Thursday, September 22, 2016

10 Commandments on the Flipside

The ten commandments are missing something crucial to the human psyche: positive edicts.  They read as a list of laudable, but definitely minimum, standards for human behaviors. Research indicates that those of us who hold minimum standards (like federal laws) to be our ultimate moral compass are more likely to fail the standards and break the law.  
While on the other hand, when we set goals for our own behavior we are much more likely to exceed those goals beyond our own (and others') expectations (see self-management techniques).  So maybe it would be good to have a flipside -- a goal-oriented, positive re-framing -- of the ten commandments? Please indulge me, as I give it a try.

The Traditional Ten Commandments

 (credits to
  1. I am the Lord, your God.
  2. Thou shall bring no false idols before me.
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
  5. Honor thy father and thy mother.
  6. Thou shall not kill/murder.
  7. Thou shall not commit adultery.
  8. Thou shall not steal††.
  9. Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. Thou shall not covet your neighbor's wife (or anything that belongs to your neighbor).

My Suggested Flipside/ Positive Reframing of the Ten Commandments

  1. Hold a higher faith.
  2. Focus on continuously building and honoring your faith.
  3. Behave so that your reputation, your past behaviors, establish your primary and ultimate credibility.
  4. Devote one day out of every seven to restoring your soul by serving your faith.
  5. Encourage and support those who have raised you/ encouraged and supported your growth.
  6. Bring joy and spread the will-to-live to others.
  7. Love unconditionally and faithfully.
  8. Obtain permission before taking actions that impact others.
  9. Proclaim and praise other's positive endeavors.
  10. Celebrate other's joys as if they were your own.

And a short note for those I have offended...

Who am I to propose such blasphemy? A soul put on Earth to make the most of God's gifts, just like you. An adventurer, a writer, a psychologist, a mail-order ordained minister, a spiratualist, a privileged American, a minority group member (lesbian), a human compelled to try to use my God-given talents for good. Someone eager to see how my fellow humans will use their God-given talents to make my proposal an even better attempt to help us make the most of God's gifts. 

What are your flipside commandments?

Croatian statue of an angel rewriting's been done before somewhere, right?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Emerald Envy

A Free Romantic Historical Lesfic Caper in Brief

Emerald Envy

I hefted the carved flat emerald in its newly set platinum and diamond pendant necklace. There was no way to wear it inconspicuously through the streets of Paris. Even on a bitter winter night like this, it would bulk out my thin wool cape too much. Some opportunist would see a tall thin woman with a promising bulge and figure out that they had little to lose in trying to jostle it loose. I also didn’t trust any of my pockets to support the monstrous weight of the emerald I’d lifted from an Indian Mogul two weeks prior.

There was nothing for it. I had to get the emerald and all of its flashy new diamonds to Jacques “the madman” Coquin before he slit Madeline’s pretty throat just to satisfy his grudge against me for being the better thief. Holding my lover hostage gave him all the leverage and he knew it. The millions I would have made selling the newly fitted emerald to the highest mob bidders on Chicago’s diamond street were nothing compared to the wealth of joy I found basking in Madeline’s bright smiles. Some treasures are priceless.

I took out my handkerchief and wrapped it carefully around the sharp edges of all the jewels’ settings, encasing the pendants' glory inside the silk bundle. I sighed and shoved the mass between my corseted breasts as firmly as I could manage before draping Madeline’s heaviest brocaded scarlet scarf around my head and shoulders. Satisfied the folds of the scarf held enough obviously fabric lumps to satisfy the curious looks of second-glancers, I pulled on my navy wool cape over top and quickly inspected the results in the looking glass.

My image reflected someone who would likely be taken for a normal middle-class woman hurrying homeward. I left our modest flat on Rue Claire and hurried down the stairs to the street. One of those new-fangled Bugatti 35B’s roared around the corner on brass and rubber wheels, making an unworldly racket against the cobblestones on its way toward the Champs-Elysees and all of the park’s Friday night pre-opera festivities. At least there was a reason for people to be out in such cold tonight, I realized that would help me pass unencumbered to Jacques' little cabaret.

I kept pace with pockets of other people walking when possible, glancing around to see if and when Jacques' men might pick me up, but I spotted no one threatening until I arrived in the alley backing the cabaret.

Two of Jacques' goons, one flat-footed, the other with a nose like a hobnail vase, barred my way.

Hobnail-nose grabbed my shoulder with an iron grip and chuffed in French so thick I could barely interpret, “What do you want here?”

I suppressed my wise-acre urge to retort nothing before kneeing him in his fruit basket, and answered like I remembered Madeline’s life was at stake instead, “My name is Lissette Tatum and Monsieur Coquin is expecting me here now.”

Hobnail-nose gaped at me and didn’t ease his grip any. I peered expectantly at the flat-footed goon, who looked a shade brighter than the other one. Flat-foot nodded and smiled, his voice strangely high pitched, “Yes, Madame Tatum, you are on the list as they say.”

Hobnail-nose turned loose of me and pushed the door open with the heel of his right boot. Flat-foot stepped aside to give me room to pass and gestured with one hand. “Monsieur is waiting in the first dressing room on the left.”

I walked from the cold dark bricked alley and into a warm ocher plastered and gilded hallway. My boots looked cheap and worn-out against the white marble tiles, but I forged ahead like I owned the place anyway. A regular woman of the modern era, Ms. 1926, I kidded myself. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. I was a steel rose when it came to sleight of hand and seduction thieving, but heavy-hitting was way out of my league. I was desperate to get Madeline and I out of this place still breathing, but I wasn’t smart enough to spot any leverage for keeping us safe. Once I gave up the Mogul’s emerald, Jacques would surely just kill us both, but if I didn’t try he would undoubtedly kill Madeline or worse. Thoughts of his brutish mustache blemishing Madeline’s pale velvet skin renewed my anger and determination as I lifted a hand and rapped twice on the door the flat-nosed goon had indicated.

Several deep breaths passed and no one answered. My pulse quickened. I lifted my hand to strike my knuckles against the wood again, but before flesh glanced wood the door swung open slightly. Madeline’s hand slipped out, grabbed my wrist and tugged me into the dark room. We stood practically nose to nose in the silence as she reached around me and pushed the door shut again with a firm click.

Irrational joy at the sight of her unharmed stunned me mute. Dumbstruck at her smiling green eyes peering up at me in the dim room, I stammered my words together, “Where’s, What’s, did the madman, I mean Jacques.”

Madeline pressed two cool finger tips against my lips. “Shh. It’s fine. I am not hurt. I took care of him, but we need to leave and quickly.”


She gestured behind her and I peered into the dimness. Jacques lay sprawled out on a velvet love seat in the corner with a large knot looming on his temple. His eyes were closed and a full bottle of absinthe lay in his lap.

Madeline took my hand. “He was stupid enough to give me the bottle of absinthe so I could check out the quality before he poured us a drink.  I clubbed him with it.”

“Is he dead?”

Madeline pulled me to the door. “No, he is breathing.  You can feel his mustache moving, but we will be dead if he wakes up and finds us here.  I was just waiting for you.”

I hesitated. “We can’t go out the back.  Those two goons I came in through will make a ruckus.”
Madeline stepped very close to me. “We can go out the front.  No one here has seen either of us and it’s crowded. Listen.”

I tilted my head and heard the sounds of the crowd, clinking glasses and shuffling chairs, thrumming along the walls.  I pulled Madeline in close and kissed her full on her warm lips, relieved to be together and potentially still wealthy despite Jacque’s emerald envy. “You’re my hero.” I realized she was a true partner, as in love with as I was her.

She smiled. “I know.”

Cover Art for the Story
This story was written as a #NaNoWriMo warm-up and as such was limited to a 1,000 word short story featuring the Mogul Emerald Necklace. Bonus if I include ninja space monkeys (which I couldn't). 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Riding Through It.

My bicycle's tires glide over glossy blacktop, a whir of black on black, as they have for so many miles. My feet on the pedals are as distant as two pine trees at the base from the peak of a mountain. Bands of muscles in my legs compulsively continue pounding out a road-eating rhythm that intertwines with the primal beat my heart plays against my inner ear under the melody of my ringing breath.

Somethings make no sense because you don't know why--once the why appears you understand.  But then there are things, like your suicide, that make no sense at all whether you know why or not.

I ride on. My forearms and wrists are only iron clasps, designed to clench these handlebars right now. A fresh kiss of wind from a nearby rain storm proceeds by with a promising caress.  This altitude in barren rock and startled heat before the storm.

This is rain you will not feel, like all the rain you will never feel again.  I cannot imagine a soul, pregnant with such promise, bending to that sickle free of will.  The effort leaves me ill.

I ride through it. A droplet teases the seething flesh on the back of my neck, evaporating in the salt already collected there. The roads roll on. I am lost. Below there are lolling hills, heavy with the grace of sun-ripening corn and an endless spill of think cotton leaves. They slide toward me in a silence that screams against the wiring of my wheels on wet asphalt.

You are not here now. Only remembered. A laugh as I suggest that you are right. Metallica is the best heavy metal band ever because of Nothing Else Matters. Few metal heads can make a symphony rock like that.  How could you forget?  Nothing else matters. Life is ours to live our way. Life was yours to live.

The roads ahead of me are all mere winding traces going somewhere uncertain, but certainly somehow the only eternity is riding on them.  Time means nothing, and nothing else matters, but a chance to continue. Suddenly, I know, this is a not about a ride in the country anymore.

Its not a ride to get over the loss of you. Life is mine to live.

On a bike, in worn out shoes, ragged shorts, and a beaten Ani DiFranco concert t-shirt proclaiming, "here comes naked little me," I have reached another existence.  I am in the heart of grief, savoring something that feels like life. It is without promise or rules, offering only choices. I continue. I ride through it astounded. Frightened at the ease of it. Guilty for seeing through the complexity without you.

How could you forget? But I remember.  That is all that matters, and I am comforted by that simplicity.

The wind roughs the edges of my ears and slaps against my cheek, encouraging me as I turn east out of treacherous terrain toward the valleys of green.  Broad black top spills downhill over the down-lands in a hurry.  All there is. I ride through it.  Nothing else matters.

The view from the top of the ride.

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