Introduction

Welcome to In Storyland.

This place will be the home of my stories, and thoughts, as I develop my writing skills on the road to authordom. Most of the stories I post will be genre based or stories from my life.  I’m also part of The Midnight Bards, a writers group, and post there on a regular basis.

If you want to know anything else feel free to leave a comment. All feedback is appreciated. Just reading is also highly appreciated.

Enjoy your stay In Storyland.

Areas of Storyland:

Troll Tooth»  Felix & IRL»  Short Works»  QicFic»

The Purge Challenge

Year of the Goat? Bah, more like the Year of Get Shit Done, at least in theory. From the goal setting summit of November the year ahead looked clear and easy thanks to that NaNoWriMomentum, but by the holidays I had started coasting. I wasn’t hitting my write everyday goal and my 3:30am work habit melted to a passive hobby. The little rewards that I gave myself for completing a morning writing session started happening in anticipation of the writing: Twitter time, reading (endless) writing blogs, general cyber wandering. All those time sinks that I granted post-writ started happening pre-write. Oh, I made good excuses for why I deserved them, but like most excuses they were bullshit.

An odd thing was happening though, I felt like a writer. Even though I wrote very little. That writerly feeling kept me going through my slowdown and consciously, for the most part, I told myself this was part of the process buddy! It isn’t. It wasn’t. The only part of the process it belonged to was the not being a writer process. Yet there I was feeling engaged and writerly just by reading blogs, following author convos on Twitter (even subtweets), but doing little actual writing.

After a few weeks I had to admit, I wasn’t getting shit done. That wiped out the writerly feelings and left me wondering about the power of my delusions. I ignored that question and focused on the practical problem, why did I feel like a hardworking writer when I wasn’t.

I had followed a twitter convo between authors about the Ditch Diggers podcast and went looking to see if that post was live. It wasn’t. However, episode 2 was so I gave it a listen and a big ol’ knowledge bomb went off. At about 40 minutes in Matt Wallace starts railing against communities and certain members of communities. He says, “…they want the perception of it. The experience of feeling like a creative person who does this but they are not actually pursuing it because they have this awesome synthetic substitute for it. As long as they can get their community fix they don’t need anything else.” Bing-bam-damn! That explains all the bullshit writerly feelings. I had fallen for the “synthetic substitute” of being a writer.

That evening and the next day I was still rolling this around in my head thinking about what to do when Medium, my good pal, linked me to The Purge: What happens when you unfollow everyone on the Internet by Helena Price. Her story is a powerful read about breaking free from compulsive behaviors that erode our productivity. One of my favorite bits, “I found myself checking my empty feeds out of habit.” Holy shit! This was connecting dots and patterns for me. It made me think of all the times I sat on Twitter aimlessly swiping down like some slot-junky at a casino. Swipe down noise-and-lights nothing good. Swipe again noise-and-lights… repeat until I hit that jackpot of a sweet tweet and then I’ll stop… right after just one more swipe.

That habit exhausted me, usually because I partook when I had downtime. But if this is the Year of Get Shit Done, even my downtime needs to be productive. In her post Helen details all the productivity gained with her unfollow experiment (go read the results they are astounding) and I thought why not give it a try. Only three days into The Purge Challenge and it has been a huge help. I’m reading more, getting more done around the house and best of all writing again. I broke out the first act of Remainders and finished three essays. This post was written on my iPhone as Michelle walked Felix to Sleepyland. That used to be Twitter primetime. Now it’s Get Shit Done time.

First Birthday and Baby Business

We have a ONE-YEAR-OLD!

 

Felix the boy wonder is officially one. It is hard to believe, well easy to believe, but, look time can’t be explained when perceived through the eyes of new parents. I already posted on the metaphysics of babies. Point is he is one and getting into serious baby business, which we’ll get into later. But first, Birthday Business!

The First Birthday, a baby has no idea what or why it’s happening or even what to do. This party is purely for parents, family and friends to celebrate making it through the first year. If we didn’t have to take care of a toddler parents would get pretty drunk at these parties, well my kind of parents. But then you wouldn’t remember all the great times of cake smashing and wrapping paper shredding. Oh wait that didn’t happen.

Nope, Mr. Felix is a fairly restrained baby with a methodological approach to new stimuli. Hence when given cake to smash he pokes, ponders, pokes, postulates and finally into the mouth to test his postulation. Very scientific and not unlike that of the Zoologist from Prometheus, only with much better results. Cake! Delicious cake, that was much better for eating than smashing. So with the dignified grace usually reserved for royal babies Felix indulged in birthday cake for the first time.

Awwwwww. Now it’s time for presents!

When you want a baby to unwrap presents in an excited manner, don’t give them a shiny balloon right at the start. After that nothing matters but balloon. Balloon. Balloooooon! Who cares about decorative paper and ribbons? BALLOON!

To us though it mattered that we controlled the size and quantity of toys as we have a small space that is already over run. Much to our enthusiasm –AND FELIX’S!– he received many awesome books! Great job Framily! Please don’t sue me Sprint.

Felix was so overcome with excitement for one book in particular (I Love You Stinky Face) that he grabbed it and began turning pages. He even gave it a hearty review: A smile and an “ahuh-ahuh” laugh. All books were great, as they had combinations of creative art and design, clever and silly stories, or expressed an early concept especially well. Press Here anyone?

I would like to thank our nieces and nephews who showed up and brought the raucous –Rawkus Records I hate you for killing my ability to EVER spell raucous correctly on the first try, Mos Def– and wild calamity of screaming fun that should be found at every child’s birthday party. For a while I thought we would have to pipe it in, but the 12th crew showed up loud and proud!

Here comes a segue, the hard way.

Baby Business, what is it? Well it’s easy to recognize but hard to understand. It happens when he abandons blocks he was just engrossed in stacking or drops a toy without warning, and then the charge. Fat hands slap the ground like it was a villainous monster about to impede his progress. Barreling over and through any object in his path his Baby Business does not wait! He arrives at his destination –often the bedroom– looks around, babbles, and heads back to his previous task with equal efficiency. Baby Business completed. It’s amusing to watch and wonder about what called him to action? Is this play? Was something on his mind? Did he hear a cat? Is he communing with ghosts in our apartment?!?!?! I hope it’s not ghosts. If there are ghosts, he better be keeping them inline.

Other times Baby Business is understandable. Felix can shut the refrigerator door, and understands us when we ask him to. He has taken this on as his chore. Mainly because it also gives him a chance to play –supervised– in front of the open fridge. Which is literally, pretty cool. So cool that when we open the fridge he drops everything and hustles over. He’ll grab the door with all the authority of a Senior Refrigerator Attendant Local 116 saying, “Whoa pal. This can’t be operated by anyone. Are you in the Union? No. Then step back and let me do my job.”
With Baby Union backed authority he commanders the fridge door and begins pulling condiments from the bottom shelf for inspection. “Condiments check out. Nothing expired.”
“Please put them back,” we ask.
Amazingly Felix puts them back. We believe this is a required stipulation negotiated by the Parents Union, but like to remind him just in case it slips his mind.
“Please close the door,” we ask.
Using a specially orchestrated multi-step-maneuver –that is backed by Baby Union standards–, that is quite similar to backing out of a bumper-to-bumper parking space, he closes the door.
We applaud and say, “Thank you for your fine service.”
Felix just says, “Right pal. Here’s the bill. Due in 30 days.” Waves us off and is back to his previous task or off to more Baby Business.
https://vine.co/v/OTXzMw7m7eO

He doesn’t just bring  this ingenuity, passion and dedication to his thriving refrigerator access solutions business, but also to his phenomenal startup Flooragers Inc. providing organic, locally sourced and sustainable food from your floor to your food-hole. Flooragers just closed a lucrative Series A funding round with mega-angel-investor Monster Towel; for a reported 10 million. 10 million what? That has not been reported, you never know with Monster Towel. With these great accomplishments already under his diaper, In Storyland is proud to announce Felix as our 2014 Infantrepreneur of the Year!


Kudos to you Mr. Felix, 2014 Infatrepreneur of the Year. (Standing applause)

 

Dalila’s Journey: A Story of the Ndegi

Dalila walked across the scorching sands. Her taloned feet were wrapped in a light cloth that did little to keep the harsh burn of the sand at bay. She looked up at the red sun beating down on them and wondered what it had been like to fly.

A clothed hand firmly bopped her on the head bringing her back to the ground. She rubbed her head and looked up at Marjani.

“Ow, that hurt.”

“Keep your eyes down. Looking up at the sun will disorient you,” Marjani said with her eyes forward.

Dalila looked ahead and saw the long line of her people making their way across the sands. All were wrapped head to talon in dusty cloth. She peered behind her and saw the line was just as long. All of the Elfu faced forward, none looked around or behind them.

“Marjani do you remember flying?” Dalila asked.

Marjani cursed and let out a shrill squawk. “Silence. Do not speak of what we have lost.” She never turned to face Dalila her head and eyes firmly set ahead.

“I never flew, but my mother–”

Marjani gave her another bop on the head, this time hard enough to really hurt. “Do not speak of what we have lost,” she said with her beak clenched tight and eyes forward.

Dalila rubbed her sore head as tears began to fall. She hated Marjani. She was cold and strict not like her mother and father. They had been loving and kind. Her mother told her of flight, of the time before the iron sickness, before the Iron Skins brought war to their shores.

Her mother told stories of the beauty of her people. Finely feathered, graceful aerial acrobats and expert fishers. Now their feathers were mostly gone. They were lost to the iron sickness. It spread down the coast and turned the tide a sickly red-green. It first wiped out the fish, petrifying their scales and flesh. Then quickly spread to the Ndegi people.

***

On the night the sickness claimed her mother, Dalila had made healing waters by calling on gia. Once all Ndegi could move gia, but that too was lost to them. The tiny bit that Dalila did was the most any had managed in a long time. Her mother was proud, but it just made Marjani angry. She sent Dalila out of their hut as she always did. Not wanting the girl to see how far the iron sickness had spread.

Wanting to see if the water would help Dalila watched from outside the cloth door. Peering in as Marjani carefully removed her mother’s wrap. All Ndegi wore the wrap now. It was supposed to prevent the iron sickness from spreading, but Dalila new, as her mother told her, it was because they were prideful, and did not want to be reminded of what they had lost.

When her mother’s wraps came off she almost shrieked. The petrified grey patches of skin, that killed of feathers and prevented flight, were not new to her. She had several patches. But on her mother, they were everywhere. Her entire right arm was covered. It was dark grey, almost black, and curled against her body. The sickness spread across her shoulder and her chest where it was a lighter ash-grey. She watched as Marjani tried to move the arm in the warm water, but her mother just shook her head.

“It is too late Sister,” her mother said, “the arm is solid. Don’t let it spread further. Don’t let me become some half-dead stone.” Her mother gripped Marjani’s arm tightly. “Please, take care of Dalila. She is my sky.”

It was the only time Dalila could remember seeing sadness in Marjani’s eyes. “Go then sister,” Marjani said as she held her mothers head under the water, “It is time for you to join your husband.”

Dalila cried as she watched, unable to look away until it was over. Then she ran far into the desert. She ran until her legs could turn no further and spilled across the cold sands. Tears ran down her face as she curled into a ball and lost herself to grief.

She dreamed of flying. Soaring through the sky with her mother and father. The sun was warm, and the air was cool as it whipped over her full feathers. Her mother and father zipped by her and flew high towards the sun.

“Keep up silly tamuga,” her mother called playfully as she flew past.

Dalila tried to fly faster but her wings became heavy. Her bright yellow and blue feathers began to molt, revealing petrified lesions. She began falling from the sky.

“That’s it. Now you’re keeping up.” Her mother turned to look at her with sad tearful eyes. The rest of her was stone.

“No. Mother!” Dalila screamed.

She woke up in Marjani’s arms as they walked back to the camp. Looking straight ahead Marjani said, “The sickness took your mother. We do not speak of what we lost.” That was all she said, and she would say no more.

Not long after an emissary of the Queen visited the Elfu. She told them the Queen offered hope, the last hope for a dying people. Revenge.

It was made clear that the time of the Ndegi was ending. They could die out slowly suffering until the end. Or the Queen could transform them into a new people. A people capable of taking revenge against the Iron Skins that brought the plague and war to the Ndegi. They were a prideful people and accepted the Queen’s offer. The Elfu had packed up what was left of their encampment and started the long trek to the Queen’s castle.

***

It seemed like they had walked forever through the torrid desert. Marjani told her it would be another couple weeks, but the desert would provide them safe passage.

“Marjani, if we will no longer be the Ndegi, who will we become?” Dalila asked.

Marjani let out a huff of exhaustion. “Your mother always had questions.”

Dalila looked at her surprised. “She would always ask of what can’t be answered. We will never be the Ndegi again. We will not be better than what we were. But we will be better than what we are.”

Dalila was confused. Marjani’s answers didn’t make her feel any better, or any surer of her tribe’s decision.

“They say several tribes have meet with the Queen of Swarau and accepted her gift. Those tribes have returned to the sky,” Marjani said.

She looked up at Marjani. Her head faced forward never wavering from their path. “We will fly again?” Dalila asked.

Marjani didn’t answer. Dalila noticed her eyes drift up at the sky for a brief moment, before falling back down. After that Dalila stared ahead too. She never looked back, and she never spoke of what was lost.


Crossposted at The Midnight Bards.

 

The Holiday (W)rap Up and A List of Firsts

Happy New Year and all that jazz. The holidays are behind us, or the big ones are at least. Felix spent his first Christmas like he spends most of his days, tearing paper up and taking toys out of boxes. It didn’t really amaze him, but it was a super big deal for us!

 

A few days before Christmas, Michelle gathered up some of his toys and wrapped them up for him to open on Christmas morning. We were excited to see him open the presents and thought he would go full on maniac baby. He never made it past generally enthused.  In fact after getting back one of his more favorite toys it was difficult to persuade him to open the last present. Lesson learned? Babies got Baby Business and that doesn’t always line up with your holiday plans.

Just another day tearing up things I find.

Just another day tearing up things I find.

We bought him a real gift, a baby-sized push broom. It was given to him the night it arrived which was way before Christmas. Who can deny their children’s happiness? Not us. He loved the broom and he’ll love it even more when he can walk.

The real gift was a gift to all of us. We started a family tradition of getting a Santa photo every year. Only we get ours with Space Santa! Yes, head to the top of the Space Needle and you too can get your picture taken with one of the coolest Santa’s ever. Bonus points on the short line and great views. It was his first trip to the Space Needle.

Christmas In Space

In hindsight Felix did a bunch of sightseeing and visited quite a few of the Seattle Christmas Classics. First he went to the Sheraton’s Gingerbread Village with Michelle’s Aunt Laurie and Uncle Tom. We rode the Monorail to get there, first Monorail ride. After Christmas he took his first trip to the EMP with his Aunt Ashley and Uncle John.

This looks like a  tough crowd, I better take both swords.

This looks like a tough crowd, I better take both swords.

Plus we stopped into McCaw Hall for a few pictures with their Nutcracker display. Hhm, this might be a hard Christmas to top.

Hurry up and take the photo before they realize we didn't buy a ticket.

Hurry up and take the photo before they realize we didn’t buy a ticket.

The best gift of all was spending Christmas morning with Felix and Michelle reflecting on how much our lives have changed and how awesome it is to be a Family.

I think these decorations do come off.

I think these decorations do come off.

New Years passed without much notice. I stayed up until midnight, but it was just to watch a few shows on Netflix and enjoy the “time off” from getting up early and writing. The only highlight of New Years, Felix went to his first fondue party. He was a perfect guest, and so well behaved a couple people didn’t even realize he was a baby.

Felix continues to level up his skills. He’s walking along the walls and cabinets, bookshelves, chairs, exercise ball. You know anything he can gain balance from. The couch is now a climbing toy as he can get up and over the back of it. Luckily it is packed with pillows, blankets, a beanbag T-rex, the usual stuff, so he just rests on the top. His proudest and most amazing skill is the ability to forage food from the floor. Everything, EVERYTHING, is going in the mouth these days. Epicurean? So much it hurts.

The confidence Felix has in his agility now makes boundaries a thing of the past. Nothing is off limit or too hard to get to. Behind the cat tree, behind the curtains and blinds, under the desk, over the couch Felix is there. He even crawls right out of bed and heads to the living room. No time for good mornings; tons of Baby Business due today.

 

 

Playtime continues to be more complex. He went from just knocking over towers, to trying to take just a single block off at a time, and now he is trying to stack blocks. The other day he managed to stack three. It was pretty impressive, like watching the Incredible Hulk play Jenga.

Eating meals is going very well. We just have him eat what we eat. When we have a meal we’ll feed him from our plate. If it’s hot or if he’s only having a single item, or ingredient, then we make a little Felix plate. It works; he doesn’t like the baby mush, as he wants to be master of his own food delivery. It’s worked so well that now when we eat a snack he wants a bite too, or the whole thing. As I was enjoying a pretzel stick he crawled over and tugged on my pant leg. I broke off a smaller than intended piece and tried to plop it in his mouth. As I did that, he grabbed the entire pretzel stick out of my hand and went on his way. Michelle laughed so hard, and so did I.

We are marching ever closer to his first birthday! I can hardly believe it. This year has been a great one. The last six-months at home with Felix have been amazing. Watching him grow, he’s so tall now we have to keep moving the Felix safety zone higher and further back. He’s scooting around so much now, crawling and climbing over anything or anyone. Opening drawers, understanding dangers, understanding words. Turning a corner and learning to be calm in his car seat. I wish I could learn in four years as much as he has in one.

Christmas better be worth this humiliation.

Christmas better be worth this humiliation.

 Here is the tally of Felix’s Firsts:

  • First Christmas
  • First ride on a Monorail
  • First trip to the Gingerbread Village
  • First trip to the Space Needle
  • First picture with Space Santa
  • First trip to the EMP
  • First time holding a play sword
  • First New Year
  • First Fondue Party
  • First list of Firsts

Flash Fiction Challenge: Holiday Horror Extravaganza!

Place me on the naughty list cause I’m a day late and 100 words over on this bit of flash. The challenge comes from the Terrible Mind of Chuck Wendig.

The Christmas Box

by Jonathan N. Bray

An alert tone plays in my ear and a voice says Camilla calling. My assistant, this can only mean more work.

“Answer,” the line picks up, “what?”

“Sorry—”

“Jesus Christ Camilla I don’t need sorry, just tell me what the issue is.”

I push past a family making their way through the crowded station, the mom gives me a dirty look, I almost tell her where to shove it, but its Christmas.

“I went to track Lila’s gift, and I found out why it wasn’t delivered.”

“Did you get it fixed and have the goddamn idiot fired who caused the delay?”

“Ah, that’s the thing, the reason it didn’t ship is because the order didn’t go through.”

I come to a dead stop in the center of the walkway, being one of those jerks I hate. The foot traffic behind me starts to back up and I hear people complaining.

“What do you mean you ordered it on Monday didn’t you?”

“Yes. No, I guess I never completed it. We we’re super swamped, that was the 18-hour day.”

“You’re fired. Terminate call.”

The line hangs up and I catch just a brief bit of Camilla’s begging. What the hell am I going to do now?

I checked my watch, barely 20 minutes before the last train comes. Where the hell was I going to get a gift?

“Move it lady.” Some rude idiot calls from behind me. He pushes around me and I start moving at the same time and swing my luggage into his knee.

“Ow!” he yells.

“Sorry. Have a merry Christmas.”

The crowd is so dense it’s hard to run, but at least I know where I’m heading, South Entrance right around the corner is an old Odd Shop. The type owned by the family that lives in the back of the shop. It’s mostly junk curated from the garbage bins at the Good Will, but that’s the best I got.

As I make my way down the steps from the South Entrance I hear the sound of multiple men fighting. I catch just a glimpse, but it looks like a gang of homeless men versus two members of a Christian Boy-Band, the boys are not all right. Not my problem, I cruise on into the shop, noticing a sign that says 24/7.

Inside an old man waits at the counter awkwardly. He kind of glances out the door, but mostly doesn’t a good call. On the tall desk they use, as a counter there is an ornate box. It is laced with rich gold and velvety, with looks more fitting of Tiffany’s and Louis Vuitton than unofficial train station gift shop.

“I’ll take it.”

He shakes his head, “Reserved.”

“By the boy-band?”

He smirks.

“They aren’t coming back. I’ll pay you triple what you’re asking.”

His eyes light up. “You don’t even know how much it is.”

I grab the cash from my purse and hold it out, “Is it more than 500 dollars?”

His smile is huge like I just flashed a million dollars, it almost makes me smile.

“It is 500 dollars,” he says like it’s an amazing coincidence.

Back on the street the homeless guys are giving the final beating to the boy-band, when one of the dirty bastards says, “Hey, she has the box.” and points with what I think is a hand, but is so covered in filth I can’t be sure.

A big guy, fresh from some deep garbage dive, stalks toward me, he smells rancid, like rotting meat. I step back for air and positioning. He steps, I round house kick his head in, literally.

It caves like an old pumpkin meeting a metal bat. Blood spurts on my leg and back, and I almost do that sickening shudder dance, but maintain some composure. Please don’t let that bastard be contagious. Maybe I’m a horrible person, but the thought of is he dead doesn’t cross my mind.

The garbage gang is stupefied, but their boss says, “Kill her and bring me the box!” He sounds like Batman if he picked up a 30 year chain smoking habit and suffered a deep neck wound from Joker.

“Sorry, guys. This is a gift for the one person that actually maters on this shit heap. So just back off an we’ll all go home.”

It doesn’t work. They move towards me with slow, sluggish steps like their ratty shoes are stuck in mud. That smell becomes unbearable and I realize the alley is full of these bastards; it’s a goddamn hobo filth cult.

The smell almost makes me toss my dinner, just as one of them lunges at me with an impossibly long and wobbly arm. I duck and then fly up smashing my hardtack shell travel bag right into his mangy face. A kettle bell swing my CrossFIT coach would be proud of.

This guy must have the same disease, cause his face damn near explodes all over the sidewalk. I wouldn’t mind sticking around and beating the crap out if these degenerates, and God knows it would be good to get some punches out before I have to see my brother Leon, but holy-fucking-Christmas I don’t want what ever flesh eating disease these psychos have. So I run.

I can hear them right be hind me, but growing fainter, Tracheotoman is yelling in Latin. I can’t quite make out the words.

My feet are flying and I can no longer hear them, but I can still smell them ever so, oh goddamn it. Slowing enough to lift up my luggage and sure enough, the smell is coming from the sick splattered all over the case. I’m burning everything when I get to Mom and Dad’s.

An alarm bell dings in my ear; the last train is departing soon. I’ll make it though. The turnstiles are just ahead. No time to slow down, I smash my way through, hoping to knock off some of the goop.

“Easy lady,” the ticket agent says as he closes up the booth. He sniffs the air and makes a gross face like I shit my pants.

This is the worst Christmas Eve ever. Running again I hear the ticket agent yell, then scream, but the heavy squeal of the train arriving drowns it out.

I board quickly trying to hide amongst the crowd, but nobody wants to be around me. The smell is pushing people away. The crowd starts to head for the two connected cars, as they would rather squeeze in than smell the funk I rolled in with.

Well that’s just fine, I’ll take a seat all to myself on this Christmas train.  Just a few people remain in the car, sitting as far away from me as possible. One man is lying across multiple seats with a free-weekly covering his face, probably passed out drunk.

As the train pulls away I see the Garbage Gang and Tracheotoman. I give them the finger and sit back in my seat glad this weird night is over.

The few people in my car pack into the other ones, finally giving in to the smell. It’s just the passed out drunk and me. His hand sways with the motion of the train. Then it twitches, just a little, then faster and again like he’s having a full on seizure.

Slowly the hand melts to a black waxy goop that looks more tentacle than hand. The man sits up the weekly falls from his face, he’s dirty, like the garbage dwellers from the alley.

This is not happening.

He grabs the emergency brake line and pulls it. I have to get out of here, but the two cars are so packed I would be stuck in the doorway. I consider pushing my way through when the man removes one option by breaking the door handle of the car closest to him.

The windows explode in as dark slug like shapes pile into the car from the cramped tunnel. They pool all around me and spire upward twisting into the people I thought were men. Now it hits me, I’ve gone insane. Cracked, broken under the enormous pressure of work, but that feels like bullshit. Work is rough but I eat it up. It must be something else. Maybe an infection from earlier? Oh god, I bet whatever disease they have turns your brain to mush too.

A fist hits me in the stomach, as I sit like a damn idiot. Well that’s it understanding time is over. Real or not I’m just going to kick the shit out of all these assholes, right after I catch my wind.

The slimy hand pulls me to my feet, perfect. I slug the man-thing in the ribs with both fists, but it doesn’t seem hurt him. I head-bunt it and it lets go as it falls to the ground. Good to know.

I grab the handrail above me and use its extra momentum to kick the closest one in the head. It pops spraying the car with dark black goo and bits of dead grey matter.

The creeps all lunge for me and I have to dive and roll to dodge them. With a gallop I side kick the next one’s head clean off, and realize the insanity is starting to grow on me.

Tracheotoman is in the car and he’s moving for the box. His goons are blocking me so I ditch the aisle and run over the seats, but I’m too late, he has the box.

The freak starts speaking Latin and I swear that box is glowing. I grab my purse, inside is a Tezla 3000x, the same model that was pulled because it allegedly caused people to catch fire. I successfully defended that company and this high-voltage beauty was a present.

When I push in on the two triggers blue bolts shoot out and connect to Tracheotoman. Sparks are flying and he’s flopping like a fish and screaming. Son of bitch starts to burn too, like a Christmas bonfire. The stench is horrid and he’s screaming in Latin, something about the end of the world as he melts to a flaming puddle. His goons melt back into those puddles of crap they grew from and find any open avenue to slip from the car.

I collect the Christmas box and head toward the front of the car, nobody is happy to smell me. They get the train cleared and moved another comes and takes us on.

As I walk up the steps to my parents’ house it is close to midnight. They must have been waiting cause my Mom opens the door and is about to give me a hug when she smells me and backs up holding her nose.

Lila stands beside her scrunching her face into Mom’s apron. I hold out the Christmas box and say, “Merry Christmas I got this for you.” She takes it with one hand over her nose. By the look in her eyes it’s a hit.

“Kendra finally, oh god what is that?” my Dad says as he joins them.  He shakes his head in disgust and pushes me out on to the lawn. “This is for your own good, and our own good,” he says, but I’m not paying attention. I watch Lila open the box and she smiles so big and looks up at something.

That’s when I feel an icy blast of water hit me in the face. My dad has turned the hose on me! I scream at him that it’s freezing and all he says is, “Sorry, can’t let you come in smelling like that.”

After a cold soaking from the hose my mom has me change in the garage. She brings me a robe and wraps me in thick comforter. Inside she serves up steaming hot mulled wine and I drink a few glasses. Lila comes up to me and says, “Thanks for giving me slug-fairy princess.”

I think I need to see a doctor. “Who?” I ask.

“From the pretty box. Slug-Fairy Princess was inside.”

She looks real cross at the air above her and shouts, “No Slug-Fairy Princess!” and slaps the air, I swear I hear a smack. “We aren’t destroying the world then there would be no more My Little Pony.” She gives it another whack then looks at me and says, “She’s a mean fairy but I keep her in line.”

“Oh, that’s good,” I say, wondering if I handed over a world conquering demon to a seven-year-old girl. Now I know I’m crazy. “Merry Christmas Lila. I’m glad you like the gift.”


Cross Posted at The Midnight Bards.

Home From November

November is Big Word Country, with dreams that span beyond the horizon. It is a land of work, and like most work involves pain, sacrifice and failure. All for the maddening glee of working in November, and finishing the job. Which I did, some 99k of it. Most of it was joy, so much in fact that I searched out blog posts, not about the despair of November, but about the joys of kicking-ass and making words. The dark time did come, and I was thankful that I had bookmarked a couple of posts about our shared misery, but for the most part it was all win.

Now though, it’s revision time and I have this 280-page gorilla sitting on my chest. The gorilla keeps me up at night, I can hear it breath, I can feel it watching me. Never-not on my mind, I’ve been up far too late, listening to fears and worries. The land of November is great, because it has a pit you can kick all that first-draft fear into and you get to high-five your fellows as you do it. That’s no longer the case; it’s just the big gorilla and me. Or maybe it is still the case and I’m just scared because so little of my writing hobby, read none-at-all, has involved heavy revision. Whatever the case, the only way to proceed is by getting to work, and Ninety-nine thousand words proved I could get to work!

November is also the land of, the now poorly timed, Thanksgiving. It was Felix’s first Thanksgiving, and we took a plane ride up to Grandma’s to visit Michelle’s side of the family. It was filled with mostly fun times, a little bump, but plenty of good food and cheer.

When I roll through the mall everybody looking at me.

When I roll through Boise everybody looking at me.

I left Idaho with an observation about family. Family is like bath water. It’s nice and refreshing at first, rejuvenates you, cleans all that dirt and pollutants from the outside world off real good! Light some candles, add some bubbles and you can just steep for days. But steep too long and you become weary of the water. It looks a little murky, but it is your murk, so why not linger a bit longer before having to go and face the world. Seriously though it is getting a little gross in here so I think I’ll get out. Do you want to use my bath water?

I missed the Bray Family this Thanksgiving and you were often in my thoughts. It was nice to be so welcomed by the Halby/Jung side of the family. It’s so refreshing to see other families and sit back and go, “humpf just like us. Humpf-humpf.” Nice bath water to ease into and all that.

Now to a more interesting topic, and the reason we are all here, Felix. The almost 11-month-old presents an interesting look at human behavior. My family lives close enough to us so we see them once a month, sometimes more. They met him while he had no fear of others, no stranger danger. We could hand him off to my Mom, Sister, Brother-in-law, Brother, Niece or stray transient, and he was content until he actually had a physical need.

Now he has learned stranger danger, –except strange babies or kids he welcomes them openly– Michelle’s family could barely hold him before he was crying and jumping for Momma. Heck, I could barely hold him at times. What’s interesting is that he had no concept of trust, so he gave it, but now that he kind of understands trust, he’s hesitant to give it out and will work back to a point of being secure with others.

Towards the end of our trip he had a better understanding of who his Grandma Connie is, and even hustled over to her when she had a big stack of paper cups, a favored toy they are. As the week wore by he became more comfortable playing with her and ventured further from us each time. We are hoping he remembers her and is a little more comfortable when she visits us for his first birthday.

Back to the topic at hand unlearning, relearning, expanding knowledge? Whatever we call it, the same is true of sharing. Felix is a social guy. We started taking him to play areas where the kids run wild, and I do mean run! Parents scream after their kids, “Be careful! Share! Don’t take that!” because they have learned mine, and exercise that knowledge greatly. Felix hasn’t learned mine. So even when we brought one of his own toys to the play pit, that is a mistake, and kid after kid grabbed it (sometimes from him), he just laughed. When he learns mine, he will again work back to the point he is now, where it’s okay for others to play with his toys when he’s not using them.

Babies have a neat kind of Zen. It is rooted in the lack of knowledge, but it’s an interesting stage to observe. It makes me wish I could strip away the useless “knowledge” I’ve gained that makes it hard for me to share, trust, or just be a decent human being. One of my goals is to pass as little baggage to Felix as possible. I want him to be a happy, friendly, outgoing dude. A whole person, and not just a baggage handler left unfulfilled by the weight of crap dumped on him. (I wonder if all this baggage talk is supported by our recent trip?)

His little mind is growing, learning, and all of it is through play and observation. He’s playing peek-a-boo with everything, clothes, books, and blankets if he can cover his eyes with it then its fair game. We can already tell he will be a big helper kid. He cries the moment we start sweeping unless we let him help. We bought a mini-push-broom for his birthday/Christmas and think it will be the radest gift ever once he can walk or stand on his own.

I’m looking forward to teenage years when he whines, not about having to sweep, because we will have a robo-vacuum by then, but about emptying/cleaning/unclogging whatever manual task comes with future robo-vacuums. I’ll hand him an old human powered broom and say, “Here you used to cry so much if we didn’t let you sweep. So do it the old way.” Only to watch his eyes rollback with that “ugh, parents” look all children can give, even adult children. Haha, I love you kiddo. 😀

Granny Makes A Delicious Pie

The grim frost-rot apples barely filled a quarter of the barrel. The sad sight brought a twinge of pain to Granny’s chest and sorrow to her eyes. The frost had ruined every apple, leaving only a precious few salvageable, and of those they were all shriveled shadows of an apple. There were hardly enough apples to make one whole pie, and Granny worried that it might be the first year she lost the Golden Hills Pie Baking contest, to that evil witch Bridle. She hoped Birdie wouldn’t have enough apples either.

An Old Crone cackled loudly behind her. She was bent and old, even to Granny, with one cloudy eye. “Poor Granny, I always did enjoy your delicious pies.” the Old Crone said. “It will be a shame if you don’t have apples enough for even one.”

Granny gave her a sideways glance. “I’m in good company, no one in the lands has apples.” she said with a frown.

“Not so, not so.” said the Old Crone, “Why I have just passed Birdie’s Bakery and saw, with this good eye, a great many apples Birdie brought in from out of country.”

Granny’s heart sank. Now there was no way she could beat Birdie, with so few apples, not even her superior skills could make up for lacking basic ingredients.

“Don’t fret Granny,” the Old Crone smiled, “I bring you good news. For I have always loved your pies the more and would like to help you, with your apple shortage.”

Granny was intrigued, but eyed the Old Crone suspiciously, for she had never seen her before, and Granny was too old and wise to believe a persons altruistic intentions. “No disrespect to you, my old Mother, but what’s in it for you? I have no extra coin to pay you for this help.”

The Old Crone laughed. “My payment will be a slice of your splendid apple pie.”

Granny smiled and said, “That is agreeable.”

“Excellent, now listen well. There is a cave at the end of the old trail. If you follow the cave wall to where it forks and stay right you will come to a hidden grove of apple trees. There you will find the most delicious apples, big as melons!” she said gesturing with her hands.

“I’ll go, but if I find no apple grove, you shall have not a slice of the paltry pie made with these few apples.” Granny said sternly.

“Humph. To be rebuked by my younger, and after offering only help no less. You shall find a grove. When you do you owe me a slice, and apologies.” the Old Crone said with her nose held high.

The Old Crone turned and walked off in a huff. When she was a good few houses down she let out a deep evil laugh. She began to spin and cackle and transformed back into Birdie. So caught up in her laughter was she that she lost her balance and fell flat on her face.

Granny followed the directions and sure enough she found the hidden grove. However, the trees were all barren. She frowned at the wasted day, but then noticed an odd, large, red rock slumped by one of the trees. Then she saw another and another. “Peculiar,” Granny said and walked over to investigate.

To her astonishment these were no red rocks. No, these were even more peculiar indeed. Great big apples, bigger than any melon Granny had ever seen. The apple’s were so big, that she barely managed to stack all three in her wooden cart. Loaded up she carefully headed for home whistling a merry tune. These three apples were going to save the day and win her another ribbon.

Once home Granny immediately set to work washing the apples in cool bath, as the measly apples from the harvest boiled in a pot with cinnamon and an assortment of spices only known to her. The rich aroma of stewing apples and cinnamon filled the air.

So it was to this horrid smell of murder and mayhem, of ice cold torture, that one Husk Spice awoke to. Granny screamed in horror as the skin of the apple split to reveal two fleshy eyes with seeded iris’ looking about. These eyes were quickly joined by a mouth screaming, “Huh-uh-Aarhhhhh!”

Stems grew and twisted about each other to form woven arms and legs. It then launched itself from the freezing torture bucket high into the air, landing in the slop bucket of chopped and cored sticky apples.

“Aghhhh!” Husk screamed again. This time more stems grew twisting into a woven armor that covered the giant apple.
“You, abomination.” Husk said reaching down and holding onto one of the discarded cores. “Why!” he screamed, “You’ll pay for your crimes witch!”

The two other giant apples began to shake, and sure enough they awoke too. Forming eyes, a mouth and limbs much like Husk. Only one, the smallest of them all, grew stemmed wings with a leathery apple skin. It flapped it’s wings, hovered in the air and took in the grizzly scene.

“Husk why do you…” it sniffed the air, “oh sweet mercy. What foul demon is at work!” the flying one said.

Granny regained her composure and stepped silently to the side, reaching wide for her broom.

“Crow Egg, it is the work of a witch!” Husk called to the flying apple, known as Crow Egg.

Husk leveled a guilty stem at Granny, who had managed to grab the broom. Crow looked toward Granny, just in time to be smacked in the face with the bristly broom. Crow fell from the air and landed on the floor with a thud.

“Alright,” Granny said circling with the broom, “where’s the other one? Eh, where’s your little friend.”

Husk laughed and climbed out of the slop bucket. “You’ll never find Prairie Spy. Master of shadows, travels unheard on any ground.”

The carving board hit the floor and Granny spun around, wielding the broom like a martial master. With keen old eyes she noticed the butchers knife was missing. Her ears perked up when she heard the scamper of little feet. From the dull shadows beneath the big block table, the butchers knife flew for her neck. She caught it with a deft hand and winged it back into the shadow, it struck deep into the floor.

“Ha,” Granny laughed, “you don’t think I’ve been in more than a few kitchen knife fights? You know nothing of competitive baking! One way or another, my bad apples, you’ll make a good pie!” When she turned to the slop bucket Husk was gone, and Crow too.

Husk, Crow and Prairie listened to Granny’s rant as they hid in the pantry, peeking through the smallest of cracks in the door.

“We’ve dealt with witches before, we know how to take care of this one.” Husk said tightening the five stems of its hand into a fist.

Through the crack in the pantry door they watched as Granny slid knifes and a rolling pin into her apron, then placed a colander on her head like a tin-helmet soldier.

“She appears to be more formidable than other witches.” Crow said.

“Agreed. We haven’t even tested her magics yet and already she has come close to killing us.” Prairie added.

Husk looked contemplative, for an apple, then said, “Don’t fear. We were on the defensive. Surprised and off guard. Now we are aware of the witchly threat. She’ll be the one to die.” Husk looked at Crow and asked, “Can you get the top hinge off this door?” Crow nodded. “Prairie, I’m gonna need you to get us weapons, the sharper the better.” Husk said.

Prairie nodded and disappeared. Husk moved to take out the bottom door hinge and pointed up to the top, signaling Crow to take it out.

Granny held out the big roller like a club looking for those audacious apples. A funny scratching sound came from the pantry. She smiled and silently stepped toward the pantry door.

“Oh where, oh where could my little apples be? Are they still in my kitchen?” she said. “Are they still in their grave!”

Before she could pull the door open there was a loud THUMP from the other side. The heavy wood door angled sideways and fell upon her, knocking her to the ground and the rolling pin from her hand. She was trapped under the door. Crow flew above her and out of sight. The big one, Husk, hopped up on the door and took loud, heavy, stompy steps, that smacked the door painfully into her. With each step Granny groaned in pain.

“Get off me you red devils!” she cursed.

Husk just grinned down at her. Crow landed beside Husk, barely managing to hold the big roller with both hands. Husk took the roller, easily holding it in one stemmed hand, and slung it over the shoulder. “You like pies witch?” Husk asked with a malicious smile.

“Nope. Never made a pie in my life.” Granny said with a sheepish grin.

“Well,” Husk began with a sick grin, “you’ll make a fine one in death.”

Granny heard two knives running together, the sharp edge grinding along the dull. The source of the sound appeared right before her eyes, but she could not recall seeing Prairie Spy approach. Husk let the big roller fly and knocked Granny out in one blow.

Later that day, Birdie came by to see if the enchanted apples had taken care of Granny. She peeped in the window and saw a delicious looking pie cooling on the counter. Birdie was about to curse when a strange voice called to her from the kitchen and invited her in.
Birdie entered with caution. To her splendid horror she found the apples, doing an abysmal job of impersonating Granny. They stood on each others shoulders, wore her dress and apron, even her crudely scalped hair. But that big red apple face couldn’t be hidden.

“Don’t go stealing that pie now, it’s a special pie.” Crow said, in a comical attempt at an old lady voice.

“Of course not, Granny.” Birdie said with a placid smile. “What type of pie is it?”

“Why my dear it’s Granny’s Own Fresh Meat Pie.” Crow said, with an evil guffaw.

Unable to control their mad merry, Husk and Prairie burst into malicious laughter from beneath Granny’s dress. The evil laugh was too infectious and now Birdie joined in, thrilled that Granny was still in the pie competition.

Later that evening, Birdie wasn’t laughing when Granny’s Own Fresh Meat Pie won the Grand Prize.

 


*Crossposted at The Midnight Bards.

 

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Baby Urgency

LIVE FROM COVINGTON IT’S HALLOWEEN NIGHT

It’s Friday, that means it’s time for another urgent Felix post. A post written in segments as Felix napped! No photos because we’re out and about.

So many interesting things are happening with Felix right now. He’s learning motor control, evident by his incredible enjoyment of: opening and closing doors, standing at the office chair and twisting it back-and-forth or playing ring-around-the-chairsie, grabbing a toy and pushing it all over the house as he crawls like a maniac kid, rolling toys back to us and stealing my glasses every time the opportunity arises.

The first time he crawled over and took my glasses was one of those magical moments where you perceive more depth to what’s happening than there actually is. I had just built him a tower to vanquish and he was having fun knocking it over. So I took the time to send an email from my phone. I was in the middle of composing the message when he popped up looking slightly disgruntled and then grabbed the glasses from my face, raking the skin on my brow just a bit. He shook my glasses and vocalized something that sounded like a declaration.
I looked at Felix and said, “I get it buddy. I need to put my phone away and really see you.”
He smiled playfully and let me take my glasses back. I thought, wow, that was sort of a deep reverse parenting moment we just had. My glasses were barely on for a second before Felix lunged for them again, once more raking my brow.
“Okay,” I said, “now it’s a game, but the first time really meant something.”
He smiled and banged my glasses into the floor. Babies, we can learn so much from them.

And I sincerely mean that. I joke around a lot, but babies are persistent and driven, injury barely slows them down, minor bonks and falls are quickly brushed off and then it’s back on their feet. They have no shame and only seek to do what they want regardless of dangers or foolishness. If babies were like adults most of us would still poop our pants and crawl around safely on the floor. If I have learned anything from Felix it is to be fearless in my endeavors, and push past setbacks. Because in the end that’s how we get what we want and that’s how we learn.

Climbs off soapbox hops back on topic.

Felix is learning to interact with his world and impress his will upon the objects around him. In a previous post I mentioned that he knows our schedule, so with all these knew ways to control his environment and growing abilities to understand the patterns of his environment this should make him the most content baby that ever crawled the Earth. A Super Baby who never cries. Well you know nothing about baby urgency.

Baby Urgency is that irrational need to make 110% goddamn sure we understand that he requires attention. Not just attention, but immediate attention with a swift resolution. Most of his baby urgency happens when we’re getting ready to go, he really wants us to remember him, even though we have a perfect record of always bringing him along.

When it’s just the two of us and I need to do chores, or anything that requires two hands and moderate attention, I’ll put on the Baby Bjorn.
Now, a little bit of background here so there is no confusion on how we use the Bjorn. The Baby Bjorn is only worn if I need to take Felix with me. I do not wear it for fun, or fashion or as a conversation starter. At no point in time has anyone but Felix occupied the Baby Bjorn. It is covered in his drool, it is certifiably his by the Rules and Codes of Baby Law. But, the moment I put it on he starts crying and scoots over to me. Then takes a tight hold of my clothes and tries to make that epic climb all babies dream of; that’s where they grab on at the knee and then using only their bare hands climb all the way up and into your arms.
I’ve always found this confusing given the solid history of only putting Felix in the Bjorn. But then I started looking at it from his perspective. I used to be spend most of the waking day at work, leaving before he woke up and getting home for the last couple of hours before bed, it sucked. So to Felix, I guess he knows I can leave him. That’s a sad thought.
We share the apartment with two cats, and a couple of mirrors. By baby logic I can infer that there might be 2-4 other people in this house. Two, or four, other people who are trying to get in the Bjorn. So like a crazed fanboy he lines up once the Bjorn goes on and screams, “Pick me, pick me!” I always tell him, “Alright Felix, just this once, I’m gonna do you a solid and let you ride in the Bjorn.” It makes me laugh and I time it to when I’m actually loading him into the carrier so he lets out a happy sigh and double arm happy slam like he understands what I said. (On a side note, babies don’t get enough credit for their awesome gestures.)

His Baby Urgency also goes into overdrive when he’s hungry. If I don’t have a bottle prepped and ready it can be a full on cryfest the entire time. Even if the bottle is ready, when I set it down so we can get seated, he cries out, “No you fool! We need the bottle!” So now I just let him hold the bottle as we take a seat.

The baby carrier and feedings don’t happen on a precise schedule, but do happen with consistency. A consistency he should be able to grasp, if he can grasp the general time that Michelle comes home at. Yet, this urgency get’s the better of him and causes him to cry out. One day he’ll know that the Bjorn always means a ride and I’ll be a little sad, because it’s another mile-marker on the road out of babytown.

This is a short post today. We had a very busy week preparing for Halloween and I had to finish a short story submission. I’ll post a new Felix comic, soon, to make up for it.

From the whole Bray Family have a Happy Halloween!

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Felix Takes A Holiday

I wish I could take a holiday, but it is Friday and this post must be written. Authors note, usually I write these with enough time to do a printed line edit, but I had to skip it for this post because of time constraints.

This pumpkin is too big, and oddly shaped.

“You know there’s a sign right here that says don’t climb on the pumpkin? If we get in trouble I’m telling everyone you put me up on this.” -Felix

This past weekend, between ominous amounts of rain, we managed to take Felix to the pumpkin patch! He behaved himself better than most college revelers, or rioters, but still brought that “I’m gonna do what I want” attitude that is quite charming on babies. This was, what I will consider his second look at celebrated American Holidays. The first one, also coinciding with his first sleepover, was the 4th of July.
On the 4th we were concerned that the loud fireworks would scare him, or keep him up, but neither of those happened. The festivities of fireworks start so late that he was plenty tired when my Mom’s street put on their annual 4-hour show of carnage and eggy farts (Seriously, who puts the fart powder in fireworks?). Felix was outside for only a bit of the show, and would look up to the sky, with an unimpressed look on his face as colorful fireworks exploded in the dark  and powder stained night. We were very impressed. When Michelle took him inside to sleep he fell right to sleep, fell right to sleep for a baby. That was his first 4th of July, I think he would say, “Didn’t suck.”
True, holidays do exist between the 4th and Halloween, but none are observed quite like them. Or we personally don’t observe them quite like the 4th and Halloween. No offense intended to holiday enthusiasts.

What do you mean you don't lick them?

In a moment I shall decide if this pumpkin is the one.

At the pumpkin patch we had no concerns about loud noises and fear, just about the rain. Felix handled the experience very well. He enjoyed a little Sugar Pumpkin that he held onto for most of the day, and tried to keep it covered in drool believing that was how one obtained ownership of the pumpkin. Luckily, his Nana later bought it for him, “I bought him his FIRST pumpkin!” she gloated. My mom is cool like that.

A baby claims ownership by covering the item in drool.

This pumpkin needs more spice.

He helped get his cousin out of an overly long photo shoot. They looked adorable sitting together on a wicker bench staged with all the rustic fall dressings, so we were all snapping photos. Soon though he had enough, looked right at her and said, “I’ll get us out of this.” and then turned to us screaming and crying. End of photo shoot.

“Thanks Felix.” -Cousin E.

Now that Felix is older, he is able to take in the environment more, and I mean that beyond his ability to grasp objects and put them in his mouth. We walked him through the animal pins, and he was impressed by the larger animals. This was shown through grunts, huffs, smiles, bounces and reaching out for the animal. Felix is quite the cat wrestler, number one in the league, and when he reached out for the mini-donkey, he had the same look in his eyes that he gets right before wrestling a cat. Good luck buddy, that donkey is out of your weight class. It was mostly the bigger animals that he liked, the ducks and the baby chickens just didn’t cut it. Mostly, I believe, because Felix thought a wrestling match with them would be so one sided as not to be worth it.
Felix is at an age where he can do way more than ever before, and this will only continue to become more true, but it makes him intent on being part of the experience. While Michelle and I enjoyed an ear of roasted corn, my Mom had to work hard to keep Felix entertained. After I finished my cob I gave it to Felix and he pretended to feed it to Michelle mimicking what he saw us doing. It was a reminder that at times his frustration is from not being included, especially those times when he’s not included for safety reasons, when all he wants to do is learn and understand why or how we do the things we do. Knowledge and understanding are two admirable qualities to get worked up about.

Now the baby feeds you. Power of Revers Parenting.

This is how you eat corn on the cob.

The pumpkin patch was just one part of the Halloween ritual. We still need to paint the two pumpkins we picked up, hopefully this weekend, and Michelle is working hard on some homemade costumes. She’s going to be a wizard (the classic stars on robe kind), I’m going as Black Jesus (because the new show on Adult Swim is amazing) and Felix is going to be a Leprechaun (he’s a short guy with red hair, slamdunk!). The hidden joke here is: a wizard, Black Jesus and a Leprechaun walk into a bar, only one of them is real. Our costumes are super leveled!

We’ll be showing Felix off at Michelle’s work and then heading to my moms so he can see real trick-or-treaters, as they still go door-to-door in her neighborhood. It seems so odd to go trick-or-treating at the mall. We grew up in an apartment complex and basically you would have a solid line/parade of kids going door-to-door, I remember parents just standing in the doorway during the peak hours as their was never a break in the line. As we grew older our boundaries increased and we would go off the complex. The neighborhoods were vast, but  word-of-mouth, and Halloween legend, would always spread about where to get the best and biggest candy so we would make a mad dash for those blocks.

You don't need a car-seat when you're driving a tractor.

“Felix allow me to rant to you as I drive this tractor.” said Pops. “Oh nooo.” Felix said.

(INCOMING RANT) I was one of those kids who was asked, “Aren’t you a little old to be trick-or-treating?” To which my answer is and always will be: No sir, or madam, I am not. Furthermore, in a day and age when too many kids abandon childhood early for young adulthood we should encourage those who chose to remain in the blissful state of childhood longer than their peers. So when you come to my door, if you are a teenager who has taken the time to prepare a costume and say “Trick-or-treat” I will gladly give you candy, with no judgement and no condescending remarks before acquiescing to your request out of fear of your trick reprisal. Because, like you I was a 15 year old trick-or-treater. I know the slings you suffer from friends who are now too cool for kids stuff, and rude adults jealous of the longevity of your Halloween career. Yes, they look back and think damn, look at this kid, I could have gotten two, maybe three more good years of trick-or-treating, why did I listen to my a-hole friends? Why?!?!  So no, you are never too old to go trick-or-treating during regulation hours of Halloween night. (END RANT)

No more door-to-door is a sad loss for childhood, and commentary on the state of child safety here in the US, but maybe that’s being too judgmental. Maybe once I get in the groove of getting free candy from stores and business’ I’ll think it’s pretty awesome and incredibly safe. Because no corporation has ever betrayed the public’s trust, right?
Whatever the case, I can’t wait for Felix to get the real Halloween experience, that is, of course, collecting ludicrous amounts of candy anyway you can. That day is far off, but we’re giving him the solid indoctrination he needs to make it a reality.

Number Two, But Not Doo-Doo: A Ramble

It is not easy being Number Two. Just kidding, it actually is a little bit easy. Michelle is very well read, like books a week well read, and she keeps up with many sites and blogs. So as we’ve been going through the new parent adventure she’s been reading up on the subject quite heavily. She told me about a piece she read where the husband felt slighted by the new born baby, as it felt like he was suddenly second in his wife’s affections, no duh. I laughed for a good long time, and then we made up jokes about what such a person would do to try and gain advantage over a baby. I know it’s not good form to make fun of, or dismiss, anothers feelings, but you’re a grown ass man act like one. In the end the husband did come around and that family is very happy, so all is well.

But that’s not the Number Two I want to talk about, as I think the majority of expectant, and new Fathers, know that they will be second to the baby. As we should be, and from a Fathers perspective Mothers are second to the baby too. That’s how it should be, King Baby he rules all, Number One in our hearts g. The real Number Two this post is about is who’s Number Two in Felix’s eyes, and that honor is all mine.

Felix and Pops

Number Two, I’m thinking of replacing you with this empty bag of chips. It’s amazing!

It’s easy to go you’re dead last pathetic, but let’s remember that I’m 2 out of 2, and the other person can literally feed him from her body. Unfair advantage? Yes. But those are the facts, and unless you’re some sort of super dad you’re most likely Number Two, right now. Number Two comes with a few sad violin moments, where your gut reaction is to feel slighted and say, “I could’ve done that for you.” followed by crying in a corner. Yet, it also comes with a big ace up the sleeve.

First, let’s take a look at the demands of being Number One. Felix  always wants to be around Michelle. Think of it, she tries to do anything and Felix comes crawling over to her, even if we are in the middle of playing. His internal Number One alarm goes off and he makes a beeline for her (a baby beeline is quite squiggly and may involve several pit stops).  I’ll make all sorts of crazy sounds, drum on toys or the floor, even stack towers to the ceiling for him to knock over, and at times it will not be enough to get him to willing crawl back.

(Humorous aside: I can’t even tell you how much he loves knocking over towers these days. It’s my go to method for distracting him, or refocusing his attention. My theory is that he views the towers as an insult, an unwelcome peasant mocking the Kings inability to stand. So he smashes the insolent towers who dare standeth in the presence of King Felix! I always congratulate him for ruling with an adorable and tiny iron fist. Then scold the tower for insulting the King by standing in his majesty’s presence. Now that I’ve taught Felix to high five he validates this theory for me, up top!)

Never stand before a crawling King.

Insolent tower you dare stand in the presence of your King!

Back to our story, he just loves being with Number One more than anyone else. When he’s hurt, or startled by the sudden effect of gravity, he’ll reach out for Michelle. Needs something, sees me, reaches for me, sees Michelle, screams louder and reaches for her. Though, he’s started to make a game of this where he’ll reach for Michelle, spend sometime sobbing with her, then reach for me, spend sometime sobbing with me, then reach out for Michelle again, and repeat until he’s happy. It’s kind of funny. I like to imagine Felix says, “Have you heard how sad I am?” as he reaches for the other person. Once held he quickly forgets he was just being held by the other and thinks, I need to let them know how sad I am, as he reaches out again.

Part of my Number Two status is beyond my control. Michelle pumps, and we give him as much breast milk as possible, but he does get a bottle of formula a day. Every day he gives me the same look when the formula comes around. It’s a startled confused look that gravitates to mild annoyance. I imagine him saying, “Pfft! What is this? You had one job, to get me milk! M-I-L-K, milk! I don’t know what this swill is, but when I’m done, I’m leaving you an angry review on Yelp.” Mumbling as he drinks begrudgingly, “This is why you’re Number Two. Can’t even get me proper milk.” Then he takes the bottle out in a huff, “My Momma get’s me milk. It’s always good, its always the right temperature. And what do you do? This.” Boom! Felix drops the bottle on the ground like a boss. He is the boss, and I forgot to say happy National Boss Day yesterday. Ugh, that’s probably also why I’m Number Two. Oh the sad life of Number Two.

Done eating!

“I wish I could rate this feeding 0 stars.” -Felix B.

What’s sort of amazing is that he knows our schedule. If we have to use formula for his second feeding he drinks an entire bottle. But when that third feeding comes around he’ll only drink half, or less. He knows that Michelle will be home soon and says, “Naw. I’ll wait for the real thing.” Felix’s ability to recognize schedules and determine his own eating habits has been really cool to see. I even tried to encourage him to drink more formula by switching sides and presenting the bottle in new ways (Formula now with more spins!), but he quickly puts a stop to it, because he knows Mom will be home soon. This is awesome, until Michelle’s bus runs late and he get’s real fussy. Then we have some solid food as we wait.

Whoa, we ended up kinda off topic. This was supposed to be about, Number One has some pressure, that Two doesn’t have, and that grants a certain advantage. Right! Advantage! My advantage, back on topic.

My advantage, sleepy time. When Michelle walks him to sleep sometimes he’ll pop his head up and just stare at her, or make soft babbling noises, perhaps those noises are a friendship song he’s made up for his Number One, just like Picard did for Riker. But when Pops puts him to sleep it’s all different. He rarely lifts his head up to make eye contact. Instead of a great friendship song I imagine his sentiments to be, “Oh hey big guy. Guess it’s just us. Well I’m a little tired,” overtly fake yawn, “so I’m just gonna take a quick nap. But we’ll play when I wake up, okay. Who’s my big guy? Who’s my big guy? You’re my big guy. Boop.” then Felix falls asleep mumbling, “Number One set course for the park. Engage!”. And this is wonderful. Advantage, Number Two. Who has advantage? Big Guy.

Being Number Two also means I’m Felix’s second favorite person in the whole world, sorry Mom it’s true, and that’s mighty nice. We do have fun times together, stacking towers and knocking them over, chasing cats, wrestling cats and stealing glasses. There is nothing quite like being the second most important person in a child’s life. The only thing better is being Number One.

Number One and Felix at the park!

Number One we’re having fun!

The Incredible Dynamic Size Shifting Baby or My Biggest-Little Fan

This past January my wife delivered our first child, Felix, in what was an incredibly long and difficult labor. I still recall when he was finally born, and how GIGANTIC he looked. The weight of that moment was so heavy, and meaningful, that my mind actually backed the overwhelming emotions and decided that we were looking at the first four-foot tall baby ever born. It wasn’t until the nurse placed him on the baby warmer, where I watched as they forced air into his deflated lungs that were too startled to inflate on their own, and raised his limp arms just to watch them fall flat, that he suddenly shrunk to the 7lb baby that was born that day. Felix eventually began to breath on his own, and his tiny baby arms stopped falling flat, as he finally acclimated to the post-womb world, but he’s never stopped changing size.

Newborn Felix

New born Felix, such a peaceful little guy.

He’s almost eight months and three weeks old now, and delights in crawling, climbing and cruising. Most mornings I’ll come into our room, after he wakes up, to ferry him via Pops’ Sky Service to the living room. There is a treacherous tiled hallway that one must pass to get there and it can be rough on baby hands and knees. Some mornings he’ll crawl towards me and right past my outstretched arms saying, No thanks Pops I’m making my own way today. As I watch him crawl by and out to the living room he looks so big, like Rick Moranis accidently blew up my baby. Felix will turn to me when he’s past the barren tile lands and give me his big boy smile. Then I’ll scoop him up and give him a big morning hug. It’s only when I’m holding him in my arms that he becomes the average sized eight month old that he is. When I set him down again and he wanders over by the desk, or to a chair and pulls himself up, I wonder how he grew so big, even though he’s still so small.

Toddler-Wobbler

Felix cruising with his Brio!

That dynamic shifting size is just one of the many improbabilities that make him so incredible. Even with all the overly excited eye-gouging, bed hogging, stomach kicking, poop smearing, hair pulling, glasses stealing, wake you up with a slap and dirty face rubbing he’s still the most amazing person I’ve ever met.
This could be explained by the fact that babies are essentially the biggest fan you will ever have, even if you are some rocktor superstar. He’ll get so excited to see you that he falls over, granted standing is not his strongest ability, but still he can hold himself up for days. Yet he falls over when Momma comes home from work.
Even when he’s content and playing with a toy, he’ll notice what you’re up to and he has to do that same thing right now! If you try and deny him he’ll flail wildly in protest, because whatever item you have becomes his number one need! This is the kind of influence companies spend billions of dollars chasing, and I got it. I can sell Felix anything. I’ve traded him an empty bottle to get my iPhone 5s back, all because he’s so fanatical that he has to have whatever I’m interested in. Also, because he doesn’t really grasp their differences, other than their taste and textures, babies are the ultimate epicureans.

What’s truly remarkable is how little you have to try, at times, to get your biggest-little fan to laugh. Lately I sit him in my lap, look at him, but say nothing for about 5 seconds, then go “Boo!” and he laughs his head off, even after the upteenth time. The best part is he knows the joke is coming, and he’ll crack a little smile in anticipation. The most wonderful smile I’ve ever seen. It’s like a review for a series, he’s saying, “Loved the last installment! Can’t wait for the next one! Where does he come up with this stuff! 5-stars!” Then you drop the next “Boo!” and it blows his mind.

Super Felix!

Super Felix!

You do have to put in work for your biggest-little fan, but the work is more than worth the rewards. Feedings and changing clothes, all that is fun “work”. There are two areas that I worried would be tedious; diaper changes and the dreaded sleepless crying baby. The diaper changes became the norm, so much so that if his waste gets on my hand my first thought isn’t, Ewwww! Gross someone else’s POOOOOP! Instead it’s, does the color and consistency look healthy? Let me Google Image Search for a quick reference. Looks good. Then I wash it away. That simple. The dreaded late night can’t sleep crying baby, well we lucked out and he doesn’t do that often. When he has I will admit to feeling a good amount of pride when I finally got him to sleep. That did help, a little, with the overwhelming sense of exhaustion the next day.  There’s also an adorability factor when he’s sleepless, but not a crying-sleepless, he’ll pop his head up as we’re walking and give me a big smile that says, I’m super happy we’re hanging out right now. I’m a sucker for this move and it has earned him extra playtime. What I’ve found is that there is nothing so difficult that I wouldn’t do it for my son. We’ve pretty much given up beer and Netflix for him, if you can do that you can do anything.

These days I get to do anything, and everything, for Felix most days, as this past July Michelle went back to work and I started staying home with him. It was a big change for the three of us but we’ve found our rhythm, and this is the first time I’ve felt like more than just a cog in the machine as I go about my daily duties. I am actually doing something valuable and truly worthwhile.  Felix has been an inspiration to write again, and not just hobbyist-write, but work-the-craft-write, pull out the Chicago Manual of Style and revise-revise-revise-write. I’m up at 3am, mostly working, Monday-to-Friday and 4:30am on the weekends. None of this would be possible without them, and I am so thankful to have my family and this time.

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Is this thing on…

Blows dust off blog. Shakes it out. Smooths it back down.

Time for this guy to jump back on the writing saddle!

Expect new flash fiction and posts about my son Felix!

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Flash Fiction Challenge: 200 Words – The Final Chapter

‘Bout time I blow the dust of this old blog and post!

Chuck Wendig put up a great Flash Fiction Challenge and I had take the bait. I choose to wrap up the story Cold as it was in the same interest as my current work in progress. It was also a challenging prospect as there are serious questions that have to be wrapped in 200 words. Hope you enjoy it.

*The previous parts of the story are copied and pasted from Courtney Cantrell’s site. Thanks for gathering them all up!

Cold

by Shane Vaughan, Courtney Cantrell, Adrienne, Wanderer and Jonathan Bray

Shane wrote:

He is cold. It’s always cold around this time of year. The sun decides it’s had enough and pops off for a quick solstice nap. Not that he minds. He’s used to the cold by now.

He props his collar up, puffs his scarf to cover all exposed skin; all that dead, gray skin. He tucks his gloves down over the wrists and sucks on the butt of his last cigarette. Damn things never last. His wife used to say it’d give him cancer, not that it matters now. He lowers his woolen packer hat over his brow and stares at his reflection in a shopfront window. He used to recognize himself, now what is he?

It had all happened so fast; the heart attack; cracking his head on the tile floor; the ethereal sensation that he was losing life, as though it were seeping out of a hole somewhere. And then the doctors. The nurses. The scalpel. He saw it all, from outside his body. He watched as they operated, trying so heroically to save his life, but in the end the line went dead.

So what the hell is he doing back on Winthrop street in high Winter, and how did he return?

Courtney wrote:

He shuffles down the sidewalk, leaves skittering at his feet. They’re as dead as he, but at least their hop-skipping gives a pretense of life. The cold slows him, as though he’s walking through vats of the red gelatin his daughter snacks on. Childish giggles echo in his memory.

He wonders what his funeral was like. What they wore. How they sat. If her tears were as loud as her laughter.

Did his grave the next morning warrant an investigation?

His sluggish foot kicks a loose rock at a passerby. The woman glances at him, frowning. But then her eyes widen. He already knows her thoughts. Too many other well-meaning lips have spoken them. Sir? You look ill. Can we help?

And in undertones: Is he contagious?

That question always makes them back away. Even now, the woman veers aside, covering her mouth and nose with her hand. Just in case. Can’t be too careful.

If only he could tell them this is no illness they can catch by breathing his air. He shies away from them, too. Even in the cold, they smell too good. He places his hand over the scarf covering his own mouth. Even through the wool, he can feel the fangs.

Adrienne wrote:

He had forgotten how hungry he is as he studied his reflection in the shop window. Now, as he turns and watches the woman scurrying away, he wonders if anyone would notice her absence. A sharp pain brings him back to reality. He was clenching his jaw tightly, piercing his lower lip with his fangs. It wasn’t the first time he’s done this. Luckily he heals quickly. Shaking his head, he turns away from the woman, now a small dot a few blocks away. Now is not the time to slip up.

He keeps moving, fighting the cold breeze as it assaults his legs and threatens his pace even more. Behind him, a shadow flits under the yellow street lamps, quickly concealing itself in the shadows once more. He smiles. His lengthy pause in front of the shop window had done the trick. His plan is working beautifully.

Every move he had made since he dug himself out his own grave had been witnessed by that shadow, and it was now time to find out who, or what, it was. He turns the corner and immediately enters through the first door he comes to. The house has been vacant for years, and it is the perfect place for a predator to trap his prey.

Wanderer wrote:

The house smells slightly damp and musty. Strangely comforting, he thinks. It reminds him of the cool dark earth and the way it clung to him as he clawed his way out of the ground. A cracked mirror hangs crookedly on the wall and he unwraps his scarf, looking at his face in the spider-webbed surface. His skin looks like the cracking dried mud of a riverbed. He turns away, sliding into an alcove in the entryway. It wouldn’t do to have his pursuer spring the trap too soon.

He swallows against the wave of hunger that comes over him. No. He only wants answers. Why should a thirty five year old man with no history of heart disease drop dead of a heart attack? And why should that same man refuse to stay dead? There was a slight tickle in his gums and he consciously breathes through his nose until the fangs retract. He has a good idea why he isn’t dead or, more accurately, why he is undead, so the question is how?

He hears the front door creak and lowers into a crouch, reminding himself he only wants answers. The aroma of warm blood fills the foyer.

I concluded with:

The shadow moves forward into the dim light, revealing a woman. Her face known, but not placed. He grabs her and shoves her against the wall.
“Why have you been following me?”
She screams. “Please, take what you want. Just don’t hurt us.”
“Us?” He looks around, photos of of his daughter appear and fade like dying ghosts. This was their house. What happened here? How long has he been like this?
“Where is she?”

A memory half recalled.  His wife, a drink, then pain. He reaches for her she laughs. Darkness. His daughters voice in the darkness, a melodic grapnel for his soul.

“I’m sorry.” She whimpers.
Fangs sink into her before he can think to stop. She withers to a corpse in his arms, the blood runs to rot. He chokes, spits the dry gore from his mouth. The corpse is familiar. The ruined dress and wispy hair. He called her wife.

Footsteps run, he follows. She’s older now, but it’s his daughter. He smiles with bloody horrific teeth.
“This isn’t what I wanted.” She stabs the knife into her heart.
“No!”

The house is empty, numb. Now he waits for the cold. He’s used to the cold.

A Damn Fine Older Brother

Growing up my older brother Jeremy was a blessing and a curse. Our Father was never around, but that did little to stop us from inheriting his stature. When Jeremy was 13 he reached his full height of 6’1″. His shoulders were broad and his chest was powerful. He always had a daring look in his eyes and confidence to back it up. I was the antithesis to his existence, a fat, shy kid with thick glasses. Even with our differences we were brothers and happily took with it every duty it entailed.

One day we were riding our bikes to the park, in a moment of hesitation and then stupid urgency I cut across a busy street to catch up to Jeremy. A van narrowly missed me as it came to a screeching halt. I stopped my bike to survey the near accident and give an apology. The driver’s door flung open and a man stepped out. He began yelling at me and questioning my intelligence in a rather rude way. When confrontation came the turtle was my totem, and so I sat stationary on my bike hoping this man would stop screaming before I started crying.

Jeremy must have heard him and wandered over from the park. He quickly sized up the situation and said “Shut the f— up, and get back in your car.” The man looked at my 13 year old brother and quickly entered his van. We heard the door lock as he drove off.
“What a bitch.” Jeremy said.
“The punks lucky he left.” I added.
Jeremy laughed deep and loud. That was my brother, the boy who frightened men.

He was a force of nature to the other kids in school. Nobody messed with him, not even our own suburban brand of tween gang bangers. Heck, most didn’t even mess with me and I looked like the fat kid from Hook, you know the one who folds up into a ball and rolls down the plank way. But only most kids, some kids still saw easy prey and jumped all over me like hyenas on a plump and wounded gazelle. The only problem was the biggest, baddest, king of the jungle was this gazelle’s brother.
Jeremy was a good older brother, but we still argued, fought, and made fun of each other. One day we were in the halls of our middle school on our way to the clubhouse to play Street Fighter II. Jeremy was laying into me, mocking me and kicking at my feet as I walked in front of him. Apparently he had deemed my method of victory in one of yesterday’s Street Fighter II games as underhanded, and wanted to know if I thought I could replicate the trouncing in real life. I did my best to assure him that this was not a thought I could ever entertain, and that the very idea was so ridiculous that the words used to form the question were practically unintelligible to me. This seemed to appease his ego, and he changed the subject to the characters I could not use against him in Street Fighter II because of my cheap tactics. The tactic of victory through coercion he held to be a time honored tradition and the beginning of my exposure to meta-gaming. When he was finished I was left with Balrog, a character I never really played because, pointedly, he sucks. “Let’s see you beat me now when you can’t be a cheap pussy.” Jeremy said, and once more he began taunting and mocking me.

One of our classmates decided to join his fun as we passed by and spoke up to contribute an insult. It would have upset me, but I knew something he didn’t. My heckler, this bastion of power that other kids flocked to and followed, the king of the jungle was my brother. Jeremy turned so fast the kid almost didn’t have time to finish his critical commentary on the state of my developing manhood. “What the hell did you just say about my brother!” The kids face contorted into a mask of shock and terror. He eyed the exit 30 yards down, but was either too scared to move, or knew that Jeremy would cut him down like a two ton truck hitting a tricycle. “I… You were…” the kid stammered. In one swift motion Jeremy charged the kid slamming his left arm into the kid’s chest so hard his feet left the ground. Jeremy used the momentum to violently pin the kid against a locker. The protruding handle and lock could not feel good on his back. “Nobody makes fun of my brother.” He said. His voice was calm and certain, as if he was commenting on the truest principle in the universe. This certainty filled me with a momentary sense of pride and self-worth that was often missing in those days. With his free hand he slugged the kid in the stomach, and let him drop to the floor wheezing. Jeremy then pressed his foot into the kids back until he was flat on the floor. “Don’t ever say a f—ing word to him again.” The King eyed his fallen prey and was content with the natural order he had restored to his lands, so we walked on.

“You didn’t have to do that” I said. “Hey, nobody makes fun of my brother.” he said. His face was sincere and filled with brotherly compassion. “Nobody but you.” “That’s right.” His face held a different brotherly look and I thought it best to drop the subject. “F—ing Balrog.” I said in a whine of exhaustion. “Yeah, Balrog.” He laughed, already anticipating victory.

We had our pains, but I wouldn’t trade my two brothers for the world. You should hear the stories about Anthony!

The Santa Nik – Flash Fiction

Chuck Wendig is having a flash fiction contest. 1,000 words on the “War on Christmas” could win you free swag. Writer’s swag!
Here’s my entry. Hope you enjoy it!

¨

The ramshackle sleigh glided over the snow packed lands. It sprayed a powdery mist of snow as it cut over and around the white rolling hills. The horned beasts galloped along letting out small light puffs of foggy breath. Their reins clicked and clacked as the crude bells, made from cans and rocks, jostled with their gait. The man at the reins was tall and thin with a great bushy beard and hair to match judging by the curls that peaked beneath his soiled and sewn cap. He wore a thick, dirty, faded coat, made before the snow fell, and patched from tatters many times since, it matched his pants and cap. If you could describe his suit it would be muck colored with a hint of red. He’s worn it for 6 years, and that makes him the longest one to keep it by his account. A hard trick, being Santa Nik for so many years.

The ground cracked and the snow opened up beneath him. The bottom of the sleigh crashed against the wall of the pit trap where it dangled above sharpened sticks. The beasts that pulled the sleigh lurched and then leaned forward to hold the load. “On!” he screamed as he snapped the reins hard. They called out a wine and step-by-step pulled the sleigh from the pit.

Santa Nik pulled on the reigns and the beasts halted. He hoped off the sleigh to inspect the cargo. Everything seemed in order, tied down nice and tight. “‘ere ya’ go boys, ‘ere go.” He said as he pulled out food for his beasts. “Ya’ did a fine job pulling me out. Guess PTB Bauers knows I’m coming. Right on time as always. We’ll tell the old sod it’ll take more than one trap to keep us from our duty.” He stroked Blitzers mane. “I say we leave him a bit of ye’ own special coal in his stocking.” He winked. Blitzers clomped his hooves in agreement.

Santa Nik resumed his post behind the reigns lashed them twice and cried, “On! We have presents for the good little boys and girls of Carhart!”
He watched the hills of snow for any sign of traps or ambushes. He spotted the tale-tale signs of a bad trapper and broke course away from the area. “Ha, better luck—” a bolt hit him in the shoulder. Three more shooters burst from the snow and fired bolts. They found their marks knocking Santa Nik out of the sleigh. The beasts careened out of control and over the hill.

Santa Nik tried to crawl but he had already lost too much blood, he felt cold. The first shooter walked over to him. He was a young man, he wanted to hate him but he could see remorse and desperation in his eyes. “You have to take it.” Santa said, “take the suit and the sleigh. Give them hope. We can’t survive without a little warmth in this cold world.” He touched the young mans face and left a bloody hand print. He looked down at his chest with bolts sticking out, blood running out of the wounds. “I’ve never seen it so red its beautiful.” Marley nodded he knew what he had to do.

“Looks like Xmas comes early for us!” Grincher said. “The red bloke dead?”
“Yeah.” Marley said. “I’ll get the sleigh.”
“Good, PTB Bauers will want it accounted for. Big pay-day for us. Hell, I could be PTB next term.” Grincher let out a cruel laugh.

Marley ran back over the hill.
“What in the fires of heaven took you so damn long? And where is the sleigh?”
“Sorry Grincher, sleigh hit an ice cavern. It’s gone.”
“Damn. We’ll have to drag this bastard back ourselves. That’s on you for losing the damn sleigh.”

PTB Bauers was over joyed with the news. Finally, that no good Santa Nik was dead. He didn’t need anyone coming into his town and misleading his people. It was all a dirty sham anyway to get their trust and then lead them into the frozen wastes. He’d heard it from PTB Scrooge a wise and prudent man. “String him up in the center of town Grincher let everyone know that Santa Nik is dead. Remind them I’m the only ones who they should believe in. Remind them of the cruel world I protect them from.”

The next morning when the people of Carhart awoke there were gifts by the fire-place wrapped in twine and leaves, fruit and nuts filled their stockings. In an act of defiance they headed toward the town center to pay their respects. Through the crisp air they could hear the clink and clack of Santa Nik’s sleigh gliding over the snow. The crunch-crunch of their steps picked up as they ran for the town center. They gasped in awe and cheered, the body of Santa Nik was gone. In its place hung a board with the message “Happy Xmas to all and to all a good year!”

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