The Writer's Voice

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A Simple Handshake


Alice C. Bateman & Clive S. Michie

Chapter Twelve

Sally sat at her computer, reading the ICQ archives of her online conversations with Dan.  At least he said his name was Dan.  She only knew him through the computer, and everybody knew how little you should trust anyone you met on the Internet.  Sally had already been tricked by one online romance that turned out to be not what it seemed. 

Dan was away, and Sally missed him.  She’d grown accustomed to spending time with him on the computer, early in the mornings before he went to work, and also her evenings, when he came home.  Feelings were growing inside her for him, and he seemed to encourage these by doing things that Sally construed as romantic, and took personally.  Then suddenly he’d be back to protesting that this couldn’t be real, that it was only a computer thing.  Nothing more than conversation.

It was an awful lot more than conversation to Sally.  His name lighting up on her desktop, the ‘floating’ name from her ICQ list, made her heart pound, even if it was for the fifth time that same day.  When it was red, she was lonely without him.  She played the same love songs over and over {interspersed on her Napster list with Vivaldi, and different renditions of Amazing Grace, and of course the Moody Blues}.

She’d had to take his floating name off her computer desktop when he’d said good-bye the other day, to stop her eyes from travelling to it a thousand times a day.  When he’d left, he had been in one of his ‘this can’t be real’ phases.  He confused the hell out of her.  One minute he was doing or saying something romantic, the next he was denying her completely.  It hurt; she didn’t understand.

The problem was, she was stuck out in Calgary, no vacation time coming up in the near future, and he lived on a little farm he’d just bought, outside Ottawa.  Right now Dan was taking a fishing trip that had been planned and booked and looked forward to for six months.  She couldn’t take any of that away from him through her need to be with him. 

They’d only known each other a little over a month, but Sally had grown to like Dan fairly quickly, and he seemed to like her in return.  In fact, vague inclinations of feelings for him had been stirring when she’d sent him a message one day asking for a hug, and he’d sent her a kiss instead.  Her heart leapt, and Sally took it as a kiss.  Her words stood for the thoughts and feelings behind them, not as play or a joke.

She’d found out a couple of weeks later that Dan really didn’t even know yet if he’d actually like to kiss her.  As far as Sally was concerned, he’d already been doing that for weeks.  And she liked it.  She’d thought he liked it too, or he wouldn’t have continued doing it.  When he told her that he wasn’t sure he even wanted to kiss her, she was stunned.  Tears came to her eyes again now, remembering.

Sally had been alone for a long time.  She’d chosen to be alone, after another failed attempt at the happily ever after myth.  She liked it that way, no man to answer to, her own decisions to make, without consulting anyone but God and her own Higher Self.

What she needed right now as far as Dan was concerned, she decided, was a miracle.  They needed to overcome the barrier of physical separation between them.  Sally always saw herself flying to Dan, but one night she’d seen him lying in her bed for a second, where she usually lay.  She’d been confused, because whenever they talked or she thought about them seeing each other, it was always her going to him that she could picture.  But who knew what God had planned.

Dan had been gone for two days now, and Sally knew that if he would only be receptive, they could communicate through the Ether, through their minds only, with no computer between them to interpret what they said to each other.  But Dan wasn’t ready to believe that he was capable of doing anything outside of the ordinary.  He didn’t realize yet that God-given capabilities are ordinary; it is the world that we are forced to live in that is extraordinary and fabricated.  By man, not God.

And yet, when he’d been using a real three-dimensional tool to talk to her, Dan refused to believe in it too.  Sally shook her head ruefully.  She really wished he’d stop telling her that it was impossible for her to be in love with him.  Because if he continued to tell her not to love him, she was afraid that he might say it one time too many, her stubborn side would kick in, and she’d delete him.

She’d told him twice already that if he wasn’t interested in a romantic relationship of any kind, then she would back right off, halt the growing feelings she had for him, and just be friends.  And he’d said no, don’t stop, don’t back off.  Men!  Sometimes she thought they should all just vanish off the planet, they were too damned confusing.

Sally certainly didn’t want to delete him, though.  She liked him far too much to lose him abruptly.  There had been so many men who’d come onto her ICQ list, who acted friendly for a little while, and then only wanted what they called cyber sex.  Sally didn’t have sex in person with men very often; she certainly wasn’t about to indulge in anything like that with strangers on a machine.  Those men had all been deleted without a second thought, and Sally had learned to always remain invisible, so the men cruising looking for a woman couldn’t see her.

She’d kept a couple of male friends who abided by the rules of what Sally called the nun living inside her head.  She gave them a virtual hug they’d enjoy once in a while, and they appreciated that.  But they were mostly friends who discussed their lives - online and real life -  with her, and she talked about whatever was on her mind with them.

Sally hated it that Dan could reduce her to tears with a few words.  She was a very strong and independent woman, and that someone outside herself could affect her so deeply was hard for her to accept.  She’d kept her heart under lock and key for a long time, and it was hard for her to open herself up in any way.

Oh well, she shrugged, what will be, with or without Dan in her life, is what will be.  Sally had worked hard on herself, inside and out, to teach herself to live with and accept what is.  She had found that there was never an answer; that answers lead only to more and more questions.

She had finally resolved the answer to Shakespeare’s immortal question, ‘to be or not to be.’  For years, she’d added the word ‘what’ at the end of this question, and wondered what it was she was supposed to choose to be or not to be.  She had finally realized that what he meant was a state of consciousness, a way of living, not something to do, or a profession.

And Sally has chosen to be. 

The question of whose side she was on, God or the devil’s, had been decided long, long centuries ago for Sally.  She was sure that she’d been on this earth for a long time, in one form or another.  When asked how old she was, she sometimes jokingly said 10,000 years or so.  Or if it was someone who she felt could relate to the closer truth, she’d say 50,000.  She was getting tired, and couldn’t believe that she’d volunteered to come back for this one last lifetime, in order to experience the privilege and the wonder of bearing children.  And in order to try to make some changes in this world before it all came crashing down around the ears of the unheeding population.

Sally was a writer.  In fact, she was the poet who wrote the poem that Howard just recited to himself.  Without being a preacher, except maybe through her poetry and writings, Sally maintained a very close connection to the Creator, the Source.  Or Howard, as she and her family had begun to call him.  This had started with a joke about a young mother standing outside her little boy’s room, listening to him saying his prayers.  She waited until he was finished, heard him say, "Thank you Howard, and good night now," and walked softly into the room as the little boy lay back down.

“Honey, I was listening outside your door just now, and I’m wondering who Howard is, that you said goodnight to.”

“Aw, Mom, that’s God, silly.  He said it’s OK if I use his first name.”

“Howard is God’s first name?  How do you know that, Honey?  Did He tell you?”

“Well gee, Mommy, we say it every day in school.  Our Father, who art in Heaven, Howard be thy name.”  {This was an old joke, from before the time God was removed from schools.}

His mother laughed.  She’d said the same thing every day in school until the third grade, when someone had spelled out for her what the words actually said.  But she’d never thought to ask if she could use God’s first name!  When Sally went to her own room later, after hearing this joke, she’d closed her eyes and sought her own connection with God, and asked Him about his first name.

She smiled broadly now at the recollection of the Voice inside her head saying, “What, you don’t like the name Howard?”  She laughed out loud.  Sally never could understand the temerity that others seemed to approach God with.  She enjoyed herself when they got time to spend together.

When she’d been writing an early book, published under a pen name, she’d thought of something, and the Voice had said, “Good idea.”  This small two-word phrase was what Sally remembered as she sat alone and lonely in front of her computer.  She wondered which of her books in progress to work on next, in an effort to distract herself from thoughts of Dan.  They were all equally important, and all needed to be written down and distributed as quickly as possible through the Internet.  Dan was helping her in that respect; he was a Godsend.

She’d have to put thoughts of and feelings for Dan on hold, until somehow, someday, they would meet.  She would count the days until he was back in touch with her on the computer, though.  She missed his company, in spite of his silly doubting fits.

Instead of shifting to one of her books, Sally’s thoughts turned to her Sally Lettuceseed program, which she wanted to implement throughout as much of the world as possible, through the Internet.  Now, while Dan was gone, might be just the time to begin.

She modeled this after Johnnie Appleseed, who went around spreading apple seeds to grow trees so people would have God-given food to eat. Sally wasn’t in a position to do it all by herself, so must recruit others.

The plan was to get people to collect marijuana seeds, and then maybe just go out by night and drop a few in all the gardens around.  Or make packages that advertised a fake nursery, and give away three seeds to each household with a garden, as a promotional gesture.  The seeds would be for cannabis, naturally.    A name for the fake nursery popped into her head: God’s Greenhouse.  Or maybe Howard’s Herbs.  She laughed out loud.  Nobody seemed to understand that God had a sense of humor, but Sally always appreciated it.

What would the authorities do if suddenly pot plants were literally springing up all over?  Would they arrest all the wonderful gray-haired ladies as they tended the beautiful plants in their gardens?

Sally didn’t think they would stoop that low.  Although Dan had just sent Sally a video clip the other day, of a mother being kicked in the face by the police, during a peaceful demonstration.

Sally herself had a great deal of respect for the police, and always treated them with courtesy.  She taught her children to do the same.  But she did not have any respect at all for the people who ordered those same men to go out and harass honest and law-abiding citizens, who knew it was their right to go out and say what they felt.

Once people lost the freedom to gather and speak their minds, they would be living in a dictatorship, no matter what the polite names for the system were.  If they took away the right to demonstrate opinions in public, peacefully, with other like-minded citizens, then freedom was in dire trouble.

Sally had been extremely frightened by a video clip Dan had sent her one day of more riot police, with black face masks and full black body armor.  They were anonymous; no one could see any of their faces.  Men who were thrown into an anonymous group, be it the Ku Klux Klan or any other faceless and nameless organization, could do what they wanted, with impunity.

Faceless men could perform deeds that they would not do if they could be identified and held accountable at a later date.  These men would feel free to use any violent measure at their disposal if a crowd appeared to threaten them, she was sure.  Sally shuddered, appalled again as she remembered the video coverage of those police troops.

She had another scary thought.  What did these men do when they were not on riot duty?  Go out and harass the teenagers on the street corners to get their fix of feeling more powerful than the rest of the ordinary mortals?   How long would it be until they were allowed to wear their black headgear on the beat?

Canada showed its citizens democracy in action when it took a national referendum to ask them if they would agree to the goods and services tax, before it took effect.   Of course the people said no, and they implemented it anyway.  Democracy in action.  Sally frowned.  Now there were elite troops called out where the public gathered.  What was the country coming to?

Sally shook her head, saddened by her thoughts.  If she continued thinking this way, her focus would be lost, and she’d be unable to concentrate on any work.

Suddenly she was tired; it was getting late.  It would be almost three in the morning in Ontario, where Dan was.  She wondered what he was dreaming about, and hoped it was her.  A dream of her and Dan together to reassure him that she was real.  Sally laughed at herself again.  A dream to convince him that she was real.  Well, to her it made sense.  But even she could see the humor in the irony. 

Before shutting down her machine, Sally pulled up Dan’s picture from the task bar.  She let her thoughts flow to him for a moment, then pulled up the notepad that she kept handy for when she needed to talk to him.  Here, she could say what she felt, and not have to worry about upsetting Dan with her words.  If she didn’t get to say how she felt ‘out loud’ somewhere, she’d explode from the internal pressure of the words bursting to get out.

Inside her head, she said again, ‘God, you’ve put us together, can’t you please put us in the same room for a while?’  This time she heard an answer, “Yes, my dear, I’m working on it right now.”

Warmth spread through her at the sound of the familiar Voice, and a slow smile spread across her face at the words.  Yawning, but with sparkling eyes, Sally closed down her work and Dan's picture - the last thing to go - and rose to lock up her little house before going upstairs.

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