Monday, October 6, 2014

New Blog

Not sure if anyone's still following me here, I've started a new blog over at wordpress.

So, like, update your bookmarks or something.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ten Little Chapters

The flash fiction challenge this week, which might be my last one for a while if I decide to do Camp NaNoWriMo, was to make a ten chapter story while staying under 1000 words.  Not sure how "Western" jumped into my head, but here ya go:

                Penelope rounded the corner a corner in the town of Gulch. Before her stood a man bathed in shadow despite the bright afternoon. Dull blue eyes were the only distinguishable trait on an emotionless face.
                She turned to run.

                “My poor Penelope,” Grace wailed. “What happened, doctor?”
                “This is not my area of expertise,” replied John, sounding professional to hide his horror. “It seems looks like she was strangled, but there are no marks on her throat.”
                “But what about the claw marks all over her?”
                “They didn’t break the skin.  I think they’re fingernails, not claws.”
                Grace looked at Dr. John.
                “We need to send for the sheriff.”

                Henry entered the town of Gulch atop a silver horse. He went straight to the saloon
                “You’ve had a murder?” he asked to the barkeep after ordering a beer.
                The barkeep pointed Henry toward the end of the bar. He approached a short gentleman in a suit and repeated the statement.
                “Thank God you’ve come, Sheriff,” exclaimed the man. “I’m the doctor who sent for you.”
                He held out his hand.
                “Call me Henry.”

                “Are you sure you need to look around Gulch, Sheriff Henry?” John asked as they walked through town.
“Just Henry.”
“What about the body?”
                “You should bury the body,” Henry responded. “I’d rather get the lay of the land.”
                He stopped in front of the cardroom, turned to look back up Main Street.
“Are the hotel and brothel the only two-story buildings in town?”
                “Yes, Sher-, uh, Henry.”
                “What’s that one-story in between?”
“Elks’ Lodge,” John responded.
“That brick building across from the hotel,” he pointed at the bank. “Is it flat roofed?”
                The doctor nodded.
“Triangle ain’t as good as a square,” Henry muttered, “but it’ll do. Now, find out who didn’t show up to work today.  That’ll be your killer.”

                “She was strangled,” Doctor John said as they entered his office, “but not by constricting the throat. And there were fingernail scratches all over her body.”
                Grace stood up from the spot where she had kept vigil for two days.
“Other ways to asphyxiate without strangulation,” Henry said, looking at the corpse. “Smoke, for instance. These scratches on her neck probably came from her own fingernails, clawing to get air.”
“Have you ever seen anything like this, Sheriff?” Grace asked.
“I have, and call me Henry.”
“Can we find who did it?”
“We’d better,” Henry moved his eyes between mother and doctor, “and soon.”
 “Doctor,” gasped a young boy, running into the room “William did not show up to the mines today.”

William was hungry. He needed more nourishment. When had he last eaten? What had he eaten?
He thought back.  Chicken dinner at the company restaurant, creamed corn and mashed potatoes on the side.  Was that Thursday night? What was today?
But there had been another meal.  The sweet smell of flesh, the smell of smoke, a scream.
He couldn’t remember the taste. It never touched his tongue.  He never chewed, just ingested.
But it filled him. Oh, how it filled him.
He started to salivate.

“This is where we make our stand,” Henry said, back outside the cardroom.
“What can I help you with?” John asked.
“Find three people you trust.”
“I trust everyone in this town,” the Doctor responded.
“Not what I meant,” the gruff man responded. “I need brave and reliable, regardless of what happens.”
John nodded understanding.
“We’re going to put them on the two second-floor balconies and the bank roof.  I’ll here to make a fourth corner. When I signal, each of them will throw a net toward him.”
“A net?” Grace broke in. “You’re not going to kill him?”
“No, ma’am. For reasons I can’t go into, he has to be captured.”
“How can you be sure he’ll come this way?” the doctor asked.
“We need some bait,” Henry responded. “What time does school get out?”

William staggered down the street, smelling children.  He was hungry, and he needed nourishment.
There was not a cloud in the sky, yet his vision was clouded. He looked to the left and right, barely recognized the jail to one side, saloon to the other. 
When he got to the hotel, he finally saw the four children he had smelled. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he realized that kids by the whorehouse didn’t make sense. But pushed thoughts aside as he lurched forward in a crippled gait. Saliva poured out of his mouth at the corners.
“Hiya!” he heard from his left and turned to see the accursed Henry standing in the doorway of the cardroom, a net leaving his hand.
It had been a trap. Kids at the whorehouse! He turned around, only to see nets floating through the sky from all directions. He cursed his hunger, cursed Henry. His head darted for any escape.
A woman came out of the Elks Lodge.
Grace? Was that her name?
She raised a revolver and shot.

The black mist dissipated out, hovering above the William’s falling body. 
As the town watched, it formed into a single ghostly figure. It turned what counted for its head toward Henry. They looked at each other for a moment that might have been a half-second or might have been a thousand years.
Then the black wraith turned and shot out of town.
Four nets landed on William’s dead body.
“Wish you hadn’t done that, ma’am,” Henry said as he walked toward his horse.
“He killed my Penelope,” Grace shouted toward him. “I couldn’t just let you capture him and let him live in a jail cell, or maybe get released. I know how you sheriffs work!”
“Never said I was the sheriff, ma’am.”
Henry got on his horse, lowered his hat, and headed west. 

                Clara rounded a corner in the town of Bridle, ninety miles west of Gulch. Before her stood a man bathed in shadow despite the bright afternoon.
                She screamed.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Something Punk

Chuck's flash fiction challenge this week was "Something Punk" (  My first thought was "Yeah, right," but after reading his description, I figure'd I'd give it a try.  And I think I might have stumbled upon something for Camp NaNoWriMo.  Who knows.

Charles in Charge

“By order of his majesty, King Charles Stuart,” the town crier yelled. “To honor the approaching millennium, an extended Yule commenceth today! For one week, all manorial obligations are suspended! Your gracious Earl hath also decreed that peat shall burn in the Town Square every night until the arrival of Anno Domini Two Thousand!”

Elly cheered with the others in the village square, thoughts focused on the coming week.  He would not step near his baron, his plow, or even his hovel for a week.  Mead and a cheeky lass were all he needed. 

“Verily,” the crier continued, rolling up the scroll he was reading, “Feast, frivol, nay… Party like ‘tis Nineteen Hundred Ninety-and-Nine!”

If only he could tinker with his new seed drill while off the manor. Sharpness wasn’t a problem. The iron was too weak. Heat was needed, he was sure, to make iron into steel.

“What burn hotter than peat?” he asked himself.

“Nice shirt,” came a whisper in his ear, barely audible amongst the crowd. “Be that cotton?”

Elly turned toward the voice, saw a short, surly man standing there.  The man had black matted hair that drooped almost to his eyes, dark eyes that bore into Elly.

“Aye, ‘tis,” responded Elly.

“Cotton be expensive,” the man responded, scratching at his own woolen clothing to emphasize the point. “And time consuming.”

“I devised a contraption,” started Elly.

“A machine?” the man responded.

“Know not that word, good man. It removes cotton seeds. I can trade excess food or peat for raw cotton, make the clothes me’self.”

“Cotton gin?” The man asked, and received a blank stare back. “Ye are a regular Eli Whitney.”

“It’s pronounced Elly,” he responded, getting the same confused stare back from the man.

“Ha’n’t seen ye ‘round.” The man changed the subject.

“Bartholemew’s my baron. ‘Tisn’t often I can make it all the way to the village.”

“Aye, Bartholomew’s almost to another Earldom. Tell me, who was your baron before Bartholomew?”

“His father, Obediah, naturally,” responded Elly, not sure what this stranger with the intense dark eyes was getting at.

“And do you remember when Jonathan became Earl?”

“’Aye. I was eight years old. ‘Twas the last time we’ve had a week off of the manor.”

“And the king?”

“Charles,” answered Elly. “Has always been Charles. At least as far as I can remember.”

He scratched his head, thinking back.

“I’m only in my twentieth year,” he continued. “My father must have had another king, though I do not remember a name.”

“I be twice yer age,” the odd man continued, eyes and head darting in multiple directions while he spoke. “Charles has always been king. Talk to anyone and-“

“Stop! Cromwellite!” Elly turned to see two knights, wearing chainmail emblazoned with the red Cross of St. George superimposed on a field of yellow below the blue-and-white checkerboard pattern of the House of Stuart, barging through a group of peasants.  Pointing in his direction, they began to run. The sound of swords scraping from scabbards scattered the crowd.

“Don’t mention your machine if ye want to avoid the Taser,” the stranger said, turning to run.

“And wood burns hotter than peat. There still be wood in England.”

Before running, he snuck something into Elly’s hand, a clear bag with a piece of paper clearly visible inside. But the bag was not made of any substance he had ever seen, feeling both filmy and slick simultaneously.  The clearness was also unquantifiable, neither opaque nor creamy, but unnaturally see-through. The top was fastened together with inter-locking ridges.

“What’s in the plastic?” a knight asked, sword pointing at Elly’s chest. The other knight raced after the man who had disappeared into the crowd.

“Plastic, sir?” Elly was turning the odd new word over in his mouth when the knight ripped the clear bag from his hand. 

“A cotton shirt and a plastic bag,” the knight addressed Elly. “What have you to say?”

“I,” Elly began, then remembered the stranger’s admonition. “I traded some extra peat for the cotton, sir.”

“What does this say?” The knight held up the bag, allowing Elly to see the writing on the paper inside.

“I know not, sir. I’ve not learned my letters. King and Charles re the only two words I recognize.”

“Yes,” the knight responded, sounding both suspicious and annoyed, “I know it says ‘Who was King before Charles?’ And then it has a meeting time. I need to know what this is at the bottom.”

Elly looked more closely. Underneath the wording were some shapes and symbols. Two circles, one with lines inside, the other with a jagged edge, separated by two triangles facing opposite directions, bordered on either side by a thick line. The entire design was entwined in two leafy vines.

“Maybe a noble crest, sir?” Elly offered.

“This serf’s illiterate,” the second knight said as he returned. “No comprehension in his eyes.”

The first knight grumbled, sheathing his sword and placing the pamphlet in his large coin purse. He then struck Elly in the gut with a gauntleted fist.

“Watch yourself, peasant,” the knight said after Elly crumpled onto the ground.  “We find you anywhere near any Cromwellites again, we might not assume you are such an idiot. You wouldn’t want us investigating where you got this alleged extra peat from.”

“Come,” the second knight said. “Let us find someone who can interpret these symbols.”

As the knights departed, Elly slowly got up on his knees and dusted himself off.  The crowd appeared to be returning to normal, yet everyone avoided coming to close or even looking at him. 

So much the better, he thought.  He had to get out of the village square.  His plans for the Millennium Holiday had just changed.

His tinker’s mind already knew the significance of the symbols.

They made a map.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A sign of the times

A couple of things have happened in the past month or so that have made me realize that I'm no longer as young as I once was. I'm still a long way away from being old, but I definitely realize I'm getting older.

One of these things was a recent trip to New Orleans for a wedding. I landed a little after midnight on a Wednesday night and, after checking into my hotel, I decided to walk down Bourbon Street. Most of the people I know either weren't there yet or were asleep, so I went by myself and figured I'd get a hand grenade at Tropical Isle or maybe just a beer. This was my fourth trip to New Orleans and as I turned walked down the street, I was reminded of the other three times.

The first time, I was 25 years old and there for Mardi Gras. At that time, New Orleans and Bourbon Street were as close to Heaven on Earth as I had seen. It was fun, loud, and drunk with a great personality. The second time, I was 28 and there for New Years. While I didn't quite think it was Heaven anymore, I still thought it was one of the funnest places on Earth. I got a car and drove all around southeast Louisiana to see Cajun country and get more of a feel for the place. I continued to believe that I would return approximately once a year. The third trip was for my 30th Birthday. On that trip, I still felt the town was very fun, but by now I wanted to mainly sit on the balcony of Tropical Isle and watch the crowds down below. I ate at Emerils and Brennans and found myself spending a lot more time on Decatur Street at the Jazz Clubs.

Then there's this trip. As I walked down a relatively deserted Bourbon Street shortly after 1:00 AM on a Thursday morning, the thoughts going through my mind were something like this: This place is disgusting, it smells like urine and/or vomit, there's nothing but dumbass frat boys, and it's expensive. I figured I wouldn't spend enough money to get drunk so what would be the point of getting a drink? So I walked down to the Cats Meow, from where I could see the Tropical Isle, figured I'd drink more the next night, turned around and went back to the hotel.

I'm not saying this wasn't a wise choice, it's just an older decision. On at least my first two trips, I wouldn't have minded if I was with anyone or what time or day it was, I would've started drinking and figured the good times would ensue. Even on my last trip, I would've had a couple of drinks on general principal. This time I went back to the hotel. And, as predicted, I drank plenty the next few nights and still had a great time. However, each night was either over or pretty close to it by the time midnight hit.

As for New Orleans, I'd say the smaller number of Jazz Clubs is probably the thing I miss the most since Hurricane Katrina. Still a lot of live music, which is one of the things I've always loved about New Orleans - at breakfast, you'll get some jazz, there's zydeco everywhere, and the Bourbon Street clubs play rock at night. Unfortunately, it seems like each missing jazz club has been replaced by a new strip club. And the fact that I whine about this just makes me feel older.

More on my other "old" experience later, but I'll give the hint that it deals with John Mayer's cover of "Free Fallin'"

Thursday, August 28, 2008

More thoughts from the East Coast

I know it's been a month since I was on the East Coast, but I've been meaning to write some more thoughts on my travel to New England and some of the oddities I've found.

- Tollroads (excuse me, "turnpikes") suck. In California, we use the word "Freeway" so much, it doesn't really occur to us how profound that word truly is. Granted, we are starting to have more tollroads, particularly in Southern California. However, when there is a tollroad in California, it is usually of the optional variety. For instance, if you want to drive from San Juan Capistrano to Costa Mesa, you have the option of going the "normal" way (the 5 to the 405), taking about a half hour to an hour depending on time of day, or you could take the tollroad, pay $4 or $5, and get there in 15 minutes. On the east coast, your only option besides the tollroad is to take surface streets, which go through towns and add substantial miles and time. The really annoying thing is that you have to pay multiple times. I understand that different states charge separately, but I had to pay to get on in Portland, then to get out of Maine, then once in New Hampshire and, if I hadn't gotten off the road, again in Massachusetts. And each time it's 60 cents, 45 cents, a dollar ten. Why not just make me give you pennies? That would be about as annoying.

-How can you be a sports fan on the east coast? When I was visiting, the Red Sox were in Seattle and the Indians were in Anaheim. It was nice for me because when I was making a long drive in the middle of the night, I was able to pick up a sports station from Cleveland (not quite sure how the geography worked out on the one) and listen to the game. But if I were an actual Indians fan, that would truly suck. Sure, we miss the first hour of a game when it starts at 4:00, but that's usually not as vital as missing the last two hours would be. I'm assuming Sunday Night Baseball, Monday Night Football, and playoff game in any sport have got to absolutely suck. If I were on the east coast, I think I'd petition to have the workday start at 10:00. On the flip side, I think I now know why the west coast is generally less religious than the east coast - football. Y'all can still go to church Sunday morning's and then go home and watch the pre-game show. We can't. Our pregame shows start at 9:00 AM (8:30 on ESPN). We barely have enough time to go buy a six-pack. We're usually still drinking coffee during the first quarter.

- Directions are weird. Somehow I kept messing up on east and west. I never thought it was so internalized, but in my subconscious, west means "toward the ocean." Odd since I haven't lived near the ocean in 16 years. And often times on the east coast I was nowhere near the ocean, but for some reason every time I wanted to go east, I found myself looking for the exit for west. Normally I caught myself, but one time I completely missed the turnoff when travelling from Hartford to Manchester. Again, no ocean is visible from either of those cities, yet for some reason I drove right past the "I 84 East) turnoff.

-Manchester, NH is a beautiful city. Too bad the economy sucks.

-I stopped by Daddy Bush's house in Kennebunkport, ME. At first I thought "I wonder if I can find it. It seems like a small town. Then I got a map that clearly showed where it was. As I approached it, there were signs that said "no stopping, pullout ahead." And sure enough, right across from the house, there's a little turnout and signs that say 15 minute parking and no RVs or busses. At first I was thinking "God, what a horrible, celebrity obsessed society we live in where people (like myself) pull over just to take a picture of somebody's house." Then I realized, it's not like this guy made a movie or anything. He was the leader of the free world, a job only 43 people have had in history and a job that only 4 living people have had. So it's really not that bad of a thing that people stop to see his house. I highly doubt his son's house will be so accessible to the public when his term is over.

-Northeast weather sucks. There's no reason three baseball games in late July should be delayed or cancelled due to torrential downpours. Absolutely no reason.

-Delta Airlines also sucks. I think it's their official policy to treat customers like crap. The sad thing is when a few of them try to be helpful. I bet they get beaten afterward. So to the one lady that helped me when the rest shrugged their shoulders and told me I'd be spending the night in JFK, thank you. Please go work for United or something.

Wombat's Necessary Replay Response

As most of you know, replay is starting in baseball today. But only on a few plays. Really, I don't see more than two or three plays a year being changed - out of, what, 2,500 games? To piggy back on Sancho's disgust, here's some of the issues I have with it.

First, I agree with Michael Wilbon (I think), who said that there should be three cameras - one focused on the left foul pole, one focused on the right foul pole, and one on that bastard son of a motherless goat AJ Pierzynski. Either that or steal the pictures he obviously has of Doug Eddings naked.

Seriously, though, if they're only going to review certain things but not others, is it any surprise that they are only gointo review some games but not others? The thing I find atrocious about the whole thing is that plays at the plate or issues of the ball beating the player or vice versa are not reviewable. I know chicks dig the long ball, but are we honestly saying those are the only plays that determine a game? And yes, I know that there is a slippery slope and we don't want the camera for judgement calls, but tags are not judgement calls.

So Matt Holliday will still remain safe and Jorge Orta is still safe. Aren't those the calls that matter more? And "Amoral Jackass" Pierzynski will still be able to cheat whenever he feels like it (or, more acurately, whenever Doug Eddings is umpire). And Dave Henderson will still tie the game against Donnie Moore. And no, I don't think that was a bad call, but if I could go back and change the result of plays in baseball history, that's where I'd start. Not for Angels fans, but to save poor Bill Buckner's reputation.

The real shame of all of this is that they really only care becaue it affected a New York team. Which is ironic, because I seem to remember a certain blown call that affected a New York team back in 1996. Does Jeffrey Maier ring a bell? Why weren't people crying out for replay back then? Oh, I forgot, the HELPED a New York team, so there's really no need to review it.

Hell, they could make the replay rule a lot simpler by implementing a new policy - if there is a questionable call, rule in favor of the team with the larger fan base. I mean, it's worked for the entire history of the NBA, hasn't it?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Funny Thing about Time

I'm currently in the middle of whirlwind trip to the east coast. I work a part-time job for a baseball statistics company and occasionally they are in need of people to cover minor league games. I am in my only week of summer vacation and I realized there was a need for a scorer in Portland, Maine, so I figured "Why the hell not?" I flew into Portland late Monday night and will be flying back out Thursday evening. I've read somewhere that it takes the body one day to adjust for every time zone travelled. If this holds true, right about when I adjust to Eastern Time, I'll be on a plane back to the Pacific.

I've travelled a number of time zones before without much trouble. I learned a trick where in the plane, you adjust to what it will be when you land. So if you're landing late at night, try to stay awake in the plane so you're tired and go right to sleep. If you're landing in the morning, sleep on the plane. This has done me well, and on a couple of trips to Europe and one trip to Australia, I've hit the ground running on the first day and barely looked back.

However, maybe due to the short trip or the fact that I keep telling myself that three hours isn't that much, I find myself having problems this trip. It doesn't have to do with being tired or unable to function, it's more of a confused Twilight Zone-esque sense of "What the hell time is it?" constantly going through my brain. Right now, I think it's 11:00 AM. My computer says it's 8:00. Seems simple enough to adjust for, but it's not.

Anyway, here's the funny thing about time zones. I find myself constantly using the fact that my body is on a different time to justify or make excuses for just about everything. My first thought when I landed at 10:00 PM was the my internal clock said it was only 7:00, so I could drive for a few hours (I needed to be in Hartford, CT by noon the next day). And I was more or less correct. I drove a couple of hours to Worcester, Mass and found a nice little La Quinta to check into at about 1:00 AM. Then I set my alarm for the morning. To be on the safe side, I set it for 7:15 so I could be on the road by 8:00. It didn't really dawn on me that my internal clock, which had me wide awake at 1:00 AM, would consider this wake up time to be 4:15 in the morning. I realized that when it went off.

Added to this confusion was the fact that I saw two baseball games yesterday - at noon in New Britain, CT and at 7:00 in Manchester, NH. Day games mess me up anyway and this was coupled with hours of driving on each side. Then the game in Manchester was delayed by a couple of hours, so it didn't start until 9:00 local time. Around midnight when the ninth inning was starting, the guy I was sitting with said "Well at least you're three hours behind, so this doesn't seem that late." And at this point I looked at the clock, realized it was only 9:00 back home and tried to wonder why I was so damned tired. Then I realized that when you only sleep for five or so hours and then are up by 7:30 in the morning, midnight's going to feel late no matter what time zone you're in.

Another odd thought I had that first night, as I was driving through a darkened Maine and Massachusetts, was wondering who I can call. I thought of calling Sancho in Texas and I had the oddest feeling that it was only 8:00 where he was. How did I think Texas was four hours behind the east coast? Simple. I guess I've always thought of the central time zone not as two hours ahead of the Pacific, but as one hour behind that other time. The time on the other coast. The time that ESPN and Comedy Central run on. So here I was driving around at midnight, knowing that it was 9:00 on "the other coast," so, naturally, it must be 8:00 in Texas. And I call myself smart.

So I'm about to take off now and explore the coast of Maine. I need to be in Portland for another baseball game tonight, which I believe is starting at 7:00, but for all I know it might be 4:00 or 10:00 or it could be yesterday. As an aside, I will be landing at SFO at midnight Thursday night and will still have two hours of travel ahead of me. I haven't told myself yet that I will think it's 3:00 in the morning. So, shhh, let's keep that a secret.