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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Other · #1856960
Phoenix relaxes on a cloudy day in late March...
Well, it was Saturday.  Phoenix's brother had called at 0800 to tell him that he had eggs for him and to ask permission to use the 1964 Ford to pick up a steel rack for his hydroponics tank.  Phoenix shuffled up the back concrete steps to get the eggs from Francisco.  Francisco met him at the back door with a dozen and a half eggs that his chickens had laid, but there was something else.  Francisco had that look in his eye...  "You wanna meet Frode?"  Frode?  What was a Frode, exactly?  "It's our rabbit.  We adopted it from the shelter."  Oh.  Frode the rabbit.  Phoenix was convinced that Francisco and his wife needed to live on a farm, because they essentially had one within city limits in the upstairs of the house and the back yard anyway:  five cats, three chickens, a chinchilla, a fish tank full of tilapia, a hydroponics tank full of fish to fertilize the plants, a beehive on top of the roof, and now a rabbit.  It was truly amazing when Phoenix thought about it.  When Phoenix thought about it, though, he was always reminded of the smells that came through the furnace vents as a result of this indoor farm.  Phoenix would burn some incense the moment he got back downstairs, as a matter of fact.

Phoenix met Frode.  Frode was housed in a nice hutch that Francisco had gotten off of eBay for $50, reportedly.  It was a split-level hutch, so Frode had a mansion of sorts for bunny rabbits.  Frode was a nice looking black and white Dutch rabbit.  He was friendly enough, but he was wary of being picked up, so petting him was a bit beyond his comfort level at the time.  That was okay with Phoenix.  He knew it would take time and a few treats to truly befriend Frode.  Phoenix's spouse had won the chickens over with outdated wheat bread a few weeks earlier.  Phoenix picked a chive that was growing in Francisco's garden and offered it to Frode.  Frode had no problem munching that away in the hurried fashion typical of rabbits.  Phoenix's feet were getting cold and he was outside in his pajamas, so Francisco asked if he wanted to come in and see the kittens.  Phoenix agreed.  Once inside, Phoenix saw that the "kittens" had grown significantly.  They were now taller, skinnier, and much bigger than they had been a few months ago.  Murphy was still clumsy and confused.  He was an orange tabby that Phoenix was fairly certain had kitty autism of some sort.  He was well-liked by Phoenix, however.  Siam came along immediately to see Phoenix.  Siam loved Phoenix and was a large, long-haired grey cat with a squeaky meow.  Phoenix had always called Siam "Squeaker".  Phoenix squatted down and gave Squeaker her due loving and attention.  Amethyst, a slim calico, could not stand to be denied attention if Squeaker was getting some, so she came over to share some of the loving that Squeaker was getting.  The other "kitten", a black cat named something Italian-sounding that Phoenix could never remember, kept his distance and was not sure what to think of Phoenix.  Finally, the older cat, Fifi, came and greeted Phoenix.  Fifi was missing the tips of her ears from frostbite at some time in her life.  She could hold her own, though.  Phoenix did not go to see Gizmo, the chinchilla, but Francisco said she was doing fine and had gotten out a few times.  An escaped chinchilla was no laughing matter if you were the one trying to capture it.  Francisco took Phoenix into the living room, where he had built the cats a "cardboard castle".  Francisco was always receiving packages and decided to build a play castle out of the boxes.  It was a thing of beauty.  "Yep.  I think this is a permanent fixture in the house now.  Packaging tape and boxes.  They love it."  It was impressive, and Phoenix could easily see why a group of cats would like it so much.  It was truly ingenious.

Phoenix finally said his farewells, knowing that he had to get those eggs into the refrigerator downstairs and that he could not stand the smell of the cat litter much longer.  He checked for fugitive kitties, told his brother he loved him, and went back down the cold steps to his apartment.  The furnace kicked on about that time and Phoenix lit a stick of incense to combat the odor from upstairs.  It was too bad that it was such a strong and unpleasant odor.  Phoenix and his spouse thought that it would be at least as intolerable for Francisco and Carmen as it was for them, but they did not seem to mind the overwhelming smells.  Perhaps their senses had been deadened...that was Phoenix's theory.  Francisco had mentioned that Carmen might want to practice taking Phoenix's blood pressure later that afternoon when she got off of work.  She had failed the first test on taking blood pressures in nursing school and was scheduled to retake the test soon.  Phoenix agreed.  He actually welcomed it because if she practiced on him, he may actually be able to tell why she was having such difficulty with it.  Phoenix was not going to structure his day around it, though.  He had other things that he wanted to do, like play his guitar and write on his computer for a while.

Phoenix's spouse left to work on a project and Phoenix decided to play "Ratchet and Clank" on the PS3 for a bit.  That was relaxing.  Phoenix then took a shower and got ready for his day, whatever that was going to entail.  He wrote on his computer for a while, then decided he should mail that letter that he had written to his friends in Germany before the post office closed for the day.  He could not remember how late they were open on Saturday, so he went there before pursuing lunch.  For a standard letter, the price to send it to Deutschland was now $1.05.  Phoenix expected it to be under a dollar, so he had to break his $5 bill on it, but it was worth it.  He loved his friends in Germany and it had been far too long since he had last written to them.  It was nearing Easter, so this was an ideal time to update them on his current doings in life.  Phoenix went and had lunch after that, because by that time, he was hungry.  He was going to go to a healthy restaurant on the West End of the city, but it was Saturday.  Phoenix did not feel like braving or fighting all of the people that would be on that end of town.  He settled instead for a restaurant that he did not often go to, but had been fond of lately.  A hot ham and cheese sandwich fixed his appetite up and lightened his mood again.  It was chilly and dreary outside.  It was threatening rain, but Phoenix did not know if precipitation was in the forecast.  If it rained, it rained, he thought.  Once back home, Phoenix wrote a bit more on his computer and then played his guitar.

Phoenix loved his guitar.  Everything about it was great.  He hugged it and praised God for it and the ability to play it.  Phoenix admired the callouses on his fingers.  The thicker the callouses got, the better his playing sounded.  That may have been a genuine effect, or it may have been Phoenix's interpretation of the thing, but it did not really matter to Phoenix which it was.  He decided to try to learn some new songs.  "Chaipanecas" sounded familiar once he began playing it.  It was the Mexican handclapping song that was sometimes referred to as "Mexican Hat Dance".  He learned that there was more to the song than he had been taught in school, though.  That was a challenge to figure out rhythm-wise, which Phoenix found to be fun.  He liked the challenge of the guitar.  Coordinating both hands and all ten fingers all at the same time, strumming at the right times and on the right strings to make it sound like it should, moving his left hand up or down the neck as needed to fret the correct notes...it was all a great experience for him.  Music.  He was making music again, and that was what mattered.  He was a native of music's touch and music's reach.  He could have been a professional musician many times over by now if he had chosen to.  So why did he decide against it?  Why had he made the choice to run against his own grain and abandon his true gifts?  At the time, Phoenix did not want to be what everyone expected him to be.  He wanted to be himself and he wanted to be recognized as a real person.  He had not felt that he had that recognition back then and he did not know any other way to be noticed except to forge a new and unexpected path.  For Phoenix, that was the military.  What a path it had been.  From being a machine gunner to disarming nukes, from war in a far away desert to being a fitness trainer in the officer's gym after being an armorer...and all over the world.  Service to his country had taken a terrible toll on Phoenix, but Phoenix did not know any other way to be.  He was who and what he was.  Right now, he was a guitar player, and that pleased him.  He used the guitar to distract himself from the horrible memories that held him captive in his post-traumatic stress world.  It was working.  When he was playing the guitar, he could focus on just playing and watching the smoke rise from the incense stick burning on the table next to the door across the room.  Even when he was nervous or agitated, when his knee was bouncing, he could still play the guitar and calm down.  It soothed him and brought him back to the reality of the present moment.  That was what kept him going.  As he played, he thought of happier things and hope.  He actually thought he should get back in shape so that he could live longer.  Living.  That was new.  It had been a long time since Phoenix had actually wanted to live or cared to.  Someone had asked him recently what was so special about the guitar that was not special about other instruments he had played.  The answer was complex in this way described.  It encompassed Phoenix's entire being and his entire experience - his entire history of life and his future.  That was what the guitar meant.  That was what was so special about the guitar.

Phoenix took a break from playing his guitar and put the incense stick out for a while.  He worked on his computer some more, writing to get things off his chest.  He was full of something that particular day.  He was not sure what that something was, whether it was anxiety or depression or something else.  He felt something leading him to read the Book of Mormon.  Phoenix was not a Mormon, but his spouse was, and he read all of the Scriptures so that they could have intelligent discussions about their faiths.  It made for good conversations and harmony between the two of them.  Why was he led to the book of Moroni specifically?  Phoenix did not know, but he decided he should read it if he felt the inkling to.  He looked up the Scriptures online at www.lds.org, which was very convenient for him.  He read the tenth chapter of Moroni and it was a very comforting passage.  He was led to produce a power point presentation on it, as a matter of fact.  That was strange.  He created an LDS account for himself as a non-member and explored the study notebook functions available for the online Scriptures and lessons.  These could be very helpful tools if one were to use them, Phoenix thought.  Phoenix's spouse walked in and they went for a drive, first to the landfill, and then to get lunch.

Once Phoenix and his spouse returned home, Phoenix got a call from his sister-in-law Carmen upstairs.  She wanted to know if Phoenix would be willing to allow her to practice taking his blood pressure.  Phoenix promptly went upstairs and Carmen took his blood pressure several times, getting slightly different numbers every time.  Phoenix took his own blood pressure and confirmed that she was right there in the ballpark with what he got for his blood pressure.  She practiced on both of his arms and he ran the idea of anemia by her since she was a dietary aide at the hospital.  He told her the situation with their "niece" Sarah, who was one percent low in her iron count and therefore was prescribed iron pills to take because she is a runner in track.  Sarah was only 15 years old, and Phoenix was of the opinion that diet could probably fix the issue.  Carmen agreed and suggested broccoli, spinach, and red meat for the iron.  To help Sarah absorb the iron, it was recommended that she take vitamin C in the form of orange juice or a supplement of some sort.  Due to the fact that Sarah was a runner, her red blood cells were actually being destroyed by all of the pounding of her feet, and with some vitamin E from peanuts or salad dressing, she may also be able to boost her red blood cell count.  Phoenix was thankful for the information and bid his sister-in-law farewell.

Back in his apartment, Phoenix played his guitar some more.  He was learning "Pachelbel's Canon in D" and continued working on "Chiapanecas".  He was in love with the instrument, its sound, and the fact that he could play more than one note at once.  He could actually play chords, and this made the wonderful sounds of the songs linger in his fingertips as well as in his ears.  He told his spouse that he hoped that these strings lasted a long time, to which the response was, "Why?"  Phoenix explained that he thought changing the strings would be difficult at first.  His spouse replied, "Well, you only change one string - the one that broke.  You don't change all of them."  Phoenix disagreed and told his spouse that you had to replace all of the strings when one broke.  Phoenix's spouse was not listening to him and would not believe him.  Phoenix gave up.  It was not worth arguing about.  There were many things not worth arguing about, especially when the point was to relax.  Phoenix was trying to relax.  Something was agitating him, though, and had been all day.

Phoenix decided to dig out his quadruple combination - a book containing the entire Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrines and Covenants.  In other words, this book contained all of the Mormon scriptures.  It was in a very nice forest green canvas case, along with a copy of the Bible by itself and the Book of Mormon by itself.  Phoenix actually wanted to read through the Book of Mormon.  It was the first thing his spouse had given him when they met.  The problem with this plan of getting the quad and the other two cherished books out was that Phoenix had put them in a safe place.  Most of us know how "safe places" work.  Phoenix searched high and low, rummaging through every pile and corner in the basement, then enlisted the help of his spouse.  Finally, Phoenix thought of the one place he had not looked.  There was a plastic container in the bedroom next to his side of the bed.  The point of this container was that the items within it could not get wet when it flooded in the bedroom during the rainy season.  It was the safest place for something that you did not want any harm to come to.  Sure enough, Phoenix found his quad there.  Phoenix unzipped the pocket with the Book of Mormon in it and took it out.  It was the original that his spouse had given him when they met seven years before.  Phoenix had attached a photo of the two of them inside the front cover and he read the message that his spouse had written in it for him before giving it to him.  The photo was the first photo of them together, taken on September 11th, 2005 near the same pond that Phoenix had been baptized in.  Phoenix was baptized in the pond after the bishop and he had gotten into an argument during Phoenix's first experience at a service of the Church.  The bishop would not allow Phoenix to be baptized anywhere except in the baptismal inside the building, and Phoenix disagreed with that because he felt like he was being set up to be a trophy of some sort instead of following the Lord.  If the Lord was baptized in a river, then Phoenix could be legitimately baptized in a pond, plain and simple.  There was one particular member that Phoenix knew was predatory in the numbers game, and he did not want to be a mere number on their wall.  He wanted to follow the Lord.  He wanted to follow his heart.  He was ready to be baptized, and asking the bishop's permission to be baptized in the pond was only a courtesy.  Phoenix learned recently that this particular bishop had been excommunicated from the Church not long ago.  Phoenix did not feel a sense of triumph about this.  Instead, he felt sad at what had happened.  That was the difference between them.

Phoenix joined an online forum site for LDS members that evening.  The introductions forum would not allow him to start a new thread, however.  Phoenix, frustrated with this, quit the site and looked at his Book of Mormon.  He needed to read something in it, and to produce a power point on it, but he did not know where that material was supposed to come from.  He felt led to take it from Moroni 10, but he did not know the audience he was speaking to.  He would have to make it generic enough to be used on anyone.  Phoenix finally turned in for the night after struggling with this for a few more hours.  He was fairly certain he would receive further guidance on it if he left it alone until morning.
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