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The Petty Bourgeois
Pop-In Jay Pomp arrived in Comport on a fine and sunny morning. He was young and ambitious.
He was hungry.
The sun-baked street was quiet and not many people seemed about. It was positively peculiar for a town of such proportion, especially on a Monday morning.
Driving down the street, flanked with tall trees, he spotted the Petty Bourgeois, which was nicely nestled on a picturesque piazza. Beautiful palm trees, planted in a pattern of square beds, provided a placid and shady atmosphere for shoppers.
Parking his fluttering flivver under the shade of a Sycamore tree, Pop-In Jay climbed out and stretched his short stiff limbs. He stood awhile, waiting for the molasses in his weary veins to flow. He then strutted lordly across the shadow-patched pavement.
Perhaps it was the thought of puff pastry and all sorts of sweet fillings that had persuaded him to stop, but it wasn’t puff pastry and sweet fillings he bought. He sated himself with an array of petit four offerings to satisfy his hunger. A Pepsi quenched his thirst.
Peter Patisserie, the young baker and owner of the quaint little shop, being a man of few words, politely helped Pop-In Jay Pomp and further minded his own business.
Pop-In Jay sat down at the square table in the middle of the shop and ravenously ate the petit fours, crumbs flying freely about. He downed the Pepsi with little grace, belched, bowed his head apologetically and smiled brilliantly at Peter Patisserie.
Eyebrows raised high and eyes wide open, the baker merely nodded – his feign smile making him look pasty-faced and all together not too becoming. Pop-In Jay turned and left the baker to continue his solo of tic-tac-toe.
Stepping out of the bakery, he sluggishly soaked up the warmth of the morning air. It had been an exiguous snack of sweet cakes and Pepsi and insufficient, so it seemed, for such an enormous man, but it would suffice for the hour and it had tasted very good indeed.
The little birds singing merrily in the trees irritated Pop-In Jay immensely. The heat made him admire, momentarily, small blessings such as shade.
It was the small gathering of townspeople across the sun-baked street that caught his attention.
I do not ask to walk smooth paths
Nor bear an easy load.
I pray for strength and fortitude …
Gail Brook Burket
Mareijke’s arms were spread across the open sky in suspended animation. She was flying with the eagle yet fighting to stay grounded. She wasn’t alone. Sensing another presence in the room, Mareijke frantically tried to open her eyes, but her body was paralyzed to sleep. She was a guest in her own unresponsive body.
She willed herself to move, if only her fingers. Nothing happened. From somewhere there seemed to be an enormous vacuum sucking the air out of the room as breathing became more and more difficult for her. The force pressing against her lungs made her panic. Was she dying?
Lost in a dream, she was running down a winding path within a maze of giant green hedges with the most intricate walls she had ever seen. Mareijke was listening to the gentle poetic rhythm of her English teacher’s voice. It seemed to fall like a feather from the puffy clouds above her:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light …
She couldn’t see her teacher, but she could hear her voice until it was drowned out by the shrill noise of the cicadas.
The buzzing noise became louder and louder. Feeling light years away from the dirty little town without a name, Mareijke was silently screaming for things to be normal. She would certainly rage against death. She was far too young to die.
“Mareijke,” a voice called softly.
The voice sounded familiar. It was pulling her out from deep space. Her mind was a spiral of disoriented thoughts as she anxiously tried to speak. Her muscles were weak. Again she tried to open her eyes only to have the heavy lids fall shut.
The room was dark and cool. She faded in and out of consciousness for what seemed to be an eternity. She was swimming in the swirling water of a dark and murky whirlpool. From the centre of the vortex, she could hear the voice calling her:
It was a slow, arduous process trying to wake up and still she had no idea where she was.
She recognized the voice. Opening her eyes slowly, she blinked a few times to clear her blurred vision. He wasn’t a dream. He was real.
The 6th Commandment: Thou shalt not kill
Then, on Wednesday, Alan Ball returned from Cape Town. He was shorter than Jason, had blonde hair and green eyes. He was charming, self-assured and spoke rather fast. When Jason introduced them to each other, he didn’t seem to mind that she’d be working with them in the office. In fact, he was very friendly and accommodating. Then Jason left the office.
Alan turned to her and said in his usual quick manner, “Quite the opportunist, Miss Marx.”
Standing with her back to him, she wasn’t sure if she had heard right.
“I’m sorry, what was that?” she asked.
“I said you’re quite the opportunist.”
“Well, actually …”
“You’ll have to work hard if you want to work here,” he continued, as if she hadn’t spoken at all. “I weed out underperformers.”
Annabel had nothing to say. There’d be no point. It was obvious that Alan Ball didn’t like her presence there. He was a hypocritical jerk!
“Watch what you say to EJ Carter,” Alan said. “He doesn’t like sell-outs and whores who think they can sleep their way to the top.”
Annabel glared at him through slanted eyes.
“Excuse me? I didn’t know it was legal to discriminate and sexually harass women at work. I haven’t been sleeping with anyone here, but if this is your idea of a cheesy pick-up line, you’re heading for a fall. If you want to sleep with me, Alan Ball, don’t hide behind EJ Carter’s name.”
“Cheesy? I don’t think you know what cheesy means. As for sleeping with you, not even in your wildest dreams, Annabel Marx,” Alan said sharply, picking up some of Jason’s campaign notes. “I actually have good taste in women and you fall far short of the mark. What you need to remember from this conversation is that, in this office, you are merely the assistant. That’s how I understand it from EJ Carter. You can sleep with whatever you like as long as you remember, you’re nothing but the assistant. Now, bring me some coffee, decaf, black with three sugars. Kitchen’s two doors down the corridor if you haven’t been there, yet. The blue mug’s mine.”
Annabel could feel her blood starting to boil. Walk away, Annabel. Just walk away. Go and make the arsehole some coffee and remember to buy arsenic for tomorrow.
The Power is Yours
You alone have the power to make good or bad decisions.
Your decisions in life are influenced by the present moment and the people who are with you at the time. You have to decide who or what it is that is guiding you to make your decisions because the decisions that you make affect your plans and your mood. They determine whether you will be happy or disappointed. If you make bad decisions, you will experience negative outcomes, but good decisions will lead to a successful future.
How do you make decisions? Do you make decisions independently or do you allow others to help you? Do you make decisions that are best for you or do you make decisions that are best for others? Do you fear that every decision you make may be a wrong decision? Do you prefer not to make decisions at all and allow them to be made for you?
Every moment of your life defines you.
You are who you are in each moment. The decisions that you make may stretch across many moments, but the minute you make the decision you create a new direction. Even when the decision turns out to have been a mistake, and the outcome is negative, it doesn’t have to stay that way. You may have taken a wrong direction, but it’s a learning process. You can turn it around.
At some point in the future, you may discover that a choice you had made in the past is not what you planned or wanted. You needn’t regret it, though. Don’t focus on the choice as a mistake and don’t dwell on the time that’s been lost. Focus on the process of learning that came from the experience. You have grown because of it. If you never make mistakes, how will you ever learn or change?
Choices always lead to new opportunities.
Your decisions can be average and ordinary or they can be life-changing. Joel Osteen said, “If you think you’re average, then you’ll be average. If you think you’re ordinary, then you’ll live ordinary. The truth is there is nothing ordinary about you. You have something to offer that nobody else can offer.” Do you think that you’re just an average person? Genesis 1:26 (ESV) reads: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”. Yes! You have been made according to God’s likeness. Do you still think you’re average?
The way you think defines you. You can’t have a successful future if you think you’re average. You can’t have a successful future if you don’t know why you’re here. You can’t have a successful future if you don’t plan ahead. If you want to have freedom and money one day, so that you can lead a successful life, you’ll also need to know what success means.
Through the Bark
A small light across the room catches my attention. It shines from what appears to be a hole in the ground. It becomes brighter as it rises up towards me and soon fills the room.
With numbing fear, I look around me. Where can I hide? I’m definitely inside the hollow trunk of the tree, which appears to be a strange and intriguing room.
The light now blinds me. I hold my fore-arm horizontally in front of my eyes to prevent the light from burning through my closed eyelids.
I hear a loud clicking sound and the light’s intensity gradually fades.
Slowly, I open my eyes.
There’s a peculiar tree-man standing in front of me.
“Hello!” he says, rapidly, in a high-pitched voice.
I try to step back, but I’m against the wall.
“There’s no need to be afraid,” he says, stoically. “My name is Filbert. Follow me!”
I follow him obediently, not because I want to. I follow him because I’d rather follow the light than stand alone in the dark when he’s gone.
The light he carries is switched to its brightest again. He leads me down a shaft of steep steps made of hardened ground. My hands press against the walls on either side of the shaft. I twist my torso and turn my feet to the right. I try to place most of each foot on the small surface of each descending step. I can’t afford to topple down the shaft. I’ve no idea how far I’ll fall. I may twist my ankle or break my leg… or – even worse – my neck. I may even fall on Filbert! That alone would be humiliating, should he survive.
The steps lead on and on down into the heart of the earth, and I continue to descend at a measured pace. I’m quite relieved when the steps eventually come to an abrupt end.
Filbert waits impatiently for me at the bottom.
My attempt to stop Daniel was to no avail because neither Daniel nor Ryan could hear me above the ruckus they were making in the library. Ryan was being pummelled by a man twice his strength. Ryan groaned with agony, and there was nothing I could do to help him.
My sixth sense was dictating it wasn’t going to end well. I was smothered in anxiety as I continued banging on the door and screaming. Then Nick grabbed my shoulder and turned me to face him.
“Why are you listening to them?” his voice thundered. “Go to the kitchen.”
I was powerless. I pleaded with Nick to stop Daniel, but he became stern.
“Go!” he demanded, pointing in the direction of the kitchen.
I stormed away from Nick and hated him so intensely, but then the exploding sound of the gunshot echoed deafeningly in my ears, and everything became static. I felt my muscles spasm, as my stomach lurched and contracted. My mind was stunned, and my focus kept fading and returning. I sensed time at a crawling pace. Annie was running towards me, while Nick, in my peripheral vision, had spun on his heels. Both were moving it seemed at snail’s pace to the library door while my brain was trying to process the enormousness of what had happened.
Annie moved past me, and I turned to move with her. Instinctively, my leaden feet followed her down the wide corridor. It seemed to stretch across time. Nick disappeared into the library and then Annie vanished from view. Without thinking, I stormed into the library and stopped in horror when I saw Ryan lying in a pool of blood.