Pleasant News - Spring 2011 Issue

Deep in his sleep, Alexander Goth wrestled with a series of dreams.

"Alex, don't you use that tone of voice to speak to me. I am your mother."
"Mother? What mother? You weren't there to help me with homework. Dad was. You did not take me camping. Dad did."
"Alex! That is not fair! I did not abandon you. I was kidnapped!"
"I haven't said anything about the men you have been seeing since dad died. So please! Just, just... stay out of my life."

Alex moved restlessly as he was suddenly transported to another scene in his dream. Suddenly, he was six years old again in his dream. He was standing behind a young teenager. A familiar woman was beckoning the older boy towards her bedroom with a seductive smile. Gripped by the feelings of shame and panic, Alex grabbed the older boy's hand, only to be surprised when he found his own eyes staring back at him.
Then suddenly he was the young teenager coming home from school. At the bottom of the staircase, he was surprised to see his father looking down at him from the top.

"Hey Dad, you are home. You wanna take a loot at the new science project I was working on?"

Yet Mortimer turned and began to walk away. Before Alex could reach the top of the stairs, the ghost of Mortimer was already gone.

"Woo... Woo...", the screech of an owl on its night hunt tore open his dreams and brought him back to the tent in the mountains. He grabbed his flashlight to look at his watch. One fifteen. He shifted his weight to get back to sleep, yet the forest would not leave him be. Outside of his tent, the forest was alive with its many nocturnal critters and creatures, who knew not about the importance of human routines.
Alex gave up. He sat up and let his eyes adjust to the darkness that surrounded him. Soon, the darkness gave way to outlines of trees and shrubs, and a swarm of fireflies right outside of his tent.

"Wow." Alexander sprinted to his backpack, dug through his socks, books, one box of Oreo cookies, and an outdoor coat for the plastic jar. Without putting on his shoes and glasses, he was already outside dancing among the fireflies, with the pure joy that was only known to young boys yet unmarked by memories of death and loss. As one firefly flew through the jar opening, he quickly recapped the jar.

"Dad! Come quick and look at what I have..." Alex stopped short of completing his sentence, and the smile drained from his face. The forest responded to his request with the usual sounds of its nocturnal activities, reminding Alex that he was alone on this trip. His hand holding the jar dropped listless by his side. It was many years ago when Mortimer took him here on the camping trip.

Yet the forest would not let Alex be. The moon came out from behind the clouds. Moonlight illuminated the camp ground and the hiking trail leading into the heart of the forest. Alex gazed at the trail and remembered of feeling a little afraid of the dark forest as a boy. Sitting by the camp fire, in his father's arms, he had felt safe and protected while Mortimer spoke of Red Riding Hood and big bad wolf, and about how children who lost lost their ways in the dark, forbidden forest were never seen again.

Now the forest would claim the children do not belong to any parents, the children belong to the forest, to which all the children will one day return. Without his glasses, Alex squinted really hard at the far end of the hiking trail. Was that the ghost of Mortimer beckoning Alex to come towards him? Alex quickly changed out of his pajama, put on his hat and hiking shoes. Shedding his childhood fears, Alexander would now follow the Pied Piper on the journey towards the heart of the mountains.

He inhaled the scent of the pine trees as he walked along the trail. His heart seemed to beat a little bit faster with each step he took. He raised his head to see the many stars sparking above the canopy of the pine forests, brilliant and breathtaking. As the son of a scientist, Alex never had to attend churches or admit to the existence of God. Yet while walking along the pine forest, his heart was in full awe towards the creation of the universe. Quietly, he recited the names of the constellations his father had taught him.

With each step along the steep river ravine, his heartbeat became just a bit stronger. He heard the flapping of wings, which was followed by the splashing of water. A bird had stooped down towards the river, and with a fish in the grasp of its claws, took flight again. Whichever direction he faced were forest plants and creatures going on their usual cycles of life and death, completely indifferent to his presence or absence. The forest followed its own rhythm, with complete disregard to the human will.

Alex came to the edge of the river, where he found a rod for fly-fishing and decided to give it a try.
A sizable fish bit the bait. Inexperienced, Alex  tried to reel in his opponent without wearing it out first. The battle ended quickly as the line snapped and Alex landed on his butt after an involuntary somersault.
On the ground, with dirt on his arms and legs, Alex burst out laughing, and kept at it to his heart's content. He took off his shoes and walked into the river to let the running water wash the dirt off his hands and feet, as well as last bits of regrets and discontent he had held in his heart. Sitting in the field of grass afterward, he closed his eyes and surrendered to the sounds of the forest.

He felt perfectly content where he was among the mountains, the trees, the river, the grass, the stars in the sky, the birds, as well as the bugs were all where they should be. Life could be very simple. Eat when one is hungry. Sleep when one is tired.Cry when one feels sad. Laugh when one feels happy.

As he relaxed every muscles in his body, Alex was overtaken by sleep. Mortimer in his dream showed him the ossified ancient periwinkle shells embedded in the cliff of the mountains, and told stories about how ages ago the land was once submerged under the ocean, before the hand of a great power lifted it high and molded into a continent. As Mortimer once again began to disappear, Alex experienced himself swimming in the ocean as a dolphin, walking across the savannah among a herd of elephants. Then as he was gliding across the sky as an owl, he saw his childhood home in his vision. Gliding past the old house, he caught a glimpse of a woman in a red dress talking to the pink flamingo on the front lawn, her expression sad and lonely.  As he flied back to the mountains, and the dreams began to dissolve, the ghost of Mortimer and all of humanity's ancestors whispered in his ears.

"Live, my son. Live."

"Hey, wake up! You are going to catch a cold sleeping like this."

Alex awoke to find himself soaked with dew. He shivered a little and was glad when the other hiker handed him a jacket.

"What on earth were you thinking, sleeping on the ground like this. Come along to get yourself warmed up. I am Erin, by the way."

At a camp ground, Alex started a fire to prepare hot cocos. Another hiker came around and sat herself down some distance away from the fire.
"Morning! Would you want some breakfast and hot cocos?", Alex called out to the new comer with a broad smile.

"That would be nice. Thanks." Then the new hiker walked over and shook hands with hands with Alex.
"I am Paisley. Nice to meet you."

"So where are you from?".


At this point, Erin handed Alex and Paisley one cup of hot coco each and joined in on the conversation.

"You know. The locals call people not from 'round here people from far-a-way. So that was what they called me when I first moved to Riverblossom. So you might as well come from Mars, and you would still be a someone from far-a-way", said Erin with a hearty laugh.

"So where are you from originally?"

"Strangetown, the middle of nowhere."

"Really? I am going to college near there this coming fall."
"Why Fiesta Tech? A mountain kid like you should have come to college here."

"Oh, I would love to. But they got the best physics program out there."

After a few more exchanges of travel stories, Alex found himself on all four climbing up the cliff at the crack of dawn, weary that if he did not maneuver his arms and legs in the right sequence, he would not see another day. Visibility was limited and the pink hat that seemed to move further and further away from him was all he could make out Paisley some distance above him.

"Hey wait up! Are you sure this is the way?", looking up, Alex called out to Paisley. 

"Come on, you suburban kid. Of course this is. Who says only paved roads can take people places?"

Alex persevered on his climb and soon was sitting on the ledge and overlooking the forest and the river valley. Alex was surprised by how quiet it was. The world held still. He was closer to the stars as he had ever been.
Then at the first light that appeared in the horizon, somewhere in the forest one of the crows cracked the silence. Soon, other crows, wood-packers, sparrows, chickadees all joined in to celebrate the beginning of another day.

"Isn't it just beautiful?", Paisley spoke while gazing at the landscape.
Alex remained quiet. His eyes were moist after realizing that he was never alone in this world.

Only after sky has turned completely bright and the creatures of the forest had quieted down to pursue their daily businesses did Alex finally spoke.
"It was indeed beautiful. One of these days, I must take my mom, my nephew and nieces here."

Suburban Spring Fling

Back at suburban Pleasantview, an aspiring musician battled against nature and weather in order to be heard.

"I can't believe Pleasantview does not have a better location for a concert", Roxie Sharpe complained as she tried to step around sodden grass and mud, wet from rain of previous night. It was about nine in the morning, all that could be heard across the park were the chippers of the sparrows darting about in the trees.

"Yak! Bugs!", flicking off a beetle off the guitar case, she took out a glossy, dark electric guitar and plugged it into the electric socket of a diesel generator. She ran her fingers on her baby, and the loud boom rang through the park. The sudden boom quieted the sparrows who now took flight away from the center of disturbance.

Dissatisfied with the sound, Roxie shook her head about the lack of proper stage and sound equipments. 
"Why did I let you talk me into living in the suburb? If I don't watch out, I may turn into suburban housewife and begin to haunt you", Roxie tried to pass on her displeasure to her companion and lover.

Jonah Powers shuddered at the thoughts of being married and haunted by a suburban housewife. After exhaling deeply, Jonah Powers replied, "Okay, Okay, I will think about moving downtown. As long as there are decent gyms, I am happy anywhere."

Soon the strange fusion of Indian beat and rock attracted quite a crowd. While Roxie played and sang the latest songs she had written, Jonah busied himself introducing her music to the audience. Being the romantic type, between talking about the basics of Indian classical music and rock, he would exchange the names and numbers with the many attractive ladies among the audience.
The residents of Pleasantview welcomed the arrival of spring and new year with a spring fling concert in the park.


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