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Friday, September 01, 2017

A Shredder named Oroku Saki

Most people I know who do not use Twitter never believe me about the fact that they are missing out on making some great connections with people from around the world. Their first instinct is to complain about the fact that there is a character limit, while also pointing out that if they wanted to message someone, they would simply do so by SMS. Fair enough, as I am often forced to admit out of an exhausting frustration that I'm sure they have experienced when trying to convince me of something, in a similar manner, only to get my well-practiced, rather apathetic "Meh..." in return. However, and to my point about making great connections and having interesting conversations, I just had a delightful little interaction that involved random references, relatedly-unrelated comments, and best of all, a most surprisingly outstanding result of something done in my honor! I would have normally risked a smiling emoticon, but I loved this chain of events so much, and happened to be smiling from ear to ear very literally, no existing symbol would do my emotional state justice.

The chain of events, as I put it, was set off by my decision to respond to a tweet from Vanora (@SeaTheWave), stating that due to the amassing of papers in her workspace, she was going to have to do a round of shredding to help clear the area, so to speak. For whatever reason, or simply based on the way my mind works in general, not to mention random spikes in mental activity that cause me to have Tourette's-like interactions where such may not be necessary or appreciated, I decided to chime in with a response. A simple matter of association, and the connection being to one of my favorite animated shows as an adolescent, I expressed a long-held aspiration of mine, which was to own a shredder named "Oroko Saki". For fans of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise from the 1990s, this was the name of the character who was the ultimate ninja bad guy, the master of the dreaded Foot Clan. Now, in my head, I had just committed another round of unstoppable, punny responses thanks to a lack of self-control in such matters, and didn't expect to hear anything more about this. Well, that was unless of course I had managed to inadvertently insult Vanora without knowing how what I said was, or could have been perceived as such. This happened sometime yesterday, in the afternoon on my side of the world, which meant that some delays in responses were to be expected, at which point I decided to let whatever was supposed to come to pass do so of its own accord, without over thinking it.

This morning, again, on my side of the world, not only was I happy to see a response that was not one claiming any offence, but more amazingly so, it was one of a deeper understanding and appreciation of my original cross reference. Vanora had both appreciated the tweet in response to her original, and had taken things a step further and realized my dream, with a killer rendition of Oroku Saki (I had misspelled it in my earlier tweet) to add the much needed killer touch to her brand new printer! How brilliant is this! I absolutely loved it, and promised to try and get this on t-shirts, without mentioning a deadline for this plan to be put into action by. Most importantly, it was done in my honor, and that has had me smiling the whole, entire day, just knowing that now, there is a paper shredder out there in the world named Oroku Saki, or "The Shredder" as this character was popularly referred to as by the four Ninja Turtles. I saved this for last, just in case some of you were unaware of this but kept reading to get to the apparent punchline, which sorry to say, there was none.

This is one of the lighter beauties of life, to be randomly connected and share a moment, a laugh even. Thank you Vanora for appreciating the humor in my random tweet, and then honoring me with its realization. More importantly, however, I hope this happens to be the best (paper) shredder you have ever owned...because if you did have to return or replace it, I would strongly urge you to give the sales person the Foot. ;)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Ritual Cleansing

A cold chill hung in the air during the early hours of the morning. This was just the way I liked it because it meant that my journey to the temple pond for my daily ablutions would be a dew-filled pleasure, the blades of grass and the leaves of low-lying plants being laden with moisture that would invigoratingly awaken anything it came into contact with. Personally, I liked the feel of the drops on my skin, tantalizing momentarily with a sharp burst of vivifying cold. It was still dark, and that meant the amount of dew on offer was currently at its enjoyable most, according to me. The moment dawn began to approach, the moisture appeared to cower away from the light, rapidly disappearing due to the heat of the Sun's rays, reminding us of the impermanence of water, and the delicate balance of all life dependent on it.

My morning walk to the temple pond took me out the back gate of my home. This was considered to be unorthodox by many, and had even led to much consternation by members of my family, mostly because it was considered unnecessarily disrespectful to the deities I was seeking to make my daily offering to. The ideal method was to leave my home as usual, through the front entrance, and then the front gate of the property, made especially more important by the fact that this first ritual of the day was meant to honor the Gods. Therefore, as it was explained to me, in no uncertain terms mind you, it was rude to sneak out the back way when we were on our way to pay our humbly heartfelt respects to the Gods. That made sense, a lot of sense, in fact, I definitely had to admit. The trouble was, my primary reason for going out the back way was due to a couple of factors. First, I didn't want to excite the neighbor's dog, permanently relegated to its roomy, shack-like kennel, fixed inches away from the boundary wall and the main gate, for it responded loudly to any disturbance, no matter what kind. Trust me, mango season is always hell when the fruits start falling to the ground in the middle of the night. It would almost appear to be a matter of religious observance, you would think, judging by the barking tribute the dog used to offer for each fallen mango. Of course, as far as this poor animal was concerned, I imagine the negligence that it had been forced to endure by its owners, labelling it a "Guard Dog" and then isolating it from any kind of affection so that it would react strongly to any sort of disturbance in its environment, was the cause of the neuroses that were still forcibly tolerated by its "masters", and neighbors, by extension.

Perhaps the most important reason for me to defy the sound logic of my fellow believers was, well, it used to take me a precisely longer amount of time to make my way to the temple pond, something I consciously attempted to do because I liked my short walk before arriving at my daily morning destination. The trouble with going out of the front gate in order to enjoy the duration of my preferred relaxed, early morning promenade, was that I would have had to purposely backtrack along a certain section of this path, so as to fit in my desired amount of walking for a morning. The reason I never attempted this was because visualizing it in my mind, it seemed like the kind of habit that would make me out to be crazy, causing more uproar among my well wishers than my currently "unacceptable" behaviour. I would even go so far as to say that I was pretty sure I knew which of my neighbors and fellow residents of this part of town would make the observation and then conjure up the tale of my madness, especially if I did a one-eighty-degree turn in front of their house to return to home, before repeating the move and finding myself passing by in front of them moments later, like a poor attempt at trying to confuse someone into believing that they had just experienced deja vu. Of course, the consequences of attempting to explain this to them would be an even greater folly in my book because instead of using it to try and understand my reasons for doing the obviously incorrect, they would resort to simple arithmetic, adding "idiot" to "crazy" and declaring me a lost cause, overall. We all have our quirks, but the less understandable and relatable they are, the more critical it is to not share them with others.

I always knew when I was approaching the temple because of a lone jasmine bush that stood outside the main entrance, like a lone sentinel, armed with the most pleasing fragrance, offering security and a sense of pleasure in advance of a meeting with (one of the) powers that be. This was the best time to catch this fragrant plant in all its splendor because come dawn and the first lot of eager worshippers, their hands would rain down on this poor bush, raping it of every open and partially-open blossom because they would rather spend the few coins it would cost them to purchase a ready made garland as offering. Such things made me wonder about how God would feel, being omniscient and omnipotent, watching people cut corners and being dishonest in their efforts when they worship her or him, not to mention doing so with great devotion. I wonder if she or he decides to look the other way, or is perhaps supremely magnanimous and wise, being able to accept that such things too are part of the human existence. On this particular morning, I was glad to see more than ten flowers in bloom, and sure enough, their heady floral scent had me all wrapped up in olfactory ecstasy. So drawn in by this was I that I decided to circumambulate the jasmine bush three times, out of a potent blend of piety and awe. As I came around the third time, I noticed one of the assistant priests coming out of the main entrance with a pail of water in his hands, most likely to wash the cobblestones that led up to the main entrance, as part of the temple's daily cleaning. Making eye contact, he waved at me, as I reciprocated, before quickly getting back to our respective plans of action. Completing my third circle around the jasmine bush, I made my way to the temple pond, which began with two steps sticking above the water, with the rest of the stairwell that led all the way to its greatest depth of approximately thirty feet at the center, being well submerged and hidden in the darkness. I must admit, there was a time in my life when faced with this sort of scene, I would have panicked and refused to get into the water, if not already running away screaming. However, as life happened, finding the in-between moments to be able to escape the masses of humanity made such things not only plausible, but a preference.

As I stepped into the water, I was most pleasantly surprised to find it at an ideally warm and welcoming temperature, seeming to lure me in as if I had not already been seeking out this experience first thing in my day today. I slowly felt for the edge of the steps that were submerged, making my way cautiously down them, using my toes as feelers, and as a first pass, submerging myself to just below my knees so that I could then sit down on one of the steps before submerging myself completely. I sometimes did this during the cooler months, where getting into the water proved to be a more shocking experience for the body, allowing myself to adjust to the temperature of the water so as not to end up offering my prayers in teeth-chattering mode. Early this morning, however, and most likely a hangover of the delightful jasmine fragrance that lingered in the air, I seemed to be strangely at peace with myself, and most content to just let my body be where it was, no matter what I had planned to do, or whatever was or was not happening around me. It could have been only two minutes, but it felt like an hour had passed between my earlier thought and the last one, and so, I finally decided to get myself up off the step and get on with my morning ritual. I stood up on the step that my feet were already on, and then, I slowly extended my left foot to feel for the next step, after I had successfully felt and moved past the edge of the step that I was currently standing on. Then, I proceeded to put all my weight upon it, but just then...

[In local news this morning, a middle-aged man was found drowned in the temple pond at one of the local temples. His body was discovered face down and floating near the middle of the pond. There was a large gash clearly visible on the back of the victim's head. The body was discovered by one of the assistant priests who was attending to his daily chores. Originally, police suspected foul play. However, after questioning several of the neighbors and other members of the temple priesthood, they established that the deceased had succumbed to an accident. It was thought that the mossy residue of those steps that were submerged caused him to lose his balance, resulting in him falling and sustaining a blow to the back of his head against the edge of the top step. This rendered him unconscious and unable to keep his head above the water. A combination of this concussion and resulting blood loss from the wound has been identified as what killed him. Police have confirmed that a complete autopsy will be conducted immediately, and the cause of death will be ascertained and divulged to the public.]

Monday, April 03, 2017

Lover In Sight

She was a long way away, but I couldn't take my eyes off of her. There were lots of people around, and it seemed like every other second my sight of her was interrupted by some random person passing by her closely. Oh man, was she beautiful, dressed in her summer dress, with a wide-brimmed, woven straw hat that seemed to take your worries away, just by beholding the scene in its entirety. Everything about her seemed to be created just for the world to celebrate everything about her. Her fluid gait was highlighted by the way in which the hem of her dress seemed to caress the air that flowed under it. Watching her closely, it was as if she was gliding along through the world, instead of walking on it like the rest of us. And when she smiled, which was thankfully always, everything in a one-mile radius seemed to greater so bright that it would all just fade away into absolute white.

I had a date with her. Well, truth be told, it was more of an appointment of sorts. And, to potentially make matters worse, I picked today, late on a Sunday morning, to be precise, to try and see her. It would have helped to have mentioned to her that, as strange as it was, this was an ideal day for me to try and meet with her, because from all the way over here, it was going to pain me a lot to try and get her attention. And after this herculean task, it was practically impossible to get her to go along with taking care of business, when she was obviously enjoying her weekend to the fullest. Still, if I didn't make the effort to close this deal, then, I wasn't going to get paid. As much as I hated having to push her out of this beautiful comfort zone, knowing full well that I would have lost my cool if anyone else attempted to pull such a move on me, the task at hand had achieved the status of inevitability.

Bringing my wits together, and mustering up what little charm I was told that I had, I made my move. It struck me that my visual identification of her was based on a single photograph that had been shared with me. When I first saw it, I noticed that the picture was not as clear as it should have been, being a possible combination of a poorly shot photo, poorly edited and printed, and in all likelihood, scanned carelessly, creating a ghost-like replica of the original. Still, I thought I noticed certain identifying marks, the most prominent of which were the dimples in her cheeks. I was pretty sure that I was looking at those very same dimples, but a doubt no matter how small, is the kind of pea under your mattress that you cannot accommodate in your life, especially when there is financial gains on the line. Most importantly, these gains were to be enjoyed by my current employer, before I would receive any scraps, if at all there were any, so, I had no real say in the matter. I decided to try her cell phone. But first, I needed to get out of the noisy crowd of humanity that I had unwittingly become a part of.

I made my way to a small cafe-slash-bistro, that seemed to have a lovely set of dining booths set up on the first floor. I had never tried this place before, but had heard and read enough about it online to feel like I had been here several times prior. The layout seemed unchanged, as I remembered from the newspaper and magazine clippings of this place, and thankfully, one of two corner booths was vacant, and apparently, waiting for me, as my waiter reported in attempted chucklesome exchange. I thanked him, and slipped him ten bucks, indicating that I wished not to be disturbed for the duration of my patronage. Before he could react, I rattled off the names of their two bestselling entrées, and asked for a bloody mary, further impressing on him the urgency of my request. He nodded with eager acknowledgement, although there seemed to be a moment when he seemed to feel that it might be necessary to inform me that the entrées at this cafe-slash-bistro were particularly generous in serving size but thought better than to bring it up. He did, however, indicate that one of the entrées would take thirty minutes to be ready, which was his way of letting me that I could expect a disturbance, and therefore, a direct yet inadvertent ignoring of my request to be left alone, with this period of time. That was more time than I needed.

I leaned towards the window as I whipped out my phone, my fingers already making the required gestures and touches to call her phone. From the window, I managed to spot her, still largely in the vicinity of where I had left her before I moved to a more secluded spot to try and call her. The phone rang in my ear, but I didn't see a response from her. I momentarily wondered about the technological progress of human civilization, being able to make calls from one phone to another, anywhere in the world, but having to wait for what seemed to be an eternity to connect to them when you were looking directly at them. Another ring, but still nothing. My doubt was now growing into an obvious fact. This was not who I was supposed to meet. The next half-instant led to brief panic, thinking about how I may have missed my chance to pounce on this impromptu opportunity to meet and conclude matters that required concluding, as I had been repeatedly told, beyond the slightest hint of a reasonable doubt. If I had been careless enough to have screwed this up, well, I needed to put all of my remaining energy into coming up with a plausible story, which would have to be the perfect blend of top-news-story-meets-Aesop's-Fables. The third ring made itself heard in my ear. Before my heart could skip a beat in sheer fright, I saw her pause in mid-stride. She looked down at her handbag, and seemed to touch it on the outside, checking for some sort of vibration from within it. Once her hand had confirmed this, she reached into her purse and fished around for a moment, finally pulling out her cell phone. Squinting at the screen because of the glare of the midday sun, she let it vibrate once more before raising the phone to her ear.

"Hello?" she asked, opening the call with some, expected trepidation.

"Good afternoon Ms. Rossini. My name is Michael Fisher. I was trying to get you on the phone all day yesterday bust wasn't able to. Would you mind awfully if I took a few seconds of your time?" I  flung forth in reply, not taking a breath between explanation and question, making sure she had no chance of attempting to cut me off and hang up.

"Well, I was in the middle of my Sunday shopping," she began, trying to subvert my attempt to cut into her free time, "But, I would be glad to answer a couple of questions, if we could keep this short." She was as polite as she was beautiful, and on any other day, I would have probably apologized to her for intruding upon her. But that day wasn't today, unfortunately, for either of us. I still couldn't take my eyes off of her, and if this were a scene from some romantic chick flick, I would have waved to get her attention, before swan diving from the window into the mass of humanity below, surviving the fall without a scratch to my person, before running into her arms in slow motion. It was a whole second and a half before I began to respond.

"Why, of course, Ms. Rossini. I do so apologize that you have to endure business on your day off, however, I would only like to ask you three questions," which was my way of setting up for a favorable response to go ahead from her, "after which I will be out of your hair, I promise." Ending emphatically, I hoped to drive home my point that I was deeply apologetic for causing inconvenience, but that it was inevitable and I had to do it, in spite of knowing better. It worked, because I could see the smile return in full force as she acquiesced.

"Question one..." and I paused briefly as if I was trying to recall what I was going to ask her, rummaging through pages of mental notes, but really, staring at her with even greater dedication than I was when I was part of the crowd below, "Did you ever happen to work for a Mr. Scolera, uh, Mr. Antonin Scolera?" There was no sound, not even the hint of exhaling. But, it was the arresting of the breathing that tipped me off. She knew, and I still had two more questions to go. The dimples on her cheeks faded rapidly away, taking with them the joyful redness of her cheeks, leaving only a sickly pallor.

"Question two, Ms. Rossini," I decided to use her name to coax her into offering an answer, "When was the last time you saw Mr. Scolera?" I may have been mistaken, but it seemed to me like she was now frozen, in space and in time, a mere shadow of her former self from only a moment ago, with a tear running down her cheek. She attempted to hide it from the public milling about around her, tilting her head further forward and letting her hat play the role of instant veil. But the long, slender path that the tear from her eye had marked out as it descended her cheek, that was easy to spot as it caught my eye, like a homing beacon, flickering brightly in the bright sunlight, with the tiniest hints of facial movement. Still no response from her, and in spite of the visual tear, there was no sign of this anguish in her breath. She was attempting to be the quintessential stoic, showing no signs of any emotion.

"Question three," but as I began, I suddenly saw her look up, and start to make her way through the crowd. She seemed to be heading to the parking lot, and while a little hurried, which you would notice if you had been studying her closely, not quite quickly enough to draw any undue attention to herself. Oh, she was beautiful, and that meant people would be drawn to gaze upon her, naturally. But, in this case, not enough to run up to her, or to cut her off and ask her if everything was alright, because doing so would require the kind of explanation that would make the unknown offerer of friendly support sound psycopathic in a court of law, a natural deterrent. I started again with, "Question three,...where's the money, Ms. Rossini?"

With that, she was off, her pace quickening to a fast walk, her body making stronger contact with the passersby in front of her that she was trying to get out of her way. I had all the proof I needed to confirm that the person in the badly presented photo was the one standing in front of me. Yet, it was with a heavy heart, one that was torn at the prospect of bringing such beauty to an end, that I hesitated. She had disconnected from the call before I had completed my third question, returning her cell phone to her purse, before making her slow-but-deliberate run for it. But I had my eyes on her the whole time. In complete knowledge of my present hesitation, I hesitated a little more, biding the time that I was pretty sure I had. I waited until she recognized her car, walked first over to it and then around it to get to the driver's side, stepped up to the door with her keys in hand, was about to open the door...BANG!

The shot was inaudible. Any lingering smell from the gunpowder was quickly combined with the heavier smokes of the various tobaccos being consumed in the other booths. The weapon I had used was easily concealed on my person, being dismantled to resemble a collection of everyday objects that one would find in the average backpack. And, as if on cue, my food arrived as promised, served up delicately, paired with a great white wine, and becoming the second best thing about my day today. Still, the first best thing had to be Ms. Rossini, even though she was so far away, because I couldn't take my eyes off of her.