Archive for the ‘Power’ Category

Power

As Oscar Wilde may have said, ‘everything is about sex, except for sex itself. Sex is all about power’.

How do we experience the power struggles inherent in our sexual encounters and relationships? Who dominates and who submits, and why? How does power seep out of the physical and into the psychological? What happens to power when we get dressed and go back into our ‘real’ lives? Is there pleasure without power? Is there power without exploitation?

The writers at Games Perverts Play have explored all of these questions and come up with some interesting, arresting and downright disturbing answers.

I am delighted to be presenting work here once again by the talented  Marc Nash, Dan Holloway , and Penny Goring .It also gives  me great perverse pleasure to be sharing new writing from Marc Horne and Robert James Russell.

This is the first public showcase for an exciting young voice in North American – what do we call it these days? Literature?-  Elliott Deline

Some of the pieces are illustrated with photography by the amazing  Caroline Hagood, Chris Floyd, and Steve Zeeland

I don’t much care for power. If ever I come to possess it I just want to drop it immediately, like a hot brick. But thankfully when in the right hands, power can be very exciting indeed. I hope when you have finished reading and looking at the pieces here, you will agree with me.

Your humble editor,

Quiet Riot Girl

‘Language is Power’ – Roland Barthes

Necrothing POW! Er …

—————————————————————————————————————————————————

muttered throwaway – out the side of this mouth – vague music stormnoise hurry

THESE ARE THE HANDS

eager operators

THESE ARE THE FINGERS

nifty snot collectors

the power of glove

a force from above

THESE ARE THE LIPS

saviours of smarm

THESE ARE THE TEETH

adverts for silence

THESE ARE THE SMILES

pine fresh and pleasing

the power of fist

a force from the wrist


when I walk into oncoming traffic

I’m toying with my potential

Necrothing

fleeces me in the street that runs parallel with now

Necrothing knows why you should slum it with me

paw my hairy pouch

bristle against the mouth that tries to say no

Necrothing makes things happen

whether I like it or not

pulls a scarf tightly

across my face

pulls a scarf tightly

across the face of the earth

is it a bird?

is it a plane?

NO!

Its SUPER POWERED NECROROCOCO NEUROTHINGY JIG THING

Necrothing is a thing that pouts

its a Pouterthing

Necrothing goes ”POW!”

Necrothing says ”Er …”

Necrothing walks my plank

never sure what turns it on or off

wears a thunder suit zipped up to its chin

POW! the prisoners of Necrothing’s war

Er … the sound of doubt


-X-X-X- < Necrostitches 9 > -X-X-X-X-X-X-

power things

wave

power puffs

in their

power rooms

straining their ears for the next Necronothing command

Necrothing leadeth me to

a free house

a dry house

a power house


the trick is to give Necrothing your allegiance

or get something over, on or up its thing

if I saw Necrothing’s chink

I could drive my blade home

Necrothing’s underbelly has a row of sore devices

I could latch on to one of those pink pouters

use this tongue to suck

THIS IS THE MOUTH

mine is the mouth made to suck

drink the experimental fluid

that’s how Necrothing made me –

experimentally

when the mud was

horsepower harnesses Necrothing’s jaw

speaks out for Necronight

Lights out Necrothing

Necrothing loves me I’m sure sure

Why else would hard edges welcome?

Why else would blocked hole flood?

Why else would no pleasure thrill?


ran away with Necrothing in a Necroboat

motor chugging power driver

choppy waters power surge

dull flippers power cut

Necrothing’s high power proximity

made each shift a shocker

powerful powerfulness powerfully

a forceful or powerful necroperson

or thing

powerless

powerlessly

powerlessness

Less Ness Abbey

I left Angela in the ruins

trapped inside a circle of boys on bikes

I ran back to her house on my rubber legs

down dusty summer holiday pavements

Necrothing let me in and showed me

THESE ARE THE EYES

my dad with Angela’s mum

she was bent over the oven

he had two fingers up her bum

Angela’s dad found out

I really missed playing with Angela

stripped off dancing in the bathroom

we compared our budding nips

she was black I was white

we enjoyed the demarcation

Necrothing is into me like a stomach-ache


THIS IS THE POWWOW

next-to-nothing with Necrothing

lent me power station powers

then I was a mushroom cloud

THIS IS THE EAR

of the kidnapped rich kid

never found out what the boys did with Angela

never even asked

I know you love me necrothingy

why else would you stay?

in the capacious Necrohours

(they are hard to fill)

I am

rubbing shoulders with Necrothing

I’ll do any thing

Necrothing has no regrets

I ask you

why should I?

Necrothing knows more about

places that don’t exist

than places that do

(I want the impossible)

Necrothing tells lies:

(I like it)

”darlin’, you won’t die”

Necrothing takes me to Necroland

where I want to go

POW!

ER!

Necrothing is an empty glove

Necrothing houses me

I fill Necrothing’s fingers

we wriggle with the power and the glory

for ever and ever

AH!

time is long and you are falling short

Penny Goring

Image: Penny Goring

Photo Fit

In Oxford the parks all shut at dusk, whatever time of year it is. So in winter Sal and I have them to ourselves for more than half the day. It’s easy enough to slip into the trees before the guards come round on their carts talking about football or how tea in this place stinks or how the bitch wouldn’t let me and it’s been five Saturdays in a row now, and we laugh at the snatches we hear and think how dull their lives are but at least they’re not as dull as the students who think they’ve got the future beat as a rock star, novelist or a Nobel Prize winner.

In the week we hang out in Christ Church Meadow because from there you can see the windows of what must be a hundred student rooms, and we lie on the grass and watch the lights go on and off and count the curtains still left to close and take videos of the ones that don’t, even if it’s only someone making coffee or looking out of the window because, you know, one day we might want to watch someone making coffee.

On weekends, like today, we go to parties like the one where we met. People are so easy to please when you turn up late with lots of drink. And when you stay till everyone else has emptied their stomachs in the sink and staggered back home or crumpled where they stood like the pissheads of Pompeii, and do a bit of shuffling with bottles, you find yourself on the eternal guestlist of the clueless minds.

Vodka, says Sal holding up two bottles jazz hands style.

Te—QUI—la, I say reaching two bottles around her.

A redhead wearing some kind of lamé dress squeals and ushers us in like her oldest friends in the world. We squeeze through to the front room on the left and on a formica topped table under the window we find the bar, where it invariably is at a student house party.

Sal pours shots for everyone and hands them round, dancing out the steps and smiles she’s learned by heart.

Things are already slowing down. Like the end of the Titanic when they’re all getting cold and the sea goes quiet and bodies start dropping off bits of debris without making even the sound of the surface of the water breaking. It’s easy to manoeuvre my way to the wall, moving arms and legs, anorexic backsides and spotty shoulders like placemats.

I watch her, like I watched her the first time. Same dress, same flicks of the head, succumbing to the same slow stiffness of the limbs. The room goes quiet around her till she crumples onto the sofa, the last piece of the anaesthetised jigsaw.

I’m so still no one even half-intoxicated would distinguish me from the furniture. No one moves but I know to stay here, to wait, to watch Sal breathing slow and shallow.

Eventually, movement. He wasn’t asleep, just marking time. Like I’d been doing the night we met. He tries to be quiet in that drunken, exaggerated way people have. Cautious within the bubble of his tunnel vision, but not really vigilant, not enough to spot me, blended with the cheap cigarette-stained wallpaper.

He approaches the sofa. He has stopped looking around. Doesn’t notice the click. Sees and hears nothing but Sal.

They go different parts of all the way, from a hand on the outside of her top to reaching out for a bottle and going the full Fatty Arbuckle.

But invariably they’re silent.

Just in case they wake anyone.

Except me. Sal said she chose me because I started quoting Henry Miller when I put my finger in her asshole. You wanted that more than you wanted not to wake me, she said. I said, you were already awake, and she said, yeah but you didn’t know and I came on your first word for that.

His first touch is light. Short. Testing. Tips of the fingers. If she moves, he’ll laugh and pretend he slipped. She doesn’t move. Of course she doesn’t. Then the full palm on her breast, through cloth. He leaves it there a good minute. Removes it. Lowers his head. Fingers lifting an edge of fabric. Looks, taking in skin. Doesn’t touch. He’s a shy one. Hand moves downward, settles briefly on her backside. Doesn’t linger. The dress is thin, loose, falls and clings, he feels every contour of her crotch, feels she has no underwear, feels the bar run through her left lip. Hand still. Taking it in. Thinking. Daring himself. Wants to look. Wants to touch. Lifts fabric, looks. Blinks like he’s taking a picture for an album.

And leaves.

I sit on the towpath south out of Oxford. There’s still an hour or so before sun-up and the laptop screen looks like a second reflection of the moon next to the silver canal.

Sal lies on the gravel beside me and I can’t tell if her eyes are open or closed, if she’s here with me or somewhere else, and if she is whether I’m there with her, and if someone’s touching her and if they are if that someone is me.

I ask her what she’s thinking, and wonder if I’m asking her, or the other Sal, wherever she is, and she says it’s cold, and I tell her I’ve finished and she says that’s great because, you know, one day she might want to watch,

Dan Holloway

Photo from: http://www.oxfordlight.co.uk/

Excerpt from POTENCY

 

 

 

 

When I get really lonely, I conjure up people from the old days. I have selective schizophrenia, if you like- it often comes in handy. Tonight, I imagine Colin sitting on the bed in my little square bedroom, reading over my latest rant. I probably would print it for him, willing to endure my father’s ink-cartridge-saving-wrath for the sake of aesthetics.

“Why the attack on Kate Bornstein?” He’d be smoking one of his ridiculous cigars; drinking, but not drunk. Loose tie, open shirt. Classy, cinematic, how I like to remember him; how he seemed at first. “Is it because she sort of snubbed you that night?”

I’d sigh. “I’ve never liked her. That particular night just solidified my opinion. Besides, why are you surprised? You know how I feel.”

“Rejected?” (Colin is always more perceptive in my fantasies.)

“There is no fucking revolution,” I’d say. “And if there is, it’s anything but cutesy.”

“Semantics,” Colin would stretch and yawn. “You know things are changing.”

“Not for me.”

He’d look up at me with pity. “Come here, Emo.”

“No.” It is a word children overuse. Psychologists say it is because it expresses individuality.

“Maybe she’s not perfect,” Colin would continue, looking back down at the papers, “but she’s old-“

“Age is a social construction!”

“-and she’s done a lot in her day. She’s not your enemy.” He’d rub his neck-beard wisely. “That’s the problem with Americans in general. We can’t have civil political debates. It’s always Us vs. Them, even when we’re fighting for the same cause. Besides, I’d think you’d be more worried about your Tea-Party neighbors there. And your boss too, right? Now that would be something I’d like to read about. Do they know about you at work yet?”

“Who cares. They aren’t writers…they don’t claim to be experts on my life. And besides, my neighbors have a nice cat.”

Colin hates cats.  “But obviously Kate has to keep her distance from fans–”

“I’m not a fan.”

“I know, and that’s your right. But let me finish. Just think about how you must have appeared, asking something so goddamn personal like that. Plus, she probably gets crazies begging her for help all the time. Think about how you’d be if you had that sort of power. Which, by the way, I know you want. I know you want lines of queer kids asking for your autograph and advice, and I know you’d turn them all away.” He’d laugh. “You’d be ten times ruder, too! You’re just mad because you wanted to rip the microphone out of her hand, didn’t you? You wanted to sing some ballads, Antony and the Johnsons-style. You wanted say it all happened to you too, but your story has more glamour!”

At this, I’d dive at him. “Go back to France then if you’re so clever!”

He’d just hold my wrists and laugh. “Come stay with me,” he’d say. “She’s right, you know. A patient lover is what you need.”

“No,” I’d say. “What I need is- “

He’d kiss me, hard, and silence me like the old days. We’d make out for a while, but then, when least opportune, I’d turn away and curl up on the bed in my smug fetal position. He’d sigh and evaporate; it’s not like he hasn’t plenty others to haunt.

I could relive that moment a million times. Denying him was ecstasy- no one since has compared. I pull my knees tight to my chest, clench my jaw, and press my bony ass to the wall. Impenetrable. Take that, world!

***

Work ended early tonight because of the snow. I hung back in the parking lot to smoke, long after the librarians left. I don’t want to mess with their image of me as the ageless, virginal, boy-next-door. But I’m not the kind of virgin who goes on a killing spree in Arizona or collects comic books of Japanese porn. I’m the virgin one wishes their sixteen year old daughter would date. I’m the boy who will make a great English professor and an even better father. I’m a regular Clark Kent in my trendy, oversized glasses. I graduated from the local high school, but I’m going places. I’m intellectual but trustworthy. Even my name is all-American. You can tell by the look in my eyes, the heady books I check out, my polite demeanor with elderly patrons…I’m a real boy scout. A sighting of me with a cigarette could ruin all of that.

It feels like I’m constantly under threat of exposure. I know that sounds melodramatic, but it’s a hard feeling to shake. It’s as if, somehow, my self-esteem got tangled up in my anxiety. “Stay vigilant! You’re too pretty, it isn’t allowed! Someone’s gonna get you!”

Someday I’ll leave this behind. For what, I don’t know, but the day is coming. Out here in the countryside, beyond the motor homes and the golf courses, it’s something of a miniature Siberia. The expanses of barren marshes, too waterlogged for housing developments…the buzzing, dangerous telephone wires. Out here, I am truly alone with my conscience. Great.

I watch the snow falling and again, I wince and wonder.  What would Kate Bornstein have said, had we been alone? Would we have exchanged the gory details, the half-recollections, the self-pitying fuel of the past? Or would we have known better? And suddenly, I’m glad she shut me up. I still don’t like her books (or her outfits), but she reminded me what’s important. If there’s one thing every young artist and gender outlaw should know, it is what and when to conceal. The mystery- that’s our power. That’s what will save us from this dump.

Elliott Deline

Image: Elliott Deline

Now Wash Your Hands

Take a final drag from your cigarette,

Before you let the bitch have it.

Summon the strength, the necessary power

To do the job. Kick down her door.

………….

Think of your anger, rising within.

Make her the cause of all your pain.

Look at her snivelling, sneering expression.

Tonight you’re going to teach her a lesson

………….

She’ll never forget. Concentrate.

Force her to look at you square in the face.

Next on the cheek you once gently kissed,

Accurately plant your fist.

…………..

Pull her towards you by the roots of her hair.

If she is screaming then do not hear.

See how her blood turns your hands red,

How strands of her hair stick to the blood.

…………

Throw her down, onto the floor.

This is all she was ever good for.

Kick her, hard, in the small of her back

Till her body goes limp as if she’d been fucked.

………….

Step back for a moment. Check she’s not dead.

Go in for one last punch in the head.

Ask her if this time she understands

Who’s boss. Now wash your hands.

Photo: Alice In Graffiti Land by Caroline Hagood

Quick Brown Fox


By the time he had pulled up to her townhouse he was drunk off a quarter-bottle of tequila, the cheap stuff, and a warm beer that he had chugged while eating a plate of eggs over the sink crowded with dishes, eggs the way he always ate them, heavy with salt and hot sauce.  The street she lived on, the manufactured boulevard for the manufactured homes lining it, was just that: fake—fake wrought-iron lampposts made to look like actual candles aflutter inside dispersed at intervals, fake shutters on all the windows of the condominiums, fake labels on the clothes and fake smiles on those wearing them.

He walked up to the door and before he had a chance to ring or knock, he wasn’t sure which he would do, there she was, the tiny thing, standing in the doorway wearing a skirt—a short skirt, a shirt—a tight shirt, and a smile—a forced smile (for she didn’t really know what to expect, since they had only met online that day), and he greeted her in semi-slurred speech, composing himself (trying to, at least), studying her body, watching her as she studied him.  She smiled, greeted back, they even shook hands (why not), and she invited him in and offered him a beer (which he said yes to) and he watched her (small, tiny, even) walk to the fridge, seemingly drunk herself, watched her as she bent over to look for a can or a bottle, he wasn’t sure what she would produce.  Her hair, her long, dark hair twisted in little lanyards down her back, seemed to double her size (for she was small, tiny, even), and she came back with two cans, two silver cans, handing one over and smiling nervously. She was older than him, this girl, by six years, so something in him snapped and he felt no fear, not like this, not here, so he asked her: “Are you drunk? ”

She smiled, caught off guard, and popped her can open: “A bit, yes.”

“Me too,” he said and felt no shame in saying it.  They drank in awkward silence, watching each other, undressing, more likely, and soon she offered to show him around, show him her place, which he took great delight in.  She had a bedroom—large, a bathroom—small, a dog—annoying, and heaps of clothes piled everywhere.  He especially took notice in the bedroom, of the bed, of the size of it, imagining throwing her down on it, having his way with her, and he could tell, smell, even, where this night was going, so he plotted, plotted for no other reason than he could, determined to make it so.

They soon left, at her suggestion (not wanting to give in to him just yet, even though, in her mind, she already had, twice), and drove to a bar, a local bar filled with locals, finding a table in the corner, away from everyone, judging them, leering and laughing. They ordered beers, cheap beers, and talked nervously, checking their phones, engaging in the niceties typically afforded to first date conversations (where, when, how, why), all the while getting drunker, getting fresher, reaching out to touch her hand, her leg, telling her how beautiful she was, watching her drink, get drunk, feigning ignorance in such matters, pushing her back and letting him watch her, fuck her in his mind.  Two beers ,three, then four were drunk each.

The waitress, a homely girl who seemed to sense it being a first date, kept them coming, kept them drunk and happy, and they, he and her, found her more charming as the night wore on.  Eventually, though, talk came to sex, as talks usually do, and they said what they liked and didn’t like, but mostly in generalities, not wanting to give away their secrets just yet, but even still a warmth spread between them, through them, and they knew what was coming, what they hoped would come, what they had already pictured in their minds since their encounter at the door earlier that evening. So when the time came, they decided to leave, to take it back to her place (her suggestion), since it was, after all, so close.

At the car something happened in him again, something ferocious he couldn’t explain nor cared to, so he pounced, leapt, even, touching and rubbing, furiously grinding his lips against hers, and then, as if it was predestined, he told her to undress, told her to remove her skirt, and so she did, right there in the car. They pulled out of the parking lot and he told her, demanded, that she play with herself, touching and prodding, fingering, and so she did, she obliged, that tiny little thing, and he grew hungry, fetidly hungry, told her to go deeper, longer, become louder, and she said, in spasmed breaths, that she wanted him.

“I want you,” she said.

“I know,” he said, mostly because he didn’t know what else to say, but it was true, that he knew it, and he could tell the moment he picked her up, the moment he looked in her brown eyes, so he said it.

They pulled up to her house and she half-attempted to cover herself, pulling her skirt down as she walked from his car at the curb to her front door, her ass still hanging out, and his mind, it went crazy, not just because of the beers, the drunk rattling inside him, because of the possibilities she seemed to encourage him to explore. And that hunger, it kept on growing.  They sat on the couch and kissed and he told her, matter-of-fact, to stand up and undress, so she did, did it as if it was her sole purpose in life, and he loved it, loved that she did what he told her, right when he said it, so when she was naked, standing there, wanting him, and he, wanting her but waiting, holding off, she, the tiny thing, he told her to get on the ground and crawl toward him, like a dog, so she did.  She got back, near the television—a flat screen, near the chair—a La-Z-Boy, near stacks of books—vampire novels, and got down, on all fours, and she crawled, crawled like she knew no other way of mobility, and he sat there, eating it up, soaking in it, touching himself in anticipation, and when she reached him, and begged him, he finally gave in, but under his terms, and he fucked her, his way, and she went along with it, being told what to do, and they fucked and screwed that night, she not saying a thing unless told to, not coming unless given the command, writhing on top of him, writhing below him, taking him as he wanted it, when he wanted it, how he wanted it, until there was nothing left to give.

So they laid there, on the floor, worn out and covered in sweat, covered in those first date promises now broken, fantasies broken free and now spread over them both, and she cuddled up to him there and he let her, for the time being, her small head with the great mass of her resting on his chest, thinking about what happened, how he had taken her, how he had made her his own, how this man, a man she didn’t know (a stranger, really, since they had only met online that day), had become privy now to all her secrets—even the protected ones, the dark one, the ones no one else knew.  And he lay there, that man, wondering when—to leave, how—to say goodbye, why—he must go, and she stood, smiling (fake, forced smiling) and went to the bathroom.  She kept the lights dim and she looked at herself in the mirror, her face and her body caricatured by the shadows, her tiny, small body bruised and used, manhandled and taken, and even though she smiled at herself as if she approved, as if she had invited it—this man, this sly man, this night, this night of firsts—into her life, there was something else forming inside her, a coldness that began to spread and she too wondered when—enough was enough, how—to stop it, all of it, why—she let this happen, and suddenly, she hated what she saw.

Robert James Russell

Photo: Chris Floyd

The Unified Three Year Product Trajectory

I don’t do what I do for the view. And at the end of the day not even for the cash, although I do have plans. I do what I do, because He was a simple carpenter, plying his trade for 15 years. Building things. That’s the secret message of the scripture, if you ask me.

But that is a nice view. No snow, except high on the mountains of course. Would be a nice day to take the bike out. But it’s an even nicer day to be here at Qteqk, building things.

I kind of ‘turn up’ at a meeting. That turns some heads. I fill up my water glass and say ‘Hi’ to everyone and find a window ledge to perch on. Meg will introduce me in a second. I take a quick sniff of the room. Some old dogs here, and some young scrubs who worked their way up from tech support. Meg lets them finish up their current spat: something minor about which protocol to support. It’s clear they have no framework to settle these debates. And that Meg knows that, but she is in too deep, too long in the manure.

She’s smart, though. Perhaps a little ruthless. Borderline deceptive if this goes on much longer with her not telling everyone the new sheriff is not only in town…he’s in the goshdarn room!

Meetings going okay. Lots of listening. Then letting them know I am listening. Eventually I get the question, the frustrated demand that I lay my cards on the table and say what I am going to do, what changes I am going to make.

“We are going to take the same brains we have now. We are going to take the same tech we have now. Here’s what we’ll do different. We’ll imagine there was no yesterday. We’ll imagine that all that matters is who wants to buy from us tomorrow. Because frankly, that is true. There is no yesterday. The people of yesterday are gone…I can’t sell to them.”

I bring in Yvonne Carpenter. Yvonne and I go back a ways. Back at IBM, we ran a pretty tight unit. She’s 20 years younger than me, but if I may say so, she had a good mentor!

I take her for a tour so she can shake hands with everyone.

“They’ve never had a Senior Project Clarification Officer here before, Yvonne. It’s shaking things up you just being here. But I got your back, you know that.”

Yvonne chats away for a little bit. I let her talk and run off her nerves. Once she gets past those nerves, she’ll be ready for the big time. That’s my goal for her: get her to a level of ‘cool’ where she doesn’t seem such a girl anymore. Ha… maybe she’ll stop wearing those crazy short skirts then!

I meet the German guy. He is possessed with –dare I say it – demonic energy. He got off the ‘plane an hour ago and I can practically see his trail of destruction as I head to our meeting. Cubicles with people typing way too hard. Corridor meetings with flickering suspicious glances all around. Gupta tearing up his MS Project that he keeps next to the picture of his lovely young wife.

Bernhard and I go at it, in a fashion. I explain that the tech group does good work, but that over here in head office we have been sending confusing and outdated market signals. That changes now.

He explains what ‘marketing’ is to me. I keep an even stare on his face. Red hair. Very primitive looking sometimes…on certain skull types. I used to surf. Sometime the swell rises to a point you can’t believe. You look down on this foaming screaming mess and you have to stay calm. You got up here, and you will surely go back down again. So yell away, Bernhard.

But then Meg comes in the room. From her perspective I am sitting placidly while the little German guy rips me a new one. She looks over at me with a hint of uncertainty. Then he looks at her like he would like to literally eat her. She shivers, I think.

New hire, not hired by me but reporting to me. A bit strange, but there you go. I take him out for lunch. With a beer, why not. Bending the rules a little bit, I suppose.

He agrees that the burgers are good here. Oh, come on! They are the best.

He won’t commit to an answer on that.

It’s a hard couple of weeks forging my product plan. The New guy, Keith, is an excellent Subject Matter Expert. I lock the three of us: Keith, Yvonne, and I in my office for three hard days. We have a vision.

I only have one doubt. Someone corners Keith and breaks him: asks him to define our goals. Maybe even in good faith: they just want him to inspire them. He couldn’t do it, could he?

They could get me through him. Not that it is about me. But by me I mean the Unified 3-year Product Trajectory.

“Got a book for you, Keith.”

He thanks me. Even calls me boss, which he didn’t have to do. I see that he is a bit wary when he reads the subtitle of the book.

“Don’t worry! It’s not a religious text! It’s a book I learned a lot from. Look at it this way. Even if you were an atheist – and I don’t know if you are. But as you know I am a lay minster in training. But I ‘get’ atheists, probably more than they do in some ways. But anyway even if you were an atheist…maybe MORESO if you were…you have to admit that one little Jewish guy in Galilee set up one hell of an organization.”

I walk him through part of the book that I want him to get. Not about Jesus. I don’t give a hoot about Keith’s faith (which he is really quiet about now, in my opinion.) It’s about Authority.

“Jesus had no power. I have no power. Sure I can – y’know FIRE you [ha!]. But how does that get you to work better, harder, follow the vision? That’s coercion, and it never gets more than the minimum grudging compliance. I don’t want compliance. I want enthusiasm – to be filled with the spirit.

“How do I get that? How do You get that from those around you whose souls we need in our camp? You do it by serving. That’s what the title is about. The greatest leader is the greatest servant.”

I slap him on his muscular back and I leave him to soak that up a little. Betsy is waiting on me at home. She hasn’t been getting much ‘love’ lately!

I bring something good up from the cellar. After dinner we walk and look at the mountains, holding hands. We talk a little bit about our ministry. Only three years to go!

She asks me if I will miss business. Flights to weird places. Putting out fires. Measurable success.

“Sure, I say. But to everything there is a season.”

Someone laughed at me during a meeting today

Someone closed their email real fast when I came in their cube. I just wanted to talk about the Chiefs game. He’s the Chiefs fan, not me. Frankly I couldn’t really give a hoot.

Meg flies out to Germany tomorrow. Really it should be me, but then again I am kind of buried. She trusts me to run the shop.

“Because you see the big picture. That’s important. You don’t just come in and start cleaning everybody’s shoes. The shoe-shine guy is not the CEO. You have to show your knowledge of the big picture and your absolute desire to serve. Only then do you become The Authority. It’s a double meaning see.

“You can trust me on this because I have been doing it for 20 years and as you can see it is working fine for me.

“I don’t do this for the view, but you can see right here that not a lot of people have a view like this.”

We watch a big front of snow coming in for a while.

Why is he so scared? I need to find the fear in him.

Yvonne come in the room. He lightens up a little. She’s more his age: that makes sense.

This is good. We have the core of a tight team here. I just need to get the other guys on board. I have fifteen direct reports now. And we are a long way from a first major victory. This is the dangerous time. A hungry time.

I have a nickname now. Not one I care for. “Chief Shoeshine Officer.” But at least I have a friend who forwarded that to me.

Meg is not supportive.

She is tired. I think she does prescription drugs. She is so thin and frail that she is hard to look at.

She tells me all about how powerful Bernhard is and how it is best to just follow along with him until we get that first big win under her belt.

I’m straight with her: we will never get that big win if we do things the Bernhard way.

She is okay if he drags us down. Then we strike while he is weak.

I don’t think she understands strength and weakness.

“I didn’t come here to fail, Meg. Not at this level. Bernhard will kill us if we follow your plan.”

She looks out the window. Windows are very dangerous things.

“Just a quick drink.”

Soon we are both drunk. Well, that’s what I think anyway! Seems that way. I crack a joke about how we almost went in that bar with the rainbow cowboy neon sign thing.

“So. How are we doing? What about this goddamn German, huh?”

I can’t get inside this guy’s head. He won’t say a single thing out of turn.

“Did you read the book?”

He did. He says he thinks it is pretty cool. He thinks it is very interesting,

“Eternal life is very interesting,” I let him know. “A flower in eternal life is greater than a galaxy here in dream life.”

I wake up and I remember saying that.

I can’t get out of bed that day.

Betsy makes the call.

Engineers are working on things I never heard of. Sales people got PowerPoints from heaven in their email.

This is a significant challenge to me. I call my capos in: Yvonne and Keith.

“Look,” I say. “Bernhard has blown it. The board want order. Not this chaos. You don’t tolerate Germans and all of their bullcrap to get chaos. You want order. That’s why you have a German. And do you know why you have your Americans?”

They are quiet.

But Yvonne knows. I give her a wink.

“DREAMS!”

I have started the process. A meeting will happen where Bernhard’s ideas will meet my ideas. Meg okayed it. Yvonne and Keith are putting together some magical stuff. Magical. I go in the team room with Y&K and I just kind of let it happen. I give them the freedom. The trust. They know I am going to be behind them 100%. They just have to dream it. Bernhard and his team of…Eurocrats… they are just puppets. Machines.

I bring the guys donuts and coffee. Yvonne is massaging Keith’s shoulders and his eyes are closed. They are both wearing similar shirts. Very silky, sort of clingy. Her eyes are not closed. She is looking down at him. Very attentive.

“Easy, guys!”

“You know what we should do. All of us. The whole team.”

I don’t really wait to let them guess. I am lousy at waiting.

“Whitewater rafting!”

They laugh but then I jump on the desk and I act it out: beating the waves down, shouting out orders to the left and the right.

We make it home. Beautiful hot red valley takes us home slow.

They dig it!

I visit Meg in hospital.

She asks me not to tell anyone.

“There’s nothing to tell, Meg. They all know you. The real you.”

She laughs a kind of dry laugh. Dry like fiberglass.

She says that Bernhard has worn her down.

I say that he is nothing. He’s old news. We have the plan and the team.

She says that he has broken her heart and burned up her body.

She says that.

She really says that.

But she promises that things will be okay. The board finally found a CEO. He is coming in a few weeks time. He is coming to judge the good ideas and the bad. She believes in my ideas.

I guess I fell asleep in that chair in the hospital. I wake up and they are sponging her down. I leave. It’s hard to tell what her body is made of anymore.

Betsy is not happy.

“She needed someone. What would the Lord have done?”

She tells me she doesn’t care about that. But she has a bad feeling. Like I should never have left IBM.

Frankly, I roar at her. She looks scared like she hasn’t for years: since I was a young dumb kid. Lord, what did she see in me then, practically godless: no more than an ape?

Thank you Lord.

I raid the cellar again and again. Soon I am calling it ZE BUNKER! I am doing Hitler salutes in the kitchen and shouting SIEG HEIL! SIEG HEIL!

I ‘make’ her drink. Although how do you make someone drink. I don’t pour it down her neck.

You can’t make anyone do anything.

Even Jesus can’t do that. That’s what this whole fucking 4000 year mess is all about.

Sorry.

All my troops are in the room.

Bernhard has done his preso. It was very backward looking, and I let him know it.

“Keith, our deck please.”

Keith has the flash drive. The PowerPoint opens.

In a few simple phrases we define the market, the channels and the only gap…a product we could easily make if we stopped doing Bernhard’s nonsense.

Bernhard says I am living in a dream. He starts throwing deep tech words around. He starts talking about how my product is made of unicorn tears.

I let him talk. But then I remember how he embarrassed me before. I have to shut him down.

“Bernhard. You had your chance. You took this company nowhere. Your role now is to execute. The vision is set here. We will give you everything you need to execute well. But please… for Lord’s sake… stop thinking.”

I have won.

Then he looks at Meg. It is like he has a remote control in his pants. Meg says…

You know I can’t remember what she says. I just remember how everyone looks at me as they leave the room and I stack papers. Papers so thin you can see through them.

Bernhard invites us all out for a drink.

It’s not even a mind-game. He only fights for the fight. No malice, no goal. He does not want power: it simply is him.

What to do?

Lord. What to do?

“Betsy, I have one advantage. Territory. When the new CEO arrives he is going to want to throw all of these ideas out the door anyway. All I need to do is show the CEO that I command Headquarters. Meg is a ghost. All I need to do is get the guys behind me. Just have a really tight team of my direct reports that can execute fast.”

I can’t wait until rafting season. I rent a lodge in the mountains. Time for the off-site.

Betsy comes in my room during the night. I ask her for a massage but she says her hands are hurting. So I try to massage her but she says she doesn’t want that. She just wants to hug.

The hug is sucking energy from me. I break away.

Betsy understands. But does she?

She is not invited to the offsite.

I plant hints all week for my big team.

It is going to be awesome.

This is where the new Qteqk is born.

And fun! I have so much meat to take up. My brother in law is a butcher.

I pick up Yvonne. She squeezes in next to Keith.

“I have driven through worse than this!” I say.

But that is an absolute lie. It is so white and so silent on those mountain roads that I have absolutely no idea how I could tell if we died.

No-one else makes it.

Keith hopes no one had an accident.

“Oh really?” I say, sarcastically. Yvonne looks p.o.-ed.

The lodge is frozen up. We grab blankets and sleeping  bags and head back to the meeting room, where there is heat. We put down sleeping bags and play movies through the overhead projector.

I have enough meat for an army. We get a little fire going and cook it. Slowly. We are all sweating. Yvonne keeps bringing us drinks.

“We can do this,” I say.

I never figured out Yvonne’s ethnicity. So I ask her.

She says she is white but funny looking.

“Keith can we do this?” I ask.

Keith is sprawled on the floor. He says that in all honesty he thinks we are screwed. And that he has burned a lot of bridges.

“So you think I am on my way out?”

Keith says that he does. But I sense sadness in him.

“Keith and Yvonne, you both make 120 thousand dollars. I can make that 150 with my little BlackBerry right here. No need for approvals. Can’t be reversed.”

I have their attention.

“And I will do that for you. If you prove…that I had your loyalty and I have your loyalty now. You have to show me that I have your loyalty.”

They look at each other.

“Show me something.”

And now I am watching them.

They are going so slow.

He’s just crushing her into nothing. And she is looking at the fire.

And she clenches her mouth and I look down and… well of course she is clenching her mouth.

Of course she is.

But she should look at that.

If that is going to happen, she should look at it.

I have my hand coiled in a rope of sausages.

The door opens suddenly.

A man walks in. Olive skinned. Long haired. Bearded. Untouched by the snow. Glowing. Gleaming. He sees us. He sees what we are doing. I see the wounds in his hands.

With the sausages’ wet meat I shield myself and I kneel before him and I say “Let me serve you, master let me serve you.”

Before coming to Qteqk, he ran a spaghetti company.

On the way to the mountains, he blew out a tire and had to change it in a blizzard.

There will be no ministry.

Betsy does not come back to our home.

At the end of the day it was just work stress, alcohol abuse and a little kinky trip. Not worth killing yourself for.

I sell half of our past. It gets me a small amount of future.

At no point can I see a decision that I made that was all about me.

So I don’t think about forgiveness.

Marc Horne

Image: Beth Anderson http://elisabethanderson.com/