Monday, February 28, 2011

Rockets and Unflattering Pics, oh my

Picspam!

At the flea market, I bought two items: 1950s rocket banks.

The one that first caught my eye, high on a shelf, and I had to ask what the heck it was:


Next to my Bose for size comparison. It's fucking heavy. Aaaand peeps who have known me longer than I have had this blog will know why it caught my attention. Ahem.

Second bank, and way cooler one! After I asked about the first one, the guy told me rocket banks came in several styles, and he had another one:



Strato banks were given away when you opened a bank account in the 1950s. They were mostly made here in the Detroit area, a factory in Hamtramck, but got shipped all over. How they work: it's easier to see on the second one, as you can see the red trigger and the slot. You pull the trigger to the back of the rocket, place your coin flat on the tip of the rocket, and hit the little button there at the back. BINGO! It shoots in. Works every time, dime to quarter. For the stand-up bank, it works the same way, but the slot is beneath the, ehm, head.

I'm fairly obsessed with all things space, so you can imagine the drooling and jumping around that commenced once I had these in my possession. And the pinging that is going on as I shoot coins into the moon.

Other favorite space things: Space Mountain at Disneyworld (every time, no exception, I imagine I am walking up there on a gangplank through a ship, about to disembark on a trip through space), Astronomy Picture of the Day (see links at side list), Asimov's robot novels, and Blade Runner (it counts!). And also, Asuqi, who many of you probably do not realize is actually an android, who has escaped here from the future. True story.



This is not Asuqi. It's me. How many people are unwilling to post unflattering pics of themselves? LOL! I am! I was at one of the magnetic poetry boards when B came along with the camera: "What are you writing? Is it a poem? Is it about me? Is it a poem about me? 'We made bells from manacles' -- Is that about what we did last night? What's it mean?" This is my, "B, go away. Now," face. From a terrible angle.

So there you go! Have a spacey day, look out for the galactic dinosaurs, and write a space opera for me. :)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Penultimate Femmes Fatales: First Time For Everything

Twice. She let me do it twice.

And if she asked -- and she wouldn't even have to be nice -- I'd do it again.




My story of prejudice and pain, First Time For Everything, is now up as part of Lily Childs February Femmes Fatales.

*
Yesterday, B decided I needed to get out and do something fun and different. We went to the Dixieland flea market in Waterford, MI. Flea markets are an entire world of their own, a microcosm of society's most interesting, distilled into its purest form among packages of athletic socks (3 for $5), glittering Jesus wallart that shoots electricity to its highest evolutionary point, metric tonnes of VHS tapes, and used lingerie. Used.

I swear I met a real witch, though she said she was just selling old Life magazines and dusty Avon products. And there were two guys who might have been wearing the same baja-style poncho. Which apparently is grounds for serious argument. Though I would suggest that the marijuana leaf stitched onto one made it sufficiently different.

I bought things. Magnificent things. And no, not the 1920s stuffed cheetah wearing a pillbox hat and pearls. Although gorgeous, the cheetah's rump was completely worn through by countless hands caressing its wire-framed haunches. No. I bought something more wonderful!

Pics tomorrow.

:-)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Three Exercises to Warm Up Your Writing Brain!

 My entry into Lily's Friday Prediction: Seed. What can you say with denounce, thirst, and fertile? Come play!

My Three Word Wednesday piece, Somewhere in a coffee shop in LA (because clearly, I have run out of title ideas -- I even think I've used "Seed" before).

Tweet? Make sure you use the #fridayflash tag!

And how about a little OneWord to get you moving? Mine from today:


He was the last of the singing barbers. As I sat in his chair, he crooned in my ear: grief and love in four-part harmony, though when I looked in the mirror, he was alone. It was the saddest song, and tears rolled down my face, mingling with snips of damp hair. When he was done, he took off the apron and left the shop under the tinkle of a little bell. I’ve never had a haircut since; it grows in silence.

*

A few ways to get your brain warmed up and cranking out the words. And then you can go and write that novel! It will be a bestseller! I will stand in line to get your autograph on my copy! I will ask you to also sign my boobs!


See what doing a few writing exercises can do for you? Think to the future, friends!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

3ww: Somewhere in a coffee shop in LA

Three Word Wednesday, how I have missed thee.



My piece is 1100 words, and it's a romance (of sorts), so if you want to skip, I wouldn't blame ya!

*

Somewhere in an LA coffee shop:

He coughed, politely. My eyes caught his, an algorithmic moment, a stress fracture, but nothing earth-shaking. I returned to my book, easily caught again by tales of wizards and dragons—too silly for a serious, career-minded woman with an Enzo bag and black-framed Prada glasses atop expertly highlighted hair, but I was defiant about my inner fourteen year old boy. He cleared his throat.
Not bothering to lift my head, I glanced from beneath untidy bangs. The highlights had been expensive—and worth it, as I looked as if I’d spent a month on the beach in Martinique—but the bangs were a home job done when aggravated while trying to make figures line up like little soldiers for the quarterly. Creative math doesn’t happen to those with hair drooping in their eyes.
This time, I caught a glimpse of shyness, a wondering hope not known to the denizens of Tinsel Town. The honesty was a spear through my Chanel ivory blouse.
I reminded myself that actors were a dime a gross in this town. I’m not someone’s practice mannequin, and I’ve never fallen for the puppy dog types.
Except that once. But that was a long, long time ago. Before I knew what unagi was, or the price of a three bedroom condo with infinity pool in Malibu.
Two-and-a-half mill, if you’re wondering. And that’s high for the times; it’ll sit for six months before the owner wises up and drops it to one-nine-nine-five.
I bit my lip and returned to tales of swords and freakishly untanned princesses wearing last century’s dresses.
He was quiet for too long. I looked up, expecting he’d left. He was still there. Suit, not cheap but not spectacular. Hair without a drop of product. And that same earnest, worried look. Now I was beginning to think that maybe I had something on my face. A smear of blueberry? I shouldn’t have had that muffin anyway. Damned Starbucks and their juicy, juicy muffins.
He got up, slowly, carefully, and yet still managing to look as if he might trip over his chair. I had to remind myself that I was twenty-nine—well past prime in this town, by a good ten years. Maybe it wasn’t me after all; I pretended to tuck a strand of hair behind my ear while I checked out the view behind me. Seventy year old woman frowning at her latte and guy in apron sweeping the floor.
“Excuse me,” he said. His voice was soft, even. Up close, I could see he had a slightly receding hairline and a bit of dry skin. What man in these parts didn’t know the power of moisturizer? He had to be new in town. I sighed. Waiting for the inevitable question about housing in the area, or the sleazy “So, are you an actress?” line.
“I couldn’t help but notice… God, that sounds stupid. It’s true, though. I noticed that you’re…”
Genuine conversational stumbling? New in town. Definitely. Also—maybe, a tiny bit—charming.
He cleared his throat again. “You’re reading Sky Warriors of Valtera.”
I looked at the book in my hands. “Yeah?”
He reached into his laptop case and took out a battered paperback. “I’m reading book two.”
I stared at it. It was indeed book two of the Sky Warriors series. Perhaps I’d been here too long, because I tilted my head and said in a quietly bitchy voice, “I’ve read the entire series.”
He straightened up. Nice guy, but his shirt was lavender stripes. So last year’s menswear. I stifled a laugh. And then he said, “ ‘You asked for a dragon. I brought you a dragon. If your highness can’t handle the heat, I suggest she gets out of the way before she’s flambĂ©.’ ” He grinned. “I’ve read the entire series six times.”
My god. His teeth were slightly crooked. And not blinding white.
“I’m impressed,” I said, and my god, I meant it.
There was a pause, not pregnant, no pennies dropped, and singularly without significance of any kind.
Just the fact that I was staring at probably the last genuine, foot-shuffling, dork in LA. And he’d read the worst fantasy series of all time, a series with more bad jokes per page than Jay Leno’s second-string writing staff (or first, for that matter), six times.
I am wearing Jimmy Choo shoes, I reminded myself, and I know how to walk in them.
“I, uh, I… Can I buy you a coffee? Or something?”
I drained the last of my cappuccino and stood. “Have you ever been to Fatburger?”
The rod up his back officially evaporated. “Oh, thank god. I thought you were one of those women… Um..”
“Who only eats salad?” I grinned, showing perfectly straight teeth of a television-sanctioned level one white. “No. Let’s get a couple of burgers and we can discuss why Sir Kevin manages to bungle every single conversation with Lady Donna.”
“And then we can go back to my place and play Dungeons and Dragons,” he said, holding open the door for me.
I stopped, Enzo bag swinging from my arm.
“Just kidding,” he said. I rolled my eyes and stepped into the California sunlight. “Friday’s D&D night, though I’m sure the boys would love to meet you. An actual, you know, female.”
“Ha. Ha.”
“Seriously, though. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He held out his hand, and as I took it, I could’ve sworn that he really did find it a pleasure to meet me. “Dalton Norman.”
“Kathryn Morgan.” I let go of his hand, both of us blushing, something my cheeks were clearly out of practice doing, as I could feel the blush extending to my ears. His, I noted, were rather nice.
We agreed to meet up at the Fatburger on Wiltshire, and as I slung my bag onto the seat and checked my lipstick in the rearview, I found myself wondering if there really was a D&D meet-up on Friday nights. I’d never played, but suddenly… I had an urge. And there in the mirror, looking back at me through a veil of precisely applied make-up and a decade of blasĂ©, was a teenage girl who wore cut-offs and plastic bracelets, and who read every Piers Anthony novel ever written.
I’d sort of missed her.
I hit the gas, praying he wasn’t a serial killer or, worse, an aspiring screenwriter. And then I kicked off my shoes and drove barefoot to the Fatburger, where destiny awaited. It wasn’t driving a BMW and it didn’t have an ounce of Hollywood’s slickness, and that was all right.

*
Thank you for reading; I sincerely appreciate it.
For those who've been wondering why I'm MIA recently, a lot of stuff came up that was unexpected and awful. I'm talking mother-in-law level. And kidney stone. With a dash of flat tire, broken heater, and a side of American Idol to take my attention away. I'll try to get back on the horse this week.
I'm also now following Lord Voldemort on Twitter. I don't think it's really him. But if you follow citizen_word, it's really me! I swear!
See ya around, friends!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

OUTRAGED OVER HOUSE'S BAN OF FEDERAL FUNDING FOR PP

OUTRAGE: The House votes to ban federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Make your voice heard and stand with PP:

http://www.ppaction.org/IStandWithPP


I signed. I donate to Planned Parenthood on every visit, even though I qualify for free services. They have been there for me over the course of three states and eighteen years. I stand with Planned Parenthood.

Please take a moment to sign this open letter to every member of Congress who voted this way. Basic health care withdrawn for millions of women, men and teens? OUTRAGEOUS. Don't let this happen. Make your voice heard!

If you tweet, use the #istandwithpp hashtag.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Night Hind; Sea Shepherd -- The Moby Dictatorship Begins!

Thank you to Lily Childs for her inspiring Friday Prediction.

*

The Night Hind

Faithful night arrives once more, along with the glass. I drink it and fall, nerveless, into a dream of antlers and men shaped like things that hunt. In the morning there is no glass, only sunlight from a window too far to drag myself to, too far to haul myself out, out into the freedom from a locked room and a day spent waiting for the moon to rise. I lie in bed, counting the pricks, and wonder: am I still a girl, or something else? And who visits me after the glass is empty? His scent is crushed moss.



Image via.

*

Those of you who know me know that I'm a passionate animal rights supporter, and as part of that, I wholly support the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who you may know from Animal Planet's Whale Wars. I am ecstatic to have learned that Japan has just announced a halt to the hunt, only halfway through the whaling season. Since before the hunt, the Sea Shepherd's Bob Barker and Gojira have been on the factory ship Nishin Maru's tail, and the Japanese have been unable to lose them.

GO, SEA SHEPHERDS!!!!!

B and I are thrilled. Per the Colbert Report: The Moby dictatorship is poised to take over the world. Or at least, its oceans. ;)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Book Review: "Light Boxes" by Shane Jones

 Last night, I spent an extraordinary evening reading the strangest little novel: "Light Boxes" by Shane Jones.



February has come, and it isn't leaving. It's even taken away flight. Engulfed in years of February, a town of balloonists and kite flyers fight back. It's war.

Perhaps the oddest war you will ever encounter: underground tunnels with missing children, holes in clouds, war plans written on scraps of parchment and tied with blue bows, cups of mint tea, kites painted on arms.

Jones creates such an other-worldly atmosphere, with tight, spare, and sometimes surprising prose, that you will give in. And if you are anything like me, struggling to decide which side you're on (oh, February... why?). This is a brilliant little book, wholly unlike anything I've ever read. If I'm honest, when I read the first few pages and realized how unorthodox was the manner in which Jones had written this, I wanted to put it down. Lately, I'm in no mood for experimental books, and maybe that's because so many authors come across as pretentious when they venture beyond the traditional. In this case, it turns the story -- already fantastical -- into a true work of art.




Really, it's been around five bucks for the last two weeks; Jones himself says he doesn't know why, if perhaps it's a February promotion or if Amazon realized they have 10,000 copies, but either way, how can you lose? An original, fresh, intriguing fable. Highly recommended.

BTW, I chose this book from a list of rec's by Bryan Russell over at The Alchemy of Writing. This was the first I've tried from his list, and I'll certainly be going back to check out more of his recs.

Okay, I'm going back under the rock. See you all soon.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I give my heart to you--it's delicious


Happy Valentine's Day to all.

Cupcake via Not So Humble Pie.

The new issue of Scifaikuest is available. Sci-Fi. Haiku. Yes. Please. More.

That is all.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Marshmallows and Pirates, Oh My!

Reviews: of marshmallows and cursed pirate girls!

This week, B and I have been noshing on the most divine marshmallows we have ever come across: Oh Yum! marshmallows, in chocolate, cherry, banana cream and Bavarian cream.




These are homemade, and they blow store-bought marshmallows out of the water. From the first bite, all we could do was look at each other and make, "OMG these are so good I'm dying" faces. Pillowy, precious and such a wonderful little treat. I needed these marshmallows! Of the four, Bavarian cream is totally the best. TOTALLY. It tastes like the inside of a Boston cream donut -- yes. :-) But in marshmallow form. I highly recommend this Etsy seller if you want the perfect pick-me-up; she contacted me, was extremely friendly, and the marshmallows arrived on time. Note that she makes all the marshmallow orders on Sunday, and ships them out Priority on Monday morning. So if you want marshmallows this week -- and trust me, you do -- order them today. Oh Yum! Other flavors include coconut cream, white almond, raspberry, peanut butter, coffee and, and.. I forget them all.

Coincidentally, my favorite dessert blog, Not So Humble Pie, posted a recipe for raspberry marshmallows this week. Although they only have four simple ingredients, it's the whole candy-making aspect of it -- the candy thermometer, watching the syrup because it can go from perfect to black in a second, you get the gist. I'm a decent cook and good baker, but I believe I'll leave candy to those more experienced than I. But if you want to give it a whirl, I'll happily be your taste-tester!

*

Enough marshmallows. Bring on the pirates.

Or, more specifically, the little girl with one eye on a quest to find her pirate captain father, in Jeremy Bastian's graphic novel, "Cursed Pirate Girl."

I walked into my favorite comic book store, Green Brain in Dearborn, last Wednesday night to pick up the hot-off-the-presses new issue of The Walking Dead. I found a guy with a wicked awesome banner and a bunch of cool-looking stuff. But then, you know how I am. No matter how intrigued, I had to walk around for twenty minutes, getting up the nerve to go over and say, "What's all this, then?"

So glad I finally did. Walked out with a signed copy of "Cursed Pirate Girl," collected issues 1-3, and man, have I been hooked since. Some comments I've found online and on the back cover: Alice In Wonderland on the high seas, "most original art and story to come along in ages," and "holy shit, you should see what this guy draws!"

As I said, it's about a girl on a quest to find her pirate captain father, and it takes place in an alternate, bizarro reality in about the 1700s. Incredibly detailed -- I've pored over each and every page, delighting in every little hidden thing I find. I can't say enough about this, but if I tell you that someone brought an enormous box of CPG-themed cookies to the signing, then will you get a copy? You should.

Jeremy's here on blogspot, and here's his Olympian Publishing page. And for those of you who are local, so is Jeremy! Support a fellow Michigander. :-) Also, he seemed like a nice guy.

*

You did finally read Instrument of Fate, the tale of Death and Moira, didn't you? Last part is here, with links to the rest. I'd sure appreciate if you did, and if you could leave any feedback, I'd be even more appreciative. Thank you!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Death, parts 12-15 -- The Finale

Death, parts 12-15. Don't get too excited. They're short. :-)

We find that bureaucracy occasionally serves a higher purpose, Death rights a wrong, and there is much remembering. Please enjoy:


12. The Doorman

Peter manned the door to the underground bar, the Tyrolean, in his old Russian coat with the chess pieces in the pocket. When Death and Moira appeared across the street, he noted the lack of War, and the particular presence of the scythe with what was most certainly not rust on its blade. Moving a piece from one pocket to another, he said nothing when they approached. Moira nodded to the angel, but Death steadfastly ignored him.

War’s absence was felt in everything at that moment, a confused stuttering among the mortal men whose hearts were devoted to him and a settling comfort through the beasts and grass and winds. Peter knew it would not last. He opened the door for the Incarnations, shut it again, and shooed away a little girl with crossed eyes and a burning faith that would be her undoing. When she refused to budge, he reached in a pocket and tossed her the moved piece: a red knight on a fearsome hound. He could carve another. She tested it on her crooked teeth before setting off at a determined march.

The angel watched the sky and hoped that, inside, the boss wouldn’t be too angry at the loss of War. After all, they really couldn’t afford to lose Death twice.

13. The Minutes

In the basement of the Tyrolean, they came to a heavy brocade curtain over a door. Death saw Moira pause, consider her somewhat grisly attire, and he slung the scythe to a more comfortable position on his shoulder and went ahead of her. Let them see the evidence.

The Devil stared at them briefly before touching the brim of his hat to Moira. “Well done,” he murmured. His moustache smoothed with the tip of a long finger, he hid his smile behind a glass of bourbon. How interesting things remained, despite the trudge of millennia.

Clothos began to stand, then sat again, beaming at her sister. In that moment, Death searched within and found that even in the dusty recesses of joints and old fractures, there remained no trace of his former certainty of her demise.

He had saved her.

He would inform her of this directly, after his proverbial butt had been saved. He anticipated bounteous thanks.

They crossed the floor and stood in front of a man with his head in his hand as he sat at a table, eyes closed. Next to him, Chamuel droned on, hunched like a vulture over an immense tome and not pausing even as he nudged the man with his elbow.

“Eh, what. Oh, Death.” He lifted his head and smiled, eyes brilliant blue. “How good it is to see you again. I decided to take a break from the voting, as it had been somehow neglected that we read the minutes of the last meeting. Luckily, Chamuel had the ledger, and he’s been catching us up. Must remain official, you know.” He winked. It was not a subtle wink.

The Devil pulled his hat over his eyes and sighed.

“Moira, my dear. Wonderful that you could join us. Have you tried this bourbon? Uriel got it somewhere, I don’t know where, but it is positively sinful.” He chuckled. “Eh, my son?”

Drumming his fingers on the table, the Devil acknowledged the sinfulness of the liquor.

Moira did not try the bourbon. Neither did Death. He laid his scythe on the table.

“I have killed War.”

“You have not killed him, any more than you were killed. He will return to us.” The man touched the scythe, and it was clean. Standing, slowly, He turned to Chamuel. “Have we reached the end of the minutes?”

Chamuel nodded, thumped the book shut, and went to sit next to the Expiry, whose tail flicked restlessly.

He went to stand in the middle of the room. The expectant faces of angels, saints and Incarnations looked at Him, looked at Death, and more than one took a long look at the scythe on the table.

“Before voting resumes, you should consider three things.” He held up a pudgy finger. “First, the evidence suggests that this Incarnation holds the full properties of the office of Death, even those that are not available to successors. For instance, the death knell rings within him, giving him the knowledge of the potential death of every creature. Also, he may take those souls which even I have designated as prohibited.”

“What? What’s that mean?” demanded the Expiry.

Death reached in his bag and drew forth the soul he’d removed from the hidden room in the catacombs. It babbled like a child, and he whispered to it that it would be all right.

He set it on the table before the Expiry. “I think you know where this should go.”

The Expiry glanced at Him, then carefully tucked the bit of soul in the pocket of his vest.

“I do,” he said, and nodded to Death respectfully.

“Also, this Incarnation has the ability to cause the death of any mortal creature he deems fit, not just the human ones.” There was a murmur amongst the crowd. “This includes, at last count, a terrier dog, a donkey, a ginger cat, and a black bear. Have I missed any, Death?”

Death ignored Moira’s stare, shuffling his feet. “There was that chimpanzee in that little zoo…”

“And a chimpanzee,” finished the man. “Second thing to consider before you vote, or for anyone wishing to change their former vote: anyone who votes for the termination of this Incarnation will be banned from the weekly card night for a period of not less than six hundred years, and in addition, all holiday requests will be processed directly through me. I hear that Disneyworld in July is an especially wonderful time to visit.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” said the Devil, rolling his eyes.

The man brightened, raising his hands. “Shall we vote? Who votes to keep Death in his current capacity as, well, as Death?”

The Devil downed his bourbon, raised a hand, and made his way to the curtain. Scourge, hunched and pale, scurried after him, pulling back the curtain.

“I shall be at the game on Friday,” the Devil announced. “I hope to see all of our regular players there. Death, congratulations.”

“The vote isn’t over,” he said.

“Yes. Yes, it is.” He tipped his hat. “It’s good to have you back, old friend.” He disappeared through the curtain, Scourge following only to appear a moment later, hand raised.

“Me. Er, I vote for Death. To keep him.” He left again.

When the vote concluded, most unsurprisingly, all were in favor of Death continuing on.

“Excellent. Death is officially not terminated. You are all dismissed, and Love, I believe it is your turn to pick a replacement. I'll expect your choice for War before me by tomorrow,” He said. As the celestial council filed out, he turned to Death. “I knew Moira would sort you out. So pleased. Yes. So very pleased by this outcome. You’ll be back on the job then, straight away, won’t you?”

Death hefted the scythe, weighing it in his hands. “Straight away,” he said.

The basement of the Tyrolean bar smelled like mildew and old garments. He was glad to leave it behind.


14. Straight Away

He didn’t see Moira again for some time. First, he found his way back to the hidden room in the catacombs. All of the souls clamored for release, and he put each and every one in his bag. When the room was finally, utterly silent, he left. The Expiry then put each and every bit of mirror in a velvet-lined box, and promised that they would reach their reward in timely fashion. Death said nothing this visit, even as he was handed the mass of ticker tape that was his work.

After that, he dutifully found every scrap of misplaced tape in his house, and he began to catch up on his backlog. He moved through the world from death to death, allowing no time to think of anything else.

When he laid the last bulging bag on the Expiry’s counter, the harried Incarnation said an actual “Thank you” and gave Death, in return, a slip of paper that was not a list of names, times, and coordinates.

It said simply, “The beach.”

Death took his empty bag and left.


15. The loneliest beach on earth

“I’ve been here four days, you know.”

Moira walked across the cold sand, her gown the white of diamonds. She sat next to him. “I thought you deserved a break.”

“Apparently, I was on a thirty-thousand year break.”

She stared at the water. “It seemed like that.”

The moon began to rise, and the sand turned blue. Little crabs scuttled away from the waves. Death had remembered many things in four days: that he had once stood on the land where Paris now sprawled like a ageing and ageless madam, and he had been the one to dig until he found a place to hide things. It had never been a place meant for souls, however. And he had once won an entire hillock of mirror shards in an epic card game; he’d told the Expiry to send them all to heaven, knowing that there were a fair amount of scoundrels and thieves and salesmen in the lot. The trouble those souls got up to on the other side of the Gates had often brought him mirth.

He remembered that, once, he and War had been friends. His heart ached at the memories.

He remembered another thing, too. And as the moon caressed his bones – for the moon loves Death more than any other thing on earth – he pushed his cowl back and let its adoration fill in his bones, giving flesh to the empty spaces.

And then he kissed Moira.

But he had forgotten one thing, and Moira reminded him as she pushed him back in the sands and slipped a leg over so that she was astride him. All that long night on the beach, she reminded him of a great many things he had forgotten, and some that he only pretended to have forgotten. And when the moon, tired of watching over the two lovers, began to drift out of sight, she walked naked into the sea and came out dripping with pearls. He slipped one into his pocket, and they parted.

For once, Death did not mind getting back to work. In fact, he whistled for the next week. And when the Friday night card game came around, he stepped into the room ready to play.

The Devil tilted his head. Death sat across and grinned. The game began again.

Le Fin

*


Thank you to everyone who read and supported me during this endeavor. I admit that it was almost impossible to finish, as I didn't want to let Death go. And in that spirit, I give you an installment that was originally part six, but I realized it didn't fit and so I cut it. When God is speaking of Death causing the demise of non-human mortal creatures, he refers to this:


6. Distemper

A roadside zoo in Arkansas. Death leaned on the peanut-dispensing machine: a quarter for a handful. Alone in a small, cement-floored cage, a chimpanzee, gray around the eyes. Its sign said Mr. Higgy, born 1953. Its eyes held the bleakness of incarceration, the sorrow of loneliness, the pain of untended old age. The young girl for whom Death’s attendance was necessary, about to gran mal seizure her way into the afterlife, had stared at the chimp, her parents leaning on the railing, bored, flicking peanuts to the ratty peacocks. Mr. Higgy put a finger through the bars. She reached to touch him, and her father grabbed her hand. Chimps were dangerous. And dirty. Mr. Higgy lowered his hand and looked at the sky instead.

Mr. Higgy was not on his tape, of course. But no one noticed, as they crowded around the seizing girl and shouted about wallets and spoons and ambulances that wouldn’t arrive in time, the shadow slip between the bars and lay a hand on Mr. Higgy. Death felt nothing to pluck, but in a great, forgiving sigh, Mr. Higgy laid his big head on the cement floor and died too.

And so it began.

A gypsy’s decrepit terrier dog outside of Bursa, the old woman babbling her dog’s name to her last breath. The ancient donkey carrying the fat American tourist up the hill in Greece in the middle of a hot August day. The cat in the closet of the boy’s room, its failing meows hardly louder than the breeze through Death’s oak tree each evening.

The black bear laid low by a gun shot, the hunter dead in the woods of a heart attack and unable to finish the job. Death had stepped in.

It was probably against the rules, he thought every time. And then, he would put his hand just there and give the creature a long stroke.

“Mr. Higgy,” he said at last. It had all been worth it, no matter what punishment they chose to deal out.

*

Death is sometimes lazy, but always kind. Again, thanks for reading. I can't express my appreciation enough. If you feel especially moved to promote this elsewhere, I'd be much obliged. In the meantime, I'm going to see if any fantasy mag's will take this as a reprint. If there is anyone who has thoughts on the story that they think might make it better, feel free to email me at gshep72  @  sbcglobal dot net. I'd love a second pair of eyes to go over this. (please put Death in the subject line, or something similar, so I don't delete it)

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Tomorrow, this blog returns to normal service.

Links to previous installments:

These are all links to my DeviantArt page, because the blog links are a hot mess. I'll sort it out another time. Thanks, again.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Death pt 11: The Instrument of Fate

We arrive at the penultimate chapter. Some win, some are lost, and Death remembers -- finally -- a special constellation.



This isn't how I pictured war, but when this showed up yesterday as a DD, I couldn't believe it. Click on the link for a full view. Incredible.

11. The Instrument of Fate

The taste of Paris: grit and muddy snow. A sewer rat chittered at him, tapping his cranium and peering into his sinus cavity.

“I told you. All out. Beat it,” he mumbled.

The rat hopped up and down on his skull.

“I said--”

“Christopher!”

His head whipped around.

Moira.

Battling War. And by the looks of it, not winning. Moira’s horse lay on its side in the street, gore streaking its hide and hooves. Death sprang to his feet, the rat slipping and clutching onto the cowl of his robe.

“Stop!”

The Incarnations paused, teeth bared, weapons raised: Moira’s scissors were nothing to War’s sword, as long as the Fate herself.

“I’ll get to you in a minute, boy,” said War. “Maybe less.”

He swung, Moira ducking as the massive blade missed her head by a centimeter.

“Get to the Council!” she shouted. “Now! Tell them--”

The flat of War’s sword cracked against her face, knocking her back. She stumbled to the ground, one hand down for balance, her scissors clattering to a stop several feet away. The tardy heart in Death’s chest bloomed, filling him with a cold, crimson anger. The trembling rat went still, narrowing its black eyes and settling itself on Death’s shoulder.

There had been one instrument of Death’s office that he had been loath to touch.

One instrument that had seemed almost… decorative. Frighteningly unnecessary. He’d slid it beneath his bed with the spider sacs and old comic books. And now, he knew what it was for.

He called it.

War raised the sword over his shoulder for the final blow. Moira lifted her head, pushing back damp, dark honey tendrils hair to look up at him with pity in her gray-green eyes.

“I’m sorry, Erik.”

“Too late, my dear,” he snarled.

“It is.”

War hesitated, glancing to where Death had last stood – pathetic, weak Death.

The scythe descended.

Two mortals, climbing up from the catacombs, paused. After a few moments, with nervous grins, they conceded to one another that they hadn’t heard anything, nothing at all. No sound that had carried through their very bones.

It had been the sound of a god’s sword hitting the pavement.

*

Red seeped into the bottom of her robes. Her fingers traced sticky patterns across the horse’s shoulder.

“Go,” she said. “You need to get to Council.”

He knelt beside her. Put his hand by hers on the horse’s yet-warm neck.

“Who picks the mortals to be the successors?”

“We all do. We take turns.”

Death studied her profile: her small nose with freckles so fair they almost blended in, were almost unnoticeable. Almost. And the faint lines by her mouth—the lines of someone who threw their head back when they laughed, and did it often. Her hair, falling in uneven waves to oscure her cheeks. And he knew, just then, that if he lifted her hair, he would find on the back of her neck another small constellation of freckles, and that she liked to be kissed right there.

“Who picked me?”

She didn’t look at him. “I did.”

The horse’s pulse weakened, fluttered.

“He suffers,” he said.

“Yes.”

Death rubbed between two velvety ears before stroking down the strong, muscular curve of the horse’s neck. The horse exhaled once more. There was nothing to pluck.

They sat in silence for long moments.

“You’ll find him again,” said Death, getting to his feet. “After all, you found me.”

Moira looked up, eyes dry. “I did.” She stood and took his hand. “And now it’s time to let the rest of them know.”

They were gone, and Moira’s horse faded away, leaving the street empty but for the dull gleam of War’s sword in the gutter. And after a minute, a demon skittered up from the catacombs and stole away again with it in its scaly grasp.

*


Again, my thanks to everyone who is reading this. Soon, this blog will return to its normal service, and I must say, I will miss Death. I haven't written the last part, probably because I don't want to, but I'll try to get it done today.

The February Femmes Fatales continue to astound, with Sue Harding's Be Careful What You Wish For: a heartbreaking tale, gorgeously written and paced, on a classic theme. If you love Phantom of the Opera, this story is for you.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Death 9 & 10: War is Like That; the Petty Thief

In parts 9 & 10, we find that War is like that, and get a glimpse of Death's past.

Previous installments:

Part One
Parts Two and Three
Part Four
Parts Five and Six
Part Seven
Part Eight

9. War is like that

“Erik,” said Moira.

“My dear.” He reached out a hand, turning over his calloused palm to stroke her cheek. She batted him away. “Ah, don’t be like that. Of the two of you, you, at least, might be spared. And Moira, you know how well I’d like that. Unnecessary killing is something I abhor, especially when that unnecessary death is of someone so beautiful. Don’t you agree, Death?”

Death did not like the familiarity with which War spoke to the Fate at all. He stood up straight and opened his mouth to say something virile and impressive to the mighty warrior.

“Save it, Erik,” Moira snapped. “We’re going to Council, and you can’t stop us.”

War sighed, taking off his helmet. “I’m sorry, my dear. But you should know that when I left, the vote was in favor of termination.”

“Was it complete?”

“Not yet. But it will be.”

“Then we still have a chance.”

War plucked the red rose from his vest and raised it to his aquiline nose. He inhaled deeply, glanced at Moira, and tossed it to the pavement. The toe of his boot ground the flower to pulp.

“Once upon a time, my dearest, divinest Fate, you refused my offer. Perhaps, if you had chosen me over… him, then things would be different. I would not be serving eternal penitence twice: once, kneeling in humiliation before Him and begging His forgiveness, and then again, watching you search through the eons for one, very lost soul.” His fingertips casually stroked the hilt of his sword. “I will only offer once more, Moira. But know, regardless of your answer, that this day holds nothing more for your pathetic, counterfeit Death.” War bared his teeth, sharp and white. “His term is over.”

“Counterfeit? If you really believed that, Erik, you wouldn’t be here, would you?” Moira glanced at Death. “Get on the horse. Now.”

“But I don’t understand,” said Death. “What offer? What’s going on?”

“I said, get on the horse! N--”

War swung, his iron helmet as large as a pumpkin smashing into the side of Moira’s face. She fell to the wet pavement, and War turned on Death, his sword sliding from its sheath in a ringing scream. Moira’s horse reared, bellowing with rage, and Death reached for a knotted hank of mane. Before he could pull himself up, War had bolted around the waving hooves and struck Death between the shoulders.

His head on the ground, he thought he saw Moira move.

He thought.

And then he saw no more.


10. The Petty Thief

Parakeets fluttered and chirped, a blue and green tempest inside their wire cage. A box announced, “Paddle Ball! Fun for Girls and Boys!”, the toys haphazardly stacked within. The floor was brown, scuffed linoleum. Aisles and aisles of cheap, household necessities and the merely frivolous stretched before him. And at the back, a row of red-topped stools on gleaming chrome bases beckoned, waiting to be spun before a long, curving counter. Cheeseburgers. He smelled cheeseburgers.

Death stood in the entrance to the Woolworth’s of his teen years, the place where he had honed first his shoplifting skills and, later, picked his first pocket.

“Excuse me,” said a woman, pushing past in her tan, belted spring coat.

“Sorry,” said Death. Wait. Had she seen him? He look wildly around, finally catching himself in the security mirror atop a wall.

No skull. Well, a skull, but it was covered with ruddy, pockmarked skin. No robes. His leather jacket. By God, how he had missed it. He grinned up at his seventeen year old self in all his spotty-faced, scrawny glory, complete with—

“Hair. Oh my God, my hair.” He put a hand – a fully-fleshed hand – to his slicked-back black hair, and then to his back pocket where, sure enough, a plastic blue comb awaited. He drew it carefully through his hair, allowing a piece to fall in front. Very James Dean.

“This ain’t no beauty parlor. You gonna buy something or what?”

Barbara. Dear Barbara, cracking gum with her mouth wide open, horn-rim glasses nestled against her massive bosom and held there by a chunky silver chain. Her own hair was gray and brown and piled atop her head in a monument to Aqua Net. It never moved.

“Yeah. I’m looking for a present for my sister,” he said.

“Then get looking, and stop blocking the door.” She returned to her Tales of True Romance!, and Death walked away.

He stopped at the end of an aisle. Glanced back at Barbara, who was reading and also keeping an eye on him.

The game was on.

What did he need? Nothing. Maybe a pack of Topps, if they had any Superman. But that wasn’t much of a challenge.

He made his slow way down the aisles. He pretended to inspect a stuffed donkey, then coolly tucked it inside his jacket. His sister, Mandy, would love it. She was nine, and she had a thing for Eeyore.

A pack of pencils. Sharpener for the pencils. Hey, maybe he’d be an artist. Looked like he was being given a second chance. So sure, why not? That is, if the whole thief gig didn’t work out. Again.

A small pad of unlined paper. The jacket was beginning to get a bit bulky.

“Leonard dafuckingvinci, that’s me,” he said under his breath.

And then his eyes lit on the birds. A parakeet, stuffed in his jacket? Could he get away with it? He almost laughed at how thrilling it seemed.

He circled the cage, studying them. Watching how fast they moved, hopping from perch to perch. There were two doors. Lean in. Act like you’re talking to them.

It was simpler than it should have been. A blue ’keet flapped and then quieted in his fist. He slipped it next to the donkey.

Maybe he’d give it to Mandy, too. Maybe he’d let it go, once he was outside. He liked that idea better. She’d be happy with the donkey, and anyway, things shouldn’t be in cages.

The birds all went silent.

He looked up.

Moira stood on the other side of the wire enclosure.

His heart leapt and then fell again.

It was all a dream. He wasn’t seventeen. He was dead.

“Christopher,” she said.

His breath caught at her mention of his name. The doors opened behind her, the sun flooding in and lighting her hair on fire, strawberries and gold.

In trotted the beasts: great, slavering dogs, jaws opening as they spotted their prey and began to run.

“Moira!”

She stared at him as if she hadn’t heard.

The dogs bounded. Sprang.

Moira!” The birds exploded in chaos within their cage. She spun, dogs snatching at her, bringing her down. He ran, jacket opening and his stash falling to the ground, except for the parakeet, which burst out and disappeared towards the ceiling in a mad dash of blue.

“Christopher!"

*

TWO PARTS. I couldn't leave you on another cliff-hanger. (Oh, wait, but I did...)

This cheeky author has lots to do today, but hopes to get out the next part tomorrow, then after that, we are at the finish.




Death with violin by Daniel Egneus

His entire gallery is amazing.

Want to read on to part 11? It's right here.




Monday, February 7, 2011

Death: Part 8

In this, part 8 of Death's tale, we find that a pair is worse than a horde.

Many of you know Mimi Manderly as a regular participant in Lily's Friday Prediction, bringing the darkness in high style, but she's also an artist. I was absolutely gobsmacked to wake up yesterday morning and find she'd drawn Death and Moira! Make sure you check out the cheeky details. :-)

A portrait of Death and Moira

As usual, links to previous installments:
Part One
Parts Two and Three
Part Four
Parts Five and Six
Part Seven



8. Flight Through the Catacombs


The screech reverberated through every one of Death’s bones. For good measure, Death stomped on its skull one more time. The demon dissolved into the earth with a hot sizzle, leaving behind no soul, which was unfortunate. Death would’ve liked to hold it in his hand and crush it to dust.

Moira swore, and he whirled. Seeing its companion defeated, the second demon chose escape. Moira flung herself after it, with Death right behind both of them.

A litany of abuse echoed back at them. “Ugly Fate! Smelly Death! Foolish Death!”

Its flight through the forgotten catacombs took them deeper—the bones were no longer human. The wet earth and mildew smell was replaced by sulfur and the stench of rot. Moira jerked her arm left, and Death ran without hesitation. In moments, they had reunited, two tunnels bringing the careening demon and its pursuers to a single fork. Death got there first.

The demon licked its lips, stretched its jaws, and snapped them shut.

And was gone.

“Where--”

“The surface!” Moira grabbed his arm. “Hold tight. This might hurt.”

Death remembered reading once in a magazine about deep sea divers; he didn’t remember much, as it had been National Geographic and he’d only picked it up for the pictures of the naked women in Guyana. But he recalled one shot of a diver, a tiny body on the edge between nighttime-blue and sun-ocean-blue, pressing upwards. This is what it must feel like, he thought. To be squeezed and have no choice to but to go up.

Just as he wondered if it would hurt very much when his ribs cracked, the open sky exploded above them, gray and bright.

Moira’s horse was just where she’d left it, standing in the street beside a light post. Only now, it had a demon beneath one of its massive dinner-plate hooves.

The thing snarled and spit.

“Loathsome Fate! Her so ugly, no one wants her! Get her horse off me!” Claws raked the horse’s leg and chest. The horse leaned down and casually chomped with giant yellow teeth on the demon’s head. It screamed, flailing.

“It’s like a terrible red baby,” said Death. “Look at it.” He knelt down. “Does baby need a change? Hm? Does baby want a--”

A bloody snaggletooth hit him in an ocular cavity and rattled out the bottom of his skull.

“We haven’t got time for this,” Moira said, pushing him aside. “Why did the Devil send you?”

“Stupid Death terminated.”

“Not yet, he isn’t.”

The demon stopped squirming and grinned. “He will be. And Fate too. Hag, hag, hag. Dead hag.”

Death punched the demon in its already-squashed nose.

From her robes, Moira drew silver scissors. She shoved the blades into the demon’s chest, and like its brethren, it, too dissolved into the earth in a bubbling, steaming sludge. She wiped the scissors through a hedge and replaced them in her robes.

“I don’t know why the Devil only sent two demons to stop us,” she said, reaching for her horse’s bridle, “but we need to go, now.”

“Because,” rumbled a voice behind them, “if he sent a horde, it would attract attention. And we only needed to slow you down a bit.”

They turned. Striding towards them, in his finest furs and boots, was a man so tall and blonde and broad-shouldered that Death always found himself slumping in his magnificent presence:

War.



*

Thank you so much for reading! I'm a bit flabbergasted by the numbers, so to all you lurkers, I raise a glass of wine in toast to you. Thanks for coming back again and again.

Parts 9 & 10 here.

Blog fest news for March! Over at the Leaky Pencil, Chris Allinotte will be hosting an Ides of March fest. Click on the link for details, and please... bring your best madness. Let it all hang out. I'm looking forward to this already!

Friday, February 4, 2011

A February Femmes Fatales? Moi? You bet your--

I have no words to express how honored I am to be included among the February Femmes Fatales. So I'll let the Devil do it for me: The Devil Wants A Word


Very seriously, I want to thank Lily Childs not just for hosting the weekly Friday Prediction, which attracts the best dark writers around, but for being such an incredibly warm and welcoming woman. I remember my first time skinny-dipping in the waters of the Prediction, and it has been, hands down, the best prompt community I've come across, and this is in no small part due to Lily herself.

I'm truly honored to be included amongst the February Femmes Fatales. Thank you everyone for reading.

So. The Devil, eh? I actually wrote this last summer, and then had no idea who would possibly publish such a thing. When Lily sent the invite, I jumped at the chance to polish this up and make it the best it could be. And yes, it was written before my Three Word Wednesday piece, Lucky, and obviously long before my current, on-going serial that follows the travails of poor, harassed Death. Which has no title. (title suggestions gladly accepted!)

There's a thread here I should be pulling, I think. Maybe a whole sweater needs to be unraveled! And then I will be naked before you. But don't worry. I've got a nice smile and I bring decent writing. ;-)

Enjoy your weekend! Thanks again for visiting my blog. Worshipping most welcome.