Fallen From Mercy Chapter 1

“You’re going to die in the next couple of days.”  The silence that followed almost didn’t allow the next words to enter Dan Cunningham’s ears.  “At least probably.”

Dan’s ears and actually most of the rest of him showed his half Asian heritage, though his six foot two height and broad shoulders spoke of his father’s Italian genes as well.  He knew he was handsome and his dark eyes were good at catching women’s attention as well as assessing his surroundings for clues.  None of that was helping him right now.

The small room in the back of Divine Destinations just got a whole lot smaller.  It was almost too small now to fit the two chairs, shelves of books and the heavy oak table that sat as a monster between Dan and Zoey.  Zoey was playing up her gypsy heritage with a white peasant blouse and voluminous red skirt. Dan searched Zoey’s face for some more clarity.  When nothing more was forthcoming he waved at the tarot cards in front of him.  “Is that all you can tell me?”

Zoey closed her eyes and rubbed her temples underneath her wildly curly blue black hair.  Dan normally loved it when she did that.  This time though he felt his heart sink a little.  “That’s the best I can do, she said.  “It’s like trying to read a newspaper underwater in and somebody threw a crap load of mud.”

Dan looked at the cards intently, trying to filter out the mud, but he couldn’t even see the stream.  He gave up and turned his attention back to Zoey.  “Did it have to do with the guy you told me about last week?”

Zoey began playing with the rest of the tarot cards in front of her.  “He’s there, but I just can’t see enough to tell what’s his role.”

“What do you think I should do?”

“Go home and stay away from everyone for a week.”  Zoey gave Dan a sheepish look.  Dan shook his head and stood up.  Zoey quickly reached out to grab his arm.  “Wait,” she said, “that wasn’t supposed to be a joke.”

Dan flashed her a reassuring smile.  “I know, but I can’t just disappear down the rabbit hole.  You told me it was a probably and not a definitely.”

“True, but-”

Dan took her hand in his.  “You’ve given me a chance.  I know I’m in danger.  Don’t worry.  I’ve been through worse.”

“Worse than dead?”  Zoey asked while taking her hand back and striking the “no way in hell pose” that is ingrained in the y chromosome.  “Not much worse than that.”

Dan picked up his duster and put it on.  He was too hot before, but now he was a bit chilled.  “I’ve lived through worse.  Bad enough that hell would never scare me.  Besides, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  Dan checked to make sure his gun and badge were where he had left them.

“I hate that phrase.  Makes no sense at all,” Zoey said.  Dan pulled out his wallet to pay, but Zoey waved him off.  “I’m not going to take your money.”  Dan was about to protest when Zoey started to smile.  “But I do have something for you.”  Zoey got up and rummaged through a box in one corner of the room.  “It’s been in my family ever since my great grandfather had some problems of his own.”

Dan peered at the eclectic mix of knickknacks and weird tidbits that Zoey was pulling out of the box.  One was a purple heart that had a bullet hole through it.  Another was a small doll the shape of a clown that seemed to hurt Dan’s eyes when he tried to look at it.   Next to the clown fell a feather that looked to be made of gold, but it floated as it fell from her hand.  “What is all that stuff?” Dan enquired.

“Got it,” said Zoey pulling out her prize.  It was a small swatch of coarse brown cloth.  “That box contains the pieces and bits of my family’s collecting over the centuries.  Sometimes it is good to be of gypsy blood.”  Zoey held out the swatch to Dan.  “Here take this.”

Dan looked at the swatch, but didn’t pick it up.  It seemed to carry the weight of time on it.  “Okay, why do I need this?” he asked.

Zoey took back the cloth and opened Dan’s hand.  She laid it reverently upon his palm.  The small piece of cloth seemed warm to his touch.  It had the texture of burlap, but it seemed almost fleece like in softness.  Zoey closed his fingers around it.  “This is a part of the robe worn by Saint Jude when he was martyred.”

Dan shook his head.  “I appreciate the thought, but you know I don’t believe.  You keep it.”

Zoey didn’t let go of his hand holding the cloth.  “Please, take it.  At least make me feel better.”  Dan though about it for a minute then nodded his head.  “Thank you,” she said, “it’s the only protection I can give you.”

Dan smiled and after putting the swatch into his pocket he took Zoey’s hands and kissed them.  “You are way too good for me.  Why don’t you come out with me to celebrate Ruthie’s birthday?”

“She doesn’t want to go to dinner with the crazy psychic lady on her birthday.”

“But her dad doesn’t mind,” said Dan.

“Her dad needs to remember I don’t date customers.  The two rules of my profession are, one, don’t view for someone you love, two, don’t view for yourself.  No dating customers hits both marks,” she said.

Dan turned up the charm.  “But I might be a dead man by the end of the week,” he said.

Zoey gave him a look that could have done that deed a lot sooner.  “Don’t you even go there Daniel Cunningham.  That is not even funny.”

“You’re right, that was out of bounds.”  Dan leaned forward to try to give her a kiss on her head, but she moved away quickly to pack back up the box with the strange items.  “I could stop being a customer.”

That gave Zoey pause.  She turned back to Dan.  “You would really do that?” she asked.

Dan thought about it for a second.  “Someday I will.  What will you do then?”

Zoey gave him the most honest smile he’d seen since her gloomy proclamation.  “When you stop being a customer, then we can talk,” Zoey promised.

Dan smiled.  “Fair enough.  Wish me luck then.”  Dan headed through the silent main room with the faded travel posters on the walls promising more fun then could be had a decade ago.  Zoey didn’t make much money as a travel agent, but she had a loyal following that would go wherever she ‘saw’ to send them.

Zoey trailed close behind.  She asked, “You don’t believe in God, but you believe in luck?”

Dan paused at the door and had a short laugh.  “Luck is real Zoey, just ask gamblers and sailors.  To quote Einstein, ‘God doesn’t role dice.’  I trust the dice more.”  With that he opened the door and entered the twilight outside.  The irony of the time of day was not lost on him.  “See you next week.”

As Dan got into his infernal orange 2010 Chevy Camaro, Zoey waved at him and held back a tear from falling.  All she could think of is maybe she was breaking the rules already.

That’s not deep, bro!

I took the family swimming in the river with a family friend today.  While it was an enjoyable experience for all involved I think (the four month old is a hard read at this point), I did have one gripe.  First I want to say I recognize we are in the early stages of a drought.  This is evident with the amount of time I have had running and biking under the burning orb above.  I also realize that the beaches up here have equipment of a certain size, and that changing that equipment is not an option considering tax budgets and the economy.  All that being said, I was able to walk out to the farthest line allowed, i.e. what was supposed to be the deepest part, and the water was not much above my belly button.  My eight year old was able to join me out there.  I am not a tall man.  If I had wanted to swim I would have been able to barely do so.  This is not unique at the beach we were at today.  I have seen it at numerous ones around here and I wonder if this was a conscious decision to make it harder for people to drown.  Now I am all for not drowning.  I had an incident as a youth that still haunts me to this day.  Still, when I go out to the deep end, I want to be over my head.  The only way I could get cool was to sit on the mud/sand.  While that still was fun as I was able to play with my three kids that were in the water with me, it was not what I wanted for the whole time.  Can we bring back the deep end, please, before I go off my deep end?

Sariah’s Story Chapter 9

Sariah was handed off to two guards that wore masks.  They had the same single hand crossbows with the green tipped darts always pointed in her direction.  Normally this would have annoyed her enough that she would have done something about it, but she was voluntarily there.  She didn’t need to cause a scene yet.  That could wait till later.

They brought her to a large room with a seat well lit in the middle.  The seat was bolted to the floor and had manacles attached to the arms.  The rest of the room was in shadows, and those shadows seemed to move and wave like shadow flames.

One of her escorts gestured with his non cross bow hand for her to go to the seat.  Sariah laughed at him.  “If you think I am going to handle any more of this farce, you must be kidding me,” Sariah said.  The guards took a step back, keeping their crossbows trained on her.  “Tomias Trevorine told me all about your magic and mirror game.  Drop the act if you have work for me.”  Nothing happened except for both guards taking another step back and looking even more nervous.  Sariah started to ease into a more offensive stance, but tried not to give the guards any hint on what she was about to do.

Out of the darkness from the front of the room a voice spoke.  “Sariah, don’t do that.  I pay these men too much money for you to put them out of work.”  Two hand claps punctuated his words.  The shadow flames flared bright, then disappeared leaving the room fully lit.  The bald man who had spoken wore a dark blue robe and a large gemstone ring on each finger.  He looked to the two guards.  “You two can wait in the hallway till we’re done.”

“Sir, she is not secure,” said one of the guards.

“And you are not supposed to speak in her presence,” rebuked the bald man.  “Now go, or else I will escort your remains out of here myself.”

The two guards ran from the room.  The bald man turned back to Sariah and smiled.  That smile reminded Sariah what a fly must see from the spider as the spider sat down to dine.  “Tomias was never supposed to tell of what happened here.” continued the blue robbed man.

“Tomais wasn’t supposed to tell about a lot of things, but yet here we are,” Sariah said.

The blue robbed man nodded.  “Very true.  I am-“

“Master Kilncare,” Sariah finished.  “the left hand man behind the king.  The only other person beside the Keeper of Shadows that has the authority to assassinate without the king’s blessing.”

Kilncare’s smile slipped off his face.  His eyes narrowed and he began to play with his left index ring.  “Tomais will need to be talked to.”

“I don’t know how well he will listen,” Sariah replied.  She walked over to the chair and stood behind it.  “I am here to see if you need my expertise.  I’ve decided to come out of retirement. ”

“Asturtino will be disappointed with that decision.  I heard he had provided you with a very healthy retirement incentive,” Kilncare said.

Sariah felt the desire to draw her not present sword.  “What can I say, I burned through it too quickly.  If you don’t have any work I can go somewhere else.”

Kilncare put his hand to his chin and just stared at Sariah.  She thought she should probably feel nervous, but instead she was growing angry.  She looked at how many steps it would take to reach the man and break his neck.  Would he have time to react?

“Will you just stop that?” asked Kilncare.  “If you tense anymore we are both going to do something stupid and whomever is still living will regret it for the rest of their days.”

Sariah laughed and felt the tension ease a bit.  “Fair enough.  So do you have work?” she asked.

“Of course I have work,” said Kilncare.  “The question is are you up to it.  You haven’t actively worked for five years.  You came here yourself without a fixer.  If you flop there will be too many tracks pointing back at the king.”

Sariah decided to take a chance.  She said, “You know I am still the best.  Look at those thugs you sent to test me last night.”

Now it was Kilncare’s turn to laugh.  “Thugs?  I didn’t send any thugs,” he said.

Sariah grimaced.  “Okay, so that wasn’t you,” she said.

“So you survived a couple of cutpurses who mistakenly thought you were an easy mark.  Is this the proof you give me that you still can do the job?” Kilncare asked.

“It was seven of them,” she lied, “and that’s not my proof.”  Sariah stood up straight and crossed her arms.

Kilncare looked impressed for a second, then annoyed.  “Okay, so what is it then?”

“King Westion’s Red Knight General,” she said softly, but fiercely.

Kilncare looked intrigued.  “That was you?” he asked.  Sariah didn’t say a word but held his eyes with hers.  Kilncare looked away first.  “I need Duke Hurris to have an accident.  The pay will be standard and paid upon hearing of his untimely, but not murdered, demise.”

Sariah felt like she was slapped in the face.  “Standard and paid after the job is done,” she said.  She moved around the chair so fast that Kilncare didn’t have time to move.  She sat down and leaned forward.  Her eyes almost seemed to glow.  “You hire me to kill your very own king’s cousin and tell me to do it like a common thieftaker?” she asked.  “Maybe I will take a chance on being stupid.”

Kilncare slowly lifted his hands in surrender.  “Take it or leave it Sariah.  You do this job and we can go back to the relationship we had when Tomias was your handler.  I don’t know if you really pulled off the Red Knight General.  All I have is your word, and that is not the same as Tomias’”

Sariah moved so fast again she was back standing behind the chair before Kilncare could barely blink.  “I can tell you that my word is better than Tomais’.  I’ll do your job, but I warn you, do not try to double cross me.  The last man to do so died screaming.”

Kilncare clapped his hands and disappeared in the shadow flames.  “Don’t make threats you cannot make true,” he said.  Sariah smiled and flicked something.  Kilncare doubled over as one of the manacles from the chair in the center of the room hit him in the chest.

“That could have been your throat,” Sariah said.  “I’ll just let myself out.”

Wanted: Super Villians

What does it take to be a super villain?  We love them so much in our books and movies.  The thought of a single person trying to rule the world, or better yet, destroy all of humanity makes us happy.  Okay, maybe not the actual prospect of it happening, but the idea that our villain is so ambitious that they have plans that cross the border to insanity puts us on edge.  We don’t want to see she/he succeed, but we want them to be competent enoughto almost pull it off.  Our good person usually has problems like alcoholism, or the lack of self-confidence, or needs to find a good sexual match.  Not much on a global scale, don’t you think?  We root for them to become a better person, oh and figure out the tragic flaw our magnificent villain has and exploit it to save the day.  Which is more important I ask?  The heroic figure on their journey is a human interest story, but I think deep down we have this fascination about who the villain really is.  What makes them tick?  How did they get to where they are?  Do they see their own fatal flaw, but ignore it?  Or do they see it, but hope to hide it, even in plain sight.  Why do they want to do what they do?  If a story answers these questions, then I am hooked.  The heroine/hero can continue their struggles and overcome the personal struggle along the way, but I want to make sure the villain figure they are going against makes sense and seems almost more a tragically gone wrong figure.  Without that, the hero/heroine is just going up against the boogey monster, and that is the stuff for fairy tales.

Hunting for…

I closed my eyes and centered myself with a few deep breaths.  It was time for the hunt, but I felt so unprepared.  My heart wasn’t in it, but I knew if I was going to have a chance to prove myself I needed to go.  I wandered down to where I have always seen my prey.  Carefully I sat and waited, weapon at hand.  Something called out nearby and I tensed, but it ended up being an empty cry.  I resettled myself, bracing for what was to come.  Did I have the skill to pull this off?  Did I have the energy to triumph?  Doubt began to creep in. Would my quarry even come by again?  I had hunted here many times before, but had this spot finally gone dry?    Suddenly I felt the world around me go silent.  My pulse quickened.  I looked about slowly, not wanting to frighten it off.  Yes!  There it was, so close I could almost touch it.  I lifted my arm and took aim.  One shot, one kill.  Now I can put this blog post in the bag.

Sandman’s Dilemma

My kids tell me they cannot go to sleep.  When I ask them why, they tell me they do not know.  I look around, trying to figure out why, and I think I have figured out the reason.  I think that the Sandman is afraid of something in my house so he avoids us as much as possible.  The question is what is driving him away.  I originally wonder if the kids themselves have made him scared, but I can’t figure out how any of my angels could put that much fear in a mythical level being.  I move onto wondering about my snoring, but since I am not asleep as well that cannot be the case as well.  That leaves me one explanation.  What would cause fear to set a single step into my daughters’ rooms?  What could cause so much pain and suffering that the Sandman would rather take a hit to his mythical stature than do his duty in my house?  The answer is simple my friends, Legos.

Teaching and Acting

Teaching is a performance art.  I think back to the days I used to do theater and I think I still have the same sorts of anxieties I did when I acted.  It’s not just being in front of an audience that makes them similar.  I think as an actor you want to convey something to your audience.  That something could be a fundamental truth or maybe something as “simple” as the hidden desires of the part you play.  That is definitely teaching in a nutshell.  You go into character, trying to convey information to your audience.  It could be as simple as the words on your PowerPoint slides, or it could be a “deeper” meaning of the universe that surrounds your students.  We both try to memorize our lines, but are ready to improvise when that fails.  Like acting, those moments of improvisation can be more memorable than the real script.  When we are fresh and excited about the part we play the audience becomes part of the performance and something magical can happen.  Conversely when the audience is passive and gives back nothing the performer or teacher can feel drained as they pour their energy out on the stage/podium.  I am already part of the teachers union, but does this make me qualified for the actors’ guildas well?

Sariah’s Story Chapter 8

Kegan watched Sariah leave, pretending to sleep.  He really never slept, part of being half fairy that he liked most of the time.  Sitting in the dark and thinking was one of his great joys.  Doing that while listening to Sariah saw a forest’s worth of lumber, not so much.  He gave her a few minuted to make sure she was really gone before he left the couch.

Looking at the time Kegan decided to wait a bit before setting off to search for Asopt.  He wasn’t sure if Wyndia or Nellissa would show up at the shop this morning.  He didn’t really want to deal with either woman right now, but he owed them a little of his time, so he spent it cleaning up his shop and waiting.  After half an hour had passed he gave up and left the shop.  He put a sign on the door claiming he was working in the back and was not to be disturbed.  He was happy he worked with the part of the population that was literate.  He hated pictograms.

It took three stops before Kegan was able to get a clue as to where Asopt was working.  He was somewhere in the tinker’s district along the west wall of the city.  When Kegan arrived in the district he ran out of leads and people to ask.  He tried a small bit of magic, but nothing came of it.  Kegan wasn’t surprised since he hadn’t really talked to the man for five years or so.  The problem with the tinker district was all the buildings were almost identical and laid out in little blocks of eight along a razor straight grid.  It was easy to wander around hopelessly if you didn’t have a decent directions sense.

After a bit of foundering around what seemed like the same two blocks for what seemed like forever, an average man wearing average clothing and the typical haircut for the times fell in lock step with Kegan.  Kegan startled and cast his force shield, almost knocking the man over.  “Is that how you treat old friends?” asked the friend.

Kegan dropped the shiled and held out his hand in greeting.  “Sorry Asopt.  I was looking for you, but I didn’t expect you to find me,” Kegan said.

Asopt accepted the hand and gave it a squeeze before letting it go.  The grip screamed average as well.  “A bit jumpy then, are we?” Asopt asked.

Kegan looked around and continued to walk.  Asopt once again fell in step.  “After last night I have a right to be.”

Asopt slapped Kegan on the back.  “That was you?” Asopt asked.  “I wondered who was kind enough to take out a few of Warbashes’ thugs.”

“Well, we didn’t take them out,” said Kegan.  “We sort of put them down, but someone else put the arrows in to silence them.”

“You said we,” Asopt said.  “Who was the other part of the we?”

Kegan ducked his head low and in towards Asopt.  Kegan said, “She didn’t want me to tell you this, but-“.

“Sariah’s back?” Asopt whispered.

Kegan stopped and looked Asopt in the eye.  “Is that one of your questions, or a statement?” asked Kegan.

“That makes so much more sense,” Asopt said.  He rubbed his hands together.  “This is going to be so much fun.  I’ll need to let Gordo know I’m not available after this.”

Kegan shook his head.  “Wait a minute.  Sariah hasn’t said anything about getting anyone back together, and what do you mean after this.”

Asopt smiled his average smile.  “It’s simple.  They were testing you last night, and I know who did the testing.”

Kegan smiled.  “You’re still fast on the thinking there,” he said.  “So who was it?”

Asopt started off down the street.  “I’ll tell you after you help me with a job I need to do.  It won’t take more than an hour.”

Kegan groaned, but began to follow.  “Why can’t you just tell me now?”

“Now who is asking all the questions?” asked Asopt.

Kegan had to practically run because of the length of his legs to catch up to Asopt.  “What is the job?” he panted.

“We are going to see a man about a horse,” Asopt replied.

Kegan groaned for the second time.  “I told Sariah she always brought trouble with her.”  That elicited a laugh of joy from Asopt.

100 Words #2

Marybeth read the letter again.

‘Congratulations!  You have been selected into the MIT computer engineering program with a full scholarship.  Fill out the enclosed forms and return your confirmation in two weeks’ time.’

Marybeth opened the door to her son’s room and placed the letter on his pillow.  Tears fell like rain, but she didn’t worry about getting the letter wet.  She looked to where her son sat and said, “You got into MIT, just like you told me you would.”

Her son didn’t reply.  Marybeth continued, “Why couldn’t you keep your promise about drinking too?”

His urn stayed silent.

Sonnet #2

Words fly and spin within my mind
Calling out for me to choose
A pot of gold for me to find
Or a bestselling novel for me to lose

Crafting a story out of blood and bone
Sculpting worlds of light and dark
Mothering characters as they are grown
Wondering if they will hit the mark

The pain of creation is all too real
I have the marks to prove it
I bare my soul for all to steal
Giving permission to abuse it

And now I release this as a tease
Go read my other stuff if you please