John Wayne Buddha

This is a microfiction (1000 words or less) piece that I did for a contest a few months ago.  I’m putting it up here for a week or so and then will remove it for publication.

John Wayne Buddha

Sam had always been tired of being busy all of the time.  Running here, rushing there.  Trying to make sure that everyone was satisfied and doing his best to feel important in the process.  Now he had nothing to do.  No demands, nobody asking him for anything.  He just had to sit there, relax, and die.

Sam had wished for as long as he could remember to be able to get away and have some quiet time.  He had a great love for the mountains and the calming effect that they always had on him.  He always considered himself an extrovert, but the older he got, it seemed like the scales were tipping more and more toward introversion.  He still liked people, but the quiet alone time grew in necessity as the years unfolded into each other.

And so it was that he decided to get out of the city and go for a long-overdue hike in the mountains that weren’t so far, but distant enough to make one feel secluded.  No phone, no emails, no bickering voices trying to suck up what little Sam-time he had.  Just him, his camping gear, enough rations for the week, and the wide-open sky imposing even over the massive 10,000 foot rock that he was trekking across.  It was finally time that he took off from his librarian job and started living all of the adventures that he had only read about.

One false step off the beaten path and a broken leg leads to almost certain death in a place where no one treads and the nights are long and cold.  Such was Sam’s lot.  After finally mustering up the courage to do something different, to get out of his shell and actually live, the cosmos batted him down like a housefly in January.  Trying to get a better view of the valley and the city below, Sam had stepped onto unsure ground near the edge and slid to his final resting place.    

There’s something about dying that makes one an instant philosopher.  Past loves.  The coulda, shoulda, woulda, but didn’ts.  Was there even any meaning to life?  For what purpose had he spent these 52 years on this spinning mess of a boulder?  Living a life that doesn’t even seem like one’s own as we do and do for others only leading to a false sense of identity while the “real” you becomes more and more buried in the lie.  All of the things that I tried to be for somebody else’s sake and never even figured myself out, he thought.    

His backpack hung about 100 feet up toward where he had taken his ill-fated last step.  Inside the backpack was a book (along with the food that he needed, but couldn’t reach) that had been sitting collecting dust on his book shelf.  Rereading it was something that he said long ago that he would get to and never did, just like everything else.  It was a book of short stories by Ernest Hemingway and it included The Snows of Kilimanjaro.  Sam laughed to himself despite his unfortunate situation realizing how much he and good ‘ole Harry had in common right now.  Sam laughed until he was delirious, or maybe it was just shock.

He tried to focus on something other than the pain in his leg with the bone protruding from the skin to keep him from fainting.  He saw a light pivoting and sweeping across the city.  Flashing red lights above it alerted helicopters where the landing pad was atop the hospital.  How ironic.  A flood of thoughts and emotions washed over him as he drew his hands deeper into the sleeves of his coat that would be inadequate for the night that was quickly approaching.  He could hear music and knew that had to be delirium.  Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto Number Two fading into Moonlight Sonata which gave way to Vitali’s Chaconne until they were all playing in his head at the same time in cacophonous beauty.  Sam realized that he had closed his eyes and jerked them open, sitting up straight so as not to fall unconscious.  He focused his eyes once again on the flashing beacon and counted the pulses to stay awake as his mind began to drift. 

Half a million people down there.  Not one of them knows that I’m up here and probably not one who would care if they did.  People are too self-absorbed to care about anyone but themselves.  All of the writing I never did.  The trips I never took.  Doing for others and never for myself.  Wasting my time trying to be someone for the sake of others and never even figuring out who the hell I really am.  Look at me.  Now I’m just a regular contemplative.  Maybe I’ll attain enlightenment here under this pine tree and take my place among the great mystics.  God knows I’ve had my share of Helens.  Liked them well enough, but wasn’t really in love with them.  Or is that just what I always told myself because I knew my Helen would hurt me in the end?  The last one had sworn that she loved him more than life itself and then had been seen sucking face with another guy at the local watering hole.  Had to keep that persona that kept women at arm’s length and the vulnerability that comes with love a mile away.  Kind of like John Wayne.  That’s it!  I’ll call myself John Wayne Buddha for what little time I have left.  A contemplative cowboy who’s too damn tough to feel emotions.  Got it all except for the six iron on my hip.  He laughed until he passed out.  It was better that way.  The pain of dying and the tortuous mind that accompanies it are rarely forgiving.

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2 Responses to “John Wayne Buddha”

  1. John Lovestrand Says:

    Wow! Great writing. Probably the first (and last) time that The Duke and The Buddha have appeared together 🙂 Pilgrim Sam alone on his final pilgrimage. Well fused Sir Brandyn. Thanks for sharing this. JL

  2. Very contemplative piece. I don’t think you want to live your life for others. Yet I think that living it for God allows me to live out some things for others and bring a real joy and sense of fufillment Thanks for sharing it with us.

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