If the Shoe Fits

Once upon a time there was a young widower with an unusually lovely and delicate daughter named Ellanore. Although they were very happy together, the widower felt his beloved child deserved a mother, and so one day he brought home a new bride. It just so happened that this new stepmother had two daughters of her own, neither of whom, unfortunately, was quite as pretty as Ella.

What’s that? You’ve heard this one already? Not this one, you haven’t. Trust me.

As I was saying, new stepmother, new stepsisters. Who knows how things might have gone, had the young widower not died, leaving the stepmother a widow twice-over, with three girls to raise. But he did die, and with him went all of their income, which resulted in most of the household being dismissed, as there was nothing to pay them with. As such, all four of the ladies did rather more of the household work than they would have cared to admit to outsiders. The stepdaughters (whose names, through no fault of their own, were Constance and Prudence) were both healthy, strong young specimens able to be of great help to their mother, especially in the gardens- although their constant exposure to the sun did no favors for their complexions. Ella, on the other hand, was so delicate that she was not able to handle more than the lightest of the household tasks- including sweeping out the fireplace. Her step-sisters might have resented this less if the girl did not insist upon calling herself, in martyred tones, “Cinder-Ella”. She spent much of her time daydreaming about how wonderful it would be to be rich again, with a house full of servants. So frequently did she prattle on about this (instead of doing the few chores she had) that Constance and Prudence eventually tired of it and began to avoid her at all costs: or if they could not, they took to bluntly telling her to shut up and be useful, for a change. This generally resulted in a bout of tears and accusations of them acting ugly towards her.

One day a proclamation went out from the royal palace- the young prince had come of age, and his parents were throwing a ball and inviting all the eligible ladies in the kingdom (the monarchs had very definite ideas about making certain their line did not fall prey to the perils of inbreeding). Of course, an invitation did one no good if one did not have the proper attire, and since they could no longer afford a private (or even public) seamstress, the step-mother and her two daughters immediately set about constructing their own gowns from the fine fabrics that had been part of the step-mother’s dowry. Ella was given a bolt of cloth of her very own, but since she had never really bothered to learn how to sew, and anyway it seemed like quite a lot of work to her, she did not do it, trusting instead that someone else would come along and help her (this was rather the story of her life, as it is for so many lovely young women). And it’s possible that one of her step-sisters might even have been willing to do so- had Ella not spent so much time alienating them over the past ten years. As it was, the night of the ball arrived, and Ella had no gown. Oh how she wept, but the fact remained that one could not arrive at the palace in ash-stained clothing, and so she was left behind.

As Ella was sobbing on the ground, feeling miserably sorry for herself, a kind voice said, “My dear, why are you crying?” Ella looked up and what should she see but a woman even more beautiful and delicate than herself! So shocking was this development that her tears immediately ceased, and she stared with mouth agape.

“You want to go to the ball, I’m sure,” said the fairy, for of course the woman was a fairy. Fairies are ridiculously attracted to beautiful things, people included, and they cannot stand not to meddle with them.

“I do,” sniffled Ella, “but I have no gown, and no way to get there- my cruel step-family took the coach and left me here in the dirt!”

“Your step-family? Oh, you mean those other, less attractive mortals that spend their time in the gardens? Oh how horrid. Well, stand up then. You are definitely the prettiest, and that means you should have the very best things!”

As the fairy made this pronouncement, Ella suddenly found herself wearing a gown so lovely it might have been woven from starlight. And on her feet were a pair of elegant glass slippers.

“Oh my,” she breathed.

“Oh my indeed,” said the fairy. “Now, as for a coach…” she looked around until she spied the vegetable patch Constance and Prudence had tended so diligently. “Ah, just the thing!” she declared, and the next thing Ella knew, a large golden pumpkin had become a small golden coach. A few moments later a handful of mice had become horses, a rat had become a coachman, and a pair of lizards were now footmen. All of them exceptionally attractive, of course.

“That ought to do it,” said the fairy, looking pleased with herself. “Now, one thing to remember- the spell will end at midnight, so make sure you’ve left before then, or it will be rather a long walk home. Farewell!” and with a sparkle of dust she was gone.

Meanwhile, Constance and Prudence were having quite a good time at the ball, in spite of the fact that the women out-numbered the men a good four to one. They were enjoying food they had not had to prepare themselves, and admiring the creativity that had gone into all the outfits. In fact they were feeling pleased that their home-made gowns, if not the finest to be seen, at least were not the poorest.

A sudden stir near the main doors of the ballroom caught their attention, and so they witnessed Ella’s grand entrance. They, along with everyone else in the ballroom, stared in absolute shock- although their shock was not so much over how beautiful the “mysterious stranger” was as the fact that they could not fathom where their step-sister might have gotten her hands on such raiment. More to the point, they could not fathom her having the wherewithal to keep it a secret until this moment.

To exactly no one’s surprise, the prince approached Ella and asked her to dance. They made a lovely couple, and to be completely fair Ella was a superb dancer. She was also exceptionally good at making flattering small-talk, and the prince thoroughly enjoyed his turn about the floor with her. After the song came to an end, Ella made her way over to her step-sisters, where she made a very big deal over never having seen them before in her life. Constance and Prudence, bemused by this bizarre behavior, nevertheless went along with it, pretending not to know who the “mysterious stranger” was. Ella gaily drew the prince over to their little circle, and did her best to prove how much more lively and entertaining she was than her step-sisters. This might have worked better had she not considerably less intelligent than either Constance or Prudence. It soon became obvious to the prince that, as gorgeous as his dance-partner might be, she had a certain lacking in the wit department. Moreover he noticed in her a tendency to give back-handed compliments that were really quite cruel. And so when his father the king swept Ella away for a dance, he stayed to converse with the sisters, and found that while they were not anything spectacular in the looks department, both of them had a sort of wry sense of humor that he found entirely refreshing. Especially Prudence, who also had quite a bit to say on the current political climate, and her personal theories on how the kingdom’s trade might be expanded.

The prince found himself obliged to dance with Ella again, but as they were sweeping around the dance floor the clock suddenly began to strike the hour of midnight.

“Oh no! I must go at once!” cried Ella, and took off at what was, for her, a swift run. The prince made a half-hearted movement in her direction, and then made a point of stumbling over his own two feet, thus allowing her to escape into the night. She’d managed to lose one of her delicate glass slippers, however, and the king immediately picked it up for safekeeping.

As the fairy had predicted, Ella had quite a trek home (single-shoed and in ash-covered clothing, no less), and by the time she finally collapsed in the entryway, her step-mother and step-sisters were pulling up in the family carriage. When they entered the house Ella made a big deal of “waking up” and asked them how the ball was, and whether or not anyone interesting had showed up.

“Oh it was excellent,” they assured her, rolling their eyes at one another. “Really such a shame you missed it. There was the most mysterious stranger who danced with the prince not once but twice! Everyone thought she must be a foreign princess.”

Ella smiled smugly at this, and then wandered into the kitchen to find something to eat. She was so exhausted, however, that she ended up falling asleep next to the fireplace.

The next morning the kingdom woke to a new royal proclamation. The king had decided that the mysterious stranger would be excellent for the royal bloodlines, and so all eligible ladies in the kingdom were to prepare themselves for a visit from the prince in the coming weeks, who would use the glass slipper to find his bride. Ella would probably have been thrilled to hear this, except she was still sleeping in the ashes. Constance and Prudence only sighed, and told one another that at least they’d finally get their step-sister out from under-foot.

Later that day there came a knock at the door. Constance and Prudence were in the garden, repairing the damage done by all the trampling feet from the night before (mice-horses and former-lizards and the like), so it was their mother who answered, and it was their mother who was shocked to her core to see that apparently “in the coming weeks” meant that very day. Burning with humiliation at her lack of wealth being so exposed, the poor woman nevertheless held her head high as she lead the prince and his retainers out to where her daughters were working.

The prince was astounded to see Constance and Prudence toiling in the dirt, but was gracious enough not to comment on the situation. As a royal scribe read aloud the proclamation regarding the slipper, the prince looked around at the house and the garden, and realized how hard these women must work to keep up their fa├žade. Constance, being the eldest, was the first to sit and dutifully present her foot to the page with the slipper. It most definitely did not fit.

“Shocking,” she said dryly, and nudged Prudence. “Your turn to prove that you’re not a mysterious stranger. Prudence sighed and sat, but just as the page was approaching her with the slipper, a lovely voice came from the house.

“Oh ugh, my head. Why are you being so loud? Why can’t you just let me sleep?” and Ella appeared in the doorway. For a moment everyone was stunned by her beauty, but then the scribe remembered himself and stammered his way through the proclamation once more.

“Oh, may I try the slipper?” Ella asked, her eyes gone wide and innocent. “Even though I am but a lowly servant in this household?”

The prince looked at her, and then looked at Prudence, who was flipping the slipper nonchalantly on her big toe. It very obviously was not hers. He looked again at Ella, who was angling her chin down to make her eyes appear even larger. He looked at her delicate limbs and ivory skin, then at the hard muscles in Prudence’s freckled arms. He thought about the current political climate, and the weak trade-routes.

“Actually it appears I’ve already found my bride,” he said firmly. “As you can see, the slipper fits this maiden perfectly. Doesn’t it Reginald?”

The scribe, who was trained never to contradict his prince in public, turned a sort of choking purple before he managed to reply, “Perfectly, my lord prince. Never was there a shoe better fit.”

“Excellent,” said the prince. “And since we can all see how well it fits, I declare that never again shall my bride have to wear such ludicrous footwear.” So saying, he snatched the shoe off Prudence’s foot and hurled it into the ground, where it smashed into glittering shards.

“Whoops,” he said, and grinned at the woman who he knew would fit both him and his kingdom like to a T.



I had a bizarre moment this morning. I was reading a scene written by a friend of mine, about a character of his that I am familiar with, and I found myself shocked into crying.

Wait- that may not be the best way to phrase that. It makes it sound like there was some big reveal that shocked me- but really it was more like I had this blinding flash of understanding what I was reading, of true empathy and a split-second of prescience about what was about to happen, and it was so visceral that I cried. And then it did happen, and... I cried harder.

In retrospect I am just in awe of this moment. That I have put so much emotional investment into this fictional character that my friend can play me like a friggin' harpsichord is a little ludicrous. Or maybe not. I mean, if you put start to think about all the hours I've spent reading about this character, talking about him, thinking about him, and drawing him (because that's what I do with other people's characters) over the past four years, I guess there is part of me that feels he's my character, too. You know what I'm talking about- you have a favorite show, or book, and you love the people in it- you know them. You know them so well you know what they will do in any given situation, how they will react. They become as much yours as they are their creator's. And that's just weird, isn't it?

Isn't it?

But it's even more weird when you know the creator. When you recognize which parts of his psyche make up which parts of the character. And you have to wonder if your love of the character might not be, in some sense, an extension of your love for him or her.

I think that's possible- in fact I think it's even probable, in this instance. But I also believe that this scene would have ripped my guts out even if I hadn't known the author longer than I've known the character. And the thing is, I hope that I, too, can characters like that. Characters that people care about so much they feel like they own part of them. Characters that cause them to grieve when they grieve, or laugh when they laugh. Or even text me at 0630 to call me a bastard for making them cry at work.


Death Gulls to the Rescue!

Okay, this entry really needs an explanation (or possibly an apology-in-advance) before you read it. See, Nathan's up in Aberdeen right now, and for today's shot of people/animals, he elected to take a photo of some of the seagulls. While we were chatting about the seagulls (some of my favorite birds, mind you) he mentioned that they were like deathgulls, because they were just fighting each other over everything. For some reason or another he was prompted to utter the phrase, "Death Gulls to the rescue!" and from there a long conversation ensued regarding the nature of these noble beasts, and what activities they might engage in. Later on he happened to mention that he'd taken a photo of a gull that... well, you'll see. Anway, that's how this silly little story came to be. Because we all need to let off a little Weird sometimes...


Gather 'round, my children, and hear the tale of Billy Bastion and the Death Gulls.

Billy Bastion was born on a dark and stormy night, amidst peril most foul. His parents, lord and lady to the land, had been betrayed, and their castle was slowly but surely crumbling to their enemies' siege. As the villains hammered upon the door of into the birthing chamber, Billy's mother sent a desperate prayer to her gods, offering up her life in exchange for the protection of her unborn child. A flash of lightning struck with the bargain, and thus was born our hero- and his unbreakable bond with those celestial saviors from beyond the sea, the Death Gulls!

The Death Gulls streaked down from above, killing everyone in their path, until only little Billy remained. Thus assured of his safety, they winged their way once more to parts unknown. Billy himself was found and raised by a healthy young farming couple.

The next time Billy found himself in mortal peril, he was six years old. He had, against his foster parent's orders, wandered too deep into the woods, and come face to face with an enraged bear! Before the creature could eviscerate him, however, winged death swooped to the rescue- yes, the Death Gulls remained loyal to the dying wish of Billy's mother! With their eerie green beams of light they cleared the area of all threats, leaving Billy un-threatened once more.

When Billy was fifteen, he got it into his head to see the world, and set off down the long road to adventure. Unfortunately there were quite a few other adventuresome young men on this road, and a pack of them had banded together as robbers! Our hero might have perished beneath their clubs, had it not been for the eldritch workings of the Death Gulls! As he cleaned the viscera off of himself, Billy decided he had had enough adventure. Anyway, with the money he took off the bandit's corpses, he knew he'd be able to get himself a fine wife. So back to his village he went.

Billy did find himself a fine wife, a young woman by the name of Marigold. And they married in high style, and had a passel of fine children. And one day Billy was out in the fields with the other men of the village, bringing in the harvest, when a snake reared up out of the grass, flashing its venomous fangs! Instantly the sky darkened with a thousand razor-sharp wings, and in a blinding flash of veridian, Billy found himself to be the only living creature for a square mile.

He began to realize that having the protection of the Death Gulls might not be the safest thing for his family.

As such, he decided to exile himself to the wilderness, trusting in the Death Gulls to protect him from peril. And so they did, until the fateful day that Billy Bastion found himself dangling by his fingertips from the edge of a cliff. The Death Gulls arrived, yes- but when they saw Billy's predicament they turned as one to fly away.

"Wait!" cried Billy, "Will you not save me?"

The smallest of the gulls turned back to him and said,

"Sorry dude. Pretty much we only kill stuff."


Colors of Home

I feel safe here: protected.

I know that many people love southern California for it's cloudless blue skies, it's endless supply of sun, it's laid-back friendliness, but not me- I always felt exposed there, vulnerable, even as a child. I hated the way everything was bright and in your face, the way everyone notices everyone because they're always hoping to See Someone, and especially the way my shadow was clearly etched for anyone to capture (it is possible I read Peter Pan one time too often).

When we moved here, to this cold gray place by the sea, I finally began to felt at ease in my own skin. My sister calls it oppressive, but I find it liberating. The skies hang low, so low you might reach up and touch them for comfort, or luck. The misting rains envelop me as I walk, allowing me to move with muffled footsteps, blissfully anonymous. Best of all, I can keep my shadow my own.

I like to go down to the water, the dark, gray-green water, so different from the bright blue ocean of my youth. These waters know how to keep secrets- sink them deep, keep them silent. No on interrupts me here- it's just me, and the waves, and the many unspoken things we have witnessed. The sea birds cry out to us, "Tell! Tell! Tell!" but we never will.

The forests, too, know how to keep secrets, keep them hidden deep within their foliage. The leaves are a shade of black-green you'd never see in California- the sunlight wouldn't allow such a color to exist. It would fade it away until it couldn't conceal a thing, a washed-out memory of a color. But here, where the sun is nothing more than a briefly tolerated guest, here that color flourishes, pure and dark as the underside of a dream. It is the perfect setting for the raindrops that embellish the leaves like tiny liquid mirrors; sometimes I get as close to them as I can, to watch the world quiver in reverse. I catch sight of my own distorted reflection and I smile- finally I have found myself.

(Silvered Green)


Own Your Age

Living in the South as I do, I tend to see a lot of females who are not comfortable with their age. Little girls dressed up like teenagers, teenagers dressed up like adults, older women dressed up like younger women, and still older women who have done everything in their cosmetic power to appear anything but their own age.

It's depressing, it really is.

Why can't we just accept the life stage we're in? I can almost understand, when it comes to the younger females- they know nothing but childhood, so they don't realize that every age has its own blessings in addition to its drawbacks. And anyway they theoretically have parents that should be helping to guide them into age-appropriate actions and apparel. But as far as the adults go... why do they fight their age so hard? What's so wrong with being the age you are?

I want to see more women owning their age. I want to see more women acknowledging the fact that no, 30 is not 20. And 40 is not 30. And 50 is not 30, etc, etc, etc. And that is a good thing. You've already lived through your 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s- why on earth would you want to go back? Yeah, it sucks that you're not as spry as you used to be, that your skin isn't as tight and your muscles not as toned- but you know what? You're not as dumb as you used to be, either (one hopes, anyway). You have all this fantastic life experience under your belt now, which you can use to make better decisions and generally lead a happier, healthier life. So why would you want to gripe about that? Why would you want to camouflage where you're at with botox and dye? Why not own those crow's feet? Man, I'm friggin' pleased as hell with my crow's feet. They prove that a) I smile a lot and b) I spend a lot of time outdoors, squinting in the sun. I am proud to call both of those things essential parts of my make-up, and I would never want to hide them.

I know that some people will argue that it's easy for me to talk, when I'm still six months shy of 30 (let alone the higher decades) but my mom feels the same way. Sure, she doesn't like that arthritis is starting to take up residence in her knuckles, but she prefers it to the alternative (you know- not aging because you're dead.) I'm glad that I have her example to counterbalance the women who act as though getting older is the worst possible tragedy that could befall a female.

But then, if you're not gaining any sort of wisdom with your years, maybe it is...



Have I ever told you about one of my best friends from college, Moose? First of all, let me clarify- her nickname comes not from any outstanding bulk or stubborn temperament, but from the street she grew up on (plus a certain art project). Really it's a ridiculous nickname, in light of her small, blond stature. But then I guess most nicknames are. Ridiculous, I mean.

Anyway, Moose and I used to have the most unbelievable adventures while driving. It was a running joke between us- get the two of us in a car, and mishaps were bound to happen. Fortunately, we were so used to unexpected occurrences that we could be fairly laid back about them.

Well, except that one time we spun out on black ice on the exit-ramp (while going a perfectly reasonable 15mph, I might add) and ended up with our bumper literally one inch from the cliff, perpendicular to oncoming traffic. We weren't particularly laid back during that little incident.

But usually our adventures weren't quite so near-death. Typically it just involved us ending up somewhere on the map with no particular relation to where we'd intended to go. Something about our combined bio-rhythms just completely shot to hell any ability to navigate that we might otherwise have possessed. We were particularly bad about exits- often heard was the phrase,

"Shit, that was our exit," followed by "Eh, whatever- we can just take the next one and turn around."

'Just take the next one and turn around' became something of a mantra for me- this idea that even if you screw up, you can always correct course. Maybe not quickly, maybe not easily, maybe you'll end up in some truly bizarre detours, but eventually... you can get back to where you meant to be.

And, of course, it helps to have a good friend along for the ride.



To a Vampire

i am sorry, but
i cannot issue you
a verbal invitation

(they cut out my tongue,
you see,
when they put me in here)

i am hoping
you will accept this
my blackest words
upon a cream-colored page
in my secret diary:

come in
come in
come in

and free me

(one way or the other)



100 Days

Do you know that, as I am typing this entry, there are 265 posts tagged "365"? It's true. That means, by the time this entry ends, I will only have 99 more posts in this project. Which means that at this particular second (20:07:05) I still must compose 100 entries. So that's a nice round number, which always makes things more significant. Significant enough for a title, anyway.

We'd been sans air conditioning for about three weeks at work- finally got it up and running again yesterday afternoon. No air conditioning in an office in September in Alabama means being, for all intents and purposes, closed. Which means no business coming in, which was bad. But today we had climate control, and I got to wear pants (I'd been wearing flimsy little sundresses- highly unprofessional but seriously needed in order to survive) and by golly I spent all day working. It was nice to be productive again.

Last night I finally broke down and bought a used copy of Final Fantasy X. I'd been wanting to do so for a very long time (pretty much since Adam and I stopped sharing living quarters/a PS2) so I figured that still wanting something over five years after the fact means it's probably okay for me to drop $21 of my allowance on it.

Cue incessant gaming.

Oh it's sweet. It's so sweet. I've not done much gaming since I moved down here, and I must say- it's nice to indulge myself again. Plus I just love this game so much- not to mention the nostalgia factor. I will probably post more on this topic tomorrow, since Nathan and I are both calling in sick for a Mental Health day (trust me when I say recent events justify this) and I fully plan to do not one single useful thing while the sun is up.


The Best ("Our Special Diet")

“My sister and I require a special diet. I tell you this only because I wish it to be made aware to the household that we do not eat apart from haughtiness or spite, but out of concern for the wellbeing of others. When we were younger we contracted a rare illness, which has left us with a dependency on special herbs for our strength. These herbs are the most unpleasant poison to those who have never had the illness, and we would hate for anyone to come to harm because they ever-so-innocently took a mouthful of our stew. They are not deadly, but they might make a person wish for death until they pass from the system. I do, of course, keep our private herbs locked away separately from what gets used in the kitchen.”

Mrs. White was silent for a moment, nostrils flaring in that way I would come to learn meant she was thinking of how to most tactfully phrase something. Finally she said,

“Your illness… you say you had it when you were very young? It does not now affect you, beyond the need for special herbs?” I understood immediately what she was getting at, and quickly changed my story to one closer to the truth.

“I may have misspoke when I called it an illness, ma’am. The truth is that my sister and I were bitten by a venomous animal, and it is the lingering effects of that animals’ poison which cause the weakness. It is not, to the best of my knowledge, communicable. You may ask the sisters, if you feel uneasy- we spent two years living in close quarters with the other children, and none were ever affected by our condition.” None of the living, at any rate.

Mrs. White nodded her acceptance of my explanation, and I noticed her whole posture become slightly less rigid. By the end of our interview she was quite warm towards me, and I could see in her a natural sympathy for young women with practical minds (I reminded myself to keep my sister out of her way as much as possible). The whole episode convinced me that it really is for the best if one can stick as close to the truth as one may in any given situation. God favors the honest in spirit.



She smells of pain. Dyingpain.

I cannot find the wound on her. I have searched and searched, but there is no opening in her flesh, not even a smear of blood. I think she must be hurt inside somehow, like the time another fighter left his claw in my flank. She seems dazed, and holds herself curved inward as though trying to keep the outside world from jostling her, as though trying to keep her agony to a minimum. Yes, that is exactly how I moved when the infection was ravaging my body, when it was killing me with poisonous surety. I was helpless to fight it off, betrayed by my own body's attempt to repair itself- the skin had knit together and I could not get at the contamination to lick it clean. That horrible, piercing piece of him remained lodged deep within my muscle, sealed away from all my attempts to purify myself, dooming me to a slow, painful death. She healed me, then- took me to the place of sterile smells and hazy memories, and when she brought me home I was still weak, but I knew she had somehow carved the dying tissue from my body. I knew I would live.

I will not let her die.

She spends much of her time sleeping now, as the sick do. Her body is trying to heal itself, I am sure- but she is not eating properly. How will she have the strength to mend if she does not eat? I bring her meat, and she praises me, but she does not consume it. So I do what my mother did when we were very young, and injured or frightened. I curl up by her chest and purr: purr to soothe her, purr to let her know I will keep her safe in her mate's absence. She wraps her limbs around me, dampens my fur with her strange human substances. But I can smell the pain lessening.

I will heal her.

(Crossing My Path)


Bird's Eye View


Wrong, wrong, wrong. The seagull opened his beak and hissed his disapproval, beat his wings once, twice, three times to increase his speed, to try to escape. Wrong colors. Wrong smells. Stupid wrong place.

He didn't know where he was, but he knew it was not where he should be. He glared down at his shadow racing beneath him, but it wasn't having any better luck than he was. It grew larger and smaller as the land shot up and hollowed out, and always it was shrouded in green.

Wrong green.

It was the wrong green- it was a soft, heathery green, with hints of purple, completely lacking the luminous translucence he was accustomed to. It rippled and shimmered in the wind much like the waves of his beloved home, but the seagull was not fooled. Nor was he fooled by the way this place was as featureless as the ocean; it was not his ocean. It was not anyone's ocean. It was a strange place, and he did not like it.

No salt. No fish. Stupid place. Stupid storm.

There was no evidence of the storm now- just unbroken miles of that subdued green. No sand, no rocks, no water shining between the stalks. There was no movement at all, save that incessant ripple chasing itself out past the horizon. The seagull let himself wheel a few times, trying to collect his thoughts.

Home! Home! Home! he cried aloud, but there was no one to answer him but his own echo.



We are reaching That Point in the conversation.

You know what I'm talking about, right? When you've gone through all the "here's what happened this week" highlights, and neither of you really has anything left to say, but be damned if you'll hang up? Damned if you'll admit you don't have hours worth of conversation between you, because you always used to, damn it. Or maybe you didn't- maybe it's just you're more aware of silence when you're holding a phone instead of a hand.

I lay back on the small brick wall that defines the boundry of my front porch, rest my heels high above my head on the corner column. My eyes wander from the fraying edges of my canvas shoes over to my neighbor's little harvest display, searching for a topic.

"You know what I like best about pumpkins?" Yeah, that's right- I just brought squash into it. But she's game.

"Their color?" Her voice sounds faded to me. I wonder if she's tired, if she's stressed, if she's more lonely than she's letting on and if she's eating right- or if it's just the connection.

"Well I do like their color," I admit. "All vivid like that one coat you always wear when it gets really cold,"

"That coat is red." Her voice holds the barest hint of an accusation, and I roll my eyes, dig one heel into the brick.

"I know that coat is red- I said it was vivid like the pumpkins, not the same shade." As if I could ever forget the color of that coat. As if I could ever forget any nuance of the image that makes up her.

"Oh. Sorry."

"Anyway it's not their color that I like the best. It's their stems." I can almost hear her narrowing her eyes on the other end. It's such a perfect mental picture that the corner of my lip tugs up. She does skepticism so well.

"...their stems?"

"Yep." The truth is I've never given much thought to pumpkins. But hey- it's what I've got right now, and as I reveal to her my Secret Love of Pumpkin Attributes, I find that it's actually true. So she's still teaching me things about myself, even from thousands of miles away. "I like that they look painted on."

"Okay, you've lost me."

"Pumpkin stems. They look like a fanciful brush-stroke added at the end of a painting, don't you think? A sort of flourish? You can see the texture of the bristles and everything." A warm breeze kicks up and brings with it the scent of the bleached grass in the yard. It makes me wonder how cold it is at her new place.

"You are by far the weirdest boy I know," but I can hear her smiling as she imagines some impressionist going around, brush heavy with paint, swirling on stems.

"I can't believe you've never noticed it. I'm totally sending you a pumpkin so you can see what I'm talking about."

"You do that. I want some candy corn, too."

"What, they don't have candy corn up there?"

"Probably- they probably have pumpkins, too. But stuff from the South is sweeter, you know?"

"I am so not taking that bait."


(Temperature Disconnect)


Letting Go

I purged books today.

This is something that every bibliophile must do on a regular basis, lest they drown in the sheer volume of paper that accumulates on their shelves/windowsills/counter-tops/floors/etc. I tend to do it whenever I move, which is about once every year or two. Moving is especially excellent motivation for library-paring, since every book you get rid of is a book you don't have to, you know, move. 'Cos that stuff be heavy, yo.

Although I am a rabid devourer of fiction, it is actually reference books that make up the bulk of my "permanent library". Being as I am One Who Writes, my "reference" books come in all shapes, sizes, and topics of interest. I figure it's a safe bet that I'll be able to find a copy of Podkayne of Mars at my local library to re-read at my leisure, but if I'm possessed by my Muse and she needs me to look up an obscure fairy tale that I read once upon a time at 0300, then I'd damn well better have access not only to my collection of Grimm, but also my other six books on the fairy tales of other regions. So I tend to hang on to books like that. Also amongst my reference books, however, are my Artist Reference books, on the various media I've dabbled in. I keep those because hey! You never know when I'll pick it up again! Except that today I accepted the fact that really? I'm probably never going to do pottery again. At least, not to the extent where I really need to keep that book I haven't used in ten years. Besides, I'm sure there's a new edition out...

Then there are the Books I'm Going to Read, Damn It. I have a shelf specifically devoted to these books, the books that I picked up, or were given to me, and I got a bit into them and I know that I really need to finish them, because they are classics. Today I got ruthless, however, and let go of a few I've been hauling around for half a decade. I'm looking at you, Vanity Fair.

I'm also guilty of hanging on to books for sentimental reasons. Not towards the book itself (although I have a few dog-eared things that will someday get passed on to children for that purpose), but towards the person who gave me the book. I keep the book to prove I still love them, even though I never read the book. Today I let go of quite a few of such books. I still love the people who gave them to me, but why hang on to something that makes me feel guilt in association with their memory? And anyway I did marry Nathan, so it's a little like finally getting rid of my old love letters. The less well-written ones, anyway.

By and far the thing that makes it the most difficult for me to part with a book, however, is my belief in Identity Through Books. That is to say, I want my shelves to be a visual representation of who I believe I am. I want people to look at my shelves and say, "Ah yes- here is a girl who loves science-fiction and fantasy, true; but she also harbors a deep love for philosophy, eastern poetry, surfing, tattoos, and smart, beautifully drawn comics! And she certainly doesn't derive any guilty pleasures from things like Twilight." (Admit it- you, too, have "public room" books and "hidden in the bedroom" books).

As an example of a book that Proclaims My Self-Identity, I give you I Surf Therefore I Am. It is, according to my Identity Through Books neurosis, the perfect thing for my shelf. Surfing and philosophy? Dear lord, if they'd only put a tattooed pinup girl on the cover I'd make a shrine to it in the middle of my living room. But... it's not that great a book. I mean, it was okay, I don't feel like I wasted my time by reading it, but I'm never going to re-read it. Never. So it shouldn't be on my shelf, taking up space, no matter how much I want the casual observer of my home to know that hey- philosophizing surfer in residence.

I'm pretty proud of myself- there are now about six knee-high stacks of books sitting on the floor, waiting to be taken to the Salvation Army tomorrow (or maybe the library- I need to call them and ask about their policy on that). There is also a shelf full of books that I have set aside for specific people (like Katie and SCurry), as well as a shelf full of books that need to be returned to their actual owners (Mom you've been warned). The books left on the shelves- well, for starters they actually fit on the shelves, so that's a vast improvement. And when the time comes (sooner rather than later) that I pack them all up once more, the packing will go ever so much more swiftly, and the results will be all the easier on my ever-aging back. Win-win all around, my friends. Win-win all around.


Plan B

"We are never going to leave this town."

She's got her upper body propped against the low wall of the parking garage as she stares out at the fifth-story view. A soft but constant breeze has the hair around her face dancing, interfering with her sight. That breeze makes it comfortable here, makes it easy to forget the heat that had been crushing their souls down at street-level.

"Technically speaking, it's a city." He's not looking at her: his camera is pointed at the setting sun, but he's not really looking at that, either. His vision is turned inward, to fractions and angles and shutter speeds.

"Well whatever the hell it is we're stuck in it."

He doesn't respond. She attempts to throw a leg up over the wall, to lay forlornly along it's thick top, but it's just a little too high for her 5'5" frame. In a perverse moment of defiance she leaves her foot up and collapses her chest against the concrete: it is a posture both awkward and unflattering, but she doesn't care what anyone passing by might think- she is miserable, and her pose ought to reflect that.

So maybe she does care what they think.

"It's a black hole, that's what it is," she mutters to the bits of gravel pressing into her cheek. "It sucks things in and won't let them leave. Look, it's even doing it to the sun."

She's not wrong about this: the sun, having turned a brilliant red in its struggle to escape, finally seems to accept the inevitable, and sinks sullenly behind the distant hills.

West, she thinks as her ankle starts to go numb and the shadows deepen. He's trying so hard to get West, but come morning he'll still be here in the East. Damn that stupid woman, anyway.

(Plan B)


Grasshopper Richey

(A Bonus Entry With Little to No Interest for Most of You)

So my newest nephew went ahead and got himself born suuuuuper early this morning (thus rendering obsolete my title from Wednesday). We didn't get a chance to go over and see him until around five or six (Nathan had been out of town, and didn't get home until after four) and by the time we did the grandparents were taking off for the night. That was alright by us- fewer people to compete for tiny baby cuddles!

This is the first time I've ever been around a true newborn, and I will admit that I'd braced myself to tell some convincing lies regarding his cuteness. Not that I didn't trust my brother and sister-in-law to combine their genes to their best effect, but because I have no illusions about the general hideousness of babies before about two months. Add to that the fact that Grasshopper was induced early (pre-eclampsia, and all that) and I was prepared for some shrively, off-putting baby flesh. Teeth-grittingly prepared.

Fortunately for everyone, Grasshopper felt no need to follow typical baby protocol. As it turns out he is not at all scrawny, is in possession of a lovely round head capped with a thick golden fuzz, and looks rather less like Winston Churchill than most. Clear skin, good color, and didn't cry at all while I was holding him. Even half-opened one dark blue eye to check me out (they are liable to stay blue- both parents are recessive that way).

I was completely and utterly blown away by how friggin' perfect he is. Everything about him delighted me, especially his ridiculous lack of eyebrows, which he worked up and down to great effect. And yeah, I know- tiny infant perfection is not exactly news to most people, but you have to understand that I am not, in general, a fan of babies. And I did not expect to be particularly impressed by this one (I know, I know- worst sister-in-law ever). So the fact that I was absolutely captivated by him, that I found myself using that most horribly cliched of words, "precious" (I cringe to hear myself say it because other people have practically removed any and all meaning from it by applying it to the stupidest things)- well, I'm more than a little astounded.

The best part was being able to palm his little grapefruit-sized head. It just fit so snugly into my palm: I was utterly, utterly charmed.

Nathan got a lot of really nice portraits of him- maybe we've found him a new career path?

The Best, Cont.

(I liked yesterday's idea so much that I kept whittling away at it today. The vast majority of what I wrote actually had more to do with world-building and longer story-arc plotting, but here is a bit of a continuation of yesterday's specific narrative.)

I sometimes wonder if I would have bothered, if it had just been me. If it weren’t for my little sister, would I have just allowed myself to… waste away? I think I might have. This, in turn, leads me to think that as awful as it was for my sister to be afflicted along with me, it was probably for the best. After all, I have since seen what happens to our kind if we don’t find the proper sustenance, and it would have been exceptionally unpleasant for all the other denizens of the orphanage. Whereas since I was driven to save her, no matter the cost, I kept both of us in check, and the living children were always quite safe from us.

That first time was necessarily the hardest. Even though we had eaten the stew before, we still had many years’ worth of conditioning that to do so was an abomination. But then I remembered that our Lord had asked- no, He had commanded- that we eat of His flesh, and I comforted myself that it must not be so bad, if it was in the Bible. But I still thought it would be best not to bring it up with anyone else, and when the opportunity arose I took care of all the preparations myself. My sister (and I, for that matter) began to recover immediately, and the nuns were amazed. The stew I made for her was so nourishing that it soon became my regular duty to help in the kitchens, which made things ever so much easier for us to stay well-fed. I know now, of course, that we don’t actually have to cook our food, but at the time the thought never would have occurred to me. And to tell the truth, in the long years we’ve had our special diet, we’ve only resorted to such barbarism in the most extreme of emergencies. So even putting convenience aside, it was really for the best that I ended up helping in the kitchens, since it meant I got to learn many methods of food preparation I otherwise never would have. As it turned out I had a bit of a gift for it, which was to be useful later on in our lives- but you may rest assured that I have never prepared our personal stew for anyone but ourselves.

Well, and for others of our kind, naturally.


The Best

If we hadn't been attacked during the blizzard, I don't know that my sister and I would have survived.

As it was, when the others found us (and what was left of our parents) they assumed we'd been set upon by wild animals, and they did their best to nurse us back to health. When I think on it now it's almost heart-breakingly pathetic- three small families facing down death by starvation in a blizzard, and rather than do the obvious thing with two girls who have been mauled in such circumstances, they actually tried to save us. I'm sure they'd even have wasted energy on giving a proper burial to our parents, if the ground hadn't been too hard to dig. As it was they simply covered them with the remnants of our tent. Of course, leaving them unburied was probably for the best, all things considered.

Everyone had already been reduced to 1/3 rations by the time we were attacked- but I know the adults must have gone with even less, in an attempt to heal us. And then there was no food, and we sipped on heated snow.

And then there was a meat stew, and it was the best thing I'd ever tasted, and we got strong again. So strong. Much stronger than we should have. But no one was paying any attention to us by that point- they were all too wrapped up in their own guilt, their own gods.

We were rescued, of course. Everyone knows that, has read it in the papers. Maybe if things had been different, one of those other families might have adopted us, but I don't think any of them could stand to raise us, knowing what had happened to our parents.

Again, this was probably for the best.

We had been in the orphanage not three days when I noticed my sister picking listlessly at her food. She was pale, thin-looking. Perhaps this was to be expected from a child who had been rescued from near-starvation, but I knew that just one week ago she had been flushed and full of life. Finally she shoved the bowl away from her.

"It's not good," she muttered to me.

"I know it doesn't taste good, but it's all we've got," I said. And it didn't taste good. It wasn't that the porridge it tasted bad, exactly. But it was sort of like eating grass- you could do it, but it just seemed strange. It surprised me to see the other children wolfing it down so enthusiastically.

"No, I mean it's not good for me," she said, looking up at me with dark eyes. "I can tell. I may as well be eating air. I eat and I eat and I eat and I'm never even a little bit full- I'm hungry all the time."

"Me too," I admitted. "But we've been hungrier than this," A lie; the hunger gnawed at my gut worse than it ever had in the blizzard, twisting like a pain-maddened snake. "We'll survive."

"Do you know the last time I was full?" she continued in a dreamy voice, as though I had not spoken. "When we ate the stew. Do you remember the stew?"

"We mustn't talk about that," I scolded. "It upsets people."

"I'm sorry," she was abashed, but I could see the glow of memory in her eyes. I pushed my porridge away as well.

"Let's go for a walk," I said.


Nowadays when you read about orphanages in our time, it's all doom and gloom and terrible circumstances. I don't doubt that many orphanages were that way, but ours was not. We were given three meals a day (which were gobbled up by every child but us), were kept in clean, well-mended clothing, slept in comfortable beds, and were encouraged to stay active in body as well as mind. Still, as good as our orphanage was, it was the early 1800s, and child mortality was much higher then than it is now.

Again, this worked out for the best, as far as we were concerned.

Our orphanage was quite large, as I reckoned things. It had three long bedrooms (one for the girls, one for the boys, and one for the nuns); two school-rooms (again, one for the boys and one for the girls); a common-room (where we ate or played if it was cold out); a kitchen (which we turn turns cleaning); and a decent-sized garden in the back. Off to one side of the garden was a small cemetery, which held more than a few miniature graves. Of course no family tended these graves, but some of the children were always romantic enough to want to care for them, so they generally had at least a few blooms.

My sister and I spent a great deal of time in the cemetery, not so much because we had romantic streaks but because it was a good place to get away from every one else. It wasn't that we didn't like the other children, or the sisters, it's just that being around them... agitated us. Especially when we were already feeling so very weak and peevish. I'd heard one of the nuns talking about sending my sister to a hospital, she was getting so thin. I was determined to prevent this separation, but had yet to figure out how. Anyway everyone else was so loud and smelled so strongly- the cemetery was the one place we could go to get relief from that, to clear our heads enough to maybe think a little.

We were sitting by the grave of a boy who had died just before we came to the orphanage (now over a week ago). His stone was still clear and easy to read (John Alfred), and snow in front of it was smoother than the patches around it, unblemished by the many thaws and re-freezings this spring had produced. My sister was more laying than sitting, and I could tell even being awake was costing her more energy than she had. If any of the sisters caught us out here in the cold I'd be switched for sure, for allowing it.

"I'm hungry," she whispered, although by this point it had become such a constant refrain that I barely heard it. It was like the sound of insects in summer, or the fall of water in a brook.

"I know," I murmured, the way one might casually waft a hand at a fly. You didn't expect it to do any good- it was just what you did.

"Clarissa, I'm going to die," she said this with a sort of peace. It wasn't a threat, wasn't a complaint: it was a statement of fact, like it being wet on the ground.

"No you're not," I said, too weary to protest with any more vigor.

"No, I am. I really am." She flailed weakly for my hand, squeezed my fingers with her own. "I'm going to die because food doesn't feed me anymore. I think maybe we did die in that mountain pass, our spirits did, but it's just taken our bodies this long to catch ups."

"That's ridiculous," I closed my eyes. "That's not how death works. And anyway we were strong- our bodies and our spirits were strong, both of them. We're just... we got sick, somehow. We've got a sickness." She was quiet long enough that I thought she'd drifted off to sleep. Then,

"The stew made us strong. The food they tried to give us before that- it didn't help. Nothing helped, until the stew. The stew was the best."

I could say nothing to this. She was right, and I knew she was right. I remembered how life and energy had poured into my limbs with every mouthful. So strong...

"Clarissa, we need more of the stew."


Driving On the Eve of My Nephew's Birthing Day

It's a short drive from my house to the hospital- not even two miles. And this Southern City of ours? It's a much nicer place to navigate after dark than during early morning rush hour. Everything sort of calms down: the temperature, the people, the traffic. The thick evening air is so blue that I feel more like I'm swimming than driving, brightly-colored lights darting about me like companionable fish. The handful of other drivers out right now are just as polite and law-abiding as I am (do they see the friendly fish, too?), and for the first time in my life I'm finding it actually pleasant to be driving downtown. Which is for the best since, under two miles or not, I still manage to take a few wrong turns before safely stashing my car in the correct parking garage.

I've been here a handful of times now, so I really ought to know my way- and I guess in my defense I do know my way- know it well enough to have recognized when I'd gone wrong, and to get back on track. And once I'm in the hospital itself my feet take me automatically through the correct doors, to the correct floors, down the long, long corridors until I'm getting less-than-helpful directions to my sister-in-law's room. But a few more moments of wandering/learning the way the numbering works (pay no attention to the large numbers on the doors- it's the little ones that guide the way) I find myself knocking hesitantly. The very last thing I want is to screw up some poor laboring woman's night by bursting in all creepy Stranger Danger style.

Fortunately I have, in fact, found the right room.

She's propped up in bed, and the lighting is such that it looks like she's on stage. But I guess that's appropriate, all things considered. Her belly is thrust upward toward the spotlight, and I think he knows he's almost on.



just when i have it
carved just so

(the trajectory
of my emotions)

you turn up the heat
and all that work
is lost




The day passes in a haze. Some times I am awake, but mostly I am asleep, and to tell you the truth, being awake seems a little less memorable than being asleep. For those time when I am awake, I can't help but wish I was asleep, so that the time would continue to slip past unnoticed.

I don't want to have to work in the morning.

My husband says I am somewhat diminished, and he finds it unsettling. I am not normally the one who gets sick- I injure myself all the time, to be certain, and I have my bouts of allergic reactions, but true illness is a relatively rare for me. And it seems like whenever I am bowled over by something it's never just something. I like to layer my maladies, I guess- get them all out of the way at once like the ever-efficient multitasker I am. Type A in sickness and in health, it seems. But the point is I'm not full of my typical energy or life, and it's strange for him.

He had to go away, go to work in the next state over, so for most of the day my in-and-out drifting has been a solitary sort of journey. I miss him and wish he was here, but I don't know he'd really be able to do anything for me. The only thing that seems to help is the sleeping.

So maybe I should get back to that.


Herd Ball

I'm not saying that what's going on on the field isn't amusing as hell, but what I find really interesting is what's going on off the field.

I've abandoned the rest of the family (including my shutter bug husband) and their sunny perches in the bleachers in favor of a little spot by myself in the dancing shade of a tree. Although it's September and theoretically the official start of autumn is all of ten days off, someone has failed to inform the Alabama sun. Or maybe they did and the Alabama sun just shrugged and did what it always does- be hot as blazes. At any rate, here I am in the shade, by myself, and I can't help but notice that about three out of every five men that walk by are checking me out- and not in the way I'm used to being checked out. Nope, it's in a eyes-slide-to-the-left-hand sort of check-out. Huh. Odd to be in an environment where a wedding band might actually count for something.

In the meantime the children (none of which are mine- I'm just the cool aunt) are stampeding up and down the blessedly truncated field, amidst parental cries of, "Other way!", "Kick the ball!", and "Other way!" Well, that and, "Quit looking at us and watch the ball!" (I myself used one water break to assure my niece that we are watching her no matter what, so she can focus on the game instead of waving to us...)

But back to my shady spot beneath the tree. I'm being amused at this moment in my life- this ridiculously domestic moment. We got up early and drove an hour and half down here to watch a bunch of little kids fall all over a ball- it's not what one could call a "cool" way to spend a Saturday morning, not by any stretch of the imagination. But I am enjoying it, and I find myself wondering if I'll ever be doing this sort of thing for offspring of my own. The idea of children is so daunting- I look out there at all those little creatures amoeba-ing back and forth around the nucleus of the soccer ball, and I think to myself, "She's only five years old. I feel like she's grown up so fast, but the truth of the matter is that she's still going to be in her parents house for at least another thirteen years," and the thought kind of makes my blood run cold. They're such a long-term investment, children.

I know, I know- by and large they're held to be worth it. But that doesn't make it any less terrifying.

But then I think back on a recent conversation I had with a dear friend of mine, regarding marriage being what you choose to make it: mayhap parenting is, as well.




I do believe I promised a more robust posting for this evening- which you shall have, but not, perhaps, robust in the manner you might have imagined. Rather than a bunch of typing, I shall share with you the results of several hours laboring to get the hang of photo-shop. If I'd been smart I'd have saved it in steps to demonstrate the hilarity of my floundering, but I didn't. Dang. Also, I feel I must warn you that I've gone insane with the gradient tool, something akin to the way a sixth grader might. Generally this is considered poor form, but in this instance the finished piece is supposed to be a mock-up for a friend's tattoo for her ankle, measuring less than four inches high, so I figured gradient was probably the simplest way to get my point across to the tattoo artist (yeah, I know, I know- when the hell will I stop farming out my work and learn to do it my own damn self?) Anyway here you are- proof that even while I'm sick I can still be moderately productive. Obviously I haven't laid the line work back over it yet, but all in good time, my dears.

She wanted the pink ribbon with an angel, and this is what I've come up with. I'm hoping she likes it, but even if she doesn't, it was good for me to spend some time with the tablet (not the tablet, not yet. But soon...)

In other news, I spent most of the day in the bed sleeping, or else on the couch. Whilst on the couch, I watched The Young Victoria. Iiiii liked it. But it's probably good that Nate was still at work- too much in the way of feelings for him to have enjoyed it. But he brought me pistachio ice cream and saltines, so how's that for a damn fine husband? Also, he's the one who was giving me lessons in photo shop (without laughing, mind you), so bully for him all around.

Here, check out his photo:


And then? Wallow in the robustitude of this post. Wallow.


Reverse of the Wheel

Wow, I went from feeling pretty dang good to feeling like utter crap- all in the space of about three hours. Ugh. As such, I don't have it in me to refine what I was working on today (a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin which I'm actually feeling quite pleased with) so you're getting a brief whine, instead.

...aaaaaand whine over.

(See, told you it was brief).

I'm about to go ahead and go to bed very early, since the body does its best healing while you're asleep (true story!). I promise a more robust post tomorrow (unless, of course, my condition deteriorates, in which case it was nice knowing you).

In the meantime, here is Nathan's kick-ass photo for today:

(Cylon Waiting)

(He named it something else but I don't care- my name is more awesomer.)


Out of Water

once i would have said
i need you like i need water
i must drink deeply of you
every day
or go insane
and die

once i would have said that
and meant it in all sincerity.
i must touch my lips to you
at least once every three days-
a minimum requirement for life as a human.

but that was before i realized-

i'm actually a fish.

(Out of Water)


Hodge Podge

It strikes me that it's been a while since I've bitched about having to write every day. That's not to say it doesn't still occasionally chap my hide to have to sit down and pound out an entry when I'm not in the mood, but I think that, 8+ months in, it's pretty much become Ingrained in my Daily Habits. Like flossing. Only moreso, because I tend to be good about flossing for a few months, and then take a few months off, whereas this little project has continued, uninterrupted, for almost a year. For the curious, flossing springs to mind because I'm currently in the getting-back-into-it stage. And running, come to think of it. And drawing. Hot damn if this isn't a super-productive time for me! All this and the autumnal equinox on the horizon, to boot. Man I love it when the weather starts to turn.

I taught a class tonight- one I hadn't taught in a while. My calves were doing a bit of screaming at me due to the recent we-don't-believe-in-switchbacks hiking adventure/forays back into running, but it was a good sort of screaming. Melodious. I'm debating whether or not I'm going to get up extra early to go running again tomorrow morning. The only thing giving me pause is that I'm taking my sister-in-law to the doctor in the morning, and I don't think she deserves to have to sit in a waiting room with a sweaty, wheezing woman. I may just put off the run until eventide.

Finished up a good book today: Gwenhwyfar, by Mercedes Lackey. I was actually a little hesitant when I picked it up, for two reasons. The first is that although I have loved her work in the past, I haven't been very impressed with her more recent offerings. The second is that I'm awfully fond of Arthurian legend, which means I take butcherings of it more personally than most. But the novel was quite good, and I enjoyed it immensely. I think perhaps Ms. Lackey would do well to sticking to writing books she is excited to write, rather than churning out colorless additions to ongoing series just to placate the fans/pick up a little extra cash.

(Please don't strike me down, ye gods of fantasy fiction- I meant no disrespect...)


The Ugly Bugling

Once upon a time there was a mommy grasshopper. She was very excited. She had laid her eggs back in the autumn, pushing each one carefully beneath the soil to keep it warm all through winter. Now it was spring, and the time had come for her eggs to hatch!

(It may be worth noting at this point that the mommy grasshopper was a ghost- a fact only tangentially relative to our story.)

She watched with pride as one by one her babies tunneled their way out of the soil. Each one was a beautiful miniature version of herself (or her mate) called a nymph. The mommy grasshopper was feeling very pleased with the whole situation, and was just about to go ahead and follow the Light into her next incarnation when she noticed one nymph that just didn't look like the others. She moved over to it to get a closer look.

It was true that he had bold and dashing stripes like all of his siblings- and it was true that he had gloriously strong hind jumping-legs. But his body was oddly truncated- it looked almost humped, as though someone had just pushed his head and his tail toward one another. And speaking of his tail, he seemed to have a pair of... well, the mommy grasshopper wasn't sure what was protruding from the little creature's posterior, but she knew that no self-respecting grasshopper would be caught dead with them. And she should know because (as mentioned) she herself was a ghost!

The other nymphs soon noticed the ugly little bugling in their midst, and they immediately began taunting him. The ugly bugling started to cry- after all, he was only a very young bugling, and had not yet had time to grow accustom to the basic cruelty of the world. All he wanted was to be loved and accepted by his hundred siblings! Also he wanted some food, and the grass the other nymphs were gnawing on just didn't seem to do it for him. So he was sad, and he was hungry, and all in all a pretty miserable (and ugly) bugling.

Just then, a powerful creature landed in the thick of the nymphs and began casually eating them. The mommy grasshopper was, of course, horrified, but then she remembered the waiting Light, shrugged, and Moved On. The ugly bugling watched in terror as the nymphs were gobbled up one after another. He couldn't help but notice that the insect eating them was boldly striped, with powerful jumping legs- but no wings. The creature paused in its meal long enough to give him the eye.

"Oh hullo there," it said around the flailing leg of a grasshopper nymph in its jaws. "So sorry- didn't realize you were already here. Do you mind terribly sharing?"

"Sharing?" said the ugly bugling, still trembling a bit.

"Well yes- I mean, I realize that grasshopper nymphs are something of a delicacy, but I shouldn't think that a little lad like yourself would be able to eat them all without some assistance!" The larger insect chuckled and helped himself to another of the ugly bugling's brothers. Or possibly a sister- the ugly bugling wasn't sure.

"I wasn't... I mean, they're my siblings! I had no plans to eat them!" protested the ugly bugling, although now that the other bug mentioned it, it didn't sound like such a bad idea.

"Siblings? Don't be ridiculous! You're not a mewling little herbivore of a grasshopper! You're a proud and clever cricket, like me! We're omnivores, don't you know! Here, try one- you'll see what I mean."

The ugly bugling took a bite out of his closest non-sibling. It wasn't making fun of his stumpy body now!

"You're right!" he said, smiling. "They're delicious!"

And that's how the ugly bugling realized his destiny as a totally kick-ass camel cricket, and learned that the best revenge is eating your enemies alive.


(PS A special thank-you to Nathan for suggesting the title and inspiring the story. Also, he gets kudos for not saying "I told you so" too often when it turned out he was right about the original ugly bugling.)


Swimmin' Hole

It's early morning, and it's Sunday, which means we got the woods to ourselves 'cos most everybody's in church. We outta' be in church, ourselves, but there are days when you figure God prob'ly understands that you feel Him better under His sky than in some preacher's building. If you're me that day comes 'round pretty frequent-like.

Anyway me an' Bobby are makin' our way down to the river, intent on beatin' the heat before it even gets started- an' to tell the truth I'm also lookin' to work on my tan some. I've been workin' day shifts up at the D lately, which means the only sun my skin's been seein' is what's reflected off the moon. As such, I am a color more usually reserved for toad bellies, an' I'm not best pleased with it. Bobby is gentlemanly enough not to say nothin' about it as I peel off my shirt- although I catch his grin as he averts his eyes. He's got a bit of mischief in 'im, but I guess that just makes me love him more. Too sweet is sickly, you know? Least-wise that's the excuse I use for my attitude...

Our best swimmin' hole is about a mile up stream, way outta' sight from the main trail, and since we do have the privilege of solitude, I'm considerin' lettin' my bikini-top go the way of my shirt- but in the end I decide against it. Bobby and me have been gettin' naked together since we were young enough to think that mine "fell off", so it's not like I've got anything he ain't seen, but it is the Lord's Day. I do try to keep my more heathen impulses in check on the Sabbath, especially if I'm observin' it in the great outdoors. Instead I pull out a little raft we keep stowed down there and set myself adriftin'.

"Hey Amber!" Bobby is hollerin' at me from on top of the Big Rock. Ain't got no better name than that- just Big Rock, 'cos that's what it is. It hunkers at one edge of the swimmin' hole like a giant cat, makin' up a good part of the dam that makes the river so deep right here. I keep my eyes closed as I holler back at my oldest friend:

"Bobby Duluk, what on earth do you want?" But I have a sneakin' suspicion I know exactly what he is up do. Unfortunately I do not move out of the way fast enough, and sure enough- he plunges down into the water and I get the brunt of the ice-cold splash that results.

Maybe I don't love him so much, after all.

(Little River Canyon)


Chariots of Ash

I went for a run today, for the first time in about a year. I thought I'd do two miles, which turned out to be a wee optimistic. I did 1.2 miles. And I did not run it all. Oh no. I ran for about the first six minutes (which, in retrospect, just so happened to be about .6 miles, so I guess I didn't start out so bad) then walked for two (uphill) then ran for two, realized that I was really hot, not breathing easily, and starting to have pain in my shins, decided that it might be best to start off with only one mile instead of two, walked up another hill, kept walking on level ground until I felt ashamed to be walking, and then ran the rest of the way. The whole thing took me a little under fifteen minutes, which is... not good. I'm looking at a seven hour marathon, here. ::wry grin::

On the other hand... I did get out there. And I did actually run. Which (as mentioned) I haven't done for the past year. So hopefully this is my first (humbling) step back into being A Runner. At least I can still spit like a pro.

Anyway, on to things that I'm actually good at. Like making pancakes. That's what I did this morning, per Nathan's request, and they came out pretty well, if I do say so myself. Which I totally do.

Also? There is a glossy black, male juvenile cat hanging out around the house. I sat and watched him stalk/kill things earlier (I was theoretically drawing at the time) and then later when he was sitting on the porch I let him in. Krumpet was Not Amused, so I brought him back outside. When I returned to the living-room, both Krumps and Kink were giving me Betrayed Looks. Ah the drama of Southern Living.


By Blood

This entry shows you the evolution of the story-seed that was planted by my dream. I've begun to really flesh it out, but rather than plop down the (still evolving) synopsis, I thought I'd just go with the Adapted Opening Scene... (of course, if you've read the previous entry, you'll have an idea of what's going on- but keep in mind that any theoretical readers of my theoretical books would not be privy to my internal, night-time adventures.)


When I woke, it was in a Strange Place. But I could smell my mother, so I closed my eyes and drifted off again into the nothingness.
The second time I woke, I could remember my dreams- my nightmares. Lights that screamed, shrieked, tore me apart- and darkness wet as blood. Someone was crying, crying… everything hurt. My mother stroked my forehead, singly softly, and I was under once more.
Finally I opened my eyes and kept them open. My first thoughts were concerned with the pain I was feeling- but it was… detached pain. I felt not quite connected to my own body, as though my spirit had moved ever-so-slightly out of alignment: overlapping for the most part, but not perfectly. I tried to sit up to get a better view of my surroundings, found I could not, and instead focused on what I could see within the limits of my current view.
White ceiling, mostly- but I noticed that the room, wherever it was, was suffused with natural light. There must be some pretty big windows in here- perhaps even a wall of windows, off to my left. I could smell- the sea? But not the sea as I knew it, cold and forbidding off the coast of Maine. These waters smelled warm, inviting: like sunlight in another form. My skin informed me there was a slight breeze, and if I focused I could hear the piercing cry of far-off gulls. The giant windows were open, then.
A movement to my right had me flicking my eyes over to that side- Mother. I opened my mouth to ask her what was going on, where we were- but all that came out was a croak that hurt my throat. I swallowed, and realized it felt suspiciously as though there had been a tube in it. I tried not to think about what that might mean.
She smiled at me, but the smile did not reach her eyes, which looked as though they’d rather be crying. I wanted to tell her she didn’t need to pretend to be cheerful for my sake- I knew her too well to be fooled. But I couldn’t, so I twitched my fingers at her, instead.
“You’re awake,” she commented. “And aware this time, I think.” I felt the corner of my lips twitch, and gave her a languid blink.
“No talking yet, I see,” she said as she sat. “That’s alright. You need to listen, for a while.” I would listen, but I wasn’t certain how much I would retain- whatever drugs it was that were keeping the pain at bay were also making my mind… slippery.
“You’ve been in an accident,” she reached out and squeezed my hand with an intensity that belied her brisk voice. It was her pragmatic, ‘sealing-off-the-pain’ voice. That particular voice meant things were Very Bad, indeed. “I’ve thought about it, and I’ve decided that it’s better for you to know right away that… your father and your brothers… they were with you. And they didn’t make it.”
I closed my eyes. I wanted to go back to the nothingness. I wanted to die. Anything other than this tearing feeling in my chest, in my unfocused soul. Better yet, I wanted to wake up one more time, wanted this to be just another part of the nightmares…
“And Pippa- I had to… I had to take some drastic measures, to save your life. We’ll talk about it more when you’re stronger. But you need to know- you’re probably going to be very weak for a long time, darling.” I kept my eyes closed. I didn’t care about whatever else she had to say; I was remembering that I’d read about people turning their face to the wall and dying of a broken heart. I wondered when I’d be strong enough to move my head.



"It is Good," He said, voice rolling across the hills like the newly Created thunder. The angel next to Him bit what on a mortal would be called its lip.

"It is Good..." it said.

"...but? I am sensing a 'but', Raguel. Don't dissemble, just because I could unmake your existence."

"Well, my Effervescently Incandescent One, it's just that... well, there just isn't much to differentiate it from the celestial plane."

"Should there be?"

"Not necessarily, O Delight of Our Days. And Nights. And-"

"Yes, yes, I'm delightful. Back to this differentiating between the mortal world and the heavenly realm." He was silent for a moment, the sort of silence that weighs heavy upon the Universe. The angel wasn't certain, but it thought He might be tugging at His beard. Finally He spoke again.

"Do you know, Raguel, I believe you're right. What's the point of making the two separate if you can't even tell them apart? And I have just the thing for it!"

"You do, Excellently Paternal One?"

"Of course I do! Little idea I've been toying with, thought it might be interesting- bending light waves!"

"Bending them?" (It was a sign of Raguel's extreme bewilderment that he forgot to come up with an appropriate honorific.) "Won't that... ruin their perfection?"

"Well yes- but in a fascinating way. Watch!"

Raguel watched, and tried not to gape at the results. His Creator smiled delightedly.

"There, you see! I'm thinking of calling it... color."



Dead (Wo)Man (Dream)Walking

Last night I dreamed I was a vampire.

Now, this sounds like it's setting up to be a pretty fun/cool dream, but I assure you, Readers: it was not. Rather than being a supernatural being gifted with terrific speed, strength, and canines, I was more like a human cancer patient. I was weak and sickly, and although I didn't know how I'd gotten that way (apparently not important to the dream) it seemed to me that turning me into a vampire was the only thing that was keeping me alive. I was shuffling around in a hospital gown in a dream-version of my mom's house (set up high on a cliff overlooking the ocean- perhaps the Mediterranean?- with lots of windows with white sheers blowing in the breeze. Apparently I wasn't the light-sensitive sort of vampire...), keeping myself alive by sucking down the contents of hospital-style blood-bags. It was really gross to have to drink blood that way, but I could only be grateful that they'd been modified with a little straw for my convenience, I think by my mom (who was my caretaker in the dream, trying to get me well and strong again), so that I wouldn't have to bite into the bags and drink that way.

Speaking of which, I had two sets of horrific bite marks on my left breast, one in the upper, more pectoral-y region, and one on the underside, and with them was a very distinct memory of how incredibly painful it had been to receive those bites (what had turned me into a vampire, I suppose). I kept looking down at them and reliving bracing myself to feel that pain, knowing it would save me.

In case all of this isn't disturbing enough, the dream progressed to me opening my closet and finding three high-heeled shoes in it- two of which contained the severed left feet of two of my best friends. The third shoe belonged to a third best friend, and I knew this meant that at least two of them were dead- and I was full of grief but also desperate to find the one still alive. These grisly mementos had been placed there as a way of warning me off of forming attachments, by pointing out how vulnerable you were if you cared for people. The point being that if I had no attachments, I could put all of my focus on saving the world. But, as I pointed out to my mother, who was trying to comfort me- if I have no attachments in this world, why would I care about saving it?

Yeah- my dreams don't mess around.