The trees are bare and ungiving
Like the souls of sick minds,
Their dead leaves floating in the
Wind to a winter of indifference.
Among the chaos of winter urges
Comes the hope of a white dove,
Spreading its inviting wings of
Devotion to an ancient Deity.
Soon the loveliness of Spring and
Fertile minds will convene again
To delve into the mysteries of life,
The primeval phenomenon of Faith.
Billy Ray Chitwood – Christmas day – 2016
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Believe It or Not!
“It’s also illegal…”
“Can’t tell my wife, my kids, my in-laws, my friends…my country.”
“These are the most frustrating moments of my life!”
The Shrink sat in his stuffed leather chair, legs crossed, staring across the short space with imperious blue squinted eyes. Dr. Keeley paused for several seconds, his white hair and beard giving him an appearance of some ancient scholar whose mind held all the answers.
“Do you wish to discuss with me these concerns, Mr. Taylor?”
“I do. I have to talk to someone, or go nuts…no humor intended. The information I have is smothering me. May I ask, is our conversation totally private and cannot be divulged to anyone?”
“That is correct, Mr. Taylor. The information you share with me is private and assured confidentiality. Feel free and secure in sharing your information with me.”
“Does that hold true for divulging government ‘Top Secret’ data to which I’m privy and have signed ‘Non-Disclosure’ agreements, under penalty of fines and imprisonment?”
“I can only tell you of my ethical standards and ask that you be sure whatever it is you wish to discuss has some medical basis, that is, it is detrimental to your mental and/or physical health. I can say I’ve had no one before you discuss with me any ‘Top Secret Non-Disclosure’ data.”
“Well, there’s no one with whom I can talk, or, at least, feel safe in talking…even my good wife. You know, most people likely have a predisposition about ‘Conspiracy Theories’, and what I will tell you certainly qualifies…although it’s the absolute truth. It’s been a real problem for me, watching our country for years go down what I believe is the wrong path, and, now, with me privy to this information, I’m feeling like we are near the Apocalypse stage… Damn, where do I start?”
“Take your time, Mr. Taylor, and try to relax,” said Dr. Keeley.
After a few quiet moments, Mr. Taylor spoke.
“I will not tell you how I obtained this information, nor will I mention any names or locations. You will listen and perhaps think I’m rational and sensible, yet a big part of you will doubt and presume I’m a fruitcake…”
Mr. Taylor waited for a moment for Dr. Keeley to reply. He did not.
Mr. Taylor proceeded.
“There is a new Army being built in our country as I speak, an Army the likes of which the world has never seen, except, perhaps, in ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Terminator’ movies. The machines will indeed take over the world – THAT is my fear! I’m talking about bio-sensitive machines, huge machines that can move at the speed of sound, including human-oriented robots that can take different shapes, robots and machines that cannot be destroyed.
“There is a global central command here in our country that will electronically, intricately, with scientific, technological fail safe certainty, control these machines and human robots and send them to the troubled spots of the world… ISIS and all the other terrorist groups will be eradicated within weeks, not months, years, but days and weeks. Talk about art imitating life! This is Science and Technology imitating life – or, maybe somehow more accurately, creating new non-organic life forms and machines.
“While I want ISIS and all evil eradicated, Dr. Keeley, my fear is we are creating a human wasteland. We are letting the wisdom of history and the ages fall upon deaf ears. We are messing with an ‘Intelligent Creator’s Grand Plan’…unless we’ve been duped by the tenets of Faith – and, I don’t believe that. Barbarians who behead and burn people alive, of course, deserve their eradication for their ideology is pure evil. What about the emotions of love and compassion? What about that intricate nine-month cycle of birth? What about the beauty all around us, the oceans, seas, deserts, and mountains? Are we…”
Mr. Taylor, lost in his passionate oratory, looked across at Dr. Keeley. He was slumped in his chair, his chin on his chest, eye glasses askew on his face… There was a soft snoring sound, louder with each breath, emanating from Dr. Keeley’s benign face.
Mr. Taylor slammed his right foot down on the lovely wooden flooring.
The noise brought Dr. Keeley upright in his chair, announcing: “We will meet again this time next week if it is convenient for you…”
“Have you not heard a word I've said?” asked an irritated Mr. Taylor.
“Of course, you give me the same 'conspiracy theory' every week at this time. I practically have your words memorized. I'm hoping each week that I shall hear additional information about your theory. Are you taking the medication I prescribed for you?”
“You have prescribed no medications for me, Dr. Keeley...if you are a Doctor! This is my first and only visit to your office. You are a conspiracy yourself, a real 'quack', if you ask me!”
“And, you tell me that each week, Mr. Taylor.”
“So, why do you take my money? If you can't help me, why do you continue seeing me?”
Dr. Keeley rose, walked to the exit door, opened it, smiled gently, and bid Mr. Taylor goodbye with these words, “It's 'ground hog day' each week for you, Mr. Taylor, with your monologue and our dialogue repeating itself. Please take the medication. It can help you. As I've told you, the original Mr. Taylor died shortly after seeing me the first time. I've also told you that at each visit. If you are one of the 'human-oriented' and 'bio-sensitive' robots, you should have the new army re-program you...you should have the new army re-program you...you should have the new army re-program you...you should have the new army re-program you...”
Mr. Taylor stood mortified. On and on went the would-be Dr. Keeley with monotonic sameness and the same gentle smile.
“Oh, my God! The new army has begun its new computerized 'key people replacement process'. What can I do? What can I do? What can I do? What can I do? What can I do? What can I do?”
Flash Fiction authored by: Billy Ray Chitwood – December, 2016
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Flowers and Fate
“Red or yellow roses, Sir?” the older lady in the flower shop asked.
The young man in his early thirties smiled and raised his brow. “Now, how did you know it was to be roses, Millie?” He knew her from a name tag.
“It’s the body language, young man. Your step, your face, the happy gleam in your eyes.”
“Really! I’m that obvious?”
“You’re that obvious,” she teasingly grinned, “plus I’ve had this shop too many years not to know when love walks through the door.”
He put his hands on the counter and gently asked, “And, do you know how many roses I’ll be sending FTD today?”
“You’re a two-dozen fellow, I’m betting.” She pursed her lips.
“And, does my step, my face, and the happy gleam in my eyes tell you which color I’ll pick?”
“Red, of course! You’re obviously in love and you want the red roses to convey your love for the young lady.” She tilted her head slightly in a positive gesture.
“Why would I not choose yellow roses?” the man asked, amused by the conversation.
“Yellow roses would be fine, but you wish to make a deeper statement. Red gets the point of love across rather profoundly. They say, ‘I love you’. Yellow roses convey happiness and joy in more of a friendship fashion… My goodness, listen to me, giving you information you likely already know.”
“No, you’ve actually tagged me perfectly, and I thank you. It will be two dozen red roses, and I trust you will pick out twenty-four of your very best.”
“It will be my pleasure, plus an extra red rose to accentuate the strong statement. I shall make it a very special arrangement for you. You will wish a card sent with the roses…”
His name was Farris Stanley Ballanger. The flowers were going to Johnnie Ballanger, his wife. He had been on a brief business trip to sub for his manager at one of his service stations. He would be home tomorrow and he wished her to have the flowers before his arrival. He did not like being away from Johnnie and missed her terribly.
Stan spent some time in thought at the counter as to the words he would put on the card. Smiling, finally satisfied with his choice of words, he placed the card in the accompanying envelope, wrote ‘Dear Sweet Johnnie’ on the front, and handed it to Millie.
Stan paid for the flowers and chatted a few moments more with Millie.
As Stan was about to leave the store, he asked: “Do you mind if I hug you, Millie? You are such a great person.”
Millie obliged, and Stan left the store.
Later around midnight as Stan closed and locked his service station, he was robbed at gunpoint, marched to the ‘Men’s Room’ and shot to death at close range. His body was not found until daybreak when service attendants arrived for work.
Stan’s roses arrived the next morning before news of the robbery and homicide reached Johnnie. Her heart was filled with love overflowing as she read what Stan had written on the card:
Love and Time Eternal
It matters not the hours, the days, the years, the lifetime we spend together!
What matters is all the love we have gathered in our hearts
That will last eternally…
- Flash fiction (partially) by Billy Ray Chitwood -
In Memory of my Uncle Stanley Balsinger who lives forever in my heart!
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Flash Fiction authored by: Billy Ray Chitwood
From Italy With Love
I thought it was all over!
There were two problems. My single engine plane coughed, sputtered, and acted like it was out of gas – but the tank was filled just twenty minutes before at the air park in Genoa. The other problem was lack of control – without success, I tried to control the Aileron, that hinged surface in the trailing edge of an airplane wing which is used to control lateral balance...think of a seesaw, keeping it horizontally straight without either end dipping down.
Bottom line: big problem with the plane's engine out and my inability to glide the plane accurately to a spot for landing.
I got lucky!
See the trees at the bottom of the picture above? Somehow, I managed to land the plane some ten feet to the right of those trees, with the right wing an inch or two from the sand and the nose about to plow into the ground. An abrupt action with the right wing somehow caused the plane to straighten its line and touched down roughly but then slowly moved to a stop with the friction of the sand.
No bruises, no cuts, no radio transmission, and no real damage...just some rattled nerves.
Actually, I sat there behind the stick for some seconds and felt pretty good – hey, I had a story to tell my film buddies back in Santa Monica. We were still young, chasing the ladies, and telling each other our tall stories. Because I looked a bit like Steve McQueen, my buddies gave me the nickname, 'Cool Mac 2'.
I pulled the leather flight jacket from my near 200 pound, 6 foot frame, flung it over my right shoulder, grabbed my clothes bag from the cockpit, and started walking toward the buildings in the picture's foreground. Only a few feet into my walk I saw an old jalopy heading toward me. My walk only lasted some three hundred yards before the jalopy stopped and a man and woman threw some Italian at me. Some I understood but the gist I did not.
The woman was beautiful, and the guy, well, he was handsome enough, I guess, but he was much older than the lady...for some obscure reason, I was wishing the duo was daughter and father.
“Sorry, I speak very little Italian. Do you speak Enlish?”
“Jes, we speak some Engleesh, but you just crash yur plane! Are you hokay?” Such a lovely voice to go with the face and body.
“Yes, I'm fine. I got lucky. But I could use a phone and some assistance in reaching people who can help me. Would you...”
The older man stopped me in mid-sentence, “Get in the car. We will take you you to our home where there is phone and food.” His white whiskered face showed kindness and blended in with his white wavy hair. He instantly reminded me of Maurice Chevalier...you know, the French actor who sang 'Thank Heaven for Leetle Gurls, for leetle gurls get bigger every day'.
Rosina was the lady's name, and Pauli was the gentleman's name. I immediately liked them and found them most cordial and friendly. It was particularly tough for me me to avoid glancing at Rosina. Her long dark hair went to the middle of her back, framed a beautifully tanned exotic face, and her bluish green eyes sparkled with flirty coyness. She was wearing a slightly loose tan dress, but, had it been tightly fitting, my heart might have leaped through my shirt. I had worked with some lovely ladies in films, and this Rosina beauty did not take a backseat to any of them.
Pauli asked me what I was doing flying a plane in Italy.
“Well, Pauli, my girlfriend and I broke things off, and I was between jobs, never been to Italy and have always wanted to come and see it in person. I've been in love with your country ever since Clint Eastwood made those 'Spaghetti Westerns', well, actually, all my life. This was a good time for me to come... Oh, my name is Faron Brady. Flying is a hobby, and I just thought I would see some of your beautiful country...didn't get much accomplished, I'm afraid.”
We talked, got well acquainted, and I felt we established a great bond. Pauli knew who to call to handle the plane and the rental company in Cortona.
When Pauli and Rosina found out I had no lodging in Cortona for the night, they insisted I be their guest, spend a few days, and tell them all about America. I had an idea Pauli was perhaps playing matchmaker for Rosina – without her necessarily knowing it.
After Rosina left the conversation to refresh herself before dinner, Pauli showed me to my bedroom. He announced wine and hors d'oeuvres would be served before dinner and that Madame Rosaria would be preparing dinner for serving at 7:00 PM... Madame Rosaria had been Pauli's mistress and house manager since his wife died ten years prior. Out shopping, I would meet her later.
Suddenly, I was very tired. I took off my shoes and fell across the bed.
The nap came quickly, and I don't know how long I slept. When I awoke, Rosina was standing in the doorway with the most seductive smile ever put on me. I raised to an elbow.
“Is it near 5:00 PM?” I asked, trying very hard to return the seduction.
“Jes, you must freshen up and have some wine, the best Italian cheese, and hors d'oeuvres. We await you, Signore Faron.” She turned and left the doorway 'in a most delightful way'.
Freshened, I joined my hosts in the living room. Madame Rosaria was a lovely lady as well and not a lot older than Rosina. It was a little scary! Both seemed to be putting the moves on me. Now, of course, this was likely an Italian 'thing' and not meant to be interpreted in a romantic fashion. Certainly, Pauli was not at all concerned by the actions of the ladies.
We drank, we ate, we laughed, we traded cultural distinctions and idiosyncrasies. It was one of the best evenings I could remember ever having.
In the end, Pauli and Rosaria went to bed, leaving Rosina and me alone in the living room, slightly tipsy and now fully engaged in our sensual maneuvers.
Believe it or not, I don't remember how I ended up in bed alone. I could remember being sure earlier that being in bed together was a foregone conclusion. A lesson was learned: our cultural distinctions were definitely there and frustrating as hell.
Three days later, Rosina and I decided to be married in Cortona, honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast, then return to California.
Hey, I'm still stunned by the turn of events, BUT I must add, I am one happy 'Cool Mac 2'... Steve McQueen, we miss you, buddy!
I cannot imagine anything in my life from this point on topping my Italian visit... I do indeed love that country – and, Rosina.
Billy Ray Chitwood – December, 2016
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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JESUS
Though it seems likely you were born in April, the date of December 25 has become the date much of the world has designated as the day we celebrate your birth. Here in the United States, most of our citizens enjoy your birthday as a paid holiday. On your birthday, many of us celebrate by gift sharing with our family and friends, participating in a special tradition of giving for which you are so very well known.
We do not know of every word you spoke and every deed that was rendered. Much of your living our historical experts cannot account, but from what has been recorded we know that you were unlike any other person on our earth at that time, that you spoke to the masses in parables for living an honorable and charitable life, that you spoke of God, your Father, and His Kingdom. We know that you were reviled and hated by the Roman rulers and were considered an enemy to their pagan icons and political agenda. At the end we know how you suffered from the stones and thorns of hate, how you carried the heavy cross to Golgotha, there to be fixed by nails to that cross and die a slow and painful death.
Some among us doubt your message of faith and the Kingdom of God, your Father. Some doubt that you died there on Calvary’s cross for the sins of humankind. Some even mock your words and arrogantly pronounce all your goodness as mere mythology. But they are few, dear Jesus, and there are a great majority of us who have read of your short time among us, believe in your message, who are not without sin but strive to grow our faith and believe in the miracle of creation – that incredible and meticulous nine months of a child’s birth, the sun, the moon, the stars, and the great order of the universe.
Our world today has changed not so much from the world you entered, dear Jesus. We still have those political and iconic problems throughout all parts of our planet. We have our ‘machines’ now that make our lives so easily disposed to sloth and idleness. We have our poor, our wealthy, and our in-be-tweens. We have created a bureaucratic welfare system that keeps so many of our people dependent on a government’s treasury, that makes it more sensible to stay at home and receive other people’s money than to work for it themselves. Yet, we do have those who truly need the goodness and help that comes from the heart, those teachings you passed along to us.
We still have famine and wars, so many prophesied in the Bible. We seem to be coming to some end-point, Jesus. We have terrorists who wish to kill us because they believe it part of their religious mandates. It appears we do not learn from the lessons of history. The world seems to be imploding while the good minds among us seek a paradigm for peace and prosperity.
So, in celebrating your birth, dear Jesus, I wish this long birthday card was a testimonial to how far we have come in loving our neighbor and honoring all of your Father’s ‘Ten Commandments’. Our knowledge is exploding. There are lots of new machines and toys for living, maybe even some tiny robots that go roaming around in our bodies to extend our lives, but, for good will and love, I fear we have not come so far since that awful day you were nailed on the cross near Jerusalem.
For me, Jesus, I’m trying to grow my faith, endeavoring to be better than I am, wanting that eternal life in that great Kingdom by your Father’s House.
Billy Ray Chitwood – Christmas, 2016
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Reality and Truth
- An Imagined Discourse in a Democracy -
Socrates – You say 'the world is not fair'. How is the world not fair?
Citizen – There is inequality in so many facets of our lives.
Socrates – Why do you think that is so?
Citizen – Because the wealthy control our lives.
Socrates – Do the wealthy not create businesses and pay wages to workers?
Citizen – Yes, of course.
Socrates – Why do you not create your own business?
Citizen – Because I'm not wealthy, old man!
Socrates – Why are you not wealthy?
Citizen – Because I had not the money to go to college for higher education.
Socrates – Are there not business owners without college educations?
Citizen – Well, yes, I'm sure there are.
Socrates – So, why do you not create your own business?
Citizen – I have not the knowledge nor the money to create my own business.
Socrates – So, can you not study and get the knowledge to create your own business?
Citizen – I don't understand the development and marketing aspects of business.
Socrates – Do you believe then that intelligence can be a factor in business?
Citizen – Yes, of course, I believe that.
Socrates – Then, can we say that people have different learning abilities, that some people are more intelligent than others?
Citizen – Sure, I believe that is obvious.
Socrates – Would it not be reasonable to assume then that not all people are created equal in terms of intelligence and ability?
Citizen – Yes, that would be reasonable to assume.
Socrates – Could we not further assume that 'equality' is an unattainable goal?
Citizen – Sure sounds that way... But there are people who are poor and without these abilities. Some are infirm and cannot work at all. What about these people?
Socrates – An excellent question. What, indeed, about these people?
Citizen – It seems to me a civilized world needs to recognize the needs of these people and care for them.
Socrates – A noble sentiment! And, what about the group among the needy who would take advantage through fraud of this largesse?
Citizen – There most certainly would need to be a 'fail safe system' built into any program that addressed this issue.
Socrates – So, it would seem in many areas of a democracy that 'equality' is a noble thought but not an attainable goal. Our dialogue further implies that hard work and effort can lead one to her/his success in life...
Billy Ray Chitwood – December 7, 2016
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A stranger in this Balkan city of Podgorica I felt the cool but comfortable night breeze on my body. My leather jacket and heavy trousers sheltered me nicely in my walk to the Pod Volat Restaurant. Wisps of my thirty-five year old ebony hair gently waved to the people passing. A quite lovely lady with long dark flowing tresses looked me over carefully as she passed, raised her eyebrows and gave me a flirtatious smile. I smiled back not so flirtatiously but quickly diverted my blue eyes, remembering my own blonde beauty awaiting me at the restaurant.
I could see the restaurant in the distance and picked up my gait. I was anxious to see Erica and determine if the love and passion flame of three years past still held its magical heat.
Our romantic encounter in New York ran for six months before her Montenegro family members played on her sympathies to come home. And, home she went, leaving me with an engagement ring in my suit coat pocket that she never got to see. The fact of her leaving did not break my heart but it hurt and gave me some serious tremors. She did not want to leave New York but her family's arguments were too compelling – mother ill, father and siblings unable to cope, too much for her heart to bear. Our last night together was tearful but filled with incredible love-making. She even told me she loved me, and, yeah, I told her the same.
So, as luck would have it, my attorney work brought me to Kosovo and within visiting distance of the beautiful lady. We had stayed in touch, so our reunion was planned. Because of my arrival time, it was her idea to meet at the Pod Volat Restaurant, popular for both tourists and locals. With flight uncertainties and because I wanted our reunion to be in a much more romantic setting than an airport terminal I turned down her offer for a pick-up at the airport.
My heart beat raised its tempo with the Pod Volat looming bigger in the foreground. My ground steps kept pace with the heart beat as I reached a darkened alleyway.
Movement reached my ears simultaneous to seeing two bulky men figures grab and pull me into the alley. Some light came from the neon lights some distance away but it was difficult to make out my assailants as they pulled me deeper into the alley. The men were dressed in dark clothes and they held my arms tightly and painfully, wedging me closer to their own bodies. I tried to kick up, but they had the leverage and heeled my shins with their own feet.
So, I used my head – literally! Fast and hard I whipped my head from side to side, connecting with their temples. The jolting hits almost knocked me out and I was hoping for that effect with the goons. My head did just enough damage to loosen their grips on my arms and I bolted from the alley. Thankfully, I heard no running taps on the alley pavement.
Racing fast and hard, far enough to be in front of the restaurant I looked back and saw no one. It seemed a small miracle had canceled out a mugging or something more sinister.
Inside the Pod Volat, I took some deep breaths and leaned for a moment against a wall. The maitre d came to me and asked in English about my health. A bit surprised he spoke English I told him I was just winded because of my eagerness to see Ms Erica Vukovich, and had she arrived? At that very moment I looked and saw her at a table toward the end of the big lovely room – made all the more lovely because I had made it there.
Erica rose from her seat at the table and rushed to greet me with a wonderful smile on her face, attached to that fantastic face and body I remembered so well. We kissed unashamedly until we both felt the eyes of patrons on us. We then took our seats at our table, ordered cocktails, and eye-gazed each other.
After some hand holding across the table and many endearing sentiments, she became serious.
“I made a mistake, Deke, a big mistake. I left New York and should not have. I've never stopped loving you. My hope was that you would propose to me, then my family would have to back off.”
“Ah, Erica," frowning sadly, I had the engagement ring in my pocket that evening you told me you were leaving.”
We both laughed, and she asked, “Do you still have it?”
I ceremoniously reached into my left jacket pocket and pulled out the small box, left my seat and knelt by her chair: “Will you marry me, Erica? I love you with all my heart.”
With my proposal, Erica stood, tightly embraced me, and gave me one long lingering kiss – until we heard the patrons in Pod Volat applauding. Just a tad embarrassed we reclaimed our seats at the table and talked of our plans for the immediate and distant future.
Sometime during that wonderful night, Erica apologetically spoke of her brothers. “You know, they threatened to try and scare you away from meeting me tonight. I knew they wouldn't do it.”
My smile could never convey to her the satisfaction she had just given me.
I got a suite in the Hotel Ziya, and we stayed for three days, time to gather Erica's belongings for our trip back to New York.
I never got to meet the brothers...not really!
Flash Fiction by: Billy Ray Chitwood
November 30, 2016
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