Thursday, July 26, 2012

Goat Girl - Unknown Artist

I've spent a lot of time trying to conceptualize a large number of unusual characters who live in the back allies of a  large city. I haven't given up on my pert slave girl from 1808. I just can't turn that into a real story. But I have started a short story tentatively called Night Walker. I think there's a fun story here. You never know what lurks in allies. What you see there may not be what it seems to be. 

In the spring and fall when the bugs swarm in huge swirling columns and fill the air with the stink of a mass mating, you may be repelled by it. I've swatted away more than my share of the little gnats and similar flying insects that swarm in roiling columns. But what if some of them weren't insects at all? Or that lump of soiled rags and old boxes behind the dollar store? The one that's always there? What if that were Rodney the Reformed Troll. What if he had chronic digestive problems? Would you send your first-time companion, a clueless Christian who does not believe in creatures such as Rodney, to the grocery for six gallons of soda water? Or maybe two flats of bottled water and a few boxes of bi-carb? 

Maybe your companion isn't as clueless as you think. Imagine an unexpected confrontation with a vampire under the sixth street bridge. It might end with the Vamp saying something like, "What did you do to me!" just before he turns to dust. And our Christian friend may have a look of total innocence. And you - well you did warn the Vamp.

I think there is a short story here. 

Oh, there's also the angel who sits on the park bench in Veterans' Park most nights. And the grocery store clerk who admires your pink dress and says something like, "It's very pretty. You should dress more often." Or something like that. ...

We'll see. In the mean time enjoy this creature. You might meet her in an all night bookstore-coffee shop on first avenue.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

From O. Reader


Daughter and son in law and large bouncy dog have spent a week with us in our little home – which seemed even smaller after several days of trying to dry wet clothes in our British summer. Believe it or not, until a week ago there was still a hosepipe ban in some parts of the country, after what has been described as “the wettest drought in history.”

Daughter wanted to visit several places she remembered from her childhood – and with the aid of a detailed map and Occasional’s creaky memory, we manage to track down several places in the national park nearby – all hills and trees and – in current weather conditions – torrents.

Two places we visited carried memories for both her and her husband of incidents that could have put paid to their particular piece of history.

Daughter’s first. We managed to find a mountainous walk to spectacular falls that we hadn’t done for well over twenty years. The last time, when she was about ten years old, we’d crossed a small stone bridge, and she – in her wisdom and contrary to parental directive –decided to cross upstream on slippery stepping stones.

Of course, she suddenly lost her footing. She was swept under the bridge and down a series of natural steps in a rising torrent in what appeared to be a split second. What happened next remains to this day a blur. I apparently charged down the bank and partly into the stream and ignominiously hauled her out just before she would have gone over a steep fall. Immortal lines of conversation come flooding back: “I’m all WET!” “I want to GO HOME and I want to go home NOW!” (In less than kind moments – usually in company - we still remind her of the conversation all these years later!) One shaken, wet and ice-cold child with chattering teeth stomped along the bank with us back to the car and that was the end of that particular day out as I remember it now.

Then there is her husband. Shortly after they met, he and a gang of friends were travelling in the same mountainous area and overturned the car on a hairpin bend – as of course you do when you are young and feeling immortal. There have been quite a few fatalities along that stretch, but they climbed out of the vehicle with only scratches.

Within about a year of this incident he and she were married.

You do occasionally wonder – what if?

The pixie's response:

This foot bridge crosses Clear Creek. Clear Creek is part of the Northern California Watershed. It's icy cold show-melt. The bridge is about 100 years old. I fell off head first when I was maybe eight and I wanted to go right home too!

This is not living pink. This is living stupid ...

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Pixie to NWPR

Certainly public radio has enough talent to bring us something less offensive and less irrelevant that the BBC and Canadian shows that insult my intelligence, ridicule the United States, and are amateurish in the extreme.

The BBC deserved its reputation in the 1950s. Its World Have Your Say program is both irrelevant and poorly produced. On most days I do not care deeply about African politics, Canadian plans to reform the US, or any of the dreck put on my plate by your night-time news service. It speaks poorly of NWPR when I find Coast to Coast AM with its talk of ghosts, pyramid mysteries, aliens and shadow people more interesting and more informative than what you present. MY GOD! I've even listen to KGO - Radio Stupid rather than the BBC or the Canadian foolishness you send our way.

Just stop it.

Best regards,

R. M. de Vienne

addenda: Someone from NWPR (Northewest Public Radio - WSU) has been to both of my publc blogs and assorted other places trying to figure out who the impertenent impertinent pixie with attitude is. No reply from them yet though.

Peeved Pixie - A pixie's rant

We’ll call this the story of “The Good, The Bad, and the Socially Inept.”

I found two letters written by a man named John Sunderlin to his wife. Sunderlin was a Union soldier with the Vermont Volunteer Infantry. He was tragically wounded, and one of the letters is written just after he was transferred from a hospital near Washington, D. C. to one in Vermont. The letters are important to our research because they give insight into his approach to faith. They were expensive, and despite begging and pleading we couldn’t get the seller to reduce his price.

I’ve collected coins since I was a child. Over the years I’ve put together five coin collections, selling them when I was desperate for money. My first collection was of US pennies. My gram bought me a Whitman penny book, and I searched through everyone’s piles, jars, tea pots and what have you of pennies to fill it. My parents and my grandparents took me to the local coin store (there was only one), and I got to know the owner very well. I entertained him, I think. He was more than generous with me, helping me get at prices I could afford the one cent coins I did not have. My grandmother started buying silver dollars for me too. By the time I was twenty, the silver dollar collection was spectacular.

The store changed hands. The original owner retired, but the new owner was a charming and helpful as the old one. The only problem was his helper, a man named Bill, who was not always as honest as he should be. He cheated me badly over a stamp I sold to him. I was inexperienced, and he took advantage of it. He paid me three dollars for the stamp and sold it for one thousand dollars.

Bill was, however devious, a bit stupid. A couple of years after he cheated me, I inherited a box of mostly costume jewelry. There were a few nice things in the box too. And there were two bulky bracelets marked 14k. Now, understand, by that time I’d learned a few things. Not everything marked 14k is really what it says. This is true of junk jewelry made in Mexico and some made in Italy. I had my suspicions about these, but, if they were real gold, they represented a lot of money. My gram drove me over to the coin store. Bill waited on us.

I told him of my suspicions, suggesting he test the bracelet. (I’d taken only one of them with me.) Fixing his jeweler’s loop to his eye, he gave it a good once over. No need, he said. It says 14k right here. Now, that is silly. He weighed it and paid me nine hundred dollars. I never gave it another thought. Later, when I took in the second bracelet a new hire named Gary tested it and said it was fake. I did not feel a bit bad. I figured it evened out the earlier cheat and a few that had preceded it.

Now Gary is an acquaintance of my uncle. He shares my uncle’s faith. Gary is a troll and skirts as near dishonesty as you can get without totally crossing the line. The store owner is not like that. He has no faith that I’m aware of. It is ironic that a “religious man” is less honest than one who is irreligious.

Now we come to the letters. Our opportunity to buy them was passing. I decided to sell a few coins from my collection. Rather than sell locally, I drove up to my uncle's and we went over to the coin store. Gary was rude to my uncle. Understand that they’ve known each other since they were children. My uncle is a fine man. Gary has gone through two wives, was unkind to both, raised children who hate him, and is a huge fool. Gary is also typical of the males within this religion as I have experienced them.

Gary refused to buy about a third of my coins because, as he honestly said, he wasn’t competent to judge their worth. That’s fine. I know he talks big, way beyond his experience. Gary owned his own store for a while. When I went to sell my silver dollars he low-balled me, offering two thousand dollars. I laughed at him, drove across town to this store and sold them for nine thousand dollars. But, alas, he now manages the store I like and trust.

He offered me an amount about half of what I expected. Because we needed to raise the money that day, I took it. If the semi-retired owner had been there, I would have asked for him and I would have gotten a fair price. My uncle, who is also a long-time coin collector, tried to talk me out of it. I wanted the letters more. But, though it was my choice to sell at that price, I am displeased and will not go back. Ever.

Gary believes God will restore paradise to the earth, bring back the Garden of Eden and spread it earth wide. The neat, prim store of a few years ago is dusty, cluttered, trashed. To me this is hypocrisy of the first order. Gary told my uncle, though it was I who was transacting business with him, that he was just too busy to do more. How stupid. His business depends on being able to both buy and sell quality coins. I did not sell him junk. He treated us as if we had brought him the most common of coins and had distracted him from urgent business.

We now have the letters that put all of this in motion. I’m pleased with what we’ve found in them, especially the longest letter. We will quote from it.

The American bits of my family have a connection to Gary’s religion that goes back to the 1830s before it was formally organized. The Austro-German bits are mostly Lutheran and Catholic, but my mom was a convert, and I attended with her. Men such as Gary are a significant part of my reasons for rejecting this religion. The male adherents typically despise women. They would deny that, but it is true. There are exceptions of course. But it is typical of them to see women as secondary, incompetent, a possession. They are rude to women in dozens of ways, most of which they do not see as rude at all.

The males who read our history blog have been known to write to my uncle to get him to shut me up on some issues. My uncle would never try. It’s not in his nature to do that. Besides, it wouldn’t work. I have doctrinal differences too, but I could have sat quietly within that church keeping them to myself if the men within that religion, especially their pastors had been real men.

My poor mother wanted desperately for me to accept that faith. I knew fairly early that it wasn’t for me. Some of that is detailed elsewhere on this blog. I do not hate the religion. I am, in fact, strongly sympathetic to it. My oldest daughter has taken to it. It suits her. I’ve taught her how to think and question. What she does with that ability is up to her. I worry about what she will do when she confronts the same chronic hypocrisy that I faced at a much younger age than her current age.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I owe bunches of people answers to email. I can read email but I can't answer it. Yahoo is broken for me. I managed to get out one email to "occasional reader." That took me an hour of coaxing a reluctant yahoo. Be patient, and thanks for your emails.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pixie with Attitude

Japanese artist. Sorry, I can't read the name.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Train Wreck Photo by John Corbin Sunderlin

Shamefully Neglectful!

I've been filling every spare moment with research for the history book I'm co-writing. That means I've neglected this blog. My apologies. While I've been "away," I picked up a new faithful reader. She doesn't leave comments, though she emails me fairly often. She's an artist. She draws and paints fantasy and science fiction related creatures. Her work is breathtaking but I can't post it for several reasons, not the least of which is the tame nature of this blog.

She sent me some drawings by others today. She neglected to tell me the artist's names, but I understand them to be Japanese artists. I picked two of the tamer pictures to post.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Cute toes, black shoes, slave girls, and stuff

So … I’m finally feeling as if I won’t die. That’s a good thing. I can breath. Sinus pain is down to mere annoyance. The snot flow has minimized. This is good too.

I’ve been researching and writing every spare minute more or less. Sometimes less, like the day Knobby Knees showed up at lunch time unexpectedly. He has a huge project that was dumped on him by his new boss with already past due deadlines. So he brought it all home for quiet. I’d worked until nine a.m, so he came home to me staggering around the kitchen, fresh out of bed and blurry eyed. Worse yet, I was in my skuzzy but comfortable white terry robe that should have been turned to rags two years ago. My hair was a mess. I was staring down into our toaster, wondering why burning bread took so long and just generally grumpy.

“Hi,” he says.

“Hi,” I say back. “You’re home … why are you home? Did you forget something?”

He says not, and explains the whole set up. “What’s for lunch?” he asks.

“I can make tomato soup and a BLT,” I say, stifling a yawn. I figure he’s lucky I don’t send him off to McDonalds.

But he smiles sweetly and says, “Sounds good.”

The can opener’s whiney grind makes me grit my teeth. I plop the soup into a bowl and zap it in the microwave, following it with some bacon strips. My toast goes to his sandwich. I shove two more pieces in, setting the damn thing to totally burned, and wish for aspirin.

I slather my toast with enough butter to coat ten pieces of toast, pour a glass of milk and sit. I sigh. I wiggle my toes. Toe wiggling is dangerous business around Knobby Knees. Along with hot vanilla body wash, cute black leather shoes and the tiny feets that fill them, and a scrawny butt, they’re one of his temperature and eyebrow raising things.

He raises his eyebrows.

“Where are the girls?” he asks.

“Riding horses at Tammy’s,” I say. “Then at your moms until at least two. … maybe longer.”

He nods. “New nail color?” he asks, nodding at my toes.

“Yes,” I say. “How’s the BLT?”

“Good,” he mumbles around a bite.

I nibble at my overly-buttered toast and sip milk.

I wiggle my toes again. He sips his orange juice.

“What’s in the sack by the door?” he asks.

Now, dear hearts, this is a moment of crisis, of life decision. I know this, even if he does not. Do I say, “Stuff I got at the Goodwill?” or do I say, “Cute black shoes. Wanna see?”

“I’ll show you,” is what I say.

Forget all the other stuff in that sack. I slip my little feeties into the nice, never worn, pretty, black leather shoes that cost me about five dollars in the thrift store, but would have cost me over a hundred in Macy’s.

“Like them?” I ask.

This is the crisis moment! Does he just nod; does he raise his eyebrows? Do his eyes go wide. Does he grab me and give me a hot, passionate smootch? What?

… “Nice …” He pulls me onto his lap. “Girls won’t be home till late, huh?”

Nothing like being dessert.

For the last three weeks I’ve been a slave girl living out side of Richmond, Virginia in 1808. Don’t ask me why that date. It’s too complicated to explain. I’ve been working through a story. I’ve probably imagined 20 versions of it. The problem is too many characters and no real plot. I don’t know what to do with my characters, though I like most of them, even the incurably evil judge and his ne’re-do-well son. They’re “good” villains.

Now the character at the center of this story is a slave child. I see her as mulatto, between 7 and 9 years old. She’s smarter than her age would suggest and has seen a lot for her seven or so years. She’s impertinent, mouthy. She’s purchased by a newcomer to the area, a man of mystery. He is not what he seems. She is exactly what she seems. They form an unlikely association.

There are several initial hints that he is not what one might expect. He knows things he should not – could not in the normal course of things. Eventually a stranger comes riding into his property. This happens in the early evening. He is dressed out of period. If you saw him, you’d think 1870s cowboy. There is a ‘conversation.’ The little salve girl understands some of it, guesses at other parts. There is a green glass-like device that looks like a drawer pull from the 1920s. It’s broken. Eventually the man fades out. This is the result of the slave owning stranger retrieving four notebooks from another time.

The stranger’s disappearance raises issues in his household.
Now I have too many characters I think. I have an upstairs and downstairs maid. I have a housekeeper, a former governess from Boston who was out of work. There is the little slave girl and her slightly older sister. There is a 12 year old boy who was bought at the little one’s urging. He is helper to the cook, also a slave. But he is also a half step from being a murderous sociopath.

So … I keep telling this story to myself over and over. Sometimes it’s dramatically different. The first version had elements I like, and I will keep them – assuming I find enough story to tell. The girl’s owner befriends a family living up the road. They’re impoverished. They and he have a set of enemies. He knows that the enemies will come on a certain day and at a certain time. As he sees it, the new friend dies. He plays through every alternative and in each this man dies. There is no way to save him. This leaves him puzzled, because he is used to finding his path through time and finding the solutions the right path affords. There is no good solution now.

I’ve disconnected the story from that event. In its current form it is far different. But I will go back to this. This touches on my personal belief that there are pivotal events in history that are unavoidable and irrevocable. I have no proof for that. I just believe it. I’m a pixie. I’m allowed to believe nonsense.

… did I mention that I liked being dessert.

Anyway, the story as I tell it to myself entertains me, but I have no real story yet. In the current version I’ve been telling it to myself day by day. I’m into the third week. But still no real story.

Now, back to toe wiggling and historical research.