unnamedTrees reached their leafy fingers up through the hot summer air.  Cold mist hung above, swirling in the playful clouds.  They looked like giant ghosts dancing in the endless sky.  A light wind began to caress my face with its cool fingers.  The thunder rumbling in the distance persuaded me to squeeze my wife’s hand, “I think your right, we should bring our rain jackets to the fireworks show.”

• • •

Copyright © 2019 Zachary W. Gilbert

Lazarus Expanse

The humbled whisper of sorrow,

lives not in the hot flame.

Just as,

a tear shed in compassion

for another

is perhaps

 a vast lake, able

to quench

the dry throat

of the repentant.

. . .

A lavender scent filled the air as the rich man slid the new purple fabric over his shoulders.  The horizon was slowly swallowing the last beams of light.  Dinner would be laid out soon and tonight like every other night was going to be a feast.  A servant showed him the guest list.  Scanning the names with his eyes he saw that no one on the list was wealthier than him, “Very good,” he whispered under a smirk, “very good.”

The cool night air sent breezes over the dinner party.  They all sat in a circle around a large fire controlled by ornate stones.  Laughing they gorged themselves past the emptiness of hunger, past the dulled pressure of a full stomach, and into the realm of vomiting onto disheveled plates. “Get me more!” the rich man shouted, “Get me more at once!”

Below the balcony in the darkness was Lazarus.  He pressed his rotten body against the cold stone of the palace.  He was engulfed in pain.  Sores littered his body like wet leaves stuck to his gray flesh.  Weakness prevented him from being able to walk or sleep.  His last night on Earth would be spent groaning in a pile of trash.  All the while he whispered, “Dear God, I am so sorry.  I am so sorry…”

The servants emptied the trash from the dinner party onto the trash heap.  Warm vomit and chewed bread splattered all over the dying beggar.  Far above, the rich man laughed watching his servant take no notice of the beggar in his trash heap.  Dogs heard the clanking commotion of the plates and hurried over to eat the scraps.  They licked Lazarus’s body as he died.

Lazarus felt his soul slip his out of his body, like a weary traveler shedding a tattered and soiled coat.  He pain was instantly forgotten and he fell asleep in his new home of light and peace.  He stood upon a balcony of light overlooking a great void.  He noticed a ball of purple light falling into a distant lake that glowed red with flame.

Death tore the rich man from of his young body like a scab being removed from a wound.  The shock of the moment was over in a flash.  He felt his soul become engulfed in flames as if it were his very own skin.  Pain overwhelmed his senses.  His throat soon became dry from screaming. Seeing Lazarus across the  expanse he began to call out.  “Please! Get me water! Lazarus dip your finger in water and bring it to me!”

“No one can traverse the expanse that separates us,” an old man answered as he walked up and stood next to Lazarus.

“Then, at least send Lazarus to my family!  My brothers, I need to warn them about this awful place!”

“If they haven’t listened to those who were already sent with the message, then they would not listen to someone who has returned from the dead.”

The rich man became angry at the old man and began shouting and cursing.  Soon he began puking purple filth, as searing flames licked all over his burning body.

. . .

Copyright © 2019 Zachary W. Gilbert

Toxic Culture

A virus does care about cells.  Cells are simply a means to carry out a purpose.  In their natural state cells live and function within the environment around them.  When attacked by a virus, a very small and insignificant thing, the cell becomes altered.  Its very core is changed to make more viruses.  It has become corrupted.  The cell is still sort of alive, and is still functioning, in a toxic reprogramed way.  But when its guts becomes nothing but a saturation of viruses it explodes and dies.

Worthless and toxic ideas may land on someones mind.  The idea is tiny, and it only has information that requires a host to thrive.  The information is wrong, but when it enters a brain and corrupts it.  The manufacturing process becomes active.  Producing toxic information that saturates and eventually explodes into toxicity that hurts many other people.

For a virus to attach to a cell, the receptors on the cell wall must allow for it.  For malicious and toxic ideas to get into someones head, they have to be willing to let it in.  Our reasoning for letting it in is often because we want to fit into a culture, perhaps a virus culture.  We allow ourselves to become toxic so that we are viewed as an outsider.  This is an unhealthy practice.  Because once a virus has used up a cell.  The cell dies.  Toxic people will use you until you break.  Then without a single though of remorse, they will move onto their next victim.

* * *

Copyright © 2019 Zachary W. Gilbert

Rolling Pebbles

I love that moment, when the words begin to flow onto the page and my keyboard sounds like a gentle stream massaging rolling pebbles.  I have finally finished a journey of earning a degree as a non-traditional student.  There were may late nights and over 100 of mile round trip commutes.  In the end it was worth it.  Writing I feel is not much different than working out.  Number 1, you have to show up.   Number 2, you have to have a plan and start.  Number 3, when it burns and you want to quit, keep going.

I have several stories that have been sleeping because of Water Statistics and Capstones.  It is time to wake them up, to show up, plan, and keep the pebbles moving.

 * * *

Copyright © 2019 Zachary W. Gilbert

Floating Metal

The cold metal handle brushes against my sandpapered chin.  Sweat coats me like a warm summer rain.  The weight pulls me toward the ground.  The drumming of life fades and focuses into the center of the orb I hold.  Sixteen times I must lower to my knees and stand.  I lock my bellybutton into my spine.  I tuck my shoulder blades into my back pockets and I lower my heavy body down.  I think about all of the things in life that are heavy burden.  3, 4.  I consider how relaxing it would be to quit.  5, 6.  I pause and drop the kettle bell on the floor.  The rubber floor welcomes the hit with a muffled thud.   “I drink your sweat, and I devour you QUIT,” it mocks me in silence.  The floor is failure, I pull myself up and away from it.   I realize that I am here, in this moment, right now, and I only need to lower one knee at a time.  Then stand up, one knee at a time.  I hold the weight close to my chin.  I place everything I am battling in life inside it.  Lost promotions, the hopes and fears of graduating with a 4 year degree at 42, my failures, my family… I load it all in.  Keep moving.  7, 8.  My body begs me to quit.  I think of the moments of the 4th quarter, the moment when losers falter and winners finish.  9, 10.  Six more.  I think about all those times I should have been writing, and I sat the heavy weight down and stopped counting.  I let that dark floor swallow me whole.  The world left silent and without my fingers dancing, telling the tale the hungry reader craves.  I take a deep breath, my shirt is stuck to my chest.  Kneel, breathe, stand.  11.  What if I took the finishing energy I have now, and study for that final. Finish!  What if I made myself sit and write, in pursuit of 1,000 rejections.  No!  1,000 attempts.  12.  I can see daylight.  I am fully inside of the moment of quit, I see the finish line.  My body hurts.  My weight falls from my chin, I pull it back.  Belly button my the spine.  Shoulder blades in my back pockets.  Back tall and strong.  Down! Up! 13.  Sweat takes flight as my hot breath grabs it.  Back down, come on.  Everything worth having in life is like this, DON’T QUIT.  Down! Up! 14.  My butt aches, my knees hurt, but I find strength in the reps lying in my wake.  Down! Uhh uhhp! 15.  Finish it…  FINISH IT!  My arms are burning.  My head is throbbing.  Am I going to feed my dreams or feed the floor?  My inner voice is yelling, “QUIT!  STOP! ENOUGH!” I take a deep breath, and close my eyes, and in that moment, I make that metal float.

* * *

Copyright © 2019 Zachary W. Gilbert

Ferrari full of groceries

In 2003 Professor Dunsmore pulled me aside in the 4 fourth floor stairwell, “Zach, it breaks my heart watching you pursue useless things.”

I was a few hours late to class because I was busy finishing some extra work at the print shop.  I paused in confusion on my way up the stairs.  “What do you mean?  I am a hard worker, I always…”

He broke my words with a caring smile, “You are wasting energy on the wrong things.  You are a Ferrari stuck in gridlock traffic hauling groceries.”

Now 16 years later, I realize that Professor Dunsmore may have been onto something.  I have been playing it safe my entire adult life.  I pour energy into things that I know I can win.  Simple things.  Grocery things.  I apologize to the weak when I attempt to excel.  When I don’t get the same fair treatment others get, when I am confused as to why I scare people, when I get that ache in my chest that feels like my heart is trying to fold itself into my spine, I realize… I don’t belong here.  I belong on the open road.  Writing books.  People can not define my reality or choose where or when I will be successful.  God gave me a gift, and gave me that job.  I have been foolishly handing the reins of my life to someone else.  “Here take this.  Define me.  Guide me. Promote me.  Love me.  Compliment me.”  I only hope God forgives my stupidity.  The reins of my life have been tossed to the ground yet again.  This time when I pick them up, I am going to hold onto them.  I am going to get to work, and I mean really get to work.

Professor Dunsmore was an ex-FBI agent / attorney that knew a thing or two about people in the world.  He saw me sticking out like a sore thumb from the abundance of mediocrity.  Yes, my drawing skills were sub-par and I was average with my 3D animation skills, but he saw something in the way I could tell a story.  He could sense the potential lying dormant in a safe locked up storage room deep in my heart.  I though I was keeping it protected,  by avoiding difficulty and potential rejection.  In reality, I was killing myself slowly inside every day because I wouldn’t let my talents live.  My purpose is not to play it safe, and that will always leave me skewed and disproportionate in safe places.  God made me tall.  God made me bold.  God made me an encouraging story teller.  Every second I avoid doing those things 100%, I am a thief.  A despicable coward.  My gifts were not given to me to be locked away in storage.  They belong to other people;  to inspire, encourage, and protect them.

Talent is only a tiny seed, genetically formatted to grow into something massive.  A seed needs nutrients, sunlight, water, and time.  A seed encased in concrete will never do anything.  One day someone is going to come looking for fruit from a tree that is not there.  People will be starved and without my contributions to the world because I was scared.

I ask God for things that would violate my purpose, and I get crushed when I don’t get them.  All this time I have wasted chasing easy things has to stop.  Writing is hard.  Telling the tale of ‘what was it like to be human’ is a daunting task.

What if the 17th book I write will be the one that gives my readers a good representation of the question?  Aren’t those 16 failures bigger victories than any mediocre prize I might scrounge up playing it safe.  The thrill is in the journey of letting talent rise up and live.  Fear and ache will dissolve with disciplined repetition, muscle memory will take over and endurance will rise.

The groceries only make me fat and slow, wasting my time.  It’s time to feed this hungry Ferrari the open road it was built for.

. . .

Zachary W. Gilbert

Copyright © 2019