[font="arial"][size="3"]One day little Scooter happened upon the shaman, sitting by his campfire. He seemed quite pensive. Scooter decided to investigate. When the shaman gets that way, there is usually a good story to be had. It was chilly, and the shaman had pulled his robe over himself tightly. He was was sitting on his log; his headdress was beside him. He was staring into the screen of his laptop, holding a cup of coffee. The coffee had gone cold, and scooter could tell as he drew closer, the shaman was looking more or less through the screen than at it.
"What's up?" asked Scooter.
"Oh," said the shaman. "The guys over on D&DH want to know how I want to be remembered."
"It sounds like they want you to write your own eulogy." said Scooter.
" Something like that." replied the shaman. "I turned 50 this year. This kind of topic sort of hits home." The shaman stroked his mostly gray beard and winced. I woke up this morning thinking about Big Al."
"You weren't even born yet." replied the shaman. "Al was a buddy who heard I had no place to hunt and let me come and hunt his private campground out East of here. Everybody loved Al. He used to go trolling through the campground on weekends in his bathrobe-- always wore his bathrobe-- just making sure everyone was having fun. It was a real loosely run thing, and mostly it was just Al's friends and the overflow from the state park, and a neo-pagan church that leased access for holding their services."
"That sounds interesting." said Scooter.
"Al thought the pagans lent an interesting touch." replied the shaman. "He thought a campground with a bowhunter up in a tree was an interesting touch. In reality, I think Al just liked decorating his little Christmas tree farm with people and watching them. I am just a good Methodist boy at heart, but even I had to say it was the most interesting place to hunt I've ever been. If you asked Al why he let the pagans stay at his campground, Al would respond with 'They're here to chase off the riff-raff.'"
"That sounds eccentric." said Scooter.
"Eccentric doesn't cover the half of it." said the shaman. "But that was Al. "
"So Al turned the big Five-Oh about 10 years ago." said the shaman. "He'd had a falling out with the pagans and they had stopped coming out. They went as far as excommunicating him from the church. Al responded by having himself ordained by one of the ministers he'd ordained when he was a minister in the church and had himself declared 'The New and Improved Church of Whatever-it-Was." That was a masterful play, and considering he worked for Procter and Gamble, it made it all the more fitting." All the huffing and puffing had driven off most of the campground traffic. Al's birthday was in the winter. All-in-all there weren't many folk around to celebrate, so he and a few family members, the ones that were still talking to him, went out to Red Lobster. When he got home, his daughter said he walked in the door and said he did not feel well and laid down on the couch. About ten minutes later he was dead."
"Awful." said Scooter. "How old was he?"
"Fifty. I've outlived him by six months. I went to the visitation, and they had a huge room packed with people, and they spilled out into the halls and the lobby and they crowded the dais and his daughter came up and asked me if I wanted to speak, and so I did a ten-minute stand-up routine about Al and his bathrobe and the night I staid in the house. Only time I've seen mourners rolling in the isles laughing. Al would have been proud of me."
About this time in the conversation, Chin, the Chinaman showed up. He was another one of the regulars around the shaman's fire. We was a jovial fellow. He quickly wanted to know why the shaman was so glum. Chin was a bit of a puzzle to Scooter. Talking to Chin was like like dropping a pebble into a well and never hearing it hit bottom.
"Why so glum?" asked Chin
"I don't think he's glum, Chin." said Scooter. "He's just pensive."
When Chin spoke, it was all Southern, Yiddish and Mandarin nasal sing-song mixed like he had been eating take-out too long and the pulled pork had been mixed with corned beef and the Happy Family Special.
" Pensive, schmensive!" said Chin. . "He's either depressed or he's contipated. Cough up what's eating you son-- I don't have time to guess."
The shaman repeated his story for Chin.
[/size][/font][font="arial"][size="3"]"Years ago," said Chin. "My buddy Lao Tse died. A few of us over at the monastery decided to go over and pay our respects. So I get to the funeral home and there are all these monks, disciples of Lao Tse, acting like a bunch of women. They're crying, they're wailing, they're pulling their clothes, they're falling on the floor and rolling around, and the noise? It sounded like they were slaughtering sheep!
"So I went in and I let out three big wails, and then I turned to my buddies and told them 'Let's blow this place. I know a bar around the corner that has cheap buckets of Miller until Five.' One of the monks gets off the floor and runs over to us.
"'Where are you going?' asked this monk. 'Is that all you can summon for your friend? Three lousy little wails?'
"That's when I got steamed. I went around the parlor, kicking butt. I knocked those monks upside the head with my staff. I kicked their sorry backsides. I put a hurt on them like they had never seen. 'I'll give you something to wail about!' I said.
"'But Master!, said the monks. 'This was your best friend.'
"'No!' I said. 'I can see Lao Tse was a fool. And you are all fools too. I had believed him to be the man of all men, but now I know that he was not. When I went in to mourn, I found old persons weeping as if for their children, young ones wailing as if for their mothers. And for him to have gained the attachment of those people in this way, he too must have uttered words which should not have been spoken, and dropped tears which should not have been shed, thus violating eternal principles, increasing the sum of human emotion, and forgetting the source from which his own life was received. The ancients called such emotions the trammels of mortality. The Master came, because it was his time to be born; he went, because it was his time to die. For those who accept the phenomenon of birth and death in this sense, lamentation and sorrow have no place.'
"I kicked all their sorry butts, and as I left, I told them this: ' There was a fire. It burned brightly once, and now it is gone. It may burn elsewhere in this world, I know not where, but these sticks have burned out and grown cold. '"
With this, the Chinaman got up from the log and walked over to the little campfire . With his boot, he kicked the embers. A few were still hot, and once they hit the snow, they sizzled and went out.
"Just like this." said Chin. "And then I walked out of there and got drunk with my friends. It's cold out here, people. Let's go down to the diner, guys. I got a hankerin' for pancakes."
"Yeah, you're right Chin" said the shaman, picking himself up. "That's how I want to be remembered."