Necktie

Sorry, I know that's knot funny...

Sorry, I know that’s knot funny…

 

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An Early Memory

Last week, in my Leibster post, I included a quick little story about my childhood. It was fairly well received, so I thought that I’d share one of my earliest memories this week. It was a lot of fun to write.

Here is an open challenge to my fellow bloggers: Share one of your earliest childhood memories.

If you post it on your blog and send me a link I will include the link at the bottom of this page.

        —

We were living in Pacific Grove, here in California, in a house that my parents rented from my grandfather. A rocky situation at best: doing business dealings with family. As any three year old would tell you though, I had bigger problems. It was a Wednesday night, and I had a plate of food in front of me, which, as a whole was excellent, and I had eaten everything on it except the repulsive little pile of trees at the farthest side. I was less than a fan of broccoli.

Had I eaten it while it was still hot, that would have been one thing, but I hadn’t. The once steaming, and therefore edible, pile of greens now sat in an unattractive lump of soggy slop staring at me.

Now, I don’t want to talk down broccoli in general, because, as I’ve moved from being a young child, defiant for no particular reason, to someone legally considered an adult, who is defiant for no particular reason. My tastes in food have changed, fortunately. Now I would walk to the edge of the earth for good broccoli – well, that may be an exaggeration… but the far end of the salad bar is definitely within range.

Regardless of how I might one day feel about the stuff, with that small number of years under my belt I had never seen anything that prepared me for a show down with lukewarm broccoli.

There was no way I was going to shove THAT in my mouth, and it would only be a matter of time before my mother noticed, if she hadn’t already. Everyone else had finished their food and they were just sitting around talking. I was scheming. Even at an early age I hated wasting food, and with the money situation as it was, the only thing I would have felt worse about would have been letting my mom see me waste food. So I waited, until no one was looking and slipped the bane of my existence into my napkin, and the napkin off the edge of the table into my lap.

Then I waited. It must have only been a few seconds, but time hadn’t begun to shrink from exposure yet, so it seemed like several minutes. I waited until I felt sure I would skate away from phase one of operation Cold Broccoli unscathed.

It was time to commence stage two, and being a man of action, I didn’t hesitate. Sliding off the chair and stealing out of the room, I made my way out of sight and dropped to my knees on the olive green carpets. I then scrambled over to the corner by the door, whose unique properties suited my mission.

I had been completely enchanted by the loose corner of carpet, and the prospects the little hidden pouch provided. Prospects such as the immediate disposal of broccolis.

Shoving the greens down under the carpet, I was done. The only phase of the mission left was to escape undetected. I ran to the room I shared with my siblings and called it a success.

I never tried to stash broccoli there again because the guilt over the wasted food was near unbearable. I have a hard time believing that it was never found, due to the fondness food has of becoming particularly pungent while decomposing. My mom, however, has no recollection of ever finding it, so I consider my first caper to be a successful one.

This picture has nothing to do with the story, excepting the fact that it is of me as a small child.

This picture has nothing to do with the story, excepting the fact that it is of me as a small child.

        —

 My buddy Mia (@triadvstrinity on twitter) shares a childhood memory that had me both giggling and gasping. Definitely worth a read.  http://www.triadvstrinity.com/blog/2015/2/19/childhood-memories

Laura (@elastword on twitter) was one of my first writer friends on twitter and, apparently a pretty cute kid with control issues. Here she shares her childhood memory: http://ecoslastword.blogspot.com/2015/02/memories.html

 

 

The Wall of the Northern Kingdom

150209_001703Once upon a time there were four kingdoms: one in the north, one in the south, one in the east, and one in the west. Each kingdom had one major commodity that they traded with the others; a system that remained from the days, long since passed, during which it was all one kingdom and each region had its own specialization.

The Eastern kingdom specialized in iron, which was needed to build weapons. As a result, the Eastern kingdom was fairly wealthy.

The Western kingdom was nearest to the forests, so they sold wood to the others for their fires and their buildings. The Western kingdom was also fairly wealthy, as nobody could go for long without wood.

The Northern kingdom produced stone. Though the quality of stone that came out of the Northern kingdom was better for building than that which could be found in the other three kingdoms, it was not uncommon for people in the other kingdoms to build with their own stone. Thus, the Northern kingdom was rather poor.

The Southern kingdom, though, was the poorest. They had many scholars and libraries. Their major export was education and skilled craftsmanship. This had worked just fine in the long ago world where they were all one kingdom, but, as much as people liked having their children educated, it was generally seen as a secondary expense, not like iron, wood, or even high quality stone. So, many people spent as little as possible in the Southern kingdom.

The division in wealth caused different reactions in the Northern and Southern kingdoms. The king of the Southern kingdom, Gnosi, looked for new, constructive ways to bring in money. This didn’t raise them to the levels of the other kingdoms, but odd jobs and sporadic attractions kept food on the tables of the Southern kingdom. The king of the Northern kingdom, Pikros, blamed his kingdom’s problems on the successful Eastern and Western kingdoms and became bitter.

One day Pikros had an idea while staring out at the great piles of unused stones. He would build a gigantic wall around the kingdom with a huge impenetrable gate. Then he could steal large quantities of iron and wood from his neighbors. Even if they came to get it back, his people would be safe within the walls, and happy because they no longer had to pay for iron or wood.

Construction of the wall was easy, because they had plenty of stone. The gate, however, needed to be made of metal, so the leader scrapped every piece of iron that he could get his hands on, knowing that soon there would be more than enough iron to go around.

Pikros had an intricate system of huge gears built just to move the massive iron door out of the way. To do this, he had to spend most of the money that he had left to pay a skilled and educated iron smith from the Southern kingdom named Logios to design it for him. To keep Logios from ruining his plan, Pikros told him that it was going to be built as a movable dam in the river north of the Northern kingdom, so that water could be redirected down into the kingdom at certain times of the year. Logios liked the idea of helping the Northern kingdom become more prosperous, so he ignored the fact that some of Pikros’ requests didn’t make sense for a dam and designed it for him.

Once the gate and wall had been built, it was easy for Pikros to put the rest of his plan into action. In no time, his people were barricaded behind the huge wall with enough stolen wood and iron to last them several years. They didn’t steal anything from the Southern kingdom, because education was not something that could be stolen.

The Eastern and Western kingdoms sent armies to retrieve that which was stolen from them, but their weapons were worthless against the giant walls and massive gate. Pikros sat atop the wall and laughed.

After a day of failed attacks, it was determined that, to get through the wall, they needed more men and word was sent to the Southern kingdom demanding reinforcements. When word reached Logios that such a request had been made, he volunteered to go alone, ensuring Gnosi that he could fix the whole problem, if given just a bit of time. Logios and Gnosi had been friends for a long time, and the king had learned over the years to trust Logios’ judgement. Logios went to the Northern kingdom with his king’s permission to make decisions that affected the entire kingdom.

When he got to the gate of the Northern kingdom, Logios was met with hostility by the kings of the Eastern and Western kingdoms.

“We asked for an army,” stated Sidero, the king of the Eastern kingdom, “and they send only one man?”

“Maybe,” suggested Xylo, the king of the Western kingdom, “we should invade the Southern kingdom instead, then force them to fight for us.”

Logios sighed and responded, “I promise you, that will not be necessary, I can get you your iron back, Sidero, and your wood, Xylo, but I need three things.”

Intrigued, the two kings listened to Logios’ requests.

“From you, Sidero, I need your finest steel arrowhead, and from you Xylo, I need your straightest arrow shaft. From both of you I need time to let my plan work, and as payment I will only take a tenth of what is recovered for my kingdom.”

“Why would we agree to this?” asked Sidero.

“If my plan fails,” assures Logios, “the Southern kingdom will send reinforcements, like you asked, and we will do it your way. Then, for the next year, we will pay twice as much for your steel and wood.”

Not seeing how it could hurt, since they didn’t think that Logios would succeed anyway, and their kingdoms stood to make a profit if he failed, the two leaders agreed.

With the arrowhead and shaft, Logios constructed a perfect arrow that he could count on to fly straight and true. Armed with just the one arrow and his bow, Logios approached the gate alone.

Pikros appeared high above the gate and looked down to Logios’ single arrow, then laughed.

“Surrender now and save everyone some time and effort,” demanded Logios.

“You know better than anyone, Logios,” laughed Pikros, “that this gate is impenetrable to swords and battering rams, how do you expect to break through with just one arrow?”

“To break through it is not my plan,” stated Logios, cocking the arrow.

“You can’t possibly think that if you assassinate ME, my heirs will open the door, can you?” asked Pikros, crouching a little more behind the top edge of the wall, “because they wont.”

“The thought never crossed my mind,” replied Logios, drawing back the bow.

“You must be crazy then,” replied Pikros, with a smug smile.

“Must be,” agreed Logios as he took aim. After one long, slow breath he released the arrow. It sailed through the air and stuck between two of the large gears on the door.

Pikros laughed again, “See, the door is still standing. Your plan has failed.”

“I told you,” said Logios, “that was never my plan, and I assure you, it has not failed.”

With that, he turned and walked away.

Sidero and Xylo had been watching eagerly from a ways down the road and as he approached Sidero said, “That wasn’t much of a plan. Now, go get the army we were promised.”

Without stopping, as he walked past, Logios stated, “The third things I asked you for was the time to let my plan work. It is now time to give me that.”

“How long?” asked Sidero.

“A few days, but I’ll be back tomorrow,” replied Logios.

That night, Pikros made a startling discovery. He couldn’t open the gate; Logios’ arrow had lodged itself between two gears, locking the gate in place from the outside. The river was the only water source for the Northern kingdom and, since Pikros hadn’t actually been rerouting the river, as he had told Logios, they still had to go every few days to fill up the large tank carts. The plan had just been to do so under the cover of darkness. He had been so focused on keeping the others out that, he hadn’t considered the possibility that he might be building his people a prison.

When Logios approached the gate the following morning, Sidero and Xylo twenty paces behind, Pikros called down, “Very clever Logios, now take your arrow out of the door.”

Logios smiled and asked, “Are you ready to return what you have stolen?”

“How about,” Pikros countered, “Instead of giving all of the wood and iron back to the Eastern and Western kingdoms, I give YOU half of it to remove your arrow.”

Logios didn’t respond, he just looked silently at Pikros and shook his head in disappointment.

“Why should the Eastern and Western kingdoms have all the riches?” Pikros asked, “Every time they build a wall with their own stone, it’s like they are taking coins straight out of the pockets of my people. I just took what was ours, and I will give you half of it, just to remove an arrow. You can be a rich man.”

“This is not the way, Pikros,” Logios stated, then turned and walked away.

Pikros yelled after him, but Logios didn’t look again at the wall until the following morning.

Again he approached alone, Sidero and Xylo trailing him just close enough so that they could hear what was said.

“I bet you are just about out of water now, Pikros,” he said as he walked up.

“Yes, please let us out,” pleaded Pikros. Their water tanks had run dry that morning. Nobody had gone without yet, but if they didn’t get the gate open, it was going to be a hard night.

“Have you decided to return what you have stolen?” asked Logios.

“Never, it is ours,” Pikros responded, crossing his arms.

“Have a good day, Pikros,” Logios said, then turned and walked away.

The next day when Logios arrived, Pikros yelled down at him, “You are going to kill my people, over what? Some wood and Iron?”

“No, Pikros, this is not my fault, you can stop it any time you want,” Logios replied, “Now return what you have stolen.”

“Fine.” Pikros said, with a heavy sigh, “If you remove the arrow from the gate, we will give back the wood and iron.”

So, Logios walked to the gate and used a long stick to dislodge the arrow.

Sidero and Xylo where so impressed with how Logios had diffused the situation, that they asked how he had come up with the idea. To which he responded, “The benefit of a quality, Southern kingdom education.”

Not only did the tenth of the wood and iron that Logios had been promised help stimulate the economy of the Southern Kingdom, but as news of the Logios’ clever deeds spread, more and more children from the Eastern and Western kingdoms were sent to study in the Southern kingdom. Thus, business in the Southern kingdom was better than ever. Within a few years, the Southern kingdom was wealthy once again.

The Northern kingdom had lost the trust of their neighbors, used up their stores of stone, and had no money or iron left. The conditions went down hill fast, and within a year of the incident with the wall, the people of the Northern kingdom had all left for other kingdoms, leaving Pikros behind the wall alone.

The End

Liebster

Hey everyone!
My blog was nominated for a Liebster Award by my friend Mia (She’s rad, follow her on the twitters: @triadvstrinity) in her blog post https://triadvstrinity.squarespace.com/blog/2015/2/6/the-liebster-award.

The way it works is that I am supposed to answer the questions and nominate some people or something… I don’t know, it sounds awfully pyramidy to me. So, in the name of community I decided to answer the questions, but in the name of having a problem with authority and pyramids I decided to not push it on with more nominations. Feel free, instead, to see that as me saying “I NOMINATE EVERYONE!” if you want to answer some questions.

At the end, because this blog is a place for stories and these awards and blog hops are designed, ultimately, to learn things about each other, I’ll share a quick, true story about my childhood. Thus fulfilling both needs.

Mia’s questions were as follows:

1) If you met a genie, what would be your three wishes?
     I would wish the genie free, so we could be buddies and have a cartoon spin off together.

2) What’s the best joke you’ve ever been told?
     I don’t think I should tell it here… I’m not sure it’s appropriate.

3) Television show that let’s you escape no matter how many times you watch it. (Movie works too.)
     Stargate. I love Stargate, specifically SG1 and Atlantis. Universe was alright, but not the same sort of show.

4) How many WIPs do you have?
      So, my educational background is in physics and at Cal Poly, where I did my undergrad, there was a club called Women in Physics, which used the acronym WiP. My first thought when I see WIP is still “Women in Physics” before context convinces me otherwise. So to answer that question instead, I have zero. I DO, however, have one woman in astronomy… and she is amazing.

5) If you had to choose one book to read for the rest of your life, which would it be?
      That’s a tough one. I don’t know that I could do that. Can it be a collection of a bunch of other books??

6) How old were you when you knew that you wanted to be a writer?
      I’ve always been a story teller. I’ve been writing for many years. It was only recently that I realized that maybe other people might appreciate my writing too.

7) Why do you write?
      I already have a blog post about that!  https://imasillypirate.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/why-i-write/

8) What is the most exotic/grooviest (yeah, I just said groovy, you’re over it) place you’ve ever been?
      My brain hole is pretty groovy. I like living there. I did recently visit Portland, and I liked it there quite a bit.

9) What’s your writing pick me up? Do you have a certain food or drink or dance move that gets you in the zone and ready to go? (Singing at the top of your lungs is perfectly acceptable.)
     Writing IS the pick me up. Nothing is better than actually getting a chance to sit down and write, then knocking it out of the park.
LOOK! LOOK GUYS! I made a sport’s reference! (That was golf, right?)

10) What gets you fired up? (To be interpreted as you wish.)
     Being covered in lighter-fluid when someone flicks a match at me, I think, would probably fire me up (You said I could interpret it however I want…).

11) If you were to try to make it rain, what would be your go to chant?
     Rain, Rain, Go Away… because that’s how it works. :/

That was a bit of a downer as a way to finish this off… so… I’ll tell you all an amusing tidbit about my childhood, so you can all laugh at me together (see, I’m fostering a sense of community).

I grew up in Carmel Valley in Monterey, Ca. During the summers it got hot sometimes; I’m not talking about San Diego temperatures, but sometimes we’d break 100 degrees. At one point I was given this kid’s jumpsuit, I have no idea what it’s called, but I’m certain that it has a name (think gray, 80’s puffy jacket, but from head to toe, for sitting on the back of a motorcycle in cold wind). When I was a kid, I really wanted to be an astronaut. So, obviously, in the summer, left to my own devices, it wasn’t uncommon to see me wandering around in the bushes in my “space suit” which, of course, was a dirt bike helmet, that jumpsuit, and rain boots. I got hot, but I’d just pretend I was exploring the jungles of Venus… I probably should have died, because what kid actually thinks about hydrating? If the heat was giving me a headache, that was part of the game; that would happen on Venus.

One day, while wearing my space suit, I was climbing a dead tree that hung out over a bunch of berry brambles (because I, apparently, am very smart) and (Surprise!) the brittle, dead branch I was holding onto came off in my hand, dropping me into the brambles below. If I had hit the ground, that would have been one thing, but the brambles caught my suit and held me just far enough above the ground so that my little feet couldn’t reach. It took me about half an hour to get to the ground, but you better believe that, despite the wedgie and the gashes all up and down my arms, I took advantage of the situation and pretended that I was weightless.

tree

Some things don’t change. This is me in a tree just last week… I climbed up there to tie my shoe.

Megalos the Magnificent

MegalosThe crowd gasped as Megalos the Magnificent flicked open his hand, revealing that the handkerchief was gone. This was a good crowd. He loved it when they were impressed by that part; that wasn’t even the real trick. Making things disappear was easy. With a satisfied smirk he glanced from the empty right hand that they all stared at with open mouths to the other, which now held the handkerchief he had borrowed from the woman in the front row. Right on cue, the eager eyes of the crowd followed his. He hadn’t been sure they could gasp further, since not enough time had passed since the previous gasp for a full exhalation, but they managed.

The magician removed his gigantic top hat and bowed.

“I don’t believe it,” stated a short round man that stood on his tippy toes in the back. He muttered more to himself than to anyone else. It was the sort of statement of disbelief that betrayed that he was, at the very least, impressed.

“You don’t?” the magician asked, straightening himself and replacing his hat atop his clean, white hair.

“Well, I didn’t mean-” the man stammered uncomfortably.

“How would you like to see it again, then?” asked the magician, an eyebrow raised and a politician’s smile on his lips.

“Well, alright,” said the man. He was more comfortable now, seeing in the magician’s smile that he had not been offended.

Megalos threw his arms out to his sides as far away from each other as they could possibly go and started chanting the pseudo-mystical sounding crap that he had made up to be the magic words. He tried not to cringe when he felt a sharp pain in the forearm of his left arm under his sleeve. Big John was getting tired of running back and forth and had bit him, it happened on occasion. Big John was a grouch, but it was worth it; nobody could figure out how the tricks were done, so they kept coming to see them. He and Big John were making a fortune.

The magician closed his left hand over the handkerchief and turned both hands around, showing the audience only their backs. He felt Big John pull the handkerchief from his hand and start crawling down his arm as fast as he could. When Big John was about to the elbow of his right arm, the magician stopped chanting and opened his left, revealing that the hanky was gone. They all watched the other side this time, knowing the trick. He could see them analyzing his every move and twitch, contemplating if that could move a handkerchief. They had no idea that there was a little man shoving the handkerchief into the magician’s hand.

It was not surprising in the least to Megalos that they were still surprised and delighted when he opened his hand to reveal that, once again, the handkerchief had traveled to the other hand. The round man in the back didn’t speak again, but instead stood there on his tippy toes with his mouth hanging open.

Together Megalos the Magnificent and Big John did other tricks, even more unbelievable than the traveling handkerchief. There was one where a member of the audience signed a playing card and put it back into the deck, which the magician put into his coat pocket. Later, after a long story about his magical coat that likes to play cards, he would pull the deck out and the signed card would be on top. Of course, Big John had searched through the deck and moved the card. Audiences came up with a myriad of explanations for how this trick was done, but the idea that a tiny man simply sorted through the cards while it was in the magician’s pocket never crossed a single mind.

Megalos and Big John did all the tricks that the two of them had, and by the end, the entire crowd was a befuddled mass of disbelief: just how he liked them.

It was twenty minutes later, in the dressing room, when he pulled Big John from his pocket and set him on the table top next to a basket of muffins. Big John was two inches tall and sweat was soaking through his tiny shirt and overalls; the shows were a lot of work for him.

“That was a great show, Big John,” Megalos said, walking to the other side of the room to fetch him a tiny towel and a small cup of warm water.

“Ever think,” Big John panted, “maybe we’re goin about this all wrong?” He began to undress.

“How do you mean?” asked the magician, setting the cup down next to the tiny man.

“I mean,” the man paused as he pulled his shirt off over his head, then started toward the cup, “it’s lot of work for me.” As he began to climb the cup, the magician picked up the little naked body and helped him into the warm bath without saying anything. Once settled into the warm water, Big John said, “I mean, don’t you think people would pay even more money to see me just walk’n around, rather than running all over the place under your clothes?”

The magician pulled up a chair and sat down, thinking this over.

“I mean, they aint never seen a two inch tall man before, and it’d be easier, right? Let’s just show ’em the truth,” said Big John as he climbed out of the cup. Megalos helped him out, then handed him the washcloth.

“Honestly,” said the magician finally, “If we didn’t dress it up as a magic trick, I don’t think they’d believe it.” The magician then got back up to go fetch the matchbox that held Big John’s entire wardrobe.