Let’s Ponder This

Found in the Gonzales Inquirer (gonzalesinquirer.com) newspaper from Gonzales, Texas, January 6, 2022 issue:

Gonzales History

“1891 – January 29, the City Council passed an ordinance relating to vaccinations. Because of the danger of smallpox, all persons who have not been vaccinated shall be immediately vaccinated. The Council also recommends to all boards and superintendents that Sunday School and all other scholars be excluded until they have proof of vaccination. The Council has made arrangements with local physicians to vaccinate all indigent persons. The marshal is requested to see that this ordinance is strictly enforced.”

Smallpox was NASTY. You always knew when someone had it, and so had the option to run away at high speed. It was deadly, highly visible, incredibly painful, and wildly contagious. Whole towns, Indian tribes, and families were decimated by it. More, the physical surroundings were infectious. Sometimes all that could be done was burn an entire house down. People understood the danger.

In the Spanish flu pandemic, there are photos of masked guards on roads leading into towns ready to shoot people who refused to wear masks. There were no vaccinations. YEARS went by before it finally faded out. Infrastructure was damaged. Bodies piled up in alleys, on streets, because there weren’t enough people left healthy enough to collect them, much less bury them. Children were orphaned, often starving until they joined their parents in death. The photos are horrific. Yes, there are photos, because even then, journalists understood the historic events needed to be recorded, and some were willing to risk their lives to leave a warning for future descendants of survivors.

And here we are today. We went through the alarms of bird flu, swine flu, ebola, and various other fun times. Science researched and developed vaccines, learned about infection vectors, and came up with plans for pandemics in the future. Stockpiles of equipment, personal protection items, and medical paraphernalia were assembled. We were going to be ready!

SO WHAT HAPPENED? The plans were tossed, the stockpiles seem to have disappeared, millions are dying and have died, and the survival instincts of millions have disappeared. Bodies are piling up, infrastructure is breaking down, children are being orphaned, the hospitals are overwhelmed, and people are violently protesting being told to protect themselves, never mind others.

“I don’t trust the research.” Really? What do you know about research? You take Viagra, antibiotics, Ivermectin, and the latest “cure” or “prevention” you read about on social media, but don’t trust the work of people who have spent their entire LIVES trying to make sure the human race survives? You’ll trust your own immune system even though you can’t hold off the common cold? You see reports that MILLIONS have died from COVID and MILLIONS have survived getting vaccinated, but you don’t trust the vaccine?

I have a sister who likes to put a finger to her face and say “Let’s ponder this!” A few questions to ponder:

  1. Why are talking heads in the media and politicians getting vaccinated and boosted, but advising you with great fervor to avoid it?
  2. Why are they insisting you go out and socialize in person as if staying home will cause your brain to explode?
  3. Why are they insisting wearing a simple mask will make you a prisoner of the state, even though folks routinely cover their faces with scarves in the winter to keep their lips from getting chapped and their skin from feeling cold? Even though millions wear sunglasses year round so they won’t squint? You’ll wear sunblock to keep from getting a sunburn, but a mask to prevent death from an airborne disease is a violation of your civil rights?
  4. Why do they insist all the information about the pandemic is a hoax? Doctors are now going on Twitter to ask if hospitals have available space for patients because it’s taking too long to sit and phone all the hospitals they can think of to find one. No one ever thought we’d need a national clearinghouse of hospital availability! National Guardsmen are being deployed to help in hospitals because health care workers – huge surprise! – are getting sick, AND exhausted. Refrigerator trucks have to be used to hold dead bodies because they can’t get processed by morgues and funeral homes. Do these hoax fans think Hollywood is making big bucks arranging scenes for news crews and actors and actresses to cry from despair while they pretend to be health care workers?
  5. If they insist the pandemic is a hoax, why do they push weird “cures” and “preventions” like animal wormers, malaria pills, and household cleaners? Thanks to their doing their best to kill their listeners and fans with medicine for other medical ills, those suffering from the diseases and conditions the medicine is actually meant for can’t get what they need to stay alive or at least avoid great suffering.

Sheer survival instinct used to rule us as individuals and as groups. Protect the children, protect ourselves, make sure the community endures. What happened? Eleven years ago strangers went out of their way to help survivors and the injured escape buildings under attack. Many risked their lives. They didn’t worry about their jobs, appearance, or ask if the government knew what it was doing, or whether masks were a good idea as smoke and dust billowed.

Now folks are more interested in whose fault it is, who can be trusted, who should be giving orders. Maybe we should ponder this: When a tsunami warning goes out, it’s not really intelligent to stand on the beach and hold onto someone trying to run up a mountainside so you can argue that it’s not a tsunami, it’s a tidal wave, or it was caused by a government experiment, not an earthquake, or it’s better to get a boat even though they are now all beached. Know why? Because pretty soon the guy trying to escape is going to decide maybe they should just coldcock you and run.

It’s not just in the movies that people determined to survive decide those trying to stop them need to be removed. History has plenty of examples. If we don’t learn from history, it WILL be repeated. Other nations are already taking steps we think are too harsh. But their caseloads are dropping, and their healthcare systems are not crashing.

I’ve had COVID, before vaccines were available. My sister did, too, and nearly died. She was kept waiting for 12 hours before they could find a hospital bed for her. I don’t want to go through that again, but we did. She got a respiratory infection this past December, and again had to wait 12 hours for a hospital bed. I was sick with the same thing at home. Luckily I, as with my COVID infection, wasn’t QUITE sick enough to need hospitalization.

My mother’s in isolation right now. She tested negative, but her roommate tested positive. Her nursing home staff is shorthanded, and my mom is bedbound. Last year she was positive but asymptomatic. Most of her nursing home was not. Now it’s happening again. She’s not happy and neither am I. I’m especially not happy because the situation is made worse by people determined to act like they don’t notice a wave crashing around them, even as they drown.

I’m not going to say “Wear a mask! Socially distance! Get vaccinated!” even though I think anybody sensible should. I want this pandemic to end so I can eat out, visit my mom in the nursing home, play with my great-nephews and great-niece, go to church, and not worry so much about my two cancer patient sisters dying from something besides their cancer. I want to go to movie theaters, take a cruise, go to Disneyland. I want to go to science fiction conventions again.

I’m not living in fear. People who say that are idiots (and I use the word deliberately) because it shows they have no instinct for survival, which is basic to human life. It is not fear that causes us to mask, to distance, to vaccinate. It is the determination to stay alive, to stay as healthy as possible, to endure until better times come. I want to keep as many people as possible around me alive, to keep me company when better times come.

I just want people to ponder a few things. Are we being sensible, or foolish? Are we listening to strangers selling snake oil, or the scientists telling us to take cover as fireballs rain from the sky? Are we going to survive?

Excerpt from Project Burning Bush (a work in progress)

Harper shoved his hands in his pockets and wrinkled his nose as he looked around. “So-o-o-o, nobody is going to get excited about the weirdness of suddenly finding ourselves in the distant past, or future, or someplace that is NOT WHERE WE WERE?” He yelled in a whisper, but it was definitely a yell.

Luthor shrugged. “It’s weird, but no big deal to me. I’ve been in situations like this with my uncle. Sometimes in worse conditions, and with less supplies. I’ll lose my cool when we’re not concerned about basic survival.”

Harper looked at their most prim and proper member. “What about you, Minji? Doesn’t this bother you? Or is not showing panic some Asian thing?”

Minji rolled her eyes and curled her lip. “Stoicism is not ‘some Asian thing’. You do not even know if I AM Asian. Just because I have almond-shaped eyes and a vaguely different name does not make me Asian. Besides, there is nothing to panic about. We have food and a fire and a dry place to sleep that we can defend. It is far better than floating on a leaking boat in the middle of the ocean with no food or water, all alone.”

Nita laughed. “You’re boat people, but deny being Asian? Come on, Dragonlady. We’re not stupid.”

Minji started to snarl a reply, but Harper interrupted. “What about you, Nita? Isn’t this way out of your comfort range?”

Nita whooped and laughed for a few minutes. When she finally ran down, she wiped tears from her eyes. “Comfort range, huh? Listen, chico, comfort is no dog-sized rats trying to steal your food or worse, thinking you’re supper. Comfort is being able to sleep without wondering if your mom’s latest customer or boyfriend or pimp is going to check you out while she sleeps. I like this place. There’s a lot less people to bother me here. So far, at least,” she muttered, looking around.

Harper rubbed his face. “Okay then! I guess I’ll just keep my screaming to myself, but I make no promises about what I do in my sleep.”

“If you wake up gagged and bound, it’s because we didn’t want you drawing predators,” Nita told him with a shark-like smile as she rubbed his head with her knuckles. “Nothing personal.”

Excerpt from “The Warlord’s Heart” (WIP)

Edward looked around the room. His expression smoothed into blankness as he looked back at all the suddenly silent young men present. “Did I interrupt your discussion of me?”

“We weren’t talking about you. We were talking about your lady.” The confession was, of course, blurted out by the compulsive talker of the group.

Richard sighed and rubbed his head. “Would somebody PLEASE put their hand over Franklin’s mouth before Edward kills us all?”

Franklin’s protest was silenced by Darwood’s fist in front of his face.

Richard held up a hand in a placating gesture. “Don’t be angry, Edward. We weren’t gossiping about Betsy. We were discussing who she really is and why the Warlord, well, indulges her. You have to admit it, Edward. Nobody else gets away with what she does.”

“He does indulge her, yes. But it still sounds like you’re gossiping about the woman I love.”

“No, listen. We’re not being malicious. We’ve been trying to piece together what we’ve observed. You know, like you have said we will have to from reading battle reports.”

Edward leaned against the wall and crossed his arms and legs, clearly reluctant. “Very well. Tell me of your conclusions.”

Richard looked around the room. All the others looked more than ready for him to offer himself as sacrificial speaker. He looked back at Edward’s stony face and swallowed. “See, first, we know somebody is constantly trying to kill the princess, correct? So she has to be guarded all the time. Even in her bedroom and in the wardrobe, so the guard needs to be a female. Do you agree?”

Edward nodded slowly, his hard expression easing. “So you think that will be Betsy’s future?”

“We think that perhaps she already IS, and has been for quite a while, actually.”

“Why do you think that?”

Richard held up a single finger. “She’s the same age as the princess. She’s obviously already been trained in battle art far more than any of us. The Royal Guardsmen and palace staff show her an amazing amount of respect, far more than a simple maid should receive. Correct? She respects and obeys the Warlord, but she certainly doesn’t treat him the way anybody else does. We’ve all seen it. She treats him more like, like, well,” he took a deep breath and blurted, “Like her father.”

Edward slowly uncoiled. “Are you suggesting…”

Richard cringed. “We don’t mean anything ill! We know the Warlord is unmarried and childless. But if she is his illegitimate daughter, it answers everything!”

“You just called the woman I love a bastard. I have every reason to challenge you to a duel right now, not only you but every man in this room. Nobody is allowed to blacken her honor in that manner.”

“We’re not! Just listen! Please! She would have grown up with the princess as her cousin! They would be bound by blood! Who better to protect her wherever she went? Who could be more loyal?”

One of the others snorted. “Idealistic, there!”

Richard threw his hands up. “Whatever! But if she was raised as companion to the princess, it is more likely for her to be bound by love as well as blood!”

Edward lowered himself into a chair. “I can understand that, barely. But why would she work in the palace as a maid, scrubbing and doing all the servants’ jobs? I’ve seen her at work. Why would the Warlord allow a child of his to do that?”

A grin flashed across Richard’s face. “You might not realize it, but we of the nobility have long understood one fact. The servants know everything that goes on. Everything. They talk about what they know, too. If Betsy worked among them, she would know every secret in the palace. She would also have personal knowledge of every room in the palace, servants’ hallways, and probably every hiding place there might be.”

“Necessary information for a personal bodyguard, indeed. To always know what was going on, who was in the palace, what the schedules are, and where the princess might hide in case of danger.” Edward rubbed his chin. “But why put her through officer’s schooling?”

Richard leaned forward, his eyes gleaming. “To receive the authority to command the guardsmen in moments of danger. Otherwise, some might question her orders at a vital moment.”

Excerpt from Project: Burning Bush – weather

“How long do we have to put up with this mess?” Nita complained.

“It’s springtime in Texas,” Luthor replied with an eyeroll he didn’t let her see. “It’s going to rain whenever it feels like it, for as long as it wants to. We don’t have weather satellites and meteorologists to give us any hints. We all just have to put up with it.”

“Put up with it,” Nita snarled in low tones. “I hate rainy weather.” She adjusted her poncho and curled her lip at the tribespeople. At least they were all on horseback and didn’t have to slog through the mud.

The Apache boys had scorned any protection and rode cheerfully on their new mounts. The elders had accepted the extra ponchos with delight and wonder. Even Burning Wind had taken one, if with more suspicion. Dark Moon Rising wore his over an emergency blanket, his body fat still too low to keep him warm. Minji had given him her knit jacket to wear as well.

Singing Bird was wrapped in Harper’s jacket, an emergency blanket, and a poncho. Luthor had devised a frame and woven a small shelter over her to protect her from the wind and rain that tried to penetrate her covering. She slept much of the day, rocked gently with the easy stride of the big black horse beneath her.

The gray skies were not stormy, but the rain was steady. Occasionally the wind would rise and splash their uncovered faces if they were not careful. Most of the trail they followed had branches cleared back from it, so they were spared the slap of wet leaves.

“Deer,” Luthor had commented when they first noticed the clear trail. “Eating their way along. Handy for us.”

The trail was worn deep in the soil and soon filled with mud and then running water. The horses splashed along with lowered heads and flattened ears, but offered no complaint or hesitation. It was the kind of day that could only be endured.

Excerpt from The Warlord’s Heart: “Love and Secrecy”

Edward cupped his hands around Betsy’s cheeks. He savored the velvet of her skin, the silk of her curls, her sweet smile, her soft blue eyes. She was perfect. Every inch of her petite form pleased him, from her curves to the strength he knew hid beneath her uniform.

He took a deep breath, praying he would recite the words he had practiced, had even written down trying to perfect them. If only they would come out without error. He wanted both Betsy and himself to remember this night for the rest of their lives, to tell their children and grandchildren with sighs and smiles, like his parents did.

“Betsy, I know we cannot make plans for our future until after graduation, when we receive our duty assignments. But I want to make my intentions clear so that you will know. I love you, Betsy. I love you and I want to marry you, as soon as possible. I love you enough to even dare ask the Warlord for permission to court you and ask for your hand.”

Betsy blinked rapidly. Her smile widened. She touched his cheek with trembling fingers. “Oh, my beloved Edward,” she whispered. “I do so love you, too.” Mischief crept into her smile. “But don’t say anything to the Warlord yet. He takes his role of my guardian so seriously, he is likely to make a great fuss and threaten to throw you in the dungeon lest you be carried away by your feelings before we take vows. Please, wait until after graduation. I turn 21 that day, and he will be totally different.”

Edward’s eyebrows pinched together. “What is he likely to say then?”

She giggled. “Most likely he will throw his arms around you, weep joyful tears, and thank God I am your problem now!”

He laughed with her, then blinked as the laughter drained out of her like water. “Betsy?”

She closed her eyes and leaned her forehead on his chest. “I love you, Edward. I loved you from the moment I first saw you. But I have secrets, my love. They are a terrible burden, and I cannot reveal them to you until after graduation. Once I do, your heart may change.”

“Secrets?” He tipped her chin up. “Darling, there can be no secret so dire it can change my love for you.”

Her poor attempt at a smile faded quickly. “I hope not. I pray not. I believe with all my heart you are a better man than all others. But like others in the palace, I have borne secrets for the princess my entire life. Sometimes they have caused me to weep into my pillow at night, or scream in frustration at the poor Warlord who could change nothing for me. Many men would either rage at me for only keeping the secrets, and others could not share the burden of my duties once I take them up.”

“I swear, nothing will change my love! We will marry no matter what your duties are!”

“I believe you mean that, now. But please, for my sake, speak no more of our future until you discover what I must keep silent about. The poor Warlord does not deserve to listen to my frustrated screams again.” She made a better attempt at a smile this time.

“Hmph. If I must keep silent for your sake, he may find himself forced to listen to mine!”

Project Burning Bush excerpt-embarrassment

“Truth or dare, Harper! You queer?”

Harper raised his head from the brochure he was reading. He blinked under raised eyebrows. “Am I queer? You know, Dwayne, I usually only hear that question from old perverts.  Aren’t you worried your boyfriend Jose will get jealous?”

Dwayne’s jaw dropped, then fury twisted his face. “I ain’t no queer, you –“

A snort came from the seat behind Harper. “Come on, Dwayne, everybody in school knows about you and Jose. The way you and your boys all hang together, some of us think you have a kinky little club thing going on. ‘Fess up, you guys into trading partners and all that weird stuff?” The white-haired girl leaned into the bus aisle with an exaggerated look of interest.

The girl with almond shaped eyes sitting next to her sniffed. “There is no need to ask him that. His behavior at school is evidence enough. Putting his hands down boys’ pants, pressing his body against theirs, putting his face in theirs. Bah.”

“He’s a homosexual predator. Harper, maybe you should exchange seats with me.” The enormous black youth beside Harper followed his suggestion with a narrow-eyed sneer at Dwayne.

Dwayne could not speak, he could only make incoherent noises. The students around him laughed, though some tried to hide it. He started to rise from his seat, and Luthor did as well. But before he could get all the way up, a hand slammed down on his shoulder and forced him back into his seat. He started to knock the hand away, then froze as he realized it belonged to his teacher.

“If you can’t take the heat, don’t light the fire.” Marie Williams spoke with no emotion, but her eyes promised a world of hurt if he protested. She turned to stare past Harper. “Sit down, Luthor. The only person allowed to be out of their seat is ME.”  

The Warlord’s Heart

(A work in progress)

There were those who whispered the Warlord had no heart. Others, who had earned his wrath, muttered he did indeed have a heart. The heart of a child. Kept in a very small sealed chest. Late at night, they said, when the evil in his soul kept him from sleep, he would wander the halls of the palace, tossing the chest from hand to hand, and the sound of the child’s heartbeat would echo in the dark halls, louder and LOUDER…

“So you’ve been scaring the new maids with your ‘restless soul’ routine in the halls again, have you?”

“How else am I to scare them into instant obedience? Works every time!”

“You may have outdone yourself this time. Several of them ran to Cook, waking her up with their hysterics, and she was that angry she told Betsy she didn’t want to cook your breakfast.”

“Oh.”

“Yes, OH! Betsy was so annoyed with you she told Cook not to bother, she’d prepare your breakfast herself. Hungry now?”

“What! I’m to be poisoned? You know her cooking!”

“Lucky for you I do, so I persuaded her to let me do it. Eat up, and prepare for a scolding.”

“What, this was not?”

“This was a friendly warning. Betsy is VERY annoyed.”