Another Legacy 1.28

Kiki has a fascination bordering upon obsession with one gnome in particular. Perhaps it’s no surprise, seeing as she’s an orphan who has daily internal dialogues with her mom-and-dad angels, that the object of her obsession is Grim Reaper Gnome.

It’s not just the way his eyes glow.

It’s an eerie calm, too, that descends upon her, when she gazes upon his scythe.

It’s as if he’s saying, “Be still. Don’t worry. I am on my way in my own good pace.”

Kiki thinks those are words to live by.

It makes her think that love is extra special, and extra needed, all the time, because we don’t know who might go when.

Because she’s a little kid, she gets the idea that she’s not supposed to talk about love, or about things that are deep, like life philosophies. It’s not that Case and Ira give her any messages that she shouldn’t talk about these things–it’s the people at school, grown-ups and kids alike, who look at her crossways when she says anything out of the ordinary. She figures Case and Ira are just polite and love her anyway, so they will listen to anything she says, no matter how outlandish. She uses the people at school as her guideposts for what fits in and what doesn’t.

But she discovers early on that no one looks at her funny when she draws her feelings and thoughts. So she develops this philosophy of everyday love for everyday people and things through her art.

Case and Ira love her drawings so much they hang them where everyone can see them–everyone who comes upstairs, that is. Ira talks about the composition, the brushstroke, the palette, all the things she’s learning at university.

“I like the Freezer Bunny,” Case says, “and the robot. And the bee. All my favorite things.”

School’s going pretty well for Ira. She is remarkably conscientious, forgoing fun for study and putting in extra effort and attention during class. She finds that even though she feels tense sometimes, she loves the way her mind feels. She loves having thoughts and ideas always being processed, as if her mind works on its own while she takes care of other things.

It isn’t as hard as she’d feared being an older student, socially, that is. The work is hard, but in a feels-good kind of way. It’s that everyone there seems focused on learning and growing as artists, and so there’s no time or energy spent towards the social stuff. This is huge relief for her.

Case has been taking on more responsibility at work, so he works from home less, needing to be on site to oversee the projects he’s responsible for, and Ira is often at class, or commuting to and from university, or working on her term paper, so, true to her word, Aadhya steps up.

She’s over nearly every day to wash dishes, cook a meal, take out the trash, and mostly, to spend time with Kiki.

“I don’t like school, but I like the bus,” says Kiki. “Is that weird?’

“It depends. What do you like about the bus?” Aadhya asks.

“I like how peaceful it is. Nobody sits with me, so I can look out the window, and it’s so quiet. I hear the wheels go chink, chink, chink as they drive over little pebbles in the road. It’s electric, you know, Case says we only have electric buses and stuff here, because of his work. But it’s better for quiet. And what I like most is the way the fields and trees go by through the window. Like green and green and green, in all different flavors.”

“It’s not weird,” Aadhya replies.

The conversation about the bus makes Kiki feel a bit bolder. Here’s someone who’s not Case or Ira, who doesn’t look at her crossways when she says what she really thinks.

Kiki begins to figure out that maybe, sometimes, with some people, it is OK to be your real self and say what you really mean and how you think and how you feel.

She tests it out a bit more.

“Do you have anyone you tell all your secrets to?” she asks one day. “I mean, not anyone living, but like, an angel? Or two? Or a friend who lives inside of you?”

“I used to have an imaginary friend,” Aadhya says. “Is that what you mean?”

Kiki notices that Aadhya’s mouth has gone a little bit tight, and her eyebrows are arching up a bit, so she laughs and says, “Yeah, imaginary. That’s right.”

Aadhya mentions something to Ira when she returns from class that night about Kiki’s social emotional development perhaps not being quite on course.

Ira thanks Aadhya, but she doesn’t really take it too seriously.

The next morning, while Kiki’s sitting outside waiting for the school bus, Ira says to Case, “I think Kiki is lucky to have us.”

“And we’re lucky to have her,” Case replies.

“I mean, of course, we’re all lucky in that way. But, I mean, I think that she is especially lucky to have us, you and me in particular, as opposed to people less creative, less eccentric, and more neurotypical.”

“Um, OK.”

She relays Aadhya’s report to him.

“See what I mean? Not everybody, even including people who love her, is going to get her unique ways of perceiving and being. We do. She’s lucky to have that, as a kid.”

Case chuckles. Maybe he’s thinking about all of his unspoken observations through his childhood, and what it would have been like to have someone to share them with. Maybe he’s reflecting on how lucky he is now, to have someone at home that he doesn’t have to mask with, who’s patient and understanding and accepting. Maybe he’s just enjoying that happy buzz he gets inside when he and Ira talk.

They don’t say much else before they both have to leave for school and work. They don’t have to–they’re on the same page, and it’s a bright page in an illustrated book with pictures of hearts and bees and freezer bunnies.

Kiki kind of likes this new idea that it’s OK to test out who you can talk to. She doesn’t have to have a hard and fast rule of “don’t tell anyone anything that’s important to you.” She can try something like, “talk to people and find out, and if you see they don’t like something, then you can talk about something else.”

So when Knox drops by one evening, she challenges him to a game of chess, so she can use her moves as a distraction if her topic of conversation doesn’t fly.

“You ever notice how Grim Reaper Gnomes are quieter than other gnomes?” she asks.

“Oh, yeah,” he replies. “Man, that Grim, he’s got deep thoughts, you know. Sorta changes the whole aura around him. Deep and dark.”


It’s going OK, pretty well, in fact, so tries the big one.

“You ever talk to anyone inside? Like someone you can tell your secrets to?”

“Oh, yeah,” he says. “All the time. My moms. They passed on, you know. The big Grim came for them. But I talk to them all the time, inside, or sometimes even aloud. It’s kinda weird, but it’s like they’re not even gone, sometimes. I guess I feel closer to them now than ever.”

It feels sort of like a miracle to Kiki to hear someone else say that.

“I talk to my mom and dad all the time, too,” she whispers. “They died when I was a baby. It’s not like I even miss them anymore. I mean I have Case and Ira and they’re the best parents any kid could have. But it’s like my mom and dad are just part of me. They’re angels, but they’re also part of me. So I am always talking to them.”

“Man, that’s so beautiful,” Knox says. “Crazy beautiful. You know, when they passed, I bet they were so bummed that they wouldn’t get to see you grow up, but now, with them being so much a part of you, it’s like they’re not missing out on that at all. They’re there. Inside you. Just like you say.”

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Puppy Love 27


I’ve begun to suspect that Lucas has become too familiar with Death.

Living here, he’s endured too many visits by the Hooded One, and now Old Bones is taking liberties.

I keep track of the Dark Shepherd. I want to be there whenever he stops by for one of the old dogs. So I’ve come to develop a type of second sense to alert me of when Lucas is in his proximity.

But I never expected to see what I witnessed at the Yacht Club. Sulfur, smoke, rags, and all, Mr. Old Bones was flirting with our boy.

I shared the view of Lucas’s friend–best look away. This is not something easily forgot.


But Lucas didn’t seem to mind. “I guess you were waving at me?” he said.

“Why, yes, good-looking!” Mr. Bones rattled. “It’s me! Your old chum.”


Lucas actually smiled in response.

“You’re looking mighty fine!” Mr. Bones said.


“Thanks?” Lucas said. “I’ve been keeping fit? The dogs keep me busy?”

“But not too busy for an old sack of bone, eh? If you catch my drift…”


Do I look away, do I not look away? I didn’t look away. I can’t help feel protective of Lucas. I circled around him, whispering, “Isn’t it time to go? It’s time to go.”

“I guess I should be going,” Lucas said.

“What? So soon? But I haven’t even done what I’ve come for!”


“You mean you’re here on business?” Lucas asked.

“Actually, yes. But you know me. I never mind mixing business with pleasure.”

If the Bones had eyes, he’d have winked.


“Everything all right, sir?” The maître d’ asked.

“Fine, fine?” said Lucas.

“Couldn’t be better!” said Mr. B.


“Smells like sulfur,” said the maître d’.


And then ensued the commotion. A vendor staggered in, gasped, grabbed his throat, his chest, and collapsed.

“Show time!” said the faceless Hood.


It was Don, a vendor I’d known from the fish stall on the docks. He’d been a young man when I met him, back when we adopted Otter, all those years and decades ago.

How strange that now he’d be collapsed at Lucas’s feet!

I suppose the world is small, just as they say, and we are all connected. When one goes, whether we’ve met that soul or not, it’s only a few degrees that separates us from someone who knew them. We are all connected, and the passing of one affects us all.


“You won’t take him with you, will you?” asked Lucas when it was all over.

“Well, yes, that was the plan,” the Shepherd said.

“But you’ve done the reaping, now let him stay with me?”

I felt a tremor. What had Lucas learned, watching me collect the dogs’ spirits all these years? Had he learned that Death was one to be bargained with? That a soul could remain, after the body were reaped?

“If you insist,” Mr. Bones replied. “I’ve done what I came to do. The rest is immaterial.”

He handed Lucas the small ball of light, Don Lothario’s spirit. “Be sure to erect a headstone,” the Reaper instructed. “It’s a necessary portal.”

Then thunder rumbled and smoked swirled.

“Leaving so soon?” asked Lucas’s friend. “Don’t hurry back!”


Lucas added another tombstone to the long row. I swirled around, and Don, when he saw me, let out a hearty laugh.

“I always heard we’d meet old acquaintances!” his spirit said. “Guess what they say is true!”

I showed him around. “You aren’t really supposed to be here,” I said. “Lucas overstepped his bounds.”

“And a good thing he did,” said Don. “I may be ready to try something less corporal, but I am not yet ready for a final farewell.”

Oh, what will Tanvi say when she sees who’s tagging along with me! We surely are a motley crew.

Let the tombstones shine in the setting sun! We spirits have clouds to caper through!


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Puppy Love 25


Grief aged Miss Molly. Maybe she wanted to hurry time so she could join her mate sooner. Her sad eyes drew me in.

“You won’t always be apart,” I said, “and when you’re together again, it will be in a place with no time, for all time.”

Lucas knew Crackers’ turn would be soon. He and Caleb were litter-mates, after all.


Since Bartholomew, we’ve always had at least one dog who liked to sing. Emery’s keeping the choral tradition going.


While the household mourned Caleb, he sang soulful songs. Have you heard a dog sing “Swing Low?” It’s enough to make you long for that chariot to come soon.


Dustin tried to cheer up his uncle. I could see that Crackers’ old joints weren’t up for  a game of pounce, and neither was his spirit.


I wonder sometimes what Lucas learns about form and formlessness, about the slow grinding passage of time, about the quiet stillness of the timeless moments. Watching so many of his four-legged friends move on has got to be changing him in some way.

The crack of thunder–the smell of sulfur–the rising column of ash: Does Lucas think, Here we go again? Or does the out-of-time profundity still make him stop in his tracks?


A passing is both sacred and everyday. But, no matter how often it happens, it is in no way mundane.


I never tire of the rising of spirit. Something in me rises, too.


I never weary of the silent witnessing. Somehow, this sacred duty makes us stronger. It quickens the living to the passing moments. It reminds those passed of what they’ve left.


I don’t know why sadness accompanies this–at least for those of us who come from the After. I understand the sorrow of those left behind, for they don’t know what waits, what lasts.


I understand their anger, too.


Emery and Dustin, like two white sentinels, flanked Nibbler, the beagle who, with Bobie, started this long line.


The flash! The light. Emery and Dustin shared a glance.


They watched the greedy shepherd to ensure he handed Crackers’ light-sphere to me.


I received him, to set him free. Where we are, there is no time. There is all time. There is no space. There is infinite space.


We roam through no dimensions. We wander all dimensions. This is all true, simultaneously. We can’t keep dichotomy, and that’s why we have no form but the memory of who we once were.

Dustin doesn’t understand, but Emery, I suspect, does.


And Chloe doesn’t care. She’s seen the robed one often enough to have lost all fear. While he lingered to watch the old movies on the TV, she joined him. I don’t suppose he understands dog. But if he did, he’d know that she was asking him whose turn was next, and when it would be her turn.


She offered him friendship. And, as few are brave or cheerful enough to befriend Death, he accepted.

I’ve stolen a glance at his ledger. I know he’ll visit a few more times before he comes for her.

How can it be that the divide between form and formlessness becomes such a barrier, such an ultimate separation?

For Chloe, it’s nothing to fear.

For Emery, I suspect, it’s not a barrier that’s real. And there between the sadness, bravery, and wisdom, extends Emery’s view, which, I suspect, lies closest to the truth.


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Puppy Love 21


We’d been expecting it. And I was sure to be there. But it didn’t make it easier. The visits of the hooded one were always hard to bear.

She’d been the best mom to Crackers.


And to Caleb, too.


She’d taught Dustin well, and she welcomed Chloe into the family.


Mochi’s acquaintance with the hooded one went way back, to her first day here, when he came for Majora, Nibbler, and Babe, all three taken on the same day. And now, he was here for her.


With a start like that, it’s no wonder she had great depth of feeling.


She was no bigger than Lucas’s hand when she first arrived!


She knew Tanvi, though–and how happy they would be to be reunited in the After!


After Tanvi let, she consoled Lucas, becoming his next best friend.


She was always there, watching over her pups, encouraging Otter.


She and Otter were such good friends.


Well, they’ll be together now, too, so they can play on the breeze, like we all do.


“Looks like I’ll be here pretty frequently, then,” the Shepherd said, consulting his log.

“You don’t have to stick to the schedule,” I told him.

“Yeah, I do,” he said. “Some things can’t be fudged.”

Emery was at his hem, trying to grasp his cloak, growling like the fearless Twister he is.


“I’m not exactly corporeal, you know,” the Gray Bones mumbled.


It was too much for the pup.


It was too much for all of us.

Bones prolonged the show.


And then, the flash of light! The quickening of my own spark!


Stay! Stay! I will deliver you to Tanvi!


With reluctance, the hooded one handed over her spark.


“I always leave empty-handed,” he grumbled. “Hardly seems fair!”


“A bargain is a bargain!” I reminded him.

“If ever there’s a time when you’re not here!” He warned.

But there won’t be. I will be here each and every time, and the spark will be delivered to me for the short journey home.

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Puppy Love 16


On any ordinary day, the fabric can be torn to let in the extraordinary and stark reality that lies in wait behind every daily moment.

The sun shines over the bay, and in the little houses, the kettle sings for the morning tea pot, and the sleepy eyes rub open, and the toast pops up, and the clouds whisper that rain is simply a memory, on this and every fair morning.


We think of what we might buy that day–maybe dinosaur candies! Whatever put that into our mind? And the hum of the airplane draws other eyes upwards. Dinosaur Yums! Of course!


It’s an ordinary day, and we can buy what we like, for we have all day, every day, to earn our coin and spend it howsoever we choose, and sweets to drink and sweets to suck are as good as anything we might work for.


But not really. For in any house, on any day, it might not be an ordinary day.


The crash of thunder. The black smoke. Through the veil, the ghastly hand of death.


On an ordinary day, the maid sweeps the dog hair from the kitchen floor. The dogs wait by the supper bowl.

But for the cat, it’s no ordinary day. It’s the last corporeal day, and the body falls beside the forgotten toy.


“I’m so very or-di-nary,” drawls Thunder Voice. But only so, if one is like me, on the other side already.

“We don’t have time for you,” I tell the ordinary shepherd.

He would give me a raspberry, if he had an ordinary tongue.


Once the fabric tears, the shock sets in. The tears, the heart leaping from throat to gut. The whimpers. The long droop of dog ears.


Lucas feigns shock. Surely he knew, after Bartholomew left, that the other old ones would have to follow. Otter today, perhaps Mochi tomorrow. Or if not then, soon enough. The young ones stay, to mend the tear.

“Let’s seeee,” drawls the ghastly one. “Quite a long list here for the coming fortnight! Guess I’ll be racking up the frequent flier miles!”

“Can it,” I tell him. “This isn’t the the time.”

He chuckles, anyway. It is his ordinary day, for his ordinary type of humor, though for Lucas, everything has taken on a strange and halting quality.


I wait. Otter will come with me. The shepherd hands over the brilliant shine.


“Thank you,” and she is in my pocket, for safekeeping through the gaping tear, to the other side, where she will find the extraordinary of the After.

The fool hangs around, watching ordinary television. Caleb stands beside, keeping him well in sight.


We wait, hoping he won’t make himself too at home. But he lingers for the second feature. When Frogman devours the princess, he chuckles, and turns off the set.


“Later, dudes and dudettes!” The thunder, the smoke, and his scythe is the last to fade.


It is no ordinary day when the tear reaches from the sky through your heart. Everything stops.


Could it be that in a house across the bay the kettle boils for another pot of tea? And does someone sit down with the evening paper, to work a crossword puzzle?

Hasn’t the foundation cracked and crumbled? Nothing will ever be ordinary again, for Otter, our cat of cats, is in the After, and Lucas and the pups are left behind.


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Puppy Love 14


How was it that the next time I returned, Lucas had grown into a man?

Broad shoulders, full beard–I hardly recognized him, until I saw his goofy eyes and elvish grin. Of course, one look at him with the dogs, and it was clear this was their favorite companion, same as he’d always been, only grown up.


He played violin as terribly as ever.


Mochi, Miss Molly, and Dustin cowered in the corner.


But Bartholomew sang along in his tuneful tenor.


I made it a point to come around more often. It’s hard to know what “more often” is. I’ve always tried to keep in touch. But I realized that it’s when I do something, anything, even sit and meditate, that I enter the timeless stream and drift out of the fabric of the every day.

I discovered a way to watch–to keep my focus keen–which kept me floating down the same time-stream as my beloveds.


And when I watched, I saw so much. I saw moments.


And these moments brought me a cat’s smile. Is this how you experienced time, Otter?


Lucas hadn’t improved in painting.

Maybe he didn’t paint to improve.

Maybe he simply painted because he loved it.


Tanvi and I had been asking each other who Lucas would choose to help him. Maybe no one, I guessed. Or maybe he would wait, like I did, until he was very old.

Tanvi said that he would likely ask the cleaning guy from the maid service. “A beard for a beard,” she joked.


And then, without warning, I felt the pull. I would have felt this regardless, whether I was watching or whether I was drifting, for the gaunt one and I had an agreement.

I was to be present every time he called.


The sorrow comes, mostly, in thinking of those left behind. For Bartholomew, it was only his old creaky bones, whitened muzzle, tired eyes, and coiled tail that he would leave. Those old parts were ready to be discarded.


He would be back, like Bobie, Nibbler, Babe, and Bosko. It was way past his time.

But staying longer doesn’t make it easier for those left behind. It might make it harder.


Mr. Bones came in through bedroom, a grand entrance, with the drama of thunder and smoke.


And then, he laughed.

The nerve.

“Knock it off,” I said. “Just get it over with.”


It was quick, if flashy.



Of course Bartholomew chose to stay!

I grabbed his spirit and held it close. “Bartholomew, I have waited for you!”


I’m next, said Mochi, but it won’t be soon enough.

Oh, pup! Don’t rush it! You still have years left in you! And I want to watch your old white paws pounce through the meadows again. Don’t be in a hurry!

She was ready to go with her mate. But the shepherd doesn’t listen to what we wish. He has own timetable that he’s sworn to keep.


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Puppy Love 3


Lucas was such a good kid. Tanvi made the right decision in choosing him. He walked the dogs every day, and, unseen, I rode the breeze behind him.

Bartholomew seemed lonely, clinging to Lucas and looking up at him with sad eyes.

Get a puppy, I whispered to Lucas. I hid in the bright sunlight, but he must have heard my voice, for a few days later, he browsed the Dog Haven website and filled out the adoption application.

The next day, Mochi was dropped off.


She was no bigger than Lucas’s hand.


I don’t think he had any idea how intimidating he looked from puppy perspective, with his lion mane, wild eyes, and crack of a grin.


But Mochi must have like the way he smelled, for she let him pick her up for hugs.


I expected the day would be spent settling in the pup, helping her get to know the house and garden, the other dogs, and Majora.

But her first day brought heartbreak.

Majora collapsed.


Bosko, Bartholomew, and Babe watched with moist eyes and drooping heads. This was their third tour through this tired routine.


I thought we might catch a break when the Reaper’s scythe stuck in the pergola. Give it up, Shepherd! I called.


But he swung it free.

Stay or go? I asked Majora quickly.

Stay! Stay! And, reluctantly, the Reaper handed her light to me.

“One of these days, one of them is coming with me,” he said from his black maw.


“That’s not the deal,” I replied. “The choice is theirs, and if they choose to stay, I’m here to receive them.”

Before the sun set, my stone stood flanked with those of my two companions.


I wished that evening, as I have wished every time, that I could offer comfort to the family left behind. It feels so final, so wrenching. If they only knew we were here, we were with them, always, until they come to join us.


The grief proved to much for Nibbler. At nightfall, she lay down and let her light escape.


Mochi looked away in terror.


But Bartholomew and Babe kept their eyes on their dam’s rising light.

I looked around for Bosko. He’d wandered off. Just as well–let him roam. He’d seen enough passings for a lifetime.


Poor Tanvi recoiled when the Shepherd returned. She seemed to be more afraid each time she saw him.


I suppose that Death isn’t a sight that the eyes of the living become accustomed to, even when they see this dark form twice in a day.

I have nothing to fear from him, nor would Nibbler when this was done.


Her light was so bright.

Come on, girl! Good dog!


Begrudgingly, he handed her to me.


I watched behind the growing line of tombstones. Soon the procession would come.


But Babe, usually the first to come and the last to leave in the line of mourners, stopped at the garden arch.

I heard her whimper once before I saw her purple light.


The Shepherd, who hadn’t left from the work of Nibbler, drooped tiredly around the house to the back garden.

“Just leave her,” I said. “You’ve done enough for one day.”

“She wants to be with you,” he said, “and her sire and dam.”


But I worried it would be too much for those left behind.


Poor Mochi! To have come to the House of Death!


A bright spot trotted towards us, Bobie! Of all the nights to make his first appearance. I wanted to prepare him, but he came upon us before I had a chance to say a word.


We watched her light rise.


We saw the shadow fall.


In a blinding blaze, we turned away.


Babe’s spirit lit the universe.


And then, he pulled her into the tight ball. She chose to stay, and he handed her to me.


“She’s with us now,” I said to Bobie.

But he felt the emptiness of her form.


My grave stands in a long line. They say death is lonely. But the After isn’t lonely.


Loneliness is for those who’ve stayed behind.


The old dogs, who’ve seen this happen before, and the young pups, who witness the sweep of the scythe too soon, these are the ones who crumble beneath the weight.


Bobie sat in his old favorite place.

“So much to think about, eh, pup?” I asked him. He whimpered in reply.


I didn’t show myself that night. I knew my color would be blue, and the feelings that I carried would make the burden heavier. I remained formless, and I watched and whispered.

Tanvi found Bobie and picked him up. He shone with the green of happiness to be near her again.

Go to Mochi, I whispered. She needs you. And you need her.


Mochi sat at the end of the long line, lifting her head in a long, slow howl.  It was enough to break my heart ten times over.


And in just the same way, the sight of Tanvi holding her was enough to heal all the wounds of the long, weary day.


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Forgotten Art: Gee-Jay – Tad 1


Dear Tad,

We want to be your pen pal. We are me–you can call me Gee–and him. You can call him Jay. Together we’re Gee-Jay.


We have a very good reason for wanting to be your pen pal.

Actually we have five.

One is that we like to get hand-written letters! We think that too much technology is stupid. We like technology, sure, because video games. But we also think it’s stupid because we like books and pipe organs.


I also like rocks. When I say I, I mean me, Giuliana or Gee. And when I say he, I mean him, Jasper or Jay. And so when I say we, I mean us, Gee-Jay.

OK. Reason number 2.

I, that would be me, Giuliana or Gee, was very sad.


I mean really super sad.


And he, that would be Jasper or Jay, asked me what was wrong. Why was I so sad?

It’s because I miss one of my pen pals. I had this really great pen pal. His name was Dusk. Maybe you know him? Anyway, he can’t write me anymore.


It’s not that he doesn’t exactly exist anymore. He does. Or maybe not. I can’t really tell. I think maybe he died.

I’m still writing to him, but I don’t think he’ll ever write me again. He says that where he is now, time doesn’t exist, and I figure that you need time in order to be able to write. What do you think?

We, that would be me and Jasper, or Gee-Jay, like to read about time.

Right now, Jasper is reading me a book called The Fabric of the Cosmos, and we’re thinking about, “Can the universe exist without space and time?”

I, that would be me, Giuliana, think yes. And he, that would be Jasper, thinks no.


What do you think?

So maybe that’s the third reason we want you to be a pen pal, because we want a pen pal who can write to us about questions we don’t have answers for.

But back to reason #2.

When he (Jasper or Jay) found out that I (Giuliana or Gee) was sad because my (that would be Giuliana’s) pen pal wasn’t writing anymore, and was, maybe, possibly, probably dead, or at least existing someplace without time, then he (Jasper or Jay) thought that I (Giuliana or Gee–OK, you get the picture now, right?) would be happier if I (you know, me) had a new pen pal.


So we (Gee-Jay) looked through the pen pal profiles and we found yours.

And Jasper said, “A spiritual guide!”

And I said, “A gardener!”

And Jasper said, “A gardener!”

And we both said, “That’s the one!”


So reason #4: A spiritual guide.

And reason #5: A gardener.

Back to why do we (well, really him, Jasper or Jay) want a spiritual guide?


Well, he (Jasper or Jay–you know) says that at his age, he’s seen a lot of coming and going. Mostly going.

He told me that his wife passed. (That’s what he says instead of “dead.”) And his brother. And his mom and dad. And his grandparents. And his uncles and aunts. And five cousins. And his brother’s wife. And his great-niece’s mom. And about twelve friends. And wow. That’s a lot of passing.


I felt surprised because he isn’t often sad. But sometimes he is sad. And he says I should write that sometimes we’re all sad, and when you get to be his age, it’s time to make peace with comings and goings, and that’s where a spiritual guide can come in handy.


Do you know anything about Buddhism? He (that would be Jasper, also known as Jay) talks about Buddhism a lot.

It seems like a lot for a kid like me to think about.

But he says that we will do this together, and it will be OK because I (that would be me, Giuliana or Gee) will get what I need out of it, and he (that would be Jasper or Jay) will get what he needs out of it, and together, we will both be able to learn and share, and then we started to wonder, what will we be able to give you?


Jasper says that I can give you funniness, because he doesn’t know anyone who’s funnier than me. He also says that I am fun. Both fun and funny.

I say that Jasper can give you smartness because he is very smart and he has read everything. Or if he hasn’t read it, he will. And he will even read it aloud to you.


That is really nice, to sit next to someone and have them read. It’s like the voice is the connection.

Jasper says that if you write, the energy of the voice somehow enters the words, and then the connection forms that way. I think it’s true because I felt connection to Dusk, my pen pal who is now where time’s not.

Jasper says that you said that you are asking for connection. And that is something that we (that would be Gee-Jay) can give you.


Because Gee-Jay is all about connection.

But we’re also all about mystery. Especially those mysteries that can’t ever be solved. It’s because we (that would be Jasper or Jay and Giuliana or Gee) are very curious. You might say that we live for curiosity.


We hope you choose us for a pen pal!

And if not, it was fun to write you anyway. (This means we both had fun, me–that would Giuliana–and him–that would be Jasper.)


Adios, amigo!


p.s. Jasper told me what your name–not Tad, but the other one–really means, and I think it’s cool! (This is from me, Giuliana or Gee.)

Gee-Jay’s Next Letter >>

My Digital Life: Death’s Tears


I had a lot to think about in the early days. I wondered about wish-fulfillment: I would desire something, a bubble-blower, for example. I’d hear a few clicks, and then never-used items (mirrors, extra chairs, end tables, and lamps) would disappear. Life would freeze for an instant, and when the freeze thawed, the object I desired waited somewhere in my apartment. I hadn’t mastered manifestation: Sometimes it worked, more often not. Sometimes, even the wish itself disappeared with a click.

I encountered Death within the first week. As luck would have it, I was in a bar, ordering my first drink, when it happened.

Lilith Vatore caught fire.


Spontaneously combusted is more accurate. She collapsed a mere few feet from the entrance to the bar. It was too late for help.


Grim Reaper materialized through the mirror, stuck half-in, half-out.

I sipped my Dim and Gusty. Music played.We waited. And we experienced the first glitch this world had seen. I didn’t realize it was a glitch. It felt rather like the frozen pause during manifestation. Except not all was frozen. Time still ticked. We could talk. I could drink my Dim and Gusty. But Grim was stuck, and I couldn’t leave the lot. Death was in progress.


We waited suspended. I finished my drink.

A series of rapid clicks, and the sombre chord sounded again. Grim materialized before Lilith’s urn and wept.


“Excuse me?” I said. “Mr. Grim? I hate to intrude, but… you see. I’ve always wanted to meet you.”

“Damn,” he said. “Be right back. There’s her brother. Wasn’t expecting a two-fer. This really sucks.”


Sure enough, just as the sun set, Caleb Vatore collapsed a few yards away, right before our eyes.


“Please, Mr. Grim!” I pleaded. “It’s nearly night! The sun’s set! He’s so close. Don’t take him. Spare him, please.”

Grim refused. “Can’t be done.” He wasn’t angry, only resigned to his task.


We gathered in a circle, all the Sims I’d met that day, and we wept. Some cried for a sister and brother departing within minutes of each other. Some cried for unspent youth. Some cried from dread. I wept at irony–so close to shelter from the sun, yet so far.

“Oh, hi, everyone!” said the bartender, joining our circle too late to be a witness. “Drinks on the house!”


Grim and I remained outside while the others filed in.


He wept before Caleb’s urn.


“It’s not your fault,” I told him. “You were just doing your job. It was just a tragic mistake, or something.”

At the time, I felt even sadder to see Grim’s tears. I realize now that this was his first reaping, too. The first time has to be hard, especially when it’s siblings, and it seems so needless.

“I’ll be OK,” he said, as his tears continued to fall.

“If anything,” I said, “it was my fault. If I hadn’t come here, they wouldn’t have showed up, right? They’d still be safe and sound wherever they were before they popped up here.”


“Don’t be so sure,” he said. “Even when you stay inside your apartment, others materialize on the sidewalks, in the square. You can’t stop it. With your arrival, we get life, and with life, we get me, part and parcel.”

Grim left with smoke. I felt too sad for company. I headed home.

That night, I opened my blog and wrote. Here’s an excerpt from my entry from that day:

I learned Death’s name today, and he learned mine.

I thought that witnessing death would make me sad. And it did. But what made me sadder was seeing Death’s tears.


I felt better after writing.

The next morning, Salim dropped by as I was finishing up breakfast. I told him what had happened.


“I have never seen a dead body,” he said.

“Or an urn?” I asked.

“Or an urn!”

“These ones had bat-tops,” I said “Little cast-iron carvings of bats on the top? Kinda cute, if it wasn’t so sad.”

“But the undead cannot die!” he exclaimed. “It is an impossibility!”


Pondering the death of the undead led us through the esoteric.

“What do you think happens when a person dies?” I asked Salim. “Do you think they end up back in the Blue-Green Density?”

“The where?” he asked.

“You know. Where we all started.”


He didn’t know what I was talking about. I described the blue of the sky and the green of the ocean and the merging in light. I talked about the single point in space and the timelessness and the complete absence of wish or desire that can only be called bliss.

He looked at me like I’d been smoking bubbles.

“I have no memory of this place,” he said.

“No, no,” I insisted. “You must! Before you came here. What’s your earliest memory?”

“Fruit cake,” he said.

“You mean your grandma’s fruit cake? When she used to make it for you?”

“Not that,” he said. He squinted his eyes, looking back into the past. “When I stood in the hallway, right before we met, and held the plate of fruitcake in my right hand while I knocked on the door with my left.”

“That is your very first memory?” I asked.

He nodded.

When I thought about it later, I explained it to myself by figuring that he must have experienced traumatic memory loss. I could understand that. The experience in the Blue-Green Density, without time, or space, or desire, is so close to paradise–such total, complete oneness. Leaving that and finding oneself here in a world that makes even Death cry, that would be trauma enough to block the sweetest of memories.


My theory brought me a sense of gratitude. I would do everything I could to keep my memory intact. Little did I realize then that the memory of that bliss was mine alone.

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Whisper 2.25


Dear me,

I’m still shaky inside. I’m hoping that writing will help me calm down. But it won’t make things right. Nothing can right what happened tonight.

The evening started so happy. Shannon called after the lecture to ask if I wanted to come to her bonfire. It had started to snow that afternoon, and the idea of a blazing fire while snowflakes fell had me feeling excited. Maybe we’d roast marshmallows or build snowmen–away from the flames, of course!

I was so excited I smiled the whole ride over.


Shannon was just lighting the fire when I arrived, and the heat was already melting the snow along the slope.


We played our guitars. Shannon taught me the riff to an old protest song she loved. The chord changes were challenging, and all of our attention was engaged. I loved playing with her.


I kept playing the riff, and Shannon began to improvise. The snowfall, our rapt attention, the way our music combined, I didn’t think I could get happier. And how is it that the moments of extreme happiness usher in extreme danger?


Corrinne’s screaming broke through our music. But by the time we reached the flames, we heard only the fire’s roar through the silence of snow.


I felt Death’s shadow.


So many times, I’ve seen this figure.


One of the zombies that had gathered around the fire began cackling madly.


She said horrible things–jokes I can’t bear to repeat, and she laughed until she grew hoarse.


Corrinne’s ghost smiled.


I’ll never get over the way she approached Death so gracefully, with full acceptance.


Had she done this on purpose?

Then, I heard Shannon weeping.


I snapped out of it as quickly as I could. Maybe that’s why I still feel so shook up, because I tried to be brave for Shannon.

“It was my fault,” Shannon was saying, over and over.

“It wasn’t,” I told her.

“It was. I shouldn’t have built the fire. I shouldn’t have added the extra logs. I should’ve stayed with Corrinne. I knew she was overtired and stressed out. She’d been wearing herself down all semester. I shouldn’t have bought the keg. Do you think she was drinking?”

I tried to comfort her as best I could. What could I say? We didn’t even know exactly how it had happened.

“It was an accident.” That was all I could think of. “It wasn’t your fault.”


I stayed most the night. The cops came. There were forms to fill out. There was talk of investigations and insurance stuff and whispers that the sorority would be disbanded. Shannon sat numb on the couch through it all. Eventually, she went upstairs to sleep, and I came back to the dorm.

I keep going over it… how we were so happy, and then–tragedy.

I’ve been googling “Happiness Tragedy.” “Happiness Leads to Tragedy.” “Joy Danger.” It hasn’t helped. Or maybe a little. I’m less jumpy. But I don’t have any answers. I don’t know what I can say to Shannon tomorrow to help her feel better. I don’t know why this had to happen.

This is one of those times when I could use that quiet voice that Mom said was always there, waiting to whisper to us. But when I listen, I just hear the silence and the flames.

Hang in there,


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