Bottles, Bonfires, and the Beauty of Life

The celebrations of the New Years were drowned in glitter, glee, and gin. Twinkling lights from the ever-bright sign that rang in the year of 2016 was too bright for my drunken eyes to take. The gaggle of drunken heathens that I called my brethren sways by the winds of the winter wind. Biting and bitter, we felt only the sweet liquor course through our screaming veins as they cried for air. That was the catalyst of the year where the fall of our rum-infused Rome crumbled before our eyes.

Minutes melded into months while moments faded to nothing. Projections of aspiration fell to the wayside and, as the sober side of conscious pleaded for some sense of success, it was always mute to the gushing sounds of the ever-flowing music that was the emptying of various bottles. Dreams dabbled to nonexistence and I was headed there.

On the cusp of Southern summer sat a bonfire on the edge of society. Flames and embers danced in the pale moonlight around the people too drastically drunk to care. The sound of a wild night was the symphony that was heard through that abandoned field. It was the sound of a God that had looked down on the poor and the damned with contempt with a hint of forgiveness. It was only in the fading of the dark night did my mind become lost in the haze of honey whiskey and humbling silence.

The beeps of the machines woke me from my sweet, sorrowful sleep. Two parents, a doctor, and a room full of regret was the scene of my life that none should live yet too many do. Hot tears rolled down through my broken heart hoping only to have it healed by my pain. As I left through the doors my midnight misery, I vowed never to feel the kiss of the devil’s drink.

A clear, sober mind was meant to attend a wedding of a friend of four years. As she married the man under the ivy-strewn altar, my heart fluttered at the sight of a woman that woefully left my life long ago. Her smile sprang serene beginnings and, although we were both coy, the future of my life was never as fortunate.

Forging the family once falling to the edges of my mind by the lures of liquor, my family was a mighty as the day God made us. My heart has regained its purpose with the dreams that had been dreamed of so very long ago.

Three, two, one…Happy New Year! I glanced over at the woman across the cocktail table we sat at. Through all the nonsense of noise, we kissed in the strobe lights of a club that ceased to exist. It was the kiss that was meant for the wedding that seemed to happen so long ago. The year of 2017 was upon us. I have seen the door of death and I’ve chosen to step away from it. Family, friends, and her…my life is forever loving and forever free.

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

Puffs from the incense fill the office lit by the rising sun. As it mixes with the steam from the coffee, I can hear the needle hit the vinyl before my speakers crackle to life.

It is a Monday. More importantly, it’s my Monday.

“How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?” That first line from Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits album gets to me every time. Just enough to feel the hairs on your arm stand on end and make you wonder just what the hell you’re doing.

On an odd topic, would you mind if I tell you my dream? I feel as though I should ask before I just decide to drown you out with what I remember from last night.

I’ll admit that there are more times than not that I don’t dream anything at all. To think of it, it’s a such a pain not to see anything other than the back of my eyelids. However, when I do dream, I remember.

I could hear the hums of cars downtown in the city. A brisk wind hit my bare hands and the side of my face. Shoving my hands into the pockets of my peacoat, I walked down the street with nothing but time and a lack of sense. There was no place that I had to go right then.

Honestly, I should’ve known right then that it was a dream.

My headphones that I always keep on me weren’t in my pocket that day. I searched each one and came up with nothing. There was no sense of dread as to where I left them. I just remember hearing an old teacher commenting on my obsession.

“You know what I think about headphones?” I shook my head. “I say, if you’re gonna go through life, might as well go through it to your own soundtrack.”

Hell, as I write that, I smiled.

I could feel the feet of fall tracking on my heels as I walked alone on that sidewalk. Cracked and crackled, weeds popped from the openings. My brown boots clacked onto the noisy streets.

It was then that I could smell some of the best damn coffee I could ever remember. It was something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The steam was trailing from a little cafe on the corner. The glow of a pink neon sign looped into the letters that said:

THE LION’S DEN. ALL WELCOME, MOST LEAVE.

I’m not sure what compelled me but I had to enter.

Inside was my childhood fantasy and my heaven. There sat Hemingway with Salinger and T.S. Eliot. Tolkien with C.S. Lewis. Shelley with Wolfe. God damn there were so many that I admired.

Not a word was spoken. Not a peep, not a sound in the entire joint. Just the scribbling of their pens on the different pads of papers in front of them. I didn’t want to look like a damn fool so I sat down at the empty table by the door.

The wooden chair with the frayed green cloth creaked as I sat down. A cup of coffee was given to me by a young man no older than 17. There was something in his eyes that screamed for others to look at him in desperation.

It was a look all too familiar.

A pad of paper was in front of me with nothing written on it. I don’t know why but I’ve always had this compulsion to write anything I think of on anything blank. Anything blank for the creative is a crime.

I patted my pockets in search of a pen with no luck. The only things left on the table was a stack of paper, a coffee getting colder by the second,  and a small knife; a small knife with the edges worn down by being overused.

As much as I went to every table asking for a pen, they didn’t look up from their pad. Not a single one would acknowledge my damn existence. At this point, I was starting to get frustrated. Before I made it back to the table, I saw the waiter with his pen write down something on my paper. At the bottom edge, he wrote, “Write.”

I wanted to ask him for his pen but he was gone by the time I looked back up.

I must’ve sat there for sometime. As the day passed, the people in the cafe didn’t move from their chair. I kept milling around looking over their shoulders in admiration yet my pad remained empty.

Every idea that I came up with was just derived and had no soul to it.

I couldn’t take it anymore.

Grabbing the knife, I slit my wrist onto the table.

Watching the pool of blood coursing over the table, I wasn’t afraid. I dipped the edge of the knife into blood and began to write on the paper. There was no numbness. Only pain and honesty.

I wrote all that was born and all that was dead inside of me. I finally collapsed onto the table. The shuffling of chairs were heard throughout the cafe. They made their way to my table to read my work.

The last thing I remembered before blacking out and coming to was one of them saying, “It’s not good. Yet, it’s honest. That’s a good start.”

It broke my heart.

So I woke up today wondering what the hell that was for. Was there some truth in all of that? I’d like to think so.

As my mentor Professor Carter has repeatedly told me, “You don’t have the scars right now to write something heartbreaking.” He’s not wrong. The only thing I can ever hope for is to write the way that I feel.

And the way that I feel is that I have more to give to this world than I could ever dream of. It may be shit, it may be brilliant.

The more important thing will be that it’s mine.

Bob Dylan stopped singing long after I’m still writing this damn blog post. I cannot help but be curious as to what the future will hold for me. Will it be beautiful? Will it be beastly?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

Stupidity vs. Ignorance

Hello my friends! Welcome to another installment of Brandon King’s personal thoughts.

Today, I’d like to talk to you about something that I believe has plagued people since the dawn of man. No matter where you might run to, it’ll always be there. Much like the sand people of Star Wars, they’ll usually come back and in greater numbers.

Of course, I’m talking about ignorant people.

I can already hear people’s knuckles cracking as I’m writing this. You’re probably wondering if he’s going to call out specific people. You might even be lining up your defenses to say that every person has their dumb moments and we should be more accepting of that.

If you’re wondering either one of those ideas, let me stop you right now.

There is a difference between stupidity and ignorance. Stupidity is not knowing a subject matter but possessing the capacity to learn it in the future. For example, I could be considered stupid when it comes to car repair but that doesn’t mean that I’ll be stupid until my dying days. It just means that, as of that moment, I’m not as educated. In the end, it all comes down to the connotation behind the words we use.

Stupidity has its merits. Ignorance has none.

Ignorance is unwillingness to be educated in a subject and claim to be an expert. Ignorance is not allowing for other ideas to even come into the conversation; conversations that might change your entire perception of the world around you.

You can defend stupidity. You cannot defend ignorance.

I will be the first to admit that I have done and said more stupid things than intelligent things. In fact, if there was a chart to prove it, I would gladly put it in the link. That being said, I’m never going to claim myself to be the most intelligent man in the room at any given point. The ones who have to claim that and have to prove it are typically the ones that aren’t at all.

The blessing that stupidity has is that it can be forgiven. As we continue to grow, our stupidity over different subjects will grow smaller by the year. At least, I hope it does. Ignorance is something different entirely. It’s one of those things that acts more like a cancer more than anything.

Allow me to explain.

Do you have that radical family member that’s still claiming that President Obama is a Muslim who is working for ISIS? Is there someone in your life that thinks that ever single idea they have is pure gold and everyone else is dumb for not thinking of it first? Have you met someone who thinks their an expert on a subject because they read the Wikipedia page on it?

Exactly my point.

They’re the type of people that will make your eyes roll hard enough to give you whiplash. But let’s be clear on something: no one is always right and no one is always wrong. It’s one of those bastard blessings that life gave us from the beginning. Where my problem lies is when people claim to have all the answers and no one must question them.

Come to think of it, I’ve heard talks like that before. Hitler…Vlad the Impaler…King Henry VIII…Interesting.

Should we let people be ignorant in their own right if they are by themselves? Hell no. The funny thing about ignorance is that it’s as contagious as any virus could ever dream of. If I blindly said that Jesus should have had a gun on him because then he wouldn’t have died like that, there would be someone in the world that would be back me up.

Is that not terrifying to you?

How do we combat stupidity? By education.

How do we defeat ignorance? By shining a light on it and allowing the world to see it for what it is: unchecked, unfiltered stupidity backed by pseudo intelligence.

I’m not saying that anyone is purely stupid. What I will say is that you should live your life in pursuit to learn everything you can and take nothing for granted.

Until next time,

Brandon King

The Green Mug

I don’t know what broke first: The sunrise or I.

Light was poking through the dark bedroom that July morning. The thermostat already read 81 degrees and I was already exhausted. Strung across my bare chest was a woman’s warm. Her dark red curls were tucked underneath my right shoulder as I lie awake.

There was no more pain on her face. Not like night before had been anyways. The redness in her face had faded only to leave faint streaks where some tears had fallen. I couldn’t blame her yet neither could she with me.

I adjusted myself to the side of our cluttered bed. As I was placing my foot on the ground, I hesitated. Pictures were strung across the bedroom floor in cluttered packs. They were separated not by year but by sentimentality. It was sickening. It was sweet.

The house felt dead that morning, that’s for sure. If it weren’t for the breaths and hints of a snore or two, you’d think it was gone for the graveyard. I got up and put on my checkered pajama bottoms and jacket from my time in high school.

Truth be told, I hadn’t grown much since that time. Only my reasoning, some weight on the side and my budding taste for beer could tell me from the young. Grabbing my blinking phone, I slipped from the room.

The last things I saw was her beautiful body in my bed and the black pressed tux hanging by the closet doorknob. A thin, black tie draped over the front and a pair of polished shoes to match. It made me sicker than I had been in some time.

Sounds of my bare feet echoed through cluttered hallway. Toys were thrown from one side of the two-man hallway to the next. It was as though I was walking through a minefield. Not to mention the wood flooring, any clatter that I would’ve made might as well of sounded like a gunshot. Judging by my state over those past few days, they might have thought the same thing.

They’ll never understand it and I pray they never do for some time.

After I checked on the kids, I kept my head down towards my feet while I made my way out of the lone hallway. I couldn’t bare to look at the pictures and those damned still faces looking back at me. Their smiles said one thing yet it was what’s behind it all that kills me.

My wife was so wonderful to me. Even after all the chaos of the family getting together after the church, after my meltdown, she still took the time to clean the living room.

“We want it clean but we want it to look alive. It’s a living room for a reason, son.”

I shivered violently. You could hear him as clear as I hear him now.

The phone continued to blink a green light from the top right corner. Tossing it away on the couch, I walked into the kitchen. What I’m about to tell you might sound odd and downright insane but please, listen.

As I do every morning, I make a fresh pot of Colombian coffee every morning. I sleepily grabbed the handle expecting it to be empty. I damn near dropped the thing because of how full it was.

It was a pot that was almost full, minus a single cup.

Thinking back, I don’t remember making a pot nor do I remember making myself a cup of coffee. Not a smell, not a sound of it at all. Frankly, it hadn’t been the strangest thing that had happened all week so I numbly went along with it. I went to grab my green mug and noticed that it was gone as well. Reaching for the blue and grey one instead, I poured myself a dark brew.

Before I turned my back on the kitchen, I noticed a small wisp of smoke that came from the back porch. There was enough to make me take a second look but, like a dream, it was gone as soon as it came.

Uneasy, I stepped into the living room and picked up my phone. Seven voicemails and one missed call. It was a mere tossup as to who the other six might have been but I knew the one that was missing; the same one that’s missing even now. The phone slammed onto the table face down. My body tensed as I lost control. The last thing that I wanted to do was wake them before this god damn day decided to show itself.

On the coffee table were manuscripts and essays that had been heavily marked with red ink. All of them placed into a neat stack of paper next to her romance novel and a copy of the Holy Bible. Out of the three, I had only truly explored one. After that day, I’d explore the other.

My mind continued to roam across the vast room. Every piece of art, every single aspect of my life had been dictated by my words. It had built the very life that surrounded me. Yet I owed it all to the man that had been gone from my life. Not by his choice but through mine.

With each stroke of my pen, I felt the rock in my throat bob up and down. I shut my eyes and waited for the wave to pass.

That was when I heard him.

“What would you do if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me?” Oh God, it was so clear, so perfect. My glossy eyes turned to the backdoor and saw the wisps of smoke rising. A shadow rested on the pavement and rocked back and forth.

I hadn’t been on the back porch with anyone since my early 20’s. It was a time that I wished that I could get back and that I had listened to him when he said not to grow so damn fast. God damn him for being right…

Staggering, I came to the door. My heart screamed an pain not felt since the week before. There, by the light of a rising morning sat a bald man with a clean old band t-shirt, a pair of pressed shorts and tanned slippers with white fur on the inside. His hand rested on the green mug as looked over the fence towards the horizon.

It wasn’t until he looked over his shoulder and smiled that I lost everything.

I burst through the door and fell to my knees. His eyes never left me.

“D-Dad? What-what are you-”

“Hey slick, good to see you again. Did you get your coffee?” He took a sip and pat my hand. I shook and cried harder than I ever had. It’s a shame. Even now, I remember hoping that no one else would show up. This was my Dad and it was our time together. I nodded like an idiot. Grabbing my cup, I sat down next to him.

Not a word was spoken for about five minutes or so. It was a moment in which all the words of all the worlds could’ve been said. Yet they weren’t. Dad was the first to speak.

“Do you know why I’m here and not there?” he said with all the peace in the world. I said nothing. “I figured. It’s okay, pal. That’s what I’m here for. I hope you don’t mind me snagging a cup from you. Green was always my favorite before you snagged that from me.” We both laughed. Mine was more fanatic than I care to admit.

“Son?”

“Y-yeah Dad?”

“Do you think you’re going crazy right now?” I nodded shamefully. “Who knows, you may be. But that’s not for me to say, really. All I know for sure is that you have a long day ahead of you today. Hell, I should know. I have a long life ahead of me and so do you. That’s something that we hold in common, you and I. The only difference is that I can’t change anything that’s in front of me. What’s done is done for good.”

“Dad, I’m..I’m just so sorry. For everything. I knew that it was only a matter of time but I couldn’t tear myself away. Things around here got so god damn busy that I couldn’t think about what I needed to do or who I needed to see. I don’t want you think-”

“I want you to stop right there. I want you to think back to what you just said. How many times did you just say “I” with anything?” This took me back for a second. “See, it’s easy to get caught up in “I’s” as opposed to “We’s” or “Us’s”. Much less, “Them”. But that’s not what I’m here for. I’m not here to make you feel like the worst piece of shit. That’s on you. I want you to do me a favor, son. Can you do that?” My tears were making it hard for me to focus on anything.

“I want you to live. Making the “right” decisions isn’t always the “right” move. Make mistakes and dare to dream for once. Making money is one thing but making a legacy of love and family is something that people can dream of. You can make money doing damn near anything but it’s family and love that come by only once in a while. Love as though your life depends on it and it just might. I’m here because of your love for me, right? I know I’m to be in the ground today but that doesn’t mean I’m dead. I’m not one to get religious on anyone but I do believe in the power of love. I’m not gone, son. I never will be. So long as love is in your heart for someone, they’ll never be dead. I love you bud. Always.”

He sat back and let go of my hand. With a hearty sip of coffee, he sat up. I was blown away. I could feel the heat of the morning fading into a blistering afternoon. My wife was walking down the hall trying to put her earrings.

“Honey? Where are you?” she appeared in the doorway with a black dress on. “Baby, you got to get up. What are you doing out here?” The green cup was empty except for a dirty brown ring that was dried at the bottom. The chair that Dad had been sitting in was empty. Not even an indention in the seat.

An hour long trip trying to get the family moving, I couldn’t help but feel the tension in the car. They were waiting for me to burst but they didn’t hear my conversation with Dad.

By the time we had made it to the church, I noticed among the black crows sat a white dove on the electric wire. It looked at me the whole way into the church filled with people donned in black. Funny, I still remember thinking how odd it was to be smiling throughout the entire service. I remember laughing by the time was diverting away from the service and moving into a church sermon. There was something I couldn’t help but think about and it rang in my Dad’s tone.

“Hell, it was more a sermon than a service. If I wanted a church service, I’d say we dump the poor bastard in the ground and get on to praising God like you obviously want to do.”

The wooden carriage was lowered into the ground and we listened to the open road on the way back. I had a vice-grip on my wife’s hand as tears silently went down my cheek. I wasn’t too sad though. We had made it back to the house but I shouted for the kids to meet me in the kitchen. I asked them to put their phone away and to sit with me on the back porch and talk. Obviously they were hesitant at first. Hell, I was too when Dad had said the same thing.

We talked onto the night before we made our way back into the house that day.

I just remember leaving the green mug on the end table and the chair facing the east open.

Coffee and Jazz on a Southern Summer Morning

Hello my friends, Brandon King here with another rambling session on this Monday morning.

So I’m attempting to perform an experiment and, as my friends, I’d like you to come with me. The experiment is simple as it is fascinating. Hell, if you’d like to join in the conversation, you’re more than welcome to. The more the merrier, as they say.

Every morning, I would like to sit at this laptop and write my thoughts for the day. Here’s the catch, I want them to be unfiltered and all too true.

This will be a challenge of some sorts because, as we can all admit, we edit what we say on a regular basis. For the most part, there aren’t too many people that simply vomit what they think anymore. Not saying that’s a good thing; it’s just a fact. The fact of the matter is that I don’t want to do that anymore.

There comes a point that something can become so edited in the world that it almost becomes unrecognizable from the original. Like a bad face lift or a back-handed compliment.

Now, you might be asking yourself, “Shouldn’t people be honest all the time?”

You’re absolutely right. This idea also belongs in the same reality that we all agree and racism has ended, sexism has been done for some time and Republicans and Democrats meet in the street to praise freedom from and by government.

See what I mean?

Truth be told, we all want to be truthful all  the time. But think about this: When was the last time you told a white lie to someone? How long has it been since you’ve lied to yourself about something you knew to be true all along?

Believe me, it happens more often than you’d care to mention.

Yet, here I stand. Well more like sit down at this desk and write. Hence the coffee and the 1930’s jazz playing in the background. These words, these thoughts are all the first things that come to mind and all I want is just to be as real as real can be.

As I wrote that, I couldn’t help but have my old professor’s voice in my head. “If I’ve taught you people nothing, it’s this: First drafts are crap.” Professor Lippert would stand with his hands on his hips and preach this on almost a bi-weekly basis. Listen, the guy has some merits to that phrase.

But here’s where I disagree.

I think there’s something to be said about a first draft. It’s an unfiltered, unrefined product of the human intellect. A product of willful creativity. There’s something innately beautiful about that.

Don’t get me wrong, we all want something to be perfect to the best that it can be. However, let me propose a different perspective. Think about it like this: all the greatest people understood the rules and broke them all.

William Shakespeare did it with almost all of his plays.

Ernest Hemingway and J.D. Salinger did it with their writing styles.

Leonardo da Vinci did with his scientific and medical practices.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak did it with technological advances.

So why can’t you? Why can’t we do the same by being different?

If you’ve read any book from the past 100 years, you’ll understand an old phrase that’s been said since you were young. You know, the one that a disgruntled employee along with a mother of 3 kids all say in unison.

“Just the same shit, different day.” This saying always gets me.

If you get the same shit, different day, I’d change something. Call me old fashioned, shit never had a good taste to it.

See? Society has been dealing with the same problems just in different variations since we evolved from apes. Truly, the epitome of the shit-to-day ratio.

There’s got to be something to life that we simply aren’t understanding. Does it have to do with the masses or the individual?

I think the thing that gets me about people as a whole is that we all will pit each other against one another about issues that can be solved by logic. And, in the next breath, we all unite under issues that don’t matter.

Let me provide an example of what’s going on right now.

You have a government fighting about health care and whether it should be under what Obama’s administration had created or should it be taken away for something else. When, in all reality, healthcare shouldn’t be an issue that is backed by money.

Healthcare isn’t a capitalist gain. Healthcare is a human rights issue.

The government is locked in disagreement because one is backed by a red R and the other is backed by a blue D.

While all this going on, last night, I received three texts over the separation of actor Chris Pratt and actress Anna Faris. Not to mention the news reports all across the media boards about it. The nation unified in this sense of mourning over this charismatic couple.

No, I’m not saying that the ending of the marriage isn’t sad. What I’m saying is that, no offense, there’s more pressing issues at hand.

I have a theory as to why we do this. Perhaps it has to deal with our willingness to deal with what’s in front of us. Thankfully, we’re all wired different from the get-go. Some of us want to tackle what’s in front of us head-on while some want to let it linger until the right time. Hell, there’s some people that won’t touch it at all.

Can we say, as a society, that we’re an evolving society if we’ve dealt with the same issues that we’ve always dealt with? I mean, we have made progress towards battling things like homophobia, racism and sexism but they aren’t gone entirely.

Will they ever? Who knows. I’ve said it before that it will never be eliminated but I think I’m wrong. Maybe it won’t be in your lifetime or mine but I have faith in people to see the absurdity in it all.

Have you ever thought of what the future might think of us in hindsight? Like when we laugh at people who thought that race-mixing was a sin against God? Or when we’re confused as to why a radical man in Germany could blame all the wrongs of the world on one race of people?

Who knows, maybe they’ll think of us a naive and narrow-minded too. Unless we further progress and further change.

Thank you for reading, my friends. See you tomorrow bright and early  in the morning.

Until next time,

Brandon King

Reality of the Abyss

I walked through the doorway of the church, the feeling of unwelcomed civility poured over me in an overwhelming downpour. People from my left and right shuffled their heavy feet past me to make their way into the main corridor. The sunlight from the east poured into the stained glass spraying dues of purple and gold across the carpeted floor of the church. It rang true and righteous against that peppered grey floor and the light wood of the pews that were as bare as the day they were made. The different shades of black wandered throughout the decreasing space of the octagonal church and were hugging and embracing the unfortunate few that were high above the rest. The cascading walls formed into a beige pyramid and highlighted the massive mahogany cross that sat at the end of the room. Below the cross was a shimmering laminated box covered in flowers and bright colors. Pictures of a past time were planted all around the casket that sat in the front of the room. I stood motionless in the doorway but no one seemed to mind my stalling nature. The lid of the casket revealed a white billowy cotton to comfort the shell of the person that lies there before us all. On the right side of the room sat an overwhelming organ with an impatient little woman at the helm of it all. Her anticipating foot tapped incessantly on the ground as she watched the waves upon waves of people clash against the front where the family resided. One horde after the other, each group of vultures hunched their shoulders further and further down to show their enthusiastic sympathy. It was disgusting, really? Perhaps I’m biased, seeing how it was family, after all.

A sudden nudge internally pushed me forward into the sea of sorrow that awaited us all. A cornucopia of black sundresses and grey dress suits lined the sides of church as they congregated with one another after consoling the forever sad family in their darkest times. No doubt to judge this ornate ordeal with the other services that they had been ethically obligated to attend. The peculiar thing that seemed to catch my eye were simply the faces that emerged from the crowd. One after the other, faces from my distant past and recent all the same appeared in the chaos of all the glum to show their support. Those that ignored the occasional greeting whenever it was possible…those that only claimed to know me from “That one time…” What a touch of nostalgia it was to see their face. A blend of happiness and resentment twisted and turned until it was something that I could recognize: nostalgia. We could have sat together and reminisce until we became another show-boating corpse in front of a room but, what would be the point? It would bring us right back to where we had originally started and intended to stop. I shook my head and pressed forward through the crowd. With each step I took, the people before me shifted their weight back and forth and I was able to pass through them with little resistance. Through all the turmoil, I found my crying mother and my red-faced father huddled together. Her beautiful blonde hair straightened and strained as she uselessly held back the tears that flowed seamlessly from her puffy eyes. Stoic and bitterly humble, my father’s face was shaggy with a stiff five o’clock shadow as he held my mother firmly in his strong arms. They reluctantly greeted the lines of sympathy-sucking parasites that formed on either side of our dying family. It was disgusting. It was beautiful. After a few moments of hearing the cliché ramblings of sympathies and lying regrets, I could not stomach it any longer.

“What on Earth could you be talking about? None of you…I’m sorry, maybe a solid quarter of you bothered enough to check on him while he was here with us!” I yelled as loud as I could but it made no matter, their faces remained the same solemn stone as before. I knew they could hear me though…perhaps it was my thoughts. I know they can be stronger than what I say for most of the time. I glanced quickly enough to see a man in a baggy suit standing close to the open casket while he had his had rested on the hand of the person that lie motionless in their eternal bed. My eyes could not take me to look at who might be lying there. Not yet…I glanced over to see who showed their sympathy and it was enough for me to question all of the reality that rested before my own soul. No…

The organ bellowed from the side of the room and the herds of people shuffled silently to their designated place. I remained motionless in stupor as all who I watched sit before me. Sobs and sniffles rang from time to time in open corridors of the house of the Lord. I went to sit next to my family and my brother but there was no seat left for me to sit down with them. Not a seat left in the place. A crowd of those faces both distant in my past and near, collaborated together to remember the shell that lies behind me. My head swiveled round once I heard the woman behind me clear her stuffy throat to speak to the masses. I stood stupefied.

She spun a poetic web of lies that se was told only days before about the life that was once lived by the plastic-like corpse in the room. I will admit that, though beautiful, it was all a myth of a life that was once wished to live. How unfortunate do the unfortunate do the unfortunate feel and the fortunate feel motivated thus. In her spurring on and on, a hand rose from the casket in a creaking motion. My eyes glued to the bony limb that was dressed as formally as one could be to an unexpected turn of events. I glanced back and forth but none seemed to mention nor notice the supernatural. It was I and I alone.

The body raised itself from the clutches of the polished cotton and silk of it’s’ bed. A widows peak touched the top of the head and those navy blue eyes glared into my soul making it scrunch in cowardice. The once prominent smile had faded into a malice that could only be foretold as the mark of the condemned. I knew that smirk all too well…The heavy ring around it’s’ neck pulsed heavily in the iridescent lighting of the church. Pulse after pulse, the throat gorged out and the finger of the body before me pushed me forward. I shook my head quickly in disbelief. I fell to my knees and the gravity of my heart fell heavily to the floor. The soullessness, the death in its eyes were that of innocent depression and disillusioned happiness. I knew it all too well. The glimmer in its eyes was gone entirely and it sucked me in unknowingly. As much as I fought, as much as I struggled, Death is such a convincing thief. It gripped me by the ankles and drug my into the coffin with it. My lungs hurt from all the hoarse screams that erupted from my lifeless body. Mortality, Death by short, caressed me in the darkness of the now closed coffin. The pulsing of its neck beat against the top of my head as I rested my head against his chest. He whispered my name and I knew in that instance.

All lost, all forgotten…it all belongs to him now. All of it wasted in the flickering wind of opportunity abandoned to eternal fate. What a reality of the abyss.

An Open Letter to President Trump

To President Trump,

 

My name is Brandon Tyler King and I’m a 23 year old college student that lives in Yukon, Oklahoma. I sit at my desk writing this letter battling every single urge to stop writing what I believe. Truth be told, I’ve written and rewritten this letter to you multiple times without the courage to back up the meanings behind it.

However, the time for doubt has passed.

So here I am on attempt five writing this letter in hopes that it reaches your desk and, in some capacity or another, you read and listen to what I have to say.

This all stemmed from your Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders when she decided to read a letter from a 9 year old child nicknamed Pickles to fill the time of the press meeting. I felt as though that it was pretty genius of an attempt to appeal to the children of the nation riding on the opinions of their parents. Truth be told, it might have worked better if your entire office wasn’t surrounded by scandals. But you inspired me, Mr. President. If Pickles might have some time for you, perhaps so can I.

Contrary to what you might be thinking, I am not here to tell you about all the things you’ve done wrong. I’m not here to ridicule, mock or shout in anger about the things that your administration has done.

That being said, I’m not here to congratulate and celebrate either.

Something that I learned a while ago was that to love something, you should be able to criticize and question it. I’m here as a regular commoner to a notably accomplished man to express my regards to the country that I love so much.

THE STATE OF THE GOVERNMENT

Being 23 years old, I realize that my words might not be held with the same weight of a more experienced adult. That’s fine by me. In all honesty, it just means that every word, every sentence will have to mean something. No matter what happens when all is done, I will be heard.

I learned early in my childhood that the lessons of history are things that need to be learned. What’s the point in recreating the same mistakes that people before us did? One thing that only few leaders in our history have ever come to realize is that the government is only as strong as the people that it governs.

Living in this country my entire life, I have seen some of the brighter days and I have seen the faces of terror that makes Americans shiver even now. Never once have I been disappointed in my country until the beginnings of the campaign season in 2016. Now, allow me to express that the entire fault doesn’t fall on you. People on both sides of the aisle are to blame for it all. Let me explain that each of you on Capitol Hill have forgotten the people in which you represent.

During the campaign, I grew to be hateful of the choices that the American people to choose from. You, Clinton, Cruz, it didn’t matter. It was all different shades of shady connection. To your credit, I can understand why the American people elected you over your opponent. The citizens have become so desperate for change from the bureaucracy of government that they were willing to turn anywhere instead of the circle that we’d been driving in since memory could remember. You threw the people’s flag on your shoulders and claimed to be the straight-shooting, deal-making leader from the pack instead from the elite.

Perhaps you still think of yourself in this way. That’s the funny thing about looking at yourself in the mirror: we often see the person that we believe ourselves to be instead of what the truth is.

Over the 191 days that you’ve been in office, along with the campaign season, you’ve accomplished something that maybe you’ve always wanted. You have our attention but I’m not convinced that this is the best thing.

To start, let’s travel back to the campaign and go to now. Something that I’ve noticed is that you often revel in those days even as you’re in office. There’s no denying that you and your team have an uncanny ability to control the eyes of the media. It’s how you created this craze for yourself that worries me for this country.

We’ve been so dependent on drama. Without it, it fades into the back pages of anything newsworthy. It goes to an element of narcissism in government that any news must be good news. This mindset is paired with the idea that the will of the people only lives on one of the political aisle. Whether you sport a red R or a blue D, you must admit that this is cancerous.

One thing that the American people can rely on is the consistent media coverage of your administration. The dishonest media that you’ve decided to make the public enemy of the people is something that I don’t believe that the government has anticipated. If anyone on Capital Hill were to take a close look at the document that our entire civilization has held as gospel, perhaps they could learn something.

To quote Thomas Jefferson and our forefathers,

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” -First Amendment 

To make an enemy of the media is to make an enemy of the people.

I can understand your frustrations of what people often refer to as the liberal media. It’s the same problem that many of us face on a regular basis. Who are we to trust with our news? Even then, will it be skewed in some way? I’ve taken the approach of reading and watching every news station to decipher what the real news might be. Inevitably, humans are biased and it often comes down to personal belief every now and then. But you refer to the media as fake news and dishonest media even during times of honest journalism.

I find it odd that only now is it called “fake news” when the spotlight is on you. Maybe you could have wished to have the same spotlight on President Obama’s birth certificate or Mrs. Clinton’s emails.

But I digress.

It’s as though each half of the government has a large paintbrush. While one side paints the canvas white, the other will color it black. Each side will claim to have the answer and argue when the other disagrees. What they cannot seem to understand that the answers lie in the drips of grey paint that drip to the floor of Congress. Life was never made by the blacks and whites but by the muddy, unclear aspects of grey.

The problems of the United States goes further than your office. It’s been an issue that’s been riding on the shoulders of those who live in this nation. Partisan politics will be the death of democracy. By the time we realize that all of our problems could have been solved by listening to the other side and finding a compromise, it might be too late.

Mr. Trump, you have the opportunity to start this change. Will you take the chance?

The State of President Trump

The American people elected an outsider to clean up the swamp of government and to right the wrongs done by previous administrations. There is no doubt that each presidency has had its faults. Then again, when has there ever been a flawless presidency? People strove for change and change is what they received.

It’s not until the times that we live in that I think people are beginning to see what we have done.

Allow me to explain, Mr. Trump.

Whenever I was a child, I constantly was bullied at school. Being called names and forced to do things that I wasn’t comfortable with was just part of my upbringing. My mouth shut remained shut through all of it, including to my parents, because I had felt that this was just how things were meant to be. It wouldn’t be until I grew out of my shell and educate myself that I realized that what was going on was wrong on all accounts.

This is no exception.

I think what was unsettling about watching your administration drive their way to victory through the elections was how eerily similar it was to my childhood. Calling your opponents childish games, saying radical things to gain attention and demoralizing anyone you disrespected…I knew that face all too well.

I’m not angry with you, Mr. Trump. How can I be angered by a man who is a product of the environment of the world that he grew up in? Born with a platinum spoon in your mouth a small inheritance of 14 million dollars, I understand where you were raised from. The needs of the every-man can seem foreign to you.

Something that I vowed to do is to speak the truth and I will when I tell you that there are plenty of members in my family that voted for you. No, I don’t think any less or more of them for it. However, either side has expressed that they aren’t being heard at all anyway. The only difference is that I’ve heard you loud and clear.

  • Calling Mexicans rapists and criminals
  • Making fun of a disabled reporter
  • Saying John McCain isn’t a war hero because he was a POW
  • Discrediting a Muslim American solider and his family
  • Calling on Russia to hack Hillary’s emails
  • Banning Muslims with a legalized travel ban
  • Criminalizing the press
  • Accusing Megyn Kelly of menstruating
  • Lying about crowd size of your inauguration.
  • Lying about meeting with Russians
  • Banning transsexual soldiers from serving in the military
  • Attempting to repeal the A.C.A without a reliable replacement

Does that sound about right?

I understand that I briefly went over some of the blemishes on your record but, don’t worry, it’s done now. I promised that earlier and I’m nothing but a man of my own word.

I could go into the logistics of your decisions and tell you how each of these moments during your presidential limelight were wrong. I could but what would be the point? Each media outlet, aside from what you subscribe to, has done this to death. What it comes down to is the American people and your willingness to look past yourself and realize that we ride on your decisions. Like it or not, you are the Commander-In-Chief. I respect only the office that you represent and that is far as my allegiance will go.

Society works by each member taking a step towards the future. Your administration, despite what the American people have protested, has taken steps back into the past. It’s not that I don’t understand why it’s happening. There’s not a doubt in my mind that you spent half your life doing what every single one of us have done and complain about the government and  talked about what we would do if we were in that position. The difference between you and I is that you went into the belly of the beast only to realize that you might be more destructive than the beast itself.

Mr. Trump, in the 1980’s and 90’s you were the undisputed king of New York and there wasn’t a person alive that didn’t respect you as a successful businessman. Your ego and your aspirations wouldn’t allow you to stop and you took a swing at the presidency. With the same tactics that you used to become successful in the first place, you made your way to the office.

Yet, you must be wondering why the people resent you so much.

Must it be the dishonest media? Could it be leakers that poke holes in your sinking ship? Possibly…but there is one person that you haven’t looked for: You.

And So We Rise 

You ran on the campaign promise to Make America Great Again and I believe, in some way, you will. However, I don’t think it will be with you at the helm.

The American people wanted someone who spoke their mind and I cannot say that I blame them. What they ended up electing was a man that was a product of a time long passed. To think, back in the 1950’s, you might have passed as a president to be looked back at with the fondness that only history can provide.

Unfortunately, we’re in the thick of it all. I can understand that you’re most likely feeling the pressures of the world that you didn’t quite understand surrounding you. In all fairness, most employees think about their current employer the same way. The way that says that, if only they could get there, they could do it better than he or she ever could.

Where it all comes down to is that the people of the government and you, Mr. President, have been out of touch with reality long enough that most motions in government lack any logical sense to the rest of us.

I won’t ask you to change who you are and I won’t plead with you to act more presidential. All I ask that you remind yourself that you represent the rest of us. Every time you do anything, ask yourself if this is the best interest of the people. If the answer is anything but an absolute yes, then reconsider.

The last thing I ask of you is to respect the people of the world. Just because it doesn’t align with everything you think, that doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. Be open to criticism and be our leader for the people; not the leader for yourself.

By any chance that you decide to neglect what I have said or asked of you, I can understand. There are people that will never be okay with constructive criticism and that aligns with the tolerance that great people such Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Abigail Adams have always held throughout history. If this is the case and we’ve hit that point then may I propose one more option.

Resign the office of Presidency and allow someone who will act on behalf of the American people in their best interest.

Understand, Mr. Trump, that this nation is one of the most resilient places on Earth. Since our founding, we have trudged through the thick of hell and come out to live on the other side. We have risen and moved forward with each step in history. This is a concept that I would hope that you and the rest of the people are wanting to go to. I understand that the future can be a terrifying thing to embrace but progress was never easy. Remember that the American people will always rise to the occasion when it comes to it.

We rose in the American Revolution.

We rose in building a nation from nothing.

We rose in the Civil War and defeated slavery.

We rose from multiple deaths in office.

We rose by the means of many Civil Rights Movements.

We rose through the corruption of President Nixon and Watergate.

We rose through each war we’ve ever fought.

Mr. Trump, so too shall we rise above this.

 

Thank you for your time and God bless the United States of America,

Brandon King

Lessons for an Unlearned Man

If you knew that you were about to experience something that would change your life, would you act any differently?

I’ve had this thought weighing in my mind all day and it’s one of those things that never leaves you until you deal with it. So here I am, at 9 p.m. with a fresh cup of coffee and the will to write.

It’s funny…even as I sit here thinking about what to write, I can hear my professor’s voice in my head. “Don’t try to impress people with how you think they’d want to hear it,” he said. “Quit sounding like you swallowed a dictionary and write how you speak. The rest will come to you. You have a voice, I promise.”

So here goes everything I have, sir.

There’s this need to want to start this out by saying that one of the things that I can’t stand at all is the unnecessary need for cliches. It’s as though we use them so that people can easier understand what we’re trying to say. That being said, I don’t think we need them.

Cliches are bullshit. Plain as vanilla.

No, I won’t go as far as to say that, “Oh, you learn something new every day, eh?” Hell, if you’ve chosen to read my work, I refuse to do that to you. It’s not right for either one of us, really.

However, I need to make something clear. Although this is going to sound selfish, I must say this so that we’re all on the same path.

I never write for anyone other than myself. I’ve had it in the past which someone asks me to write them a story of some sort and, in the end, it’s garbage. There is a difference being inspired and telling someone telling you what to do.

That’s what separates monkeys from magicians.

Back to the main point. If you knew that something was going to happen, would you change anything? Would you brace yourself for what was to come? Perhaps anxiety would kick in, making you feel as though dread were driving your thoughts all along?

Or would you let it be?

That’s something that always makes me smirk. “Well damn, if i would’ve known about that, I could’ve done something different.” Sound familiar? Don’t feel too much self-pity; we all  have said this every now and again. But why?

Why do we just assume that things would be better if we knew what the hell was coming down the pipe at all times? So we can counteract it with something we might think would be better off?

You see, for every tragedy we avoid, we possibly avoid a miracle.

That’s my motto.

There’s something about these life moments that define us all if we just take a second and let it soak in. The problem with age is that our minds get too full of wasteful nonsense that doesn’t matter.

Maybe the idea behind life is to take all that comes your way and decipher what is shit and what is sacred.

You might be wondering one of two things at this point: What’s up with the title of this piece? When are we going to get the message you’re trying to say?

If you’d be patient, I’ll promise you the moon and the man inside. The issue with people, most of the time, is that they’re too impatient to get what they came for. Not my own idea, just something I picked up along the way.

I’m 23 years old at the time of this post and I have much to learn. That sentence was probably the most burdening thing I’ve written all day; however, so, so true.

But why I’ve had this thought of change came about while I going through some old writing pieces of mine. I must admit, I sound like such a pretentious ass. Regardless, it brought me back to moments that I hadn’t thought of in years. Which, oddly enough, brought about an idea that I don’t think we understand until it’s too late.

The idea that everything I am, everything I’ve chosen to be, is because of these people. I cannot and will not list all the names who have had minor impacts. Frankly, I don’t have the time nor the patience for it all.

As you read this, I hope, my fellow reader, that maybe you will think of the people in your life. Have they helped you understand life more? Have they shown you something that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise? For your sake, I hope so.

Allow me, if you would.

Mom, Dad and my brother Austin: There isn’t enough data storage on this WordPress blog for me to fully show my appreciation for you all. It’s not often that a man can find himself in a home that, no matter what has happened, he feels welcome. From my time of being the definition of an introvert to the person who can’t keep his mouth shut, you’ve always been there. To teach me to be educated in anything I believe in, to show me that love in all people exist, to prove to me that you must stand for what you believe…all this and more than what time may tell, I thank you. There isn’t a day on Earth that I won’t think of you 3 and thank God that I have you all.

It would be easy to just amount all the efforts to luck or just experience but we all grew up together. Right or wrong, we dealt with what the world had as one. You showed me what courage was in the face of adversity. You pushed me to become the man that sits at this keyboard and types what lies behind his heart.

Without you all, I am nothing.

Haleigh: I know what you’re probably thinking by now. “I can’t believe he tagged me in this,” right? Well, get seated sunshine. This one’s for you. You’re my everything, through and through. From the moment we met to the minutes we are apart, you’ve taught me that there is no type of hope like the hope of someone you love to live for. Love is one of those sadistic, sweet things that one can only hope to experience in life. It will make you want to write something that Shakespeare would be impressed by while, in the very next moment, make you wonder if you’re no more than two steps to the psych ward. You’ve shown me what it’s like to love someone more than I ever could have loved myself. Truly babe, you’re what poets and playwrights prayed for.

All the times I spend day-dreaming, I think of you. You know as well as I that I dream far more than what a regular man should. There just hasn’t been a person who I am more open, more humble, and simply better because I’m around them. I try to avoid cliches while I’m with you but even as I type this, I can’t help but fall. I guess that’s due to the fact that love-lit writers like myself have gotten to it first. What they cannot take away is the way you make me live for just another day with you. For that, I love you always.

My family: This one is much like jamming your hand into a bag of trail mix. Most of it is tasty until you hit a cashew or two. You know what I mean, I hope. My family, all together, are the ones that make you believe in love and hate. They allow you to see the difference between acceptance and tolerance. I love them all for showing me that it’s natural to coexist with points that either make you think or make you think about throwing them out of a window. Either way, at least you learned. Or, at least, I hope you did.

Karen Workun: The summer of 2010 was one of the roughest periods my life has ever encountered. My Dad was thrown off a golf cart into a dry, concrete ravine 10 feet deep. He was in a come for a week and a half. The doctors had no hesitation in telling us that it would be unlikely that he would make it. Even if he did, there would be no telling that his brain functionality would be the same. Fast forward 7 years today and I wished him a happy 46th birthday over the phone. Going back to that time, I remember my Mom wrote on a letter to my teachers that I had experienced this so that I might be a bit spacious in class. What I didn’t have the courage to tell her was that my spacious nature had nothing to do with that summer. Either way, my junior year was the first time that a teacher changed my life.

First period AP English with Mrs. Workun.

Karen, I’ve expressed probably more than I should how much you’ve impacted my life but there is part of me that will never stop thanking you. Before that time, there was no sense of direction. Hell, the best thing I could have hoped for was to be a failed writer. Before that class, I tried not to show my writing with anyone other than those that I trusted would keep it a secret. You showed me that it was acceptable to be humble and that you should be proud to be intelligent. Regular documentary showings after school coupled by allowing people to form their own opinions of the world…it was inspiring. More to the point, you were the first teacher to tell me that my writing was worth something. You told me to keep writing and to never stop. In a way, I’ve held to that.

Mandee Chapman-Roach: Where would I be without the teachings of this wonderful woman? Probably off wondering a library somewhere hoping I had a sense of direction. Right after Mrs. Workun, I had the fortune to bounce to another great English teacher. In this AP class, I won’t lie, there were times that I wanted to rip my hair out and how it to the gods who clearly cursed me. Not for the sake of Mrs. Chapro, however. Mandee, you were one of the only teachers to challenge my ideas and show me that not all my ideas are golden. You trained all of us in my class that, to live in this world, we must think for ourselves. It’s only by the ways of groupthink that we find ourselves in trouble.

Moreover, you were always the one who wanted people who never spoke to be themselves. You taught us that the world should never be painted with such a broad brushstroke of black and white. It’s only in the grey of it all that we may find some answer. You treated our class on  college level and it made all the difference in the world. There was something about treating us like the adults that were to become that made us feel safe around you. In other words, you were more than a teacher. You were our shield against a world well-weathered. You showed us that it’s okay to go against the status-quo and to be yourself. Thank you from all of us, truly.

Professor Scott Carter: My last spot on this page belongs to my latest inspiration. I’ll never forget walking to the back room of OCCC and sitting in this new classroom full of Mac desktops. The class was called “Intro to Journalism” or something like that. I had been contemplating switching majors for my third time but, as it happens, I didn’t know where to turn to. I knew that one of the only talents I had was that I could write better than some and read more than most my age. It was in the back of the class that I saw a man walk to the front of the class in a button-down and slacks. He walked across the room like a king among subjects. The man owned the room and, by god, he knew it. It wasn’t even that he demanded it. He earned it with every word spoken. From the moment I walked in to the minute I left, I was inspired. It was after one of my projects for the class that I saw a red marked paper that said, “Come see me.” I gulped. That was never good.

Except for this one.

We talked for only a minute but he told me something so simple yet it was only by those that I care for that tell me. “I believe in you.” Those words carried me further than any could have hoped for. Since then, I’ve gladly worked for the Pioneer under his supervision. Scott, I can’t thank you enough for continuing to teach me things about myself that I never thought possible. For the first time in my life, you gave me a purpose to pursue an actual career that I wanted more than anything. You’ve taught me that, though I’m learning now, I suck at obscure history. Ladies and gents, that quote about swallowing a dictionary? Yep, you guessed where that came from. Moreover, you’re the first person to give my work some constructive criticism and allow me to improve upon it. You continue to inspire me and I hope that one day you can see my work and know that you had a hand and a half in doing what was made. For this and whatever is to come, thank you sir.

I guess that’s the issue with people: they expect a lesson to come with an announcement. Like there’s some PA system in the sky telling you to shut your mouth and to listen. Until God makes a better sound system, my suggestion would be to listen to everyone and speak less.

Everyone has a lesson to teach someone. It’s up to you whether or not you listen.

Until next time,

Brandon King