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We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering. These are noble pursuits, necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love: these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman. ‘O me, O life, of the questions of these recurring. Of the endless trains of the faithless. Of cities filled with the foolish. What good, amid these, O me, O Life?’ Answer: That you are here. That life exists and identity. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

John Keating, The Dead Poets Society

Fifty is a milestone in nearly anything. If you google it, you’ll see people seem to become obsessed with turning 50. Things that happened 50 years ago are more significant than things that happened 47 or 56 years ago.

This is my 50th Blog Post. It’s an effort to tie all the loose ends together, and to answer Professor Keating’s question.

While I’m alive, I hope that I can live a life such that I can have my one strange, supernatural fantasy come out my way. In the last five minutes of my life, Marc Antony shows up at my bedside. I always have him kind of glowing. And he’s clearly Marlon Brando. And he knows everything I have done, and all that has happened to me, from the time I was a sperm racing toward the egg, up until that very moment. And, in my fantasy, Marc Antony can honestly and objectively reach the conclusion that: His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that the nature might stand up and say to all the world, “This was a man.” That’s all I hope to be able to achieve. I feel like it would be enough. After that, Death is a Welcome Companion.
Horace Singleman’s Blog, April 26, 2019

Extended Stay Inn
Phoenix, Arizona
September 2, 2019
3:14 AM

Horace experienced Nothing. Sleep includes, from time to time, at least, some sort of dreams. “What dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil…” Horace lacked awareness of his very existence. Dreams imply a form of consciousness. Consciousness hid in the Nothingness.

A voice flickered into existence. “Horace?”

Horace’s eyes might have opened. They might not have. They existed, though.

Marc Antony floated over the bed on which Horace lay, dying. The entity appeared in every outward way to be Marlon Brando playing Marc Antony in the 1953 film version. But Horace knew it was Marc Antony anyway.

His voice came from everywhere at once. It was both booming and soothing. It echoed without pretense. He spoke the lines Horace had spent his life preparing to hear.

This was the noblest Roman of them all.
All the conspirators save only he
Did that they did in envy of great Caesar.
He only in a general honest thought
And common good to all, made one of them.
His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world…”

He stopped. There was a pause that seemed to stretch into Eternity. Finally, he sighed in a distinctly disappointed fashion, and said, “I got nothing.”

Horace regained (or didn’t… he couldn’t be sure) consciousness. “What do you mean?”

“You didn’t make the cut, Horace. I’m sorry. The Elements aren’t mixed properly. I can’t call you a Man.”

“Oh.” Horace blinked, or he did if his eyes were still functioning, which was, by no means, a settled issue. “Well, that sucks. I thought I was doing pretty well. I was mostly proud of what I did.”

Antony shrugged. “What can I tell ya?”

“So… to be clear… you know everything I’ve ever done every moment of my life, right?”

“From the moment your Dad’s condom broke.”

“Wait. What?”

“That was more than I was supposed to tell you, probably. Forget it.”

“So, I don’t need to explain anything to you. You know, for example, about Somewhere in Time, Emily Webb and her return from the graveyard, and The Next Generation episode, ‘Tapestry,’ right?”

“And Billy Bigelow in Carousel and George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. They’re all about a second chance. Going back. You’re looking for a do-over?” Antony lit a cigarette with a match. Horace wondered if togas had pockets.

“Are there any options like that? I’ve never dealt with dying before.”

Antony dragged on the cigarette, shook out the match, and looked up at Horace. The smoke smelled tempting to Horace. Antony smiled at him, in the way only Brando could, and handed Horace a cigarette. He lit it for him. Horace inhaled gratefully.

“Well, it’s your last five minutes… or actually… three minutes and 49 seconds… of life. Spend them as you see fit.”

“What about a trip to The Guardian of Forever?”

Antony nodded slowly, contemplatively. “We could do that.” He blew out the smoke from his cigarette, and it became deeper and deeper. It expanded until all that existed was smoke. From within the smoke, Horace heard familiar voices.

“Incredible power. It can’t be a machine as we understand mechanics.”

“Then what is it?”

Now the smoke began to dissipate, and Horace could see his childhood heroes, Kirk and Spock, standing before a 15 foot high slab of rock with a hole carved in its center.

“A question. Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question.” The voice came from everywhere, and reverberated through the scene.

“What are you?” This was Kirk.

“I am the Guardian of Forever,” said the booming voice of the rock.

“Are you machine or being?”

“I am both and neither. I am my own beginning, my own ending.”

“Cool,” whispered Horace.

“This won’t be long. After they leave, it’s all yours.”

“Can they see or hear us?”

“Were we in the episode?” Antony turned to watch an insane Doctor McCoy jump through the portal. In that moment, everything felt different. There was a sense of loneliness that Horace had never experienced.

He looked over to the crew of the Enterprise.

“Where is he?” Horace’s hero asked The Guardian.

“He has passed into what was.”

Horace told Antony, “That’s sort of what I have in mind.”

Antony nodded. “I get ya. We’ll see what we can do. Soon as they’re gone. We can’t interfere.”

“They could be here for a really long time, and I have, what… like three minutes?”

Antony shook his head. “Closer to two. But you’ve forgotten how this episode comes out.”

Horace looked back to his heroes.

“Earth’s not there. At least, not the Earth we know. We’re totally alone.” Kirk and the crew looked into the empty dark sky.

“I don’t really want to change all of galactic history or anything, you know,” Horace explained to Antony.

“You’re not nearly that important. And The Guardian will only let you go back into your life. You don’t get to go stop the Lincoln assassination or something.”

“So… any moment of my life?”

“Nope. It doesn’t play at that speed. There are certain moments… like docks on the river of time… you can pick one of those, go back, and do whatever you think needs to be done.”

“Yeah, but I can’t do much in the time I have left.”

“Time doesn’t count in The Guardian, remember?”

Captain Kirk turned to Spock, who was busy with his tricorder. “Make sure we arrive before McCoy got there. It’s vital we stop him before he does whatever it was that changed all history. Guardian, if we are successful – “

The Guardian’s voice filled the area: “Then you will be returned. It will be as though none of you had gone.”

Antony turned to his companion. “Do you have a clue what you’re going to do in The Guardian?”

“I’m going to try to fix my life so that the elements are so mixed in me that Nature might stand up and say to all the world –”

“Yeah, yeah. I know. But, what, exactly, are you going to fix? What do you think you can do to remix the Elements?”

Horace ran his thumb over his mustache. “I really don’t know.”

Spock spoke quietly. “There is no alternative.”

Captain Kirk turned to his engineer. “Scotty, when you think you’ve waited long enough… Each of you will have to try it. Even if you fail, at least you’ll be alive in some past world somewhere.”

Mr. Scott’s face showed concern. “Aye.”

Mr. Spock looked carefully at his tricorder, and then up at The Guardian. “Seconds now, sir. Stand by.”

Horace asked Antony, “Those are my seconds he’s spending… how many do I have left?”

Antony didn’t need to look at a clock. “One hundred fifty three.”

“Well, then, I’m pretty much screwed!”

Spock said, “…And now.” He and Kirk jumped through The Guardian.

“By the time they get back,” Horace began. He was interrupted by Mr. Scott. Kirk and Spock jumped back through the portal.

“What happened, sir? You only left a moment ago.”

Dr. McCoy jumped through as well.

Spock spoke in his logical, emotionless way. It was clear, however, to the assembled crew he was holding something back. “We were successful.”

The Guardian spoke again. “Time has resumed its shape. All is as it was before. Many such journeys are possible. Let me be your gateway.”

Lieutenant Uhura glanced up from her communicator. “Captain, the Enterprise is up there. They’re asking if we want to beam up.”

Kirk was defeated and deflated. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

In another moment, all of the shapes shimmered, and then they were gone. Horace and Antony were alone with the Guardian of Forever.

“So… what’s it going to be?” Antony moved toward The Guardian.

Horace moved quickly to the portal. “Guardian? Can you take me back in time?”

“Your transportation is limited to the 56.841 years you have existed. You may choose from any of three… Time Docks… is the simplest way to explain them to your species. They are moments in time that you may enter and change. The rest of the River of Time flows too quickly for you. You would certainly drown.”

Horace glared at Antony. “What the hell is this? Kirk and Spock got all of History. All I get is -”

“You’re not Kirk and Spock. This Guardian is limited to what I know. What I know is your life.”

“What about Ancient Rome?”

“Is this really how you want to spend your last 97 seconds?”

Horace turned back to The Guardian. “What are my options?”

The Guardian displayed a moment in Horace’s life.

“That was the day Grandpa Leal died. I remember that.”


Henderson, Nebraska
Sunday, September 28, 1969
2:23 PM

All right,” said Jim Lange’s voice coming from the TV, “that’s the signal Farrah, and now you must make up your mind… will it be Bachelor Number One, Bachelor Number Two, or Bachelor Number Three?”

It doesn’t matter who she picks,” Horace whispered to Teddy. “She always finds out later it was the wrong one.”

Which one gets the date?” asked the TV.

Number Two,” Farrah’s voice replied.

Number Two, all right! Can I ask what it was that made you choose him?”

It was the flower.”

And then a fight broke out between the three bachelors.

That’s only ‘possed to be on Batman,” said Teddy, while Horace’s lips moved.


Owen groaned, “I’m up, I’m up, I’m up,” as he woke from his doze, got out of the chair, and walked to the TV. He turned it off, while Horace groaned in disappointment. Grandpa lumbered to the couch, laid down on it, and pulled the blanket off the back of it and covered himself.

Teddy looked up at Horace. “Your Grandpa’s wise, huh?”

Horace nodded. “He’s God’s best friend.” He looked down at his bear. “But we have to be quiet. Grandpa’s going to sleep now.”

Horace watched Owen a while, and then he took Teddy, climbed on top of Grandpa, and fell asleep.


The Guardian of Forever
September 2, 2019
3:18:07 AM

“What do I do with that?”

“You blocked it out. No one knew. You couldn’t tell them. You didn’t understand. You were afraid,” said Antony.

“That… my Grandfather died?”

“That you might have prevented it. You were lying on top of him when it happened. You felt his heart attack. You froze. You could have gone to get Mrs. Fertlebom. You could have called 911. You would have become a more courageous man.”

“Why didn’t I? I don’t remember.”

“You didn’t know what to do. When Grandpa fell asleep, don’t you remember what you did that night?”

“I went and turned the TV back on… I figured I could get away with it now…”

“That’s right.”

“And… I watched… was that… that was the first time I saw ‘City on The Edge of Forever.’ That’s when I learned about The Guardian. It’s where I learned about Let Me Help.”

“That’s why it became such a motivating factor… almost an obsession in your life. If you had helped…”

“I don’t see changing that. It’s a core part of me.”

“What about your grandfather?”

“We have only… what… 45 seconds left?”


“What’s next?”

A new image appeared within The Guardian.

“That’s Rhiannon’s attic. I remember that.”

“She really did put a spell on you that night.”

“That’s ridiculous!” shouted Horace. “I have no belief in the Supernatural.”

“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio…”


Wells, Maine
Tuesday, March 13, 1979
10:23 PM

This attic was the only place Horace could find to hide. There were so many people out there, but here, in this empty room, he was alone with the full moon whose light was slipping feebly through the tiny window.

He couldn’t imagine what he had been thinking when he’d accepted Bob’s invitation. It had been so entirely unexpected, though, there was nothing else he could do. The star quarterback of the high school football team had invited him to a party… at the home of the single most beautiful cheerleader who had ever graced the halls of Poe High School. And Horace was the head of the Poe Nothings. Horace knew himself well enough to know that Rhiannon would never actually talk to him, but there was that Glimmer of Hope. Just a little Hope can make the heart beat a bit faster. Horace enjoyed the feeling, so he accepted the invitation. And now he was in the attic, hoping he could find a way out of here.

All of these people were light years beyond his social class. None of them had ever seen an episode of Star Trek. He knew absolutely nothing about the sports that they discussed with the precision of scientists debating quantum mechanics. They were all well built, outgoing, attractive people. Horace was thin, gangly, socially inept, and unattractive in any conventional sense. He was the only virgin in the entire house. What had Bob been thinking?

He didn’t belong. He wanted to leave, but it was awfully cold in March, and it was a 17 mile walk from Wells back to Biddeford. Hiding represented his only chance to survive, and he couldn’t get away with the bathroom for more than about 5 minutes at a time. There were way too many people, drinking way too much, and they all required a restroom.

But this room looked like it was hiding, too. It wasn’t even a full-sized room. It was accessible only by a narrow, winding staircase at the last corner of a very dark hallway. As his eyes adjusted, he was able to perceive that against the wall to his right, there was an old, worm-eaten wooden table filled with what Horace decided must be an artist’s supplies. There were notched candles. There were cloves. There were strangely shaped bottles filled with various colors of oils. When he walked to it he observed seeds, matches, and a shot glass.

He turned around when he heard the door open behind him, and he moved as quietly as he could out of the light. Rhiannon backed into the room, a round candlestick in her hand. She turned and glided silently across the room, and when she crossed the moonlight, the room seemed to glow with her.

She went to the table, and lit the notched candle using the tall thin one attached to the holder. She mumbled something, but Horace couldn’t make out what it was. He could see her silhouette moving her hands up the bizarrely shaped candle, bottom to top, 9 times. He counted. She sighed confidently.

Antony whispered, “Now’s your chance. Just leave.”

Horace shook his head and watched with a nostalgic smile.

When she turned around to leave the room she saw him, and they were both startled. Horace, already in the corner, tried to back away, but just smashed his body awkwardly into the wall. She dropped her candle, and it rolled, lit, across the wooden floor toward him. He knelt, nearly falling over, and picked it up. He stood up, and found her standing directly in front of him. He handed it back to her. “I’m sorry,” he whimpered.

Rhiannon smiled compassionately at him. “Me too.” She looked briefly over her shoulder at the strange candle, and disappointment tinted her blue eyes.

Horace couldn’t look at her. He noticed his shoelaces didn’t match.

I really am trying my best.” She looked back at Horace. “To be a decent person I mean. I know a lot of people think I’m stuck up, or whatever, but, really, I’m not.”

Horace said nothing.

Okay?” She whispered.

He looked up. “Okay.” His stare, while entirely unintentional, was almost rude in its intensity.

There have been, throughout human history, quite a few women renowned for their beautiful hair. None of them, however, had anything on Rhiannon. Lady Godiva and Rapunzel, for example, were each known for the lengths of theirs. Rhiannon’s didn’t come close to such a ghastly stretch. It fell, seemingly effortlessly, down her neck and covered her shoulders as a quiet brown river lightly licking its banks, or a blanket under which the slender shoulders snuggled greedily.

Helen of Troy and Lucretia Borgia were sufficiently beautiful that they seemed almost to be able to cast a spell on men simply by looking at them. They were Anti-Medusas. Horace was as inspired as any Trojan.

When she saw Horace staring through his hormone haze, she smiled shyly and brushed her hair slowly back from her forehead. Then she nervously moved her fingers through it like a tide stealing sand from a moonlit beach as it slides up and down.

I mean, do you ever ask yourself if it’s even possible to make everyone happy without hurting someone?”

No… not until just now.”

If you ever figure it out…” her eyes shimmered in the candlelight. They both smiled. Rhiannon, he decided, was a girl who knew how to run her fingers through her hair. They were having a moment.

The banging on the door made them both jump, but Rhiannon held firmly to her candle, and Horace slithered back into his dark corner silently.

Rhiannon? You in there?” Horace recognized Bob’s tenor voice.

She took her hand away from her hair. “I’ll be right out.” The moment was over.

There’s a party downstairs, and you’re being a lousy hostess.”

She smiled, almost tenderly at him, and left the room, the notched candle burning. Horace was alone in the dark.

The Guardian of Forever
September 2, 2019
3:18:19 AM

Horace shook his head. “No. It does no one any good. She was never real for me. But she represented an Ideal. She was my Dream of Perfection, and I would miss that feeling too much.”

“I don’t know how that timeline would go. You might end up marrying her.”

“That’s selfish. She has a life she loves. I would be giving her something less. I would never have had the money to give her what she has.”

“Perhaps something more valuable?”

Horace rolled his eyes. “What’s next?”

Antony shrugged, as though the answer were obvious. “Your Greatest Sin.”

A new image appeared within The Guardian.

“That’s the room we built for Mom in The Shithole. My roommates, Albert and Jeanine, painted it, and we put all of her favorite things in it. It had a special bed the dog could jump on so Mom could still sleep with her.”

“And you took your old Mother’s money.”

“It wasn’t that simple.”

“Yes,” Antony lit a new cigarette. “It was. You just try to rationalize what you don’t like about yourself. You always have.”

“Look,” Horace tried to explain, “just before Dad died, I promised…”

Phoenix, Arizona
January 15, 2017
12:37 PM

… that you would take care of your mother. Isn’t that what you said?”

Yes, Mom,” Horace said into the phone, doing his best not to show frustration. “And I really did do my best. I had you living with me for four and a half years.”

So why can’t I live where I want? Everyone always decides what’s right for me. What about my feelings? What about what I want?”

Horace sighed. “What do you want, Mom?”

I want to live with my family. I want to be where I’m loved.” There were tears in her voice. “Are you telling me my own family doesn’t love me anymore?”

Of course not, Mom.”

You can have all my money. My doctors will come to the house. We can be together. I won’t have to sit here like a piece of meat waiting to rot.”

It’s not about the money. I don’t know if I can take care of you well enough.”

You retired. You have time. And I don’t need much. I just need… I just need…” And now Marie Singleman was crying. “I wish I could just go to sleep and not wake up anymore.”

Horace’s heart melted. His mother deserved better. He could do better. He would do better…

And he got his roommates to clean out the extra room, paint it, furnish it, make it ready for her. He got all of the paperwork for her removal from the Group Home done.

And then his family heard about the move, swept in against him, promised legal action that would force his mother to take the stand and finish what was left of her deeply confused brain, and Marie slept in her room only three times before the move was shut down.

He had held her while she cried on his shoulder. He kept reassuring her that they would still talk every night. He promised she would never be alone.

Sunday, February 12, 2017
4:25 PM
Phoenix, Arizona.

Horace sat staring at his computer. There was the bank account. There was enough money to avoid eviction. He could click it, transfer money from Marie’s account to his, pay his landlord, and avoid the Sheriff’s office in the morning. All he had to do was click the damn button.

Antony and his Horace stood invisibly next to the desk. Antony handed Horace another cigarette and lit it for him.

“So,” mumbled Antony, “what’s it going to be?”

Horace exhaled. “You want me to stop him…”

“Is that what you want to do?”

“It would mix the Elements properly?”

Antony nodded.

“And… I get evicted. And Marion and I are on the streets tomorrow afternoon. We’re living in my car. And God only knows what happens to Albert and Jeanine. I’m sure they’ll figure something out. They always do. What happens in this timeline?”

Antony shook his head. He took a long drag off his cigarette.

Horace watched himself fighting an inner battle. He knew all the signs. There was the quivering finger over the mouse. There was the moving his hand away, and then putting it back. There was the glow in his eyes as his mind turned faster and faster. He was about to reach a decision. The moment would be gone.

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice,” said Antony, although it came out as Geddy Lee’s voice singing “Free Will.”

Horace nodded. He unplugged his counterpart’s computer. The seated Horace looked at the active Horace. He didn’t see him. Seated Horace nodded, inhaled and exhaled deeply, got up from the desk and left the office.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017
3:14:49 PM
Phoenix, Arizona
Bethany Home Road
Horace’s Car

“Ya still got 11 seconds,” said Antony from the passenger seat of the Nissan.

Horace took a moment to absorb his surroundings. The car reeked of puke. His dog, Marion, was licking him frantically. “I thought I died in 2019. What the hell?”

“Changed the time line. 9 seconds.”

“Yeah, but won’t this hurt Mom worse than my taking the money would have?”

“You made that decision a couple years later when you took 50 units of insulin without eating. You knew what you were doing.”

“I was homeless. When the remainder of life is to be nothing but pain –”

“6 seconds. This one isn’t on you. It’s not intentional. It’s untreated DKA. You’re in the clear. The Elements came out fine.”

“So, you can say…”

Antony smiled as only Brando could.

This was the noblest Roman of them all.
All the conspirators save only he
Did that they did in envy of great Caesar.
He only in a general honest thought
And common good to all, made one of them.
His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world…”

He put his hand on Horace’s shoulder.

This was a man.

A tear of joy started to form in Horace’s eye, but it didn’t have time to become properly liquid. There was no more than a twinkling little star before they lost their light.