Day 165 Reese tries to leave; Amber brings him back

Day 165: Reese’s Journal Entry 9: Bertha at the Border

I got fired from my driver job. Another escape attempt. I thought, if I can’t walk out of Möbius town, maybe Bertha can. Well, no. She reached some invisible fence or something at the crest of the ridge just outside of town and just stopped. I got out of the wagon and tried to reason with her, but after all, it she is just a horse. So, I figured, what the hell, let’s go back. But she wouldn’t budge. I was miles from town and sure as hell didn’t want to walk back — not without the wagon and especially not without Bertha. Sam, the Stable Master, would have a fit.

To tell the truth, Helen, I’d been wondering if there even was another region. This whole Möbius-town thing smacked of something out of M. C. Escher. Today, the Möbius-strip didn’t curve back on itself. Today there was just an invisible wall, one only Bertha could see. And of course, this not being my first day, Charley didn’t send his pigeon along. Tickle wasn’t there to tell her ‘Help, Tickle’ which would send her back to her roost, signaling I was stuck on my route somewhere. But word must have gotten around that I was out there stuck on the road. Amber came to get me on her bike. (I know, right? She could have “appeared” there without it.) I decided not to argue with her. We tossed her bike in the back of the wagon, and she took the reigns. One light tug on the reigns and Bertha turns around, and we’re headed back.

We didn’t say anything for a while.

“You thought I’d given up?” I asked. At first she didn’t reply. Then she asked when I was going to understand that I was not going to have things my own way.

“You think this is about me?” I asked. “It’s about Helen. Why isn’t she here? You’ve got people who were born before we were born and after. People who died before she did and after. Hell, you’ve got…”

“Retarded people?”

“Mind reading?”

“I know you well enough.”

“Don’t get me wrong. I love Charley. But that’s all the more reason why Helen should be here.”

“This is not a eugenics experiment.”

“Not that. I didn’t mean that Charley has Downs.”

“Charley can ask to be changed any time he wants to.”

“Oh. I never meant that, anyway. It’s just that Sam and Charley have each other. When I make deliveries, I see couples reunited who had lost babies they get to raise now. I’ve seen whole families of several generations all in one place. So where’s Helen?”

Amber didn’t say anything. “Look, if you’re not going to tell me anything, I have to find out on my own. I’m not going to stop looking for her.”

Then she said, “The problem is, Reese, you’re looking for the wrong reasons.”

“Wrong reasons?” I said. “What do you know about loving somebody?” I could see when I said that I’d hurt her feelings. “I’m sorry,” I said. Then I asked her: “How can a Zoë understand longing? Loneliness? Incompleteness?” Then she started crying. I thought Zoës were like angels — perfect beings. “Did I hurt your feelings?” I said.

“No,” she said. “I’m crying for you.”

That was pretty nice of her, don’t you think, Helen?

 

Day 165: Amber’s Journal Entry 3: Bertha at the Border

Reese tried to get to region 1819 using the horse that his pulls wagon, thinking the horse wouldn’t know any better. Of course the horse stopped before leaving the Region. And then, with God’s “no” stuck in its horse brain, it wouldn’t move. I borrowed a bicycle and rode out to release the horse. The horse is home again, happy in its stable. But Reese lost his job over it. And this time, he is restricted to his home until we are sure he will not wander again.

“Where would I go?” he asked, but we both knew exactly where: Region 2021. “The horses don’t deliver to that region, and I’m not going to get access to an automobile.” It saddened me to hear him lie like that. If he had the horse, he’d try to ride it out to 2021. If he had a car, he might try the same thing. If he thought he could take the train or even walk, he would. That’s how much of a one-track mind he has about finding Helen. How do I tell him that she doesn’t exist as he knew her? How do I tell him what it means to be transfigured? Literally born anew, not only a new body but also a new kind of body? To know that the limits imposed by embodiment are self-imposed and can be put on and taken off like clothing? To be able to stand in the presence of the Creator God, the ground plane of existence, the Love that undergirds reality and makes everything possible? To lose Self in Love and let Love be Self? Words fail me, become poor stand-ins. But there is no way to express what this is like. How do I tell any of this to Reese? I can’t dangle being a Zoë in front of him like a carrot, a reward for being good. It isn’t that. It never was. I can’t tell him I was/am Helen as well as Amber. There is no browbeating him into genuine consent. All I can do is wait.

Day 164: Good Enough for Chamber Music

Day 164 Reese’s Journal Entry 8: Good Enough for Chamber Music

Something odd happened today. Amber, my Zoë, said something you used to say. We were working the community garden together, planting something — I don’t know what — and Amber said, “good enough for chamber music.” Not ‘good enough for government work’ or ‘good enough for the union’ or the Kingdom or anything like that. Chamber music. And when she said it I looked up and I swear it was you there in that garden. Even her voice sounded like you when she said that. Then I blinked and it was Amber again, a Zoë, and being who has eternal life, who can stand naked in the presence of God. Not an air breathing, food gathering, warm-blooded mammal like us.

I say ‘like us’ because I know you’re going to show up. You’ll awaken in Resurrectorium 1920 tomorrow, or the next day, but you will awaken. And if not in 1920, then another one. 2021 maybe.

Well. I’d better stop. Thinking this way, I feel like I let you down, Helen. Maybe you did awaken in 2021 or in 1819, and they won’t let you leave town, either. I should try again to get to you. I must be developing Stockholm Syndrome.

 

Day 164: Amber’s Journal Entry 2: Good Enough for Chamber Music

Reese doesn’t know me as Helen, and I can’t tell him. I want to so badly. I want to tell him that his Zoë Amber is, or was, his Helen. It pains me, and pain is something I thought I would never know again. Pain is something I wouldn’t know but for him. My Lord, I long to be in your presence where there isn’t any pain, in heaven again. I still remember meeting you there. Letting go of my life was only difficult because of Reese. I moved and breathed and lived in pain and was so ready to let go of my body, of life as I knew it. When I couldn’t hold on any longer and came to you…I remember each moment as if it was etched into my being…

Reese looked at me for a second like he knew me as Helen. I said something about chamber music that touched a memory in him and I saw his face light up bright as a star then it went dark and he looked at me as I am now. He saw his Zoë, Amber, whom he seems to like at times and treats as a jailor other times.

It hurt. I’ve been thinking about what my Lord said to me: Be wise. Reese is too focused on Helen, on the life he once led. He is not focused on others. The Lord was right, of course. That is the basic flaw that Reese brought back with him, a form of self-centeredness that even when he was pouring all kinds of love out on me, right up to the minute I died, he was doing it to protect himself from loneliness, to secure my love, afraid that without all his efforts I might take my love from him. Nothing I said to the contrary was able to get through to him. It was why he returned as a Bio.

And in some ways, this extended separation now is continuing that. He’s so fixed on Helen’s return that he can insult or ignore Amber, and not only me, but his neighbors. He got fired from his job translating. I suppose as a driver he’ll be fine. But he’s not engaging as many people that way, not in a way that can break through and make him start to live for other people.

So I wait. I am surprised to find part of me wants to be Helen for him again. Show him the ‘me’ he remembers. Love him again because he is so lonely. But that would be like spraying a fixative on the rough sketch of his spirit: He would never grow the way he needs to in order to become a Zoë. That’s why he’s here. That’s why they’re all here. The God of Second Chances. He may be the God of a Thousand Chances — that is beyond my knowing. How many do I give Reese? How long do I leave him to grow on his own like a seedling? I always killed my plants by overwatering. Lord, let me not do that now.

Day 32: Sarah Sees Herself in a Mirror

Day 32; 3rd entry

The last four or five days have been a blur. I feel like I’ve started a new, complex, extremely confusing venture. In my earthly life, I usually called the first week of a job “Hell Week.” Here the confusion about complex procedures still comes into play, but the inner feelings of inadequacy don’t exist. OK, guess we can drop the Hell part.

Being loved is difficult. Having all my faults forgiven and my gifts acknowledged, that’s more difficult. The old concept of pinching yourself to see if you’re dreaming is so very, very true; I keep expecting to open my eyes and find myself in some mental ward, being told all this is an hallucination. This new existence is kind of hard to get used to.

On my second day, Belle gave me a book to read, a book that was supposed to answer the lion’s share of my questions. I guess the mental residue of my earthly life was clogging many of my brain cells, because it took me a couple of days to get through that first instruction book. Oh, the welcome-and-here-is-what-to-expect part was clear enough, but the deeper explanations had layer upon layer, like a virtual onion.

One thing that remains: I don’t yet believe what Belle has told me, that I’m loved by the Father. I keep stumbling over things that He put in my path: losing my parents, being alone, the abusive men, losing wonderful Harry who saved me from myself. There’s a little child inside me that keeps screaming “If you loved me, you wouldn’t hurt me” over and over and over.

Finally the book made sense, at least on the surface, and little bits and things I see and conversations I have with other people keep illuminating pieces that have puzzled me. Yes, I’m out of my room meeting people. Surprise, surprise. Me, opening a door and going outside. Who’d a thunk…

Actually, Belle is responsible my adventures into the world.

A couple of days ago I was sitting at the window in my room, reading a section of the book she gave me; I was following the cross references to other books, all of which I found on the shelf next to the bed. The window was open and the music of a normal world wafted in; I still can’t get over being able to hear things. There was a slight warm breeze coming in that smelled of linden blossoms, although there weren’t any such trees in sight. Abruptly the breeze and the delicate odor halted, and silence ; there was a sense of knowing that I wasn’t alone in the room.

Belle was suddenly there, sitting on the bed, leaning back and resting herself on her arms behind her. Every time I see her, her outline is clearer and she seems more, well, corporal. Still, she’s not the same kind of corporial I am; the differences between us are still quite clear.

“Are you finished yet?” She swung her feet, and I realized her feet didn’t touch the floor as she sat there. Odd. She seems my height when we stand next to each other.

“No, not quite.” I opened another book to check a reference.

“You’re an intellectual bull dog” she chuckled.

“Woof, and woof, and a royal growl…woof!” I sang.

“Ha ha. I said bull dog, not Cowardly Lion.”

The phrase “Cowardly Lion” stopped me dead.

“I’ve never been a coward. Never.” I busied myself with putting slips of paper into open books, closing them, and stacking them neatly on the desk.

“Yes you have. Yes, you have indeed.” She kept swinging her feet and staring at her nails.

“What do you mean?”

“You are a coward, or at least have been. Cowards run away from the truth, and you’ve been running away most of your life.”

“Bullshit.”

“No bull. Whenever things got tough, you ran away.”

“No I didn’t!”

“Yes, you did. Oh, maybe not physically, but you did run away. Into a bottle, into another abusive relationship, into depression. You’re a coward, absolutely.”

“That’s a bit harsh for a Zoe, isn’t it?”

“Not really. We’re supposed to tell the truth, no matter how much it hurts.”

I began realizing that she was probably right. But I couldn’t let her know that.

“But what was I supposed to do? Sit and wait for my head to be chopped off?”

“Too much drama, Sarah. Your intensity lets you see only in black and white, but little gray.”

Memories flash through my head of times I over-reacted. I could now see well what she was talking about and, yes, I’d gone off half-cocked. Embarrassing, but it was water under the bridge now that she pointed it out.

“OK, point taken. You’re right.”

“I don’t like being right, Sarah, at least when it comes to those things that make you sad.”

Damn straight those things made me sad. Every damn negative thing that happened made me sad, closed my eyes. What was I supposed to do?

“You and me both, Belle. So, why this visit?”

“Oh, yeah, that. It’s time for you to get off your behind and start contributing.” She hopped off the bed to the floor to come over and help straighten up my books.

I stood up.

“OK, I’m off my behind. What do you mean?”

“Everyone has a function here. Everyone does a job. Sure, you don’t have to pay for things you need, but they have to come from somewhere. Let’s go.”

“Where are we going?”

“Outside first.”

Outside is a scary word. I don’t like outside, and I don’t want to go. My inner child started chanting “Coward, coward, you’re a big fat coward…”

“So, I need to get a job. Fine. Good. Where do I start? Can you steer me to an employment agency or something?”

“Something close. Come on, we have somewhere to go.”

I couldn’t move.

“Sarah, you can do this.”

My muscles were straining against themselves.

“Sarah, look at me.”

I looked into her eyes and saw sorrow. Sympathetic sorrow. Synesthesia returned. I saw violins played sharp in those eyes. I felt the center of me being pulled out, stretched, cleansed. Every vulnerability I ever had was laid out in a line, dusted off, washed. Every incident of the fear of being unsafe appeared like a movie being played.

Flowers

I’ve been keeping myself busy – well, Joe has been keeping me busy. He likes to give me lots to do. He thinks he’s keeping me out of trouble. I’d like to know what kind of trouble can I get into here? As far as I can tell, all the trouble has been sucked out of the world, and we’re supposed to behave ourselves and do good works and all that stuff. I asked Joe how he thinks I’m going to make a living doing good works. That’s when he hit me with a real kicker: there’s no money anymore.

I know. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard it. No money?

“You get whatever you need,” Joe told me. “Just go to the store and ask for it.” I told him he was nuts, but he just laughed. “You gotta try and get your head around it, Ash. The world you knew is gone.”

We take a walk to the edge of town, where the houses fade away into farmland. It’s a nice place. I often go there myself when I need to think things over, to ‘get my head around’ things. It hasn’t been easy, but at least when I come here I can breathe in the fresh fragrance of growing things, and feel like I’m still somehow in the world.

We passed a group of young people planting flowers around the doorway of a big red barn – beautiful flowers, all kinds, in every color you could imagine. Two young women wrestled a large shrub into a ready-made hole in the ground, and were busy scraping dirt around it. A third girl was planting what looked like daffodil bulbs in a small raised bed, while a fourth lifted blooming hyacinths out of a cardboard box.

A young man pressed flowers into the ground, patting the rich, dark earth into small mounds around the new plants. He was wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans over his taut, slender frame, and he seemed to take special care as he planted the flowers, checking each one to be sure it was securely rooted. His dark blond hair stood up in tufts all over his head. He glanced up when we passed by, and that gaze galvanized me like nothing else ever has.

“Jamie.” I’d been looking for him almost since the first moment I awoke in this place, and now he was here, right here in front of me. I started forward, but Joe hooked a hand around my arm and stopped me. “Why can’t I talk to him?” I asked.

Joe shook his head. “Not just yet, Ash. There’s still some things to figure out.”

Day 163: Sam Sprecher’s Journal 1: Meeting Reese

I wasn’t too impressed with the latest guy they sent me, Reese Smith. Maybe not a troublemaker but he is troublesome. Troubled. You know. He asked me about Charley. People ask about Charley all the time. More now than in the old world. Everyone’s suppose to be perfect now. I think Charley is perfect. Always did. Before he was born the ultrasound showed the Downs. Emily and I never thought we might abort him. We named him that day. Charlie Gordon Sprecher after the character Charlie Gordon in the movie she liked Charley who was retarded and then became a genius. Our Charley was never going to be a genius. We knew that. Emily was a great Mom. I hope to meet her here some day. My Zoë Gary says I will. That I’m well on my way. And I think most of the time I am. Until someone comes along all meaning well and asks about Charley. Why is Charley retarded. Then I tell them again its because Charley wanted it that way. That’s what Charley says and Gary says I should take that at face value. Charley remembers asking and that’s that. I guess the problem is when I woke up in the resurrectorium I wanted Emily and Charley with me. But once I found out that in the resurrection people are made whole I was ready to get Charley back with his genes fixed so he’d be Charley without the Downs syndrome.

I know it’s going to sound like I don’t love Charley as he is. I’d break any man’s jaw who told me I didn’t love my son. But the life I had with Charley wasn’t the same as the life I expected to have and good as it was well Charley is a loving, wonderful, kind gentle kid. All of that but it wasn’t good the way I had hope for. People say your kids aren’t suppose to be your friends and I get that. But Well I thought I’d have a Charley more like other sons this time around. A fresh start. I’m still working it out. Maybe that’s why Charley came back the way he did. Maybe that’s why Emily isn’t along yet. I’m holding everybody up. And Reese Smith just reminded me of that. He’s OK otherwise. Charley and Bertha like him. Charley’s got good sense about people. Smarter than most people are about people. Em said it was God’s gift to help Charley in a harsh world.

It’s not that harsh a world now. Charlie likes it. He says the love is more real. I don’t know. I hope he’s right.

Day 162: Reese’s Journal Entry 7: Riding with Bertha

It’s been a while since I’ve written a journal. Time seems funny here, Helen. Remember in my last entry when I mentioned that I couldn’t steal a bike in order to leave Möbius town, and I hadn’t earned enough yet to buy my own wheels? Well, there are jobs here. I guess it would make sense, because without work people aren’t their best.

I had to get another job. You see, working with people as a Cultural Translator, day in and day out, made it harder to ignore you not being here. I’d see someone else alone, missing their mate, or worse I’d see a couple reunited, sometimes whole families all happy as can be. It just got to be too much.

So I’m a driver. Kind of funny, but remember I was working a delivery truck for a living when we met. Now I drive a horse-drawn wagon.

The people at the resurrectorium called me yesterday and said some guy named Wayne could use another driver and Wayne sent me to see Sam today. Sam runs the stable in the middle of town. I could smell hay and horses long before I entered. It was nice and cool inside. Someone at the back was turning over hay to air it out.

“Are you Sam?” I asked.

The boy chuckled. He must have been all of fifteen. Fleshy but muscled underneath. And he had Downs.

“Sam is my father,” he said. “He will be back very soon. Do you need to borrow a horse?”

“I’m supposed to work for your dad.”

“We can always use help with the horses,” he said. “But you have to be nice to them. They’ll be nice to you.”

“I’m sure they will.”

“Hello!” someone called. I turned to see a man with a broad straw hat at the door of the stable. “I see you met Charley,” he said, extending a hand. Solid handshake. I could feel the calluses. “I’m Sam.” Sam was old for a guy who’d been resurrected. Most resurrectees are in their twenties. Sam was at least mid-thirties, maybe early forties. Some wrinkles. Sun-aged skin. “Charley, Reese is going to drive a wagon. I think Bertha would be good for him.”

Charley smiled. “Bertha is always good for everybody.”

“Come on in the office, Reese, and I’ll give you your route and some instructions. Ever drive a wagon?”

In the office, Sam picked up a clipboard, pulled a pile of bills of lading and a map from a corner of the desk and, clipping them to the board handed it to me.

“Go ahead and ask,” he said.

“The papers aren’t self-explanatory?”

“About Charley. You were wondering about Charley.”

It was true. It was Charley who wasn’t self-explanatory.

“I’m glad your son is here with you,” I said.

“But…” Sam continued for me.

“Okay. But why does he have Down syndrome? I thought all that was supposed to be fixed when we’re resurrected.”

“It’s what he wanted.”

“It’s what he wanted?”

Sam must have seen the look on my face a thousand times. “In heaven, Jesus asked him. And Charley said he liked who he was just fine.”

“But he’s…”

“Retarded?” Charley said.

He’d been listening in the doorway.

“I’m sorry, Charley, I didn’t mean…”

“I told Jesus in heaven that my heart is not retarded. He smiled at me. I told him ‘make me the same again. I don’t want to have a retarded heart.’ So, here I am. And pop and I are okay. Right pop?”

“Right, Charley,” Sam said.

He handed me the clipboard. I looked at his sunburned hand. I didn’t pry further, but I’m guessing Sam is the same age he was when Charley knew him best, back in the world that was.

“Martha knows the way to the loading stops,” Sam said. “Hardware, feed store… After that, follow the list and the map. Charley, is it okay if we send Tickle along with Reese today?”

“Tickle?” I asked.

“My pigeon!” Charley said. “She doesn’t need a cage any more. She stays on the wagon until she comes home. If you have trouble, just say ‘Help, Tickle.’ We will come get you, Pop and me and Tickle.”

So, Bertha and I headed out. One light flick of the reigns so she’d know I was ready, and we were off. Tickle, too, sitting on the bench next to me or sometimes pacing. She flew off after my first few deliveries, came back later, then was off and back all day.

So, Helen, let me tell you about the job.

A horse-drawn wagon is like a self-driving truck, or nearly so. Bertha only drives herself home at the end of the day, but that’s when you most appreciate it. We did fine right off the bat. Not bad for a guy who never rode a horse. I drive the wagon back and forth across town, meet nice people, and get exercise unloading it. I like it. It’s usually sunny… I didn’t tell you about that, did I? We had a thunderstorm the other day, and it blew down the big tree in the town square.

Some people got really upset about it. Not that it doesn’t rain. Sometimes we get a real soaker. It was that the storm did damage to something. One of them got mad at me when I said big thunderstorms are part of perfection. So the Zoës held a regional meeting to explain that storms are part of God’s order or something. I stopped listening after a few minutes. I just scanned the faces looking to see if you were there and my Zoë hadn’t told me.

But you weren’t there. You’re not working at any of the places I deliver to. You’re not walking down the sidewalk or in the lane, not looking out of any of the windows I pass. I’d recognize you, the way I recognized you back at that service station when we were first alive and still young. I know you remember that because we often talked about how we met in that snowstorm by chance, each not knowing the other was back in town. You said later you recognized me by the laugh lines around my eyes. You hugged me and left the scent of Cinnabar perfume on my coat. My partner on the run that day kept laughing. “You got it bad,” he’d say. “You got it bad.” And all I could do was smile, because he was right. All the rest of that day I couldn’t think of anything else but calling you up. My hand would go to the note with your phone number and I’d look at it and he would say “Yep. It’s happening.” And it was, even then. We left had town years before to our different destinies, and we parted friends. Somehow, I knew meeting you in the snowstorm that day there would be more. I wanted more. I wanted you.

I want you now. Here in this Resurrection. Where are you, babe?

Day 36: Sarah Gives it Up, Finally

I haven’t written anything in almost a week. Thankfully we aren’t compelled to turn over our work to anyone for evaluation. Whatever class this is, well, I’d be flunking.

To catch up:

The book that Belle gave me to read, well, I had a lot of trouble understanding it. Oh, the words were clear enough but the concepts seemed to contradict each other. My husband would have understood each of them clearly and could probably explain how they interact, but I’m lost in the jumble.

Lost. Yes, there’s truth to that concept.

I’ve been talking with people I’ve met and to be honest, am astounded at the range of individuals I’ve found. A couple are like Harry, my husband; they discuss matters of faith and concepts as if they were talking about last night’s football game. Then there are others, far more in number, who simply accept this life we’ve been given. I want to call them sheep, but I’ve got a fairly thick pelt growing myself.

Belle hasn’t appeared in over three days. She had helped me find something to do, some work that seemed to use my varied talents. That was, well, three weeks and a couple of days ago. She checked on me frequently at first, then once or twice a day, then every couple of days, and then she stopped dropping by regularly after helping me find work. The last couple of times I saw her, she looked a little peaked, like she was coming down with a cold. Zoes don’t get sick, but just in case I heated up some canned chicken and rice soup on the hotplate I’d sneaked into my room. She had a bowl, said it helped, and then left. That was the last time she was here.

In between sips of soup we talked about non-important things, like how I felt now, what I believed God wanted me to do, and that kind of stuff. No, not non-important. I told her about feeling rootless, without connection to this life; of course, in my before life I never felt like I belonged anyway. That did bring a tiny lift to the corners of her lips, but not like the smiles she used to beam, the kind that lighten the air around you. She put down her spoon and told me she’d felt the same way a little before she died and that she had lifted the concern to God.

“It was like a wound that’s in the process of healing, Sarah,” she explained. “You know, that time when it itches and you know the injury isn’t far from being gone.”

“Yeah, as a kid I was always stumbling and scraping the heck outta my knees. I had scabs on them all the time.”

“Exactly. We have to deal with things that happen—let our wounds heal. If we don’t, we bleed constantly.” As she spoke, the light that surrounded her, the light that seemed dim and in need of chicken soup, brightened. It was as if helping me helped her.

“Oh, I remember bleeding.” I used to cut myself until I found that alcohol dulled the pain. She seemed to see it in my eyes so I looked away, ashamed with myself. The shame wasn’t overwhelming anymore somehow, strangely.

“Giving your troubles, the things that worry or bother you, up to God doesn’t make them heal instantly. That takes a little time.”

“At the risk of being a pest, how long does it take?” I missed Harry, I missed my dogs. Heck, I think I even missed waking up in the morning with a huge head.

She laughed, that tinkling laugh. The light of her seemed to detach and flow into me, like she’d breathed it into me. Things were a little clearer suddenly. The idea that I missed having a hangover seemed silly, and I laughed as well.

“It won’t be long now,” she said as she shoved the bowl away.

“What won’t be long? You mean, the stuff that gets my goat won’t seem as essential pretty soon?”

“A little like that. Something will come to you that will make you happy. I mean, happier. You have been a little happy here, haven’t you Sarah?”

“You mean I’ll win the lottery or something?”

Her laughter pealed again, a pleasant tinkle of wind chimes in my ears.

“Not a lottery, not exactly. Although I suppose having the love of God is like winning a lottery. Anyway, someone will come soon who will make your life brighter, easier.”

Harry. Harry had to be near, near enough for me to find. Yep, that would be the jackpot. But I couldn’t be too eager, couldn’t show it anyway.

“Want some more soup?” I took the bowl and turned away, hiding a smile.

“Don’t hide, Sarah.” She must have read my mind, but then again, she always did. “Being transparent to God is a good thing.” She seemed to hear something, a signal or a sound, and stood up from the table. “I have to go now.”

I walked her to the door, finally smiling at her instead of away from her.

“Yes, that’s good! You are becoming less of a cipher and more transparent. You are beautiful, Sarah, truly beautiful.”

“Oh really? I hadn’t noticed.” I blushed red like a beet. I never had felt beautiful, but maybe it was time.

“Yep, that’s our Sarah, serving sarcasm with every smile.” She began to fade, the lines around her growing vague. “Remember, someone is coming to help you.”

She was gone, like a light bulb turned off. But I didn’t feel like I was in the dark, at least not as much.

Back to reality.

OK, so I’m working in a tailor shop part time, then part time in a flower shop. Neither is taxing and the procedures aren’t difficult at all; in a word, I’m kind of bored. And when I’m bored, I think about things that worry or concern me.

Harry concerns me, and I wonder if he’s the person who is coming. I thought he’d be waiting for me when I passed through the Pearly Gates, but since there weren’t any gates, I’m confused. One of the people working at the flower shop looked up the other day right into the face of his wife; she’d been looking for him and somehow wandered into the florist’s shop. They were both so incredibly happy they almost glowed like Zoes. He didn’t come in for a few days, then bounced in one morning to quit his job. Seems like they were going to open some sort of gift shop in the next town together.

I know I’m supposed to be happy for them, but I’m not. I’m not angry, either; I’m envious.

It seems like meeting up with your loved ones is purely accidental around here. True, there are no coincidences here and everything is according to God’s plan, but I often wish God would issue some sort of do-it-yourself instructions on finding your loved ones and fitting in, as well as other subjects that are universally puzzling. We need more information, that’s all.

One phenomenal thing, though. I had applied to work at a place where people can get pets, dogs and such. The job went to someone else, but the director asked me to work freelance, writing various things; I finally learned the style and tone of what he wanted. He didn’t give me a ton of work, in fact few and far between. When I brought in the last assignment he had for me, I steeled myself to go through the kennel and look at the dogs. Maybe I would find one that was just right for me. Sometimes I get a little lonely.

So here I was, walking down what seemed like an endless line of open cages—the dogs are free to wander around—and out of the corner of my eye I saw a big shepherd, just sitting there watching me. Yep, it was Big Ed, the gray sable we had, the one we reluctantly put down when he developed a neurological condition.  His legs had stopped working and he frequently fell over, often defecating at the same time; the look in his eyes told me his pride was gone. The same look begged me to let him go, give him rest. In a way, it was both the easiest and the hardest I’d ever made. But that was then and this is now, a whole different reality.

It’s kind of funny. They never fill the cages and they never empty them completely. Dogs just show up, hang around for a while, and all of them seem to find their people eventually. Cats are different and never come into the shelter; they just wander around until they find their people.

Anyway, I stared at him with my mouth open, and he walked up to me, circling me once and stopped right at my left side. He sat down, nuzzled my hand, and waited in a totally dignified and sedate way. I wanted to hunker down and throw my arms around the big lug, but such a public expression would have embarrassed him. Anyway since we found each other he’s been with me every minute; they don’t mind him at either the tailor’s or the florist’s place. He spends most of the day lying in the sun.

 

I wonder why Big Ed ended up with me; maybe Harry isn’t here? I also wonder what happened to Daisy, and Walter, and that little puppy we had, Beatrice. It’s probably a good thing that I don’t have all of them with me. That would be some parade when we walk to work.

I also wonder what happened to Belle and how I could find her. I don’t know where to start; perhaps there’s a Zoe agency somewhere. No one seems to know how Zoes are chosen, or maybe it’s the Zoe who choses their Bios?

Another puzzle: if God is a loving father, why is He keeping people apart?

If I keep thinking like this, my head might implode. Too many questions and too few answers.

Where is Belle? Where is this person who is coming?

Shoot, I’m late for work.

—###—

Okay, I’m back. Big Ed wandered off on our way home and it took a while to find him. Or rather, he found me just when I’d given up on him. Oh, and he brought someone with him.

Beatrice! But she wasn’t a puppy anymore; I knew it was her anyway. She’d been our next-to-last dog. Harry thought I needed another dog; Big Ed was having trouble going up and down steps, and Harry wanted to distract me from Ed’s final days. She had done just that, the little nut. A little black dot stumbling into Big Ed, being goofy. Those couple of weeks she was with us were mostly good, I guess. The last couple of days, when she got so sick and was diagnosed with Parvo, well, those sucked big rocks.

Yep, it was Bea. I’d decided to sit down in the park and wait for Ed to find me, since I didn’t seem to be able to find him. And there he was, sauntering down a path toward me with quiet dignity, followed by a highly distractible little black dog. She saw me, squealed, ran toward me, and promptly stumbled just as she got to me, slamming into my leg. Yep, that was Bea. Full of love and a complete lack of physical grace.

I wondered how I’d manage two dogs, taking them to work and all. She seemed to have some little bit of training now; Ed sedately marched on my left, and she goobered around on my right. Yes, she’d wander a little to sniff a leaf or stare at the sky, but she would soon realize we’d walked on and gallop to catch up. She tried really hard to keep alongside, but sooner or later something would distract her and she’d veer off.

Today was my day at the tailor, and work wasn’t hard, as usual. There’s always an atmosphere of a holiday approaching. In fact, I spent most of the afternoon hemming pants and skirts, special Sunday-go-to-meeting kind of stuff. Oh, no holiday or celebration is scheduled, at least that I know of. It just seems that people are getting into a carnival/celebratory/party frame of mind. Maybe I should see about getting something less flannel and jeans and girlier.

I mentioned my concern about my Zoe to the other seamstress at the shop, and she seemed to be anxious about hers as well. Her Zoe was distracted and appeared to be a little angry, if you can believe a Zoe being angry, about something. I know I should be more concerned, but I’m not.

I’m not overly concerned because what Belle said about giving worry to God seems to be working for me. Actually it’s more Zen than that; at first it seemed to be undoable. Every time I tried to lift my disquiet to God, I felt worse, but then, well, all the pieces seemed to fall into place. Like when I learned to ride a bike: I’d struggled and fallen for weeks, it seemed. Then one day, just as I was about to give up, I hopped on the seat and suddenly was able to balance. Off I went, not falling, just whooshing away. I’d ridden the bike all afternoon on the roads by my grandparents’ place and came back dirty around the edges. Mom wasn’t mad at all and was happy I wasn’t scratched up and bloody as usual.

I’m happier. Not dancing in the streets happy, but happier. Well, I have to admit there’s a part of me worrying about when this happiness is going to end. Still, I’m not as concerned as I usually am. That’s a start, I guess.

This giving it up to God stuff is pretty cool.

 

 

Day 161 Wayne’s Journal 9: Hiring Reese

I haven’t written a journal in a couple of months. Too busy. Arjun told me that the gal who ran the New Harmony Delivery Company had “gone Zoë.” I never met her myself, but I gather she was well liked. I guess that’s how you make the transition: Butter everyone up, treat them with kid gloves… I could hear it in my head: White Glove Customer Service. That was going to be my company motto.

Arjun said New Harmony Delivery Company did intra-regional delivery.

“So who handles the inter-regional delivery?” I asked him.

“No one.” Sometimes I think he answers before he thinks.

“No one? I’ve traveled much of the region and there are no factories here, but we’ve got a lot of manufactured goods. They come from somewhere.”

“I see,” he replied. “Yes, no factories here or in 1819 or 1718 and below for that matter. Well, not many. Only ones situated near streams to use water power. But we didn’t want to recreate the pollution of the technology from the 20th and earlier centuries. The factories in 2021 are clean and mostly automated.”

“How nice. I’d love to see them.”

“That’s impossible.”

“So you say. Back to my original question. Who handles the inter-regional delivery?”

“We do.”

“You have Zoës unloading goods at the depot? Angelic beings huffing crates off boxcars? Is that supposed to be credible?”

“Oh, I see what you’re asking. No, we have Bios do that, mostly.”

“Bios from 2021?”

He shook his head ‘yes.’

“So some Bios can be trusted to move between regions?”

“Yes. No. It’s not about trust. It’s about contam… We have them work at night to prevent culture shock by anyone in 1920.”

I knew there wouldn’t be any culture shock. Only the shock of finding out some people could go between regions and others were stuck in Möbiusville.

“Why not have us deliver to 1819?” I asked.

“You have no manufacturing, so there is less to deliver.”

“What if I came up with something? Manufactured something. Could we deliver it?”

“You mean, build a factory?”

“Sure. We’ve got streams. We could build a factory that’s green.”

“The labor wouldn’t be green. It would require laborers.”

“And 2021 doesn’t?”

“No. It would be automated. Once they set it up, the factory is automatic and self-regulating.”

“What about…”

“We’re off topic,” he said.

I can imagine what Edward would think of our conversation. After that we returned to the topic of the New Harmony Delivery Company. With a brief tour or the warehouse and transfer dock by the tracks, I was able to size it up. She ran the place with 9 to 5 hours. Deliveries from 2021 were brought in after closing. Although the city did not have a curfew, people weren’t to loiter around the dock or warehouse after hours. We were also a place where local truck farms could bring goods to be distributed throughout the region.

By horse.

Yep. I’m looking at the entry and I still shake my head at it. Mind you, I knew long before today that there were few autos in Region 1920. And that makes it weird compared to the world most of us came from. Even the make-believe paradise of Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show had cars and radios.

“We need to get a fleet of trucks,” I said to Arjun when we got to the warehouse.

“Sorry, but that would necessitate a fleet of fuel trucks delivering fuel to petrol stations throughout the region.”

“So?”

“The automobile is not a clean technology.”

“And horses are? With all their horse shit and the flies? That’s clean?”

“For now, the Region will retain animal-based transport except for the interurban and vehicles deemed essential, such as fire, ambulance, and other essential services.”

I didn’t recall seeing the Fire Station ever go into action. And what exactly is ‘essential’?

“Then it actually isn’t Region 1920, is it?” I said. “I have to tell you, it was more than a bit of culture shock for me to find out there were no cars, no computers, cell phones, no Internet. And no TV for God’s sake. What do we have that 1819 doesn’t?”

“The electric lamp and the telephone. And refrigeration. That’s a big thing you know.”

“But those are mostly 19th century technologies, aren’t they?”

“True, but only as the 19th century was about to become the 20th. And the appliances. You do not see them because they are ubiquitous when you were alive. Someone from 1819 would not be used to all your electric gadgets.”

“Damn. I’d hate to live in a region without power.”

“All regions have power. Animal or water or wind power perhaps. But power nonetheless. 1819 has enough electricity for the telegraph.”

I looked around me as if seeing this place for the first time. While I was doing the gardening and little more, it was like being on an extended vacation. I was content to have a “get away from it all” mentality, so no phones, computers, none of that bothered me. My commune childhood fit nicely here. But to run a delivery company with horse-drawn technology?

“Wayne, I can see this is making you uncomfortable,” Arjun said. “Perhaps something less… Perhaps where the interface of commerce and technology is less acute.”

“No, I said. This will do. I’ve been lollygagging around too long.”

So, I became the new boss. The other bios who worked there, Nancy and Arny, weren’t interested in running the place. As if it would be too much to hold all this in their heads. As if the stress and deadlines of a horse-powered delivery company would be too much for them. Nancy would be right at home on Mom’s commune. Arny should be in art school. That way he could stare at clouds all day, paint brush in hand. What kind of world could they build?

Arjun introduced me as the new manager. The word “boss” never came up. He left me to find my way right after that. The hardest part of taking over was figuring out the books in an age of pencil and paper. Nancy helped with that.

“We’re short handed,” Arny said when the first wagon was loaded and he was about to set out on his route.

“What do you mean?”

“We have two routes. When Ann went Zoë, I started doing Louie’s route as well as mine. But today, I won’t have time. Most days I won’t.”

“What happened to Louie?” I asked. Arny shrugged his shoulders then turned away, gave the reins a light flick and clicked a couple times, and he and his horse and wagon took off.

Nancy said to call the resurrectorium.

“Is Louie dead?” I asked.

“No, that’s how you reach Arjun. Tell him you need a new driver.”

The switchboard at the resurrectorium said they’d take care of it, and a few hours later, Reese showed up.

“Long time no see,” I said, but I didn’t extend my hand. Reese had gone native, wearing only a loin cloth.

“Problem?” Reese asked. Reading my face and body language didn’t require expertise. I wanted to telegraph my displeasure. ‘Problem?’ he asks. Where do I begin? If this was the old world, there’s no way I’d give this guy a job. Here, I didn’t even know if hiring decisions were my own. I felt like such a rube not knowing the basics of how to run a company. I didn’t even know if it was my company to run. Who owns this gig, anyway?

“No,” I said, “though the job will require loading and unloaded a wagon, and you’re not dressed to do that. Plus, you represent the company with customers.”

“Oh. I’ve got a jumpsuit I can wear.”

I wanted to say ‘Then why the hell aren’t you wearing that?’ but again, what are the rules here in commune-land?

“Good,” I said. “Consider your jumpsuit your work uniform. I know for certain there are some in the region who are scandalized by the lack of standards.”

“My last job was as a Cultural Translator, so I know about the problem most people have with nudity.”

“Yet you showed up here nearly naked?”

“I haven’t got the job yet.”

“Do you want the job, Reese?”

He straighten up a bit and some of the commune attitude fell away.

“I’ve been going through a rough patch,” he said. “Amber, my Zoë, thinks this job would be good for me.”

“I don’t care what Amber thinks. I may not be here to make money. God knows, no one can get ahead here. But I’ve been asked to run this company, and I plan to run it well. So, if we agree the job is for you, show up for work in your jumpsuit.” I could see that got to him, so he wasn’t a full-blown commune slacker.

“Have you ever handled a horse-drawn wagon?” I asked, moving on from his appearance.

“Nope. Never met anyone in my life who did. Can you?”

“Yes, but that’s besides the point.”

“That is the point.”

He was right, and I had already forgotten my shock when Arjun brought me here.

“Okay,” I said. I decided that he’d figure out how to drive a wagon soon enough. “You’ve got the job. Do you know where the stable is?”

“Downtown? Yeah.”

“Go there tomorrow morning, and they’ll get you set up. Come here with your rig, and in your jumpsuit mind you, and we’ll get you started on your route.”

He extended his hand and I shook it.

This wasn’t the same Reese I’d met before, the one that Edward was so impressed with. ‘Möbius man,’ Edward had called him. Reese seemed worn down. Maybe he’d been running the Möbius loop all this time. I remembered a comic book from when I was a kid. A man was running on a treadmill in the sky, clouds and the earth far below him, running as hard and fast as he could, because if he stopped or slipped he’d fall. There were a lot of times when my old life had felt like that. Investment banking could be like that at times. When the markets turned bearish, it was a struggle. I saw that kind of struggle on Reese. I wondered if they sent him to me because they thought he needed a low-stress job. Well, he’s got it. Welcome to commune world, Wayne.

Day 153: Reese’s Journal Entry 6: I Quit

They have mates, but you’re not here. It comes down to that, really. I’d see someone else alone, missing their mate, or worse I’d see a couple reunited, sometimes whole families all happy as can be. It just got to be too much. I‘ve lost count, Helen, of the number of reunions I’ve seen, and as a Cultural Translator, I meet most of the resurrectees.

I wonder what Amber was thinking when she arranged this job for me. Zoës don’t seem to have much of a grasp of human psychology. Okay, I should have seen myself in the first few weeks. So I almost made my “90 day review,” if there was such a thing. 85 days. I hate to be a quiitter, but I’ve had it.

It’s my fault, I suppose. I would always, always ask recently reunited couples how long they were apart. Days. One waited a week. I’m on day one hundred and fifty three, Helen. I tried leaving to see if you were in another twon, but that’s forbidden. I’ve tried waiting patiently, but that’s not my nature. Rock, meet hard place — the one at the top of my skull. I was never very good at changing who I am. I can’t refashion myself into a paragon of patience.

The most recent couple had been married a year longer than we had. Nosy me, I had to ask them, because when she said “forty six years” of marriage I felt something in my stomach twist up. Some couples get reunited. Some were only married a short while, but they got to be reunited. Not us. I know it isn’t anything you did. So I’ve been trying to figure out what I did that’s keeping them from resurrecting you. Even if it’s because I tried leaving town and we’re both being punished, what about those first sixty seven days? What were they waiting for then? So, I broke a rule on the sixty eighth day — an unwritten, unspoken rule — that we’re not to leave the region. Thanks, Amber, for the heads up. So eighty five days later they’re still punishing us?

Okay, enough of that. Rehearsing my anger isn’t going to solve anything. I’ll find another job. That’s one of the great things about this place. There’s no rat race.