Chris-newcomb.com
 
Author/Storyteller

The Candle

© Chris Newcomb 2008

(A man who has just been to a men’s retreat

is sharing a bit about the weekend.)


So, we’re sitting in this circle, right?  About 40 men.  Ranging in age from maybe 25 to 70 or 75.  And the guy who’s in charge is wearing this pink baseball cap with 3 x 5 cards pinned all over it with words written on each card.  Things like, “Believe!” , “I belong.”  It looks rather silly if you ask me.

Anyway, no one else seems to know what’s going on, so I guess he’s the ‘guy’, you know? 


Well, this pinky guy, that’s what he calls himself, is telling us the rules of the place, and every now and then he tells us about some ritual that been passed on by men from gathering to gathering, like it’s some sacred circle of men having met since creation, or the days of the caves anyway.


Now, I don’t recall all the rituals, although there was one particularly odd one.  Odd, since it involved a candle that he didn’t actually have.  It had to do with passing the candle around the circle and naming men who weren’t there.  And I’m thinking, “Well, there’s a whole world of men who aren’t here.  Why not just get a phone book and start listing names?”  Man, we’re gonna be here all night just listening to the names of men who aren’t here. 


Anyway, the rock comes to me, that’s right, it was a rock, supposed to be a candle, but all this pinky character could find was a rock.  It was going around the circle in one direction while a log was being passed around the other way.  Pinky said it was a ‘worry log’.  We were supposed to put our worries and fears in the log and then we’d burn it at the end of the weekend.  So, the rock was going around one way and the log was going the other, while at the same time men were standing up in turn and sharing their reasons for coming to the weekend and what they hoped to gain.  And all I could think about was what was going to happen to the guy who got the rock and the log at the same time it was his turn to stand up and share?  I was sure hoping it wouldn’t be me.


Like I said, the stone comes my way, so I name the first 3 guys I could think of.  It’s not like I knew them, they were just names . . . I was hoping maybe this is a game, you know if you said the right name you’d get a prize or something.  Anyway, after a while I realized guys were naming their brothers and sons and fathers, and men who had once been to gatherings but who’d passed on, or simply couldn’t be there for some reason.  (pause) It was my first time, OK?


So, the guys were standing up and sharing stuff, and to tell you the truth, most of them seemed like terribly sad guys, like this was some sort of therapy group for sad and lonely men. Until . . . the guy next to me stands up and says that during the weekend he wants guys to tell him penis stories.  At first I think I misunderstood him.  Thought he wanted to hear Uncle Remis stories.  But no, he brought a video camera and he wants to catch some penis stories on film, no matter how long or short they are.


Now, it’s getting interesting.  Guys start talking about masturbation, their dad’s abandoning them, the trauma of being the last one picked for every game when they were a boy.  And one guy, oh he’s probably 55 or so, he stands up and tells us that his wife and four daughters are off on a women’s retreat this weekend, and how his three grandchildren are being watched by his mom, and oh, by the way, I’ve never told anyone, but I think I’m gay.


I’m beginning to really enjoy myself now.  This is certainly better than anything on TV, right?  Until . . . this depressingly sad looking guy gets up and starts talking real slow, like it’s painful just to speak.  He looks at the floor while he speaks about the pressures of his work life, his family, his disappointing marriage, his inner monsters.  The circle seemed to spiral back down into a droll sad place, when he looks up, and says “That’s why I’m here.  And this afternoon, as I drove down the road to the lodge I think I started smiling.”  And as he said these words, this sad mans’ face lit just up like the sun.


He went on.  “And when I saw my friend James, I found myself smiling again.”  Once again, his smile illuminated the room.  I remember thinking that when this guy smiles, he’s one of the most beautiful men I’ve ever seen.  He paused.  He looked down at the floor for a bit, then he looked up with a great big smile and said, “And you know what?  I think I’m smiling right now.”


And he was.  And so was every man in the circle.


Hell, who needs candles?


Waiting For The Toast To Pop

C.Newcomb © 2004


  Tick-tock . . .  tick-tock . . .  tick-tock . . .


  Once a very busy man sat in his kitchen listening to the tick-tock of the clock as he waited  

  for the toast to pop. 


  He felt the breeze as it blew through the curtain.

  He heard it rustling the leaves of the trees.  He heard a bird.  He heard a child.  He tasted the

  thick, sweet, pungent aroma of a rose.


  And, sitting there, taking it all in, he didn’t hear the tick-tock of the clock until the toast

  popped up.





HOW

DAY SKY &  NIGHT SKY

CAME TO SHARE

THE

HEAVENS

by

Chris Newcomb  © 2000



There was a time Day Sky was all that was.

It was Day always.

Bright.

Blue sky.

Forever.

Always.


There was a time, when Night Sky was all that was.

It was Night always.

Dark.

Black sky.

Forever.

Always.


Now, Day Sky and Night Sky share the Heavens.  This is how it came to be.

Both Day Sky and Night Sky wanted the people of  the Earth to worship them.  Day Sky wanted the full attention of the people.  It wanted them to see how magnificent it was so that they would always want to be with it.  Not for one moment did it want them to pay any attention to Night Sky. 


Day Sky was able to get the peoples attention with its bright blue endless sky. It was so proud of its blue sky that it figured everyone would love to see it always.  The people loved Day’s Sky.  Bright blue.  Forever blue.  Day after day, it was blue.  After a while, the people grew tired of Day’s bright blue color.  It was always the same.  Day upon day it was blue.  Always blue.


Night Sky took advantage of the peoples’ boredom and offered them its mysteries; the deep, dark, mysteries of Night.  And the people, tired of the unceasing brightness of Day, sought the wonder, awe, and cool refreshing darkness of Night Sky. 


Day Sky was furious.  How could the people abandon it after it had given them so much   “Surely, I can offer them more than that old trickster Night Sky.  I will give them something that will stun them.  Something that will thrill them.”   With that, Day Sky pulled all of itself into the tiniest ball that it could make.  Day Sky stayed that way for a long, long, time. 


Finally, Day Sky opened itself back up again.  When it did, the people saw something new in Day Sky, a magnificent ball of fire that they called Sun.  The people rushed to Day Sky to thank it for the warmth they’d been missing, and the brightness of the day they’d all but forgotten. 


Night became very jealous of Day.  “I can see the people tire of the blackness of eternity. Yet I have no fire of my own.  Surely Day Sky will not share its fire with me.  What can I use to entice the people?”   Night searched in every corner of its infinite darkness, looking for something with which it might lure the people.  After a long time, Night stumbled upon some dust that had been left behind when the universe was first under construction.  “What’s this?  Hmm... I wonder...”


Night Sky gathered the dust and pressed it together as tightly as it could.  When it opened its hands, a round, white object appeared.  Its shape, its shadows... well, the fact that the people could look straight at it for hours unlike Day Sky’s Sun intrigued the people immediately.  Night Sky set the mysterious white ball to float in the heavens in such a way that it was always changing.  It changed its size, its shape... Night Sky held moon out to the People as if to say...

“Here I am.  Come.  All who are brave enough, all who are driven by their passion, come.  You others, you wait for Day Sky’s Sun.  It is safe enough for you there.  But those who must know wonder... follow me.”





   The people were in awe. 

   Silence was the only sound

   that could be heard among

   the people on the night

   when they first saw moon. 

   Silence that is, until someone

   began drumming, and another

   began to dance.  Soon the

   people were making music

   and dancing in the moon light. 



The people loved Night’s moon.                 

However, there came a night when

there was no moon at all, and the

people became afraid.  

             


              They ran for Day as fast as they could. 

















The people approached Day feeling they had been tricked by Night, and overcome with guilt for ever having left the warmth and brightness of Day.  Yet Day Sky was so upset with Night that it didn’t even notice the people had returned.


“What a cheap imitation of my magnificent Sun is Night’s moon!  Why, it doesn’t even cast its own light.  It simply mirrors mine!  Ohhh!!!!”  moaned Day in such a rage that it caused a great and furious wind to blow over the earth.  The people became afraid.  They sought shelter in nearby caves.  When Day saw what had happened, it cried out in despair. . .


“Now I will never get the people’s attention.  They will not see my magnificence while they are hiding in caves, or dancing in Night Sky’s moon.  How will I draw them out?”


“Let me see, It seems the people are mesmerized by new things.  Hmmm... I’ve got it.  I will cause the heavens to change constantly.”  


So, Day Sky created clouds, and then, a gentle rain.  When the people heard the sound of the rain, they ran to the edge of their caves.  They weren’t certain what to make of it.  There was a new quality to the air.  Some wanted to go out into it, others were afraid.  “What if it burns?  We’re better off here in the cave.”  Finally, one brave young girl stepped out into the rain.  The people watched.  “It’s wonderful!  Come join me.”


The people came out of the caves and into the gentle rain.  They ran with their heads up and their mouths wide open drinking in the rain.  They splashed and laughed and sang and danced in the rain.  They were refreshed and cleansed.  The people came to love the rain.  When it ended, and they saw the soft white clouds floating above them, with the bright Sun, and the magnificent blue of Day Sky, they fell down on their knees in worship to Day Sky once again. 















Day Sky was happy beyond words.  It relished the peoples’ attention.  It glared at Night Sky.



Night moaned. “There is no doubt that the people enjoy the ever changing face of Day; perhaps even more than my moon.   They are a fickle lot, these humans, but I will find a way to insure that the people come back to me and never return to Day.”


Thus, Night sought a way to steal Day Sky’s Sun. “I will hide it so deep in my infinite darkness that they will soon forget Day Sky ever existed.”  Night called upon Wind.  A wind from each of the Four Directions.  “Wind of the North,  Wind of the South, Winds of the East  and West, come, blow upon Sun and bring it unto me.”


The Winds began to blow.  They howled against Sun.  But Sun would not move.  “I am of the Day!”  shouted Sun into the Winds.  “Night cannot have me.”  Try as hard as they might, the Four Winds could not blow Day Sky’s Sun into Night.  Yet, the Winds blew so fiercely that sparks flew into Night Sky. 


The people looked up and noticed the sparks in Night’s sky.  “Oh, my.   Look.  These are wonderful.  These are magical.  They are fantastic. They are signs.  Guides.”


The people fell down in awe of Night.  They studied the stars.  They told each other ancient stories they’d never heard before, late into night.  Night was beyond itself with joy.


Day tried to get the people’s attention.  But they’d stayed up so late that they slept through most of Days’ antics. 


Night gloated.


Day cried. 


It cried tears so huge and for so long that for all intents and purposes it was as if Day had died.  What little light still shone was weak and imperfect.  It cried on and on, moaning moans and howling howls that seemed reserved for Night.


The people longed for Day.  They begged Day to return.  “Please bring back your Sun to us.”  But Day Sky would not hear them. “Please.  We will give anything for your bright blue sky.”  Still, Day Sky refused.  Instead there came a time of gray.  A long time of gray, drizzly, moping skies.  And, slowly, everything turned gray... the sky, the plants, the faces of the people.  The people continued to beg . . .  “Please... please...”  Eventually the people became gray too.  And tired.  Just when it seemed that the hearts of the people would turn gray, a voice cried out among them...


“Enough is enough!  We are tired of this!”

The people shuddered.  Night flickered.  Day arose in shock.  “We will worship neither of you.  From now on, if you want a place to be, you will share the heavens and we will honor you both.  But we will not worship you.”


“What?” cried Day Sky.


“Enough is enough.”


“Who are you?” demanded Night.


“Enough!  For there is never enough praise, never enough attention either of you can get.”


“Share the heavens?  With... with that beast?” cried Day Sky.


“Never!” shouted Night.


“Then we will not honor you.  We will ignore you.” The people turned their backs on Day Sky and Night Sky.











Time stood still.


“Ummm, yoo hoo.  Over here.” flirted Day.


“Watch this.” teased Night.


But the people would not be moved.


Finally, Day weakened.  “Suppose we do agree to share the heavens, and this is just an idea mind you, but if we do, what proof will you give us that you will honor both of us always?”


The people talked among themselves.  “Hmmm... Alright, how’s this?  Though you will share the heavens, we will give you times and places on earth where it will be Night Sky all the time.  Places where Day Sky’s Sun will never shine.  And there will be places and times where it will be Day Sky all the time, where Night’s darkness will not appear.”


“All the time day?  I like the sound of this.”



“Always night?  Perfect.”


“However, to insure that your lust for attention will not go unchecked, on the darkest night, there the stars and moon will shine the brightest.  And on the brightest, clearest day, there the shadows will be deeper, darker, and more mysterious.”


So they agreed.  And the people asked … “What sign will you give us to assure us that you will always share the heavens and will not cause us to despair again?”


Night paced, back and forth, trying to think of a sign it could give the people.  Meanwhile, Day began collecting the tears it had cried during the time of gray.  It didn’t know exactly how, yet it had a sense that they were somehow part of the answer.


“What shall I do with these?” 


“Give them to me.” said Sun.  “I think I can do a little something with those.”   So, Day threw its tears up towards Sun, whose warm light transformed the tears into a fantastic display of colors that the people called


“Rainbow.”


The People were astonished.  “This is a good sign.  We can trust this.”


Meanwhile, Night continued its pacing.  Back and forth, back and forth, searching itself for some sign it could give the people. 


“I can feel it.  It’s right here.  Yes, it’s just over here.”  it said as it pointed to a spot just out of its reach.   While it paced, Night absent mindedly placed some of the stars into a pattern.   Then another.   And another.   Doodling, really. 


The people looked up into the heavens!











“Look!  Doesn’t that look like a bear?  And, there, look!  A serpent!  Where?  Oh, yes, I see it, there, by the sword.  Do you see the dipper? These are fantastic.  They must be for signs and seasons.  They are the past.  The future.  Our story.  Our destiny.  This too is a good sign.” 


So . . .

Time began,

Once again.

Only this time,

Day Sky and Night Sky

Came to share the heavens. 





















Perhaps the people will learn to share the earth.


Stories

text for these stories can be found below.

For a more complete listing of my stories scroll to the bottom of this page.


Waiting For The Toast to Pop

The Candle

How Day Sky and Night Sky Came To Share The Heavens

Harriet Baxter Bailey


Harriet Baxter Bailey

Chris Newcomb © 2010

(Through a small window)



     Something was wrong.  Harriet knew it.  She rehearsed her evening.  Dinner with Marion and Charles.  He was 

less abrasive than usual.  A nightcap as she flipped between Letterman and Leno.  She’d gone to bed, late.  Closed her eyes, opened them and it was morning. That quick.  Closed her eyes.  Opened them.  Night had passed.  Yet, that wasn’t what tipped her off to the wrongness of it all.  Oh, she always hated it when she woke so abruptly.   She felt as if she’d been robbed of a good nights’ sleep.  No, it was the fact that as she lay in bed with the soft morning light filtering through the lilacs outside her window, lilacs she’d planted for that very purpose . . . she realized she had no smile on her face.  “My god. What’s wrong?  It’s a beautiful day, I can do anything I want, or nothing for that matter . . . I could sleep another few hours if I want, yet I’m lying here without a hint of a smile.  What’s wrong?”


Harriet got out of bed and methodically went through her morning routine.  By 8:30 she was sitting at the breakfast table with her first cup of tea listening to two chipmunks squeaking about their day.  “If those ungrateful bastards come over here and start complaining one more time about how difficult it is to live in Southwest Harbor with all these goddamned tourists, or insist that I provide them with better treats, I’ll either slit their damned throats or slit my own.”   Something was definitely wrong.  She knew it.  She normally liked chipmunks.  Their playfulness. The charming way they held their little paws together in front of their torso’s while they chirped way.  “The noisy bastards!  Squeaking and squawking, chittering away as if no one needed to hear themselves think.”  She looked for the blue stone.  What a find.  It had changed everything.  She’d used it for the second time yesterday.  In the garden.  She’d used it on the bumble bees.  “Them and their goddamned buzzing here and there as if they owned the place.”  “Just hold the stone in your left hand, missus, ask for what you want, and magic! It’s yours.” That’s what that cute Rastafarian looking boy in Costa Rica had told her when he sold it to her.  It seemed charming, at the time.  The young man certainly was.  But Harriet Baxter Bailey was not a superstitious woman.  Deeply and quietly spiritual, yes, but she’d never entertained magical thinking of any kind.  Still, as she held the stone in her hands upon unpacking from her trip, she admitted that there were things in her life that she’d like to change.  She was bored.  She’d been bored all her life.  That’s why she was painting and going to college with 22 year olds.  She looked at the stone, wondering.  “No!  It’s just a stone.  The boy’s story was more like a folktale than fact.”  Harriet had placed the stone on the mantle in her living room.  Now, several weeks after her return, she’d actually picked the stone up on two occasions to try it out.  Hadn’t the Moore children run away screaming last Saturday?  No doubt telling their parents they’d seen a monster at Old Lady Jenkins’ house.  But who would believe that?  “Monsters?  In South West Harbor?  Imagine.”  Still gazing at the stone Harriet thought, “Those brats haven’t been back . . . perhaps . . . ”



David had begun to grow concerned about his mother.  Since her return from Costa Rica her moods seemed to vary with the wind.  At first he figured it was her medications; something not quite working together properly.  However, her doctors had assured him she was fine.  “It’s not her medications, David,” they’d said rather sternly.  “She’s in her eighty’s.  She’s simply getting old.”  Besides, her memory was quite sharp.  Family stories, politics, recent events, all recounted in immense detail.  Oh, she stumbled in her speech occasionally, searching for words, names of things mostly.  “David, could you go in the kitchen and look up on the top shelf by the fridge and get me the . . . uh . . . the . . .  the . . . oh god, what’s it called?  The . . .”  yet, at eighty-seven, that seemed par for the course.  Besides, compared to most of his friend’s parents Harriet was doing quite well.  She was active, engaging and seemed happy overall, in spite of her recent mood swings.


Late morning found Harriet sitting on the front porch with the New York Times crossword.  David was always bringing her word puzzles, Sudoku’s, anagrams, mentally stimulating problems to occupy her mind.  He said it would “ . . . keep her sharp.  Unlike . . .  well, you know . . .” (neither David nor Harriet had ever completed this sentence aloud.)  “. . . unlike dad.”    Bradley, once a brilliant marine biologist spent his last few years at Ridgecrest sitting in a wheel chair in the hallway lined up with others of his kind, blindly starring, listlessly drooling onto a cloth napkin that a nurse changed every hour or so.  A man without a memory, without a history,  . . . without a smile.  “I’ll be damned if that’ll happen to me!” shouted Harriet to the roaring surf one October evening shortly after Brad’s memorial service.  Truth was, Harriet felt as if she’d spent the first eighty-five years just like that.  Just sitting silently.  Watching life happen.  Not participating so much as observing.  Harriet Baxter Bailey was a proud woman; proud of her family name, proud of her education, proud of her children.  She’d never been one to stand out in a crowd.  Much too reserved for that.  She more or less lived in the shadow of her family and her husband’s accomplishments; not invisible exactly, but a bit transparent, to be sure.  “From now on, I’m going to say and do as I please” she shouted to the crashing waves.  “Harriet Baxter Bailey is a force to be reckoned with!” 


The changes in Harriet’s life had been instant.  She started painting large abstract canvases.  Bold swipes of color, odd shapes.  Shockingly sensual.  She drove across country alone to visit Brad junior in Chicago, and her daughter Bonnie in Seattle.  Most of her friends felt she was simply over reacting to Bradley’s passing.  “It’ll pass.  These things do,” they promised.  She enrolled in courses at The College of The Atlantic.  That’s what had taken her to Costa Rica.  A thirteen-week course in marine ecology that COA ran out of a rustic facility they maintained there.  She returned as a vegetarian with a deep tan, wearing a bandana, a shell necklace and ankle bracelets.  She propounded herbal remedies and spoke of spiritual matters.  David, though concerned, had to admit his mother seemed happier and more fulfilled than he’d ever seen her.  So what if she believed in the power of some jujube juice, or, some harmless blue stone?


Indeed, Harriet had been incredibly happy and fulfilled for some time.  Yet, of late she’d found herself waking with the sense that something was wrong.  She didn’t want to admit it, especially to herself, not in words at least, but she had the feeling she was bored again.  After all she’d done these last years, to be bored anyway was more than she could take. She was in the garden now. “Ah, there it is,” she said. “I knew I’d left it here.”   She’d begun talking to herself out loud quite a lot lately.  She was slightly concerned about this behavior, only because Bradley had begun to do the same thing not long before his tenure at Ridgemont had begun.  Harriet picked up the smooth blue stone.  No larger than a good-sized peach pit.  Though small, it had a substantial weight that seemed to pull down towards the earth.  It was satisfying just to hold the rock.  Here and there on its surface there were small specks of orange as well as a thin streak of green that ran about three-quarters of its circumference.  It felt perfect in the palm of her hand; as if the stone and her hand had been designed for each other; destined to find each other.  By this time the chipmunks had traveled on.  “Smart move on their part.” she said.  As she headed back to the porch her left shoe caught the edge a piece of the flagstone walkway.  She almost fell to the ground.  “Damn it!”  It was that same goddamned piece of flagstone that had been sticking up for years.  She’d asked Bradley to replace it countless times.  Without paying attention, Harriet squeezed the smooth blue stone she held in her left hand.  “Damn that thing!  I want it out of here!”


The next hour or so seemed to pass without Harriet’s participation.  Next thing she knew she was in the basement loading the washer.  She was surprised to find that she’d already showered and put on a change of clothes.  Didn’t recollect any of it.  Yet, here she was, ready for the day.  She noted that even after a shower her fingernails still had dirt under them and her hands were scratched in several places.  “Gardening’s tough on a woman’s hands,” she mumbled to herself.  It was Tuesday.  She volunteered at the library from noon to 3PM.  She grabbed her purse, her lunch meds and a sandwich she’d made the night before.  Opening her front door, and heading down the steps, Harriet was stunned to find chunks of flagstone scattered all over her front lawn.  The entire walkway looked as if a miniature tornado had passed over it.  It was odd, because nothing else in her yard was in disarray, just the flagstone walkway.  Tossed asunder.   “What in god’s name?” wondered Harriet.  It was then that she noted the smooth blue stone on the bottom step of the porch.   Dead center.  Like an offering.  It came back to her; the anger that morning, the blue stone in her left hand.  “My god.  I suppose I’ll have to be more specific in what I wish for.”


She bent down to pick up the blue stone.  She stopped herself.  “Maybe it’s best not to touch it.  I’ll leave it right where it is for now.”  She gingerly wove her way through the scattered flagstone and headed to the library.  She would need help putting the walkway back in place.  She made a mental note to call David, then thought better of it.  “How could I explain this?”


David stopped by his mom’s with yet another collection of word games around 2PM.  He knew she as at the library, but figured he’d drop them off and cut the grass for her.  Besides, a short bike ride would do him good.  He’d been writing all morning and his head was a little fuzzy.  As he rode up the driveway he noticed the flagstone walkway, or what used to be a flagstone walkway.  For years his mother had wanted to have the walkway fixed, so it was no surprise that she’d finally hired someone to do the work. “Who ever she hired is going to get a call from me, that’s for sure,” he thought.  “There’s no reason for trashing the entire yard just to repair the walkway.”  As he approached the front steps he noticed the smooth blue stone sitting on the bottom step.  He picked it up.  His mother had shown it to him, but he’d never held it in his hands.  David was surprised to find that it felt fantastic just to hold the stone.  He put it in his left hand.  He felt as if he was suddenly connected to the earth, to the sky, to everything.  No wonder she felt so attached to it.  He turned around, saw the flagstones everywhere and sighed.   “God, I wish she’d ask me before she did anything.” 


Harriet Baxter Bailey has been living at Ridgecrest for seven years now.  No one knows exactly what happened.  She’s as healthy as can be.  Her doctors say everything is functioning properly.  There’s really no explanation for her sudden change in behavior.  Apparently she’d been volunteering at the library one afternoon, when suddenly she became terribly confused.  She couldn’t make a decision about anything.  She couldn’t decide whether to catalog books, or put them back on the shelves or to read to some children who’d come by for story hour.  All she could say was, “David.  Where’s David?  I need David.”  


More stories and scripts  by Chris Newcomb

contact me for more info; cnewcomb@me.com


The Young Man Who Found The End of the Earth

The Spinners

Fred & Jonathan (The Rose)

Fred & Jonathan (Leave No Trace)

Fred & Jonathan (Me Too!)

Fred- Talkers

I Am A Possibility

Hi, Chris

Where I Thought I Was

April’s Fools

Sky

Get A Real Job

Sonja and Neal

Yikes Monsters!- Cecelia

Yikes Monsters!- Cherry Picking

Unless It’s Toasted

Twenty Eight Days

The Arrogant Man

Tables & Chairs

The Story of an L

Man Tales- Troy

Man Tales- Michael

Man Tales- Cal & Dwayne

Man Tales- Beauty’s In the I of the Beholder

It’s a Drag

Hopelessly Happy

The Cardboard Sign

The 4th of July