by TS Caladan
Following 2+ short stories combined into 1 were written to illustrate a point. They are contradictions based or inspired by the Mandela Effect…
The time was 2:30 in the afternoon on the last day of the year: 2018. Javier Mendez drove to the California State Prison facility in Lancaster, CA. He arrived a bit early. His brother, Julio, was going to be released at precisely 3PM. He wanted to be there for his brother; pick him up; drive him "home" to father, after a two-year stint in State prison.
Julio wasn't a violent man. He'd fallen in with the wrong crowd, hard drugs were involved. It seemed like from 2016 on, Julio had totally changed personality. Maybe it was the cocaine and crystal meth that changed him? Maybe it was something else?
His father and brother noticed a definite move to the Dark Side in the young man. The kind father was thankful for Javier, "the good son," and did his best to help oldest son. But nothing was going to derail Julio from street gangs, selling and using hard drugs, wild night life and the inevitable prison sentence.
That was the past. It will be the new year of 2019 soon. The Mendez brothers and their father, from Costa Rica, thought tomorrow might be bright. Julio finished his sentence. Javier was to be married in the near future. The father was hopeful.
The long drive to the Mendez house in Van Nuys was uneventful. Little was said. Julio appeared to Javier as the same bald/bearded, street punk that he ever was. Prison did nothing for him except made him harder, colder. Javier was sure Julio would have his usual connections and be smoking the glass pipe in no time. Getting a job would not be a high priority for Julio. Father would have his hands full with oldest son very soon.
Why? Why was one son a responsible human being, good-natured, had a decent job and was an overall nice guy...and the other son was a virtual monster?
The father and brother greeted the wayward son and decided on a big feast the very first evening the brothers were together. No incidents? Maybe? They enjoyed the good food, especially Julio.
Later, the caterer left, and the Mendez family retired to a large living room. They fixed drinks and relaxed. Everyone was pleased. No one spoke of what happened in the past.
Father had no intention of pressuring Julio into a job, not just yet. Although, he knew it would be the best thing for the man. They laughed. They drank more and had a wonderful time. So far.
Julio lifted a glass and made a “sincere” speech. They all drank a toast to better days ahead.
Javier had heard those words before. He realized his older brother was a conman and will always be a salesman, a schmoozer and a downright liar. Julio would do anything to get what he wanted: booze, women and drugs. It was only a matter of time and big brother would be back in prison.
In father's mind, he knew it too.
That first evening, sweet memories were recalled, passed-on mother/wife was remembered and a few tears shed.
The boys, on the big family couch, remembered a game they'd played in their youth while on vacation: a Geography game. Javier [computer programmer presently] and Julio were not the brightest students in their high school class. But they knew Geography. They didn't know science or history well, but they knew where countries were. They really knew the Caribbean and the Cayman Islands. Father and mother would take the kids on tours around the Gulf of Mexico when they lived back east. The game was to guess how far the ship was from their original home in San Jose. After the boys guessed from different ports, father tracked where they were on the map and saw which son was closest with the guess.
All went fairly well that first evening together. Not a word was uttered how different and dark Julio was from the person he was 5 years ago. Then something strange was said by Javier when he recalled the good times the family had experienced on the seas...
"We had a few fantastic vacations, father. Beautiful. First stop on east coast, Port-au-Prince. Ah. I'll never forget it."
Julio interrupted, "Don't mean to correct you, little brother..."
"Haiti is on the west coast. Port-au-Prince. West coast. We've been there a few times."
Javier was not in any mood to argue, not on the first night. He raised his glass and chalked it up to someone’s mistaken memory. "Whatever, dude."
A thought just occurred to Javier. "Julio. Remember when we stole the boat? What me? It was YOUR idea to do it, dude. I just went along with older brother..."
Father laughed, "I remember. Ha, ah. You two serving time in jail. Together. Taught you a lesson, eh? I wasn't going to bail you out, ha."
Julio laughed also. "That was precious. The good son, in jail for three days?"
"Yeah, thanks. That’s on my record," Javier said, slightly drunk. "Shit. Yeah, I confess. I wanted to take it out too, but for only minutes. I actually thought we wouldn't get caught. And, and, it, it was going to be...fun."
"Fun?" Father chucked.
"You had a good time, Jav. You had a great time, I remember," Julio said and raised a glass.
"Bro, I was screaming 'that's enough! We gotta take the boat back!' No, you drove it the whole day..."
"I did not," Julio declared with conviction.
Javier replied, "Huh? Hey, guy. Of course you did. We, I mean, you, took the 'New Pinta' and dragged us around the whole fucking island! Dude, that's a many-hour trip in our little rig. Remember?"
"What the hell are you talking about, little brother? You mean the one time we hopped onboard the 'New Pinta," started it up and headed out to sea? For an hour?"
Javier was surprised and replied, "There was only one time we were arrested by the Coast Guard, right?"
Julio was baffled. "But you said 'island.' What island?"
Father looked on with curiosity.
"What? What island? The island we were born on!"
"We weren't..." Julio grabbed his chin. He contemplated the most unlikely question: Was he born on an island? He hesitated, then was sure he was not born on an island. "Wait, wait, wait a minute..." There was a moment of confusion in all three Costa Ricans.
"Julio. Hang on. You said 'hour.' You really think we had the boat out for only an hour that day?"
"Definitely. I wanted to take it out longer. But Coast Guard guys came and stopped us, handcuffs and all that. It was no longer than an hour..."
"Dude! It takes a lot longer than an hour to circle the island..."
"WHAT Island?!" Julio screamed.
Javier screamed back: "Costa Fucking Rica! That's what island. Dude! You've been locked away too long. What have they done to you for you to not remember?"
Julio turned to his kind father for some relief here. Certainly, he'd clear the air and solve a simple, little problem?
[Where do Costa Ricans come from, an island or not?].
Father laughed. "You're kidding?" He looked straight into Julio's eyes. He asked, "You don't know? Son, you have to know."
The ex-con son stated, "I know I was born in Costa Rica and it's not an island. You, you seriously don't know it's on the mainland?"
Father shook his head.
Javier said, "No, it's not. We..."
The old man got up and walked to a bookcase. "I'll show you on the map, number one son." He grabbed a world atlas book from a shelf and turned to the right page of the Caribbean area. Father did not take a close look at the page. He confidently placed it on the coffee table and in front of the boys. "There. Son (to Julio) What do your eyes tell you?"
Javier gasped. He quickly grabbed the book off the table and brought it closer to his face. “What? Whole thing looks different. Ha. Haiti’s on the west?" He examined Costa Rica on the map. He knew those towns, but… He had a worried expression and shook his head from side to side. "F-Father." Javier looked at the old man and handed him the atlas.
Father laughed again. He'd spent five decades in Costa Rica and more than a decade in the states. He grew up on the island. He fished in beautiful, clean, turquoise waters. He'd been off the island and returned dozens of times, vacations with the wife and sons. Father knew he and his father spent most all of their lives on the Island of Costa Rica.
Javier was amazed. He grabbed his head. "It's not there, father.”
The old man examined the map carefully. He jumped to the cover and date of the book to make sure it was his old atlas. It was. There was no Costa Rica island that once stood southeast of Mexico and southwest of the Cayman Islands. "What? I-I don't believe it."
Julio laughed a hardy laugh at his absurd father and brother, who should have known. He said, "It's where it's always been: bordering Nicaragua and Panama." The older brother smiled. He said, "See. Right there." He pointed at the map and smiled again.
The year was early 2016. At the "largest temple in the world," the Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Thailand that happens to resemble a gigantic 'flying saucer,' an American student approached one of thousands of praying, Buddhist priests. The bald, orange-robed chap seemed friendly enough to talk to; his face, eyes closed, expressed a sweetness and tenderness as if the man possessed the power of understanding. The student hoped so. He had quite a "magical" question for the wise priest. The student was clueless what the response would be. He quietly stepped closer...
The American waited. He breathed deep breaths. He looked around. He was astounded by the incredible temple, especially with this first near visit, so close to thousands of golden Buddha statues that surrounded the huge structure. It sure resembled a flying saucer, parked on the edge of a sacred lake. Breathtaking scenery, tall trees and wonderfully designed buildings in the huge complex.
Earlier, it took the student more than 20 minutes to complete one circuit around the disk-shaped temple. He saw the four large openings at the cardinal points. An enormous red flag with a spaceship silhouette adorned each entrance. The student only viewed the Wat Phra from a great distance, mainly his apartment, two miles away, across the lake.
He kept a close eye on the priest of his choice. He'd wait until the meditation, chanting, prayers were over. When the Buddhist opened his eyes, that's when he'd step forward and ask the questions he was desperate to ask.
You see, from the student's perspective, the entire complex of the "Dhammakaya Cetiya" suddenly appeared one day in the distance from his window! For weeks, his work kept him home and busy at school. Only today, long after he first noticed, was he able to approach the magnificent "mirage in the desert" that mystically appeared? The man had to have answers, logical/sensible answers to how this could have happened.
The student certainly asked around the local area of Hat Yai. Almost everyone he talked to were well acquainted with the "Cetiya," which looked like a giant mothership. It had stood there for five decades. But from the student's viewpoint, it had 'landed' only a short time ago. The oddity was, when he polled enough of the local natives, he discovered a few that were equally amazed as he was. To them, the grand temple had also magically materialized overnight. He'd actually seen fights break out between those who've known of it for decades and other "insane" people that remembered it suddenly, strangely, appeared one day.
He had to talk to a worshipper to sort out the madness. Why did a few of the locals recall, as he did, that the "Cetiya" simply materialized, while others claimed they had worshipped at the temple all their lives?
Hours passed. Day turned to evening…
The motionless priest finally opened his eyes. He seemed finished with his prayers and was about to leave.
The student carefully, slowly, sat next to the priest.
Smiles were exchanged.
The bald Buddhist was also curious. He remained seated.
The man introduced himself. "Excuse me. Sorry to bother you. My name is Sam. I'm a student from the United States..."
"Yes. I can see that," the priest said in perfect English. He had a pleasing expression on his bright face. "My name is Sura."
Sam pointed to the two-mile distance, where his apartment was located across the water. "Well, Sura. I've lived at the Hat Yai Hotel for a couple months now. I've finished my classes and will be going back to the States soon..."
"How can I help you?" the relaxed, contented man replied.
Sam laughed. He pointed at the massive temple in the other direction and asked: "Ha. Does that fly?"
The priest laughed so hard, tears nearly formed in his brown eyes. "HA, ha! Ha, ha." The robed man decided on a joke. He said, "Ha. Not yet."
Sam laughed again. Then his thoughts became audible: "It, of course, wouldn't explain all the golden statues, now would it? How many Buddhas are there?"
The priest chuckled once more and said, seriously: "Uh. There is only one Buddha."
"No, Sura. Ha. I mean, the golden statues. God, how many are there around the spaceship, I mean, temple?"
The definite response was, "Three hundred thousand and one."
"Wow. Ah. Question. Are you aware that...to many, a few people, anyway...the holy temple has suddenly appeared, like out of nowhere? I'm, ah, asking...have you heard of such things and can you explain it?"
"Explain what, Sam?"
"Er, ah, why most remember the temple being here for a long time, while others are bewildered, and think it has just arrived? Sura. To some people, this, all of this, just appeared." Sam pointed again. "You know?"
The priest told the student the truth: "You, or they, must certainly be mistaken. Fanciful thought, that the Cetiya and the statues have appeared in an instant, as if out of a puff of smoke, eh? Ah. But, I assure you, young man: Construction of the temple took many years to complete, and we have our founders, Chandra and Luang, for the existence of the Cetiya. I have prayed here, along with countless others, for more than ten years. So much peace has been generated from this location, and felt by all who meditate here. No one here is unsure or has divergent views of the temple's solidity, where it came from. We are not confused."
"Sura. Then, uh, how can you account, or answer, why many in the area believe the Cetiya has...just appeared, like out of a dream?"
The priest smiled a big smile and said, "Huh. Maybe, it did?"
Two mates from Wellington, New Zealand stood on top of a high peak, a place they knew very well from childhood. Of course, Palmerston was to the north, Christchurch to the south and Nelson was to the west. One of them, just now, saw a paradox in front of his eyes and was amazed, while his mate could not see it. They argued.
"It's right there, man! What's wrong with you?"
"Yer daft! One island? Cook's Strait has always split North Island from South Island!"
"No! It was never like that before. There's no north and south islands! A town was there, mate. Called Cook. You remember Cook? Now look at it!" He couldn't believe what his eyes beheld: a large waterway had suddenly appeared, from his point of view. And his old friend didn't view it the same way. "That's just...wrong."
His mate laughed and repeated a New Zealand expression: "Ha, ha. Ah. Go back to Canberra."
Stories by Tray Caladan