8 comments

Inspirational Christian

This story contains sensitive content

References to an imaginary execution.


It’s the darndest thing to fall in love. One minute you are yourself and the next you’re somebody else. You can’t stop thinking about this person. It’s constant. No wonder people aren’t ready to commit. Aside from those feelings, who likes being overwhelmed?

It’s the feelings we want, granted. The relationship is secondary. Hopefully, we get somewhere with that too eventually. But this is the closest I ever came to understanding what everyone knows. Life is out of our control more than we know.

But if you look around, this out-of-control stuff is so well hidden. Even people in love tend to hide it. We talk as if there are some things that are meant to be, but then in the next instant, fault-finding a certain eventuality.

It’s a smorgasbord life. Six of one and half a dozen of the other. Maybe it’s destiny if it suits us and free will when it doesn’t. The best of both worlds, on a crowded platter.

“What is your whim today madam?” says the garçon, staring out at life like a fixture in an 1890 salon.

“I feel that I will have those long cigarettes, not those!”

The garçon raises his eyebrows. He felt drawn, transfixed by one of the ornate red packages with black lace trim, which matches her dress, her long red robe with black accents, just a touch of downmarket Parisian class. His free will clashed with hers, one against the other. Now rerun this.

“Cigarette?” inquires the garçon, looking at Madame de Pompadour with kind regard. Respect. Consideration, not disdain.

“Why thank you! This is for you.”

Free will and destiny, like light flooding a prism, have so many other factors to consider, nothing is unimportant.

***

Everything we do affects everyone else. So, everyone shapes everyone else’s destiny. Their free will acts on us. Our free will acts on them. But these days we act like we don’t all breathe the same air. Absolute freedom is our mantra. How does it work?

I knew a hippie once. His hips don’t work so well now. Pushing eighty, forlorn strands of long silver hair in his eternal-to-the-grave ponytail, he waxes nostalgic about Woodstock.

“It was a trip, man. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, I was there! We were going to conquer the world. Peace, Free Love.” He smiles, tiny tears beading in his large sad eyes.

“Wow, that’s so interesting.” Words don’t express what I want to say. How did that life go for you? My unspoken question. “So you…”

He keeps talking. I’m spoiling the moment. Then it occurs to me. No sense in asking questions. His faraway look tells me everything. His freedom is for himself, not anyone else.

***

I’m getting tired of understanding this stuff. It’s too much. I have a life to live. Food to put on the table. Problems to solve. We live without understanding how we live, like fledglings pushed out of the nest, forced to fly.

Beat this sad refrain too often and you get a reaction, from every other person annoyed by life’s incompleteness. A puzzle piece is missing. A very big one.

You see if freedom exists it does so only through destiny. And destiny only through freedom. But what is the recipe, the mixture? In what proportion, what dimension, and what measure?

What if life is really broken and we keep time with a failing metronome, down, down it goes, twirling away from sanity? Our heartbeat is deranged. Too fast, too slow, ending now for a little, then speeding up. Doctors tut-tut, stethoscopes are wary, traps and lies we carry, not heeding, not knowing, we make everything up! The master painter is unacknowledged, though we are paint only.

Paint only? Does the creature know nothing of the creator?

***

In eternity we can find an answer. Our lives are so incomplete, so tentative. We flit about like shadows against a backdrop we cannot see. Time like that prism makes destiny and freedom seem contradictory. But they are not, they are the same thing, only refracted and split by time, white light as colors.

Guard your heart well because every thought and every action is part of eternity. Nothing is lost, nothing forgotten. The choices of a child have consequences even for the adult, like a recording that never stops playing.

What we think, and how we act, has eternal consequences. Nothing is forgotten, everything recorded. Our atheist hearts rampage and dwindle, absolute freedom, a joke without a punchline. We are the fools, the punchline on us. What cannot be, what never will be.

***

Then I faced my own execution. A day appointed for destiny. Who calls upon the hangman, is it me? I am guilty, I am not, it doesn’t matter, it will not stop. There, we only know the value of the rope when it's used. The better the quality, the more we will lose. That high school quiz, who asks the unasked question? Who hears it? Only when it matters, that’s when.

Quick, do this with me. It’s all idle speculation. Without fate to make me honest, what truth confronts me? I walk up those steps: my life was a lie? In part, almost certainly. I don’t want to die, of course, who does? But why is punishment needed to goad me?

It’s the lies! We lie constantly. We will live forever. We will not! We will always be healthy. No! Life is lost continually! Prepare now.

***

Then at long last she came to me. Truth. Like a winged angel, bright carrying eternity to me. Wipe the past clean! Be new! Forgiven, take certainty to a place where all choices are formed by what matters. In the end, it is not life that answers the heart of stone, but flesh given freely to God and returned conformed to what will always be. What was always true. My heart, my existence, one with God, I’m free!

May 06, 2023 12:20

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

8 comments

Chris Campbell
00:50 May 23, 2023

Joe, Wonderful prose echoing Poe himself. The final moments of a soul trapped in this life, yearning for freedom in whatever form it arrives in. A wonderful lyrical read of a journey into a condemned individual's thoughts. The aging hippie reference is poignancy at its most pathos. Well done!

Reply

Joe Smallwood
21:40 May 23, 2023

Thanks Chris! I never know if the rhyming puts readers off or not. I don't intend to rhyme, certain types of my writing just goes that way. Anyway, I'll be on the lookout for your next one, a romantic piece? Perchance?

Reply

Chris Campbell
23:37 May 23, 2023

What reads well, reads well. No matter the style.

Reply

Joe Smallwood
03:07 May 24, 2023

Roger that!

Reply

Chris Campbell
03:13 May 24, 2023

My next piece is another episode of Wynonna Belle, the gunslinging librarian. I'm trying to infuse some romance, but I'm not sure yet where it's going.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Mary Bendickson
17:26 May 06, 2023

'Then at long last she came to me. Truth. Like a winged angel, bright carrying eternity to me. Wipe the past clean! Be new! Forgiven, take certainty to a place where all choices are formed by what matters. In the end, it is not life that answers the heart of stone, but flesh given freely to God and returned conformed to what will always be. What was always true. My heart, my existence, one with God, I’m free!' Now this I can live with!

Reply

Joe Smallwood
17:38 May 06, 2023

Why thank you, Mary! Mary, another story like Monotony, my favorite of yours, that I have read. So inventive it fooled Artificial Intelligence!

Reply

Mary Bendickson
17:46 May 06, 2023

That was so funny. Thanks for looking that up. Would never have thought to ask AI what it thought.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply