Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Adept of The Palms

Adept of the Palms Trees

Chapter 1

Torre stood looking out across the bluff towards the row of palm trees diminishing into the distance.  The grove of trees stood in a shallow valley that ran for some distance and was about half as wide as it was long.  The bluffs were the gateway to some rocky mountains some distance away.  The mountains were devoid of any trees and topped with snow.  He looked down at his hands and sinewy arms and studied for the millionth time the implanted nanotechnology there. Miniature power amplifiers, processers and wiring were embedded in his skin and body. He looked up again at the bluffs and the green grass that rolled down the hills toward the precise row of trees.  It always made him feel at home. Like he had his own little place in the universe, vast as it was. The palm trees presented him with opportunities.  He had touched them, been transported by them and seen many wonders that he could not yet explain.  The trees didn’t offer much shade or solace but they did offer him the world; many worlds actually.  He often felt uncertain but knew that being an adept of the palms was perhaps the best thing that could have happened to him.
Having been chosen from among a very large number of unwanted children, Torre had been given the opportunity to touch the palm trees to see if he possessed the gift.  He had felt an instant connection with the trees and had been sent to study with the Palm Masters.  He had studied diligently and had earned the gift of technological implants to go with his natural ability.   He was grateful but still unsure of his talent.  He knew that he was more than just talented; he had an innate sense of how to influence the trees for the desired effect.  He had to just place his hands on the palms and he would begin to see visions.  He could see into the future and past equally.  Most of the things that he saw he didn’t understand but was dreadfully curious to experience and comprehend.  In the past, there were superstitions and rituals regarding the palms that held no meaning to him or any of the other adepts or Masters anymore.  The future was full of incomprehensible visions of radically changed beings and bizarre places that filled him with the most overpowering dread.  

The palm trees allowed those that were adept in sensing the energies imbued into the tree’s very DNA, to channel their elemental forces and travel to many places; the distant past, anywhere in the present and into the future.  Torre’s forays had been limited to just visiting places in the present that he had read about and memorized from texts given him by the Palm Masters.  The Masters encouraged him and gave him instruction, but essentially left him alone after he had shown immense talent and allowed him to find his way with the trees.  The Masters taught that anyone with natural talent would instinctively feel the “way” and communicate to the palms where or when in the universe they wished to go.  Past, present and future existed within the palms wherever there grew a grove of the trees to connect with.  The groves existed in most places in the universe due to the fact that most civilizations found them very attractive.  This was, of course, encouraged by the Palm Masters of any given time or place so that they too could have access to the incredible power of the palms.

Today, Torre was going to travel to a place that he had only glimpsed in visions while communing with the palms.  He was going to visit the past, some eons ago, to observe some early Palm Masters experimenting with the trees.  He was anxious to see what the Masters had seen in their various travels into the past.  It was all recorded in the Masters library; however, one had to experience it fully to understand how the Masters had come to be.  Apparently, ancient Masters had stumbled on the palms ability to allow an adept to view the past, present and future.  The very first adept had spent a few weeks chained to a post in his village until he regained his mental faculties.  No one believed his visions, and accused him of consorting with dark spirits.  After a much respected member of the clan, under close observation, had experienced the power of the palms they began to worship the trees and eventually came to realize that the trees were sentient beings.  There was much apologizing and restitution paid to the first adept and things moved forward.  Later adepts had learned how to transport themselves with the help of technology and the intrinsic power of the palms.

Torre walked down the gently sloping bluff and greeted his Master, Davlish.  He was the oldest Master and sat as head of the Master’s Council. Even though he was patient with Torre, he often berated less talented adepts and even sent some of them back to the Commons to a boring and mundane life.  He was encouraging but expected nothing less than results.  He didn’t accept excuses and anticipated that each experience the adepts had with the palms would produce revelations to be recorded in the library for himself and future Masters to puzzle over.  Because the future is not set, each venture into the future yielded different mysteries to consider.  If an adept traveled ten minutes into the future and stepped on an insect crossing his path, what effect would it have?  Would it be a non-event or would it be of world-shattering consequence?

Davlish was standing close to the path leading to the palms.  He was deep in thought, staring up at the sky when Torre walked up to him.  He had been musing about his own future and the future of the adepts and Masters.  There had been dissension among the Masters and he had been swept along in the ongoing arguments regarding the expectations of the order and what the future of the order holds.  He turned from his thoughts and greeted Torre with a genuine embrace.  Davlish truly cared for Torre and thought the world of him though he’d never tell him.  Not to mention that Torre was the most talented adept and that gave him a certain amount of pride.  “So, have you prepared yourself for your venture into the past?” Davlish asked Torre.  Torre with his hands held loosely to his side lifted his chin slightly and said “I’m as ready as I’ll ever be”.  Davlish snorted at his understatement, shaking his head and thinking that this experience would be a major step towards the completion of his adept training and acceptance as a Master.  “Visions of and traveling in the present is one thing; travelling into the past and the future is on a whole different plane” Davlish stated.  “To see and visit recorded history is a great honor and requires that you must be most diligent.  One misstep and we will spend decades rewriting our histories” he warned.  Torre felt a moment of hesitation but brushed it aside.  He had been training and studying for this moment for well over a year.  His mission was just to observe and nothing more.  

The ancient adepts had often seen travelers from the future and it was a recorded phenomenon in the Masters histories.  Each instance recorded in the histories usually contained a reference to a mysterious presence that observed what was happening.  The interesting thing was that it was usually a different adept or Master, unbeknownst to them.  Many adepts and Masters had visited the past and filled the “role” of the mysterious presence.  It was very important to understand the distinction of presence and being present.  One could travel in body to a certain point in the past or future, however, it was a strong possibility that a time paradox could occur and you would wink out of existence just as sure as you’d never been born.  Matter cannot occupy the same space as the same matter, or so the Masters had learned and learned the hard way.  By traveling in spirit, in the essence of your being, you existed outside the laws of paradox and were safe to observe these instances again and again.

They walked side by side towards the grove with Davlish’s hand resting lightly on Torre’s shoulder.  Davlish wanted to assure Torre as much as possible because this was a new test for him.  He had excelled in his study and practice of communing with the palms and he was confident that he would succeed here as well.  There was always the possibility of things going awry but Davlish was positive that Torre’s journey would end well.  Torre flashed a tentative smile at Davlish and said, “I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time and now that it’s here I find that I feel a little nervous”.  Davlish smiled back because he understood all too well.  

Davlish’s first excursion into the past almost ended in disaster.  He had appeared in the remote past, his shimmering presence observing an event when calamity had struck.  One member of the primeval clan had approached and attempted to interact with him.  He had backed away and tried to appear menacing but the stranger was unfazed.  Speaking to him in a language that had long since ceased to exist, the clansman was trying to be encouraging and welcoming, however there was a lack of fear that should have been palpable.  Davlish had to end his visit prematurely and was very distressed upon returning to his own time.  It was later determined that the technology that was coursing through his body, specifically the safety redundancy programming circuits, had failed to activate when he arrived and had not succeeded in protecting him from being  approached.  He had undergone the excruciating removal and reinsertion of the technological devices that allowed an adept to boost his ability to interact with the palms.  The implants sometimes failed.  It was a fact of life that technology was imperfect and subject to malfunction.  Torre had also undergone the introduction of the technology and had been bedridden for weeks afterwards.  It was a difficult process to endure and even though no adept had died from the procedure, they often wished that they had.  

Torre and Davlish approached the grove of palms with the perfectly manicured walkways, paved with tiles of black agate and white marble in a checkered pattern. They stopped near the first tree and Torre then walked forward alone.  Davlish watched as Torre’s implanted tech awakened and he began to glow.  Green-blue fire coursed through the veins under his skin and his hair stood on end.  His eyes vanished in a blue blaze that made him appear as though he had a tiny sun orbiting inside his head.  Torre slowly approached the closest tree with palms facing forward, his arms raised slightly.  Davlish’s skin responded to the energy too.  He felt as though he was standing too near an exposed power cable; tingling with the raw power that was coursing through the trees.  Torre was glowing so brightly that Davlish had to shade his eyes.  He was amazed at the power Torre wielded as an adept.  Most Masters couldn’t generate the amount of power that Torre commanded.  Torre placed his hands on the tree and a translucent bubble appeared, distorting the view of the trees behind it.  Air was sucked into the bubble creating a strong vortex.  With a loud rush of wind and an eardrum-popping drop of pressure, Torre disappeared.

Chapter 2

Enot sat in his room in the adept’s wing of the Compound.  His sparse quarters were not much different than the other adepts or the Masters for that matter.  Having come from a wealthy and powerful family this always remained a source of irritation for him.  He had been raised in a sprawling manor mostly by servants.  His parents were usually immersed in some riotous pursuit when they weren’t directing their immense imports empire.  They were wealthy beyond measuring and took every opportunity to flaunt that fact.  He had loved his opulent rooms at the manor and resented being sent here by his parents when it was discovered that he could commune with the palm trees.  They had said that it was an honor to be accepted as an adept. He knew, however, that they were just looking for an excuse to be rid of him as they had little time for him anyway.  His room contained a bed, a small table and chair, and a small closet for his adept’s training uniforms and personal belongings.  There was a single window that opened out to the courtyard in the middle of the Compound.  

Enot was short but quite muscular and exercised rigorously when time permitted.  He was in his mid-teens and had grown as much as he was going to.  His black hair was short-cropped, his skin was dark as were his eyes and his mood often matched them.  His adept talent was little more than average but he was astonishingly intelligent and had a cruel sense of humor mixed with large amounts of pride.  He was waiting for Gideon, his Master, to take him for training.  While he waited his thoughts turned to Torre, his nemesis; with his pale, milky skin, shoulder length whitish blond hair and blue eyes. It made his stomach turn to think on his rival.   He had excelled in every way and his Master, Davlish, was head of the Master’s Council.  He had hoped that Davlish would pick him for an adept but had passed him over in favor of Torre.  Because he had come from a wealthy family, he had a sense of entitlement that was unrivaled.  He reasoned that he should have been picked by Davlish because he had always received the best to be offered and it galled him that he had not.  This made Enot hate Torre all the more.

There was a knock at his door and he rose from the table in response.  When He opened the door he was greeted by his Master.  Gideon was a mostly common looking man with short white hair and beard and piercing green eyes.  Enot was often reminded of a snake when he looked in those eyes.  Enot asked Gideon, “Would you like to come in for a drink before you continue my training?”  Gideon waived his hand in front of his face and said, “Are you not eager for your education today, young Enot?”  Enot scowled and replied, “I was just being polite, you know.  It wouldn’t kill you to be more lighthearted Master”.  Gideon smiled owlishly at him and gave a small laugh.  “I haven’t been here five minutes and you’re already in a bad mood.  What’s burdening your soul today, adept?”  Enot stepped out of his room past Gideon and held the door for him.  “I’m sick of this room.  Let’s get some fresh air before I suffocate”.  Gideon followed him out and they walked through the courtyard toward the archway that led out to Hephzibah City.  The city was located close to the ocean with a seaport nestled in the bay to the west.   The bluffs and the grove of palm trees lay to the north, beyond the hills that ringed the city to the east.

Enot never understood why the Compound was on the opposite end of the city from the grove of palm trees.  He voiced his question to Gideon who then stopped and looked at Enot.  “Where does most of your training take place?  Where do you learn to apply most of the theory you learn in the library?”  Enot looked down at his feet as he realized that his impatience had clouded his usually impeccable logic.  “I see your point, Master. I’m tired of languishing in that stupid room and owning next to nothing.”  Gideon smiled that maddeningly knowing smile and said “Now we’re getting to the root of the problem. No one is keeping you from buying extravagant décor for your room or expensive baubles for that matter.  It’s not against any code we have to do so.  However, I believe that your troubles are not really bound up in that as much as it is your burning desire to succeed and excel – and to be noticed”.  He waited for Enot to answer but he remained silent.  “Am I right?” asked Gideon.  Enot exhaled loudly and crossed his arms.  “When are we going to put our plan into motion?” he asked.  Gideon gave him a warning look and said, “Do not speak of that here. It’s not safe.”  They began to walk toward the city again in silence.  Enot had asked the question a dozen times but had not received anything that resembled an answer from Gideon.  

They passed through the city on the main road and witnessed every form of debauchery that man could conceive of.  Women leered at them as they passed by, taverns full of drunks, men selling mind-altering substances in alleyways, teen pickpockets lurking about and much more.  Gideon grimaced at all of this and did his best to ignore it.  Enot, however, was very acquainted with these events as most of them had occurred in the home of his parents.  Gideon attempted to lighten his mood by talking about his childhood in the Commons.  The government ran children’s home was where he had been raised as were most of the children in Hephzibah City.  He told Enot stories about how much things had changed since he was a child.  The Commons was truly an orphanage when he was young, taking care of children who had lost their parents.  But now most of the city’s adults were so consumed with the pursuit of pleasure that almost all children were sent there to be raised and taught a trade.  Upon reaching adulthood they were sent on their way to make a place for themselves.  Only the children that possessed the gift of communing with the palms had the opportunity to escape that ordinary existence.  Enot smiled as he listened.  He had no frame of reference for most of what Gideon was saying but he found that being in the city and around civilization made him feel somewhat better.  Gideon never said anything about Enot’s family or their wealth but he often felt cheated by fate for having been orphaned and not raised by a prominent family like Enot.  

Once they reached the other end of the city and the hills, they could see the bluffs and the grove of palm trees.  The sky was cloudless and there was a light wind blowing in from the ocean.  After a short walk through the hills they entered the shallow valley where the grove rested.  As they closed in on the grove they felt the familiar rush of wind and their ears popped as the air pressure around them lowered momentarily.  Gideon hesitated and held out his hand to hold Enot back.  “Someone is traveling.  It would be wise to wait.”  After a few moments Davlish, clothed in the Palm Master’s dark gray hooded robe, cinched at the waist with a belt made of red gold, walked out of the grove.  He took a seat on a stone bench at the end of the black and white path.  His sun darkened skin peaked through his hood.  His long gray hair was tied back in a braid that drooped over his shoulder.  After he had sat there a moment, he noticed the pair watching him.  He stood up and strode over to great them.  “Ah, greetings Gideon, Enot.  I didn’t hear you two approaching.”  Davlish perfunctorily shook hands with them both and invited them to join him back on the bench.   Gideon queried, “Is Torre traveling today?”  Davlish nodded and said, “He’s been preparing for a long time.  The Master’s Council granted their approval just yesterday.”   Gideon gave a weak smile and said, “I wasn’t able to attend; I was detained by a matter that needed my attention.  I’m pleased to hear the Torre is progressing so.”  Davlish nodded his agreement, wondering what could be so important that Gideon would miss a council.  “So, how is your training coming Enot?” Davlish asked.  “Uh, its, its going as good as can be expected”, he managed to stammer out.  Davlish had rarely spoken to him and when he did it was usually to express disappointment or to offer criticism.  He was caught totally off guard.

They had sat there in silence for a short while when they felt the electricity in the air that was signaling Torre’s return.  They stood as one and turned toward the grove of trees in expectation.  Enot secretly hoped that Torre’s first travel experience would be flawed in some way and held his breath waiting.  Electrical lightning danced back and forth between the trees as the translucent bubble began to materialize.  Davlish grinned from ear to ear in anticipation.  The vortex picked up momentum and pulled at their robes and loose leaves scattered around them.  Torre slowly reappeared, lit up like a supernova.  He was suspended in midair and then began slowly descending to the ground.  His arms were held wide and lightning danced from his fingertips as the voyage haltingly came to an end.  Davlish, Gideon and Enot shielded their eyes from the blinding light that was still emanating from Torre.  The bubble disappeared with a deafening crack and all returned to normal.  When the assembled group could see again, Davlish rushed forward to greet Torre.  He grabbed him in a fierce embrace and then held him at arms length to look at him, smiling all the while.  Torre was beaming as he smiled back at Davlish.  Enot let a smirk slowly grow on his face as he watched the two men.  Gideon noticed this and elbowed him in the ribs.  Enot’s smirk vanished to be replaced by a dark look.

Torre, his hair still disheveled, walked with Davlish to the waiting pair.  Gideon and Enot shook hands with Torre and Gideon congratulated him on his first successful travel.  Enot mumbled something about doing a good job and then stalked into the grove of trees by himself.  No longer able to contain his excitement, Torre began to launch into a full description of his experience.  Davlish stopped him mid-sentence and said, “We must get to the library immediately!  You have to record your experience to be added to the histories.”  Torre looked a little crestfallen, but his exuberance was undaunted.  Davlish looked momentarily toward the grove and wondered why Enot had hurried off.  He thought to himself that there would be time enough later to find out what was bothering him.  He would speak to Gideon in private and see if he could offer any help.  Yes, later would be fine.  “Please forgive our hasty departure but we must get to the library”, Davlish said to Gideon.  “Of course, of course; I understand.  I’ll see you at dinner this evening”, said Gideon.  Torre and Davlish hurried away toward Hephzibah City and the waiting Library at the Compound.  Gideon walked into the grove to find Enot leaning against a tree sulking, his arms folded across his chest.  “Have you lost your senses Enot?” Gideon bellowed at him.  “Do you have any idea how long I’ve been waiting to put my plan in motion?  No, you don’t, do you?  Your foolish pride and arrogance will expose us both if you continue to insist on acting this way!”  Gideon’s eyes flashed and his face was turning an ugly shade of red.  He was clenching and unclenching his hands at his sides as if wanting to strangle something.  “Do not ever show disrespect to either of them ever again!  If Davlish begins to suspect that we are plotting against him; he’ll turn the whole council against us and there will be the ultimate price to pay!  Do you understand me?” he shouted.  Enot, though abashed at his own behavior, let his pride get the better of him.  He thrust his chin forward, pointed at Gideon and threatened, “You can do nothing without me or my family’s contacts.  You remember that!”  They stared at each other for a few tense moments before Gideon turned and walked out of the grove.  Over his shoulder he said, “The lesson is over for the day”.

Chapter 3

Gideon was creeping through the outskirts of Hephzibah City, being sure that no one noticed him.  He was headed north of the bay to his underground cavern.  Because Enot had been such a willing and generous pupil, he had been able to fleece him for a small fortune to carry out his plans.  He reached the high bluffs beyond the bay and the city and made his way down to the shore.  There were numerous rocky outcroppings in the water and on the shore.  He approached the water and touched his left wrist just below the palm and waited.  Silently rising out of the water before him was a large metallic sphere.  As it rose above the water a large corridor opened in the center and Gideon scrambled forward, doing his best not to get wet. In the corridor was a stairway leading downward.  He touched the spot on his wrist again and the corridor began to close as he made his way down.  He continued down the stairway and emerged in an underground cavern that he had discovered when he was still a boy before he was recruited by the Palm Masters.   Due to Enot’s family’s vast wealth, he was finally able to construct a permanent and dry entrance to the secret cavern.  Here in the warren he had planted and nurtured a dozen palm trees.  He had created the perfect environment for the trees:  soil, appropriate lighting, temperature and wind.  However, the trees were stunted and evil.  They oozed a foul-smelling black sap that would make a man light-headed.  He had implanted in them nanotech that was very similar to that used by the adepts and Masters.  He had developed a plan to exploit the trees for their power and they were perverted beyond reason.  These palms were self-aware, driven, greedy and patently malevolent.  His embedded tech began to glow a palsied green as the trees reached out to him.  Green lightning arced between the trees as they attempted to access Gideon.  Gideon arched his eyebrow and purred to them, “Not today my friends.  Not today”.  The lightning subsided but the air still smelled of ozone.  

Gideon had to finalize some of the loose ends of his plan and needed to be alone to think.  He sat in a plush chair in front of a large, flat monitor and computer.  The computer and monitor were switched off because he didn’t need to access any of the cities networks today.  This part of the cavern was dry and he had gone to great pains to make it comfortable.  He had employed two men to build this part of the cavern.  It was walled in on three sides and raised from the floor of the cavern.  Gleaming chrome accents adorned most of the equipment and there were extravagant rugs and paintings decorating the floor and walls. The entry to the cavern had been one of the worker’s ideas and once that had been completed, the renovation of the cavern proceeded at a brisk pace.  On the very day that the work was complete, he had promptly killed them both by using the trees and his nanotech to burn them alive.

His plan was to lure Davlish here and let his nasty little grove of palms kill him.  They knew of his plan of course and were ready and willing to carry it out by using his own nanotech against him.  They would overload the tech and essentially fry him in his skin.  If Davlish were out of the way, Gideon could take control of the council and begin a whole new era for the adepts and Masters.  He was tired of this priest-like existence and wanted to propel the Order into far greater prominence and wealth.  No longer would they choose from the children of the Commons or the few couples that still raised their own children; families would pay for the privilege of having their children tested and would also pay for their schooling.  He might even allow children that didn’t possess the gift to study there and become servants to the Adepts and Masters.  They would no longer subsist on the meager offerings of the government but live like the wealthy.  Murder was a small price to pay.  It was a means to an end.  The entire Order would benefit and benefit greatly indeed.

He had two problems that needed to be worked out.  First, he had to find a way to lure Davlish to his secret cavern.  Second, he had to keep Enot from ruining his plan by angering Davlish and to a lesser degree, Torre.  He was actually more worried about Enot and his potential for ruining his carefully laid plans than he was Davlish.  He believed he could get Davlish to cooperate by using Torre as bait.  However, young, naive and inexperienced as he was, Torre was still dangerous and had become a consummate martial artist due to Davlish’s careful tutelage.  Gideon was far too smart to fight Torre or Davlish in an outright fight.  It would end poorly for him, of that he was certain.  Torre’s innocence and trusting manner could be used against him.  If he could only think of the lure to be used, the final cog on the wheel.  He would find it, but it had to be soon.  Enot wasn’t going to sit idly by much longer.  He resigned himself to watching Torre much more closely to learn of any weakness he might have.  That would have to do for the moment.

Gideon made his way through the cavern, past his yearning palm trees and out through the giant sphere back onto the beach.   It was nearing sundown and he headed hastily toward the Compound so as not to be late for dinner.  Slipping past the Göde that haunted this place after dark wasn’t a problem as long as you were gone before then.  The Göde were spirits of evil adepts and some Masters that had had their spirits separated from their bodies because they had tried to use the palm trees for selfish intent.  Because The Göde, the poor tortured souls were trapped here, they attracted other lost souls and a host of other, darker spirits.  Needless to say, it was very wise to be gone before nightfall.  After skirting the city carefully, to avoid being seen, he reached the Compound and joined the other adepts and Masters shuffling into the dining hall for dinner.

Near the center of the large hall stood Torre with a few of the Adepts.  They were all crowding in closely to hear of his travel from earlier that day.  He recounted how he had been transported in the blink of an eye, to the distant past to watch ancient adepts communicate with the trees.  One moment he was suspended in midair in the meticulously manicured grove of palm trees, the next moment he was floating above a dirt field with palm trees clustered together in no perceived pattern.  He related the basic tale for them and they all seemed very satisfied with his description of the event.   The adepts then hurried off to sit with their friends and Masters.  Davlish approached Torre and said, “Let us eat somewhere quiet this evening.  I perceive that you’ve not given the whole story.”  Torre smiled sheepishly, nodding his head in agreement.  They both collected their food and went to Torre’s quarters.  Gideon noticed them hurriedly leaving the hall.  He whispered to Enot and they both followed after a few minutes.  They crept silently to Torre’s door and listened.  Torre was just warming to his story.  

It was near evening and a group of men in leather breaches, long boots and fur trimmed cloaks were standing in a circle around a large palm tree.  One of them, an older man with long, graying hair tied loosely at his neck and a long drooping mustache, was resting a hand lightly on the trunk of the tree.  His eyes were closed and he appeared to be deep in concentration.  Torre held his breath and waited see if they would be aware of him.  He waited a few tense moments more and then slowly let out his breath.  He relaxed and began to intently watch what was happening.  

They just stood there silently, no one moving.  Torre could feel the palm trees power and felt a slight nudge in his mind.  He opened himself to the palm tree and to his complete surprise; it began to communicate with him.  “Welcome, traveler”, the palm said to him.  The sound of the voice in his head was like the roaring of an ocean on a stormy day.  Torre blinked rapidly as he struggled to put his thoughts together.  “Mind your thoughts, Traveler”, warned the tree.  “Keep your mind focused so that you do not become lost.  It has been given to me to provide you a grave warning”, the palm said in its vast voice.  Torre closed his eyes tight and concentrated on the moment.  “I am to tell you that there is a great danger in your future.  There are those that wish to harm you, your Master and the future of the Order.  Do not let this come to pass”.  Torre opened his eyes and was shocked to see all of the men ringing the tree, looking directly at him.  They did not, however, try to approach him or even acknowledge him.  He asked the tree “Has my technology failed?  How can they see me?  Am I in danger here?”  The tree then replied in its awesome voice, “You are in no danger here.  They are aware of you because we are letting them see you.  The story has been passed down through your history and the cycle must always be complete.”  Torre puzzled over this for just a moment and then realized that for this moment in time, he was the presence listed in this very story in the libraries back in the Compound.  He felt a little foolish once he realized this.  “Do not chide yourself, Traveler”, the tree said.  “It is always a concept that must be grasped by experience.  Do not be troubled”.  He thought for a moment and asked, “What should I do about the future?  Who should I warn?”  The tree took a moment to respond.  When it did, the answer was, “Do not be fooled; follow your heart and trust your Master.  He will guide you”.  The tree then fell silent.  The men turned away from him.  It was as if they had never been aware of him at all.  The silence in his mind was deafening after the roaring voice of the palm tree had retreated.  

Torre decided to observe for a few more minutes.  The gray-headed man opened his eyes and spoke to the others in a language that hadn’t been spoken in thousands of years.  They all seemed to be pleased by what he had said.  They then all trudged away toward their homes.  Torre decided it was time to return to his own time.  He focused on his own grove of palm trees and felt the electricity begin to course through his body. The tech awakened and he was then slowing descending to the ground in his own time and in his own grove of palm trees.  

Davlish was holding his head in his hands and looking down at the floor.  “I’ve never heard of anything like this Torre.  You were very smart to keep this to yourself”, Davlish said in a weary voice.  He appeared to have aged ten years in that short moment.  Torre’s mind was swirling with questions but he waited for Davlish to speak again.  He didn’t for some time and Torre was about to burst when Davlish stood up and said, “I’ve got a lot to think about and a rat to catch!”  Torre laughed at this until Davlish turned serious eyes on him.  “This is a very dangerous time for us Torre.  We must be very cautious.”  He paced the room for a moment and then said, “You’ve experienced a rare thing; something that hasn’t happened to any of us before.  At least if it has, it hasn’t been recorded in the Library”.  He paced a moment more and said, “I’m going to the Library to research this.  I want you to lock the door behind me and let no one, save me, in for the rest of the night”.  

Enot, with a worried look on his face, look questioningly at Gideon.  Gideon motioned for Enot to follow and both snuck quietly away.  They watched Davlish leave Torre’s room and stalk off toward the Library.  When he was a safe distance away, Gideon turned his snake eyes on Enot and said in a maddeningly calm voice, “Torre has been warned by the trees.  This changes everything”.

Chapter 4

Torre sat in his room after Davlish left and was amusing himself with remembering the past.  His mind drifted back to his very first day of training after he had been selected to become an Adept.  He and a number of new adepts stood together in the courtyard of the Compound.  The courtyard was not overly large; however it contained plenty enough room for their training that day.  They talked nervously about their first day of training with the Masters.  The Head of the Master’s Council, Davlish, emerged from a doorway across the yard from them and approached the group with a long stride.  He was wearing a dark gray robe with the hood thrown back.  His long gray hair hung in a braid down his back.  His tanned skin taught. The talking ceased as he drew near.  “Greetings adepts.  Please form up into three lines so that we can begin your training” he commanded.  They responded immediately by forming the lines with four adepts in each line.  Davlish stepped forward and pulled his robe off.  He was wearing a light gray tunic and white, loose-fitting short pants that fell just below his knees.  His feet were bare.  He posed himself in a fighting stance with his right leg forward, hips at a forty-five degree angle, left leg underneath and foot turned outward and hands balled into tight fists.  His right arm was cocked forward with his left hand pulled back and resting just above his waist, palm facing up.  “Arrange your own selves as I have, in this fighting stance” he said.  He observed as they did their best to match him.  He then walked among them and corrected their arms, legs and fists so that they had successfully completed their stances.  

He noticed one dark-haired adept had performed the stance perfectly and stopped to remark on it.  “You seem to have had some training.  Did you study with another Master before?” he asked.  The young adept looked Davlish squarely in the face.  “Before I came here, my parents employed a fighting arts tutor.  He trained me.”  Davlish noted that the young adept was far too smug in his answer and meant to lightly chide him regarding his attitude.  “That is all fine and good but you must learn my way now” Davlish said.  The adept’s face turned dark as he replied, “I have trained for three years.  Learning fighting stances is child’s play.”  Davlish, caught by the abrupt manner of his retort, put his hands on his hips and studied the adept closer.  “Ah, you must be young Enot.”  Davlish looked him up and down, appraising him.  He then asked, “Do you wish to match your skill against mine, adept?”  Enot’s brow furrowed as he actually considered it.  He then realized that he was in way over his head and decided that if he were going to be a successful adept, he should not challenge the Head Master.  Not yet.  “No, Master.  I guess I don’t understand how learning a fighting art will be of benefit to my education concerning the palms” he replied with a shrug of his shoulders.  Davlish smiled as he had heard this argument countless times before.  “In order to train the mind you must first train the body.  When you train your body, the mind must focus on the task of learning.  Only then will you be able to concentrate properly.  Only then your mind bends to your will and not to the whims of the body.”  Torre was embarrassed as Davlish had corrected almost everything about his stance.  Now he felt even more inept.

Davlish turned away from Enot and walked to where Torre was standing.  As he approached, Torre realized that he had let his stance slip.  He refocused and looked forward.  Davlish rested his hand on Torre’s shoulder and said to the group, “Here is an adept that is a clean slate.  He did not question when I corrected his stance.  He obeyed and now has successfully mastered the first fighting stance.  You all would do well to emulate him.”  Enot muttered something under his breath about teacher’s pets and immediately regretted it.  Davlish turned to look at him once more.  “Young Enot, you have just earned the first of what is probably going to be many learning experiences.”  “Please remove yourself from the group and stand in the corner of the yard.  You must learn to trust, to not question and to keep your own council on childish retorts.”  Davlish waited patiently as Enot walked woodenly to the corner of the courtyard by the archway.  Enot had never been spoken to like that before and was boiling with anger.  He stood facing the group of adepts and Davlish while they all stared back at him.  He turned his head so that he didn’t have to look at them.  Davlish patted Torre on the shoulder and moved to front of the group once more.  “Your first lesson is this:  while in this stance I want you to consider the palm trees.  Collect your thoughts and think on how you would communicate your desire to them.”  As he spoke he walked among them encouraging their concentration.  “If your thoughts are jumbled and lack focus, the trees will do their best to interpret what you want.  This can be very dangerous.”  He walked again to the front of the group and said, “Remain in this stance until I return.  Focus your thoughts and bend them to your will.”   He walked a short distance back to the door he had emerged from and stopped.  He turned to them and said, “Some of you will let your thoughts wander and your stance will falter.  Do not let this happen.”  He turned and exited through the door he had come from.  Enot watched him leave and purposed in his heart to make Davlish pay for embarrassing him.

Torre closed his eyes and began to collect his thoughts.  He thought on the first time he had been taken to the palm trees and had been encouraged to touch them.  The Masters were encouraging and kindly.  His thoughts drifted to other things and he realized that his stance was slipping.  It was growing warmer and he had begun to sweat.  More time passed and his muscles were aching.  

This was going to be a very long day.  He had corrected his stance for what seemed like the hundredth time when someone hit him across the mouth so hard that he saw stars behind his eyes and he immediately crumpled to the ground.  He looked up to see Enot standing over him in a fighting stance.  The rest of adepts had quickly moved out of Enot’s reach to provide some protection in case he was going to lash out at them as well.  Torre blinked at Enot with blurry eyes and was about to ask him what he was thinking and then Davlish was there.  He spun Enot around and slapped him hard across the face and pushed him backwards.  

Davlish assumed a fighting stance and Enot immediately attacked.  Throwing a clumsy punch at Davlish’s face, he found himself pulled forward; Davlish had blocked the punch, grabbed his wrist and used his own momentum against him.  He stumbled forward and then was jerked violently backwards by his own wrist.  He was spun around and Davlish swept his feet out from underneath him.  He landed facedown with a thud on the hard ground; his breath whooshing out of him.   Davlish kept Enot pinned to the ground for a moment with his foot to make sure that he understood exactly who was in charge.  He let Enot up and glared at him.  “DON’T YOU EVER HIT ANOTHER ADEPT - EVER!”  He shouted.  Enot, still trying to catch his breath looked down at the ground and didn’t even bother trying to speak.  He just nodded his head in mute agreement.  Davlish helped Torre to his feet and dusted him off.  He was still very dizzy and was having a hard time focusing.  

Another Master watched from a nearby doorway and after the confrontation, approached Davlish.  They conferred for a moment in private.  While they were talking Torre risked a glance at Enot and found he was openly glaring at him.  Torre looked quickly away.  Davlish and the other Master came to stand in front of Enot and Torre.  Davlish then said with a faint smile on his face, “Gideon; meet your new Adept, Enot”.  Gideon then unceremoniously grabbed Enot by his shirt and hauled him through the doorway he had just been standing in.

Davlish took a small towel from his tunic and dabbed at Torre’s broken and bruised lip.  “Master Gideon will straighten him out.  He has a way with adepts such as him” Davlish said reassuringly.  “And, if he should step out of line in any way for the rest of his training, he’ll be sent back to his family in shame”.  Davlish actually smiled at that thought.  Torre tried to smile but it hurt too badly and he was still feeling very dizzy.  Davlish addressed the rest of the adepts that had been stunned into silence.  “Training is over for the day.  Let’s retire to the dining hall and have something to eat” he said.  The adepts wordlessly nodded with awed expressions on their faces.  Apparently they had witnessed something that they wouldn’t wish on their own worst enemy.  Torre drifted off to sleep with the memories of his first day still fresh in his mind and a faint smile on his lips where he still bore the small scar of his encounter with Enot.

Chapter 5

Rowan sat in front of her mirror, brushing her long, black hair.  She had been training as an adept with Davlish and was doing well.  She was a superior martial artist.  She had been trained as a dancer when she was a child and this was the next logical step.  After Davlish had picked Torre, she was next to be picked.  Even though Torre had become his star pupil, she was not far behind him in just about every way conceivable.  She had natural abilities, intelligence and was a stunning beauty.  She was the perfect storm of a woman.  She secretly adored Torre and was hopeful that he felt the same about her.  She was in awe of Torre and the power he commanded.  There was no one that compared to him even though many bragged about being as talented.  The Council had given their approval for her to undertake her first travel and she was ecstatic about the possibility.  Torre had traveled that same day and his story was intoxicating.  She couldn’t possibly wait for her turn.  Davlish had promised that as soon as he was finished working with Torre, she would be next.  She had studied the texts, studied all she could about previous travels of adepts and Masters.  

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The "Domino Effect" and lemonade

The “Domino Effect” and lemonade

For those of you with ADD or short attention spans and don’t want to read all of this, go to the last two paragraphs and I’ll sum up!

Where does one begin when they describe the total failure and then redemption of their life? It seems like it’s a lot of little choices that begin to take a toll long before we realize the avalanche has started.

I married my first wife in March of 1990. While we were married, I was a youth pastor and music minister. I served in a couple of different churches and felt the call of God on my life. Those of you who know me know that I can be pretty flakey, but God worked with me in spite of that fact. I had a youth group of over 200 kids in our “small town”. My marriage was up and down, but I tried hard to make it work. We have three children together. In May of 2000 she filed for divorce. We reconciled shortly after and remarried in April of 2001. We split again in October of 2001 and were divorced a final time. I know what you’re thinking…but, it takes two to tango, no? Right before we split, I landed a gig with a cover band in “big town” playing drums and started making waves on the local music scene. We became very popular and started playing 3-4 nights a week. I was working a full time job as well. When I found myself single again, I wasn’t necessarily looking for someone, but I found someone anyway! I married my wife Donna in October of 2003. She was everything a weird, flakey, eccentric musician like me could ever want.
I picked up a couple of bad habits along the way: I started drinking regularly and started smoking. I’d like to say that I was just following along with the status quo of the successful musician, but let’s be honest; I desperately wanted to fit in and seem cool. Growing up in “small town”, basically bereft of a music scene, being with the “in crowd” was new and exhilarating to me. It was almost like an addiction. I found myself drinking more and more and doing some really stupid things. It was also during this time that I had a career change from body shop estimator/manager to college instructor. Lot’s of things were happening. I was training to be a martial artist at a karate dojo that my father-in-law, Robert Halliburton, was the Sensei. He was a 7th degree black belt, and tough as a two dollar steak! My wife Donna is a 1st degree black belt. I was getting more and more calls to play with different bands.
Now, while I was married to my first wife, I never so much as looked at another woman. In March of 2004, I had an affair. A groupie that was always following the band around caught my attention. I resisted, knowing that it was wrong but because I drank A LOT when I played, I didn’t have my normal senses about me. During this time I was trying to get along with my ex-wife and was telling her about my affair. I confided in her because she was confiding in me about her recent relationship and marriage and how it wasn’t going well. Then we got into an argument regarding the kids and my visitation with them. That night, she called my wife and told her everything that I had confided to her. I was in deep, hot, stinky water. Donna and I were able to work through it, but it took quite a while for things to return to normal. I felt awful, betrayed, stupid, insecure, selfish and a host of other terrible feelings. During this period, my wife’s sister Aly had a boyfriend and they planned to marry. He committed suicide on March 8th, 2004. Right in the middle of my infidelities. Life was not so grand anymore…

Flash forward to August 2007. My father-in-law hadn’t been feeling well and we took him to the emergency room. He was diagnosed with diabetes, several ulcers and a severe iron deficiency. He was literally bleeding out through his stomach. They also discovered a spot on his lung (smoker) but it wasn’t determined if it was benign or not. He went home a few days later and was feeling much better after insulin shots, iron pills and cauterized ulcers. I was playing so much with the different bands I was associated with that I wasn’t there a majority of the time for him or my wife. I was too concerned about making sure that I kept up my façade of living the “rock star” life: too much drinking, too much smoking, and too much attention from all the wrong people. Also, since January of 2006, my three children were living with my parents off and on because my ex-wife was such a complete loser. Now let me explain…why didn’t I go and get them? I was selfish. I wanted my own life free of her entanglements. My ex had a history of making major decisions and then recanting within six to eight months. So, I wasn’t going to completely leave my life behind to go back to “small town living” when I knew she’d change her mind in a few months. My parents were putting major pressure on me to move back and take care of my children. I tried to tell them that it would all change when my ex changed her mind; but it kept dragging on and on. Then things between my wife and I started to go south, big time. She was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension and generalized anxiety disorder. We had been recently fired from the college we were both working at. She had been a part-time teacher, then full-time, then department director and ultimately Dean of Academics. Eight years of her blood, sweat and tears gone. She could hardly get out of bed considering the condition her father was in and losing her job. I had started as a part-time instructor, then went to full-time status and eventually earned the Dean of Students position. During that year that we were both deans, we were pulling down a very substantial amount of money. We traveled twice a month to Carmel, Vegas, Disneyland, anywhere we wanted to. We had two new cars, credit cards, constant new wardrobes, shopping sprees…you name it, and we had or did it. A fairytale life by all accounts. Donna and I lost our positions as Deans when we stood up to the corporate position of enrolling students with major learning disabilities. We didn’t think it was right to put disabled students on the hook for $35K when there was no way they could ever finish the program. It was just all bad. When it all came crashing down, I just had no idea how to react. I felt mounting pressure by a lot of those around me to cut and run. I started hanging out in a bar in “small town”. Everyone loved my band, loved the “new” me and fed me a bunch of crap. I had shaved my head, pierced my ears and got tattooed. They stroked my ego, made me feel accepted when I hadn’t really felt that in my home town. Now, I’m blaming no one but myself here; just a frame of reference. I spent less and less time at home with my wife and father-in-law and more and more time with my band mates, drinking more and generally ignoring my family, my kids and my responsibilities.
In April of 2008, my father-in-law passed away from cancer. Apparently, the spot on his lung wasn’t so benign. It had metastasized to his heart, liver and kidneys. He was the greatest man I had ever known. He accepted me as I was, didn’t ask me to be anything that I wasn’t and was just an incredible roll model. He taught me that being true to one’s self is everything and that he tried everyday to accomplish this but that it was a life long journey. My wife and sister-in-law were, to say the least, completely crushed. Over 1,500 people attended his funeral. I was so devastated by the loss of him that I turned to the things that had been working for me so far: drinking and the wrong people.
I was playing a lot of gigs throughout the summer of 2008. I decided, with a lot of “help” from friends, family and my ex that I needed to move back to “small town” and take care of my kids. My parents assumed that meant that I would move back in with them. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I felt that moving in with my parents at my age would be a total “loser” move. A girl I had been hanging out with had recently become single and she asked me to move in with her. In August of 2008, I called my wife and told her I was leaving her. I couldn’t deal with all of this anymore, my kids and my family needed me and we didn’t have much of a relationship anymore anyway.
I moved out and started a relationship with the other girl. My daughter came to live with me while my boys stayed with my parents, because according to them, that’s what they all wanted. So, I was back in “small town” and being the dad that my kids needed. I was still playing gigs, but it was getting more difficult because I was an hour away from “big town”. I decided in October to take a break from music and be there for the kids. My weekends were pretty much shot if I played so it seemed like the thing to. Things were going well with me, my family and my kids. I was still drinking pretty heavily and my parents didn’t like it. My relationship with my daughter was becoming strained because she didn’t like the girl I was living with or her son. My ex visited a couple of times during October and November. She seemed to like that I was there and was being congenial towards me. I took this as a good sign. However, things were not at all what they seemed. My daughter was constantly complaining to her mother about how unhappy she was. In December, my ex moved in with my parents. I know! I felt so betrayed that I just didn’t know how to act. I talked to my estranged wife a couple of times during this period, but mostly I just wanted to make sure that she was okay. Obviously, she wasn’t.
The relationship with the girl I was living with deteriorated almost the moment I moved in. I started fighting with my parents about my ex living with them. We had some very nasty conversations. Insults and threats were the order of the day whenever we talked. I saw my kids a couple of more times after my ex moved in with my parents, but it was already obvious that she was going to take them away from me again. She’d done it before so I had no reason to doubt that she was planning to do it again. She had reconciled with her ex-husband and they were playing “the happy family” with my kids and my parents. They were planning to move to a “big town” close to the coast and that was it. No dad in the picture, no me…just them and their “pipe dream” of a plan to live happily ever after. Rumor has it that they’re unhappy again. Imagine that! My poor kids…
I was laying in bed at the end of April in 2009. I couldn’t sleep. I’d been awake and was restless. I started to pray that God would give me direction. Tell me what to do. After a minute or so, I heard a voice say, “get up, call your wife and go home”. I looked around to see who had spoken to me. I realized I was alone. Crazy! So, I got up and called Donna. It was around 12:30 a.m. I didn’t realize that it was so late. Thank God she answered. We talked for about an hour. I cried and cried and kept saying that I’d screwed up and that I wanted to come home. I just wanted to come home. It was 3:30 in the morning when she finally arrived in “small town” to take me home. I raced to the car, threw my laptop and clothes into the car and immediately went into shock. I couldn’t believe that this was happening and that I was going home. I cried and cried and kissed her and told her I was sorry, over and over again. She smiled at me and said that she forgave me. We drove home at that early hour and got into our bed for the first time in nine months.
My sister-in-law Aly was happy that I was home. Apparently, things had not being going well with her and her current boyfriend. They were fighting all the time and it would get pretty violent. Donna and Aly made me promise not to get involved with the arguments because it would make it worse for her. I promised that I’d stay out of it. However, after a few nights there, it became more and more difficult to turn a blind eye to what was going on between them. He was involved in some really bad things and had a terrible temper. I would hear them fight and I would pace back and forth in our room fuming. I couldn’t believe things had gotten so bad for her. I finally yelled though the door one night “shut up you freakin’ crack head”. He called me out and it was by sheer will that my wife kept me from breaking every bone in his body. I’m a trained martial artist and it would’ve been child’s play for me to put him down and put him down in a bad way. He’d leave for a day then come back, say he was sorry, say he was going to change and that it was going to be different. He’d be good for a couple of days, but then it would get worse than it was before.
In June of 2009, Aly had had enough. They’d been fighting off and on for two days. She finally told him to get his stuff and get out. He moped around the house but I hadn’t seen Aly that happy in years. He finally left that afternoon. Aly was on cloud nine. She planned to go out to a bar that night where her friend Cody was the bartender. She brought Donna and me something to drink and was on her way. Donna and I had been busy all day and turned in early.
At two in the morning, Cody knocked on our bedroom door. We had left the door to the house open for Aly. Aly had left the bar because “boyfriend” showed up and started a fight with her. Aly had left and Cody didn’t know where she was. I was half asleep and didn’t really understand what was going on. I just figured it was more of the same for Aly and her boyfriend. I went back to bed and fell immediately asleep. At three thirty Cody was knocking on our door and she was in absolute hysterics. She said that Aly was in the garage and that we needed to get up. I was groggy and didn’t understand what was going on. I jumped up because Donna was screaming at Cody and asking her what was happening. Confused as I was, I understood that something was terribly wrong. Cody kept saying to call 911. She handed me the phone and told me to go into the garage. She was sobbing, freaking out. I told Donna to stay in the house. I went into the garage and couldn’t reconcile what I saw with reality. This couldn’t be real. No way. Not ever. I saw Aly hanging from a rafter by an extension cord. She was dead. She was only 28 years old. I started shaking uncontrollably. I remember telling my hand to dial 911. I was shaking so badly that it took me three tries to finally get it right. When the 911 operator came on the line I described what was happening. The only thing I remember is the operator asking me if she was still alive and if I could get her down…
The most heartbreaking thing I’ve heard in my life was Donna and Aly’s mother screaming and crying over the phone when Donna told her what had happened. She was all the way in “small town” Georgia. Dominos falling and falling and falling…
Aly had the most intimate and beautiful funeral I’ve ever attended. I sang “Purple Rain” by Prince because she and I loved that song. I would always sing it for her when she came to see me play. Her friends talked about what a fierce friend she was and how she lived like no other person: by her own rules, her own way without a thought about what other people thought. She was a true, beautiful individual and an original.
Right after the funeral, Donna and I were evicted from our home. We’d spent everything we had for Aly’s funeral. We were already behind on rent, but the thing that sucks is that the landlord was a very close friend of Donnas’ dad. He had trained with him in the 70’s and early 80’s. We pretty much sold everything we owned to pay the last months rent. You’d think that he’d understand. That’s how the world turns I guess.
So now Donna and I are in Georgia with her mother, Faye. We moved here in July of 2009. In August of 2009, Robert Halliburton received a posthumous award at the “Battle of Atlanta” martial arts tournament. He was an internationally known martial artist, competitor, referee and teacher. His contemporaries were the likes of Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, Joe Lewis (not the boxer) and Ed Parker, the creator of Kenpo Karate. Search the Internet regarding him and you’ll be amazed at what you see; I was! He received so many awards and trophies over the years that he actually threw some of them away. Donna accepted on her dad’s behalf. It was bittersweet.
We still don’t know if Aly’s death was suicide or foul play; I believe foul play. I guess we’ll see. I still don’t see my kids. I talk to my parents now but it’s strained. I’ve struck up a really great relationship with my youngest brother Chad. My brother Steve and I haven’t talked since December of 2008. I did something stupid and we haven’t been able to work it out. I’ve lost so many people in the last few years, but I don’t want it to seem like I’m having a pity-party. Life sometimes hands you lemons.
I started this blog with the intention of revealing a little bit of me to you. I hope that you’ll see past this poorly described life journey and see what life can be. My father-in-law told me that life is a journey. It’s not a destination; you never really arrive. You just live. My wife loves me and forgave me. I forgave myself. I forgave my ex. I forgave my parents. I forgave my brother. I still miss my kids. I don’t mourn the loss of my college instructor position, cars, trips and shopping sprees. You shouldn’t mourn the things that you can’t change. Even though we sometimes do: it’s human nature. You can’t let the bad things become a defining moment in your life. What you can do is celebrate life, live it, experience it, relish it. You can take the lemons and make a sour face or you can make lemonade. God didn’t turn His back on me; I turned my back on Him. Not to be all preachy, but I really feel Him for the first time in my life. I’m not pretending anymore. I can’t offer an epiphany, only what I’ve learned. I hope that this touches you somehow. Maybe you’ll say “Wow, my life doesn’t suck so bad after all”, or “I totally know what you mean man. I’ve been there!” Either way, life will go on. How you decide to live has everything to do with how you filter life. The good events, the bad ones; the ones that defy explanation. Why are we here? Because we’re here. Roll the bones!

Friday, January 25, 2008

I guess I’m just a Sicko…

The following is the Doctor's Oath. I SWEAR by Apollo the physician, and Aesculapius, and Health, and All-heal, and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath and this stipulation to reckon him who taught me this Art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him, and relieve his necessities if required; to look upon his offspring in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation; and that by precept, lecture, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to the law of medicine, but to none others.

I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art. I will not cut persons laboring under the stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work. Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves. Whatever, in connection with my professional practice or not, in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret. While I continue to keep this Oath inviolate, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art, respected by all men, in all times! But should I trespass and violate this oath, may the reverse be my lot! Today, only 24 percent of doctors take the oath versus 100 percent in 1928. I watched Michael Moore's documentary Sicko. I have to tell you that my life has been forever changed. I used to say that our country was the best thing going. It's not perfect, but better than most. Not even close. If the idea of humanity is an antiquated, tired way of thinking, then I guess I'm antiquated. What happened to helping mankind for the sake of bettering us all? Our healthcare system is completely broken. It is first a capitalist's wet dream, and second a complete travesty of the Doctor's Oath. How is it that a third-world country like Cuba can have Socialized medicine? A country that is completely economically depressed. A woman that worked as a rescue volunteer at the 9/11 site was diagnosed with several respiratory illnesses. Her insurance companied denied her claims and she has to live on disability. The government pays her approximately $1,000 per month. Her inhalers cost $120 each. She averages two a month. So she has a total of $760 a month to live on! Michael Moore took her and several others to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where terrorists receive free health care. They were turned away. So, they took a fishing boat and went to mainland Cuba. They asked someone where the closest hospital was, and they were told that there were 3 hospitals within walking distance. There are pharmacies on nearly every block. They went to a pharmacy to get the meds that this group of people needed. The woman previously mentioned was charged $3.56 pesos for her inhaler. It equaled .50¢! She bought two and stated that would get her through the next month.

They then went to the local hospital to see if they would be treated. The admitting nurses asked them for two things: their names and their birth dates. That was it! They were then admitted, diagnosed and treated. Free of charge! They aren't even Cuban citizens. There were several depictions of American citizens that were denied healthcare and treatment which caused them or their loved ones to continue to be ill and some of them even died! An interview with a doctor in England revealed that they are paid by the English government. Michael asked him how he lived. The doctor lives in a 3 story house. He drives a new Audi. Michael asked how "managed" to live on such a paltry salary. The doctor laughed and said that he lived in one of the nicest neighborhoods in London. He was not suffering in the least. He also stated that the more he helped people the more he got paid. If he helped someone stop smoking or helped a person manage their diabetes, he got paid more! There needs to be a serious re-thinking of our medical system.

So my friends, once again, we need to think about the future. What does the future hold for us and our medical needs? I have medical insurance. I pay $443 dollars a month for medical, dental and vision. I can't afford to take my kids to the dentist! If I want glasses I can only afford to go to the Wal-Mart optometrist. If I need a root-canal, I have to pay $720 on top of what my insurance pays! I am an educator. I should have the best medical insurance available because I am paid to help people better their lives. I help them get off of welfare. I help them build self-esteem. I help students become a contributing member of society. Things that they have never been before. But instead, I get the lowest salary of any private educator in Fresno. I do my job because I hear the calling: the calling of educators. Is this not one of the highest callings? To contribute to society? I guess I'm just a sicko…