Between Us

The road led up the hill between houses until it came to the lake where it ran between the lake and the woods and the thought of people disappeared if he was lucky.  He was sick of people, especially those he saw in masks because of their obsessive fear of death. They ran in packs. They seemed insane to him, as if germs might fly through the country air and infect them with a virus in a reversal of the way the insects were starting to fly low over the water and the fish would jump to devour them. He preferred the fish and the bugs and was glad no masked bandits were on the road to rob him of the morning’s beauty.

There was a young boy fishing, casting and reeling back in a rhythmic way. The boy yelled out as he reeled in his first catch of the season, a glittering rainbow trout that sparkled in the sun.

Once he was twelve years-old and started out very early between the edge of night and the dawn of day.  Alone, beautifully alone, with the dew thick upon the grass and the fog still clinging to the water in the creek.  His family was at the farm.  He awoke in the dark while his sisters and his mother slept and his father snored loudly. He tiptoed through the cabin and quietly shut the door behind him, almost catching his hair in the flypaper on the way out.  He got his fishing gear from the porch.  In an old Maxwell House coffee can were the night crawlers and the other worms he had dug the previous evening under the apple tree by the bull’s pen.

Now it was April and the ice on the lake was gone and the two geese he had seen last year had returned to their old nest.  Last spring he had watched them very closely for more than a month as the goose sat patiently on her eggs and the gander sailed the waters on alert for predators.  Some days he would see them swimming together near the nest.  This worried him.  He wondered if leaving the eggs unprotected for even a short time would give a predator an opening to attack.  When the goslings never appeared, he assumed a predator had seized them.

The worms in the can were big and juicy.  When he moved the dirt, they gyrated to the surface and tickled his fingers.  He felt sorry for them. They seemed so alive and would soon be dead.  Maybe he should set them free. The dirt where he dug them behind the old shed between its back wall and the thick wooden slats of the sad bull’s pen was dark and wet and redolent of fallen apples.  The huge ring-nosed bull had heard the grating of his spade and had come over to the fence.  It was dark there in the enclosed space and he got the chills as the bull snorted at him through the empty spaces.  A strange vibration passed between them.

The boy showed him the trout as he unhooked it.  He grasped it with two hands and gently bent and released it into the shallow water where it hesitated, as if shocked, and then swam away.  The boy turned to the man and they gave each other high fives. Something passed between them. They laughed and the man walked on wondering why people liked to kill and capture free creatures.

He thought: Is it possible not to remember to forget but just to live forward in a forgetfulness that is a constantly emerging present?

The road turned sharply there and a man in a mask approached him.  On an impulse, he asked the man why he was wearing a mask when he was outside on a gorgeous morning.  The man said, “To protect myself from the virus.  Why aren’t you wearing one?”

“Because I don’t think pigs can fly,” he said.

The other man gasped and his eyes flared in fear and he rushed away.

He walked on and saw the gander standing on the beach, looking around like a proud sentry.  The goose was on her nest.  Maybe, he thought, they, at least, had learned something.

Then it was raining lightly.  The only sounds were the birds and the rain and he opened his mouth for the rain and his ears for the birds and his heart for the day.  He walked down the gravel path up past the barn to the road and crossed the bridge across the creek to get to the side where the fishing was really good because the river twisted and turned over there to create little peninsulas that protected deep pools where the fish lay in wait.  It was also where the Hermit of the Esopus was said to live. His name was Billy Bush and he wondered if he was a fictional character. He had never seen him.

Maybe he was asking the wrong question.  He felt in a flash that he knew the answer but couldn’t say what the true question was.  But it didn’t seem to matter now.  He felt as he walked ahead he was heading back to find his future in the present.

Back in time and the city, his parents had appeared on a television show called, “Do You Trust Your Wife?”  The host of the show was Johnny Carson.  This was his first gig before he would become famous as the long-running host of “The Tonight Show” and an iconic figure in TV lore.  This is true, but he wasn’t sure back then whether the hermit was as real as Carson because he saw Carson and they talked but the hermit seemed like a legendary figure.  Carson asked him to stand up in the audience and he asked him if he felt weird being the only boy as the middle child with seven sisters.  He said, “No.”  Carson persisted, “I guess you feel like the baloney between the bread.” The boy hated baloney and he was silent. A man held up big cue cards that said applause. Carson looked like a giant cardboard cutout. The audience clapped and the show went on as it always does.

A year later they changed the name of the show to “Who Do You Trust?”.  Not a bad title for the first Cold War era, but that guy in the mask probably thinks I was conspiring to infect him, that I was a Russian agent.  Maybe pigs do fly now.  Everything seems to have changed between people.  How can you trust someone whose face you can’t see?  To face the faces that you faced was once upon a time the way things were.  You had a chance to tell if the words that passed between you were true or not, but now the masquerade is complete. Deep darkness has descended.   Do we have to wait for death to see face to face?

He passed the goose on her nest near the swampy end of the lake.  Although he couldn’t see her face clearly, he imagined she looked expectant, feeling urgent for the future.  He wondered what it might be for both of them. What was he looking for in the days ahead, what did he desire, where was he going?  He thought of the guy in the mask and all the people everywhere enchained by fear.  Why was it so hard for them to see that the prison gates were closing around them and the living-dead elites were devouring their futures?

The path down to the river twisted through dense woods.  He could tell people had traveled it but not heavily.  The sun had risen behind him and the mist on the water had given way to glitter on the fast-running water and the wet rocks throughout it.  When he reached the water’s edge, he felt relived.  Now he could fish but had this strange sensation that he didn’t want to, now that he had reached his destination. It’s funny how when you think you want something and you are about to get it you have second thoughts.  Maybe not thoughts.  He sat down on an old log and stared at the water.  The sound of the water moving fast over the rocks and the sun hitting the water spray put him into a cataleptic state in which he lost himself. He was jolted by a voice.  He jumped.  A man with a grayish-white beard and bright blue eyes under a worn fisherman’ cap stood to his left.

The man said, “I’m surprised to see you here.  No one comes here.”

The boy was frightened.  He stammered, “Oh, I was about to fish.”

“It’s a great spot,” the man said.  “I come here to read and meditate.”

An awkward silence came between them.  The boy had an impulse to jump up and run.  Then the thought: Could this be the Hermit of the Esopus?  He’s real?

Then: Am I dreaming?

The man said, “My name is William Bush.  What’s yours?”

Without thinking, the boy also gave his formal name, “Edward Curtin.”

“People call me Billy,” the man said. “I’ve heard they even think I’m a hermit and I live in these woods by the river.”  He laughed.

Past the swamp, the road curved up a steep hill that led to the local college that had previously been a Jesuit seminary.  In the woods to his left were the crumbling remains of wooden stations of the cross that the young men once followed. He thought of his father and where he was now.  He said, “Good morning, Dad.  I miss you.”  The bond between them had always been powerful and when his father died it became even stronger in a sad way.  It was such a beautiful morning that he started to cry.  Three deer were grazing in the clearing halfway up the hill.  A doe and two fawns.  They looked up, then looked down, ignoring him as they resumed eating. His father made the best pancakes.  Then there were the father and son Communion Breakfasts with the buns.  He was hungry now.  There was no end to it.

“What do people call you?” he asked.

“Eddy,” the boy said.

“How do you spell it?”

“E-d-d-y,” the boy answered.

Billy Bush chuckled and pointed to a spot in the river where the fast water hit a big rock and turned back to create a whirlpool.  “There you are,” he said, “that’s an eddy. Eddys always run contrary to the main current, so you’re in good company.”  The man laughed, which made the boy laugh.  Then the man told him that he was not really a hermit but lived in the old farmhouse up the hill near Brown’s sheep farm but that he found it amusing that people created this legend about him and so he played along.  He said he had once been a philosophy professor who came from the city to his sister’s country house to be alone and think and write while his family stayed in the city.  Since he was only here off and on and loved to wander through the woods down along the river people had for some reason come to create a legend about him.  “I have found,” he said, “that people are so afraid of being alone that they create weird stories like the one about me being the Hermit of the Esopus to scare themselves to death.”

He didn’t like going onto the college campus because it reminded him of being trapped in school and so at the top of the hill he turned and started down. He remembered when he was a boy how down he would feel when his mother would send him to the front door to greet his father on the threshold when he came home from work to see if his father had stopped for a drink. He hated being put between them.  He felt guilty for having done her bidding. The deer were gone and he wondered what they did all day.  He wondered what people did all day and why.  He wondered how they spent their lives and where they thought they were going in their masks.  He wondered what they thought was at the end of the road.  He wondered why they drank and why they didn’t.  He wondered so many things he wondered why he was always wondering them.

The goose was still on her nest.  The gander was nowhere in sight.  He stopped at the beach that extended out into the lake and took a gander.  Nothing.  He wondered where he was, what did he do all day except stand watch for death to come flying trough the air. The boy who was fishing was gone.  Four masked people dressed in black approached him. He said, “Good morning.”  They looked away in silence as if he didn’t exist.

Billy Bush said he had to go.  He asked the boy if he liked to read.  The boy said, “Yes.”  He took a book out of his back pocket and handed it to the boy and said, “It’s a good one and some of it may be difficult for you now but it will grow on you.  I’ve learned a lot from the author.  He once said to wonder is to begin to understand, and that’s why I come to the river.  It always surprises me.  But please do me a favor, don’t tell anyone you met me and I told you I wasn’t this legendary hermit people want to believe in. They love their illusions.  Let’s keep it between us. Okay?”

The boy said, “Yes.”  He took the book.  Billy Bush left.  The boy sat  where he was, looking and listening to the river flow.  Sometime later he got up and left without fishing.  He told no one about the hermit.

When he arrived home from his walk, the man went to his bookcase and pulled out the old, battered paperback book Billy Bush had given him years ago.  He had never read it for some reason.  He had never even opened it as if to do so was to spoil his encounter with the hermit. To break the spell.  Now seemed like the right time.  He opened the book whose title was What Is Philosophy? by José Ortega y Gassett, the Spanish philosopher.  In the front was a signature: William J. Bush, S.J.  He flipped through it.  It was unmarked except for a few lines near the end.  He read them:

The future is always the leader….We live forward into our future, supported by the present, with the past, always faithful, off to the edge, a little sad, a little frail, as the moon, lighting a path through the night, goes with us step by step, shedding its pale friendship on our shoulders….the vast majority of human beings….are preoccupied with becoming un-preoccupied.  Under their apparent indifference throbs a secret fear of having to solve for themselves the problems posed by their acts and emotions – a humble desire to be like everybody else, to renounce the responsibility of their own destiny, and dissolve it among the multitude.

He said to Billy Bush, “Thank you, it took me a while, but between us, that sure explains the masked desperadoes running in packs. But I won’t tell them, for as you told me long ago, they prefer their illusions.”




20 thoughts on “Between Us”

  1. Once again “a strange vibration passes between us”. My latest compilation of essays for 2020, I named “MASQUERADE”. It seems to capture the essence of our current “reset” or soul searching time.
    I sincerely appreciate all writing that encourages thinking (soul searching) or seriously considering the possibility that I may be completely wrong. All other “thinking” is merely a desperate attempt to justify illusions. – And I consider writing as disciplined thinking.

  2. To everyone who comments here I am very grateful, whether in agreement or dissent, praise or disgust. It is a community in dialogue. What could be better! We are traveling together, seeking truths. I don’t censor anyone, which would be doing what those who hate freedom do. I read all your comments and the dialogues, but generally, I have slowly found through experience, that after I’ve written something, it’s best to be quiet. There are few places where people can respectfully disagree and learn from each other. I think this is one place and thank you sincerely for taking the time to read and comment. Pax and Love, Ed

    1. Your wise and humble graciousness, Ed, is a precious thing. We are living through a pivotal point in our civilization–in our very souls–and all of us, you and your readers, want only to get things as right as we can…move together, as much as we can, toward a better, more beautiful world. However our viewpoints vary from moment to moment, may we never let the confusion and contradiction pull us personally apart. Now it’s probably time for me to shut up for a while myself.

  3. Apparently a large number of people are creating Vaccine…er Gene-Therapy-inspired playlists on Spotify. I decided to counter that with a playlist of my own titled “A Playlist for the Rest of Us”. You know:

    We who are being labeled “conspiracy theorists” – even though we’re not.
    We who are being characterized as “un-patriotic” – even though we’re not.
    We who are being attacked as “superspreaders” – even though we’re not.
    We who are rational and are intelligently digesting both sides of an issue – even though we’re…wait a minute – that’s US!

    Sample lyrics and the associated videos are included right here:

    Never was one to go along with the crowd. The more people push their agenda, the stronger I resist it.
    Proud to be “vaccine” free.
    Happy to be a “Pariah”.

    1. Mark Twain: “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

      1. Joe – Thank you for Mark Twain, his statement that is so relevant presently…, as are many other statements!

  4. I guess going out for a “breath of fresh air” has lost its meaning for many people.
    That was a sweet bit of writing, Ed.

    The fingertips skating on tiny glass ponds,
    Or tap-dancing lightly on raised letter tiles-
    The only sensations defining what’s real
    In this grim new existence of death-shrouded smiles.

  5. thank you Eddy for helping us pause and look down into the currents moving, and the reflections mirrored, in the rivers of our lives

  6. As I thought about what comment to write in response to this story, some hurdles got in the way: shoot, I need to get my taxes done, what will I tell my employer who is demanding proof of vaccination, do I have a splitting headache because of Fukushima, no probably just had too much sugar…and Finally…I should just tell him it was a beautiful story.

  7. “they prefer their illusions.” Yes in deed.

    I was present in Seattle end-of-November/beginning-of-December 1999 and attended many of the talks and gatherings. Ralph Nader spoke at one point and I can still hear his voice clearly—”these people live by these myths”—referring to corporate players in hot pursuit of fulfilling their illusions of endless capital accumulation without conscionable concern for the consequences of such desires.

    This was seven years after Oren Lyons spoke at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Back then he described speaking with many CEOs of the largest corporations who, although they had families and are concerned about our ecosystem, “during the day, at their work, they’re destroying the world. And they don’t have options.”
    Oren Lyons: I asked them, “Since you understand this problem why do you continue?” They say, “That’s my work. As CEO I must produce profit. I am at the demand of my stockholders. My stockholders demand profit.” I said, “Who are the stockholders?” They said, “They’re the people.” So it comes back again: the people, the consumer, the stockholder. I said, “Then perhaps there should be a tremendous education program for the stockholders.” They said, “We would be better served if there was an education program for the people.”

    It’s not as if they don’t understand what the problem is. What it is is that in the competition, in what they call mega-competition of global market, there is no option for someone in that competition to back off. Because if they do, even if they slow down, even if they stop for a second, they lose the position that they’re fighting to hold.

    So I said, “For instance, then, it’s like a horse race. Let’s take shoes, the competition for shoes around the world. So we have these horses in a horse race—one Reebok, one Adidas, so forth and so on—and the jockey up is the CEO. And your job is to be out front because that means you’re going to sell the most for the most profit.”

    And I said, “Is there a winner of the race?” They said, “The winner is who is in front.” I said, “That changes.” They said, “Very often.” I said, “Is there an end to the race?” And they said, “It’s a long race.” And I said, “I don’t think so. I think it’s short race. I think you’ve made the far turn and you’re coming down the stretch now and instead of a finish line you’re going to run into a blank wall. As in any race, as you get closer to the finish line, the intensity of the race progresses and so they run faster.”

    I said, “You see at the end of this race a blank wall and yet you’re not slowing up. You’re not making any effort to change. You’re going to carry the full force and impact right into this stone wall. The end.” And they said, “We’re hopeful that science and technology will help us.” I said, “It brought us to pretty serious degradation at this point. In the intensity of this race I don’t think that we should be depending on something like that when really the problem is not science or technology, the problem is in the minds of human beings.”
    Today, the minds of a very small number of human beings are engaged in a bid to engender a new Digital Dark Age that will, in their minds, deal with the “species overshoot” they think humanity is experiencing. Significant reduction of the human population on Mother Earth is part of the goal given what is occurring with drives to institute vaccine passports—creating again the two-tier society Nazi German instituted 85 years ago—and a digital currency system that will go hand-in-hand with a social credit system. The purpose is to maximize control in very few hands of dead souls who express an unbounded quality of the shadow side of human nature.

    On 17 April Catherine Austin Fitts observed: “If you look at the deaths and adverse events and the failure to provide true informed consent, we’re talking about the greatest violations of the Nuremberg code in history. Now. Whoever was tried for at the end of World War II does not hold a candle to what’s happening now.”

    People exercising their intelligence and intuitive creativity with clarity and coherence are mounting inspired challenges to the wannabe Dark Age Lords by pursuing Nuremberg accountability. While incomplete, the following is excerpted near the top of:

    In 1803 Marbury v. Madison established that in the United States the court is a coequal branch of government and its role is to determine the Constitutionality of governmental actions. The following groups are employing the power of judicial oversight of government decrees to pry loose the data so far not made public which has introduced unprecedented policies with devastating consequences far beyond the actual mortality rate of people dying from Covid, not with Covid. As stated in the Amended Oct 2020 Ohio Complaint regarding Facts:

    The fact pattern for this case is extremely complex. A number of sections below discuss errors or the debunking of what is intentionally misleading information put forth by the State or CDC. It is indisputable that COVID-19 is roughly as dangerous as the seasonal flu (see below), less dangerous than many other infectious diseases that we have not taken such drastic steps to stop, and also that the reaction to COVID-19 is the definition of arbitrary and capricious. The continuation of this overreaction has only occurred due to the reality that the facts are complex enough that few have realized how badly they have been misled. Here we attempt to simplify the facts into a digestible narrative.

    May we all continually awaken to and be renewed by recognition of our participation in and partaking of life at this unique time of Koyaanisqatsi.

    1. Your interesting comment, Dave, along with Ed’s lyrical piece, raise a few questions in my mind. As for your comment, if the neoliberal capitalist system compels CEOs to maximize short-term profit over all other considerations, then should we be calling them psychopaths for doing their jobs (which you did not do, but many others have)? Is it really helpful or productive to use the Hitler analogy in this regard; i.e., that Eichmann, too, was only doing his job? Aren’t we all caught up in an insanely exploitative and ecocidal system that cries out for fundamental change, and if so, is such change fostered by personal attacks and the perhaps unnecessary divisions which may result? As for Ed’s piece, does raising the mask issue in a profound existential meditation strengthen its impact or weaken it? Many people I know wear masks as a sign of solidarity and concern for others, so even if they’re mistaken in doing so, should mask wearing per se be criticized or caricatured or demeaned? And lastly, to return to your comment, don’t you think that as we human beings approach the 8 billion mark, we are indeed overshooting the constraints of our planet, plundering and polluting it to the point of mass species extinction and looming environmental collapse? Wasn’t this obvious, along with the corresponding need for some sort of great civilizational reset (which gets us back to the issue of neoliberal capitalism), well before we heard the word “Covid?”

      1. So maybe we should thank Klaus Schwab and the WEF for kindly helping us reset our civilization? As if the people pushing the reset are not the same who have ensured that western civilization has gone down the current path. It is not the common man or woman who have profited from oil in the past and now mine our data for more profit and increased control. It is not the common man who has limited the choices for alternative energy sources to sparse, unreliable, and intermittent solar and wind technologies, which must in any case be backed up by so called fossil fuels or nuclear energy to fill the inevitable gaps – or if not, well, depopulation is a feature, not a bug. No reset by the powerful is going to result in any loss of power and control to themselves. “Build back better” means that they plan to tear it all down, and by the time they are done with that and you perhaps disagree with their version of “better”, it will be too late to preserve what we have. They have known for a long time that the fiat money system has a limited shelf life. Their advantage is that they will know the moment for action before the crash – as they did before the great false flag of 2001. They will know when it is time to seal the bunkers and exclude their little helpers of the compatible left, still wearing their masks in solidarity against the infinitesimal enemy.

      2. Thank you Edward, Thank you Rat Haus, Thank you Newton and everyone. Guilty ? If guilty is the word, yes, we are all guilty for living the way we do which is destructive to all things! Were we all innocent before we were indoctrinated so to perpetuate this madness. Innocent but not for very long! I wish I had a very good answer that would elicit the action of the entire oppressed world simultaneously!

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