Done (not really)!

2013-Winner-Facebook-Cover

Yes! I made 52000-plus words. Iʼm done (not really). The reason there hasnʼt been a post for months is in the past now.

NaNoWriMo 2013 — won.

Morte Saison isnʼt half finished at this point — really just a lot of (nearly random) scenes and sections, not even tied together, and certainly not complete. Thereʼs a ton of work ahead. But this year (even more than last, which topped the utter crap I churned out in 2011), I feel like I have gotten quite a lot accomplished. I am even looking forward to more writing and lots of editing and revising ahead.

Right now, it feels wonderful not to worry about getting in hours of writing time for a day or two (and definitely catch up on unfinished and unwritten letters and blog posts — hey, I still have an entire vacation to write about).

Anyway, year four complete. Iʼll add the little winner icon to the sidebar soon…

(Even better, we have our Christmas tree up and decorated — and all the lights have lit!)

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

The Tourist Imprisoned

Recently, The Lovely One and I returned from vacationing overseas. The transatlantic experience spawned the latest installment of The Tourist’s mayhem…

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Lies, ladies and gentlemen, all lies

Every time I have to do it, I hate flying more than I had before. The airlines seem locked in a death struggle to determine which brand can devise the final sadistic imposition on passengers that will at last prevent anyone from ever flying steerage again. Or simply never flying.

That imminent day resounds with sadness, but corporate profiteering edges the dire knell of the skyfaring businesses nearer with each deliberately overcrowded, crammed and undernourished flight.

Recently, domestically, I furtively smuggled a seamstress’s cloth measuring tape in my pocket — dutifully removed to pass microwave fullbody scansion, along with keys, change, watch, personal detritus and pocket lint — and used a minute portion of its length to measure my allotted confinement space: 21 inches from backseat ahead to head rest (less by nearly six when the careless cad ahead dismally and pointlessly reclined his so-called “backrest” eight minutes into our heavenly ascent), almost 9 inches from seatback ahead to front edge of my euphemistic seat “cushion” (less with egophilic jerk’s reclination, but only by an inch — sufficient to make the safety drill’s assurance of a flotation device beneath my economy seat merely a taunt, at best a contortionist’s impossible dream; from armrest to armrest a minuscule 16 and 3/4, possibly of suitable proportions when I was in my (early) roaring twenties but no longer (and my own somewhat bulging belly added its own girth to that measurement), and my corpulent seatmate oozed her bulk intrusively well into my euphemistic “space” and sweating flesh throughout, the decisively lowered armrest proving no barrier to unwanted intimacy whatsoever. Although officially in sitting position, my space, especially once the overhead lighting quenched to keep us docile, put me in mind of tyrants’ notorious “standing cells,” my movements restricted nearly to nil.

Therefore, I devised the demise of the purser who refused my request for any available liberation, who even declined to disturb the selfimportant fore-ass’s pseudoreclining position as it was after all, “resting period.” Well, I put a period to that. And while we were straightjacketed in the air as well.

That’s the start of that. More on the trip (the actual vacation) ahead, friends and family…

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Trying to Dictate (a little bit of a finished story)

This is not much of a post, but I was actually almost hard at work earlier, attempting to defy the continual and continuing issues created by Mountain Lion and the app that forced me last October to “upgrade” my system, Dragon Dictate (version 3). After I experienced one crash/forced hard restart mid-morning, I tried some dictation about 11:00 AM…

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Test. I started to dictate “Taking the Plunge” about a half an hour ago. I got the first two or three sentences done, but when I proceeded to orate into the Dictate window the remainder of the first paragraph, suddenly we were in spinning beach ball territory! Endlessly. I finally forced the computer to shut down and restarted.

Naturally, this time Spotlight began to run even before everything in the Menubar had loaded. (I just checked, and it is still grinding away. As always. Endlessly.) QuicKeys at first would not finish not loading so I force-quit it, and on the second try the (essential, for me) program did eventually load. So I moved on to try Dictate.

At first, as it did before the computer restart, Nuanceʼs program jumped straight to the Dictate text window (I am not sure if I feel altogether happy that it did retain the sentences I had uttered before the beach ball and forced quit), but this time it also tried to open the Load Profile window (which is supposed to be the first step when the program launches), and when I clicked on the JRB profile, we just got beach ball. Again? However, this time around, I was able to get Force Quit to force quit Dictate (the previous problem had been that intervention did not work, and so I had to physically forcibly shutdown the computer). I tried again. And after some stalling and closing the still-remembered Dictate window from before the crash, here we are with me successfully dictating (directly into MacJournal). Hurrah!

“Taking the Plunge” is a Tourist story, the second one completed. The first (and a segment from that story is one of the oldest posts on the blog) was set in London. “Plunge” takes place in San Francisco, written in the fall of 2009 in the first flush of freedom and getting “Underground” completed and typed (and unsuccessfully off for publication). Hereʼs how it starts:

Taking the Plunge

from Wikipedia — I could only find sunny days (but that fits the narratorʼs fourth day on the bay)

from Wikipedia — I could only find sunny days (but that fits the narratorʼs fourth day on the bay)

San Francisco sunlight, a surreal gift of certain bliss after days of fog and rain. The sun came out my fourth day in the city, my vacation having reinvigorated the old Mark Twain observation, “The coldest winter I ever endured was one summer in San Francisco.” My early experience this trip had been wet, cold and dismal.

The worst day had been Sunday, my second, when I had determined to take a ferry across to Sausalito, an excursion Marsha Kay and I had only contemplated when we were on the bay many years ago. Weʼd gone on a local tour (Dolphin Tours) to the wine country and Muir Woods, and the van in which we and five other couples were loaded had dumped us all on the highway through Sausalito to fend for ourselves for lunch. That had been one sunsparkled, bay-brilliant day — so thoroughly unlike my chillingly dismal return — and we both had discussed the pure California loveliness over lunch in a fish house on the water whose name fled from me in the hectic years since.

But I treasured the sensual bliss of my memories — yellowbright, windscoured and catarchingly warm — through the too-many midwestern winters we shared and then I suffered in weary lonesomeness since. Shoveling through eight inches of heartbreaking snow for myself alone in bitter predawn dark just to be able to get a car to struggle, swerve and skate over icy, scarcely cleared roads to work — among others only those fragments of solarkissed bliss on a July afternoon in Sausalito.

But the bleak reality of this return chilled me more thoroughly than any black midwestern morning, that well layered for the subzero darkness, I had endured in patient expectation of renewing the California sun. So I had suffered disillusionment those first days — dark, cold, drizzling — unimaginably worse weather than back at home, until that fourth morning frothed with solar effervescence in my uncurtained hotel windows, alluring me before 7:00 to awakened alertness, anticipating at last the day to come.

Showering I relived the bay crossing less than forty-eight hours previous. Icy drizzle from the moment I awoke — not quite so early on Sunday, not as early as I had intended, either — about 9:30. The boats I had explored started running at 8:45, and I had intended to cross the bay as early as possible and really explore Sausalito for most of the day. But the grey rain had soothed my mind, evidently, and the touch of frost in the air made me unconsciously snuggle deeper into bed as this most unsummerly summer day had dawned.

Noises in the hall, a family departing for the day, whining brats complaining loudly about the dank weather, stirred my consciousness again well after 9:00. I felt groggy — aware I was late to my schedule, but too dull to care much. And what did it matter? I only had myself to amuse.

So I lazily showered, shaving, dressed and prepared to leave the room for the maidʼs casual attentions in my absence, closing the door about 10:20 and heading off uphill to cross down to the ferry building, at least a twenty-minute hike. I figured Iʼd be in Sausalito for lunch by 12:30.

The ferries didn’t keep to my schedule, however. And the sea-spray, rainy crossing — me on deck, almost alone, drenched and shivering (at least, after the icy hike to the waterfront, Iʼd decided to purchase a fleece at one of the businesses in the ferry building — overpriced but warm enough, though by the time we docked it was much more than damp), brought us across the bay about 1:30. In my misery, I had even missed Alcatraz in the dreary damp. Late for the lunch I had come for, I elected with rare wisdom to forgo the nostalgic waterside deck and eat indoors, too utterly iced through already for more freezing drizzle so soon.

I got busy with other stuff after that. But apparently dictating works again (although with at least a dozen quite strange errors I had to catch while posting), and I have plenty of digitzing talking ahead of me when I donʼt choose to really write (fresh material).

Come on, computer, keep with it: do your job, finally.

What do you know? No footnotes. Almost a first in the past year or more.

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Winner (Kind of, Partially, Not Really IMHO)

Although I struggled to write anything, and although a good part of what I did write was, um, “garp,” my NaNaWriMo 2011 experience has ended happily and, officially, successfully. Just check that meter to the right (which I will delete in a few more days) or, more permanently, that NaNoWriMo 2011 Winner’s Badge toward the bottom of the second column.

Or this…

My Official Certificate

I wasted most of my time most of the days this past month (without exaggeration — I really did, just as I slipped through the first months of 2011 fruitlessly), but with blushing and partial success I made some important progress on the horror story (including a detailed calendar of events for James Arkham and others in 1993-94). Unfortunately, just like my efforts last year on Slaves to the Lesser Moon, the taleʼs not done. How utterly like me.

I would feel a lot more successful if I believed that every word really counted (this year) and that I might (someday… ever) finish these long items.

Yes, faithful readers (who may actually remember other comments I have made on my partial success this year), much of what I wrote may never actually get used,* but 51916 sleazy words later,** the month of November draws to a close. Now I have weeks of completion and revision ahead of me. But first, I think I may take a little vacation/digression/diversion for the writing topic that was drawing my attention when the month began and kept distracting me throughout these past twenty-eight days — Søren and Judah.***

And yes, a gentle and (for me, at least) enjoyable review of the excellent time The Lovely One and I enjoyed in Budapest. I think that starts tomorrow…

See you then (so to speak).

* “May,” ha! Probably will not get used.

** NaNoWriMoʼs count (52174), which may include chapter numbers and titles and suchlike, runs a bit higher than the count I was keeping in Scrivener. I feared the goal count was higher than I might end up with after compilation, so I kept going (necessarily, not just worriedly). And I need to keep going.

*** My first big project, commencing today and tomorrow, is going to be finishing the dictation of handwritten text for that first of the interlocking Sepharad stories (and the part of story #2 that I have already handwritten). Dragon Dictate and my microphones have had it too easy (as have I) for far too long. (Besides, one of the two versions I have composed of our first days on vacation — along with most of our Alaska trip, 2010, too — is handwritten and in need of dictation into digital reality, as well.)

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Autumn

Itʼs quite chilly in Iowa today. I have hauled out my fingerless gloves for the first time since mid-April, and although the wrists and palms of each hand are cozy enough, my fingertips feel cold tapping away at the keys.

Everything is indicating the full arrival of fall. I raked leaves five different days (and hauled away ten truckbed-loads). Furthermore, I am going to have to rake again soon, although our back yard trees and bushes have not let go of their photosynthesis machines yet. I may as well be looking ahead at the last lawn-mowing of the year…

I have also been receiving notifications about the imminence of NaNoWriMo 2011. And, although I have been utterly worthless as a writer this year — probably penning (often literally there) only ten or twenty thousand words outside the wretchedly few blog posts I have uploaded* —, I am intending to use November to (I hope!) finish the Mantorville (Iowa horror) novel. If I actually finish it, that will be considerably more than 100,000 new words (and I do mean “new” — above and beyond what I have already written and posted here).

Last year, I wrote 110,000 words on the planetary fantasy, but it remains incomplete. I havenʼt added word one since the end of 2010.

But back to more positive thoughts. Mantorville and the cesspool of evil behind the incarceration of former teacher Arkham**

I know that the story will fall into three (possibly four) sections. Only the first is the more-or-less formal record of the treatment sessions between Dr. Symonds and legally insane murderer Arkham. Part Two, probably, is the Arkham diary that I had finally gotten introduced toward the end of what is available so far. Part Three… well, some things are about to happen that will, after some delay, turn the tale into Dr. Symondsʼs story (and I may just interweave the diary selections through that portion, which I intend him to be dictating into a cell phone or mini-digital-recorder in more or less present time, early 21st Century). That fourth part? I may need one more major character to resolve the whole thing…

And a whole bunch of people have got to get killed off. (It is a horror story, after all.)

Scrivener is ready to go, announcing on Facebook today that their 2011 NaNoWriMo versions are available. So, having used that wonderful software for last yearʼs (still incomplete) “novel,” I guess/hope I had better be ready and willing as well.

* Incredibly, even without regular posts, the blog has been receving more than a hundred hits a day (mostly folks seeking images to use, just as I borrowed the NaNoWriMo official logo to the left and above).

** Anyone remember his first name? I donʼt without re-reading.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Something (Slightly) Creative

I realize (have for some time realized) that I ceased offering a bit of creative writing on weekends. Even though I have hundreds of old poems to cannibalize or use, I just havenʼt had time to do much of anything. (Yes, The Lovely One does keep me busy, pleasantly — usually shopping with her —, on weekends, when the job isnʼt consuming all my time and energy). However, as I remarked some time ago, I have been writing (on and off) over the past few months. Just to prove that point, hereʼs a little introduction of a Tourist story (the direction of which, and even location, I donʼt know). This bit may never become a story.

It really should be just a writerʼs notebook passage describing pretty much what I was seeing as I sat in Janetʼs car while she shopped at Kohlʼs in Cedar Rapids on a rainy Sunday a few weeks ago.

Sitting in a rain-drenched parking lot, safely dry inside my rental car, I realized that modern vehicles make it pretty difficult to conduct surveillance unobtrusively in a downpour. With the ignition off, the view through the windshield was a splotched and ragged kaleidoscope, the side windows heavily speckled with continuing and sometimes sliding arcs of raindrops. But if I turned the key even to the Accessories position for the wipers to work, I also instantly illuminated the parking lights fore and aft, obviously marking my Chevrolet as not just another deserted car parked outside the mini-mall. Bad tactics, particularly in this situation.

Furthermore, either my breath or body heat was slightly, slowly but continually misting the windscreen. Another easy indication that I was inside. That I was here. And the rain was too heavy to risk starting the car briefly for a reprieve via defrost and lowering the window just to crack even the humidity within. Although I did just that, also illuminating the headlights and letting the wipers take a cleansing swish or two.

Now, although I continued to let the radio play (it remained on, even with the key withdrawn, until I opened the door, I had finally discovered accidentally just the night before, returning in some haste to my hotel room, eager to reach my temporary domicile before a testing phone call rang through), I could hear the wind battering at the vehicle as it wrenched the paltry trees, bordering the street, in wild gyrations. And the rain was letting up. Lightning flashed among the clouds over the increasingly agitated saplings and evergreens. The car rocked and jolted more than mildly.

Tornado? To follow the three-day thunderstorms. Or was it just a lot of wind? The radio just kept playing antique rock songs I had never liked, nor my father either.

Still no evident action within the store I was amateurishly observing. And as the wind kept things moving — a woman scurried right beside me to her car, taking advantage of the rainfallʼs lull, but had a confusing time trying to get her long windwhipped hair to stay within her car until she could slam the door and drive away; an empty fastfood enormous cup came leaping and rocketing past her passenger side just as she did restrain her hair and close the door together — the rain must have increased again because my view was broken erratically once more with drops and rivulets. And I hadnʼt been watching the store. Again.

And as the car jumped some more, I realized that with the window slightly down, I was feeling chilled. Injudiciously, I twisted the key past On, and as the wipers swished twice, raised the window again.

Now I didnʼt do any of the things (except perhaps try to lower the window to balance the relative humidity within and without) that the first-person character does in the passage. And Janet drives a Toyota, too. My mind got interested in the differences my GOV revealed in its operations. Nor was I engaged in surveillance (merely reminded of the rainy watch Marlowe keeps for a chapter on the upscale porn shop in The Big Sleep). But, see, kids, I was writing

The Tourist character is having a busy time in my mind and notebook, by the way. I am fifteen or sixteen (handwritten) pages into his Big Encounter in Seattle as well as nearly to the brutal climax of his flight home from Europe to Chicagoʼs OʼHare. The San Francisco story is complete (for many months now) and needs dictation into digital form, as I just did yesterday with this bit of nothingness.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Iced Songbirds to Go

Hereʼs the start of a story that has percolated in my head since the night in Seattle, several years ago, that Janet and I had the pleasure (unanticipated, at least on my part) of hearing Eartha Kitt perform, sadly just months before she died. I kicked my idea around in my hinder thoughts until two weeks ago, when Janet had completed her work (well, most of her work) for, during and after her bossʼs Big Birthday Party (a story I still need to tell in this forum). I donʼt mean to reflect at all on the Celebrity Performer brought in for That Event, but somehow, as She enjoyed a celebratory martini after her show and the end of the party, and as The Lovely One chatted up Important Folks at the party, the story resurfaced insistently. I sat in a quiet corner of the bar, sipping a Johnnie Walker Black (which I had been too simple and foolish to specify earlier in the evening) and composed the following five hundred words…

The working title for the short story (series?) is the title of todayʼs post.

The time had come to haul the old broad out of cold storage. DeMint trundled his way down the lowest corridors of Le Grande Canal seeking the berth of tonight’s grande dame. As usual, he silently thanked his lucky stars for the elementary and ancient concept of alphabetical order, and as he so often did, cursed under his breath aloud that so many of his most popular corpses had surnames from the final third of the letter sequence…

Manischewitz, Markowsky, Mingo…

Neruda, Oppenheimer, Ott…

Pascal, Pomme, Shelley…

Sterne.

He sighed, a sign of his disloyal respect (loyal disrespect?) and pressed the blue icon on the touchpad outside her coffin to begin the reanim process. Once again. In one hundred and thirty-seven minutes Sharynn Sterne would sing again, her seven thousand eight hundred and fifty-seventh immortal performance. (Assuming he hadnʼt at some point forgotten to record a couple.) For the assembled miners of Sigma Calyx IV, which couldnʼt be buried much further, more remotely or less significantly in the back of beyond.

With an almost inaudible hiss, her resurrection began.

Having done his part for the next two hours, DeMint shuffled off to the cold level lounge to access the records net and pour himself more than a few cold ones. Down in the depths among his cold ones.

He loved them both. The beers and the broads, best on ice, less nice at room temps. But both the broads and the beers needed rewarming now and again. If only to keep other broads, his immortal songbirds, and better beers cold and refreshing and ready to serve.

He had negotiated eleven days with the mine unionʼs entertainment czar to reach an agreement of appropriate financial reward for an acceptable star revived out of yesteryear. As usual, as he had come so very long ago to expect, they had demanded performers of several magnitudes greater significance than his humble star freighter maintained. As though the handlers of such stellar celebrities would deign to cruise the nether depths of nowhere near such an insignificance as Sigma Calyx IV. When was the last time any starship had dropped orbit about their frozen mineral hell and offered to put on a show? That telling point had at last, long last, diminished the czarʼs expectations to a reasonable realm where an agreeable accommodation could finally be accomplished.

Not much reward financially for one of his most remembered Chillahs. Chilled Thrillers. But with unrefined fuelstuff thrown in, sufficient to get him and his cold coloraturas effectively out of this hell. Finally. So the deal had been struck and the time had come for Sharynn Sterne to sing again.

Now all DeMint had to do was convince her to cooperate.

By the time I had penned the last paragraph (yep, sitting at my little table with pen in hand and small yellow pad of mini-legal paper before me) it was nearly 1:00 AM. So there it rests (but at least I have gotten the written word digitized now).

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Fishing with Darwin

Having given blood again Monday (conveniently at the United Methodist church just up the street), I may have sucked any clear purpose from my writing. I had found something on Sunday, checking over my blogʼs stats, that got me musing, and today, those vague perturbations turned into a post…

A screenshot that shows the WordPress Dashboard for this blog. Click to enlarge.

Browsing through the statistical information that WordPress provides on oneʼs blog can be fascinating (too fascinating, killing hours of time periodically). That was how I developed one previous post, having spent far too long musing on the ways and means that had and had not brought readers to Wakdjunkagaʼs Blog. (I promise that today, unlike that previous exploration of statistical marvels, I wonʼt affix an endless series of blog links to this post.)

The most obvious statistic which a WordPress user finds is the count on the number of hits each day. WP presents that on a bloggerʼs main screen, the Dashboard, along with possible spam, recent comments, oneʼs own recent drafts for the blog, and a summary of the most popular posts recently. But the WordPress enumerators have much more available under the Site Stats link.

There you can get not only the numbers but also some interesting other information, such as recent websites referring viewers to you and what search terms lead viewers from search engines to your site. It was the list of search terms that let me know so many people were looking for images and information on Impressionists, probably for assignments in art history. By the way, that single Impressionist essay I posted with pictures (mostly borrowed from other sites, just as the hitters on this blog were likely doing) remains among the most popular items on the blog. Site Stats is a favorite stop for me when I’m checking e-mail, Facebook and the status of the blog as I begin each day.

The belegged fishy symbol in question/being searched about…

Recently, one search drew my interest. The day after Christmas, someone had arrived at Wakdjunkaga’s Blog by searching for “darwin fish rather than the religious creationist view.” Itʼs not a particularly profound request, but it touched me emotionally. My interest wasn’t because arriving here would be inappropriate for such a search (I am clearly no creationist) but because of the peculiar wording of the investigative quest. The latter part of the antithesis, “the religious creationist view,” makes a fair, mispunctuated sense. It’s the opposition of that wishfully contrafactual point of view with the “darwin fish” that intrigued me, putting that parodic image in contradistinction to a barely theological belief.

The emblem is merely a kind of joke (it actually began as a joke that blossomed into profit, even with legal suits, moreso than the smiley face provided for its creator), perhaps most popular as a Jeffersonian sign of resistance to the aggressive intrusion of (what should be a personal) religion into daily life, or personal opposition to deliberate ignorance wailing in terror of scientific rationality. Unfortunately, the parody emblem in no way posits any particular point of view, merely a vague mistrust or antagonism to willful fatuity. I sport a Darwin fish on my truck (and unfortunately sold the old vehicle, rapidly, a decade ago with its better, plastic emblem still attached) not in opposition to religion but to empty, wish-fulfilling falsehoods.

Can you see the fishy emblem?

Faintly amusing to me, back in the Nineties, when I subscribed to the MacAddict periodical, on the more-or-less humorous final page of one issue, the writer listed “things that were so over” and prominently featured the Darwin fish as the emblem of a debate long-settled (I guess that writer underestimated the stubbornness of wishful self-deception in America). And one of my neighbors-to-the-westʼs kids (at least at one time, a year ago) had a “Truth”-fish-eating-a-darwin-fish emblem on his vehicle, which I guess wasnʼt meant to concede the debate (by having a larger specimen consuming a smaller one — thus admitting survival of the fittest?) but rather to assert oneʼs personal denial of the the rationalistʼs parodic imagery, as acceptable as my truckʼs rear end. I do enjoy the aggressive and devouring “Truth”-Christ asserted in what must be deliberate defiance (or ignorance) of the Saviorʼs Gospel preachments (the link, just to present an evangelical view on that matter).

But I didnʼt want to post today to vent my spleen against nonsensically self-referential bias-defense maneuvers but rather to briefly imagine what might have caused that search which landed, however briefly, on this blog. Was this some poor homeschooled kid in an unobserved moment trying to find some unbiased, objective information, using the pathetic misinformation s/he had available? I can see this child hunched over the computer in the postChristmas haze, struggling to acquire knowledge rather than mere propaganda but only possessing the jargon of the True Believers, attempting hastily to discover what might be learned before the Authoritative Presences intervened once again. A sad scenario that perhaps could become a story…

Of course, alternatively, it might as well have been someone searching from the other end of the rationality spectrum. But if so, I donʼt have a good guess why the fish emblem would be the alternative to religious prejudice* rather than a biological point of view. Surely even an adolescent scientist wouldnʼt oppose the symbol to a creationist belief?

Of course, the information from WordPress is what it is. I donʼt know who searched that eight-word phrase or why. My awareness that it happened, however, just stirred my imagination. Maybe I should have put my effort into that story I mentioned instead of huffing my internal furies by discovering all those shrill creationist sites I have linked. In that other universe, you might have read instead…

Christmas was over. We went to church on Sunday, the day after, the day that the Brits call Boxing Day, and heard about how the wicked evolutionists are headed to hell. Including everyone who has a demented Darwin fish on their car.

I had seen a Darwin fish on one of the cars that came to the church building in the fall when the pastor permitted a blood drive. I think I know which nurse was driving it, and he had been the one to take my pint of blood. He seemed like a nice man, and I thought he was kind of cute, being so solicitous about just another girlʼs state of mind as she got her elbow pierced. Was he going to hell?

What did that silver emblem on his Camaro even mean? All the pastor and my parents ever said was “godless communism.” And thinking back to his big brown eyes, teddy-bear personality, suddenly I donʼt feel all that certain I know what their accusation even means.

And that could begin the story the search inspired.

*Oh, boy. That site is crazed.

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

More of the Tourist

I started a story about the Tourist last Sunday. Here is some more for a quiet Sunday after Christmas…

Eventually we began our descent. I began to feel as if I almost couldn’t breathe.

The landing felt rough. But I was ready for that. I used the opportunity to shake his seat as violently as I could.

Typically for O’Hare, we taxied around forever before reaching our arrival gate. And then we sat in the plane interminably, waiting for all those ahead of us in the cabin to get to their feet, get their stuff and get out of there. Finally I could see people in front of the bulkhead beginning to move.

But my tormentor didn’t wait for anything. Contrary to instructions, he was on his feet and pulling his massive carry-on from the overhead bin while we were still rolling. He continued to stand in the aisle while the plane eased lengthily to its final position, while everyone waited for the exit-tube to get attached at the door, and while all those in front took their turns deplaning.

Of course, the thorn in my side didn’t wait for most of that. Once he, from his privileged position, could see motion further front in the tourist section, he began trying to shove his way out, and I lost track of him as I began to worry about making my own exit.

Actually, I didn’t need to worry about my own exit. O’Hare was not my final destination, and I was taking this plane on west. On the other hand, security regulations required that I checked through customs here in Chicago, so I was going to have to get off; I would just be getting right back on.

After my endless, awful ordeal, I wanted some room for myself. I wanted to stretch my legs. However, unlike the jerk ahead of me, I sat patiently and waited for the plane to pretty well clear before heading off myself.

When I reached the big echoing, overcrowded baggage claim area, there he was standing tall and slim, leaning against a pillar, waiting for whatever bag he had checked. I humped my way into the crowd around the conveyor belt carousel. He was already yapping on a cell phone. They weren’t supposed to come out until after customs.

Did this moron care about anything — except himself?

I tried to focus on the carousel. Bags were appearing and tumbling down to start the long rotation — red bags, blue bags, black bags; bags of all colors and all descriptions, and none of them mine. I pushed my way, as gently as I could, into the crowd, trying to keep my back to the annoying source of torment from the flight. And then, just as I saw my bag start to teeter out and down, there he was right beside me, pushing me aside as he reached for his executive case and garment bag which had arrived so conveniently together. As he swung away in his self-obsessed oblivion, I took the case in the gut. And so, gasping for agonized breaths, I got to wait one whole turn of the conveyor to grab my own modest and small bag.

By the time it arrived, I had my wind back.

Iʼll keep it short for today, as I assume everyone is still holidaying with family and/or friends. Interestingly, I just rediscovered a book I bought as a cut-out years ago, a mystery anthology entitled Murder for Christmas. Although this Tourist tale doesnʼt have a Yuletide glitter or setting, I did, accidentally, select it for the season.

Merry Boxing Day and enjoy this week sagging between Christmas and New Yearʼs!

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

Return of the Tourist

I think I am annoyed that Hollywood has ripped off another idea I never got published. My character from “Underground,” as all you longtime readers of the blog should realize, is known as the Tourist. Now, so is Johnny Deppe. Or Angelina Jolie. Iʼve only seen ads, so I don’t know which actor portrays the title character. Maybe now I know why ClusterMaps indicates a pretty solid fan base in southern California for the blog…

Have I told the story about my first fantasy series character, Arkon, a direct rip-off of Conan, whose name was merely “Akron” (as in Ohio) with the letters reordered? I penned a story or two about this brawny barbarian in my adolescent years, one of which got rejected by a New York-based fantasy mag back about 1969 or 1970. Then in 1970 a comic book appeared with a mighty thewed barbarian named Arkon. Coincidence? We donʼt think so. (Actually, I do, but I suffer from vague, deluded and imaginary paranoia when coincidence plays out against me.)

However, in honor of my own invention, for your fictional enjoyment today, I have the start of the third (out of four currently) Tourist story, this one insopired by our return from Prague to Chicago just over a year ago. Itʼs also the first story Ihave tried entirely dictating (which may explain why itʼs as yet incomplete).

Incident at OʼHare

Admittedly, at O’Hare I left my bag unattended for more than five minutes. But I had just cause.

The flight home from Europe had been hell. It all started far too early, and everything went downhill from that 3:50 AM alarm. They took my carry-on away from me at check-in, I had to wait two hours in the lounge, and by the time they let me board, the plane was already chock-full with more to come.

Furthermore I was stuck in the middle section of the giant plane — buried toward the back and not even in an aisle seat. A tall, lanky guy took my attention as I made my way back. Just as I went by he leaped up from a bulkhead seat by the windows, grabbed an immense carry-on/suit bag in the aisle seat beside him and commenced his efforts to cram it into the overhead bins. Not only was it far too large (unlike my own, now so distant from me in checked baggage) but he had the gall to begin moving other people’s bags from where they had already placed them into other bins, just to make room for his own where he wanted it — a few seats back from where he had been resting.

Once I found my seat, a piece of good luck occurred. As I approached the woman in the aisle seat to to beg her to rise and step to the side so I could get in next to her, she volunteered to take that seat and let me have the aisle. How could I resist? Once I had settled in, however, I realized what she was after — more foot room. In order to equip the seatbacks with entertainment system processing units, power centers or some kind of garbage from which the wiring led had to be located on floor. The box for that unit was underneath the seat ahead of me. Looking around as we waited and waited for the flight to take off, I noticed that such boxes were under the outside seats of each middle row on each end. Without my carry-on it really wasn’t a problem for me though. There was room enough for my feet.

The other bright spot was the seat in front of me. Even after we’d all been belted in for about a half an hour and still hadn’t taken off, that seat remained empty.

The tall guy I’d noticed just wouldn’t sit still. Up by the bulkhead he was first in the window seat, then in the aisle seat, then on his feet, head bent under the overheads standing in front of the bulkhead. I had a pretty good view of him over the unoccupied seat in front.

Then the two girls, whose seats he’d been presuming, arrived. He looked annoyed. And then he came back and sat right in the seat in front of me. I knew that now he would be my annoyance. And he was.

Even moments before the seat belt light shut off, he had already reclined his seat back directly into my face, where it remained for the next nine and a half hours, leaving barely ten inches for my face.

And so started the longest nine and a half hours of my life. I couldn’t sleep; there was no way to get comfortable. I tried watching the TV on his seat back, but the way his seat went back, there was no way that I could really see the screen. Reading was thoroughly out of the question: there was no way I could get a book in anywhere I could see it except by sticking my hand out into the aisle, and there was no light there.

I felt the worst the two times food was served. I could only barely slipped the lock on my tray table and squeezed it down between my neck and chest to rest against my belly. Operating the utensils to get at the food was pretty much impossible. I spilled food and slopped drink repeatedly during both sessions. I’m afraid I may have actually spilled on the girl next to me. I wanted to slap right up over the top under the guy in front, but there was no way I could do it.

My only release came when I had to go to the bathroom. The space he left me was so narrow that I had to shove against his seat just to get out. I admit I shoved quite a bit more than was necessary each of the three times I got up and went. I shoved at it both getting up and sitting back down. He might as well been a department-store mannequin for all the reaction I got from him.

My suffering only increased the longer the flight went on. Once we are over American territory, the minutes stretched into hours. I writhed in my seat. My butt cheeks and upper thighs ached. I actually reached out and shook his seat. Twice.

Eventually we began our descent. I began to feel as if I almost couldn’t breathe.

This guy actually was on our flight back from Zurich and behaved exactly as described, worse. There is more already dictated (nearly a year ago). Maybe thatʼll be the post for Boxing Day

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