I have now unfriended Leslie Fish – one of the most prolific, talented, popular and namely of all the US filkers – in all of the social platforms I share with her. She has sent out a message that she supports and wants more funds for the US military; no because, no reason, just: she wants it. I remember Kevin Duane (who said many things, but this one stuck) once said to me when we were both living in TO “The thing about libertarians is that they only want to spend public money on cops and the army, and *maybe* insane asylums.” I wasn’t expecting to watch this jest turn into reality before my eyes. I am also aware that #notalllibertarians are fans of increased military spending, notably Sean Haugh, who is REALLY SERIOUS about getting the US out of foreign wars, but by Ludwig von Mises, that’s the way to bet.

I gave her money for her garden too.  It’s a pity that her little piece of libertarian paradise in one of the Western States is probably going to be a pile of dust in ten years; climate change is a right bugger.

23 A visit to the Summerlands

Lark froze.

Sensing a more formal response was required, he took both of her hands in his, looked directly into her eyes and said, trying to sound less stilted aloud than it felt in his head, “I thank and bless you for all your good gifts.”

Lark beamed, and led him by the hand to her kitchen table, where platters of food and carafes of wine and jugs of beer awaited him.

“Bless this household,” Jesse said. “This is a meal fit for a god.” He tried not to sound like Thor from the movies.

She said a short and heartfelt blessing over the food, and, after washing their hands in a silver bowl, they ate, while Celtic harp music played softly in the background. The food was a genuine treat for Jesse, who did not get home-cooked meals that often. Raven wasn’t domestic and he was indifferent to the study of cookery.

Lark was sparing in her alcohol consumption and did not consume illegal drugs, but wild gods do as they please.  After their meal, Jesse excused himself to stand on the balcony and gazed at the North Shore Mountains, where the lights from the ski runs and the moonlight pushed them against the darkened sky. While he admired he view, he vaped the Comatose he’d brought, until he nearly was.

Bleary-eyed, he slid the balcony door open.

She had used the time to clear the table, and had changed from a plain white gown into a short, fine linen robe of forest green.

“Cernunnos, Lord of all that lives in the woods, will you honour me and join me in our shrine?”

“I will,” Jesse said. Instead of being creepy, and everything he dreaded, it was all very sweet and loving and hospitable, and he felt his anxiety and uncertainty finally melt away.

Lark gently and carefully removed his clothing, and slid out of her robe. She wordlessly directed him to lie face down on a massage table. Jesse wagered with himself that whatever oil she applied was going to smell atrocious, but apart from frankincense, which he recognized because his sister had always had a weird thing for it, he couldn’t recollect what anything else in the oil might be. It was a wild and evocative scent. He smiled and said, into his forearms, “Thank you.”

The massage pulled every vestige of pain and emotional discomfort from his body. After a long, contented, extended moment, which might have been an hour, Jesse stopped feeling the endorphin rush, and something else rushed into him instead.

“Can you feel that?” Lark said, lifting her hands from the backs of his thighs, startled out of her ritual. It’s one thing to invoke a god. It’s another to have him appear.

“Oh, yes,” said Jesse said, rolling onto his side. Forty-five minutes later, exhausted, triumphant and slightly perplexed, they looked into each other’s eyes and laughed.

The giggles and cuddling lasted a while. Lark arose and danced at one point, wearing only a belt covered in tiny tinkling bells which filled the room with a shimmering noise, and then she retook her place next to him, in her finely woven sheets, and he made a little groan of contentment as she slowly placed her head on his shoulder.

Then, as if his emotions had been loosened with his tendons, Jesse wept. He later told Raven it was like being a hailstone, driven up and down by natural forces, until finally he was too heavy to be buffeted any longer. He felt himself start, as if he literally had been thrown down onto the bed; sleep enfolded him.

He awoke to candlelight.

Lark was sitting next to the bed, sketching him. She wore a satin bathrobe, sky blue above the waist and grey and brown below, embroidered with designs like the mithril tracery of trees from the door of Moria. She looked roseate and relaxed, paint removed, although, smiling to himself, he saw one little speck of it on her cheek. She was a thin woman, but Jesse thought she seemed plumper somehow. He had a brief, somewhat pornographic flash as to why that might be.

“What time is it?” Jesse said indistinctly. 

“Four a.m., or thereabouts.” She frowned.

“What’s wrong?” Jesse said, sitting up.

Her expression cleared, and she looked at him with a gaze full of the love that doesn’t know how to possess, existing in the constant flow of offering and acceptance.

He smiled back.

“There’s nothing wrong,” she said. “But I have a few more favours to ask of you, as Jesse, rather than as my god.” Now her voice was teasing.

“More adult fun times?”

“Perhaps,” she said, again with that lilt. She set aside her sketchbook and went to an armoire, which she opened to reveal a horned mask and a bi-coloured robe of what looked like homespun and home-dyed wool.  It looked itchy.  “When you’re fully awake, I would like you to wear these, so I can draw you. And with your permission, take photos. Your face will be behind a mask.” She returned to the chair by the bed.

“Used to that,” Jesse said blankly. Then, realizing he hadn’t answered the implied question, said, “Of course.  It’s not every day a man gets that close to the Summerlands and returns whole.”

“One other favour, one you may not wish to grant.”

Jesse did not brace himself on the outside. He’d learned not to.

“It’s a question.”

“Oh,” Jesse said. “I don’t think I have any secrets from you, now.”

“Mysteries will always remain, and are to be honoured as the boundaries of human life on this world. But I wanted to know, out of simple curiosity, why it was you cried.”

Jesse felt himself tearing up again, and after a deep breath said, “I don’t know if I can give you a good answer to that, but I’ll try.” He pursed his lips, and sniffed, and said, “I told you my mother never loved me.”


“The only love I got from women or girls was from my aunt and my sister. But knowing that your mother didn’t love you, didn’t put you to her breast, mocked and harassed and worked you like a donkey — you don’t get over that. You don’t grieve for a year and a day and find yourself free and clear.”

“No,” Lark said.

“You gave me peace from that.”

Lark bit her lip. She was nearly crying, but composed herself before the first tear escaped.

“Even if it never happens again,” Jesse said, lying back with a thump, since as tender as her gaze was, he could no longer meet it, “It happened once. Everything good and wild and loving, everything growing and green and fruitful, came to me from your hands.”

He sat up suddenly.

“Did I tell you I prayed to the moon before I came in?”

“Hell of a thing for an atheist to say,” she chided, laughing as tears fell.

“I think it worked,” Jesse said, with an almost childlike satisfaction. “Mind you,” he added, “I didn’t ask for anything.  I just praised her.”

“Well done,” Lark said. She rose and carefully snuffed the candles, returning through the scented darkness to his embrace.