Saturday, December 13, 2014

"Wrappings"

"Wrappings"

by

James Patrick Lockett


I shield myself from the lights and tinsel,

from the greed and falsehood,

from the gift wrapped hatred hidden for

the season;

I hide behind pages of Bukowski, and wait

for my deepest wishes to come true,

and for the rains to end.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

CUM HOC, ERGO PROPTER HOC: An Open Response to Deepak Chopra Regarding Faith, Thought and a Million Simoleons

        I seldom publically acknowledge my atheism, as I have always felt that what a person believes in, or doesn’t believe in, is his or her own business. Everyone has the right to believe that which they need to get by day to day – just another choice we’re faced with these days. While I tend to be more vocal on choices like Coke over Pepsi, or liberals over conservatives, I remain a “silent atheist,” one who sees no reason to wave my lack of belief in the face of others as the “bully atheists” do. However, when my mind and heart make an informed choice to believe something, I resent being lumped in with the aforementioned “bully atheists.”

         Deepak Chopra – who until today I’d always dismissed as the touchy-feely Guru to the Stars, who’d pen a number of “how to fix your life” books that supply endless fodder for daily Facebook affirmations; the mystic version of the Wayne Dwyers, the Tony Robbins and others on the Rah-Rah-Rah-Babble lecture circuit speaking to the nation of frightened dullards, who somewhere along the way lost their owners manual – today, offered “atheists” a million dollars to explain how a thought is formed. That is just the dollar amount that gets me to shrug off my “secular humanist” bathrobe and climb into the ring. 

        Now, I have no idea what response Chopra will receive from the atheist community he named in his challenge/publicity stunt – Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and . . . (seriously?) the Amazing Randi (James Randi should be bending spoons on daytime talk shows, but I digress) – I know how I’d respond to that question, but first let me speak to a couple of points that I was unaware of. First and foremost, I was surprised to learn that Chopra was a medical doctor.  For me, he’d existed in that pop culture recycle bin right beside Dr. Phil and Dr Laura, but “physician” is listed (last) on his resume. I have to be careful in my wording – that this is merely how I see things, for when the Journal of the American Medical Association criticized Chopra, they were sued for defamation (the case was ultimately dismissed). It’s been my experience that Western medicine has a great respect for the healing power of the mind, as well as belief that a patient’s faith can do wonders. Dr. Chopra’s alternative approach to healing must keep him in a constant state of conflict. The power of the mind vs. the power of God vs. the power of man – must a difficult position for the “Dhanvantari of Heaven and Earth.”

         I was also unaware that Chopra left a career in neuroendocrinology, seduced by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – yes, the same guy who invited The Beatles to India – and the transcendental meditation movement, to pursue Ayurvedic medicine – a traditional Hindu medicine that incorporates mind and body in an alternative approach to healing with the power of the mind – leading to countless new age clinics, celebrity patients, and a $80 million net worth.  It paints an image akin to Christian Science, Scientology, or good ol’ snake oil salesmen of days past that milked the human need for meaning and spirit in their lives, or as Robert Todd Carroll put it, “a false hope based on an unscientific imagination steeped in mysticism and cheerily dispensed gibberish.” This is last person I would expect to issue challenges to the atheist community. I’m willing to bet that 51% of evangelicals think that Chopra’s a yoga instructor, but I suppose they need all the help they can get. 

        Better minds than mine or Chopra’s have long pondered the origin of thought. In the 4th century, Hippocrates (the father of medicine) taught that the brain was the seat of man’s intelligence – he was a Pagan, by the way. It was not until the progression of Christianity that theory began to change. While I feel this would best be addressed by neurologists rather than atheists, who would only ever be able to provide a lay man’s perspective; as a writer I can assure Dr. Chopra that the origin of my thoughts come solely from my mind, triggered by experience, memory, senses – and talent; not by any divine (from the Latin Divus meaning “godlike”) inspiration. If there is any “divinity” it stems from the shared experience of being human. Throughout the history of man, words – from Jesus to Gandhi to Bukowski – have been equally inspired. Dr. Chopra once said, “The conscious creates reality.” Cum hoc, ergo propter hoc. If God is real, then ergo God was created by the human conscious. How divine.

        So here’s the science, from a simple lay mans point of view. The process is far from simple – and farther from a simple understanding – however, neurologists, biologists, physicians, and psychologists have amassed decades of comprehensive evidence that the physical brain is the producer of intelligence, creative thought, willpower and moral thinking. It becomes basic cause and effect; a physical event in the brain starts with the firing of neurons, as sensory input and neurotransmitters combine to produce cognition, sensation, and awareness. Neurological research has shown us that we no longer have need of ethereal concepts to explain what happens – the implication that thought comes from the “soul” is rejected – as the thought process is determined entirely by physical activity, and is not spiritual, in nature.

        As Victor J. Stenger pointed out in God, the Failed Hypothesis (2007), “It’s not just that physical processes in the brain take part in thinking, they seem to be responsible for the deepest thoughts that are supposed to be the province of spirit rather than matter.” This cannot be called “shoddy science,” Dr. Chopra.

        For someone who argues that one’s mind, body, and consciousness are inextricably woven into a single process, Chopra already knows the origin of thought and is merely poking the bee hive. Can I show the origin of thought? I believe I have and have the medical community to back me up. So, unless you can prove there is a God and prove me wrong, we’ll both have to wait until we check out of this cheap motel called life. . .but until then, I think you owe me a million bucks, Doc.

        Feel free to drop me an email (jlockett59@gmail.com) and I’ll provide the mailing address to send the check.

Monday, June 30, 2014

"The Special"

      "The Special”

               by

  James Patrick Lockett


       It was an hour ago – to the second, if you care to be that precise – that we’d broken up. But, since I was looking at a clock next to the glass shelf of high end scotch, all bets were off. Bar Time! Could be an hour, could be could be ten minutes. However, I was on my fourth drink, so it was probably closer to . . .no, wait . . . that’s also a poor gauge. Fuck it, let’s just say sometime within the past hour I became single again.

       I sucked the last bit of Jura off an ice cube and set the glass down in hopes of catching the bartender’s eye. I stared passed my empty glass, at the bodies on the dance floor pulsating to bad eighties songs. . .

 . . . traveling in a fried-out Kombi, on a hippie trail head full of zombie, I met a strange lady, she made nervous . . .

. . . indeed. Ladies Night re-imagined with a clever slash of a Sharpie to Eighties Night. I could see Maggie and her friends sitting at the rail, just above the dance floor. This time it was “for good,” she’d said. I didn’t see any good in it and neither did she, from her expression, although her BFF Alice seemed to be having the time of her life. That’s what I should do – take Alice home – revenge sex is a dish best served . . . no, wait, that’s not the expression . . . cold sex is a dish best served . . . no!

  . . . you better run, you better take cover. . . 

. . . Whoa ooo ooh, where were you, when I needed you . . . 

. . . perfect segue, as the DJ eased into The Greg Kihn Band. I’d all but forgotten about them. At least he was kind enough not to play that fucking break up song. I don’t think I could take that tonight.

       “They don’t write ‘em like that any more.” The bartender had finally found me.

       “Thank God,” I answered, pushing my glass toward him.

       He refilled the glass. “Girl trouble?” the bartender asked, producing a white calling card and sliding it across to me. Small block letters read – “THE SPECIAL.”

       “The Special?”

       "Yep.”

        I held my hands apart, the card placed between to fingers, waiting for another syllable.

       "You want her back don’t you?”

       “Nooooooo! We’ve only been together for like a million years, why would I want her back? I’d just like her to realize that she was wrong.”

       "Then take the card and go through that curtain at the end of the bar.”

       “That curtain?”

       He nodded.

      "The special?”

       He nodded again.

       I stood. Whoa. Standing took more effort than I’d realized – revenge sex was really out of the question. I made it to the end of the bar and stepped through the curtain. The DJ was saying something about the CDC, but as the curtain closed behind me, the speakers were muffled and the private room was quiet. It was a private bar, three stools and an ancient bartender.

       "Welcome,” he said. “Come for the “Special,” did you?

       "I guess.” I said, humoring him. I looked at the card. “So, how’s this work?”

       "Oh, it’s simple. Drink this,” he said, sliding a tall shot glass of blue liquid toward me. “Then you have a choice to make. You can forget your past or you can get her back, either choice is guaranteed, but both have its own consequences.”

       I’ve never been a big fan of mixing my booze, but I was already five single malts into the journey, so. . . “Alright, what the hell?” and I slammed it back. The room crackled, the way it does in that gum commercial and my breath felt cold. I inhaled deep and set the shot glass on the bar.

       "Okay then,” said the old man, rubbing his hands together. “Now, in order to activate the special, a catalyst if you will, I’ll need you to step through that door and kill the person on the other side.”

       "What?” I stammered, apparently, as drunk as I was, I had not yet hit my moral closing time. “No way, I’m not killing anyone.”

       “Fine,” he said, “It’s up to you. The consequences are not for every one, but, if you don’t activate the special, you will forget your past. Perhaps that might be for the best, can’t miss what you don’t remember. He paused. “It’s a limited time offer, though,” he said, laying a Louisville Slugger on the bar. “You have three minutes.”

       My fingers closed over the smooth girth the bat – heavier than I’d expected and looked at the old man. He nodded and I stepped through the door with a deep icy breath. The florescent lights of the ladies room were blinding – white and cold, as I took another deep breath – and it was Alice who I first focused on – Maggie’s BFF – or, as the CDC would later refer to her, ‘Patient Zero’ – kneeling over some poor girl who’d definitely had better evenings. Blood was everywhere, dulling the bright white of the walls and floor, as if it were no longer red, but black, as Alice bit and tore into her chest, growling and writhing. She turned her dead eyes to me, black blood drooling down her chin and neck. I swung the bat. Again, and again, and again until the growling ceased. As I stepped across the bodies, the young girl struggled under the weight of Alice and reached for my leg. One final, casual swing of the bat silenced her as well.

       The bat slid from my bloody hand as I stepped outside. The dance floor looked the same – pulsating and fluid – but without music, I knew something was a miss – had Thriller been playing, I might not have noticed anything at all. Maggie was walking toward me, slowly, her head cocked to the side as she looked at me. I’d not yet clued into what was going on around me and I really expected round two – or worse – after all, I’d just bludgeoned her BFF – instead, she threw her arms around me.

       "I am so sorry, baby. I don’t know what I was thinking. I love you so much baby. I can’t live without you. I want us to be together forever.” She kissed my fingers, tasting Alice’s blood and smiled. “Forever,” she whispered always tender and loving, as her teeth tore deep into my shoulder. Consequences, go figure.


copyright 2014. JPL. All rights reserved.  Used here by permission.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Little St. Patrick's Day Flash Fiction

This is an extended piece from a Flash Fiction Challenge that was limited to 500 words, well as you can see the muses were kind and the story took on a life of its own far beyond the word count (A 500 word edit exists in the St. Patrick's Day edition of Mid-Week Blues-Buster Challenge at thetsuruokafiles.wordpress.com) I hope you enjoy this "Sainted" little tale inspired by a Pogues song.



                                   “A Pint, Wager, and a Song”

                                                          by

                                       James Patrick Lockett



        It was cold, the kind of cold that only a Dublin morn’ can oblige. The glass didn’t help any, either. It hit like broken shards of ice; spraying across his back and shoulder as he turned away. He shook the cold glass from his hair and checked his back the best he could – no blood, no foul. The whore hadn’t been as lucky. She lay on her back, across a bed of cardboard boxes, a narrow shard of glass embedded in her neck.

        She looked at him as he knelt over her. She tried to speak, her voice lost somewhere in the alley as he pulled the glass out. Blood flowed like an open tap. There was a lot he didn’t know – why he was in the alley; from where the plate of glass had been served; why he’d looked away and she’d looked up – none of which mattered at the moment. What he did know was that she was going to die here – in a cold, Dublin alley, under the echo of a drunken, distant harmonica riff. He slipped his finger into the wound, finding the tear – and like a boy with a summer hose, closed his finger into the opening diverting the spray away from her brain. It would be quicker that way. With bloodstained fingertips, he closed her eyelids.

        When he felt she was gone, he stood – only then appraising his situation – the alley was deserted, present company excluded, what had once been a window somewhere above him now crunched under his feet, present company excluded, and it was cold, present company . . .

       As a boy, things exploded all the time – lots of glass, along with brick, mortar and dust, lots of dust – it was always loud; not silently dropped from above. He felt glass move under the heel of his boot, as a boy the shopkeepers would sweep the glass into the gutter and the rain would clean what it didn’t wash away. He wondered if that would happen now.

        Five stories above, this chosen one was being observed – the one called Padraig knelt on point at the now open edge of the wall, balanced off of a serpent’s staff, looking down, as long green robes waved behind him conducting the wind. Across the alleyway on the roof’s edge, stood a pious lass, clothed in blue robes, equally lyrical to the wind. Saint to Saint. She stared down, across the alley floor, in disbelief.

       “That was not fair, snake chaser,” called the lass.  “Glass does not normally rain down on one.” No hard, fast rules, only a wager. Good over evil.

       “But it proves my point, Brigit,” the saint countered, emerald eyes seemed to glow against the white hair and beard. “And wins my bet, for he did not try to save her.”

       “He couldn’t save her. I doubt I could have saved her. You win nothing.”

                                                                 # # #

       The man – St. Patrick’s pawn in this wager - started back the way he’d been walking, this time checking doors along the alley as he went. The first three locked tight, the forth – a pub kitchen door opened easily - the volume of the band poured into the alley. He saw no one from the door, quickly slipped a leather jacket from the coat hook and just as quickly, made his retreat. Closing the door, the band returned to a muffled back beat that he remembered hearing before the glass; before he saw the girl – that’s right, he saw her walking toward him. He remembered now, she said something to him, but he couldn’t hear because of the band. That fahkin’ bahnd. Loud and drunker than the grieving souls they played for – loud, drum driven covers of Shane McGowan songs - having to play some songs twice to fill out the night’s set list. He slipped into the jacket and left the alley.

       Other than his hands, there was a pair of gloves and twenty-two Euros in the jacket’s pocket. Enough for a pint to take away the chill and train ticket to get him where he needed to be.

       “Stay with him, he’s every Irish hero ever written from the Ulster Cycle to Dun Cow to -"

       "Yeah, to your heroes,” Brigit interrupted. “Your beloved IRA, you think I didn’t catch on when you picked a lost boy named Frank Ryan?”

       “You caught nothing, girl.” Padraig said, dropping from the height to the alley below. Brigit settled beside him and sat at the feet of the girl.

       “Look around you,” he continued, “There’s a glass of punch below your feet and an angel – or in this case, a saint – at your head.” Nothing.

       “It’s from The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn – Ulster narrative? Pogues song? Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash?” Nothing.

       "You disappoint me,” he said. “That was clever.” He started walking away, down the alley to find Frank. Brigit of Kildare knelt over the still warm body, her fingers reclaiming the red toadflax that blossomed and pooled under the girl’s body. The blood returned, Brigit stood and hurried off to catch Padraig.

       As the dead girl took a new breath, Padraig stopped – his back to the alley. “That’s cheating,:” he said, not looking back.

       “No. Just squaring a wrong.”

       They walked – side by side – or, of one heart and one mind, as they had so often been described. There was a great friendship between these two, the protectors and patrons of Ireland, and yet the years had molded an almost sibling rivalry as well. Thus grew a Pascal wager of sorts - a Sainted game of good versus evil, with poor, unsuspecting mortals moved across a cloth each feast day of St. Patrick. They watched as the man – Frankie – sat down ahead of them on the steps of St. Audoen’s Church.

       Padraig stopped at a “jock” cart and bought a sausage wrapped in onions and bread. Juggling the staff he carried, he took a bite.

       “Ahem,” Brigit cleared her throat. “Did you give nothing up for Lent?”

       Though a full mouth, Padraig mumbled, “Ah, ’tis Le Fheile Padraig. My feast day, at least until dawn and all Lenten restrictions are lifted today. Not all of us can celebrate our feast day in early spring. Want a bite?”

       “I’d rather McDonald’s,” she said, rolling the ‘Mc’ with a thick brogue.

       "Suit you,” he said, stopping at steps to St. Audeon’s. Looking at Frank, all bundled up in stolen jacket.

       “Shall we have another go?”

       "No, look at him, looks beat seven shades to shit. Next year?”

       “Okay.”

       The man stood, released as if a cloud had been lifted and headed east toward Stephen’s Green. They watched him leave.

       “Fancy a pint?” he asked. “A bit of ol’ Sally MacLennane?”

       “No, I think I’ll call it. Thanks, it’s been. . .”

       “Yeah,” said Saint Patrick, “It has. I’ll have you next year, girl”

       “That’s what you said last year, and the year before that.”

       “Hey,” he added, nodding in Frank’s direction. “You hear the rattling death trains?”

       “What?”

       “Nothing. Another Pogues lyric, just seeing if you were keeping up.”

       “Erin go brach, Brother.”

       “Erin go brach, Sister.”

       Ireland Forever indeed. Always was, always will be. St. Patrick walked into his night, alone – a hint of mischief in his smile. Next year, he thought to himself, next year it’s pints with St. Valentine, he’ll get all the song references – and the wager won’t end in some alley.

                                                                # # #

       A man sat in the warmth of Stephen’s Green station. The train would come soon. His glove hindered his fingers from retrieving a piece of glass lodged in the heel of his boot. The same glove that hide the mysterious blood stains on his hands. The glass could wait. There was a girl waiting for the train as well, a scarf wrapped tight around her neck. They both stood, nodded to the other, as the train pulled to a stop. In separate cars, they were both heading south.

                                                               ~ * * * ~






Copyright 2014. JPL. All rights reserved. Used here by permission.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge

A friend of mine turned me on to a Flash Fiction Challenge - the Mid Week Blues-Buster @ thetsuruokafiles.wordpress.com.  The writing prompt was Santana's song "Put your lights On" and, well, here's what came of it.


 "Under the Neon Sign by the Stairs Up to te Bar Above Margarita’s"

                                           by

                         James Patrick Lockett

 

     "Hey buddy, spare a buck?”

       I  didn’t look up, just dug deep into the pocket where I used to keep my keys. The single dollar bill looked grey in the green light of the neon sign. It felt heavy like old cloth. I stuffed it back down and said “No.”

     “Oh com’on, all I need. . .”

       I looked up this time. My eyes met his and he stopped as if the reflection of green neon in my eyes spelled - Shut the Fuck Up – instead of s’atiragraM.

       "I said no.” My weight relaxed back into the wrought iron security door of the stairwell. Some bluesy guitar chord dangled from the bar room above Margarita’s and for a moment – only a moment – I felt the urge to swing back and forth on the gate, in time to the music. My fingers moved the gate three inches both directions. It creaked.

       “Hey,” I said, feeling the ink of my tattoo move up my arm, a grip warning me not to do what I was about to do. “What you need is to go home.”

       “Funny,” said the hobo, beggar, residentially challenged – whatever the PC word of the day was.

       “I’m serious.”

       “In case you hadn’t noticed, I ain’t essactly got a home.”

       “You did,” I said. “And you need to go there NOW.” I closed my eyes, fighting back against the darkness. “They’re there and they’re going to take her if you’re not there to stop them.”

       “What the hell you. . .”

       I couldn’t explain it if I wanted to. The tat that used to not be there, tightened it’s grip. None of it scared me anymore. It just happened . . .

       “Amy. Your daughter. She needs you. . . NOW!” Even in the green light, I could see his face go white. He was still running when he turned a corner and I lost sight of him. My arm felt better as I drew my hand from my pocket. My fingers rubbed back and forth across the heavy hundred dollar bill. Like I said, I can’t explain it. The song ended, I think it was Santana and I could hear the cue ball as it rolled down the felt tapping its target, the number six ball, I think. Or maybe, it was just the light.

       I closed my eyes and leaned against the gate.



Copyright 2014.  James Patrick Lockett.  All Rights Reserved.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Kitchen Apologies and a Late Welcome to 2014

Happy 2014, the eleven month version. Here we are the begining of February,  the official start of the year for me after a January bout with H1-N1.  There have been several fevered and/or boredom inspired blog entries started and dismissed over the past few weeks,  everything from a response to John Hagge's asinine suggestion that all atheists board a plane and leave the country,  to my thoughts on secular idealism, to Justin Bieber (as well as a few new poems that are making their way to The New Yorker before seeing light here) - all of which may eventually get dusted off and make their way to the kitchen,  but not right now.

One of my February resolutions is to stop feeling the need to explain  myself when I say "no." With that in mind,  I came across this. . .

"Never waste your time trying to explain who you are to people who are committed to misunderstanding you."

. . .so with that said, and my apologies to Popeye,  I am what I am, I own my thoughts,  and I speak my mind.  Without empty apology or unnecessary explanation. Not to say that will ever temper the rants or opinions to be found found here in the kitchen.