Tag Archives: JD DeHart

The Salt Pit

by JD DeHart

the salt pit by JD DeHartWhen Nephesh moved into the town, he was blown away by the vastness of the metropolis. Compared to the twin cities, his hometown was just a dot in the desert. There was a noticeable scent of brine in the air that never seemed to leave, burning the nostrils.

Perhaps it had addled the brains of the residents. Perhaps that was why they danced late into the night, their tattoos singing and their chains rattling, binding and wrapping each other. Perhaps that was why they had worshiped the beast, resting on its haunches in the middle of the cities, a smile on its face that said, “Welcome, have some fun, do not go away.”

The first night in the twin cities, Nephesh made the company of a bright young girl. Everyone else seemed to be giants bathed in ebony, but she was a light, wisp, paper-thin angel.

“Welcome,” she said to him in her lovely voice.

“What is all the ruckus about?” Nephesh had asked. Now, he knew.

Finish reading the rest of this story in Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah, or download the book at:

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Meant To Be

by JD DeHart

old relicWhat we are is what we are meant to be, the relic always tells us. But then, the relic is always spurting out useless and incongruous information. I am told relics often do. Lucky lotto numbers, quaint musical verse from decades ago, a commercial jingle, that sort of thing. The most mindless of us gather around him and dance like birds in the bath.

Step away from the relic, there is the wall. I enter my name into the doorway pod five times each day for good measure, hoping for entry each time. … Nutt, E.M.

The door sounds like it is clicking, but ultimately, this is a ruse. Again and again. I hear the relic laughing over my shoulder. Try again, sweetheart, it says, then spits out a ribbon of horoscope symbols, which are supposed to mean something. They never do.

As Jonah said, Oh, whale.

We are out here, on the outside, and the doorway will never open. Yet we still try. The relic is the last piece of what life used to be, a stone statue of a man with a beard and top hat with an honest look about him. Someone put a speaker in his mouth so he could recite code to us and taunt us with his nothings.

Jay-Jay Albus Nutt, my stepfather, is always busy scratching runes in the dirt and chanting. He says he saw this done in a movie once and it worked, opening up new portals, so why not? I am not one to disagree. I do not even know what movies are.

My real mother, I am told, is somewhere on the inside, which may mean that she has departed to the pearly gates and no one has the decency to tell me. Her name was Irene or Inez, depending on who tells the story and how drunk they are. My step-brother Daniel is a tale better left untold. He had an unfortunate run-in with a roaming beast and the rest is a bit of decapitated history.

As Jonah said, Oh, whale.

I walk among the outcast people, wondering how I became an outcast. There are stories, but we never trust history. I do not even trust my memory of yesterday. It is said that our race goes back and back to a time when there were slaves. We held chains firmly on all creatures and so this is our punishment. It is said that we have always been outcasts and that the fat happy little campers inside the walls of the city are the true heroes. If we submit to them, we may gain entry.

I do not know anyone who has gained a passport from them, but you can almost always hear the wild party going on inside.

Still, another story holds that there is one who will rise among us and overthrow the rulers of that great city, allowing us to stampede inside like so many elephants. That story is too trite and overdone to believe. It is also a nuisance story, giving some of us messiah complexes when we begin to lose our minds.

What we are is what we are meant to be, the relic says again. My thoughts become abstract and urgent. I picture my step-father becoming older and older, still scratching in the dirt. I picture the men and women inside laughing big belly laughs at all of us out here, watching us somehow and laughing.

Maybe if I break open the relic, there will be a key inside or a code so that I can gain entry. Maybe this is the test. So, I pick up the largest piece of metal that I can find and swing at the statue, but the effort is too little or the statue is too much, because the face just looks at me, unfazed.

Desperate, I enter my name into the pad again, and this time the click sounds real. Oh, my God, it is real. I scramble inside as the door opens and then my world crashes down because what is in front of me is another door, another pad. This door moves toward me like an usher, pushing me back out. I dig my heels into the dirt, but it keeps pushing until I am outside the first door again.

The relic is over my shoulder again and I sink down.

Try again, little princess, the relic says, then comes that harsh laugh again. Them’s the breaks, the statue adds. A party cup comes flying over the wall at that moment, spilling some strong beverage, adding insult to my latest injury. This is not my day.

As Jonah said, Oh, whale.

JD DeHart is the author of two collections, Decaf Days and Sunrise of Tomorrow, available on Amazon. His work has appeared in Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah and the Garden of Eden anthology.

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An Ode to the Prophets

by JD DeHart

Prophet JeremiahOf all the genres of the Old and New Testament, the prophets stand out as some of the most intriguing and imagistic. They start out with the familiar pattern of “The word the Lord came to” and then it is anybody’s guess what happens from there.

Ezekiel features the image of a valley of dry bones snapping into life, resurrected and gift-wrapped with flesh. Where else in the Bible can one find an image so akin to The Walking Dead? Ezekiel also features an inaugural image involving four creatures, each a mass of faces and wings. This is the “wheel within intersecting wheel” passage. The book is also the source of the trope of Lucifer cast out of heaven, like a spear to the earth, a snapshot repurposed by authors like William Blake.

God asks Isaiah to put a live coal in his mouth, purifying his speech in a highly symbolic text. God then commissions the prophet to go and speak to a people that will not hear with words that they will not understand (sounds like bus duty to a public educator). Most people like to quote the part where Isaiah says, “Here I am, send me!” Churches love this verse because they can print it on banners and use it to start building programs, inspire mission trips, and sell hotdogs at the local welcome center.

What they fail to cite is the following passage about how Isaiah’s message is one that will be ignored, and that this journey will continue until everything is ruined, deserted, forsaken, and ravaged. It is easy to see why these words do not make it onto the banner. The commission concludes with God saying, “the holy seed will be a stump in the land” (Is. 6:13). Now, that is reassuring. Words like stump do not sell hot dogs.

Then there are the other tasks that the prophets are assigned. Isaiah gets to walk around in the buff, Ezekiel cooks his food over excrement, Daniel gets to spend time in a lion’s den, Hosea marries a prostitute, Joel uses locusts as a prophetic device, and Jeremiah laments…a lot.

The message presented against the backdrop of these odd actions is usually similar. It goes something like, “The people are doing wrong, punishments will come unless the people turn, and mercy will be given to them if they repent.” It is like hubris, ate, nemesis, with much more emphasis on grace.

This dichotomy is so strong in the book of Isaiah that some scholars insist there are two authors. The first part of the book deals with Isaiah’s original commission under the reign of King Hezekiah. Hezekiah then invites a Babylonian entourage to tour the kingdom (hint, wink: bad idea, coming invasion), and the second part of the book features a pissed off Isaiah prognosticating about events that will happen far into the future. The transition really occurs at Isaiah chapter thirty-nine.

What particularly works in some of the prophets, elevating them beyond a simple call to repentance, are those strange images and symbolic texts that cause the reader to look twice. It is easy to bog down in genealogies and lists of laws, but the section of the Old Testament devoted to prophecy is an entirely different matter.

The same could be said for the New Testament; the reader gets the same story told with essential accuracy in the first three synoptic gospels, with the Gospel of John telling the story from a different angle. Then the reader encounters a series of epistles in which various authors attempt to apply the events of the gospel narratives to situations encountered thereafter.

The book of Revelation sits at the edge of the New Testament like a road sign, with its heavy-handed images of the world melting like candle wax. The prophets seem to be the capstone genre, existing at the edge of the periphery. Once the history is told, the inevitable question is, what happens next?

The prophets answer that question with symbolism and strange characters, leaving the reader guessing still.

JD DeHart is a featured author in Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom & Gomorrah. He is the author of two collections, Decaf Days and Sunrise of Tomorrow, both available on Amazon.

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The Tooth Fairy Detonation

By JD DeHart

pink cylinder - the tooth fairy

Photo Marshmallow in the form of a cylinder. – © Indigolotos | Dreamstime.com

Mouse, the unofficial leader of the group of five, sat still next to the doorway, his body anything but tense. The other members of the crew took solace in his air of calm. They knew Mouse was small, but his lack of size combined with his farm boy upbringing made him relentless. He would rather die with his hands than lose a fight.

“Almost there,” a machine said from the front of the cabin. Without further direction, Mouse stood up and strapped on his gear. The group following his movements. It was okay that nobody came with them, except this machine that ran the plane. These were dangerous times and a drone would not do the work that needed be finished.

Each man and woman in the crew tapped the pink cylinder at the back of the craft as they walked past, as was their ritual. They called it The Tooth Fairy, and it would be their saving grace.

“How long before dinner time?” Horse, a lanky man, asked, showing his buckteeth off. It was also part of the ritual; he always asked the same question.

None of the group laughed, instead approaching the door that would invite them to take a plunge. Mouse went first, of course, sailing through the air, counting in his head, unable to see much in the blanket of darkness. A quick tug and his wings were out–-the Mouse could fly.

When the night air grew thicker, approaching the trees, they could see remnants of small fires on the grounding reminding them they were in hell. Star, one of the girls, navigated down gently with The Tooth Fairy riding piggyback.

They could not just drop the bomb–-it had to be placed at the point of greatest vulnerability. Horse took out his communiqué, and they could see the small silent blips showing them the path to take, up the hill, through the trees, to what would be an underground compound. They went silently.

Within a few yards of the place they had to scramble some detection equipment and then disable a few guards with a quick, noiseless splash of rust. The doorway of the compound was obscured by some camouflage, but they found it just the same.

Deep down, there were four columns that held up the regime, four columns where The Tooth Fairy would do her magic work. The first stop was the elevator controls.

“Seems too easy,” Horse whispered, but no one answered. Those words were not part of the ritual.

With great speed, they descended, watching the rock walls blur past them, then opened up the metal to the doors to find the cavern where the columns should be. Instead of meeting face to empty air, they found a layer of dark yellow dust creeping on the floor, with sudden flashes of brilliant light–-gunfire.

Two of their group dropped quickly, followed by Star, who died saving the bomb. Mouse cried for them to put masks on, and he and Horse did so, quickly sliding out the way and pulling the bomb after them.

Now it was just the pair, the bomb, and the open doors. They crouched, not sure what to do. Horse took out his communiqué, checking the number of signatures. It looked like most of the guards were on this level.

The answer occurred to both of them at the same time. Mouse gestured for Horse to flip the switches on the elevator while he shoved out the bomb. With bullets still pinging on the elevator wall, they had to move quickly.

The Tooth Fairy slid a good ten feet across the compound floor and Horse quickly flipped the switches, shutting the door. This just before the guards tossed their own bomb, which wound up detonating the Fairy, but also damaging the cage of the elevator.

Above the plumage of flame, the small metal box rose, coming to a crash with sparks, and the two survivors leapt free, scrambled up and out of the base, leaving a sinking crater behind them.

“Next time,” Horse muttered, though fighting for air, completing the night raid ritual.

JD DeHart is the author of two collections, Decaf Days and Sunrise of Tomorrow, available on Amazon. His work has appeared in the Garden of Eden anthology, among other publications.

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Joe Bell

by JD DeHart

preacherThe swirling dark eddies of the stream must have been some form of invitation to the padding of the child’s feet. There was a rustle followed by a splash while the house with its dim lights slept. That is all I want to say about that, for some acts are not a matter of pride.

Once, I noticed a basket with two small white eggs, early vestiges of spring. Then I saw a dove sitting on those eggs the next day. A wind swept through and swiped mother and hatched fledglings off their surface, smashing them on the ground. Such is the way of the whirlwind sometimes; it is unexpected and seems to move by its own purpose. People often call me the bad guy, but I am not sure that is treating the narrative properly.

The child with padding feet belonged to Joe Bell, the premier attorney in the county. I should know, for I have been scoping this area out for centuries. Joe Bell put the upright in upright citizen and was the guest speaker for many prayerful occasions. Such meetings always make my skin crawl.

You could practically smell the goodness on Joe, like a bar of soap wrapped in a lamb’s wool. His was the son of Robert and Ida Bell, progenitors of the home place, grand town ancestors, and quite upright themselves. They raised Joe on the golden-lined red letter Sunday readings, singing hymns, and sucking the milk of tradition. It was as if the man was infused with this glorious kind of unearthly goodness.

I recollect the feeling of clouds, the sensation of a light other than the sun, and a speedy descent. Such is life. I suppose that is why people like Joe piss me off so badly. They seem to have the favor I never really found. Of course, it could be said that I brought this on myself. There was a war raging in the heavens, and I did picture a new bruised heaven and a decimated earth. I still work for that goal.

Gradually, I hatched a plan to swipe Joe Bell and his family from their perch. I would be their whirlwind.

First, a house fell on his nieces. My tools were good for latching and unlatching. Then, there was the matter of the herd. I started a fire with some lightening nearby and drove the whole of them into the swiping water of the sea. It swallowed them entirely. As a crescendo, there was the lamentable incident with the youngest Bell. It was an unblinking low moment in my career. Joe Bell’s wife had all she could take, working through her grief like a steam shovel, and went running out the door to her mother’s house. That was the last anyone saw of her.

I did a little reconnaissance and found that none of this seemed to make Joe’s goodness waver. I saw him two days later, delivering a brief message about loss. The piety in his countenance almost made me throw up. It was as if the small sprout was growing wings in front of me. How the townspeople crowed over it, gobbling his tear-stained words. Something told me that even if they had thrown rotten beefsteak tomatoes at him, Joe Bell would have preached on. He worked his life out that way and seemed to have every blessing even in the absence of life’s treasures.

It struck me that perhaps if I attacked him bodily, the harm might bring my desired result. I gradually introduced some poison to poor Joe, forcing boils to appear on his skin. All of these actions came with permission, of course, checked and balanced with the highest authorities – that part should be noted. With each new wave of attack, I had to make requests, stamping documents and presenting the details at court. Each request was approved with passive silence. I am not the only criminal around here.

I hid in shadows and watched while various townspeople came by and urged Joe to seek some nonexistent sin in his life. He scratched his boils and gave the interrogators theological answers. It did not matter if they were religious leaders or bankers; Joe’s thoughts were firmly rooted. They gave him grand designs and proofs from ancient texts, they quoted their best-known songs and poems of expression, but Joe continued in his steadfast way, correcting them at each turn with the swift knife-like wit of a wise rabbi. I had to give it to guy – he knew his footing.

Over and again, I eavesdropped on these conversations. I had taken his possessions, physiognomy, and now used others to attack his philosophy. Furiously, I racked my brain for the next order of attack. Eventually, I had to leave. The whirlwind was picking up and my skin does not handle the weather so well sometimes. The light is now uncomfortable for me, not to mention the booming voice. The old man can make quite a show when he wants.

I did not see Joe Bell until a few months later. He had a new wife and they were expecting. The old crashed-in barn had been raised again, and even his relatives were replenishing their coffers. Animals strayed back to him, baptized by the sea and rising with a new gleam in their eye. Joe’s smile told me he was happy with his circumstances, but the nervous look in his eye was unmistakable. Each flash of a storm brought great spasms in his belly.

I thought for a moment that he caught my image, twisted serpentine on a branch over his head, but I made sure that when he double-checked I was gone. Time had run out with this experiment, so I threw on my coat and hat and trampled to the next town. There, a man named Daniel was in need of a deal. I packed my simple wares, put my tools in their respective pouches, and wandered down the winding road dragging my stick and stamping with my cloven hooves.

JD DeHart is the author of two collections, Decaf Days and Sunrise of Tomorrow, available on Amazon. His work has appeared in the Garden of Eden anthology, among other publications.

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Water Rats

“How long is this supposed to take?” the smaller one asked the bigger one.

“As long as it takes,” the one with a single eye answered.

There were only the three of them, which was four short of a full squadron. One after the other, they were climbing down.

Upon entering the program, there was a set of clear terms. Being a Water Rat was a job for someone who had nothing left to lose. New members surrendered their name and opened themselves up to the service. Meaning, simply, you went where you had to go and did whatever the com-links told you.

The world was nothing but oceans. What little land remained was overpopulated and deadly, nearly impossible to survive. There were diseases, cannibals, and endless politicians. The Water Rats moved through the pipes in the deep ugly darkness, the places no one in their right mind wanted to go. Sometimes they even got to skitter across the world’s surface on the water jets. That little thrill did not come often.

Finish reading this story by JD DeHart in the Garden of Eden anthology. Get it FREE!

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The Raven Man

by JD DeHart

Raven ManFrom the land of ashes, there came a dragon. This dragon was unlike others of his species in stories because he was not interested in gold or princesses; no, this dragon wanted to find the Raven Man.

Some ancient cultures called the man Odin, moving with his one good eye through time. Other people had other names for him.

It was rumored that the Raven Man knew the location of the Clover. Not just any clover, but the Clover, which would allow its owner to reverse any course of action in history. The action could be small or large. The larger the action, the more emotion would be attached to the event.

Every villager and politician assumed the dragon wanted the Clover so that he could amass a fortune or conquer the world. They forged weapons against him to keep him at bay. The dragon’s motive was much simpler than that, recalling the deadly arrows that struck down his serpentine bride.

Every seventy-two and one half years, the Raven Man spent one night in a human body. This was known, as all legend and holy writ is always known. It was also predicted at least once every year until it happened. People had a way of losing count.

Odin did not tell the people he was coming and did not tell them when he arrived. He simply walked among them, his form that of a young man with dark hair. The ravens helped him with this endeavor, covering his gray hair with their feathers. No mortal knew the difference.

They pushed him around and no one would take Odin in. So the one good eye moved among them, searching for someone of worth. The night grew late and Odin heard the heaving breath of what the villagers would call a beast or monster. He perceived the heart of the creature, hidden in the rocks above.

In the morning, the townspeople were startled to see, just over the fences, two dragons playing in a field, pockets of clover freshly grown here and there. Before they could raise their weapons, the two dragons flew away, seeming to touch wings as they flew.

Some said it was odd while others wondered about the whereabouts of the raven-haired man. They never knew the truth that walked among them, instead picking the powerless clusters of clover that had grown among the behemoths.

JD DeHart is the author of two collections, Decaf Days and Sunrise of Tomorrow, available on Amazon. His work has appeared in the Garden of Eden anthology, among other publications.

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Life in the Air

by JD DeHart

flaming fireballOf course, it did not start out this way. I was a tender shoot, what you might call a really solid branch. Three times, birds built a nest on me. I grew so monumental, I even had a kid try to stand on me. He fell and knocked the wind out of himself, but just the same. These are the kind of bragging rights not all of us have.

Imagine my surprise and reluctance when I felt myself joining the earth. Three, maybe four, villagers swooped around me and separated my form, along with many others, from the trunk. I really miss being part of that trunk.

They pared me down, sliding a blade to smooth my surface, and then whittled even further. They are trying to pick their teeth, I thought. I imagined myself being forced against enamel and pink, diseased gum, prying free pieces of beef. Not the kind of life plan I had in place, if you know what I mean.

So, you can probably guess the rest. What you might not know is that, in history, the warrior is given the medal. The mode of victory is often an afterthought, and by that I mean the weapon of choice. If it is the first time that weapon is used, sure.

We know that the Chinese invented gunpowder, and it is also thought that the crossbow originated in ancient Asia – the bronze triggers. It is easy to find out that the term “grenade” goes back to the 1500’s.

Nevertheless, I was consumed with flame and then launched through the air. I felt the exhilaration of the wind increasing my heat. I would love to say I found my home in some screaming warlord or the Great Scumbag of the Universe (whoever that may be). I ultimately found my home, deflected from metal and then landing in some straw. The straw, of course, caught the flame, and the flame caused the smoke, which allowed the enemy army to be overpowered.

But sure, sure, give credit to the general. Let’s see him light up and go flying.

JD DeHart is an English teacher and edits the website Mount Parable. His work has appeared in the Garden of Eden anthology (Biblical Legends Anthology Series), and he has work forthcoming in Ancient Paths, The Stray Branch, The Other Herald, and Straight Forward. He has two poetry collections available on Amazon (“Decaf Days” and “Sunrise of Tomorrow”).

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Gossip in the Garden

It’s not every day you see a serpent upset a marriage, much less unbalance a whole universe and cast a world into the depths of evil, but that’s what happened last Tuesday. There I was, picking some fruit from the approved trees, when I noticed this naked girl walking up to the one tree we are not supposed to touch.

Now, Matilda, I said to myself, it’s none of your business, but there she goes up to the tree. La-di-da, like it was a school field trip. I saw some fruit I really wanted that just happened to be nearby, so I stepped closer and could not help but overhear the conversation that was going on.

“Surely you will not die,” the serpent was hissing, which I thought odd. First, it was a serpent talking, and second, it was a bold-faced lie. The Almighty had specifically said, “Eat of this tree and you shall die.” Sounded pretty clear to me. I even wrote it down.

Finish reading this story by JD DeHart in the Garden of Eden anthology. Get it FREE!

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The Hubris of Dr. Milo

by JD DeHart

professor miloDr. Milo was not a real doctor, of course, but he wore a set of small round spectacles. He also carried many books around with him, never bothering to read the words, and sometimes dressed in a professor’s jacket, which kids liked to call a “horsey jacket.” Really, he reasoned, there was little difference between his mode of life and the comings and goings of real PhDs.

“Do you know the answer to this problem?” he would ask occasionally, holding up scratched numbers for someone to answer.

“No,” the subject would invariably mumble; it was not a surprise they never knew the answers because the equations were not real. Then, with conviction, Dr. Milo would offer his own irrefutable response.

Dr. Milo was now engaged in just such an encounter on a flight to Las Vegas. A kind old woman was smiling at him, thinking What a strange stick figure man and What a strange black bowl haircut as he explained the equation. All the people seated around the conversation wished that the “doctor” would close his mouth and stop making racket.

It was at this precise moment that time froze and the universe expanded. That is to say, an otherworldly creature materialized with a vibrant sizzle inside the plane. His fingers were lightning, his eyes small round dots, and his voice was a practiced rhythm of all human languages.

If the people on board this flight still possessed the option, they would have scattered away in fear. As it was, the creature had temporarily restrained their free will. He rather liked to do this to lesser animals when he was not amusing himself on other planets or watching game shows.

“People of this Doomed Flight,” he began, “I have come for one purpose: To collect the smartest person on earth.”

Without hesitation, the kind old woman and all of her neighbors pointed their fingers at Dr. Milo. The creature approached.

“Show me that equation,” he commanded.

Dr. Milo held it up and the strange head tilted.

“He can solve that,” the kind old woman offered, and Dr. Milo was instantly seized.

As he flew into the air, bound for uncomfortable experiments, the creature called out, “By the way, I was kidding about your flight being doomed!”

The people on board the plane settled into their seats for a quiet trip to Vegas where they would attempt to win twice in one day.

JD DeHart has appeared in Eye On Life and Steel Toe Review, among other journals. His work is forthcoming in the Garden of Eden anthology by Garden Gnome Publications. He teaches English.

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