What About Those Other Blogs?

Although I would like my current readers (and more) to peruse and ponder each of my daily posts on the blog (and I do appreciate your interest from literally around the world but mostly around the U.S.), I am not much of a reader of blogs myself. I only follow a very few, and periodically check in on some news/opinion blogs and some entertainment ones as well, but not often.

I read what my nephew Tim posts here, and what friend Book Mama has to say. In fact, Book Mama’s blog was one of my inspirations and got me to include the ClusterMaps widget. I also check out Empanada Intifada (another inspiration, as you can see if you go all the way back to the beginning) to see what luscious new recipes appear there. The latter two and some connection I had already made on Facebook got me to use WordPress to publish my blog, and a Dashboard application helps me keep abreast of blogs on WordPress (but only theirs: it wouldnʼt let me add Timʼs to the watch list). Of course for all three of these I have a personal interest, either family or former student.

Speaking personally, I have tried to follow as well the blogs of my readers who felt themselves inspired to start a blog, such as friend Sharkleen’s meditations. However, since Sharon is the only one to let me know she has started a blog, hers is the only one of my readers’ postings of which I am aware.

Once I started using the Scrivener application for my writing, I also stumbled on The Edited Life by a much more tech-savvy and dedicated potential professional writer than myself. For a while she had been posting Scrivener tips each Tuesday, and once I became a Scrivener fan on Facebook, my feed let me know about those posts. Consequently, I have been following her blog also, even though we’ve never met, I don’t know her, and I haven’t let her know about my interest in her writing (or in her blog at least). I do enjoy that like me she is addicted to checking her blogʼs statistics.

Other than that, my blog life is pretty much restricted to some news articles, some intriguing stumble-upons, and other blogs that pop up in my Facebook feed, like John Stewart (although usually just links to his program online) and Rachel Maddow. Somewhat as I used to watch evangelical-goober TV like The 700 Club to make myself aware of (and angry about) the ignorance and bigotry being preached, I do check out the posts of some Rightist/Libertarian* groups and prominent individuals — Rush Limbaugh has refused to even acknowledge my responses, but the ideologue dictators of the world always do refuse to admit (or tolerate) opposition. I have also gotten intrigued/amused by the paranoidsters out there, blithering conspiracy theories of all shapes and shallowness (coming across their ravings sometimes while doing research for possible story ideas). Like Robertsonʼs meanderings, these usually inflame my ire, naturally — but that can be a good thing, too: during my morning runs I have been developing a satirical future for a story to be entitled “No Public Options,” in which government has been eroded to figurehead status and the U.S. is dominated by corporate manipulation and self-interest alone to the natural detriment of ordinary citizens. Maybe I should finish it, post it here, and let it go viral (through your kind cooperation, of course).

Otherwise, I remain innocent of the 141 million blogs (according to this weekʼs Newsweek) percolating around us in this cyberuniverse.

So, even though there are not very many of you out there (and I have absolutely no idea who is creating that big red dot in southern California on the ClusterMap), I do appreciate your taking time (and possibly sometimes effort) to check on what I have to blather about each day. Equally charmed to have found readers across the globe (who mostly have a personal connection of some kind, Iʼm sure, as with my own selection of blog readings).

Making me Gratefully Yours, until next time.

* Now there is a misused and abused term on which I should write one day: no “libertarian” should insist others must think like he does, nor do I feel that the word has any actual connection to the Right (or probably the Left).

Fourth Stars

Colleen asked again, and a series of unfortunate circumstances (that have nothing to do with Colleen or the blog) make it wise for me to comply. Hereʼs some more from Stars in Heaven, which as you can tell from the link has gotten its own Longer Items page. Enjoy…

from Stars in Heaven

But Daniel knew. Daniel knew. He knew that. Daniel had told him, at first without meaning to, just a slip of the tongue. Uncle Rimmon said that too. “Slip of the…” The boy rolled his tongue around inside of his mouth, feeling the roughness of his teeth and the tickling of the far high backside. How did you make your tongue slip? Slip where? Sometimes he knew Uncle Rim didn’t have a clue what he was babbling about. Jism there, he said that — all the way after the caravanserai. Over and over and over all the next day. Rim don’t have no, have no, have no clue, Rim don’t, don’t have no, Rim don’t have no goddam clue.

But Daniel did. This was the worst year, but Daniel nonetheless was eager, sitting there looking at everything. Getting biffed into the dirt forgotten already. It didn’t matter, not to Daniel. Nothing really mattered to Daniel this year. He had his Plan.

Like them both, Daniel had borne enough. More than enough, as he kept saying, sounding just like Ghorf. More than enough. More than anyone should have to take. And then some. They both felt like that. Who knows what Ghorf felt, even though they both used Ghorf’s words. Unlike the boy, however, Daniel was going to Do Something about it. He had taken enough. He was going to Escape.

The boy didn’t really understand. But Daniel had been different for months now. As the harvest neared, he had changed — becoming more alert, more withdrawn. Daniel didn’t seem to have time to pick on the boy any more. He wasn’t sure why but the boy didn’t feel good about that. Daniel’s preoccupation should have made him feel relieved, but instead he felt alone.

Daniel’s transformation had begun, on retrospect, not long after they had returned last year. The boy hadn’t really observed at first. The trio had been gone so long — at least so it seemed to him — that he had begun to forget Daniel’s more than daily mistreatment. …Perhaps he had no uncles, no cousin. He and Aunt Sarai had been alone together for so many months, with no furious roaring from Ghorf and incessant needling whine from Jism, no continual pushing or poking or jabbing or tripping or battering or ridiculing for the boy from Daniel. He had begun to feel he was living a whole new life, blissfully alone with only Aunt Sarai.

Now, here, he had almost forgotten… — forgotten he had forgotten. In each moment he felt the present so immediately that he separated himself somehow from all the other moments before. Unless he thought hard, remembered, made himself remember…

Daniel being mean, being Daniel. Or at least the Daniel he had been, then, before. It had been a regular business. Awakening in the morning because Daniel had shoved him right off the hay out of the loft, pitching ten feet, half-dreaming, to the hard dirt below, and screaming. Aunt Sarai bending over him then, not far from the oven where she had been fixing breakfast, cooing: “Now, now, precious. You was just a-dreamin’, just havin’ a bad dream, you. Made you twitch, l’il one, and you flopped outta the bed. It’s okay, it’s okay. You just took a tumble, took a tumble, you.”

He never told her. If he’d tried, Daniel would have just pounded him outdoors later (and then told her the boy had Taken a Fall). Telling just wasn’t worth it. Of course, Daniel’d pound him, kick him, poke him with sticks anyway. What difference would it have made to tell? He got beaten on every day, eight times a day, anyway.

Strange thing: he had never thought of it like that before. He had just simply been terrified of telling, terrified of Daniel — every day, every minute, coldwater-over-the-head, rabbitty-nervous terrified. Effectively, Daniel had ruled his life, had been his omniscient and omnipotent deity, being everywhere, knowing everything, punishing each of his acts.

He had hated Daniel.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

“Two Steps Back”

Hereʼs a poem, probably inspired the second major girlfriend of my adult life, as I have not posted anything even pseudo-romantic from that period. Considering the early date (for that relationship, which actually bloomed later that same summer), this one is only a fantasy item. Perhaps that explains the silly/simple wordplay  — although I still enjoy the sound effects and flow of the whole thing, particularly those sonically enthused final lines. Itʼs not much of a poem overall, but some of the phrases have stuck in my head over the decades, so I have come to feel it has a little quality to it (probably very little, but I am not claiming to be much of a poet, after all; thatʼs why I throw them away here).

The red and gold allude to her appearance, at least to my imagination. Janet has commented on my youthful weakness for redheads (in her terms). Except for the sound of it, I am not sure about the semi-Shakespearean “O of gold” unless I have simply forgotten some event in life or a ring that she possessed. (Ironically, or supernaturally, I did make an uncomfortable and inappropriate proposal later. I have been intrigued/spooked by how my poems have sometimes sort-of predicted future events, but as a realist chalk that up to coincidence, usually.) As a writer, I undoubtedly felt it was time/line enough to return to the golden imagery/ideas.  — Whatʼs missing in this poem, although almost omnipresent in all later ones inspired by her presence, is music (thus the title, however incongruous  — and Iʼll let each of you discover the allusion), the most important aspect of the person who introduced me to Traffic (that very summer) and enjoyed my homemade 8-track tapes of The Brandenburg Concertos in my van (later on in time). Even prophetic poetry misses all the important stuff all the time.

The biographical elements of this epoch get slightly uncomfortable for me, as this woman was younger than me by several years. She and a girlfriend (who my imagination seized upon as being “silver gold” and whose presence lay behind the ladder-master poem I put up a while back) took advantage of then then-Iowa law, permitting eighteen-year-olds to drink, to get me, so elderly at 22, to go out with them several times that summer, enjoying too much sangria at The Ground Round in Burlington, since closed, back when Ground Rounds had peanut shells on the floor of the lobby and gave you free popcorn. Both girls shook my fancy and provided me imaginary material for verse and romance (and this particular poem may have begun its existence referring to silver and gold rather than red and gold… Such are the embarrassing ambiguities of mixing life and art, such as it is/was). By the end of that summer I was comfortably enraptured simply with red-gold. The next summer staff reduction moved me to Maquoketa, and by November 1977, our relationship, although enshrined in fiction, was over. We got back together temporarily about a year after that, thus some lengthy Friday night drives to her new college in Indiana, to which I have referred before. And after that spasm of interest we both headed for our real lives, me meeting Janet for certain (we had encountered each other earlier) in 1981, and this lady to finer things (including my preferred university that dumped me with other excess freshmen back in ʼ71, thus promoting my attendance at Iowa Wesleyan) and greater successes than mine.

On the other hand (referring far back to the notion that I revised this to change its subject/muse), I think what I really did was to revise this poem to suit the other girl, temporarily, insincerely and unsuccessfully during June, and then threw those versions, if there ever were any, out. I do still have some silver-gold poems left; perhaps I should pair some of the “rival” verses some time.

The title came later, part of the process of revision, which for my poetry has been important but not always complicated, reflective or substantial. With my Sixties/Seventies ideas of Romanticism influencing my writing, I generally got something down and then stuck with what I had to assume was some kind of inspiration if I liked what I had written at all. The revision thus became relatively minor fiddling, in most cases, with word choices here and there, adjustments for rhythm, or line division on a free verse item like this (and/or even disguising regular meter and rhyme by breaking the lines otherwise than first settled, as I did with “Freyaʼs Steel” and some others). Once the rhythm and sound were set, all I usually did was tinker on the typewriter. Unfortunately, that same technique led easily into my playwriting and (although less simply) fiction. I futz with things but have not been a huge reviser, not usually “re-seeing” what I have written from the ground up.

This particular poem only ever had a few words adjusted. And I ignored the spellchecker in digitizing this (and other poems) to maintain my own invented words. The closing colon came relatively early to the poem, and although a little too cute, works well enough for me.

Auric Rose

actual red gold, appropriately Asian…

Golden girl — red gold, gold gold, perfect as gold,

bright and beautiful — fool’s gold

befuddling pedantic minds:

effulgent fragile speculations interspersed

and seeded well with H. Bosch and Adam Smith collaborated

visions of damnation, and of course

calamity set in a perfect O of gold

hair gold, firegold, aurulent virulent, sunguilt goldiferous

buxom bullion beautiful —

lovely as sherry and warm as so:

16 May 1976

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

800 Words for Wednesday

the new Sheryl Crow CD

So I have been loafing for a while. Work “ended” on Saturday with our last crew meetings, but some loose ends remain to tie up, and I still will be called upon to collect the crewʼs badges and bags, as well as my own, sometime. Except for one major glitch (which I hope we can resolve, but I donʼt know), the job is over, although I still get paid for two more weeks for what I did the past two weeks. (I went for two weeks before I got my first paycheck, too.)

The weekend was a fun blur of excitement, once the final crew meetings were completed, with our jaunt to Cedar Rapids. Janet and Kevin and I ate Greek on Saturday night at the Vernon Inn, which was wonderful — Opaa! (And we did start off with saganaki, nearly irresistible with the Vernonʼs warm pita pieces.) Furthermore, none of us could resist going the Greek platter/sampler dish route (I personally never can: I want to enjoy all those tastes). The Greek Place included spanakopita, gyros, moussaka, pastitichio (the one I would probably opt for if I had to select a single main course), dolmathes (wonderfully smooth and refined in a subdued and interesting white sauce, no acidic harshness in the grape leaves). We tried a refined Greek wine as well, which drank as smoothly and nobly as a decent Cabernet. Our waitress was a fine lady, fun and tolerant (and she paced our meal perfectly  — slowly: we were the last guests in the place at 10:00 PM); I tried to tip her appropriately  — certainly better than a neighboring table that appeared to leave only $2.00.

Of course, the real draw for the weekend was the talk, as always when Kevin and I get together. We sat in one of the two hotel rooms (at a really pitifully poor Howard Johnsonʼs on the south side, 33rd Avenue, which must make its way — and thereby lose travelers — through becoming a residence hotel) for several hours before dinner and until nearly 1:00 AM, just talking. And we continued the conversation on Sunday at breakfast and later in Iowa City at the Coralville mall, with some beer in hand at Bennigans. We enjoyed hours there, with another tolerant waiter who decently left us mostly on our own. Then the separation for homes. Janet and I got back about 3:30 or 4:00 and did whatever chores remained, like towels in the laundry, before settling in for an hour of DVD I, Claudius (a ritual Janet has wanted to stimulate for Sunday evenings for a while now; we just watched part four, and now I want to reread the books for maybe the fifth time — go, Robert Graves).

The weekend away is the reason for the introduction and use of Stars in Heaven recently. I was able to post without even being home. Itʼs a bonus that several people actually noticed and responded to the portions of the story which have appeared.

As I already noted yesterday, I wasted Monday altogether (except for appointments). DVD must have gotten into my system because I did do more or less back-to-back Hitchcocks. I wish I could say I got amazing ideas or interesting technical notions from that viewing, but I really was just watching TV.

We like to call it “Clavdivs,” of course.

Tuesday early morning, I got up and ran (a good thing, although as ever the word “run,” or any of its conjugations or forms, is a ridiculous exaggeration), got Janet off to work and then finished the third Tarzan novel (and dozed because I havenʼt gotten a long nightʼs sleep in over two weeks). I went out to buy tickets for a local theatrical production of Nunsense on Friday night, paid some bills in person, and drove to Wal-Mart to grab Janetʼs prescription and the new-yesterday Sheryl Crow CD (both for her, although I like Sheryl, too), and then dozed and read while also watching a 1997 Michael Caine-as-Harry Palmer-again flick on one of the movie channels (it was okay, although I guess it must have tanked as a hit thirteen years back because I had not known it even got made). I received a call about unfinished work around noon, which I followed up, but which still remains uncertain, and finally started up the Mac and got to vaguely thinking about some work about 3:00.

So far the work has involved… only this, these 800 words you are reading on Wednesday. (I figured getting a post actually written instead of pulled from already-composed material was a good thing at least once this week). If I am going to do anything else, I need to close this out as it is and get to other things.

I havenʼt listened to the new Crow CD because itʼs like a gift for Janet, but I want to…

So thatʼs the latest from here as the heat and humidity are rising.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Stars Three

I wasted Monday watching Alfred Hitchcock movies on DVD (Saboteur and Jamaica Inn — a black-and-white experience for me), between dentist and haircutting appointments. I guess I was celebrating my returned freedom from work. By evening, as Janet was at her own hair appointment, once I had made her lunch for today, I didnʼt really feel as though I had much to say (a poor defensive position), so Iʼll simply take the easy road more traveled and put up some more from the science fiction novel I started previewing on Sunday.

In case you are a novice, the first two portions of this story were here and here. In case I was unclear somehow, there are two boys — the narrative point of view character (the boy) and Daniel.

from Stars in Heaven

He was sick of squatting here in the sun, and hungry — in a way. If he really thought about it, he was so hot maybe he didn’t really feel like eating anything anyway… He tried hard to keep thinking that way even though it made him feel bad inside, kind of, because there was no way he’d get anything to eat until they went home. But the bad feeling coiled and knotted in him and made his head feel strange, like he was floating…

Ghorf was mumbling to himself. “Don’t know why I break my back coming here every year. Don’t know why I do anything. Kill yourself in the fields for two hundred fifteen days. Spend another miserable fortnight on the goddamn harvest and more time processing the shit. For what? Six stupid weeks on the goddamn road to sit in a sweatbox in this kraissforsaking square for a week a’ hell, waiting for the big ships to come. Never here when they’re supposed to be. Sometimes I think they know about me, and screw their schedules deliberate. Just to get my goat.”

“What’s that, Ghorfie?”

“Nothing, Rim. You wouldn’t understand.”

“Let him be, Rim. He enjoys talking to himself. Only one who gives a good goddam what he’s got to say.”

“Better’n you, Jiz. You don’t even listen to your gimping self.”

“Double it in yellow, p’ssant.”

“Like I said, boys. Leave it be.”

Daniel shook his head. “Listen to that. It’s worse than last year.”

The whole trip was worse than last year—to hear Daniel talk. The road was dustier, the caravan people sneakier, the animals surlier, the weather hotter, the trip longer, the city duller. The whole thing was worse. And this was the year they took him along. Naturally.

Last year he’d been too little. Last year he had wanted to go. Last year was the first time he had helped with the harvest, and he had wanted to see what happened to the stars at market, sell the little bags he had filled himself, visit the city. Last year had been great, the year to go, what it was all about — to hear Daniel tell it.

This year was crap. This year was the worst year ever. This year was the year nothing went right.

The boy had known that before they even started. This year he didn’t really care if he went along or not. Not like last year. Last year, he could still remember, he had stood at the hilltop staring at them going: a little caravan of three horses, four mules, two wagons, Ghorf, Jism, Daniel, dwindling into tiny doll people and play animals, becoming nothing but a mist of dust scuffling slowly along the faint gray line that was the road stretching out further than he had ever gone, into the southwest. He stood, alone, staring into the brightness they disappeared amidst long after he could make out nothing of their expedition, and even the road itself blurred and resolved rhythmically.

And the suns had set gradually around their passage—blueblack cavern languorously in pursuit, lapping a cold and hungry maw all around the boy, extending itself after the purplegolden redbright glowing fingertips of day beckoning beyond their destination — until the light was all extinguished, except for the phantasmagoria of stars lacing and turning overhead. He felt himself to be entirely alone in a starsplattered emptiness of night, aloof even from the hilltop, and cut off completely from everything he had ever wanted, tasted, needed or desired. Alone and left behind. Again.

Until Aunt Sarai had finally come trudging up the dusty way behind him and put her loose arm around his shoulder, pulling him down from that cold heaven and all into her yeasty wet warmth, and begged him breathlessly not to cry any more. “No more, punkun, no more… The big old city’s just not worth all them tears, boy. …Noth’in that ole city anybody’d ever want anyway…”

She was a big woman, Aunt Sarai, and he had felt almost buried in her bosom and armpit as she cooed and murmured above and all around him. He had sobbed breathless wholehearted uninterrupted tears of passionate heartbroken joy into her and let her halfcarry him home.

He wished he were home now. Or even back at Uncle Rim’s house. Wherever it was in the concrete mess of this city. At least it was — compared with this — almost quiet there.

But not like home. Real home… Nothing was quiet here. Not really. Not if you knew, as he did, as he treasured himself knowing, what real quiet, true silence, was. Lying beside the starfield in the darkest of the night, alone, everyone else asleep inside or maybe up on the roof for the coolness, even the animals motionless, you the only thing awake in the whole world, gazing over the dark stalks at the true stars themselves, writhing and pulsing in uncounted colors for which you weren’t sure you even had names, far off and silent in the hugeness of the night. Looking for the ghosts of heaven reflected in the stalks, if you stared long enough.

That was the real quiet, the best quiet, dreaming those stars until the stars did become dream and then you were awake in the morning with the sunshine making the starstalks livid with light.

Not here. Here the star flowers were hidden in bags, crushed. From the roof of Uncle Rim’s house, after you’d sneaked through the rooms of the people who lived upstairs from him — and he lived up more stairs than the boy had ever seen — and upstairs from them and upstairs from them even, and out on the rooftop, you couldn’t, even in the parts of the sky not hidden by buildings taller than Uncle Rim’s house — and there were hundreds of those — not see any stars there, just greenish blackness, a glare over heaven.

This city stunk. Why anybody’d want to come here he’d never know. Never ever never ever never in the world never know…

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Continuing…

Colleen, I guess your wish is my command.

Strapped for time, I think a little more of Stars in Heaven would make a fine post for a Monday, as I discover if I am really finished with the Census yet or not, face a dental appointment and wrap the afternoon with a haircut. Janet and I were gone over the weekend on a necessary (but thoroughly enjoyable) visit with my best friend, Kevin, who is enduring the loss of his dog and his father-in-law — both within a week. The funeral for Dave was yesterday. Weʼd have consoled wife Dawn as well, but sheʼs out in Maine with the rest of her family. We miss her and wish her the best in this sad time.

For us here, letʼs return to the unnamed planet (what would you like me to call it?) where the peasants grow stars, which they then must sell at the huge fair in the If-naryadh’iq square (a name that I really enjoyed inventing maybe twenty years ago).

Daniel dragged himself up on his knees, glaring under his brows at his uncle. “Thudface!” He crawled back to his spot, beating his hands on his robe to clean the dust.

Uncle Jism must not have heard because he simply turned back to the booth. “Gotta keep ‘em in line, Ghorf.”

Rimmon disagreed. “Give the kid a break, Jiz. I’d’a gone for her myself.”

“Jiz’s right, Rim.” Ghorf spat. “Kid’s gotta do his part.”

“Part? Let him live. He be old and cranky soon enough.”

“That how you treat your own, Rim?”

“Those with the wife, no. But they’re little yet. Like the kid here.”

“See?” Ghorf belched, having made his point.

“But they’ll grow.” Jism sounded almost greedy about that. Now he turned on Ghorf. “I remember you havin’ your own times, run-ins with the old man, not so long ago.”

“Bless his memory.”

“Duluth! You hated his guts alive, Ghorf.” Rimmon sounded outraged, and baffled, both at the same time.

“Me? Who couldn’t wait to get off to the city?” Ghorf almost choked on that last word.

“You’d’a gone, too, but you knew the farm’d be yours,” Jism cackled.

“Could’a been you, Jiz.” Rim spoke the words weakly, but Jism nodded.

Uncle Ghorf actually looked thoughtful. “He hated me from the day I was born.”

Jism snickered. “No one likes to be reminded of why they’re married.”

“Don’t talk dirty about the ole man, Jiz. I tole ya before!”

Daniel could see where this was headed—edging himself under the boothside. The boy hunkered after.

“Yeah, sure, Ghorfie. Like you never thunk it yerself.”

Ghorf roared and swatted Jism, a solid one, sounding like a superplum smacking the dirt. Jism flopped on his rear.

“Wha’ the kraiss—?” He got up, redfaced, snorting like a bull.

Rimmon stepped between them. “Stop it. You two are still like little kids.”

“Stay outta it, Rim. Not yer fight.”

“It is if you trash my booth, Jiz. Now stop it!”

Ghorf snarled, “Swamp you, brother. You ran out years back.”

Rim glared. “At least I got out. Better’n both a’ you.”

“Kraiss. Listen to him. Trapped in this godforsaking mess. No fresh air, no good healthy field work.”

Rim simply smiled now. “Yeah, brothers, right.”

Daniel leaned close, breathing in his ear: “Unca Rim must have it made.”

“Yeah.” Actually, he couldn’t understand why Uncle Rimmon would ever have left to come to this city with its hot sun and always sweating and people everywhere pushing at you all the time and donkeys and horses coming up the narrow winding streets, plopping it right on your foot with nowhere to go. Uncle Ghorf must be right: Rim’s cracked in the head and stupid to boot. He knew one thing himself. He couldn’t get out of here fast enough. He hated the city.

He felt wetness running down beside his right eye and wiped at the sweat with the heel of his palm. Things couldn’t get worse than this.

Of course, things could get worse than this, kidboy! Donʼt you realize you are a character in a story? Things always get worse for characters in stories. There would be no conflict, no suspense, no interest without characters suffering worse (and worse) problems.

That is possibly the saddest truth about fiction, worse than the Puritanical suspicion about storytellers lying: writers sadistically inflict woes on characters for our enjoyment; spearcarriers suffer mutilation and death  — as if real people could be treated as mere gunfodder. Maybe thatʼs why I have such an aversion to finishing stories (surely, itʼs not just laziness).

Although I canʼt tell you everything about Stars in Heaven, or else no one would want to pay me money for it someday, maybe I will share some more some time.

Thank you for reading.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Another Story

Saturday may or may not have been better than Friday. I hate it when I make mistakes (even more when some lovely person will not let me forget it, as if I would). Perhaps more on that later.

For now, hereʼs the start of yet another story, possibly the first section of a novel. Itʼs flat-out science fiction (a warning?), which is tentatively entitled Stars in Heaven. This is the opening thousand words or thereabout…

Today was the day. Daniel had decided: he’d had enough. So today would be the Escape. There would be no turning back…

The boy was confused. He felt attacked by more noise and more people all together than he thought he had ever suffered in his whole life. But he couldn’t be sure: he couldn’t remember everything.

Aunt Sarai said that was all right: nobody could. But Aunt Sarai could remember things about himself that he couldn’t, and that bothered him. She remembered, she said, “when you wandered out alone into the starfield just before harvesting, scaring us all to death and then some, especially so long after dark and them plants just all splinters and burrs and spines and prickers and all…” Ghorf had found him just inside the overgrown mass of glassy spikes and branches, somehow miraculously almost uninjured, “jus’ a few cuts, honey, barely bleedin’, you” — but he couldn’t remember himself. He just knew by now what it was like in the field, especially after this past harvest. How had he not died out there, alone?

Here people were everywhere: the whole If-naryadh’iq square was simply all people, talking — screaming — and running and walking and stopping to finger things in the thousand booths of tanglewood and cotton. He found it difficult to notice any one of them, there were so many.

“Having fun, boys?”

He lied. “You betcha, Unca Rim.”

His uncle had told him this would be the best time he would ever have: tit for tat seemed only fair. His other uncle, Jism, said that. It meant a fair exchange, according to Daniel, who wasn’t his brother; he knew that. Ghorf had threatened a good beating as fair exchange for going into the field alone, so Aunt Sarai always said, but he hadn’t done it. For once. His own miraculous survival saving him from that further injury.

They had all come down from the boonies together, six weeks on the road, half his life it seemed. He hadn’t arisen unpunished during those weeks.

It got hotter the closer they came to the city, down from the hill country, so hot his clothes stuck to him all over his body all the time, even if he got up to walk around the campsite in the middle of the night. He hated that. He hated it now, even as the thousand different people surged around where he crouched in the dirt outside the family booth. The only time he had ever been this hot was sloughing his way in the harvest, hacking through the fingery spines and plucking out the stars themselves here and there, hour on hour until his fingers were bloody, even in the gloves, and his shoulders and arms slashed and hurting. But half that heat was the armor — too much clothing, too heavy for the clear, hot days that made for good harvest.

Now he wore a strap of cotton wound around his forehead to absorb the sweat rolling in saltrivers from the front of his hair, and he wished it wouldn’t flood down the back of his neck. But there was no way to stop that.

“Look at that, kid!” Uncle Rimmon thumbed up and out into the square. A man, seven or eight feet tall, dressed all in fluorescent green, was shoving with ease through the crowd parting like waves around him.

“Pilot,” Daniel hissed.

Ebony flesh glistened, but he didn’t act warm at all. His authority and his confidence swept the ordinary rabble from his path, and he strode away into sunglare out of the immense square toward the spaceport.

“Real damn pilot.”

Uncle Rim was jabbering (“They eat stars, ya know” — incredibly unbelievable as that seemed), but the boy didn’t need to listen.

A pilot by his build and stature, a genuine pilot. Born and bred to the darkness between the stars (“They really do, they eat ‘em”). The boy had heard of pilots, of course. Who hadn’t? Daniel had described what they were like in envy-breeding detail after last year’s harvest trek. But now he’d seen a pilot himself. The man behaved as if he owned the entire square, perhaps even the whole city. Of course, he could go anywhere, pilot a ship to any planet around any star anywhere in heaven. Daniel said that, relentlessly, it seemed, this last year.

“Pretty cocky bastards, them pilots. Betcha ain’t got them back home, has ya?”

Somehow the boy felt unimpressed. Maybe it was the heat.

Uncle Rimmon was always trying to make him look at wonderful things.

Uncle Rim had met the travelers yesterday at the city gates, where he had waited every evening for five days, and guided them to his home, lost in a wild network of cobbled streets.

“Nothing like him in the boonies, is there?”

“No, sir.”

There was nothing like anything like this back home. Just the house and the fields and the road into town and the sheep and the goats and the three horses (two now, since Doc died on the road — and neither of them was at home now, either) and Tom the dog and the plow and the carts and the mountains in the west. And Aunt Sarai. He felt he had left it all behind him forever. Six weeks was such a long time.

He felt alone, even in the square, crushed by the sweating bafflement of so many thousands of legs and shoes, trapped between fat Uncle Rimmon and Daniel, the smell of fish from somewhere making his tongue sweat in the rear of his mouth, the hot sun finding him even in the crowd, even in the little shelter of the boothside.

Suddenly, Daniel’s elbow knocked his ribs. “Jerk,” a whisper — he always called him that — “lookie there!” The hoarse intensity made him look in the direction Daniel’s finger briefly jabbed: a lady wearing almost nothing at all was walking along the booth across the way, a leatherworker’s, as if she felt she too owned the world. She wore, just barely, around her top a blue shiny stuff, and her hips were draped only with yellow gauze. Men were stopped, looking. The boy couldn’t really see her very well. Daniel’s mouth hung open.

“Filthy whores!” muttered Uncle Jism, savagely.

Uncle Rim snorted. “She looks pretty clean to me.” He spluttered humorously. “And if she’s not, I’d clean her up, I can tell you, in a minute!”

“They’re everywhere these days. The whole damn world’s going to hell in a hurry.” Jism looked sour.

Ghorf finally put in his: “Looks alien to boot.”

“Why not?” Jiz spat in her direction. “They all are.”

Daniel was twisting around to watch her as she went around the curve and out of sight. “Boy oh boy oh Jeeziesweetpi—!” he breathed and then jerked, flying into the way, shooting a shower of dust backwards — as Uncle Jism clubbed him a good one.

“Keep your eyes in your own head, boy, and watch the goods!”

Daniel dragged himself up on his knees, glaring under his brows at his uncle. “Thudface!” He crawled back to his spot, beating his hands on his robe to clean the dust.

There you have it, the basic set-up. I sent this story as a PDF to my siblings and got absolutely no response. Anyone out there want to do better?

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.