Bubbles the Elf

… And we’re back! Combine the holiday season with a theater-kid and the plague, and you have a ghastly soup called: Death or Something Like It.

Because I’m almost certain the last month is pretty close to what Limbo* was like – awareness, but without the ability to do anything, nor take anything but the most cursory pleasure out of being aware.

In short, it sucked, and it sucked all the life out of yours truly and family. Not even a pesky Druid in my head could induce me to do much more than exist through my days. Dumb plague (or flu, as it is more commonly known. I’m a hypochondriac who loves hyperbole). Anyway, I’m back now, and with me is some ridiculousness from my weekend.

(* Before the Catholics decided it no longer existed.)

The following was inspired by Terrible Mind’s “Who the Fuck is my D&D Character” Flash Fiction Challenge from last Friday, which you need to check out, because the challenge itself is awesome.  I’m pretty sure our tale of Bubbles the Elf is not what Chuck Wendig intended! 

Traditional Wassail - which, when drunk with brandy may or may not have had something to do with the story of Bubbles...

Traditional Wassail – which, when drunk with brandy, may or may not have had something to do with the story of Bubbles…

Bubbles the Elf has a storied history.

When Tom was nine, he received a Dungeons and Dragons starter set. His godmother and my best friend, Christine, spent New Year’s Eve with us, and was coerced into playing. She chose to play as the Elf. She named him Bubbles.

The name stuck, and while I think we only played two more times, (D&D is hard… there is all this math. I much prefer computer games that do all that … that … thinking themselves. And yes, this is how the world ends…) the name Bubbles stuck – and in times of need, we reference dear Bubbles to bring a ray of sunshine into our lives.

And that is the history of Bubbles the Elf.

Okay, perhaps his history is not that storied – but he does have an amusing, albeit weird, place in our hearts and this weekend, he finally earned his reward: retirement.

But not just any retirement. He now has a place of honor amongst our latest Clue game: Dungeons and Dragons Clue. And just in case you’re wondering, this is the 8th Clue game we’ve kept – we’ve owned a few more but at least two were given up to the garage sales I keep having in the forlorn hope that I may one day rid myself of clutter. (Yeah, I know. It makes me laugh, too.) We like Clue, and Christine has this amazing ability to ferret out fabulously unique editions each year for Tom’s Birthday/Christmas.

Bubbles' place of honor on the new Clue board.

Bubbles’ place of honor on the new Clue board.

So, in honor of Bubbles’ retirement (and the Clue game, because honestly – how can you not love D&D Clue?), I resurrected a silly but fun game/pastime/thing we used to do as teenagers: stories in the round. Below is the fruit of our nerdy (and juvenilely-perverted – you’ve been warned) efforts. Those of us sitting around the Clue board all contributed at least one section – even D got in on the game – and it has been edited only minimally for grammar.  It’s probably not suitable for work. Or the serious-minded. Or those who enjoy fine literature. Enjoy.

The Story of Boobs and Bubbles

It all started when Boobs wanted to visit the dragon.

“It’ll be great! With my Boobs of Fire Resist, we can’t lose!”

“Oh, we can lose something,” Bubbles muttered.

Boobs McGee rolled her eyes, strapped on her breastplate and tossed the Elven Wizard his gear.

Bubbles the Elven Wizard was notorious for his sexually harassing comments, as most Elven Wizards of the Eladrin School are, of course. But Boobs ignored him. All she wanted to do was see that dragon and get her hands on his gold.

They were nearing the dragon’s lair when all of a sudden, Boobs vanished, leaving Bubbles alone and confused.

In his confusion, Bubbles managed to stumble into a Vorpol Sword-wielding Redgar the Barbarian, Bubbles’ worst enemy. The Elven Wizard fell to the floor, headless.

D&D Clue... The nerdening is strong in my house.

D&D Clue… The elf now named Boobs is in red. . . the one year I chose *not* to be the Ms. Scarlet character. . . 

Boobs, on the other hand, was in the chambers of the great Dragon Lord.

The Great Dragon Lord took the form of a muscular, musky man. She was immediately disarmed by the mere appearance of the beast.

“My dear Boobs McGee,” the Dragon Lord-turned hunky warrior prince crooned. “How lucky for me you decided to drop in.”

Boobs curtseyed.

(And picked up her staff in the process.)

(Oi! No interrupting!)

(Says who? She picked up her staff. Deal with it, Druid.)

(Fine… bloody woman) Boobs trailed her red fingernails over the oaken staff and hugged it close as she stared into the Dragon Lord’s blazing eyes.

“You were expecting me, my lord?”

“I am always expecting you, my lovely Boobs.”

“It’s been a while.” She shimmied along the back wall of the stone cavern. The gold behind the Dragon Lord gleamed with an internal fire, and its glow was reflected in her ravenous amber eyes.

The Dragon Lord rubbed his hands together.

“Too long,” he whispered.

There are a few things people don’t seem to know about dragons. While dragons can transform into hunky humans, they can only do so for a limited number of sexual innuendos, and the Dragon Lord was one too many innuendos over his limit, so back into a dragon he turned.

This was unfortunate for Redgar the Barbarian, whose dirty mind had bade him to enter the dragon’s chamber to peep at the reunited lovers. The dragon transformed back into himself and Redgar’s position left him inside the dragon’s stomach, where he was slowly dissolved into stomach goop.

Boobs, named not for her ample chest, but because of her Brilliant Ornithological Observations Based on science, was slightly miffed at the Dragon Lord’s transformation, but was used to it. In fact, he so frequently blew all of his innuendos at the start of their conversation that it had been several years since he was able to express his affections.

Boobs left the saddened but surprisingly full Dragon Lord, and walked out of his chamber. As she left, she found a decapitated Bubbles. Much to her surprise, Bubbles’ head began to reattach, for as we all know, Vorpol Swords can kill gnomes, humans and especially Jabberwock, but are terrible at killing Elven Wizards. Boobs, sick of the abuse others gave her because of her figure, left him, mostly because his hands had started to grab towards her breasts as she went to help him.

As she walked into the sunset, her eye caught a rare Phoenix and she took out her magical notebook to do what she did best. And she observed it so well, she walked off the cliff.

The End

I'm really hoping the Dragon Lord was better looking than this.

I’m really hoping the Dragon Lord was better looking than this.

A: So, can you figure out who wrote each part?

D: That’s hardly fair – you interrupted my part – and called me Druid in the process.

A: Yeah, I had to. At the rate you were going, Ms. McGee – who is a fierce wizard warrior, by the way – would have been riding the damn dragon – and not like they did in Harry Potter 7, either.

D: (Salacious grin).

A: Oh, ew – stop that!

D: Stop what?

A: You know – smiling – lewdly. It’s gross, D. What would Mairead think?

D: Oh dear – you won’t tell her, will you? Promise me, A. She’s still not talking to me for that whole time-travel/abandonment thing.

A: Gee, go figure. Just stop slobbering all over the idea of Ms. McGee and I’ll think about it.

Happy Monday, folks – thanks for reading and I hope this tiny bit of ridiculousness made you smile, even if at just how bad it is! We’ll be back with some fun (and better, I hope) fiction soon, I promise!

Upcoming posts

An exciting reveal on Wednesday

A special Sneak Peek series, beginning Friday

Three Ghosts, a (belated) Christmas tale beginning Monday, January 19

The Heresy of Before: Spirit Keeper, Part 1

So, weeks ago, Terrible Mind’s Chuck Wendig had this fantastic flash fiction prompt in which the participants were to pick two sub-genres (technically to be picked by a randomizer but bah! rules) and have up to 2k words-worth of fun with them. I picked “dystopian” and “cozy.” Because, how hard could that be, right?

I mean, I love dystopian stories and cozies (and not-so-cozy) mysteries. I read them all the time. I should be able to write that, right?

Hahahahahahha.

On the plus side, D has been giggling for three weeks straight. I’m so glad I can give the character in my head sufficient amusement while his books are in the editing and almost-released-but-not-yet stage.

Adding to my “how hard could this be?” madness, I decided the dystopian of choice would be my Heresy of Before world. That’s when it went from fun to holy cow, now I better make this good because the Heresy of Before is going to be something someday and I don’t want to litter it with, you know, crap.

Eventually, I got over myself, and cranked out a rough draft – of the first part, at least. I’m still working on the second part.

It took a while to get over myself.

While I’m not fully back in blog mode (I’ve really been loving summer vacation – I’m tan, and not in a blushing-lobster kind of way. It’s very exciting), I figured I would share what I have – one, to get feedback, and two, to give myself the impetus to finish the bloody thing. So, without further ado (and please forgive the formatting, or lack thereof, I’m doing this on my phone!), part one of Spirit Keeper, a Heresy of Before mystery.

***

image

Our village was a tiny blot, a splash of color on an otherwise muddied map – that is, if we had any maps. Papa Henry, the oldest in the village, said his parents had kept maps, but even if he knew where those maps had disappeared to, he no longer remembered how to read them. Even if he could find them, was there a reason to? The landmarks and lines those relics depicted no longer existed. They marked the boundaries of the world Before. Now, our boundaries were marked by sand and death.

Our village was a tiny blot, but it was a secret blot, a refuge from the wider world.

The concerns of Big City rarely reached us here except when its wild-eyed and starved refugees managed to make it past the wasteland. Those who outran the dreadnaughts and whose lungs survived the poison pumped into the air were welcome to our haven. So long as they left the concerns of Big City behind, that is.

Most did. Only one man – a man who had been born to lands beyond our village – kept Big City in his heart and soul, always. Of course, it was from him we learned to weed out those who would cause us grief. Samuel, though he lived with us for years, remained a mystery to many. He was rumored to be a prophet, a lost king, a savior – if anyone believed in such things anymore.

Whether or not he was any of these things mattered little; Samuel and his beautiful wife, Caroline had gone from us more than a year ago. They had gone back to Big City, and possibly beyond, to rescue the child who had been torn from them.

They had no map for the fight that was to come, and I envied them their determination. Their spirit. Though we lacked maps, we had never acted without thought, without great deliberation.

In our tiny village – a place our forebears named Protection – we had what Samuel called Town Hall Meetings. We called them the Debate. Once a month we gathered in the village center. All five hundred of us, from infant to elder, met at the well as the sun first kissed the sky, and talked – harangued – jawed – to resolve our differences.

If whatever was crawling up the spine of a villager wasn’t settled by the time the mountains swallowed the sun, then it would just have to be settled at the next Debate. And the rule was, there could be no hard feelings, no retribution, in-between times, either. It was my job to make sure that participants adhered to the rules – played nice, as Samuel would say.

I am no elder like Papa Henry, nor am I a refugee, or a prophet like Samuel. I was born to the world outside, born with lungs that knew clean air, and limbs that relished freedom. My name is Ellie, and I am what amounts to the law in our village.

It had come out at the last Debate that there were things missing. None of the disappearing items were anything serious – nothing ever deemed of use, anyway – but things nonetheless. They were Before things. Even out here, there is a sort of mythology around these forlorn bits of flotsam left over from Before, which has sprung up in the wake of the banning of its memory.

Outside Big City, we were free to remember Before, but not many did. These precious keepsakes, passed down from one generation to the next, are all that we have left.

We don’t talk about them, but they are cherished. We have no gods, nor idols. We do not worship bits of code and glittering gadgets like the technocrats in Big City, but neither do we pray to the Old Grey Ones for deliverance, as those who grub for their livelihood in the City’s hellish streets. Yet, for all our supposed godlessness, our Elders do sometimes speak of the spirit of all, which lingers in each heart.

These keepsakes are reminders – repositories even – for the sacred memory of the spirit of all, and someone has been stealing them.

Continued in Part 2 | Part 3

***

D: That’s it?

A: What? I told you it was only Part 1.

D: But . . . but that’s barely even an intro! A, how could you leave me hanging like this?

A: To whet your interest?

D: Bah! I bet you don’t even know who did it.

A: I do too know. I mapped it out before I started writing. I even made sure it was logical.

D: Aren’t you the one who gets lost crossing the street? That renders your map metaphor as laughable. Tell me, do you know how you’re going to get there from here?

A: Well . . . .

D: Good lord.

A: Hey, I managed to muddle through your time travel with at least half my brain intact – and a semblance of continuity. I should be able to navigate a dystopian mystery.

D: Eventually.

A: Exactly. Thus – segments.

D: And when will Part 2 debut?

A: Next week.

D: Fair enough. I shall have to wait with bated breath until then.

A: (Eye roll). Gee, thanks, D. And thank you all for reading and for your feedback – have a lovely day!

Dancing in the Mind of the Beholder

This is for two WordPress Daily Prompts, yesterday’s: Mind Reader, and today’s: Game of Groans

***

I see a lot of people. I work in customer service, and moonlight in reception. It’s a people-palooza.

But this person – this person sparked my imagination.

We’ll call her Joan.

***

Our reception area looks nothing like this - I kind of wish it did, however. Photo courtesy Google images, marked for noncommercial reuse.

Our reception area looks nothing like this – I kind of wish it did, however. Photo courtesy Google images, marked for noncommercial reuse.

Oh my gosh, what am I doing? The door is locked – the door is always locked.

Did she see me yanking on the handle like an idiot? I hope not.

Damn, she’s opening the door. She saw.

I play with the keys in my hand and give the receptionist what I hope is a grateful grin.

“Thanks – I bet you have to do that a lot. Must be kind of fun watching people fumble.”

She gives me a noncommittal shrug. Is she French?

“It’s cruel,” she says. Definitely not French.  “People shouldn’t have to think that hard before they even get into work. By the way, I like what you did to your hair.”

My hair? She noticed my new haircut? I’ve only been here three days. How does she notice my hair? I bet she’s trying to make me feel better about forgetting the door is locked.

“My advice—“

Holy cow, she’s still talking. I must have really looked like a moron. Oh wait, I was staring at her for noticing my hair. Is my mouth open?

“Carry a lot of bags with you – I always open the door for bag carriers.”

She motions with her handy-dandy door-opener. I don’t even know who it is that’s coming through the door – I haven’t had my tour yet – but he’s got a ton of bags.

Like grocery bags. Like, he must be feeding his entire department from those bags.

I eye the receptionist and she nods at me.

Like magic, the doors open. Bag-holder-guy waltzes in.

I stare. “Bags?”

She nods back solemnly. “Bags.”

Huh. This might be worth pursuing. Go on. Talk to her. Be able to tell your mother you’ve actually made a friend.

“So, how about that “Dancing with the Stars” finale, huh?”

I’m not sure, but I think she’s developed a twitch. “Was it good?” she asks.

Was it good? Was it good?! It was the most spectacular show ever. That team nailed every single one of their routines all season! Was it good??!!

“Don’t you watch?”

“I don’t watch TV – although, I think I’ve seen an episode or two a few years ago.”

“Well, do you like music?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you like dancing?”

“I always wanted to learn ballroom – I’m just not a fan of the confessional, reality TV show side of it.”

“It’s not nearly as bad as “American Idol” – and you can, I don’t know, read a book or do your laundry when they’re telling-all if you want to. You really should watch.”

Her resolve is crumbling. I can tell. She’s an agreeable sort – either that or she just wants to get me out of her face. Ha! Not going to happen. This will teach her to be nice to newbies.

“I mean it. You should watch. I tell you what – if I can remember to swipe my key fob for the rest of the summer, you have to watch a season.”

“But I–”

“You can watch it online.”

Ha. That got her.

”All right. But you can’t take advantage of the bag thing – that’s cheating.”

“Deal.”

Look at that – it’s not even 8:30 and I’ve made a new friend and got a convert to DWTS. Not bad for the new girl.

***

D: None of that actually happened, did it?

A: Not exactly.

D: There’s no Joan, is there?

A: Not really – Joan is an amalgamation of a few people I see from my perch in reception. This was all for the WordPress prompts for yesterday and today – write from a stranger’s point of view, and write a ‘pro’ piece about a bit of popular culture you don’t actually like.

D: You don’t like “Dancing with the Stars?”

A: Not really – The dancing’s okay—

D: Okay? Okay?! A, the dancing is phenomenal – taking stars that might have 2 left feet and turning them into dancing machines is a joy to watch.

A: If you say so – I prefer scripted drama to the reality TV/human variety, however.

D: I don’t think I know who you are anymore, A.

A: Really?

D: Joan was right. You need to watch. And not just when the new season comes on. You need to watch right now.

A: But I – But Joan —

D: Now.

A: Oh boy. Put the salad tongs down, D. We’ve talked about this.

D: Will you watch?

A: You know those aren’t really threatening, don’t you?

D: Will you watch?

A: (Eye roll) Oh for heaven’s sake, yes. I’ll watch. But I’m making no promises that I’ll like it – or continue to watch.

D: That’s okay, then.

A: (Sigh) The things I put up with in order to have an agreeable muse and blog topics. . .

D: Admit it. You’d be bored without me.

A: I’d have salad tongs without you.

D: . . .

A: Whatever I say, it’s just going to go straight to your head, so can we just bid the good people adieu?

D: Ha! You admitted it!

A: Stop looking smug. Thank you all for stopping by, and have a wonderful holiday weekend, everyone!

Greed

(obsidian – from my collection and the inspiration for Gregor’s “lump”)

Gregor McLoughlin nearly wept as he held the lump in his hands.

Not because it was ugly – no, never because of that. Being a bit misshapen himself, he looked upon it as a-a kindred soul.

The old woman had called it that – kindred. Had said it would grant him his heart’s desire – grant it, so only he could have it.

She had cackled when she said it. Witch.

It was a greedy thing, this mangled bit of earth and-and something – something not of this world. It sucked the light right out of the room. It seethed, hot and demanding. He could feel himself nodding at it, willing to do wherever it needed.

He understood greed. Hunger.

People said – out loud, and often to his face – he was an avaricious git. Every time he heard them, he also heard the envy in their voices – envy, mixed often with desire.

Yes, he was greedy. And they wished they could be, too, he thought.

His cupidity had brought him very far in this life. He had the best – the best cars, the best house, the best boat, the best food – everything.

The one thing it hadn’t brought him was Nanette.

Nanette of the emerald eyes. Nanette, the darling of anyone who looked upon her.

No matter how high he reached, she was always there, always knocking him back down, until he was that pimply, unwelcome high-school boy again.

One touch. That was all it would take, the witch had said. Just one touch.

Gregor looked down at the lump, turned it in his hands and searched its surface. There. There she was.

Her glorious green eyes winked and flashed at him from deep within. He had her at last.

Gregor smiled and caressed the lump.

And he would keep her.

Forever.

***

A: At 300 words exactly, my entry into the WordPress challenge of the week – Flash Fiction.

D: Yeah, well. That was, uh, interesting. Gregor’s a little unhinged, A.

A: Yeah, he is.

D: And he keeps walking around, talking to the lump.

A: I know.

D: You’re going to regret letting him in here.

A: Possibly – but no more so than the zombie.

D: Oh by the gods, don’t remind me. It took weeks to get his . . . smell out of my cloak.

A: Oh, you poor druid.

D: You’re mocking me.

A: Gently, D. As for everyone else, don’t forget, there is also a prompt at the Community Storyboard – use the words “the first time” in your piece, or use the phrase as a launching pad to describe your first time at something – anything!

Random prompt

A: Hey, D, look – a new prompt at the Community Storyboard.
D: Prompt? Is it prompting you need, woman?
A: What? You don’t want me to tell the story about the first time you were whisked through time and impersonated a god?
D: Oh, well . . . when you put it *that* way. . .
A: (Eye roll) Thanks, D – check out “the first time” prompt, everyone – and have fun with it!

Moments to Remember: An Origin Story in Three Parts

life

Photos from the top: Some of those precious 30 books I carted to Ireland, me on the phone in Ireland (some things never change) and that cute kid I call, The Boy (11 years ago)! And behind it all, a printed beta-reader copy of Changelings.

The Daily Post had a prompt up yesterday that tied in beautifully with their weekly writing challenge: Reflections. What follows are the moments that define me. These moments are a part of the origin story of how I became a writer – or rather, the writer I am today. The writerly me of tomorrow may have a different tale to tell entirely.

The pre-history of me includes being the youngest of six by 15 years – essentially an only child – growing up on quite a few acres on the shores of Lake Michigan. I was late to reading and writing, but I always had an active imagination.

D: Active?! Ha! You thought you were Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, and your best friends were the characters from Star Wars.

A: Yes, yes and I wanted to be Indiana Jones when I grew up . . . Hush, D. You’ll get your turn.

Anyway, I moved to Ireland when I was 18. Technically, it was to attend the University College, Dublin, but as I think I have mentioned to my parents in the years since, I had a cover story should that university thing fall through. I had letterhead and everything. I was going. No matter what.

I was a writer and had something resembling a web presence then, too. I had queried a few agents and publishers on a draft that shares three characters with Changelings. Theoretically, it’s the same story, but all that’s left of the original is Maureen, Sean and Grace O’Malley.

I had a few nibbles but nothing big and as I prepared to move myself, my 30 I can’t-live-without-them-Dad-please-pack-them-in-a-box-and-fly-them-out-with-me books 4,000 miles east, I completely forgot about the letter from the then-Penguin Group publishing house, asking for the MS.

Because I’m an idiot.

Or not. That was before D entered the story. That was before the story took real myths and turned them on their head. That was before it was ready to actually be read.

Ireland was an adventure. It was eye-opening, exhilarating, terrifying and life-altering. At one point, I refused to leave and let my ticket home languish in a drawer. So much of the life I’m living now started in Dublin. I was almost married there, and my son was thisclose to being born there, too.

Which brings me to the second thing that has defined my life as a writer: Motherhood.

I went back to writing after my son was born. During naps and semi-early bedtimes, I wrote what is now D’s back-story. Five hundred pages-worth of back-story. It was once a book, but no longer. One day I may revisit it, but I don’t have the same urge to tell that story.

Besides, I’m not entirely sure there is a whole lot of interest in the convergence of the centralized Roman vs. monastic Celtic vs. pagan religious traditions in a small clan of Picts, overshadowed by looming war with the Kingdom of Northumbria.

Have I ever mentioned that I was a history major? I like to research. It’s fun.

In the middle of child-rearing, and after that mammoth book was done, I stopped. I put it aside. Yes, writing in a way still defined me, and I loved to read and research, but having that yearning without the discipline to put it to practice, without the discipline to do something to improve my writing meant it was always going to be a pipe dream.

Until I sat down and decided it wasn’t. It was the third moment to define writerly me. I’ve talked about my journey back to writing before. It’s why this blog exists. Essentially, it boiled down to this: the threads of the story that is Changelings began when I was 14. I’ve had Sean and Maureen rattling around in my head for 20 years. That’s all of my fingers and all of my toes. It was time to give them a book worthy of their loyalty. When D joined them, they found an advocate. An annoying, egotistical, bull-headed advocate.

D: Oi, woman! Surely, I get to combat that last?

A: Of course you do – tomorrow. (And don’t call me Shirley.)

D: Tomorrow?! (Oh for heaven’s sake, A. That joke is so old.)

A: (Tee hee!) Yes – that’s why it’s an origin story in three parts. Tomorrow you’re going to tell us the three moments that have defined your life as a man.

D: And what’s the third part?

A: You sound like you don’t trust me, D.

D: I don’t. What’s the third part, A?

A: I want you to look at yourself as the character in my head. I talk about you as a character, and you talk about you in the story, but you never really quite manage to talk about you as a character. I want to know how you coped all those years, being in a book that didn’t want you – having an author that didn’t quite like you.

D: You talk about it as though it were the past, A.

A: It is, D. I think we’ve come to an understanding –

D: HA! I knew it! You like me.

A: Well, yes –

D: No, don’t deny it, A. You like me!

A: Who’s denying?

D: You weren’t denying?

A: No. I was going to say I’ve actually had some fun blogging with you – some good insights, too. I can go back to describing you as annoying and bombastic, if it will make your diatribe worth something.

D: Um. I might have you do that, A. I’m not entirely sure what to do if I’m not contradicting you.

A: (Eye  roll). Me neither, D. Me neither.

D: So, is that it? You’re just going to set this up to lead into tomorrow’s post?

A: Uh, yeah. I mean, I have a few things: Charles Yallowtiz’ new Legends of Windemere book, Family of the Tri-Rune is doing great, Helena accepted a Liebster Award and nominated us (and I accept your challenging questions, darling!), and the Green Embers’ Recommends editor spotlight on the lovely mistress of Readful Things Blog, Ionia, is live.

D: That’s it?!

A: I know, I know – I haven’t had time to trawl the interwebs for interesting and amusing fodder for our dialogue, so this is it. Tomorrow, perhaps?

D: Tomorrow it is, then.

A: Thank you all for reading – have a fantastic day!

Part 1: A’s Writerly Origins | Part 1.5: Bookish Origins | Part 2: D’s Character Origins | Part 3: The Druid himself – an origin narrative

Three Below

“Wouldn’t it be funny if the ‘Three Little Pigs’ story got it wrong?”

“Wrong?”

“Yeah, like what if the wolf was the victim?”

“And those pigs were what, rival gangsters who had it in for each other?”

“Yeah, and the wolf was the hired gun. At the very end, the surviving pig in his big brick house – Vito Bacone – boiled him alive. “

“You are so weird.”

“Yeah . . . yeah, I am. Cheers, Andie.”

Rick lifted his glass and eyed me over the rim. The lager winked amber in the dim light. I wasn’t sure if he was going to salute me or throw it at me.

We live in the sun – that’s what he always told me. We live in the sun, and nothing can touch us. With a a few brews in the bucket, flowers dancing in the breeze and a lawn made for parties, what can go wrong?

Yeah. We used to live in the sun, but it wasn’t summer anymore. It hadn’t been summer for a very long time. And the sun – well, the sun was a piss-poor version of itself. It was an imposter.

The party bucket was frozen. The flowers were crusted with ice and reaching in vain for the sun. And that lawn? I hadn’t seen that lawn in three years.

When the news came down about the freeze, no one ever thought the islands would get too cold. Too wet maybe – with bugs so big you’d be afraid to let your dog out at night, lest the beasties eat him – but never too cold.

Rick was a helo pilot – gave tours, or used to. No one came to the islands to see snow. I tried to supplement our income with art from the volcanoes – they still smoldered, even under the sheets of ice that crept ever closer to the tops. The meeting of fire and ice had been novel at first, but it was a dwindling trade.

At least they still had brews – and if we wanted them really cold, we could still keep them in the tin bucket. There weren’t any parties anymore, though. We had tried – even had an igloo building contest one year – but as the sun died, the joy just seemed to drain out of them, like so many drips from a spent icicle.

He was still looking at me over the edge of the glass.

“What is it, Rick?”

“You didn’t laugh.”

“I didn’t – laugh? About what?”

“Vito Balcone. I thought it was pretty good.”

He put down the glass. That manic look was gone from his eyes and I patted his hand. It wouldn’t have been the first lager tossed around the squalid little hole in the ground – probably wouldn’t be the last, either – but at least we wouldn’t be scrubbing the floors tonight. There were better ways to keep warm.

“It was good, babe – real good.” I gave that hand a squeeze. “Why don’t you put down that glass and show me just how good you are – but leave out the pigs this time, yeah?”

* * *

D: Nice, A.

A: Okay, frankly, I was hoping something beautiful, stark and lyrical would come flowing from my fingertips in response to WordPress’ weekly challenge. All the same, I’m pretty fond of this mashup between Papi Z’s Three Little Pigs prompt and the ‘Threes’ writing challenge.

D: You would be. But that isn’t important.

A: It isn’t?

D: No, it really is not. Yesterday you had a post, inviting our readers to become part of The People’s Republic of Helena by supporting her Kickstarter campaign.

A: I did.

Book Cover.pdf-page-001 (1)D: You failed to mention that THE ONLY WAY to get a personalized copy of the beloved Dilettante’s  book, Memoirs of A Dilettante, Vol. One (pictured at right), is to support the campaign.

A: THE ONLY WAY!

D: I just said that.

A: I was reiterating.

D: Indeed. So, beloved readers, go forth, support and come away with your very own piece of Helena.

A: That sounds dirty.

D: You’re the one who actually had to specify for her characters that pigs were not allowed in the bedroom.

A: Look, Rick was really pleased with his ‘Bacone’ joke – Andie needed to make sure boundaries were set.

D: Weirdo.

A: Thanks, D. That is all for tonight, folks – thank you for reading and have a lovely evening!

Dream-maker

This is *not* from my dream - it is however, a landscape inspired by another dream... one with a Druid, two orphans and the Faerie realm.

This is *not* from my dream (okay, the milk bottle may have been inspired by that beautiful, beautiful apartment, but that’s it. Honest). It is, however, a landscape inspired by another dream. That dream is home to a certain Druid I call D. 

I don’t remember my dreams very often. Those I do are worked into books (thanks, D), pondered because they’re just weird, or immediately discarded because they’re so horrible, I’m afraid of incurring the feeling of them throughout my day.

Sometimes though, the dreams I remember are heralds. Not in a way that is prophetic – there are no lotto numbers rattling around my subconscious, nor are the answers to the universe (besides, I think someone already figured that out and it is 42). The closest I’ve come to prophesy is when my dream life tells me my girlfriends are expecting. This is only useful if said friends are coming to a party, and I need to make sure there is something for them to imbibe.

By heralds, I mean the dream shows me something – something about myself I want to shine brightly, or something I know I can do and want to incorporate into my life. I dreamt one such herald three years ago. It started out with a field trip. I can’t recall if we were students in high school or college, but we were on a bus, heading back to dorms. It quickly shifted to having to return to school. I was given a choice: stay in the city or go back to school.

I stayed.

I said goodbye to all my friends, promised to call and began living my life.

I remember feeling a tremendous relief that I never had to go to school again, that I was never going to be expected to measure up to someone else’s metric, that I could learn for its own sake, do things for their own sake and live how I wanted to. Never mind that I had not been enrolled in school for at least 3 years at that point.

The freedom of not being beholden to anyone was a beautiful feeling. I remember rushing through this delightful city (still don’t know where it was – or whether it is a real place) and made my home in some sort of warehouse or loft. I have no idea how long I stayed – long enough to decorate though, and let me tell you, it was fabulous. It mixed up the best of shabby chic, art nouveau, reclamation and all sorts of wonderfulness in a way that I have only ever – pardon the pun – dreamed about. I still draw pictures of what I remember so I can have the ideas when the time comes to move and redecorate an apartment – which, if the gods are kind, will not suffer Wisconsin winters, and perhaps make use of that EU/Irish passport languishing in my drawer.

So, aside from lusting after the apartment, what made this dream shine in my memory was that I was leaving. Again. I left the apartment, and the leave-taking was done in rather short order. Not only that, but I had with me a single suitcase and box. I was travelling light, and although the apartment was incredible, I wasn’t sad to see the things go.

The box, by the way, was for those items that were not mine. I had the wherewithal to recognize that I had pilfered some of my best friend’s things and would have to send them back to her. See, Christine, you’ll get that purse back. Eventually.

The final leave-taking of the dream was bittersweet – not in the dream, mind, but for me upon waking. It was also the only true herald it contained – so far.  In the process of packing up my life (and that gorgeous apartment), I realized I was leaving my then-boyfriend. It took two years for this part of the dream to become a reality, but even then I knew, in the dusty recesses of my heart, that the relationship wouldn’t last, that it was a thing I would eventually have to grow out of. It wasn’t a bad feeling; it just took a while to acknowledge.

I am not ashamed to admit that I also lied about this part, when I shared with said boyfriend this ‘really awesome’ dream I had (forgetting that I’d dumped him at the end). It’s not really nice to tell your then-paramour that the best part of the dream was the fact that you were leaving him. It’s just not polite. But now, I can admit that the leaving was the best part. I was headed off into god-knows-where, but I was happy. I was relieved. And the world held in it a promise of more.

It’s something I need to remember more often.

For today’s WordPress Daily Prompt, Sweet Dreams.

In the News

A: Green did his own version of the Daily Prompt, here. And thanks to Green for reminding me that these daily prompts exist. Because I had no idea what to put out there today.

D: Of course, that implies that she has an idea of what to put out all the other days she manages to post.

A: Oi – watch it, Druid. There’s all sorts of leave-takings–

D: But never mind the creative genius glaring at me from the corner.

A: Nice save, D.

D: I thought so. In other news, John W. Howell’s new book, My GRL is available in a few new locations. Check them out and tell him the Druid sent you.

A: Because that will make his day. Our favorite Dilettante is going places, too – there’s a new installment of the Jessica B. Bell Bayou serial, and there’s a twisted little tale over at the Community Storyboard.

D: Not only that, but her Kickstarter has reached 55% of its goal – stop by and congratulate her, and while you’re at it, sign up yourself. There’s less than a month to go, and there are some delightful benefits for participating!

A: Also, Scott Navicky, a new-to-me author of the novel, Humboldt, or The Power of Positive Thinking, had an excellent interview with the Chicago Literati. My favorite takeaway: Mr. Navicky considers himself a “magpiethinker.” That word sang in my head for the rest of the interview.

D: And finally, Ms. Marie Ann Bailey had a wonderful interview with Paperbook Collective curator, Jayde-Ashe Thomas. It’s a wonderfully cozy, informative and charming interview. Both Marie and Jayde are lovely, and the interview is a delight to read.

A: And that is it for today, folks. Thank you for stopping by and reading and have a fantastic day!

Deeper

snow3

The winter that started it all (and the view from my window).
February 2014

He whistled to his comrades to run – the humans were at it again.

It had all started in the winter of ’14 – the winter that never truly ended. So many had died; so many younglings that never woke up.

Now, life rarely managed to struggle through the dry, crusted ice that covered the world. Those with the biggest teeth, fiercest claws and toughest hide snatched at it first, anyway. Bark, snails and grubs weren’t plentiful, but at least they could still be found.

Cold and starving, the winter burrow became their only burrow. Each year it went deeper and deeper, as the frost line chased them into the earth. Other things chased them into the earth, too – things that had claws and teeth to gnash and tear, but not the hides to protect them from the raw winds.

Humans.

Man had begun to dig. Their holes made the earth tremble. They brought fire down below and choked out what was left of the life there. He and his people moved beyond their reach, but they kept coming, ever deeper to escape the cold.

Their cities withered and died up top, but what was left of man no longer remembered what life was like in the sun. They were wrinkled and pale under their coating of dirt. With fingers crabbed and backs stooped, their lives had become fierce and bloody.

He knew because when they first descended into the ground, they brought what was left of their learning with them. But even as the humans forgot, he and his kin began to remember.

It was a bitter trade.

He whistled again. The younglings were too far behind. He scampered back, tried to rally them.

So tired. So tired of running.

Every Full Snow Moon, it was the same thing. What was left of man begged the gods to let the ice recede.

No, he shrilled. We have to survive – you have to survive, to teach the next generation.

Maybe if the younglings lived, one day things would change. Maybe they would reclaim the sky.

The earthen wall behind him crumbled. They had come. The younglings scampered and he snatched and bit at the reaching hands. They swiped at his fur and their claws dug in his skin. He wanted desperately to flee, but they would just keep chasing him.

No. He would run no more. He would make his stand here, and give his kin the chance to flee to deeper, warmer, lands.

The humans were armed with more than their hands and jagged claws, but he didn’t see it until it was too late. The club came down and all went black.

When he woke, the whispers of lost lore surrounded him. They filled his ears and made his heart ache.

“Will it be spring?”

“Will the snows recede?”

“Will the sun shine on us again?”

They didn’t even know what the words meant anymore. It was all part of the play. So many of his kin had given their lives for this charade and now it was his turn, too. At least the younglings would live to see tomorrow. It was enough.

The groundhog never stood a chance. The knife flashed in the weak firelight, and the remnants of humanity cackled and cried over his blood.

For Papi Z’s flash fiction prompt: “The Ground Hog never stood a chance,” in honor of the never-ending winter of 2014.

In other News

D: Congratulations, A.

A: Um. . . pardon?

D: Congratulations. It’s your 200th post.

A: Oh yeah, it is. Good lord, how did that happen?

D: I’m not sure. For a scribe who spent 10 years not writing, 200 posts in less than a year isn’t bad.

A: I’d say – and considering Ragnarok is nigh, I made the milestone just in time!

D: So, how do you think that’s going to pan out?

A: Loki. Loki wins.

D: That’s not even – it wasn’t a question of who–

A: Doesn’t matter. Loki wins.

Courtesy Giphy

Courtesy Giphy

D: (Eye Roll) Odin help us.

A: Ha! Not bloody likely.

So, that’s all for today, folks – thank you so much for stopping by the D/A Dialogues. We’ve had a lot of fun these last 200 posts. Here’s to 200 more!

The Sea

We live by the sea. It is just beyond us, really – a few kilometers away, over hill and heath – but it’s always there. Always breathing, always glaring or shimmering, depending on its mood.

That’s what she would say. That it had moods.

You can just see it from the kitchen window. It is a small thing, that window: square, flanked by bleached muslin and crowded with delicacies she would unearth from the water. Yet, often I would find her, standing there, elbow-deep in suds, just staring out at the sea.

And then one day, she wasn’t.

Madeline was like no other woman I had ever known. Eyes the color of sea glass and rich dark hair down to her waist, she was not so much exotic as simply the essence of everything beautiful in my heart. We courted and married in a scandalously short amount of time, but it didn’t matter. We were alone in the world, and had only ourselves to make happy. Yet, even then, I wondered.

In the darkest part of the night, I would feel her moving silently against her pillow, twisting the sheets. Tiny breaths would betray the angst that chased her through the night. Dreams haunted her, she said. Snatches of the day, of the life she’d led before followed her in sleep – sweet or painful, they were ghosts.

Now, I think I’m the ghost. I came home after a long two days in the city to find our little cottage empty. I called to her. Nothing. Something did not feel right – nothing was askew, and yet I knew: she’d gone.

I wandered down to the sea. I had help. Along the path she always took were trinkets I’d given her – nothing priceless, just things she kept stashed amid the beautiful flotsam she picked up along the beach. There was the string of beads made of driftwood from some distant shore. I found the silk scarf I gave her for Valentine’s next. Dyed in muted hues of blue, green and grey, she wept when she saw it – and never wore it. It reminded her too much of home, she said. It was draped over a bit of bramble marking the turn to the dunes.

I would dream of this. Of her gone. That she’d found it. Those were the dreams that haunted my sleep, that made me wake up in a sweat. That she found her skin and returned home.

And she had.

My Selkie. My sweet Madeline. Gone. Back to the sea, back to the life she had once traded for me. The sun dipped below the dunes and the sky was streaked in red when I saw it – saw her: a sleek head bobbing in the water. She stayed there, just out of reach, until the last of the light died. And as she dipped beneath the waves, I heard her voice, echoing within my heart, telling me one last time, goodbye.

For Papi Z’s Lucky 13 Prompt: “I found the silk scarf I gave her for Valentine’s next” 500 word flash fiction.

D: Well, aren’t you cheerful.

A: What? I thought you would appreciate a bit of the old tales.

D: Oh, I do – it’s just not something I would expect from you, that’s all.

A: Not everything is Mel Brooks send-ups or snark, D.

D: . . . It isn’t?

A: (Eye roll) In other Valentine’s News . . .

D: Oh, wait! I got this! Marie and John have put together a Top-Ten List for what not to do on Valentine’s Day.

A: You sound really excited about that, D.

D: Well, Mairead and I didn’t have to maneuver around this type of thing when we were courting. We were, you know, pagan. Saints of any name didn’t have much sway with us, unless they were gods before the church made them saints (Bridget, here’s lookin’ at you, kid).

A: Nice, D. And now?

D: Well, it’s a whole new world, and from what I understand from reading ahead in the story you’ve crafted about my future – totally from whole cloth too, might I add – Mairead is nearly ready to forgive me. I need all the help I can get.

A: Indeed, you do – if I recall correctly, Mairead was rather adept with a knife . . . and knows her way around a variety of herbal remedies.

D: Don’t be giving her ideas, woman!

A: Oh, no, of course not. For the non-Valentine’s among you, this post, 5 Horrible Valentine’s Day Cards, at The Queen Creative is perfect!

D: You loved those, didn’t you?

A: I did. I really really did. I actually want to send a few of those.

D: I fear for you.

A: Gee, thanks D. And that, my friends, is it. Have a great evening and thank you so much for reading!