Sunday, December 24

In Search Of The Weasel Mage

Kingfisher Gets His Video Butt Kicked


"What, Dad?"

"Is this video game hard?"

"Um, Magic Sword Army Wizards? Yeah, it's pretty hard, but I've beaten it twice."

I insert the little mirrored disc into the game box and switch it on. After the requisite save-file creation and the opening animation sequence, I become Jardel, Elf Warrior 3rd class. The screen shows a snow field, surrounded by a tumble-down wood fence. I toy with the buttons and toggles to no effect.

"What am I supposed to do?"

"This is just the training screen. You gotta break through the fence to get to the Monkey King."

"How do I do that?"

"See that bunch of dead grass? Cut it down with your sword and collect the gems."

I toggle forward and press the B button. Jardel's sword swishes through the frozen tufts. gling gling gling! Shiny rotating jewels bounce across the snowscape. With my mastery of the controls I have no difficulty in collecting them. When I do, the wealth meter goes up slightly. This is going to be easy.

Fifteen minutes later I am still stuck in the snow. The video fence sneers at me.

"Princefisher! How do I get out of here?"

"Do a lunge roll, and break the fence by the big rock."

"How do I do that?"

"You haven't figured that out yet? Okay. Go to the fence. No, the other way. Now target the crack in the fence. No, press the L button. No, you have to be facing the fence first. Now press the L button. Now press the A button. Press the Z button twice. Turn around and jump the fence. No, the jump button. No, that's the sword button. The jump button. No, the jump button. Too late, the fence closed up. Now you gotta start over."

Thirty minutes later I have learned the difference between the jump, hereinafter known as button A, and the sword, hereinafter referred to as button B. Unable to use them correctly, however, I rely on Princefisher to press them in the correct order to free me from the snow meadow. Now I can start the game.

Jardel leaves the snow behind and jogs through an endless mountain pass, occasionally swiping at evil crows. As they turn into ghostly mist, gems appear and the power meter increases slightly. Now I've got it!

Forty-five minutes later I haven't figured out the objective of this stage in the game.

"What do I do now?"

"Go through the Marsh of Mazes and find the Weasel Mage."

"Where's that?"

*sigh* "Do I have to tell you everything? You have to go by the Toadstool Tower."

"That tall castle thing? I tried to go inside, but it wouldn't let me."

"That's because you don't have the Ruby Key yet. You gotta get that from the Weasel Mage. Go through the hedges by the tower."

"I didn't know you could do that."

"You have to try different things. Not everything is what it looks like."

An hour later I have found the Marsh Maze. Jardel has died fifteen times by venomous mud worms, twelve times by fluorescent moon fog, eight times by vampire tree frogs, four times by invisible suction arrows, and twice by his own sword. And he is still hopelessly lost in the Marsh of Mazes. Princefisher takes the controls again, guiding my elf to the Weasel Mage. I memorize the route back out through the marsh.

"Now what?"

"Give the Weasel Mage your gems, and he gives you the Ruby Key."

I confront the Weasel Mage and press each button in turn. Eventually one of them induces the Weasel Mage to talk to Jardel. He wants 70 gems for the Ruby Key. Jardel has only 45.

"How do I get more gems?"

"You gotta kill more crows."

This isn't fun any more. But I will be damned if I get beaten at anything by a teenager.

Ninety minutes later I have found my way out of the maze, climbed back to the mountain pass, killed enough crows to release the gems I need, and mired Jardel in the Marsh of Mazes again.

"How come I can't find the Weasel Mage?"

"The maze changes every time. You have to figure it out."

Two hours later, Jardel finds the Weasel Mage, trades gems for the Ruby Key, backtracks through the maze, arrives at the Toadstool Tower, unlocks the drawbridge, enters the throne room, and greets the Monkey King. The Monkey King tells Jardel he may not pass without a gift.

"What's the gift he's talking about?"

"You need the purple coconut."

"Where do I get that?"

At the same instant Princefisher and I say "From the Weasel Mage." I put down the controller and turn off the infernal mocking box.

"Jeez, Dad. You didn't even make it halfway through the first level. You really suck."

"Oh, yeah? Well, I can still kick your butt at Super Ladybug Land 2!"

Princefisher smirks.

Kingfisher ages twenty years on the spot.

Friday, December 22

The Understanding Price

Try Wordsmiths Unlimited; it's fun. Case in point: this unusual and difficult challenge, including prologue and picture provided by Wordsmith Tiff. My cumbersome and pretentious drivel follows.

"A loud rapping at the door awoke me from a deep dreamy sleep. It was early, too early to be awake, and certainly too early to be out in the streets pounding on doors. I thought that there must be some emergency in town and ran to the door to find out whatever news there was from whoever was there. Much to my surprise, there was no-one at the door ready to identify themselves and their message, and yet a package with my name on it had been left at the door. It was a most curious circumstance, and yet I saw no real harm in it, because secret gift giving was the hallmark of the holiday season. I myself had delivered many a gift in that manner over the years. The package was heavier than it should have been from its size, and once I had it indoors I eagerly opened it to find out what it was and who had sent it. Alas, there was no identification of the giver, and more's the pity because what was inside was a most remarkable carved wood box, worked with figures of animals and dragons all over, in a magnificent shade of red. Whoever sent it to me must have been a prankster, though, because I could see no way into the box, no clasp or lock announced itself, no hinge or platen presented itself as a means to the inside. I was locked out, and most frustrated by this unfortunate turn of events."

This is a work of fiction. Copyright © 2006 Rumba Creative. All Rights Reserved.
No portion of this work may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated,
or otherwise used without the express written approval of the author.

The Understanding Price

Who would deliver something on Tuesday before sunrise? Angry from an unexpected awakening, I examined the ornate wooden box. Sinuous red dragons wound around its curves. It was beautiful, curious, the subtle and commanding work of a master craftsman, a puzzle requiring ingenuity to open. Why was it left on my doorstep? I had no time for further musing. A shower, coffee, and the commute demanded my attention.

The next day began with the familiar persistence of the alarm clock. I stumbled into the kitchen to make coffee, shaking sleep. The box was as I had left it, but now it was orange. Dragons were replaced by monkeys, tails linked, long limbs outstretched, reaching toward me. I attempted to find the manner of opening it, but failed again. Stumped, I prepared for another workday.

That evening I sat peering at the box, when a knock came at the door. My neighbor across the hall asked to borrow a screwdriver. I invited him in, asking his opinion of the mysterious treasure on the table. When we entered the kitchen the box was nowhere to be seen.

Thursday came, and the box returned. It was a deep brown. Intricate carvings of trees festooned its curves. Buttressed roots claimed the base, intertwined branches supported the top, like columns in a cathedral. After work, I inspected every crevice with a magnifying glass. For all my efforts the manner of its opening remained secret.

I refused to look at the box the next morning. Over dinner at night, I could not ignore that the box was now green. I held it in my hands, turning it over and over. A progression of bears sauntered in an upward spiral. Small at the bottom, each succeeding bear was a little larger than the last. The graceful parade terminated with one great standing bear stretched across the top, a silhouette of fierce confidence. What had I been given? What was this enigma that shifted its reality, teased me with its riddles? That night’s sleep was troubled by visions of birth, death, and the billion states in between.

Saturday morning dawned with me already awake. I stared at the blue box before me, not daring to touch it. Perhaps if I pondered and meditated and believed enough, I could open it with thought alone. A thousand fishes shimmered and swirled across the box, a hypnotic ballet that held me entranced. The day passed by. Life passed by. Transfixed, I watched the box, waiting for it to change.

Sunday. I raised my head from the table. I had fallen asleep. The box before me was now black. Its surface was an obsidian mirror, a dark anti-color opalescence. In the depths blood ran and spilled. Creatures rested and killed. Stars blazed and died. In a sudden cracking the box split in two, exuding a thin smoke, acrid and overwhelming.

Only then, at the precise moment of my expiration, did the box, and everything else, make perfect sense.

Saturday, December 16

There’s A Game In There Somewhere

JAMES BROWN: Welcome to "Today’s NFL" on the Wolf Network. We’ve got an exciting line-up of games for you today.

HOWIE LONG: I want to kick Jimmy Kimmel’s ass. Look at my hair. It’s awesome.

TERRY BRADSHAW: I’ve got a possum in my pants! Hee hee hee!

JOHN MADDEN: Have you ever had a McWhopJack? It’s a Big Mac stuffed in a in a in a in a a a a Whopper stuffed in a Jumbo Jack! I’m tellin’ ya…

CHRIS COLLINSWORTH: To – day – is – Sun – day.

JAMES BROWN: Next we have commentary on this afternoon’s games.

CHRIS BERMAN: The Atlanta Kittyhawks defense could GO. ALL. THE. WAY. against the Cleveland UPS Shirts.

JIMMY JOHNSON: I used to coach the Dallas Cowpats.

DEION SANDERS: Look at this hat. It be stylin’, and Prime Time makes it look good!

HOWIE LONG: Rear end tackle LaDanielShwann Washingsmithstein lost his father in a tragic accident last week. Fortunately, he can take comfort in the awesomeness of my hair.

JAMES BROWN: All right, guys. Your thoughts on today’s game?

CHRIS COLLINSWORTH: I – am – talk – ing – a – bout – foot – ball - right – now.

JOHN MADDEN: One time we had a a a a had a this time in Detroit we stopped my bus to get somethin’ to a a a eat and we a a a Ever had a Polish doglink? It’s a hot dog stuffed in a hot link stuffed in a a a in a Polish sausage!

JIMMY JOHNSON: We used to have those when I coached the Dallas Cowpats.

DEION SANDERS: I move my hands when I talk. It shows off the tapered sleeves of this outta sight $65,000 mohair trench coat. Yo.

TERRY BRADSHAW: I wrassled a raccoon yesterday! Hoo hoo hoo!

CHRIS BERMAN: I want to GO. ALL. THE. WAY. with the Denver Paintedponies cheerleaders.

JAMES BROWN: Does anyone have anything to say about football?

JIMMY JOHNSON: When I coached the Dallas Cowpats I liked the blue jerseys best.

DEION SANDERS: I just changed outfits. Check this out! Custom tailored arctic neon eel double breasted okapi pinstripe suit. Prime Time shines, baby! Word.

CHRIS COLLINSWORTH: Who – ever – scores – the – most – touch – downs – in – to – day’s – game – has – a – good – chance – of – win – ning.

TERRY BRADSHAW: I played tag with hogs this morning! Haa haa haa!

JOHN MADDEN: Look at this guy’s uniform. See this this this this stuff that looks like blood? It’s ketchup. And this muddy stuff on his knees? Barbecue sauce. And and and and a a and a and and this grassy stuff on his shoulder pads? Pesto. Ever had a roast stickpizz? It’s a pizza stuffed in a a a a stuffed in a drumstick stuffed in a pot roast.

CHRIS BERMAN: The salary cap of the San Francisco 86ers could GO. ALL. THE. WAY. against the insurance premiums of the Green Bay Containerstuffers.

JAMES BROWN: Okay, forget football. Does anyone have anything at all intelligent to say?

HOWIE LONG: No. But my awesome hair will kick any team’s ass.

JIMMY JOHNSON: No. Dallas Cowpats.

JOHN MADDEN: Ever had a had a Ever had a humpback threshersword? It’s a swordfish stuffed in a shark stuffed in a whale!


CHRIS COLLINSWORTH: N – n – n – n – o – o – o – o.

TERRY BRADSHAW: Let’s go cow tipping! Haa hee hoo!

DEION SANDERS: You can see my smile from the moon. True.

JAMES BROWN: You guys suck. I quit.

Saturday, December 9

Xmas On The Street

I love love love totally love parades. Even though I live near the glitter capitol of the world, my town still has the adorable old-fashioned small town feel Christmas parade. This (and It's A Wonderful Life) is why I get all sniffle nosed at this time of year.

Police clear the street, people get their cameras ready, and it starts!

I sit on the curb with my family and neighbors, clapping and waving and shouting goofily at people I have never met, and will likely never see again.

The WHOLE DAMN CROWD stands, removes hats, and places hands over hearts. With great dignity and humility, old and revered VFW grandpas in uniform march with the flag.

An out of tune high school marching band plods by in mismatched uniforms.

Local elected official #1 waves to the crowd. The convertible is Brought to you by Your Local GMC Dealer.

A float from the senior center. It's really just an old hay trailer decorated with crepe paper and aluminum foil, with brittle old ladies in Santa hats singing "Jack Frost nipping at your nose." General consensus is that they are nipping at something else hidden in their afghans.

A talent-impaired kindergarten dance troupe, led by the local weather man, bribes the judges with donuts.

Miss Okra Festival Titanium Alloy Rodeo Queen In Sequins smiles charmingly at the crowd. Whistles ensue.

An out of tune middle school marching band plods by in mismatched uniforms.

Tiny Shriner cars! Ha ha!

I buy a lapel button or paper flower or something in a styrofoam cup sold by some community outreach thing I never heard of.

ROAR-BBL-BBL-BBL! Eighty Harleys swerve right and left, each piloted by a heavily bearded man weighing at least 275 pounds, sporting a Santa hat and a wreath on the handle bars. Their leather jackets proclaim their loyalty to Toys For Tots. One out of five has a woman, heavier than the pilot, blowing kisses. I think I caught one!

Screams from the tots. Horsies! A whole buncha horsies! Look at the pretty ladies in cowboy hats! The silver bridles! The manes braided with colorful ribbons! One of them rears up and comes down with a gentle clack of horseshoes. Nice horsies! Pretty ladies. Did you see the horsies?

Local elected official #2 waves to the crowd. The convertible is Brought to you by Your Local Ford Dealer.

"LEFT. LEFT. LEFT. (beat)." The ROTC marches by: perfect, crisp, proud. Be safe, young people.

The local police, fire, and emergency response vehicles drive at 0.4 mph, lights a-flashing, sirens a-squelching. Uniformed men throw itty-bitty broken candy canes to the kids.

Elementary school kids walk by, holding long PVC pipes to keep them in order (sort of.) They are wearing costumes made from paper grocery bags painted like presents (sort of.) They sing "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" accompanied by a boom box pulled in a Radio Flyer by a school parent, so they will all be singing together (sort of.) One out of four children is either scowling, crying, or sticking out his tongue. Listen up judges: they win.

A dozen or so custom muscle cars rumble by, emergency lights flashing, radios blaring "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree." There's a candy apple red Mustang, a lightning bolted Charger, a yellow pearl Corvette, a flamed up Thunderbird, a low rider Packard, and OH OH OH! Ain't no Christmas stuff, but DAMMIT that's cool!

Local elected official #3 waves to the crowd. The convertible is Brought to you by Your Local Dodge Dealer.

Hey, look! It's that celebrity guy! You know, the one on that show? On TV on Tuesday? Or is it Thursday? I didn't know he lived here! Go Local Celebrity Guy!

Another out of tune high school marching band plods by in mismatched uniforms. This one is in the privileged position of being second-to-last in the parade, squirting out the strains of "You Better Watch Out..." because right behind them is the whole reason families came out on this cold December morning, forking over dollars for mylar streamers on sticks, warming hands on cheap instant apple cider, trudging along row after row of cheesy handicrafts, pointing out to the kids the plastic electric wreaths missing half the bulbs hanging from the streetlights the same way they have for the last forty years, all of this just to witness


On a fire truck. Or on top of a Kenworth. Or on a draft horse. Or on the most incrediblest boss reindeer sleigh. Or sauntering along the gutter with a pillow case over his shoulder surrounded by prancing Presbyterian congregationists in bad elf costumes.


And it's my town. And it's your town. And we all share it, or should.

Merry Christmas to you all, but mostly to the unknown, unsung, unremembered everyday folks that make these holiday memories possible for kids from one to ninety-two.

Saturday, December 2

Click Clack Snap

This is a work of fiction. Copyright © 2006 Rumba Creative. All Rights Reserved.
No portion of this work may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated,
or otherwise used without the express written approval of the author.

Click Clack Snap

“How come you never have what I want?” Click.

“How do I know what you need?” Clack.

“You never have enough blue ones.” Snap.

“Don’t blame me. I was bought this way. Maybe you should think harder.” Click-snap.

Stupid bricks. When I need a two-by-two, there’s only four-by-twos. When I need the triangle piece, all he gives me is a twelve-by-one, or a wheel. Dumb toy. The pieces never fit right. I want to stop playing, but I can’t.

“Do you have a small yellow brick?”

“You’re the one using me. Look for yourself.”

“I hate you.”

“You hate me because you aren’t smart enough to make me anything but a house.”


“Yuh-huh! Look! What shape am I?”

I look. Rectangular base. Overlapping white brick walls. Clear two-by-ones like a window. The other pieces are jumbled up in little plastic boxes. Half of them are roof pieces. The rest are colors or shapes of bricks I can’t figure out how to use.

“See?” His voice makes fun of me, like every time. “I’m gonna be a house again.”

“Not this time. You always make me make you into a house. I’m not gonna use the door pieces, or the window pieces, or the tree pieces, or the little car.” Smashety-clack.

“Why are you undoing me?” Unsnap.

“You know you won’t me make me into anything good.” Brokety-toss.

“Now I’m just a big pile of dog doo. You’ll never make me into anything good.” I don’t talk. He made me mad. I’ll show him.

“What are you doing?” Click.

“What is this?” Clack.

“Are you done yet?” Snap snap. Done.

“What am I?”

“You’re an airport tower. See how tall you are? These stick out pieces are the warning lights. The top goes over the clouds so airplanes can see you.” I turn him around and around. For a while there is no rattling sound of plastic pieces being raked up.

“I look stupid.”

My mad makes me mad. He can’t beat me again! This time he will be most perfectest neatest thing ever!

Click snap clackety snap snap click clack snappety whomp!

“Wow. Look what you did.” Triumphant, I hold him in my hands. My disappointment and anger drip through my fingers.

He’s a house. Another stupid dumb poopy house.

“Don’t give up!” he says. “Look! This time you made the walls different colors! And the door is on the side! And the window looks into the basement! And the garage is on the roof! And you put the tree inside! Very creative! Good job!”

I turn him around and around again. It’s not like any of the other stuff we ever made. It might be a house, but it’s a DIFFERENT house. It looks good.

I hear Mom calling me for dinner.

“I gotta go,” I say, knowing I won at last.

“Okay. Thanks for playing with me. You did great!” I open my bedroom door to leave.



“I’m still a house.”


Saturday, October 28

Healing in the Hall of Bones


It's the Wordsmiths Unlimited October challenge! Can you hear the creaking? Can you hear the whispers? Can you hear the scurrying in the shadows? No? Then you're not listening...

This is a work of fiction. Copyright © 2006 Rumba Creative. All Rights Reserved.
No portion of this work may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated,
or otherwise used without the express written approval of the author.

Healing in the Hall of Bones

"Beware the masters of this place," says the groundskeeper on your first visit. He shoulders his shovel and walks away, ignoring questions unasked.

It is the sixteenth day of your convalescence in these cold and green isles, exploring heath and hill. Wandering is good. It helps calm the mind and stretch the body. In cafes and bookshops near the hospital you learn of a hundred wonderful places within a day's walk. Of the few you have found so far, this is your favorite.

It is a great hall, or was hundreds of years in the past. Through ages and neglect it has opened its raftered roof to the sky, shed its ornate windows to the winds. Only the thick sturdy walls painted with lichen remain. There is a weight to the air, a sense of time and testing. It wraps you in a cool cloak of tranquil familiarity. Absent are the fluttering noises, nests, and stains of birds. The stone walls impart serenity and strength. Abundant ferns surround you, peaceful and patient.

The groundskeeper’s warning leaves you confused. Why beware? Who are the masters? It cannot matter. The hall is overgrown. The groundskeeper must not be a capable caretaker. Perhaps the masters prefer the ancient place be kept as it is, steadfast and noble, crumbling with dignity back into the earth.

In the following weeks you regain parts of what you have lost. Prescriptions and therapists occupy the mornings. Fields and copses take up the afternoons. Township parks and public houses fill the evenings. Each day brings conversations with new people, renewing your confidence and stamina. Every day you stroll along hedgerows, amble over countryside. Every day you visit the old hall. And every day you are alone there, except for the stone walls, the open sky, and the low forest of ferns that greet you with quiet acceptance.

On this day you arrive at the hall in the morning earlier than usual. The sky above the open roof portends rain. The mossy pocked walls promise security. The ferns beckon you to rest. You lay down on soft soil that smells of living things. The green stalks are a protective bower. Contentment and sleep come unbidden.

A pinprick of pain wakes you. Bewildered, you stand on unsteady legs and peer at your hand. From your wrist a point of red seeps, running down your forearm, dripping on the ground.

"I told you to beware." You stumble toward a voice. The world slows. The edges of your sight blur into grey. The groundskeeper stands there, his voice as flat as the stone walls, his face as impassive as the ferns. He stands among the fronds, caressing them. They bend toward his touch, quiver around his boots.

"The masters are always grateful for their bone meal.” In a rush of horror, you understand the absence of birds. The groundskeeper speaks the last words you hear.

“What is left of you will be delicious.”

Sunday, October 22

Kingfisher Days

9:00 a.m. - Ask HR when my final check will be ready. Says she forgot it was my last day.
9:10 a.m. - First expected visit of well-wishing by a co-worker hasn't happened.
9:12 a.m. - Nothing to do. Ask boss if he needs anything. He says "Oh, yeah. Last day, huh?"
9:55 a.m. - Finish the Excel file formulas and links for the boss that he asked be completed by the end of the day.
9:57 a.m. - First co-worker visit. It's the boss's boss, commanding me to let him know when the Excel file is finished. Tell him it's already done and e-mailed to boss. He looks surprised. No well wishing.

10:00 a.m. - Bored bored bored. Spend an hour playing games on the internet.
11:00 a.m. - Boss doesn't know where check is. Still no well wishers.
12:00 p.m. - Still playing games. Still no check. Still no well-wishers.
12:30 p.m. - Boss delivers check. No handshake. Still no well wishers.
12:32 p.m. - Leave a scrolling screen saver in big bright red letters "Welcome To The Clique - - - No Men Allowed"

12:35 p.m. - Check deposited, wallet full of money.
1:15 p.m. - Sipping the first ice cold beer of freedom at Buffalo Wild Wings.
7:00 p.m. - Finish nth ice cold beer of freedom after lurking on the web, watching sports, playing trivia and accepting congratulations from drinking acquaintances, and bartender friends who give me free beer.
7:15 p.m. - At home lounging on the bed.
7:30 p.m. - The Simpsons is on!
8:00 p.m. - Spongebob Squarepants is on!
8:30 p.m. - Brother in law arrives from California for visit.
10:30 p.m. - Futurama is on!

2:17 a.m. - Dumb kitty scratches at the bedroom window to be let in. When did I fall asleep?
2:32 a.m. - Insane kitty starts a spit fight with dumb kitty.
2:45 a.m. - Girl kitty meows at the door to be let in.
2:46 a.m. - Dumb kitty meows at the door to be let out.
2:47 a.m. - I hate cats.
3:00 a.m. - Anime Title I Can't Remember is on!
6:30 a.m. - Wife and kids get up for school. Turn over and go back to sleep.
7:10 a.m. - Sun peeks throught the window. Notice I left the lights on in the 125 gallon aquarium. 8 shiny silver fishies begin swimming back and forth.
silver dollar
8:50 a.m. - Kiss from the wife wakes me up. She's off to work.
9:30 a.m. - Wake up again. Still 8 fishies.
10:00 a.m. - Crummy Western Movie is on!
10:03 a.m. - Meow.
1:00 p.m. - Thirsty.
1:15 p.m. - Buy a box of Macanudo cigarillos.
1:30 p.m. - Sipping nth+1 ice cold beer of freedom at Buffalo Wild Wings.
1:31 p.m. - Light up first incense cigar of freedom.
6:30 p.m. - Pack up laptop. Done with catching up with blog friends, planning future vacations, and working on budget with new job. Take last gulp of nth+n ice cold beer of freedom.
7:00 p.m. - Hello to family, talk with bro-in-law, plan tomorrow with wife. Simpsons, Spongebob, Discovery Channel, Futurama, and zzzzzzzzz.

2:17 a.m. - Stupid cats.
2:18 a.m. - Goddamn cats.
2:19 a.m. - Fucking cats.
2:30 a.m. - Anime.
6:20 a.m. - Wife wakes us all up. Kids prepare for school. Wife, bro-in-law, oldest son, and I prepare for Annual Big Mondo Church Rummage Sale.
7:00 a.m. - Waiting in line for rummage sale. Wife didn't tell me it opens at 8:00. No coffee being served.
7:10 a.m. - Joking with son and BIL. We giggle because Christ and a dove in the stained glass looks like he's choking a chicken. Ponder my first minute in Hell.
7:15 a.m. - Beautiful autumn small town morning. Except no coffee.
7:30 a.m. - Daughter calls. Missed the bus. Again. Can't get to her in time, so she stays home awaiting our return and her impending doom.
7:45 a.m. - Where's the friggin' coffee?
8:00 a.m. - Cattle call. Church grounds are flooded with greedy collectors and yard salers.
8:15 a.m. - The desk I saw isn't what I want. The chest I want has a sold sign on it. The toys are crap.
8:16 a.m. - Want to yell "Jesus Christ, Where the hell is the goddamn coffee!?" Remember it is a church rummage sale. Ponder my second minute in hell.
8:33 a.m. - Load up the car with our meager plunder. Son eyes my $2.00 grey wool blanket with envy. Says it will make a great cloak for Ren Faires. Invoke the Finders Keepers rule.
8:34 a.m. - Give son the blanket.
9:00 a.m. - Wife's awesome direction skills causes multiple u-turns and lane changes finding the first yard sale of the day.
9:10 a.m. - First yard sale has nothing. Tease son I wish I could find a nice wool blanket for my studio. He offers to give it back. Assure him I'm just kidding.
9:11 a.m. - Announce my wish to find a nice wool blanket at the next yard sale. They're hard to find y'know. Son looks guilty.
9:30 a.m. - Second yard sale has not much.
9:40 a.m. - Third yard sale. Drive by.
9:50 a.m. - Bingo! Fourth yard sale scores a cute dining table and four chairs for $40. Assorted other trinkets seal the deal. Ask loudly if they have any wool blankets.
9:51 a.m. - Back in the car. Son offers to give blanket back. Wife says "ignore your father."
10:50 a.m. - Back home. Parents scold daughter and confine her to her room. Daughter dons the "You always hated me!" expression of a 13-year-old girl.
10:52 a.m. - Set up table and chairs. Say how good it would look with a wool blanket table cloth. Son says "Shutup, Dad." Offer him $5.00 for the blanket.
10:58 a.m. - Coffee!
11:00 a.m. - In the back yard. Cool warm sunshine. Lots of flowers. A hummingbird. Stand in recently completed studio. Smells like fresh-cut wood.
11:15 a.m. - Four hours of video games, conversation, and lunch.
3:45 p.m. - In the bedroom to change for evening with brother S. Still 8 fishies.
4:00 p.m. - Take first sip of 2n+1 ice cold beer of freedom at Buffalo Wild Wings.
4:01 p.m. - Light up 8th and last incense cigar of freedom.
4:30 p.m. - Brother S arrives.
4:31 p.m. - Begin guy talk of new girlfriend, new job, and the rack on the girl at the end of the bar.
6:00 p.m. - Trivia sucks. Only we are playing. Bar change!
6:30 p.m. - $&!#%*F road construction. Finally arrive at Bar 2. Brother already got a beer and trivia box.
6: 32 p.m. - Beer tastes funny. Drink it anyway.
6:33 p.m. - Guy talk about family, future plans, and the rack on the girl at the end of the bar.
7:15 p.m. - Trivia, customers, and beer sucks. Bar change!
7:30 p.m. - Bar 3. Better beer, but no trivia.
7:31 p.m. - Bartender recognizes us. I haven't recognized her because the low cut of her shirt allows her cleavage to create its own gravity well.
7:32 p.m. - She worked at Bar 2 bar before it changed owners. Great bartender. We found the right place.
7:33 p.m. - We ponder shooting pool.
8:01 p.m. - We forget about pondering shooting pool.
8:30 p.m. - Guy talk about, um, stuff and other stuff, and the rack on the bartender.
9:00 p.m. - Think we've had enough. Finish 2n+? ice cold beer of freedom.
9:30 p.m. - Home and hungry. Score leftover meatloaf and potatoes. Mmmmmm.
9:45 p.m. - Get into t-shirt and lounge pants for bed. Still 8 fishies. I think. Maybe 10. 12?
10:00 p.m. - Wife comes home from outing with BIL. "You're home early." Yup.
10:01 p.m. - zzzzzzzzzz.

2:17 a.m. - I really hate cats.
2:18 a.m. - Yes, there really are 8 fishies.
2:45 a.m. - Stomach hurts. Knew that one beer was bad.
3:00 a.m. - Please no food poisoning...
3:15 a.m. - Force myself to sleep.
7:00 p.m. - Sun peeks through the window. Wow, I feel better.
7:01 p.m. - Enjoy the early morning quiet and the wife's closeness.
7:30 a.m. - Wife and I play our favorite game, Hide the Hot Dog. We both win.
weiner mobile
8:00 a.m. - Everybody gets ready for Saturday outings.
8:01 a.m. - Go back to sleep.
8:29 a.m. - Blaze the greyhound jumps into bed to cuddle with Daddy.
8:30 a.m. - Crummy Western Movie is on!
10:00 a.m. - Semi-Crummy Western Movie is on!
12:00 p.m. - Blaze jumps off the bed and stretches. Time to get up.
12:30 p.m. - Score 2 meatloaf sandwiches. Enjoy the flavor of home, love, and happiness.
1:30 p.m. - Sip 3n+1 ice cold beer of freedom at Buffalo Wild Wings.
4:30 p.m. - Good day of writing, and goofing on the internet. Finish 3n+6 ice cold beer of freedom.
4:45 p.m. - Younger son shows off almost-finished Halloween costume, Mario from Nintendo. It's perfect and freaking funny.
5:20 p.m. - Yum! Dinner of tacos on our new table and chairs!
5:55 p.m. - Where's the antacid?
9:58 p.m. - A whole buncha nuthin. TV, talk, video games, cold autumn seeping in.
9:59 p.m. - Inform son that it sure would be nice to have a warm wool blanket.
10:00 p.m. - Futurama is on.
10:30 p.m. - Futurama is on again!
11:00 p.m. - Snooze through two hours of cartoons.


2:17 a.m. - I am gonna kill me some cats.
6:30 a.m. - Wake up to the sound of wife banging dishes in the kitchen.
6:31 a.m. - Still 8 fishies. Go back to sleep.
8:00 a.m. - Wife wakes me up.
8:01 a.m. - Round 2 of Hide the Hot Dog. Score still tied.
8:30 a.m. - Coffee with the wife on the couch. Watch gardening shows.
9:30 a.m. - BIL and kids shuffle out one by one. Mornings are funny.
9:31 a.m. - Son crunches on Corn Flakes. Tell him I was really cold last night. Could've used a wool blanket.
9:31:30 a.m. - Son's eyes give me the finger.
10:00 a.m. - Wife, BIL and kids go out for the day. Halloween costumes need to be finished.
10:15 a.m. - Hot coffee of freedom at Buffalo Wild Wings.
10:30 a.m. - Remember that the 49ers have a bye week. Realize they will probably lose anyway.
12:00 p.m. - First of the last ice cold beers of freedom.
1:00 p.m. - Start of afternoon football games.
Now O'clock: Looking forward to starting new job tomorrow. Not sure what's in store for the rest of today. But I'm pretty sure I'd like to play Hide the Hot Dog again.


Friday, October 13


Those of you who have put up with my nonsense for a while may remember this post, in which I reflected on signs of change or omens not yet deciphered. I identified "some unnamable span." I think I have reached the end of that span. Life has many detours, some expected, but most not. Almost none are seen with the rare insight the Great All cares to give on accasion.

My eldest son approaches the important adulthood marker of 21, with the attendant perceptions of military, voting, drinking, gambling, etc. He has a serious girlfriend. He is dependable in a job he has had for two years. He is smart, honest, helpful, and kind, readily returning the hugs of his old man. He made an undefinable change this year, the crossing into adulthood. I still remember him as a toddler. Once, when running errands at Christmas time, he asked if I would buy him a toy. I said maybe, because Santa was coming. I didn't have much money, so maybe something a little bit cheap. All day he held my hand, helped push carts and carry bags, amiable and sweet. About dinnertime he asked, "Now Dad will you buy me something maybe a little bit cheap?" When I look at him now, I am torn between busting my buttons and squeezing tears.

My second son will soon be 16, and has his sights on the DMV. As a freshman, his academic career was far less than stellar. Now, as a sophomore, he seems to have found his rhythm and confidence. He has a quick wit and a a comic philospher's ability to amuse with an insightful observation or perplexing non-sequitor. With algebra, or biology, or politics, he asks questions and offers solutions. I feel stupid when my answer or opinion only supports what he thought in the first place. On Thanksgiving vacation last year, we took a trip, just Dad and Son. We hiked in the rain, crunched through the snow at Lake Tahoe, ate in diners, and purchased balsa wood gliders to play with. At the end of the trip, when I asked if he had a good time, he flashed a sarcastic grin and said "Not really. The tree ate my airplane." When I look at him now, I am torn between pride of a son and jealousy of a younger rival.

My youngest, my darling daughter, is 13, familiar and enigmatic. She is on the entrance ramp to womanhood, not quite up to speed, but not quite willing to yield either. At times uncertain in her maturation , there is a "JUST TRY IT" fire behind her eyes. She has discovered a love of writing, far surpassing any maudlin pukisms I wrote at her age. She is in drama class. She loves the Beatles and medical procedures. She snuggles during an old movie and dares to throw a football at my head. Not so long ago, she had simple and routine surgery. When I visited her in recovery, she was asleep, breathing with discomfort. Thin hospital blankets revealed curves of the woman she will become. I stroked her hair and cried because my heart couldn't contain all the stuff that was in it. When I look at her now, I can see the grandchildren I might have. Why I see this more in her than the boys, I don't know. But I do know there is much I cannot explain, mysteries of the universe that I am lucky enough to share, and one perfect adorable female that is mine to protect and learn from. Some things are not knowable.

My parents divorced after 23 years of marriage. My wife and I celebrated that milestone, minus one, this year. When I was in high school, I remember reading something like "the flush of young romantic love is eventually replaced with the constancy of adult love." Yuck, I thought, I hope I never get that old. Now I look at my wife, and words fail. She is better than me. She is far from perfect, but closer to it than I, and perfect for me. Prior to this year, I really didn't care if I died before 60. Now I want to live a long life, so I can spend as much time as possible with her. Love is the obsession of poets and artists, defying mere description. One look at her and I know what love is.

Fathers and sons are always a tricky business. My father and I were never close. Why, I am not sure. We are too different from each other. Perhaps it is me, or him, or both, but neither of us understands the other. We have parted ways. Permanently. It brands my soul, scorches my brain, salts the acre of identity. They say that forgiveness heals the soul. I'm not sure I believe it. Some things cannot be forgiven. Sometimes, no matter the cost, scars, and desires to the contrary, it is best to sever a limb than live with a disease. There is no lesson here. Only a huge vacant lot filled with questions and what-ifs, covered over with the bulldozer of moving forward. Only pain and self hatred endure. I have no answers.

This disconnect applies to brothers as well. I'd like to think sisters are better. In fact, I know they are.

I enjoy writing. In 1st grade I wrote about a frog. In 2nd grade I wrote about a pony. In 4th grade I wrote about my dog. In 8th grade I wrote a Star Trek script. In 10th grade I wrote a one act play. I wrote poetry in high school. I wrote dozens of short stories from junior high through college. With few exceptions, it sucked, although there were glimpses of talent. I never gave up until I became a father, when other concerns were paramount. (An aside: People who complain about parenting vs. career vs. avocation should be shot. If you decide, or happen, to be a parent, that is your first responsibility. Shoulder that most important of of all responsibilities to the best of your ability. There is plenty of time for your selfish interests after your children grow up.) This year I revisited my passion with a vengeance. It took a while to oil old rusty tools and relearn their uses. The wonderful surprise was that my ability had matured, despite years of disuse. I can set a piece aside, see it for the crap that it is, and not love it just because it came from my fingers. I can edit like a ninja. Strangely, my life long desire to write science fiction has morphed into a serious work about an adolescent girl (!), a plot that straddles 90 years, and addresses personal growth, an artist's sensibilities, defiance, and ideas that reveal themselves as work progresses. I have never been happier with my creative self.

I will, in a week or so, have a new job. I will be Business Manager of four radio stations broadcasting rock and sports. In a way, it is a revisiting of my roots. I was happiest working in the days of television before the explosion of cable, when creativity and business sense lived side by side. When I honed my ability to work with all sorts of people. When I discovered accounting is a language of numbers. In the years since those heady days, I earned a degree, learned management skills, studied strategy and flow. Now I am the elder mentor, abilities at their peak, applied to a cause I have loved since I was a pre-teen. I am not naive enough to think it's perfect, but it does feel like a return home, a closing of a circle. Not THE circle, but a mini-cycle within the greater circle.

The "unnamable span" is named. It is called Now. Another span will come, but for the present Now is sufficient.


Thursday, October 5

Girls 0, Boys -28

Modern western culture demeans women.
Modern depictions of women are detrimental to a girl's psychological growth.
Models, Hollywood stars, and cheerleaders erode a girls self-esteem.

It is waaaaay past time to to call utter BULLSHIT on this bunch of wussing out.

If your daughter is bulimic or anorexic or cutting herself or in a perpetual state of depression, get her to a medical professional. If a regimen of depression medication and counseling doesn't work, quit blaming the rest of us. You, the parents, have fucked up royally by not hugging her, playing with her, teasing her, generally making her feel special, disciplining her, and imparting that most important of all lessons: Life is not fair. I feel very sorry for your girl. Not because she has self-esteem issues, but because she has REALLY CRAPPY PARENTS. You have made her ripe for the picking by the dickhead lurking in her future.

I can hear it: "Kingfisher, you are an insensitive prick." No, I am not. I am the eldest of four brothers. I have two sons and one daughter. I have a nephew and two nieces. I have a brother-in-law and two sisters-in law. I have more qualifications to discuss this than a fleet of New York psychologists teamed up with a panel of Los Angeles fat camp counselors. Why? Because I, my wife, parents, siblings, and children have been living in the real world. That's why.

Quick. Name four female superheroines. "Wonder Woman. Uh...Storm. Uh........Supergirl. Uh....."

Quick. Name four male superheroes. "Superman. Batman. Spiderman. The Flash. Wolverine. The Hulk. Green Lantern. ....." That proves males are better represented to children aren't they?

WRONG. Notice how they are all incredibly smart, unbelievably strong, muscles bulging, saving the world, never wrong, subjugating themselves for the greater good. What does that teach a boy? You must be strong, you must be dependable, responsible, loyal, available on demand, willing to sacrifice yourself for any reason. At all times and in all conditions. If you are not uber-successful, and infinitley manly, you are a failure.

I could go and on and on with examples like athletes, James Bond, rappers, Donald Trump, marines, and cowboys, as counter-productive raised-consciousness feminazi PETA wymmyn nitwits are prone to do, but I'm a reasonable person. I don't need to beat you over the head. Unless you care to argue ad infinitum because you are an "everybody in the contest gets a prize!" hippie; then I need to beat you over the head with a shovel until your skull caves in.

Girls aren't the only ones having a hard time growing up. To treat them like the opening sentences of this stupid rant is paternalistic, sexist, short-sighted, and destructive. Females are smart. Females are tough. Females have stamina. Females are the future of humanity.

But do you also see boys have a hard time growing up? To treat them like the examples in the rest of this stupid rant is unfair, unreasonable, sexist, demeaning, and destructive. Males are smart. Males are tough. Males are not disposable. Males are the future of humanity.

I dream of a day when our children are recognized for the humans they will become, and treated equally. I dream of the day when the differences between girls and boys are recognized, and those differences are reflected in school curricula. I dream of the day when our children are parented as individual humans with individaul needs, not strictly boy or girl, without argument over left brain/right brain, girl brain/boy brain, but the recognition that they are simply different. I dream of the day when boys and girls are segregated sometimes, to learn in their own way with each other, and integrated at other times, so they learn to grow together with each other. I dream of the day when we realize the company of our gender without the other is recognized as important and necessary, not exclusionary. I dream of the day when a Men's Club is not assaulted by women, when Ladies Drink Free isn't reverse discrimination. I DREAM OF THE DAY WHEN THE SEXES ARE EQUAL, YET DIFFERENT. If you invoke the Supreme Court racism decision at this point, you have completely missed my intent, and need to get off my planet.

Until that day of which I dream, the rest of you please shut up. You aren't helping. We are different. We are the same. We need to laugh at each other, criticize each other, love each other, roll our eyes at each other, grit our teeth at each other, talk to one another, accept each other. We need to help each other when life is unfair, supporting but not coddling, giving a well-deserved smack to the head and a "Get Over It" when necessary. Only then will we grow up and evolve as homo sapiens: "wise man." If you take exception to that name/taxonomic term/symantic expedient, your are focusing on "man" and not "wise."

Tell me to go to hell if you wish. I'll gladly oblige, because heaven has got to be full of you pussies.

Thursday, September 28

Lizard's Mirage

You could say I picked this assignment for Wordsmiths Unlimited on purpose. I took this picture because the scene spoke to me. I don't know what it said at the time, but it said something. I wanted to hear what it said to others. After much reflection, this is what I heard.

This is a work of fiction. Copyright © 2006 Rumba Creative. All Rights Reserved.
No portion of this work may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated,
or otherwise used without the express written approval of the author.

Lizard's Mirage

“Who are you talking to?”

“Just Dad.” Mom has the confused look on her face. I hold the handlebars of my bike, the seat resting against my hip. I know what she will say.

“Thomas, you know Daddy isn’t coming back. We’ve talked about it. Daddy is not coming back. Ever.”

“My name is not Thomas. It’s Lizard Boy. And Dad is here all the time. You just don’t want to see him.” Mom stands in the shady heat of the porch, her white skirt moving in the breeze like a ghost hung on the laundry line. Her face goes from sad to angry, then back to sad.

“Don’t take your bicycle up the hill. You’ll get hurt. Promise me, Thomas.”

“I promise,” I say, not really meaning it. “I won’t get hurt. Dad won’t let it.” Mom looks like she might cry. She opens the screen door. It bangs against the wall that Dad was painting. I watch her skirt flow out of the sun, into our house that isn’t the same any more.

I walk my bike up the hill. I love the hill. It has rocks and dirt and places in between where lizards hide. Dad loved the hill, too. We would walk up together, to watch a storm or a sunset. Sometimes we would just watch. Whatever we did, Dad always laughed while I climbed rocks, poking a stick in every hole and crack I found.

“You are a lizard, aren’t you my boy?” he would say. And I would smile and say “Yes, Dad. I am Lizard Boy!” The hill was the place we saw things and talked about things. When night came, we crawled back down to our house like lizards tired from the sun.

Today is the first time I climb the hill by myself. From the top I see everything. I see our house. I see rocks and sky. I see the whole world. I remember Dad saying never tell a lie. I remember Dad saying he would always watch over me.

I push the pedals of my bike, aiming the front wheel down the rocky slope. I feel the world rise up to meet me. I feel the wind in my face. I hear Dad whisper.

Friday, September 22

If You're Gonna Write...

I am more dense than a waterlogged oak, but these are some of my rules for writing.*

1) Is it grasped on first read? If not, the writer needs to address the work to the audience. If I have no idea what you are trying to convey, YOU messed up, not me. Finnegan's Wake and The Bible require additional reading, very little else does. The answer "read it again" is the response of the inexperienced. You are NOT a misunderstood future legend. If you think you are, there is a 99.997% probability that you are crap.

2) Are there too many vague references? If so, the writer may assume an experience the reader doesn't share. Step away from your work. Read it aloud. Use the eyes and hands of a surgeon. Your voice is not necessarily one that others care to hear.

3) Metaphor is a writer's best tool, used sparingly. Use one or two, not twelve. Too much and it tires the reader. Don't use adverbs like "sparingly."

4) Almost all amateur poetry is a laughable yawn. If you are not Frost or Dickinson, don't use it in your fiction. Poetic prose and prose poems are oxymorons, unless you have had at least 75 books on the best seller lists. Even then it is likely it annoys or bores the crap out of everyone but the author.

5) Jello is not a word, it is a trademark. Gelatin, or swamp, or tar pit are options, depending on your desired degree of description. When in doubt, dump the obvious and reach for the thesaurus. When not in doubt, dump it anyway and reach for the thesaurus. Just don't let the thesaurus do your writing for you.

6) Compound sentences are good. Too many, and it reads like blah blah blah. Change it up with some short ones. Some call it stream of consciousness. I call call lack of focus. A good way to write is to shotgun words on the page. Then pare it back by 20%. Then pare it back by 10%. When you think it's perfect, pare it back by 5%.

7) Check your tenses fifty times. There may be nothing that were harder to read than what would be a verb that is might have been once.

8) The true mark of a writer is to listen to criticism. If you think the critique is wrong, do it your way anyhow. If everyone still says "Huh?" you've missed something. Almost none of us are geniuses ahead of our time. Bask in praise. Then ignore it and do the opposite, or at least the sideways, of what is praised.

9) Break the rules if you can, just remember that like sports, you must know the rules of the game before you can exploit them. No one ever learned to read without practicing the alphabet first.

10) ALL WRITERS SCREW UP. Even Shakespeare had his detractors. Chances are very, very, very, very good you are not Shakespeare. You probably aren't even Ayn Rand.

Hate your critics. Give them the finger. Punch a pillow. Cry in your beer. When you calm down, you may see they were right about something. Remember that the work is for the reader, not the writer. I can produce a delicious first draft, only to have my wife say it's boring or confusing or worthy of nothing but the garbage can. I can be pissed, but realize she is right, and rewrite it. Even then, it will need work. Much more work.

All this said, I am not published. I have been rejected several times. It is quite likely I have no idea what I'm talking about. But I don't think so.

One thing is certain: If you don't write it, no one will read it.

* Based on a critique of a respected fellow amateur writer's work.
And my work can use a whole lotta buncha revision. Or a trash can.

Wednesday, September 20

Antibiotic Devolution

Antibiotic: "against life."

Life is omnipresent. It does not care. It pushes. It fights. It never quits. We ignore it at our detriment. I am convinced that the downfall of humanity will not be nuclear war, nor asteroid impact, nor resource depletion. It will be the simplest of organisms that laugh in our face, stick us in the ribs, and wipe us out. We deserve it if we continue our present path and philosophy of sterility.

Human life will end just as H.G. Wells postulated, if you read The War of the Worlds sideways. Bacterium, virus, germ, parasite, or invader: whatever you call it, it will claim our myopic and unworthy species. The end will not manifest itself by epidemic, or pandemic, or any other -demic. It will visit us with stealth, one person at a time. With small dilutions of each generation, it will take control. With microscopic talons and teeth and subterfuge it will erode us.

The enemy has always been with us. We evolved together, an arms race kept in balance, each sacrificing the individual for the species. In the last century we have given the enemy an invitation to join us around the campfire, an opportunity for it to learn our strategy, our plans for war. We humans have battled and slaughtered, and will ultimately lose.

How many times have you flushed the public toilet with your foot? How many times have you pushed the revolving door with your hip? Have you ever used a pay phone with a tissue on the mouthpiece? Have you ever hesitated before shaking hands? Have you ever heeded the advice to turn on/off the faucet with your elbow wrapped in a paper towel? Do you wonder who has touched the vegetables in the supermarket before you buy them?

Stop it. You are not protecting yourself, or by extension, our species. To the contrary, you are killing us, ensuring our eventual downfall. I am not suggesting that we go around sneezing on each other's food, or licking the outhouse seat, or having unprotected sex in a Taiwanese hog farm. I am not suggesting an end to tetanus shots. I am suggesting that we start living with and acknowledging the minor inconveniences of the natural world, instead of ignoring them, arming against them without reasonable cause, or above all, fearing them. The immunity of any individual, species, or system is only as effective as the exposure to its threats.

So let your baby suck on the car keys and swallow small amounts of playground sand. The crud they ingest makes us strong. There is no such thing as an antibiotic. The inconvenient, guilt inducing screams of a child's ear ache may just save us all.

Saturday, September 9

A Man's Gotta Know His Place


Five-hundred fifty miles of single-lane highways between business locations. I had driven a little less than half. Yesterday's task had been training a new business manager. Tomorrow's task would be reviewing internal control procedures. Today had no specific task, just traveling over mountain, river, prairie, and forest, sampling rural and wild America. I was thirsty for a beer.

The Silver Dollar was an ugly and humble place. It looked like a place females seldom visited. I parked my rental car and surveyed the tiny main street. As I stood in the road to take a photo, visions of a rough cigarette-burned bar frequented by equally rough cigarette-burned men played rough-and-tumble in my head. My imagination fell short of reality. It took a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the feeble yellow illumination of forty year-old beer signs. The bartender asked if I wanted my beer in a bottle or can. No mention of a glass. It was clear what kind of microcosm I had entered.

I had a two-day growth of stubble on my face, a shameful appearance in my business. Compared to the half dozen or so other patrons, I had never matured beyond puberty. Great cascading beardfalls of brown and grey decorated the flannel and denim chests of my fellow beer drinkers. They looked at me with scorn, a puny and pale city boy clicking pictures of THEIR BAR. I drank from a longneck bottle, fer chrissakes. As long as I didn't challenge the rules of the house, I figured I could guzzle unmolested. Knowing my omega male place, I sat in the shadowy corner of the bar, listening to the conversations with alternating interest and disdain, making sure to guzzle once in a while, and stay out of the way of brusque, husky men crashing through the door to buy their daily $10 twelve-pack.

"Damn, that woman could suck cock."

"Ain't that the truth!"

"Gimme a Stihl. Husqvarna ain't wertha shit."

"...and the spotted owl tasted like bald eagle! Haw haw haw!"

"I'd push a Ford before driving a Chevy."

"pffffffffffaaaaarrrrrt" (no one said a word)

My silent survey convinced me that there was no one in the bar who could pronounce "nuclear" correctly, much less define it. They read a newspaper only to find a used truck. Wet spot? Fuck 'er. Ain't my fault she can't keep it in. There are only six types of booze: Budweiser, Coors, Miller, Jack Daniels, Wild Turkey, and Home Made. Wine is for pussies. When I tipped the bartender, he looked at me like I was Donald Trump, or the biggest asshole he'd ever seen. I wasn't sure which. Probably they were the same thing. I asked how far it was to the next town on my map. "Uh, I dunno. Forty-five minutes maybe?" As it turned out, it was over two hours. Either he wanted to fuck with the Nancyboy, or he had never been within thirty miles of his hometown, population 38.

Every Man Jack of them could drop a transmission, skin a deer, pick out the best pup of the litter, and fence off five acres before bedtime. They were more man that I could ever hope to be in ten lifetimes. I saw them for what they were, not what they should or might be. How they percieved me is irrelevant, because it was obvious that I am irrelevant.

A man's gotta know his place.

Monday, September 4

Sometimes There Is Only One

Is it possible for a 45-year-old man to have a hero? Is it possible for that man to have a schoolboy crush on another man 1 year younger? Is it possible for him to feel a profound and sad loss for someone he doesn't know?

Yes. Unabashedly, Yes.

Steve Irwin is dead.

The Crocodile Hunter was more than any reviewer's simple words. Yes, he was goofy. He was nuts. He was a caricature of himself, the stereotype of the Aussie Outback Guy. But he was much more than that. He was a modern day Tarzan. He was Lewis and Clark, Peter Pan, Captain Kangaroo, and Charles Darwin all wrapped up in a 21st century package. He was the embodiment of every young boy's daydreams of adventure and danger, the unbridled delight of dirt and sky and living things.

He was a grown man's hero as well. He and his wife Terri are a love story for the ages. All the superlatives apply. The brash, dashing wild man. The sweet, beautiful, smart woman. A serendipity of mind, heart, compassion. A melding of the sexes, bringing out the best of each other, bringing forth children. Together, they wrapped the bonds of familial love, courage, and determination around everything they did. The world recognized it, felt it, loved it.

Never a bad thought expressed. Never an apology for passion. Never a bad day.

Always life, and the world, was a playground. Infinite, curious, respected.

DO NOT Rest In Peace, Steve-O. Forever wrestle and tumble and laugh with teeth and claws and fur and scales. Let the Halls of Hereafter echo with your infectious and childlike joy of all things created.

Show God that heaven is not up there, but in the heart of a normal man with the supernatural gift to see it here on Earth.

Sometimes there is only one.

Sunday, September 3

Savings Account

If you haven't already, go to Wordsmiths Unlimited, a joint venture of Tiff and me. This is my entry for the inaugural exercise, inspired by the photo submitted. If you missed it this time, PLEASE stay tuned and submit your entry next month. No fame, no ass kissing, no prizes. It's just like life! What more could you ask?

This is a work of fiction. Copyright © 2006 Rumba Creative. All Rights Reserved.
No portion of this work may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated,
or otherwise used without the express written approval of the author.

Savings Account

"Shake the girl's hand, Varya."

“Tip your hat, Varya.”

"Give me the coin, Varya."

She hated Piotr.

Varya licked her bruised and cut feet, listened to his sleeping mind relive vodka and females. She couldn’t shake his thoughts, even when she covered her head with her thin blanket. Resigned to another sleepless night, she hid her stolen slips of paper in the folds of her clothing, and stretched as far as the wire cage would allow. Tomorrow she would spend hours on a hot sidewalk, feeding Piotr’s greed and lust. For now, Varya could do nothing but obey.

The morning sun warmed Nevsky railway station, setting pigeons to flight. The tourist season made the dusty corner a favorite of Piotr’s. She twirled to the music of his old record player, accepting coins from tourists, kissing knuckles with feigned appreciation. Every exchange transmitted their thoughts, enchanted, annoyed, indifferent.

“Say thank you to the gentleman, Varya,” said Piotr.

She assumed her cutest expression, climbed a red-faced man’s arm, and wrapped her thin arms around his neck. She patted his collar, his mustache, his pockets.

“What a charming animal!” The man lowered his arm with a chuckle, scratched her head, and walked away.

“Give it to me, Varya.” Perched on Piotr’s shoulder, she handed over the red-faced man’s billfold. Slips of paper peeked out from the leather. “Good girl, Varya, we shall celebrate tonight!” His thoughts were the empty echoes of a liar. He would celebrate, and she would munch a mushy potato in the dark, dreading the return of his sick drunken thoughts. Piotr didn’t know she stole one last paper slip for herself, and that was some consolation.

The long afternoon passed with laughter and copper coins. Twice she was photographed on a child’s head. As always, it was an endless parade of faces and fingers she had never seen, would never see again. Toward sunset, her stomach empty, her tongue dry, her muscles cramped, the man in the overcoat finally appeared.

“Hello again, sir! You are becoming our best customer! Give him a hug, Varya.”

Varya didn’t dare vary the game. She nuzzled the man’s neck, listening for an unspoken confirmation, and heard what she hoped. It would work! She kissed his ear, played with his overcoat pockets. With a grunt, the man in the overcoat gave her a coin and melted into the crowd.

“Give it to me Varya.” Other than the coin, she had nothing to give. Piotr cursed.

The man in the overcoat was gone, but Varya felt him counting the slips of paper she had stashed in his pocket. She felt his sick glee, his calculation of when, where, and how. The plan would work, she thought. If it did not, she was patient. She could choose another and try again.

Diversion, stealth, cunning: Piotr had taught her many things. Slavery used the same weapons, Varya had learned. Soon, very soon, Piotr would learn it, too.

Friday, August 25

Under A Puzzled Sky

Another writing contest, this time 250 words or less. This is much harder than it sounds, as careful placement of few words, and ruthless editing, is required. I leave it to you to decide if I was successful.

This is a work of fiction. Copyright © 2006 Rumba Creative. All Rights Reserved.
No portion of this work may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated,
or otherwise used without the express written approval of the author.

Under a Puzzled Sky

He really thought she would be the one, this time.

It was a mackerel sky, his late father would have called it. The clouds smeared and shifted moonlight into confusing shadows. He stared up from a stand of yellow pines, turning his thoughts over and over again without the distractions of the daylight world. There was a scent of approaching autumn on the wind, overlaid with the warm, decaying smell of forest duff. It was times like this when his mind asked the most questions.

He never could figure out what marked him as strange. As a child he had made no friends. It was no different now. Everyone in town knew him, but no one invited him anywhere. He worked alone, walked alone, fished alone, lived painfully alone. Women chanced upon him from time to infrequent time, but it always ended the same. It’s not you, they would say, It’s me. Which meant it really was him. Weird peculiar oddball him.

Why did everything always feel so wrong? Was there nothing but frustration and struggle? Did the world not understand him, or did he not understand the world? The world didn’t answer. There was only the melancholy thrum of frogs, the lamentations of crickets to a dying summer.

He really thought she would be the one, this time.

This time, at least, he had found a partial solution. Turning back to his work, he dumped her body in the pit and covered his questions with dirt.

Thursday, August 24

The Long Bridge, High And Terrible

It was a long bridge, high and terrible. Beneath it the canyon grinned wide with menace and contempt. He imagined skeletons broken on unforgiving rocks far below, dried corpses of those who came before, who tried and failed. Vertigo threatened his balance. The view downward induced panic. He backed away, reconsidering.

Chastised by intellect, he shrugged off uncertainty. There was nothing to fear here. The unknown always ran once challenged. Beginnings are easy, he told himself. Endings are easy. Only the span between is hard. Fool, just place your feet and cross! If the bridge failed, damn it, he would grow wings.

Daring the long bridge, high and terrible, he put pen to paper and began to write.

Tuesday, August 8

The Kingfisher Family *

I'm going on vacation in two days! I know my devoted readers, all 3.7 of you, will miss me dearly. Therefore, I offer these pictures you may refer to as you read from the Library of Tall Tales in my absence. I give you the grandeur and beauty that is The Kingfisher Family!

First, we have Princessfisher, aka Daughter Thing. She is 13, and a joy to behold, is she not? She will be rolling her eyes at my unbelieveable embarrassmentness for 9½ days with me on vacation.

Next, we have Princefisher II, aka Fart Boy. He is 15, and is not an imaginative smartass. Really. He will be testing my patience with his unbelievable embarrassmentness for 9½ days with me on vacation.

This is Princefisher I, aka Wonder Dork. He's almost as cool as he looks. He is a 20 year old college student with a girlfriend and a job, so he will be glad not to spend 9½ days with me on vacation.

Presenting HRH Queenfisher, aka Radar Woman. She keeps the rest of us from killing ourselves with stupidity and our own filth. With 60% of the family gone, and another 20% mostly MIA, Queenfisher will feel like she is spending 9½ days by herself on vacation.

This pitiful specimen, photographed on one of its better mornings, needs no introduction, but it's a damn sure bet that it needs 9½ days of vacation.

* Thanks to South Park Studio v2, which you may find HERE.

Sunday, August 6

Night Of The Living Hamsters

It appeared so innocent, so normal, so cute. But I warn you now: The End Is Nigh. We are fooled, ignorant and unprepared. Gird your loins. Stock your larder. Gather your children. The twists of this absurd and warped universe have revealed the truth unto me: The mundane is the profane.

* * * * *

As is my sorta weekly habit, words were flowing from my brain, through my fingers, and into my laptop. I was occupied with cajoling, arranging, but mostly deleting, those words when the cell phone sang the Looney Tunes theme. I picked it up, annoyed.

"Um, hi Dad." It was Son II. "Can I have a hamster?"

"A hamster? Where did this come from?"

"Um, there's a sign by the mailbox. They have 3 hamsters and the cage for fifteen dollars. I have the money."

Dad did some quick mental calculations.

3 dogs + 3 cats + 1 parrot + 1 parakeet + 1 turtle + 4 aquaria + 1 rat = pandemonium squared. "I have the money" balanced the equation.

"Okay, as long as you take care of them."

"Cool. Thanks, Dad," was all Son II said.

Later that afternoon, I was introduced to Bitey, Mayonnaise, and Captain Poo-Face. Don't ask me where the names came from. The hamsters were owned by a 15-year-old boy. If the names don't make any sense, you have never had children, or you have never met a 15-year-old boy, or you are a prude, or you should be dead.

Son II actually proved to be a shrewd businessman. The cage wasn't a cage, it was Carnivale Rodentia. The home of his newly acquired mini-pets included a hamster house, plastic running tubes, an exercise wheel, multi-level platforms, and more plastic running tubes. It wasn't just a hamster cage, it was a Rube Goldberg amusement park for toothy furballs. For fifteen dollars.

"Um, I thought Mayonnaise was sick, but he, um, just had seeds in his cheeks." Son II handed the hamster in question to me. Sure enough, his mandibular pockets were packed to bursting with foodstuffs. I stroked his furry head. Mayonnaise rested in the cup of my palm, whiskers a-twitch, black eyes a-curious, pelt a-placating. They were so damned cute. Until Son II slipped on gloves and picked up The Dark One.

"This is Bitey." True to his name, Bitey launched into his work with a vengenace. Son II shifted him from hand to hand, trying to avoid the incisors that could pierce a welder's glove, much less the finger fabric he wore. He dumped Bitey back into the cage, and removed the gloves.

"This is Captain Poo-Face." Son II cradled the last of his three fuzzwards. It lived up to his name, lying there in his hand, somewhat immobile, a hairy turd-ball. Strangely, when placed back in the cage, Captain Poo-Face took the the exercise wheel with unexplained zeal.

Congratulating Son II on his purchase, I retreated to a weekend evening of leftovers, television, and napping.

In my dreams, I heard Son II and Wife vocalizing in worried and barely intelligible sentences. "It'sdead!" one said. "It's eating it!" said the other. Shaking myself from sleep, I stumbled into the hallway. The clock said midnight, or close to it.

FLUSH. Somebody was having a tough time in the kids' bathroom.

"Is Son II sick?" I asked of Wife.

"No! One of the hamsters had babies!" said Wife. "One of them is stillborn. So Son II is flushing it."

"He just got them," I said. "And they're pregnant already? Maybe that's why somebody wanted to get rid of them."

"Yeah! Now I can breed them and make money!" said Son II. Knowing there was nothing I could do to stop Nature's way, I went back to bed.

FLUSH. "How many more of you do I have to flush?!" Son II was obviously disturbed, and just as obviously amused.

I pushed myself out of bed, and stumbled again into the light of the hallway. Wife guided me to Son II's bedroom. The hamster cage was a fur-blur of activity. The plastic running tubes were a traffic jam of hamsters. At the top of the cage, where one of the tubes terminated, was one squirming pink pencil eraser with nubs clasping at nothing. Mayonnaise, or maybe Captain Poo-Face, rolled it around, sadistically oblivious to its newborn needs. At the bottom of the cage, sawdust undulated, presumably the birthing ground of more hamsters.

"Um, what do I do?" said Son II.

"There's not anything you can do." I said. "The mom is probably young and doesn't know what to do. She will either take care of them, or she won't. But I guarantee you that either Mayonnaise or Captain Poo-Face is a girl."

We all went to bed, but I fell asleep only after hearing another FLUSH.

The next morning I asked Son II about the pencil eraser.

"I don't know what happened," he said. "But, um, Bitey's mouth is all bloody."

* * * * *

People, Hear Me!

Forget Israel and Lebanon. Disregard North Korea. Ignore Rwanda. Overlook Pakistan.

There is a fear that eclipses all else.

The Hamster Gods demand sacrifice.