I am super pumped to announce that my new book is out on Amazon. Six bucks buys you this super sweet compilation of poetry, short stories, scripts, and songs, and thanks to Prime, it can be at your doorstep in a matter of days. What I am most excited about is the chance to spotlight some pretty cool people I have met during my time on this spinning ball called Earth. THEY are definitely worth getting to know. Please, pick yourself up a copy today. Now, even =)
You wrote about peace, wrote
and re-wrote, through various drafts
and I just wanted to stop you and say, “it’s good enough,”
because you are, and it is.
We are all pilgrims striving, struggling, failing and falling
yet, on occasion, glimpsing at glory.
He was an older man, armed with a laptop and an ill-fitting suit. She was his junior, toting a suitcase and a pair of designer heels.
He was seated in the lobby, hacking away at emails and trying to overcome his writer’s block, when she entered, full of confidence, wearing a yellow pencil skirt and a blue blouse, her head up, her gait quick.
He would not have noticed her had he not have cocked his head back to bemoan his lack of inspiration; but, he did and he saw her. She checked in and vanished around the corner.
He saw her again at breakfast, when she came down to grab a bite. She had changed her heels for flats, the pencil skirt for something red and flowy.
There was a newlywed couple sitting at the table between them. When they got up, the man not-so-casually scooted closer to her. They talked for a bit. She got up to take a Segway tour. He returned to his novel.
She did not return until evening. He feared he might not see her again. He wrote himself into exhaustion as the words began flowing through him as if in full depth and color.
He retreated to the reading area with a glass of wine. She entered, this time wearing tan jeans and no shoes.
She picked out a book on American history and started reading. He asked her about it. They talked for a while. He offered her a glass of wine. She said yes.
They returned to the lobby and sat and drank and talked and watched people go by. He put his arm around her shoulder.
Our short story, “Day of the Dog,” was recently featured in Rapid River Magazine. Click the link above to read the story.
There once was a monster who believed itself to be human. It lived in the mountains high above a human village. Often, it would look down from its rocky perch and gander down at the villagers milling about below. It would feel inextricably and undeniably connected to them.
Sometimes, it would venture close enough to get a good look at the village, but always it would get run off as soon as the villagers spotted it.
One evening, kneeled down and cried. It wanted to be a human so badly.
Just then, a witch appeared.
“Hello,” she said, “I am the wish witch. Give me your wish and I will grant it.”
The monster dried its big, monster eyes.
“Oh please, dear witch,” said the monster, “if you would make me a human, I would be ever so grateful.”
The witch nodded.
“Human? Certainly!” she said.
With a wave of her wand, the witch transformed the monster into a handsome young man.
“Thank you!” said the monster.
The monster kissed the witch and scurried down to village before she could get another word in.
The night the monster arrived, the village was deep in celebration for harvest-time. Cakes, pies, roast beast: all were cooking over fires and in ovens and making the most delightful smells.
The monster burst with excitement taking it all in.
Wasting no time, it joined a group of humans dancing to a fiddler’s tune. It danced until its legs grew weary. At that point, it retired to a nearby pub and drank and laughed until morning light.
As dawn broke on the village, the monster turned man wandered outside. Little did it know that the magic had rubbed off. It found out soon enough when a young, orphan girl, whose family had been eaten by monsters, saw the creature and screamed.
The monster then realized it was not flesh and blood, but scales and ooze. This realization came too late. By the time it headed for the mountains, the humans were already in hot pursuit.
They chased him up and over the mountain to the edge of a cliff. Having no other choice, the monster turned to face its pursuers.
“Please, friends. Can’t you see I’m one of you,” it said.
The villagers all shook there heads.
“No, a monster is a monster is a monster,” said the villager, “that’s just how it is.”
The villagers took another step further. The monster stepped back, but too far. It slipped on a pebble and tumbled over the cliff, into the ravine below. In shock, the villagers gather ’round the precipice and looked down.
“Just as well,” said a villager.
“Serves it right, ” said another.
Then, they went home and finished up their party.
A year passed and the strangest thing happened: on the day of the harvest, the little girl who had sounded the alarm went alone to cliff from which the monster had fallen. She was armed only with a single daisy.
“Sorry I screamed,” said the girl.
She bent over and tossed the daisy into the ravine, then she turned to go home.
“It’s okay,” said the monster. “I’m sorry I startled you.”
She turned again. The monster’s ghost materialized in front of her. She did not scream that time, but rather simply extended her hand out to it.
“Want to go home with me?” she said.
The monster reached out and took her hand.
“I would love that,” said the monster.
And they went back to the village together.
Pamela heard the pounding of drums as they made their way to the foot of the Firebrand Mountains. The sound only grew louder as they pressed onward. As the Sun burned soft and orange through the pines wispy pines, she caught her first glimpse of the source.
A group of wood elves danced gayly around the fire. Men, women, children: all danced, hand-in-hand, while the band beat away at their instruments.
“Oh good. We’re just in time,” Smoggit said.
Pamela’s brow furrowed, but she said nothing.
The wood elves were quick to notice them. Amidst a collect of chirps and coos, she could hear them calling out Smoggit’s name. An elder elf, grey of skin and bedecked in vines, waddled over to him. They embraced.
Smoggit turned to Pamela. The elder turned with him.
“Pamela, this is my friend, Esäk; Esäk, Pamela,” he said.
Esäk chirped at her.
“Esäk says hello,” Smoggit added.
“Hi,” she said.
Smoggit clapped his hands together.
“Now that we’re all acquainted, I suggest we get to celebrating,” he said, “do you like gooseberry wine?”
She scratched her head.
“I don’t think I’ve ever tried it,” she said.
“Oh, then you’re in for a treat! The wood elves are master vinedressers, and we caught them at the height of harvest season,” he said.
Esäk chirped again. Smoggit waved them on.
“Come. The party bell tolls,” he added.
They approached the center of the gathering. Many hugs were shared, especially between Smoggit and the elves. Pamela was a lot more reluctant with her affections; but, with a couple sips of the gooseberry wine, she became a lot more open to the idea. As the elves and music and bonfire twirled about her, she pointed at the wine.
“This is powerful stuff,” she said.
“I know! Isn’t it fantastic?!” he said as he downed his third glass.
Smoggit’s face turned a merry shade of pink and he would occasionally hiccup and laugh in the same breath. Pamela had never noticed it before, but he had the loveliest dimples.
After introductions and drinks were liberally shared, the drummers fell back into position and, with no absence of pomp and flare, began passionately beating the heads as one (not in unison, for one played one part and second a second and a third a third; but, it all seemed to work seamlessly together, as if it were just one drum playing).
Smoggit raised his empty wineskin up into the air.
“Farrekåñna!” he said.
The elves repeated back the phrase.
Pamela leaned in, more closely than she anticipated, but she chuckled of their near-collision and continued.
“What does that mean?” she said.
“Lord of the Dance,” he replied. He took his arm. “I’ll show you.”
He pulled her into the ring. One elf took one arm, another elf took the second. Smoggit disappeared into the center as the elves began to move around in the circle. Spinning, spinning. Everyone laughed and laughed and sang nonsensical songs. Pamela was so beside herself that she eventually joined it, spouted gibberish for gibberish’s sake. The experience was very freeing. A little while later she spotted Smoggit amongst the percussionists, blowing away at a pan flute. This made her laugh even more, to see a master wizard pittering away on a penny whistle.
Eventually the music and the dancing and the wine died down, and Pamela found herself beside Smoggit, the elder, and a select few others as they told stories and reconnected around the dying embers.
Esäk chirped at her. Smoggit leaned over to her.
“He says you’re quite pretty,” he said.
She put a hand on her chest.
“Thank you,” she said.
“He always says you’ve got a nice smile, when you dare to use it,” he added.
He chirped again.
“He also sees the makings of a great warrior in you,” he concluded, “quite the impressive collection.”
“Tell him I am quite the impressive girl,” he said.
He translated and Esäk giggled approvingly.
“I told him about Xocotí,” Smoggit reported, “he asks if you have a weapon.”
She shook her head. Esäk ran away. She reached out her hand to beckon him back, but the elf moved too quickly. She lowered her hand again and turned to Smoggit.
“I don’t believe in violence,” she said.
“Trust me, you’ll believe in this,” he said.
Esäk showed up shortly thereafter with a diminutive pouch and handed it to her. She reluctantly took it and opened it up. Inside was a glass decanter full of an effervescent, purple liquid.
“It’s kalaharañ´îo juice,” said Smoggit. “It will boost your magic threshold ten fold. You will need ever drop of it to take down Xocotí.”
She eyed Smoggit and began intensely studying his facial expression.
“With your help, of course,” she said, “right?!”
“Of course,” he said as he cracked a bittersweet smile.
She tucked the vial into her chest.
“Thank you,” she said.
Esäk gave her an effulgent bear hug.
“So, what now?” she said.
Smoggit yawned and stretched.
“Now, we stretch. We have a full day ahead of us. Maybe, if we make excellent time, we can cross Masari Meadows and reached the borders of the Telánquo Swamp by nightfall,” he said.
“Did this answer upset you?” he asked.
“Yes. No. I don’t know. I was hoping I could stay longer. It has a good vibe,” she said.
Smoggit and Esäk looked at each other and smiled.
“I suppose we could do that, yes,” he said. “It would be nice to get in an afternoon game of Barato ball before shipping out.” He slapped the elder’s thigh. “Besides, we haven’t got the chance to catch up in some time. He’s lived quite the life, you know?”
“I could imagine,” she replied.
Esäk chirped and cooed.
“All right. That settles it then: we’ll stay a bit longer,” he said.
“See you all in the morning, then?” she said.
“Yes,” Smoggit said, “sleep well.”
She did not sleep well. Something about the evening made her toss and turn. Still, it was one of those nights where she wished she were asleep; so, throughout the entirety of the night, she opened her eyes only once.
When she did so, she saw him, Esäk, emitting a slow, soft purr as sleeping Smoggit’s back. She moved slightly to catch a better look. The elder instantly cast his gaze to meet hers. They locked eyes for a fraction of a second, then he disappeared, leaving Pamela in the space between dusk and dawn.
The trip down Firebrand Mountain was pleasant. There wasn’t much left of Smoggit’s house after the altercation with Xocotí and Pamela didn’t have much to begin with; so they both packed light.
The breeze whistled softly through the trees. The sun caressed their skin with a graceful burn. A delicate film of sweat formed on their brows as they meandered through the woods. At about noon, Smoggit stopped them for lunch. They made a simple meal of the nuts and berries found there.
“Have you always wanted to be a wizard?” said Pamela.
Smoggit popped another berry into his mouth.
“Actually, I would have loved to be a blacksmith,” he said with a grin, “but the guildsman I was apprenticed to kept catching me using magic to create shortcuts in the trade. There’s nothing wrong with a little help now and again, but there’s nothing learned from it either.”
“So he sent you away?” she said.
“Exactly,” he said.
“Do you miss it?” she said.
“Sometimes,” he said as he laid back into the grass and gazed up at the clouds, “but it’s not about what I want to do. It’s about what I’m meant to do. Sure, I could skate through life if I wanted, but ultimately what’s the fun and fulfillment in that?!”
She laid down in the grass beside him.
“I miss the prairie. It was simpler then,” she said, “less demon-Queens trying to kill you.”
“Yes, I’d imagine so,” he said. “The door is always open, you know? To go back.”
“I know,” she said, “but I suppose now there never is any real going back, is there? After seeing all this.”
“No,” he said, “no, you’ve spoken truly there; but, if you truly want to go back, there are ways.”
She turned to him.
“Like what, erase my memories?” she said.
He said nothing. She turned back to the clouds.
“Wow. Is there anything you can’t do?” she added.
He turned to her.
“I suppose we’ll find out together,” he replied.
They paused to hear the wind rustling through the trees and songbirds singing their heightened melody.
“Tell me a story,” she said.
He did not hesitate.
“Once upon a time, there was a young lady who traveled a long distance to study under a little, old gnome. The journey was not easy for her from the get-go. She had everything against her; but she had magic and she had her unquenchable spirit, and though the tide of life waxed and waned, in the end, she overcame it all and found her way to glory.”
“Good story,” she said.
“The best part is it’s true,” he said.
“I’ll take your word on it,” she said, “you are a master wizard after all.”
“So they say,” he said.
They rested for a bit, listening to nature and sound of their own breaths and then continued intrepidly on their way.