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Stories From Around The World

COVID-19 Chronicles

Andrew Alnghayoui

September 2021

Lebanon

Sports In Lebanon During Covid

It has been a while since the start of the covid pandemic and since sporting events were as always, packed with passionate fans. Sports fanatics who had to settle for the past 20 months to watching their favorite events on TV, are starting to gradually make their way back into stadiums. In Lebanon however, the situation is more complicated.

Sports events have been played behind closed doors to the public for almost two years now. Even the most popular sports events and tournaments such as the Olympics and the UEFA Euro 2020 which were postponed to 2021, were played with limited to no fans allowed in the stadiums. As the fans start to make their way back in European football, football in Lebanon is still being played behind closed doors.

In Lebanon, Football and Basketball are by far the two most popular sports with a huge gap above all others. In football, fans have not been allowed inside stadiums since the league returned to action.  Just like in other countries, teams have been affected financially and players morally by the absence of fans in stadiums. “It’s not the same to play a home match without fans” stated Coach Daniel Gimenez, former Analyst at AFC Cup 2019 Champions Al-Ahed and current Assistant Coach at Al-Nejmeh, “it’s not the same having 5000 fans in the stadium cheering for you compared to possibly 50 people watching from home.”

Lebanon hasn’t suffered only from the pandemic as there were already ongoing protests in different cities across the country as it suffers the worst economic crisis of its history. The Lebanese pound lost more than 10 times its value as people are looking for a way to earn foreign currencies or work abroad in order to send money to their families back home. Moreover, the country is going through fuel and electricity crisis and shortage which also doesn’t facilitate watching football on TV.

Loyal football fans had always made their way to stadiums in Lebanon and cheered for their clubs even if they weren’t large in numbers, they surely cheered with passion. “The fans can’t wait to come back to the stadiums, and sometimes we can see few of them around the stadiums when we have a match,” said Daniel.

During the pandemic, fans have been spotted outside some stadiums, greeting and cheering for their players before and after their matches. In Jounieh, fans were found sitting on the side of the road, on the bridge that passes above the highway, where they have a view of the matches without being physically inside the stadium, despite the country being on a supposedly strict lockdown.

For most those loyal fans though, watching football became a home activity, much like everything else since the pandemic. Surely one can think of many advantages of watching a match from home compared to doing so from the stands, so the question is will the fans get used to watching from home and refrain from going back to stadiums or do they miss it enough to go crazy the next time they cheer from close range?

Watching on TV saves money, fuel and effort during a crisis where the Lebanese people have got a lot more to think about than football one might think. You can also watch in your living room, at your comfort, cheer in any way you like and benefit from highlights, replays and a commentator. For those who like to focus on match details and analyze performances, watching on TV is a much better experience.

However, there is no experience like watching a live match inside the stadium especially for loyal fans who feel like they have a responsibility towards their teams since their performance from the stands also counts for a lot.

With that being said, it is feared that most people are not even able to watch from home in Lebanon. The crisis and shortage in electricity has made it really difficult for the fans. The Lebanese Football Association have to schedule the matches in the afternoon to be able to play in the daylight – to save electricity cost for the stadiums – and the matches scheduled in the afternoon come at a time where electricity is off in most Lebanese cities, which makes life difficult for football fans. Gimenez expressed his concerns in this regard as well: “Sure they miss being in the stadiums and the crisis is not helping because they are cutting even the generators many hours during the day, so how will the people watch the match even on tv?”

It is also feared that the fans will not come back to the stadiums when they get the green light, “I really doubt that they will have the same interest or passion for football as before. It is getting more and more complicated and it doesn’t help the growth of football in Lebanon.”

Until now, fans are still not allowed inside the stadiums, and the overall situation in the country is worrying but the fanatics remain hopeful for things to get better in the future.

Featured

August Fourth 1972

Aug 4 NASA“Aloha,” Balena Gardner murmurs as she looks at herself in the mirror. Her husband tells her every day that she looks beautiful.

Today is her last day on the job. She had worked overtime for months to get a beautiful Chevrolet Vega, and by now she has scraped up enough for the exclusive Yenko model. Fire engine red.

“Balena, Balena,” she remembers telling herself in the summer of 1972, as she sat in her driveway on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu, “what are you going to do? Move back to the mainland? I hate California!”

She was a young telephone operator at the time, and spoke to herself as if she were two separate people—the one asking rhetorical questions and the one simply listening without responding.

Balena had a few jobs, but with this one she made friends, good friends, friends she could count on and trust. No gossiping was their rule. Ramona became both her colleague and her best friend, and they believed this job would last forever. They were always a little nervous whenever they heard diesel trucks idle near the building in which they worked, because they were well aware that new technology, perhaps being hauled by those trucks, would one day replace them. The building itself was fairly new; how long would it be before they wanted new people, as well? The soldering iron process helped replace many of those jobs. One consolation, however, was that Balena’s headphones became lighter with every passing year, which helped alleviate her neck pain in the evenings.

That day, as she drove downtown to work, an unusual feeling took hold in Balena’s mind and lingered there. Living most of her childhood near San Louis Obispo, she used to venture into the hills during the summer months, to see just a sliver of wildlife, to see the butterflies, to help her escape her daily routine. Now, each time she gazed at her employer’s building she understood why the Hawaiian natives never greeted telephone employees with the same welcoming “Mahalo” with which they greeted all others. The building’s very presence was in odds with nature. In no way did it reflect the beauty of the island. Even the brown and copper skin tones of the natives complemented the beauty of the island. But not the building in which Balena worked. Not in any way whatsoever.

She parked between a brick wall and a speed bump, hoping that would protect her Vega. She rolled down the window to get a better glance at the Pacific blue. How she longed to be able to sit there for a few peaceful hours.

And then:

“Balena! Hurry in.”

That was Ramona, calling out to her in a loud voice from across the parking lot.

“It’s my last day,” Balena called back. “What’s the hurry?”

“The switchboard is lighting up something awful!”

Balena exited her car and walked into the building with Ramona. They went to the elevator and Ramona pressed the button for the sixth floor.

“It’s lighting up this early?” Balena asked. “What’s going on?”

“We’re getting calls from London, India, Ohio…”

As she listened to the harrowing description of calls, Balena raced across the main room to her personal locker, only to be distracted in her pursuit by her boss’s call:

“Where’s Balena?” she yelled.

“I’m here, I’m here,” she announced before taking her regular seat.

Balena sat at her station while most of the other women continued to respond to problems being called into the switchboard at what seemed to be lightning speed. She took a deep breath, blocked out all the confusion, and zeroed in on the first blinking light on her console. Her hands were trained for combat, highly skilled, like a gymnast who lathered up with chalk before each set on the uneven bars. Her hands were just one asset; her soothing voice was another.

“Mrs. Lin, I have a call from Hyderabad,” she said to her supervisor. “How do I switch them when this equipment is incapable of relaying the request?”

“Where is Hyderabad?” retorted Mrs. Lin.

“It’s in India.”

“Do they speak English there?”

Balena was unable to answer, and with a worried look on her face she asked what she should do. The supervisor told her to take the call and started to provide some additional guidance, but before she was able to offer more advice, Balena began her end of the conversation.

“Hello,” she said, “I’m Balena Gardner, an operator on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu. How may I help you?”

“Hello?” came the response from Hyderabad.

“What is your name, sir?” Balena persisted. Then she whispered to Mrs. Lin, “The connection is perfectly clear!”

“My name is Kevin Simha,” said the voice on the other end, as steady as a surgeon’s. “I think my father is having a heart attack.”

“How do you know that, sir?”

“I briefly majored in biology and his color does not look good.”

“Is your father responding to your voice?” asked Balena.

“Yes. I gave him an aspirin,” Mr. Simha responded

“Good, but I’m afraid I don’t have the emergency code for Hyderabad. Do you know CPR?”

“My father just can’t die now.”

“Stay with me, Mr. Simha. Your father is not going to die. Do you happen to have the emergency number for Hyderabad?”

“102.”

Balena dialed 102, hoping that this bizarre long-distance call would be relayed to the proper regional office in India, and to someone who also spoke English.

Someone picked up. “Aapaka aapaatakaal kya hai!” they said, followed by, “What is your emergency?”

“I am speaking to a Mr. Kevin Simha in Hyderabad, and his father needs immediate medical attention for a heart condition.”

Balena listened in as the Indian operator spoke first with Kevin Simha and then with his father, and assured them both that help was on the way. When the call with the Simha men ended, the operator in India asked Balena where she was from.

“America,” she said. “Hawaii. I know it sounds ridiculous.”

“Ridiculous? Not really,” the Indian operator responded. “I’ll tell you what’s ridiculous. Today started with unusual amount of car accidents and strange illnesses, and by this afternoon, dozens of hospitals began reporting more than a normal amount of mortalities. Well, I have to go now. Thank you for your help.”

“What’s your name?” Balena asked.

“Sara.”

Meanwhile, on this early morning of August 4th, 1972, naval ships were trolling from O’ahu and across the entire South Pacific Sea. Because of the dust and vibrations, every mortar shell that had shaken the countless small villages in Vietnam, beginning in 1955, inadvertently hid the existence of a great solar storm. While American citizens took to the streets to protest an unjust war, nature was warning of its unpredictable and unfathomable power. The random events of which Balena had been warned united people from around the world into a sort of humbling dance between the Earth and the sun. Simultaneously, American and Soviet satellites were being launched; the Soviet Union launched satellites Prognoz 1and Prognoz 2 with the sole purpose of studying the sun. At home, technology made the world somewhat more hostile; in the cosmos, a serene civilization loomed, and a nine-year-old Vietnam boy named Due dreamed of the peace it could bring to one and all. Every night Due looked to the stars for the tranquility he knew was up there somewhere, and which, he was certain, would never hurt him. Throughout his childhood, Due sat at the feet of many temples in Hai Phong, a city historically occupied by many kingdoms, and realized that temples and museums made for ideal shelters during times of artillery attacks.

Due knew the difference between landmines and sea mines. He knew the difference between friendly aircraft and enemy aircraft. He knew how to gather trash not for food, but to learn how to identify the labels. He was well aware that learning to read was a skill of the utmost importance.

But this morning, the sky felt different. Due knew it, and so did his friends.

As Due thought about all this, there was another Chevy Vega rolling out of an assembly line in Lordstown, Ohio. The automobile was made by men who put their sweat, blood and anger into every model. Vietnam vets knew that General Motors was on the fast track to use automation to replace them. For their very survival they knew there was an immediate need to compete with Japan’s auto market.

In the wake of this war, Balena Gardner, Kevin Simha, Due, and all the troubled auto workers pressed onward both with courage and fear. Almost all of them felt that the sea had placed some wisdom in their souls.

The nurturing behavior of the male seahorse inspired a marine biologist named Cecilia Pérez Martínez to claim this creature as her guardian. So attached to the seahorse was Cecilia that her husband agreed to paint one in their baby’s nursery back in their apartment. Cecilia clutched tightly to her seahorse bracelet when the pain was unbearable, while lying in the maternity ward at Bellevue Hospital, in New York City. She was exceedingly happy to welcome her firstborn, and was counting the minutes until the blessed event. During the first hours of Cecilia’s stay, a nurse brought in coloring books to help the mother-to-be relax, and she also rolled in an electrocardiogram machine—which Cecilia felt was a bit unusual. She looked at her husband, standing tall between the sunlight reflecting from the iconic Chrysler Building and the plate-glass windows of maternity room. The room was tucked away on the sixth floor of the hospital complex’s east wing, with a perfect northwest view of the city. A nurse checked in on her every hour, reading number displays and gauges on machines and then scribbling into medical charts.

“How are you feeling today, Mrs. Martinez?” a nurse asked.

“Just fine,” Cecelia murmured.

“Are you from out of state?”

“No, my husband and I are from Brooklyn.”

“The doctor will be here soon,” the nurse informed her. “I just need to warn you, dear, that Dr. Pyle does not want husbands in the operating room when your water brakes.”

This startled Balena, who turned to her husband and pleaded with him to find out what was going on. “Why isn’t Dr. Lawless Park here?” she asked desperately.

“I’ll try to find out,” her husband assured her.

As Cecilia’s baby tumbled in her belly, and as cars rolled off the assembly line in Lordstown, the sun altered the course of history, with a powerful solar flare—a virtual hurricane in the stars—with Earth as its meteorological target. On August 2, 1972, mechanical satellites fixed in orbit were moved by solar forces to create a clear path for the events to come two days later, on the fourth of August. Interplanetary disturbances were of no concern to Due. But those little creatures that hide in the mysterious jungles of the sea, like seahorses and the occasional sea turtle, always sense the geomagnetic storms that affect all hemispheres of the planet. On this particular day, there were no more rules about what can occur or who can feel what.

On Friday morning there was a frightful shout from the lead operator at the General Motors Ohio plant warning of high amperage that regulates a twenty-ton press. “Excessive overheating,” he yelled several times in succession.

He called up to the manager’s office as an alarm began to ring out, which distracted everyone on the assembly line. There were disgruntled moans from all the workers who were concerned that their six dollars an hour would now be in serious jeopardy. A man named Mr. Patterson, who claimed to have been a great great-grandson of one of the founders of the automobile industry, pulled the handle that instantly shut down operations throughout the facility.  There was a scuffle. Men pushed into one another, uncertain why two of the plant’s generators were suddenly speeding up. Nor were they certain if the heavy-duty copper cables would be able to cope with the backup batteries. There was mass confusion.

One of the workers in the shop called the men up to the roof. They all ran feverishly.

“No clouds!” one of the men shouted. “But heavy shadows!” another echoed. “Ghosts?” called a third. “No—too big to be ghosts. Must be heaven,” argued a fourth man.

The shadows moved slowly, like a corpulent snake casting silhouettes as far as the eye could see.

“Come down, guys,” the shop foreman demanded. “The show is over. Back to work.”

It was a hot August afternoon. The upcoming presidential election made it even hotter. Vietnam War protests heated it up further still. American Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, a veteran of World War II, believed that by mining the northern Vietnam ports, American troops could gain control of the situation. After seven years of war, in the spring of 1972, Washington decided to put on the table either a nuclear attack or sea mines in the ports that supply goods from the USSR and China. The size of a grapefruit, magnetic sea mines were planted using Grumman A-6 Intruders, and the mines were set to explode at eighteen feet, or three fathoms, at the channels in Haiphong, a northern port city. This action placed the United States in conflict with the Hague Convention of 1907; if one of the mines detonated and damaged or destroyed commercial cargo, the conflict would escalate and perhaps even unite the USSR and China.

This, of course, was of no concern to Due, residing in Vietnam. To him, planes fly high and low, and bombs turn the nighttime sky into daylight. But as far as Admiral Moorer was concerned, with his experience and training he would never consider breaking all the rules set by the Hague and Geneva Convention. Still, because it was out of his hands, the solar storm penetrated Earth’s magnetic field, and stretched it, on August the Fourth, thereby beginning a chain of events that has never been seen or felt—at least not since 1859.

One bang, then two, then four thousand sea mines exploded. Whoever ventured outside could never imagine such a fortress of armaments, particularly with no vessel from which they came and no target in its sights. Due, burying himself in his mother’s bosom for comfort, put his hands over his ears to ward against the deafening roar of the exploding mines, which echoed mercilessly off tin roofs and bamboo roofs across the countryside. Warehouses near the port of Hai Phong came tumbling down as if a tsunami had rolled in and swallowed the town.

The 1859 solar event, scientifically known as a CME for Coronal Mass Ejection, set the bar. That one took 17.6 hours to reach Earth; the one on August the Fourth took 14.6 hours. By contrast, most solar events take two or three days to reach Earth, giving Earth-bound professionals enough time to put some defenses in place.

The lights flickered with Cecilia’s groans, with each and every push. The nurses were startled when the room went complete dark. The EKG machine stopped beeping. Cecilia glimpsed out the window, where black smoke started to billow. Then the power came back on. The doctor took a deep breath. “The generators,” he acknowledged. One nurse called for Cecilia’s husband and said that something felt amiss when Cecilia had grabbed onto her finger. While the power was keeping only crucial parts of Bellevue Hospital energized, the nurse who had requested the return of Cecilia’s husband looked over the daily manifest. She was a Filipino woman named Susan, and she had sensed danger from the slight touch of Cecilia’s hand. In her commanding voice she told the doctor that she had much experience handling births back in the Philippines, “under candlelight and in the remote areas,” she added.

Cecilia’s husband was ordered to put on scrubs and remain close to his wife.

“Don’t worry,” he said to her. “I’m here. There’s no rush.”

Cecilia turned her head toward the window. A striking shadow caught her eye—the silhouette of a seahorse passing between the Chrysler Building and two large construction cranes in the distance. When Cecelia turned back to look at her husband, their baby boy entered the world.

Back in Hawaii, Balena removed her headset and was escorted to the cafeteria on the main floor, where her colleagues arranged a banquet of gratitude. She took a deep breath and blew out the candles. Several friends shed tears, and everyone forgot the events of the day. Later, as she left the building, she turned around and gave one last look at her place of employment. Hawaii said farewell to her in a most splendid way: a ribbon of green and red stretched across the sky. The sun threw out a brilliant cloud of light—in the form of a seahorse.

 

Notes:

Captain Edmund Gardner was the first whaleship to visit Hawaii she was graced with the name Balena or Balaena.

 

Stories From Around The World

COVID-19 Chronicles

Khalid Abdullahi

October 2021

Nigeria

With COVID-19, we’ve made it to the life raft. Dry land is far away

    Marc Lipsitch

Music has the power to change lives. Music can uplift souls. Music can forge the strongest of bonds between all peoples of the world. Victor Uko, a rising Nigerian artist, understood this from a very tender age.

Music had been a part of Victor ever since he could walk. He sang in the choir long before he thought he would one day pursue a career as an artist.

Victor’s earliest memories were filled with fond images of his mother holding him and slow dancing with him to timeless hits by icons like Marc Anthony and Phil Collins.

It’s been over thirty years since Victor danced with his mother, and in that time, his love and passion for music have only grown to unprecedented heights.

He’s a musician now. And even though he perpetually invests blood and sweat in making his mark on the music industry, Victor is still not where he wants to be-not yet.

His name and achievements can’t be ranked with other African greats like Wizkid, Burna Boy, or Diamond Platnumz. But Victor was a firm believer in his capabilities. He knew it was only a matter of time before he got his moment.

So, the last thing he expected was that a tenacious virus would stain the world and upset plans he worked so hard to put into motion.

When COVID-19 bore through the world, Victor was beset by financial and emotional struggles like almost every rising artist. So what was it like to be an artist in a pandemic?

 

 

  • What Are the Challenges You’ve Faced Because of COVID-19 as an Artist?

“Well, for me, the fear of the virus was more potent than what many others felt. I say this because people were afraid of contracting the virus and what it could do to them, but I already fell victim to it.

I contracted COVID-19, which stopped any tours I planned to go on and compelled me to cancel any gigs I had at clubs or entertainment centers. But that wasn’t the worst of it.

Life wouldn’t have been as bad as now, but I also gave my then-pregnant fiancée the virus, and she lost our unborn child. That happened around March 2021, which was also the month I was supposed to release my EP.

Even though we both survived the virus, we’re not together anymore. My fiancée couldn’t forgive me for what happened, and I respect her decision. I try not to think about it because the family I often saw in my head will now never come to be.

Going back to my EP, despite all the time, effort, money, and resources I exhausted to promote it, the EP couldn’t be released. As an aspiring artist, if you don’t promote, you can’t make your money back or see your investment flourish. I fervently hoped that EP would be my big break, but c’est la vie.”

 

  • What Has Been Your Biggest Setback as a Budding Artist?

“Like the majority of my peers, lack of finance is what keeps holding me back. However, I understand that people are struggling in the COVID-19 era, and artists are no exception.

Before the virus, I did make a steady income from live performances. But social distancing protocols have put an end to that. Many of the clubs I performed in don’t even open, let alone hope they’ll call me to entertain their few patrons.

I do have a day job, and though it doesn’t pay as much as my gigs did before the virus, I’m grateful for it. That’s what I used to take care of myself and my family. But many of my peers were not so fortunate.

Most of them solely relied on music as their livelihood, and now that people have more important things like their health to worry about, there’s no one there to hear them play and pay them.

I don’t have a label, and nor am I signed on to anybody yet. Even before COVID-19, that was one of the biggest challenges for aspiring artists in Nigeria.

But now, with the virus still looming over us, people are more concerned about keeping their jobs and feeding their families and less about signing a rising talent in the music industry.

I’m a solo artist who’s trying to realize his dream, but that also means I have to do everything myself.

In a way, I welcome these challenges because I don’t expect to see success without putting in the effort. To quote the late Vince Lombardi Jr., ‘The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work.’

And yet, if all the hard work will amount to nothing because of COVID-19, is it worth it? I’ve asked myself that question too many times than I care to recall.”

 

  • If You Had the Power to Do One Thing to See Your Career Grow, What Would That Thing Be?

“I don’t think I can say anything here that you’ve not heard of before. Finding a PR team that believes in you is one of the prime goals of any aspiring artist like me.

I hope to meet a group of individuals who’ll help me reach my potential. I want to sit and talk with professionals who’ll invest their time and resources and sponsor me because they foresee great things for everyone involved.

I know these are just dreams. But every unsung artist yearns for these things, and I’m no different. But I do believe I’m different in many ways too. I know I have the talent, drive, passion, and zeal to make it big in this industry, helping whoever I can along the way to realize their dreams too.

If anything, I hope to be a beacon of inspiration for others who are in the same dark place I am now. I just need a group of people to trust what I do and see the good that can come out of it, then help me breathe life into those elusive dreams.

That’s all I ever wanted and all I’ll ever need. There are over 200 notable musicians in Nigeria, and one day, I hope to be ranked in that number too.”

 

 

Victor Uko may not be the only Nigerian artist, or artist of any nationality, to harbor such dreams, but there’s little doubt here that COVID-19 is a bane to his efforts and success.

Rising from an unknown artist with six people attending your shows to a music legend selling out shows is no easy feat; it’s not for the faint-hearted.

And yet, we’ve seen others do it, so it’s well within the realms of possibility. The only difference now is that COVID-19 is a force to reckon with.

It has slowed artists down in their tracks, but one sure fact is this. The virus is temporary; dreams of success are forever.

No artist should despair. This storm will pass, and before them will be a bright and brand new day. New hurdles will rise before them but so will new opportunities. The only thing they need to do is give their all, and fate will handle the rest.

 

CHINATOWN

As they haste passed the sound of smoke, a garden in their heart reminded them to stay strong.

Its only those memories of blossoms in Spring and broken promises in winter that build a shell.

Everywhere there was Chinatown a place cushion between blue and red. Children are the same until they grow into thorns, I’m left to wander in the sunshine.

Andreas Grey The Alluvial

Every idea in the sciences are tested, tried, and measured but Earth stands alone.

The absence of love on distant planets question our abilities to conquer and pioneer our known galaxy. Back here on earth some fight love as an uncontrollable weed, trying to harness it onto a Petri dish and wait for a miracle. We know the answer, we just cannot bottle it up and send it to our moon colonies. It is always the same dilemma can we find a planet like Earth and reboot the spark of love. I travel the galaxy not searching for love but searching for steady work. Home is Queens a part of New York City overpopulated, swelling to its breaking point, it could be worst its where baseball and millionaires flourish, I fly tycoons who once lived at the end of Long Island before the ocean claimed their paradise. The Alluvial is tough, beautiful and was built for single man exploration but now she is used to carry three including myself, she has a hefty price tag and with each journey I get a little closer to ending financial burden.

Below writer and director (Robertson Tirado) of Andreas Grey The Alluvial shares his vision, and first steps creating the Alluvial in Blender 3D. 

The Alluvial is one of a kind, a combination of mining matter from Pluto, Mars, Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter moons Yes, Pluto is a planet again most of the hull on the Alluvial is from Pluto’s icy nitrogen rich frost. The physical properties of this frost shield it from extreme weather in space. Many years ago, Earth mining companies settled on all eight planets and mined the heck out of them. Sending its minerals to Earth, to make peace, clean energy, and life easier we all hoped then. Some of the stuff was too dangerous and what was left helped make buildings taller, communication faster and wars shorter. Over the years more discoveries sparked the SOTULP race. I’ll get into that later. Consequently, this mineral when combined with earths iron ore becomes extraordinarily indestructible. My name is Andreas Grey a career traversing through space from mining stations to moon colonies I’ve have learned that life has more to do with what makes us than what we want to be.

Images of the making of the physical and digital Alluvial.

Author Robertson Tirado

This short novel, coming soon.

Below are VFX projects in the works. 

PHOTOTAXIS

 

OUTLINE FOR THE EXPERIMENTAL FILM ‘PHOTOTAXIS’

Twilight is constant I play with its warmth and dangerous chill. Nothing changes only distance I wonder in my thoughts about her. About our time before our culture rushed to change reality we could not escape it. Consequently, we had to chose a home only by lottery, fate decides our families destiny.

But I squint my eyes and look into the darkness for hope just a flicker so far away it cuts the arc of darkness like a knife. Yes, I’m holding onto a sliver of light that gives me hope.

I’m granted one more trip to see her every time I do its like love at first sight. That feeling is addictive its the motivation that drives me to scheme and cheat my way against destiny.  I plan my escape as an ancient criminal on Alcatraz Island, those stories of men traversing thick walls, hiding in shadows from armed guards and paddling shark infested waters is the foundation of our escape.

But our DNA is tracked through the stars, no black hole can hide our signal a beacon affixed to our consciousness since birth.  Our fate was already scribble before our births, big brother has aimed its lasers into our mothers womb.

The bee makes honey and the mother is in labor our machines have clocks but nature tells time. Nature is honest, pure in its rotation giving Earth a sliver of more each year as a gift. A gift that only a wise person can receive.

I look again to that distant star and know its warmth grants our invitation.

The Boy From Zarephath

Page 15: A Letter to Jonah’s Mother

map001.jpg

 

“First, I miss you very much,” I wrote to my mother. “Today I am resting near the Orontes River, after a long three days of preparing for war with King Shalmaneser III. I know that you warned me of great peril in this endeavor, this conflict—but I write with complete confidence that I will reunite with you before too long. An unfortunate wave of convoys steered me to the armies of Que Cilicia. As you already must know, our King is part of an eleven king front preparing for battle with Shalmaneser III, a bully of a King, to be sure—what I’d call the Bully King of the Assyrians.

“I speak from the heart, mother, when I talk about my desire to have a wife and children one day. This journey brought along with it much loneliness and has hindered my happiness, even though I spoke to the God of Elijah during my travels. I am glad that I did, but I must tell you that it still was not enough to fill the void. Being part of this campaign to defend our home, rather than being pushed into the sea, will ensure a better life for you and for your other son, my brother.

“I am surrounded by good men, some of the bravest, some who remember the drought when I was a boy. Many question how we were able to survive it. I keep silent about our special house guest who brought about the salvation. Our rugged life here is filled with salty breezes and quiet nights. I find myself thinking of roasted vegetables and our garden filled with blue flax.

“When I return, I will make time to discover my father’s shipbuilding talents for myself. Some of it was passed on to me, and of that I am pleased and proud. Our hearts are aligned, mother, and my faith is aligned with your example. This is the reason I have no fear in this strange land. There are things that I have never seen. There is an abundance of manpower that accomplishes so much in so little time. Relying upon your examples keeps me focused. This letter is not meant to cause you more anxiety. I urge you to read between the lines. This letter is intended to strengthen you spirit while your older son presses forth and your younger one remains safe and happy.”

Copyright © 2019

Thank you for reading, published book coming soon. Visit Robertson Tirado on YouTube.

Book available: The Boy From Zarephath https://www.amazon.com/dp/0578513803/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_wUDnDbVYKX53Q

The Last Ice Cream Truck

EXT. MIDWEST – NOON

On a corner of a small town that just over 850 mostly elderly people call home sits a middle-aged man named CARLO inside his ice cream truck. It is a sunny afternoon. He is bored and alone. Six-year-old SOPHIA stands nearby, silently for a while. but then she stirs CARLO out of his daydream with a soft voice that can almost be mistaken for a gentle breeze.

 SOPHIA

Hi. Do you have vanilla ice cream with rainbow sprinkles?

CARLO lifts his head and hastily turns on the switch that plays traditional American ice cream truck music. 

CARLO

What?… Who’s there?… Oh—how can I help you? 

SOPHIA

(gentle whisper)

I said can I have a vanilla ice cream cone with sprinkles? 

CARLO grunts, nods, and begins to make the cone.

CARLO

Have we met before? 

SOPHIA

I don’t know. Maybe.

CARLO finishes making the cone and hands it to SOPHIA. 

CARLO

Where are your parents? 

SOPHIA

They went away. 

CARLO

Where did they go? 

SOPHIA

With everyone else. 

CARLO

With everyone else? I don’t know what that means. How far away

do you live? 

SOPHIA

I live just over those hills, on the other side of the valley. 

CARLO

And you walked here? All by yourself?

SOPHIA

When I was really little my mother and father used to walk everywhere. We

didn’t have a car. But in the summer we could hear the music from the ice

cream trucks. From all the way down here. 

CARLO

You haven’t touched your ice cream yet. It’s melting. 

SOPHIA

Oh no! I need another one.  

CARLO

(sighs heavily)

Before I give you another one, I’ll need two dollars. One for this one and

one for the next one.

SOPHIA

My mommy only gave me one dollar.

CARLO

Fine. I’ll live with it. But where is your mother? 

SOPHIA

I told you. She went with the others.

CARLO begins to make a new cone. 

SOPHIA

Did you know that you’re the last ice cream truck in

the whole world. 

CARLO stops making the cone and turns toward SOPHIA. 

CARLO

What? What did you say? 

SOPHIA

It’s just you and me now. 

CARLO pokes his head out of the window of the ice cream truck. 

CARLO

Where are your parents? 

SOPHIA

In heaven. 

CARLO

Heaven. Yeah, right. Are you lost? 

SOPHIA

Maybe. Maybe not.

CARLO steps out of his truck and gently—though nervously—takes SOPHIA’s hand.

CARLO

Which way did you come here?

SOPHIA

I told you. I came down the hill, then walked between those two buildings,

then came up this hill.

CARLO

Between those two building down there?

SOPHIA

Yes. But I don’t want to go back.

CARLO stands on a big rock that’s just about the same size as a milk crate. He still holds onto SOPHIA’s hand and gently helps her up onto the rock. He calls out loudly: 

CARLO

Does anyone know who this little girl belongs to?… Hello?… Listen

up… Does anyone know who this little girl belongs to?

After a moment, without having heard a response, CARLO lets go of SOPHIA’s hand and returns to his ice cream truck to make a phone call. He starts to dial. 

SOPHIA

All the phones are dead. 

CARLO realizes there is no dial tone.

CARLO

How did you know that?

CARLO hangs up. SOPHIA runs around the ice cream truck singing: 

SOPHIA

You are the only ice cream truck in the world.

You are the only ice cream truck in the world.

You are the only ice cream truck in the world. 

CARLO

(annoyed)

Stop it. 

SOPHIA laughs.

CARLO

Why are you laughing? Why? Is it because that according to you

I’m the only ice cream truck left in the world? Is that  it? Well, that’s stupid.

It’s stupid and silly.  

SOPHIA

You’re no fun.  

CARLO

I’m no fun? Well, sorry about that. But I don’t have time to be fun. All I have

time for is to prove to you that there are more people around than just me and

you. There are others. Plenty of others. We’re gonna go down the hill so I can

prove it to you.  

SOPHIA

Are you sure you want to do that?

CARLO

Why wouldn’t I? 

CARLO rolls up the window, powers down the generator, removes his apron, and exits the truck. SOPHIA grabs CARLO’s hand and leads him down the hill. After a bit of strolling, they reach the bottom, where they go to a building with a steel door that looks very menacing. 

CARLO

Is this where your parents live? Maybe I know them. 

SOPHIA

No. But they used to work here.  

CARLO

Maybe if we knock on the door, someone will come out to talk to us.  

SOPHIA

Maybe. But I think we should go back up the hill instead.  

CARLO ignores her, then notices light peeping out from all around the perimeter of the steel door. He pushes the door open, then falls to the ground in dismay.

CARLO

What is this place? It looks like Times Square in New York City. How can

that be? I was there once. There are thousands of people in Times Square.

Where are all the people? Where are they?

(turns to Sophia, trembling).

Why did you bring me here? 

SOPHIA

You wanted to come. You wanted to open this door.

Don’t you remember?

CARLO looks at SOPHIA. There is a look of recognition in his eyes.   

CARLO

I know you. Twenty years ago, maybe. When I was a boy. But how

could you still be a little girl? How could you be here? 

CARLO seems lost in his memory. From the ice cream truck comes a voice:

VOICE

You already died, when you lied

Slippers on your feet

Robe on your back

Trying to catch up to what you lack

Music was tears

Cold nights in the black hole

The only hope was the twinkling specks on those white clouds.

She stood on the corner waiting for you

But you never listened

Even unconscious the music still plays.

 

CARLO comes out of his memory trance and addresses SOPHIA. 

CARLO

What’s your name? 

SOPHIA

Sophia 

CARLO

(hesitantly)

Sophia! I loved a girl name Sofia when I was seven year old… Are you…

You can’t… It’s impossible… Are you Sophia?

-End-

©Robertson Tirado copyright 2018

This short screenplay is exclusively written for independent directors, a $250 licensing  fee grants up to 10 filmmakers the rights to visualize this story. Contact Robertson Tirado for payment and certificate.

NOAH

Landscape poster Noah

EXT. SHORELINE, PACIFIC OCEAN – MORNING

BRUCE is hiding between large rocks as he uses a knife to cut away his ankle bracelet. In February the weather is mild in California and the sea breeze feels good on his thirty-five-year-old face. Just up the hill, Bruce’s Ford Mustang is parked. First he removes a thin metal plate in his boot that shielded the signal of the ankle bracelet that is made of circuitry that blinds the indicator to law enforcement. After removing the ankle bracelet, Bruce smashes it on the rocks and buries it in the sand.

CUT TO:

EXT. MUSTANG – MORNING

Bruce walks to his car, opens the door and sits inside. Inside the car is a picture of his son Noah. He touches the photo and looks into the rearview mirror.

CUT TO:

INT. DRIVING – MORNING

Bruce turns on the radio. There is an announcement warning people not to travel to the desert.

 

CHARACTORS:

Bruce

Radio

Larry Hillson

Clara

 

ANNOUNCEMENT (voice over)

The following is a message from homeland security: it is advised that anyone within a five-mile radius of San Francisco refrain from traveling to the desert. There is an electrical storm that can potentially cause blindness or even death. Stay tuned for updates on your local media outlet, or on the web. Thank you for your attention.

               BRUCE

            (to himself)

I’ve lost everything; I was educated to make things better for humanity, but have made things dangerous instead.

Bruce is driving up the west coast of California, heading north, with the Pacific Ocean in view. He spends most of the time talking to himself, with a bad conscience looming over him. He rubs his head and picks up his cellular phone.

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Noah script copyright 2017