Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Month: February, 2011

Ariel’s Story #8 – Captive

     I did not understand him at first. And once I understood, I refused to believe. But his words forced me to look closer and I saw that it was no small object the man held in the water. It was a head. I strained my eyes and could see that Sume (yes, I recognized her) was submerged in the fetid pool up to her nostrils. Her eyes were barely open, seeming to collapse on themselves with fatigue.
     “What the fu-”
     “Would you like to be a part of her?” the man was asking. “Would you like to join with the Husband and be a part of the blessed Bride, lovely and free? I can show you how.”
     “Show me how? But, she’s trapped, can’t you see?”
     “Whatever do you mean?”
     “Why, I mean that man there. He’s holding her head under the water!”
     The man smiled. It was a smile without mirth and as full of condescension as the pool was full of filth. “I suppose to your eyes it may seem that way. But that is how the Husband shows his love to Sume. What do you think it would be like if the Bride just ran about, galavanting around like some harlot? He controls and restrains her because of the love he has for her.”
     “But why does he need to do that? I thought … I mean. I was at the dinner. I saw her cleaned!”
     “Indeed, she is clean. Would you like to join her?”
     I looked out over the filthy pool. Sorrow pierced me. For Sume was far from clean. Only the crown of her head was unsullied from the water. I was sad because I had once seen her so clean and happy. I was sad because I had once seen her so free. I was sad because I had never thought the Husband would restrain her in such an unnatural way. I was sad because the pool was a dirty as ever. I was sad, finally, because it looked as though Sume offered nothing new. Just the same filth that this pool had always offered.
     I knelt, at the bidding of the man with me, as he led me in a prayer tethering myself to the Husband out there in the water. I could not think of anything else to do.

     I did not sleep that night. The moon was bright and high in the sky. It illumined everything but cast no reflection on the pool, as it was too dirty to relfect anything. All it did was consume, it seemed. It consumed the light from the moon and turned it into filth.
     I gazed out from my place by the water. I stared at the Man and his Wife. I think I wept a little. There he stood, staring at nothing, it seemed, holding that beautiful woman under the water. Why? What had she done? I felt a burning urge inside of me. I had to know.
     As silently as I could, I slipped into the water. It’s oily coldness made me shiver and a few of my companions stirred. I slowly strode out toward the center of the pool, the water reaching up to my waist. I was afraid that the ripples I was making would alert the Man of my approach (I did not wish to talk to him) but he paid me no mind. As I came close I found myself wondering if he were blind or deaf, as he never shifted his gaze.
     I was close enough to touch, now. I bent down and spoke to Sume.
     “Ho, can you hear me?”
     Her eyes flitted open and she turned them on me. Those blessed green eyes. I remembered seeing them so full of love and wildness and passion. Now they were nearly asleep.
     “What happened to you?” I asked her. She struggled. I thought she was trying to say something. I placed my hand on the hand that was holding her in the water. It was ice cold and strong. I tried to lift it. It was like moving a rock. But together I was able to give her another inch and her mouth, filthy as it was, rose above the surface. She was able to utter two words before the Man’s strength pushed her back into the pool.
     “Save me.”

Here’s Lookin’ At You, Kid

I forgot it was Valentine’s Day. Did you? Did you get in trouble for it?

I didn’t.

I forget about a lot of special days. I didn’t always. But now I do. And I think I’m starting to understand why.

There are three main days that will earn a man a harsh reproof if he forgets them. Birthdays, Anniversaries and Valentine’s Day. Most men will start nodding now and remember the chastisement they received last time they forgot one of these days. But, when it comes down to it, most men forget these days far less often than I do.

These days serve as pegs on the calendar. Reminders of our duty to affection and mutual comfort. And, without these days, I guess a lot of couples would go through the year living more as roommates than lovers. So it makes sense that men are punished for forgetting these days.

But I can’t remember them. And I’ll tell you why.

My wife bursts with affection. Not sometimes. Not occasionally. All the time. She oozes with it. She couldn’t hide it if she tried. And her wild affection and love and empathy with me expresses itself in ways that boggle the mind. So, instead of making some ham-handed list of what I love about Ruth (as if my love for her was conditional on anything) I’m going to share a wild list of the ways that Ruth displays her love. And that may be what I love the most.

  • She hugs every chance she gets. When I leave. When I get home. When we sleep. When we’re walking. When we’re sitting. She’s gotta touch.
  • She tries to like everything I like. And she tries hard. She tries so hard that she’s the only girl I know who likes anime, video games, paper-and-dice RPGs, and action/sci-fi/horror films. She can’t like everything I like, but she’ll try her best because everything she takes on is one more thing we have in common.
  • Her affection does not change. When we disagree on politics and religion, her affection stays the same. When we are ill or tired, her affection is the same. When the kids are going crazy and the house feels like an asylum, she will still take a moment to sit on the couch and get/receive affection.
  • She says nice things about me. An ego-boost to be sure. And proof that I am on her mind. Sometimes I feel like I’m her favorite movie – she just can’t stop talking about me!
  • She takes offenses against me as worth approximately 3.67x greater than offenses against herself. It’s easy, you see, for her to forgive when people wrong her. But should someone dare to wrong me, be warned!
  • She refuses to let me go to work without food. This is interesting, because there is usually food at work that I’m free to eat. Decent food, too. But that’s not good enough for Ruth! If her husband is going to eat, he’s going to eat well!
  • She empathizes.
  • She dances with me, whether people are watching or not.
  • She lets me be a silly, unconventional, bombastic, slightly-more-than-slighty-unstable person.
  • She laughs at me when I want her to laugh at me. She comforts me when I want to be comforted. She holds me when I want to be held.

So, on this popular day of affection and hand-holding, I am happy. Not because I have a chance to get some special affection. But because I get Valentine’s Day-worth affection every day. So it’s no wonder I forget this day every year.

See ya soon, Ruth.

A Free Conversation

Do you know what it’s like to sit alone and free?

To have before you every tool could could possibly need?
A handful of high-quality pens.
A pretty pad of yellow paper.
A computer that rivals Deep Thought.
Even a clunky old typewriter from Goodwill, complete with upper-middle quality paper.
Peace and Quiet.
The knowledge that you will not be disturbed for hours to come.
Complete freedom.

Only to see that you have bound yourself.

An address to the choking chains:
From where did you come?
I did not see you before!
Chains: Nevermore.
Me: Your ham-handed reference frightens me, though it hardly seems to fit.
Chains: What do you expect? I am choking out your wit.
Me: This I see clear. And your childish rhyme makes it all the clearer. Begone! I sit in my time of freedom.
Chains: And I seek to steal it from you.
Me: Why? Does my suffering bring you profit?
Chains: Nay, for I have no true existence to be profited.
Me: Then are you sent by a higher power to hinder me?
Chains: Nay, for I am so very low that the High Things always distain to deal with me.
Me: Then what are you? Answer me!
Chains: I can only gives answers in my native tongue – silence.
Me: That is no answer at all! At least no reasonable answer. For it implies you speak silence – an oxymoron if ever I heard one.
Chains: Nevermore.
Me: Again with that awkwardly inserted yet deeply frightening reference! What mean you? For the black bird spoke it to drive home the permanence of the loss the protagonist had suffered. Why have you spoken it?

And here the chain only rattles against itself. And I take hold with my left hand to settle it.

A thought: The chain, or course, cannot give up its secret or purpose. Neither can it bind or free of its own power. No. For it is a non-thing. Without power. And so I must find its source. The chain master.

So with my deft left I feel the sordid, lack-wit chain in the dark. And I follow it, aiming for its mighty source. How does it feel?


I stop, for I have reached an end. I have found the source.

A hand.

I hand gripping tight. Callous and cold. I try to pry it off. But I cannot.

I grasp the wrist.




Suddenly I feel warm fingers on my throat and a sickening truth shines in my mind.

I hold the chain.