Category Archives: Stories

Short stories of mine.

Trees, a Short Story

The rot had taken eons to putrefy the innermost sections of Charles Oldbranch, the great tree, but at long last the eons had passed and the rot had conquered. A grotesque splitting, crashing, echoing collapse  verified this for all the world to see, admit as fact, and act accordingly. And act they did.

Robert Longbark, the sapling of one of the most successful of industrial families, was the first to act, prodded as he was by his towering, austere father Herbert. True to tree form, Robert made use of the newly available sunlight to feed his hungry leaves, to grow, to conquer.

But there were others, other saplings, members of other great tree families. The Stoneturners, the Deeproots, the Sundrinkers, even the relatively unimpressive Brownbarks all had saplings in the area, waiting patiently–always the operative word in tree society–for that old sod Charles to keel over and, at long last, die. Sun space was a precious commodity, a rationed resource; and the benefit of its warm light went to the most vigorous, perhaps the most duplicitous tree; to the sapling that not only made the first move, but managed, in the ensuing scramble for height, to grow quicker than his fellows. Competition was fierce and, for trees, rapid. It was also deadly, and a loss meant certain death.

That this cut-branch competition flew in the face of the tenets of tree religion mattered to no one save the ground-bound ferns that preached the sacred word. The commandments were four, and were as follows:

  1. Revere the sun, by whom life is allowed to flourish.
  2. Revere the soil, from whom life begins.
  3. Envy not the bark of thy neighbor but stand tall with him.
  4. Forget not thy roots.

They were, all agreed, noble ideals and worthy of consideration, but against the practical realities of survival, they meant nothing except perhaps as weak justification for the perpetual arms race of the young, the unending monopoly of the old.

Roderick Highbranch, the greatest industrialist of this present eon, whose rootsran deep and whose leaves flushed with colorful vitality, proffered a treatise on this very subject, the rustle of which reverberated throughout the forest. Like all tree literature, at least, all good tree literature, it was short, for trees spent most of their time growing or eating; practical, for they thought of little else besides survival; and memorable, for something had to be quite impactful if it hoped to register amongst the myriads that passed by such aged structures.

His treatise ran thus: “Here, for all to drink in, is the true meaning of the commandments we all hold so dear. I ask you, how can a tree venerate the sun most effectively? By warming his leaves by the sacred light. This requires height. So grow! How can we show our appreciation for the soil from which we sprang? By honoring the seed that we were; by flourishing in our maturity. So grow! How else shall we envy not our neighbors except by sticking to our own development; and how else can we stand with our neighbors unless we rise to the occasion? So grow! How must we remember our roots if not by making the most use of the nutrients with which they provide us? So grow! That is the sum total of my thesis, my philosophy, my success, a mere word: grow. So go forth, commit yourselves to thy sacred duty, honor the religion of our fathers, our fathers’ fathers, all the way back to the first pillar of our civilization. Go forth, brethren, and grow!”

A vigorous philosophy, to be sure, but competitive as well. Opportunity might have been equal, in the sense that an opening in the canopy could happen anywhere, but no two trees could ever have been considered equal in the ensuing struggle; one tree, whether the strongest or the luckiest, or maybe even the most rapacious, won out in the end. And the forest floor was littered with the remains of untrammeled competition and rivalry. But, industrious as these trees were, they cared not for such failures. It was height or it was nothing at all; grow, or be used as fuel by those with the capacity to do so.

It was a dangerous existence, a cruel existence, but the trees, or rather those who made it to the radiance of the top, would have it no other way.

Seated, a Short Story

Seat 4C was new, polished, virgin. The room around it was new as well; new construction, new paint, new stage, new philosophy. This was the auditorium of the new high school. It was to be a place of learning and discussion. It was to be a place where generations came to be forged.

Creaking open for the first time, the seat welcomed its first sitter, a snarled young man, assailed by anxiety, acne, by arrogance, impertinence, and fear. He fidgeted annoyingly, unable to get comfortable despite the seat’s best efforts. It desired only to content him.

The lights dimmed, and the presentation began. The assembly, the first in what was heralded as a new series of intelligent, thought-provoking lectures, was about the dangers of nuclear war. A short video of president Ford was followed by a speaker who bade the students to take seriously the possibilities of MAD, to work to a brighter tomorrow, to make sure that the human race continued to exist. The sitter seemed little interested in the substance of the speech.

Much to the seat’s disappointment, the sitters all seemed generally to be alike. They oozed oil. They smelled bad. They could not sit still. The seat wondered if this was the case wherever young people had to sit down. Quickly, then, the seat’s memory for sitters blurred and grew indistinct.

Its memory for lectures, however, was a little sharper. There were several it would never forget. There was one about the dangers of fossil fuels, the evils of something called OPEC, and the desire for the whole world to embrace alternative energy; there was one about the imperialism of the Soviet Union; one about the prospects for peace with the collapse of the Berlin Wall; one about the dangers of drug use; about how to use the internet safely; about the threat of Muslim terrorism; about school shootings. At first 4C did not understand much of what was talked about, but over time its knowledge grew. As the decades passed, it became something of an expert in international geo-politics.

The years passed, the lectures changed, and the students remained the same. The seat noticed, with some confusion, that it didn’t matter what was being talked about; the sitters did not care. It reminded itself that it was but a lowly chair, that its view was narrow, limited. But after 40 years of sitters coming and going, it came to think its opinion on the matter accurate indeed.

In talking with its neighbors, its opinions were confirmed. Their sitters, too, could never get comfortable, could never pay attention; they slouched, dozed, sunk deep into their seats–all much to the seats’ consternation.

One day, after the end of an especially long assembly concerning the dangers of cyber bullying (4C never ceased to be astounded at the variety of topics that filled its auditorium), 4C found itself unable to return to its upright, resting position. Weeks passed, and the problem did not go away. Eventually, two burly men in overalls came to inspect it. They spoke in low voices, slurred by diets enriched by far too much red meat. 4C disliked seating such folk. They hurt.

Presently, however, it was concerned with what they were saying. They spoke of replacement. Whatever its diagnosis, the damage seemed to these two gentlemen to be irreparable. The seat would have to be torn out and replaced by a new one. The earliest this could possibly be done, they assured each other, was the beginning of next week. Four days from now.

4C trembled at the thought. It could not fathom what was going to happen to it. Where would it go? Who would sit on it? It creaked and pushed such thoughts off to one side. Desperately, it sought distraction from this existential crisis. It turned back towards the chief mystery of its long life, that of the human teenager. It wondered why, of all the important topics that had been covered here over the years, not one had drawn the concentration of anyone. More pressing matters nagged at the limits of the seat’s mind, but it brushed them aside, pondering instead the quandary that was the human attention span.

Three days later, in the quiet hours of the morning, 4C found itself prematurely torn from its universe. Two men came with tools. They showed no sympathy for the chair’s lost life; they did not bat an eyelash at its painful divorce. Unceremoniously, they wrenched 4C from its home of 40 years and carried it to the back of a truck.

They had caught the chair totally unawares. It had no time to come to terms with its life, with what it had done and left undone, with those it had seated and those left without a seat, with the great mysteries that it would never solve.

The afterlife was nothing like anything 4C had imagined. The air was colder. The world bumpier. The light varied and exceedingly bright. Then, all of the sudden, there was darkness. Then light. Then heat. Annihilating heat.

The Subway: a Short Story

The stomach and the brain process things a little differently. Consider a book you are not enjoying versus a dish that tastes awful. You could put the book down, of course, but somehow that seems wrong. You are compelled to finish it. “Maybe it will get better at the end. Maybe I just need some time to digest what’s been happening. I’ll finish it. Just another 100 pages to go. Fuck though, these characters are idiots.”

Try the same scenario with food. “My God, this stuff tastes like shit! Maybe it will get better as I go along. Should I finish? Perhaps my stomach will digest this hot garbage in such a way that I remember it more fondly afterwards…”

Sounds pretty ridiculous, huh? But that seems to be how things work. We are much more likely to finish a crappy book than a crappy meal. At least, I am.

“Why might that be,” I pondered to myself as the subway bumped beneath me. Why indeed.

I was just about to let the issue drop. “Whatever. Maybe inspiration will come to me in a dream. How many times has a solution presented itself when I wasn’t even thinking about the problem?”

And then flash! “The unconscious! That’s it!”

“What are you talking about?” I asked myself.

“It’s simple,” I responded. “Your brain has an unconscious component above which your consciousness is superimposed. Your stomach does not. It is just mechanical. There is no place for ideas to percolate and interconnect with other tidbits of crap floating around like there is in the brain. That’s why you can despise a novel when you finish it, but then a week later you realize that that nagging feeling you had upon finishing the damn thing was just the beginnings of a thought; and that that thought has now come to fruition; and that that thought is some revelation about how the book you thought you hated was actually fucking brilliant!”

“When has that ever happened to you?”

“Just last week I watched Once Upon a Time in the West and really didn’t care for it. But a feeling nagged me from the moment I finished. ‘Consider me,’ it whispered. ‘Consider me.’ It kept at it. Eventually, I relented, sat down, and rewatched the film. This time, I absolutely loved it. I’m not saying each instance of this is so extreme, but I think it’s an illustrative example.”

“But stomachs don’t do that?”

“Not at all!” I was ecstatic. “Not at all! They just accept material, break it down as they always do, and move on to the next batch of crap. There is no random connectivity. No creativity. It’s just a factory sack in the middle of  your body. I fucking hate it.”

At this point I was giddy in my seat, smiling at nothing and just generally happy with the turns my mind was presently taking. I giggled incessantly.

In hindsight, I can understand why the people around me might have been a little concerned with my behavior. At the time though, I was just too preoccupied with the revelation going on inside my head. It was magical!

A shadow darkened my world. I tried to focus my eyes once more upon the external. A large,  blur loomed over me. My eyes, in their haste, failed to discern what this structure could be. Then it spoke.

“Sir, my name is Officer North. Can I ask your name and where you’re headed today?”

A police officer. “Oh fuck. What did I do? What did I do? Why did he want to talk to me of all people?” My thoughts were frantic. And my eyes still couldn’t discern any features. I was talking to an amorphous entity, like all of policedom personified in one menacing avatar.

“Well, sir, I…”

“Speak up, son. Why so nervous?”

I cleared my throat. “Well, I. My name is Jerome.”

“Jerome what?”

“Jerome Pillovich, sir.”

“And where are you headed today, Jerome Pillovich?”

“I am going home, sir.”

“Looking pretty suspicious for a man who’s just going home. Why were you acting so strange just now?”


“Just now. You were talking to yourself and laughing at nothing and fidgeting in your seat like you had a cockroach up your ass.”


“Oh? You mean you didn’t know what you were doing?”

I laughed a little, involuntarily. My voice cracked. It wasn’t pretty. “I was a little preoccupied, sir.”

“With what?”

“My own thoughts.”

“Pretty vivid thoughts you’re having, I’d say. You on anything?”

“No sir!”

“Mind taking a blood test to confirm that, son?”

I realized this was one of those moments political science majors dream about, where a private citizen armed with just enough knowledge of his constitutional rights can tell a cop to go fuck himself and nothing will happen to him; where the cop has to begrudgingly admit that, for once in his career at least, he failed in trampling over the rights of the little guy; where the young intellectual can go home and break open his Jefferson or his Foucault or whoever and read them with pride and say to himself “Yes, I know what you mean. I was there in my own little way. I fought the good fight. And I won.” I realized that in an intellectual flare, which dissipated into black the second I remembered that I had a very good reason for getting home; that the cop was very large, or seemed so; that he probably had very menacing weapons upon his very menacing person; and that I wasn’t a poli sci major anyhow. I’d never even graduated college.

So I told him the truth. “I’d rather not sir. You see, I have to get home on time today. Otherwise my dog will shit all over the carpet. I know how he gets, you see.”

“Dog, huh. What’s his name?” He sounded like he didn’t believe me.

“Josef Goebbels.”

“What?” He couldn’t decide whether to laugh or scream. A natural response.

I smiled as friendily as I could. “You’ve heard of him?”

“I watch enough History Channel to know the name. What the hell possessed you to name your dog fucking Josef Goebbels?”

“Wasn’t me. I found the dog at the pound. He was already used to it, so I was kinda stuck.”

“And you adopted him anyway?”

“He was just so forlorn. I couldn’t say no.”

“I see.”

I, too, began to see. The cop finally came into focus. He was a larger man, but not so demonic as I had originally been led to believe. His hair was retreating before an annexing forehead. His belly bulged. He looked tired. He also looked like he was thinking. I had never seen a cop look like that before. I was dumbfounded. Guess you could call that irony. I sure did.

“Listen,” he said at last, “I’m going to let you off this time. I know what dogs are like when they’re from the pound, how temperamental they can be, and how much more work you have to put into them to make up for all the abuse. I get that. Just, for Christ’s sake, in the future, don’t act so damn goofy, especially not on the subway. You know how people are these days, right?”

“I guess I do, sir. It’s just, I was so excited.”

“About what?”

I told him about my revelation. I don’t know what I expected him to say, but I what did I care? I was just happy finally to be telling someone! It had been burning a hole in the back of my brain ever since he first approached me. When I was all done, and out of breath from all the excitement, he took a long, thorough look at me and then laughed.

“That’s all you were carrying on about?”

I frowned. He did not understand.

“You have it all wrong, bud. The stomach and the brain aren’t any different. Think about it.”

“How do you mean?” I stuttered, my eyes narrowing in suspicion.

“Did you like beer the first time you tasted it?”

“No.” I said, dragging out the syllable in obvious doubt.

“But you kept drinking it, right?”

“Uh huh.”

“And eventually you learned to like it, I’d wager.”

“Not all kinds, but yeah, I like beer more now than when I first tasted it.”

“And you don’t think that that’s your stomach’s very own ‘unconscious’ doing things when you’re not looking? The brain and the stomach both percolate themselves away. They both do stuff without us even realizing it. Your distinction is total nonsense. Can’t even say the stomach has its own unconscious, really. The body’s holistic, interconnected. And it’s all run  through the same processor. Leastways, that’s what I remember from the psych classes at the academy. Only interesting stuff they taught us there, matter-o-fact.”

My eyes were wide. I’d never considered that. Never considered beer. How could I have failed to consider beer?

“Plus, now I don’t do this myself mind you, but people do eat stuff they don’t like just for the nutritional value, you know, liberals and hippies and all those lovely people.”

I was heartbroken.

He put a hand on my shoulder. He could see the shattering results of his little psychology lesson. “Listen, this is how cults get started, bud. Someone gets too worked up about some half-baked idea, and they run with it right off a cliff. Stick to caring for your dog, huh?”

And with that he walked away, still laughing. I sat back in my seat and checked the time on my phone. Josef Goebbels would need to go out right when I got home.

Action: a Short Story

He felt her hand: cold to the touch. She had been dead for hours. Red hair covered her pale face. He displaced a few strands, revealing a set of bulging blue eyes, broken nose, bruised cheeks. This was no death’s soft repose. Something untoward had happened here. Rodrigo rose from the bed, his bed, and pondered.

Who was this woman? Why had she been in his apartment? And why was she dead? Mechanically, he rubbed the smart phone in his pocket; the wheels of his mind turned their slow revolutions. He should be anxious. He should be scared. He should call the cops.

A gust of cold lashed at his furrowed brow. He looked up and saw the bedroom window, smashed, the curtains in tatters. Broken glass lay scattered on the floor like so many puzzle pieces. But, sharp to the touch, Rodrigo could not even begin to fit them together. What had happened here?

He examined the corpse more closely. She was utterly naked. No ID, no nothing. Bruising lined her arms and stomach. Maybe she’d been brought here against her will? Seemed likely. Why wasn’t he more worked up about this? Why didn’t he seem to care that a stranger had died here; that she had been left here for him to find?

His mind wandered. Haven’t cared about work lately. Natasha’s barely been on my mind the last few weeks. Just don’t give a shit. Why bother?

His eyes regained their focus. A small puncture wound on her left temple caught his attention. His heart quickened just a little bit, his eyes sparking. Dried blood was visible in the matted hair. What thick hair she had had. Although it was still the property of the corpse, he noted. Such distinctions carried a mild amusement.

That’s how this scene appeared to Rodrigo. Mild. It had a mild taste to it. There was nothing vital about it. It seemed flat, run of the mill. What was so special about someone dying on his bed, as opposed to any other? What was so special about someone dying at all? It happened to everyone.

What was wrong with him? Why didn’t he care?

The sight of her wound had enlivened him for a moment. That was visceral. That was cause and effect. That was action. Was that what his life so sorely lacked these days? His existence was so passive. Hers had ended in the throes of action, if not of her own volition then certainly that of someone else. Someone was living a real life. Rodrigo wondered who that might be. What a luxury nowadays, to live rather than somnambulate.

But the woman neither lived nor sleepwalked. She had died, and continued in that vein–relentlessly. A foolish consistency, but one from which she could not be swayed. More idle thought.

Rodrigo, what are you going to do?

That’s a good question. Any idea?

Calling the police would be better than sitting beside a dead stranger, daydreaming.

That makes sense. But somehow I can’t bring myself to do it.

You haven’t been able to make yourself do much of anything these days.

That is true. Why do you think that is?

Stop it. Stop asking yourself a thousand questions. Act.

He still fingered the phone in his pocket. He took it out and stared at the lock screen. Another moment’s hesitation.

Do something.

He unlocked the phone. Dialed 911. Put the phone to his ear.

“Hello, 911. What is your emergency?”

There is a woman on my bed. I think she is dead. I do not know her.

“Hello, is anyone there?”

It looks like she might have been murdered. My window was smashed in as well.

“I can hear you breathing. Sir, do you have an emergency to report?”


“It is a crime to prank call 911 like this, sir.”


The phone went dead.

A Vacation Post

[The following is an excerpt from a unpublished travel log written by an anonymous Pennsylvania man. Its historical value, as a documentary exemplar of the times, ought to be self evident.]

…and already we’d abandoned the familiar hills and dales, the pleasant faces of those we knew and loved. We entered the little, and yet somehow vastly unknown, state of Mary Land before the sun’s zenith had been reached. It was a strange principality, filled with weird place names, road markers, and no people. Nary a soul was to be seen by either myself or my traveling companion, on this road and life’s turnpike. Perhaps, as some of my fellow Keystonians theorized, the origin of the Mary Lander’s reticence at the sight of strangers is a result of the great Civil War that raged here in the distant, but still felt, past. You can see the marks of that great human cataclysm everywhere. The terrain vibrates before you, as if in the throes of combat. The sky, grayed as if in furled brow, finds no succor in the deadly panorama wrathing below it. You can see forests and hills that must have been the scene of many a combat, many a bloody deed. The hills do not roll into each other in smooth transitions; no, they heave abruptly out of the dark earth, in struggle’s breath, gasping for oxygen amidst the memories of explosions and shrapnel bursts.

Whatever the reason, we passed through this tiny section of the map without serious incident.

West Virginia we crossed into with the sun at highest beam. Like its neighbor, it was a dark, foreboding place, carrying no doubt its own battle scars. We made camp for a spell at one of their highway stops. and there admired for the first time natives of a region not our own. In skin color they are not unlike Pennsylvanians, which is to say light. Many were tanned with the work of the farm, the work site, or the Martian field; although I confess that I know too little of their foreign affairs to know if they are engaged in any current wars, except to say that our two states are at peace. They looked to be of hearty stock, broad of shoulder and sloped of brow, fit to till rather than to rule. No wonder after their secession from Virginia during the Civil War they amounted to little, especially in comparison to the might of our own nation.

I must say, and my companion noticed this even before me, the wind seemed as violent as the history here. It howled, screamed even, personifying the frustrations of a state that has hardly amounted to any glory in the centuries since its independence; and perhaps also expressing a jealous hatred at a pair of innocent foreigners whose birthright is an example of that lost national dream.

Of interest, I should think, is the very real, and quite steady, decent in the quality of the roads as we moved farther and farther afield. One should not expect less mighty and prosperous states to be possessed of roads on par with those of Pennsylvania. We have been blessed, as you well know, by a hearty and loyal population, a wealth of resources deserving of a body politic willing to dig, till, and build, and an abnormally efficient and just government. As a result, we have the most extensive highway system in the inhabited world, excepting of course those mythical turnpikes made real only by the storyteller’s predication (California being the setting au courant of such fables).

At any rate, while Mary Land made an admirable attempt to emulate the engineering marvels of her northern better, I am compelled to report that Western Virginia, true to form, connects its little towns and settlements with a primitive, if technically functional, series of byways. Turned away from the wisdom of tolled roads by some misguided leader, council, or animal’s augury, they instead rely, I have little doubt, on the donation of the foolish, or the pillage of the weak (as is the custom of the less civilized) to fund their roadways. Indeed, they lack anything more than the most basic of provision centers along the side of these roads. When we made camp, my companion and I fully expected the availability of fuel; reality disappointed us with little more than latrines. It is a wonder they were divided between genders, a practice I am given to understand originated in our fair state. If only we had the time and resources to proselytize other innovations of our vigorous civilization!

After another hour on these roads the pangs of hunger proved too staunch a foe. We took our caravan off the main route and stopped at a local village, intent upon the local cuisine. I admit to a level of trepidation at the thought of eating the native fare. Who could fault me this? Every educated man knows that a strange dish is as likely to prove disastrous to the digestion as not. This, so far as my medical knowledge permits me to judge, is the result not only of our more polished methods of food preparation; this acts in tandem with the human body’s proclivity towards adaptation in times of hardship, and the solidification of habits in times of stability. My digestion, used to the food of its home, would likely adapt to foreign agents soon enough, provided I lived through the experience. It is probably also fair to say that if a barbarian were to sample the food of Pennsylvania, he would find it just as upsetting to his constitution as I his. Uncivilization has its price–and a fearful one at that.

As luck would have it, a vendor of foods found in my land was close to hand, busy spreading our enlightened diet to the foreigner. We dined there and ate heartily. Reinvigorated, we set ourselves upon the road once more.

Despite my nay saying, there is evidence of progress in this land. Several road markers indicated learning centers of some sort. I very much doubt students of the Keystone State would find much to gawk at, but these facilities probably suffice for the simpler needs of a simpler people. One cannot begrudge education; it is a universal, if unevenly distributed, boon.

There was also evidence of religion, that great upholder of social order. As a patriot, I am a vocal proponent of my state’s brand of Godhead, but my more worldly compatriots inform me that the religions of these outer regions do not differ substantially from our own. They have within them the same common core, even if the ritual surrounding might strike me as ungainly. To wit: we passed a church on our foraging expedition. It did not have the grandeur, nor the durability of our own churches. At the same time, its local color bespoke a level of community sorely lacking in some of our own congregations. I will refrain, unlike Tacitus, from lionizing the virtues of others as a method of highlighting areas of improvement (as he did in writing about Germany for the benefit of Rome); I would only point out that every culture has its bright spots, however dim; and even the most advanced and prosperous peoples are not without their faults.

At length, we emerged from the wilderness that dominated Western Virginia, and came finally into Kentucky, our destination. I must say, with all due candor, it was a land full to the brim with breathtaking vistas, vigorous terrain, and majestic skies. Heretofore, my companion had been charged with navigating our way through the unknown. Succumbing at last to just fatigue, we exchanged position, thus putting me in direct control of our fate.

What struck me more than any other single feature about this state was its supreme sense of history. Alas, we in Pennsylvania, enamored of our modern success and power, have too little sense of the achievements of our forefathers. Not so Kentucky. Her highways overflowed with museums, monuments, and sundry historic sites. If memory serves, this makes a great deal of sense, as Kentucky was the unhappy home of some of the most crimson days of the Civil War. It would not be an exaggeration to say that for a generation the majesty of this state’s blue grass was stained red in the face of that failed amputation.

I observed, through travelling several hundred miles through this land, only a single police unit patrolling their many highways. This I found quite extraordinary, as in both Pennsylvania and Mary Land the vehicles of the police abounded. Indeed, in traversing Mary Land, police seemed hidden behind every rock, around every corner. This robust police presence in our home state is the result of vigorous legislation, preemptive in nature. In Mary Land, it is my understanding the police are the active, albeit belated government reaction to the terrible brigandage that plagues that land. Western Virginia, it must be said, had little in the way of police; however I attribute this less to moral virtue and more to demographic reality: it has too few people to require a large police force. Kentucky alone had a large population and little in the way of highway police. Why might this be? I can offer little in the way of explanation. It serves simply as an example of those anthropological mysteries that one is not unlikely to encounter during foreign adventures.

Through many an uncrowded road we traveled, pleasantly enjoying the setting sun. I made good time, taking full advantage of the lack of comtravellers. At long last, after half a day’s time, we came to the last stretch of our journey. Signs pointed towards the little town towards which we drove. The sun at this point was hide amidst ominously darkening clouds. Several cars began to gain on us a sudden….

[It is at this point that the document breaks off. The first editors to come across this text assumed it was written more or less simultaneously with the details it describes, and blame native interference for the sudden silence. The academic community is currently divided on the issue.]