Aleph stepped off the Metro at the Urdor station. He began walking.
Walking did not bother him one bit. As a teenager, he had walked halfway across the hot sands of Sudan. His destination was the office of Hall Electrical, Inc. He walked through Urdor, two miles to the address that he had seen in the phone book.
In the course of this small sojourn, Aleph crossed over a small concrete bridge. He stopped in the middle and looked down. The structure was spanning a creek, a quite insignificant creek, by the looks of it. The water appeared stagnant, slime proliferating on the edges of it. Nestled against the muddy edge of what must have been at one time a life-giving stream was a rusted child-sized tricycle, several beer cans, paper litter of all shapes and sizes, a strewn plastic grocery bag here, another one there, two tires, an irridescent oil slick across the surface of the water.
Aleph lamented the passing of this place. This place, that had once been a home to trees and shrubs, squirrels and duck, foxes and deer...and fish. This place was now a mere oversight. A mere overlooking. Everyone overlooked it. No one looked at it. A mere overpassing. Everyone overpassed it. It was just an overlooked, overpassed sewer hole in the middle of a great, seething civilization. Once teeming with life, now it was collecting death. The African lamented. His eye settled on a styrofoam enclosure that had once been the home, for three minutes or so, of a cheeseburger. Super Size was splayed across its broken back.
He continued on his journey. What else could he do? Stop and clean the place? A man is not saved by his works, but by the grace of God. What kind of God would permit such a thing? What kind of God would permit a Holocaust?
God who had given freedom and choice. God created. Men chose.
Along the road: more of the same, the detritus of a civilization straining to relieve itself of trash.
Philip found himself wandering in Paris. Their late afternoon parting had unexpectedly provoked a strange, itinerant sorrow unlike anything he had ever felt before, and he set slowly across La Place de la Concorde, ambling aimlessly westward, through car traffic while Frenchmen and women heading home at the end of another Friday scurried on around him. Crossing the wide plaza, he followed the great, grand boulevard, Champs Elysee, and proceeded along the sidewalk on its north side. Philip slowly passed by the shops and small stores, open-air cafes and large department stores, patisseries, brasseries, groceries, vendors avec their carted flowers, books, les pommes, and les oranges; he trod beneath and among over-arching trees that bequeathed, with tender nature, their leafy green grace upon all that humans make and do as we pass below, amongst all our goings to and fro, displaying most of what we grow and know, while overhead streetlights cast their spotty, yellow glow o’er impressionistic Paris with all its starry, streety, post-impressionist smearings of Van Gogh.
Philip was drawn in, feeling immediately an anesthetic comfort to sooth the piercing of Lili’s unforeseen presence, or absence of it, into his awkward life. He moved closer to listen. A pale, dark-haired songstress, clothed in shimmering black glamour, poured forth the classic mood-altering lament:
He was standing beside a small table in the back of the room. “Monsieur,” he heard a white-shirted waiter say beside him, as the man bowed slightly and withdrew a chair from beneath the table. A lit candle and a vase with two red rosebuds graced the tabletop, he noticed as he took the seat.
“Un verre de votre vin rouge préféré, s’il vous plait,” he said, looking the waiter in the eyes.
Philip listened to the singer, watching her with pleasure. She was a beautiful woman, though much older than he, probably about forty. In the smoky spotlight her eyes shone with a seasoned passion, while she offered the classic love song in a high, controlled vibrato. As a ritual libation, its dimly familiar melody flowed like aged burgundy from her blood-red lips.
But Liberty and Justice for All is not something that just happens.
As compatriots with liberation and deliverance, liberty and justice emerge triumphant from the very embattlements of human history. Where their zealous advocates manage to grab some foothold in the landscape of human struggle, freedom is fleeting not far behind. Noble aspirations are all summoned up when the careless slayings of men demand value more sacred, more holy, than the mere clashing of weapons and the expiration of breathing bodies.
In our present exploration’s story, the bad news is: there is an inevitable outflow—the shedding of blood—which propels violence to ever higher levels of atrocity.
The good news is: where there’s shedding of blood, Soul is not far beneath.
In the summer of 1964, all of these elements of human struggle converged in an unprecedented way. Way down south, in the piney woods and sweltering fields of Mississippi, a new activist strain of blood-red camellia was taking root in that freshly-tilled civil rights black delta loam. As God had heard the cry of Abel’s blood arising from Edenic soil, he heard now the beckoning of enshrouded laborers, those dead and these living. Their muted cries called forth liberation; they demanded deliverance.
So while black folk of the deep South were struggling to register their right to vote as Americans, a vast brigade of like-minded souls from other regions caught a whiff of their newly-planted liberty, and so the new brigades took it upon themselves to go down to Mississippi and lend a hand.
There were many who heard that call; there was even a man named Moses, Bob Moses from Harlem. He, and others who stood with him against discrimination, planted themselves in Mississippi at the crossroads of injustice and opportunity. Down here in the verdant lap of Dixie where the honeysuckles twine sweetly and the slaves had mourned bitterly, a battalion of wayfaring strangers from far and near came to cultivate the new growth of freedom.
They were filling a void in the whole of the human soul. Robbed of freedom, the Soul of Man wails out a distress call; then in regions afar, the Soul of Man hears, and resonates with action. Deep calls unto deep.
Read, 4 novels by author pictured above, Carey, written since 2007. Sample excerpts below. Printed books and ebooks available through links to Amazon and a handful of friendly independent book stores. On the right side of this page.
The story in my 2015 novel Smoke takes place in 1937. In this excerpt, we pick up some historical background about what was happening in Europe during the twenty years, 1917-1937:
But all that had changed radically in 1917. Now the Capitalists and the Democracies of Europe were running scared.
When the Bolsheviks tore down the Russian Czar’s gilt empire, they immediately began exporting their revolution to the world. That’s the way Marx had conceived their grand plan, and so that’s the way they intended to liberate the working world from the rapacity of capitalistic exploitation. They stubbornly undertook their worldwide project in spite of severe infighting and confused disorganization. So in spite of themselves, the Reds were able to intimidate their moneyed nemeses to the West. Fearfully anticipating an onslaught of Communism from the East, the European houses of wealth and power were scrambling for defenses.
Thus did they mistakenly identify, in the late 1930s, the German reich, newly constructed under Hitler’s forcefully vicious methodology, as a wishful bastion of European order and capitalistic vigor. Weren’t the Germans the proud forgers of finely-tuned industry and disciplined authority?
The leaders of the western world were slowly deluding themselves into a tragically misguided assessment of Hitler. Too many of them saw his rise as a potential defense of European order, and the wealth that sustained it.
This confrontation of semi-biblical proportions would hold as captive a newborn republic, Czechoslovakia, soon to be orphaned at the doorstep of Western naiveté.
In Petrograd, and Moscow, and out in the wide Siberian steppes, the intrepid Bolshevik leaders purged themselves of dissenters as they went. Apparently this was an unforeseen part of the newly forged Marxist internal machinery—blood and vengeance.
What the Marxists and the Bolsheviks despised in the gathering of personal wealth they made up for in the accumulation of power—raw, coerced, gulaged power.
The revolutionaries’ starting premise had been the dissolution of the old order, which was, in Russia, the Czar. Then they intended to rebuild society from the peasantry up, through collective power, collective action and collective ownership of the means of production, The whole plan looked workable on paper—appropriating the means of production from the rich and distributing it to the people, the new so-called proletariat. But the working out of their plan was a different animal. As time passed, it could be seen in the heartless manipulations of the Soviets that power was gravitating toward one man, Josef Stalin. And he was no nice guy.
By the late 1930s, this was obvious to Adolf Hitler, because he was doing the same thing, drawing power to himself, although he was casting his net in the German way, which was of course superior, or so he thought, to every other damned nation in the world.
Hitler and Stalin were both, at the same time, eliminating from within their own ranks those who resisted them. And they both used the same methods—murder and fear. Stalin purged those whom he considered enemies of the state, and thereby cultivated rampant fear of insubordination within the ranks. Hitler also killed those who resisted him from within, but his violent strategy went one step further: he elevated, by deceit, his own vengeful struggle (Mein Kampf) to an unprecedented level of hyper-decadent Third Reich policy.
That one man could inflict such putridity upon the world was an offense of demonic proportions. Even Josef Stalin was fooled.
Most folks, including the leaders of the so-called civilized world, were clueless about what was going on behind the scenes in Germany and Russia. The bloody business was being conducted in secret places, under cover of darkness. But there was one group of people who detected early on, as they always have, what was happening to our world. Because they, before all others, would pay the dear price for such highly-organized slaughter.
They saw through the diplomatic smokescreen.
In chapter 16 of King of Soul , the novel about 1969 that I published in 2017, we find Donnie and Marcy dining in an off-campus hangout, when they are joined by Donnie's friend, Kevin, who is a political activist. The setting is near LSU,1969:
“Those Yippies—they were really just a bunch of hippies, right?”
Kevin’s face assumed a professorial demeanor. He was in his element now, and it was evident. “You could, uh, you could say that, Marcy, but these people—they had gathered in Lincoln Park, on the north side, a few days before the convention actually started. They are the political version of those folks you’re calling ‘the hippies.’ Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin and all that crowd—they’re not just into free love and smoking dope and all that flower child stuff—they see all of it as a cultural revolution. I wasn’t there when they started doing their thing in Lincoln Park, because I didn’t arrive in Chicago until Monday afternoon. Their public acts—the skinny-dipping in Lake Michigan, smoking dope, nominating a pig for president—they’re trying to freak people—I mean, like, most Americans, straight, boring people—the Yippies want to rock their boat, make ‘em wake up to really living life instead of wasting away.”
“What is it about the way most Americans live that is, uh, wasting away?” Marcy tilted her head to one side, smiled innocently at him.
Donnie was watching her; his feeling about her was that the way she cocked her head like that was quite endearing.
But Kevin’s appreciation of Marcy was different. He was thoroughly engaged with her worldview. “Conformity,” he said, as if it were self-explanatory.
“Oh.” She smiled and looked at Donnie. He returned the smile and shrugged his shoulders. She continued, “Conformity, okay so, what about it?”
“Well, it’s, you know, the tickee-tackkee house in the suburbs and Ozzie and Harriet and keeping up system and the status quo, which keeps the war going”—
“Wait, wait,” Donnie interrupted. “What does the status quo have to do with keeping the war going?”
Kevin’s face registered surprise. His zeal had brought his posture to an upright position, which he now relaxed somewhat. Looking at Donnie, he replied, choosing his words, “When people are taken care of, when they’re fat and happy, comfortable, mesmerized by the TV, they don’t pay attention to what’s really going on. They’re too caught up in their own lives to notice that their government is conducting a war against a bunch of rice-cultivating peasants in southeast Asia.” Kevin’s eyebrows were raised. The former attitude of amusement had gravitated toward a serious indictment of what he considered to be, apparently, the American way of life.
After a pause, as the sound system was wailing out Creedence . . .
“I see a hurricane a blowing,
I see trouble on the way.
Don’t go out tonight; they’re bound to take your life.
There’s a bad moon on the rise.”
“Kevin,” said Donnie, softly, “you can’t blame the American people for the war just because the government is prolonging it.”
“Oh yeah?” Kevin’s countenance had changed. Now he looked sad. “You don’t know what it’s like to grow up in Cleveland. It’s not like around here.”
Now that you've landed here, have a Listen to some vibes, songs of Rowland:
In 2007, Carey wrote and published Glass half-Full, which is a story about some good people who live in the Washington DC area, but some bad things happen to them.
During 2008, he hatched Glass Chimera, which pertains to genetic engineering and buried treasure at a university in New Orleans.
2011 brought forth Smoke, a story in which the year 1937 is portrayed, through the eyes of a young American businessman as he travels through France, glancing off the Spanish Civil, befriending a German Jewish refugee family, falling in love, and visiting the grave of his father, who had died in a battle in Belgium in the last week of World War I.
By 2017, Carey had mustered up the words and chutzpah to fictionally chronicle the defining issue of his Baby Boomer generation—the war in Vietnam. King of Soul depicts the coming-of-age of college student Donnie Evans, who did not fight in Vietnam. But Donnie’s young life is profoundly affected by the Ho-induced maelstrom that surrounded Vietnam, and dominated politics in the USA, during that terrible time of our history.
Carey lives in Boone with his wife of 38 years, Pat. As a retired-type person, he works part-time at Lowes Home Center and persists in finding interesting stuff to write about. As an active member of High Country Writers, Carey hobnobs with the wannabe rich and famous literati of Wataboudit County, North Carolina, and learns from them a lot about writing.
Or how about this? Consider this snippet of quasi-fictional dialogue. In chapter 10 of Smoke , the third novel, three men share a meal in a London diner. They discuss what is presently happening in Europe. The year is 1937. Here we find Mark Chapman, an informed Londoner, speaking of current events:
The little German colonel is a troublemaker, a treaty-breaker, and probably a damned lunatic. Nevertheless, Franco’s Falangists, and the Carlists with them, are perhaps the lesser of two evils. I’m not so sure that our deceased, Mr. Wallris, understood that. In fact, though I had a lot of respect for him, I never understood why he was so ardent in his support of the government. He was risking—I daresay I can admit this in your hearing, and perhaps that of the young American here—serious consequences from the British government itself, for defying their gutless non-intervention blockade. And there were elements of our business community here who had detected what Paul was up to in supporting the Spanish government.”
Itmar retorted, “I don’t think Moseley’s blackshirts represent any legitimate part of our City or its business. Most of the fascists out on our streets appear to be unemployed workers who have nothing better to do than make trouble for the rest of us.”
“Those unemployed ruffians are, like it or not, a consequence of our capitalist way of doing things,” said Chapman. “God knows I have little sympathy for them; they are a constant pain in the arse over in East London where our office is. They are arrogant and rude when they come looking for jobs, acting as if they’re entitled to work just because of their British citizenship. But they are just pawns in the game, and there are rooks, and knights—one in particular I can think of—who manipulate their disruptions for their own purposes.”
“And what purposes might those be?” “To prevent the damned communists from taking over Spain, or any other country—Czechoslovakia—that’s what.”
Another long pause. Then Itmar asked, in a low voice, “What would you say, Mark, if I told you—and I know this may be hard to believe—if I told you that Hitler’s Nazis, the ones sending military support to Franco, are systematically rounding up people I know in Germany, then commandeering their personal property and sending them, on trains, to camps out in the country to do slave labor for the Third Reich?”
Mark Chapman thought for a moment. He looked quizzically at Itmar, as if this man-to-man encounter between an Irishman and a Jew in a dockside diner were an event of some fateful consequence, yet hanging in the stars. Slowly, he said, “You mean the Jewish people, your people, are being arrested, as if for crimes they did not commit, and then convicted and sentenced without trial, to some sort of prison?”
“I have heard that,” said Mark Chapman. “I heard it, in fact, from Paul Wallris, about three days before he died.”
On the other side of history-- on the other side of the Big War that came as a result of the German colonel troublemaker-- we find in chapter 2 of King of Soul, the novel published in 2017, a young American, Donnie, and his neighborhood pals making the transition between cowboys/Indians and baseball. On a summer morning in 1963:
The next morning, on the other side of town, three sixth-grade cowboys were running through a big grassy back yard, aiming at each other with toy pistols, whoopin’ and hollerin’ at each other, imagining themselves to be like their heroes in the movies. On this twelfth day of June, summer vacation was still new enough to be a wild pleasure. The boys paused from their make- believe gunfight to sample the plum trees in Donnie’s back yard, but the plums were not yet ripe.
A few minutes later those holstered playthings were dropped on the lawn when Troy and his buddies from down the street showed up.
“Y’all come down to the lot for a game,” Troy yelled from the next yard over. Donnie, Mike and Joe watched Troy and three others as they traipsed through the neighbor’s yard along the backside of the chain-link fence. When they got into Donnie’s yard, Troy voiced his challenge again. “Us against you. Come on.”
“Four against three?” asked Donnie, as if it made any difference.
The point was—it’s time to play ball, y’all. The numbers didn’t matter, especially to Troy, because the score always somehow ended in his favor anyway. “There’ll be some other guys showing up, you know.” Troy responded, with confidence, as if he could make it happen. “You can have the next one who comes. Just like last week, we’ll have a bunch more guys before long, since school is out.” Troy had a fielder’s glove on his left hand. He was tossing the baseball into it, then retrieving the ball with his right and tossing it into the glove again, with an easy fluidity of motion that demonstrated, in the midst of his friendly provocation, his baseball agility. He was doing this little perpetual motion between hand and glove while keeping his eyes trained steadily on Donnie.
So how could he not? Donnie knew it was time for baseball, because Troy said so. Troy was leader of everybody on Meadowbrook Lane. And he actually had a point there. This make-believe with cowboys and Injuns was going by the wayside anyway. Donnie knew it, he just didn’t have any direction about it yet, but he knew that because Troy had issued the challenge, now was the time for something more intense, more real than cowboys, more real even than cops and robbers—baseball. Troy knew. He was always ahead of everybody else, except in school. He was, however, king of the playground, the recess time. He was king of the hill too, although they had not played that one for awhile. Donnie’s mama had said it was too rough a game when Troy was involved. Now Donnie was watching Troy’s face, while the bigger boy moved slowly toward him. Troy smiled. His smile looked like the shark’s smile on some cartoon.
“You ready?” he asked. “You can use my glove.” He paused from his ball toss mantra, lifted the mitt up as if for Donnie’s inspection.
“I got one.” Donnie replied.
“Go get it. What’r you waitin’ for?”
I’m waiting for you to get outta my face.
Troy turned and began his next maneuver, which would be exit. The other three fellows followed dutifully. And so Roy Rodgers, the Lone Ranger and Tonto fell by the wayside, like ole Western clips on the cutting room floor of a Hollywood backlot. Now it was time for the real world. Now it was time for, as Donnie’s friend Chris called it, hardball. Maybe Chris would show up. He was a pretty good player—a better player than Donnie, and a better captain. Donnie would make sure to get Chris on his team, if he showed up.
Now it was time for Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra to step up to the plate. And Donnie and Mike and Joe, and Chris and whoever else would show up. Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Play ball, y'all!
Copyright 2017 © Carey Rowland
Consider this excerpt from chapter 19 of Glass half-Full , in which we find Marcus working hard to remove the stain:
Marcus opened a can of turpentine. He tipped it slightly so that its upper contents would spill onto a rag that lay on the parking lot next to his car. With the rag partially soaked, he began rubbing on the driver's-side door. Someone had painted a black swastika on it while he was working late. His cell phone rang.
Or this: From chapter 8 of Glass half-Full, we find Hilda, a restaurant-owner, telling some friends about an experience she had in Germany.
"Hitler and his thugs tried to take advantage of the situation; they launched a coup d'etat, called a putsch in German. But it failed, and they ended up getting arrested. The event has been named the beer hall putsch of 1923. Well, I was reading about these police officers who were killed by the Nazis that night. And I was reading in my guide book some information about the incident. I kept hearing this beautiful music, really spirited music. We walked in the direction of the music. We turned a corner...and there they were, five musicians playing five instruments: clarinet, violin, accordion, cello, a drummer. I could tell they were Jewish right away. I considered their courage: to stand there at the Odeonsplatz where the Nazis had made their first move to try and take over the world, and declare, with their music, that Jewish people, along with their music, were alive and well in the 21st century. They inspired me. We must have listened to them for an hour...the Bridge Ensemble."
- Or read blog,
current entry : Appalachian Spring
Consider buying a good book today.
and King of Soul
are all available for purchase on Amazon , and also at these independent bookstores:
South Main Book Company
in south Charlotte:
Park Road Books
in north Charlotte:
The Last Word
in Boone, NC:
Foggy Pine Books
Black Bear Books
in Charleston SC:
Blue Bicycle Books
in San Francisco:
Bird & Beckett Books
in Tiburon, CA:
in Greensboro, NC:
Or Amazon, purchase:
King of Soul
on your Kindle, $2.99
Glass half-Full amazon.com
Glass half-Full on your Kindle, 99 cents
Glass Chimera amazon.com
Glass Chimera on your Kindle, 99cents,
Langton, in England
Barnes & Noble
Quantities of 10 or more can be obtained at a price of $10 each, from the author.