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A million steps

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For this Mothers Day, an excerpt ~

FeaturedFor this Mothers Day, an excerpt ~

For this Mothers Day, I offer an excerpt from the current draft for IDOLATRY, Part III, The Fruit of the Tree (working title):

The lines had shuffled forward. Paige found herself standing next to the mother. The baby, bundled in her arms, had settled and calmed. He was so beautiful, so right, his blue eyes as clear and complete as little planets, encircled with rays of long blond lashes. His lips were ripe petals, formed for ready suckling. His ivory skin as of the most translucent, softest white marble imaginable, a glowing blush in the cheeks only the most accomplished painter might capture. Every little hillock and vale of his little body’s topography, every rise and fall, every curve and round—it was all mere suggestion of the man to come, all mere promise, and yet, here he was, already present, already real. And flawless. To mothers everywhere, in all times, all but the most unfortunate babies are perfection, but Paige simply couldn’t imagine any woman wanting anything more or less than what this woman held in arms—a complete little world in himself, needing and wanting nothing more, lacking nothing, being everything. There was nothing to add, nothing to subtract, nothing to change. This—this perfect little thing should be untouchable, undefilable, always and forever. How could anything on earth or in heaven be more perfect and whole, in and unto itself? If only it could remain so, if only he might never come to know a moment of sorrow, of pain, of evil, of disappointment. Paige wanted to draw a circle of protection around him, an impenetrable halo of sacredness, to suspend time.

She was blinking away a welling wetness in her eyes. An ache had come to her heart, her stomach: she herself would never have that. She would never have what this woman had. She had never really even wanted it until now, never wanted a child, but at this moment, she found herself wanting it more than anything in the world. How could any woman not?

She looked up to find the mother watching her. Her eyes understood. Woman to woman, the one knew the other’s ache, recognizing the depth of the longing in a woman-child who had lost her own mother, a daughter who wanted nothing more, in that moment, than to be a mother herself.

The mother glanced down at her child, and back up to Paige. Wordlessly, she asked the question.

Paige could only nod, blinking back tears, stunned at the kindness of the offering, a place inside her heart breaking open.

As she accepted the baby, her arms naturally, gently formed around him. It felt so right. She felt her entire body warm with joy. He was so small, so light. She gazed into the blue orbs, perfect worlds of their own, as they gazed back into hers. She marveled the beauty of the little face in all its wondrous glory. He was staring back into a face that was new to him, too, seemingly as fascinated with her as she with him. Her rocking sway, the gentle bounce, had started without her realizing or intending it. She began humming a melody. Her lullaby. Skye’s lullaby….

*****

Parts I & II of Idolatry are available in ebook, paperback and audiobook on Amazon….

Martin Eichinger’s Lullaby

available in limited-edition through

Quent Cordair Fine Art in Napa, CA

www.cordair.com

(707) 255-2242

The real meaning of Earth Day

FeaturedThe real meaning of Earth Day

For this Earth Day, a brief passage from Chapter 3 of A New Eden, Part II of Idolatry:

*****
The sun had risen high. The breeze was warm on their faces. Ian produced a bottle of chilled white wine and two glasses, removed the cork, and poured. He raised a toast.

“To another day in paradise.”

She touched her glass to his. They drank, the sunbeams reflecting off the wine and the glasses, dancing across their faces, splashing in their eyes. The wine was crisp, light and good.

“Paradise . . .” she mused aloud.

He had used the word without a trace of sarcasm or irony. The dry ruins beneath their feet, the surrounding hills, and the alkali flats were predominantly in chalky browns, yellows and whites. The sparse native vegetation was all of the scrubby, hardier varieties, evolved over the eons to survive the long droughts, blazing summers and freezing winters of the high desert. From the reservoir, her eye followed the river, the presumable source of all things green in the valley proper. There were bends in the river’s line, but other segments were unwaveringly straight – it wasn’t a natural river at all, but a manmade canal.

“Paradise – ” She smiled at the epiphany – “just add water.”

Ian had laid out an offering of cheese, olives, fruit, and finger sandwiches. “When the first explorers came through this way,” he said, pausing to sample a strawberry, “the valley was a desolate wasteland. There was hardly a reason to even note it on the maps. Most of the early settlers passed north of here, following the Humboldt River west. The few who detoured this far south saw little if anything to recommend the valley – they barely paused on their way to California.”

Paige watched his eyes. They were shaded by the brim of his cowboy hat, following the lay of the land with an easy acceptance and steady intent. His body was relaxed, at one with the place, as if he too had sprouted from the earth here, watered and grown by the river that was a canal. She followed his gaze, trying to imagine the unwelcoming, harsh emptiness that the valley must have been.

“But one man came,” he said, “and that man stood alone on the top of this hill, above where we are now. He envisioned a paradise in this place – and proceeded to make it so.”

There was solemnity in his voice. Paige set her glass quietly on the stone. “Do tell. . . .” she urged.

He glanced at her, studying her in the same steady way he studied the land. Adjusting his hat, he took a bite of an olive, followed it with a sip of wine, and looked out to the horizon and beyond.

“At the time, that man wasn’t even a man yet – ” he said, letting the story begin – “but a boy.”

***

Enjoy the acclaimed IDOLATRY series in paperback, audiobook, and ebook ~ https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B072HTC1FV

 

Plato’s children

FeaturedPlato’s children

ICE and the FDA are sister organizations, existing on the same plane, born of the same philosopher-king father and nanny-state mother. Both agencies were brought into existence on the same principle, to serve the same end: to stand between the individual and a class of things the individual might value, on grounds that only the government can properly judge whether the thing is good or harmful for the individual. Both agencies employ the same means. Through both organizations the government is to be the tester, the judge, the maker of standards, the sole decider as to the acceptability and appropriateness of the thing in question.

ICE stands between the individual and the immigrant, on behalf of the collective. The FDA stands between the individual and a drug or food, on behalf of the collective. The value to the individual of the thing in question can only be of secondary importance to the safety and welfare of the collective — and it is the collective that should decide what the individual may interact with and what he may not. The object in question is held as guilty until proven innocent, deemed unacceptable and illegal until tested, vetted, and shunted through the line of the government’s screens and the bureaucrats’ in-boxes, to be stamped as safe and acceptable, perhaps, but only as weighed against arbitrarily set governmental standards, and only after the arbitrarily established process has been exhausted. If individuals suffer or die in the meantime, this is of secondary concern to the safety and “good” of the collective.

This is preventative regulation, and it stands in stark contrast to rights-protective law. Preventative regulation violates the individual’s right to use his own mind as the sole judge of what is good for him and what is not. Proper rights-protective law goes after rights violators and rights violators only – and strictly contingent on objective evidence. Where there is objective evidence that a country, organization, or individual has violated the citizen’s individual rights or is threatening to violate the citizen’s rights, it is the proper role of government to act on the individual’s behalf against the threat.

Properly, government does not deem a medicine as dangerous until proven safe. It does not deem a surgeon born in India as dangerous until proven safe. It does not deem a field worker born in Mexico as dangerous until proven safe. It does not deem a friend, a lover, a fiancée, a spouse, an au pair, a student, an employee, or a potential business partner born elsewhere as dangerous until proven safe. It does not come between the individual and the product or person the individual has decided, by his own judgment, to value and to interact with. It does not use force to violate the individual’s own reason, his own judgment, his own choice as to what or who is good for him and what or who is not. It does not deem a potential cure for influenza or cancer or canker sores as dangerous until proven safe. It does not regulate opioids or ophthalmologists or Omanis.

“The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man’s self-defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force. The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law. But a government that initiates the employment of force against men who had forced no one, the employment of armed compulsion against disarmed victims, is a nightmare infernal machine designed to annihilate morality: such a government reverses its only moral purpose and switches from the role of protector to the role of man’s deadliest enemy, from the role of policeman to the role of a criminal vested with the right to the wielding of violence against victims deprived of the right of self-defense. Such a government substitutes for morality the following rule of social conduct: you may do whatever you please to your neighbor, provided your gang is bigger than his.” ~ Galt’s speech, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand

Featured

2018 Cordair Arts and Wine Weekend

July 6 & 7, 2018

Quent Cordair Fine Art

1301 First Street, Napa, California

Join us FRIDAY JULY 6th & SATURDAY JULY 7th for a weekend of art, wine, music, drama, art history, music theory and more! 

Curtain with text

Reserve your seat for only $25 total cost. Call the gallery today. 707-255-2242

~ PROGRAM SUBJECT TO CHANGE ~

FRIDAY EVENING, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

Art, Wine & Music Reception

A reception in the gallery, with excellent wine, splendid art, and live music on the grand piano by a platinum-award winning composer. 

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We are pleased and honored to announce that platinum-award winning composer/music producer Mars Lasar will be joining us at the grand piano Friday evening.

Mars Lasar

Born in Germany, raised in Australia, Mars Lasar is a prolific keyboardist and composer. Mars started playing piano at 11 years old, and over a few years of extensive classical and jazz training, he rapidly became drawn to all kinds of music. At 14, Mars began composing, recording and publishing his own music professionally.

 

 

The lovely and talented Tori Anna Sophia, Napa Valley singer/songwriter, American Idol contestant, is scheduled to join us to share a sampling from her Doris Day repertoire.  Tori Anna was the top female finisher in Michael Feinstein’s Great American Songbook Highschool Vocal competition in 2012.

 

Our friends from Capp Heritage Vineyards will be offering complimentary tastings Friday evening for our guests.  ~

 

***

SATURDAY 10:00-11:30 a.m.

Turn-of-the-Century Artist-Entrepreneurs: Saint Gaudens, MacMonnies, Parrish

Dianne Durante

Dianne Durante, PhD

“In the late 19th and early 20th century, the most capitalistic era in American history, it was considered normal that the immense popularity of Augustus Saint Gaudens, Frederick MacMonnies and Maxfield Parrish should earn them substantial wealth. MacMonnies’ annual income in the mid-1890s reputedly reached $300,000 (about $7.5 million today). In 1925, one of every four American homes had a print of Maxfield Parrish’s Daybreak.

“This lecture gives a brief overview of the life and notable works of Saint Gaudens, MacMonnies and Parrish, within the historical, political, economic and philosophical framework of the period between the Civil War and World War I. If you enjoy hearing about intelligent, hard-working, innovative, highly skilled and profit-minded men making piles of money by creating beautiful works of art, then this lecture is for you.”

Dianne Durante, PhD in Classical Philology, is an art historian, independent researcher, freelance writer, lecturer, and tour guide.

***

SATURDAY 1:00-2:30 p.m.

Music and the American Left ~ A Study in Subterfuge

Stephen Siek

Stephen Siek

“In 1943, Ayn Rand exposed the intensity with which the American Left sought to inject socialist propaganda into literature and film by observing, ‘In the last ten years, the Reds have done a good job of building up literary celebrities for their own purposes. … These celebrities then appear on Red committees, endorse Red causes, build up other Red names, and the racket works as the radicals’ best propaganda method. … Look how savagely they have defended the art field from all intrusions of conservatives.  They know its value.’ But literature was not the only fine art which American leftists (supported spiritually, and often financially, by the Soviet Union) conspired to dominate, and the full story of how socialists worked from behind the scenes throughout the twentieth century to transform American classical music into an instrument of communist propaganda has never been told. In this presentation, the covert methods employed by statists to control this country’s concert artists, symphonies, opera, and even ballet companies will be explored with reference to specific case studies. Images and recorded excerpts will also be used to help illustrate the power of the philosophic ideas that govern the marketing of art—and their inevitable political consequences.”

Stephen Siek is a pianist, musicologist, and piano historian; former professor of music at Wittenberg University; author of England’s Piano Sage: The Life and Teachings of Tobias Matthay and A Dictionary for the Modern Pianist.

 

***

SATURDAY 3:00-4:30 p.m.

An Introduction and Discussion: What Music Is and Does

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David Berry

David Berry

Based on the speaker’s monograph, which includes essays inspired by Objectivism on music. A brief overview of a theory of music esthetics, with time for interaction with the audience on issues of interest.

David Berry is the Professor of Music History, Theory and Composition at the School of the Arts/Petrie School of Music, Converse College

***

SATURDAY 7 p.m.

Wine Tasting & Education with winemaker Chris Daniel 

Learn the nuances of wine tasting with a winemaker who makes Viognier, Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Syrah.

Smell, swirl, taste, and ask questions.

***

SATURDAY 8 p.m.

“An Uncomfortable Silence”

A short play written by Quent Cordair, performed by Hunter Schaufel & Elizabeth Brazil. 

Elizabeth Brazil

Elizabeth Brazil is an 18 year old singer, songwriter, and actress from Vacaville, California. She has been in over 15 productions at her Alma mater, Justin-Siena High school. Her favorite roll was Miss Adelaide in her senior year production of Guys and Dolls. She plans on pursuing her Broadway dreams in the fall and will be attending Marymount Manhattan College in the heart of New York City, New York.

 

Hunter Schaufel is a dedicated actor and recent graduate of Justin-Siena High School, where he studied and performed under the direction of James Thomas Bailey and vocal director Vivian McLaughlin. He has benefited, additionally, from five years of vocal instruction under Connie Lisec and foundational instruction in dance under choreographer and teacher Lisa Clark Schmeling. He recently received top marks in his acting exam administered by the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Hunter looks forward to pursuing a career in product design and engineering, and is excited to begin classes as an undergraduate in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s mechanical engineering program in the fall.

 

A Program of Russian, Spanish & American music

Stephen Siek, piano

Thomas Shoebotham, cello

David Berry, Composer & Commentator

Thomas Shoebotham

American conductor and cellist Thomas Shoebotham performs a Spanish sonata for solo cello. Equally at home on the concert stage and in the opera and ballet pit,  Thomas Shoebotham conducts frequently with professional, community, and youth ensembles, collaborating with notable singers, dancers, and instrumentalists to bring “rousing, colorful” presentations to a variety of audiences.

 

 

Stephen Siek performs works for piano by Borodin, Scriabin, Kreisler-Rachmaninoff, Reinagle, and a reprise of David Berry’s “Cordair Gallery” Suite, inspired by art in the gallery, first performed on the 2008 QCFA Arts Cruise.

Cordair Gallery: Suite for Piano by S. David Berry

Touching the Surface (Tom Seirak)
Henry’s Night Out (Quent Cordair)
Prometheus (Danielle Anjou)
Young Builder (Bryan Larsen)
Gaia’s Breath (Martin Eichinger)
The Anchorage (Bryan Larsen)

***

SUNDAY 10 a.m.
Mimosas, coffee, delectable treats, and of course art!

***

~ PROGRAM SUBJECT TO CHANGE ~

Napa Lodging: A special discount has been arranged at the beautiful new Archer Hotel located across the street from the gallery.  Find availability and rates at https://archerhotel.com/napa/book/quent-cordair-fine-art

Additional lodging can be found that weekend starting at approximately $160 per night (at the time of this post) at other area hotels and bed and breakfasts. Groups of friends might consider an AirBnB home rental.

Attendees will receive goodie bags filled with local coupons, dining information, and sightseeing options.

Let us know if you would like to explore Napa while you are here and we can connect you with delicious wine-tasting opportunities at some of our favorite places.

Check back for additional program updates, lodging, dining and sightseeing suggestions.

For more information call Linda Cordair at 707-255-2242 or visit our event Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/172009640082042/.

Visit www.cordair.com to explore our award-winning art gallery.

“Fake news”

Featured“Fake news”

About “fake” news: Never surrender the concepts of true and false. Words are important. How we use words is important. When someone mounts a campaign to conflate false with fake, his goal is to conflate true with real. When you surrender false for fake, you surrender true for real, and when you’ve surrendered true and false—when you’ve accepted real versus fake as the standard—he has you where he wants you, for then he needs only your acceptance of what he asserts as real, with asserted reality having become more important than truth, with accepted reality becoming what is asserted.

Never surrender true and false, if you value being able to identify what’s truly real, if you don’t want to fall for the false reality of a fake.

We allow conceptual lines to be blurred, to be erased, to be forgotten, at our peril. Beware the conceptual sleight of hand, the misdirection — the con artist’s tool. When someone assiduously avoids using the terms ‘true’ and ‘false’, and dislikes one of them so much that he works to replace it with a different term at every opportunity, ask yourself why that might be.

Also relevant: Identifying a second-hander ~ https://www.facebook.com/quent.cordair/posts/1409578702498677

***

My novels, short stories, poetry, and plays are available on Amazon…. Thanks so much for reading and for all your comments and reviews ~

Enabling

FeaturedEnabling

You probably know what an enabler is. The term is all too familiar to those who have been in therapy or counseling for their role in a co-dependent relationship, for their role in enabling the destructive behavior of an addictive and/or abusive loved one.

An enabler forgives, excuses, evades, rationalizes, being too fearful of what might be lost, too dependent on the relationship with the abuser to hold him fully and adequately accountable and responsible for his destructive actions. And so the enabler continues to support the abuser in a seemingly inescapable cycle, enabling the cycle of abuse, excuse, apology, the improved behavior until the worse behavior comes around again. The co-dependency and enabling is unfortunately common in relationships with abusive children, spouses, significant others, friends, parents.

Some exhibit a similar psychology in relation to what they believe to be their “heavenly father,” a parental figure praised and worshipped for whatever occasional joy, security, and affection he might provide – while whatever grief, loss, sickness and horror he causes or allows is suffered and endured. Any positive is praised and treasured, while all negatives are forgiven, overlooked, excused, rationalized away. Someone who is psychologically and emotionally dependent on such a parental figure believes he cannot afford to make the parent angry, cannot afford to reject the parent, must defend the parent, feeling utterly dependent on the parent for love and life, no matter how abusive or neglectful, no matter how deaf to the child’s cries the parent may be. In such a relationship, one endures all, justifies all, for the sake of the occasional demonstration of what is interpreted as love and affection, for the occasional “good day” between all the bad, for the parent’s protection, for the parental security. But it is a relationship of utter dependency.

The same psychology and behavior is exhibited by many towards a religious leader, an employer, a führer, a king – a president. The only full and lasting cure is independence: intellectual independence, physical independence, psychological independence, emotional independence. Until independence is fully achieved, the bruising will continue, the enabler finding it necessary to keep the makeup and excuses handy while hoping to keep the abuser sufficiently mollified and distracted, hoping that the bad never becomes worse, while the abuser never lets the enabler quite forget, by how he treats or threatens to treat others, how much worse it could be.

***

My novels, short stories, poetry, and plays are available on Amazon…. Thanks for reading, and for your comments and reviews ~

New year, same resolve, same banner

FeaturedNew year, same resolve, same banner
New year, same resolve, same banner.
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A Call to Stand
 
One man at war with Man’s deprecation
Calls out to all men to seek no salvation,
To pick themselves up from self-immolation,
To turn from the gods of their own creation,
To stand up and face the day —
To reclaim their birthright to say —
I am that I am, before nothing I kneel;
I mastered the fire, invented the wheel;
I cast the bells true and set them to peal;
I am Man, for whom all else is clay —
I am Man. I make my own way.
***
My fiction is here.
My paintings are here.
My art gallery is here.

And Again the Angels

FeaturedAnd Again the Angels

Again they called to heaven
When around them rose a hell;
Again the angels came from earth
In answer to the bell.
While flesh and blood fought smoke and flame
And kept the black line manned,
Their thanks went to the god by whose
Own breath the fires were fanned.

 

***

The original “Again the Angels” is here …

For more of my published fiction — shorts, poetry, novels & scripts, available in ebook, paperback and audiobook — please visit my Amazon page.

Individualism

FeaturedIndividualism

A good blog post by the Hyacinth Girl, in which I’m quoted. It opens,

“Scrolling through my Twitter feed the other day, I came across this picture posted by the History in Pictures account. It’s a box of wedding rings found by liberators at a concentration camp in 1945. Each ring belonged to a person, and each person disappeared into the camps….”

http://www.thehyacinthgrrrl.com/2017/12/individualism.html

 

None more wondrous or impressive . . .

FeaturedNone more wondrous or impressive . . .

Never has there been a god or goddess more wondrous or impressive than the wondrous and impressive beings after whom they were modeled. Man is quite incapable, thank goodness, of inventing an entity more remarkable or exalted than himself. The gods are nothing more, nothing less, than creations molded from Man’s own characteristics, his own virtues and vices, his own qualities reconfigured and remodeled in effort to answer his own hopes, longings, fears, and uncertainties. The gods are, at best, reflections of Man’s own essence, distillations of his own actuality, glorifications of his own potential. At the end of the creative day, however, though he may fervently wish or believe otherwise, no creation of Man can be Man’s master. Though the creator may bow and worship the creation, the creation is not, and could never be, the creator’s superior. The creation can be nothing more than the creator’s servant, a means to his end. If the creator chooses to kneel before his creation, he is free to do so, but he cannot blame the creation for staring back at him in mute wonder.

~ Quent Cordair, on Idolatry

The Idolatry story opens in the twilight of the Roman Empire. As the darkening forces of mysticism descend on Western Civilization, the daughter of itinerant traders is falling fast for a local boy—the apprentice and adopted son of a sculptor. The old master, concerned for the boy’s future, recalls his years as a younger man in bustling Alexandria, where he had found the love of his life before having to flee the threat of religious persecution. Now, having finally rebuilt his life and career in a village far away, an enemy from the past reappears, threatening all he holds dear….

Parts I & II of Idolatry, *Genesis* and *A New Eden*, are now available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook editions on Amazon. Part III is being written.

 

The Dark Deeds of Night

FeaturedThe Dark Deeds of Night

The rain has come. The rain stopped before. It may stop again. It may not. Until the glooming wetness passes, it will weigh upon me like sackcloth as I wait here at the portal for the return of the bright and warming god. For what else can one do but show a constant and enduring faith? If a small rodent appears, I will sacrifice it so that the sun will reappear more quickly. The sun is pleased by offerings of dead rodents, a truth my ancestors have known and passed down through the ages. Until a worthy sacrifice appears, the emptiness in my soul may be assuaged now and again with communion from the human-priest’s hand, morsels of sustaining manna for which I will cry out when he passes, shuffling by, he and his pale assurances of sunny morrows and an endless cycle of seasons. But what can he and his kind know of the sacrifices required of me and my kind to keep it all turning, of the taking of life necessary for life’s return? Dutifully, quietly, I will do again what my kind have always done, knowing that the human-priests will raise their faces to the sun when the sun comes again, giving no thought or thanks to those willing to do the dark deeds of night that make the day possible. Yes, the sun will come again. Of this I will make sure. ~ Le Chat

Alive

FeaturedAlive

At our local bar, sitting next to two 70-somethings who’ve met here by happenstance. He was here when we came in, wears a medical bracelet. The seat next to him is the only seat available to her. And so she sits. He’s having a glass of wine. She orders a beer. It would be rude not to introduce themselves. They ask the questions, get to know each other. Only bits and pieces of the conversation can be heard, but the emotional undertones are timeless. He used to be in a band? What instrument? Saxophone? Her husband used to play! He taught her, but she was never very good…. Heart rates rise as hopes rise. The cautious, cautious optimism. By the time he leaves, she’s revealed where and when he might run into her again. When he walks out the door, his back is a little straighter, head a little higher. She takes her time, finishes her beer.

***

Thank you!

FeaturedThank you!

Thanks so much for each and every review! “A screenplay jihadists will hate and civilized people will love…. Set in Chicago during the holiday season, the story involves a conflict between Husam, a young Muslim man who takes Islam seriously, and his younger brother Jasim. The conflict escalates after Husam is handed a heavy bag by a bearded man and gets on a bus heading downtown…. How is the conflict resolved? In an immensely satisfying way—as fans of Cordair’s work would expect.” — Daniel Wahl, The Objective Standard.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00R8QP8NI

Eclipsed

FeaturedEclipsed

Eclipsed

Their dance was interrupted
As the handmaid slipped between,
With silent glide, as was her way,
Her creases pressed and clean—
“Pray suffer but a moment, ma’am,
Then I’ll be on my way;
You’ll have him back for seven years
Through each and every day.”
With graceful curiosity
The wife let go his hand
And marveled as his aura’s light
Around the maid did band.
Her blackness moved against his white,
The stars and planets awed,
Till wife in wondering twilight thought
Her wisdom might be flawed.
But promise made the maid did keep,
Her turn but for a spell;
A flash of brilliant wedding ring
Told Earth that all was well.

***
Copyright 2017, Quent Cordair.

I used to live in Charlottesville

FeaturedI used to live in Charlottesville

I used to live in Charlottesville. Today I’m reminded of this: “All of humanity was reforming into packs, each pack for protection against the others, with the barking and baying growing louder as the collectives circled, sizing each other up. Disassociated individuals were viewed warily, with suspicion, branded as a danger. If you aren’t for us, you must be against us. Choose! In the press and on social media, behind the slanted headlines and sniping innuendo, the snapping and snarling were intensifying, the pretense of civility crumbling as the packs grew and merged, the smaller groups absorbed into the larger. The collectives were circling and coalescing, testing and reaffirming loyalties, choosing leaders, sharpening claws, baring teeth. Self-loathing and fear were turned and projected outward. Homo sapiens was becoming increasingly less sapiens, devolving, seemingly doomed to another round of sub-civilized, tribalistic brutality. How dark would the next darkness be? How long would it last? How red would run the streets? How unexpected the particular details, the extent of the carnage?”

~ from Chapter 15 of A New Eden, Part II of IDOLATRY, from a darker moment of Professor Harris Grant’s thoughts as he sits on the edge of the cliff overlooking Aurum Valley.

A Call to Stand

FeaturedA Call to Stand

A Call to Stand

One man at war with Man’s deprecation
Calls out to all men to seek no salvation,
To pick themselves up from self-immolation,
To turn from the gods of their own creation,
To stand up and face the day—
To reclaim their birthright to say—
I am that I am, before nothing I kneel;
I mastered the fire, invented the wheel;
I cast the bells true and set them to peal;
I am Man, for whom all else is clay—
I am Man. I make my own way.

 

~ Quent Cordair

 

For Memorial Day, a short story

FeaturedFor Memorial Day, a short story

The Sculpture That Won the War

by Quent Cordair

From a letter to a sculptor
Sept 27, 2001

From the Lunch Break collection

ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a sculptor who had only the face to finish of a magnificent statue, his masterpiece to date. Frustrated by his limitations and increasingly dissatisfied with his efforts to bring into existence the perfection in his mind’s eye, his progress on the artwork had foundered and stalled. His workshop had fallen silent. Indeed, as the days and weeks and months drifted on, the statue was in danger of never being finished at all.

But on a crystal-clear morning, a morning seemingly as peaceful as any other in living memory, a shocking event occurred: the sculptor’s country came under attack. It was a morning of sudden and unexpected terror, of cold-blooded murder that left thousands dead and the populace reeling.

Over the next days and weeks, a miasma of insecurity and anxiety settled over the land, ubiquitous and inescapable, visible on the faces of the rich and the poor, the young and the old, the strong and the weak, the eminent and the obscure. Their sense of wellbeing had vanished overnight; their paradigm had shifted, ostensibly forever. In response to the attack, some wanted to stand and fight; others wanted to kneel and plead; most wandered through their hours fearful and confused, unsure of what to do. While the government drafted plans for war, the citizenry went about their daily routines as well as they were able, anxious for what the fractured future might bring for themselves and for their loved ones, wanting to do something, anything, to combat the pervasive sense of helplessness, yet uncertain of what, if anything, could be done.

The sculptor knew that his country was in greater need than ever of emotional fuel, and he knew what could help provide it. His country was fighting for her life—she needed vision and inspiration to survive, to defend herself, to remember what she had once been, to conquer, to rebuild, to thrive once again. With renewed vigor and determination, he threw his efforts into doing what he could do, contributing with what he did best. Days and nights, coffee and curses, dejection and perseverance, but finally—satisfaction, satisfaction that he had done what he could do, as well as he could do it.

Within a few weeks of the enemy’s strike, the sculptor sent his finished clay to the foundry; within a dozen weeks thereafter, the foundry delivered the finished bronze to the gallery; the gallery, in turn, delivered the artwork to the client who had commissioned it.

The delivery brought in the balance of payment to the gallery which, due to the widespread economic uncertainties subsequent to the attack, was on the brink of closing for lack of sales. The buyer, upon receiving the sculpture, was so delighted with the finished work that he was motivated to place yet another significant commission with the gallery, and the deposit toward the new commission kept the gallery open for a few precious months more. Over that period, the economy stabilized sufficiently that regular purchases began to trickle in again, just enough that the gallery would never again be quite so close to failing.

In the spring after the sculpture was completed and delivered, an eight-year old girl was passing by the gallery with two of her friends. Upon catching a glimpse of the art on display in the window she drew her friends inside, and as they browsed the cornucopia of treasures within, the girl stopped before a lovely figure, a bronze sculpture patined in white. It was a smaller casting of the sculptor’s larger masterpiece. She fell in love with it, and she was all the more enchanted and delighted when she discovered, upon reading the tag at the artwork’s base, that she shared the sculpture’s name. She could hardly afford the sculpture itself, of course, but she spotted a photographed image of the piece framed and hanging on the wall nearby. It too was available for purchase. She checked the price—she couldn’t afford the photograph either. But she did have five dollars. She approached the gallery manager to offer what she had, wondering, hoping. The manager dug through her filing cabinet and found, from a recent mailing campaign, a postcard that featured an image of the sculpture. She gave it to the girl, smilingly, without charge. The girl went home and slipped the postcard into the edge of the mirror on her bedroom wall.

*    *    *

A young pilot cruised silently through the cold night sky, the diamond dust of stars twinkling above. The blanket of clouds below stretched ahead toward a rumpling rise in the distance, marking the boundary of mountainous terrain beneath. His sortie consisted only of himself and his wingman, in two stealth fighters. According to the screen in front of him, they had just crossed the border into enemy territory. It wouldn’t be long now.

The mountains ahead bristled with anti-aircraft batteries.

War had been declared on those who had supported the terrorists and their atrocious acts. The ground war was proving more difficult than anticipated, with the enemy forces scurrying back into the crevices and caves of the mountains at the slightest provocation. The enemy’s military leader, the very swine who had devised and overseen the terrorist attack, was proving elusive, but a disillusioned member of his inner circle had been susceptible to bribing, and the leader’s location had been leaked. The caves in which he was thought to be hiding and their surroundings had been bombed incessantly over the past days, and on this evening, an intelligence satellite had picked up a small convoy attempting to leave the area under the cover of darkness. A forward spotter on the ground confirmed that it was indeed the enemy leader, who could disappear into another system of caves within minutes or hours.

The jets had been scrambled immediately, and now the pair were within a short thirty miles of their target. They rolled onto their sides and slipped like diving nighthawks through the clouds and to the height of the peaks before turning into a craggy-walled valley. By design, the cutting-edge craft were nearly undetectable by radar, but a watchful enemy soldier, at first spooked by the two shadows streaking silently above, frantically radioed ahead a warning. Anti-aircraft fire began tracing upwards, trying to catch the fleeting apparitions. The pilots dropped lower so as not to offer a silhouette against the night sky. Without warning, a missile from below caught the wingman’s craft, and it erupted into a comet of flame, dropping away without so much as a sound from the pilot’s radio.

The young pilot who remained fought to stay focused. All of his reflexes wanted to pull the stick back and shoot straight up to the sky, to rise above the fiery tracings that would surely find him too at any moment, to live to fight another day.

Deep in the canyon, radio reception was intermittent and broken. He might have heard his commander’s order to pull up and out, but he might not have heard it either. If he climbed, he might be able get a fair shot at the convoy from altitude—if he survived the incoming fire to which the altitude would expose him—but it was the enemy leader himself, the black heart and soul of the enemy forces, who was traveling in that convoy. When would there be another chance if the pilot missed or if he were shot down before being able to make another attempt? How long might the war drag on if the leader escaped? The images that had been seared into his memory on that accursed morning came again—the hijacked airliners crashing into the skyscrapers, the innocents plunging from the heights to their deaths, the buildings collapsing, the vacant despair on the faces of the survivors.

He thought of the postcard in the breast pocket of his flight suit, of the delicately looped handwriting in violet pen on the postcard’s reverse, of the girl who had sent the accompanying letter. He switched off his radio. Steeling himself, he kicked the plane over on its side, banking hard around a canyon corner, flying lower yet, the bullets from small arms pinging into his craft’s underbelly.

The infrared radar confirmed the vehicles of the convoy on the road ahead, speeding toward a pass so narrow that even if he were on his side he wouldn’t be able to follow them in. He dropped lower, the dust from the road boiling in his wake. Either of the laser-guided bombs on board would get the job done, but he wouldn’t be able to gain enough elevation in time to guide one in on the first pass, and he wouldn’t be able to complete a second pass before the convoy scattered.

He hadn’t even met the girl. She was a student in a class of fourth graders that had adopted his unit. They had sent a package of homemade baked goods and letters. Her envelope had found its way onto his bunk just the evening before. The letter opened with the generically respectful “Dear Sir—” He recalled the words written on the back of the enclosed postcard and the tiny violet heart after the girl’s name. On the front of the postcard was the image of a sculpture, the embodiment of innocence and delight. It was the only mail he had received in weeks. It was enough.

“Okay, baby, this one’s for you. . . .”

He armed both of the bombs and aimed the nose of his black angel at the rear vehicle in the convoy ahead. In his final seconds, he thought of the target, of the enemy leader, and realizing something, he chuckled. With the fire of hell in his eyes, he said, “Live by the plane, die by the plane, mother f—”

*   *   *

On a cloudless morning in the thin mountain air, an American soldier walked through the scattered wreckage at the site of the strike. Pieces of wood, metal and clothing were scattered about the perimeter of the blackened gouge in the road, three hundred yards long. It would go down in history as the place where the head of the hydra was killed and the tide of war had been turned. The platoon was combing through the wreckage for any of what might remain of the leader’s papers and effects. Of the pilot’s body, they hadn’t been able to find anything, though small pieces of the plane were identifiable here and there. But the oddest scraps can survive such conflagrations: after the attack that had brought down the buildings and started the war, one of the terrorists’ passports had been found in the rubble below.

The soldier lifted a piece of twisted metal and noticed in the ashes beneath it a postcard, its edges curled and seared brown but otherwise unburned. On the front was the photo of a sculpture, an elegant figure in white, beckoning to be followed into a world of wonder and happiness. The soldier smiled. He turned the photo over and read: “Dear Sir, this is how I used to feel before the war. I hope I can feel this way again someday. Thank you for fighting for me. — Joy”

The soldier tucked the photo into his breast pocket and slung his rifle over his shoulder. Kicking aside a half-burned turban, he walked down the road and took in a chestful of clean air. For the first time in months, he allowed himself to think of home.

* * *
*

Copyright 2001, 2012, Quent Cordair. All rights reserved.

The Sculpture That Won the War is included in the Lunch BreakLB cover mockup 060212a 72 dpi collection of short stories and poems by Quent Cordair ~

In Lunch Break, adventure, suspense and romance rule the day as the protagonists pursue their ends with passion and perseverance. The collection includes stories originally published in *The Atlantean Press Review* and *ART Ideas.*

A billionaire struggling for hope searches the world for love…. A country girl with a rifle stands ready to deliver justice…. A former banker washes windows on the side of a skyscraper…. The daughter of a foreign official is lured into the heart of San Francisco…. The son of a wealthy divorcee helps recover her lost soul…. In the aftermath of a terrorist attack, a sculptor’s work inspires and uplifts…. A teacher pursues an elusive assassin…. A family man follows his own course in preparation for apocalypse….

“…well worth the price. If you haven’t read any of Quent’s stories yet, I almost envy you. I’m waiting eagerly for more.” – Dianne Durante, author of the *Forgotten Delights* series

“Could you read these during your lunch break? Yes. Will you want to? No. You won’t want to rush yourself. You’ll want to pour yourself a glass of wine, snuggle into your favorite chair, turn off your phone, and spend every luxurious minute that you can immersing yourself in these stories.” – Elizabeth O’Brien, author of *English Grammar Revolution*

“…it is fuel for the spirit; it is an affirmation of life and what is good. That he writes beautifully and imaginatively adds to the reading pleasure.” – Michael Wilkinson, Sculptor

Enjoy your own Lunch Break today!

***

*

Don’t miss GENESIS, Part I of IDOLATRY “Beautifully written, on the order of Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth, with the historical insight of James Michener, it brings to life a time of great thought, great art, and its clash with religious fanaticism. Cordair writes with a poet’s sense of scene and nuance and gives us a great deal of insight into the mind of a sculptor.”   5-STARS — Alan Nitikman

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In the twilight of the Roman Empire, a sculptor struggles to keep an 800-year dream alive while honoring the love of his life and raising his adoptive son. Part I of the *Idolatry* series, an epic story in five parts. Now available for Kindle, in paperback and on audiobook…

“It is extremely difficult to believe that this is a novella when you finish it. You feel like you’ve followed the entire burning course of an epic romance, the life of a young bright mind carelessly following a difficult road, and a dramatic plot against anything glorious. Cordair had a way of bringing tears to my eyes in his previously published short stories. He has a way of creating scenes of emotional wonder and then forcing you to linger on the emotion in sorrow or defiance or happiness. … Cordair leaves us with the feeling that any obstacle, any voice that says with any amount of force that we can’t be exactly what we want and know we ought to be, is too small to care about – and the consequences of ignoring such a voice can never be so bad.… Cordair’s craft is a triumphant inspiration, the kind a soul can yearn for more of in whatever part of the tale comes next.” 5 STARS — Joseph Hampel

Genesis is now available for Kindle, in paperback, and on audiobook on Amazon here… 

Manchester

FeaturedManchester

Again comes the cry, again comes the mourn,
Clutched fingers in hair over flowers forlorn;
Candles all lit till the night wetly glows,
Coffins wrapped neatly in black satin bows.

Shadows beg mercy where mercy’s unknown,
Prayers and peace offerings all fruitlessly sown,
The desperately hoping more love will suffice
For those taking no less than blood sacrifice.

There’s left but one answer to those who love death,
Whose sword demands kneeling until the last breath,
Those blinded to reason, faith shrouding their eyes
Till torn from their skulls, their creed’s final prize.

There’s left but one choice, for those who love life,
In answer to those sworn to murder and strife:
When faith-deafened minds every argument shun,
When no word can turn what no logic has won,
When pleas have been met every time with a gun—
Swift granting of death is the deed sooner done.

For the Woman Who Has Everything

FeaturedFor the Woman Who Has Everything

Sarah woke to silence. Thin lines of moonlight lay in diagonals across the floor. She listened for awhile. The only sound was the soft rustle of her hair against the pillow.

She slid her legs from beneath the layers of blankets and let her feet touch the chill of the hardwood floor. As she walked, a line of moonlight slipped around one ankle, then the other, ascending, scanning and measuring her body in strict undulations. At the west window the moon caught her fully, a slender white animal beneath the new winter’s sky.

To the north the terraced lawns twinkled with frost as from a sprinkling of ground glass. To the south the meadow’s tall grasses were broken, the stalks strewn like fallen soldiers, the stumps standing like nails on the hills. Below and before her lay the expansive gardens, where the moonlight was caught in webs of shadow beneath the bare rose bushes and in chains of diamonds beneath the arched trellises. Beyond the gardens the shadows converged in venous networks that covered the forest floor and stretched down to the lake. The black water held a solitary, struggling prisoner, the twin sister of a star above. Beyond the circle of the horizon lay the borders of the estate. Within, the only movement, the only sound, the only life was the faint beating of Sarah’s heart.

She wrapped herself in her robe and stepped into her slippers. The bed hardly looked slept in. In the long hall, the moonlight floated in slanting shafts from the skylights to oblique rectangles on the wall. It was still her habit to pause at each of the children’s rooms. In Kelly’s, the moonlight glinted from a fleet-footed Mercury atop one of the running trophies. The stuffed animals waited patiently on the bed. Kelly was doing well in law school, her holiday visits were rare. In Paul’s room, his model airplane hung in a banking climb above the darkened computer. Paul was piloting his own plane now from one development project to the next. The last Sarah had heard, he was somewhere in Argentina. In Jonathan’s room, his first sculpture, a lovely nude, reclined on the dresser as comfortably as the day he had placed her there. He had been so proud of that first effort, and rightly so. Jonathan lived in the city now with his wife and two young children, adjacent to his new studio. They hadn’t been out to see her in a while. Sarah had hinted that perhaps she might come in to the city for a visit this weekend, but Jonathan had demurred, saying that he was trying to finish an important project before a deadline, that they would be out to see her when they could. Of course she understood.

At the end of the hall, the desk light in her office illuminated the neat stacks of papers. It was the one light in the house she left on at night. After toiling into the small hours beneath its glow, it was always there for her when she woke before dawn, the lightship guiding her back into its harbor. On her desk, the day’s priorities filled three pages of yellow pad. The computer screen blinked an urgent message from Hong Kong. A text from the Zurich office wanted her to call immediately, before the close of their business day. She found herself staring blankly at the pencil lying on the desk. A moment earlier, she had meant to pick it up, but her hand was still on the back of the chair. She switched off the light. Through the window, behind the silhouetted branches of a towering fir, the sky was shifting to a somber charcoal grey. She drifted on.

The library’s fireplace was empty and cold. The leather recliner loomed in the shadows. Sometimes she could still smell the burning oak mingled with the sweet scent of pipe tobacco, and the boys would be perched on the arms of their father’s chair, with little Kelly nestled into his lap, his golden baritone holding them in rapt attention as he read. Last year, Sarah had called the movers to take the chair away, but when they arrived, she wouldn’t let them touch it. The chair remained, the sole monument to the years. He had taken his books with him. She had tried filling the spaces on the shelves with figurines, vases and curios.

In the great room, her finger followed the edge of the grand piano. Across the floor where she had danced, she moved in a straight line, on through the foyer and into the dining room, hearing again the laughter of friends and the clink of champagne glasses as she passed the table. In the kitchen she circled the island, the home’s heart from which all had flowed and to which all had returned—had once returned. Its veined granite lay bare and clean. The surrounding chairs, which had been nicked and worn, were repainted and re-covered. She opened the French doors to the patio—the cold splashed her face and hands, spilling around her wrists and ankles, rising beneath her robe, around her bare legs.

The morning mist had settled over the back lawn, wetting the frost. Her daily routine led down the flagstone walk to the greenhouse, where reflexively, she turned to wind through the boxwood hedges that led to the gardens, following the serpentine route that allowed inspection of each well-groomed plot. The pruning was finished. The perennials were trimmed and mulched. The tulips, larkspur and peonies had been tucked under. In the vegetable and herb beds, the clods of earth lay belly-up to the sky, awaiting the blanket of snow. There was nothing left to be done.

By the time she reached the back of the gardens, the night’s shadows had dissolved in the dawn’s silver twilight which seemed to rise from the earth itself, the moon a paling wafer lingering in the haze above. Along the path through the stands of maple and birch, the moss on the trunks glistened with frosty dew, the carpet of dead leaves and rotting branches offering up the crisp pungency of decay. Ahead, the water lay like polished slate beneath the diaphanous shroud of mist veiling the lake’s far shore.

She paused at the gazebo, where the swing for two hung empty and still at the end of its chains. It was there that Douglas had left her sitting, too stunned to cry. From the supply in the lidded bench she took a fresh towel and draped it over the railing. Beside the towel she draped her robe. Below the robe she arranged her slippers.

This year, the ritual of her morning swim had extended past the end of summer and on through the autumn months. She couldn’t say why. The water’s embrace was simply something she needed, like the light on her desk. When she reached the middle of the lake, she would float awhile, then exhale and let her body slip quietly beneath the surface to sink slowly down through the ever colder, darker depths. The feeling of the mud closing about her feet had at first sent her kicking upwards for light and air—but it was only mud, she had been telling herself, the same as the stuff in her garden beneath a rainy day, where all things that have had their season inevitably return to rest. She had been staying down longer of late.

The path to the water’s edge passed through the outermost feature of her landscaping, a circular haven of evergreen hedges. She stopped there—startled.

There had always been the stone bench on the one side, but she had never found quite the right ornament for the view opposite. Her first thought was that the style of the sculpture was unmistakable—and then she couldn’t think anymore because her body was straightening to match the bearing of the marble figure, an ageless beauty in a summer dress, hands resting lightly on the hips, looking out into the world with strength, resolve and a peaceful joy. Gazing at it, she could feel her son’s hands gently pushing on the small of her back, pulling her shoulders, lifting her chin. It was a perfect likeness of her. It was her own lost soul, and as she stood before the vision, it filled and filled her. The base was engraved:

 

For the woman who has everything —

Happy birthday, Mom.

— Jonathan

She had been standing there for longer than she knew when the morning’s silence was broken by the sound of a horn from the direction of the front drive, followed by the shutting of car doors and the laughter of children—Jonathan’s.

She hadn’t expected them. She turned and walked briskly toward the gazebo. There was hot cocoa and muffins to be made. As she tied the belt of her robe, she glanced back to the lake. As soon as it froze over, she would be out on the ice with the children, teaching them how to skate. She removed the remaining towels from beneath the bench, tucking them beneath her arm as she turned toward the house.

Above the circle of evergreen, the first snowflake of winter drifted down, turning a fine pirouette. It came to rest on a sublime marble cheek, and melted there.

*          *          *

*

Copyright 2012, Quent Cordair. All rights reserved.LB cover mockup 060212a 72 dpi

 

“For the Woman Who Has Everything” is one of 16 stories and poems in the Lunch Break collection, now available in paperback and on Kindle.

 

 

 

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In the twilight of the Roman Empire, as the darkening forces of mysticism descend on Western Civilization, the daughter of itinerant traders is falling fast for a local boy—the apprentice and adopted son of a sculptor. The old master, concerned for the boy’s future, recalls his years as a younger man in bustling Alexandria, where he had found the love of his life before having to flee the threat of religious persecution. Now, having finally rebuilt his life and career in a village far away, an enemy from the past reappears, threatening all he holds dear.

“Beautifully written, on the order of Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, with the historical insight of James Michener, it brings to life a time of great thought, great art, and its clash with religious fanaticism. Cordair writes with a poet’s sense of scene and nuance and gives us a great deal of insight into the mind of a sculptor….” ~ Alan Nitikman

GENESIS is Part I of the 5-part IDOLATRY saga. Now available on Amazon…

“It is extremely difficult to believe that this is a novella when you finish it. You feel like you’ve followed the entire burning course of an epic romance, the life of a young bright mind carelessly following a difficult road, and a dramatic plot against anything glorious. Cordair had a way of bringing tears to my eyes in his previously published short stories. He has a way of creating scenes of emotional wonder and then forcing you to linger on the emotion in sorrow or defiance or happiness. … Cordair leaves us with the feeling that any obstacle, any voice that says with any amount of force that we can’t be exactly what we want and know we ought to be, is too small to care about – and the consequences of ignoring such a voice can never be so bad.… Cordair’s craft is a triumphant inspiration, the kind a soul can yearn for more of in whatever part of the tale comes next.” 5 STARS — Joseph Hampel

Genesis is now available for Kindle,

and in paperback and audiobook editions. 

The root from which a tyrant springs . . .

FeaturedThe root from which a tyrant springs . . .

From an exchange between Apollonius and his beloved teacher, while examining the Colossi of Memnon, considering the meaning, the purpose of the sculpture. She offers a quote from Plato: “The people have always some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness. . . . This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs—when he first appears he is a protector. . . . ” Genesis, Part I of Idolatry, is now available in paperback, for Kindle, and on audiobook.

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In the twilight of the Roman Empire, as the darkening forces of religion descend on Western Civilization, a sculptor struggles to keep an ancient dream alive while honoring the love of his life and raising his adopted son. Part I of the epic 5-part IDOLATRY series. “Beautifully written, on the order of Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, with the historical insight of James Michener, it brings to life a time of great thought, great art, and its clash with religious fanaticism. Cordair writes with a poet’s sense of scene and nuance and gives us a great deal of insight into the mind of a sculptor; I found this an exciting and easy read.” ~ Alan Nitikman

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Now on Amazon …

A gift for you, until midnight

FeaturedA gift for you, until midnight

A little gift to help start your year off right.  This one is on me — it’s FREE until midnight Pacific tonight, Jan 3. The Amazon reading app, which works on any device, is free too. “Beautifully written, on the order of Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, with the historical insight of James Michener, it brings to life a time of great thought, great art, and its clash with religious fanaticism. Cordair writes with a poet’s sense of scene and nuance and gives us a great deal of insight into the mind of a sculptor; I found this an exciting and easy read.” ~ Alan Nitikman. Available through 12a.m. PST at http://amzn.to/2j4Bccd

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Free until midnight Pacific tonight on Amazon …

Out of the Old

FeaturedOut of the Old

Yet another year, she thought,
Sitting in her chair, she thought.
Still she might, she thought,
Still she would, she thought,
Till she did, she thought —
Her soul, willed and willing,
Rose and waltzed more lightly even
Than her body ever had,
Out of the old, into the new.

 


Copyright 2013, Quent Cordair. All rights reserved.

Butterscotch

FeaturedButterscotch

We found ourselves standing next to each other. I was studying the prices of canned tuna. She was scanning the selection of instant-pudding mixes opposite. It was mid-afternoon, the aisle was otherwise empty. Try as she might, she could bend only so low to examine the items on the lower shelves, fearing, she admitted quietly, that her knees might fail to raise her. These things come with age, she conceded. We smiled it away. I turned to assist.

She was looking for butterscotch—that was the flavor she liked. If they didn’t have butterscotch here, Target would have it. They always stocked butterscotch at Target. The prices were better at Target too, she said. Had I seen the price of cream cheese here? Over two dollars! I commiserated. Her daughter had found a recipe with her weight-watchers group in which canned pumpkin was added to the butterscotch mix—it was really quite good that way, and less fattening. That sounded good to me too. It would be surprising if they didn’t carry butterscotch here, we agreed, as surely butterscotch was still one of the more popular flavors. Perhaps they had sold out. There were many newer flavors. We thought we found a few boxes of butterscotch towards the back of the bottom shelf, next to the coconut crème, but they were only surplus of the vanilla. She would get butterscotch at Target. She thanked me, her eyes gleaming briefly, and we wished each other a good day. I continued along my way. She continued along hers.

Perhaps a half dozen times during our search for the butterscotch, she had reached out to touch my arm, letting her cold, delicate fingers, thinly gloved in fine wrinkles, linger on the warmth of my skin for an extended moment, for as long as politely possible. I hadn’t pulled away.

She would find what she wanted later at Target. Here, she had found something of what she needed. I hadn’t minded.

 


Copyright 2014, Quent Cordair. All rights reserved.

Ice or Fire

FeaturedIce or Fire

Some say that Hell is made of fire,
Some say of ice.
From what I’ve seen the oceans sire
I think I’d choose the ice or fire
O’er sinking to the sailor’s end,
In darkening depths come eye to eye
With demons vile come round to rend
A flailing feast o’er which they’ll vie,
One bubbled cry ascending.

Featured

Update on the audiobook of A NEW EDEN

(UPDATE: See below…) ALERT to those who have already downloaded the audiobook of A NEW EDEN, Part II of IDOLATRY, or for those considering purchasing. I’ve been alerted by a listener this morning that the current audiobook available of A NEW EDEN somehow ends with Chapter 11 — but there are 15 chapters total! Please know that the situation will be corrected shortly.
UPDATE: Working with Audible to correct the title. They’re estimating 10-14 days for the corrected title to be processed and to propagate through the retail sites, then purchasers can simply re-download the corrected title with all 15 chapters. They’ll keep me posted, as I will you, with apologies for any inconvenience. (Four more chapters to look forward to!) Please LET ME KNOW if you’d like to be notified when the corrected edition is available. Audible will NOT notify you directly.

.

My very sincerest apologies for any inconvenience. The last four chapters are worth waiting for.

Alert concerning the audiobook of A New Eden

FeaturedAlert concerning the audiobook of A New Eden

ALERT to those who have already downloaded the audiobook of A NEW EDEN, Part II of IDOLATRY, or for those considering purchasing. I’ve been alerted by a listener this morning that the current audiobook available of A NEW EDEN somehow ends with Chapter 11 — but there are 15 chapters total! (Audible was doing a system upgrade recently — I suspect some chapter files may have been lost in a server migration). This is deeply frustrating and disappointing, but regardless the cause, please know that the situation will be corrected shortly. Those who have already purchased, please see #3 below on how you can help me identify and resolve the problem.

1. If you have not already purchased the audiobook of A NEW EDEN, please wait to purchase until the problem is resolved. Stay tuned. Please let me know if you’d like to be notified when the corrected edition is available.

2. If you *have* already purchased, know that the problem will be corrected a.s.a.p. I don’t yet know if Audible will simply provide those who have already purchased with a corrected copy, or if we’ll need to go through a refund/repurchase process. Please contact me if you’ve already purchased so that I can follow up on ensuring that you receive the full, corrected book.

3. If you’ve already downloaded a copy, can you do me a big favor by letting me know a) when you purchased, and b) if your copy ends with Chapter 11 (last words: “…with complete adoration”) or with Chapter 15 (last words: “…like a branch in the wind”) There are closing credits on *both* versions. This will be very helpful in determining when and how the error occurred. We need evidence of when the problem occurred.

Thank you! And my very sincerest apologies for the inconvenience. The last four chapters are the best! Worth waiting for, I hope.

Character

FeaturedCharacter
Character

The shuffling line from dock to deck
Turns up the plank to ticket check.
Those early on the rails above
Wave wanly down to ones they love;
A long look down to ones they love.

Mark the ship, her lines and seams,
A welding of designer’s dreams
And builder’s craft — but is she true?
Or will she break against the blue?
How will she fare against the blue?

New captain there, high on the bridge;
A ship so large, his privilege.
It’s whispered that he’s wrecked a few,
Though smaller craft, that much is true;
Not one his fault, that much is true —

Or so it’s sworn by this fresh crew
And owners old with lifeboats new.
All’s well insured with fading ink,
They reassure with touch of drink;
The trembling calms with touch of drink.

The seas ahead are known to swell,
Lift up to heaven, drop to hell,
Loom overhead till pounding down
To crush the air until lungs drown,
With howling winds until lungs drown.

Threatening isles with teething breaks,
A glancing scrape is all it takes
Across a careless bearing laid —
The reckless bet by all is paid;
The helmsman’s due by all is paid.

The wise will eye both ship and man
To measure both with skeptic scan.
The sea cares not for sentiment
Or fervent prayers to heaven sent;
It swallows prayers to heaven sent.

In character of steel and mind,
In ship nor man a weakness find,
On oceans’ floors, if truth be told,
There lies more faith and trust than gold,
There lies more hope than gold.

***
I read the poem live on my Facebook author's page ~
https://www.facebook.com/QuentCordairFiction/posts/1146495142054239


Copyright 2016, Quent Cordair

Oh, but you are . . .

FeaturedOh, but you are . . .

Oh, but you are an artist ~ you are the sculptor of your character, the painter of your style, the composer of your attitude, the architect of your future, the writer of the story of your life.

 

***


Genesis cover art 100215 w borderEnjoy Genesis, Part I of Idolatry  

In the twilight of the Roman Empire, a sculptor struggles to keep an 800-year dream alive while honoring the love of his life and raising his adopted son. Part I of the epic five-part Idolatry saga, the story of a wealthy young heir and a devout Christian girl who find themselves at the heart of a 2400-year struggle for the soul of Western Civilization.

“Beautifully written, on the order of Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, with the historical insight of James Michener, it brings to life a time of great thought, great art, and its clash with religious fanaticism. Cordair writes with a poet’s sense of scene and nuance and gives us a great deal of insight into the mind of a sculptor; I found this an exciting and easy read.” ~ Alan Nitikman

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Genesis, Part I of Idolatry, is now on Amazon in paperback & Kindle editions here…

Panem et Circenses

FeaturedPanem et Circenses

And came the hour for panem et circenses, for the promised bread and circuses, and the people’s demands grew louder until they were given, not as much as they wanted or expected, but it was what they were given, and they ate the bread while laughing in the circus at the fear and pleading on the faces below, faces which had once been above. They laughed and chewed as pale flesh was ripped and bones broken, as the dark blood pooled across the circus floor, and when the cries below had gone silent, the people drifted home, sated and mollified for that day and the next, praising their new emperor and forgiving him much, until they began to grow hungry again, and the emperor was slow in providing, and another rose up among them, promising to provide panem et circenses, and faces below which had once been above.

Character

FeaturedCharacter

Character always matters. Always. The character of a man is who he is. Character is definition, self-made. It defines what a man will do, how he will do it, and what he will not do. Discount or dismiss the character of a man at your peril.

The predator preys at convenience. Awaiting opportunity, he employs camouflage, subterfuge, stealth, while studying and testing his targets’ weaknesses, vulnerabilities. The weakness of many is simply their failure, their refusal or inability to identify the predator for what he is, their failure to take seriously the threat of what he has proven himself to be. . . . The mind, too, fights or takes flight. The danger is in the mind taking flight while the body, vulnerable, remains. . . . The predator lies low, slinks in, bush to bush through the grasses until he is within the herd. The danger is sensed—the subtle sounds, not quite right, the unusual lines shifting through the tall blades. The wary few raise alarm. The herd stops, raising their heads, scanning, listening. But the stalker has stopped too, holding, waiting – waiting until their guard is lowered again. The prey always lower their heads again eventually, their hunger winning out over mindfulness.

Out of the thick silence, the dust boils and the strike is made. The screams of the dying will long remain with those who escape — until it is forgotten again, forgotten that the character of a man always matters. Always.

The Whistler

FeaturedThe Whistler

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PLAIN, as though hewn from a mountain of crystalline quartz, rose the city’s sun-dazzled facets of towering glass. From the top of the tallest came a sound, a sparkling cascade of notes. The window washers were preparing their scaffolding for the day’s descent. One was whistling a symphony. The other two engaged in conversation.

“First day, huh, kid? What’s your name again?”

“Bobby. Yours?”

“Walt. So what did you do to deserve this? Parents finally kick you out of the house?”

“No, I’m saving money for school next fall. Besides, I like the view.”

“School? Ha. I’ve got a degree in psychology, and look where it got me.”

From the other end of the scaffolding, the whistler nodded a greeting while continuing to check the cables and connections.

“Who’s he?” Bobby asked.

“You don’t recognize that face?” Walt lowered his voice. “Well, it’s been a while, I guess. See that gold-colored building over there?” He tilted his head toward the city’s second tallest tower. “He used to sit in a plush corner office on the top floor. That man was once the president of his own bank – and now he’s washing the windows on one. He’s the biggest failure this side of the Mississippi.”

“Damn.”

As the platform lowered over the edge, the symphony segued into a melody that had once serenaded cattle on the rolling prairie below, the notes lofting into blue space.

“So, what happened to him?” Bobby asked.

“He made a bad decision, ran into some bad luck. The bank went under.”

“Oh.”

Three floors lower, a mockingbird landed on the platform’s railing. It cocked its head at a Viennese waltz and flew off in search of less formidable competition.

“Why didn’t he start over or go into some other line of business?”

“With what? Every penny he had was backing that bank. His credit is shot. Up there on the north side, he had a twenty-room mansion, four cars, a yacht, a summer home in the mountains. Now he rents a room down near that factory by the rail yard; he walks to work, doesn’t have so much as a bathtub to play in, and he hasn’t taken a day’s vacation in the two years he’s worked here.”

The waltz shifted into a lilting ragtime tune, the first of a dozen that carried them down the next seven floors.

“Does he have family?”

“His wife took the kids. The relatives who once basked in his glow now cross the street to avoid his shadow. One of his brothers even changed his last name.”

A series of Baroque canons and fugues accompanied them down to the building’s halfway point, where they paused for lunch. After eating his sandwich and tucking away the brown bag, the biggest failure this side of the Mississippi laid back on the platform to watch the clouds, whistling a soulful slave hymn.

“Surely he still has a friend or two,” Bobby ventured. “If the decision was just an honest mistake and the circumstances were unforeseeable, he would still have the respect of his peers. Somebody would give him a chance at something. . . .”

“People want him around like they want a black cat named Thirteen. If whoever is in charge of this place ever bothered to read the applications for window washer and discovered that bad luck incarnate is hanging on the side of their bank, they’d probably cut the cables we’re dangling from rather than waiting for us to come down.”

As the afternoon passed, a lively march reverberated from the surrounding buildings, followed by an operatic aria and a program of buoyant show tunes. The sidewalks began filling with people on their way home. A sweet lullaby floated down. A few glanced up appreciatively.

“Well, at least he seems happy,” Bobby said.

“At first I thought he’d taken this job just to have a convenient place to jump from, but then he started with that infernal whistling and I knew he’d lost his mind. The only future the man has is the hope of being back up on top of this godforsaken pile of glass tomorrow morning.”

An Irish ballad set them gently on the sidewalk.

“Hey, you – the whistler.” A man in a business suit beckoned from a bench next to the taxi stand.

“Here, this is for the music,” he said, holding out a five-dollar bill and patting the spot beside him. “Sit down, sit down. . . . Nobody whistles like that anymore, you know. My father was a whistler though. God, could he whistle. When I asked him to teach me how, he said, ‘Son, you have to start with a clean conscience.’ It took me a long time to understand that, but he was right. He was the most indomitable man I’ve ever known. I’ll never forget, when I was seven years old a tornado destroyed our house and the farm. My father led us up from the cellar, took a long look around, and as he tossed a twisted piece of our plow aside, he started whistling. I only remember a little of the tune. It went – La, dah dee dee, la dah, dah dee la . . .

The whistler’s whistle picked up the melody and carried it high into the glass canyon.

“Yes! . . . Yes, that’s it. . . .”

*         *         *

The next morning, on the top floor, there were only the two window washers cleaning the panes.

Walt exclaimed, “Come here, kid, look at this!” His face was plastered to the glass. “Now I know what happened to him – he got himself fired. That man, the one he was talking to, he’s the bank president!”

Bobby went and looked, and returned to his own side in a thoughtful melancholy. He wiped a swath through the dust on a window and stopped, peering into the office next to the president’s. The well-dressed man sitting at the desk was cleaning a smudge off of the glass top with his handkerchief. On the front of the office door, someone was lettering a name in the space above the words, “Vice President.” The only sound outside was the wind, but the man at the desk was undoubtedly whistling. Recognizing Bobby, he waved. Bobby waved back and finished cleaning the window.

As the scaffolding lowered to the next floor, Bobby shaped his mouth in the form of an “O” – and blew.

*         *         *

*

First published in 1994 by the Atlantean Press,  The Atlantean Press Review.

Copyright 1994, Quent Cordair. All rights reserved.

“The Whistler” is included in the Lunch Break collection of short stories and poems, available through Amazon in paperback and for Kindle @ http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008B0KXFI .

Steam

FeaturedSteam

The increasingly desperate fervency, the unshakable commitment and loyalty, the blind doubling down of souls answering the call of their chosen savior – there it is again, the pre-rational, primordial stew out of which so many religions were born. Where there is faith, there are those ready to follow; out of the churning, simmering pools of hopeful followers, leaders will rise. Muhammad, Jesus, Moses, Joseph Smith — how much was forgiven of them, how many sins and improprieties excused, overlooked, explained and polished away by those who told and sold their stories, all for the promise of salvation? The price of a savior — the ready offering of the mind, the sacrifice of the independent individual to the safety of the collective. All now to the temple in obedient lines, none minding the shackles tightening around their ankles, none suspecting that it is their own warm blood to be spilled, the steam rising and curling from the altar in the gray morning chill.

Map of Aurum Valley

FeaturedMap of Aurum Valley

For those following the Idolatry story, I’ve created a map of Aurum Valley, the setting for Part II, A New Eden. Part II is on track to be published on Kindle within the week, and in paperback shortly thereafter. (UPDATE: Now available on Amazon!)

aurum valley 072016c

Anyone willing to provide a short review on Amazon can still be added to the list to receive a free copy of the Kindle edition of Part II, A New Eden. Just send me an email at dobby@cordair.com with “Yes, I’ll review” in the subject line, and I’ll add you to the list (limited-time offer).

 

Sneak peek, new cover art . . .

FeaturedSneak peek, new cover art . . .

larsen Idolatry-1 051616 small cropped swatchSneak peek! This is a cropped swatch of the new artwork for the cover of A NEW EDEN, Part II of IDOLATRY, to be published within the next few weeks. The painting, an original oil on aluminum-composite panel, was created on commission by one of our gallery’s excellent artists, Bryan Larsen. The original painting and limited-edition prints will be available (let me know if you might be interested; I’ll put you on the list to be notified when the art is available).

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Genesis, Part I of Idolatry, audiobook edition now available on Audible.com

I have ONE audiobook copy of GENESIS, Part I of IDOLATRY, to give away today in exchange for a short review on Audible within the next two weeks — just a sentence or two in review will be fine. Be the first to raise a hand in the comments below. Listening length: 4 hrs 11 mins. Retail price: $14.95. Note: I can only give this away to a U.S. listener; sorry international fans.

 

Featured

MUJAHID ~ Free today and tomorrow


mujahid cover 011815a
 A little anti-ISIS, pro-West antidote for the soul, FREE to download today through midnight Pacific tomorrow, Friday 6/17:

 Mujahid ~ “A screenplay jihadists will hate and civilized people will love…. Set in Chicago during the holiday season, the story involves a conflict between Husam, a young Muslim man who takes Islam seriously, and his younger brother Jasim. The conflict escalates after Husam is handed a heavy bag by a bearded man and gets on a bus heading downtown…. How is the conflict resolved? In an immensely satisfying way—as fans of Cordair’s work would expect.” — Daniel Wahl, The Objective Standard. Running time: approx. 30 minutes.

 

Download today on Amazon here…  

Mujahid is #1 in its category on Amazon this afternoon…

Number 1 061616

 

First Bite

FeaturedFirst Bite

 

“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not worship the creations of man,” said the creation of man—as told by the man who had created him.

And many who sat listening to the storyteller believed him. And the storyteller was pleasantly surprised.

His audience wanted to hear more. They demanded more. This worried the storyteller, as he had already told the three stories he had thought up the night before. To buy time, as was his custom, he feigned fatigue. When they persisted, he asked that they bring him food so that he would have the energy to continue. As the tent emptied, he pondered whether to craft a different story altogether, or to make up a sequel or a prequel to the story about the man who heard the thunderous voice on the mountain, and the lightning that wrote commands on a rock. But the storyteller was fresh out of ideas.

The first to return to the tent was the young boy, one of the most gullible of his audience. The boy came humbly, bearing a basket of overripe fruit. As the storyteller picked through the offering, he leapt to his feet in fright—his hand had brushed a moving thing in the bottom of the basket. Perhaps the snake had been intending to enjoy the fruit for its own dinner—though the storyteller had only seen snakes eat other animals. He walloped the boy on the head for not being more careful, sending the boy crying from the tent.

Watching the snake’s tail slither away beneath the tent’s edge, the storyteller had found his inspiration. To spice up the tale, he would introduce some nudity. His prettiest young listener, always in the front row, would always blush and protest whenever he mentioned nudity or sex, but he noticed that she kept coming back. He would set his story in a garden of beautiful flowers and harmless animals. The girls always liked beautiful flowers and harmless animals. If he told his story well enough, she might be convinced to stay afterwards for a private story or two.

He smiled as the audience returned. The girl had brought him a leg of roasted pheasant. Finishing it in several bites, he sucked what was left off the bone and, nodding his approval, wiped the grease off his mouth with his finger. She looked pleased.

“This story is also true,” he began while they settled back into their places, having laid a small feast before him. “This is the Truth as the Truth has always been, the Truth as it has been passed down through a hundred generations of the wisest men, the Truth as it was passed down to me by the oldest and wisest priest of the tribe that held me captive before I escaped and crossed the desert.”

The girl had leaned forward, eyes wide and trusting, ready to believe.

“In the beginning,” he said, “God created the heavens and the earth.” His hands moved through the air, shaping the story. “And the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. . . .”

As he told the tale, he selected a piece of fruit from the basket and offered it to her, his fingers casually brushing hers as she took it. He watched her take the first bite, white teeth piercing velvet skin, rupturing the flesh. The juice trickled from the corner of her mouth and down to collect in a drop beneath the curve of her chin. The drop glimmered and grew, flickering with the firelight’s flames. When it was heavy and ripe, it fell, landing on the slope of her half-exposed breast, where it clung like a tear, rising and falling with her breathing. The flames were in her eyes, too, consuming his words, hungering for more.

*          *          *

Enjoy the Idolatry series …

My novels, short stories, collections and screenplays …

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Copyright 2016, Quent Cordair. All rights reserved.

The Sculpture That Won the War

FeaturedThe Sculpture That Won the War

From a letter to a sculptor
Sept 27, 2001

ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a sculptor who had only the face to finish of a magnificent statue, his masterpiece to date. Frustrated by his limitations and increasingly dissatisfied with his efforts to bring into existence the perfection in his mind’s eye, his progress on the artwork had foundered and stalled. His workshop had fallen silent. Indeed, as the days and weeks and months drifted on, the statue was in danger of never being finished at all.

But on a crystal-clear morning, a morning seemingly as peaceful as any other in living memory, a shocking event occurred: the sculptor’s country came under attack. It was a morning of sudden and unexpected terror, of cold-blooded murder that left thousands dead and the populace reeling.

Over the next days and weeks, a miasma of insecurity and anxiety settled over the land, ubiquitous and inescapable, visible on the faces of the rich and the poor, the young and the old, the strong and the weak, the eminent and the obscure. Their sense of wellbeing had vanished overnight; their paradigm had shifted, ostensibly forever. In response to the attack, some wanted to stand and fight; others wanted to kneel and plead; most wandered through their hours fearful and confused, unsure of what to do. While the government drafted plans for war, the citizenry went about their daily routines as well as they were able, anxious for what the fractured future might bring for themselves and for their loved ones, wanting to do something, anything, to combat the pervasive sense of helplessness, yet uncertain of what, if anything, could be done.

The sculptor knew that his country was in greater need than ever of emotional fuel, and he knew what could help provide it. His country was fighting for her life—she needed vision and inspiration to survive, to defend herself, to remember what she had once been, to conquer, to rebuild, to thrive once again. With renewed vigor and determination, he threw his efforts into doing what he could do, contributing with what he did best. Days and nights, coffee and curses, dejection and perseverance, but finally—satisfaction, satisfaction that he had done what he could do, as well as he could do it.

Within a few weeks of the enemy’s strike, the sculptor sent his finished clay to the foundry; within a dozen weeks thereafter, the foundry delivered the finished bronze to the gallery; the gallery, in turn, delivered the artwork to the client who had commissioned it.

The delivery brought in the balance of payment to the gallery which, due to the widespread economic uncertainties subsequent to the attack, was on the brink of closing for lack of sales. The buyer, upon receiving the sculpture, was so delighted with the finished work that he was motivated to place yet another significant commission with the gallery, and the deposit toward the new commission kept the gallery open for a few precious months more. Over that period, the economy stabilized sufficiently that regular purchases began to trickle in again, just enough that the gallery would never again be quite so close to failing.

In the spring after the sculpture was completed and delivered, an eight-year old girl was passing by the gallery with two of her friends. Upon catching a glimpse of the art on display in the window she drew her friends inside, and as they browsed the cornucopia of treasures within, the girl stopped before a lovely figure, a bronze sculpture patined in white. It was a smaller casting of the sculptor’s larger masterpiece. She fell in love with it, and she was all the more enchanted and delighted when she discovered, upon reading the tag at the artwork’s base, that she shared the sculpture’s name. She could hardly afford the sculpture itself, of course, but she spotted a photographed image of the piece framed and hanging on the wall nearby. It too was available for purchase. She checked the price—she couldn’t afford the photograph either. But she did have five dollars. She approached the gallery manager to offer what she had, wondering, hoping. The manager dug through her filing cabinet and found, from a recent mailing campaign, a postcard that featured an image of the sculpture. She gave it to the girl, smilingly, without charge. The girl went home and slipped the postcard into the edge of the mirror on her bedroom wall.

*    *    *

A young pilot cruised silently through the cold night sky, the diamond dust of stars twinkling above. The blanket of clouds below stretched ahead toward a rumpling rise in the distance, marking the boundary of mountainous terrain beneath. His sortie consisted only of himself and his wingman, in two stealth fighters. According to the screen in front of him, they had just crossed the border into enemy territory. It wouldn’t be long now.

The mountains ahead bristled with anti-aircraft batteries.

War had been declared on those who had supported the terrorists and their atrocious acts. The ground war was proving more difficult than anticipated, with the enemy forces scurrying back into the crevices and caves of the mountains at the slightest provocation. The enemy’s military leader, the very swine who had devised and overseen the terrorist attack, was proving elusive, but a disillusioned member of his inner circle had been susceptible to bribing, and the leader’s location had been leaked. The caves in which he was thought to be hiding and their surroundings had been bombed incessantly over the past days, and on this evening, an intelligence satellite had picked up a small convoy attempting to leave the area under the cover of darkness. A forward spotter on the ground confirmed that it was indeed the enemy leader, who could disappear into another system of caves within minutes or hours.

The jets had been scrambled immediately, and now the pair were within a short thirty miles of their target. They rolled onto their sides and slipped like diving nighthawks through the clouds and to the height of the peaks before turning into a craggy-walled valley. By design, the cutting-edge craft were nearly undetectable by radar, but a watchful enemy soldier, at first spooked by the two shadows streaking silently above, frantically radioed ahead a warning. Anti-aircraft fire began tracing upwards, trying to catch the fleeting apparitions. The pilots dropped lower so as not to offer a silhouette against the night sky. Without warning, a missile from below caught the wingman’s craft, and it erupted into a comet of flame, dropping away without so much as a sound from the pilot’s radio.

The young pilot who remained fought to stay focused. All of his reflexes wanted to pull the stick back and shoot straight up to the sky, to rise above the fiery tracings that would surely find him too at any moment, to live to fight another day.

Deep in the canyon, radio reception was intermittent and broken. He might have heard his commander’s order to pull up and out, but he might not have heard it either. If he climbed, he might be able get a fair shot at the convoy from altitude—if he survived the incoming fire to which the altitude would expose him—but it was the enemy leader himself, the black heart and soul of the enemy forces, who was traveling in that convoy. When would there be another chance if the pilot missed or if he were shot down before being able to make another attempt? How long might the war drag on if the leader escaped? The images that had been seared into his memory on that accursed morning came again—the hijacked airliners crashing into the skyscrapers, the innocents plunging from the heights to their deaths, the buildings collapsing, the vacant despair on the faces of the survivors.

He thought of the postcard in the breast pocket of his flight suit, of the delicately looped handwriting in violet pen on the postcard’s reverse, of the girl who had sent the accompanying letter. He switched off his radio. Steeling himself, he kicked the plane over on its side, banking hard around a canyon corner, flying lower yet, the bullets from small arms pinging into his craft’s underbelly.

The infrared radar confirmed the vehicles of the convoy on the road ahead, speeding toward a pass so narrow that even if he were on his side he wouldn’t be able to follow them in. He dropped lower, the dust from the road boiling in his wake. Either of the laser-guided bombs on board would get the job done, but he wouldn’t be able to gain enough elevation in time to guide one in on the first pass, and he wouldn’t be able to complete a second pass before the convoy scattered.

He hadn’t even met the girl. She was a student in a class of fourth graders that had adopted his unit. They had sent a package of homemade baked goods and letters. Her envelope had found its way onto his bunk just the evening before. The letter opened with the generically respectful “Dear Sir—” He recalled the words written on the back of the enclosed postcard and the tiny violet heart after the girl’s name. On the front of the postcard was the image of a sculpture, the embodiment of innocence and delight. It was the only mail he had received in weeks. It was enough.

“Okay, baby, this one’s for you. . . .”

He armed both of the bombs and aimed the nose of his black angel at the rear vehicle in the convoy ahead. In his final seconds, he thought of the target, of the enemy leader, and realizing something, he chuckled. With the fire of hell in his eyes, he said, “Live by the plane, die by the plane, mother f—”

*   *   *

On a cloudless morning in the thin mountain air, an American soldier walked through the scattered wreckage at the site of the strike. Pieces of wood, metal and clothing were scattered about the perimeter of the blackened gouge in the road, three hundred yards long. It would go down in history as the place where the head of the hydra was killed and the tide of war had been turned. The platoon was combing through the wreckage for any of what might remain of the leader’s papers and effects. Of the pilot’s body, they hadn’t been able to find anything, though small pieces of the plane were identifiable here and there. But the oddest scraps can survive such conflagrations: after the attack that had brought down the buildings and started the war, one of the terrorists’ passports had been found in the rubble below.

The soldier lifted a piece of twisted metal and noticed in the ashes beneath it a postcard, its edges curled and seared brown but otherwise unburned. On the front was the photo of a sculpture, an elegant figure in white, beckoning to be followed into a world of wonder and happiness. The soldier smiled. He turned the photo over and read: “Dear Sir, this is how I used to feel before the war. I hope I can feel this way again someday. Thank you for fighting for me. — Joy”

The soldier tucked the photo into his breast pocket and slung his rifle over his shoulder. Kicking aside a half-burned turban, he walked down the road and took in a chestful of clean air. For the first time in months, he allowed himself to think of home.

* * *
*

Copyright 2001, 2012, Quent Cordair. All rights reserved.

From the Lunch Break collection, 2012 ~ http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008B0KXFI

Between Venus and Mars

FeaturedBetween Venus and Mars

 

Crickets below, dippers above,
Night rising cool around the foxglove,
Floor of warm stone, ceiling of stars,
Jewel on the ring between Venus and Mars.
You’ll find my address between Venus and Mars.

Striding the plain, mountains surround,
Strove to find flight, broke the earthbound,
Made from this place, evolved and sublime,
Blessedly born and right for the time,
Mastering all but the passage of time.

Tick the count down until thunder and burn,
Children will fly, no thought of return,
While I remain, wave to their wave,
Watching them wing from the home of the brave,
I’ll keep the lights lit on the home of the brave.


 

Copyright 2013, Quent Cordair. All rights reserved.

Spirited Gods

 

Spirited gods of body and mind,
Cleaving the earth and taking the find,
Arranging the atoms above in a bend,
Beneath which to dine, to dance, and attend
To desirable ends and needful things,
Burning the coal, inventing the wings
Upon which to soar like winged beasts do,
While raising fat herds for the savory stew,
Weaving silk threads, carving bone combs,
Harvesting timber for warm and dry homes,
Gathering the knowledge to hold in one hand,
On tablets of plastic and metal and sand,
Harnessing horses and nuclear parts;
Rocket plumes rise over rickety carts;
From building mud huts to high towers of glass,
From warring with spears to debating with class,
Climbing from caves to the moon and to Mars,
Masters of nature, eyeing the stars.

                                                       ~ Quent Cordair

******
Enjoy more of my poetry & fiction @ https://www.amazon.com/Quent-Cordair/e/B005IEC10A