “UFO Abductee, Man Probed for Months, What Happens in Space Stays in Space.”

Why would any being with power great enough to travel through space, even time to a degree, stop by this blue ball to take a non-Charles and study him? Of all the pretty things floating around in that black void they chose me. The ultimate lottery, I guess.

A lot like you Charlie. You are such a lucky guy.

Everyone likes to call it a spaceship, UFO, or maybe starship. It seems so demeaning to call them a spaceship. They are more versatile than that. Of course, they can move around in space. They also carve through the air, float on water, sink to the deep, and plow through rock. It would be like only calling an egg breakfast. They are so much more than that.

I see that you are nodding in agreement. That’s good Charlie.

Science fiction likes to make them round, aerodynamic, and shiny. The funny thing is that the ship I was on, indeed was aerodynamic. Apparently, there was a good reason for it. Think icebreaker ship. Even though space is a black void, it is full of all kinds of detritus – dead planets broken into tiny shards zipping around. You want something to deflect all of that. In particularly messy areas, the deflected flotsam sounds like popcorn exploding in a hot-air popper.

You don’t have to cry Charlie. It really wasn’t all that scary up there.

People try to imagine the experience I had. Writers spin tales of alien technology. Until after my personal experience, I had no interest in their yarns. I only recently started reading them. What else could I do? I’m a non-Charles, remember.
Charlie, you are one of those educated types. You probably have read one of those Kurt Vonnegut books.
I don’t think he would mind me calling him KV. Honestly, I don’t know. I never met him. I’m going call him KV anyway. KV wrote something about aliens. He had these aliens that transcended time and space. He even bothered to name them. I don’t see the point to that or the book in fact. Probably, because I’m a non-Charles.

I spent months looking at their flat, expressionless faces. I think that they must have a training camp for that. I imagine it is like our attempts at understanding the expressions of a lion. Don’t smile, it might eat you. Conversations were limited. Sparse words for my ears that mostly were commands: sit, stand, turn, walk. If they had given me a cookie each time I complied, I would have thought that they were looking for a new pet. Instead, I got these tasteless pellets that filled me and made me sleepy. Even with the lackluster cuisine, the view was magnanimous, a recompense for the pellet food. If I were to become a painter, I would only paint on black canvas.

You shouldn’t try to shout with that in your mouth Charlie. It doesn’t look elegant. Hold still.

Each test they performed gauged some aspect of my being. At first I thought of myself as a captive. As time moved on, it became more like my life meaning. A chance to be something other than a non-Charles. I learned to maneuver within the cabin. Each section of the ship held various levels of gravity. Within some sections I had to be hauled out; I wasn’t strong enough to walk in them. As the tests drew to an end a thin hand touched mine. “Not ready, yet.” It would say. After being on the ship and moving through the galaxy, I wasn’t Charles enough for them either, I suppose. It was obvious that I was in the right place at the wrong time.

You might be thinking something like that now, Charlie. You find yourself laying there in that damp hole, with the earth packing on top of you. The thought is bound to be crossing your mind.

“Not ready, yet.”

Vietnam 1968

It just seemed all kinds of wrong.

Matterson looked at this picture every night. I watched him through the cloud of mosquitoes. He caressed her hair, mumbled some sweet nothing, kissed the photo, and tucked it back into a pocket in his fatigues. I never asked him about her. I probably should have. I don’t even know her name.

After he stepped into a spike board, I took the picture from his pocket. There is still a smear of his blood on the back. I don’t look there. I just caress her hair, mumble something sweet, kiss her softly, and put her in my pocket.

The Lost Well

Chuck and Suzanne parked the Jeep on the North rim of the Canyon De Chelly. It is the only national monument entirely owned by the Navajo. The only trail rides and hikes allowed into the canyon are led by a Navajo guide. It is a rule that Chuck and Suzanne have ignored for the entirety of their vacation.

Chuck pulled the camouflaged canvas tarp over the top of the Jeep after they donned their gear.

“It’s a ten-mile hike Sue. We’ll be back before noon.”

“Not with your sissy stride.” She looked over her shades, shrugged on the CamelBak, and checked the water flow from the bladder.

He loved every bit of her, especially the taunting. Chuck pulled the map from his leg pouch with the handheld GPS, laid it on the hood of the Jeep, and marked two spots on the map. He then rolled it up and tried to put them back into his pouch as he ran to catch up to Suzanne.

“You are always run’n off.” He tied his favorite bandanna around his head and looked at her beautiful shape walking ahead of him.

“You are always try’n to catch me.”

The first hour of the hike Chuck and Suzanne found nothing that they hadn’t seen already on this vacation. Willows, Cottonwood, Russian Olive, rocks, sand. Suzanne and Chuck planned the route they were taking the night before in between calls from the Observatory. It was roughly a ten-mile loop with the apex nearing an abandoned archaeological site.

“This place better be as good as you said it would be Chuck-E-Boy. And we better not get caught.” They slowed their pace to work their way down the talus slope and onto the canyon floor.

“It’s over 130 square miles of canyon. Believe me, it isn’t patrolled nightly, like your apartment in Sells.” Loose rock shifted under Chuck’s feet and he fell. Tumbling through the scree he cursed loudly.

Suzanne rushed to reach him at the bottom of the slope. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I just twisted my ankle. I guess my sissy stride will slow us down even further now.” He grinned up at her.

“We should make our way back.” She reached down to look at his foot.

He pushed her hand aside, “No. We are almost there anyway and it is roughly the same distance back.” He stood on one leg and tested his weight on the injured foot. “I think it is fine anyway.”

“Are you sure? I don’t want to have to carry you out of here on my back.”

“Don’t worry, that won’t happen. The dig site is just around the bend anyway.”

“The Lost Well isn’t that important.”

Already walking toward the ruin he said, “Yes, it is.”

Suzanne and Chuck peeked around the entrance to the shallow cave. Chuck clicked the flashlight on showing the petroglyphs of hands, animals, men and women that lined the walls. At the back of the cave a dark hole blew cool, damp air onto their faces. They walked carefully to the edge of the well.

“How did you find out about this place?” Suzanne whispered to Chuck.

He pulled her close to his face and looked deep into her eyes. “The name of the well is actually, Lover’s Well. Before the Navajo settled here, this place had a magic about it. It was said that a man could bring his love to the well and divine her intent and their compatibility.”

She removed her backpack, grinned slightly and kissed him softly on the lips.

He lifted her in an embrace, turned and pushed her into the well. Tears poured down his cheeks. He loved her entirely. But, the magic of the well knew best. He kicked her backpack in after her, walked out of the cave, and looked at his watch. “I guess you were right, Sue. It will be after noon before I get back to the Jeep.”

Leather-bound Love

Flower and Paper
The supple leather hugs her edges and teases me. I run my left hand over her spine, gripping in just the right places. I pull her close to me. Her intoxicating scent draws me into her world and demands my complete attention. My right hand caresses her as I soak in her every word. I set in rapture as I read my leather-bound Shelley and Stoker collection.