If you love, adore the moon. If you rob, steal a camel.

Stories for the Long Silk Road

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Donal Mahoney: Teddy and Oliver Talk It Over on the Bus

Teddy Fister took the bus to work today, something he will never do again, unless the used car he plans to buy tonight also croaks in the middle of an intersection the way his 1960 Rambler did last night. He sold the clunker on the spot to the tow-truck driver who took it to his junkyard. And that's where his beloved Rambler, and its 210,000 miles, sits in a row with other cars, some terminal and others deceased, every one of them waiting for an automotive mortician to part them out. 

That unfortunate incident is why Teddy is on the bus this morning, bouncing up and down with others, including a rotund man, redolent of garlic, who took the seat next to Teddy a moment ago. The rotund man is Oliver Beckin. After he settled in next to Teddy, he began a soliloquy that everyone on the bus could hear if not enjoy. The oratory was very philosophical in nature. Some might even say it was spiritual in that it was an account of how Oliver had reached the age of 50 this day without any idea of where he was going after he died. And on this particular day, after a lifetime of not caring about that subject, Oliver Beckin was looking for an answer, if an answer to a question like that was available. 

Pausing in his speech, Oliver asked his seat mate, Teddy Fister, if Teddy might be able to help him find the answer. After all, Teddy looked like an intelligent man and Oliver figured that he probably knew where he was going after he died. Actually, Teddy was going to his day job as a dishwasher in one of the better restaurants downtown, a job he had held for 30 years. His longevity in the position was due to Teddy being a dependable sort, one who always knew when a dish needed a second scrubbing. 

At first Teddy didn't know what to say. He had never had the problem that Oliver had. He knew for a long time where he was going once his toes turned up. In fact, he had known the answer since grammar school. The nuns had told him every year in religion class what his options were and it was something he never forgot. He'd have choices to make along the way, of course, but the choices were easy ones to make. 

Teddy's problem at the moment, however, was that he had no car. Since he had no newspaper to read, either, and since Oliver didn't seem to be an urban crazy, Teddy thought, what the hell, he'd give it a go, maybe he could help this guy. After all, popes have been telling Catholics like Teddy for years that they must begin to evangelize and spread the faith, even if most Catholics--and Teddy was certainly among their number--were not in the same class as Mormons and Witnesses when it came to evangelization. But if Oliver didn't know where he was going, Teddy could at least explain what his options were before he had to get off the bus. 

Teddy decided to get right to the point. He asked Oliver if he believed in God. Oliver said he didn't know whether he did or not since he had never met God and didn't know anyone who had but he was open to an introduction if that was something Teddy could arrange. 

"I'm single and I'm free most evenings and weekends," Oliver said.

Teddy asked him if he had heard about Jesus Christ who died on the cross for the sins of every man who ever lived or will live.

"That's according to those of us who follow him, of course," Teddy said. "Some people might disagree with that and that's their right. We all have free will." 

Oliver said he had heard about Jesus and thought that anyone with more than 2000 years of shelf life had to have something going for Him. He indicated, however, that he had not been too impressed over the years with many of the followers of Jesus, especially the ones who rang his doorbell at odd hours. Even worse were those who yelled at him from his television set while he was surfing cable channels looking for something interesting to watch. Preachers were not the kind of people Oliver cottoned to.

"The people who ring my doorbell give me leaflets in tiny print," Oliver told Teddy, "and the preachers on television want my money. Not good." 

Teddy told him he wasn't looking for money but he thought people like Oliver who don't know where they were going ought to meet Jesus. This is important, Teddy said, even if many of those who already know Jesus can at times be an aggravating bunch. Teddy himself had been accosted many times by street proselytizers who wanted to save him from damnation. Their rhetoric would grow even stronger, Teddy said, when he would tell them he was Catholic.  

Oliver seemed to relax a bit after hearing that Teddy didn't want his money so Teddy decided to press on. He leaned forward and quietly told Oliver he should call on the Holy Spirit to provide him with the gift of faith because faith cannot be earned by any man. And it takes faith to believe in Jesus. And one has to believe in Jesus as Savior to be a Christian. 

"Faith is a gift from God," Teddy said. "Once you have the gift of faith, you'll know that the Holy Spirit and God the Father and Jesus are three divine persons in one God. The Trinity is a mystery so it might help you to think about it as kind of a trifecta." 

Teddy figured Oliver might understand a term like trifecta better than a term like Trinity in light of the racing form sticking out of his coat pocket.

Teddy admitted that he was partial to the Holy Spirit because he had always thought of Him as the Rodney Dangerfield of the Trinity in that He never seemed to get the degree of respect that believers give to God the Father and God the Son.

"But that's understandable," Teddy said, "because God the Father created the universe and everything in it and God the Son died on the cross to open the Gates of Heaven for every man, even for wretches like you and me. Many believers think of the Holy Spirit as simply a dove or a tongue of fire whose big day is Pentecost. There's a lot more to the Holy Spirt than that." 

Oliver was not particularly happy about being called a wretch. He became even more unsettled when Teddy told him that he needed to ask the Holy Spirit to introduce him to Jesus. Oliver didn't know the Holy Spirit any more than he knew Jesus. 

Teddy also told Oliver he was telling him all this because he didn't want Oliver to end up like his 1960 Rambler, sitting in a junkyard waiting to be parted out.

Then, as quickly as Teddy's first effort at evangelization had started, it was over. Oliver was ready to make a decision. He smiled at Teddy, rose from his seat and thanked him for explaining everything in such detail. Then Oliver headed for the empty couch seat in the back of the bus. There he began talking out loud again about trying to figure out where he had come from and where he was going. 

One stop later, Teddy got up and got off the bus. He had arrived at the restaurant. Moments later he would be in the steamy confines of the dish room where he was master of all he surveyed.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Erik Moshe: Duplicity

The witch woman had medicinal plants, aromatically pungent, and multicolored vines intertwined within her braided hair. She had sunken features, dark plum hued skin matted with mud. She stared through fiercely judgmental eyes, downward in direction, gazing at a man who was standing just below her doorstep in the shade of the jungle.

“Who's there?” she commanded.

The man, shirtless, his tan torso drenched in blood that looked freshly shed was carrying a wounded man on his back, over one shoulder, and a wooden shield was clutched in his other hand. From the looks of it, the witch could tell that he was very tired, shaken, breathing laboriously. Half hidden by wet foliage, one hand on her hip and facing him was where the witch stood. Before speaking, the man knelt respectfully and bowed his head with the body on his back and all as deadweight, then rose to both feet, straightening his posture. He called out to her in a powerful voice.

“Shini-Tari! Woman of the forest! Sacred witch doctor! I come to you on this night to ask you to save this man. He was fatally wounded in battle and needs healing of your kind. Supernatural healing only you can offer him. I do not have money, but I assure you that I can offer you the eternal gratitude of my people.”

After momentary silence, the witch doctor mumbled to herself skeptically. This night intruder was unwelcome here, yet she seemed unable to stifle a certain curiosity. Perhaps she could...well, she would have to see.

“Is he dead?” she asked.

“Yes," said the man.

"What's your name, boy?"


“Well then, Zang, bring him up and I will take a look,” she said.

Bring him up?
Zang thought. Why can’t she come down and look at him on the ground right here? He decided to follow the advice of his fellow warriors back in his native village: "do not question the witch doctor’s requirements, for she has her reasons."

But the woman read his thoughts.

“If have enough strength, you will haul his body up the tree. I will see if I can heal him, but only then! I have not the strength to descend from this tree and I do not wish to leave this tree. There is food and there is water for me to live here. I do not deal with the forest floor. Too many dead things…too much misery," she said.

“I accept this task. I will bring him up now,” he declared.

The tree wasn’t exceptionally inaccessible, nor very tall or broad. It was a simple jungle tree but still of considerable size and breadth. There was also one additional anomaly, being that it was draped in a thick coat of thousands of fully formed spider webs, some quite large, some miniature. The witch doctor was also known as The Spider Catcher, or Arachnid Eater, in some distant villages. Normally, Zang didn‘t have a problem with climbing tree since his upper body was built for it, having been through many battles, and he would normally use a machete to beat away the thick webs in this jungle region. The problem was that he had a human being slung over his back, but alas, navigating through this labyrinth of webs and branches had to be done. Zang had no choice. Collecting himself for some moments, he dropped his shield at his side and began thinking. Should I go up there and break the webs first and then come back down for the man, or will the witch protest? What if I get stuck in the webs? He stopped brainstorming strategies, then began to climb.

His body glowed in the sentient moonlight, slick with sweat and tree sap juice as the man hacked and grunted his way up the treacherous skeleton of the spider tree. The dead warrior over his back was frequently rested upon a branch as Zang ascended to a higher branch and lifted him from there, treating the tree as a platform for lifting and resting in alternating sequences. What felt like dozens of large furry spiders ran up his back and over his neck and face but he paid them no attention, brushing them away. He gritted his teeth, though they were in the process of being flossed by infiltrating gray webs that waned and snuck into his open mouth, intaking deep breaths. He strained and tugged and pulled through grueling movement until finally after over a full hour, the man reached a set of stone steps at the top of the tree, exhausted, and collapsed.

“There is fresh water in a bowl over there. Revive yourself,” the witch said.

Zang obliged, and following a series of incantations and a strange ritual that consisted of the witch smacking the dead warrior in the chest with branches and rotten banana peels, she sat down, fanning herself with a leaf.

“Stand him up,” she instructed. Zang did as he was told.

“Now move away, quickly.”

“But he is dead, he will fall off of the tree,” Zang retorted cautiously.

“Shush! Do as I say or I will banish you from my house and I will eat him.”

As soon as Zang backed away from holding him up, the dead man somehow found balance with gravity, remaining upright, his body swaying, toes and hands twitching erratically. His throat made loud guttural noises before he became full of life again. He vomitted blood over the edge of the tree as consciousness returned with a mystique that Zang would never forget. Suddenly, the man who was alive now ran at Zang with inhuman speed, and without warning he latched his arms around him and body-slammed him down into the jungle periphery below. Zang briefly managed to scream in surprise before his head collided with something in the darkness, most likely a branch, and then fell headfirst onto the hard earth with a snap. Zang's neck was visibly broken, rendering him lifeless.

"What have I done!" cried the witch. She rushed back inside of her house in fright.

The reawakened man hopped down from the tree, landing firmly on two feet. He trotted over towards the man he had recently murdered, and then slowly knelt and weeped at the realization of who he was, a friend and comrade. He mourned in disbelief, clearly unaware of what he had just done nearly moments ago.

“I will heal you. I will go to the Arachnid woman of the forest!” he said, slinging his fallen comrade over his back, retrieving a wooden shield from the ground and headed back up to the treehouse from whence he came, through a path that was recently cut through the spider webs and the labyrinth of branches.

"The witch will be able to help you."

Silk Road Mantra

by Suchoon Mo

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road

I go and go

from west to east

I go and go

from east to west

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road


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