came before to lie and steal

There was a time when the time was when. There is a place where there was a place and there is also a place where there is no place there, nor is any no there, there, because as the words said it said, so, so there.

He repeated the question. Who are you?

She answered with silence, at first, and then spoke out loud: I can feel the spirit of the lord moving here, and so my brothers and my sisters I know that we are on the edge of truth. Let us pray we understand who each other are. She held out her hand to the local leader, asking him to step up beside her and lead the people in prayer.

He smiled and stepped back. First, sister, we must ask you if you are knowing the woman who came here five years ago pretending to be a prophet and was in fact a mechanical robot with silk skin and moving eyes.

She stopped again, and held her silence for a long moment, frowning.

I know who you are talking about, father; help me find her, please.


She is the embodiment of all that is wrong with the machine people. False religion and electric power.

But now you are talking like one of them!

I was their prisoner for ten years, reverend father.

The muttering noise of the crowd of hunters around them was changing tone, now. She could feel them understanding that she was not one of those things, those abominations that walked like men.

All right then. The local man stood up beside her on the large, flat rock.

People. You have heard what we have said here, meeting this stranger. Do you agree with me that she is not the evil one, or one of his servants?

They answered yes and yes and yes and yes.

Let us pray, therefore, that this woman can pass freely through our land and find the evil one who lied to us and seduced us.

Amen the people said.


The Birthday Blues.

I used to think my birthday was cursed.

Not in the beginning, of course, because when I was a child, I was very fortunate. My family could cook, fix a special dinner, and give me a gift. Sometimes, not every year, but sometimes, I even had a birthday party. Young friends and family. You can still see the old photos when I was six, or something, and something else. Once, or maybe twice, we went to the beach. My favorite, Scripps.

Then, in my early twenties, some bad things happened on my birthday. I remember how a young woman asked me to talk with her and began telling me how she had been raped a few days ago. I listened. For maybe two hours. Once or twice I held her hand. Somewhere in there she asked me if I wanted her to go away. No, I said, you need to tell this to someone. She did not know it was my birthday. Five years later my pet guinea pig fell off the balcony two flights down onto the ground and broke its back in Washington DC. That was when my first wife said my birthday was cursed.

For three or four decades after that, I made my birthday into a day of atonement. I joked with people I knew and told them I feared my birthday was cursed. But the truth is it is I who am, and by saying the words I make it come true. Bad fortune that. Better to say the good words. Happy Birthday.

Finally, my last girlfriend, la Ultima, broke the curse.

First, she laughed and said I was a crazy bohemian artist there is no such thing as a birthday being cursed, there is only people who can choose whether to be happy, or not.

In vain I pointed out that it was very close to the day of atonement.

You are not Jewish, she reminded me. Yet I married one, I said. Well, then you are but it still does not matter because your birthday is your birthday and my birthday is my birthday and I can choose to be happy, and so can you… not just to be positive, but to plan to do something special, no, yes we must go someplace wonderful, and yes, eat a dinner. So I will invite you, my big beloved poet. You just let me take care of everything.

So we ended up sitting on the bench outside the door at a fancy restaurant because she forgot to make a reservation. Then we went to another place I’d heard about, Argentine, but it was already late by then and they were closing. So we went across to that famous place at the corner near the seventh-floor penthouse where Luis used to live.

After that, my birthday was not so cursed any more… except in my memory. She had taken away the grief from me and cried in my arms. Next week was hers. We went to Disneyland.