I Forgot it’s Halloween…

Are…are you reading this?

Are you…are you still reading this? I said that I forgot it’s Halloween. That means it is currently Halloween.

Get outta here. Scat. Shoo. Go eat some candy, hug a loved one.

I’ll see ya Tuesday.

Much love.

-Evan

END

Heh…I signed off like it’s a letter.

And I said “scat.” Heh. That’s another word for “poop.”

Why are you STILL HERE!? GO! Watch a scary movie!! Get wasted! Pants someone in a funny costume!

Tale from ‘Round the Fire

Sup y’all. I live in Northern California and we’re having a bit of a wildfire problem right now. Our house is a nice, comfy refugee camp of friends and family at the moment. So, from my phone, here is (literally) the first campfire joke I googled:

“An army ranger, navy seal, and green beret are sitting at a campfire swapping tough guy stories.

The army ranger pipes up by bragging, “One time I had to parachute 4 miles behind enemy lines, take out a platoon of enemy soldiers, and escape with fifty pounds of intel strapped to my back.”

Not to be out done by the ranger, the seal chimes in. “We navy seals are so tough, one time I swam upstream 8 miles into enemy lines. Once there, I took out a whole company of enemy special forces, and snuck back out with 100 pounds of their top secret weapons.”

The green beret sat there nodding his head listening while stirring the coals with his dick.”

Stay frosty, friends. -snap and a wink-

Mama’s Moving Day!

Happy Tuesday, every’all’er’body! What’s up?

Tomorrow sees the end (probably) of a year-long “struggle” (in quotes only because the power of accomplishment washes out how fucking difficult it’s been), because it’s moving day for my mom! But this ain’t a diary (all the time) and we didn’t come here for that. So are you ready for some fucking stories!? Yeeeeeaaaaah! Ooo! Yeeeeeaaaaah!!

Well, wait until Thursday because all I had time for was some quotes that offer some solid life advice that’s gotten me through some tough shit recently and because when I finally made it to a cafe where I was suppose to write and publish this their WiFi was down so it had to be done in Open Office and then put up once I got home which is why it’s so late in the evening rather than noontime but it’s okay because maybe it is noontime where you are so I’m not mad about it!

Yeeeeaaaah!!!

1
“It’s possible to do everything correctly and still lose. This isn’t a failure on your part, it’s just life. Do your best.” -anonymous

The Take: This is “anonymous” because I found it while scrolling Facebook the other day, but it had a picture of Captain Picard as part of it, so I like to pretend it was said by Patrick Stewart. Anyway, all of us, at some point or another has likely had this happen – you play by the rules, perform as best you can, even excel, but a matter outside your control makes you come up short. I think as kids our parents told us to just “do your best and that’s all you can do” partly because it’s some cliché conventional wisdom, yeah, but also because it’s true.
As kids, we think it’s an even trade – effort in exchange for the desired outcome, and that’s almost it. You need the effort put in, that’s true, but the trade isn’t a guarantee. I think the real message in “just do the best you can” is partially accepting that it’s all that’s in your control, but also accepting that that doesn’t mean 100% or even 110% effort means you’ll get what you want.
But if it doesn’t, pick up, dust off, deep breath, and get back in it.

2
“Learn to be okay with people not knowing your side of the story.” -also anonymous

The Take: This one is sort of a spiritual sibling to number one, and it’s anonymous because I also don’t know who said this one, but I think it was on either Reddit or a bumper sticker. Strangely, I think of Aretha Franklin saying it, and it sounds inspirational as shit in her voice, so let’s go with it.
That said, it’s a tough one to live with, but also pretty freeing. An example I can think of personally is going to the bank with my mom in recent months. For quite a few necessary expenses, we’ve funded them out of her savings account through my checking since I’m cutting the checks for them (long story) all from the same bank branch. Through this process, though, we haven’t sat down with the tellers and associates to explain the project of renovating her house and my managing her money – yatta yatta – so, when we went today, they just saw a mother and her grown son, again, coming in to put money from her savings into his checking account.
So while, when they look at me during these transactions, I want badly to explain that I haven’t touched a cent of hers, as it all goes to contractors, painters, deposits, and the like, and instead actually have spent thousands of my own savings (that I really shouldn’t, being unemployed with no income n’ credit bills n’ whatnot) to help her…I don’t. A) That conversation would be long as fuck with a high chance of, “Okay…I wasn’t even thinking that” reactions. B) It doesn’t really matter, in the end. I know what we’re doing, and that’s good enough.

3
“Will that dog ever shut the fuck up?!” -Amanda

The Take: This one isn’t meant to be inspirational. It’s just because our next door neighbor’s dog barks all the time and I thought it was kind of funny.

4
“In these bodies we live
“In these bodies we die.
“The way you invest your love,
“you invest your life.” -Mumford and Sons

The Take: And this one I just thought was nice. They were song lyrics in my notebook, they made me smile, so I put them here. What I WILL say is that I find it funny how many romantic song lyrics and proverbs really do boil down to the bottom line of roughly: “Life is short, don’t be a dick.”

Anyway, I’ve preached enough. Got a U-HAUL to rent. Catch you lovely bastards (you too, ladies) Thursday.

Ciao.

A Place to Be

A bit outside the usual posting schedule, but that makes sense for this one. A warning up top, this is going to be pretty unplanned, unstructured, and probably unedited – we’re gonna barf a rant here, so bear with me.

Do you have a “happy place” that you go to?

Actually, different question (but hold onto that one).

Have you ever seen Ratatouille? It’s the movie with a little rat named Remy in Paris (I’m pretty sure), voiced by Patton Oswald, who discovers there more to food than eating trash. There’s a scene somewhere near the mid-beginning wherein he tries introducing his brother to flavors besides trash. He has him close his eyes, eat a piece of cheese, then a piece of grape, then try the two together. The entire time his brother is chewing, the background behind him goes to black and these ribbons of color trace themselves and dance around to reflect the sensations brought on by the flavors.

Since seeing that movie, I’ve done the same thing with a really good meal probably a thousand times (my friends can attest, as they make fun of me for it). But it’s an excellent way to just…savor.

Somewhere else I’ve found a similar experience is with music, and God just writing it out it feels a little woo-woo. I feel like it comes off like a Grateful Dead hippie who talks about “feeling the music, maaaaan,” but it’s real.

I want to be – and I mean this – a pretentious douche who can honestly say that I’m way classier than you because I appreciate the orchestra and classical music, but I can’t; I hate it; I’m just not that person even though I want to be (I have similar feelings about coconut water).

However, somewhere I’ve found I can appreciate the body that is orchestra and the wonderful phenomenon that is several dozen instruments coming together harmoniously in a symphony…

…are soundtracks. Soundtracks to movies and video games. Those things that give the subconscious, subliminal flavor to a storytelling experience.

Even as I tippy-type this on out, I’m listening to the soundtrack to ‘Detroit: Become Human’ and if you don’t know what it is or haven’t experienced it yet, you owe it to yourself to try it. Don’t think of it as a video game, even. It’s a piece of interactive fiction. It’s an exploration of narrative and a masterfully done composition of character, experience, empathy, choice, and music. Don’t look up a play-through, don’t listen to a friend tell you about it, do it yourself. Trust me. And when you do, go into the Extras and pore through the “Making of” and “Behind the Scenes” style videos.

I say all that because it brings me to this: remember that question about happy places?

Maybe not a happy one, exactly, but one of my favorite places to be is a place where I appreciate and wonder. I enjoy writing and feel a compulsion to do it whether people read and listen or not because of the process that goes into it. Loosely quoting Chuck Palahniuk, the man who wrote Fight Club, he said “real writing shouldn’t be easy, it should tear you apart.” And by and large I agree with that wholeheartedly.

The process of storytelling in a fictional capacity is creating a conflict in your mind and others by describing people, events, decisions, consequences, feelings, and mistakes that by right don’t physically exist, then resolving it in a very real way that reflect aspects of what it means to experience the life of a living being. It’s…it’s a privilege we have.

An art form I’ve never understood but have long wanted to: music composition, which brings me back to soundtracks. Nowadays, they’re cinematic enough to have grabbed my attention, but they employ the means of orchestra, so my interest has a foot in the door of that hoity-toity interest I said earlier I can’t be classist about.

And that note about happy places? One of my favorite places to exist, and I hope you can either relate or give it a try sometime, is putting myself in the mind of a composer. I love listening to the soundtracks and scores of movies and games (Detroit is obviously one, but really pick any that you enjoy) and picking out the instruments I can hear and identify, then picturing them being played alongside the others.

But it makes me so envious. It’s one thing to observe and appreciate something an artist does, but it’s something else entirely to think of the place in the mind that made it. Like Remy’s brother in Ratatouille, I imagine it’s like that: an empty black background, and then sounds bleed out of the ether like ribbons of light and dance, singing just to you; but then it’s up to you to capture it. And it’s that first step that has me so jealous. To be in the quiet and slowly begin to hear the timpani, the horn, the cellos in concert, and violins above it all come out of the silence and begin to fit together.

Or maybe it isn’t like that at all. Maybe you walk down the street and start to just feel a rhythm that exists in that moment like we’ve seen in commercials: the construction crew down the road and its jackhammer lay a background that car horns and doors opening and closing fit into to create a symphony only you see.

I got to speak recently with a friend who graduated with his Master’s studying music and is going onto teach. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to ask him about all of this stuff about a composer’s mind and was floored to hear him say he doesn’t have an interest in it, that he enjoys playing clarinet and that process, but not creating music for symphony. To each their own, but all that did was reinforce my want to exist in the mind of someone who hears what I imagine they do.

So, Philip Sheppard, Nima Fakhrara, John Paesano, if you’re reading this, just know: I’m a fan and I’d love to talk to you.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by. I’ll catch you guys tomorrow.

Anecdote from a Gentleman

Happy Thursday, everybody.

Did you know that people with a sensitive enough sense of smell can actually detect storms because of the change in atmosphere and creation of ozone? Apparently it wasn’t just a Kyle XY thing.

Anyway, um…today…okay, I’m just going to say it: Skip over this one.

If you’re a regular follower of these, I’m sorry; if you’re just passing through and happened across it, look the other way. I went digging a little bit for today’s post and came across this gem.

I’m…I’m not proud of it. Just know that about five years ago, I popped this little gem out of my noggin’ and was overly proud of myself.

Okay, enough gabbing. Just…-sigh-

Anecdote from a Gentleman

“Have I ever been at odds with the law? Well yes, there was a time, once. I had been caught, red-handed mind you, surpassing the established limit on vehicle speed for that particular stretch of the road. You must understand, however, that I was not without my reasons. If you’ve the time, I would be glad to recount the tale, as it was quite an experience; one, I should challenge, that does not take place every day. Mind you, it is not without certain graphic nature. You’re sure? Splendid! It went as thus…

“’Yes sir,’ I greeted the uniformed officer as he approached my window and inquired as to whether or not I was aware of my offense. ‘Yes, I realize I was speeding and I fully deserve and accept the ticket you are prepared to write, as doing so is part of your duty. If I may ask you to, as a servant of the public and of the common good, postpone its scripting and simply follow me to my home, a short three miles from here, where I may use the restroom; the need of which is the primary reason for my haste.’

“To this point, the officer had not said a word since his opening question and had simply allowed me to explain myself. He preserved this condition by quietly giving me a look that on its own granted that I continue onto voicing my reasoning. ‘For if you must know,’ I began genially, ‘ I currently need to shit like a wildebeest. There is a pain in my colon at this moment so severe I can feel it in the pit of my stomach. I’ve never before engaged in intercourse with another man before, sir, but if I may only illustrate my point by telling you that I feel as if I’m being penetrated as a virgin, and every slight bump and imperfection in the road is yet another thrust for which I am unprepared.’

“The lawman graciously accepted my appeal and from there escorted me to my home where I put some water on for tea before excusing myself for my task. My trousers were around my ankles whilst I was still a solid ten feet from the restroom’s threshold, forcing me to hop the rest of the way. Not to worry, for I crossed that distance in a few short, albeit tortuous, bounds. My bottom touched the seat to the sound of a chorus of angels’ resounding hallelujah. The smell was at once both atrocious and the sweetest scent of relief ever to grace my senses.

“’How do I know it was the voice of angels’, you ask? An astute question to be sure, one I undoubtedly would have been remiss not to ask myself. You see, it was the precision of the song with the almost crippling light-headedness and dizziness that took place at the time of my hearing it. I believe, as a respectable, God-fearing man, that an experience such as that is reserved alone for direct communion with the heavenly host.

“With the completion of my ordeal, I reentered my home’s living space to the kettle’s whistle and found my lawman friend had departed. In his place there was the written citation which had brought us together. Curiously, I noticed that on its backside something was written, which made me smile. It read: ‘I didn’t believe you at first, but I’ve heard things in war that shocked me less. Any day you can take a shit like that is a good day. Just watch your speed and stay safe. -Jeff’”

FIN

The Take: I mean, what I WILL say for it is that it was a nice opportunity to work out a thought experiment (but that’s really goddamn generous). I’ve only ever gotten one speeding ticket, and in the moment I didn’t want to try anything like this on account of being sort of nervous and not actually an idiot, but I HAVE always wondered – if sold just right – if a move like this could get you out of a ticket. If you’ve done it, successfully or otherwise, God, please let me know. If not, well…try it sometime?

Anyway, after that, I’ll see you guy Tuesday.

Ciao!

Today’s FableFact source: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/storm-scents-smell-rain/

RE: Gabriel Firefoot, the Dancing Flame (and his Buddy)

(Disclaimer, this is a re-post from Tuesday. Again, busy-ass week.)

Did you know that Lego used to bury its used molds in the concrete foundations of buildings to keep them from being reused? Think about that the next time you get paranoid uploading to the Cloud – Lego already one-up’d you.

Happy (Thursday), everybody!

I’m out of cheeky one-liners, so I’m just going to hop right to it.

May I present:

Gabriel Firefoot, the Dancing Flame

Gabriel Firefoot, having been abandoned by his friends in a tavern on the northern edge of the Rift, sat on a wooden bench with a sullen heart in his chest and an ale in his hand. He continued to let the ale quell the headache that pounded away at his temples as a sympathetic bubbling noise came from the ceramic vase at his side.

“I know, Flynnt,” he began, speaking seemingly to the air. “We allow ourselves a single night of gallivanting to properly explore the town, and they up and fucking leave us. Bastards’ll probably get eaten by giants.”

More bubbly syllables arose in response from the container.

“No I don’t actually mean it. Of course I hope they make it back in one piece. They could have said something before taking off is all. The way I figure it, we have plenty of gold left over from our way up here to live pretty comfortable for about a month. They should be back before then, right?”

The cork lid on the vase gave a small, happy jump in reply.

As the weeks progressed, Gabriel frittered away his small adventuring fortune on drink and social displays in the taverns, trinkets and oddities in the shops, and warm baths and women for his luxuries. Though, as his coin purse began to feel light, with his previous adventuring party still not returned to town and no other suitable traveling types coming through, he felt the looming threat of poverty at his heels. Not wishing to return to the days of stealing scraps of bread as a guttersnipe, he turned to the talent that had served him in that time: he performed.

He and his molten familiar Flynnt took to dazzling passersby with the arts of dance, acrobatics, and wonderful displays of fire. Through these talents, his reputation, and social antics, Gabriel managed to make a way for himself and Flynnt. While the two didn’t enjoy quite the same levels of luxury as before, they managed a comfortable residence at the Rift Keep. After some time, his content attitude began to fade and the fire-dancer longed again for the feel of the road beneath his feet.

Perhaps a fortnight after these feelings took root, a fantastic spectacle came to town: Dr. Grumbar’s Terrific Traveling Troop. The nomadic carnival made its stake in the town’s caravan park, and Gabriel would have been perturbed at the subtracted business if Dr. Grumbar himself, a finely dressed, portly dwarf with a magnanimous red beard, hadn’t discovered him while the showman was about town during the carnival’s setup.

“Well look at you!” bellowed the dwarf. “Yer all flames n’ heels n’ wonder ain’t ye? You lookin’ fer work, laddie?”

Gabriel gladly accepted the dwarf’s handsome offer and began his life anew as a dancing acrobat and fire-breather extraordinaire for the traveling circus. After the company had finished its time in the Rift Keep, they set their course south back into Fenris proper. And so Gabriel and Flynnt traveled, performing in such places ranging from Song to Stettin, Freehaven to the Iron Citadel itself. The company found themselves in Neven as the dry season had come around to its peak.

“Hot as a forge’s arsehole up here it is!” Grumbar jested as he addressed the circus. “That, combined with all those horrid critters these poor folk got’a deal with, they need entertainment! Let’s give ’em a show!”

Gabriel and Flynnt had just finished with their routine, making their way to the performers’ tented section of the grounds. Gabriel congratulated himself and his familiar, and Flynnt would bubble back jovial responses to the praise. He had just lied down and was about to uncork Flynnt’s carrier when the bell at their tent door sounded a ring to let them know a visitor had come. He welcomed the fan in, yet withdrew some at the sight that drew back the canvas flap.

A hunched, hooded figure took several hobbling steps into the tent before speaking, though Gabriel already felt an empathetic tension emanate from the vase to his side.

“You and your…creature…were spectacular tonight,” spoke the hood, with a raspy voice and in an accent that Gabriel could not quite place.

“Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the show,” Gabriel offered tenuously. He tried to see the man’s face but the darkness of the hood made it difficult. With a thought, he made the lanterns in the tent burn more brightly.

The hooded man shrank slightly at the added light and turned away some. “Might I, perhaps, meet your creature?” he ventured.

“I’d need to know your name first, sir.” The hooded figure only withdrew further and offered no answer. Gabriel pressed. “Did Grumbar let you back here? It’s normally for performers only.”

“The creature…” repeated the hood. Gabriel felt fear emanate more and more strongly from Flynnt the longer this man remained in the room.

“I think you should go…” Gabriel began, the last words more slipping from his lips than properly spoken. His eyes drifted over the hooded man’s shoulder to the tent flap, gently parted by a nighttime gust, and Gabriel saw the prone, motionless bodies of two guardsmen.

The figure must have read Gabriel’s reaction, for it then wasted no time in making a lunge for the vase that housed Flynnt. Gabriel matched the man’s move, parried him aside, and, with a grapple, threw him over a wooden dresser. As he lifted himself from the ground, the cloak and its hood caught on the dresser’s handle and were pulled away, revealing not a man but a twisted creature. Its limbs were gnarled and covered with violet mange and it wore a mask of black iron through which haunting yellow eyes peered ravenously at Gabriel and Flynnt. Its hands were clawed and it raked the wooden dresser in anger as it prepared for another lunge.

The fire-dancer was quick, scooping up Flynnt in his vase and made to roll under a back tent flap to escape, though too late as the masked creature was upon him, grappling him by the sling that held Flnnt. Gabriel delivered a powerful kick to its midsection, sending the creature toppling over a wardrobe chest. The rope strained and soon tore under the stress of the struggle, sending the hardened ceramic container and its cork stopper tumbling across the room in different directions. Flynnt, desperate to make an escape from the monster, hurriedly spilled out of his vase and sped for his protector, Gabriel.

The masked horror steadied itself and made a grab for Flynnt once more. Gabriel, in a defensive rage, summoned a blaze of fire in both palms and gripped the iron mask tight, pouring all of his essence into the act, screaming with the strain, intent on cooking the beast’s head to ashes inside the cauldron that was its mask. It loosed a gut-wrenching scream at the pain and as it did so Gabriel’s mind was assaulted with all manner of strange symbols and visions. He saw the very earth cracking apart with an orange glow, forests repeatedly burned to ash and regrew in a manner of seconds, and runic notes in a language he recognized but couldn’t understand felt to brand themselves in his mind before all went dark.

Gabriel came to consciousness a short time later to the sound of panic and chaos. He roused his senses, collected the vase with its stopper, and mentally called out to Flynnt. The familiar responded to him with a frightened bubbling sound from under the bed. Gabriel sighed a quick breath of thanks to the powers that be and ushered him into the vase. While the creature that attacked them was nowhere to be seen, Gabriel saw clear drag marks in the dirt leaving the tent in a hurry as well as the creature’s mask, some seared flesh lining the interior. The fire-dancer collected the mask, Flynnt with his carrier, and a small manner of essentials in a satchel and left the tent to investigate the flurry of chaotic sounds that surrounded their tent.

Stepping outside, Gabriel was met with a disastrous sight: the carnival gone up in flames. Circus folk and patrons all bustled about, either in a fleeing panic or efforts to combat the blaze. His head surged with pulses of pain, briefly revisited by the visions brought by the wicked creature’s screams, though in them he saw a building that housed a great tree, split in twain. He recognized it as the great tree in the main tavern by the town’s central plaza, though only this time, he saw the tree’s veins and the life that flowed through them. He felt beckoned and, though desperately weakened by his encounter, mustered what he could to traverse the chaotic crowds between himself and the tree.

He was jostled, shoved, and thrown by the fleeing crowds. As best he could, Gabriel made use of the alleyways so as to avoid the thickest of the flooding mobs. His magic exhausted, Flynnt would shield him from the flames when they would otherwise prove dangerous. Eventually, the two made it to the building which housed the broken tree. Patrons of the establishment and workers all ran about with buckets, drawing from the well to battle the ensuing blaze. Pushing past them all to the front door, he shoved it open and took the final shuffling steps to the base of its trunk.

As he and Flynnt approached the tree amid the chaotic flames, Gabriel felt his focus becoming clearer – the tree before him the center of this focus, gaining an aura that grew stronger the closer he came. The strange runes and glyphs from his encounter with the creature again surged to mind, and as he lay his hand on the trunk’s face, he felt them become an explosion. Symbols and patterns flew about his own mind and that of Flynnt’s: Fire, Earth, Mind, Nature – these ideas and their deeper meanings that transcended language and seared themselves into the fabric of his being. Soon he had both hands on its trunk and the feeling that followed was one singular to that moment in Gabriel’s life.

He felt as a part of the relic on which he laid his hands. The energy that flowed through the tree was like blood through his veins and he felt entrenched in the earth as if its roots were his own. He could see through his touch that the object before him stood not alone, but part of the forest that surrounded Neven and beyond. Though not in voice, this connection begged him use his talents to put down the blaze that threatened it and he soon felt flushed with new energy – a mana force more fluid and pure than he’d experience in his lifetime. With it, his breath came easier, filled his chest more fully, blood flowed with vigor, and the world about him grew ever more vibrant. He gasped and wondered how he would ever dream to describe this moment in the future. He then collected himself and focused.

Outside, as peasants and performers all ran and hurried about, the blazes began to subside. All stopped and began to stare as the fires that once raged and threatened the town now slowly diminished until they were no more.

Gabriel opened his eyes and looked about the inn to see for himself that the flames were extinguished. As his lips broke a smile, dizziness took him. He fell to his knees and soon slumped to the floor entirely. The last sight before the black was the visage of an elderly elven woman coming to stand over him.

Gabriel slowly awoke to find himself on a soft bed of heather under a brilliant starry sky. Looking about him, he soon noticed the bed he lied upon was in an attic of some kind and that the starlight which lit the space came through a hole in the roof. The charring around the edges and the strangely powerful smell informed him that it was a building no doubt involved in the fire, perhaps only now a few hours later. His eyes continued to graze about the room and soon came to land on a mirror resting in the corner.

In the reflection, he observed many things: the edges of his performer’s outfit were singed in areas, he had been bandaged to presumably cover burns he had no memory of getting, but most curious of all, his eyes, normally a rich brown, burned brightly green – though they were noticeably fading as he watched. As they dimmed, so too did the light of the stars, the burnt smell that hung in the air, and other sensations, all to their regular, mortal strength.

Mentally, Gabriel called out to Flynnt and, for the first time in his life with the molten familiar, a voice came in response instead of the empathetic vibration to which he’d become accustomed. It was childlike and spoke to the very center of his mind.

“Hey! I’m in the kitchen with the lady.”

“You…you..” Gabriel mentally stammered, “you can talk now?”

“Always have been,” Flynnt responded with a happy thought. “I think now you can just hear me. At least, that’s what the lady says.”

“What lady?”

“The elf that runs the place. Here, just come downstairs when you’re ready. I think she has some stuff she wants to talk to us about.”

“Wait, first, why do you sound so much like a kid?”

“Do I?”

“Yeah, like you’re five or six.”

“That’s funny. I guess that’s just how you imagined I’d sound. You sound like, well, you. I’ve heard you talk, so I guess that’s not so crazy.”

“Guess not.” Gabriel paused for a minute while he considered the situation.

“Don’t worry too much about it, I say. We saved the town! Come downstairs and talk to the lady.”

“Yeah, be right there.”

Gabriel came down the flight of stairs very slowly, each hobbling step made the aches in his body pulse to such a degree it made him wish he’d never left his heather bed. His hand on the rail to guide him, he made his way down the spiral wooden stair set and found Flynnt, taking a vageuly humanoid form, lounging in a large ceramic bowl the way one does in a bath too small for their size. Next to him was the elderly elven tavern keeper, sprinkling him with salt out of a smaller bowl a few pinches at a time, which sizzled and sparked to nothing on contact. Gabriel could hear Flynnt’s voice in his mind softly giggling.

“If you’re gonna cook him,” Gabriel announced, addressing the woman, “I’d use some turmeric root and black Scythian salt.”

“Mmhm,” returned the elf. “I’d prefer black Castellean peppercorn. He’s a spicy little fucker, this one.” And at once, Gabriel knew he and the elf would get along famously.

“It tickles!” laughed Flynnt.

Gabriel slowly walked over to the table where the two sat. The room was well lit. Sconces on pillars about the main room gave the space an inviting glow and the fire in the hearth offered it warmth. As his eyes lingered on the flame dancing over the logs, he was reminded of the incident. It came to him in painful flashes: the cackling flames, the screams, the creature…the creature. He pushed the heel of his hand into his eye as if fighting off a migraine.

“Take a seat, hero.”

“Yeah, Flynnt mentioned the town was alright. How much is left?”

“A fair bit, actually,” said the elf, producing a pipe from the folds of her apron with a bit of pipe tobacco. She fitted her pipe, packed down the tobacco and leaned over to the lounging elemental. “Be a dear and give us a light, would you?” Flynnt produced an appendage roughly resembling an arm with a digit roughly resembling a thumb which soon turned to flame. “Ah, you’re a doll. It all went down,” she said now turning back to Gabriel, “about as quickly as it started. There are few like to lose their house and a great many burned, but none that I know of who’ve died.”

“Thank you, before I forget. Thank you for bandaging me and taking care of Flynnt here.”

“Ah, keep it,” she said with a dismissive wave of the hand. “Wasn’t gonna let you die here on my floor and leave your critter here to wither away. You’re the hero of the town and all, even if you’re also the one that started it.” She gazed at him through the haze of the pipe.

“I…” he tried. “I what?”

“Please. This town sees it’s share of nightmares – ghouls, alghouls, ghasts, other undead horrors – but blazes that start out of nowhere? Why, that might take a circus with a magical firedancer in the middle of the dry season to start…oh, wait.”

“Well, when you put it like that it seems rather hard to deny.”

“I thought so. And don’t worry or start up with excuses, your critter here’s already told me the details of what happened.”

Flynnt bobbed up and down affirmatively.

“In any case,” the elderly tavern keeper continued, “you do owe some responsibility for the act of destruction, however unintentional.”

“I would love to, and I mean that wholeheartedly, I don’t exactly make a fortune working as a dancer though, dear.”

“You can piss on your money,” said the old woman with a scoff. “What we need to do is throw some reins on that new found power of yours.”

Gabriel prepared a witty retort by instinct, but holstered it in recognition of his experience with the split tree. “Well then, where do we start?”

“Where else?” She smiled a wry smile at the young firedancer and took deeply of her pipe before parting her lips to vent a great stream of smoke. Through the thick haze, her voice spoke: “At the beginning, ya dippy shit.”

The next several months consisted of long hours in waist-deep snows, lessons in concentration and connection to the surrounding earth, as well as many thousands of hits with Elsa’s favorite switch. Tempered by this crucible, Gabriel’s complaints sharply quit and he was introduced to a principle which had never found its way into his natural habit before: discipline. When she felt he was ready, she bade him take a knee before her one eve.

“If I’m going to be honest with you, I wasn’t entirely certain you’d make it through the winter.”

“I certainly aim to please.”

“It was the bet, wasn’t it?”

“I will have to eat once I leave.”

The old elf softly laughed. She anointed his head with oil from a smoke-eye olive and coated him with the fragrance of frost mirriam. “Rise, Gahliel.”

The former firedancer and circus performer rose, now Gahliel. He wore close-fitting robes of a light sunset orange, tailored for him by his elven mentor, though without sleeves as per the student’s request. With Flynnt’s jar strapped about his back and his meager satchel on his side, he stood ready for a word from his teacher.

“I suppose this calls for some form of ceremony,” groaned Elsa. “Firstly, I had this made in case you happened to make it this far.” She slowly turned and reached behind the rows of bottles that made up the bar and pulled out an elegantly carved walking staff of an smooth gray ironwood, which he accepted. “Secondly, a question. Do you have everything with you?”

“Everything what?”
“Everything you need.”

Gahliel gave a skeptical squint. “I suppose I do.”

“Mmm, then if I can just say it’s been an experience. You and that spicy little fucker do some good out there.” She retrieved from her robes a small cloth bundle and undid the folds to reveal an angled blue stone the size of an egg. The young man gave a tired sigh at the sight of the little cobalt nugget. “Getting rid of me, eh?” he thought.

“Well, it’s been real, Els.” With that, he reached out and touched the stone. In a blinding blue flash, the last sight Gahliel carried with him into the abyss that followed was the affectionate smile of the elderly elven tavern keeper of Neven.

FIN

The Take: Gahliel was always fun because of the penchant for cracking wise (like we saw with Revan), but what really made his endearing was his connection with Flynnt. I know he’s just a bubbling cork most of the time, but Gabriel’s protective attachment to him as well as having him finally emerge as a childish entity that giggles at being salted always felt like a real nice ribbon on top.

Also, little known fact, Gabriel eventually went on to get impregnated by a dragon. D&D gets weird.

Anyway, ta-ta until Thursday!

Interested in more? Like knee-slappers and chin-scratchers? Check out my first published work in the Third Flatiron’s “Hidden Histories” anthology here (and tell ’em Evan sent ya!): 
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PRN5ZQ1

Today’s FableFact source: https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2009/02/building-on-a-dynasty/

RE: The Leap of Faith Principle

(Full disclosure, been a busy week, so today’s is a re-post from Tuesday.)

Did you know that giant tarantulas will often keep frogs as pets? Apparently they’ll keep them safe from predators and in return the frogs eat insects that would threaten the spider’s eggs before they hatch.
I guess that means Aragog probably chose a toad for his Hogwarts pet, huh?

Happy Tuesday, everybody!

I don’t know where you live, but in the areas around my neighborhood, people put up these signs in their front lawns a lot. They’re black signs with white lettering and they all sport famous historical or motivational quotes. One of my favorites is by poet and activist Maya Angelou, which says:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
-Maya Angelou

I guess in that way, her quote has a lot in common with Papa Kratos (check out the last post for the reference). It’s terrific because it, like Kratos, doesn’t expect perfection, doesn’t even expect success. It just expects that you’ll apply yourself the best that you can – The. Best. You don’t need to apologize for failure or coming up short, you can keep your apologies and save yourself the time and words. Instead, observe what’s happened, the effects of your efforts, and fold that experience into your next try.

Because of a lot of life events recently (short version: helping my mother renovate her house, retire, and move), I’m still feeling pretty sensitive to motivational sentiments. So that’s what today’s post is. Like some others, this one came together a while ago in probably a single afternoon on the back of a napkin one day at work. We’ll get into more in The Take.

Without furter adieu, I present:

Lindsey’s Dream

I was standing on a cliff by the ocean. There was a rocky precipice about twelve feet out and there was a small crowd of people standing on it. They all looked happy, fulfilled, and whole. I looked down at the space between our places and saw bodies. They were lifeless, broken, bobbing with the ebb and flow of the waves against the rocks. They were the people who had jumped and didn’t make it. I looked behind me and saw an ocean of people. They stood dressed in rags like me, cold, shaking with anxiety and fear. They were the people who never jumped because they had also seen the waves.

I wanted to jump because I wanted to be where the happy people were, but was afraid because I didn’t want to fall. I looked down at the waves again and, this time, saw something I hadn’t noticed before. It was a hand, then another, then another. They were people who had survived the fall and were climbing back up. So I stood and I watched. Not every climber finished, many fell, but one made it and stood next to me.

“What will you do now?” I asked him.

Breathless, he answered simply: “Rest and jump again.”

And he did. He was old and gaunt, he saw there was reason to be afraid, but he jumped. The man fell short, but he clung to the side of the rocky precipice. Eventually, he pulled himself onto it and was folded in among his new peers. I decided to name him ‘Murphy’.

That was when I jumped too. I had seen others jump with a timid step and that lack of conviction made them slip. I jumped with strong legs and a clear mind, but still I fell. The waves were hard, shocking with the cold, and threw me with overwhelming strength. I saw the lifeless forms around me and felt the seduction of giving into the waves. But I remembered the man’s conviction. It was that conviction that drove him to jump, fall, and yet never drown. I looked to the cliffs. The rock up to the precipice was impossible – sheer, flat, and held an imposing slant. The climb I witnessed the old man make was jagged and sharp, but doable. It started with grabbing the first hold.

So it was that I jumped, fell, climbed, and would jump again. Now those sad faces were watching me. Some were silent, others bid me cease my efforts and join them by their heatless fires. I shuffled off their hindering grasps and made another leap. I had learned. I knew how to run, where to step and where not, and which rocks to spring from. I reached my hand out as I had so many times before, but this time found purchase on the precipice. I allowed myself a smile at a few of the successful who took notice, but the rock I held broke and I fell.

This was the first time I’d felt so frozen by the waves in my many leaps from the bluff. I had done everything correctly. I had made my leaps, I had learned from my falls, I had persevered the pain, the cold, the rock. Yet this time it was the rock that had let me go. It was not my fault, but I still fell. So I began to sink, and as the deep blue grew darker the seduction of the bidding cold returned. I felt my feet touch the inviting, slick, uneven bottom and the light began to close in around my vision of the precipice I had been so near.

I would have let the water take me to join the other fallen if I hadn’t seen it. There, from the bottom of the waters at the base of the cliffs, I saw handholds hidden in the flat stone column of the precipice. They were folded, narrow slits in the stone like gills on a fish, only to be seen from an angle the bottom of the water provided. So, I pushed off the bottom, ascended toward the light, and took a filling breath after I broke the surface. The air tasted of old salt, but I had a love for it. I swam to the base of the column and placed my hands upon it. It was flawlessly smooth, like the surface of polished marble, and it was warm.

I soon found the small pockets hidden in the stone, scarcely wide enough for my fingers, and began to climb. It was terribly demanding, but not unlike what I’d endured in my efforts anyway. I climbed, with aching muscles, burning lungs, and quivering joints, but I climbed. I made it to the edge of the precipice I’d leapt for so many times and pulled myself onto it.

“I knew you would make it,” came a familiar voice. I turned and saw Murphy standing there. I smiled in return, looked about my new peers, and was confused. “What’s the matter?” he asked.

“They’re the same,” I said.

I inspected the community atop the precipice. Everyone stood dressed in rags, and while there were those who wore a contented smile like Murphy did, many others frowned or shook with their own cold. I walked between them, wondering what could bring them displeasure when we had made it. I wondered this until I came to the other edge of the precipice and saw.

I looked around me and saw many with discontented faces. I looked down and saw still bodies, bobbing with the ebb and flow of the waves. I looked up and saw another precipice with a small crowd waiting on the other side, all with happy, wholesome faces.

“Will you stay?” Murphy asked, who had followed me.

I looked at him, then back to the precipice. I smiled at him, placed my steps carefully, and I jumped.

FIN

The Take: “Lindsey” is really kind of an arbitrary name for the perspective in this. Ultimately, what it comes down to is the picture of the various aspects of a leap of faith. I think it originates from an old military turn-o’-phrase, but: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” Back in September of 2018, I left a comfortable manufacturing job to write full-time and put myself on a sabbatical. About two weeks after my last day, my mom got sick, and since then, it’s been a lot of hospital visits, phone calls with insurance, realtors, etc etc.
It was a leap of faith and that turned from coffee-house-bohemia right to dumptruck-of-life-events very quickly, but that’s what a leap of faith is. I think that’s what I’ve come away from this having absorbed, mostly because of this: I’m still here.
I’m still here, my mom has seen better circumstances but I think she’s happy, her house is coming along, I love my family and friends probably now more than ever, and writing has been a lot of wheel-spinning, but it’s gathered bits of traction here and there (check out Hidden Histories by ThirdFlatiron Publishing now and keep an eye out for my episode with the NIGHT LIGHT podcast coming soon! *plug plug nudge nudge*).
It began as a leap of faith, has NOT gone according to plan, but that’s alright. And I guess just try to bear that in mind the next time you’re faced with a choice that comes with a jump (or if you’re in one now). People treat it like a coin toss with Success/Failure being like Life/Death and I just don’t think that’s true. Especially because even though this jump’s come up Tails, a lot of good has come from it and I can always jump again.

Anyway, that’s enough lecturing. I’ll catch you guys Thursday!

Ciao.

Today’s Fable Fact source: https://roaring.earth/tarantulas-and-frogs-are-friends-with-benefits/