Archive for May, 2016

Storytime: A Nice Day.

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

There’s a bit of groundwork I have to lay out here before I get into the meat of things.

It was a nice day, okay? A really nice day.
And nice days don’t just HAPPEN. I’m no meteorologist or climatologist or even an astrologist but even I can tell you that the sheer number of impossibly complex chaotic behaviours necessary to produce a single drop of rain or puff of cloud is almost endless.
Certainly beyond my understanding, I tell you. And that’s just the weather! Yes, we all know you can’t have a nice day without a nearly-clear sky; a warm sun; a cool breeze, and JUST the right kind of rustle in the leaves, but there’s far more to it than that.

You need to have:
A good breakfast.
A time somewhere between morning and afternoon. Not close enough to a meal that you’re stuffed, not far enough that you’re peckish.
A place with some green in it. I respect the beauties of the urban landscape, but nice weather has less of an impact on them than it will someplace where the plants are as happy as you are to see it.
Someplace to go and no hurry to get there. An excuse to walk or jog or bike or run, basically. With or without company, however you feel about it.
Some birds making noise. Doesn’t have to be HAPPY birds mind you; a lot of truly excellent birdsong comes from their yelling at their neighbours to stay away from them or something.
A good, happy neighbour or three. Nothing makes a good mood magnify like walking by someone sharing it. It’s like butter on the popcorn of the soul.
And the last one is how the trouble started this morning.

It was a lawnmower.
A lawnmower! Just before breakfast! And I take my breakfasts early, believe you me. My bagel rises from the toaster at around the same time the sun rises from the treeline. But no sooner am I raising it to my lips than do I hear the hucketa-hucketa-BRAWWWWWW of my good pal and neighbour, Barry, and his antique diesel-chewing tree-shredding mouse-mulching repurposed-tractor of a rideable lawn mower.
For crying out loud, the dawn-stain hadn’t even washed off the sunlight!
Now, I’m a patient man. I’m not easily perturbed. I am a limp lilypad on the endless pond of life. Any other day – ANY other day, funerals, weddings, birthdays, my own dear departing deathbed – and I would just smile at Barry’s hijinks, cluck my tongue – click click! Like a chicken! – and be on my way wherever that might be.
But. This. Day. Was. Perfect.
And that wouldn’t do at all.

Barry was a good guy. We’d had beers together. That means something, I think.
Barry was a kind guy. When I ran over his cat, and he later ran over my dog, we buried them together. And we each pretended we didn’t see the other crying.
Barry was a practical guy. When I shoveled my snow into his driveway, that fall he dumped his leaves into my yard.
But Barry… Barry was a stubborn guy. And when I talked to him about the issues I was having with his effects upon this day, this so-nearly-perfect day, WELL.
We had problems.
He said his lawn had to be just so. I said it could be just so later.
He said he had to go to work later. I said that working on a day like this was criminal.
He said in that case well call the cops on him. I said sure fine and went inside and dialed 911.
They hung up. I went and told Barry this.
He laughed at me, a harsh, jackdaw sound that mocked the gentle whisper-and-shush of the trees. I punched him in the face.

The problems started around there. I wish I could recall more, but it got a bit out of hand. Barry was unwilling to apologize and I’m not ashamed to admit I found myself a bit heated up. I only cooled down once the lawnmower got involved, and even then only after I’d backed over him five or eleven or forty-six times. But after that the motor coughed and choked on Barry’s abdominal fat, and as it sputtered down after him into death I heard the morning birdsong and I felt the true peace of the really truly nice day settling down upon me like a warm cotton blanket.
It was a nice time for a walk.

You know, there’s one other piece of the puzzle that is a truly nice day that I’d completely forgotten: the dogs.
I love dogs. I love all kinds of dogs. I love their floppy ears and their cold damp noses and their big doofy grins. I love them so much.
But as I walked down the road several dogs did not behave as I had anticipated. Their tails did not wag. Their ears did not perk. Instead they made low, threatening noises in their throats and laid their ears flat like unleavened bread. My friendly attempts at ‘hey boy!’ and ‘oh aren’t you handsome!’ were replied to with savage snarls and leaps at my throat. Maybe it was the Barry residue coating most of my clothing. I would’ve removed it before my walk, but laundry has no place in a nice day. As it was I was forced to shift my walk into a run while wearing my walking sandals rather than my running shoes. This was not even a little bit idyllic and perfectly explains why I was angry enough to spend the next ten minutes up a tree shouting profanity at the dogs.
It was a nice tree. It was a cedar, a polite, well-barked, straight-limbed tree with no sticky sap coating its handholds and a lovely polish to its exterior. But the owner of the land it stood upon was a black-hearted fiend from hell who had the nerve to shout at me over my innocent claiming of refuge upon her property, and as her threats of legal action reached a crescendo that threatened to drown out the gentle babble and rush of the nearby stream in my ears I was forced to disembowel her with a fallen branch in defense of the nice day.
It still was, you know. It still was.

Of course, the dogs were still upon me, but they were all nice animals from kind households and a brief thrashing and gnawing was enough to leave them whimpering for home, leaving me damn well-exercised and a bit chuffed – although still a mite gory. Gruesome, I tell you. Still, it was fun. Tiring, but fun. So when the SWAT van came screeching up, sirens blaring and bright lights flashing, and all those big burly men in angry blunt arm swarmed out and started shouting at me, well. I was put out. I was clean put out.
So I put myself into the van and put it down the road and into town.
I know, I know, I know. I said you need a bit of green for a really nice day. Well, that’s true. But I wasn’t intent on STOPPING the nice day – not like everyone else was, oh no. I was just putting it on hold for a moment while I saved it.
Besides, I wasn’t lingering. I never took my foot off the gas all the way into town. In addition some people tried to obstruct me and were rendered unable to do so by my wise time management.
The hardest part was getting the plane, since they were waiting for me at the airport. I lost an arm doing that, but I picked out the bullet with forceps cobbled together with an inflight movie headset and cauterized the wound with the microwave. And you know what? The clouds were still smooth and quiet and few and white and puffy, and the sky was still blue.

Mind you, the wind was a bit fierce when I parachuted out. But it was still a nice day.
It was still a nice day even after I’d fought my way inside the silo.
It was still a nice day even while I held the technician’s head in the sink until he told me what I wanted.
It was still a nice day when the exhaust from the missile blotted out the sky for a few hours.
You see, a nice day is more than just a few errant moments here or there. A nice day takes EFFORT. A nice day takes WORK.
And this IS a nice day. It’s the nicest day of all, and now it’ll never end.


I could use a few new neighbours, I suppose. Polite ones.
It’s getting a mite lonely under this mountain.

Storytime: Parenting.

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Baby, why are you crying? Shoo-shoosh, no more tears, mommy’s here.
Was it a draft? Was it a sound? Was it the size of the whole world? Shush shush, don’t worry.
Was it the dark?
Oh, of course.
Mommy can fix it, dry your cheeks and unred your eyes, don’t worry. Mommy can help. See this?
It’s a night-light.
It goes in the wall here – right here – and it turns dark into bright and night into white. Owls go to sleep when it’s on; the moon hides away in the sun; the sky turns blue and the moths fly away and the raccoons drop their garbage and run.
But don’t touch the cord, baby, not even a little. Be careful and quiet and calm. Because if you touch the cord – just a little, baby – it could pop fizzle snap out the sun.

Baby, why are you still crying? Shhh, calm now, good boy.
Did you hear an owl? A coyote? A racoon?
A ghost? A gargoyle? A ghoul?
Was it a thing that goes bump or more of a thump? There’s a big difference, you know.
Don’t worry, don’t grumble or fuss. Turn that little frown upside down. Mommy can help with one of her tricks. See this?
It’s a teddy-bear.
Tuck it under one arm – right tight! – and under the other – real snug! It’s soft as cashmere with steel underhair; mouse-mild but house-sized when squeezed. Just give it a hug and whatever dares bug, well, I wouldn’t be it for the world.
Just don’t touch its mouth or eat near it, baby. It’s friendly, but we’ve all got our limits.

Baby, are you crying again? Oh no, not again, not more!
It can’t be the dark, it can’t be the creeps, it can’t be, I fixed them for you. Shh-shh, let me think.
Oh of course the classic the CLOSET.
Good boy, don’t worry, mommy can help. Look here-
A blanket: secure and safe.
Tuck yourself in with it here and there, go to sleep without a care. When the closet door swings wide, just slip your head underside.
Then you push the little button in this corner – here – and it floods the rest of the room with cyanide. Don’t put your nose out until after forty mississippis, okay?
Good boy, baby, good boy. See? Mommy knows best.

Baby, it’s four in the morning! What’s got you so worried this time?
Is it colic? Appendix? Incoming influenza?
Or is it existential angst?
Well baby don’t pout, and baby don’t worry, because I can help with that too. (Mommy knows everything, you see).
Baby, there is no point to all this. Baby, there’s nowhere after it’s done. But when your body’s all to pot we can let it just rot and put your brain in this cybernetic mnemo-dome.
See? See the pretty blueprints? Mommy’s got you all set, don’t you fret. Right to retirement and beyond!
Sleep tight, baby. Sleep tight.

Baby, please, why are you crying?
Baby, are you okay?
Let mommy help you.
I can help you so much.

Storytime: How to Make a Sun.

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Hey now, hold on a minute, wait up, give a friend a break, eh? Just help me, help me out here – I’ve got a story hard on my heels and my head and I’ve been trying to outrun the blowback day and night for a long time. Wait up a moment, let me empty it out from my lungs and into your ears so I can catch a breath for the sake of all that’s me.
It’s Lalie. It’s about the only time she ever lost a fight.

So one day Lalie woke up in the worst mood in the worst place. A grey, broken sky. Ground a mix of mud, blood, and rocks. Not a tree left standing. The only animals were bones, and the only bones were the ones too little to bother splitting for marrow.
“Just as I left it,” she said with satisfaction. And she sat up and scratched herself real good because she was proud, but as she scratched she shivered and got cranky because she could feel the gurgles starting up in her stomach again.
Those gurgles! Time and time again she thought she’d shut them up for good, but they were never gone for long. Lalie was a growing girl of eight years old and eight feet tall, and no matter what she did she kept growing, growing, growing all out of proportion and sense. If she’d had her druthers she’d have quit long ago. It was getting harder and harder to find things big enough to feel worth punching. Or eating.
“Boooo—ring,” she sang out over the land. Then she stomped off. That was a nice part about being bigger, really. You got a better stomp.
Now Lalie came to the banks of a stream, and as she was draining it dry for breakfast – and using her teeth as a weir to pick out fish – she spied across its bank the most amazing sort of place she’d seen since the last castle she’d kicked over. A glorious great green park, with trees the size of mountains, mountains the size of trees, and hills the size of hills. More importantly, it was crawling with animals of all shapes and sizes that she barely understood.
“Now THERE’S a place to get a punch and lunch,” she said to herself with satisfaction. But herself shook her head at this, for Lalie was a child of hag-giants, and theirselves speak when spoken to.
“Don’t go there!” she said. “That’s the marvelous land of the great sky-dragon Cymm, last and largest of her kind (and by far the worst-tempered). If you go there, you’ll end up in such a state even I won’t be able to help you.”
“Says you, me,” said Lalie good-naturedly, for she was never one to abide caution from anyone or anyher. And she strode over the streambed at a stride and rolled up the tanned carcasses and bones that made up her sleeves.
The animals stared at her.
“Come on,” she said. “Winner eats the loser.”

Man, that was a real mess. A real mess. It was the biggest brawl Lalie’d been in for a year and a day and about an hour and a little under four and a half minutes. A hundred wolves jumped on her right arm and a hundred lions jumped on her left arm and a herd of elephants stormed her legs while a thousand eagles clawed at each of her three eyeballs. I can’t hardly describe the violence, I don’t really know what to say of the carnage, but I can sum most of it up in as short a word as possible so we don’t have to dwell on it:

When Lalie was done chewing she looked around and saw that the marvelous land of the great sky-dragon Cymm, last and largest of her kind (and by far the worst-tempered) looked pretty much identical to where she’d woken up that morning. The mountains were mud, the trees were toppled, and there weren’t even many bones left this time. She’d been hungry.
“Time for sleep,” she said to herself with a yawn.
“Don’t sleep here!” said herself. “The great sky-dragon Cymm, queen and king of the clouddom, thunderer of renown, and last and largest of her kind (and by far the worst-tempered) has her personal lair not far from here at all! You’d better be long gone before she arrives – and anyways, it’s far too earlier in the day for sleep, lazybones! See how high the sun rests in the sky?”
“Ah, who cares,” said Lalie. “I’m tired enough to snooze through an a-bomb. I’ll lie under this tree and put my hair over my eyes and that’ll set me right as rain.” And she ambled over to the tree and did just that, snoring like a brigade of soldiers with megaphones.
But the sun was strong that day, and the sky was still clear enough. And the beams of light snuck down the long blue air and stole through Lalie’s wire-thick hair, twitch and toss and turn in her sleep as she might, until all she could do was wake up snarling, time after time.
“Shut off your nonsense!” she shouted at the sun.
“Turn off your nightlight!” she snarled again.
“GO. AWAY.” she requested politely.
And at last she just tilted back her head and screamed loud enough to blow all the dirt out from under her nails and the lashes from her eyes. Then she picked up the dirt and lashes, rolled them right ‘round her palm lickety-split, and hurled them at the sun in a hard ball, WHAM.
And down it went, out like the light.

Now, at first Lalie was okay with this. She’d been trying to get some shut-eye after all, right? And she did, and she did. Snored bigger than ever, too.
But when she woke up in the middle of the ever-night with icicles on her toes and under her armpits and in her big mouth, well, even she thought this was too much of a good thing.

“This is LOUSY,” Lalie complained. “I just wanted the sun to shut up for a minute and stop glowing at me, but now it’s gone and made me all chilly. This wouldn’t happen if people listened to me. I’ll have to replace it.”
So Lalie walked around in the dark sunless world with arms outstretched – tripping over the odd tree-trunk or smashed mountain as she went – until she found something new and smooth and strong; the body of a great tall fruit-tree that had withstood all her bluster and violence so far. She shook it gently and heard the soft, full rustle of ripe, swaying fruit above her.
“Huh,” she said to herself. “I bet I could use this.”
“Don’t you do it!” herself warned. “This will be the final straw. The great sky-dragon Cymm, devourer of all flowers, cousin of the far stars, queen and king of the clouddom, thunderer of renown, and last and largest of her kind (and by far the worst-tempered) lives in that very tree, sleeping at this very moment! If you disturb it, she will emerge ready to kick ass and take names and you don’t want to be on that list!”
“I worry too much,” she told herself. And with that she kicked the tree hard enough to split it in half, caught the biggest and ripest fruit as it fell, swore at it so hard it burst into full flame, and lobbed it into the sky, where it stuck like a fly in a web.
“There!” said Lalie proudly, shaking her right hand free of flames (it was charred bone-deep). “Better than ever!”
But as she stood there, admiring her handiwork, a roar filled the air. The new sun shook and shimmered in its place, and its skin bulged as a sinister form erupted from its surface, coiling down to the earth as fast as lightning and three times as fierce. It was the great sky-dragon Cymm, ender of evil, smiter of the timid, devourer of all flowers, cousin of the far stars, queen and king of the clouddom, thunderer of renown, and last and largest of her kind (and by far the worst-tempered)! Her eyes were fiery red and her scales were blinding blue and her crest was a rainbow, and she was just a little tiny bit longer than your thumb, most of her body being her beautifully plumed tail.
“Is this the lout that has defiled my marvelous land?!” she asked indignantly, body swollen to half-again her normal breadth with the force of her peevishness. “The chump that has knocked down my forests, stamped in my mountains, hummocked my hills, and consumed all of my animal pets and companions in the most indecent and voracious fashion?!”
“Yup!” said Lalie, grinning all the way around her head four and a half times. “Look at you! How are you so tiny? You’re not even the size of my snots! If I hold my fingernail to my eye, you don’t exist! Are you a dragon or a dragonfly? Hah! Hah! Hah!”
And as Lalie rolled back her head in pure, endless delight, the great sky-dragon Cymm, ender of evil, smiter of the timid, devourer of all flowers, cousin of the far stars, queen and king of the clouddom, thunderer of renown, and last and largest of her kind (and by FAR the worst-tempered, let me tell you) shot down her britches like a speeding bullet. And before Lalie knew what was happening, she fixed her teeth around the largest boil on Lalie’s buttock, and she bit down, hard.
The great sky-dragon Cymm did not have big teeth, but they WERE very sharp.
“YOW!” yelled Lalie, and before she’d even finished that one she’d moved on to “OWW!” because Cymm had found the second-largest boil on Lalie’s buttock. And so on to “AWP!” and “EEP!” and “YAH!” and “AIE!” and “HOI!” and “AGH!” all on through every combination of every damned syllable, because the moment Lalie tried to swat Cymm she just moved on to another boil and another bite, faster than a greased pig and a little more than a hundred times as angry. By the time the great sky-dragon found the smallest boil on Lalie’s buttock all she could do was moan, and when her teeth sunk home there well… she shouted pure nonsense, butted her head on the moon, shook herself every which way all at once and just before, and ran back across the river she’d emptied so fast she filled it up again behind her, along with a lot of very surprised fish.
The great sky-dragon Cymm, for whom titles hold no import, was still very cross about the desecration of her home. But she’d retained her intruder’s pants, which gave her both some satisfaction and the makings of a new home until her tree’s saplings grew fresh fruit.


So that’s the story of the only fight Lalie ever lost.
Just don’t tell her I told you, eh?

Storytime: A short interview.

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

He was a hairy-knuckled, hunchbacked fucker, the old primate, the old perv.  Mould grew in between his teeth and his arms were worn and stretched from years of late-night brachiation.  But he nodded his head and let me in and gave me a drink I didn’t trust while we squatted there, talking and rambling and justifying himself six times over before I’d even got comfortable.
“It was just my job, see?” he whined through the gap in his big canines.  “It was only ever my job.  You don’t have to single me out, like, you don’t have to pick on my any.  Anansi, Iktomi, and Yahweh had me dead to rights and my kneecaps ready for an’ intimate talk with a bat, and then I says ‘hey slow down there fellas, there’s gotta be sumthing I can do to help,’ and after they ‘d done laughing and kicking my ribs a bit they said ‘sure, show us what you got.’  And I was in a rush, right, and I was in pain, right, and so’s under the circumstances I can’t hardly be blamed, right, can’t hardly be blamed at all.  You have any idea how hard it is to make a spine sober – which I wasn’t, on account of the pain.  Or how hard it is to rig up an eyeball that’ll stay seeing straight for more’n half your life – which I couldn’t, on account of the rush.  Really, you’re luck to be upright and breathing and making those funny noises you make at all, right?  Outta be thanking me.  Not too bad a job, right, for a pawful of spit, snot, and semen, I mean, HAD to use what I had to hand.  Had to use what I had to hand.”
“Hey, you’re not writing this down, are you?  It’s a nice trick, but it ain’t mine.  Never got the hang of all that kind of stuff, I’m hands-on but always moving, can’t afford to stand still and wait.  This job’s just killing time while I wait for my next big break.  It’s coming, just you wait.  Whine all you want about basic design flaws, but you guys look great on a resume, dead on.  I figure you’ll get me into planets.  Been practicing that – seen that little red one?  That’s mine.  Forgot the magnetosphere – amateur work, won’t make that mistake twice.  But just you wait now, and just you watch.  This’ll be my next big break soon.  Then I can get out of this dump and go big-time.  Cosmoseses, ewwn-eye-verses, maybe a few of those dye-menshun thingies.  I’m on my way, just wait.  And it’s, it’s, it’s all thanks to you, y’knowwhaddImean, all of you.  Y-O.  Y-o.  Y-o-o-o-o—-u.”
And he slumped over, drooling, and I looked at that warm stream of spit that spawned us all and I felt disgust brewing in my brain.  And resentment.  And anger.  All things your parents teach you how to deal with, or not.
And so I did it, smothered him like a baby on his own distended mucus and vomit.  He went out whimpering and I can’t offer a word in my defense that isn’t pride.  I didn’t ask to be as I am.
But I’m sure if you asked the poor bastards yet to be, they would’ve said ‘no thanks.’