by Fred Tribuzzo, Published with Dog Ear Publishing in 2009
Paul’s trendy spiritual ambitions have guttered, leaving him a burned-out, middle-aged bankruptcy lawyer. Now it’s almost Christmas, and the spirit world has decided to take Paul firmly in hand. Three iconic Native Americans of the 19th Century, Black Elk, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, challenge Paul to a dream quest: no guarantee of safe return. It’s going to be a rough ride.
During the journey, Paul discovers that the Christian faith he’s disparaged since high school was embraced by Black Elk, who spent the second half of his life as a devout Catholic. This fact stuns Paul, intensifying his arguments with the holy man and deepening his confusion.
Dragged from Hell to breakfast, offshore oil rig to war-torn streets of the Middle East by the trio of unorthodox spirit guides, Paul must make the hardest choice of his life: swallow his long-held pride and accept a new path in life, or hold stubbornly to his cynical worldview.
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On a muddy hill in Vietnam, a squad of U.S. soldiers, pinned down, took withering fire, screamed and died. One terrified soldier jumped up and ran, firing wildly.
“Hey, loser!” Paul Castellucci shouted. “Find something better to do than charge up a hill with people shooting at you!”
Paul had watched this scene unfold in other movies: a frightened soldier, unable to take the stress of combat, wound too tight, or just too reckless, attempts John Wayne-style heroics in the last moments of his life.
“You moron, it’s called suicide where I come from!” Paul yelled as the soldier fell. “See how worthless you are? They killed ya, now I’m gonna kill ya.”
He punched the remote and a music channel appeared, blasting rough sounds and a choppy trail of erotic images. “Now that’s progress.”
Normally this bashing satisfied him, but not tonight. When the phone played Beethoven’s Ninth, he jumped out of his king-sized bed and padded across the hardwood floor to the phone. He liked the feel of the cool wood on his bare feet. Through a cracked window, he smelled pizza from a restaurant below his studio apartment. Thankful for the small pleasures, he picked up the portable phone. “Hi, Mom.”
“You haven’t forgotten what time of year this is?” his eighty-year-old mother asked, her voice cutting in and out.
“Stand in one place, Ma, that new cell of yours is worthless. No, I haven’t forgotten, Christmas is the day after tomorrow. I didn’t call because I’m not sure if it’s me and somebody or just me coming for dinner.”
“What do I care about your girlfriends? It’s your son, Paul. Your son’s back early from Iraq.”
Paul started to pace. “Mid-January, wasn’t it?”
“But he’s here now, Christmas, a beautiful time to talk. Don’t let Will go without telling him how much you love him. Iraq’s a terrible place to go back to.”
“Hey, he never asked my opinion.”
“How could he? You live in your own world: off chasing Indians, running around the desert doing crazy things.”
“Right, right. I’m the big jerk who deserted my son. And now you expect me to perform magic?”
His mother’s long sigh signaled her impatience. “Yes, I do. And you made it worse, too. But today, Paul. Let’s just talk about today, and Will—”
“Forget it, Ma. Christmas Day. I’ll be there, he’ll be there. We’ll work something out.”