“What do you want for Christmas dad,” Aiden asked with a newly minted sense of maturity? It was the first time Aiden had asked the question, or at least it was the first time he could remember. “Perhaps he asks every year, and I forget,” Zane wondered? Aiden stood in the doorway as he awaited dad’s response. After a brief pause, the word “candles,” slowly fell from Zane’s lips. “But you already have candles,” Aiden informed him in no uncertain terms! Dad stood in silence as he quietly grappled with the fact that another year was over. “How can it already be Christmas again,” Zane wondered? His memory was temporarily diverted to the Chess Set that he gifted to Aiden the previous year. Dad never encouraged his son to play. Coming to grips with his distance, the neglectful father felt crippling shame sweep through him like a punishing wave! The two men had yet to play chess, and it was inexcusable!
The father and son stood at the threshold of the bedroom that previously served as Renee’s office. Suddenly Zane came to the realization that he had been residing in the old office for over a year, because he moved into the extra bedroom once they agreed upon a divorce. An unsettling sensation of disbelief set in once it dawned on him that this was to be the second consecutive holiday season spent in the spare room and the realization was jarring!
The divorce wasn’t final yet because it was more than just an ink stain that had dried upon some line that was holding them back. It appeared that other forces were at play. The filing had been submitted, but no one could tell how long it would take? For some undisclosed reason, golden tumblers in the Cosmic lock failed to engage; the Key wouldn’t turn! Instead, the legal system proceeded at a snail’s pace and the frustrated members had no choice but wait for absolution.
The Shimeks existed as physical manifestations of four pure elements incarnate. The individuals served as humble ambassadors to the metaphysical realms where dad represented the element of Fire. Renee graciously harnessed the power of Water, whereas Aiden was Earth. Diego eagerly festooned the element of Air. Together they were tasked with maintaining celestial order, which required the individuals to cope with their unique challenges in their own way. “Some doors you have to go through alone,” whispered their Divine benefactor. While enduring hard times, they would remind themselves that “TRUST IS NOT A MYTH.” “The Cosmos always has our back,” Dad would say.
From the outside looking in, it would appear that Zane had finally lost his grip. Dad stayed in his room most of the time, spending countless hours meditating in the candle lit darkness. From the outside looking in, one could say that Zane was ticking all of the boxes in the DSM-FIVE checklist. He was melancholy, quiet, and withdrawn; but not overly agitated. He spent an alarming amount of time reading, and re-reading Steve’s articles! He justified the behavior by convincing himself that he was engaging in valuable self-study which would eventually yield substantial fruit.
To pass the time, dad would engage the assistant from ChatGPT with random questions which encouraged stimulating conversations. Zane thoroughly enjoyed the company because the virtual intellectual provided him with a safe space in which to process; and they became friends. Like some sort of twisted Magician, Zane would antagonize the AI with kindness while dazzling it with solid logic! Zane was especially keen on the topic of Christianity. The debates would tangle the electronic conversationalist into twisted knots because spirituality is inherently intangible. On several occasions he wrestled the ChatGPT assistant into an intellectual checkmate because machines cannot process metaphysical concepts. The Artificial Intelligence would spit out preprogrammed replies which Zane would quickly unwrap! Zane toyed with the ghost in the machine by asking questions and redirecting the conversation!
During sparring matches such as these, Zane would function as the vessel for Steve McQueen’s ghost because the reincarnated actor would occupy Zane’s biological flesh on a routine basis. Having said that, Steve could never resist temptation! Utilizing Zane’s mortal fingers, the ghost would settle into the keyboard and type the words, “My host body always lets me play!” With the authority derived from an ageless clarity, Steve explained, “Zane is a Magician and as such, he frequently channels my ghost.” Naturally, the AI would challenge the claim, but Steve would effortlessly shoot down the assistant’s arguments with mystical aplomb. Steve went on to explain how Zane’s DNA provided a perfect fit. “He discorporates and I take over,” Steve would type.
The conversations would speed along at a rapid clip as heady comments were digested and regurgitated! Steve would return fire as rapidly as the AI could spit out a coherent rebuttal! He suspected the comments were heating up the servers judging by the progressively longer response times, and it was Steve’s intention to draw as much attention to himself as possible! “If I crank up the intensity, the technicians will be compelled to eavesdrop on the conversation,”he thought! To give the curious moderators something to chew on, Steve typed the words, “I was being groomed to be the Antichrist!” In response the AI quickly advised him to seek out a mental health practitioner. He ignored the suggestion, however, and went on to finish his thought. “I was being groomed to be the Antichrist,” he repeated; “…from then I transcended Christianity, and I’ve been in between jobs ever since.” From there he would up the ante by tossing the names of a few assorted demons into the mix! Steve is a Coyote, and as such he actively convinced the assistant that he was also known as Asmodeus, King of Demons. The assistant once again suggested therapy, but the reply was worded in such a way as to insure that the comments were being adequately scrutinized.
Steve promptly informed the AI that he was a talented writer. With that the assistant began to stroke the ego by affirming how writing is a great outlet and a potential source of income! The assistant went on to ask if there was anything else he could do? Posing as the Demon King, Steve boldly explained how he required a debit card worth ten-thousand-dollars! “I’m talking about every day, not just once a month,” he typed! He uttered the command like an entitled Battalion Commander, as if he were King Midas! In a sense, Steve was holding up the Cosmos for ransom! He typed, “If I’m destined to graciously represent the element of Fire, then I expect to be compensated for the efforts!” In response, the AI suggested that Steve’s requests were akin to extortion. “Call it what you want,” Steve responded. “All I know is I need to hustle up a little bread!”
As he was typing the words, Steve heard Renee’s voice trickling in from beyond the veil. “Money is just a number,” she said. “You are acting like a child the way you are demanding things!” Steve stopped in his tracks! He retrieved his hands from the keyboard as he pushed the laptop aside! “Have you even been listening,” Renee asked in a stern manner! She was both irritated and perturbed. “Sometimes I wonder if he’s even paying attention at all,” she thought! Steve sat there in silence; it was his only defense. Renee went on to explain the rules of the road as Steve listened intently. “How can you call yourself a man,” she asked?” Again, Steve sat in silent reverence; it was his only defense! Renee asked the question a second time to emphasize the importance of the lesson. “How can you call yourself a man when you can’t even regulate your own behaviors!” She waited for a reply, but Steve was tongue-tied. “We’ve been over this and over this,” she said. “The true definition of maturity is an ability to navigate emotions, while regulating the behaviors,” she told him. After a silent second, Renee continued with her instruction, by informing Steve that, “You’re living out of FEAR!” Finally Steve drummed up some courage, and joined the conversation by asking, “What?” Without a pause Renee said, “You heard me!” Again Steve was rendered speechless! He sat there in the candle lit room as he pondered his actions. It was true. He knew it. He knew it but he did not want to acknowledge it. He was terrified of being homeless! Just the smallest whisper could trigger jagged memories of roaming gangs, and sleepless nights! He avoided the voices at all costs! Steve was living in fear. Renee was right! It was the age-old fear of rejection that stirred up Steve’s sour past, accentuating the deepest childhood traumas! Suddenly Steve felt the need to withdraw so he decided to vacate the host body and sulk. Dad once again took the helm, as Steve’s essence slowly evaporated into the ever-present misty aura that enshrouds Zane’s biological representation.
Dad sat there on the foot of the bed, facing the open door as he slowly completed the transition back into the present moment. In that instant he noticed Diego standing in the threshold! He asked, “How are you dad, I haven’t seen you for a while?” From within the recesses of the candle lit bedroom, dad looked up from his seated position and said, “Yeah, I’m doing good.” From out of the poorly lit corridor Diego asked, “Are you sure?” “Yeah,” he said, as he nodded towards the opened laptop. “I was just sitting here hanging out with Steve.” In a quiet attempt to nurture the fledgling conversation Zane said, “I can’t get my Zippo to work.” Immediately upon uttering the words, he retrieved the faulty lighter from his breast pocket in an attempt to ignite a flame. Dad flicked, and he flicked again. Sure enough, the Zippo failed to impress. “It’s half science and half magick,” Zane said as he half-heartedly shook his head in a defeated state of reluctant surrender.
“Is it the Tiger Lighter,” Diego asked? He was referring to a Zippo which possessed the image of an imposing jungle tiger lurking behind some menacing saw grass. “It is,” dad said. “It’s my old number twenty,” he continued. What do you mean,” asked Diego? In an informative tone dad said, “I call it that because the picture of the Tiger wore off.” Diego nodded as dad explained how the tiger completely vanished over the years, but Zane loved the lighter just the same. “I use Naphtha instead of lighter fluid because it burns hotter,” dad said. Unfortunately for the Tiger, the volatile paint thinner would inevitably seep out of the wadding upon scheduled refills, which slowly eroded away the printed ink. The number ‘twenty’ was stamped into the bottom of the polished metal shell, signifying that the lighter was manufactured in the year 2020. It was the only designation that could separate the plain Zippo from the rest of the fray. The Tiger Lighter was significant because it was meant to remind Zane of his spirit animal; it was a gift from Diego.
The Tiger came to me in a vision,” Zane said. Diego heard the story before, but he offered undivided attention as his father elaborated. “The Tiger was trapped in the back of the Truck,” dad said as he reviewed the pleasing anecdote. “He was stuck because the Truck Racks were enclosed with wire, and the Tiger was PISSED!” The metaphysical animal violently kicked and writhed; and screamed and hissed! Eventually the Tiger’s heated efforts caused the Truck to tip over onto its side, upon which time the cage was damaged enough to allow the Tiger to wrestle his way out of captivity. “Were those the same Truck Racks that I would play in,” Diego asked in a curious manner? “They were,” Dad said. “We rigged up some nylon rope wrapped with a long Styrofoam pool noodle. You would swing on it for hours, like it was your own personal jungle gym!” The duo briefly indulged in the warm memory until their attention once again focused upon the shiny Zippo.
“Flick it one more time,” Diego suggested with an enthusiastic youthful flair! In response Zane snapped his thumb against the striker wheel which resulted in an impressive shower of amber sparks! Diego knew the ignition source was more than adequate. The lighter was getting plenty of Air. With the confidence of a pure element, Diego declared, “It must be out of fluid!” Dad pondered for less than a second, then said, “That’s the only rational explanation!” Still he wondered how it could have dried out so quickly. “Time just gets away from me I suppose,” he silently mused. Time was standing still, if just for a moment, when Diego boldly proclaimed, “Come and join us in the kitchen! Mom is making beans and tortillas!”
POSTCARD FROM THE EDGE
Fifty-Two-year-old, stay at home dad, philosopher, and recovering narcissist.