Six Degrees and Hopeless Habits - The Ink Well Fiction Writing Challenge #2 - Bad Habits

6개월 전

Here be my belatred entry to The Ink Well Fiction Writing Challenge #2 - Bad Habits

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Kick That Habit, Cairin


Him again.

Sadly, the only response some creatives got on their posts were spammy religious memes that were as uncontainable as a virus. There was no prohibiting him from the comment section at Rig-It, her new networking site. The system is rigged, so she'd "rig it" her own way, right? Wrong. Not with spammers proliferating beyond control.

Stop doing wrong things and turn back to God! The kingdom of heaven is almost here. (Matthew 3:2)

She hit the downvote button.

How many new user names would this Bible-beating troll come up with?

Cairin had created her own "sister to the blockchain" as a home for creatives to publish their offerings. Now, this Biblical tormentor posted his "Good News" + video links to eternal salvation on every blessed post anyone ever posted.

She knew the Bible well enough without @WhateverNameHeUsedToday bombarding her with verses. She knew Christian and Catholic apologetics well enough to know The Bible was fiction, not God-given truth.

Back to her Rig-It post: the first annual RigFest would unite Riggers from all over the world in the heart of Italy. Her bags were packed. She hit "Send" and hailed an Uber to the airport.

Security was tighter than usual. The Patriot Act never died down almost 20 years after the terrorist attacks that changed the world, and now the long lines were even longer as thermometers guaged every passenger's temperature.

"It's just another strain of the common cold," some were saying. "You'd think it was Spanish Flu 2.2."

"I hear things will get much, much worse," others said.

Cairin offered up an "Our Father" out of habit and boarded the plane.

Talk of the new virus lasted all through the flight. "How racist, to call it a Chinese virus," she overheard.

"The virus started in China. China silenced the whistleblower. China told people the virus wasn’t contagious and allowed people to travel in and out of the country. China did nothing to contain this virus. Call it what it is. A Chinese Virus."

Cairin wanted to point out that MERS was so called for the Middle East, but facts and logic never got in the way of somebody else's truth. She closed her eyes and donned headphones.

God, come to our assistance.

Some voices, no headphones could silence. This one had been internalized from infancy as her mom prayed to her invisible and useless or nonexistent God. Daily. Hourly. Out loud, or in silence. Singing hymns of glory and praise as she mopped or cooked or gardened: "When you sing, you're praying twice."

In the beginning, Cairin believed. Her mom was a Carmelite "lay nun," which meant three times a day their world came to a halt for that thick little red-leather book with it color-coded ribbbons, the Liturgy of the Hours. "God, come to my assistance," each prayer began, morning, noon, and evening. Then a Psalm. Responsorials, brain-numbing refrains, reminders of God's steadfast love, and faith that all things work for a reason.

God didn't come to her mom's assistance when the "camel flu" became the latest plague of the 21st Century to strike millions. Fitting, that her demise originated in the Holy Land. Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was just another species of coronavirus, a betacoronavirus derived from bats, with camels somehow involved in its spread to humans.

The World Health Organization was about as much help as God, exhorting those who come in contact with camels to wash their hands frequently--and do not touch sick camels. Her mom never came near a camel, bat, or even the 49-year-old Qatari man who had gone through the famed "Six Degrees of Separation" before his sneeze reached a Midwest mom, her mom, a would-be saint, now just another statistic.

Now it was Six Feet of Separation, a new Coronavirus Protocol, over and above the logistical Six Handshakes Rule: all people are six or fewer social connections away from each other; i.e., a "friend of a friend" chain can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.

Qatari man, China woman, camel-toucher, bat eater, sneezing storm cloud of death on two legs: God paid them no notice. If any sort of God existed at all.

And still she prayed.

"God, come to my assistance."

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It was a habit. A useless but mostly harmless habit. Cairin didn't touch her mother's breviary or read a single word of it these days, but the words were embedded like a virus in her mental circuity.

God himself will set me free. Free from the hunter's snare. But her mind was never free of this unrealized god. Cairin could see the words in her mind as clearly as she heard them.

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She landed in Italy, safe and sound,

found her way to the pink stucco hotel with balconies overlooking a courtyard, and proceeded to meet her fellow Riggers face to face, within touching distance.

Marcy, the homesteading hive leader, had a degree in herbology and the coolest head in the crowd. She wore t-shirts adorned with cats saying "Chill" or flowers and honeybees or annoying sentiments like "Live, Laugh, Love," but Cairin loved her none the less for it. With snow-white hair and a face crackled like antique china, Marcy exuded more energy at age eighty than the Millennials did, those gadget-gazers and über-calm web surfers. MysticDiva, Roomerkind, MyJob, Florianopolis, TechTard, and TechGoddess became people with real names--Maya, Gary, Janelle, Roland, Elina, and more. They came from Tennessee, Venezuala, Nigeria, Israel, Korea, carrying big ideas and cyber wallets, blockchain milestones and ... the Chinese flu.

The fun had barely begun when the Quarantine came.

Medics in HazMat suits swarmed into the hotel and carried people out on stretchers. Armed guards blocked the exits.

Not even with MERS, in her mother's day, had such panic-measures held anyone hostage. "This Coronavirus outbreak is worse than the SARS epidemic," the Riggers agreed, but Cairin reminded them there was no social media back then.

"It's no worse than the annual influenza that kills thousands every year," Gary said he'd read, but Coronavirus settles at the bottom of the lungs and starts producing a liquid that makes breathing more and more difficult until you need a machine to survive. And Italy was running out of hospital beds, ventilators, and healthy medical personnel.

It wasn't Marcy but Gary who started coughing. He was "only" seventy-something, but he went out on a stretcher.

Coincidentally, the Bible spammer went silent when Gary did. "Thank God the zealot is silenced," Cairin almost said, but she could see Gary laboring for breath as he was carried away, and she prayed an act of contrition instead.

The Swiss Guard came next, or whatever these Italian troops were called, telling everyone they were not allowed to leave the premises until quarantine was lifted. At least two weeks from now. Airline tickets? Dog sitters back home, bills to pay, weddings to attend? No more. You're here to stay.

Why bother to pray? It was no conscious part of her brain doing this old routine. No particle of her soul entertained hopes that prayer ever had "efficacy." Her Carmelite mom thought it arrogant to expect to see "results" of prayer. Prayer was like breathing. It was what she did. And her last raggedy breath through crackling lungs was a tender Amen.

Week Three, the hotel guests were restless,

but they could Skype their offspring and email their dog sitters and get things done online, so there was that.

Marcy taught Breathing Lessons, yoga, and Positive Intentions. She had a suitcase full of herbal remedies and theories of Anti-Vaxxers who no longer sounded as crazy as Cairin once thought. Marcy entertained fellow heretics and pagans with old You-Tube videos of George Carlin explaining the immune system. "You are all Diseased!". Sanitizing the house kills germs, and your immune system needs germs to practice on. "Polio never had a prayer" in his childhood; "we swam in raw sewage." Marcy had no more than ten people, each no more than six feet from her, laughing uproariously. Best medicine, you know: laughter.

Trading freedom for the illusion of security. How old was this video?

She wandered from one wheezing senior citizen to another, offering what consolations she could. "I'll say a little prayer for you," she sang, channeling Aretha.

Sometimes she sang in English: "Eternal Father, Strong to Save." For her, singing in a foreign language, if she could hear and see the words, was the best way to learn it. She'd bought a "Drive-Time Italian" CD back when drive-by shootings were the new Big Bad American Thing, joking that she was learning Drive-By Italian during her commute, but now her old jokes weren't funny.

Edoardo, a 30-something wedding singer, caught wind of Cairin's singing and joined her. The bride and groom he had sung for got an indefinite stay in the honeymoon suite, but several elderly wedding guests had gone out on stretchers.

Children would climb walls if not for security guards. Marcy and Cairin organized people to organize children's games.

Music was everyone's go-to. Blockchain, cyber wallets, "hard fork" and "hostile takeover" floated down, down, down the list of Cairin's priorities, like autumn leaves sinking to the bottom of the pond. Entertaining the little ones, consoling the old ones, bringing smiles to the "hostages" rose to the top of her list.

Complainers started grousing a bit less, but "What good is a prayer in times like these?" and worse things were sneered at Cairin.

"God only knows" was her reply, no sarcasm intended. "We may never know what good our prayers may do, but it's free and easy, so I pray away. And when we sing, it is said, we are praying twice." She sounded like her mother.

"Einstein said Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results," Roland argued. "I don't live in the USA, but it's obvious your 'hopes and prayers' do nothing to alleviate the next mass shooting you people endure every week or so." Roland, the most thoughtful and polite of anyone she knew on Rig-It, offered a quick smile. "No offense."

"None taken," Cairin assured him. "I have little hope of prayers being heard by a loving God who intercedes in the affairs of man, with or without angels. 'We the hands, we the eyes, we the voice of Christ' means that without humans DOING things, God (Jesus) apparently cannot violate the Free Will clause ... never mind. I'm a skeptic. But I pray anyway and do-do-do whatever I can."

Ugh: did she just say doo-doo?

"What worries me," TechGoddess joined in, "is that people put trust in an invisible being that lives in the sky and watches and judges their every move. 'Just pray and everything will be solved.' Praying ain't going to fix this. No chance. I understand that it is useful as a crutch but it has no place in avoiding contracting a virus."

"And yet, I pray anyway," Cairin said with a shrug.

Kick That Habit, Cairin - no god will hear you, no Kung Flu virus will heed your prayers and hopeful intentions either, she thought, fighting the downward spiral into despair, yet reaching and grasping for hope.

Marcy approached, smiling. "On Facebook," she said, "a woman in my Freedom Formula Course shared this. The world is slowing down. What happens when nothing works anymore? Cities and whole nations go into a lockdown, but my friends and neighbors say “Let me know if you need anything. You are not alone.“ Parents are home with their children. And here's a poem written by a priest." Marcy read it from her phone:

“The lock down
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.

"Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Sing."
Poem by Richard Hendrick, 13th March 2020


"I have idea," Edoardo said. He called up WhatsApp on his phone. "Let us gather in the courtyard."

A flash mob materialized.

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source

There was still no end in sight

for the Riggers or the hotel guests in quarantine, but there was hope, and there was music, and there was love.

Cairin's Italian grew near-fluent under Edoardo's tutelage, under the covers by night, and talking face to face by day with people they'd never have met otherwise, or if they did, it would have been only via cyberspace, far more than six degrees of whatever kind of separation.

God, come to my assistance. The familiar words played on in her head. "Pray as though everything depends on God. Work as though everything depends on you." - Saint Augustine

She still didn't know if God existed, or if God had anything in common with the Supreme Deity of her Carmelite mother, but she had a litany of prayers in her mental repertoire. She had many good people easing the shock of quarantine.

And she had Edoardo.

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source

That's as far as I can go with this story for now,

watching the daily news unfold and escalate day by day. "Things will get much, much worse,"I keep hearing.

But the human spirit will not be diminished.

Life will go on, however dark and tragic it may be for millions who suffer and die, and maybe we all meet again in some heavenly hereafter, or maybe we had a good run here while it lasted and all we can do is rejoice for whatever good we experienced during our sojourn on earth.

I leave you with a few more excerpts from my old 1976 edition of Liturgy of the Hours, which I thought of taking up again, but I'm off to paint more cats instead. And find out if I should leave the house on behalf of someone elderly or infirm. My parents, age 85 and 83, assure me they are doing all right.

Cheers, Best Wishes, and yes, a little prayer for each of you!

Keangaroo

because Kean sounds like Kane (not keen, hint, hint)

Canticle of the Three Youths

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source

Light and darkness bless the Lord;
Lightning and clouds, bless the Lord.
Let the earth bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Mountains and hills, bless the Lord
Everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord.
You springs, bless the Lord;
Seas and rivers, bless the Lord.
You dolphins and all water creatures, bless the Lord;
All you birds of the air, bless the Lord.
All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever.


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#Italy #Covid19 #fiction #steem #challenge #theinkwell #posh

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"And when we sing, it is said, we are praying twice."

I LOVE this. It's very uplifting, and an excellent answer to both the prompt and today's conditions. Why not pray? It can do no harm, and most definitely lifts ones spirits, which in turn boosts the immune system. Just reading it has made me feel better.

I marvel at how you put so much of what we have been discussing in this, but took it in a direction I would never have guessed. Science, belief, sex, prayer, you even got painting cats in here!

Kung Flu Virus hahaha!

Excellent story.

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Awww, thank you - and thank you for the poem by the Italian priest! I should go in and add that to my disclaimer at the end of the post. I pillaged a few words from FB and Twitter, too. You're the best- and so is Raj - we have so many of THE BEST here!!

This is beyond wonderful . . . I love the characters, the sentiments, and everything about it. You've done a masterful job at capturing a moment in time.

Though I caught myself, when you mentioned hailing an Uber, realizing how much I'd have to explain to my dad should he suddenly show up . . . he passed in 2000, so Uber, Skype and the like, much less MERS and COVID-19, had yet to exist.

And, of course, Marek's sister is living in northern Italy, which had become a serious challenge even before the coronavirus reared its ugly head, so that's been interesting as well.

In any case, speaking of FB memes, did you know that there really is a Saint Corona, and that she and Saint Victor were martyred and buried in northern Italy? Even better, and I'm not making this up, she is reputed to be the patron saint of pandemics. So who knows? A little praying might go a long way.

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Of course I had to google it - how I hope the tortures are only legend, not truth -

Saints Victor and Corona are two Christian martyrs. Most sources state that they were killed in Roman Syria during the reign of Marcus Aurelius. .... Some Western sources state that Alexandria or Sicily was their place of martyrdom. ... the Roman Martyrology states that it was in the third century when they met their death.
Victor was a Roman soldier of Italian ancestry, serving in the city of Damascus in Roman Syria during the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius. He was tortured - including having his eyes gouged out..... the sixteen-year-old spouse of one of his brothers-in-arms, named Corona,[3] comforted and encouraged him. For this, she was arrested and interrogated. According to the passio of Corona, which is considered largely fictional, Corona was bound to two bent palm trees and torn apart as the trunks were released.
Victor was beheaded in Damascus in 160 AD.
Other sources state that they were husband and wife.
Saint Corona was popular in folk treasure magic, being called upon by a treasure hunter to bring treasure, and then sent away through a similarly elaborate ritual.
Wikipedia

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HIVE IS ALIVE!!!

JOIN US, YOU'LL HAVE EXACTLY THE SAME BALANCE AS YOU HAVE HERE ON STEEM WITHOUT THE CENTRALIZATION AND CENSORSHIP!!

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ALSO, FUCK YOU @JUSTINSUNSTEEMIT







































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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HIVE IS ALIVE!!!

JOIN US, YOU'LL HAVE EXACTLY THE SAME BALANCE AS YOU HAVE HERE ON STEEM WITHOUT THE CENTRALIZATION AND CENSORSHIP!!

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The version I read had her as the spouse of one of his compatriots. Victor is also the name of my nephew, so that's close to my heart, though anyone who tried to take him out would have some hard going ahead, Roman soldier or no. ;-)

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Thank you so much for saying such nice things about this post, which I feared nobody would notice or like. After I posted it, my husband mentioned there really is a Saint Corona, and she is reputed to be the patron saint of pandemics. #TruthBeCrazierThanFiction!

Praying is a habit for me. What else would be on my mind during daily chores? A song stuck in my head (ear worm!), rehashing conversations where I could have said ---, had I only thought of it sooner, or... funny thing, I came across an article that said most people do no think in complete sentences or even in words. Really??? Words, sentences, fictional dialogues, or remembered conversations play non-stop for me. Math never had a chance. Numbers rarely trespass through my head.

Your dad missed out on a lot of new terminology, but in many ways, I consider those who missed out on the latest to be "missing nothing." That's my sister Lori's favorite line, these days. She's the one on dialysis, barely hanging on. Whatever event I may have missed out on, she says, "You didn't miss anything worthwhile." Looking back at her life, it seems so many things just didn't matter or amount to much or leave a good impression. Poor Lori.... and Marek having a sister in Italy to worry about. May they all be well, and soon!

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HIVE IS ALIVE!!!

JOIN US, YOU'LL HAVE EXACTLY THE SAME BALANCE AS YOU HAVE HERE ON STEEM WITHOUT THE CENTRALIZATION AND CENSORSHIP!!

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ALSO, FUCK YOU @JUSTINSUNSTEEMIT







































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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Yeah, I was grateful that my dad missed the events of 9/11, and I'm doubly grateful that he, my mom, and my sister Carol all missed out on our buffoon of a White House Occupant. I overheard someone the other day refer to him as our "Pustule in Chief," and just about choked to death trying not to laugh out loud.

I have a friend who was on dialysis for years, and so sick that we weren't sure she was going to see the year 2000 . . . but fast forward, and her husband passed before she did, and she's still going strong, having a blast being Grandma to her son's two kids. We just never know.

I pray all the time as well, sometimes silently, sometimes aloud, and sometimes singing. I like the line about singing being praying twice. It has always felt like a form of prayer to me.

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What an amazing account - she sounds like the old man I love so much in "The Milagro Beanfield War" -


Amarante outlives all his children even though he was sickly his entire life. Every morning he wakes up thanking God for another day.

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Sorry @carolkean for missing this at the time.

Funny, but my cousin recommended that book to me when we were gathered together for my grandfather's funeral in 1990, and though I've always meant to, I've never read it.

I think I still have it somewhere. I guess I'll just have to buckle down and read it finally. ;-)

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Ohhhh, lucky you, to see the movie and read the book for the first time - then again, for me, the novelty never wears off. Some books/movies can be revisited endlessly and enjoyed every time. The movie "Waking Ned Devine" is another one I never tire of. Love the characters, the message, the hilarity, and the social commentary sneaked in.

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Aaaaagh, I've been on Steemit/Hive so little of late that I missed this as well.

I LOVED Waking Ned Devine, one of the funniest and sweetest films ever made. I've always wanted to go to Ireland, largely because of the vibes of the people as they come across in film, not to mention those that I've met personally.

I always loved the film The Matchmaker, for much the same reason, as well as for the hilarious interplay between Janeane Garofalo and Denis Leary, as well as developing a half-crush on David O'Hara, the bartender who woos her.

But it's the townspeople in The Matchmaker that make the film, including the sister-in-law of the barman, who becomes a good friend to Marcy (Garofalo); and of course, the dueling matchmakers themselves, who are determined to match Marcy up whether she wants it or not.

I have a favorite scene in the film where she is given really bad news via phone, but despite being quite a good actress, she looks for all the world as though she is going to burst out laughing, and I've always had a mental image of Denis Leary (a good friend even before the film) just offstage, doing everything in his power to crack her up. ;-)

Anyway, I've digressed enough, but I did want to acknowledge that I too love Waking Ned Devine, and Irish films in general. Hope you and yours are well and happy.

Take care and be safe!

"There's a lot to unpack here," as they say! I can really relate to it. I grew up in a very religious home and it is so interesting to me what has stuck with me over the many years of being borderline agnostic. I definitely pray. And it doesn't seem at all odd to me most of the time, though I'm not practicing a religion or going to church. I believe in the power of prayer, and it definitely comes in handy when you feel alone and need to submit your hopes up the chain to something higher than yourself. If there was ever a time in history when we should allow one another to feel and believe what we feel and believe, it is now. I don't know that there will be a judgment day, and I don't pray or believe in kindness for that reason anyway. I believe in kindness because it is the right thing. I think we will get through this. Humanity will certainly survive and maybe even be a little better for having suffered together through something that knows no borders and has no concern for race, religion or any other defining factors, with the exception of frailty. I'm glad to know your parents are doing okay!

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Indeed - I believe in kindness because it is the right thing. Not because there may be a reward in heaven for it or a punishment in hell for selfishness and cruelty. Just, it's the way we ought to be - kind and compassionate. Thank you for reading and commenting! If only more people thought like you do: "If there was ever a time in history when we should allow one another to feel and believe what we feel and believe, it is now. "

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Thank you, my friend!