UPDATE: {Anything But Dracula, Pub. 06/09/22} Two weeks ago we introduced the latest addition to our goat herd (now there are 2). A runt-of-the-litter black/white, male, fainting goat that at the time remained nameless (Thank you for all your suggestions, btw). In the end the live-in grandson (a.k.a. Saw 3) laid claim to the little fellow. Dubbing him “Fritz” he has taken to caring for and shepherding the petite bovine — that faints with excitement when he hears his voice.

We now return you to your regular weekly article already in progress at this time…

With an audible pop a match begins its short life. Tobacco and paper disintegrate into ash which is flicked away with little regard. Nicotine enters the brain in the most convenient, familiar and satisfying way possible. Exhalation, plumes of smoke rise and remain; hovering in the still, dead air and adding another coat to the yellowing walls and ceiling.

Snubbing the butt he looks to the clock on the wall, then to the thermometer on the other side of the bullet-proof Plexiglas. 10 a.m., 82°, it’s going to be yet another hot day. His eyes drift around one of his two rooms. The other is for storage and sleeping, this one… everything else.

There is a bookshelf on the wall laden with well-read books and magazines. It stands next to the sofa where many a restless night has been spent. On the desk at which he sits, with its view through the large window, there’s a solar powered hotplate, ashtray and silent CB radio. The latter brings a sense of disquiet upon him. There have been no reports this morning.

Stepping out the back he nods to the shepherd, who returns his greeting whilst minding the small goat herd and chicken brood that provides fresh milk and eggs. Mounting the 10-speed mountain bike he pedals away toward the outer outpost.

Moments later, sliding to a halt, dropping the bike and back inside before the dust can settle. The transmission he almost missed “…I repeat: the perimeter wall has been breached. Please be advised and prepared to take immediate action!” A “Rogering” response and he drops the mic, glancing back through the open door, where animals are being hastily herded to pen and coop. He takes up the field glasses and scans the horizon.Only The Lonely

A decrepit mockery of life crests the hill in a slow shamble. He looks to the AR-15 leaned against the wall. Noise will bring more of them. He opts for the battered Louisville Slugger instead.

Twenty minutes later, as he washes away spatter and sinew, he considers the “perimeter wall,” mostly consisting of the former installation’s broken fencing, with stacks of old tires, overturned vehicles and hastily effected barricades filling the gaps. He contemplates calling an assembly, but dismisses the idea, as often he alone holds the conch (Lord of the Flies by William Golding, circa 1954, reference). Instead he radios in for a clean-up crew.

Minutes later a lone figure pushing a wheelbarrow comes into view. With a gesture of confirmation and wave of acknowledgment, the clean-up begins. The body will be disposed of in a mass grave. The area in which it was felled scoured with fire. The heat of the day slowly passes.

As night falls, exhaustedly he contemplates the emptiness of it all in the darkness. It is always 10 o’clock. There are no bullets in the rifle or batteries for the CB radio. There is little food and few cigarettes. He is the compound lookout. He is the outpost guard. He is the shepherd. He is the clean-up crew. He is alone! Perhaps he will take up the conch tomorrow and insist they seek out other survivors… perhaps not. Time for rest now, for tomorrow is another day… which starts promptly at ten.

Is this man insane because he is alone or alone because he is insane? Is he insane at all? Or is his mind simply doing what is necessary to keep him alive?

Loneliness is a state of mind, not a state of being. One can be alone without experiencing loneliness and can likewise feel alone in a crowd. Are we our true selves when by ourselves? Or do we require others about to define us? Only the lonely who aren’t know the answer.

I welcome almost all questions and comments via FOCUS, or E-mail me at [email protected].

Hope to hear from ya, until then try and stay focused. See ya.