Posts Tagged With: Magic

Ceiling Fan Magic

This family just went on Vacation for the first time.  My Mother-In-Law had reserved a time share for a weekend up in Big Bear, but then ended up not being able to use it.  She offered it to us instead. And it was mostly a good time although VERY stressful.  The packing list alone, man… Also, Asher didn’t know what to think of it and refused to adhere to any kind of regular schedule while up there.  I worried.  Incessantly (he’s fine, of course.  He’s even sleeping soundly).

But we had good times amidst all my superfluous woe.  It was beautiful up there. And the weather was not a million degrees too hot to go outside.  We hiked, we swam, we enjoyed awesome Nepalese food at the Himalaya Restaurant, we strolled by the lake.

Asher didn’t care about any of that.  His favorite was the new and fancy suite to run around in.  New rooms with funky flooring!  Vertical blinds!  Oh, the remotes! And then there was his one true love, the ceiling fan.

I noticed it one morning when I had pulled him into bed with us.  He stood on the white comforter, one hand bracing himself steady on my hip, and gestured to the fan.  He stared at it, and his hands twirled.  His fingers extended out and then in again as he gestured, pulling his arm back, pushing his arm forward.

It looked for anything like he was performing magic on the fan.

So here is the question: what WOULD an eight-month-old want to summon from inside of a fan?  Or is he just trying to keep it running with his magic fingers?  He did this several times throughout the trip, too.  It wasn’t a fluke.

I don’t know, man.  I may be waiting for an owl to fly in my window in a few years with an epistle from Hogwarts.

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Categories: Kids, Life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Search Of

I’m feeling super-lazy today.  This weekend was fun, but a lot of work.  I made 2 kinds of jam and some mushroom ketchup, as well as dissected the structure of Madeline L’Engle’s “A Ring of Endless Light.”  Not the exciting stuff that blog posts are made of.  It has dawned on me, though, that I haven’t posted any writing in a while.  And so here you go: this is 1/2 of a story  I’ve been finessing the ending of before I start shopping it again.

A.A. Milne

In Search Of:

“Do you think she wanted to drop it, or do you think it was an accident?” said Jack to Fritz.

“Does it matter?” said Fritz. “We still have to find the bloody thing. And if you thought the proverbial needle in the haystack was bad, try the golden apple in the miles of mud. We’ll never get back to Olympus, you know.”

The green khaki they both wore was stained with dry earth, their leather boots caked, their round helmets just covering their eyes. The helmet was just for looks. Even if someone dropped a grenade or a bomb into the pitted, broken earth of no man’s land, it wasn’t likely to harm either of them. Or not for long, anyway.

“Speak for yourself,” said Jack. “This war can’t last forever. We’ll find it. I have confidence.”

“I had confidence last year,” said Fritz. “But I don’t anymore. You’ve heard of the hundred years’ war, right? Doesn’t have to stop any time soon, brother.”

The land he and Fritz were walking over was nothing but violent pits of loose earth that undulated like waves, barbed wire fencing stuck between.

It had been almost three years since they frog marched him and Fritz down the mountain top and told them not to come back without apple in hand.

The golden apple. It had been so long, but Jack still remembered the way the thing reached into his mind and implanted its own memories, all of them horrifying. The desire that came with it, the wonder, the need to own it, to look into its precious golden surface forever. The urge to cut the eyes from anyone else who wanted to look too.

The size of a fist. Perfectly round, glossy, tantalizing, with a thin silver leaf reaching from the spindly, ideal stem.

“Come on, put your German on,” said Fritz, nudging him. “This is the spot – whole bunch of shelling, no movement either way. Looks promising.”

Jack shrugged and then touched his hand to his helmet and his sleeves, and then to Fritz’s. A faint, sweet smell of ozone rose from his palms and the flags on their uniforms turned to black, white, and red stripes. The holes covered over with green. Their boots gleamed.

“Which story are we trying?” said Jack.

“I dunno,” said Fritz. “Inspecting the troops in the wake of the General’s visit?”

“Sure,” Jack nodded.

Fritz made the vehicle out of the clouds that coalesced in the gray sky. He beckoned them down and encouraged them into the shape of an armored car, German flag on the door and flying from the side mirrors. They both got behind it and walked it up to the trench camp, and they both made sure to step out of it via the illusory door Fritz waved into being. It looked good unless someone tried to touch it, but Fritz parked it far enough back that probably no one would.

They had learned after Fritz took a bayonet to the thigh in the Italian camp almost 2 years ago. Blood everywhere and a whole week lost while his hamstrings knit back together.

The scene before them looked like all the other trenches they had been to. Broken earth, barbed wire, a deeper wound on the pitted earth that was the fissure these men fought from. The round helmets of a few men in the distance peaked over the wound, scanning the bare earth beyond for the siege of men that would come crawling over the top; if they weren’t the men crawling over the top of someone else’s trench instead. Every few hundred feet stood a machine gun tower.

The sentry nearest them raised a hand.

“Guten Tag!” Fritz called.

“Guten Tag,” said the sentry, saluting. “What brings you both today, Majors?”

“You will point us to your Kapitän.” said Fritz, in fluent German.

“Right away, Major,” he said. “Lars will take you.”

They followed behind the Musketier, keeping their shoulders upright, their strides purposeful, their movements sharp. The man led them down a wooden ladder, and then through the muddy trench made of piles of sand bags. Jack could touch the walls on either side if he reached out his hands far enough. Dark stains dotted the top row of bags.

Inset into the back of the wall was a framed doorway, which led into a hole with a desk in it. The walls here were wooden.

“Men from the Home Office to see you, Kapitan,” said the Musketier, saluting.

Jack blinked, closing his lids hard. When he opened them, they had adjusted to the darkness as if it was day. The room had a bare bulb swinging from the ceiling, and had been wallpapered in something floral that might have once been cheery but was now dust like everything else.

The Kapitan rose and saluted to them. Jack and Fritz soluted back.

“Nothing confidential,” said Fritz. He handed the Kapitan a folder. Inside it was the page he had encouraged weeks ago to appear like an official telegram.

He let the man look it over for a moment before he spoke again. “We are to bring you this news, and also to inspect the troops ourselves, as a precursor to the Generalleutnant’s arrival. He will be here in two days. Plenty of time for you to prepare your men.”

“Certainly,” said the Kapitan. “Should I call them now?”

“No rush,” said Jack. “We will spend most of the evening with you. We know there isn’t much room and won’t claim a bed, but part of our orders also include bringing back any requests for equipment you might need, or additions to these accommodations.”

“We are hoping not to be here long,” said the Kapitan. “Within the next month, we will take the next trench ahead from the Americans.”

“Certainly,” said Fritz. “But you will, of course, still hold this trench. We are not speaking of great things. Perhaps reinforcements to walls and frames?”

“Of course. We always need additional sandbags, but could also use whatever wood can be spared.”

“So we have your permission to go where we will and see if there is anything else we think you could benefit from?”

“The Generalleutnant orders it,” the Kapitan shrugged. “I will muster the troops for inspection just before evening mess, and then you must dine with me.”

“We would be honored,” said Fritz.

“With your permission?” said Jack

The Kapitan nodded and stood again. “You are dismissed.”

They traded salutes.

#

Out in the trenches again in the dark earth beneath the drab sky, they were alone except for the men on the top of the wall who looked only to the horizon. Jack took a deep breath and inhaled. Nothing but the faint traces of molasses ozone that came from their uniforms, and the piece of paper that was still inside the office.

He shook his head. “I can’t smell it,” he muttered.

“Of course not, idiot,” said Fritz. “None of them are pretending right now. They’re alone. There isn’t any fake to smell yet. You try this every time.”

“One of these days, we won’t have to stay until dinner to figure it out,” said Jack.

“Smell anything else, though?”

Fritz was talking about the smell of the golden apple, cloying and metallic.

It had been too long since either of them had seen the golden apple sitting under a crystal dome on Olympus. It was so long ago that Jack couldn’t remember the smell. He just knew he would remember it when he caught a whiff, that it was unlike anything else he had ever smelled. It was gunpowder and desire; honey and hunger; sex and blood.

“No,” said Jack. “None of that, either. It isn’t here, but we still have to ask.”

“Bloody unlikely that’ll be any help,” said Fritz. “Thousands seen it, no one’s grasped it. Come on, let’s get this ‘inspection’ going. The sooner we can move on…”

“Yeah, I know,” said Jack.

#

The Kapitan mustered the men just before dusk duty. They stood at attention, backs to the walls of the earthen trench, chests proud and muscles taut. Jack walked behind Fritz and breathed in. They got to the middle of the row before Jack smelled it; the ozone smell gone wrong, sweet rain with undertones of phlegm, the lie.

This one had the sickness.

He was pretending pretty well. The smell was not overwhelming, so maybe he only had obsessive thoughts of home now. But soon the Apple would take him, and he’d be at the mercy of what it chose to show him: cannon fire raining from a ship, pelting the walls of a seaside fort, men falling from the ramparts into the water; A woman plunging a knife into a man’s back, he gasps a sucking sound before falling to the dirt.

It would eat him. It ate anyone who was mortal.

Jack made note of the soldier. Blonde hair too long, escaping from his helmet. Grimy moustache above his lip. He may have been fat once, but now his cheeks hung from his face. His attention pose was looser than the men around him.

“Very good, Kapitan,” said Jack. “You have an impressive force here.”

“Thank you.”

#

Jack snuck out during dinner. He excused himself from the table and then made his way to the barracks. His calculation was right. The rest of the men were at mess, but this one had stayed behind. He was staring at the wall, hand poised over a piece of paper as if he was writing a letter. But the paper was filled with apples, the lines of them frayed and round.

“What is your name?” Jack asked him.

He startled. “Rolf,” he said, covering the paper with his arm.

“And you have seen the Golden Apple?”

“Is that what this is?” he said. He picked up the paper and held it out to Jack, hands quivering.

“I don’t know,” said Jack. “Tell me.”

“I was on patrol with – a friend. Oskar. Oskar Berger. And the Americans started shelling. A wave of dirt flew up and something landed next to my shoe. I thought it was a shell. But it didn’t blow. It was gold, and it brushed against me. But another shell hit, and this time it was a real one. It hit Oskar, and it… the earth and his body, his… it all thrust me aside and knocked me out.”

“Where?” said Jack. He could taste the apple now, the metal and cake. But it was the ghost of a smell, the memory of it.

“Oskar. Oskar Berger. Another faceless man lost to this…”

“Oskar Berger. We both remember him now,” said Jack.

“When I joined this war, I was so…” said Rolf. “All we saw was uniforms and glory, the heady shock that reverberates through your arm when you shoot a rifle, the glee that rises in your throat. We didn’t know what happens when the bullets hit their target, what your throat feels like then.”

A sob caught there, Rolf’s Adams-apple bobbing, keeping it in with a sucking sound.

Rolf swallowed. “I don’t know,” he said. “It was months ago. We weren’t even in this trench back then. I don’t know where I saw it.”

Jack sighed. “No, no. Of course you weren’t.”

“If you find it…?”

Jack shook his head. His answer was always the same. “You’ve touched it, and your mortal brain couldn’t handle the strife it’s been through,” he said. “Once you’ve been touched, it never lets go. That’s it. You will have to learn to manage as best you can.”

“No,” said Rolf. He closed his eyes, and the silence surrounded them. He opened them again. “And when will this damned war be over?”

“When I have found the apple,” said Jack. “Have faith, brother. I’m trying as hard as I can.”

Would it be another hundred years? Two?

Rolf covered his face with his hands and turned away. Jack went back to the bleak Kapitan’s quarters to finish his meal.

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Halloween Reads

Halloween Books

Two blog posts in one week, you say?  I know.  I’m feeling like an overachiever.  Or maybe I’m just feeling like I don’t want to fix horrible rough drafts any longer.  I want to do some fun writing instead…

It’s almost October!  In fancy letters on my calendar for Saturday it says “Put up Halloween Decorations!!” So of course (always a slave to my calendar), I will be getting all the macabre things out of cabinets this weekend and putting them all over the house.  I’m very excited about it. Items are deeply tied to memories for me, so I will be thrilled to see the village go up, and the pumpkins collect on my bookshelves again as if they were old friends.

This has me thinking of Halloween reads, of course.  Even if it is 100 degrees here in California, I can still read creepy literature and eat cinnamon flavored things while lolling about in the air conditioning.  Here are some of my creepiest favorites so you can join me:

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black:

Tana wakes up from a party to realize that her entire high school has been murdered in the living room, and a vampire (who probably wasn’t responsible) is tied up in the back bedroom waiting certain death when the sun rises enough to come in the window.  Rescuing him brings her a world of trouble, especially when she agrees to enter a quarantined “Cold Town” where humans and monsters mingle in a nebulous line between predator and prey.  Getting in is easy, getting out impossible, and the whole thing will be broadcast as reality TV for the world – and Tana’s family – to watch.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman:

Neglected Coraline hates the new apartment her parents moved the family to, complete with creepy neighbors.  Until she discovers the door in the living room that leads to a utopian version of the life she hates, complete with mouse circus and perfect parents.  But then Coraline’s Other Mother asks her to stay.  All she has to do is let them sew buttons into her eyes…

The Diviners by Libba Bray:

Evie finds her small town too hot to handle when her ability to divine the past from touching personal objects means she knows a bit too much.  So her parents pack her off to her uncle in New York who runs the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult.  Evie is thrilled to be among the speakeasies, the Ziegfeld girls, and the opulence of the 1920s.  Until something calling himself Naughty John awakes and begins a spree of murdering that maybe only Evie and her pals can stop.

Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems by Edgar Allen Poe:

Seriously, this guy has the creepy thing down.  And he’s been the most consistent October read of mine.  I always sit down to some of his short stories in October.  There are a million collections out there, so pick one that looks good and read away (I pulled the linked one because it’s all of them).  My favorites are The Cask of Amontillado, the Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, I could go on forever… In fact, here: http://poestories.com/stories.php

Sunshine by Robin McKinley:

It was probably dangerous for Sunshine, baker extraordinaire at her step-dad’s diner, to drive out to the lake in the world post-war where everyone now knows that vampires and were-beasts are real.  She didn’t expect to be kidnapped and chained in a room with an imprisoned vampire.  She didn’t expect to be able to save them both, linking them inexplicably together.  And now she’s been drawn into the middle of an ancient vampire war that cannot be won, and she has to pretend it’s all fine lest she frighten the humans or attract the attention of the Feds who would certainly kill her allies.

Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black:

A dark Faerie tale in which Kaye, drifter and groupie for her semi-talented mother’s band, discovers she’s actually a changeling Pixie when they move back to her family home in New Jersey.  Kaye falls in love with the most dangerous knight in the evil Unseelie court, and now she must play a game of identities, both human and pixie, as she tries to keep herself from becoming the traditional Samhain sacrifice.

All links are Amazon Affiliate links.  Happy reading!!

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The Sea

Originally part of a collection of short stories, A Blatantly False History of the World, But Mostly America.

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“Make your way to the sea,” He said. “There, we can hire ships to take us back to our homelands.” He whispered it to us in the darkness, when we had stopped toiling in the streets and in the house, serving the Romans for the day. We returned to our hovels under their vast, gilded courtyards and listened to His breath in our sleep. We dreamed.  In our dreams walked the Gods of our homelands, of the green country of our birth. We listened to His words, seeping into the heart of us, and remembered.

There were houses in the north, dug into the ground for warmth during the harsh winters. Thatch stood up from the earth like tiny hills. Snow covered the ground as the seasons turned, and those living there would press together to share heat. It was companionable, looking out the door as the snow swirled, knowing that it could not take your life as long as you were with these others. We told stories there in the cold; of the magic of the moon and the restlessness of the dead.  And then the Romans came, and there were no others, but only strangers.

Not all of us listened to His voice in the darkness. Not all of us felt His words pierce our ears with longing. Some of us were snatched from our homelands so long ago that the white marble of Rome was the only place we knew. It was tempting to stay, to try for the chance to become free again, given the ultimate gift for loyalty. But that kind of freedom was at the whim of the master. The kind He was whispering to us was something we didn’t have to rely on others to provide. It was something we would gain for ourselves. And so we left with Him. At first, we were just a small band of rebels on the outskirts of the town, living in the green hills peopled with boulders. They left us alone, and like bread dough, we rose. By the time our edges seeped from the hills, we were too big and scattered for them to bother with. This is what He told us.

He told us that the sea would be our life. If we could only get to the southern shore, we could pay the Cossacks to take us to freedom. They were no friend to the Romans, and they would help us. For enough money, they would do as we asked. This is what He told us.

The hills were very green, deep and lush. Small white flowers grew in patches, even up to the heels of the boulders. We hoisted our swords and watched them shine in the sunlight, new on the horizon. It had been ages since we felt the ungiving haft of steel, cold in our palms. We walked toward the sea. We felt the blades of grass brush our toes inside our sandals, scattering dew between our toes. We felt the rough cloth blow across our shoulders as we walked across the land. The sky was vivid blue and it stretched for days and into the future.

The hills changed. They became fields of wheat as we walked, golden to the horizon. Trees broke the line of waving grass in clumps. Sometimes, a cypress pointed to the sun above us as we strode by its shedding trunk. Once, we walked by a farm house. It was abandoned in the red sunlight, but a little dog barked in the distance. Some wanted to catch the dog; to taste the savor of dripping meat. Wheat is not always the best for a marching stomach. He convinced them we didn’t have the time.

We must always press forward toward the ocean. It is salt like our tears. It is salt like the sweat we shed for the comfort of the Roman masters, or for the life of our family in another existence far away. The ocean shall be our savior, and it shall return us to those we love.

The wheat became hills again, like a song that repeats itself. The trees stayed, to shelter the boulders and the little white flowers beneath. A hawk wheeled above our heads, dark checkered wings on the blue sky, blocking the sun as it flew past. It dipped to the green grass and pulled a mouse from the earth, tail twirling as it rose to the sky.

He said we were getting close. We wondered if the hawk could see it, so much farther could it see from its height. We remembered the ocean being vast and terrible. Sometimes it was a deep, swallowing, glassy blue. It was calm and deceptive when it looked like that, biding its time and lulling its prey into a false trust. It was black when it raged, froth shuddering over the timber frame of the ship. This is how it turned, mild to murderer in a swoop of cloud, a weeping of the heavens.

We were not at the end of the song. The ground changed again, and we could hear the rushing of the sea in our dreams from where we slept. It whispered to us in the darkness a faint crash-hush. Vast beaches spread sand before us, tan and glistening in the sunlight. The ocean was aggressive only in the way it beat its fists across the shore as we beat our fists against our masters. Gulls flew above, riding the wind in clumps. The wet breeze clung to our clothes and skin, making even our hair feel sticky with salt. We licked the brine from our lips and felt the spring stirring in our bones, the great rebirth.

Three days, we camped by the ocean. Three days, the wind blew salt into our being. On the third day, a messenger came.  It was not a good omen. A rumor went around the camp. The Romans were not happy they had no one to wait at their table. We were pinned on the coast now, nowhere to escape. The army of Rome, glistening gold helmets, red manes dripping from the gold like entrails; the army of Rome was on the march. No Cossacks would come to our rescue and give us passage across the sea to our homeland. Rome had paid them not to.

He was the first to flee, our fearless leader, the one who whispered no longer. He would go back to the hillsides, to the cave we had lived in before, He said. It would just be temporary until we could try again. We scattered to the winds. But like a blown dandelion, there is a center that is not subject to the will of breath. I am that center.

There are a handful that join me; those with ballast. Sleeping by the sea made me remember many things, and this is the tale I remembered most.

It is terrible to perish at sea not because of death. Those that fall into the foamy waves do not die. The God of The Sea is too greedy for that. Whole ships are swallowed by the blackness, and they sail beneath the waves. Seafarers make weedy sails from kelp, and skim the depths for eternity. The eyes painted on the side of their ship shine like the sun in the darkness. The God of The Sea is waiting until they are enough. When he has an army, he will send them against the God of The Land, and he will be the God of Everything. Until then, they decompose in the deep.

And with that memory, fresh and clean, came another from my childhood. They had married in my mind while I worked in this land, and while I walked across it. It was of my grandmother.

She smelled of mint as she bent over me and kissed me goodnight. “I have had a premonition of you, Geric,” she told me. “It was not good. It was full of water and darkness, and you were far from home. I will tell you a story tonight and some day you will need it. You will forget this moment until you need it, but store it away for the time when winter becomes spring. It is important.”

She told me of the Sea God, and also of how the dead cannot always die. “You can turn them to your will, if you are strong enough. You can turn them to your will for a little while, and for longer if they like your cause and agree to help you.”

This was the way: I needed a bone, even from an animal, but a real bone it must be; something that was part of the living but was now stripped of muscle and sinew, of everything that made it what it was. There was a rune to carve into the shaft of the bone. It must be exact, not a twirl or hatch out of place. If the bone was perfect, and the rune was perfect, the spell could take place. Take land from where the heels of the fallen walked. Mingle it with the living saliva from your body. Say the name of the rune out loud. Shout the name to the stars, and if they bless the bone with their light they have blessed you with control. As long as you wear the bone, you will be safe. As long as you wear the bone, you can command them. They will listen for a time before the sound of eternity echoes again in their ears and they will leave you.

It would be hard to do by the sea. The men I wanted to call did not walk upon the ground, and so I could not mingle my spit with the earth. The rune was a vague memory in my mind. The smell of mint echoed through the ages. I would remember, I whispered to my grandmother in the dark. I will remember like you told me to. There were a dozen or so like me who had not given up, who were still camping by the sea. For my homeland and their homeland, I wanted to try. I could not bear to go back and give up, of another day living in the hills and waiting to rise. I could not bear the thought of crucifixion if the Roman army found me here.

I did as my grandmother told me. Instead of earth, I mixed my saliva with the sea. When the moon was high overhead, I lifted the bone. I screamed the name of the rune to the sky. The other slaves, the few of them who were left, clustered at my feet and they, too, screamed the word to the sky. The ocean crashed between my words, and their words met mine.  I told the stars my anguish and ordered the bone to live. As I screamed, a bolt of light came from the sky. It burned the flesh off my fingers, and made the rune shine. The blood from my open wounds dripped into the sand at my feet.

It was cold the next morning, and a gray fog obscured the horizon. Drops fell on the sand, making divots in the dirt, pattering around me. The others stirred in their sleep.  I went to the ocean and the others followed me. The lips of foam pounded across my knees. I took hands with the others. I held the bone aloft, as I had last night. I held it out to the sea, to the gray sky, to the blue depths.

“I need to get home,” I yelled into the rain. The mist swallowed the sound. I waited. The surf seethed in and out. The rain pelted across my shoulders, growing with intensity.  I was drenched, dripping.

The ocean began to churn, out where the sea met the fog. It turned black, and a whirlpool formed from the chaos, whipping and turning in the deep. I could feel it from the shore, pulling my legs toward it, just as the earth pulled my feet to its own breast.

A flurry of weeds flew from the whirlpool.  A mast emerged. With a sucking sound and a pop that shook the horizon, a black ship rose from the depths. The hull was covered with barnacles and slime. In some places it was black as pitch, glossy and slick. In others it was a furry green. Tendrils of seaweed dripped from the deck. The painted eyes on the side of the bow gleamed white, new as the day the ship was christened. Seaweed trailed from the masts. As we watched, a group of things, brown and upright, tossed a small boat overboard. They rowed for the shore. They came to bring me home. I stood together with the others on the shore, lined up shoulder to shoulder, and felt the waves crash over my sandals.

My hand throbbed with pain where the lightning left it raw. Tears dripped over my face as I watched the small boat row towards the shore. I thought of my grandmother, the smell of mint, the thatched huts of my homeland.

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