When Senator Isaiah Flote had a heart attack and fell into the center of a squirrel fishing park and died he was an Independent.
He had decided to become an Independent several months before the 2000 presidential election when he was supposed to endorse the Republican presidential candidate at a church in Cincinnati after the church’s priest gave a sermon about how God wanted the Republican candidate to be president and while the priest gave the sermon Senator Flote watched the congregants in the pews and they were fathers and wives and sons and daughters and mothers and students and doctors and janitors and farmers and lawyers and people of business and they were all his constituents and they were nodding and looking up at the candidate that God wanted to be president and when the priest asked Flote to say a few words about the candidate Flote stood at the podium to speak on behalf of the free people of his country and he said,
“I’m not sure.”
And the nodding heads in the audience stopped nodding and turned to one another and the candidate’s smile faded and the priest’s smile did too and Flote walked off the stage without shaking anyone’s hand and then the next day he announced that he was leaving the Republican Party to become an Independent.
Then the presidential election happened a few months later and the Republican candidate got elected and Isaiah Flote went squirrel fishing and leaned too far over the railing of a squirrel fishing park and fell into the center of it and died.
The park was a grove of trees with a circular platform surrounding it and there were stairs on the sides of the platform so men and women with long metal poles with little canisters at the ends of the poles could climb the stairs to the top of the platform and put their poles into the branches of the trees where squirrels ran across them and the canisters at the ends of their poles had mouths like old train whistles or the tops of tin coffee cans and the poles extended thirty feet into the trees and men and women stood on the platform and held the poles with the canisters into the tops of the trees and watched the squirrels and waited so they could catch a squirrel at the end of a branch and record in a diary the particular characteristics of a squirrel that they caught and then send the squirrel back into the trees.
Flote was standing on one of these platforms in the tops of the trees watching branches and leaves shake with squirrels when a sharp pain traveled through his left arm and he saw his breath go out of him and his breath became a vapor in the cold air and the vapor reminded him of the smoke coming from the chimney of his family’s cabin in Felicity, Ohio not far from the park and he thought of his wife sleeping inside the cabin by the fireplace and he thought of his son Brian who was a pilot in a town called Blue Ash, Ohio and Flote thought of his granddaughters sleeping in their beds in his son’s house and then he thought of his country and then he thought of his God and when he fell over the railing of the platform into the tops of the trees his weight took him through the branches and the leaves on the branches touched him on his shoulders like they were the hands of constituents until he hit the Earth on his back and as he laid on the Earth he looked up through the branches of the trees and out to the sky and the sky was blueing into morning and he saw his last breaths go cold into the air above him like the smoke coming from the chimney of his cabin in Felicity and he faced the sky and his chest heaved and he collapsed back to the ground.
The papers picked it up and the radio picked it up and the television news picked it up and everyone reported that the Independent Ohioan Isaiah Flote died while fishing for squirrels and the news was big news because the parties in the senate had the same number of senators but when Flote walked off the stage of the church without shaking anyone’s hand and decided to become an Independent and leave the Republican Party at the end of 1999 the Democrats became the majority in the Senate by one person.
So Isaiah Flote’s death was covered by national newspapers and national news shows and national news websites and the articles and the shows and the websites told about the machineries gathering their resources and power to Ohio and about the Republican money and professional pollsters in suits and campaign specialists and advance men that got sent to the Republican party headquarters on one side of the state and the Democratic money and professional pollsters in suits and campaign specialists and advance men that got sent to the Democratic party headquarters on the other side of the state and the articles and shows and websites showed a map that was drawn using voting records from the 2000 presidential election and the map looked like a heart because Ohio looks like a heart and one side of the map was all red and the other side was blue and everyone took sides and took a breath together and discussed who would win.
There was a thud and a crack and then the sound of children screaming and Dale looked out into the fog and saw the faces of two boys and they were flooded by the headlights of his car and Dale got out of the car and ran around to the front of it and saw the body of a boy beneath the headlights and the boy was dressed like a clown and the fog reflected the light from the headlights onto the boy’s face and there was a trickle of blood trickling down the boy’s nose and tears had smeared his clown make-up and his eyes were closed but his face was calm and Dale recognized him.
There were two other boys and they were dressed up also and one was dressed like a wolf and the other one was dressed like a ghost and they watched Dale kneel down to the boy on the ground beneath the headlights and Dale yelled,
“Why are you out here so late?”
The boys didn’t say anything and Dale bent down and listened for a pulse but his own pulse was very loud and it was pounding in his ears and in his face and in his fingertips so he didn’t know if the boy on the ground was alive or dead and things were swirling and he looked up and remembered where he was in the fog and he breathed and the other boys didn’t say anything and he made a decision that he thanked God for and he said,
“You guys get in the car. I’m going to, like, put him in the car and we’re going to the hospital.”
The boys didn’t move.
“Go! Get in the car!”
And they were startled by this and grabbed the handle of the door to the backseat of Dale’s car and they opened it and got in and closed it and Dale took the boy beneath the headlights by the armpits and lifted him and put him over his shoulder and the boy was heavy and Dale felt young and weak and drunk but stood up anyway and the boy’s face was resting on his shoulder so his blood left a stain on the shoulder of Dale’s jacket and the boy’s ear was near Dale’s mouth and Dale whispered “please please please” into it and he carried him to the passenger seat and opened the door and put the boy down and his breath was bouncing hot off the boy’s cheek and he brought the seat belt across the boy’s chest and while he did this his ear was against the place where the boy’s heart was and he heard a lub and a dub from underneath the boy’s clown costume and he stopped for a second and listened to it and he said,
“Thank you Lord.”
Then he got out and shut the door and walked around the front of the car and the fog was thick and everywhere and lit up by the headlights of his car and the traffic light above him was blinking green and the blinking green light mixed with the white light of the headlights in the fog and Dale got into the driver’s seat of his car and drove to the hospital and nobody said anything.
They pulled up underneath an awning at Blue Ash Hospital and Dale unbuckled the seat belt and lifted the boy out of the car and carried him into the emergency room and a nurse behind a desk walked toward them and Dale said,
“Please, he needs help, I hit him and he isn’t moving, but I heard a heartbeat.”
“You hit him?”
“Yeah he was, like, out on the road and I was driving home…”
“Do you know his name?”
The nurse went back to the desk and picked up a phone and said something into it and from behind two swinging doors a group of other nurses dressed in red scrubs ran with a gurney towards them and the nurses helped Dale put the boy on the gurney and the nurses rushed away through the doors and Dale was left standing looking at the doors swinging closed and he felt his arms and his legs and his feet and he ran a hand through his hair and looked out of the windows to his car parked under the awning where the two other boys in their costumes were watching from the backseat. He blinked and felt tears coming and a police officer approached him from behind and said,
Dale turned around and said,
The officer had a big face and red ears that stuck out from his face and his nose was red and there was a cross pinned above his name tag that Dale saw and the officer said,
“Dale Bevy? From Christ’s Church?”
“Yes, yeah, uhm…”
“Volery. Peter Volery. Met you once a few Sundays ago? Your mom runs the Bible group my wife goes to.”
“Nice to see you again.”
“Right, not the best circumstances, I’ll guess.”
Officer Volery took a pad out of his pocket and opened it and started writing and the cross pinned above his badge shook while he wrote and he said,
“So what happened here?”
Dale tasted the taste of beer in his mouth and he was sure Volery could smell the smell on his breath and he put his hands on his face and said,
“I was at this Halloween party and I was, like, driving back and it was really foggy out. I was driving really slow with my brights on and when I got to the light I heard this, like–”
“The light where?”
“I was at Quilt and Patch.”
“Where the church is.”
He looked up from the pad and Dale said,
“Yeah, that light. And then I heard a sound and I stopped short and the kids were, like, standing right there in front of my car. I got out and Tommy was there on the ground.”
“You know the boy?”
“He goes to our church too.”
“Never heard of him, last name?”
“Geez, a lot of people go to our church. Guess you can’t know everyone.”
“And the other boys?”
“They’re over there still. They’re sitting in my car.”
Volery looked through the windows and saw the faces of the boys looking out from the backseat of the car and he said,
“Dale, you said you were at a party?”
Then Dale started crying and he wiped his eyes with the sleeve of his jacket and Volery asked,
“Was there alcohol at the party?”
Dale looked up and around and bit his lip and said,
“Did you consume any alcohol before getting into the car tonight?”
Dale nodded and ran his hands through his hair and kept his hands on his head and his face turned crimson and Volery took something else from his belt that looked like an inhaler with a screen and he said,
“Alright Dale, I have to give you a breathalyzer test to determine the amount of alcohol in your blood. Put your mouth on this part here and breathe out.”
Dale put his lips on the inhaler and he tasted the plastic of it and he closed his eyes and breathed through his nose and then out of his mouth into the thing and let the air drain out of his lungs and when he did this he prayed to God and after he prayed the inhaler beeped and Volery asked him to hold the inhaler with his hand while he wrote the numbers down in his pad.
Then a man and woman ran into the emergency room and looked around and the woman yelled at the nurse behind the desk,
And after she said this the nurse told her to follow her but before she did Tommy’s mother turned and saw Dale crying with the inhaler in his mouth and she saw Volery in front of him writing things down and she said,
Dale’s eyes went to her and he moved forward to go to her but Volery put a hand on Dale’s chest and said,
“Hold on, keep it there.”
Then Tommy’s parents turned to follow the nurse and then they were gone behind the swinging doors and something in Dale’s stomach dropped and he choked and threw up in his mouth while the inhaler was still in it and he swallowed his vomit and his eyes filled with tears from the acid of it and Volery finally took the inhaler out and said,
“Dale, there’s a phone over there by the chairs. I want you to go call your mother. I’m going to get those boys that are in your car.”
Dale nodded and went over to the phone and watched the officer talk on a walkie-talkie as he opened the doors of the emergency room and opened the back door of Dale’s car and helped the boys out of the car and the boys were still dressed like a wolf and a ghost and Dale looked down at the phone and picked it up and heard the dial tone and he saw a clock on the wall that said it was two in the morning and he knew he’d have to wake his mother up.
All the children were sleeping in the main room outside the sanctuary and all the chains were still in the pews and Father Bask had to limp to the large wooden globe that was lit in the light of the sanctuary and it was huge and dark and blue and he held his hand between his legs to warm the pain there and he knelt down to the base of the globe and put his shoulder underneath it to try and lift it to bring it where no one would see it and he strained and lifted and screamed but couldn’t lift it and he took his hand from the place between his legs where he bled and reached around the globe kneeling down to it and lifted with all his strength but the weight of the thing was too much and the pain from between his legs shrieked and he could not lift it and he thought of going inside the wooden likeness of the Earth and hiding and he thought of ripping out his own eyes with his bare hands and he thought of calling the police and the children’s parents and telling them everything and he thought of sitting cross-legged and reading from the New Testament there on the stage beneath the large cross that hung in the sanctuary of his church and he thought of masturbating his bleeding self while standing at the podium and he blinked and prayed to God while he thought of these things.
Then he walked around to the front of the thing and closed a door in the center of it and he felt the weight of it on the flat of his hand and started pushing it to the entrance of the sanctuary toward the maintenance exit.
They sat in the car and Constance Bevy looked forward into the night and before they left she had spoken to the Sounders at the hospital and she had spoken to Officer Volery and she had spoken to the blond woman from the Blue Ash News that was asking everyone questions and writing things down and she had spoken to the nurses but she didn’t speak to her son who was sitting next to her in the car because he had hit a young boy with his car and the road passed beneath them and through the windshield and the first thing that Constance said was,
“What would your father say?”
“That’s what I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about what your father would say.”
Dale didn’t say anything.
“They’re going to let you go to school. You’re going to go to school tomorrow and that’s…”
And she took the cross around her neck in her hand and started crying and they went by the church and went under the blinking green light at the intersection of Quilt and Patch and Constance didn’t see it but there was smoke coming from vents of the foundations of the church because something was burning but Dale saw it and watched the church and watched the smoke pass by and it was three in the morning and they were going home.
He woke up feeling like none of it was true and that it had been a dream and that the memory of it only felt real but really wasn’t real and he’d had dreams like that before where he woke up and he didn’t know if what happened in them was real or not where he killed someone or flew or drowned or told someone off or kissed someone or talked to his dead father and he woke up feeling the feeling of the party and the fog and the screaming boys and Tommy on his shoulders and Tommy’s blood staining the shoulder of his coat and there was a moment when it was real but the feeling melted and he was in his life and his room and the safety of the clothes overflowing from his closet with the mirrors on the doors and his posters and his trophies from baseball and bowling tournaments and science fairs and science books and books about Christ and his comforter was on the floor and light showed in from his window onto his night table and it lit onto a pile of old rubber band balls that were unraveling from age and they had been there since before he remembered and the light caught the frayed edges of the broken rubber bands reaching out into the space above the night table and it all looked new and the posters and the clothes and his closet and his night stand the comforter and the rubber band balls all looked like he had been in the hospital because he snuck out to a party and drank beer and then hit a boy in the dark on his way back and the terror of this bloomed in his stomach and his mother came to his door and opened the door and put in her head but didn’t look at him and said,
“Get up. Almost time to go.”
“Okay, I’ll be ready soon” he said.
But she closed the door before he finished saying it.
January 1, 2008
“I don’t know how to crush my fear/ other than to love what’s close.”
-Norman Nathan, from “The Chaos of Night.”
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
“When people get together in the best places things go glimmering.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, from “Absolution”
“O peace in uncertainty!”
-Friedrich Nietzsche, from Thus Spoke Zarathustra
“…between two armies…There saw Arjuna standing fathers and grandfathers, teachers, uncles, sons, and grandsons and also companions. And also fathers-in-law and friends in both armies…”
-From the Bhagavadgita, Book I, verses 24-27
“All organization is and must be grounded on the idea of exclusion and prohibition, just as two objects cannot occupy the same space…”
-Arthur Miller, from The Crucible
“…and is the least specific of connectives. Used between independent clauses, it indicates only that a relation exists between them without defining that relation.”
–William Strunk, J. and E.B. White, from Elements of Style
- c.1200, “state of life bound by monastic vows,” also “conduct indicating a belief in a divine power,” from Anglo-Fr. religiun (11c.), from O.Fr. religion “religious community,” from L. religionem (nom. religio) “respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods,” in L.L. “monastic life” (5c.); according to Cicero, derived from relegare “go through again, read again,” from re- “again” + legere “read” (see lecture). However, popular etymology among the later ancients (and many modern writers) connects it with religare “to bind fast” (see rely), via notion of “place an obligation on,” or “bond between humans and gods.” Another possible origin is religiens “careful,” opposite of negligens. Meaning “particular system of faith” is recorded from c.1300.
“To hold, therefore, that there is no difference in matters of religion between forms that are unlike each other, and even contrary to each other, most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theory and practice. And this is the same thing as atheism, however it may differ from it in name.” [Pope Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, 1885]
- Modern sense of “recognition of, obedience to, and worship of a higher, unseen power” is from 1535. Religious is first recorded c.1225. Transfered sense of “scrupulous, exact” is recorded from 1599.
- –Online Etymology Dictionary