Chapter Four: Home Is No Haven, And It Sure Ain’t Heaven

Joel stepped off the bus to the clap of thunder. It was so sudden and so unexpected that he almost missed the last step and tripped. He caught himself with the door and was able to right himself, but not before he gave his ankle a turn. It wasn’t bad, but it wouldn’t make his four block walk any easier.

He got himself out of traffic and started for home. It was well past dark, and overcast, so there was no moon and there were no stars or planets disguised as stars visible. The street lamps reflected off the glistening streets and the parked cars lining the street in a steady string sparkled with drops of water. Between the street and the street lamps, a fine fog-like mist hovered and seemed to pulsate as he walked past one light and toward another. It was eerily quiet.

He took a moment to stop beside a tree for support and worked his strained ankle in circles to try to work out the looseness that had resulted from his near spill getting off the bus. He grimaced, thinking that perhaps it was injured worse than he first expected. It was the same ankle that he had turned over years and years ago while trying out for his high school soccer team, and ever since that day, it had been prone to injury much more readily than the other.

Sad part about it was that he really didn’t even like soccer when he tried out for the team. He’d wanted to impress a particular young lady who did like soccer, so, naturally, he tried out for soccer to gain some sort of favor with her. That didn’t work, but he eventually got the girl after all. He was heading home to her now. Turns out, she liked him already because he was a science whiz and she loved science.

He’d definitely have to get it looked after… again.

He started home again, moving much more gingerly and hobbling a pace and in such a manner that he didn’t flex his ankle. He’d gotten used to walking like that over the years, as the injury recurred frequently enough for him to utilize the method at least once every 3 years. What he found ironic was that he didn’t turn it while walking on and slipping and sliding on ice for half the day.

The sky lit for a second, a dull obscured flash blanketed by thick clouds, and a gentler rumble followed.

It gave Joel a sense of uneasiness. To have icy rain for three quarters of the day after two weeks of steady rain, then to have the threat of a thunder storm over night was curious to say the least. At times of late, he really wished he were a meteorologist or a climatologist, because, to him and his elementary knowledge of the subject, it seemed that the rules of those disciplines were being rewritten right before the eyes of the world. It had to be a fascinating field of study right now, particularly when you delved into the finer points and the more advanced concepts that they rested upon.

While most people excepted that the world’s climate was changing, and that the primary cause, or at least a close secondary cause, was the excessively bad stewardship of the human race in their endeavors to improve their lives—or at least to improve the lives of the upper 1 percent of the humans. Those who were the wealthiest, most powerful, most politically connected, most ruthless in attaining what they wanted, consequences be damned. They, the architects and designers of the engine of destruction known as ‘progress,’ were more than happy to send the world into chaos and oblivion for the sake of their bottoms lines and financial portfolios stuffed with the fruits of exploitation and criminal conduct left unchecked.

Sometimes, especially when he had a chance to walk and think without distraction, he resented being a part of a society that had all but driven themselves to the brink of disaster while, in reality, doing nothing to improve the human condition. Most people thought that technological advancement was synonymous with improving the human condition, but for every advance that people made, ten set backs usually cropped up somewhere along the way, albeit well after the society had become utterly dependent upon the advance. Some people posited that it wasn’t the technology that was the blame, but what people did with it once they developed it.

Joel didn’t subscribe to that point of view either. Most of the advances existed only to suit the ends of the elite, which was to profit from the false necessity that they imbued their products. And always, always, the motive was pure profit.

He was no Luddite. He was not against technology. It was just the wasteful nature of it that he despised. It was the rampant ultra-consumerism that it fathered that he abhorred. All of that meant waste. All of that meant the destruction of the natural states of the world, not the productive, conservative exploitation thereof.

He shook his head and had to laugh. No doubt, his thoughts, if he had voiced them aloud, would have echoed those words his mentor had spoken half a zillion times. A man of great passion and compassion, who fell victim to his own passions, unseemly as they were.

He didn’t like to think of him that way, but he couldn’t help it. He had felt so betrayed to have looked up to someone so esteemed in his profession, and so envied by others, only to have that person do what he did. And how worse it got the deeper authorities dug. In the end, the person whom they unmasked hardly seemed like the person he had known and respected and learned the tricks of the trade under. A pedophile sex offender who had fathered several children with girls who weren’t much more than children themselves. Implicated in the death of a girl years and years ago who, too, was pregnant by him at the time of her death.

Thunder rolled and shook the ground.

He hadn’t seen him in a few months. He decided that he had to do so one day soon.

Of course, the whole affair had strained his own marriage. Joel remembered how incensed Jennine became when she learned of the horrible things that Rey had done. The thought that she had hosted someone like that on many, many occasions made her question his own decision making process, since he would not abandon Rey and would not leave his company. She went through the whole spiel about Joel respecting Rey and feeling obligated to him more than he loved her and her desires.

They had weathered the storm, barely. However, in a very un-Nietzsche result, what didn’t kill the relationship certainly didn’t make it stronger. It was terminal from that affliction and daily, it died a little more. Some would call it dead already, like a brain-dead comatose victim who was still breathing and ‘living’ by aid of mechanical means, but all that had made it truly alive and vital was long, long gone.

Miserably, all he had gotten out of the past fifteen years of knowing her (and it turned out that he didn’t really know her at all) was a perpetually bad ankle.

At last he made it to his doorstep. He lived in a row home that was very typical of the area. It was made of red brick with two stories and a drive-in garage that occupied much of the ground level. It had a front lawn that used to be well cared for, but the year’s weather conditions and water use restrictions that limited the watering of the lawn had reduced it to a brown patch. And the constant rain over the past two plus weeks had reduced the brown patch to mire.

He lingered outside, trying his damnedest to convince himself it was to enjoy the crisp, cool air, and to give his ankle a few moment’s rest. But it was a lie, and he knew it. The fact is, he did not look forward to the idea of stepping through the door and going through the same old stock routine that they’d been going through for the past three to four years. Small talk was good for strangers in strange situations, but it was a living hell for a man and his wife, who’d been together as a couple for fifteen years, married for ten of those years. And, as the years rolled by with ever increasing speed, it was getting close to have their married lives that they haven’t been happy, or at the very least, civil.

Just as he was about to turn to go inside, steeling himself against yet another lonely night in the presence of his love-turned-stone, his mobile phone rang.

He thanked whomever it was calling, as that gave him an excuse to loiter outside for a few more minutes. Jennine hated for him to take business calls at home, and while they didn’t necessarily get along very well very much anymore, he didn’t go out of his way to antagonize her. In fact, he still went out of his way to try to do anything other than antagonize her. Unsuccessfully, as she had long ago made a final declaration in her head that nothing he did, however well meaning, could satisfy her.



He was truly shocked. "Minerva?!"

"Yes, you remembered!"

As if she was going to let him forget.

"What is it, hun?"

She giggled. "I like the way you call me hun."

"I call everyone hun, hun."

"Oh." She sounded disappointed, but she perked up immediately. "I am sorry to bother you, but…ummm… can I ask you something?"

"Sure. What is it?"

"Are you going to the "Reject Biofuel" rally this weekend?"

"No, I hadn’t planned on it. Why?"

"Oh, I was just wondering."

"Are you going?"


"Yes, you. I think it’ll be a good experience for you if you do decide to go."


"Certainly. When I was your age, I went to a lot of rallies and demonstrations. There was an awakening to the true state of the world at that time, and a lot of people got fed up with rising fuel prices, increased incidence of childhood asthma and other medical morbidities associated with the environments degradation. It really was a time of great change in the way we look at the world. And a lot of good things came from that time too. But Americans are lazy and forgetful and things soon regressed, not quite as far back as they had been before, but people got lax and the greedy corporations went back to doing a lot of things they had before the public caught on to the fad of environmentalism. Yeah, it was a great experience for me."

"Wow. I think I will go. And you know what?"


"That’s the most you ever said to me. Usually, you say, "Yes." "No." "Hmph." "Huff""

Joel laughed, because he knew it was true. "Well…I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, so I probably haven’t been the most engaging. I’ll work on that."

"It’s okay. I still love you. Boss."

There’s that word again. Love.

"Well, thanks."

"Do you love me?"

"I love all my employees."

She gaped. The intake of air could be heard preceding her squeal. "Does that mean I’m hired?"

He smiled. "As soon as the paper work clears. Get it in soon."

"I will! Thanks, boss, you are the ruddiest!"

Ruddiest => ruddy => bloody => blood => stuff of life => keeps you alive


"Bye, boss."

"Bye, kid."

She giggled as she hung up.

The conversation actually gave him the strength and the will to finally enter the house. And, most unusually, he was smiling when he did so.


Unto the Living Earth © 2007 Walter R. Milton