Halloween Story II: Enchanted 2.1, Elizabeth

Elizabeth Simon, all of seven-years-old, finished at 315 Bleeker Street, but when she went to the sidewalk, she saw her brother occupied with some big kids.  She did not interrupt, and decided to go to the next house as she had been taught.  She liked the house.  It was dark and spooky, the way she thought Halloween was supposed to be.  The unkempt yard cast all sorts of odd shadows across the walk, and the rickety porch squeaked under her steps.  She even found a big spider web in the corner next to the post, up near the roof, and she was impressed.

The old man was in the rocker, watching.  Elizabeth saw him from the front walk, so he did not startle her.  “Child,” he said.  “What do you want?”

“Trick or treat,” Elizabeth said her line and held out her shopping bag, and smiled.

“Trick or treat?  Trick or treat is it?  What a quaint custom.”  Mister Putterwig glanced ever so briefly at the young people out on the street and he thought he could easily make the little girl disappear.  “I have a treat,” he said and held out his hand.  It was the biggest, most chocolaty, gooey mess Elizabeth had ever seen.  “But only good little girls can have some,” he warned.

Elizabeth’s hand hesitated.  “I try to be good.”

“Wisely spoken,” old man Putterwig conceded.  “Try it.”

She did, and when the old man held out his other hand to take her hand, there was nothing more she wanted in the whole world than to go with this kindly old man.  When they entered the house and came out among the pine trees, Elizabeth had a question.

“Where are we going?”

“To a land of wonders and enchantment and magic, and keep walking.”  Mister Putterwig looked back in case he was being followed.

“The land of the fairies?”  Elizabeth sounded excited.

“I suppose there are some around,” Mister Putterwig made another concession.  “But once you eat fairy food, you become captive to the little ones, or in this case, me   Now, you have to do whatever I tell you.”

“Oh, yes.  But I don’t mind because you are such a nice man.”

Mister Putterwig’s face turned red and then purple.  “First of all, I am not nice.  I am grumpy and, um, mean.  I can be very mean.  And second of all, I am not a man.”

Elizabeth stopped and looked up into the man’s eyes.  He contorted his face with a big toothy grin and squinted his beady little eyes.  Elizabeth shrieked and looked away.  “There, see?”  Mister Putterwig sounded proud, like he proved his point.  “I told you I could be mean.”

“No, that isn’t it,” Elizabeth said.  “You looked like a clown face and I’m scared of clowns.”

“Oh,”  Mister Putterwig deflated before he looked up, sharply.  They heard Jake calling. “Eliza-BETH.”  Mister Putterwig barely got his hand over Elizabeth’s mouth in time.  “Don’t answer him.  Come on,  Hurry.”  They began to walk again and picked up their pace.  It was a few minutes before they slowed again and Mister Putterwig had a question.

“So, do you have a name?”

“Elizabeth.  Elizabeth Simon.”

“Well, Elizabeth-Elizabeth Simon, my name is Greely Putterwig, and I am a Hobgoblin.”

“I’m a fairy,” Elizabeth responded, happily.

“What?”  Mister Putterwig eyed her closely.

“My costume.  Don’t I look like a fairy?”

“Not too much,”  Mister Putterwig said, and seemed relieved.  “You’re a bit big.”

“But I got wings and everything.”

“I see that.  Turn around.”  Elizabeth turned and Mister Putterwig adjusted her wings to set them more squarely on her back.  “That’s better.  Now you look more fairy-like”

“Thank you,” Elizabeth said, and reached for Mister Putterwig’s hand, who took her little hand and almost appeared to smile.

They started to walk again.  The pine forest was not too dark, the trees not grown too close together.  There was plenty of room overhead for starlight to find the forest floor.  Elizabeth saw some snow on the firs and she could not help her thoughts.  “Do you know any Christmas Carols?” she asked.

Mister Putterwig stopped and looked angry for a moment, but one look into Elizabeth’s innocent face and he decided to think about it.  A hoot owl sounded out not too far from where they stood.  He started them walking again and sang, “Oh, you better watch out.”  He stopped there, and Elizabeth giggled.

“That’s not it.  It goes, “Oh, you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout I’m tellin’ you why…”

“Stop, stop.  Stop!”  Mister Putterwig waved his big hands back and forth, shook his head and snarled.  Elizabeth stopped, worried that she got it wrong.  “You can cry and pout if you want to. Go ahead and cry.  And Pouting is an old family tradition, my family I mean.  “Oh, you better watch out” is the only part I sing.  There’s reasons for that we don’t need to go into just now.”

Elizabeth tried to nod and agree, but all she could do was scream.  An eight foot ogre stood directly in their path.  He was ugly, tusky, full of boils and puss and with more sharp teeth than anyone would consider reasonable.  He had long arms and short legs, all the size of tree trunks, and apparently carried a separate tree of some sort in one hand, which was his club.  He also had a spark of intelligence in his eyes which said this creature is fully capable of chasing you and eating you, though to be fair, the spark of intelligence was a very small one.

“Eliza-BETH!”  The sound came from a long way off, much further than before

“Jake!”  Elizabeth shouted back.  She recognized the voice.

Mister Putterwig looked back and said, “Quiet.  I said don’t answer him.  Now, run.”  They ran and Mister Putterwig mumbled.  “Leave it to Pusshead to ruin everything.”

Elizabeth was glad to run from the ogre.  She was a bit upset when the ogre spoke over her head.

“What are we running from?”

Elizabeth screamed and stumbled.  Old Mister Putterwig scooped her up and ran at a spritely pace.  In fact, even carrying the little girl, the old man ran fast enough to lose the ogre somewhere in the forest.

Halloween Story II: Enchanted 2.0

Every town in America has one house on one street where no one dares to go.  In Keene, that house was 317 Bleeker Street where old man Putterwig lived alone in the dark.  The grass in the yard was always brown and never quite cut.  The gate in the picket fence let out an excruciating squeak when opened.  The paint looked old and faded and was chipping a bit off the long wooden front porch with the creaking floorboards.  Now and then Mister Putterwig could be seen on that porch, sitting in an old rocker, taking in the life that passed before his eyes.  No one ever saw him leave that house, but mostly no one wanted to look.  The adults all said they felt sorry for old Mister Putterwig, widower that he was, but when he was out front watching, they hurried passed the house, afraid of the glare in the man’s squinting yellow eyes.  The kids knew better.  There was something more than just odd about Greely Putterwig.

Bleeker street was a good, solid neighborhood full of fine middle class citizens, with plenty of kids to fill the schools.  Jake Simon, a high school junior lived there with his parents and his seven-year-old surprise little sister, Elizabeth, whom he had to watch every day after school because mom and dad both worked.  Jake wanted to play soccer.  He wanted to join the Sci-Fi club at school.  He imagined all sorts of thing he might have done if Elizabeth never came along and ruined his life.  When Jake thought like that, he would say, “What life?”  And he would sit down at the game console and tell Elizabeth to go to her room.  It all would have been so much easier if Elizabeth was a brat instead of the kind and loving child she was.  Dad said she got it from her mother.  Mom blamed Dad.  All Jake said was she didn’t get it from me.

Jake imagined most of all, that things might be different if he was really good at something.  His childhood friend Robert Block, the one they all called Blockhead was on the football team.  Tommy had money, that is, Thomas Kincaid Junior who had not been seen without sunglasses in several years.  Mike Lee was a nerd who could not only win every video game, but could fix the console if it should break.  Jake had no special skills or talents or abilities.  He was average, normal, middle of the road in the middle of the class, or as he described his life, boring.  No wonder Jessica Cobb was not interested in him.

It was late in October, the leaves were almost all down and the air was almost crisp enough to frost, when Jake picked up the mail and found a note from Vanessa Smith inviting him to a Halloween party.  Jake was thrilled because she and Jessica were good friends so he was sure Jessica would be there.  He fixed some food and waited for Elizabeth to come home on the school bus when there was a knock on the door.  Tommy and Mike were there, and they brought their magic decks.  They wanted a three-way game, and Jake got taken out first.

“My deck’s too big.  It needs work,” he said.  Then he casually mentioned the invitation, and Mike and Tommy immediately had to spoil it by saying they got invited too.

“Everyone got invited.  The whole junior class,” Tommy said.

“I’m going as a nerd,” Mike said.

“Thomas Kincaid Junior, mister Cool,” Tommy shook his long hair and adjusted his shades.  “What are you going as?”

Type casting, Jake thought.  “A babysitter,” he said as he heard Elizabeth come in the back door.

Tommy and Mike packed up and headed for the door and Tommy’s car.  Tommy’s parents had the money to buy him a car, even if it was an economical model.

“Mister Donut?” Tommy asked and offered.  They all knew the answer, and as they left, Elizabeth came into the living room and switched on the television.

Jake turned and had a touch of anger in his voice.  “Don’t you have homework?”

“Not in the second grade,” Elizabeth said as she found the cartoon channel.

“You know that will rot your brain,” he said, and instantly thought of several good comebacks, like, Are you speaking from experience?  Is that what happened to you?  Or even the proverbial, “Like you should know.”  Elizabeth said none of those things.  She looked up with an innocent, trusting face.

“It is only cartoons.  Would that be alright?”

Jake regularly disliked himself.  He did have homework and took himself up to his room.

When Halloween rolled around, Jake found he could not go to Vanessa’s party anyway.  Mom had cooking and cleaning to catch up on and Dad would not be home until later.  Jake had to take Elizabeth out so she could trick or treat, and he really resented her for that.

They planned to follow Jake’s old route which wound around the neighborhood in a way where they did not miss any houses and did not have to backtrack.  It was a well designed plan, and Bleeker Street was first on the list.   The one hundred block was mostly buildings, and a group of apartments set back from the road which Jake always found to be slim pickings.  They didn’t go there.  The two hundred block was where the houses began, and Jake took Elizabeth to the first couple of doors, and then he stayed on the sidewalk and let her go alone, now that she knew what to do.  They came to the three hundred block.

Elizabeth went up to 315 when Tommy roared to a halt.  Mike was riding shotgun.  Jessica and Serena Smith were squeezed in the back with Blockhead.

“Lookin’ for you, dude.”  Tommy sported a new pair of shades.

“Nice costume,” Jake let the sarcasm flow.  Mike at least looked like he ironed his white nerd shirt.  Blockhead had on a football jersey.  At least Jessica and Serena made an attempt.  Jessica had on a plaid shirt and jeans that fit her well, but over the shirt she had the orange vest of a hunter.  She even wore a ball cap with a gun of some kind as the logo.  Serena, the glam-girl, was supposed to be a zombie, albeit a cute one that was not too rotten.

“I was going to say, what are you supposed to be?”  Serena asked.

“Babysitter,” Jake answered with a straight face.  “I’m taking my little sister trick or treating.”

“You’re going to miss the party,” Blockhead had party on the brain.  He slipped his arm over Serena’s shoulder but she shrugged it off.

“I know,” Jake responded.  “I sometimes wish Elizabeth would just disappear.  Then maybe I could have a life.”  He looked straight at Jessica.

“You don’t mean that,” Jessica stared right back at him.

Jake looked to the side.  “I don’t know what I mean anymore.”

“Hey dude.”  Tommy got their attention.  “Your sister is with old man Putterwig.”

“What?  No.”  Jake turned in time to see the old man take Elizabeth’s hand and walk inside the house. “No!”  Jake screamed and started to run, Jessica right on his heels.  The gate out front slammed shut on the others who took a second to get it open.  When they reached the porch, the last touch of the sun dipped below the horizon and the front door slammed shut, and it locked itself.  Jake and Jessica made it inside, but the rest were stuck outside.

When Jake and Jessica leaped into the house, they became very confused.  Instead of a downstairs hallway, their feet came down in an ancient pine forest with needles and pinecones littering the ground beneath their feet a foot thick.  The last of the purple sunset was fading and the stars were coming out bright and twinkling above their heads. They caught a glimpse of the doorway they came through, but before they could react, the door shrank and disappeared altogether with a loud “Snap!”

“What the Hell?” Jessica mumbled.  Jake had something more pressing on his mind.

“Elizabeth!”  He shouted.  “Eiliza-BETH!”

Storyteller About: A New Beginning.

            I tasted death.  A series of mini-strokes on December 30, 2012, four days in the hospital, buckets of cost later and I am not the same.  We only have so much time, and I have so much to do.

            I was born a storyteller.  By the time I was six and beginning to read and write, my imagination overflowed with other worlds and other times.  I discovered the greatest story ever told and it captured my heart.  Story became my way of expressing myself and to both explore and understand the world.  If I had been born in a tribal society I would have had an honored seat at the campfire, but by 1960 my world had already lost the time, patience and interest in tales of the imagination.  Movies were spewing out stories with an overabundance of romance or for the special effects and a chance to blow things up.  Nothing was to be gained by those.

            By the time I reached sixth grade, I was scribbling ideas, notes and drawings, tales of the imagination, and found I was drawn to adventures such as boys used to love.  Verne, Wells, Haggard, Stevenson, yes Dickens and Twain.  Of course I loved Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams and really all of the Inklings.  I searched the deep past and found Homer, Virgil, Beowulf, Bunyan and Swift and discovered that Oz, Never Land, Wonderland and The Back of the North Wind were never far away.  I found the writers of the Golden age of Science Fiction, E. E. Doc Smith and the rest, and writers of my own early age from Addams to Zelazny – too many to count.  These sustained me in the wilderness, and the wilderness is where I went after high school.

            I had boxes, files and an entire desk full of ideas, with some stories, some book beginnings and a play or two.  I was the boy, ready to start my adventure.  If just one person believed in me and my stories, the whole universe might have turned in a different direction.  But no.  The enormous pressure to do college, to find work, to have a family and then die was upon me, and I did not have the backbone to follow my heart.  I spent most of the last 40 years in some position or other where I could tell stories and express my tales of truth and glory, but my time belonged to others, to the grind that ate life and to the silent tears that cried out, “This is not what I am supposed to be doing with my life.”  If I say I wasted the last 40 years in the wilderness I would not be lying.

            Then I tasted death.  I am near 60 and on more medication than I can name, but the stories have not gone away.  They have strengthened to where now I no longer have the will to escape the words.  I have no doubt I will write furiously until I die and still not get all of the stories written.

            Somewhere in my wilderness years publishers invented a new category of fiction: (middle-grade)/Young Adult.  But this fine idea has been taken over presently by sparkly romances and the Princess collection because young women read.  The heroine saves the city, the world, the universe in a thin plot whose main purpose is to bring two people together so they can fall in love.  I am sure there are plenty of young women who enjoy reading what Paganini would call variations on a theme. 

            At the same time, I have heard over and over that young men don’t read.  The back of my mind screams Potter, Unfortunate Events, Olympians, but the front of my mind says it is not worth arguing with agents and publishers that there is still a market for the likes of Robert Heinlein, James Blish or John Brunner.  I don’t have ten years to devote to such arguments and nonsense.  What?  So I can see something in print when I am 70?

            Instead, we have all gone digital.  So will I.  I can start putting stories up for E-readers and POD books and maybe audio books fairly quickly.  My sons are talking about the possibility of reworking the Avalon series into comic book form.  We will build a website, do some book promotions on film for YouTube, and probably participate in giveaways through Amazon Select.  Of course, if you actually buy the works I will be grateful.  My life has not exactly been one to include much money or much success.  Perhaps because my heart was not in it.  But let me be clear: my job is not to get lost in social media and dubious promotions.  My job to get as many of these stories finished as possible before I die. 

            I will do my best to keep you up-to-date as time slides by. 

            Meanwhile, on this blog I am going to start posting Avalon, season 2 as a Monday, Wednesday, Friday post.  God willing I won’t suffer a relapse or be that one-in-three who suffers a massive stroke and becomes completely incapacitated.  If you are so inclined, pray for me.  I am finally doing what I am supposed to be doing with my life.  Let us hope there are still enough years to do it.

— Michael

November: NaNo: The month of the eternally stubborn … and the Politically Correct.

November is a full month even missing a day …

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The first of November used to be a holy day: All Saints Day.  Christians prayed and gave thanks for all the “great cloud of witnesses” that came before them.

Now it is the day Christmas decorations go up and Christmas merchandise makes it to the shelf.

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The eleventh used to be Veterans Day – an honorable day to remember the brave men and women who sacrificed so much to defend and protect this nation, our homes and our freedom. 

Now it is a day to flip a finger at the tomb of the unknown soldier and in an effort of short-sightedness, castigate ourselves as colonialists, imperialists and war-mongers.  It has become a day to hate all things military.

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The third Thursday used to be a day to give thanks to God for family, friends, neighbors – for all the blessings bestowed by the providential grace of God on our homes, communities and nation.  It was a day of prayer and gratitude, not only for a good harvest (good year) but for all the good things in life.  It was a feast of celebration of life.

Now, God is gone, gratitude is gone, the expressions of love for family friend and neighbor is gone.  We have excess food and football in preparation for shopping.

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On that first Thanksgiving, European settlers and Native Americans gathered together like the best of neighbors.  They celebrated life, the harvest, and peace.  It was a joyous time of fellowship and friendship with pledges to one another in the understanding that peace is always better than war.  And they gave thanks to God, each in their own way, and none other than God. 

Now, the people who came here from Europe to worship and practice their faith without persecution are painted as greedy, land-grabbing killers and murderers, And the Native Americans mourn Thanksgiving as if that one GOOD day is the cause of all the bad days that followed.

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These are simple things.  If you have a desire for any sort of historical fiction, especially during NaNo month, my thought is this: “Don’t let your modern prejudices get in the way of reality.”  And that is what they are.  They are not political correctness.  They are not open minded.  They are certainly not seeing the truth as if for the first time.  They are plain and simply prejudice and bigotry of the post-modern mind.

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Have a happy Thanksgiving, and don’t be afraid to be grateful and give thanks for all that you have.  And, if I may, don’t be in such a hurry to go out on Friday and get more …

 

Ah, The Wonder of Being an Author

 

            Confidence can be broken with something as thin as a whisper. 

            Failure is a forty-foot long Black Sea Snake just waiting for a misstep.  The snake grins because we don’t know exactly which step is the misstep. 

            I have told stories all my life.  I know my stories are good, well thought out, well paced, well …  I know I write well, but so do a hundred thousand other people.  What is it?  One in a thousand actually find representation and see print, or less?

            There is self-publishing, E-books and POD, but that is a raging flood, and much of it is brackish, undrinkable water.  There are a million authors clamoring for attention – 999,000 who did not find representation.  How does one break through that sound barrier so some stranger might actually look at a book – buy a book?

            With impossible odds, confidence as thin as a one-sided piece of paper and as fragile as a word of hope, and failure able to swallow a person whole and digest that person for years, it is a wonder anything sees print.  Do you think?

Wednesday Thoughts: Words to Consider.

To all my writer friends struggling to write that novel:  Sneer at whatever gets in your way, laugh at whatever is blocking you and break the bonds of whatever is holding you back.  Remember, restrictions are almost always self-imposed.  Listen, this is what I have been thinking lately.

1.         You have to believe in yourself because maybe nobody else ever will, at least on this side of success.

2.         If writing is your calling, your purpose in life, your reason for being, your source for joy, understand that this desire was not given to you without reason.  The end of the road that turns away is a dead end with a big sign that says “regret.”

3.         Don’t let your past control your future.

4.         Your future is waiting to be created.

— M G Kizzia

And you can quote me.

Forever 1.12: Leaving Home

            “So what are you going to do after you graduate?” Joe, the church sexton asked.  He was sitting in his little room off the main auditorium and near the kitchen where every Sunday morning he had coffee and the Sunday paper waiting.  Glen turned his head briefly before he looked again on the evergreens that shielded a view of the empty church parking lot.  It was raining, not hard, but a miserable sort of cold, soaking rain.  Church was long over and Joe and Glen might have been the only two people left in the building.

            “Go to college.  I thought that was required.  At seventeen, I am not ready for college, but it seems I have no choice.  My great uncle sits on the board or something and went to great lengths to get me in.  To be honest, I should probably go to a local school, maybe commute to a community college for a year while I try to figure out what I want to do.”

            “You sound like you don’t have any choice,” Joe said.  But Joe knew Glen’s parents.  Glen simply glanced at the man again before his eyes were drawn back to the window.  It was finally beginning to rain.

            “Not here,” he said, and he thought long about that before he added, “Of course, this isn’t the real world, you know.”  When Joe said nothing, Glen began to explain.

            “In this place everything is twisted and distorted.”  Glen paused to consider his words.  “Exaggerated,” he decided.  “I mean, in the real world my parents were always hard on me.  I might have wanted them to be more easy going, but I never doubted they meant it for the best and only wanted the best for me.  Here, they are impossible.  In the real world, I might have wanted more positive attention.  Here, nothing is positive toward me and mostly they ignore me altogether.  There, I may have felt like I got more than my share of blame for things, but here everything is my fault, even if I have nothing to do with it.  Do you see?”  When Glen heard no response, he continued.

            “To be honest, I have begun to wonder if it is so much that things here are distorted as maybe just my feelings are distorted and then projected on my surroundings.  It is like maybe I am the one who wants things to be easy and wants praise and wants to not have to take responsibility for my screw-ups.  So here things get extra hard and I get only put downs and I get blamed for things even when I am innocent.  It is almost like whatever I want, I get the opposite.”  Glen stopped then to think and he thought Joe was being very patient by staying quiet.

            “You know what I mean?”  The question was rhetorical.  “It’s like whenever I find something good they discontinue it.  It’s like, I don’t know.  Maybe God is trying to work on my insides.  Maybe I am wanting certain things too much and others too little.  Of course, if that’s the case, it is easy enough to determine what I am wanting too much.  And it isn’t just my parents or my family, mind you.  It is teachers, friends, everyone really.  You may be excepted.  I don’t know.  You don’t really depend on me for anything and I am not over you in some way.  And same in reverse, I mean you are not over me and I don’t depend on you, necessarily.”  Glen paused.  “Actually, that is not true.  I depend on you to listen which no one else ever does, and I appreciate that more than you will ever know.”  Glen tried to get back on topic.

            “But anyway, it is easy enough to figure out what I may be wanting too much.  The trouble is, there are two things about that.  First, most people would just say I am wanting the good things in life too much; but there is nothing wrong with good things.  They say life is a mix of good and bad, but all I seem to get around here is the bad.  Is it really wrong to want some good things mixed in?  Good times and bad times are part of every life, they say.  All I can say is great!  When do the good times start?”  Glen took a deep breath before he continued.  His eyes were damp.

            “The other problem with that is I don’t have any idea what I am wanting too little.  I know some Eastern philosophers say you shouldn’t want anything at all.  I most strongly disagree.  God made us with the capacity to love and want the one we love.  I know we were made to love God and love our neighbor, to glorify God and do good for our neighbor.  These things I am doing, they are in my heart, in my soul if you will, but still I get crushed, it gets taken from me, things never work out for the good, nothing ever goes right, and I still get kicked, psychologically crushed, crucified in a small way, I suppose.  That seems to be the nature of this non-place I have found myself in.  Pain and torment appear victorious and I can’t seem to break out or escape.” 

            “The truth is, there is no good here for me, not in my life, not that I have ever experienced.  I don’t even know what a blessing might be.  I can’t say as I have ever had one.  About all I can say is what I keep saying over and over.  I’m not dead yet, and I ask, why did God let me live?”

            Glen heard a sound and turned around.  Joe was rushing back in from the kitchen with an apology.  “Sorry, I had to be sure the coffee was unplugged, and then the phone rang.  You were saying?  Your uncle got you into the college so you feel you have to go?”

            “Yes,” Glen nodded.  “That is exactly what I was saying.”  He turned his eyes back to the falling rain and said no more.

Forever 1.11: Going Home

            Glen ripped down the weeds and vines that guarded the cave entrance.  He stuck his head into the dark and called out, “Hello?”  He was only mildly surprised when he got an answer and an invitation.

            “Yes?  Hello.  Do come in.”

            “It is rather dark,” Glen said as he stepped in and stepped aside to let in as much of the fading sunlight as possible.

            “Oh, I beg your pardon.”  There was a roar of flame like flame from a flamethrower.  Glen had to shade and close his eyes to not be suddenly blinded, and he had to keep back to not be burnt.  When it was over, a big campfire was lit in the middle of a round room cavern and there was a dragon curled up comfortably against the back wall.  There was also a man sitting cross legged before the fire.

            “Hello?”  Glen spoke to the man and again he was only mildly surprised when the dragon answered.

            “Yes, hello.  Do come in.  The old man said to expect you.”  Glen stepped forward toward the old man who had his back turned and made no indication other than that he was perhaps sleeping sitting there.  He made sure the fire remained between him and the dragon.  “Sometimes the shaman prefers the dark, and to me, of course, it makes no difference.”

            “Who are you?” Glen asked, not that he expected an answer he could understand.  He imagined this was the dragon of the long march from the Windy Castle on the Fogwart River or some such thing.  What he heard did actually surprise him.

            “I am the Spirit of Home,” the dragon said. 

            “I beg your pardon?”  Glen repeated the dragon’s phrase.

            “I make a house into a home and a community into a hometown.  I am the greater spirit that reaches out when people go away.  I remind them of all the good things.  I sing to them in the night.  I draw them back to the place they were raised and hold them close to family and loved ones.”

            “So you are the one I have to thank for Debbie.”  Glen showed his anger.

            “Regrettable.  I am not allowed to discriminate, but how a person responds is entirely up to them.  Which call was stronger?  Regretable.”

            Glen let go of his anger in a breath of hot air.  It was puppy love, as he knew.  There really was no future there.  “Yeah, well I would like to get home,” he changed the subject.

            “So would we,” the old man spoke and Glen took a step back.  “But our home has been taken by people from the old world.  We have no right of return.  Our home is lost to us forever.  We have had to make a new home.  I am here to see that time of homelessness and despair is short, not long.”

            “I am sorry,” Glen said.  “But all of that was ages before my time.  I would like to go back to my time, if it is not too much trouble.”

            The dragon lifted his head and stared long at Glen.  It cocked its head to one side and then the other before it spoke.  “I see no home in you.  Yet you are not of the nomads or gypsies or travelers who carry their home with them.  I see many homes in you down through the ages, and I see you in many forms living a native among many people.”

            The old man spoke over top.  “You have an ancient touch of the Tuscarora people.  That alone is why I let you live.  That is why I called you here, but I see now there is no help in you.”

            Glen took another step back and swallowed.  He was not aware his life was in danger.  “The reason it is an ancient touch of native is because I don’t belong here.  I don’t belong in this time.”

            “I see many days,” the dragon continued.  “I see many times.  I am confused.  I cannot sing to you.”

            “I don’t know.”  Glen shook his head.  “I am only me, right now.  And I belong a hundred years in the future.  I should not have come in the first place.”

            “You do,” the old man confirmed.

            “You should not be here.” The dragon agreed.

            “Well?”  Glen waited.

            “Why are you here?”  The dragon asked.

            “The old man?”  Glen suggested.

            The old man shook his head.  “I saw you in the entrance and called to you, but you came of your own volition.”

            “Why did you come?”  The dragon rephrased its question.

            “To have my heart broken?”  Glen said.  “To find one more wonderful thing that I am not allowed to have.  You have no idea.”  The tears came up into his eyes.  “Why?  Every time I find something good, it gets discontinued and taken from me.  Everywhere I go I am not welcome and not wanted.  I disappoint everyone.  I get passed over and neglected always.  There is no good in me, and though I beg for forgiveness, all I hear is silence.  The silence in my life is deafening.  Please, I just want to go home.”  He began to cry and fell to his knees because all his strength to stand left him at once.

            “You have no home,” the dragon said.

            “Though you fear homelessness and despair, you must pass through to make your own home,” the old man added.

            “You have had and will have many homes, but you don’t belong here,” the dragon concluded.

            “That is because I am not dead yet,” Glen mouthed.  “Why did God let me live?”  He faded from sight.

Forever 1.11: The Transient Heart

            Glen danced.  Not well, but he gave it his best shot, and Debbie helped him literally every step of the way.  He surprised her when he showed that he knew how to waltz, and he was somewhat graceful being rather athletic.  But the truth was, Glen spent most of his time trying to maneuver Debbie toward the punch bowl and then out of the torch lights.  It was not easy.  Debbie liked to dance.

            “You are a really good dancer,” Debbie lied as she set her punch cup on the edge of the table.  Glen took her hand and brought her out under the stars.  Showing her the big dipper was the only way he could get her alone.

            “I am not,” Glen admitted with utter honesty.

            “Well.”  Debbie took back her hand so she could worry her hands together.  She looked down again at her boots as she spoke.  “But you are much better than the other boys.  I think with a little practice you could be good.”

            Glen chose not to respond.  He grabbed her hand again and tugged her a little further into the dark while he pointed to the sky.  “There,” he said, and he traced the stars of the dipper with his outstretched finger. 

            “Oh,” she said with some excitement in her voice.  “I see it.”  And Glen was glad.  She knew what a dipper was, unlike the girls a hundred years in the future.  Glen turned to her and risked setting his hand around her waist like they did when they waltzed.

            “Now about this dancing,” he said.  Debbie was not fooled.  She slipped her arms around his neck like she no doubt watched her mother do it.  Glen needed no more invitation.  He kissed her, and it was no tentative kiss.  Debbie’s eyes went wide before she squeezed them shut and poured herself into the kiss.  When their lips parted, Glen did not let go.  He held her tight, and she held him with equal desire.  He pecked at her lips, kissed her cheeks gently and kissed her forehead before he kissed her eyes.  He had no doubt her heart was racing.  His certainly was.

            “You know,” Glen said.  “In some cultures kissing is considered an invitation to marry.”  Debbie looked at him and looked deeply into his eyes.  Then she kissed him, smack on the lips, and did her best to leave a permanent impression.  Glen got the feeling she was marking her territory.  When she was done, she spoke.

            “I would not mind,” she said, and Glen was the one who felt it was best to bring Debbie back into the light.

            For the rest of the week, Debbie snuck away from home and came to the digs by lunchtime.  She always brought a basket of goodies, and Glen found her harder and harder to resist.  They sat in the grass, held hands some,  kissed some, and talked about everything and nothing and sometimes did not talk at all.  But every day, Glen became more anxious.  It was coming up to the time when he was supposed to leave and join his family up north at the club.

            Glen found the cave, but this time he opted to leave it covered.  He did not want to end up in 1768, although he imagined he would not mind seeing Debbie in something more low-cut in place of that turtleneck prairie dress she always wore.  When his last day came, he held on to her.  He gently touched her breast and felt her fire roar.  He knew he was on fire already, but he went no further.  Deep down he knew it was not right.  Still, he could not help the words that came unbidden from his lips.

            “Come with me,” he said.  “It is not far to the city where we can catch a train for the east.  We can,” he almost hesitated.  “We can marry and have three children, just like you want, and we can be happy.”  He was surprised at how little he had to struggle to talk her into it.  She had a bag.  He had a duffle he could wear as a backpack.  He could hardly sleep that night.  And in the morning, his grandparents said good-bye, apologized for not being rich enough to sending him off with a horse.  But he said that was alright, kissed them and ran to the spot.

            Debbie was already there, and she looked excited.  He was thrilled to see her as well, and he decided in the night that 1868 might not be so bad if he was with her.  He certainly knew what to invest in if he ever got any money to invest.  Given the chance, they might even become rich.  No, that might not be bad at all.

            The first few hours were wonderful, though they held hands and said very little.  In the following hours, Glen caught her glancing back.  When they stopped for lunch, the glance had become a look and Glen asked her about it.

            “I’m just thinking of my family, my home, my friends.  I’ll get over it.”

            “This is a great adventure, just you and me.  As long as we are together I know everything will be wonderful,” Glen said.  She smiled, but even then Glen knew it was a lost cause.  Soon enough she was talking about going home where they could have a proper wedding first, and then she began to talk about what they were doing, that it was wrong and they were going to hurt a lot of people.  Glen did not let it go too far.  He might have been a teenager, and really a teenager, but somewhere inside him there was still the wisdom of one much older.  Indeed, his parents often accused him of being old even when he was a child.

            “Your bag,” he said.  “I have to go.  But I will come back next year and maybe I can come to stay, if you still want me.”

            Debbie cried.  She took her bag and turned around, but she cried for as far as Glen could still see her.  She would get over it, indeed.  It really was only puppy love, or perhaps puppy-lust with raging hormones, but she would get over it.

            Glen also turned and walked without paying too much attention to which way.  He stayed pretty much on course, but found a surprise a couple of hours before dark.  He came to the digs.  He had not intended that, but somehow he must have gotten turned around.  He did not mind, though.  This time he was not only going to the cave, he was going inside.

Forever 1.11: Gone to Dance

            “So, are ya going to hold her hand?”  Tyler asked.  He was the nice one, and he was asking about Debbie.  Glen shook his head when he spoke.  He could not believe that fifteen and sixteen year old boys in 1868 actually talked that way.

            “Of course, it’s a dance.”  Glen understood the young men sincerely respected the young women enough to treat them gently and believed that sex was best kept to marriage, if even then.  Heck, one out of ten girl’s Glen’s age back home in 1968 had already given up her virginity.  The boys expected it and the girls no longer respected themselves enough to say no.  “I’m going to kiss her.”  Glen announced, just to see their reaction.  Tyler turned red.  Curtis looked at his feet.  Robert, the big mean one, sneered.

            “Don’t lie,” Robert said.  “You’re just making that up.”

            Glen grinned.  He had no idea how well they knew him – how long he had supposedly been in town, but it was long enough for the boys to know who he was and at least one girl knew him.  He was glad to hear that his feelings in that brief encounter a hundred years in the future were mutual feelings.

            “Hey look,” Curtis changed the subject.  “Look who is riding a horse.  It’s old man Wilson’s nig –“

            “Hey!”  Glen hit Curtis in the shoulder and the boy dutifully said ouch.  “Show some respect for a free man.”

            Curtis looked like he did not understand.  Tyler stepped in.  “Okay, negroid.”

            “That’s not much better,” Glen frowned.

            “What would you call him?”  Tyler asked.

            “How about African-American?”

            “Shit,” Robert erupted.  “You talk like a damn Yankee.”

            Glen whipped around and hit the boy hard enough to send him to the dirt.  “My family is all over the Carolina rolls of the honorable dead, and my uncle also died defending Vicksburg from the damn Yankees.  Don’t you ever call me a Yankee again, and you better keep that nasty talk to yourself around me, too.  God is my witness, you will respect other people, all God’s children, or so help me I’ll hit you again.”

            Robert thought about it.  Tyler and Curtis did not know what to think, until Tyler got between Glen and Robert.

            “He didn’t mean nothing bad by it.  Did you Robert?  It’s just how we talk here, that’s all.  Nothing bad.”

            Glen nodded slowly.  In 1868, they honestly did not know any better.  He knew it would be generations before anything really changed and there was nothing he could do about it in the short term.  He stuck his hand out to Robert who was still on the ground, thinking.

            “Sorry I hit you,” Glen said.  “No hard feelings.”

            Robert grinned as slowly as Glen had nodded.  He took the hand and let Glen help him up.  “Sorry I called you a damn Yankee,” he said until he got to his feet and added, “Ya damn Yankee.”  He turned and ran.  Tyler shouted and ran after him a short way.  Curtis might have run, but looked at Glen who was grinning and shaking his head.  After a moment, Tyler came back and he, Glen and Curtis walked to the school together.

            Outside the school, there was a dance floor set-up on the lawn.  There was an American flag flying on the flag pole with far less stars than Glen was used to, but Glen got the impression if he peeled back the stars and stripes he might find the stars and bars just beneath the surface.  There was a separate stage for the band and a few tables shoved together that had all sorts of baked goods and sweet goodies on them, along with the required punch bowl. 

            Curtis wandered off when Tyler and Glen made their way to the food.  Ms Esmeralda Commons, the school marm scolded them and said they had to wait until the dance started.  Glen put on his best humble face.

            “Yes, mam,” he said, drawing her attention to himself while Tyler stuffed something sweet into the pocket of his slacks.  With that accomplished, Tyler echoed the “yes, mam,” again as a distraction, but Glen honestly felt he could wait.

            “Glen.”  It was a girl’s voice that made him turn around.  Debbie came up, all smiles.  Susan was with her, and Glen was startled to realize he knew Susan’s name.  He hardly had time to contemplate the implications of that, however, because Debbie’s father was right there beside his daughter.  And he was sporting a pistol at his belt.

            Glen swallowed as Debbie introduced him.  “This is Glen that I told you about.”  The man eyed Glen with laser beam eyes.  No matter that lasers would not be invented for a hundred years.  

            “Debbie tells me you are bright.  Any thoughts about the future?”  The man jumped straight to the point, whatever his point might have been. 

            “Yes, sir.  I was thinking after I finish my schooling here I might venture east to Davidson College or maybe William and Mary.  I am thinking about the law.”

            “Where?”  Debbie asked.

            “Virginia.  Davidson is in the Carolinas.  I have some family there.”

            “Oh, but that is so far.”

            Glen looked up at the man who was considering something.  This was clearly not the response the man expected.  Then Glen almost overdid it. 

            “Of course, Harvard has both a school of law and a Seminary if I should find myself moving in that direction.  But, that is even farther from home.”

            The man nodded, but came to a conclusion.  “Stick with the law.  That is where the money is, and an entrance into politics besides.”

            “Yes, sir,” Glen said.  “But wisdom suggests I wait to see how the dust settles before any political venture.”

            “Yes it does.”  The man almost smiled.  He patted Glen on the shoulder.  “We may talk more later.”  He turned to his daughter.  “Alright sweetheart,” he said, but it was almost swallowed by the shout, “Bob.”  And he left them and went off to see Bob, whoever that might be.

            Debbie grinned.

            “What?”  Glen asked.

            “My father has given his permission for you to court me.”  Glen looked shocked.  He had not considered that an issue.  Debbie took the expression on his face the wrong way.  “Unless you don’t want to.”  She looked down at her dowdy boots and twisted one in the dirt.

            Glen did not have to think for long.  He held out his hand.  “I want to.”

            Debbie looked up, turned a little red at the sight of his hand but also did not have to think long.  She place her hand gently in his and Glen felt her smile return in full force.