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Friday, April 3, 2015

The Daily Grind

There is a place within my mind that others cannot go.
It's nestled deep amongst the trees protected from the snow.

The sun shines bright and gently warms the corners deep in shade.
A warm spring breeze floats music by; notes just above a fade.

A chair sits waiting by a stream that babbles bright and clear.
It holds a book; its pages saved from when I last was here.

I rest my bones, breathe it in and forget about the time
And know I'll always have this place to escape the Daily Grind.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Begin Fitzsimmons

Soft humming overhead. Dull flickering lights around the peripherals of his watery vision. A steady drip, drip drip pattering from his nostril down his chin and onto the linoleum below; mottled grey/green tiles dulled and scuffed over the course of a thousand or so footprints. Fitzsimmons is starting to come to.

A small time hustler, occasional drug dealer and generally all around scuzzy guy. Fitzsimmons has primarily skated his way through life; grifting, begging, borrowing and stealing what ever he wanted or needed. At times he used his charms and other times he used a double-sided blade. Any means necessary to get any necessary means he would say. Class act that Fitzsimmons.

In recent months he was doing well for himself or as well as one can be on the underbelly of society. He had a steady job as a heavy in a local dive bar. He rented a room above the bar and had all the junk food and booze he could consume in lieu of excessive pay. It was enough to get him by. If he wanted anything more, he find an excuse to beat it out of his Customers. And so it came to pass that one night Fitzsimmons would cross paths with the last person he would ever take advantage of. A pretty young thing who wandered in to the wrong bar on the wrong side of town. A naive little doe; all fair haired and freckled looking to meet a bad boy that would really make her Daddy mad. Oooohhh and did she ever want to make Daddy mad!

A few drinks later and a stumbling climb up the back stairs and they are in Fitzsimmons's apartment. It doesn't take long before things go from casual cuddling to a 5 year stint in the State Pen for rape. She fights well. She cries and claws and squirms as much as she can but in the end he is just too strong for her. It could be over quickly too if she didn't scratch his cheek open. Skin tears, blood runs and Fitzsimmons yells. There is a flash, a guttural cry and then she goes limp. The knife buried to the hilt in her throat is enough to silence her.  Serves the bitch right! He thinks as he tenderly touches his torn cheek. It was going to leave a mark and she was going to leave a stain on his couch if he didn't do something quickly. 

Fitzsimmons chose to settle in this neighbourhood not because of its ambience but because a man could walk down a dark alley with a large stuffed suitcase and nobody would take notice…..because nobody asked questions in this part of the city. He takes advantage of this fact and drags her down the back stairs and loads her into the trunk of his car.

Fitzsimmons makes it to the pier and back in nearly record time. Not like it was a race but had it been he would've had time to smile at the cameras as he crossed the finish line. Only…they don’t normally give out trophies for murder do they? He parks his car and goes up the back stair case to his apartment. He closes and locks the door and sinks down onto the still warm couch. The TV flicks on and he begins watching late night TV. Fitzsimmons drifts off to sleep.

There is a sloshing noise somewhere in his apartment; a wet, gurgling soft sound. It wakes him from a dreamless sleep. He tries to get off the couch but finds that he’s pinned down. He looks around frantically for anything to help him but it’s too dark for him to see. He opens his mouth to cry out and pungent, earthy river water begins to flow into him. He starts to sputter and spit the water out but it’s like he is being held under. The more he struggles, the more the water flows. Fitzsimmons is drowning and as the room starts to grow fuzzy and he feels himself slipping somewhere farther away, He hears a faint giggle and sees a sliver of light fall across slick, wet, blonde hair. 

His eye is swollen nearly shut and his face feels like it's been used as a practice bag for the Welter-Weight Champ. He can feel the coarse ropes cutting deftly into his wrists. His arm and one leg are asleep. No, not asleep---numb. He can't feel them which leads him to believe he's been tied to this knocked over chair for quite sometime. He gently cranes his neck as far as his current bindings will allow him and tries to take in as much as he can. From what he can tell, he's in a storage room of some sort. There's a set of double swinging doors to the left of him and not much else. The doors have a round window in each; reminiscent of something you might find in a diner or a dive bar. Truthfully, this seems inconsequential until he gets free from his current predicament.

He takes in an inventory of what he must do to get back on track. It's starts with one small command; "Wiggle your fingers.  Go on.  Wiggle them. Get the blood flowing back into that dead arm of yours....or lay here and bleed." An easy enough task if you have blood flowing through your extremities to begin with. When you've been lying on top of them for God knows how long, well---you might just be shit outta luck. Lucky for Fitzsimmons he's a tenacious bastard; probably what got him here in the first place he thinks to himself. He feels the tiniest tingle followed by a prickling sensation. Which of course leads to the feeling of a million and one ants crawling over your skin. By now he's moving his fingers and rotating his wrist. The rope digs deeper into his flesh and he grimaces a little. But it's more of a half smile because the pain reminds him that he's regaining the use of his limbs. It reminds him he's not helpless. Sure he's lying on a filthy floor tied to a chair. He's bleeding, groggy and he's pretty sure he's pissed in his pants but by Jove he's moving now!

He knows he won't be able to break the bindings without some form of sharp object. From what he can see, that's not going to happen. He tries another approach. If he can get enough momentum he might be able to roll himself to his stomach and then subsequently his other side. With enough force he might be able to smash the chair on the floor and break free. Granted, this is not an action movie and he's no Bruce Willis. The feat which seems simple in theory is damn near impossible in execution. Still, he's a tenacious bastard as we've already established. Anyone walking into the room right now would certainly get an eyeful. This busted up punk rolling back and forth on the floor like some beached whale; grunting and groaning as he puts all his weight behind each strike. It's at that moment that Fitzsimmons stops moving and lies very, very still. It dawns on him that all this movement; this noise might draw someone's attention. Maybe whoever put him in this chair and tenderized his face might be in the next room over...or watching him from a video feed.  He looks around the room as casually as he can. Well, as casually as a beaten man tied to a chair can. He scans the corners for cameras and sees none. He looks at the door and listens carefully for any sign of movement. Breathing, feet shuffling, muffled conversation. Anything really. But nothing. His heart pounds in his chest and he can hear the sound of his blood pumping hard in his ears. He could set his watch the the rhythmic 'Whoosh, Whoosh, Whoosh."

He tenses his muscles up and makes one more attempt to roll over and smash his wooden prison. He rocks back and forth to build momentum. He figures the weakest part of the chair will be where the seat and back meet so he focuses his attack there. He envisions the wood and screws bending and snapping under the weight of his frame. He whips his body from left to right rolling across his stomach. He's pretty sure he's got at least one cracked rib as the pain is excruciating  every time he moves. By now he's made dents in the floor and heard the wood groan under him more than once. "So close....just a little more pressure and..."

There is an audible 'CRACK' and the ropes immediately loosen around him. He makes another pass at it and this time the chair crumbles under the relentless onslaught. Fitzsimmons sits upright and fiddles with the ropes. He kicks away the chair which is nothing more than kindling now and slowly makes his way to his feet. His back screams at him and for a good minute he needs to stand bent at the waist to will his back to straighten itself. When it does, there is a pop somewhere near his tail bone and the pain is almost immediately remedied. Slip-disc he thinks? He takes a moment to survey the damage done. From what he can tell he was severely worked over with a blunt object like a pipe. His nose is broken. He can feel the cartilage crunch as he passes a finger over it. His eye is in pretty rough shape too but it's not a total write-off. He'll be sporting a beautiful shiner for a few weeks. His lower half seems ok. Ankles a little stiff from the ropes but he can walk and maybe even run if need be. His chest is another story. He hears a rattling noise every time he breathes. It might not just be a busted rib he thinks. There's a good chance his lung is punctured too.

Fitzsimmons walks to the doors and looks quickly out of the greasy windows. Sure enough, there's a diner on the other side. The lights are off and the space looks empty. He cracks the door a little and slips quietly out behind the counter where he crouches until he's sure the coast is clear. He peers over the counter and surveys the dining area. The booths look empty but he can't be completely sure. It's dark and the ambient light from outside isn't helping; the vertical blinds are seeing to that. He looks around the counters and locates a large bladed knife. Used for cutting slices of mediocre pie, it can also puncture a few necks if the need arises. He feels a little more confident knowing he's now got a modicum of defense. He stands up and steps out from behind the counter; the knife poised at the ready. He looks for the door and plans to beat a hasty retreat when he sees something shuffle in the darkness at the other end of the diner.

Your eyes have a funny way of playing tricks on you. People are not nocturnal by nature so we often struggles to see in the dark. We have trouble making out details and distances and this makes us vulnerable. But it also makes us cautious and in some makes us dangerous. Fitzsimmons is an individual of the latter classification. He tightens his grip on the knife handle and takes up a stance that clearly announces his intention to defend himself should the need arise. The diner is quiet with the exception of the humming of the refrigerated display case and the rattling in his lungs. He watches the darkness and begins to count. If he makes it to 5 and nothing happens, he'll chalk it up to nerves and be on his way.

1..........2..........3..........4 (the darkness at the end of the diner seems to breathe). "I'm not sure who you are or what the fuck you think you're doing....but I'm not in the mood right now."

The diner starts getting colder and the light (what little there is) seems to bleed into the cracks and corners rendering the space between Fitzsimmons and the exit almost opaque. A low growl emanates from the dark and the hairs on the back of his neck stand straight up. Fitzsimmon is legitimately afraid. He estimates the distance between him and the door is approximately 15 feet. He could be out on the street in mere seconds assuming the door isn't locked. Seems good in theory except that 15 feet is equally shared with whatever is lurking in the darkness. He might be able to run, but what then? He uses his peripheral vision to look for another way out. He wants to seem in control of the situation even though his knees shake and he's made water in his pants....again.....

The thing in the dark is watching him with hungry unseen eyes. It measures his moves and smells his uncertainty and although it is as dark as pitch, Fitzsimmons is confident he can see this thing smiling at him out of the gloom. But then the darkness shifts and he realizes that there are two figures standing cloaked in shadow. One clearly smaller than the other.

A voice drifts out from the dark.....

"Fiiiitttzzzssiiiimmmoooonnnnsssssss......." it whispers. "I've waited so long to find someone like you. Someone who knows how to treat a girl just right and show her a good time. I'm so happy my Daughter has taken a liking to you."

Another voice, this time from the smaller shape. "Can I keep him Daddy? I promise I won't break him like the last one!"

"Oh yes are rough with your toys aren't you? But if this one breaks Daddy will just get his sweet girl another one........"

And in that small, still moment, he knows this thing is here to do him harm.  Not the physical harm he endured while tied to a chair and beaten. Not even the harm he suffered at the hands of a drunken Step Father or the harm of the elements as he slept on the street.  No....he knows this thing is here to hurt him in ways he cannot fathom. To do irreparable harm to him that will mark him like a stain.

In this shut down diner on some isolated street deep in the belly of the city Fitzsimmons knows that his sins have come to visit him; to share a cup of coffee and a slice of warm apple pie.

He wonders if he'll be able to have a scoop of icecream with his slice.........

Friday, February 7, 2014

Superman dies in the end....

When you’re at the top of your game, sometimes it’s hard to see the potential for failure. Superman once fought a beast in the Comics known as Doomsday and when all was said and done the most powerful character in Superhero lore was beaten to death. And quite frankly, he deserved it. Much like the Man of Steel, we often consider ourselves more powerful than a locomotive; impervious to the dangers that rise up to defeat us because we feel that we’re indestructible. But even the mightiest of giants can be felled if the stars align just the right way.  Superman made 5 fundamental mistakes that cost him his life.

1.     He was too full of himself

Why wouldn't he be? He’s Superman. Historically there didn't seem to be anything that could stop him; Kryptonite aside of course but realistically he conquered every obstacle thrown at him. The fact was though, Superman failed to see that one day someone (or thing) might come along that was just simply better than him. It was that complacency that prevented him from seeing impending danger and asking “What if I can’t do it? What if I fail?”
What’s the lesson here? Don’t get cocky with your abilities. They may fail you in the end so learn to adapt.

2.     He was everybody else’s “Go To” guy

When the world was in trouble or the rest of the Heroes couldn't handle the situation they called in the big guns! Superman would swoop in to save the day whether it was something as simple as saving a Kitten in a tree or stopping an interstellar armada hell-bent on destroying the Planet. He could be counted on for just about anything.  Then one day he was gone; buried under 6 feet of earth and those people that had come to rely on him were left to fend for themselves. While they eventually got things under control there were struggles and hardships. Had Superman helped more people to help themselves they wouldn't have been in such a predicament and would have been able to carry on without him.
What’s the lesson here? Share your knowledge. Create everyday Heroes that can stand up to challenges if/when the Major Leaguers are nowhere to be found. Take a step back and let others shoulder the weight for a time.

3.     He didn't know when to say “Enough!”

Although he was put on this Planet to do great deeds and help people there had to be a point in time where he just got sick of it all. When he was tempted to just hang up his cape, put his feet up on the couch and watch re-runs of the Brady Bunch. The man worked relentlessly. He was always on the move and never took a day off. He worked himself to the point of exhaustion and when the time came for him to dig deep and draw on those extra energy reserves….he couldn't.
What’s the lesson here? Take a break every now and then. The job will still be there when you get back. A break will help you refocus your energy on tasks and your output will improve exponentially.  

4.     He couldn't think ‘on the fly’ (Sorry for the pun)

Superman was a man of action but that didn't always work to his advantage. While he was more than capable of solving Lex Luthor’s puzzles, he failed to use this same brain power to conquer the monster Doomsday. Instead, he resorted to duking it out like a kid on the playground. Had Superman taken the time to strategize rather than rely on a skill like his brute strength it may have saved his life. When cornered, he opted to be physically defensive instead of tactically offensive. 
What’s the lesson here? While we all have certain skills that are stronger than others, sometimes using a skill that people don’t know about can lead to a tactical advantage. Always keep them guessing.

5.     Nobody ever really dies in the Comics

Superman can never really die. Death in the comics is nothing more than a marketing ploy. Kill off a Hero and people simply scramble to buy the next book to see what happens next. They rush online to read blogs and leave comments on message boards and fan sites. Online traffic spikes, SEO and SEM specialists rub their hands together in anticipation. Store shelves run out merchandise before the ink has even dried on the page. Death reinvigorates a stalled product. The industry thrives on the death and rebirth of these icons because the Customers demand it!  It works for that Market, but the same approach may not work for yours.
If your product or service doesn't have the rabid fan-base like the comic industry has then avoid killing off your ‘Hero Product’. If there’s one thing that fans hate more than an obvious marketing cash grab it’s when a company takes away something Customers have come to know and love just to make it ‘New and Improved’.  Superman will always be Superman. Can you say the same about your Product or Service?
What’s the lesson here? Don’t change your Hero Product just to make a quick buck. Build brand value and a loyal Consumer base by offering consistency and a solid return on their investment. Customers will tell you when they want a change.  Your Customers are your biggest fans. Don’t ever treat them like just another source of income.

When all is said and done Superman made bad decisions by failing to see his shortcomings and pushing himself too hard. In many ways, he is us and we are him. We constantly push ourselves to show our worth. We fall into patterns that can lead us into danger because we become complacent with our abilities. If Superman is fallible, what chance do we have?

You don’t have to wear a cape to be a Superhero. You just need a sense of humility and enough common sense to understand when to help others step up to the task; when to cultivate other people’s powers while not overshadowing them with your own. This is a lesson that will take your entire life to master but with practice the legacy you leave behind will be larger than the person who left it.

Friday, January 24, 2014

What a Sales Person promises is what a Company delivers and what a Customer is billed for is what the Customer agreed to pay for.

My Customer Survey Feedback from a recent interaction with my Cable Provider:

To whom it may concern,

I've been charged a carry over fee of $68.00+ on my current bill. I called last month to have the issue resolved and was credited for the matter(Transaction number: XXXXXXX/Rep ID: 123456). Then this month a similar charge appeared on my bill driving the total owed to $201.11; almost $50 more than what I normally pay.  Julio (the Rep) applied a one time credit to my account to remove the charge but I fully expect that I will have to call back next month to rectify the issue again.

It's unfortunate seeing as I left XYZ Cable Company because I was constantly receiving inconsistent bills and my contract seemed to always be changing. I'm starting to see the same pattern with you and truthfully I'm not sure if I want to go through the same hassle. There are multiple choices out in the market that offer more for less. Yes it's inconvenient to make the switch but it's also inconvenient to spend time out of my life to wait on hold and in queue to rectify issues that shouldn't be issues in the first place.

Your billing model always feels off and while I understand that charges will incrementally increase when promotions end, I always have that gut feeling that I'm being screwed out of more money than necessary. I have yet to have an experience with a large Telco that doesn't make me feel that I'm constantly paying more month after month. Unless I go over my internet or long distance usage, my rate should never change.

In general I have had a good experience with the services you provides me. I have not had significant cable, internet or phone outages and in general, everyone I've spoken with at your company (or it's 3rd party affiliates) has been professional and pleasant; including Julio.

Where my concern lies is the fact that your systems don't speak to one another, documentation is rarely accurate or visible to all relevant parties and I feel like  I'm constantly having to re-explain my issue anytime I call in.

What I look for in a vendor is quality of service overall; not just aspects or elements of it. From sales to hook-up, through support and cancellation, the experience needs to be seamless. I am not just the Customer, I am your Client. One of hundreds of thousands, but a Client none the less. I pay for service and ask only for a decent return on my investment. Your company doesn't need my money; you're doing quite well without my $150+ a month. But I'm still revenue generation nonetheless. Any loss or implication of loss should be considered a risk regardless of what fraction of a percentage it may make up towards your bottom line.

I'm providing this feedback in the hopes that you have a department that reviews Customer Sat or Voice of the Customer surveys and evaluates next steps on how to manage the results. I'm not asking for a callback or email. I'm simply asking that you read over the comments and nod your head in agreement at the fact that big companies still need to be accountable for mistakes (little or not) and take proactive; not reactive measures to fix them. Nod your head and agree that big companies need to work on ways to strengthen communication between sales, billing and Customer support departments. Nod your head and agree that what a Sales Person promises is what a Company delivers and what a Customer is billed for is what the Customer agreed to pay for. Simple concept in theory but much more difficult to execute.

Thanks for reading. Give Julio a high five for me.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

One Bitterness Smoothie coming right up!

Look chicky...I get it. Your little bum looks good in yoga pants. You're young and trendy and by working at Booster Juice you're attempting to prove that you're health conscientious too. But none of it....I repeat none of it means a lick of spit if you refuse to even acknowledge me at your register and then seem annoyed when I order something from you. Trust me girly, your bitchy resting face needs practice 'cause I can out stink eye you from a mile away. Oh....and one last thing....licking your hands after getting juice on them and then handling the fruit and cups is a violation of health and safety regulations. But you probably already knew that seeing as how you wear yoga pants and work at Booster Juice.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Relish in a Squeeze Bottle is Ree-donk-u-lous

Some things were never meant to be squeezed through tiny holes.

Recently, I wrote a letter of complaint to Heinz regarding their Relish in a Squeeze Bottle Fiasco. Unfortunately, their online feedback form only allows for 258 characters....hardly enough to plead my case, so I opted to put it on my blog instead. Enjoy!

"Good day.

It's pretty rare that I take time out of my day to write about something that; in hindsight, is pretty trivial. But truthfully, it's bothered me for some time now and I thought I should let you know.

Relish in a squeeze bottle is one of the worst marketing ideas your company has had since coloured Ketchup (remember that? It was terrible too). You see, there's a fundamental flaw in the design. Taking something like an oobleck (that's a solid with liquid qualities much like quicksand) and expecting it to flow out of a spout like a liquid...has disastrous results. The solids of the relish clogs the spout but the liquid gushes out....all over your food.

Imagine if you will, a hot sunny day in June. Hot dogs have just come off the grill and they are cooked to perfection. You sit at the dinner table with the family and the meal begins. You begin to masterfully craft the art that will soon become your hot dog. You use architectural cunning and prowess to scaffold onions, cheese and tomatoes while forming complex lattices of Heinz Ketchup and Mustard. As the coup de grace, you reach for the Heinz Sweet Relish in the squeeze bottle....and watch as horror unfolds in front of your very eyes. The relish holds firm in the bottle, and your hot dog, your Mona Lisa of Grill saturated in vinegar, sugar and pickle juice. The hot dog is soaking wet....the bun is ruined and you are left staring at the travesty that was dinner.

Please tell your Relish Engineers to go back to the drawing board. If we can put a man on the Moon, we can certainly design a better delivery system for our Relish.
How I felt after Hot-Dog-calypse

With Regards,

The Can-eh-dian Kid

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Planet Fall

She sat with her legs hanging over the edge of the weathered red barn.  Below her, the wheat listed lazily from side to side in the breeze of the late summer. She knew this would be one of the last things she would ever see in this lifetime; on this planet. As the stalks swayed back and forth she wondered if it was going to hurt. She wondered if she would feel it? She wondered if she would feel anything ever again.  It was at that moment; as the dusk has just settled in, when all was quiet and the world seemed to slowly exhale all at once, that she saw him coming through the fields. Even from this distance, she could see the glint of the deepening sun off his glasses. The field seemed to melt around him as he moved through it. She knew it was just a trick of the light and the heat, but to a young girls mind that was already racing with fear and that moment, he looked like a young god among mortals.

She quickly rose to her feet and dusted off the straw. The small bits clung around the hem and stitching but she truly paid it no mind. If anything it added to the country simplicity of the dress. Her hair hung in a loose braid to the side; a simple white ribbon wound throughout and on her feet she wore nothing but a small ring on her toe. She had run barefoot most of her life much to the disdain of her Mother. She figured why start wearing them now all things considered. She opted for no make-up with the exception for a small amount of rouge on her cheeks which she had borrowed from her Mother's vanity table. She wouldn't miss it and even if she did it wouldn't really matter after tonight.

She took the stairs down from the loft 3 at a time as her heart raced inside of her chest. The rouge on her cheeks was quickly being overshadowed by the natural hue of blood pumping just under the skin. The smell of the barn was all around her now; old hay and sawdust dominated the air but subtle tones seeped through. Rain and pine. Smoke and ash.  She knew that the barn had burned partially when she was barely old enough to walk and while she was too young to remember the fire itself she would never truly forget the panicked noises the animals made while trying to flee or the smell of charred wood that hung around the house and yard for days afterwards.

She pushed the memory out of head.  Thomas was her focus now.  It would be him and only him.  They shared a connection that only two young people in love can truly achieve.  They had never known the pleasures of the flesh, but just before Thomas had left early that summer, they shared a kiss that would solidify his place in her heart for the rest of her life.  A moment so perfect and innocent that it seemed to freeze time.  A moment that stopped the June Bugs from clicking and brought every firefly in the valley out to light their way home.

Thomas pushed through the last row of wheat and paused to wipe the chaff from his face. He pulled a small handkerchief from his pack pocket and absentmindedly wiped at his brow.  The humidity this time of year clung to everything. It made the air heavy and thick and any form of physical activity; even something as simple as walking, became a chore in itself. But if Thomas was upset about the heat, all resemblance of annoyance melted from his face when he saw Suzanne waiting by the old barn door.

The sunlight was at a level where it started to cast shadows across the land. Soft light drifted through the slats of the barn and trickled across the beams of the roof and down onto the floor making every corner of the old place seem to breath for just a brief time. At one point, the light caught the edge of an old stained glass sun catcher tucked off to the side of the door. A million colours suddenly lashed out in all directions. Reds and blues shone in her hair as orange and purple trickled across her brow and cheeks. It gave her an ethereal quality; a glow like one would find streaming off of the Fae Folks had they really existed.  The Fae were known to grant wishes in stories and if there were ever a story that needed a was this one. But Thomas knew that no amount of wishing would change the course of the evening. He took an extra moment to drink the scene in before he closed the last few steps between the two of them.

As is the case with many young lovers, the first few moments were awkward. Eye contact seemed difficult and blush-filled grins were all but impossible. There was an unspoken electricity in the air around them. They could feel the hair on their necks and arms raise ever so slightly. But whether it was their impending connection generating this pulse or the planet sending out early warning signs that something wasn't quite right, it truly didn't matter. Thomas's gaze left his feet and he breathed deeply before looking at her directly. She met his gaze equally and the smile faded from her lips. Thomas looked deeply saddened and it broke her heart to see him like this if even for only a moment.

"Thomas, what's wrong? Why are you so upset?"

Tears had begun to well up round his eyes. He fought to keep them in. He refused to cry in front of her.  How was he supposed to tell this beautiful creature standing in front of him that he was terrified? How was he supposed tell her that he didn't want to die tonight? He was supposed to be the strong one. He was supposed to be able to protect her. He was raised to believe that if you truly love someone, you fight with everything thing you have to keep them matter what the cost. But what if what you were trying to accomplish wasn't humanly possible? Thomas didn't have a hope in Hell of keeping her safe. There was nowhere to run. Hiding wouldn't buy them any time either. All they could do was wait it out.  Wait for the inevitable to happen. So Thomas did the only thing that was still within his control.  Thomas lied. He lied with every ounce of his being in the hopes that she would believe him.

"I'm not upset Suzanne. I'm just so happy to see you again. It's just been so crazy these last few weeks....I was afraid I may not get back to you in time. I'm just really glad I did."

He hugged her quickly and tight so that she couldn't see the tears streaming down his face. Thomas thought to himself that this was when his childhood officially ended. In this exact moment when he lied to this girl in an act of pure love. 'Protect the girl' he thought. 'Even if you have to die a liar. I'll be judged for my entire story on the day of reckoning. Not just for this single chapter.'

They let each other go and stood quietly just holding each other's hands for a few extra moments. The sun was just kissing the horizon goodnight and the land was a deep amber hue with the first batch of stars poking through the black canvass. Tonight though, the stars looked almost. Their colors seemed to bleed across the sky and if one were to look long and hard enough, one might swear that they were pulsing in unison. Painfully slow at first, but picking up speed at a rate that the naked eye would probably not be able to detect unaided. The universe was unwell and the poor dust mites known as the Human Race would soon come to know just how ill it truly was.

"I like your dress Suzanne. It's beautiful! did you ever find the money to pay for it?" Thomas asked.

"It's Mama's" she said. "I had a chance to hem it a little before tonight. I knew she wouldn't miss it 'cause it 's been tucked in the back of her closet since she and Daddy got married."

"I couldn't get a suit. Not...not on such short notice that is. But I wore my Sunday shirt and pants. I hope that's ok?"

"Course it is." she said.  "Doesn't matter what you're wearing as long as you're here.  C'mon. It'll be time soon. We should get started."


It hadn't seemed that long ago that Suzanne had made up her mind to leave.  She was 18 after all and no amount of praying would ever change the fact that her days on Earth were numbered.  Double digits if they had counted right....single if they hadn't.  She had been preparing for this night for the last several weeks now.  Ever since the men and women on TV; the ones who used fancy terms like catastrophic and planet killer, began theorizing about what would happen.

For the most part, she largely ignored it.  She didn't watch much TV and was kept busy most of the time with chores around the farm and errands around town.  But after a week or so she began noticing things around town that seemed out of the ordinary.  People that she had known her entire life were packing up and moving away without as much as a goodbye. The town itself seemed smaller each time she went into it. Not just because of the lack of people, but the entire feeling in the town had changed. People hurried past one another without making eye contact unless for the briefest of moments. Children no longer played in the park near the Post Office.  Even the other teens had stopped hanging out around McGillicutty's creek after school. The town was becoming smaller and Suzanne was beginning to get worried.  She wanted to call Thomas. To talk about life in general but mainly to ask him how things were where he was.  But he was out of town for the summer working on his Uncle's farm.

One evening, while she was finishing up the dishes; as it was her night to do so, her Father quietly called her into the family room.  From the tone in his voice, she knew something wasn't quite right. Her Father was sitting in his favourite chair as expected.  Her Mother and little brother sat closely on the couch.  Her Mom was squeezing her brother tightly and she could tell that she had been crying. The television was glowing softly in the background and although the sound was off, she could read the headlines and tickers flowing across the bottom of the screen. They all essentially said the same thing; Planet Fall. This was not a term she was familiar with but as she gazed at the images flickering across at breakneck speeds she could tell it wasn't good. Rioting in the streets, fires burning uncontrollably in major metropolitan cities and swarms of the faithful praying en mass to their respective deity. Some people were openly weeping while some walked across the camera's path with dazed grins permanently etched across their mouths.

"Suzanne!" her Father's voice snapped her back to reality. "Pay attention please!"
"Sorry Papa. I was just watching what was going on on the news. What's happening?!"
"Sit down darlin'. We need to talk."

Suzanne quietly moved to the couch beside her Mother and folded her hands in her lap. She looked up at her Father while her Mother gently stroked her hair. Her Father paced for a moment before opting to sit on the edge of his favourite chair across from them. He searched for the right words....failed.....and then took up the quest once again. He slowly began, weighing each word carefully.
"Something's happened. Well, more like is going to happen. It's hard to explain....truth is, I'm not sure if I could even if I was smart enough to."
He paused for a few more moments. Just when Suzanne thought he may not go on he cleared his throat and continued.

"Somewhere deep in space, a planet that none of us have heard of before died long before any of us even breathed our first breath on this rock. This planet died and because of where it was, or how close it was to other planets or whatever the case, it cause more 'explosions' and more planets died. Now, all these planets exploding released massive amounts of energy. Wave after wave of energy."

"What does that have to do with us Papa? Why is Momma crying?"

"Hush child. I'm getting there. Now, the people you see on T.V.; the scientists and whatnot have been watching this energy for quite some time. Over the last few years, they began to realize that this energy.....this wave was moving in the direction of our planet....gobbling up smaller planets and moons in its way. Well, not so much gobbling as dissolving them. Making them just disappear out of existence. These scientists tried to come up with different ways to stop this wave, or redirect it so that Earth would be safe. But even the smartest people on the planet don't always have all the answers. Man wasn't made to understand everything in the Universe. Sometimes the Universe just decides to set things its opinion. So here we are. The day will be soon upon us when things just stop being. Can't outrun it. Can't hide from it. Just have to wait until it happens."

And with that, Suzanne's Father stood up and walked out of the room, through the kitchen and out into the yard. He sat silently crying on the porch. Although it was out of his control, he felt like he had failed as a Husband, as a Father and as a Man. But how does an ant protect the colony from the shoe of a child? Something's are outside of our control. This was one of those things.

The days crept along slowly after that night. Chores seemed pointless and life around the farm became somewhat of a still-life painting with images and people and animals all blending in to the background. Suzanne's parents became withdrawn and spent most of their time flipping through old photo albums. Her brother locked himself away in his room blasting angry music on his stereo. In a house full of people, she had never felt more alone. At night, she could hear her parents making love through the thin walls that separated their rooms and while it disturbed her to know her parents did such things, it was her Mother's soft weeping after the act that kept her awake most nights.

The news was keeping a countdown clock up on the screen day in and day out. At last estimate, there was just over a week left before the wave would overtake the planet and snuff out all matter. The big blue marble would simply cease to exist. All of our history, our innovation and our future opportunities would be vaporized without prejudice or a second glance. Suzanne still had trouble fathoming what was coming. How could a 18 year old possibly hope to understand these things when she barely knew what the next town outside of this one looked like. She had to get a hold of Thomas. If she was only going have a week left on this planet, she would spend it with him. A few desperate phone calls and a lot of whispered prayers later...and he was on his way home.

"Did you bring the book?" Suzanne asked. "Were you able to find the right words?"
"I got it. It took some time to find the page, but I think this should work well." Thomas replied.
The sun was all but gone below the hills and darkness had come to the farm. Suzanne worked quickly to light a few of the candles around the barn before it was too dark to see. The flames danced lazily and cast long, twisted shadows across the walls. Under normal circumstances, the barn might seem eerie and off putting but tonight, it was filled with a sense of anticipation. Both occupants knew that life would be fundamentally different tonight regardless of the outcome of the next few minutes.

Thomas brushed off the little table and set one of the candles down so he could see the text. The Bible was old and weathered. The cover had been bent and folded and bruised a countless number of times by a countless number of his relatives. This had been the family's book. It was special and was only to be used in special situations. Thomas couldn't think of anything more special than this. The book mark that held his place had once been a deep, vibrant red. The kind only seen in rare books or expensive linens. Time and use had reduced it to little more than a fine series of blush threads. Thomas couldn't help but turn his thoughts to the impending wave. He wondered if his body would be stripped away thread by thread; much like the way this book mark had been. In reality, it really wouldn't matter because unlike the book mark and the book it was attached to, there would be nothing left to compare and no one left to do the comparing. Thomas pushed ahead and began to read.

"1 Corinthians 13:4-13  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but...." Thomas trailed off.

"What is it? Go on Thomas....I like that passage." Suzanne said.
"It just doesn't seem right. I mean...that's not right. I mean that THIS; right here and right now is so very right! But this passage doesn't do it justice. Not with everything about to change." Thomas furled his brow in frustration. Suzanne moved closer to him and gently took the book from his fingers. She quickly flipped through the worn pages; her eyes darting across the words, straining in the candlelight. Suddenly her face lightened and her eyes slowed.

"This one.  This is the one I want you to read."

She handed the book back to Thomas who accepted it with a tiny smile on his face. As always, she amazed him. Even at the end of the world, she could still find time to make him smile. Thomas cleared his throat and began again.

Ruth 1:16-17 "Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me."

He looked up from the pages and met her eyes. For a moment, neither one of them said anything. Thomas reached into his pocket and gently pulled out the ring. It was a thing of great beauty for it was hand crafted and etched with the precision of skilled hands much older than the maker they belonged to. A simple wooden ring that had started as a branch from an ancient oak down by the creek. It had taken Thomas weeks to whittle, shape, smooth and carve out the perfect shape. The carvings snaked in and out of the band with immaculate accuracy and running deeper around the outer edge of the band was a fine ring of silver which Thomas had melted down and painstakingly poured into the ridges. The ring would be overlooked by the wealthy but coveted by the paupers had the opportunity arose, as it truly was a labour of love. He took her hand and dropped to one knee. The ring slid effortlessly over her finger and held true. She pulled him gently to his feet and then whispered into his ear

"I do."


An unnatural quiet had fallen over the farm. The animals were no longer rustling in their stalls, the insects had ceased their incessant chirping and the wind had all but died away. The night was silent save the heartbeat of two young lovers tucked away in the loft of an old red-sided barn. Their breathing in unison, their bodies entangled in a flurry of sheets and hay and careless abandon. The candles burned low now and the wax had wept all across the table and floor. They whispered soft, hollow promises to one another. They talked about children, and travelling and growing old together. They made plans for a big pancake breakfast the next morning with fresh orange juice and strawberries from the fields out back. They lay with one another late into the darkness and kept watch of the night sky through a hole in the barn's roof. As the conversation slid deeper into broken words and sleep laden fragments, the stars around them begin to blink out. Suzanne was none the wiser, sleep claiming her long before Thomas.

The first pulse washed over the farm in a flash of cold blue light. The trees rustled but no more so than if a strong breeze had made its presence known. Thomas prayed quietly that she would not wake up, that she wouldn't see the end. Whatever divine presence was still left on the Godforsaken world, it must have taken notice. The second and third pulse hit in tandem and so close to one another that Thomas almost thought they were the same one. With each pulse, there came a soft hum as it passed over. As the pulses came more frequently and faster, the hum grew louder and didn't fade away. The hum seemed to be everywhere and Thomas noticed that he could feel it in his toes. It was a mild tingling sensation that could be likened to pins and needles, but not the kind that one would find unpleasant.

The waves were now indiscernible and all bled into one another. Thomas lay beside Suzanne as the numbness slowly climbed across his naked frame. He imagined that if he were to pull the blankets back that he would no longer see his toes, feet and much of his legs. It was better to keep the blanket in place lest he panic, and that would serve no purpose in the long run. He stared at Suzanne breathing gently in the darkness beside him. He looked over the curve of her face and the way her hair fell softly across her neck. The girl, who became his love and then became his wife would never truly know how much he loved her.

The tingling intensified and moved more rapidly across his body. Thomas noticed the sheet losing form as the body that it kept covered lost its corporeal form. He began to breath quicker as he fought to maintain his composure.  He had begun to cry now; silently as he refused to allow her to wake to this nightmare. What was waiting for him on the other side of the veil? Solace? Peace or emptiness. Whatever the universe held in store for the poor inhabitants of this world, Thomas knew that he would not go gentle into that dark night....and he would not go alone.

Suzanne stirred beside him and in one panicked moment he feared she would snap awake and scream until there was no longer a mouth for her to scream with. He lifted his hand and hovered just over her mouth. He would make it quick if it came to that, to spare her the horror of the alternative. But instead, she nestled closer into his neck and quietly whispered

"It's cold Thomas." The buzz filled his ears and rattled his teeth. Thomas took a deep final breath and then the world went dark. And with that, the species known as the human race; a species so young in its infancy, so full of promise and opportunity and misgivings blinked out of existence. As quickly as they had passed over the planet, the waves now floated silently into the vast expanses of space leaving only emptiness in its wake.

But the Universe has a funny way of acting as a great equalizer. Planets and Solar Systems and Civilizations are created and destroyed in a blink of an eye with neither regard or bias or worry and the Earth is no exception to the rules that govern the Universe. As Stephen Hawking once said  "We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special."

While love may not always conquer all, it does have a way of being down-right stubborn until it gets what it wants. And the story of Thomas and Suzanne is if nothing else an exercise in love. Who are we to truly say that we understand all that the Universe is and all that it has to offer? For in the end, it is not our Science or our Religion that will right the wrongs. It is the simple love between two people that will defy the cosmos and will make the Universe realize the error of its ways.

......And the Voice whispered "To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders." And in the quiet void that followed, Suzanne and Thomas opened their new eyes.......and smiled.