Archive for November, 2013

Storytime: A Meal.

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

It began with the two most dangerous of things: a stomach that held too little and a head that held too much. And nowhere was there a more capricious vessel for these two traits than the body and soul of a common crow.
Well, the crow is an ingenious bird. There was no food available? Then he would find it! He flapped forth with purpose.
There was no food in the tall grey woods. They were quiet and dim with the late autumn air, berries plucked and rodents nested.
There was no food in the wide brown fields. They were emptied of harvest, emptied of care, lying cold and waiting for the white blanket.
There was no food by the rushing blue streams. They had sunk into a dull-colour fugue now, as dim as the skies. Fish no longer bothered to leap.
There was no food in the busy many-coloured city. There had been a glut of scraps and filth in the summer, steaming under the sun, but the cold kept people (and their garbage) indoors and out of the way.
And it was there, as he perched on the corner of a building, consumed by annoyance and the bite of an angry belly, that the crow’s eyes alighted upon a none-too-notable thing: two passing noble-men, heads bent, hands waving. Discussing serious matters as serious men did.
And for many animals that would have been that. But he was a crow, and an ingenious bird whose head held too much, and that set him straight-footed as to what was to be done.
The men separated at a street corner with a handshake. Business concluded, backs were turned.
A pebble. A perch. Bonk.
“What was that for?”
“What?”
“You hit me!”
“I did no such thing.”
“Liar!”
“Lout!”
And soon there were blades and shouts and rough things and there was a fine two-hundred-pound meal cooling in the crisp November air for the crow, and he got a good cropful out of it before other, paler, calmer men arrived to take it away. And the best bits too – the soft round things that had stared so emptily at the sky.
One of them threw a pebble at him, but the crow was a canny sort, and he dodged it.

A scant week later and winter had moved in, curdled the waters of the land into solid mass and bedecked the trees in frozen jewels. Food became scarcer still and the crow was not hungry alone. He and his murder grew thin and cold together, fat sleek-feathered bodies wearing ragged. Something had to be done.
Well, it was simple enough. Few things are smarter than a crow, but one of those things is several crows. And they have excellent memories.

Down the streets it trundles, the carriage of the great family, footmen clinging to it like monkeys, wheels dancing on ice patches. The memorial service for their lost boy had been delayed by shock. Nobody had expected to have to arrange such a thing, not now, so young; not here, so close to home and far from war.
They arrived at the cemetery, side by side with another procession, a very similar procession. The cut dealt to their own had been slower and crueler, but there had been no doubt of its result within hours. Their son had lived to help plan his own funeral.
The two groups devoted all their ears to their priests as best as they could, to stay civil. They ignored each other. They ignored the city. They ignored the tired, bare trees that stood around them.
They also ignored the crows.
Bonk.
“Did he-“
“Shh. Not now.”

Bonk.
“Why-!”
“Don’t-“
“I felt that, I saw him look at me!”
“Why would I look at you, murderer?”
“The same to your own!”
“Sto-“
“Shut up! I’ll say what we all should!”
Bonk
Bonk
and it all went along quite predictably from there. Alas, the gap between riot and cleanup was briefer this time, public as it was, but still there was time – and no shortage of targets – for the murder to fill itself to the point of bursting. They had been very hungry indeed, and in the weeks to come and the burials to arrange the glass-blowers found much work in artificial eyes. Ten pairs.

Winter reigned, cruel and clean, sharp enough to cut but soft enough to numb it away. The city shrank under it, and in such a tight space the fighting never quite ceased. In the streets, in the squares, under the rafters. It was beyond the close relatives now, of course. Both could afford to hire men to do this sort of thing for them.
A meeting was arranged. Cooler heads must prevail, this was all out of hand. Already lesser houses, smaller houses were beginning to rustle and rumble, to pick sides. Nobody really wanted this to get much larger. Surely they didn’t.
That’s what they told themselves as they all sat at the long, long table, face to face with those they could not look in the eye. None of them wanted this. It was the other ones. Their fault. Why did they force our hands?
The papers were already on the table, lying alone at its center, still half-unwrapped. Nobody wanted to touch them.
Tap-tap-tap on the glass. A welcome distraction for the man seated nearest to it, a private moment of relief noticed by no-one else. His son was dead, and now one of his cousins, and he had to keep quiet but it was so hard, so hard. Yes, this would take his mind off this room full of people he hated. Whatever was at the window. Just for an instant, he could be somewhere else, in mind if not body.

The crow met the man’s gaze cheerfully. Dangling from his beak was a single, hazy-brown eyeball.
He watched as the man rose from his seat and began to walk towards the far end of the table, and knew that his work was done. And he was thankful that he had remembered the colour of the soft, slippery meal he had enjoyed months and more ago.

Low winter now. Still harsh, but full of rot. Wet, but dead. Slush and slurry in every footfall, muck and mud spattering every drift. Snow turns to ice turns to water turns to slurry turns to ice. And everywhere, everywhere, the men added to the thaw with their own steaming red.
There was food in the tall grey woods, whose trees had been cut to serve as timbers in forts that lay half-burning. A great deal of food.
There was food in the wide brown fields, where farms burned to deny the enemy’s stomachs and many boots turned soil to mud.
There was food bobbing in the rushing blue streams – roiling and furious with the flow of water, churning flesh against stone until the blood ran out down to the sea.
And there was more and more food even in that cold, cold many-coloured city, where many more each day rose and found themselves lacking meals of their own. The beggars had been the first to feel its pinch, but that had been weeks ago, and now an empty plate was a natural plate.
The crow was happy. Its eyes were bright, its beak shone, its feathers were fluffed and contented over a strong and well-nourished body that had just recently passed muscular and moved into plump. Everywhere it went there was food. Everywhere its kin moved there was food. Necessity had mothered this grand invention, and in doing so had obsoleted itself. Its life was content. And look! More food down there, lying on a corner, slumped down to stare up at the heavens that cared not! And its eyes too – what luck!

As the crow wheeled down from the sky, eager and ready, small, trembling hands settled their grip on a primitive little wooden thing, a tumbledown patchwork of old bits of wood and hope and string made from its owner’s hair. It was frail and it was ridiculous and it was a remarkable invention indeed.
But then, its owner had been motivated, driven by the same thing that led to the perfect care in her wrists as she took aim with her little short-bow. Once she would have turned up her nose at such things, but little is a greater call to action than a stomach that holds too little in conjunction with a head that holds too much.

Storytime: End of the Day.

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

It had been a long day, a hard day, a hot day, a day that grabbed you by the shoulders and shook you until your teeth rattled off your brain and fell onto the carpet. It had seized Pat, used him cruelly, and discarded him with the thoughtful care of a six-year-old with a handful of used tissue paper.
He was hungry. No food since the morning. But there were more important things to do. He had to relax before the morning came again. He had to sit down. He had to stop moving.
So Pat sat. Pulled up a chair (tugged at it, at least), shuffled into place, sat at his desk and stared at the wall.
His phone buzzed in his pocket. His inbox pinged cheerily at him. On the wall, the alarm clock coughed up objectionable noises – he needed to put dinner in the oven and he needed to have started preheating it ten minutes ago.
Pat knew all that. He knew, he knew, he knew. God he knew. But that didn’t mean he needed to hear all about it.
So he turned off the alarm. He turned off the phone. He closed the mailbox, then closed the private mailbox, then shut down the browser (containing his secondary mailbox).
Then he turned off the computer so that the clock wouldn’t stare at him from the corner of the screen, dates and deadlines predetermined and highlighted and ticking away like little time bombs. That was for tomorrow, another country. Today –
Well, tonight
- he was going to get some rest.
Pat leaned back in his chair again. Quiet. Peaceful. A dog barked. Traffic groused. His neighbours spat and shrieked and hissed. The raccoons in his garbage took their example to heart.
This would not do. It would not do and so Pat stood up and put on his coat and got ready to would not don’t.

The dog was simple. Pat had a spare bone left in his compost, barely a day old and still flush with scraps of half-chewed pork. He smacked the animal with it until it produced no noise above a whimper and let it be.
The traffic was harder. Pat settled for driving his truck into the center of the road, locking the keys inside, and setting it on fire with his lighter.
The neighbors had a brick thrown through their window with a couple’s councillor’s address scribbled on it.
And the racoons were shooed away with an old and angrily-dented pot and a firm ladle that had been passed down to Pat by his great-grandmother’s aunt, made of some mysterious blackened metal that was probably toxic but in a way that made you wrinkled and tiny rather than cancer-riddled, if his family history was any hint.

So Pat sat down in his chair again. It was very nice, except for all the things he could hear. Little things, like the hum of the refrigerator, the squeak and rustle of tiny furry things in the walls, the woosh of the wind, the crunching of broken glass next door as the neighbors had sex on their living room floor.
Pat sighed, got up, found a toothpick, and carefully punctured both his eardrums. There, noise fixed.
He sat down again. Then he changed his mind and walked around the house, turning off appliances, turning off electronics, removing the fusebox and chucking it out the back door to stop that constant ticking and humming in the walls, taking a sledgehammer to the furnace to shut off the noise and air that blasted at him from the flooring vents.
He sat down again, again. He got up. He took his old bb gun out from the box under every other item in his closet and destroyed the street lights that he could see from his window, which numbered seven, and he sat down.
There. All done, all quiet, all smooth, all fine. Except for that one light that shone on his ceiling, the light of the carbon monoxide detector. But that was fine, fine. Besides, he couldn’t turn that off or the alarm wouldn’t stop screaming.
It was fine.

Absolutely fine.

Completely, utterly fine.
But that little light wouldn’t go off.
He had to do something about that. How else would he get any rest?
Pat sighed again. As he got up to search for his hammer and chisel, he cursed his grumbling belly. But he didn’t have the time to fix that anyways. He had to relax.

Storytime: Campfire.

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

It’s a tradition, they said.
Now, what they meant by that was something particular. Lots of traditions out there, after all. Some of them nice, some of them nasty. Some of them get as much attention as a handshake, some of them get whole months set aside. Some of them only a few people left in all the world that half-remember, some of them everyone knows almost before they’re born.
This was a pretty small tradition. One neck of the woods. One handful of men. One campfire. One night. And an awful lot of stories.
Spooky ones, of course. There’s just something about the way those flames crackle and jerk and turn the whole world into warm-against-the-darkness that makes you start wondering what’s out there looking back in. It was all in good fun, all the stories were, but there was always that little demon of competition inside each of them, every one, that was trying to keep count of who could get the most of his friends squinting to the point of eye-puckeredness to preserve his night vision from those warm flames, aching to keep in sight of what might be out there.
There are limits, of course. Stephen told a story late one night four years ago. Nobody can quite remember what it was because nobody wants to remember it at all, but they almost froze to death waiting it out ‘till sunrise. Better that than a walk in the woods.
One year everyone got too sick to come out. Bad flu season. They almost couldn’t find the firepit next year; the trees had sown their leaves so thickly. Trying to cover up the unsightly blemish on their forest floor, no doubt.
The trees never did seem to warm up to them, or their fire, or their tradition. And maybe that’s not WHY what happened, happened. But it certainly didn’t help.
It didn’t help when Stephen tried to top his old story and failed and the trees creaked soft and slow.
It didn’t help when Louis tried to top that story and succeeded and the trees swayed gently in a barely-there breeze.
It didn’t help when it was Martin’s turn for his story and he kept stopping and starting because he couldn’t tell if he heard something or not and it was the trees rustling their leaves at him.
And it didn’t help when Roy decided to lighten everyone up and rouse their spirits with the latest rendition of their oldest, oldest, oldest favorite, as the trees watched them in that eyeless way trees have. It was a good old story, and it came out every few years. It was as much a part of tradition as the tradition was. And it went like this:

 

(Once upon a time there was a man, a tall, thin, long-legged man)
(He was strange and silent and so he lived alone, far, far off in the forest, on a small dirt road that wound its way all about the trees every which way)
He liked to whittle, someone would say at this point. That was about all he did. Whittled.
(One day a man found his way there – a merchant on the road. He was tired and cold and hungry and he was so friendly and genial that the tall, thin, long-legged man allowed his hospitality to overpower his misanthropy)
(And so the merchant stayed the night in the house of his strange host, and he marvelled at the fineness of the carvings that had coated nearly every wall, floorboard, beam and hoist and join)
(You could sell these, he said.)
(But the tall, thin, long-legged man frowned at the very notion, and made haste to excuse himself from conversation. It is for me, and me alone, he said. Good-night and good-bye.)
Some people are just like that, you know.
(And the merchant was left alone as his host retired to the tiny pallet in the rafters that was his sleeping-spot. And he pouted, as thwarted profit-seekers do. And then he had an idea.)
(There are so many. He can’t notice if I just take one.)
And there it is, someone else would say.
(So the merchant crept about the house, feeling by fingers and with sharp eyes in the dark until he had found the most beautiful of the carvings, a strange portrait of a dead tree with a sad face and a pair of threadbare branches. And he cured himself at this time, because he knew his small knife would be nowhere near enough to cut the thing free.)
But he wasn’t the only one with a knife.
(But he wasn’t the only one with a knife. And so the merchant carefully crept up the ladder to the tall, thin, long-legged man’s bedside, where he slipped the soft-gleaming knife from his belt. It was artful in its lack of art: purest practicality without sentiment beyond wear-care)
(And just as the merchant raised the knife to cut)
Ohhh no.
(Just as the merchant raised the knife to cut, he felt a hand on his wrist – like that!)
(And because the grip was so sudden and fierce and the merchant was alone in the woods in a strange place and because he was also in the middle of a very unkind thievery, he panicked, screamed, and yanked. And because the tall, thin, long-legged man was so very thin, down he came, head over heels, and together they tumbled, tumbled, tumbled)
(And only one of them stood up again at the end of it. The merchant’s fine clothes were a good deal damper and more cruelly stained than they had been that evening, but his host’s shirt had gone all to pieces, right over his breastbone, sliced to ribbons and a good deal deeper.)

(Now, most men would have panicked. And this one did too. But he panicked in a careful sort of way.)
(First, he went to bed on the tall, thin, long-legged man’s pallet and spent the night shivering with a blanket over the corpse’s face.)
(Second, he buried the body. It was hard because he was soft and hurried and careless, but it was done.)
(Third, he took the knife)
(And fourth, he took each and every last carving on those walls, down to the engravings on the door-handle. It would’ve taken longer if the knife weren’t so sharp.)
All done.
(And once he was done, he went home, along the winding, wooded path in the growing dark. And he walked quickly, because he didn’t want to spend another night in that place. The trees were too thick there, and the sky too far away and cold, and the grave he had dug seemed altogether shallower in his head with each passing mile – and it almost seemed to grow nearer. It made his neck prickle and his feet quicken.)
(It’s never a good feeling, out there in the night. Listening to your breath and making sure it’s just yours. The merchant was moving so fast now, so very fast, and the trees seemed to lunge at him at each turn and twist of the road. Branches dragged across his sides, stroked his face, tore at his soft, flabby skin.)
(And it was then, just as the merchant was growing giddy with fear and felt that he could take not much more, that he saw the light.)
(A light! A light on the main road! He was safe! And he ran, ran, ran, laughing with the relief and joy of it all, until he rounded that last fatal curve in his path and saw the soft-shining candle glittering in the window of the tall, thin, long-legged man’s little cabin.)
Pulled a u-y.
(Now, many people would lie to themselves at this time.)
(Oh, how foolish I was to take the wrong turn on all those twisty corners in my haste!)
(Oh, how silly of me to leave a candle burning – I could have set the forest ablaze!)
(But the merchant was a liar only in his own service, and when he saw that calm little light dancing in the windowpane of the cabin, he stuffed his fat fist in his mouth to avoid a shriek and turned and ran faster than he’d ever imagined, so fast the shush-swish-shush of his clothes against his rolls blurred into one long whisper that was almost a shriek. The path roiled under his feet, dirt mounding and pinching into unevenness that seemed to steal his balance from him, and he blundered and stumbled and wasted more time than he would have if he’d merely walked as the trees reached for him at every turn.)
And
(And then…)
Then…
(The merchant stopped running.)
(And the merchant stopped running because the path was full.)

(It was a strange and silent sight, that thing in the night. It loomed without meaning to – in a gangly, mountainous sort of way. But it could not do any other, because it was the tall, thin, long-legged man, and as the merchant flailed his arms in his desperation to halt himself his palm brushed against cold sticky wetness on the shredded shirt that it wore.)
(The merchant spun like a top and accelerated. And though the thought of looking behind him filled him with sheerest horror, it was inevitable that he did so. And when he did, he saw nothing at all – just a dark shape among dark shapes, moving in the wind.)
(Just a tree! he squeaked as he nearly fell over in his muddle to halt. Just a…)
(And it was then that the tall, thin, long-legged man came around the path’s corner, a stride to a turn, leaning into the curves. And it was still accelerating.)

(No-one ever saw the merchant again. But alas, some of them did see the tall, thin, long-legged man. And he has grown much less fond of visitors.)

 

And that was that for this year. Sometimes they kept going, used it all as an inspiration, but today it was a signal that they were finally out of steam. And so was the fire, and they were out of fuel, and it was cold out there – they weren’t as young as they used to be, ha ha ha ha, especially Roy, ow, watch it, ha ha. And so on.
And so forth they went, in threes and twos and then finally in ones as they each went their own way through the woods to their own homes, their own lives, along their own paths. Hurrying a little.

One of them hurried a little too much. Stephen was walking the wrong way, and he knew it was so when almost ten minutes passed and there was no meadow under his feet, no stars in the sky. Just trees, trees, trees, endlessly staring trees. He didn’t like that. Things without eyes should mind their own business. And besides, they were strangers to him. After all these years, still strangers. These were wide woods, and he must have stumbled passing far off course – the maples and ash he expected were absent, and in their place he’d wandered into a gloomy stand of thin and needlessly-crook-branched pine. Their needles prickled at his coat, and their sap globbed at his fingers as he felt his way past trunk after trunk.
It was no problem, not really. The forest was only so big, and it was bounded by roads on all sides. He would get out eventually. He would find someone’s backyard or something. See – light. He’d found it.
But as Stephen pulled his way loose past that last wall of needles and spite, he saw that he was still far from the road. The backyard was a tiny clearing, the light a feeble flickering fire in a paneless window, and the home barely a shack – wood and heaped earth, like something a man might have made anywhere from a hundred to a hundred thousand years ago.
And as Stephen backed away from that sight, his throat squeezing, his hand touched something that was not bark. Smooth, hard, polished. Someone had taken a knife to this tree and carved it from base to branches, a full ten feet in extent.
Then the light went out.

Stephen did not hurry. Stephen RAN.
And Stephen, getting on in years though he might have been, was no fat merchant – he had once been a marathoner, and had jogged for pleasure for years. Now he was a sprinter, and a good one. He did not look behind for fear of the long, slender knife he knew he would see clutched in a long, slender hand. He did not look to the sides to see the carefully-carved faces that leered at him from every single pine from this angle of approach. He did not even look at the sky to check his direction, for he followed no crooked path but a line as straight as any crow might fly as he ran, ran, ran, ran, feet pounding, heart in his mouth, ears shut to all but the roar of his veins, eyes slits, running, running.
He passed through the pines and he ran.
He passed through the tiny clearings and he ran. And as he ran his stride deepened, broaded.
He passed through the oaks and chestnuts and he ran. And as he ran his pumping arms swung wider and wider.
He passed through the ash and maples and he ran. And as he ran his spine straightened, lengthened.
Onward, faster and faster, hard on the hunt. There was a thing in the woods and he must run, holding the gleaming terror in his long, slender hand. He must run home, home to stop it before it did more harm. He could smell it on the air, feel its sweat on his cold skin, taste its fear through the open old hole in his chest.

It was not so very far to home. Look! Already the pines were there, waiting.

Storytime: A Brochure.

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Welcome to Sounder’s National Park!*

Experience the Experience of Someone’s Lifetime
Whose? His!
Founded in 1823 by Jonathon Jeremiah Jacob Sounder, Sounder’s National Park is America’s first and only National Park to be disowned by the Federal Government. An excessively local iconoclast and exotic game collector of some infamy, Sounder defied the money-grubbing penny-pinching scallywags in Washington and pressed ahead, funding the Park with both his own lifetime’s savings and those of several close friends whose noble sacrifices have been immortalized on our very own Park Symbol: Sounder’s Obelisk. After the spending spree of a lifetime that took him across the kingdoms of the four corners of the earth, Sounder retired to live out his final days in peace on his property, hunting potentially-dangerous game with only his sharp wits, deadly aim, and highly advanced state-of-the-art semi-automatic musket. Following his peaceful death at the age of seventy-three from sixteen simultaneous accidental discharges, Sounder’s heirs opened the Park to the public’s hearts and wallets, and the rest is history.
That said, much if not all of what is written of Sounder’s National Park in most history books is slanderous and flagrantly illegal, a ploy of jealous government-sponsored textbook manufacturers and their lust for the honest and modest profits of our business enterprise. Donate money online at www.SounderNationalPark.org/stopthedefamation to aid our courageous lawyers in the hundred and sixteenth year of our ongoing legal battle for justice in the face of the yellow-fanged fury of a spiteful press.

A friendly reminder….
For your benefit and ours!
Sounder’s National Park and its management staff bear no responsibility or liability for injuries, deaths, harms, costs, regrets, fears, dreams, pains, or doubts that may occur on park property to a visitor as long as the visitor was not paying attention. Don’t worry – by reading this pamphlet, you are ensuring that you are well-informed and well-prepared! The Park is your playground, but like any playground, careless use of the monkey bars will get you in trouble – so mind your P’s and Q’s and make your visit a happy one!**

**Do not under any circumstances attempt to use the monkey bars. Access to these institutions is reserved for monkey staff only and infringing on their privacy is a serious violation of their union contracts, for which you WILL be persecuted.

Changes For the 2014 Season
A new year, and with it comes new fun!! Here’s what you can expect to see for the very first time over the next twelve months!
-A hearty Sounder’s welcome to our newest Park Ranger, Kent Bevvers! Kent is on duty at the squirrel-feeding station come rain or shine, although he may be hiding in the bushes during daylight hours. A reminder to the public: Kent’s experiences in protecting our freedoms abroad have left him somewhat shy, so please observe the following rules to ensure that your visit with him is safe and comfortable for you both:
1-Do not use flash photography near Kent Bevvers. The bright light may startle him.
2-Do not make direct eye contact with Kent Bevvers. He could interpret this as a threat.
3-Do not feed Kent Bevvers people food. His digestive system is not like ours anymore.
4-Do not attempt to pet Kent Bevvers. He may become agitated and nip your fingers.
5-Remember, Kent Bevvers is more frightened than you than you are of him. Be considerate, give him plenty of space, and never come between him and the nearest exit!
-Jonathon’s Socket Lookout will be temporarily off-limits to the public until approximately late February while the railing is replaced, the blockage is cleaned from the geyser, and a new sign labelled “you must be this thin to lean over the scenic view” is erected.
-The Maplepit Petting Zoo is now closed, and all its inhabitants have been given nice new homes across the state with loving couples who will give them plenty of walks and lots of love.
-The Maplepit Barbeque Shack is now open for business! Try our wide variety of exotic foods, from the Roly-Poly Koala-bab to the Goatsy McNuggets!
-Sounder’s Obelisk has been freshly scrubbed of graffiti and is now fitted with a brand-new automated defense system! What kind? We’ll leave it a surprise, but here’s a hint: don’t come within fifteen metres of it if you have braces on. Fifty if you have fillings. If you have a pacemaker, there are Designated Waiting Benches in our parking lot for you to nap on while your family explores our Park.

Classic Attractions
Come rain or snow, sun or shine, war, famine, pestilence and drought, you can always count on these Sounder’s highlights to stay the same! Must-sees!
*The Great Possum Graveyard: Opossums, those crafty marsupials, are well-known for their ability to play dead – but here in our most spine-tingling corner of Sounder’s National Park is where they go when they can’t fake it any longer! After you’ve taken your snapshots of the seemingly endless and somber ‘orchard of the dangling tails’ and gingerly picked your way through the many crunchy paths carved from actual possum-bone, why not stop by the dig sit, where trained paleoecologists under the able eyeball of Dr. Leonard Leopold have so far delved over half a kilometer below the surface in search of the continually-elusive beginnings of this natural mystery. And don’t forget to stop by the ‘Possum Place on the way out to pick up some possum-tooth necklaces for that special someone!
*The Macrosnail: The only living member of its phylum, Megalomucus conquirere, is not a true snail at all, but it’s still a sight to behold! At over sixteen metres across and twenty deep, our Park’s unofficial mascot would be a sight to behold if he weren’t in the middle of the thus-far eighty-six-year process of drowning in a peat bog. At his current rate of sinkage, it’s estimated that ‘Maccy’ will be entirely invisible from the surface by 2022, so get looking while the looking’s good!
*Magnetic South-South-West: It’s here, and it’s real! Separated from the famous Magnetic North-North-East marker by a mere twelve and a half thousand miles of molten rock and iron, Magnetic South-South-West is very nearly as exciting in every way! And there’s a gift shop! With things in it! Please buy some of them.
*Sounder’s Obelisk: The official Symbol of the Park, Sounder’s Obelisk is crooked, scarred, malformed, and blotchy, but that’s not all it had in common with Sounder – it also shares his indomitable, deep-seated bitterness and frustrated will to if not live well then at least live flagrantly. For nearly two hundred years it has borne the deeply-engraved names of those four noble friends of Sounder’s who died and left him vast sums of money in their wills for the purpose of self-amusement. Will you one day arise to find such noble figures in your life? We can all only hope.
*The Stomping Grounds: Perhaps the most long-controversial section of our Park, the Stomping Grounds have been the legendary haunt of that most elusive spirit of Sounder’s National Park folklore for nigh-millennia, if we’ve put enough effort into interpreting the legends of the local tribes in the most interesting way possible. Yes, it is true: the SQUASH MAN may possibly potentially theoretically lurk among these half-smushed hills or hills that look very much like them! Is that an eye gleaming at you from a hidden hollow? Maybe! Is that damp soil from the morning dew… or the sweat of a passing green-glistening foot? Who knows! It’s a mystery and we absolutely cannot speculate on it further but if you’re intrigued by this colourful local tale we have a gift shop for that. Look for the flashing sign with the big green face on it – and bring cash, we don’t have a debit connection there yet.

Sad Tidings
All things in life must pass, good and bad alike…
Jim-Bob Saunders, the great-great-great-great-great-cousin-in-law of Jonathon Jeremiah Jacob Sounder (thrice removed) and spiritual, mental, and biological heart of Sounder’s National Park has passed away from this vale of tears and sweat. And we are all the poorer for it, particularly as he neglected to prepare a will.
A tenaciously philanthropic man, Jim-Bob never stopped trying to give back to others – to his community, through the creation of many lucrative careers in waste disposal within his Park; his fellow citizens, through the construction of many paid water fountains and corn dog booths; and to the staff of his Park, to whom he personally supplied sufficient waste as necessary to keep them employed and working unpaid overtime to boot.
Jim-Bob’s passing has been felt by all of us here at the Park in more ways than one. Meetings are quieter, and the donuts are consumed with less haste and gusto. The floorboards groan and creak as they slowly rise back into their intended postures, freed from a lifetime of unruly and uncaring pressure. The air seems clearer, the autumnal colours appear more lustrous, and the dew tingles in the cool breeze in a way we never saw before. The mice of the offices have become less timid and now raise their offspring on the floor next to the photocopier without fear, boldly scavenging for food in plain sight of management. Food has seemingly acquired new and dangerously enticing flavours, at least one of which is a stranger to all I have asked, existing somewhere in-between sweet and umami. A crane has been found lying dead in the Visitor’s Center dumpster by the eldest of our janitorial staff. He has since gone blind and will not speak to any man.
Good-bye, Jim-Bob. May you get goin’ and don’t come back home ‘till there’s cash money in your pocket. As you told all of us. Repeatedly.
Good ol’ Jim-Bob. Classic.

Rupert Flip, Director of Sounder’s National Park.

*Sounder’s National Park is not affiliated with the National Parks Service in any way, shape, or form. Please do not claim, suggest, insinuate, or imply that this is the case on Park property or you will be fined up to seven dollars and be obliged to wear a muzzle for the remainder of your stay to prevent us from frivolous lawsuits. For more information, look up Sounder’s National Park Service v. National Park Service and Copyright Law of the United States of America.