The Eyes of a Child

Bottles littered the room like headstones. They crowded the coffee table, the counter, the bedside tables, and any other surfaces flat enough for them to stand on. Each of them bone-dry empty. Mike didn’t think about it at first, while Amanda avoided them as if they would infect her with the same uncontrollable thirst that drowned their father.

They started in the bedroom and packed all of his clothes in boxes marked for donation. Mike doubted anyone would want them, but Amanda insisted that someone could use them after they were thoroughly cleaned. He didn’t argue. He just packed. With the landlord’s charitable mercy, they had three days to get everything out. The clothes didn’t take long despite half of them covering the floor. They threw them in boxes without caring to fold or sort them. Hangers and all. Any undergarments were simply trashed. Next they moved onto bedding. Stripping everything bare while avoiding any stray bottles.

Amanda moved to the kitchen while Mike started on the storage area. He found boxes of Christmas decorations and various broken objects that should have been thrown away a long time ago. Everything had a sheet of dust on it as if it could protect them from the passing of time despite having already been forgotten. By the end of the first day, they had taken a dozen boxes to the donation center and filled another dozen bags that now filled the dumpster meant for the entire apartment complex.

The next day was Saturday. Amanda had to take Danny, her four year old son and Mike’s only nephew, to a soccer game in the morning leaving Mike to tend the to cleaning. He finished the storage area and started on the guest bedroom that doubled as a workroom. A few half finished projects sat on the table. Mike began filling a trash bag and cleared everything except the bottles. When he was done, he took the bags out to the dumpster and piled the bags above the rim. A smaller dumpster labeled for recycling was hidden behind some trashed piled next to the dumpster. He was looking it over when his phone buzzed.

“Yeah,” he answered.

“How’s everything going?” It was Amanda. He could hear kids screaming in the background.

“As good as it can go I guess.”

“Okay, well, I’ll be over in about an hour. Danny’s game is almost over and we are going to get lunch afterwards. Want us to bring you anything?”


“Could…” He heard her almost take the thought back. “Could you make sure it’s not…you know….I don’t want Danny seeing the place like it was yesterday.”

He knew exactly what she was asking. It had to be done sooner or later, and he wanted to be done as quickly as possible. At least that’s how he convinced himself.

“Yeah,” he said, “I’ll get it cleaned up.”

“Thank you. See you soon.”

He hung up, sighed, then went back up to the apartment. He opened all the windows hoping it would help with the musty smell and grabbed yet another trash bag. He started collecting all of the bottles in the kitchen. He emptied the fridge of the few unopened bottles. Then he went to the living room and grabbed them off the coffee table, the TV stand, the side table, and window sills. He scoured each room and collected all that he could find. The bag started to strain a bit from the weight but it was able to hold them all. He took them out and tossed them into the bin just as Amanda pulled up with a sack of cheeseburgers and a few sodas.

They sat on the curb and ate lunch. The movers showed up and Mike showed them where to go. When the movers were done and the furniture was gone, they would only have to clean the carpets and wipe everything down. Mike knew there was no chance of getting the deposit back. He didn’t even want it. Danny ran in to use the restroom after the movers took the bed. Amanda came up with him. The movers came back and grabbed the small couch. Mike and Amanda were tallying what was left to do when Danny saw it.

“What’s that?” he asked. All innocence.

Where the couch had been were two bottles Mike had missed. Amanda glared at him but before either of them moved Danny went over and picked up a small book that was lying between the bottles.

“What did you find honey?” Amanda asked.

“It’s pictures.”

“Let mommy see.”

Danny reluctantly handed the book over. Mike looked over her shoulder as she opened it.

“Let me see,” Danny complained.

They sat on the floor so Danny could see while they looked through the photo album. It was their childhood. The old house. Pictures of their mom and dad and themselves as children. Every picture a glimpse of thirty years ago.

“It was there all along, wasn’t it?” Amanda asked.

Mike looked at each picture, finally noticing that every one showed their father holding  drink in some fashion.

“I guess it was,” he said, “But how were we to know?”

“We’ve known for years. It got worse after mom passed.”

Mike was saved when Danny pointed at one of the pictures.

“Who are those people mom?” he asked.

She went into mom mode and answered instructively. “That’s your Grandpa, and that’s your Uncle Mike, and that’s me.”

Danny looked at them and the photograph and the skepticism slowly carved itself onto his face.

“No it’s not,” he said.

“It is so. This was us when we were a little older than you are now.”

Danny looked up at Mike to see if he would confirm she was lying.

“It’s true little buddy. We were kids like you a long time ago.”

The skepticism grew to awe and the questions poured forth.

Amanda and Mike answered each in turn about each photograph. Sometimes telling stories about what was happening in each. Danny was fascinated by every detail. He still wasn’t entirely convinced the kids in the pictures were the grownups in the room.

With each new picture they flipped to, and each story they told, the bottles in each one slowly faded from their sight. Mike and Amanda once again saw their parents as they had a long time ago. As Danny was looking at them now. They sat on the floor in the empty apartment looking over each photo and answering all of Danny’s questions carefully. They found themselves laughing and remembering fond stories. They continued through the album as the sun disappeared. They only stopped when it became too dark to see.

Food For Thought

“That is the worst saying of all time.”

“No it’s not. You just don’t understand it.”

“I understand it just fine. It’s just dumb. Why even have cake if you can’t eat it?”

“See, you don’t understand it.”

“It means you can’t have everything you want.”

“Partly. It means you can’t have the cake if you eat it. Once you eat it, it is gone. It no longer exists.”

“Except inside you.”

“Well, yeah, but it’s no longer cake. It’s already broken down and making you fat, or launching your blood sugar into space.”

“It does make sense when you explain it like that, but wouldn’t it be easier to understand if it went ‘You can’t eat your cake and have it too’?”

“You know what? I think you’ve finally learned something. It does make more sense that way.”

“Language is weird.”

“Without it, what would we be?”

Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. Though this book takes on that penultimate question of humanity, it does so in a way that is derived from experience (an experience that pushes the limits of the human mind and body) and a careful examination of that experience. Vicktor E. Frankl was a neurologist and psychiatrist. This book details his experience and observations during his time in concentration camps. A majority of these reflections take place in Auschwitz.

Please try to prevent yourself from letting that information bias your opinion of this book. In fact, I suggest you try to temporarily forget what you know of World War II as you read it to better grasp what this book is attempting to discover. This book is a record of events and psychological analysis of the human mind. The themes found here are dark at times and unveil some of humanity’s worst traits, but there is a triumph. Human history is plagued with injustices. This book doesn’t try to make sense of those injustices, it tries to make sense of the human mind and the differences between individuals. It attempts to discover what humanity really is.

This book was published in 1946. The first half is Viktor’s experiences in the concentration camps. He spends time analyzing the camp guards, but he spends even more time analyzing his fellow prisoners. The second half delves into Logotherapy, which is Viktor’s theory that human nature is motivated by a search for a purpose for one’s life. This search is individual and suggests that each person discovers their own answer to what their meaning is.

Most copies of this book are printed as a small paperback. Small enough to fit in a pocket and is only roughly 150 pages. Despite its brevity, this book has the potential to cause introspection for the reader that in turn causes analysis of others. At the base of it all is a hope for humanity.

I often recommend books that have positively impacted me and that I greatly enjoy. Some of my past recommendations were purely entertainment picks. Many were books that opened my mind by making me questions certain things in this world. This book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is something a little more. Maybe because it is steeped in history or straightforwardly examines the very definition of humanity. Something about it resonated with me, and I believe I will return to it several times throughout my life.

The Dream Usually Ends When You Die

Night is often crime’s best ally, and crowds its nemesis, but that depends on the crime. Matt had been walking across Grand Avenue when he felt the metal slide between his ribs. The culprit lost quickly in the crowd. He found the nearest medical station damaged. Out of service. He decided the quicker he got home the safer he would be.

Against his own logic, he decided to risk the alleyways. His apartment was four blocks away and he could shave off crucial seconds. He ran holding his side. His sweater already heavy with his blood. He caught site of his attacker after the third block. It was too quick to make out. Adrenaline pumped through him, tightening his chest, and overriding the pain. He ran hard. The thing behind him was faster. It overcame him as he broke out onto 63rd Street near the shopping district. He fell to the ground amidst the crowds. The thing flipped him onto his back. Time held still long enough for him to see the nightmare. Four thick, long arms held him down. An ever-moving tangle of corded hair hid the creature’s face. Every inch of it was made of shadow. Its edges blurry, but he felt its teeth bite into him.

Not one of the hundreds of people walking by looked at him. Everyone walked around him. Their paths grew wider as his blood filled the street.

The beast looked up suddenly, frightened. It bit down one last time, severing the bottom half of his body, then took off with its prize. Matt called for help, but no one stopped. He began to crawl, leaving a thick trail of blood. He crawled all the way to his apartment on the fifth floor. The whole time he kept wondering why he wouldn’t die.


Combat Ready

He knew something was different as soon as he came to. His head felt like a bowling ball which made him think he had been under an anesthetic. In a way, he was right. He had been operated on but he didn’t know the extent until his mind cleared and he could fully take in his situation.

He was strapped to a wall in a small room. The walls were metal and a humming suggested he was in a transport vessel. This was confirmed when he saw stars slowly crawl across a small plasma window. He couldn’t move. His arms and legs were strapped to the wall, but he could turn his head. To either side of him was an armored combat droid. Neither of them were active. He tried looking down at his own body but couldn’t see anything to confirm his fearful suspicion that his consciousness had been uploaded into a war machine, but he didn’t have to wait long.

His suspicions were confirmed when the floor underneath him opened and he fell. Once the straps had released, he looked at his metal body and lamented his past life without even knowing what it had been. He had no memory of who he was. If he’d had anyone who cared for him. If he’d loved anyone. He was acutely aware nonetheless that he was human or at least had been before he was forcefully inserted into this vessel. He didn’t even know what year it was. All he knew was that he was falling in a metal body loaded with every possible weapon he could fathom, and he was falling from orbit. Despite knowing his situation, the dropping sensation made him feel his stomach rise regardless of no longer having a stomach or even a human body.

The planet below slowly filled his visual sensors. It was beige, indicating a desert surface. Smoke trails and dark masses indicated that fighting was already taking place. He fell at a tremendous speed. He’d be in the thick of it within minutes. His new body cycled through weapon functions and he gained control of all movement. The surface was closing in. He feared the impact would kill him, but if he had still been human, he would have burned to nothing in the thin atmosphere already. All around him were other sentinels dropping in. Many were mere specks against the sand making small clouds of dust as they impacted the surface.

He dropped at terminal velocity into the sand. As the impact cloud settled, he dug his lower half out with ease. A missile whizzed past his sensors clarifying the direction of battle. He charged forward, guns firing. He didn’t know what he was fighting. All he knew is he wanted to survive.


On a ship in orbit, General Armond watched the surface barely able to make out any progress being made.

“This had better work,” he said.

“It will,” Dr. Bradley said, “The human mind can only last a definite amount of time within the units, but the basic instincts in all humans, regardless of their previous social relevance, make them perfect soldiers. This stems mainly from a survival instinct, but several have an appetite for destruction. It’s not a trait easily recognizable, but the more we are able to obtain of that variety, the quicker we can advance into enemy territory.”

“And this group is created from the destructive factor?”

“Well, no. Like I said, it is a hard trait to pinpoint. We can say with certainty that approximately sixty percent have the destructive trait.’

“Let’s hope that is enough,” the general said and turned back to watch the battle.



His metal body was riddled with holes but he was still able to function. He couldn’t feel any damage, but a display he noticed after his first injury showed a detailed model of his situation. He’d lost movement of his left weapons array but was able to move and use both the right and main weapons.

The enemy consisted of other robotic units similar to his comrades. He wondered if they were piloted or completely autonomous. Part of him questioned if killing these things made any difference, and part of him didn’t care. He was dropped in the middle of a fight and since he couldn’t get out unscathed, he wanted to get out alive. Whatever alive meant in this form. His goal now was to make it out of this and find a way to get back into his old body.

An explosion obliterated the group to his right and threw his solid metal frame into the air. He landed in the sand, half buried again, and unable to move. The display showed his right side had been completely destroyed. No beneficial functions remained and a self destruction protocol had been triggered. He stared at the foreign sky wondering how he had ended up here, why he was in this place, and if there was anyone he left behind. He wondered if he had lived a good life before this. He wished he had at least known his name.