Well, this hasn’t been a spectacular year for writing and publishing here. Let’s get 2022 off to a good start with this preview of an eventual Buddhist fiction series. Huh–Buddhist fiction? Hey, Christian fiction is a big genre, let’s fill the gap for Buddhists, neh? [May be a while coming, but there are lots of drafts and notes filed away].
Try this on for holiday fun!
The weather forecast nailed it this time. A Nor’easter. A foot had fallen by nightfall, covering trees and shrubs in a heavy white blanket. Retired, Phil had no reason to venture out. Kelly had stocked up on supplies ahead of time. The generator would kick in if power went out in their home far off the beaten path.
They had their usual light dinner, half a sandwich with some chips and apple slices. In honor of the snow, they added a glass of merlot. Went well enough with the news. Political news that could otherwise be good—the bad guy lost, though he didn’t believe it. Painful for him; more so for the rest of us.
“More news or Blu-ray?” she asked.
“I’ve had enough of the real pain,” Phil sighed, “let’s watch the faux pain, the Murray family Scrooged. No need for White Christmas—we got our snow already.”
“Yes, we watched Crosby and Clooney last year anyway, dear. Let’s do Scrooged and laugh at Bill Murray getting scared, slugged, and coming round in the end.”
“Sounds good to me, Kelly,” Phil nodded, chuckling.
Halfway through the movie, they paused for sips of bourbon-laced eggnog and a few pfeffernusse. Just the thing for a holiday snow. It helped them along for bedtime. Forget the snow, Phil thought to himself. So he did—in a way.
Phil woke up disoriented. Well, he thought he did, in an unfamiliar bed. He left Kelly sleeping as he found his way to a strange bathroom. As he walked toward a kitchen a few more feet down the hall, he remembered. It’s cousin Bob’s place in Hilo. He’d visited once, while on a scuba trip. Bob wasn’t to be found, but the coffee maker was. I need some coffee and I need it now, Phil thought.
He took the coffee out a sliding back door into the lush garden of a backyard. “This is way better than snow!” he said out loud, emptying the cup. He rinsed it out and left it in the sink, on his way to a knock at the front door.
“Uh, can I help you? Phil asked of the stranger.
“Hey Phil, how the hell are you?” the blue-eyed café au lait man said.
“Do I know you?”
“Sgt. Cox—Bearcat, Vietnam. I left six months before you did.”
“That was fifty years ago—fifty-three years ago! What are you doing here in Hawaii? What am I doing here? I don’t even live here!” A puzzled Phil shook his head. Soon, the shaking spread to his limbs—his whole body. “And why don’t you look 50 years older?”
“Hey man, relax. Just here to visit you. Give you some tips before the end, one way or another.”
“The end—you mean my death? I’m healthy; take of myself,” Phil slumped into an uncomfortable papasan chair—the kind he hated.
“No, nothing like that. Just a little karmic tune-up. I was a Buddhist just like you are.”
“Oh yeah, got mistaken for some other brother on a street in New Jersey—twenty some years ago. Guy that held up a convenience store. There’s systemic racism and there’s karma,” Cox did a little bow, Asian style.
“Sorry to hear that. But why are you here? We barely knew one another.”
“Exactly. You wouldn’t want someone close to you, visiting from the grave or the urn. Too much emotion.”
“Uh, yeah. I guess.”
“So, here’s the deal. You just watched Scrooged. You know about ghosts past, present and future. No strangers in this dream. Past, but no future. You got one more past visitor and then some folks from the present. Like people you have encountered at a doctor’s office, store or wherever.”
“Ah, a dream. Took me long enough to figure that out. Thought I’d smoked some of that weed that’s sold today. Those joints in the hard pack Paxtons in Nam were strong but what’s around now is too much for me.”
“You don’t need it anyway, right?”
“No, not really. I gave it up 40 years but tried it a couple times last year. So, what’s next with this dream cycle?”
“Let’s go visit West. Just a short trip down the street—more or less.”
“West? The surfer that always talked about grabbing a beer from the turtle hull?”
“His surfing days are gone now. He runs a shop south of San Diego, does board waxing and stuff. He gave up the booze after he got married to the woman of his dreams—dreams that he didn’t know he had.”
“How do we get to California?”
“No worries—this is a dream. Just think of the blue Pacific and a new you. Oh, and borrow that bird of paradise from the garden out back. I’ll whisk you right there.”
Phil woke up for real before arriving in Southern California. What a dream! Must tell Kelly about this one. But it would have to wait. She still had the covers up to her chin against the cold. Fifteen minutes before the furnace kicked in per the thermostat settings.
Phil headed to the glassed-in back porch to check the snowfall, coffee cup in hand from the auto brewer. Whoa—another foot! He almost yelled aloud before recalling the sleeping Kelly. Need a little rum in this coffee and a hot roll before I do the sutra reading. Phil thought to himself. He watched the winter birds attacking the feeder as he downed his own continental breakfast. Just a little more coffee—and some rum, to warm the innards, he thought.
With a short night’s sleep and rummy coffee, Phil nodded off to find Cox wagging a finger at him. “Look, Phil, let’s skip West. You need to get serious here. Let me reintroduce you to Fred, the imaging guy at the hospital. He can tune you up better than West or I could anyway.”
Phil sat up straight. Looking around, he saw no snow and no birds. Just a green walled room with a huge machine filling most of the space and an aging gray-haired guy in scrubs.
“Hey, Phil—remember me? I did a nuclear imaging test on you last year. And a few other tests over the past three years.”
“Uh yeah, sure. The guy that talks my ear off every time I come in here. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all entertaining and keeps me from being nervous.”
“No problem, Phil. It’s all good. So are you, for that matter. Still not seeing any problems on all those tests.”
“Well, that IS the problem. My primary doctor still isn’t finding anything to account for the mental—and sometimes physical fatigue. Blood tests, scans, nothing.”
“That’s right Phil. You know what that means you need to do—change it yourself. We’re talking karma. No Ebenezer Scrooge moments for you. It’s time for human revolution. Snap out of it, my friend.”
“Well, you got a point there, Fred.” In a blink, Fred faded away.
“Phil, what are you doing out here in porch, napping?” Kelly squeezed his shoulder as she gave him a kiss. It’s a sunny new day. Wake up and smell the coffee—but better skip the rum. I can smell it on your breath. No way to start the morning, honey.”
“I had a very strange dream. Given the encounters, probably right about the morning start. No alcohol before sutra is what Cox would tell me, I’m sure.”
“Who is Cox?”
“Uh, well—a Sergeant I knew for six months in Vietnam long ago. A ghost now—in the dream offering encouragement in the practice, OK, guidance to be clear.”
“Seriously? Quite a dream, Phil!”
“Oh yes. I’ll tell you all about it after we do the sutra. You get things set up and we can get to it in a few minutes after I get another shot of caffeine to clear my head.”