Monday, November 21, 2016

The Second Sinner's Story Prologue

Part 1, The Demon's Tales
Part 2, The First Sinner's Story

It should be mentioned that when a demon rips out your lungs and larynx, these do not come back, nor does it ever heal.  The damage is permanent, the pain forever, and there is no hope of release from the torment, not even from passing out or sleep.  To avoid this fate kept those who could tell stories frantically trying to think of new ones.  Frantic that the possible moment that the demon got bored of them would come and the real pain would begin.

The second sinner whose stories the demon liked was a woman, and not just any woman. The woman had been a vampire before she died, though the demon would not let her call herself a vampire.  More of a "vamplet," the demon said.  Her kind doesn't deserve the full name of "vampire" even if they do drink blood to live.

Real vampires are nothing like the ones we see on tv and in movies.  If I were to ever tell you about real vampires you wouldn't sleep for weeks and after that only in snatches.  Believe me when I tell you, YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW.

But there is a creature much like the one on television and in movies.  It is stronger and faster than humans, but for true vampires and demons, weak and vulnerable.  After all, they can be easily killed with a stake to the heart or decapitation or sunlight.  They are immortal-ish.  And therefore fear humans because there are more of us than them.  Just as there are many more worms than there are birds.  More mice than snakes.  But these mice can group up and fight back.  The vamplets know this.  They live in the shadows and fear humans, knowing that their safety is in that we don't know they exist.  It is getting harder and harder for them to hide.

In the old days death was more common than it is now, and often unexplained.  Children died in droves, taken by disease and heat.  Before antibiotics.  Before vaccines.  When a thousand children died every week in cities in the summer and villages lost half the population under ten to diptheria.  Back then the vamplets could eat and eat just on the scavenged dead.  They could drink the blood of a baby every day and tear into small roasted limbs like chicken legs. (The skin is the best part.)

In modern times, fewer than one baby in a hundred dies and the vamplets must make do with adults whose blood is dirty and who roast up gamy and tough.  Even so, they make do and there can only be so many deaths and body snatches before there are suspicions and authorities get called in.  So modern vamplets control their numbers carefully.  In all of New York City the acceptable limit of vamplets is five.  Where there had been friendly clans of ten and fifteen there was now only one lone, paranoid vamplet.  They are a dying species.  They know this.  They are only trying to stave off the inevitable.

The woman who tells the story is a vamplet who died in a recent fire.  All of them go to hell.  There is no salvation for them.  She had no choice in being turned and then no amount of praying or forgiveness could ever be enough to save her from eternal torment.  But she told wonderful stories and this is the one she told the demon in order to save her lungs and tongue.

Part 4, The Second Sinner's Story
Part 5, The Last Sinner's Story
Part 6, The Demon and the Bookstore

Friday, November 18, 2016

The First Sinner's Story

Part 1, The Demon's Tales

The story the man tells is of a famous woman who tried to live up to all public expectations, but could not and so she left it all behind.

There once was a woman who sang in a rock band.  She was very famous and loved.  You know who I mean.  But there was one flaw she had for being a popular singer and that was she had no faults at all.  Or at least no faults that would land her on the covers of magazines amid cries of scandal.  She was a quiet person and terribly good and kind.  This upset her managers very much because rock singers and all famous people should have some scandals because people like their heroes and they like even better when their heroes fall.

And so she began to pretend.  You may have seen the pictures of her with her many lovers.  Heard the story of how she lived for five months in a menage a trois. The cheating, the break ups, the screaming man on the lawn who was hospitalized, crazy for the love of her.  None of this was true.

You may have seen the video of when she was pulled over by the police for driving erratically and she got out of the car with an open bottle of cheap whiskey and drank half of it down before the cops managed to pull the bottle away.  And that she got out of the charge because they couldn't prove if she was drunk before while driving or became drunk from drinking the whiskey on camera. After the camera stopped they undid the handcuffs and she gave each of the policemen and women gift baskets full of fruits and cheeses and her homemade strawberry and grape jam as thanks.  The whiskey was truly iced tea.

I know what you are thinking.  You are thinking, didn't she die a few years ago?  There was that tragic fire.  You were there for the public viewing and you saw her body in the casket, so still and so pale.  You heard the moving tributes and saw the roadie who was burned trying to save her.  Saw the scars from his burns and listened to his tale of the last painful moments of her life.  This will anger you, because she caused so much pain by these actions, but she faked her death.  She was tired of pretending and went to a small town in Montana to live a quiet and sober life.  She got married to the boyfriend she'd been devoted to all along.  They have three children, two of which are adopted.

She gives guitar lessons at the local music shop and those in the village take no notice of her and do not realize who she is, or who she was.  But sometimes someone does notice, perhaps a turn of the head or a look in her eyes, and says, Hey, you look like her.  To this she simply smiles and says, yes, she gets that a lot.

This story always makes the demon quite happy and she likes to hear it on her difficult days. She feels it ends so perfectly, with the woman being punished and going into exile for being so very good.  Undivine Retribution.  The opposite of karma. And it is by this story that the man is allowed to keep his tongue and lungs and larynx.

Part 3, The Second Sinner's Story Prologue
Part 4, The Second Sinner's Story
Part 5, The Last Sinner's Story
Part 6, The Demon and the Bookstore

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Demon's Tales

Once there was a demon who loved books.  She read night and day, any book she could get her hands and bloody claws on.  Often they were terrible books, the ones writers bring with them to torment themselves.  But she loved these horrible books anyway because they transported her to other lands and places beyond hell, (which is a place that isn't fun for anyone).  She read them with zest and zeal, every cliched character and every derivative scene and every plot hole large enough to march two elephants through shoulder to shoulder.  In fact, she wanted to try this once just to make a particular writer scream, but there are no elephants in hell and so she went with her usual modes of torture, paper cuts and lemon juice, the pins and needles feeling as circulation comes back to a limb, and ripping their lungs out and watch them try to scream with no air.

What she wanted most of all was to read the good books or even the great books.  But they almost never made it to hell since it is difficult to torment someone with a good book.  And great books make terrible instruments of torture.  She had to try to learn these stories in other ways.  The way she knew best was torture and so she demanded stories of all her victims on pain of even more excruciating pain.  Over and over she asked each detainee to tell her a story.

Some began the story of their lives, because they thought the request had something to do with their being in hell and the punishment against them.  With these she pried out their teeth and tongues and ripped out their larynges and told them that they had already spent a lifetime thinking only of themselves.  Here no one cared.

But a few saw the light of stories in her eyes, they saw a kindred who loved what they loved, and so, like Scheherazade, they began to spin spells and weave webs of words.  These she let keep their tongues and lungs and larynges for each day they could entertain her.  One man was a particular favorite.  And the story he told was this---

Part 2, The First Sinner's Story
Part 3, The Second Sinner's Story Prologue
Part 4, The Second Sinner's Story
Part 5, The Last Sinner's Story
Part 6, The Demon and the Bookstore

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Madness of Cats-- second story, Part 2

Part 1

He began to laugh. He laughed for awhile, his brain swept with the dancing and bouncing grasshopper thoughts.  But pretty soon, like the sudden mood of a cat, he stopped laughing and began to rage.  He raged at so many things, from the other shifts not keeping the kitchen clean to all the injustice in the world.  He raged so much and so long that his co-workers, already frightened by his mad laughter, were even more frightened and wondered if they should get help.  The customers, with no idea what was happening in the back, became impatient and angry.  They wanted their food and they wanted it now.  And really, who could blame them for that?

After the anger, the man began to cry.  He was sad and cried so much the front of his shirt was soaked with tears.  He cried for all the pain ever visited on him, and all the pain his family had endured, and all his friends, and his neighborhood, and all the hurt that ever was down to the spirits of the mice who would never find peace and the spirits of the cats who would wander forever and ever.  He cried and cried.

Now, as I said before, had you or I had a spirit of a cat go through our heads it would have caused an upheaval, but we would not have been so affected.  But since he had never been touched by a cat spirit before, the effect was too strong to resist.

If you are wondering what happened next, the sad answer is very little.  The effect of the madness of cats wore off and he went back to his normal, sane self.  His co-workers stopped watching him and served the customers who went off in a huff to continue their day.  One of his co-workers later complained of him to the manager and he was disciplined, but not fired, a good thing since he was poor and could not afford to lose his job.  And all the anger and laughter and sadness of his brush with madness was ignored and explained away, even by the man himself, because we have difficulty with emotions and it is easier to ignore than to fix the problems in the world.
__________________________________________________________________________________

You can tell I feel a bit pessimistic right now in the wake of the recent US presidential election. Especially when it comes to racial justice and the freedom of non-Christian non-whites in this country. A number of old fairy tales end unhappily. Girls dance themselves to death, the mermaid dies of grief, and so forth. I'm not sure if this one ends neutrally or is terribly sad.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Madness of Cats, second story

Into every life come moments. Small madnesses. Odd thoughts. We think of these as our own, but in truth they are the cats and the mice, forever hunting and being hunted, forever stalking and hiding, forever running, playing, and fearing. We do not see them. They are only the spirits left of cats and mice past. But no cat ever truly dies. They remain on earth in spirit form and so we are daily surrounded by cats of time past. Mice do die. But the ones who are killed by cats remain forever bound to the cat who killed it.  It is a terrible fate and if you come back in some future life, do not come back as a mouse because then you may be stuck in constant terror for all eternity until the world ends.

And what have these spirits of cats and mice to do with us? This world has had so many of them through time that these spirits are everywhere.  If you could see spirits the air and earth would be full of cats.  And cats are untameable creatures, always only once removed from wildness.  As many people have already said, we only believe we have domesticated them. Every once in a while the spirit of a cat will move through a living human being, and then that person will have strange and unusual thoughts.  These small madnesses.  These fits of pique.  And just as cats like some people better than others when they live, they prefer some over others after they die, and so some people have more of the moments then others.  But it is worse for those hated by cats, living and dead.  They are very sane and do not have moments of imagination and wildness.

But one day, quite by accident, one of these sane and unimaginitive people, ran into the spirit of a cat. He was a poor and humble cook in a fast food joint, daily flipping burgers and spreading ketchup and frying fries.  And though he worked all the hours in the day, he could not make enough to feed and clothe his family.  And though cats did not like him, they do love meat and they do love fries, even after they cannot eat them anymore.  Just the smell is enough and makes them hunger.  Makes them want to hunt mice.  And so the spirits of 5 or 6 cats were wandering about the dirty kitchen that the cook tried to keep clean, but the other shifts did not. These 5 or 6 cats wandered about sniffing and avoiding the cook.

One was sitting on a high metal shelf over the table where the burgers were slathered with mustard and ketchup and covered with lettuce and pickles. It was avoiding him.  But he needed something from the shelf and reached up.  The cat arched its back and hissed, and as his hand continued to search the shelf, it jumped to get away, and flew through the air and through the man, right across his head.  And the head is a very dangerous place to have the spirit of a cat go through.  Some, who have been touched many times by cats and gotten more used to the effects, as much as anyone can, might have withstood it better.  But the cook had never been touched before by the spirit of a cat and so it went very badly with him.

He stopped his search for whatever he was looking for on the shelf and came up short.  It felt as if someone had simultaneously frozen his brain and let out a full jar of crickets in his skull.  His brain stayed still as thoughts jumped wildly around, making noises and singing songs and he didn’t know what to do since he had never had such an experience before.

The cats became interested, as cats do at any new thing, and watched for what the man would do. What he did, was begin to laugh.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Allergic Broom

Once there was a broom who was allergic to dust and after its very first use began to sneeze.  This surprised the woman who had bought it as she hadn't known brooms could sneeze much less seen it happen before. The wood of its handle quaked in her hand as all the dried cells within it seemed to take a breath and then out from the straw bristles came a 'choo! choo!' as the broom sneezed.  Well, she supposed it was something like choo! choo!  Actually the bristles of the broom splayed with the power of the sneeze as much as their stiffness allowed, and it was the movement of these bristles that made the sound.  So it was really more of a 'shr! shr!' sound.

She had just thought through all of this because she was a very literal person who liked to describe things accurately in her mind when the broom spoke.

'I think I'm allergic to dust,' it said and she thought it did sound stuffed up, though she wasn't sure why she thought this having  never heard a broom talk before.  In fact she nearly dropped it when it spoke.  She could feel the cells in the handle move in her hand and the voice was the straw rubbing against each other.  Yet it formed words that she could understand perfectly.

'What good is a broom that is allergic to dust?' she asked it.  'I don' know,' it admitted. 'Would you rinse me off?  I'm really uncomfortable.'  And because it had asked she did this, running cool water over its straw bristles. 'Ah,' it said. Then it began to shake its bristles and sprinkle water all over her nice, clean house.  The small pile of dust she had been trying to sweep turned into a cake of mud that would need to dry before she could try to sweep it again.

She didn't know what to do.  She supposed she could hang it on the wall as a decoration, but a broom was not her style and besides it would probably want to talk to her day and night.  Would it get bored? she wondered.  The broom was still shaking water from its bristles and getting everything she owned quite wet.

Finally her eyes alighted on the fire and she knew what to do.  She threw the broom into the fireplace.  The straw sizzled as the water in it boiled and the handle blackened and caught fire and for a few minutes the broom that was allergic to dust warmed her house.

THE END

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Skin


Our skin is like the earth's crust, from the desert of our backs to the jungles of our darkest crevasses, we are home to many life forms. Diptheroids hate the air and live protected in our hair follicles, feeding off our oils and producing body odor and acne. Oil loving yeast are beautifully diverse, some round, bunched together like grapes on a vine, others short Twinkie-like rods, and still others running long and thin, curving and crisscrossing like roads on a map. We even have relatives of spiders living in the pores of our faces, eating away at our skin cells and coming out to mate as we sleep. But the cover girl of this world living on your skin is Staphylococcus.

Staphylococcus epidermis is the homely sister no one pays much attention to.  It lives on the inhospitable surface of the skin and can tolerate table salt. You've probably never heard of it. Staphylococcus aureus, named for its beautiful gold color, is the cover girl, with articles in countless magazines, stories on the news, and rumors of her exploits. Especially a tough little strain called by the acronym, MRSA.



Staphylococcus aureus lives in our noses and respiratory tracts. But sometimes it can enter our skin through a hair follicle and from there it can infect. Most follicle infections look like a red bump or a small pimple and disappear within a few days. Occasionally the hair must be pulled and the pus allowed to drain away before the infection ceases. But sometimes the infection will spread deeper, forming an abscess, which people commonly think is a spider bite.

Antibiotics treat general infections well, but an abscess, even if it isn't antibiotic resistant, is thick and protected. It is a bacterial castle and difficult to storm. If the body does not wall off the infection, it spread. The tissue, already inflamed, becomes hard as the invaders go deep. If they go deep enough, they join the bloodstream.

The Golden staph is a skilled army, stocked with the latest in technological weapons to destroy the body's defenses, kill our white blood cells, eat its way through the surrounding tissue, and adjust its vulnerabilities to the antibiotics we send to stop it. But usually it is simply there, living with all the other tiny things on your skin, not bothering you a bit, the cover girl at home with no make up on, going quietly through life, the neighbor you never notice.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Madness of Cats

The Madness of Cats

Cats are madness, aren't they? Little fur packets of madness and sunlight and darkness with dabs of anger and haughtiness thrown in. This is why they are irresistible.  The story of how cats came to be is much like the story of Eve being taken from Adam's rib.  Cats were taken from our madness, created out of emotions we wished we could hide or remove.  They sprang from us whole, created as we fell asleep one day.  But like Eve, who did not take all of Adam's ribs away, the cats did not remove those emotions.  They do not embody them.  It is simply where they were created from, and then they walked away.


The Madness of Dogs

Dogs are not mad.  They are the most sane creatures in the world, excepting cows.  Both need specific diseases to make them truly crazy.  Dogs understand the world better than we do.  They understand us better than we do.  Anytime you are unsure what to do, ask a dog.  Dogs will give you the wisest answers.

The Madness of Bees

You've probably been told that bees talk to each other in interpretive dance.  That they move side to side an up and down, telling all the other bees the exact locations of flowers.  This is mostly true.  But sometimes its just that they're teaching a zumba class.

The Madness of Humans

I'm sure you are expecting my rebuke of us, how we, with our wars and politics and policies, are the maddest creatures of all. But cats have us beat in the area of most madness considering they were created from madness (see above). And you probably already about our wars and politics and policies. You don't need me to tell them to you and if I did we would simply both nod and agree the human race is unutterably mad and nod and feel wise, when we are not as mad as cats, or as wise as dogs, or as good at dancing as bees. But humans always feel we must be in every story. That in some way all stories are centered around, for, and about us. So I felt obliged to add us in, even though this story is simply about bees and dogs and cats.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

La vela de la luciérnaga

Mi cura repentina lo atribuyen los médicos a un tratamiento nuevo y radical. Que fue radical, puedo asegurarselo. Basta con levantarme el pelo de mi frente para mostrarles las cicatrices. A veces lamento de que la cirugía no me quito ni la vida ni el entendimiento ni la memoria de los eventos que me llevó a este fin. Quizás así no sería yo responsable para la carnicería que van a perpetuar con el excusa de los resultados alumbrantes de mi caso.

La verdad es que nunca era necesario entrar por la fuerza en mi cabeza. Siempre estaba abierta. Las voces, las luces, los colores, las ondas de energía que radian de los seres vivos, incluso las más pequeñas. Me penetraban como a todos, una red delicada de la vida misma pasándose por los cuerpos para animarles y hasta que los cuerpos se convierte en los muertos, consumidos por la vida. Desde mis primeras memorias de la vida, yo veía las pequeñas huellas de la vida, particularmente en el momento antes de la muerte. Los huecos negros de insectos muertos suspendidos en las telarañas o caídos de sus impactos contra el vidrio para morir en el alféizar. Por horas, miraba a las moscas y las abejas frustradas, batiéndose contra una ventana medio abierta sin pensar nunca en pasar por debajo. Sólo al último instante, cuando la vida pulsaba como una cerilla en el momento de encender, aprendí a guiarlas con mis manos juntados a la salida. Quemando, pero vivos, las moscas y las abejas salían al aire libre, y yo me sentaba de nuevo cerca de la ventana con un libro de texto cerrado y casi olvidado en mi regazo.

Mi error fue admitir mi juego a un niño del apartamento al otro lado del pasillo. Él también le gustaba mirar a los insectos, pero los capturaba en receptáculos de vidrio como los frascos de mermelada. Un día, me trajo un frasco de vidrio verde en donde se podía ver las luces parpadeando de unas luciérnagas. Una brillaba tanto que, sin pensar en que no fue la luz de su abdomen sino de su cuerpo entero, indiqué el bicho moribundo al niño del lado. “¿Ves cómo brilla?” le pregunté, pero el niño me miraba con un remordimiento tan sencillo y inocente.

“Esa la aplasté un poco. Siempre dan luz cuando se las aplasta.”

Pensando que él entendía, confesó todo lo que sabía sobre el fluir de la vida de mis experimentos con las moscas y las abejas. Me escuchó, atento, fascinado, hasta que la luciérnaga desafortunada se murió. Una luz pálida y verde continuó donde la mancha de sus fluidos se había escapado, pero el cuerpo se oscureció como una cerilla consumida. Su madre llegó a nuestro piso y lo arrastró a la cama, diciéndole a él que era un niño malo por no estar en cama a una hora tan tarde, pero nunca me miró de los ojos ni me habló.

El niño me había visitado unas veces más, pero lo hicimos un secreto, reuniendo el sótano del edificio para hablar de cómo fluye la vida por los cuerpos de los insectos, los ratones, y los vecinos.  Nadie me vino a regañar de nuevo. Y sola, pero no tan sola, me cuidaba, como lo había hecho por años, hasta la llegada de la policía.

“¡Fue ella!” gritó la madre del niño de los frascos de insectos. “La loca. Ella lo ha matado.”

“¿Quién se murió?” les pregunte a los investigadores, pero nunca me respondieron. Solo en la sala de juicios me dijeron la verdad triste.


Fascinada con la esperanza inútil de ver con sus propios ojos las luces que yo le describió, el niño entraba la cocina durante la noche y aplastaba sus luciérnagas capturadas, luego las moscas y las hormigas que rodeaban las frutas, dejándolas morir donde cayeron. Incapaz de ver ningún cambio, aún con sus ojos ajustados a la oscuridad y unas docenas de insectos vivos y muertos, el niño se fue en búsqueda de algo más grande. La próxima mañana, la madre lo encontró dormido con media docena de ratones en su mochila. A todos los ratones, en un momento de furia la madre les dio la muerte y al niño le negó su desayuno. Pienso que fue ella la quien me dejó la mochila lleno de pequeños huecos oscuros en las ondas de la vida. La nota encima dijo una palabra, maldita, pero su intención fue clara.

Incapaz de entender cómo se conectan esos ocurrencias, permitía que viniera el niño. Un día, confesé al niño que me preocupaba el salud del señor muy amable del cuarto piso para darle al niño un respeto más grave hacia el proceso de la muerte. Pensé que el señor iba a morir muy pronto, provocando una tragedia en el edificio y la desesperación de su mujer, pero el niño lo siguió por días, buscando el momento de la muerte. En vez de brillar más fuerte, la luz inquietante se fue del hombre con la compañía agradable de un niño, aunque me dijo una vez que el chico parecía un poco raro, y el niño empezó a dudar la precisión de mis presentimientos.

Por eso, cuando le dije al niñito que tenía mala color un día y que algo chispeabaen su pecho, no corrió a su mamá de inmediato para que ella lo lleve a un médico. Solo sabía, antes de ser acusado de su muerte, que él no me buscaba más. Esperaba que estuviera bien, pero no quería traicionar su confianza y hablarle a su madre de que él me visitaba contra sus órdenes. Así, cuando llegó la policía, tardé solo un momento antes de reconocer la acusación de la madre, pero no podía creerlo hasta oír la verdad precisa. No quería llorar por el niño sin saber con certeza que la vida le había consumido.
Después de mi testimonio, en que les dijo que el corazón del niño había sido frágil por unas semanas, fui remitido a una institución. Después de años intentando convencerme de falsedades sobre mi caso, me operaban en una cirugía experimental. Aprendí mantener el silencio cuando los médicos lo celebraban tanto. Mi comportamiento tan cauteloso me ganó la libertad. No sabía, hasta mi liberación, los últimos datos del caso.

La madre le había sorprendido al niño en su habitación con un ratón medio diseccionado debajo de su escritorio. Nunca sabía que le molestaba tanto los límites de su percepción que le revelé mientras intentaba mostrarle la sencillez de la transición entre la vida y la muerte. La belleza de quemar en un instante con un torrente de la vida antes de que el fuego deje tan solo la materia inerte del cadáver.
Ni sus gritos ni el niño llegaron a mi puerta, aunque el niño intentó buscar mi protección. Su madre le agarró la camisa para impedirle y el niño se cayó en el cuchillo que había usado como el cirujano usa el bisturí. El cuchillo sólo le daño a sus costillas, pero el choque le paró el corazón. La autopsia reveló un agujero entre dos atrios del corazón que se agrandó de repente, posiblemente por latir tan fuerte en su pánico, posiblemente por la sacudida de la caída. Me encerraron en la institución con la prueba de mis comentarios dementes y la acusación de que yo había instigado esas investigaciones tan perturbadoras.

Si alguien creía que yo no sabía lo que hacía, no lo sé. Según el registro del juicio, nadie me defendió. Al fin, mi abogado rogaba por la merced del tribunal a base de mi locura.
He pasado horas dentro de la celda del sanatorio esperando mi castigo y lo he recibido. Quedé aterrorizada de confesar que echo de menos tanto la síntoma de que me curaron. No obstante, siento ya que la luz de la vida debiera arder tanto en mi cuerpo ahora que no debo más evitar mi último deber. No le confío a usted el secreto de la ceguera del niño para aliviar mi culpa ni para que se vuelva loco con el querer ver el fluir de la vida.

Le mostraría a usted y a todos sus lectores mis cicatrices para que nadie más sufriera la invasión que me dejó tan ciego como ese pobre niño.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Man Who Laughed

There once was a land that had been overcome by a great sadness and had no laughter.  The laughter had all been stolen, quietly gathered up by greedy men who wanted to keep it for themselves.  They packed the laughter away in boxes and though there was a trickle of laughter here and there, most people in the land had never known what it was to be full of laughter and enjoyment.  Many had never seen laughter at all and all they could do was cry great tears.  Their neighborhoods became awash in their tears, their soil and their sewers no longer able to take so many tears and so those places were often flooded, salt tears up to ankle deep over all the streets of village and town.

But the greedy men never saw this.  They only went to places where laughter was full and abundant and never knew of the streets flooded with tears.  Eventually the greedy men got greedier and each started to collect laughter from the others, until finally all the laughter in the world was in the possession of a very rich man.  The rich man had a son and then he died, leaving his young son with all the laughter in the world.  Now the son was very young and immature, and he laughed all day and all night.  He laughed and laughed.  One day he realized no one laughed with him.  That all around him were somber and sad people.  The boy did not understand the sadness, or that he had all the laughter in the world, kept up in a box in the attic.  He knew there was the box.  He knew the laughter had been taken and that he had inherited all the laughter from his father, but despite this knowledge he still did not understand why he was the only one who laughed.  He felt he was better than others because he was laughing and they were always in tears.  That if they would try harder, they would be able to laugh like him, even though he had all the laughter and they had none.

One day the man finally grew tired of all the weeping and decided he wanted to have someone laugh with him.  He summoned his valet to attend him and ordered the valet to laugh.  The valet hesitantly tried to smile, to summon the movements to his face.  But he had never smiled before and he felt no reason to smile in his heart and so his smile seemed wrong.  The laughing man grew angry that his valet could not even smile, much less laugh, and ordered that they cut off his nose.

Then the laughing man summoned his cook and ordered him to laugh.  Now the cook had seen what had happened to the valet and determined he would do better.  He wanted to keep his nose.  He smiled believably (he had been practicing just in case this should occur) and tried to chuckle.  He drew his belly in and out as he had seen the laughing man do when he laughed.  But the poor cook did not understand laughter, nor did he have a reason to laugh, and so all that came out was a huffing sound that was nothing like laughter.  The laughing man grew angry, but the cook pleaded prettily and so the laughing man decided to give the cook one more chance.  The cook tried and this time he got it right, belting out a "Ha ha ha ha," for everyone to hear.  The laughing man was happy at this, and was just about to praise his cook for his strength and fortitude and goodness when the sadness became too much for the cook and he stopped laughing and fell to weeping, dropping his tears into the onion soup.  This angered the man even more and he ordered his servants to chop off the cook's hands.

He called in his wife and she was very good at faking her smile and her laugh, so much so that the man believed she could laugh too.  He called in his children, and having learned from the man's wife (because his current wife was not their mother) and from their own mothers, they could pretend to laugh as well.  They had grown up practicing, trying on their laughs as other children play dress up in their parents' clothes.

The other rich men could also laugh, or at least seem to, some having some small vestiges of laughter left in their banks and others remembering what it was to laugh and could therefore creditably seem to laugh.  And if they and the children and his wife all quickly left at times to cry by themselves, the man did not notice it because he noticed nothing that was not himself.

That he believed there were others who could laugh only strengthened his belief that those who could not laugh were simply weak and if they only tried more, the land would have all the laughter they could ever want or need.  He forgot that he had all the laughter stored up in his box or that he had gathered none of this laughter himself.  He only saw that he could laugh and others could not and felt those others were pathetic losers.

Many in the land agreed with him, even though they also cried.  They dried their tears and thought he was a great man.  A man who could bring all the laughter back into the world.  They followed him and listened to him and in their cheering for him forgot that they were sad and that they still could not laugh.  They mistook cheering for laughter and their hatred of those who would not cheer as a sign they were better, like the man.  They forgot that the man had never known sadness and that he'd had no part in his own laughter.  They considered him a self-made man.

And so the people of the land, those who considered the man great and those who knew he was not, argued vehemently and the man just laughed and laughed and laughed.  He staged parties and shows where he spoke of laughter, of bringing back the laughter, and laughing for everyone to see.  And some people cheered while back in the flooded neighborhoods and villages others cried, ignored by the man and those who cheered.

But through these many years, hidden in the vault where the box of laughter was stored, a family of cockroaches had made a nest.  Many think that cockroaches are vile insects that only eat rotting food, but in truth they are wily creatures, able to eat anything, and they began to eat the box.  It is unknown if the cockroach family knew what it was doing, but through the years they ate the box and ate the box until one day the family was eating and they broke through, letting the laughter out.

The laughter rushed like the wind, spurred on by gusts from the north and breezes from the east.  By cold fronts and hot fronts from the west and storms from the south.  All the directions came together to spread the laughter to the people again, and the people began to laugh.  They started to tell funny stories.  The children giggled at burps and farts again.  Comedians took to the stage again.  The floods stopped and the streets dried clean and gleaming.

Everyone laughed except for the man, who had no idea what had happened to him.  He had never made his own laughter and without the vast stores of the laughter of others, he could not create his own.  He stopped laughing and began to cry.  It was a strange sensation for him and he wondered at these droplets of water streaming from his eyes.  He went to doctors and he spoke to experts, but no one could stop his tears.  With laughter in the world, all his followers had left him, no longer needing to cheer at him in order to forget their sadness.  He found himself alone and he had no understanding or ability to change this since he had never done anything ever but laugh.

He cried and he cried and his tears fell until he lost all moisture and dried up into a husk.  Still he thought other people loved him.  That they cared.  That they worried for him.  He staged another party for himself and invited the people who had cheered him before.  It was to be a great party, with 80 kinds of wine and food from all over the world.  It had rare flowers for ornaments and a glittering floor made of silver and gold dust.  There were to be dancers and singers and entertainers.  It was the grandest party the world had ever seen.

On the day of the party the man felt better.  He dried his tears and waited in expectation for the guests to come.  He waited for minutes before he began to get impatient.  By an hour he was angry.  By two hours he was in a towering rage.  No one came.  It seemed they had all forgotten him.  With this his tears grew larger and came faster and all his moisture evaporated into the ground until there was nothing left of him but dust.  The wind blew and the man crumbled away, taken by the four directions to be scattered in pieces about the earth and it was as if he had never been born.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Snowdancers


The first of the family to meet the snow dancers was Eli. He had braved the drifting snow to help a mare drop an unseasonable foal. The first lithe form skimmed the edges of his vision. The next soared over his head. As he raised his face, half-blinded by wind blown flakes falling in his eyes, a third, or perhaps the first again, flew an arc toward the glow that marked the full moon’s place in the clouded sky.
Being a stalwart man of stoic stock, Eli walked the rest of the way to the barn, birthed the breech foal, and returned to his home to scrub himself clean of the fluids that slicked the newborn horse. His wife, relieved that he had not been lost in the driving gusts and snow, warmed the bed a pan with coals and bundled him up beneath heavy blankets without hearing a word of the wonder he had just witnessed.
Only after her death, a widower with a weakness for the company of kind young women who could bake wild-berry pies, did Eli ever mention the glimpse of the fairies he had seen on his way to participate in a far more familiar miracle.
Widow Therese, an Acadian woman with a marvelous accent and a gift for any food involving butter, recalled her old friend Eli a generation later when her daughter, only child surely of her lawfully wedded husband, no matter the gossip, came to tell her that the orchards were haunted by “cheeky devils.” Faces appeared between branches, parting the leaves and startling the young woman each time she reached for a particularly fine apple. Each time, also, the apple, untouched, would fall to the earth, striking the hardened ground, making it unfit for the market. And yet, not a one of the extra apples that year showed a bruise when Widow Therese prepared them for cider and sauce. She cut enough for half a dozen pies, baked the pies, and left three of them to cool in the kitchen. The other three she transported, still piping hot, in her grandson’s little red wagon out to the farthest line of crab apples standing sentry against pests and blight around the orchard’s edge. Just beyond the tree line, she set the pies out in a holy triangle and prayed for the Lord to bless the orchard and the offerings for their uninvited visitors.
“Be ye not devils,” she proclaimed in her best imitation of the priests of her youth, “then eat heartily of these apples you plucked from our orchard and leave the rest of the work for our human hands alone.”
Workers on the farm denounced her as mad or worse, though how “worse” they wouldn’t say. Her daughter, wary of her own chances of being condemned to a sanitarium, did not speak up to explain her mother’s actions to the local sheriff. And so, Widow Therese’s offerings were the last glorious pies she would ever make.
Gordon, a young man of few words, would listen to the tale of the spirits each afternoon when his rounds of Spring Lake Sanitarium brought him to the cozy little corner where Widow Therese waited near the window for any sign of her daughter or her son-in-law. To be fair, the tale wasn’t why he joined her at the sill. No matter how chill the drafts around the rest of the institution at that hour, Widow Therese sat in an afternoon glow of amber toned sun. Her white hair would seem to catch fire as the light reddened with sunset’s first blush. Her eyes, too, would gleam as if the sun set in them, not merely reflected off of those cataract hazed corneas. Gordon would stay to the end of the telling, pat her hand, and remind her that dinner would be served shortly. Not once did Widow Therese’s reply vary.
“Oh, I’ll be fine right here. Later, I’ll have my slice of pie.”
When Danica finally brought home from the hospital their twin girls, Gordon began telling the stories of Widow Therese and Old Eli to his precious daughters. Even after Widow Therese passed away, he would see the glow she used to get around sunset and his young girls would beam all the brighter to hear him talk of it. They played at fairies and danced in every snow storm, scaring their mother and sometimes chilling their hands and noses to a bright and painful red. They adored pies, even if they never touched the fruits in any other recipe. Danica, of a household of practical-minded, Midwestern stock, had no problem using the recipe her husband recited from memory, even if real butter crusts were going out of style with the rise of margarine and artificial everything else. Gordon’s gentle hands would help by crimping edges of crusts as he sat with his wife and daughters, telling again their favorite tale, and no one would complain if the juices bubbled out or a too thin edge cracked in the oven’s heat. Every bite tasted as glorious as the sunsets he described.
So it was that Elinor and Jeanie grew up in a modern world of medicine without leaving behind the “kid stuff” of myth and legend. If their parents could still smile with amusement, not indulgence, at the rambling tales of Old Eli and Widow Therese, they could spin tales of their own to their hearts’ content. Jeanie embraced the “flights of fancy” as she called them and went off to the city to study literature at Columbia. Elinor could never be bothered to wipe enough dark earth off of her boots to enter the ivory tower, so she took her share of their parents’ savings for their education and spent it on the best acres of apple orchard around, the same ones Widow Therese had once owned.
By then, the town had expanded until it bumped right up against the farm and threatened any year now to engulf it with cookie cutter houses, but the widow’s family had never been able to sell the land to developers.
Elinor watched the widow’s grandson wipe sweat from his brow after signing the last of the paperwork.
“Not a moment too soon,” his realtor commented.
Elinor didn’t inquire, but rumor had it that the money from the sale would save him from a decade’s worth of back taxes recently unearthed by a diligent IRS auditor.
Elinor’s modest down payment and her family’s good name had secured a 30 year mortgage for the property. For the first three years, she struggled under the costs of the tending and refurbishing and replanting, but each year, with what apples she gathered, she made a half a dozen pies true to Widow Therese’s original recipe. Three for herself and three to set at the farthest corner of the property. And each year, when the snows came, she would dance in whirling leaps from the house to the stable and back before tucking herself into bed with a hot mug of cider. The moment all of the trees were hale enough to flower for her first good harvest, she wiped her own brow and whistled long and low. She sympathized with the grandson. It was a lot of work to run the orchard. But if he’d only known the trick to get the most of it, he’d never have let her make such a paltry offer. The next three years paid off the majority of her loan, and her friends and family never turned down a slice of her pie.

Inspired by Robert Frost’s “After Apple-Picking”

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Fly in the Web--Part 6

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

The woman stood stunned at this transformation and also at the new task she must fulfill or she may die. For three days she thought and thought. She thought of this and she thought of that. But she could not think of something that would be a proper gift for kindness. Not that would be as immediate and appropriate as fair punishment.

Her dog overheard her desperate questioning and he said he knew the answer. The woman got excited, thinking here was the answer she could give the fairy and therefore she might not die. The dog wagged its tail happily, in fact it wagged it so much that it knocked over a pretty vase, a cup and saucer, and a rare crystal figurine that the woman's grandmother had given her. But the woman was so excited and relieved that she did not care. She took the dog's paws in her hands and said, please, oh please, tell me.

The dog wagged its tail even more happily, threatening several more household items and said, "Give them a treat and a good rub behind the ears. That is a proper thank you for all things."

The woman was disappointed because she knew this would not work because humans did not like dog treats or ear rubs from nearly strangers. But she did not show it because she did not want to ruin the dog's happiness. Instead she thanked the dog and gave him a treat and a good rub behind the ears.

The gate also overheard her questioning, and it said it knew the answer to what would be a good gift for kindness. Again the woman grew excited that here was the answer she could give the fairy and therefore she might not die. The gate swung back and forth happily at the idea of being helpful and said, "Oil their hinges and give them a good coat of new paint. That is the proper thank you for all things."

The woman was again disappointed because she knew this would not work because humans did not have hinges or need painting. But she did not show it because she did not want to ruin the gate's happiness. Instead she thanked the gate and sprayed its hinges with WD-40 and gave it a coat of new paint.

Now the geraniums had seen all of this and had seen the woman's disappointment at each answer because plants are very perceptive creatures. It whispered to the woman, because it also did not want to ruin the dog's and gate's happiness by suggesting they were wrong, that it knew the answer to what would be a good gift to those who are kind. Again the woman got excited that here was the answer she could give the fairy and therefore she might not die.

The geraniums rustled their leaves and nodded their flowers in happiness of being helpful and said the proper thank you for kindness was to be repotted and watered regularly and have its dead flowers pinched off so it might grow new ones. Again the woman was disappointed because she knew humans do not grow in dirt or have flowers that need pinching. But she was extra careful not to show it, because plants are very perceptive, and she thanked the geraniums and repotted and watered them and everyday she pinched off the dead and dying flowers so it might grow new ones.

By the third day the woman still had no answer and was in despair nearly to tears because she knew without an answer she would die. The fairy returned with a pop. The woman trembled and her eyes fulled with tears.

But the fairy showed no pity or care. She asked, "Do you have an answer? What should be done for those who show kindness?"

The woman shook so much she could barely speak, but she knew to have no answer at all would go worse for her than having the wrong answer and so she said, "I don't know. It seems to be so very individual. The dog wanted a treat and a rub behind the ears, and the gate wanted oil on its hinges and a new coat of paint, and the geraniums wanted to be repotted and watered and to have is dying flowers pinched. Each had such vastly different answers and all of those are kindnesses in return, but there seems to be nothing one can do to bring about true justice for those who are kind as you did for me."

The woman stopped speaking, even more afraid than before. The fairy said nothing. An idea struck the woman. She remembered the dog wagging his tail in happiness and the gate swinging back and forth and the geraniums rustling their leaves and nodding their flowers. "Perhaps the reward for kindness is already there. Kindness brings a happiness all its own."

The fairy nodded sagely, but said nothing.

Suddenly a fit of anger and petulance struck the woman at the unfairness of it all. She grew reckless and stomped her foot because that was a silly answer. An even worse answer than giving treats and ear rubs or oil and paint or dirt and water. It was the silliest answer of them all and she hated it.

"I don't like this answer," the woman said. "Not one bit. I want justice. If it hadn't been for you there would have been no justice for me. The boys would have continued splashing people in their car, the other woman at work would be celebrating her promotion, and the gunman, even caught, would feel nothing and I would be dead. But for you, nothing would have harmed the wicked or helped the kind. If not for you, it would just be unfair and stay that way."

The woman was now so angry she could not stop and she stomped again. "I hate it. I wish it were different. I want karma. I want good things to happen to the good and bad things to happen to the bad. I want everything to turn out right. I want a promise that everything will turn out right and everyone will get their just desserts."

The woman finally stopped, and realized she had just been very rude to the fairy and she trembled even harder than before expecting the fairy to rise up and kill her on the spot. The woman nearly wished it so she wouldn't have to be in an unfair world anymore.

But the fairy was not angry. Instead she looked very sad. After a moment she said, "I do to. That is why, when I saw your future, I decided to help you."

And with that the fairy disassembled and again became the fly. She flew off and the woman never saw her again. But from then on the woman knew the true, though unfair, secret of happiness and, except for moments of frustration at the unfairness of the world, truly did live happily ever after.

THE END

The end of my very first fairy tale! Thank you all for reading it and I hope you enjoyed it. I'm going to take a few days off from the fantastic, not to mention I have updates on my gothic blog to make. I will return with a new story for you on Thursday. See you then!! <3 <3 <3

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Fly in the Web-- Part 5

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Once inside the cricket again began to shake and to shiver and to come apart in pieces that enlarged until the same small woman stood proud as before, only this time she seemed to be wearing the black armor of a cricket carapace instead of a dress of glimmering fly scales.

The woman stared even more than the first time as the fairy was even more magical and wonderful to her after the experiences of the last few days than she had seemed even on the frist day. Inside of her welled a fountain of such relief and gratitude that she had no words even to say it.

The fairy understood this and as is the way with fairies, she preferred it.  All fairies hate to be told Thank You as it is the words one would tell an underling to dismiss them and fairies are never servants nor underlings nor menial nor drudge nor employee to anyone, human or otherwise, but especially not human.

Fortunately, although the woman did not know this, her dumbstruck mind skipped over the "Thank You" that would have been expected in common polite society, and instead realized that what should do was to offer her guest refreshments. "Would you like some coffee?" she asked. "I have some Diet Cola in the refrigerator, but I don't know how much carbination it has...." The woman trailed off, seeing nothing in the reaction of the fairy at all. The woman took a deep breath and let the fountain of gratitude finally release.

"I owe you everything. My job. My life." The woman would have continued but the fairy said, "Fair payment for what i owed you. Now we are even. What did you think of the justice meted out to the malicious?"

"It was fun to see," the woman said. And then she thought a moment. The boys who splashed water.  That punishment had been perfect. That they were doused instead and the small damage to the car seemed to perfectly fit the crime.

Then there was the office. Again, justice was meted out, and seemingly to the right people. Or was it? At the second presentation it had seemed that the entire office looked guilty.  As if they were all in on the scheme to get rid of her. And at the time she was angry enough to want them all fired. She'd even determined to do that on Monday morning. But now that anger had somehow blown away with the next events and she held no anger at them anymore. The punishments for her boss and her boss's boss were fair. Anyone boss involved in such a thing should be fired. But she couldn't help but feel for him. He was near retirement age, but had recently acquired a young wife and new baby to care for.

He had a big house that he could barely make payments on when he was working. He had a new expensive car. The woman suddenly could feel his insecurity. Why he felt he needed all of these things. Why he would wish to promote someone he could keep as a strand in his web, catching and sticking to his words and policies. The woman knew she would work hard, but would also follow her conscience above all. She saw why he could not promote her, and a small part of her, very small, just a sliver of a sliver, felt sorry for him. She did not know where this part came from. This sliver of a sliver. But she thought it must have been from the past three days.

The gunman, who had tried to kill her and her friends she could not fathom. Except that there would be people who loved him and would be shocked at this. That he had been a swaddled baby once and then a little boy who brought home painting and drawings from school. Yes, it was justice and she would not condemn what had saved her life. But she couldn't cheer it or feel happy for it either.

And so, after much thought, she answered, "Even when things are perfectly just, it doesn't mean that anything is easy."

The fairy nodded quietly. "This is true," she said. And it was neither a complement nor a condemnation. Neither good nor bad. It was a statement that let the woman know the fairy now though of her as more than a human. That the fairy considered her wise.

The fairy seemed lost in her own thoughts. Finally the woman said, "May I ask you another question?"

They fairy looked up and said, "Ask whatever you wish."

"What about the kind? There was justice for the wicked, but what about the kind? Shouldn't they receive more justice than the wicked?"

The fairy looked somewhat shocked at this query. "I've never thought of such a thing before."

"It stands to reason," the woman shrugged.

"Yes, it does, doesn't it?" The fairy frowned. Then she stomped her foot, suddenly angry. "You ask far too many questions, human. I don't have an answer for you. Why should I have? I'm not a philosopheress."

The woman took a step back, confused by this sudden change in demeanor of the fairy. "I did meet your kindness with justice. And more! You saved my life. I saved your life, your job, and your clothes. What more do you want? Justice for all the kind? Justice for all the evil? I just told you I spent quite a lot of energy to do what I did for you. Since that is not enough, you tell me what justice should be given to the kind. I'll return in 3 days for your answer and if it seems you do not have one, then it shall be as if you'd never seen me."

The woman started to protest, saying she hadn't meant it in such a mean way. That she was just... but it was no use. The fairy didn't even bother to change form. There was a small pop, and she was gone.

Part 6

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Fly in the Web-- Part 4

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

The third day

The third day was a weekend and passed quietly away. She worked in her garden. She scrubbed her floors. She watched television. And it seemed that nothing bad could happen to her that day.

Then a friend called and invited her out. Some of them were going to a local place and having food and beer and did she want to come out. She considered this seriously for some minutes, wondering if she could avoid the danger the fairy had foretold. Would it come to her if she went out? Or would it come to her if she stayed in? So far the fairy had been correct in her prediction, and the woman feared what would come next. She had a foreboding feeling in her stomach that said this time there would be the worst of trouble.

She looked at the clock and saw there were 3 hours left until midnight, when the day would be over and she would be safe. She thought of her options. The first to remain home and jumping at every shadow, watching the clock, and fearing for her life. Or the second, to go with friends where she would have warmth and support and the comfort of company and laughter. Not to mention she had yet to celebrate her new promotion. She even had yet to tell anyone of it. She agreed to go out and said she would meet her friends at the restaurant.

It was the sort of night that only comes once or twice a year. The moon was down and the stars shone brightly. Meteors fell from the sky leaving sparkling trails like rockets. The air had that indescribable smell of freshness that only comes in spring, and the night was warm enough to be comfortable and cool enough to refresh. The woman walked along, trying to enjoy the perfect evening, but she found it hard. She looked around every corner and eyed every person she passed, wondering if this was the danger that would come. She hurried along, as if something unknown were chasing her, going somewhere between a walk and a run until she saw the light of the restaurant and her friends in a group, talking in the light from the outside sign. She ran to them then, feeling safer in the group and they laughed that she was out of shape because she was breathing hard, not knowing she had nearly run the entire way.

They went inside. The little place had only a few tables crammed inside a little space and their group was large enough they took up two. Their waitress was the owner's granddaughter, who had only just turned 18 and was still learning to get used to the wider, womanly hips that seemed to have suddenly appeared on her. She had been born here, and knew three languages, English, the native tongue of her family, and Dutch because she had just come back from being an exchange student in Holland. She was working in the restaurant for the summer and looking forward to starting college in the fall. The owner came out of the kitchen to greet them and admonish them and give them grief for being such children and she should tell each of their mothers that they were out so late and they all groaned and laughed. The grandmother had never learned English and so remained in the kitchen as the other family waited tables. She knew everyone and always had a piece of candy or two in her purse to sneak to little ones in church. Everyone in their group had gotten a candy from her more than a dozen times growing up.

The woman looked around for any sort of trouble, but only saw the comforting walls and posters. The usual music playing. The people she had always known. They ordered their food and beer and ate and laughed, staying after the official closing because the grandmother had accounts to do and since she was up, she let them.

The woman began to relax and feel safe. She looked up at the clock and realized they'd been there for hours and it was now 10 minutes to midnight. Her friends got up and said it was time to leave and a sudden fear struck her. Outside suddenly no longer seem fresh and beautiful but like a dark and dangerous place. An open place where she would be alone and anything might come up from all sides.

No, she begged them. Not yet. One more beer. They hadn't yet celebrated her promotion. At the mention of the promotion everyone clamored to hear more since she hadn't said a word about it. They all sat down and someone called to the grandmother to come hear, that she had gotten a big promotion.

The woman glanced up at the clock. Seven minutes to midnight. She began to tell her story, beginning with explaining the important presentation. But she kept her eye on the clock. Five minutes to midnight. 4 minutes to midnight. 3. 2.

The door broke open with a crash. Some screamed. Some ducked. A man wearing all black and carrying a gun stepped inside. He had greasy blond hair and cold gray eyes. He spoke and said some things that are horrible to say and will not be repeated here. He blamed them all for all his troubles, even though not a one of them had ever seen him or met him before. He yelled at them obscenities and abuse and finally said, "If you won't go back to your own goddam country I'll get rid of every one of you." And with that he started shooting.

He shot towards the little granddaughter who had been too frightened to even move. The bullet missed her and sank into the wall. He shot at the group of friends who minutes before had been breathlessly hearing about good news and only succeeded at hitting the floor. He stepped closer and shot at one of the woman's friends.

This time he hit and her friend collapsed with a sad groan and began to bleed on the floor but he was not dead. The man stepped closer with full intent to finish his murder. The woman instinctively flung herself between the gunman and her friend, wishing to shield him from further harm. The man held the gun steady and for a moment she looked straight into the barrel of the gun and she could never be sure but she thought she saw something in there, where her eyes shouldn't have been able to see anything at all. Her eyes went to the clock, just above the gunman's shoulder and saw the second hand tick. 15 seconds to midnight. 14. 13. The man aimed right between her eyes and pulled the trigger.

 There was a bang and a shriek.

No one ever could figure out how it happened. Even the gun experts were stunned, saying they'd never heard of anything like it. When the gunman pulled the trigger, the gun exploded into a million billion pieces. It blew off the man's hand and burned his face and neck. It seared his eyes, blinding him, and bits of metal lodged themselves in places where doctors could not take them out. The man spent the remainder of his days blind and in pain.

But, and this was something else no one could understand, no one else was injured. They were showered with slivers of metal that never cut and tinkled as they stood up and the metal fell off of their clothes.

The friend was fine. The bullet had gone cleanly through, barely scraping a bone. Many years later he would show the scar to his grandchildren and tell them how he was saved by the grace of god and the miracle that no one was hurt but the man pulling the trigger. The scar was big and round enough to be impressive and yet small enough to never be a bother and when he died the incident was even in his obituary, telling how he was the one who had been shot that night.

After the police and the ambulance had come and statements were taken and events gone over and everyone had mostly stopped quaking and holding hands, the woman went back to her ordinary home. There she found her ordinary dog dancing about, desperate to go out for a walk. She hurried, letting him out into the yard to relieve himself. Then she called him back. She was still too scared to take him for a walk. But the dog wouldn't come back. Instead he started to bark joyfully and spin in circles as if he were seeing a long lost friend again. The woman called him inside and this time he came, trotting along as a large cricket hopped beside him.

She opened the door and the dog went in, happy and expecting his treat, as was the nightly custom. But the woman wasn't going in and heading to kitchen to get the treat. She was still standing at the door, holding it open for the cricket. "Won't you come in?" she asked. And in two hops, the cricket came inside.

Part 5
Part 6

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Fly in the Web-- Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

The second day

The next day began as any other. The woman got up, went to work, and started to do her job. She was excited, because she had to give a big presentation for the president of the company that day and she greatly wanted to impress him.  She began to prepare for this when she noticed her presentation was missing.  She looked everywhere, but could not find it. She asked her co-workers and they all pleaded ignorance.

But the woman knew who had taken her work. It was another woman, also vying for promotion and giving a presentation that afternoon. But the woman had no proof of this and even if she had, there was little she could do with it. The other woman had worked with the company for a long time and she was great friends with boss and their boss's boss. When the woman had gone to them with complaints of sabotage before they simply told her to stop telling lies to get ahead and "playing the race card" and sent her about her work with a warning.

So the woman despaired, but refusing to give up completely, spent the morning trying to piece together in half a day what had been months of work and preparation. When the others went to lunch she continued to work, and by the time the presentation was to begin, she had cobbled together a sad and ugly version of what her beautiful presentation had been. The woman knew she had no hope, but she would not give up and show up with nothing but excuses. She would soldier on.

The presentation went off as badly as expected. She came off looking horribly stupid and ill-prepared in front of everyone, especially to the president of the company, whom she had barely met before and she knew this was a terrible first impression of her and her work.  The president of the company frowned while the other woman and her boss and her boss's boss all looked satisfied and smug.

She tried to explain about her missing presentation that she had left neatly by her desk the night before, but the president of the company was too angry to listen and told her she was foolish to lose something so important and that it spoke badly of her as an employee and she should consider herself on probation until he made a decision as to what to do with her.

The woman returned to her desk, nearly in tears, and began to pack up her things, knowing she would be fired later in the afternoon, while around her the entire office whooped with joy for the other woman and congratulated her, saying the promotion was as good as hers now. The woman had never felt so dejected and alone, and she went into the bathroom for a moment to wipe her eyes and try to hide that she was crying.

Later that afternoon her boss called her. He looked very stern. He brought her to his boss's office where his boss looked very stern. The president of the company was there and he also looked very stern. The woman looked from one man to the other and knew she was going to be fired. The president very gravely asked for her explanation. She again told her story. When he asked her where it could have gone she had no answer. She did not want to accuse anyone innocent, and while she suspected the guilty, she would not want to be the cause of any innocent person's distress. And so she simply said that she didn't know.

When she had no answer the president said he respected that she would not accuse others for her own guilt, but that her boss and her boss's boss had been telling him that her work was subpar and ill prepared and had been for some time now. The president said it was clear she was not prepared, and he couldn't afford dead weight in the company. She could consider herself terminated.

The woman tried not to cry. Despite her coworkers, she had always loved her job and worked diligently and hard. And now she was being fired through no fault of her own. She stood in the office and stared dumbly at the president of the company, wanting to say something, but not knowing what. The president became uncomfortable under her wide, hurt gaze and said, "You can go now."

Just then, the largest and loveliest monarch butterfly flew through an open window (no one could remember opening it, in fact, no one knew before that the windows could be opened) and landed on a poster borad that was tucked away in a corner behind the desk.

Now the president of the company was very fond of butterflies. His mother had been a scientist who studied them and his earliest memory was being where the monarchs wintered in the south and watching them fly about them by hte hundreds and thousands, surrounding him in their black and gold and he looked up and saw a sky so blue between the thousands of wings that it nearly made him cry. But of all the thousands of butterflies he had ever seen, this was the largest and most beautiful and he felt a need to get closer to look at it.

He stood up, awed, and rather than frightening it, the butterfly stayed on the poster board, slowly flapping its wings as though it were preening under the attention. The president of the company was too focused on the butterfly to see it, but the woman's boss and her boss's boss blanched the color of day old oatmeal because they knew the very poster board the butterfly had landed on was the stolen presentation of the woman. They held their breaths and hoped the butterfly would fly away.

But the butterfly did not move. It stayed there, preening under the president's attention, until, in a fit of panic, the boss's boss suddenly launched himself at the butterfly, shouting, and swatting at it.

But the butterfly eluded him, quickly walking to the underside of the poster, the part that faced the wall.

The president got annoyed and told the boss's boss to sit down. It was only a butterfly, and the boss's boss sat because there was nothing more he could do.

The president carefully lifted the poster board to reveal the butterfly and as he did the woman saw her own presentation.

"That's my presentation!" she cried and pointed her finger at it.

"What do you mean?" asked the president, suddenly confounded.

"That's my missing presentation." As if to confirm the accusation, the butterfly flew off the poster board and landed on the woman's outstretched finger.

The president looked down at the poster and saw a thumb drive taped to it with the woman's name on it and knew it truly was her missing presentation. On her finger the butterfly preened once more and then flew up and out of the window, out into the bright sunshine.

"What does this mean?" he asked. And though her boss and her boss's boss stammered and protested ignorance, their guilty faces gave them away. The president now called all the office back into the conference room and told the woman to give her real presentation.

It was the best work anyone had ever seen. The graphics were beautiful, the information thorough, but never boring, and her delivery calm and clear. The president was immediately impressed. He looked around the room at the various pale and sweating faces and knew why the woman's work had suddenly gone missing that morning.

He promoted the woman on the spot and fired her boss's boss. Her boss he demoted down to her former position for being a part of the collusion and sabotage of a fine employee and for lying about her work. From then on the woman's career was as stellar as her work. The company grew and she became vice president and then president after the current president retired. All her employees loved her as the best boss they'd ever had and the president never regretted the day he promoted her, nor forgot that he had nearly fired her because of a wicked plot, except for a butterfly that flew into the room. He filled his garden with milkweed, the food of monarch butterflies, so they would always have a place to fly to.

As for the other woman, without the support and patronage of those higher up than her, her slipshod work was clearly seen. She ended her career in a dead end middle management position, until, on her retirement, it became clear that she had defrauded the company for thousands of dollars. She died in jail.

Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Fly in the Web-- Part 2

Part 1

The first day

From her little cubical she could not see the rain that fell all that day, but she could hear the drops on the roof and she knew her walk home would be wet and cold. Especially since she had forgotten her umbrella. But by the time she was ready to leave the rain had stopped and the sun was beginning to see if it wanted to come out again that day or just remain tucked away behind the clouds.

The streets were very dirty and they were not well drained and so there were many puddles near the curb. Sometimes passing cars would run through them and may a big splash on the sidewalk next to it. Some sections of the sidewalk were nearly dry and some were still very wet because of this. But the road was wide and it was simple for drivers to avoid the puddles unless they wanted to see the splash.

The rusted out Toyota was filled with boys who wanted to see the splash. They were three brothers just out from school and enjoying the freedom of the eldest now having a license. They were not going anywhere in particular except to find the roads with especially big puddles, call out scores based on how big the splash, and declare extra points for dousing pedestrians.

The boys saw the woman and knew she was the perfect target, dressed as she was in her nice work clothes and with no umbrella. They bellowed with joy at the trouble they were about to cause.

The car hit the puddle perfectly. A tidal wave of muddy water rose into the air, so high it arced over the woman's head. She had just enough time to look up and see the underside of the wave before it came crashing down.

But not on her.

Inside the car the boys howled with shock as they were doused in dirty water. The car swerved first this way, then that way, until it finally ran off the road and into a pole.

The boys got out, shaking water from their clothes and barking swear words at each other, wondering what had just happened. The woman laughed and went home completely dry and warm. The boys went home as well, cold, wet, and angry at each other because they didn't understand how to be angry with themselves.

The car was mostly undamaged, but the bumper needed to be replaced and those are expensive.  They had to work all summer to pay for the repairs.Their parents were angry and took away the eldest's car privileges and they had to go back to riding the bus to school.

Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

I will try in the future to make the posts long enough that they are only about 2 or 3 parts, not much waiting for the next bit. But at the moment I am writing in bits and snatches as I finish my finals for school, so this one might take until Saturday. I'm not entirely sure what would be easiest for the readers, so if you have ideas on how you'd like this structured, how many posts for a story, and so forth, let me know in the comments. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Fly in the Web--Part 1

There once was a woman who had a quite normal job and a quite normal home. She had a normal dog and a normal cat and a gate and a small garden and she was very happy.

One morning, as she weeded her garden before work, she saw a beautiful spiderweb strung between two delphinium with a beautiful spider the shape of a diamond with black and yellow stripes. She was not afraid of spiders and in fact loved them in her garden where they killed the mosquitoes and pests. She was a very practical sort of woman and found that spiders generally left one alone and did their job well. But this spider was quite dead. She gently touched it to be sure and the spider did not move. Dead. But the web still shook because a fly had gotten caught in the sticky threads and was struggling mightily to get free.

Now the woman did not like flies any more than anyone else likes them. But as she watched the fly she began to feel sorry for it.  Had the spider been alive it would have been simply an act of nature.  But the spider was dead, leaving the fly to struggle until it died of exhaustion. It was an impractical thing to do, but something in the woman's heart moved and it seemed a terrible way to die, even for a fly. So she reached down and carefully pulled the fly from the sticky threads.

The fly sat on her hand for a moment as though relieved and catching its breath. The woman thought herself silly for imagining a fly feeling relieved and catching its breath. And yet, this fly certainly seemed to be doing so. She let the fly rest on her hand, though she had a practical urge to slap it and squash it dead. Had she seen it in her house she would have gotten her flyswatter. But she let the fly be, since she had saved it, it seemed a waste to now kill it.

And then the most extraordinary thing happened. The fly began to tremble all over, shaking as if it had a fever. Then it began to shake apart, pieces flying off. The pieces grew larger and reassembled and when it stopped moving there stood before the woman a small, dark woman, only about a foot tall. She was dressed in black with black hair that hung like ropes down her back. Her skin was so dark a brown the whites of her eyes seemed to shine. Her dress shimmered, like the iridescent scales of a fly's body. And yet, despite the blackness of her dress, she seemed to shine as though a light was within her.

She was the most beautiful person the woman had ever seen. The woman stepped back in awe of the tiny woman's beauty and the surprise of witnessing the transformation, which had taken only an instant.

The fairy (for what else could she be?) reached out her hand and took the woman's hand in hers and said, "I owe you much for your kindness. Without you I would surly have died in that web. As my thank you for your kindness, accept my gift. Three times in the next three days, someone will try to harm you, in ways big and small.  But these evildoers will not succeed for you are under my protection. There will be justice to the evildoers and not a hair on your head will be harmed."

And with this the pieces of the fairy flew apart and shrank and reassembled until all that was left was a fly, buzzing away past her head.

The woman was truly shocked and wondered two things.  The first was if all flies were truly fairies in disguise and she had been killing them all along. And the second, more worrisome thought was that someone would try to harm her three times in the next three days. She couldn't think of anyone who would bear any sort of grudge against her.

But again, she was a very practical woman and she had to get ready to go to work, so she decided not to worry over it. But of course finding out someone means to harm you is impossible not to worry about, and so she worried.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6