Short Story – “The Return”

The other day I was going through my parents’ old lock box and, along with our birth certificates, their wedding rings and other assorted family heirloom jewelry, my mom’s wallet, old report cards, etc., I came across this short story on eight yellowed 6″ x 8 1/2″ sheets of paper, hand-written by my father.  I’d have to guess that it was probably written some time in the 1950s or 1960s. 

Rocket

The Return

Richard Lee Meyer, Sr.

Looking at the shining object in the middle of the plain, the Dog turned to his companion.  “It must be a work of the Cats,” he said, grimacing.  A vague gleam of hatred shone in his eyes.  Long millennia of instinct could not be forgotten.

His companion, cursing the inconvenience of night duty, said dully, “So what?  It’s beyond our area anyway.”  He was thinking of his beautiful, red-coated she who might be even now busy with some mongrel.  He growled low and swore silently.

Life in the village was like that.  The shes had very little loyalty, especially when in heat.  Only those who were descended from the Foxes could remain loyal, but they were of the aristocracy and no common soldier had any right to them.  Thousands of years after the crushing hand of Man had gone, the Dogs had learned to walk upright and think rationally.  Their mores had changed little, however, and fighting over the females was often bitter and bloody, sometimes fatal.  Only the aristocratic Foxes were different.  They had allied themselves with the Dogs, but had remained monogamists.  Their cunning and intelligence, with the help of the powerful and cruel Wolves, had made them rulers of the canine communities that sprang up on earth.  They had tried to enforce marriage laws, but the Dogs had remained morally corrupt.  Besides, their Wolf police were no better, and enforcement became impossible.  Only the more intelligent could see the reason behind it, and few practiced it on their own.  The Foxes could not stand rebellion at any rate because of the constant war with the Cats.

The Cats were only a few generations behind the Dogs, although their morals were even worse.  Their intelligence and strength had made them formidable enemies.  The war was unending and now that metals had been discovered, the battles were terrifying.  Only instinct kept the war going.

A few other species had reached their intelligences.  The Pigs, who were more or less ignored by the Dogs and Cats.  They were indifferent to the whole thing anyway.  Besides, they lived in swamps and lowlands that neither of the others cared for.  In the forests, the Raccoons were the masters.  Dogs and Cats rarely ventured forestward unless heavily armed and alert.  In two areas, the Elephant had become, or remained king.  Unlike the others, he had never had to learn to walk upright.  His sensitive trunk had become an efficient hand, and his tremendous bulk made him a builder of great cities and tremendous works.  Only the pesky Anthropoids challenged him there, withg a few of the great Felines.  In isolated areas, the Horse had found its own, but its intelligence was limited because of its slow evolution.  They were considered stupid by the other Races, and remained unknown to some.  Of course, the Elephant remained unknown to great areas of the other Races’ domain, particularly North and South America.  Man was virtually unknown.  They had begun their exodus nearly a million years before and only a scattered few had remained.  In the rain forests of Africa and South America, the savage tribes of Negroes and Indians had remained.  They managed to survive, but progressed very little, except for the revival of the Incas’ culture.  The great war had destroyed all Man’s technology, and the struggle was so uphill that the animals at last had a chance to develop their latent intelligences.  Only the aborigines of Australia were able to escape the challenge of an animal intelligence rivaling them.  The dingo had developed only in companionship with the men who were there.  The white and yellow races had gone.  Those that survived the war had migrated to the stars and had not been heard of since.  Only the mounds of their great cities remained.  They remained untouched by the new Races, as they were known to have killed many warriors on contact in the old days.  Generations had passed since the radiation had died off, but the taboo remained.  Even the insects left them alone.

The two sentries were slightly agitated by the presence of this huge, shining cylinder.  surely the Cats were not able to do this.  Pigs would never be that ambitious.  Coons were far away in the forests.  What was it then, for surely intelligent hands had made it?  H’raf, the first of the guards, being more curious and bright than his sensuous companion, H’rat, became even more worried as the night wore on.  The Cats were not far away, and the sector he was patrolling tonight was in the direction of Cat territories.  The shining thing apparently had fire within it because light streamed through a hole in the side of it.  The object was fully a mile away, but the Dogs’ eyes had all the keenness of his long forgotten ancestors.  It was not far, but unsafe for two lone sentries while a war was on.

About an hour before relief, H’raf noticed a great square open in the side of the shining thing.  He halted and stared as very tiny figures seemed to come out of it.  What marvel was this?  A new kind of metal hut?  Why did not the dwellers get consumed by the fire?  Surely they should, for the light streamed forth as if from an inferno.  He signaled H’rat and they watched for awhile with their bodies tense and sweating profusely.  Surely this was witchcraft for their seemed to be small patches of fire moving about with each of the creatures that emerged from the shining thing.  They could count a score of fire-patches forming in a circle from the great object. 

Alarmed, H’raf, the superior officer, ordered H’rat to warn the villagers and bring some warriors.  He sat and wondered why the Cats would send out bearers of fire, for it was well known that Cats could see as well as Dogs in the night, and surely would not want to betray their positions to the always wary Dogs.

On a hill about two miles away from H’raf sat a captain of the Cats wondering why the Dogs would be such fools to let themselves be seen at night.  Already he had dispatched thirty of his best warriors to attack the shining thing.  The fire carriers worried him, though, as he knew his men’s eyes shone at night near any light.  But Dogs stupid enough to use fire at night would surely not notice his stealthy warriors.  the Captain, M’rrow, was very old and had seen many campaigns.  He had never known Dogs to be so stupid before.  “Even Pigs knew better than that,” he reflected as he rubbed a scar on his arm that had been dealt him by an old Boar many decades before.  “The Coons, even,” but he shuddered to think of that one disastrous campaign against the Coons.  He and two others had escaped, but barely alive.  It was a good thing the Coons pursue their enemies beyond the verge of the forests.

M’rrow was old, but his warrior blood was far from cooled.  He hated the Dogs and yearned for one more chance to see them die before him.  This night would be sung about for generations before the council fires of the Cats, perhaps even before their powerful brothers to the west, the Pumas.  His last two Dog campaigns were dismal failures, as he had been confronted with those damnable Foxes who seemed to know tricks that even a veteran such as he did not command.  But here he could not see the hand of the Fox.  Here was easy game for his warriors.

By this time H’raf and twenty strong young warriors were halfway to the object, eying with suspicion the widening circle of the fire bearers.  He was still puzzled by the curious regularity at which the flames seemed to hold, almost like a beam of sunlight cast though the trees, only pointed outward.  As he drew nearer the shining object, its size astonished him.  It seemed to rise straight up to the stars, as if pointing the way which it had come.  His logical mind rejected the Cats as the builders soon afterward.  The Cats were clever, but even the Dogs could not fashion metal like that.

The flame bearers drew nearer.  M’rrow, who had now joined his troopers, lay in the grass wondering how the Dogs had learned to point fire beams.  They were fanning out and scanning the tall grasses in a circular formation.  It was disquieting how the beams circled in and out of the grass.  He was anxious to sound the attack, but as he glanced at the shining object, a rare flash of insight told him that no Dog had ever made this shining monolith.  He signaled M’rau, his chief aide, to charge and the Cats sprung up within a few feet of the flame bearers with the spine-chilling screams of the Cat warriors’ war shouts.

At the same time H’raf and his men reached the circle of flame carriers and charged.  Hearing the commotion of the cats on the other side, the Dogs assumed they were the enemy.  They raised a deafening din.  They ran.

H’raf and M’rrow stood blinking under the illumination of the Captain’s cabin of the spaceship Exodus II.  They had never met before except in war and eyed each other with hatred.  The Captain, Howard Euson, was speaking to the chief sociologis, Ivan Yastoff.  “This one looks like a collie I used to have on Centauri, and that one looks like a battered Siamese I saw on Sirius III last voyage.”   “Remarkable that the return of man should be met with such ferocity by his former pets,” Yastoff laughed ironically.  “Apparently they have evolved quite a bit since then.”  “It’s really a pity; I catch them thinking how they are stronger than these matchstick things before them.  I must admit, they do look ferocious,” said the Captain with a chuckle that developed into a hearty laugh.

Both the Dog and the Cat were angered at the laughter and poised to hurtle themselves at these puny creatures.  Alas, however, they were held back by these strange bonds that had tied them and brought them here in the midst of a full charge.  This left them bewildered and frightened.  H’raf who had never seen defeat, Dog or Cat, and M’rrow wisened old veteran of many fearful wars, both quaked before this strange creature who could bind you without bonds and look at you with eyes that searched the very soul.  Their strange babbling, too, had a mysterious but familiar tinge to it.  A million years had not erased the instinctive memory of man, the crusher, the Master.

“Did you catch that, Ivan?  A million years and they haven’t forgotten us.  Too bad there are no men left to greet us.  They seem to have memories of other intelligent creatures, but not of men.”

“Yes, Howard, indeed a pity man could not welcome us home after all these years.  I wonder if there are any left?”

Six thousand miles away an Inca priest is chanting from the Book, looking at the stars.  “Return, O Lord.  How long?”  Part of the yearly festival to honor the sky-brothers along with the sacrifice and death dance.  The playa was decorated with a huge cross hung with grinning human skulls and some shrunken heads of a feline and canine nature.  A million years and man had risen to this.

Exodus II stayed a few weeks, disgorging its teams of sociologists and archeologists, as well as a few hundred colonists, then sped for the stars once more.  They had been Home, but home was not the same.  Neither were they.  some were full telepaths and nearly all could practice telekinesis, those bonds which held the Dogs and Cats.  Trade was opened with these primitives and they settled to dig at a mound that had once been Chicago.  A new life on their old home.  It would be many years before the colony would find the remnants of man.  In the meantime, the primitives treated them as gods.  What else could they do?  The Masters had returned!

What I wanted For Christmas

My older daughter asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I had to ask myself, what did I want? All year you think what you would want and it changes over time. You don’t want your kids to have to spend too much on you, it should be something simple. It should also be something you really want so they see you use it. I thought about it and realized that my older daughter being 24 and her sister 12, I had no photos of them together. You take pictures at holidays, events, things like that, but that is not the same. When they were both home and younger I took picture of them with different outfits and in different places. I no longer could do that since my older child no longer lived at home. That was what I wanted – a memory, time captured on film for all to see my girls. I also wanted to add my new son-in-law Sean. They did a beautiful job, too. I wanted a picture of them alone, together, just the girls, then all of them. I will share a few of them for you to see. They even picked a beautiful background to boot. This will be one of the best gifts ever. How can they top this next year…DSC_0405 DSC_0385 DSC_0402

Finding Your Roots, Beginning Genealogy Research

 family-tree-relatives-people-silhouettes-14140989

There is so much genealogy information available online these days on so many sites, subscription and free.  Ancestry is the biggest subscription site, with more records than any of the others and they are adding more records and acquiring other, smaller genealogy sites (and their records) all the time.  As of now, their subsidiaries are  Archives.com, Fold3.com, 1000memories.comNewspapers.com, Genealogy.com, MyFamily.com, and Rootsweb.com.  They also recently acquired FindAGrave.com, which appears to still be free, at least for the time being.  Most of the subscription sites offer a free trial period.  If you are only planning to use a subscription site during its free trial period, I suggest you start by gathering any information you already have from family Bibles, baby books, etc. and search as many free genealogy sites as possible and start building your tree before joining. 

It’s easy to get sidetracked when you start finding records that link to ancestors that were previously unknown to you, so make a plan before you start.  For instance, if you want to learn when your father’s relatives first came to the United States, don’t get hung up on finding out what happened to great uncle Joe on your mother’s side.  Keep a notebook handy to write notes about things you want to go back and research later, and possibly start a spreadsheet noting where people lived and when they lived there.  I have often wished I had made just such a spreadsheet when I started out, to better be able to see family connections from different branches of my tree.  Now my tree is at almost 9,000 people, and the job of going back and looking up and listing all of the data seems overwhelming.  Unfortunately, Ancestry doesn’t currently have the option to search by residence/place, but I hope if enough people request it that it will someday be available.

A great free site to start your search is FamilySearch.org.  The site is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but it is free and open to everyone.  You must register for an account to access records. (Don’t worry, no one will show up on your doorstep.  ;-) )  Many of the records available there for free are identical, right down to the transcription errors, to those you pay for on Ancestry. 

Speaking of transcription, FamilySearch is always looking for volunteers to help index new record collections.  There are many skill levels, from easy to advanced (usually typed vs. handwritten records, or a few fields vs. many fields of information to be entered).  All records are assigned to two indexers, and then both transcriptions are compared and checked by an arbitrator before being released for search.  If you volunteer to work on collections from the areas and eras that your ancestors lived, you just might even stumble onto new information about your family.   

I’ve also found a lot of free information through the USGenWeb Project and its parent site, the WorldGenWeb Project, as well as BillionGraves.com, Nova Scotia Historical Vital Statistics, Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Public Records of Birth Indices and Death Indices, interment searches at the sites for Grandview Cemetery in Johnstown, PA and Forest Lawn Memorial Parks in the Los Angeles area.  A Google search for Free Genealogy Websites yields 1,800,000 results, but don’t get overwhelmed.  Click on a few links (after the paid ads at the top) until you find a site that’s truly free and search your family name.  Some sites, like FamilySearch, also allow you to build a tree for free.

If you decide to take the plunge and join Ancestry, don’t assume that every “leaf” actually is about your ancestor.  Check the information before you connect it to your tree.  Also, just because someone else has linked a record to someone that you have in your tree, don’t assume that it’s correct until you have confirmed it.  I found a tree that Ancestry recommended that I connect to my tree through their Hints feature that had a woman married to a man even though they were born more than two centuries apart.  I’m not even kidding.  The sad thing is, over a dozen other member trees had already been linked to that obviously flawed tree, and other people had linked to their trees.  You see where this is going?  Oh, and I contacted the woman who started the fiasco and she responded with attitude.  That was over two years ago, and the tree remains unchanged.  So avoid the temptation to link other trees to yours.  Check their information and link only the records that you can confirm.  If it’s questionable, save the link (URL), do more research, and come back and link it later if it is correct.  Instead of linking to trees through Hints, I now link to other members’ information on each ancestor through the Member Connect feature.  This gives me the option of linking individual records without adding family members to my tree, and I get notifications on my Ancestry homepage when the other members make changes to their trees.

Family Ties

Four generations

Four Generations – Geneva on the Lake – Summer 1965

Family is a funny thing. We all have them but, unless you were lucky enough to be born into a famous one, there probably isn’t much documentation about the day to day lives of previous generations.  Regrettably, most of us don’t pay close attention to the stories our parents, grandparents, and other relatives told when we are growing up. We might remember the gist of the tales, but the details fade with time.  If your parents or grandparents, aunts or uncles, or any other older relatives are still alive, now is the time to gather information and record those stories either on video, audio, or in writing!  Whether it’s just for yourself, or for your child’s school project, or to pass down to your grandkids, please take the time.  You and future generations will be glad you did.

I, for instance, would love to know more about my great grandmother’s story.  When I started writing everything I do know down, it turns out I’ve learned a lot.  There’s still more that I would like to know, though, and I don’t think I’ll ever get all the answers to my questions.  By the way, she is on the far left in the photo above. That’s me on the far right. (Don’t know where I got my wild, curly hair. :-D

My great grandmother was born in Nova Scotia in 1890, and immigrated to the United States with her parents, siblings, and maternal grandparents when she was just over a year old.  As I confirmed by consulting the 1900 U.S. Census, the family lived in Providence, Rhode Island for a while, but I’m not sure how long.  By 1909, her father was listed in the city directory of Washington, Pennsylvania, and in 1910, the family was recorded on the U.S. Census as living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Later that year, she married my great grandfather in Pittsburgh. 

It’s a mystery to me how my great grandparents met.  He was born and raised near Des Moines, Iowa, and was recorded on the Iowa State Census of 1905.  I have no idea how, just five years later, he had met, courted, and married my great grandmother so far from his boyhood home.  So far, I haven’t been able to find him recorded on the 1910 Census in Iowa or Pennsylvania – or anywhere else, for that matter.

I also don’t know why they and their oldest daughter were living in Queens, New York in 1915, and in Akron, Ohio in 1917, where that same daughter died of diphtheria.  My grandmother, who was born in Pittsburgh two years later, used to lament that she could never live up to the memory of her older sister, who was always held up as an example of the “perfect child” whenever she and her younger sister misbehaved.

I remember my grandmother talking about SOMEONE in her family who had been a “Pinkerton Man” who traveled around the country – union-busting, I believe.  I don’t remember if she said that it was her father, but I suppose that would explain why the family moved so much.

When I found my great grandmother’s obituary in a newspaper archived online, I was surprised to learn that she was also predeceased by a son, Jack.  When I was growing up, I never heard anything about my grandmother having had a brother, which leads me to believe he died very young.  I have not been able to locate records of him in online searches on any of the genealogy sites I’ve used, but I only have his name (which is possibly a nickname) to go by, no years or places.  I don’t know if he was born in the seven years between my grandmother and her older sister, in the ten years between my grandmother and her younger sister, or before or after all of the girls. I keep looking, hoping that one of the sites will add records that will lead me to the answers.

The Christmas Tree

Christmas treeEvery year I have a tradition of watching a Charlie Brown Christmas. I love that cartoon.  It makes me smile every time. Through the years I have watched it with different family members. My mom, gram, brother, uncle and now my kids.

Thanksgiving

ThanksgivingWhen I was a child Thanksgiving was, and still is, one of my favorite holidays. No, there is no exchange of gifts or seeing Santa, but the excitement is still there. Cleaning the house for impending guests, putting out the good linen and towels. Setting the cute little soaps out in the bathroom. Getting the guest room set up for a possible overnight guest.  New candles set out and lit, setting off an aroma of sweet smells. Running to the stores shopping for food so that no one goes hungry. Do I have enough milk, eggs, bread? Have I got the right coffee creamer for Aunt Debbie, chips, dips, an assortment of snacks for any unexpected visitor? Fresh flowers for the table, welcome mat out, front steps swept. Let the festivities begin.