A Moment After by Jeff D. Richey

What is in this moment?

Sound.

Ache.

What is beyond?

Want.

Need.

Regret.

Not long ago this moment was much the same. The wind rustled the leaves. My body grew sore. And my soul was uplifted.

Now. In this moment. On the surface –  similar.

I wonder why so, so different?

What is different, and will it change?

Regret lies to the heart.

But I will not listen.

 

Answer by Jeff D. Richey

Among all the philosophies, and there are great ones, resides an ongoing and resounding truth: love is the answer to all; and what we do in our lives to express love, or not, does define us, not just to others, but to ourselves. Our character, our honor, our future, love, everything relies on knowing this. To know this is everything. Knowing it too late means even more.

Advocacy by Jeff D. Richey

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The next time I see little things severing the corners of my world, selling pages of books, I know what I want to see: Advocacy.

Not Advocacy that cries a river and then screams of being bothered by the monsters who try to climb out of the stream.

I want to look past the Mohawks, and financed tattoos, and clipped wings and see people who are birds, but not scavenging birds.

I know I don’t want to see the same monsters inside me now living in the bright daylight. I want to see lovers whose hearts and bodies are in flight.

Advocacy. Real Advocacy.

I want to see it.

Death, Love, and Joe’s Pool Stick by Jeff D. Richey

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I stopped thinking a long time ago about dying. Death was a daydream of my youth. I used to ponder for hours at a time in my twenties about death, what it would be like. I imagined that I would be escorted into a bright light that somehow was also dim, a sort of luminescent twilight, then I would see souls moving around all over the place, floating in some kind of void. Endless space would envelope my body, and then I would notice that I too was floating in this blackness and bumping into other souls as confused as I was. I imagined the goal of death was to maybe go out in the abyss and search for my lost loved ones who had died, and touch them, and become a part of them. I always read books about ghosts, and how some houses were believed to house the souls of dead residents. I always believed that these souls were men and women too afraid to make that leap into the abyss, and their punishment was to always wander, and never love.

I think the day of my thirtieth birthday marked when my thoughts changed. I stopped thinking about death, and began thinking about living. How ironic that I thought my lamenting on death was so horrible. Thinking about living, really worrying about it, can really drive one crazy so much more quickly. I wondered about the mistakes of my youth, and searched for someone to love me. I thought perhaps that was why I hurt so often, because I wasn’t living in the now. I joined club after membership. I spent a year shooting pool with a team of rednecks at a dirty Texas bar. One day I stopped by for a beer in hopes of a new atmosphere, different people to read. The sign on the door said pool tournaments every Thursday night. I thought it would make a difference. I wanted something to fill at least one evening of my weekly routine. The TV started watching me; the beer stopped turning the talking heads and silly sitcoms into companions. Joe was the good pool player. He would lean over and the top half of his torso would become a shooting gun. His head would lean into his arm so close his left ear almost touched, and a little flick from the wrist of his right arm would send the cue ball sailing fast and precisely. He held his stick in a way that made me love it. I imagined old men setting on a  porch holding their guitars, maybe one called his guitar, Old Girl, and the other referred to his six-string as My Baby. In that way, Joe held his pool stick. He caressed it, and held it like Old Girl. I wanted something like that. Like Old Girl.

Shooting pool with Joe introduced me to life’s desire and then later my first chapter of regret. That’s where it began. I wonder what happened to old Joe. Corner pocket.

A Mother’s Mourning by Jeff D. Richey

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Sometimes I can stare at a clock until its face becomes a face. I think I’ll stare at this clock until I grow old. I want my son. He’s so young, and I’m so scared for him. I can’t talk to him about it, though – or to Charles.

Charles is a good man and good husband, and father. He has stood by me and the kids all these years like no man could, but I miss him from before he found out. Now there is a hollow in his eyes that just runs deeper and deeper no matter how much I love him and love on him. Oh, I do love him, and I know he loves Alex; he just won’t show it.

I want my son here, just like he does. We used to have great moments at Christmas when the boys and Jen lived here. Charles says those are only memories. That’s true, but right now they’re something to build on. I think today is going to be a good day. My son, Mike, is anxious to open presents. I think he wants to avoid his diseased brother just like his father.

“Mom! Come on in here. We’re going to go ahead and open one.”

“No you’re not, Mike! You’re not opening a gift until your brother walks through that door.”

“Now, honey. The children can open a gift if they want.”

“No, they can’t, and they better not!”

I know Mike and Jen have just cringed. I’m stubborn about my kids. So what?

“I’ll bet he’s cold out there right now, my son. It’s so cold inside here. I can feel my toes are as hard as they are brittle, even in my socks. I’ll bet he’s cold. My poor baby. This might be the last one and I’m so afraid he’ll miss it with me.”

“Norma, get in here, hon! It’s Christmas.”

Mike has taken two gifts from under the tree marked for Mike and Jen. They’ve unwrapped their gifts with me in the other room. They knew their gifts wouldn’t be as big or as nice as Alex’s gift, because he’s my favorite. Always has been. My baby. He got something much bigger a few years back.

Stefan the dragon by Jeff D. Richey

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One day I was sitting, just sitting there.

Rocking back and forth, back and forth in my chair.

Then I reached up and I ripped a hole so big.

Right there I ripped a hole, a hole in the air.

I stepped through the hole to see what I could see inside.

Right before me a dragon was sitting, sitting by my side.

I said hello, Mr. Dragon. How are you today?

He spoke right back and said, “My name’s not Mr. Dragon.

It’s Stefan. Mr. Dragon lives down the way.”

Stefan stepped back, jumped, and then began to fly.

I reached up to try to reach him but he was way up in the sky.

I yelled, “Stefan, where is this place? I was in my room,

now I’m here with you.” He said, “You’re inside your

imagination. That’s why the sky is green and the grass is blue.”

I smiled a big smile and looked around me

to see what I could see. It was such a wonderful place.

There were mountains with monkeys that had huge noses.

That stretched out a few feet from their face.

And rainbows ran all around me. I tried to

Touch them, but they giggled and ran.

I could feel the blue grass between my toes.

But it didn’t feel like grass. It felt more like wet sand.

I closed my eyes tight and opened them again.

And there I was right back in my room.

But I knew I would be able to see Stefan again.

The very next time I wanted to pretend.

The Garfield Cemetery by Jeff Richey

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I can attest to the fact that taking a walk through a cemetery can be a scary thing, especially if you’re alone.

It was 11:58 on a cold Sunday night in February of 2015. I was waiting until exactly midnight to enter the Garfield Cemetery. Some believe at exactly midnight, on the night of a full moon, the ghosts of the dead rise from their graves to walk the earth again. I thought to myself, it’s just my luck that tonight is a full moon.

I looked down at my watch. It had turned twelve o’clock, time to do the deed. As I opened my car door and got out, I asked myself, what the hell am I doing here? What draws me to these places? What is my infatuation with the dead when I myself am so alive? The wind blew hard and cut through me like a thousand knives of ice. The leaves rustled around my feet as if they had a mind of their own, and the wind sounded as if it carried voices with it, but the voices were muddled, hard to understand, like whispers.

The sign ahead was held up by two latches attached to the wooden frame of the entrance. The wood was old and rotted creaking with the wind. It seemed to be singing a horrific duet with the slamming sound of the sign. The wind carried it back and forth, up and down. The sign read, “Garfield Cemetery”. I walked through the entrance and heard the sound of my own footsteps, and prayed they were mine. The moment I crossed beneath the sign, it was as if I had run into Death. I felt chills run up and down my spine. I wanted to turn back, but couldn’t. It was as if the whispers of the wind were beckoning me to join them. The sky was so dark. It was a wet black oil. I didn’t want to look at it. I didn’t want to look at the full moon.

I crept inward into the heart of the cemetery. As I moved, I pulled out a flashlight that I had hidden in the bottom of my satchel. Graves were all around me. The further I walked the number of them increased. I hesitated to turn on my flashlight for fear of waking the dead. I was afraid of disturbing their peaceful slumber. I read their names as my eyes adjusted to the night: William Thaxton, Kenneth McFerren, Irene Ledegar, Jacob Patterson. I cried when I imagined who they must have been, and how sad and alone it must be in their boxes beneath the earth. I thought how they must need and long for the touch of a live hand. A live caress. My caress. I suddenly stopped dead in my tracks.

Up ahead, a huge stone monument stood. I moved in closer to investigate. It was a tomb the size of a small house. I’d never seen such a grand and beautiful deathbed. What kind of a man or woman would deserve such a tribute to their life as this one? What could they have done? Who resided in this Gothic temple? I could just see the outline of the back of the tomb. The sky grew dim beyond the edifice. The face of the crypt was covered with dirt and twisting vines from neglect. Atop the tomb, I saw a beautiful broken crucifix. The cross leaned where it once stood, the only wound to the stone. I circled the walls and read the writing on the stone. Was that Latin? Certainly not. I squinted, but the letters moved. The script reflected back to my eyes as they would through a broken mirror. But that was impossible. Letters carved into stone can’t move.

A stone angel stood over the entrance to the tomb. I wanted to kiss it, to touch its eyelids. The intensity of its eyes and serene expression called me, beckoned me closer. It was insane! I couldn’t feel the wet lips of a statue. I couldn’t run my fingers through its hair, and yet it called me closer in that sweet whisper.

She wanted me to love her.

I felt lifted above the ground as I moved closer to her. The stone angel’s outstretched arms pled with me to enter them. Tears ran down my eyes as her fingertips touched my fingertips. The door to the tomb opened and she held me in her tight embrace. I asked her if she loved me, and I felt her whisper on my ear as gentle as the wind. She said, “Of course I love you. How gentle you are.”

And that is what I remember.