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Episode XIX -- Errant Thoughts

Premiered 20 March 2009

 

Multiple Choice -- Episode XIX

Errant Thoughts

 

At the bottom of the hill, David approached the edge of a small waterfall, where he stooped down, holding out his clay pot to fill it.  Seemingly out of nowhere, Jeremiah suddenly appeared, blown past David at an only marginally controlled rate. In the process Jeremiah managed to unintentionally knock the pot out of David’s hand and onto the adjacent ground. The pot was fractured with one large section broken off, making its intended function a thing of the past. David was for an extremely brief moment concerned about the demise of his favorite water jug… the one he had spent countless hours in developing the skill to create. His challenge at that time had been two fold, one to create a philosophy and one to create a jug, both of which could be expected to hopefully hold water. Only there was now the distinct possibility that neither was meeting their intended goal.

More pressing considerations, however, were foisted upon David as he turned his attention to Jeremiah. The intruder had ended up in the pool of water below the waterfall, and now with a sword in his hand, had leapt to his feet in the thigh-deep water and began thrashed about with his drawn sword, only slowly recovering his wits.  Jeremiah had long ago learned that when one enters blind into a possibly strange and bewildering new environment, a sword being used to carve out a personal space was an effective tool toward one’s continuing survival. It was a bit messier this time, inasmuch as the water tended to interfere with the otherwise graceful, choreographer swashbuckling in which Jeremiah was currently engaged. No matter, in that the fishes in the pond knew instinctively to keep their distance from the uninvited houseguest.

Once the potential for an immediate attack seemed to be held at bay, Jeremiah began shifting his focus beyond his close-in surroundings. It was then that he saw David. Recognizing the man for whom he had been sent, Jeremiah’s serious, attack frown began to soften and within seconds, a slight smile had crossed his face and he had slowly began to walk out of the pool with his sword swinging. There was less choreography with the sword, and more the sensing the weight and feel of the finely tempered steel weapon that was about to be employed in battle. 

David could only look dumbfounded.  Jeremiah was in an even more elaborate sword-fighting garb than before, and now on top of everything else he had a disgusted look on his face as he approached David.  His sword remained lowered, but ready for the slightest excuse (or lack thereof) to fulfill its destiny in this universe. 

Jeremiah came within roughly six feet… just outside of sword range… and stopped. Jeremiah’s smile kept increasing… in part because David was obviously unarmed. There was also that wonderfully addictive feeling one has on those rare occasions when one has the upper hand, and furthermore when there’s really nothing that the other party can say or do that one has to actually consider or pay attention to. It’s the thrill of ‘my way or the highway’ being readily and easily enforced. Like I say: “addictive”.

Savoring the moment and his addiction, Jeremiah simply stared at David. David, with a bit less enthusiasm, kept watching Jeremiah’s every move. Then Jeremiah announced his intentions. “I’ve been sent here to kill you.  Once and for all, eliminate all of your infernal meddling.”

David decided immediately that he wasn’t agreeable to such a scenario. “Uh,” he began, “I don’t think so. That’s not what it’s about here… just look around.”

Jeremiah did so, his sword still being weighed by his right arm for readiness. He shrugged as he took in the scene out of the corner of his eye. He then conceded, “Impressive. This your idea?”

“Some of it.”

Jeremiah began to shake his head in agreement. “Ah, yes… the ideal retreat… a home away from home, where everyone knows your name, where all the problems of the worlds seem distant.” Then his expression turned to dogmatic devilishness. “Until, of course, they arrive on your doorstep.  Which is why I’m here.  The only question now is whether or not you’ve the courage to defend your paradise.”

David tensed, as he glanced at the waterfall, and then at a smiling Jeremiah.

Jeremiah frowned. “Not this time, Mr. Accidental Tourist. No more bailing out at the first sign of trouble. You’re not going to get near that waterfall. Better yet, you now have what’s called... a “vested interest”.  Did you think you and what’s-her-name could drop in and out of every reality, pick and choose whatever looked interesting, and then run when things got rough?  Just for you, the mountain has come to Mohammed.”

David shook his head. “Wait a minute!  I’m not buying any of this!”

Jeremiah laughed derisively. “You don’t have any choice.”

David was suddenly adamant. “I always have a choice!”

Jeremiah continued to smile cynically.  Silently, he gently swung his sword back and forth.  David watched the sword, his confidence being seriously eroded.  David looked around nervously for a weapon -- but none were in sight.  Then as Jeremiah made no move other than to get the feel of his sword, David’s stern expression slowly turned to curiosity. A defensive weapon of sorts, very subtle and diffuse, was beginning to form in David’s mind.

“So…” David probed, “What are you waiting for?”

Jeremiah tried to dismiss the distraction. “You in a hurry or something?”

“No,” David replied, his confidence returning. “But…”

“But what?” Jeremiah was suddenly very interested in the other’s viewpoint.

David slowly crossed his arms, an ill-advised move when faced with a swordsman with his favorite conversational tool at the ready. But David now knew there was something amiss in the intruder’s wholesale attempt to bludgeon, slice and dice.

“It’s just that you don’t seem particularly enthusiastic about getting on with this.”

Jeremiah continued to stare at David.  Then, instead of raising his sword, he allowed the point to drop to the ground.  His grip then transformed from a sword-wielding grasp to one might use handling a cane or walking stick.

“Actually, I’m not,” Jeremiah admitted.

“Which means…?”

“I’m just wondering if you’re worth it.”

“Worth what?” David was now even more curious than normal.

Jeremiah replied slowly and deliberately. “My disobeying orders.”

David’s expression brightened even more. “Oh,” he replied, trying to keep a lighthearted context in place. “So… do you need my resume, perhaps a few written recommendations from my friends? Did you know, for example, that I was once an Eagle Scout?”

Jeremiah more frowned. “Actually,” he began, “It’s not about you. Not this time. It’s about me.”

David considered the possibilities for a moment. Then with rare insight, he asked, “Is it perhaps that the appeal of obeying someone else’s orders is… waning?”

Jeremiah frowned and conceded, “Something like that.”

David raised his eyebrows, an understanding smile crossing his face.  After just a brief, silent moment, Jeremiah returned the smile.

The fact remains that greater and far more complex negotiations have concluded with just such an exchange of smiles. The curious part is that the bonding smile thing had a tendency to include as part of the final settlement-of-differences package the right and expectation of both parties to not only cease in their adversarial positions, but to actually reverse the polarity and become allies.

Of course, any shift from enemies to allies was readily enhanced, both in time and intensity of commitment, by… you guessed it… a third party. It was the old ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ All that was needed was an enemy in the form of a third party.

In such matters, the universe always provides.

 

Episode XVIII -- Labyrinths

Forward to:

Episode XX -- Paradise in Jeopardy

               

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