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August 31, 2007

The Water Lily House

The Waterlily House at Kew closes in November, and, nearly always, I am the last visitor there. Then I wait--without noticing I'm waiting--through the entire chilly, bone-wet English winter for it to open again. The Waterlily House doesn't float on the surface of my mind through December, January, February and March, not at all. Only, sometimes, when I'm having a cup of milky tea at home after a long day at work, I will feel the steam on my eyelids when I lean over it, and think of the House.

Through those months I think, without meaning to think, of one lily in particular. It's the sacred lily of the Nile, and it has translucent blue petals and a yellow heart. I wonder where that cup of color goes in the dark months. I think it sinks into the roots buried in the mud at the bottom of its pool. Does it sleep in winter, or is it always standing ready to return, or both?

In April the lilies and I both return. I take the first Saturday I can, even if I was up late with my mates the night before, and if April is being a bit chilly I wrap up against her, but always in layers, starting with my favorite dress and with a jumper and a jacket and a scarf. In April the Waterlily House is still silent. I stand inside the door and take off the scarf, jacket, and jumper, and walk through the silent steaming air. I fill my lungs with the smell of green tropics.

I come back again and again, waiting until the Nile lily blooms. I've begun to realize that the day it blooms, and all the days that its blue and yellow petals are open to the air, are the only days I feel truly calm in the whole year, the only days when I make sense to myself. I wish I knew why.

This year, while I gazed on the open flower for the first time this spring, I heard a sound like the ringing of tiny tambourine bells. The next weekend it was trumpets, and I thought I saw the water flash with hot sunlight.

I once overheard my mother saying to my father, "I miss the temples. I miss the silence on the river. So much noise--cars are so noisy!" I think one day soon I will have an answer. In the meantime, I stand before the lily, my jumpers and scarves on my arm, and stare into that translucent cup of blue and gold.

August 30, 2007

Summer Dare

You wait in the bushes while the cicadas sing all around you, and you wait so long that the fireflies begin their lazy dance above the meadow weeds. You wait until the stars come out and the moon rises and the coyotes howl on the hill.

You wait because your friends swore that a ghost walks through this meadow on warm summer nights just like this one, and you called them liars, and they dared you to watch and see. You won't be called a coward. You're the son of a soldier fighting the Communists. You're not afraid of ghosts, or anything else, except, well... maybe you're just a little scared that your Dad won't come home, but you wouldn't admit that to anyone. A year ago, and the idea would have never crossed your mind, because you believed your father was invincible, as all young boys do. But you've watched the news. You have seen the flag-covered coffins. And now you're not so sure.

Now you have waited so long that that the whippoorwills cry, and the bushes have become slick and wet. You're cold, and that is why you shiver. Not because you are afraid. Most certainly not. Oh, the lies young boys tell themselves.

To me, you look like a little baby rabbit I found once, huddled in a hollow of leaves and grass. You shudder now and your eyes roll in all directions. Is it because you can sense me drawing near you? Or is it just your imagination?

I won't stroll through the meadow tonight. I won't moan the name of my lost beloved or scream my death rattle. It is my singular purpose now, to deal with your sort. But I can see that were I to use any of my usual tricks, they would only comfort you, little rabbit. And I am not in the business of providing comfort.

You do not fall asleep like the others. You stay watchful until the sun begins to rise, and then you head home. You have earned a badge of courage among your friends, and I do resent that just a little, but you have earned it. Faced your own fears, if not vanquished them. I fade, unsatisfied, but knowing that your seeming success will only embolden others, and they will not be so complex. The thought provides the tiniest bit of warmth in my cold existence.

August 29, 2007

Disciples Teach the Master a New Principle

Confuscius--winded from a tangle with a Bengali tiger which he had grabbed first by the tail, then the ears, and finally the head before dispatching the beast--was cresting a small rise on his stroll through the metropolitan zoo of Sung. He was decked out in his finest serge and skins, his belly full of acorns and chestnuts. In this pleasantly sated mood, a sight confused Confuscius: Holy men, with rods of chastisement, beat two young men.

"Pray, good sirs," Confuscius inquired of the holy men whom Confuscius belatedly recognized as his own disciples, "explain your behavior."

The disciples, who did not recognize their master, said, "These two brothers were bruising each other in their rough-housing and enjoying themselves. Their motive for doing this--since we do not understand such motives except as outsiders--must be anger and power; therefore, even though Confuscius never forbid such behavior, it is wrong and should be punished."

Confuscius' puzzled expression cleared, and he nodded. "You were quite correct to do so. Please, allow me to examine your rods of chastisement, They look impressive." When they handed them over, Confuscius whirled them through the air until they sang. "Yes, they are impressive." He handed the rods to the brothers. "Please, at your discretion, use these on the holy men, for clearly these rods were meant to be wielded on those who revel in anger and power."

August 28, 2007

And I Woke Up Before It Was Done

I think it was supposed to be your dream, not mine. I was me in it, but I didn't feel like myself. I felt the way I felt when I saw that drawing you made of me in 8th grade, with the glower and the grin both at once. The people riding the trumpets didn't make sense to me, and I shouted at them and they seemed confused before they rode on. Someone with a broken bike chain was chasing them and shouting, and I didn't know why. I saw your father turn into that barber that used to scare us through his window with the scissors and I don't know why you'd do that to such a sweet, old man, especially when he didn't kill you for wrecking his Mustang that time.

August 27, 2007

Advanced Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath IV: Citadel of the Ghoul®

His eyes are shut, but he's clicking faster now, he's in the zone, the trance engendered by playing a repetitive game well mastered. And now the veil parts and he sees the stair, sets foot on the topmost step, begins his descent.

Long time he climbs, ever downward amidst sepulchral gloom, and he can hear the chittering of the ghouls in the vast space below him. He is no longer aware of his hands, clicking the mouse, only of the dreamworld.

The air is colder here, and he puts his hands in his pockets, his breath forming evanescent puffs of white. At length he sees a glimmering in the red-litten mirk, but it does not seem to be the expected buttery yellow lamplight of the charcoal burners' village, where he will spend the night.

Disturbingly, the light flickers and, as he draws nearer, assumes a distinctly rosy hue. He smells smoke. In the village he finds the charcoal burners scattered, their huts charred. From the smell, some of the charcoal burners remain in the ruins of their dwellings. He searches, following the paths where survivors fled, trampling their gardens of rare black lilies in hasty flight. Under the eaves of the forest stands Hando, gracious host of previous visits to the dream lands.

"Are you all right, old friend? Who did this?" The traveler demands.

Hando shakes his head. "The ghouls, no longer satisfied with their habitual pungent fare, prey upon the living. My whole family." He cannot go on.

The traveler swears by the bones of his father, resting quietly beneath the groves of lemon trees near Lasturion the Enduring, on the far shore of the inner sea, that he will not rest until a terrible vengeance has been wreaked on the kingdom of the flesh eaters.


"Doctor, he was up here when the power... I called, but he didn't answer. He didn't answer." For a few moments she could not go on. "After a while I came upstairs. I found him slumped over the keyboard, his hand still clicking and moving the mouse. I tried to pry his hand off the horrid thing! I couldn't. I turned off the computer, but his hand still moves, and he will not wake."

August 24, 2007

This Is the Fairy Tale

This is the fairy tale your mother wouldn't tell you. This is the fairy tale the brothers Grimm found too horrifying to ink on pure white parchment. Through the years only the meanest mothers passed it down to their most iniquitous children to frighten them into submission (and wetting their beds) in the darkest, coldest hours of bleak German winters when the bloated moon cast shadows of swaying tree limbs into the children's bedroom--the gnarled fingers of a witch lingering just outside and tapping at the window.

This is the fairy tale that survived on the back flyleaf of dusty library tomes hiding Grimm's worst fairy tales that an unfortunate listener had to pen in order to purge herself of the nightmares that still stalked her into adulthood or in order to burden new generations with his own childhood afflictions. This is the fairy tale, rumor spreads, that the fabled old wives share with a hearty cackle as they squat around a boiling black cauldron deep in the thickest thorny bramble and poison-oak woods.

This fairy tale is typed here only to purge the world. Legend tells that if the story were told to the world at once, evil would flee from the land and leap back into Pandora's lock box. And so, paradoxically, I wound the world to save its soul from the stain of this story:

August 23, 2007

Mora And The Flying Iguanas

Mora surveyed her eggmates with an air of deliberate disregard. It wouldn't do for them to think she'd give a hoot if a predator nabbed them. Look at someone twice and they always thought that you'd give a limb to save them from the flying Iguanas. Bah.

A cry!

Mora dashed for cover and the Iguana landed less than three feet away. Her toughness melted as she looked gratefully at the sentry that had sounded the alarm. But no, she mustn't let herself feel like this, or one day an Iguana would come and she's rush out to help someone and end up just like Lora, Vero, Mrida, Tolo and the others. Not loving people was hard, but she steeled herself against the mushy feelings that threatened to engulf her. Tough did the trick.

She crouched low, unwilling to look at her fellow comrades in peril and waited until the threat was over before creeping out from under the tree.

Parental A hooted his approval: she'd hid fast and pride glowed blue in his face. She did a little happy dance.

Screech! The Iguanas were coming back. Mora saw Lolo scratching his bottom on the hill, oblivious of the attack. He was not smart and he didn't hear so well.

Without thinking, Mora dashed out, reaching him just as the Iguanas were ready to pounce, bowling him over and pushing him under a root to safety. She looed with elation as the warm feeling of saving people swelled up from her tummy, but then the sharp toes of the Iguanas caught on the tender flesh under her pelt. She kicked and fought in the air, bobooing for help, but she knew the parentals wouldn't even look up.

They took out their notebooks and ticked a name off. That's all they could do. Even parentals were impotent to stop the Iguanas.

August 22, 2007


I had a doppelganger that year. Walking home from school, I'd see him on the other side of the street, walking just as slow or fast as I did, swinging a Six Million Dollar man lunchbox that had dents in all the same places as mine. When I went to the park after school to play Frisbee with Steve, Brian, and Elsie Fina from up the block, he was there too, leaning against a tree on the edge of the woods on the other side of the river. He looked just like me.

But, when my hair fell out after the first few treatments, his didn't. It was still red, and it still stuck up in the same places that mine had. When I got too tired to walk to school and dad drove me, we'd pass him every morning, always at the same place two blocks from school. The lunchbox that was cold in my lap glinted as he drummed his fingers on it in time to his steps. I drummed too, softly, so I wouldn't test whether dad would tell me to stop like he always used to, or would just let me keep going.

I went to the park alone on one of my stronger afternoons, and stood on the river bank. I looked at him, and rubbed the Frisbee in my hands. He looked back. Finally, I made up my mind, and I snapped my wrist the way Brian and Elsie always did but Steve and I could never master. The disk flew perfectly, fast and low over the water like a skipped stone, and he caught it. Before he could throw it back, I ran, and, when I tripped and skidded grass stains into the knees of my jeans, I got up and kept going until my lungs felt like they were squeezed empty and I thought I was going to throw up.

I didn't go back to the park until after the transplant. My hair was itchy stubble, but his head was bare and hung down like he was tired. I stayed way back from the river's edge, further away than either of us could have thrown even when we were well. I came back every afternoon. Eventually, I played ball with the Fina kids -- I wasn't ready for pickle yet, but I could toss it back and forth. He sat on the far bank, the lunchbox on his lap, watching and dozing.

Then it was winter, and I didn't go to the park, and when I did finally go back in the spring all I saw was a rusted rectangle that might once have been a Six Million Dollar Man lunchbox. By the beginning of summer, the grass had grown up so tall, though, I couldn't even see that.

August 21, 2007

The King of Bowlers and the Queen of the Jet Pilots

Now this, boys and girls, is a story from back when we still had kings and queens of Chicago.

Paulie Haversack was the King of Bowlers then, and Hildegarde Fullenwider was the Queen of the Jet Pilots. Well, you can just imagine the rivalry between those clans, what with the pilots buzzing the lanes, and the bowlers putting dents in the jets. It got so bad for a while there that the Hairdressers and the Anglers were taking over big parts of their territories while they fought each other.

This dirty little war went on for the better part of a decade, until the Bowlers were reduced to a few alleys off Humboldt Park and the Jet Pilots had to use air refueling planes from Baltimore. And that's when Paulie Haversack had the bright idea of challenging Hildegarde Fullenwider to a bowling tournament, winner take all. He set up the meet and was just about to spring his bright idea on her when she up and challenged him to a jet airplane race.

"Nothing doing," he said to her proposal, and she said the same to his. That was very nearly that. The world would see the last of the Bowlers, the end of the Jet Pilots. Was this the split he couldn't pick up? The power dive she couldn't pull out of?

No. He wouldn't have it.

This was it, the tenth frame. Paulie Haversack gulped, and he stammered, his hands went sweaty inside his favorite bowling gloves. But then he did it; he asked Hildegarde Fullenwider to marry him. And she thought about it, and peered at a contrail far overhead, and glanced back at her wingmen. Then she said yes, and they tied the knot the very next week.

Until the day they died he couldn't stand flying, and she wouldn't bowl. And yet the Bowlers thrived, and so did the Jet Pilots, and they taught the Anglers and the Hairdressers the meaning of 'massive head trauma', if you know what I mean.

August 20, 2007

Regarding Moth Pixies and Browncaps

The above photonic capture included the following from the notes of Dr. Julius T. Roundbottom, a naturalist at large in City Park:

I returned to the small forrest of brown caps after a week of working within my laboratory to discover that a family of moth pixies had made homes of the mushrooms--or at least, had tasked some other tiny beast to make homes out of it for them. Moth pixies, according to my field guides, are noxious pests that delight in uprooting gardens and spreading aphids (which they eat, but apparently in not very large quantities). The addition of chimneys to their homes was a proper shock--it is not in the published literature that moth pixies can wield fire! The discovery immediately set my mind racing.

I collected one of the browncap homes for dissection, much to their consernation, and I received a tiny bite for my trouble. The bite is healing very badly, despite being doused in poultices of my own creation. I'm not sure it was worth my trouble. The chimneys serve no function and are not connected to the inner dwelling. They are decorative in nature only. My theory is that they construct them in a mimicry of the rows of brownstones that line the streets just outside the Park. Despite folklore, this variety at least are far from intelligent creatures, I believe. Their intelligence seems more akin to that of a parrot, if parrots were so gleefully malicious.

There are such wonderful discoveries here. My heart runs wild imaging what more lies in wait for me out there in the brambles.

August 17, 2007

The Slow Time Man

That's what we called him. He'd come with the house, which was an ornate Victorian dilapidated enough for our parents to afford. He came with the garden, really. When we moved in, he was at the top of the slope leading down from the backyard to the river. When I graduated from high school, he was a foot or two down the hill.

We used to hang tinsel from him in December -- most of which wound up in birds' nests the next spring. We never let birds nest on him, even though the flat of his top hat was popular roost. Some kind of field kept him isolated from our time; when we dared touch him, we discovered his skin, clothes, and handlebar moustache all had the hard slickness of glass.

He was nothing but a statue to us until the summer night rainstorm when, amid the thunder, we heard a rapping at our front door. Dad went down and discovered that it wasn't the wind -- it was a man in clothes of the same vintage as slow time man's, only more tattered and worn. He'd collapsed on the welcome mat.

This turned out to be Oliver, the slow time man's scientific assistant and time-traveling companion, and we learned much over the next several months about their discoveries and adventures. He told us tales of ancient civilizations and future wonders, dinosaurs and dying suns. He'd sit in a lawn chair in the evenings and talk while the swallows skimmed the river and the chronostatic field glittered like early stars on his friend's skin. It was Oliver's theory that something had gone amiss with the field, it had lingered and slipped out of sync with wider time, trapping the inventor forever out of step with the world around him. After the rest of us had gone to bed, Oliver would sit, watching his friend and muttering equations to himself until well past midnight.

One morning, we were surprised to find Oliver gone, a five-page letter of thanks and farewell left on the neatly made-up guest bed. Although he never quite said, we understood he'd gone back to his apparatus, to his travels, to the researches he and Reginald had shared.

The next morning, however, there were two slow time men in the backyard, one wearing the old clothes of my dad's he'd borrowed. They walk, while the world ages too fast around them, and on quiet afternoons, we imagine we can hear the subsonic rumble of their infinitely gradual conversation.

August 16, 2007

The Salvation Complication

So this beanpole walks in the bar, says I'm the buyer, I just bought the Earth and I'm checking it out. And I say so how do you like it so far. Remember, and I'm saying this to you and not to the guy, remember I've had a few, well more than a few I've had a lot but that's the way it is when you've been subjected to the kind of day I had. But enough about me, we were talking about the guy.

It's kind of fixer-upper, he says, from under the crust on down it's solid, well not solid but you know what I mean. The atmosphere, though, and here he waves his hand in front of his face in a whew what a smell way. That's just going to have to go, but I think I can save the water and a representative sampling of the life, you know, enough breeding pairs to keep most species going, at least most of the megafauna. But the rest, he makes a bulldozer blade hand shape and runs it along the bar, swoosh, just flatten it all and turn it into a big park.

A park, I say, is there a lot of money in that? Naw, he says, it's a government thing, there's got to be a park every so many cubic parsecs, and somebody's got to buy up the land and clear it.

Who'd you buy it from, I say, and he says, from this guy, and gestures vaguely outside, and what does it take to get a drink around here? This last is to the bartender, who brings him a Bud and a Bushmills. So, he says, I'm looking for a few guys to help me out, could be a box in the org chart with your name on it.

Now see, up to here it's just a story. Could be legit, could be phony. But see, I read too many philosophy books. Maybe that's got a lot to do with me having the kinda day I was having, but let's forget that for now.

Do you believe in God? Say you do and he exists, yay, big win for you. He doesn't exist, no big, you just die. Say you don't believe and he exists, uh-oh, you're doomed. He doesn't exist, oh well, at least you weren't fooled.

So the guy's looking at me. Do I want a job? Do I want to be saved if his story is true? I hold up my glass and tink it against his. I'm your man, I say.

August 15, 2007

Talk, Talk, Talk

A man found a strange metal house in the Bush. The door was hanging open and the house seemed deserted. He called, but no one answered. Eventually, curiosity made him step inside. When he did, he almost jumped right back out again, because the floor mat said "You are trespassing! Leave at once." But just then a picture on the wall said "Maybe he knows what happened to the Master. You stay right here!" The monster in the picture scowled right at the man standing in the doorway and he was afraid to run. "The Master! What have you done with him?" an urn on a table shouted. "I did nothing," the man protested, but his voice trailed off. He looked around the inside of the house and realized it was bigger than the outside. Almost nothing in it was familiar. He stepped in, drawn by glittering mystery. He ignored the chorus of questions and imprecations that came from every side. He leaned his spear against the wall to free his hands. "Hey! You scratched me," the wall brayed. He had just picked up a bottle the color of the sea and he dropped it. A pungent odor reached his nostrils, the ceiling screamed like a hare, and the floor mat shouted "Run! Nano-seed! Run!" This was too much -- the man took to his heels. "Goodbye to all this," the door mumbled dissolutely.

August 14, 2007

The Wave's Second Day

The wave, now about a day and a half old, had been born far out in the ocean, and while it had heard talk about a thing called "land," it had assumed that "land" was a made-up thing, like mermaids or absolute truth or polar bears. Now, seeing the dark, green mass rise over the horizon in front of it, the wave was forced to reevaluate.

And this "land" was beautiful: not with the vast, dappled beauty of the sky or the shimmering beauty of shoals of ever-turnnig fish, but a rich and varied and shocking beauty of green clusters and brown pillars and wide, delicately-colored expanses of sand and armored masses of rocks rising in brown and gray cliffs over the churning water, and a whiteness at the edge of the land that the wave could not identify.

The wave felt a thrill of fear and anticipation as it realized that it was heading directly for the land, that soon it would reach it and then run across it as it had run over the surface of the mighty ocean, delving ever deeper into the interior, rippling through trees and flowers and deserts and and fields of waving, dun-colored grass, until perhaps it broke through to another ocean entirely, one with new fish and and a new sky.

The wave felt its submerged parts begin to catch against the land, and with amazement the wave felt itself lifting, its head cutting sharply into the air as it took on a mane of thick, white foam. It raised up, changing from its old rounded shape, its child-shape as it now thought of it, into a wall of power and strength and beauty, shimmering in the daylight with a thousand shades of blue and green. It roared toward the land, and the wave felt as though it were flying. The seagulls above it circled and dove, screaming in what sounded like a warning, to run from this new and powerful force. It leaned in toward the rocks that grew in front of it.

The cliff face rushed up, and as the wave crashed into the rocks, it shattered into innumerable droplets, running high up the cliff in a desperate and doomed attempt to escape the sea that came at it with uncounted brothers and sisters, crushing it against the cliff's unyielding wall.

So this is dying, the wave thought. But there was no time to feel bitter: it was gone.

August 13, 2007

Dear Diary: A Week To Forget


Dear Diary:

The Ministers have left and they didn't kill anyone this time, but
Momma is pregnant and it shows. The neighbours don't stop talking
about it. Even Susan's mother told her not to play with me (she's
still my friend though).

When we went for groceries a woman said:

"You would've thought she'd had enough with the first one, that devil
daughter of hers." She wasn't quiet either, she wanted us to hear.

"Well, I don't think they're much trouble to her, not if they come out
as easily as they go in," said the woman next to her. I know that
lady. She lives just down the block.

I pulled Mamma's sleeve and whispered that I'd knock them if she'd let
me, but she hushed me up and we kept shopping.

Old Beth was the only one in that store who was good to us and gave us
a fig and a godliver each. She's been all quiet since the Ministers released her from
cus-to-dy, but she says she can't forget how Momma got her out.

When we left the store, Momma said:

"Don't pay them no mind. If it weren't for me, the Ministers would've
burned us all at the stake. You just remember that, baby."


Dear Diary,

The whole town turned up at our doorstep. I didn't want her to open
the door, but Momma said she wanted to "get it over with".

They took her away. They had pitchforks and knives, but she went
quietly. I shouted and kicked, but Old Beth grabbed me and held me

She returned at dawn, bald. Dear Diary, they'd cut off her hair! It
was all long and black and so beautiful you wouldn't believe.

"Don't worry," she said. "It'll grow back, darling. It grew back when I
had you." Momma was crying. Don't think I've ever seen her cry before.

What did the townspeople want her hair for? Whatever it was, they're
going to pay.

August 10, 2007

Every Last Trace

Regrettably, she realized only just after her death that she had turned on--only for a few minutes!--the bad lamp, the one that sparked sometimes, and that soon it would set her threadbare duvet on fire, then patiently make ash of her house and every last trace of her life--the manuscript hidden beneath the third stairstep that told who she really was and what she had really done, the letters (long thought destroyed) she'd once been given that were from Mark Twain to his youthful sweetheart, the haiku that had saved her from a grisly death--and that therefore all trace of her life, all clear evidence that she had ever danced at that long, badly-organized ice cream social that was human life, would be lost. And yet the bone-skinny little bushman who had come to greet her smiled as he offered his hand, and she smiled tentatively back as she took the hand and set off with him to the Next Place.

August 9, 2007

Vulture Metamorphoses

One morning, when Cindy woke up, she discovered that she had been transformed into a monstrous vulture.

Turning around, she saw her boyfriend's body lying next to her. Drew looked peaceful in death--if it hadn't been for the gouged eyes, Cindy could have sworn he was sleeping.

"Well, well," she said, knowing she should feel horrified at the sight. "What a juicy treat!". The thought caught her by surprise but once it was out, there was no taking it back. She dipped in (for the kill? For the scavenge?) and sunk her beak into the soft flesh of his apple-cheek. He was as tasty in death as he'd been in life.

Cindy realized this was wrong, but her vulture nature got the best of her. She dug in, and tried not to think.

Afterwards, she sat down wondering what to do. Damn Drew! He was always talking about genetic experiments and trans-species splicing. Doctors! A sick lot, all of them.

The next day, she ploughed a neat ditch down Drew's body, but when she got to his testicles, she couldn't proceed. She felt the faintest hint of an emotion and grabbed onto it. Those weren't any random pair of balls, they were Drew's balls, and she couldn't bear to destroy them.

Instead, she nipped them off and half-jumped, half-fluttered to the kitchen. Perching on top of the fridge, she wrapped her neck around the handle of the freezer door, opened it, placed the balls inside and closed the door with a light nudge.

She was cold and wondered if she was getting sick. She set the oven to minimum temperature and crawled inside. The pain was a little like constipation and a lot like menstrual cramps. After the longest twenty minutes of her life, Cindy laid two eggs.

She'd always wanted to have kids, but Drew said it was too soon. Elated, she dragged herself back to the corpse, leaving the oven to incubate her offspring.

Four days later, as she died of indigestion, she wondered if the babies would make it. There'd be no loving parents to take care of them, only the corpses but Cindy didn't doubt that, like all children, their babies would find a way to get the most out of their parents.

In extremis, instead of College money, the kids might find Drew's testicles in the freezer.

August 8, 2007


On my planet, "Monkeypants" is not just a loving nickname. We have these tiny monkeys that will just crawl right up into your pants. I'm not kidding! Listen, really. Mature adult females are about as long as your forefinger, tail included, and mature adult males are just slightly longer and have bigger shoulders.

The babies are maybe about as big as a knuckle by the time they are allowed to leave the pocket, and if you have got pant monkeys breeding in your trousers, you are in big trouble, because the babies will scamper around a lot and play with each other like crazy, and you will spend the whole day jumping around and barking. And let me tell you, if you happen to be a member of the Pan-Planetary Parliament and you're trying to give an important speech on upper canopy financing and about three tens of baby monkeys start playing "Chase the Martian" up your inseams, well, let's just say that the top fifth of your forests might not see much chlorophyll funding that day.

And there's nothing like having to jump up and down squeaking and jittering while trying to give a serious government speech to ruin your credibility. Although, fortunately, the voters in my quindrant thought it was hilarious and sweet.

You can't kill them to get rid of them, for sure. That would be awful anyway. They are so cute, with their big googly eyes and their soft, soft fur. If you pet them (carefully, with one finger) they spread out flat in the palm of your paw and you can feel their tiny heartbeat tickling against your pads. My friend Nicholas from Earth says that all mammals call to each other, and when I look down at my tiny relations running all over my imported Levis, I can only agree.

August 7, 2007

Of Millinery and Magic(s)

The system had worked perfectly for years. Illusionists wore top hats, neat and shiny black. Wizards and witches wore tall peaked caps, of course, and embroidered them with whatever arcane symbols they fancied. We mundanes wore our bowlers, rarely adorned with anything more flamboyant than a bit of feather or sprig of seasonal greenery. And it all worked well; we all knew each other's nature by our hats. And then he came to town, the stranger.

In his fez.

A crowd began to form from the moment he stepped through the east gate, and only grew as he made his way to city hall square. All our leading citizens were there.

The wizards claimed him for one of their own.

"It's truncated, this is true," said the chief Wizard. "But it's clearly conical."

"I'm afraid I must disagree," said the Grand Houdin. "It may lack a brim, but it's as flat on top as any top hat. He is clearly of the prestidigitator persuasion."

"Hurrumph," said the Mayor of the Mundanes as the noon sun gleamed from his gold-brimmed bowler. "He looks to me like some kind of hybrid of both your ilk -- a trader in both flim-flam and miracles.

The stranger only smiled.

With a flourish as practiced as any matinee magician, he raised one hand. With the gravity of the most learned mage, he shifted his hat's tassel from one side to the other.

From that day forward, the meaning of the hats changed. The illusionists found themselves pulling real rabbits from hats. They knew the identity of every hidden card, and the economy of our city collapsed under the deflationary pressure of all those coins pulled from behind ears. The wizards found themselves unable to levitate without the aid of nearly invisible threads and unable to transmute lead to gold without a false-bottomed cauldron. Their oracles spouted vague pronouncements that might mean anything and their grimoires were full of diagrams of fake thumbs and boxes holding hidden mirrors.

As for the rest of us, we found that our comfortable bowlers were gone and, in their place, we too wore fezzes that were always sliding askew, and tassels that swung like pendulums, whether we wanted them to or not.

August 6, 2007

Eeny, Meany, Miny, Med, Crack A God On The Head, If It Squeals Kill It

Dear Diary,

The ministers are back, but they haven't burnt anyone yet. Momma locked me up in my room so I wouldn't get into fights with "those minister boys", but Susan helped me out through the window and we went godhunting.

The ministers have shut down the Swindler's market and taken old Beth to cus-to-dy (she's the only one they could catch, ministers can't run much). It's sad about poor Beth but Momma says she was getting too old anyway.

Since the market is closed our mothers can't sell the gods and we get to eat all the brains we want.

So, we caught a god up by the creek and I went eenie, meany, miny, med and Susan won, so she ate it. Then we caught another one and I ate it. We were playing all quiet and not bothering anyone, dear diary, so everything that happened afterwards wasn't our fault. We were sharing the third (see, like good girls) when this minister boy pops up from behind the rocks and starts yelling and calling us cannibals.

"I didn't call you no names!" I told him, but he kept at it, shouting that we were eating our baby-brothers.

"Oh, so now little gods are our baby-brothers," said Susan. "And how would you know?"

The stupid minister boy started crying. "Because I remember. From when I was little."

Well, I tell you, dear diary, we had enough of that nonsense. I took a rock and threw it at him, just to shut him up, but my aim is too good, even when I don't pretend it to be and it hit him square on the mouth.

He blubbered like a little god, even though he was only bleeding a little and threatened to call the Inquisitives. And that's when Susan punched him in the gut and we took off.

I slipped back into the room and Momma never knew that I was gone.

And that was that.

I sure hope that minister boy doesn't tattle.

August 3, 2007

Prince Charming Comes By After the Divorce to Pick Up Some Things

He'd brought his new girlfriend, the servants told Cinderella, but he came into the Great Hall alone, wearing the robin's egg-blue tunic. His own two servants came with him, the only ones he was allowed to keep after the settlement, Dregsworthy and Pullengroin. Charming stopped short when he saw where Cinderella had put his things. She had decided to throw them all in a pile, the remaining flasks of his rosemary mead and his second-best suit of armor, the hounds from his childhood he'd had stuffed after death, his dead uncle's magical nail clippers that did nothing ("Maybe they're for clipping magical nails," Charming had once quipped) ... all of it. She had decided to toss it together without regard for denting or chipping or breaking, without regard for mead gushing out onto his favorite hunting cape or gardening tools gouging out chunks of the dead hounds' hair.

Charming stared at his possessions for a moment before he looked up, gazed into her eyes with his own robin's-egg blue ones, and said, "You're looking lovely, Cindy."

"Don't be charming," she snapped.

"Rude it is, then," he said gently. "But why did you--"

He broke off when a small woman entered. A very small woman. A dwarf woman, in fact. She took Charming's hand and kissed it unselfconsciously, her red-gold hair cascading over his wrist. She was very elegant, for a dwarf.

Charming bent down and kissed her on the head as Cinderella looked on, speechless.

"Durin's shade, you're even prettier than he told me!" said the dwarf women.

"I thought dwarf women had beards," Cinderella blurted, and the dwarf woman flushed.

"It's more convenient this way," Charming said. "They can tell them better from the men!" And he laughed easily, but the dwarf woman was still flushing, and Cinderella realized that she depilated and didn't tell Charming. In all fairness, though, who would bring that up to a new boyfriend?

"So, Cindy," said Charming, "I'd like you to meet Gloina."

Cinderella shook her head. She did not have to be social with him. "Just take your things and go," she said, and stalked out of the room, wishing she had thrown everything down after all.

Charming helped the servants take the carefully-packed crates out to his carriage. Each one was tied with a satin ribbon the color of a robin's egg.

August 2, 2007

Frag Satan!

"Satan, I summon you for a pwning!" I shouted, completing the incantation from within my circle of USB cables and hubs. There was a flash of green light, and then a sound like all the air was being sucked out of the LAN party.

"You dare challenge me?" Satan roared. He had a voice like, what if James Earl Jones and Tom Waits made a baby, but he looked about 15 years old, covered in acne with a purple Mohawk so sharp it was cutting my eyes from across the room. He strolled angrily to our table and sat down, taking a computer out of a messenger bag slung over his shoulder.

No cloven feet, no horns, no tail, but his sweet-ass laptop had a red sticker on it that said PITCHFORK in a devilish font. It emitted a blue glow and throbbed gently like a living thing. Ahh--my prize. I had to have it.

G.R., my best friend and clanmate, fell out of his ergonomic chair and onto his ass when Satan appeared. I continued with my challenge terms as the ritual required.

"One round of Counter-Strike. My soul against your computer," I said.

Satan drew a cat-5e cable out a pocket to Hell in thin air. It made a sound like a thousand souls screaming for all eternity, but they shut up when he plugged into our hub. "Gamers are always so fucking cocky," he said. "You're on."

Five sweaty minutes later, I put a bullet through Satan's avatar's head. He vanished in a cloud of acrid smoke, wailing and gnashing his teeth, but leaving the laptop behind.

"Dude,' said G.R. "I can't believe you just used wall haxx against Satan."

I sniffed. "Not my fault he's a total noob. I'm going to Hell in the end anyway, so I might as well have a totally sweet laptop until then."

Dude," G.R. said, clearly impressed. "What's that summoning spell again?"

August 1, 2007

That Dream

The buildings, people, trash cans, everything, collapsing like the Twin Towers had, only instead of clouds of smoke and debris, these transformed into architectural outlines on pavement that became a smooth hard flat surface. Arnold was unchanged, but everything else had become diagrammatic, somehow embedded in the surface of the plane. Crap! He was in that dream again.

He looked down. He stood on a long row of squares about 6 feet on a side, a wide black ribbon to his left and on his right large rectangles and other polyhedra. Inside each were smaller rectangles (desks), brackets of various sizes that must be chairs and couches, and colorful moving ovoids. He stepped over the wall of the nearest building and approached one. It backed away, or at least he presumed that the surface facing him, fraught with invaginations and small protrusions, was the front. He backed it into a corner, then cautiously reached down and touched its middle. It rippled violently and darted past him, spun around a few times in the center of the room, and came to rest in the doorway. Arnold looked at his fingertip, where a damp red spot was drying.


Arnold glided through the doorway. He could see Saunders and The Chief in front of the conference table. Suddenly, their shapes ballooned and wavered like threads in a fast wind. Saunders had split into two... and so had The Chief. One of the two Saunders's disappeared and reappeared so close to Arnold he could smell shoe polish. Arnold shied away in alarm and slammed into the coat rack. F*ck! That dream again!

The chief disappeared: first one chief and then the other one. Saunders did the same a moment later. Arnold's pants were wet.


Arnold inhaled her scent, caressed the delicious mound of Charlene's belly as she slept. He pressed down slightly. His hand blurred, sank in; her skin closed around his wrist, a tight ring of flesh that rolled warmly up his arm as his hand passed through her muscles, her womb, their son's tiny skull... his arm snapped back into focus.

Arnold convulsed backwards out of bed, across the tiny bedroom, and through the shattering window, but he could clearly see:

Charlene jerking up off the bed,
her red fountain,
the scream distorting her face.

He plunging toward the street,
naked, his red
and dripping hand.