The Obelisk: Part 2

“I almost prayed that you wouldn’t ‘ve shown . . .”

“Nothing to be done now,” Paul sighed.  “Last time they emerged after only a day.  Twenty-four hours.  The paste Alice gave me should be wearing off too.  They’ll smell me soon enough and the whole area will become an overturned hornet’s nest.  Just like last time.” Continue reading

The Obelisk: Part 1

Two weeks, no posts.  Sorry about that.  I’ve been working on this particular story for some time now, never quite getting it to the point where I felt comfortable publishing it or in this case, sharing it with others.  To paraphrase Hamlet, the ending is the thing, one which I haven’t been able to master yet.  Honestly, most felt either unoriginal, confusing, or just plain weak, and after sixteen different iterations (sad, isn’t it?) I think I’ve found one that works. 

Maybe . . .

Well, you be the judge (i.e. I hope you enjoy it!). 

The Obelisk

The blood dripped freely from Paul’s arm as he shuffled into the kitchen. The cut had not been deep. Only a mere scratch, but he had tripped coming out from the forest, aggravating it. The bandages – if you could call them that – a few medicinal leaves stuffed into the cut, held in place by a few torn strips from Solomon’s bed, swelled with the reddish-brown hue of dried blood. It was all that could be spared so Paul did not complain. At the least the throbbing had subsided, now only a slow waltz; his fall among the roots and trees had inflamed the pain into a tarantella, making the last league to the house an ordeal.

Continue reading

Luddites in Love

Lately I’ve been immersing myself in the works of O. Henry so much so that I decided to write my own for geeks like me.  Imitating another author’s writing style is not as easy as it first sounds — mostly because the gauge for success is rather ambiguous — but anything that helps me become a better writer . . . well, I’m not going to ignore.  

Regrettably, the sibling response was decidedly mixed.   Katie really enjoyed it, while my dearest brother after some consideration responded with a ‘meh.’   Needless to say, I’m anticipating proofreading his next law brief. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the story — more than Sean, at least.

Luddites in Love

With the exception of honeybees, ants, and reality TV starlets, the modern American citizen communicates more than any other species on earth.  Since the dawn of the iPod, it is said that the human species has stumbled upon the evolutionary fast-track to cyborg-ification.   Cell phones strapped to our ears; fingers typing out ten texts per picosecond; cat videos by the billions streaming on YouTube.  From dawn to dark, we expose our life’s tapestry of photos, quotes, and gossip before an expectant public like specimens in a digital zoo, to be ogled, examined, and meme-ed at the first opportunity.    The sum total of pheromones exuded by the world’s ant population palls to a day’s worth of status updates from an average college sorority. Continue reading

The God of Rain

By Thursday even I was tired of the rain. The storm continued its assault on the Maryland for the fifth day in a row; by Wednesday torrents of water formed rapids out of what were once community roadways. Old Ellicott City several miles away had nearly been washed clean, houses and all. The Murphey household suffered a few nights without any internet, crippling many of the kids’ online assignments. Katie swelled with anxiety at the lost of her Facebook, while Ryan scooped an extra pint of ice cream and flipped on a few Errol Flynn swashbucklers I had tucked away in the basement.

Typically, the sound of the rain pelting the roof, a cup of warm coffee and a few dozen books negated any impending disasters, but as flood water cascaded through the trees from neighboring plots flooding our small pond and plugging our sewage pump, I began to worry. Newly christened 4×4’s, stacked carefully some weeks prior near the barn, floated off into the mounting surge, never to be seen or heard from again.

If only the chicken coop would have made a similar escape, I thought to myself, pressing a handkerchief to my nose. God, I can smell them here! Actually, the stench from the sewage tank had already engulfed most of the basement and threatened to ruin lunch, when my cousin Paul woke from his mid-morning nap. While finding a new job, babysitting has become my new occupation of choice, and I agreed to watch Paul while his mother did some errands.

After an intense session of PB&J, we sat in an alcove in the family’s “Man Room” – our new addition that because of its beautiful wood flooring and dark mahogany cabinets was absconded by the house’s females, who replaced the sport’s memorabilia with baskets and ‘antique’ washboards (That’s right! You can make something too good!) – and watched the brown waters cascade down our neighbors hills. One of our boats slid from fence into the flood; skeletal tree limbs emerged from the depths of the pond scratched the boat’s hull like drowned corpses; the dog left its shelter and barked as the craft disappeared into the woods. Continue reading

Snow Recovery Plan

We stand at the edge of a storm, the third in the last week, predicted to unload another six inches of snow overnight.  Like prison bars, the icicles stretch far outside the windows down to the lower drifts, which swollen with the piles deposited from the roof consumes much of the view of the back porch and my lil’ sister if she should venture outside.   The blizzards of the last few weeks were efficient tyrants, burying all of the driveway, several of vehicles,  and most of the house, locking its occupants inside together for a week.  And still it continues to fall.  After only a few days, the kids grew tired of the house walls and the blank empty landscape outside.  Pining for girlfriends and jobs, the boys race outside with snow shovel and plow as soon as the last flakes fell, eager for the return of status quo.

The Prison Bars

The Prison Bars

Continue reading

Delayed by Destiny

Many apologies for the absence of posts lately.  In my effort to see my name in print, I’ve been writing non-stop, adding some finishing touches on some of my short stories.  In some cases, the damage is minimal: a little spackle here, a new coat of paint, repair some dangling participles, done.   For others, the internal structure was a mess, infested with confusing plot, ambiguous characters, and one rather egregious split infinitive.

Anyway, if any of you can direct me to some admirable sci-fi/fantasy magazines, I’d highly appreciate it.  Ample thanks and Dasad’s first-born child will be yours.

Seeing as we’re nearing Halloween, I thought to share a little Lux Aeterna with you though until I manage to get my act together.  I’m still a little shaky on my costume this year but might take a page from Jim during this evening’s  Office.  BookFace: the popular social-networking site!

Pub Sign

Centuries ago before the advent of email, scotch tape, or gorilla glue, messages of high importance were often sealed with hot wax and then stamped with the seal of the sender, typically a man or woman of high renown. The impression of the crest in the wax would carry great weight to all who saw that distinctive seal. For example, take the following exchange at the border between two warring nations:

Guard (raising his hand): “Stop in the name of the king!”
Messenger Bob (reigning in his horse): “Indeed I cannot, for I bare an important message from the Duke of Avalon.”
Guard (smirking): “Surely you jest. The Duke and all his retinue have vanished, lost at sea since autumn’s harvest. A spy or traitor you must be! To arms!”
Bob (pulling the message from his valise): “Verily I tell thee the truth. For look I bear the seal of the Duke himself. He has returned from the halls of Death and seeks audience with his Majesty, the King.”
Guard: “By Heaven! This indeed is the Duke’s mark. Proceed, though I do not bid you well. Your presence and that of your Masters bodes ill-fortune, when the Dead breathe once more and the mark of one so mighty a man is seen once again under the sun. Go and fly fast from here!”

The story continues with the Messenger at the castle, revealing himself to be the Duke in disguise, lost at sea through the king’s treachery who in order to seize power, married the Duke’s sister and robbed the Duke of his favorite sword, Rosalita, but that’s all unimportant now as the story ends quite happily and thus lamely. However, as you can see seals and crests can come in handy at times to identify yourself, distinguish your work, and avoid being skewered by a troop of unfriendly border guards.

Thus, in an effort to keep up with current security measures as well as improve the quality of the site, I sought Dasad’s help in creating a pub sign for the blog.
den_dragon12-copy

Interesting, huh?  While in London fifteen years ago, Pat and I had the fortune to join Mom and Dad on a pub crawl.  For a bunch of underage kids, bars held little interest but it was amazing if you managed to notice the subtle atmosphere between each one.  Some felt like riverside dives, others high-class wineries.  One entitled the Beefeater felt like a theme restaurant, serving bowls of stew, chicken, and chips without any utensils.  Mom and Dad even got chosen to be King and Queen of our table, donning paper crowns like five-year-olds at Chuck E’ Cheese.  As the evening wore on these more blatent difference disappeared as the pubs melded together, each more indistinct from the next.  Boring as the pubs themselves were I anticipated each new locale, a walk through fog-drenched London and the unique names and sign above each pub door.

Though I cannot recall the names of them all, take a look at the some of the pub names I found scattered on the web:pub-signs-20050508-183447

  • The Carpenter’s Arms
  • The Dirty Dick’s Pub
  • The Slaughtered Lamb
  • Sherlock Holmes Pub
  • The Smuggler
  • Jack the Ripper Pub
  • The Golden Fleece
  • The Beehive

I wanted something similar for my digital pub, something distinctive, and personal.  Seeing as I hope to write about and slay dragons one day (at the same time perhaps), what better symbol?  All that remains is the leaves of the book where I hope to show the beginning of a story or two.  Perhaps Moby Dick?  Perhaps Sir Gwain and the Green Knight?  Pehaps the tale of a ocean-tossed Duke . . . maybe this time I will write a better ending.

Occult Attire

Last night snuggled in my armchair layered in blankets like a croissant – my house has two central hotspots where people can warm themselves, the rest of the house feels like a frozen TV dinner – I sat chatting and occasionally glancing up at a few key moments in Mark Harmon’s NCIS show when it switched to an ad. Now commercials on Spike, TNT, AMC and several other cable stations target a specific audience with a very specific message. Cash4Gold targets thieves, reminding them that jewelry pilfered from grandmom’s music box will be melted down and thus untraceable. Life insurance firms remind the old and aging that they will die sooner than the rest of us, so be ready! Male enhancement gives ad agencies the chance to drop as many suggestive innuendoes as possible for the amusement and disbelief of all.

Then we have the Snuggie, the blanket with sleeves. Essentially it’s a pagan robe, marketed as a blanket. Coming in three colors – virgin blue, wood sprite green, and goat blood red – the Snuggie is the start-up kit for any would-be cultist or suburban acolyte looking for the ideal attire to dance beneath the moonlight, welcome the blood moon, or sacrifice their first-born to Bedb. Fertility goddess approved and tested. Thankfully it’s machine washable for easy clean-up.

Moreover, if you act now it comes with a free booklight. How else can you translate arcane texts in this economy where candles cost more than incense and dove-cages without your booklight? Act now. Operators are standing by.

A Musical Pause

A few weeks ago just after posting our trip to the anime convention, Dasad mentioned how much he enjoyed the anime music video (AMV) linked in the blog.  Since then I search about for some other interesting or unique AMVs to show him and others.  This post-convention season churns out many high-quality AMVs that have won awards during the summer at conventions, thus I thought that I would post one or two just for kicks.

Essentially this is what I watch when I’m bored or need a good pick-me-up.  Better than coffee . . . for me at least.

Southeast of Disorder

A Tale from Margarittaville (A True Fiction)

“Ok, Scott, it’s your job to protect your brothers. Make sure they don’t drink or smoke or go near any topless girls, ok?” His mother gives me the speech between swigs of Corona. Aubrey sits beside her on large fold-out chairs munching grapes; their eyes bore into Scott’s like lasers.

“We trust you, ok? Don’t let us down,” Aubrey added, popping another grape. She had not released him from her gaze yet. Scott stood as one transfixed.

“Paul and Mr. Don are walking with us too s-so . . .” Stammering like a child, I mutter a few excuses, trying to pawn off or at least share my impending failure.

“My husband and my father,” Aubrey began with a frown, “will not watch your brothers. They are already too busy drinking as it is, to keep an eye on teenage boys. Dad alone has had six beers already. Meanwhile you’re . . .”

“Sober,” Scott said with a sigh.

“Responsible,” his mother countered. “We can trust you to do what is right.”

Ouch, he thought.

"Particularly the red ones!  They're quite potent."

"Particularly the red ones! They're quite potent!"

The two women released Scott from their grasp and returned to talk of pools and the upcoming school year. He turned around and walks off like a whipped dog, his shoulders heavy. His brother, Matthew’s head had already disappeared through the rows of parked cars, colorful tents, and margarita machines. Scott sped up to catch the group. A few of his father’s friends offered him a drink, in passing, which he declined politely, feigning a headache which he discovered as he sprint to be quite authentic.

“Oh, and keep your brothers away from those syringes,” his mother shouted from under our tent. “Particularly the red ones! They’re quite potent!”

Scott nearly chuckled at the futility of my mission. Avoiding temptation? Preventing the occasional libation? A necrophiliac in a funeral parlor stood better chances of learning temperance than his brothers did of avoiding alcohol at this concert.

He did some basic chemistry in his head:

— Mix together:

1. Our 2008 Jimmy Buffett concert.

2. One bus full of friends, family, beer and booze.

3. One cooler of syringe-packed Jello shooters.

4. Several football fields of tailgating Parrotheads, beautiful co-eds, and drunken cowboys, all eager to intoxicate anyone regardless of age or state law.

5. My three under-age brothers.

— Now buffer the solution with the following:

1. Mom’s orders. NOTE: this step is easily dismissed and forgotten.

2. One non-drinking older brother bestowed with the mission of keeping them all alcohol-free . . . or else.

— Finally stir in my fellow chaperons:

1. Paul and his father-in-law, Don, both buzzed and ready to displace the blame:

“Whatever you guys do, I didn’t see it. I wasn’t there. Ok?”

— The product: a slightly alcoholic solution producing mass euphoria or headaches, depending on blood-alcohol levels. Mixing the products with volatile mothers can result in severe burns or lacerations . . . for us all.

. . . like a refugee camp for gypsies.

. . . a refugee camp for gypsies.

Nevertheless, Scott caught up to boys as they plotted our course through the menagerie of camps and people. Tailgating at a Jimmy Buffett concert is much like watching a circus pitch tent or a first-grader finger-paint, he thought.   You start with something dull and lifeless and simply add a bit of color and spectacle. Originally much of the land surrounding the concert pavilion is desolate and dead, covered in dusty asphalt or loose apocalyptic-gray earth, the kind that easily kicks into clouds when trampled. Scott remembered a raucous punk festival held at the same pavilion one year. Afterwards everyone including Paul and himself walked back to car covered in dirt like mutated dust bunnies.

The Buffett fans – festively called Parrotheads – typically arrive early to unfold large blue or green picnic tents, portable barbeques, and several coolers-worth of beer and snacks. Their campsite sprouts colorful leis, tropic music, and even kiddie pools. Some load sand in the back of their truck beds for makeshift beaches. The odor of generator exhaust and gas grills perfumes the air, mixing with sizzling cheeseburgers, steamed shrimp, and succulent pork barbeque. Scott spied carven ice sculptures for drinking games and paper-mache volcanoes fitted over port-a-potties – appropriately entitled “Wastin’ Away.”  Tropical birds from nearby pet shops and zoos squawk from chalk-colored campers. Cars and vans were fitted with plywood shark fins, biplanes, and palm trees; hammocks stretched out between bumpers. It was like passing through a refugee camp for gypsies, and Scott and his brothers soaked in every sight, sound, and skimpy bikini.

. . . every sight, sound, and skimpy bikini.

. . . every sight, sound, and skimpy bikini.

The girls were the least of his problems. As long as all the important parts were covered, the boys could stare at bikini-clad beauties all day long, Scott thought. My worries rested on the cup of Corona they are carrying.

Of course the concert pavilion does maintain cops and security, watching for drunken brawls, passed-out party-goers, and underage drinking; however, the general rule was that while yellow bottles of Corona attracted attention (not to mention had potential use as a weapon) the ubiquitous red drinking cups did not. Most Parrotheads learned to pour their beers into cups before consuming – or at least before walking around in plain view of the authorities or their mothers.

His one younger cousin, Jessica, was even ingenious enough to spike her orange Gatorade bottle, from which she casually sipped with no fear of discovery.

“I drank only half of it,” she confessed to him as they walked with a giggle. “Then I added one of orange Jello shooters to it. You swirl it around and no one notices.”

Scott’s brother Brian emerged from among a beer pong game, still celebrating his twenty-first from a few months ago. He had snuck a few bottles of Corona from the bus and filled his siblings’ empty cups – after a stern word from Paul – once the group had traveled well out of range.

“Believe me, guys,” Paul whispered scanning from side to side. “You don’t think Mom’s listening, but she is. Women have spies everywhere. It’s best to wait until we turn the corner here . . .”

By this juncture as the sole non-drinker and solitary voice of maternal authority, Scott had few options. Simply asking his teenage brothers to stop drinking and give the beer to him could not succeed. They would kill him. Politely requesting them to pour the beer out onto the ground and replace it with non-alcoholic iced tea or sparkling mineral water from Greenland was not going to work either. A party foul of that stature would ignite a mob. Nonetheless for the sake of futility, he tried both anyway.

“Hey guys, why don’t you stop drinking and give your beer to me?”

“Come on Scott. It’s just one,” they smiled.

“Yeah, but wouldn’t you like to try some delicious iced tea that I made before we left or this sparkling glacier water which they collected from the melting ice caps? Just think, until global warming, these water molecules had stayed frozen since the last ice age . . .”

“Scott, it’s just one beer, and it’s a Jimmy Buffett concert. It’s almost a law to drink.”

Paul ambled over with his father-in-law, who looked severely buzzed. Brian had injected green Jello into his mouth seconds before and Mr. Don now seemed to stumble over blades of grass. Paul wrapped his arm around me and smiled a big goofy drunken smile.

“Scott, you worry too much,” he said. “This is a rite of passage. I remember years ago when I was just a young pup, a wee lad inexperienced with the world, parties, and beer. My godfather changed all that one weekend at a Jimmy Buffett concert. Yes, it was true religious experience.

“Your problem is that you need to relax more.  Mom won’t know. I’ll see to that . . . though if she does happen to know (somehow she and Aubrey always find out . . . eventually) let us be clear that I did not know what was in those cups.”

“Wha-what cu-cup-ups,” hiccupped Mr. Don.

“Right,” Paul smiled. “Let them walk around. One beer won’t even give them a buzz, man.”

“Ok, but just one beer and tell Brian to hold off on syringes. They get no more from this point on. Mom will kill me if she smells beer or Jello on their bodies.” This was Scott’s idea of compromise, the middle path between prudish authority and youthful hedonism.

Drinking games

. . . take a shot, kiss a girl, howl at the moon, get lei'd . . .

They continued walking through the maze of stalls, passing a bevy of partiers playing various drinking games: beer pong, quarters, ice luge, and flip cups. On the other side of the avenue, a girl in skimpy pirate gear spun a large wheel with various instructions: take a shot, kiss a girl, howl at the moon, get lei’d, etc . . . Crowds of men, women, and old ladies crowded around the wheel and laughed, occasionally whooping as two of the younger ladies French kissed. The boys momentarily ignored the beer and stared, rather curious about these provocative rituals.

A few Parrotheads lounging under a plastic palm tree cheered Scott and the group as they passed. Each of Scott’s younger brothers had donned a grass skirt and walked through the parking lot bare-chested adorning matching pairs of coconut bras – all except the youngest, Chris, who sported a colorful A-cup, festooned with plastic blossoms. Every now and then, the boys would stop to take pictures with someone or coyly lift their man-ziers to flash their cheering fans.

Wastin' away again

. . . paper-mache volcanoes fitted over port-a-potties . . .

Brian and his girlfriend walked ahead, pockets brimming with spare Jello syringes. Every now and then he would offer a ‘shot’ to some reclining partygoers or a fellow tailgate-traveler. The band of brothers stopped near a group of older ladies, who whooped and hollered at our arrival, shouting “Ooo . . . here comes the party boys!”

The ladies, made-up in tropical war-paint, stood with open mouths as Brian dribbled the alcohol-infused goo into their mouths, like baby birds eager for their next meal. The shots as his mother had promised were strong, and the old girls settled back into their lawn chairs with a raucous cackle, teasing their benefactors as they continued their trek:

“Hey, fairy-chest, next time bring some more of the red shooters. Try stuffin’ your chest next time too!”

Chris blushed and removed his floral bra, clearly hurt by the women’s savage mockery of his cross-dressing talents.

“I think your chest looks very nice,” Tony – a high school senior and Scott’s fifth younger brother – teased Chris. “Very seductive.”

“Thanks,” sighed Christ. “But it doesn’t help.”

By now, Scott had relaxed a bit, noticing that the boys’ had finished their beers. They could return to the bus now, and his mother would not be any wiser. Suddenly strange girls ambushed Scott and his brothers from a nearby stall and offered the young boys drinks from plastic flamingos (actual lawn ornaments transformed into ersatz beer bongs). Chris smiled and accepted the long draught, kissing the flamingo’s lips and lifting its body high in the air. Within moments, the beer raced down through the creature’s neck, surprising Chris who dribbled foam and beer onto the ground. The girls cheered. Another young lady appeared, wielding a large squirt gun and a wet T-shirt.

and my license to fly

They continued walking through the maze of stalls . . .

“Would you like a little squirt?” she asked laughing. Matthew opened his mouth wide in response. The others only stared at the young lady’s white T-shirt. The girl pumped the gun and room-temp vodka shot into his mouth like those water pistol games at carnivals. “Was that good for you?” the girl asked, giggling. Matthew grinned foolishly, and the girls gamboled off, leaving the boys smiling ear from ear and Scott feeling quite anxious.

The brothers walked back to bus, passing close to the entrance to the pavilion. Surprisingly enough, Scott spied a Starbucks tent near the ticket counters and strode over for a free sample of their newest Chocolate Banana smoothie. Thank the gods of industry for the ubiquity of coffee shops.

Paul strode up behind him, and slapped his elder brother on the back. The other boys had spied the bus, and weaved quickly through the growing crowds to grab their tickets. Nearby Mr. Don danced between the crowd, wobbling from side to side and laugh, his shirt wet with room-temp vodka and green Jello.

“I love you, Scott,” he said, finally finding a solid RV to lean against. “I’m glad some-somebody here knows where he’s . . . er, we are going.”

Scott could not help smiling. “That’s why I’m followin’ you, sir.”

“Oh no!” the old man laughed. “Oh no, don’t do that! Ha, we’ll never get to . . . to . . . wait, where do we go again?”

“Yeah, man,” Paul said. “Don’t worry about it. Mom won’t notice a thing, if the kids don’t say anything. And they’re not stupid.”

“I love both of you,” Mr. Don cheered. “And that guy over there with the tattoo on his chest too . . . he’s great.”

“Mom will never know. Just don’t write your blog about any of this stuff, ok? If we agree to that, no one will ever know.”

“Sure . . . just don’t tell Aubrey I got coffee without her.”

“Agreed,” Paul laughed, offering him his last Jello syringe. “Come on, let’s hurry up. We only have a half-hour before the concert.”

“Wait, do I even know that tattooed guy?” Mr. Don whispered. “Anyway he has some nice tits . . . er, tats. Good tit-tats. HA!”

Scott sucked down the Jello and strode off after his brothers. As Jimmy sings it’ll end up on the “coconut telegraph” eventually, he thought. Hopefully long after Mom’s forgotten her death threats.

THE END OF THIS PURELY FICTIONAL ACCOUNT