Margraaten

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Margraaten, formally known as the Netherlands American Cemetery, is located on 65 acres of rolling green hills. We visited it on a family trip to Europe because it is the final resting place of my Grandfather. I no longer remember the exact day he fell, but I know it was within only a month or so of VE Day: 8 May 1945. I don’t know the details of his death, just that he lost his life fighting, and was buried there with 8,300 of his comrades. That visit was almost 25 years ago now, and I only remember bits and pieces of the visit, which I’d like to share with you this Memorial Day.

I remember the crosses and occasional Star of David headstones. Each bright, stark white against the verdant grass. The rows precisely marked, but with a gentle, distinct curve.

I remember being deeply touched by a quote, engraved in smooth white stone, “Honor is theirs, who knew the path of honor.” I was avidly reading Tom Clancy novels at the time, and was too young to fully grasp the depths of sacrifice such honor requires in real life.

I remember walking down a granite wall inscribed with the names of those missing in action, 1,722 of them. It engraved their name, their home town, how they served, and where they were lost. I don’t remember any of the details, but it seemed like the vast majority came from America’s Heartland, and were bomber crews lost when they were shot down. I also remembering feeling guilty that I couldn’t read and acknowledge every name there.

I remember the glass coffee table in the small, almost informal waiting area. Under its glass was printed out the stories of the 7 Medal of Honor recipients who are interred there. All of which, I believe, were received posthumously. And, I remember them all being narratives along the lines of, “single handedly charged a German machine gun nest that had pinned down his companions.”

I remember looking at the simple cross marking my Grandfather’s resting spot. It is a beautiful peaceful valley, and I still think, as I did then, that that means something, even if I cannot articulate it.

I remember crying and not being able to stop.

But what I remember most, what I will never forget from that day, is the image of my Dad having time alone to stare at the grave of his Father. My Dad wasn’t even two yet when my Grandfather died. It was the closest my Dad had ever been to his Father; he was the first in his family to be able to make the trip. I remember the umbrella resting on his shoulder against the light rain. The stillness. The tilt of his head looking down. The sea of white markers in which he was but an island. And I remember a wash of emotions beyond my young self’s ability to comprehend.

There is a lot of politics, patriotism, and consumerism that has pulled Memorial Day away from its intended purpose. I am as guilty as anyone else; waiting for the Memorial Day sale to replace the dishwasher, planning the BBQ, or even just looking forward to the 3 day weekend. Today though I am instead truly remembering and thinking on that scene from so long ago: of my Dad meeting his Father for the very first time, across an unbridgeable divide.

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Heiss & Burg’s Coffee Roasting Co.

Heiss & Burg’s Coffee Roasting Co.
D. Paul Angel
999 Words

It has come to my attention that the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle may not be quite so well known as I so blithely assumed. Simply put, the more accurately you know a particles speed, the less accurately you can know its position, or vice-versa. So, in other words, you can know X, but not Y, or Y but not X. Clear as coffee?  Good.  Enjoy :-)

Crossroads have always been steeped in superstition. After all, they’re the intersection of potential destinies. Ghosts resided there, the scorned dead were left there, and it’s where intermingled fates were forever changed. Don’t believe me? Just ask Oedipus. I imagine he has a few words on the matter.

These crossroads, though, are different. At least a bit. Oh sure, there’s the rolling gray, nondescript overcast and haze, paths are most definitely intertwined, and, of course, there’s the constant, eerie weight of life altering choice… There isn’t necessarily an “up” however. Nor a “left,” “right,” or even “down.” More than anything else the crossroads look like they were drawn by MC Escher on a seven dimensional white board after a three week bender.

Smart folks may wonder how you get here. Wise ones, though, will ask how you get back. First. Me? I know I’m smart, but I’m still working on the wise.

I came here while working on my doctorate. You immediately guessed something in physics, right? Quantum mechanics… Relativity… String Theory… any or all would have been helpful I’m sure. Medieval English Literature? Not so much. Although it does allow me to say with absolute academic certainty that Chaucer would have loved the Hell out of this place.

Of course by “this place” I don’t really mean the Crossroads. Like I said they’re more creeptastic than anything. No, by “here” I mean Heiss & Burg’s Coffee Roasting Company. Yeah I may be a barista, and I may not necessarily be living up to my educational acumen, but I also haven’t quite figured out how to leave.

(And yes, I know that Chaucer died over a century before coffee’s introduction to England- but hey, thanks for the pedantry! Never get enough of that as a barista!)

So, remember the Crossroads I described? The one that Dali would look at and say, “Uff. Too much.” That one? Well, imagine that smack dab in the middle of it is a rather colorful Victorian. And by “colorful” I mean that no two planks are the same color. And as long as you don’t stare too long at the planks painted with infrared or ultraviolet you probably won’t experience more than just a titch of discomfort.

You would think with nineteen floors there might be some rhyme or reason to the color scheme, but it’s really just the one floor. One floor that just so happens to extend in nineteen different planes, but hey, no stairs!

It’s, well… you kind of have to see it. Unless you’re easily seasick, readily queasy, or, possibly, already nauseous. Than just close your eyes and follow your nose. Because you will smell the coffee, and it is good coffee. I mean good coffee. Ambrosiaesque coffee. Coffee to squee for. The black blood of all that is Good and Holy decanted into fine, earthenware mugs. This is the best coffee in the Universe. Literally.

See, in all the infinite combinations of potential universes, in all the infinite, parallel lines of Time, and across every empty divide of unbounded space; there is only one commonality.

Us: Heiss & Burg’s Coffee Roasting Company.

Now, I’m not claiming to understand the Math, mind you, I’m just relaying it as I had it explained to me. So, the more the various Universii need to twist, pirouette, fold, and/or warp, whilst still maintaining parallel existences with their neighbors; the more Math demands the existence of a single, unwavering point of fixed solidity. Or, to put it more succinctly, Math robbed the First Bank of Reality and all they got for their trouble was couple shots of espresso and a dye pack. (Luckily, the dye pack was mocha flavor!)

So. What’s a Medieval Lit nerd to do? Same as in the Bronx, Orlando, or Nebraska even. Sling coffee. Hope for tips.

And flirt. Mainly flirt.

See, you only arrive here when your desire for the best coffee ever overrides all other considerations. That desire affects the Universe around you so strongly it sends out ripples which propagate across that Universe’s own flavor of Space and Time until it needs you to be here. Like, now here. So, you arrive. You drink, you have your fill, and then, just as elegantly; the Universe snaps back the wrinkle your desire created and you are back home at almost exactly the same instant as your departure.

Totally makes sense, right?

See, since you return at basically the same instant as you leave, whatever imprint your experiences left on your brain waves are lost. The net result being that while you can enjoy the best coffee ever made, ever, excuse me, EVER!; you cannot actually know about it.

I know, I know, but just think about it for a second and it’ll hit. It’s like accepting money from your miserly sweetie when you’re short on funds, even though you know you’ll never hear the end of it: mined, beau loan.

In fairness, it can run the other way. To where you know about Heiss & Burg’s, but can never get there again, nor, obviously, sample our deliciousness. I am told, reliably, that this occurrence is the mechanism by which Nature spontaneously generates anti-matter.

And, well, it turns out there’s another little quirk to the almost, but not quite, instantaneous realigning. As rare as it may be, if you come here often enough, however tiny an imprint is made: it is still made. And every visit here builds until you’re like me. Here. Unable to leave. Ever.

Which is why I can honestly say I have seen you here before. No, not the “royal you,” you; you you.

And it’s why you will disappear as soon as you realize you’ve polished off that amazing espresso I just pulled for you. Back to your own Time and Space, a half-fraction of an instant after you left. Don’t worry though, I’ll still be here when you come back. A couple more times and who knows? Maybe I’ll actually get that date…

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Monster-A-Go

Monster-A-Go
D. Paul Angel
868 Words

Claire walked up to Bruce as he was pouring himself a cup of coffee.

“Have you lost weight, Bruce?” she asked, looking him over as she grabbed some coffee for herself.

“No, I don’t think so,” he replied, unconsciously sucking in his gut anyway.  “I have finally been able to get decent some sleep though.  Maybe that’s it?”

“Oh that makes all the difference!  Are you doing something different at night?”

“No, to be honest.  I just used to have these horrible nightmares, but they just seemed to suddenly stop a couple weeks ago.  I don’t know, maybe they’re just not waking me up anymore?  Who knows,” he finished with a smile.

“Would you say the dreams stopped on or around the fifth of this month?” a deep voice asked, joining the conversation.

Bruce turned to see that three very large men in suits had entered the room and walked right up to him and Claire without his noticing.  The man in front, with the deep voice, gave Claire a quick smiled out of the side of his mouth that only made him appear all the more intimidating.
The other two, Bruce realized, didn’t even look as though they know how to smile.

“I’ll, uh, talk to you later Bruce,” Claire said, backing away and hurrying out of the room.

“Oh, you forgot your coffee,” Bruce shouted after her, but she half waved without stopping.  The door’s *click* as it closed was louder than Bruce had ever heard.

“So, we were talking on, or around, the fifth of this month.  A couple weeks ago as it were,” the man said again as his two friends casually took up residence between Bruce and the door.

“Uh, maybe?  Who are you?”  Bruce asked while trying to figure out what to do with Claire’s coffee cup which he was still lamely holding in addition to his own.

“I, and my learned colleagues, represent certain vested interests in the newly emerging field of nightmare eradication.  Perhaps you are familiar?”

“Oh, you’re with Monster-A-Go?”  Bruce asked, starting to relax a bit.

“In a,” Deep-Voice paused, looking at the ceiling and waving his hands in thought before finishing, “in a loose manner of speaking.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means,” said a new voice, surprisingly even higher than Claire’s, “that we are part of Monster-A-Go’s collections arm.”

Bruce turned, expecting yet someone else to have entered, only to find himself looking at the same two very large men as before.  He couldn’t even tell which had spoken.

“I don’t understand,” Bruce finally said, turning back, as Deep-Voice casually took Claire’s coffee cup from him.

“One of your neighbors, who shall remain nameless per  our strict respect for HIPPA regulations, engaged the services of Monster-A-Go in the recent past.  Their treatment began on, or about, the fifth.”

“I still don’t understand.”

“Your nightmares were clearly rounded up and eradicated at about the same time.”

“I guess so?  I mean, maybe?  And- So what?”

“We are scientific minds, Bruce.  Do you mind if I call you Bruce?”

“Uh, no.  You are?”

The man broke Claire’s mug with a quick clench of his fingers, spraying himself and and Bruce in scalding hot coffee.  Even as Bruce tried to wipe the hot liquid off him, the man casually opened his hand, letting the larger pieces drop without even a hint of flinching before answering, “The best friend you have in the room.”

Bruce audibly gulped.

“So.  Bruce.  As we are all possessing of scientific minds here, it would certainly strain the bounds of credulity to believe that the stopping of your nightmares, on or about the fifth as well, would simply be coincidental.”

“You think my neighbor’s treatment affected me?”

“‘Think,’ Bruce, is not nearly strong enough of a word.”

“What do you want then?”

“Why, payment of course.  Your nightmares have been eradicated, right?”

“But I didn’t ask for it!”

“Regardless, you have clearly benefited from Monster-A-Go’s proprietary treatment which is not now, nor has it ever been, free.”

“You expect me to pay you for something I didn’t even ask for?”

“You irrefutably received the benefit of Monster-A-Go’s intellectual property,” replied Deep-Voice shrugging.

Bruce turned to try and pace in frustration only to almost run into the two behind him, so he ended up just uncomfortably twisting in place.  After a little more futile fidgeting he exclaimed in frustration, “That doesn’t even make sense!”

“Unfortunately, Bruce, such legalities rarely do.”

“This is a joke, right?  Hidden camera?” Bruce asked looking around the room, “I mean, you can’t seriously be charging me for something I didn’t agree to!”

“I assure you that we take the eighteen thousand, four hundred, ninety-three dollars and forty-two cents you owe us quite seriously.”

“Eighteen thousand dollars!?”

“And four hundred, ninety-three dollars and forty-two cents.  Due in full.”

“That’s ridiculous!” Bruce shouted.

“Immediately,” added High-Voice, with far too much eagerness for Bruce’s comfort.

“But- I don’t have that kind of money!”

“Then I am very sorry to inform you, Bruce, that you and I can no longer be friends,” said Deep-Voice again, as he slowly began pulling out the coffee cup shards embedded in his hand and deliberately dropping them on the floor.

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Immortal Drift

Immortal Drift
D. Paul Angel
646 Words

“Well the centrifuge part is certainly new. I’ll give you that. I’m pulling what, seven gee’s?”

“Six point nine one.”

“Close enough, eh? Besides, seven gees… seventy gees… seven-hundred gee’s… It doesn’t matter because, again, I’m fucking immortal!

“Yes. We know.”

“Then you know my body will adapt to this sooner rather than later, right?”

“We project nineteen hours.”

“Bet I do it in nine then.”

“We have accounted for your motivation.”

“My motivation. My motivation? You don’t know shit about my motivation! How can you? I mean seriously? I’ve been the only fucking immortal for five hundred years. Not exactly a large sample size is it?”

“We are aware of the odds.”

“Of course you’re aware. That why there are shackles too? In the dark? Strapped to a ball. A fucking ball? In a centrifuge!”

“It is not a ball.”

“What, another nuke then, eh?”

“Yes.”

“Jesus pole-dancing Christ, really? Again?

“Yes.”

“You know I’ll survive, right?”

“Yes.”

“I mean it is the very definition of immortality isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“But motherfucker does it sting.”

“…”

“What, nothing? Not even a chuckle? That’s a joke, eh? ‘Nuclear bomb stings!’ Nothing?”

“There is no humor in this for us.”

“Ironic since you’re the blower and not the blowee, huh?”

“We have tried everything else to stop your violence.”

“Not my fault you chose not to be immortal, now then is it.”

“Immortality is not a choice.”

“Blah, blah, blah, Jesus but you’re a humorless lot.”

“Nor is it a super-power.”

“Oh please, not that shit again… Fine. So, what’s the plan this time, eh? ‘Cause when the nuclear bomb ionizes the centrifuge, I will still be alive and still in one piece. Remember your Marianas Trench debacle? Sure it took me twenty years to climb my soggy ass out of there, but do you remember how pissed I was?”

“Yes.”

“Do you really?”

“Yes.”

“Good! Because that is nothing compared to how pissed I’m going to be after this!”

“We accounted for that.”

“You accounted for losing half your Army knocking me out this time too? ‘Cause it’ll make the ass kicking I give you all the easier than, huh? You ‘account’ for that? ‘Cause you’re going to be first ‘Nameless Voice!’ Hear that? I’m coming for you first!

“We hear you.”

“We? No. Not ‘We.’ You. I will be coming for you no matter how long it takes? Oh, and don’t worry, you’ll recognize me. I’ll be the pissed off immortal!”

“We will all be dead by then.”

“Killing yourself when the bomb goes off then, are you?”

“Not quite.”

“‘Not quite?’ That’s it? So now I’m playing what, ‘I Spy,’ with you? I spy with my little eye- nothing. Because the centrifuge is fucking dark.”

“You are not in a centrifuge.”

“Well what bloody else am I- You put me in a fucking rocket?

“Yes.”

“A nuke into the Sun seems a bit overkill, don’t you think? Plus, hot tip, not even the Sun can kill me.”

“We know.”

“Then you’re what, at the taunting me stage?”

“You are headed away from the Sun.”

“Away. Seriously? I’m not fucking Superman remember? Your whole super-power concern-trolling? Yeah. That. ‘Cause I don’t actually need a ‘Yellow Sun’ to retain immortality.”

“We know.”

“Of course you, ‘know.’ So, Moon then is it? Mars, perhaps? Uranus’ Moons? Ha! Get it? Still no humor? Fine. Look mate, time is on my side, I will get back. There is nowhere, not the smallest asteroid in our Solar System that can hold me.”

“Your destination is not inside our Solar System.”

“What do you…”

“Your trajectory is away from our Solar System.

“But…”

“The nuclear blast will continue that trajectory and eventually accelerate you out of our Galaxy.”

“The Hell!?”

“Our calculations predict a minimum of fifteen billion years before you encounter another object.”

“You can’t do this!”

“Enjoy your immortality.”

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Clarity

Clarity
D. Paul Angel
848 Words

It was a capriciously Spring day. Rain came and went in bursting sheets, necessitating my jacket, even though it was uncomfortably warm to wear. Inside the bank I simply held it, its fabric being too slick to stay tied around my waist. I awkwardly shifted it hand to hand, a nervous, near constant leapfrogging with my deposit slip and envelope.

The line moved glacially. I studied the intricate paisleys brightly interwoven throughout the carpet, and wondered how much the view would change when I was closer to the brass pole holding the stained, velvet rope.

I looked up at the CLACK CLACK CLACK of a metal cane hitting the open door’s aluminum frame. The cane’s white and red paint was scratched and chipped, especially towards its lower third. Its owner was a woman who appeared younger at first glance, older at second glance, and unplaceable with further scrutiny.

She easily found the end of the line and, despite her opaquely black sunglasses, appeared to smile and nod at my attentions. I smiled back awkwardly before taking advantage of the line’s movement to look away.

As I was studying the herringbone on the tweed jacket of my predecessor in line, I heard harsh, barking shouts and rough feet clumping into the bank at a trot. Three masked men stood before us, menacing us with black, angular rifles and pistols tucked behind their belts.

Everyone began going to the ground but I found myself frozen. I knew, deeply, that if I hadn’t chosen the restroom before the bank I would have wet myself right there. I was certain they would kill me for standing, but I could not summon enough will to move.

Then I realized none of them were looking at me.

Nor was I alone in standing.

The lady with the cane had left the line and headed towards them. Rifles to shoulders; they coldly fixed her in their sights.

Her head slowly shook. It shook neither in fear nor intimidation; ignorance nor resignation. Her head shook with sadness. Terrible, absolute, sadness. The kind of deep sorrow that attends the finality of a too long struggle, when tears have wept themselves to extinction.

“Please,” she said with quiet sternness, “it is not yet too late.”

The leader derisively cycled his rifle in intimidation, his grin obvious even through his mask. The unspent round bounced twice on the carpet’s short pile before ricocheting with a TING off of one of the brass line posts.

In the silence that followed you could barely hear her utter a sharp TSK before slamming her cane straight down with so much force the air itself warped, twisting upon itself; wrapping itself, and then finally unbinding itself in three, quick, blinks of an eye.

The men dropped.

One, the furthest, simply lay quiet.

The other two held hands to their heads, their faces contorting in the rigors of silent, agonizing screams.

The last two, mercifully, finally stilled their thrashing and a funereal quietus soaked into the lobby. I alone still stood, and no one else appeared to be ready to cease from their exhorted torpor.

“What did you to them?” I asked her, surprising myself by talking.

“I did nothing to them,” she replied simply, as her head swiveled to face me. She walked towards me and continued, “They did it to themselves.”

“Did what?”

“Feel, of course.”

“What you did to the air with your cane?” I asked confused. And afraid.

“Interesting.” She cocked her in head thought before continuing, “You saw the Clarity.”

“Clarity?”

“Pure, unfiltered clarity. Their life as Balance. Every hurt, every fear, every horror they have ever visited on anyone, and everyone, in their life, they felt.

“Fully and instantly; knowing beyond doubt they were the cause.”

“So they were overcome by their guilt?” I asked, and then noticing that the furthest robber was the only one beginning to move, added, “What about him?”

“It is Balance. The agonies they caused are balanced by those they have endured. For him, hope yet remains.”

“What are you? A witch? Sorceress? Angel?”

“I am what I need to be,” she answered with what I suddenly knew was unimpeachable veracity.

I began to open my mouth as a logiarrheaic flow of questions forming, before her stern visage closed it. Instead I found myself nodding and smiling to her in farewell.

She walked out the door, her figure lost in the glare of the low, late afternoon Sun. The third gunman rose in her shadowy wake, divested himself of weapons, and blearily followed her.

Though the customers and tellers remained bound to the floor, the other two masked men began to rise. Freed of my invisible shackles I went and helped each of them up. Distrustful eyes glared at me before softening and looking at their weapons with confusion.

I helped them pile their weapons in a heap; watching with a smile as the leader retrieved the shell he had ejected earlier. With a shaking hand he placed it atop the pile.

We left the bank together, it not yet being too late.

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Puppy Love

Puppy Love
D. Paul Angel
714 Words

Barras slowly opened the control room door. He’d seen the light in the lab, but no one was supposed to be here this late. He cringed when he saw Pelcher at the controls. Yes, he was a superior, but he was also an ass and Barras had had a long enough day as it was. “What the Hell are you doing Pelcher!?” he heard himself shout, far angrier than he had realized.

“Oh it’s you,” Pelcher said with a sneer. “I’m doing whatever the Hell I want.”

“Lab’s closed, Pelcher,” Barras continued walking to the control panel. When he realized Pelcher had the force field prototype fully engaged he added, “You can’t be running this! We don’t have another test scheduled for days.”

Pelcher turned from the controls confronting Barras with a hard index finger straight to the chest. “I can do whatever the hell I want in my Goddamned lab! I’m the one who got the defense contracts. I’m the one who obtained the urban test facility, and I’m the one who authorizes your pittance of a salary!”

Barras’ fist clenched but his reply changed abruptly when he finally noticed the dog in the test area. He pushed past Pelcher to get a closer look through the special, thick glass.

The dog was actually a puppy. It looked like a pitbull and it was running in circles around the forcefield, lunging at it continuously despite being thrown away each time. Barras looked incredulously at Pelcher, who started laughing.

“That’s the kid’s puppy isn’t it? Where is she, Pelcher?”

“In the forcefield of course. She tried getting money from me again and that flea ridden mongrel snapped at me after I slapped her.”

“You slapped her!? Jesus Pelcher, she’s just a girl! Not even a teen yet! Jesus…”

“She wants to be on the streets, she needs to know who her betters are,” Pelcher said dismissively. “So I’m teaching her. She grabbed hermuttbefore I could kick it and said, ‘Nothing could come between them.’

“Nothing, eh? So I bet her $20 against her mutt that I could keep them apart for 10 minutes.” Pelcher looked at his watch, “Another minute and half and I can get rid of it for good. Maybe even both?”

Barras looked at the controls in disgust as Pelcher laughed again before launching into a NASAesque countdown. Barras’ disgust suddenly turned to fear as he saw the readout, “Jesus Pelcher, you overrode the safety protocols!”

“So?”

“So, you’re already at 175% capacity!”

“That’s- That’s impossible! We hit the force field with a battleship round at point blank range and it only spiked to 91%. Hell, in theory not even a railgun could push it past 110%.”

“Shut it down, Pelcher, shut it down! Shut it down now!”

“And lose to street turd? Hell no.”

Barras tried pushing him away to shut it down himself when he saw the puppy jump ever more frantically; each hit raising the load that much more. Out of instinct he ducked just as he saw the puppy take running lunge, even as Pelcher derisively resumed his countdown in the 30’s.

Barras woke against the far wall, well away from the control panel where’d been before the blinding flash and shuddering BANG! He could see Pelcher knocked out too, his legs at an odd angle, but the kid was in the center of the lab unscathed. The puppy was in her lap, happily licking her face. The engineer in him realized that being in the epicenter of the blast had completely protected them both.

Barras awoke again, unsure how long he’d been unconscious this time. He hadn’t smelled the burning circuits, plastic, and wires before. He remembered Pelcher’s arrogant stupidity more clearly though, and was even more grateful to be alive. He turned his head back to Pelcher and saw the kid and the puppy standing over him. Pelcher, pinned by a chunk of concrete and twisted I-beam,was haphazardly trying to shoo them away. The kid easily ignored Pelcher’s weak efforts and began kicking him repeatedly. As the ringing in Barras’ ears slowly ebbed he began to make out her shouts, “WHERE’S MY TWENTY BUCKS ASSHOLE!?”

Barras soon passed out again, but not before he had the satisfaction of seeing the puppy lift his leg…

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