Thursday, March 16, 2017

3/16/17

All Things End
By Jerry Guarino


So this was it. A lifetime of self-examination, seeking good and truth, only to be left with confusion and regret. Tony was feeling very helpless. He thought that his life was fulfilling, that he had accomplished much and had loved well. To thine own self be true, wrote Shakespeare. Do the right thing. Make every moment of your life mean something. This philosophy guided Tony since he could conceptualize why he was here.

Tony was gazing at the stars from his balcony on a warm, summer night. Lost in the size of the universe, he wondered about the after life. When he was just 15, he saw a UFO hovering above the high school in East Orange, New Jersey. Since then, he’s dealt with the conflict between Christianity’s view that we are the only ones in the universe and the scientific view that there are probably hundreds of planets and life forms like ours elsewhere. Can they both be true?

But this much he knew. All people die, just as all life dies. Plants, animals and humans all have a life cycle from birth to death. You can argue about the quality of life; that range is beyond measure. The worst and best lives only remind us of our own life, thankful for what it is and grateful for what it could have been. Regrets are simple reminders that we must constantly strive for better, to avoid mistakes made in the past, to learn, to grow. You must not compare yourself to others. There lies madness.

Tony was attracted to philosophy and religion. Those subjects provided much substance. He dabbled in Chi Kung, an ancient Chinese art of physical exercise and meditation. He listened to new age music, to Jonn Serrie and Liquid Mind. He liked to walk while listening to the dream like sounds, imagining he was floating on a soft rubber mattress in a warm water pool. He remembered bobbing up and down in the warm wave pools in Florida, recapturing his floating state in the womb. Too bad it had to end.

Yes, life. Not the idyllic existence before and after life, or so he imagined. Life is full of pain and joy and everything in between. It’s a series of choices that move you toward or away from truth, from happiness. Looking back now, Tony could see many life mistakes, many times when he chose the wrong path, or believed in something that hurt him. If only he could start over, with all this knowledge. Hindsight, indeed.

Start over. Use the rest of your time to do the right thing, in all your choices. Not as easy as you might like. The unenlightened will undo your best intentions. Those from the dark side will upset your plans, in more ways than you can imagine. The Devil’s Orchestra has many instruments and millions of notes aligned against your salvation. Only faith will save you. Only grace will be your salvation. You can’t beat Satan.

Once Tony realized this, he was content to live out his life with as much honesty and compassion as he could. He volunteered for causes, gave to charity and sought to help anyone he could. It became clear to him that many people were floundering in a sea of pain, sinking in the depths of crisis, drowning in life’s grief. Death by a thousand cuts or more. What does it all mean?

He thought that these realizations were why faith and family are universal goals. We cling to faith and family, hoping they will provide a good life. We start wars when faith and family are threatened. We hold them as essential elements of life. They are ingrained within our deepest beliefs, affecting everything we do. When you recognize that, you can start understanding your motivations. We all want love. Faith and family are the ways we give and get it.

“Wake up Tony.” Said his wife Barbara.

“How long have I been sleeping?”

“I don’t know. I just got home from work. Didn’t you go to work?”

“I guess not. I was having my tea and just closed my eyes for a minute. Wait, what day is it?”

“Friday, why?”

“Oh, that’s all right. There’s no school today, some state holiday.”

“Well then. Good. Should we go out for dinner?”

“Great idea. I’m too mellow to cook anyway.”

Barbara looked at Tony as if he was transformed. “Are you all right?”

“Yes, why?”

“Not sure. You seem different.”

“I feel different. I must have had some dream.”

“Well, I’m hungry. You can tell me about it at dinner.”

Tony and Barbara drove to the local Italian restaurant. They ordered wine and dinner. Tony took a sip of Chianti and held the glass up to the light.

“You know. This is good wine.”

“Sure. At eight dollars a glass, it better be. But we’re celebrating, right?”

“Celebrating what?”

“Silly. Did you forget what day this is?”

“I guess so. What is it?”

“It’s the 50th anniversary of the night you saw that UFO in New Jersey.”

“Oh yeah. Too bad I couldn’t find anyone else to verify my story. Kids made fun of me. My parents didn’t believe me. If you ever see a UFO, make sure you get witnesses, along with their contact information.”

Barbara took a paper out of her purse. “Like this?”

Tony opened the paper, reading the highlighted section. “It’s a story about that day. Someone else told a reporter. And look, here’s a picture of the UFO!”

“I knew you would be pleased. Now, can you give me a smile?”

“Of course. But I have to share this with my high school classmates. Hold it up so I can get a picture and share it.”

Barbara held up the paper while Tony took a picture of it with his cell phone. Then he posted it online with details and the heading ‘I told you I saw it’. He pressed his finger on the Post button.

Suddenly Tony was swimming in a warm water sea with waves pushing him up and down. He could see palm trees, a beach and beautiful women in bikinis. “What’s going on Barbara?” But Barbara was nowhere in sight. He guided himself back to shore where a young woman handed him a towel. “Time for a drink Tony.”

“Who are you?” Tony said.

“Don’t be silly dear. It’s me Angela. C’mon. I’m hungry.”

When they arrived at the beach bar, several people waived hello and greeted Tony.

“They’re all happy for you.”

“Happy for what?”

“Why, the fact that your book made the New York Times bestseller list, of course.” Angela held up the paper to show him. She whispered in his ear. “After we eat, we can celebrate back at the bungalow.”

Tony looked at himself. He was young, strong and handsome, not the septuagenarian who fell asleep earlier that day. Angela was in her mid-twenties, tan, about 5’9” with long dark hair, like an island tropics model.

“Angela, what year is this?”

“Tony, you know we don’t have calendars here.”


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Jerry Guarino is the author of six collections of short fiction and one novel (The Da Vinci Diamond); his stories have been published by literary magazines in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Great Britain. He has completed four screenplays, The Da Vinci Diamond, The Tightrope, The Sonoma Murder Mystery and Who Stole Asbury Park? More information on his website: http://cafestories.net


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