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Sunday, October 31, 2010



Etiquette for Zombies: 8 Tips for Social Situations

by Emily Post-Mortem

1. It is generally considered polite to send advance notice before visiting a living person's home. Showing up on someone's doorstep unexpectedly and banging repeatedly on the door or smashing through windows is unlikely to be met with gracious acceptance.

2. When you do find yourself in a position to visit the living, it is always best to clean oneself up. Brush off the dust and dirt from your tattered rags as much as possible, or stumble your way into a nearby stream or pond if one is available; avoid using swamp water, as it tends to defeat the purpose. You might consider replacing those rags with a nice, new suit of clothes from the nearest department store. Also, reattach any loose or missing limbs using duct tape (a handy tool available in all hardware stores, where you can also get a pine tree deodorizer to wear around your neck as jewelry). And don't forget to comb your hair if you have any left; use short, light strokes, or you soon won't. This is also a good tip for brushing any remaining teeth.

3. For more formal affairs, an inexpensive hostess gift is traditionally presented by the guest. A nice bouquet of flowers is often appreciated, but make sure you go by the florist and acquire a new one; picking up the desiccated remains of a memorial bouquet off the grave next to yours after ripping your way out of the ground is simply not acceptable.

4. A dinner party is one in which you typically eat food provided by the host, not where you eat the host. If you have lost your bottom jaw, try to stick with softer substances like soup and steamed peas. Also, if you drink alcohol, moderation is key: nobody likes a mindless stiff stumbling around bumping into tables and toppling the bric-à-brac onto the floor.

5. When meeting new acquaintances, it is a good idea to repeat their name out loud at least two times in the first few minutes, to help memorize it. Again, if you are missing your mandible, just hiss it quietly to yourself instead, lest you scare them away. And if the name contains more than five syllables, forget about it because your dead brain cells will never retain that much information anyway.

6. Be careful when shaking hands with the living. Not only will you spread germs to them and make them sick, but they are liable to unintentionally remove your digits or an entire appendage. Stick with the traditional Japanese greeting and bow instead; if you were judicious in applying duct tape to your head earlier, you needn't worry about losing it. And carry your duct tape with you, just in case.

7. To rid your eyes of that "dead zombie" look, colored contacts can be quite useful. Just be sure not to press them in too hard against your eyeball, lest you pop it back into your skull. Should that happen, or if you are unable to locate tinted contact lenses, dark sunglasses will fulfill the same function. A marble of sufficient size will also do in a pinch to replace a missing orb.

8. Finally, if the social gathering is a masquerade or Hallow'een party, forget all of the above and just dress and act natural. You're sure to be a hit!

Story-a-Day is an attempt to bring a small bit of humor and amusement to Mrs. ~brb and Audrey as they fight very serious illnesses. If you have a short, amusing story, please send it to kersley.fitz at yahoo dot com. If you'd prefer, you can drop it in the drop.io (password: challenge) and email me to let me know it's there.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Open Mic Saturday

Good morning all, and welcome to Open Mic Saturday. This is the place to share your news and perhaps do a little bragging. If you're writing a novel: how much progress did you make this week? If you're writing short stories: did you finish anything or submit anything this week? If you've sold or published anything recently, when is it coming out and where can we find it? Did you place a story in the Friday Challenge Rewrite Drop? In short, as a writer, what kind of progress did you make this week?

Or what else is on your mind, that you feel like sharing with the group here?


Allan Davis

Are you my mommy?

The fine young warrior Snorf was born without much common sense.
Fact of the matter, truth be told, he was more than a little dense.
When faced with a foe of fearsome size,
He'd draw his sword and gaze in it's eyes,

...and say, "Are you my mommy?"

The dreadful dragon perched atop it's mound of hoarded gold
And glared in fury at one who was both foolish and too bold,
It blasted him with frightful fire
When his words drew the dragon's ire,

...Snorf asked the dragon, "Are you my mommy?"

The endless horde of trolls and orcs was a deeply terrifying sight
And their battle with the warrior Snorf lasted far into the night,
He slashed and hacked and sliced again
Until the monsters all died or ran,

...and "Are you my mommy?" was his battle cry.

The talking tree was mortified when Snorf asked his famous line,
And swung one long and leafy branch to swat the oaf aside,
Snorf swung, and chopped, and sparked a light,
The bonfire burned for three straight nights.

"You're firewood. You're not my mommy."

So to the tavern Snorf did go, to drink his worries away,
"He's ugly! His mama must have been a troll!" a drunk did say,
Our hero Snorf took offense to that,
took out his hammer and squashed him flat,
Finished his drink, and that was that.

"Don't talk about my mommy," he said, as he glumly walked away.

Story-a-Day is an attempt to bring a small bit of humor and amusement to Mrs. ~brb and Audrey as they fight very serious illnesses. If you have a short, amusing story, please send it to kersley.fitz at yahoo dot com. If you'd prefer, you can drop it in the drop.io (password: challenge) and email me to let me know it's there.

Friday, October 29, 2010


M. David Black Blake

Catgut Variations (on a G String)

I once owned a violin, covered with green silk, wrapped in gold and gauze, bound with iron chains and hidden in a teak-wood cask. It was an odd way to keep a violin, I'll admit.

The violin was beautiful, almost iridescently grained, but as useless to me as an ostrich plume on a seal-clubbing expedition; no blow I could strike had any impact, and no stroke of my bow brought forth anything more pleasant than the aggrieved tones of a feline suffering an unpleasantly soapy delousing, with all the associated indignities. I always assumed it must have been some flaw in the varnish, some hidden fissure within the maple, that caused such raucous reverberation. For that matter, I suspected the strings had been gutted from an improperly tuned cat.

On the odd occasions I took it out to admire, I held it reverently, horsetail bow hovering no closer than a half inch from those catgut strings, lest one should inadvertently make contact with the other and misery ensue. So when the Tufted Capuchin monkey knocked upon my door and asked in a perfectly-articulated accent, "I believe you are in possession of a rather unusual violin, which I would most obligingly wish to see." I did my best not to register any visible surprise.

"I don't recall," I said, "advertising a violin."

"Ah," said the monkey, "but undoubtedly you misunderstand. I said nothing about having encountered an advertisement."

"Then I utterly fail to understand your speech," I replied, "on more than one account. But your words are enchanting, so if you would like to come in and entertain me while I have another drink, I'd welcome the diversion."

The monkey cocked an eyebrow and whistled, and then said in the same affected voice, "Utterly fail? No, you have only misunderstood the nature of my capacity for speech. That is a single account. I am now quite certain that you clearly understood my meaning." With that impertinent response the creature flung itself through my door, and scampered down the entryway toward my coat closet.

"A moment ago you were saying I undoubtedly misunderstood," I called, as the monkey disappeared behind the door.

"Undoubtedly," said the monkey, in a voice that sounded a little gruffer than before. "But that was before you invited me inside."

"I don't see--" I began.

"Clearly you don't," said the creature, in a voice tinged with bass undertones, hard liquor and nicotine.

As the closet swung open, my eyes tried to focus in the approximate vicinity of where the monkey's eyes should have been. It took me a moment to realize I was staring at an unanticipated set of spindly ankles, the most visible of which was covered in a mixture of shaggy hair and opalescent scales.

The crowning touch was the red, glitter-covered stiletto pump that graced the foot. No, the crowning touch was that there was only one shoe. The other foot--if it was indeed a foot--ended in something resembling a flipper. And the other other foot had something that was probably a chitinous exoskeleton.

"You aren't a monkey," I said.

"No shit, honey-bunch," said the creature. "And your violin isn't a violin, either. Now, be a dear... I believe you said something about a drink?"

"A drink?" I echoed.

"And make it stiff, please," she added. "It's been so long since I've seen it, I suspect I'll need a bracer."


As I wrapped myself around equal parts lemon juice, ginger-currant wine, vanilla vodka and seltzer water, my friend wrapped herself (look, she was wearing a red stiletto pump, okay?) around one of my dining room chairs. Literally. Tentacles wove in and out of the spindles supporting the Windsor back, leathery wings folded demurely across what might have been a trio of shoulders, while scales and fur seemed to blend seamlessly between the wooden seat and the tile floor. Every surface they touched seemed a part of them, and made it difficult to focus.

In all fairness, equal parts of the aforementioned ingredients may have contributed to that last impression. They also helped me to cope with the apparent presence of a high-heeled Elder God, so I felt fully justified in pouring myself something to go along with hers. And by "hers," I mean the red plastic gasoline can from which she was drinking, using the spout as an obscene straw.

"You can really put that stuff away," I said. "Are you sure you still want to talk about my violin? I could just as easily run down to the quickie mart and fill up your glass."

"You're sweet," she said, a single oversized eye sizing me up, "but dense as a desiccated Ankylosaurus. I must see the--"

"Dense as a what?" I slurred.

"Oh, sober up," she said, and I did. Immediately, and with no discernible after-effect.

"How did you--" I started to ask.

"Please," she said. "Spare me. I get thoroughly sick of having to explain the intricacies of metabolic inhibition and carbohydraturia whenever I sober one of you up. You were pissed. Now you'll piss. Ultimately you feel better, which is better for me, because I need you coherent enough to focus. It's remarkable enough that you aren't freaked out by my appearance."

"Speaking of, I was going to ask how you made yourself look like a Tufted Capuchin," I said. "Sobriety I can accept, because I live with it three days out of every week."

"Hmm," she said. "You are an unusual one. Perhaps that's why it felt safe here with you."

"Why what felt safe with me?" I asked. "The violin?"

"I already told you that it isn't a violin," she said. "But it looks like one to you, in pretty much the same way I looked like a Tufted Capuchin when you first saw me."

"Well, now you look like something out of a Sam Raimi film, if Sam Raimi was trying to film the Cthulhu mythos." It didn't seem like that much of a stretch. I could almost picture Bruce Campbell holding up my end of the conversation.

She laughed. "You see my physical dimensions. You can't see past that. I'm a lot more massive than any monkey, and a lot smaller at the same time. If you took out all the empty space, so are you. Call it a costume, if you'd like."

"Like Halloween?" I asked.

"Hardly," she responded. "But you've at least stumbled into the same vein of thinking, more or less."

"So my violin isn't a violin, and it's just wearing a costume. Seems a little far-fetched, if you don't mind my saying so." Frankly, what she was suggesting seemed more than "far-fetched," but that seemed like the safest level of disbelief to confess.

"It was good enough at hiding," she said, "that finding it again was a real challenge. But it had also been through a lot, so I'm guessing it just got tired enough to curl up into a safe shape and sleep it off."

"You've completely lost me," I said.

"Cthulhu, sweetheart," she giggled. "Didn't you ever wonder why you felt compelled to bind it up and lock it away?"


As we crept up the stairs (all right, I crept and she sashayed, if something with a hairy foot, a flipper and a chitinous whatever-the-heck-it-was can sashay... the tentacles definitely gave that impression, though) I had an uncomfortably sobering thought. If we were really going to face down Cthulhu, wasn't he one of the Old Ones, capable of driving anyone who looked upon his visage mad, and a being of unspeakable horror?

"You've really studied that crap, haven't you?" she said, doing a fair semblance of reading my thoughts.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

A tentacle rubbed the spot where her eyebrow would have been, if any eyebrow had been over that one large eye.

"Look, you only saw enough of the violin shape whenever you took it out to drive you slightly batty, and I'd be willing to bet you pickled your brain before you unwrapped it, every single time," she said. "This time, I'll unwrap it, and you won't have to do a thing. And I know what to do, so that it won't squall and fuss. Nothing to worry about."

"Your confidence is reassuring," I said, although my bladder felt less than reassured.

We had reached the top of the stairs, and as we crossed the threshold of my generally-unused guest room she spoke again. "You keep Cthulhu in your guest room? No wonder you live alone."

Other-dimensional snark could be answered in kind. "Isn't he my guest? For that matter, so are you. And pardon me for being a little nervous about what we're about to do, because it isn't every day that I knowingly face down one of the Old Ones, who may or may not still be holding a grudge against the other Elder Gods."

"You do realize all that Elder God hokum was straight out of a hack writer's imagination, right?" she asked. "The bit about inducing madness in unprotected humans is true enough in certain circumstances, and that Lovecraft fellow got a moderate dose, but all the rest was about as accurate as if a colony of ants tried to describe the antics of a cat scratching at the anthill."

"Cats don't scratch at anthills," I said. "At least, not in this dimension. Cats have better things to do with their time."

"Do they?" she asked. "To be frank, my perspective is a little skewed as well. We've known for a while that humans are approaching sentience, and we can communicate with you to some degree, but I'm not giving away any major secrets by admitting that the flow of information is mostly unidirectional."

"I suppose it must be," I said, "although I'm not sure about your analogy. Cats and ants?" I lifted the teak-wood cask onto the guest bed, and my fingers started numbly fumbling at the iron chains.

"Whales and shrimp, if you prefer," she said. "Either one is close enough, and still out-of-scale by an order of magnitude. Here, let me do that."

I stepped aside. Although I had been in this same room countless times, it was suddenly an alien realm, and the most familiar presence was waving tentacles and wearing a red stiletto heel. Plus I was sober.

She plucked delicately at the bindings, until gauze and gold lamé lay upon the bedspread in an untidy heap. After a few moments longer, her tentacles cradled a small, green silk-swathed package.

I drew a sharp breath. "Are you sure you want to do that? I mean, I understand that thing is from your world, and to you, it's probably harmless, but before today I never had any idea how dangerous my violin was. Even if it isn't dangerous to you, and even if most of what I think I know about Cthulhu is hokum, that's still a Hell of a lot more scary than I'm accustomed to dealing with."

"No it isn't, sugar-britches," she said. "not by a long shot. You see wars, and social injustice, and disease every day."

"None of them are wrapped up in green silk, in my guest room, where they could kill me," I muttered.

"But any of them could be," she said. "and in that, we aren't so different after all. The scariest things are the ones we never see coming."

"Wait a minute," I said, as she began to unwrap the violin. "You guys--gals?--still have wars and social injustice?"

"And disease," she said, shaking her head and causing a third of her mouth-tentacles to sway, "and don't be so surprised. We may be able to do a lot of impressive things in your dimension, but we Elders aren't omnipotent. As easily as I sobered you up earlier, I could also have rearranged your insides so thoroughly that no human physician would ever recognize you again... but there are still some things we don't understand about our own physiology, any more than you do."

"Elder Gods have physiology?" I asked, dumbfounded.

Her tentacles did a little ripple. "Elders got everything, buttercup."

The green silk had fallen away as she spoke, and I saw the exposed neck of my violin. A shiver crept up my spine as I recalled the ghastly sounds those strings could produce.

"As you see it, Cthulhu is a monster," she said. "As I see it, Cthulhu is my _ ."

And that's just what it sounded like. There was a blank space in her words.

"Your what?" I asked.

"Oh, that one doesn't work in English, does it? I'm not sure how to explain it, because you wouldn't quite think of the relationship in the same way. It's sort of like 'pet,' and sort of like 'mate,' and from the way you just wrinkled up your face I can tell that isn't getting any sympathy." She trailed off, as a tear fell from the single large eye and trickled down a tentacle, to splash upon a the fingerboard of the violin.

The violin shivered.

I flinched.

"Did you see that?" I shouted.

"Of course I did. It's waking up," she said, stroking the strings.

A hum began to fill the room, as more and more notes took their place in the unexpected swell of sound. There was no way to get those notes from a violin. Not from my violin, or anybody's.

She stood there, foot, flipper and whatever-it-was splayed to give herself support, cradling her _ and crying, one tear at a time. "Shh," she whispered. "It's all right."

"What's going on?" I asked.

"It's been sick," she said.

A question was dancing in the back of my mind, trying to get out. "It hid..." I began.

"... because it was afraid I would suffer," she said. "We had come here to enjoy your world together, long ago, when we first learned what was happening."

The violin shivered again, and the neck drew up into a ball, before it flipped and inverted. Catgut strings hummed into mouth tentacles, and soundholes reshaped themselves into a pair of eye sockets as the face stretched into an oversized grotesquerie. As if someone had pulled a handkerchief from the underside of the violin's body, another body began to emerge, and expand, and stretch.

Wonder of wonders, I did not go mad.

At the time, I didn't bother to marvel at how we all three fit in the guest room, although I suppose I would have any other day. Maybe it had something to do with what she had said before, about being much larger, and much smaller, and empty space. No, I marveled at the beauty of the thing: The Dread Chtulhu was suffering, and had hidden itself away so that someone it loved wouldn't suffer as well... and that someone loved right back, and pursued, and persevered, and said it didn't matter, because it was still her _ and always would be.

For a long time we stood there as they held each other. I think they might have even forgotten I was there, until finally I couldn't take it any more, and spoke.

"How long do you have?" I asked.

"No one knows," she said, tentacling away a tear. "We have good doctors, though. And we have each other."

That put me at a loss for words. I was scared to be in that room, and at the same time, scared for them, and for their uncertainty.

"I don't know what to say," I said.

"No one ever does," she said. "but that works."


They left in the afternoon. She helped Cthulhu to shuffle along, and it (apparently the Dread Cthulhu wasn't exactly a "he," but I'm not sure if whatever it was would translate anyway) leaned on her for support.

As they reached my front door, she turned, and pulled something out of what I'm guessing must have been a pocket or a purse, although I still haven't figured out where she was hiding it all that time. She held it up to Cthulhu, and Cthulhu used one long, bony claw to scratch upon the surface for a moment, then rested its head upon her shoulder again.

She handed it to me, and said, "For you." Then they shuffled out the door, onto the barren sidewalk, and down the street, leaving me holding the odd object.

It had six sides surrounding a wide surface, and a ridge that joined two opposite corners on the underside. On the largest flat face was an image that must have been the other-dimensional equivalent of a photograph, of Cthulhu, holding something that looked for all the world like an inside-out cat tucked beneath its chin, with the tail rigidly stretched out toward one bony wrist. Smoke swirled behind small, leathery wings, and the other clawed hand held what looked as much like a flaming chainsaw as a bow.

In characters that could have just as easily been burned into the surface with acid, Cthulhu had scrawled an inscription. In Roman letters. In English. And the words said, "Thank you for the music."

Now, if I only had a way to play the damned thing.

Story-a-Day is an attempt to bring a small bit of humor and amusement to Mrs. ~brb and Audrey as they fight very serious illnesses. If you have a short, amusing story, please send it to kersley.fitz at yahoo dot com. If you'd prefer, you can drop it in the drop.io (password: challenge) and email me to let me know it's there.

Over the course of three and a half decades, M. David Blake has been a Revolutionary War reenactor, a ditch digger, a troubleshooter, a gallery artist, a woodturner and a poet. His work has appeared in Stupefying Stories.

MobileRead.com hosted a successful eBook Signing Event for "We Don't Plummet Out of the Sky Anymore," Blake's first published short story:


Thursday, October 28, 2010


Kersley Fitzgerald

More Overheard

"Pekepins. Pure bred!"

- Ad in local paper

"If Cupid is so pro-romance, why doesn't he babysit?"

- Evangeline Denmark

You know, the skater--Paulo Picasso.

- The Creature

Me: Here's your honey tea. [honey in hot water--great for coughs]
Creature: Can you put it on the table for me?
Me: My goodness, you're high maintenance!
Creature: Of course I am, Sweets!

Setting: welcome home dinner for Rent-A-Kid's mom who came home from a year in Iraq today. Toby-Cat is the hosts' cat. Rent-A-Kid is explaining to the host, in some detail, the process whereby a fish gets caught on a hook. Next to them is the front door with a window next to it.

Rent-A-Kid: ...and then the fish jerks and the hook sets in its lip and then your float indicator--look! A white cat's outside.
Host: Yeah, that's Toby-Cat's antagonist.
Rent-A-Kid: Oh. Does that mean girlfriend?

The Creature, playing with a plethora of action figures:

Watch out, Santa! The snow robots are attacking!

I know. That's why I have my bazooka!

"Life is unreasonable!"

- The Creature

Scene: The Creature and a friend run inside and upstairs.

[Friend]: We went through the portal, so we're still in your universe.
Tom: Oh you are, huh?
Creature: We're playing a game.
Me: What, Stargate?
Creature: No. Bomb-away portal...
Me: Oh. OK.
Creature: Sea-monsters...
Me: OK.
Creature: Spiders.

Scene: driving to AWANA; the creature is in the back seat, practicing Psalm 23.

Creature: "He repairs a table in the presence of my enemies."
Me: "Presents for enemies?" Why would God give presents to your enemies?
Creature: Not "presents;" presints.
Me: Yeah, presents.
Creature: No, presints. You know. Like George Washington Carber.

Rent-a-kid's dad: I need to apologize for my daughter.
Tom: Oh? What did she do?
RakD: She told the Creature that Santa Claus doesn't exist.
Me: [Wave hand in dismissal.] Oh, whatever.
Tom: How did he take it?
RakD: He didn't believe her. Then he told her if she doesn't believe in Santa, she won't go to heaven.

[Wherein "PG" is our pastor who called on the phone. He thinks (rightly so) that the Creature is incredibly athletic and wants to convert him to his favorite sport that doesn't involve the Cubs: wrestling. Although the Creature wouldn't be able to wrestle for another forty pounds. PG also thinks that if the Creature were just a few years older, PG's daughter (who's the Creature's babysitter) would be in serious trouble.]

PG: I was wondering if the Creature would like to go to a wrestling meet with me. I'm not officiating, just watching for a while.
Me: Hey, boy, do you want to go with PG to watch wrestling?
Creature: No. Not right now.
Me: Do you know what wrestling is?
Creature: Blank look
Me: It's fighting. Do you want to go and watch boys fight?
Creature: [Sly grin] No. I just want to watch girls fight!
PG: Oh, you are in trouble!

Story-a-Day is an attempt to bring a small bit of humor and amusement to Mrs. ~brb and Audrey as they fight very serious illnesses. If you have a short, amusing story, please send it to kersley.fitz at yahoo dot com. If you'd prefer, you can drop it in the drop.io (password: challenge) and email me to let me know it's there.

Critical Thinking

Wherein our heroine explains what’s going on in her world, and the hobbitses (and hirsute elves) realize how little it takes to derail her life.

~brb emailed me recently, warning me to keep an eye on Maj Tom. With Karen and Audrey so sick, he figured my beloved must be next. The next week, Maj Tom got yelled at by his boss; the week after that, we came to the startling, horrifying suspicion that he may be allergic to beer.

No, nothing dangerous or urgent, but we have been inundated with changes and paradigm shifts and altered plans, and it’s taking time to find a groove again.

First, some background. We met in Great Falls, MT, in 1993 when we were both stationed at Malmstrom, AFB. I was aircraft maintenance, he was a missileer. We got married in ’95 despite his fear that I’d follow my unit down to its new home in Tampa Bay. Luckily, I sucked at my job, so I bailed in ’97.

Fast-forward 13 years. We’ve PCS’d four times, gained a dog, lost a dog, gained another dog, and got ourselves a kid off the rack in Bangkok. We settled in CSprings, knowing we probably wouldn’t leave for a very long time, I got into writing, he got a job trying to teach cadets how not to be idiots.

I also got a part-time, on-call, mostly-at-home job building and maintaining kitchen cabinet databases. It’s cool, and I like it enough. Unfortunately, I don’t have what it takes to move up to kitchen designer (that would be the ability to talk to strangers and convince them to give me money).

We are at the end of that phase in our lives, though. Last month, I started working a little at gotquestions.org. Next month, for the first time in nearly ten years, I’ll have a real (part-time) job as an admin assistant/scut worker. (I even have an office!) Hopefully, this will transition into a full-time job by June. Because if it does, upon his retirement in May, Maj Tom could do the unthinkable and get a job that doesn’t require ten hours a day. Something he actually likes. Probably something to do with telling younger people how to live their lives, but maybe just asking if they’d like a scone or a muffin with their mocha-cherry-frappe-yummy. We don’t know what he’s going to do yet, but between his retirement and my paycheck, he could actually have options in his life—something he’s not had…ever.

Ironically, this new job of mine that has already taken away much of my writing time will probably have me writing—in addition to tracking donations, passing out assignments, and an inordinate amount of copying and pasting. I really didn’t expect this to happen. I took the summer off from novels to work on short stories, thinking that as soon as the Creature started school again, I’d be off and running. The week before, boss #1 gave me a new catalogue to create. Shortly after, I got the new job, as well. Plus the whole homework/Boy Scouts/babysitting thing. Sadly, not only have I not had time to write, I haven’t had time to think about writing enough to figure out what to write for the site—let alone for the cartoons.

Right now, the biggest turmoil in our lives has nothing to do with writing or the Air Force. The week before last, some good friends (who happen to be our pastor and his wife as well as the parents of The Babysitter) invited themselves to our datenight. There, they explained that they’d been looking for a new church elsewhere and were moving to Phoenix at the end of the year. As long-time military, our churches are our lives—our families. They’re leaving because we don’t have enough people to support them. Which doesn’t bode well for the survival of the church as a whole.

This rather ruined our plans. We had planned on growing old with these people, and now they’re moving to Arizona? What were they thinking? What should we do? Granted, we do know how to church-hop. And it might be nice to find a place were we weren’t each in about six different ministries. Maybe even one that had a building and didn’t meet in the YMCA gym.

We are used to moving. We were always the ones to leave. But we had picked this church knowing we probably wouldn’t. Maj Tom is very people-oriented. He doesn’t want to leave our friends and look for new ones. Ironically, my boss #2 and his wife (who works two doors down from him) are our best friends there. He’s afraid that if we work together, we’ll get sick of each other, and if we switch churches, he’ll never get to see them.

My biggie, though, is the worship team. It’s not easy to find the perfect confluence of style, size, and grace that will take an electric geetar player/alto who doesn’t really know what she’s doing. And, despite what pastors hope, worship style is a major part of any given church. If our worship leader goes, that may be the final nail in the coffin.

Sunday, the head elder stood up and said the elders had decided to stick it out. Without having to pay a double-masters pastor with one daughter in college and another wanting to go to Columbia, we can save money for someone cheaper. The Y really is very affordable. Then the “church mom” stood and said she and her husband have been through this before, and it is very doable. Then the worship leader gave a convoluted baseball metaphor that made me think he was maybe thinking about staying. Perhaps.

The Monday after the initial announcement, we had another couple over for spaghetti, cheese, and whine. She, a pastor’s daughter, was amazingly optimistic. He, an elder (yeah, I think half of the men in our church are elders), said we might have to change some things, but would it really be horrible to not have to hook up the sound system every Sunday?

That actually got me excited. “Church unplugged.” We could meet in a smaller room, I could pull out my acoustic, we could even put the folding chairs in a circle instead of pew-like rows.

But I told him my biggest concern was that The Powers That Be would try to convince us we weren’t being what we were supposed to be. The Springs has enough mega-churches, and we ain’t it. I said I just want the grace to be who we are. Do what we can do, and not be made to feel guilty because we can do or be more.

This was all after I got the email from ~brb with his ezine proposal. I’m Protestant, but I’ve got a healthy dose of Irish Catholic in my genes, and I feel horribly guilty every time I don’t get an article or a cartoon in. All self-imposed expectations, btw. And, once I get the cabinets done and start the new job, maybe I’ll have more time. But right now I’m on the verge of drowning.

Still, I’m not ready to go down yet. As the church is my RL family, you hobbitses (and hirsute elves) are my SF and writing family. There’s gotta be some changes, some morphing into who we are and what we can do. No guilt. No unrealistic expectations. Just a transition into the next thing. Although we are constantly reminded that the publishing industry is changing, we forget that teh interwebs is relatively new. We can figure this thing out. We are science fiction/fantasy writers/fans with a butt-load of computer experience. And, you know, jobs, family crises, and no time. But that just makes the conditions real enough to be relevant to future generations.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Sara Tankersley

The Doctor's Defense

Steam and sail, cloth and bone
Far above no colors flown
Silent death floats through the night
Then cannons boom flaring bright
To the window! Nothing seen
Waters lay still dark and clean
Assault above unexpected
No quarter giv’n not one elected
Panic reigns as leather clad
Sky pirates turn the dark streets mad
Yet in a basement ‘neath it all
A boiler starts, gears creak and squall
On a street once calm, genteel
The doctor’s work unfolds revealed
Now cannons flash above, below
For this the captain did not know
A klank was built five storeys tall
Its cannons laying waste to all
There goes the steeple, the town square
Escape, retreat into the air!
Hydrogen lifts, the steam propels
Her sails catch the windy swells
But now she burns down towards the drink
There’s no way out as their craft sinks
Once proudly plundering the skies
Majestically the dirigible dies
Attackers stop short at the sight
Engines explode, smoke fills the night
Town folk rally, the noose for them
The doctor smiles at their end

Story-a-Day is an attempt to bring a small bit of humor and amusement to Mrs. ~brb and Audrey as they fight very serious illnesses. If you have a short, amusing story, please send it to kersley.fitz at yahoo dot com. If you'd prefer, you can drop it in the drop.io (password: challenge) and email me to let me know it's there.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Allan Davis


Sir Gregor of Denth was the bravest of knights
And many a tale was told
Of the many opponents he did dispatch;
But perhaps he was too bold.

For Gregor's teachers did warn him:
"Someday the fight will come.
And on that day you will much regret
Sleeping through Dragons 101."

"A knight is a knight is a knight;" said he,
"Whether it be morning or noon.
And any Wyrm that thinks to defeat me
Comes flying to his doom."

A messenger came one midsummer morn
Seeking a knight of renown;
Sir Gregor answered before he knew
It was a dragon that had been found.

"A knight is a knight is a knight" said he,
"No matter the time of day."
He lowered his visor and lifted his shield
And swiftly rode away.

Gregor attacked on the following dawn,
And it was a terrible fight;
For the one lesson our knave never learned
Is that dragons are blind at night.

"A knight is a knight is a knight," he gasped,
"No matter the time of day."
And with those gallant words of wisdom
Did brave Gregor pass away.

So forget mathematics, and governing, and law;
With those, nothing need be done.
The one class none ever should miss
Is Dragons--101.

Story-a-Day is an attempt to bring a small bit of humor and amusement to Mrs. ~brb and Audrey as they fight very serious illnesses. If you have a short, amusing story, please send it to kersley.fitz at yahoo dot com. If you'd prefer, you can drop it in the drop.io (password: challenge) and email me to let me know it's there.

Name This Column

by Bruce Bethke

We have a scattershot smattering of topics for this week and a profound shortage of time in which to write about them, as evidenced by the fact that this column is posting on Tuesday and not Sunday, so without further ado:

Medical Updates:
After a prolonged hospital stay, Audrey (Mrs. Henry) was released on Saturday, only to need to be readmitted for a transfusion and observation on Monday. Many profuse thanks to everyone who contributed their kind thoughts, prayers, and positive energy during this ordeal. Henry is hopeful that this is only a minor setback and that she will be coming home this afternoon.

The news re Karen (Mrs. ~brb) isn't what we were hoping for. In addition to the original breast cancer, several lymph nodes removed during her surgery three weeks ago also proved cancerous, so beginning next week she starts a regimen of "aggressive" chemotherapy. Her attitude is positive and her spirits are definitely up. She's going into the hospital tomorrow to have a chemotherapy port—or as she calls it, her "Harkonnen heart plug"—installed. Apparently this first round of chemotherapy involves drugs that are so caustic there is the possibility of some pretty nasty complications if they use her arm veins, so they prefer to pump them directly into her vena cava.

After this initial two-month round, they'll switch to a four-month regimen of some other, milder, drugs, and sometime during that same four months, depending on how she's tolerating the chemotherapy, they'll begin radiation therapy. So it appears that her journey is only beginning, and it's going to be a long one.

Many, many, thanks to everyone who has contributed to the Story-a-Day project, and especially to Kersley for coming up with the idea and organizing it in the first place. While our comments have been sparse, believe me, your stories are appreciated. Thanks.

Industry Updates:
Changing topics with neck-snapping alacrity, Realms of Fantasy magazine has folded the tent and called it quits. If you had a story out for submission at ROF, you may consider it released for submission to someone else, as you may or may not hear back from the magazine. However, the publisher of Realms of Fantasy, Warren Lapine, has written an interesting farewell -slash- state-of-the-market article, and if you have the time, you might want to read it. Join the discussion...

Ditto for Futurismic. Well, it's not quite dead. Not yet. But the editor/publisher, Paul Raven, has written and posted a similar exit soliloquy, and it's also interesting reading. Join the discussion...

Meanwhile, SFWA has voted to add Would That It Were to its list of SFWA-qualifying professional markets—which doesn't do any of you much good, as WTIW ceased publication in 2006, but for people like, say, me, who had fiction published in it, this is almost meaningful.

As happens, I've stayed in touch over the years with the editor/publisher of WTIW, Don Muchow (whose motto should be, "I was steampunk before steampunk was cool!"), and while he'd like to revive the magazine, it would require stupid amounts of OPM (Other People's Money) to do so. In fact, in our discussions Don has come up with what he feels are the critical requirements for starting up a successful ezine, and these are, in no particular order:
1. Unless it’s a ‘for the love of it’ ezine, whoever sets it up needs to have a business plan. Most ‘zines serve a pretty narrow market, made narrower, not broader, by the Internet, primarily because of “noise”. A ‘zine can’t survive without finding a way to keep tapping its fan base for revenue. These days, a good ‘zine needs to include blog entries, have good content and art, and actively form and engage a social network in interested in its subject matter.

2. To tap that fan base, a ‘zine is not enough. You have to have emails with a little content and clear calls to action, and ideally gather meaningful demographic and consumer demand information along the way. WTIW could have done much more if it had seen itself not as a Steampunk publication but more as a “watering hole” or “campfire” around which Steampunk-related stuff happens. It would have increased the traffic, further defined the customer base, and given folks a reason to keep reading, keep returning, and keep clicking.

3. It helps to pay market rates. As of a few years ago, SFWA defined a professional publication as one that pays a minimum of $0.05 / word and had a certain minimum circulation (it’s on their site and I’m too lazy to get it - J) and frequency of publication. Partly as a result, I could nominate writers for Nebula awards.
Muchow clarifies: SFWA told me that if WTIW qualified as a professional market, I could do that [nominate writers for Nebula awards]. But until now, it never did... nor did most other 'zines.
4. Another reason it helps to pay market rates: quality of material submitted. The more we paid, I found, the less “crap” I tended to get. I realize that at first a lot of wannabes sent in material and I was flooded by horrible material from greedy writers (some of which I am embarrassed to say I published – due to an initially un-ambitious image of WTIW), but oddly, they seemed to self-select out.

5. If the ‘zine isn’t run by just one person, then give people tasks and deadlines, and make sure stuff gets done. I found that I was constantly missing deadlines and putting off the things I wasn’t good at. And the ‘zine suffered as a result.

6. Buy good art from professional artists. It makes a subtle difference to industry types, and if your ‘zine looks like it is limited by your own poor HTML and graphic skills, people will think less of it and not take it seriously.

7. Put up a set of writers’ guidelines. Otherwise you will get material that is 4x your desired word length, way off topic, and written by someone for whom English is not the primary language… or worse.

8. Make your terms and conditions clear both on your web site and in your offer letter. NEVER let the disposition of someone’s intellectual property become an issue.

9. Make sure you have good contact info OTHER than the author’s email, and make sure that the people you buy stories from KEEP you up to date on their contact info. Recently, I tried to publish a “Best of WTIW” book, only to find that I could not reach most of the authors who had contributed stories.
There's more—Don is an interesting fellow with quite a lot to say—but this seems sufficient for now.

Site Updates:
And now we come to the crux of the biscuit. As has been obvious to everyone except, apparently, me, I have been operating below crush depth for thirteen months now, and the seams and rivets are starting to come apart. Henry did a brilliant job of stepping in and keeping The Friday Challenge going in the first months after Emily's death, and Kersley has been an extremely valuable and critical asset to the team, even if she hasn't been as high-profile as me or Henry. One more time: I can't begin to thank Henry and Kersley enough for all that they have done for this site, and for the readers of this site. If we were meeting in person I'd have them stand up now, for a round of applause from the audience. Since we aren't meeting in person, we'll just have to take the applause as given, and move on to the next point.

Specifically, that I'm looking at a hellish next six months of dealing with OTOGU, Henry isn't much better off, and Kersley is also getting stretched pretty thin. As evidenced by the erratic postings of the past few weeks, absent more guest columns and greater reader participation, keeping a daily blog going has become difficult.

So what do we do next? Change formats to an ezine and launch The Friday Challenge Monthly? Cut back to two posts weekly—a challenge and a decision—and call that good enough? Or is it time to admit that this fellowship has served its purpose (whatever its purpose was; I distinctly remember that we thought we had a purpose when we started out), and fold the tents and close the show?

Your thoughts, comments, and observations, s'il vous plait.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Ruminations of an Old Goat

"I don't know what to say."

Words seem to fail us at exactly the wrong times. Faced with a friend or relative who is suffering from the loss, or threat of the loss, of a loved one, it's natural to want to be able to find the right words, the magical turn of phrase that will ease the other's suffering or, at the very least, let the other know we care and desperately wish there was something we could do to help. But the words fail us.

As writers, we see words as our playthings. We can make them sit up and do tricks, describe complex scenes, delve into deep emotions, explore intellectual ideas, even build entire worlds composed of nothing but words. Having words fail us hits writers where we live. At the time we most need our tools to construct works of art, we find our tools aren't working. Instead of speaking the one, beautiful sentence that will convey our inner-most feelings, the depth of our concern and care, that will, if just for a moment, ease the suffering we so desperately wish we could ease, we find ourselves with nothing new or original to say.

"I wish I there was something I could say."

It has been my misfortune to see this issue from both sides in the previous thirteen months. Last year, I desperately wanted to find something to say, something to write that might, for only a moment, ease the pain Bruce and his family felt after Emily died. The words just weren't there, even when I was responding by email and lots of time to think about what I was writing.

"I'm so sorry."

A year later, I was right back in the same spot when I learned of Karen's cancer. There was so much I wanted to do with my words, yet they completely failed me. Words guaranteed to bring comfort just wouldn't come. My fingers, tired of waiting for the brain to send instructions, took over and type, "Oh shit!" Not exactly my most inspired message.

Less than a month later, my wife was diagnosed with myelodisplastic syndrome, a rare and serious disorder of the immune system which causes it to attack healthy bone marrow. All of a sudden, I was the one suffering. I was the one whose friends were stuck in the same position in which I had been. They wanted to comfort, to support, to ease my burden -- and the words I'm sure they desperately wanted to find just weren't there.

"I don't know what to say."

"I wish there was something I could say."

"I'm so sorry."

That's when I made a discovery. Those simple words meant so much more when I received them than I had thought when I said them. They weren't trite and emotionally hollow. They resonated with depth of feeling and carried the weight of many thousands of words. At least briefly, they did exactly what my friends wanted their words to do. They told me my friends cared so much they couldn't calmly sit down and find those beautiful words to form exquisite sentences to show how much they cared. That kind of writing takes too much clarity of thought, too much calculation, too much distance from the ones who are suffering. The words may be beautiful and sentences exquisite, but they ring hollow in our ears.

Because it's not the words that matter, it's the feeling behind them.


Kersley Fitzgerald

Some things overheard at our house:

Me: I need to tell you something.
Him: ?
Me: I didn't mean to do it.
Him: !
Me: It was an accident.
Him: ...
Me: ...
Him: ?!
Me: I got peanut butter in my ear.
Him: :)


Setting: the car

Me: So what sport do you think you want to play next?
Creature: I don't know.
Me: There's lacrosse--you know, with the sticks with the baskets on the end and you catch the ball and throw it.
Creature: That sounds dangerous if you got hit in the head with a ball.
Me: Well, you'd wear a helmet with a mask...
[Long conversation]
Creature: I know! I want to play that game with the balls and you hit it with the ranch and it goes into a hole!
Me: [Branch? Quidditch? Quidditch doesn't use sticks...]
Creature: You know, I'll show you.
[Long conversation]
Creature: No, we need to turn there, so I can show you.
Me: Where is it?
Creature: At the haircut place.
Me: [Sportsclips? He must have seen a lacrosse game at Sportsclips.] Just because it was there before doesn't mean it's still showing. We'll look it up at home.
[Find a lacrosse clip on Youtube.]
Creature: No, that's not it. It's the one with the balls that looks like ranch and they're in a triangle.
Me: Bocce? [Find bocce clip.]
Creature: No, they're in a triangle, and it looks like ranch.
Me: Ranch dressing?
[Search through Wikipedia article on sports. Go through videos of several variations on cricket.]
Creature: No, they're in a triangle, and you hit it with a stick--
Me: Oh! Pool!
Creature: Yeah! Pool! I wanna play pool! I love pool!
[Find clip of Minnesota Fats.]
Creature: See? The ball is white and spotted...
Me: Just like ranch dressing.


Setting: The couch; watching Ever After; Henri has just come to rescue Danielle at LePieu's.

Danielle: Why are you here?
Creature: For you. Uh! He just--just say I came for you!


Setting: Standing near the open kitchen window.

Him: Hear that?
Me: ?
[Ticking of toaster oven and sizzling of garlic bread.]
Him: Hear that?
Me: What?
[CREeeEK-CREeeEK of neighbor's swing.]
Him: It's the Tardis!


Him: Can I put the safe away?
Me: Yes.
Him: Why was it out?
Me: Sara [my sister] needed the Creature's social security number.
Him: Why?
Me: So she can open a bank account in his name and take out a bunch of credit cards.
Creature: What?
Me: So she can make you her beneficiary.
Creature: What's that?
Me: It means you get all her stuff when she dies.
Creature: [big intake of breath] Even her Nerf gun?
Me: lol! Yes, even her Nerf gun.
Creature: 'Cus I loooove her Nerf gun.
Me: You want Auntie Sara to die just so you can get her Nerf gun?
Creature: No...I just want her Nerf gun and if she dies, I get it.

[Minutes pass]

Creature: So...how long will Auntie Sara live?


No, my darling 8-yo child, "Holy Jesus" is not the appropriate interjection when picking one's heavy baseball bag off the floor. No baseball for you. Homework all night.

Yes, you're right. "Holy moly," is always an acceptable thing to say.


Setting: The Creature and I are bike riding. We're on a dirt/sandy path and he's fallen down for the umpteenth time. He's on his knees, his hands raised and curled into claws.

Me: Come on, Buddy. Get up!
Creature: Urghhh!
Me: No whining...
Creature: I'm praising the Lord!

Story-a-Day is an attempt to bring a small bit of humor and amusement to Mrs. ~brb and Audrey as they fight very serious illnesses. If you have a short, amusing story, please send it to kersley.fitz at yahoo dot com. If you'd prefer, you can drop it in the drop.io (password: challenge) and email me to let me know it's there.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Allan Davis

Top Ten reasons why The Lord of the Rings is better than Harry Potter

1. Arwen and Galadriel *so* much hotter than Professor McGonagall.
2. Getting rescued by a giant eagle...or getting rescued by a flying Ford Anglia...?
3. Army of the Dead...or Moaning Myrtle...?
4. Legolas can take down an Oliphaunt single-handedly.
5. Which is scarier, getting trampled by Saruman's Uruk-Hai army, or losing House Points to Snape...?
6. Treebeard could take the Whomping Willow with one...um...branch...tied behind his back.
7. Where would you rather live? Under the stairs at the Dursleys' house, or under the hill at Bag End?
8. Legolas is still the prettiest.
9. It took a flaming Balrog to take down Gandalf, and he didn't stay dead.
10. Gandalf, miles underground in a magnificent dwarven kingdom, battling millions of enemies and one colossal flame demon, shattering the massive stone bridge with his staff while shouting "You Shall Not Pass!"...or Ron, in the secret and forbidden territory of the Girl's Bathroom, facing down a troll and staring at the troll snot covering his wand.


Top Ten reasons why Harry Potter is better than The Lord of the Rings

1. Frodo only had one giant spider to escape from, not an enormous horde of them, and he couldn't even do it.
2. Three wizards in training can beat a troll in less time than it takes all nine of the Fellowship to beat one.
3. Sure, Eowyn killed the leader of the RingWraiths. But can she recite the text of every book in the Rohan library...?
4. Voldemort actually has the guts to come out and fight, while Sauron just hides in his tower.
5. Harry can take down a dragon AND a basilisk single-handedly.
6. Dobbie attracts a...very interesting...following to the theater.
7. Invisibility cloak from father is a much better gift than a dead rabbit from Gollum, and doesn't have "Property of Sauron" in burning letters inside.
8. Everyone has an aunt or uncle they'd like to see puff up and blow away, but not many people actually get to make it happen.
9. Ron makes a much better travelling companion than Gollum, but is he as good a cook as Sam?
10. Buckbeak could take down a Ringwraith without losing a feather.

Story-a-Day is an attempt to bring a small bit of humor and amusement to Mrs. ~brb and Audrey as they fight very serious illnesses. If you have a short, amusing story, please send it to kersley.fitz at yahoo dot com. If you'd prefer, you can drop it in the drop.io (password: challenge) and email me to let me know it's there.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Open Mic Saturday

Good morning all, and welcome to Open Mic Saturday. This is the place to share your news and perhaps do a little bragging. If you're writing a novel: how much progress did you make this week? If you're writing short stories: did you finish anything or submit anything this week? If you've sold or published anything recently, when is it coming out and where can we find it? Did you place a story in the Friday Challenge Rewrite Drop? In short, as a writer, what kind of progress did you make this week?

Or what else is on your mind, that you feel like sharing with the group here?



Panaca Stories

Grandma Lee and the Indians

Francis Lee arrived at what was to become Panaca 4 May 1864. He arrived with his wife, Mary, 5 unmarried sons, one married son, Samuel and his family and nephew, Samuel F and his family. They built dugouts to live in and proceeded to pioneer.

There was a camp of Piute Indians 10 miles from where the Lee family had settled. One day when all the men were gone, Grandma Lee was alone in her dugout. Two young Indians came to the dugout. They saw a gun in the dugout and demanded that Grandma give them the gun. Grandma Lee refused. The Indian tried to snatch the gun and run out the door, but Grandma Lee whacked him with a piece of fire wood and he fell to the floor. He jumped up, grabbed his bow and arrow and aimed an arrow at Grandma Lee. She whacked him with a second piece of firewood which broke his bow and arrow. Meanwhile the second Indian had stood by watching the fight. The arrival of the Lee men sent the Indians whooping into the distance. Thus ended the first battle of Panaca.

The Fifty Dollar Turn Around

Panaca is located 11 mile south of Pioche Nevada. When the silver mines were going many families in Panca made a living raising truck gardens and selling produce in Pioche. As a boy John N Hollingshead accompanied his father to Pioche to sell produce. A drunken miner bet $50 young John couldn't turn the team and wagon around on Pioche's main street which to this day is narrow and steep. John's father handed him the lines, climbed off the wagon and told him to turn it around. John turned the wagon around. The drunken miner paid off his bet and John and father went home $50 richer.

The Sorry Farm

Nephi John Wadsworth freighted and ranched. In his time he acquired several pastures and meadows in and around Panaca. He named his fields after the people from whom he purchased them. He owned one field south of Panaca that almost everyone considered worthless. One year Nephi John decided to plant rye there. All his neighbors told him he would be “sorry”. That year Nephi John harvested an enormous crop of grain from the field. Today that field is still called the Sorry Farm.

Nephi John and the Outlaw

Nephi John Wadsworth owned and worked a freighting company. He hauled the first lumber from Salt Lake into Pioche. He hauled the first load of freight into the mining camp of Delamar.

Nephi John was a friendly man. He had many friends. One of his friends was a notorious outlaw whose hang out was near Desert Springs where the freighters watered their teams. This outlaw robbed many a freighter of his freight and cattle. But he told Nephi John, “ Now don't you worry, Nephi, I'll take care of your cattle and horses, and whatever you have in your wagon, especially the jockey box will be safe.” So it was the outlaw was a man of his word.

A Full-Time Job

Joseph Adelbert (Bert) Price worked as freighter, miner, and cowboy. Bert had a sense of humor and he exercised it regularly. He went to work for a rancher one week and then was home the next week. When one of his friends asked about the job. Bert replied that the he had worked for the rancher from 4 in the morning until midnight, but there were four hours when there was no work so Bert had quit, because the rancher had promised Bert a “full-time job”.

Story-a-Day is an attempt to bring a small bit of humor and amusement to Mrs. ~brb and Audrey as they fight very serious illnesses. If you have a short, amusing story, please send it to kersley.fitz at yahoo dot com. If you'd prefer, you can drop it in the drop.io (password: challenge) and email me to let me know it's there.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Kersley Fitzgerald

He was riding in the back seat of his mom's car on his way to kindergarten. They'd started a new game where he could choose which button on the radio to press during the ride. Yesterday had been golden oldies. Today, after a few test runs, he chose "5".

Why did he choose "5"? Was it because it was his age? Was he just tired of NPR? The music started, he rejected the song and chose another number. As happenstance would have it, the game was temporarily paused--his mother would not turn away from The Doobie Brothers! So he was forced to endure the remainder of the song.

A strange sensation came over him as the next song began. It started slowly but he could almost feel the electricity in the air. He leaned forward in his seat to catch every note, every word. Then the music changed, then again! An aria? A wall of electric guitars? What was this? His mom recognized the event for what it was and, being one of those annoying people who has to sing everything she knows, she did sing. And when she didn't quite know the words, she mumbled, passionately. He caught on, mumbling or humming, occasionally catching the odd word, completely caught up in the moment.

He felt it was somehow familiar but he was pretty sure he'd never heard it before. The song was unusually long and when they reached the school parking lot, it was barely half over. Still, in unspoken agreement, they stayed in the car. Until the last mournful line, the last piano tinkle, the end.

As he hopped out of his car, eager to take this newfound lightness of being into his class, his mom turned to him and, briefly, explained what had just happened to him:

"That was Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, one of the greatest rock songs in the world."

Story-a-Day is an attempt to bring a small bit of humor and amusement to Mrs. ~brb and Audrey as they fight very serious illnesses. If you have a short, amusing story, please send it to kersley.fitz at yahoo dot com. If you'd prefer, you can drop it in the drop.io (password: challenge) and email me to let me know it's there.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Allan Davis

"Wesley and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamboat"
"The Naked Never"

Captain's Log, Stardate Unknown
The Enterprise is trapped in a rift in space.

Since the return of Hugh to the Borg, their collective has been shattered. Splinter collectives, usually no larger than a single ship, have been raiding Federation border worlds. One of them dropped out of warp near the Enterprise while we were visiting the all-female colony of Theta Iotia Three.

The Enterprise pursued the Borg at warp nine. But deep in interstellar space, the Borg ship disappeared through a strange hole in the space-time continuum.

The Enterprise was unable to stop before it, too, fell into the same bottomless pit.

Captain Picard turned off the log recorder and scowled at the viewscreen. Weird bands of color and energy discharges danced around the Borg ship, just a few short kilometers ahead. "Well, Mr. Crusher, it appears your field trip from Star Fleet Academy isabout to be more exciting than you thought."

The young Ensign spun the chair around to face the Captain. "Sir, we've tried everything we can think of to get back to normal space. But nothing--warp, impulse, thrusters, or tractor beams--seem to be able to budge us from this spot."

"Keep on it, Wesley."

"Aye, sir." Wesley spun the chair back to face the viewscreen. The bridge was silent for a few moments. Then: "Sir, medical crewmen report a disturbance in the Arboretum."

"Is it the Borg, Mr. Worf? A boarding party?"

"No, sir. Apparently, several children have been affected by a mysterious illness." Worf frowned. "Sir, there must be something wrong with the comm channel. They reported that...that the children were transforming into something else. But it makes no sense."

"Number One, you have the conn. I'll go examine this mystery illness myself."

"Aye, sir."

Doctor Crusher met him outside the Arboretum. "Whatever this is, it doesn't seem to be contagious. Three of the children are still perfectly normal. Several of the crewmen have been near the children, with no ill effects. But the results are...well...shocking. See for yourself." The door slid open, and Picard stepped inside.

Near the small pond a small animal was trying to work its way to its feet. It was a brightly colored brown, with dark spots on its back and wide soulful blue eyes. It stood, shakily, and smiled; then it shouted "Thumper!" A smaller animal, grey, with long ears and large feet, scampered over to where Picard and Beverly were standing. It smiled up at them. Then it beat one foot against the deckplate a dozen times in quick succession.

"The tricorders don't know what to make of them, Captain. One second they read as normal, preschool age children. The next, the readings make no sense at all. I even tried focusing the tricorder on one for an extended period at close range." She held up a melted, blackened box, shaped roughly like a tricorder.

The grey animal was rubbing up against Picard's trousers when Worf walked up. "Sir?"

The grey animal scurried away from Worf in a panic, running between the unsteady legs of the brown animal. The brown one followed the grey one with his eyes, and then looked back at Picard. When it saw Worf, it took three steps and leaped into the bushes. Panic drove it though the leap perfectly, despite its shaky legs, but apparently couldn't support it for the landing. Leaves and twigs flew through the air, and crashes sounded from behind the leaves.

Picard turned from the carnage to see Worf's troubled face. "Sir, we are receiving reports of other such...transformations...all over the ship. Some of them have turned violent, though no serious injuries have been reported yet. I have dispatched security personnel throughout the ship, but there is no guarantee of personal safety at this time. The incidents are too widespread."

Picard understood the unspoken comment: as Security Chief, Worf saw Picard's safety as his personal responsibility.

"Understood, Mr. Worf. I'm returning to the Bridge. Keep order as best you can."

"Yes, sir."

The Bridge, at least, was still calm. Riker vacated the Captain's chair as Picard entered. "Captain," he said, "I believe Data has located the cause of our problems." He stepped over to the Science station, and began calling up images on the screen.

In Ten-Forward, a grey cat was chasing a brown mouse, scattering dishes and overturning tables. In Sick Bay, a large orange headless creature wearing tennis shoes was chasing nurses around the room. In Engineering, a brown creature that vaguely resembled a coyote was tinkering with parts removed from the matter/antimatter control panel. Intermixed with the modern technology were pieces from containers marked "ACME."

"Sir, I have reason to believe we have become trapped in a Disney Vortex. It is very similar to a Tykon's Rift, and is named after the physicist who first theorized it's existence." A smiling face appeared on the screen. "The physicist was frozen in the late twentieth century, and defrosted twenty-seven years ago."

The image changed again, showing the Enterprise and the Borg ship in a roughly triangular area of space. One band around the Enterprise glowed. "A Disney Vortex is an area where reality and imagination intertwine. Each of the colored bands represents a particular era of imagination or literature. The band currently surrounding the Enterprise is apparently roughly associated with twentieth-century Earth, and the effects we see will approximate the popular fiction of that period."

The band surrounding the Borg ship illuminated. "We are very lucky to have landed in human terms. The Borg ship is trapped in an area equivalent to pre-spaceflight Klingon entertainment." The view changed, to show a live view of the Borg cube. It was bouncing back and forth, with puffs of smoke in various locations. As Picard watched, a piece of the cube broke away and drifted deeper into the Vortex.

"According to the data we have on the Vortex, several physical laws are placed on hold. For example, physical harm is impossible, due to the nature of the Vortex. Unfortunately for us, physical motion of the ship is also impossible.

"Sir, this is the first time anyone has ever been trapped in a Disney Vortex. The opportunities for scientific exploration are endless. It will, however, get harder and harder to maintain order."

"Understood. Well, Mr. Data, Mr. Crusher, please work together with Mr. Laforge, and figure out a way for both the Enterprise and the Borg ship to leave the Vortex." On the screen, a man with very large forearms and a pipe in his mouth was juggling two-hundred pound barbells in the exercise chamber while singing "I yam what I yam!!"

"To all hands: The area of space we are in has many bizarre effects, and will undoubtedly make it difficult for each of us to do our jobs. In any case, I know that you are Starfleet's finest crew, and will do your best under any circumstances. Picard out." Picard sat back down in the command chair.

Captain's Log, Supplemental:

We have been trapped in the Disney Vortex for thirty-six hours. The patience of the crew is beginning to wear thin. So far, the Bridge has been the least effected by the disturbances...but I fear that is merely because there are so few people on the bridge, and our turn is coming soon.

'Too soon,' Picard thought. Worf was now sporting a long, drooping red moustache, and Wesley appeared to have sprouted large, round black ears from the top of his head.

Commander Riker walked onto the Bridge, but Picard had to look twice to recognize him. He was wearing an old-fashioned uniform of some kind, covered in splotches of green, black, and brown. There was an antique firearm over his shoulder, and he was staring at his hand. "I can't straighten my fingers out, sir," was all he said as he took his place.

Data stood, examining Riker closely. "Commander, it would appear you have been modeled after a toy. Accessing further...Last name Joe, first name George, middle initial I. A military entertainment of GLEEP! BONG!! between ages of ZIINNNGGG!! Blip! GONG!! with Kung-Fu Grip." Data returned to his seat, seeming quite pleased with himself.

The intercom chimed. It sounded like a foghorn. "Captain, this is Sickbay. I think you'd better come down here."

"On my way, Doctor." Picard stood, looking at Riker. "Will, I want a full meeting of department heads in twenty minutes."

Riker saluted. Then he shouted "Yo! Joe!"

As Picard was leaving the bridge, a scaly green creature about waist-high casually strolled in. It had small wings, and smoke wafted out of its nostrils. It slouched over to Worf, and gazed up at him with sad, soulful eyes. Worf glared at it, and it cringed.

Then it sneezed, and the tactical station caught fire. "Yow! My biscuits are burnin'!" Worf shouted, beating the flames out with his hands. He glared at Riker through the smoke, and muttered through his singed red moustache "Dragons is SO Stupid!!"

Picard entered the Turbolift, only to find a creature there. It was less than two feet tall, mostly white, with long black ears. "What floor, sir?" it asked, in a depressive monotone.

Picard tried to ignore it. "Sickbay," he said. Then he found himself plastered against the ceiling. The Turbolift was moving down at something approaching Warp Six. It came to an abrupt halt, and Picard came to a second halt--on the floor of the Turbolift.

"Your floor, sir." Picard stepped--or rather, fell--out of the turbolift, dropping two full feet to the deck. The doors snapped shut, and the lift shot away. He let out a sigh, and straightened out his uniform with a brisk tug. Sickbay was just a few meters down the corridor.

Halfway to Sickbay, a green glowing figure passed him. Less than ten feet behind it, a small group of adolescents and a large brown dog were cautiously following the footprints the glowing creature had left behind. "Roobie Rooo!" the dog said.

Just outside the door to Sickbay, Picard passed Ensign Barclay. He was carrying a laser rifle, and he seemed...shorter...somehow. He smiled at Picard. "SSSHHhhhh...be wery, wery quiet. Hahahaha...." Barclay stalked around the corner.

Picard shook his head, and walked through the doors to Sickbay. When he reached Beverly's desk, he was munching on a carrot and had grown two long, floppy ears. "Nyahh...what's up, doc?"

Then he frowned at the carrot. It wilted. Then it disappeared. The ears followed. Then he looked at Beverly. She was dressed in the red costume of a medieval princess. There was a small bird perched on her shoulder, and squirrels kept jumping in and out of her lap. She was staring at a holo of Picard, humming under her breath; Picard caught the word "Prince" once or twice.

"Oh! Captain!" She hurriedly hid the holo and picked up her tricorder. "Captain, we have to get out of here soon. According to these readings, after fifty or so hours stuck here, some of the changes will start becoming permanent."

Commander Data strode in to Sickbay. "Gleep! Zinnggg!!! DingDingDINGDING!!!"

The Sickbay doors opened again, and Barclay charged in. He was much shorter now. "Now I've got you, you wascawwy wobot!" he shouted, dropping the weapon and leaping for Data.

A cloud of dust and debris filled Beverly's office. When it cleared, Data was standing, with Barclay's ankle in one hand. Barclay was swinging his fists, but he was now too short to hit anything but air.

"Mr. Data, are we ready to begin the briefing?"

"Whoop! WHOOOP!!"

Picard sighed. "Very well. Let go of Mr. Broccoli, and we can go to the briefing. Beverly?" He turned, but Beverly was lost in her holo again. "I suppose Medical can sit this one out."

Data let go of Barclay, and the lieutenant crashed through the deck, causing quite a fuss in Ten-Forward. Picard and Data strolled out, and Beverly laughed at the little white powder-puff tail attached to the back of Picard's uniform.

This was the strangest briefing Picard had ever attended. Lieutenant Laforge seemed to have put on over four hundred pounds overnight. Commander Data was unintelligible. Worf held an Ancient West six-shooter in each hand, trying to spin them on his index fingers; every now and then, one would go off, and the projectile would ricochet around the room until it broke something. Commander Riker had painted his face in green and black, and was honing an eighteen-inch long penknife on a grey stone while staring suspiciously at the rest of the senior staff. Counselor Troi was wearing a very revealing evening gown and loudly proclaiming to anyone who would listen that "She wasn't bad, just..."

"Hey, hey, HEYEY!!" Laforge shouted. "Le's get this show on the road."

"Zip! ZIP!" Data commented. Picard put his head in his hand.

"Captain?" Laforge said. Picard looked up--at least one of his bridge crew could still talk to him. "Mr. Data says he has a plan."

"You can understand him?"

"He's easier to understand than Old Weird Harold, back in Philly." Laforge sat back, and put his feet up on the table. It groaned under the weight.

Data made a sound like a siren. "WoooWooooWooo. Ding! Ding! Swish, Zoom!!!"

"He says we need to wait till the last minute," Laforge translated. "Say, about forty-nine and a half hours."

Picard asked for details, and the android made a noise that sounded like a train wreck. He then launched into a series of sounds that not even Laforge could comprehend. The Captain closed his eyes, and simply said, "Make it so."

Captain's Log, Supplemental:

We are at forty-eight hours and counting. Mr. Laforge and Mr. Data have begun to carry out their plan for our escape. I fear we may be cutting this extremely close, perhaps even risking permanent damage, but we have little choic

The helmsman now bore no resemblance to the doctor's son. His ears wiggled. He suddenly stood, and walked to the viewscreen. Picard and the rest of the bridge crew could only watch in astonishment as he pulled a writing instrument from some pocket of the voluminous robe he was wearing and drew a doorway on the surface of the viewscreen.

He opened the doorway, stepped through the viewscreen, and closed the door behind him. He quickly dashed forward across the disk of the Enterprise main hull, past a startled Data, who was already outside the ship.

"Magnification!" Picard ordered. The view followed Wesley as he hopped off of the front of the ship and onto a large rock outcropping. He placed a large, floppy-brimmed pointed hat onto his head and began waving his arms. Stars began dancing around the Enterprise. Comets and fireballs circled around Wesley, and splashes of water soaked his feet. Then something blocked the view.

"Down in Front!!" Riker shouted, as Data strolled in front of the viewscreen. He apologized, stepping through the makeshift airlock Wesley had created, with his head bouncing around on the end of a spring. The apology sounded like a dying calliope.

The show ended, and Wesley strode back to the Bridge. When he walked back in, he was carrying both the floppy hat and a broom, which he sheepishly offered to Picard.

Picard took the hat, and then the broom. When Wesley turned around to go back to his station, Picard let him have it with the broom; Wesley landed in the chair, and it spun six times.

The intercom chimed. It said, "SOMEONE'S AT THE DOOR!!!" Laforge strode in, and things shook and fell off of the consoles with each step. Data made a noise like a cannon going off.

"Hey, hey HEYEY!! The man says it's time to begin!"

"Very well. Mr. Crusher, please attach a tractor beam to the Borg ship. I would prefer not to leave them behind."

Wesley said, "Haha." and pulled a large lever.

Deep inside the ship, parts began to move. At the very front of the Secondary Hull, the sensor array snapped downward, leaving a darkened opening.

A mechanism appeared, looking rather like a large cannon, with the words "ACME Super-Duper Sucker Beam" written on the side. The mechanism moved slowly, targeting the Borg ship, and fired.

Something flew away from the Enterprise, and the cannon stuck out a banner that read "BANG! (because you can't hear anything in space, stupid!)" The projectile was wider at the front than at the back. It was cylindrical, and very narrow, except where it flared out suddenly at the front. Most of it was brown, except from the flare forward, which was red. It trailed a string back to the Enterprise, which pulled taut as the projectile hit the Borg ship with a squish.

The Borg cube tried to escape. The top third of the ship rotated ninety degrees. Then the third on the right side. But the projectile had stuck dead center, so it couldn't escape.

"Mr. Data, Mr. Laforge, you may continue."

The two had gotten the assistance of the coyote in Engineering for this. The rear third of the secondary hull popped open, and an enormous hand popped out, at the end of a long, hinged arm. The hand reached down into the ship, and came up with a container of some sort, and reached out over the nose of the ship.

As it did, Picard could finally see what Data had done while he was outside. There was an eyeball painted in the zero of "1701" and another in the "D". The "N" in "Enterprise" had been painted over with a nose.

The giant hand held the container up for inspection. It said "Pepper." A liberal amount was sprinkled on the front of the ship.

"All Hands, Brace for Impact!" Picard shouted. He was answered by a chorus of chirps, sqwawks, beeps and giggles.

The bridge bucked. Again, further this time. The front hull of the ship buckled, and the viewscreen cracked.

They all heard a sneeze loud enough to shatter stars, and the great starship was propelled backwards--towards the entrance to the Disney Vortex--at warp seven. The Borg ship was pulled along with.

In moments, everything was back to normal.

"Well. Number One, Mister Worf, please coordinate damage repair crews. And hail the Borg ship--let's see how well they survived.

"Sir, no response to our hails. The channel is open, but they appear to be ignoring us."

"Perhaps they need to hear a language they can understand." Picard straightened out his uniform, and strode to the viewscreen. "Borg Ship, this is Locutus of the Enterprise. Prepare to be assimilated into the Federation."

The screen changed, and the Borg that appeared filled the viewscreen. With a shiver of recognition, Picard recognized the laser-sight apparatus he had once worn, but this Borg looked...different, somehow. He was distinctly yellow, instead of the more common white, and he literally sneered at Picard.

Then he spoke. "Assimilate my shorts, dude!"

The Borg ship moved off at high warp.

Picard looked at Wesley. "Mr. Crusher, please set course for the nearest Starbase where we can initiate repairs." He straightened his uniform one more time, and pointed his index finger at the viewscreen. He said "Engage."

Or, at least, he tried to. He meant to. But what came out sounded distinctly like "Bedee bedee bedee That's All, Folks!"

Story-a-Day is an attempt to bring a small bit of humor and amusement to Mrs. ~brb and Audrey as they fight very serious illnesses. If you have a short, amusing story, please send it to kersley.fitz at yahoo dot com. If you'd prefer, you can drop it in the drop.io (password: challenge) and email me to let me know it's there.

Critical Thinking: Reviews

Packing for Mars
Mary Roach

In an interview for this book, the author was asked why she writes about such topics as dead people, sex, and poo. She said that somewhere, deep inside her, is a twelve year old boy.

Packing for Mars is about the race for space. And poo. It's about the smell of a space suit after being worn for several hours by a man who hasn't bathed in a week. And poo. About how the Japanese use origami to determine who they will send into space. And poo. And about whether or not sex is even possible in space (results may vary, but straps seem to be essential).

And poo.

No, actually only two chapters are about poo.

I learned a lot by reading James Michener's Space. I learned a lot of other stuff reading Packing for Mars. For one thing, Jim Lovell was amazingly forthcoming about his experiences. Did you know researchers pay people to stay in bed for months to monitor bone deterioration? That scientists on the ground harass astronauts about their dandruff? What exactly happens to poo in zero-gee?

Despite the meals that may one day be designed by dog food companies and the horrible potential for edible jammies, I still want to go. Yeah, I would go to Mars.

And even deal with the poo.

The Very Best of Charles De Lint

Have you ever written something and then found someone else did it so much better you thought about chucking it all in? I actually thought about sending Sinead and Glowfeather to a community of homeless kids in a big city. Mix the magic with the grit and the tragedy.

It's already been done. And far better than I could do.

I don't know why I hadn't discovered De Lint before. I mean, besides the fact I don't read too much fantasy and very little urban fantasy. (Hey! Twilight was research!) I was at B&N the other day and got pulled in by the water color on the cover. Then I saw the stories were a combination of Native American and European fantasy in a modern setting.

This is a collection of short stories picked by the fans. A lot are about an artist named Jilly who refuses to believe she has fairie blood. Another is about pixies who live in the internet--and how to get rid of them. A few are about a sweet couple--a dryad whose tree was killed in a storm and her musician husband who keeps her alive with magic.

I'd already decided I wanted a Kindle for Christmas. (You think I should get a different e-reader? Convince me!) Now I know I need one. I can't fit anymore books in my house, and Charles De Lint has published over fifty.


Major Tom and I went to see Red last night [this was written on Sunday]. It's the one where Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, and Helen Mirren are ex-agents (CIA and MI-6) who save the world. (John Malkovich is in it, too, but I didn't know if he was an ex-agent or just really paranoid.)

Anyway, it's fabulous. The humor of Die Hard, the action of James Bond, and the awesomeness of Helen Mirren. Can't go wrong.

Kersley Fitzgerald can't believe that this is the first movie she's seen in about a month. She also seriously wants to see Never Let Me Go, but Major Tom was not in the mood for depressing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Allan Davis

Modern Day Eight is Enough

That's right, we have six kids. Pick your jaws up off the floor and quit looking at me with pity in your eyes.

Yes, every day is a circus.

Starting from the top, we have a twelve year old daughter, eleven year old daughter, five year old son, four year old daughter, four year old son, and a one year old daughter. And a partridge in a pear tree.

The twelve year old is Ms. Einstein. She's a senior carrying a 12.9 GPA in high school and is working on picking out her college. She was reading medical textbooks when she was three and disagrees with Alex Trebek twice a week. In her spare time, she's rebuilt the toaster to work in a tenth the time and hacked the cable box so that we get Russian traffic reports and game shows (and she only had to sacrifice all the foreign language, golf, Nascar, and remedial basket-weaving channels to do it, no big loss). Her next projects? Rewiring the house to run on macromolecular solar cold fusion and curing her mother's asthma.

The eleven year old? Ms. Music. She plays the trumpet, baritone, tuba, harmonica, and mouth-harp, and will be touring with Mangione next spring. She keeps trying to teach me to play the trumpet, even though the noise that usually comes out inspires local farm animals to run over and claw at the walls of the house. Did you know you can get three different notes out of a trumpet without even pushing any of the buttons? Well...she can. I can actually get twelve, but calling those noises "notes" would be an insult to any decent self-respecting musical note anywhere.

The five year old thinks he's Spiderman. He leaps from the top bunk, out the second-story window, onto the top of the family bus and bounces into the farmer's field next door, with absolutely no fear. His magical mystical spider powers are apparently triggered by chocolate, hot dogs, and fluffernutter sandwiches, which fuel his exploits for a full twelve hours. We had to draw the line, though, when we found the four year old daughter wrapped up in a cocoon and dangling from the ceiling fan. We're not quite sure what she did to end up there, but interpreting from munchkinnish leads us to believe that it somehow started with the sentence "Spiderman isn't real!"

Four-year-old daughter is going to be a chef. How do I know this? Because she doesn't like anything we put on the table and will loudly proclaim "Daddy messed up dinner. AGAIN. Me need to teach you how to cook." The fact that it's true doesn't necessarily give her the right to say so, does it? This is also the art major of the bunch, who will happily decorate the house in purple and orange crayon. Taking the crayons away and scrubbing the wall leads to panoramic art in watercolor. Repainting the wall in white and taking away the paint set results in artwork in chalk...wiping the wall down and crushing the chalk in punishment promptly leads to masterpieces painted entirely in chalk dust. We're debating just giving her oils, interior latex, and a roller, and letting her paint and repaint whatever she wants.

Four year old son, on the other hand, says he's changing his name to Batman. I wouldn't mind so much except I must be playing the parts of the Joker, Riddler, Penguin, and BullseyeTargetMan, based on the number of times he's accidentally head-butted me in the crotch. He's a good kid, though. He says he wants to grow up, so he can drink coffee, stay up late, drive cars, fly planes, and play poker. None of that scares me except maybe the poker part; I already can't beat him at Memory, Monopoly Junior, Uno, and Blackjack, so I've been hesitant to teach him Texas Hold-em. I only bring home so much paycheck, you know?

And the one-year old only has two kinds of toys...those that can be dropped so Daddy will pick them up...and those that can be used to inflict pain and punishment on Daddy. A WhackDaddy is any item not nailed down that can be dropped, swung, hurled, or otherwise applied to the most sensitive areas on a Daddy's body, and she's got quite a collection of them. And now that she's mastered the art of walking without falling on her face, Daddy has no place to hide anymore. Spidermankid's bunkbed used to be the ideal spot, but she's also recently mastered the art of climbing ladders... and as she's working her way up the ladder, why does she mumble something that sounds distinctly like Elmer Fudd's "Gonna kill da wabbit...?" Strangely enough, she gets along beautifully with the dog, though I've never understood why his eyes get wide and his tail goes down every time she comes within three feet.

My sweetie...bless her heart...is locked into a madhouse with these six, all day, every day, trying to get some semblance of home-schooled learning into them. I have no doubt this is difficult, since I'm sure that one of the children tries to emulate whatever she reads to them. Which kind of explains why we no longer have any fish ("Put me down," said the fish, "this is no fun at all! Put me down," said the fish, "I do not wish to fall!" --The Cat in the Hat).

"I would really like some quiet 'US' time," she told me a few days ago, right after I got home from work. I gently removed the cream pie from her eyes, combed the peanut butter and bubble gum out of her hair, untied her hands, kicked the burning sticks away from her feet, and reminded her that we have SIX kids. "Us" time requires

- three and a half months advance notice
- three babysitters
- two more babysitters on call, for whichever of the first set run screaming from the house
- Eighty-seven dollars and thirty-two cents worth of pizza, popcorn, lemonade, Irish whiskey and ultra-industrial strength Sta-Wake tablets
- two fully charged and prepaid cel phones (one spare, to replace the one that will either get flushed down the toilet, dropped in the blender, or fed to the dog)
- written consent forms (in triplicate) from each of the munchkins that has mastered the art of signing their own name (you'd be amazed at how high this percentage is...and should I be worried that a five year old with the same name I have knows how to sign contracts...?).

But no, I'm not complaining or anything. Really. Please, ignore the Ebay ad titled "Great kids, Cheap!"...because they made me take it down.

Story-a-Day is an attempt to bring a small bit of humor and amusement to Mrs. ~brb and Audrey as they fight very serious illnesses. If you have a short, amusing story, please send it to kersley.fitz at yahoo dot com. If you'd prefer, you can drop it in the drop.io (password: challenge) and email me to let me know it's there.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010



"The Moon In The Morning"

Finally! I had spent weeks in the hospital bed after the accident with both legs broken, a concussion, and countless bruises and scrapes. I won't even go into the operations. For a moment, I was able to take my mind off of all of it as my nurse, Linsey (without a d), rolled a stylish-looking wheelchair into the room.

"And how are we doing today, Mr. Williams?" she asked brightly.

"Marvelous," I grunted, as she pressed the button to raise the head of the bed to a near-sitting position.

"Good, good, good," she said in that I-am-ignoring-your-sarcasm-young-man tone, on which I had given her much practice over the last seventeen days.

She backed the wheelchair against the wall so it faced me.

"Doctor Krishnapuram has given the approval for us to get you out of bed for a few hours today. It'll be good for your muscles and your skin." She smiled. "And it'll make it easier for my orderlies to change your sheets."

"As long as it's--" I groaned in mid-sentence as I grabbed the bed rails and forced myself to sit up, "easy for them." The room dipped and swayed slightly as my head adjusted to a position that it hadn't seen in a while.

"Careful," she said, grabbing my shoulders to give support.

It took some effort to get my cast-wrapped legs over the edge of the bed, but a few minutes later, I fairly flopped into the chilly vinyl of the wheelchair. With her characteristic speed and efficiency, the nurse had my legs strapped securely into the supports and began to carefully maneuver the chair toward the door, taking care not to bump my injured limbs on any of the ugly hospital furniture.

The wide corridors of the third floor appeared busy, but passable. Two orderlies wasted no time diving into their opportunity to change the bedclothes without having to shift my barely cooperative body around.

"There, now," my nurse said cheerily. "You can spend a couple of hours chatting with the other guests. For your own safety, we do ask that you stay on the third floor."

She smiled and took a hard right, back toward the nurses' station. I took a hard left and headed for the more open spaces.

Directly ahead, light spilled in through a large plate glass window which offered a view of the sky over Broad Street. A half-full moon was beginning to fade into the hazy blue of morning. As I approached, I noticed with some disappointment that the ledge was just a bit too high to look down into the street from my seated position. With a cautious glance behind at the now vacant nurses' station, I pressed my weight against the arm rests in an attempt to gain just enough height. My mending legs howled in protest.

The street below was bustling with Wednesday morning traffic and pedestrians. A cabbie blew his horn as a bicyclist zipped between him and the car to his right. Just another morning in the city. My arms began to shake with exertion and I flopped unceremoniously back into the chair, slightly deeper into the cold vinyl this time.

I backed away from the window and heard someone gasp. A woman glanced nervously at me as she walked past, carrying an armful of flowers and shiny helium-filled balloons.

Not sure what to make of all that, I turned the chair to my left and wheeled down the front side of the building, enjoying a exhilarating sense of freedom just by being out of sight of the nurses' station.

"Good morning," an elderly man greeted as he shuffled past me, an aluminum cane in one hand, pushing his portable IV drip with the other. I smiled happily and nodded back.

The chair still chilled my mildly chapped skin, but it was worth it just to be out of that bed for a while. Two kids ran past me at full speed as their mother trailed behind, juggling a purse and a large bouquet. She shouted at them to stop and motioned back in the other direction. The boys came running by again, glancing back at me and giggling. Insensitive little brats! They disappeared down at the next bend in corridor. Onward, I rolled.

To my left, the elevator doors opened and four suited professionals, three male and one female, brushed past me in a whirlwind, somehow leaving it certain that I was beneath their standards for noticing. A moment later, I heard the woman give a short, shrill laugh at something. Probably me.

I made another left hand turn at the end of the corridor. There were less people here and I mostly just watched the fluorescent lights overhead as I wheeled slowly underneath them. My atrophied arms were starting to tire slightly under the unexpected strain and I could feel my lungs laboring a bit. No matter.

At the end of this corridor, I made yet another left, beginning to feel a bit like a race car driver. A set double doors opened automatically as I approached and I could again see the nurses' station ahead, this time occupied by three people, two women and one man, none of them familiar.

They seemed busy shuffling through forms. With just a bit of luck, I might be able to slip through, unmolested by a courteous and efficient health-care professional. I made the left, past the station and started back toward my room to begin my second lap around the floor.

Nurse Linsey appeared from a doorway across the hall from my own room and began walking toward me with a warm smile. As she approached I heard several bursts of laughter from behind. Linsey paused for a moment, a look of confusion spreading across her efficient and courteous face.

"Umm, Linsey?" came a female voice from back at the station, "When you put a patient in one of these new chairs, you need to make sure they're wearing a second gown. If you don't, their backside shows through the gap under the back rest." I could almost feel her pointing.

I felt myself blush slightly as Linsey stepped behind me to observe.

"Well, Mr. Williams," she said dryly. "You've just spent the last twenty minutes mooning the entire third floor."

"So, that's why I'm cold?" I asked.

There was another burst of laughter.
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