Morgan Cartwright had been a part of the up-and-coming crowd since he had been an up-and-comer himself. He liked the young, he said, because they kept him young. It’s possible that really is why he kept their company. It’s just as likely that he found them mailable. He could tell them what qualities ought to be admired, and then convince them that he exemplified those qualities. He used this technique to carve out a niche for himself that he had occupied as long as anyone could remember. He acted toward them as a benefactor, though in reality the roles were reversed. They treated him as a convenient sort of guru.
Under his tutelage, the would be leaders of the future practiced an easy activism. That kind of thing was important when a young trust fund beneficiary was trying to secure an even greater place in the world. “Yes, yes. We ought to do something to help the Russian Marmet. Here’s a check, make sure they get my name right on the plaque. This caviar is absolutely rancid, don’t you think? Here, boy, take this away!” A little philanthropy covers a multitude of sins, at least in the mind of the giver.
Morgan Cartwright, therefore, took over the ancient business of indulgences from the Catholics. He hopped from one cause to the next, discovering the need, (or the grievance as it often was), structuring the relief, and garnering the funds from the guilty rich. He never went in for commonplace activism. Let the Red Cross worry about flood relief, let Greenpeace scrub the Gulf, (or whomever it was). Morgan Cartwright cared about orphans in Uzbekistan and political prisoners in Bangladesh. A review of the history of his projects would have been like a stroll through the museum of random association. As soon as Morgan Cartwright got the ball rolling, with his cut in his pocket, he was on to the next thing. Whereas his cronies contributed as an annotation to a party of a golf game, Morgan Cartwright made it his life.
But then it happened, and all those old problems ceased to be problems. Nobody gave a thought to Bangladeshi Nelson Mandelas when they had a grip on an aluminum baseball bat and the next-door neighbor’s dead body was climbing through the window. All those up-and-comers melted into one side of the battle or the other. But not Morgan Cartwright. He managed to come through to the other side with both his brains, and his sentiments intact. Not to say that he wasn’t damaged. Nobody could live through the dead plague without losing at least something.
What’s your favorite place in the world?
Allow me to let my thoughts wander a bit before I get to the story below. Additionally, let me state that the story in question is not the longish one in need of editing that I mentioned in the last post. Furthermore, let me warn you that the story isn’t even finished.
I can’t really keep myself to working on one thing at a time. And it seems that the busier I get, the more projects I take on. I really don’t have time to write, and I really can’t afford to not write. I’d go nuts. So, in order to force myself to continue, I’ve begun another progressive story. I did this with Four Stops, and it kept me writing even though I wrote and posted other stuff in between chapters. So, I will finish editing that other story, and I will work on this new one as well. Notice that I didn’t promise, I hate making promises that I’m not absolutely certain I can keep.
As long as my thoughts are wandering, I thought it might be interesting to point out that these two stories have the same person to credit as inspiration. I won’t mention his name since I’m sure he wouldn’t appreciate that, but he’s like family. The premise of The Preserve is his idea, but he’s not to blame for the resulting content or ideas I built around it. The other story, which I’m thinking will be called Of All Our Parts, is based on a dream he had.
And with that, here’s The Preserve: Part 1. Leave me some feedback. Since this is still totally open-ended, your input is almost certain to change the shape of this thing.
The Preserve: Part 1
The dead plague turned out to be a good answer to a lot of difficult questions. It was the sort of street-level logic formally employed by the crazed and homeless. Whose sandwich is that? Can I sleep here? Was that a good book? Answer: Punch, kick, cut, claw, strangle. There aren’t too many of either of those people groups around anymore. Unfortunately, they were one of those difficult questions that the zombies solved through applying their own arguments with broader and more forceful strokes.
What do we do about global warming? How do we handle rogue nuclear nations? How can we make public education relevant again? What do we do about the crazed and homeless? Answer: Crack open as many skulls as possible and eat their gooey innards. There were a lot of even more difficult questions floating around before the dead plague. It’s funny how our opinion on such issues used to literally define who we were as people.
It’s also funny how we drop so many of our principles and ideals when we face an enemy that ignores all the rules that govern us. How do you stop an enemy you can’t frighten, dishearten, shame, placate, or reason with? In the old days, when an Iraqi blew up a U.S. checkpoint, what was he trying to do? Did he really think it was possible to kill off the American Armed Forces by taking out one or two soldiers at a time until there weren’t any more left? No. He was attacking American soldiers to hurt the American spirit. He wanted his enemy to feel sorrow and fear. He wanted to make them think that the situation in Iraq was hopeless, that the war was impossible to “win,” that it cost too much to continue. He wanted America to give up and go home.
And what was he relying upon to accomplish his mission? The mercy and restraint of the very people he was attacking. Forget the nuclear option. America was capable of leveling every city, town, village, hamlet, and hovel of Iraq inside a week using just conventional weapons. The Iraqi insurgent had to trust his enemy to show restraint. That restrain, and the varying degrees of it’s absence, has defined every war of human history. But a zombie knows no restraint whatsoever. He doesn’t have a limit. You can’t make his warfare too costly. No matter how many bullets you put into him, no matter how many pictures you take of his innocent victims, no matter how many of his fellows you kill, all that he ever thinks is, “I’m going to eat you. I’m going to eat you. I’m going to eat you.”
That’s why you found even the stanchest environmentalist lighting tire fires when it was the only way to keep the walking dead from eating him alive. The environment didn’t matter quite so much anymore, not to anybody that survived at least. And Pacifism? If anybody stuck to that, they’re not around to talk about how that worked out for them.
Still, there is an exception to every rule. For example, as long as we’re talking about the dead, you don’t have to look any further than Jesus Christ, right? And that’s not a zombie thing either, so don’t even get started on those tired jokes. But if you want an example that includes zombies and old-world principles, I’ll just point out Stanley Cartwright. There’s a blue-blood name for you, and Stanley made it through the plague with his bleeding heart still pumping out that old blue.
I haven’t been doing too much writing lately. There’s a longish short story I’ve got marked up halfway through. Someday I’ll finish proofreading and editing it so I can post it. Truth be told, I haven’t had much time for creative pursuits. But I sat on the tailgate of my truck, leaned up against the garbage I’ve got piled up in the back, and drew a picture while my daughter was riding her scooter around the driveway. Catch as catch can. I’m no artist, but for some reason I like drawing pictures of trees and birds. Anyway, here it is. I call it “The Tree In My Driveway That I Ran Into Several Times With My Truck But Somehow Still Lives, ink on a pad of paper that I took from work.”
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
That whole passage is from Romans 12, and is part of the description of what it looks like to be a “living sacrifice.” I think it’s pretty apparent that God is more concerned with our private conduct than our public outrage. There’s nothing in there about picketing outside abortion clinics, or campaigning against gay marriage. What God wants to see is us quietly and consistently doing the right thing.
This is a different sort of question.
What is it about children that makes them more valuable or important than adults?
What’s the best bad idea you’ve ever had?
I saw a homeless man out in front of Walmart the other day. He held a blank piece of cardboard in one hand, and a sharpie in the other. His eyes were fixed on a speck of nothing out in the sky. The pen wagged nervously back and forth in his fingers. A half-hour later, I saw him still sitting in the same spot. He was looking down at his blank piece of cardboard. His face was fretful and his eyes looked like they were about to burn right through the cardboard to the other side. I’ve never had to worry so much over words. Then again, I’ve never written a document of such importance.
He had roughly a square-foot of space to write something that would catch my attention, garner my sympathy, and persuade me to give him money. What a test! He had that one chance to feed himself for the day, and buy himself a hit or a bottle of whatever he needed to chase off the shakes or the bends. Now, this is no social commentary. I have a stance on the ethics of begging, and on the ethics of giving to somebody that is “just going to spend it on booze.” But that’s not the issue at hand. Since I saw that guy sitting there, I haven’t been able to force myself to write a thing. What do I have to say that ought to be written down? My stupid little stories are just stupid little stories in the end.
In a way, I envied him. I’d like to know, for just an instant, the desperation and drive he must feel. Or maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he lets such proximity to bare, fragile life pass him by the same way that I do. Nevertheless, I’ve never listened to that type of muse – hunger. But nevermind, let me tell you about this dream I had. Or maybe you’d be interested to hear about this time I stubbed my toe. Whatever. Maybe it’s good to not have anything so important to say. It’s certainly more comfortable. I guess I’m just thankful my last piece wasn’t, “Will Work For Food”