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.

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…


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.

Driven to Desperate Measures (Maybe)

More days without a post. Am I losing interest in the blog? Not at all.

with a tip of the hat to Fox and The Simpsons…

So what has been happening instead of blog-writing? Ironically, considering my most recent post, I have been arguing away on Facebook. The governorʼs sleazy sleight-of-legislation in Wisconsin* got me angry. It is one thing to tighten our belts (particularly if elected officials tighten first — hint, hint) in times of financial crisis, but it is another thing entirely to use such a crisis as the pretext in forwarding an aggressively selfish and uncharitable political agenda. And thatʼs exactly what Gov. Walker has been up to. Worse, he tried to ram through a nationally organized union-busting bill underhandedly, trying to slip it through the legislature as quickly, quietly and sneakily as possible. And when he got caught, and people protested his lack of ethics and his subservience to out-of-state interests and powers, he glibly attacked the protesters instead of honestly acknowledging his error.*

And I got my wind up and posted repeatedly to my Facebook page items about the Wisconsin Scam, arousing of course the predictable (and predictably lame and predictably identical) unsupported and undocumented complaints of my Dextreme friends. So I spilled out hundreds of words, if not thousands, attempting to convey reality to minds so well washed and firmly set that I accomplished, as always lately in that forum, nothing. So Friday and Saturday and (after a computer-free gap on Sunday, per The Lovely Oneʼs request) Monday passed. (Actually, thatʼs how Monday continues to pass, as I just finished being distracted from this post with several long responses to fairly silly comments on my links.)

The one good thing that may come from all of this, as I realized while out for a run in the wet and cold this morning (itʼs snowing right now, late in the day), is that I may be motivated to continue a story I first began to imagine more than a year ago about a desolate dystopian future with “No Public Options” and no big government whatsoever. My idea is based on the old Internet meme about a conservative individual realizing what he owes to public service. Letʼs see if I can find it…

Well, hereʼs one version, with no apologies for its semiliteracy or errors:

I AM AN AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE •••••••• (censored for all our pleasure)

This morning I was awoken** by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the US department of energy. I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the municipal water utility. After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC regulated channels to see what the national weather service of the national oceanographic and atmospheric administration determined the weather was going to be like using satellites designed, built, and launched by the national aeronautics and space administration. I watched this while eating my breakfast of US department of agriculture inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the food and drug administration.

At the appropriate time as regulated by the US congress and kept accurate by the national institute of standards and technology and the US naval observatory, I get into my national highway traffic safety administration approved automobile and set out to work on the roads build by the local, state, and federal departments of transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the environmental protection agency, using legal tender issed by the federal reserve bank. On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the US postal service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the department of labor and the occupational safety and health administration, enjoying another two meals which again do not kill me because of the USDA, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to ny house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and fire marshalʼs inspection, and which has not been plundered of all itʼs valuables thanks to the local police department.

I then log on to the internet which was developed by the defense advanced research projects administration and post on and fox news forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government canʼt do anything right.

Get the idea? My own story begins…

Tomorrow morning (or the next year).

As he stuck the key in the ignition, John Q. Cerfʹs car dutifully chimed to indicate that it had rushed his bank account for the beck toward a new vehicle from HenryMotors in just 2.78 years, a minute amount of money every time he drives his car and the concluding clause in the purchase agreement he had signed upon buying this model last year.

Cerf had been rushed already for electricity and water (water beck per usage, of course, but electricity prorated in daily becks over each month based on the previous yearʹs usage). The water corporation had yielded him a morning shower and coffee, once the electric alarm clock had roused him from sweet dreams. Heʼd been reading some complaints about the water quality, but in these free days without regulation, you had to take LocalWaterCorpʼs word that all sewage was indeed being correctly processed at a profit and not simply dumped into the river.

Want more? I actually came up with a device to turn what was merely polemic (that bit in blue above, that I didnʼt write, however accurate or powerful) into a tale…

* I can, if anyone wishes, reproduce the FB exchanges with relevant evidence and links on the underhanded union-busting being billed as financial belt-tightening…

* Seriously. There is evidence. Wanna see?

** We could make a game of catching the grammatical errors in this thing.

©2011 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

A Little More… Sepharad

Just because it was such a pain to dictate, hereʼs a little more of what went vocally into Scrivener on Wednesday, December 1. Remember… Judah and Søren are trying to break into the Green Tower, lair of the infamous (but tantalizing) Red Witch, Larissa. Judahʼs working for the minor crime lord Reynaldo, who is in turn trying to impress a patronizing lord who is himself currying favor from the (even more nefarious, and deservedly so) Necromancer!

We pick up where we left off last Sunday.


Judah unbound the strange device he had tried to explain to the Northman from heavy loops of rope. It looked an awkward thing, though Søren’s experience distinguished the climber’s hook protruding on an iron bar from one end of it. Casually his partner began turning a screw on one side.

“This little machine will send the hook all that distance?”

“And more. You’ve never before seen one of these?”

“No. A Moorish invention?”

“Aye. Based, some say, on old Greek and Roman rowing machines, but I’ve seen drawings of these old catapults and read about them in Vitruvius. They worked on entirely different principles,” Judah grunted out between turns on the screw, effort which grew visibly more difficult even for his lean strength. “Get’s called a crossbow. And I think I’ve wound it tight enough.”

Judah raised the wooden device and held it shoulder high, aiming the hook end at the rooftop some twenty yards distant. Now it was evident that at least some of the rope was attached to the climber’s hook. Citing steadily, the Kabul West fingered a catch on the wooden structure. With a clear thrum the bar and hook sailed at the rooftop of the Green Tower, trailing rope behind.In an instant the hook clattered on the other roof. Judah pulled carefully on the rope tugging the hook toward one particular angle on a cornice where he hoped it securely lodged.

Several stout pulls the rope indicated his aim and effort had been true.

“So now one can swing across?”

“It should work.”

“So which of us goes?”

“The trick was designed for just one, but as I suggested, I think we’ll try it together, Søren. Aiming for that window there. See? Can you gauge the right length of rope?”

“It’s a long swing to a tiny target, Judah.”

“That window’s six feet high and three across. All we have to do is hit it and not the wall to either side. Or swing too high or too low. This was the hitch in the plan for me: I’m not sure I could get myself across accurately. But you, can you do it?”

Søren, who had met you experience with ropes and swinging on such, both in the fjords and mountains of his distant homeland, but also at sea, a-Viking, examined the tower, the hook’s evident location and the rope — certainly stout enough to hold two, considered, and finally nodded. “Aye.” They were still speaking German, partly from convenience, partly yet from a sense of secrecy.

Søren squared himself to that distant tower — tugged strongly on the rope, observing both the pivot of the hook and the window. Judah had aligned where the bolt landed and struck well, whether from luck or skill. And with a brush of luck and application of skill, Søren should be able to swing to the window — the challenge being the double load, taking the smaller man along.

Hesitating would not resolve or improve the situation. “Climb on,” he ordered, nearly kneeling on their parapet. Judah clambered piggyback onto the huge man’s shoulders, which Søren flexed in a couple of shrugs, adjusting to the burden, then grasping the rope firmly in both hands, dangling some out into space ahead, twirled the last few feet around his chest and Nathan’s rear. He stepped back a few feet and then sprinted to the parapet, saving one last long step to the top of that low wall, and leaped.

The rope snapped taught around both their bodies after a few seconds of free fall, rushing they are descending for word momentum. Nathan felt his heart thundering in his arms, wrapped around the big Northman’s shoulders. Three heartbeats, four: Søren swung his boots foremost, and they smashed into the glazing of the window, true on center, as Søren released the rope and let it snake away raspingly from his body.

As last time, if you see something that seems wrong, (thank MacSpeech Dictate and) let me know…

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

Søren and Judah (again)

Here is the second dose of the recent portion of “Mistakes by Moonlight” that I dictated this last week. As MacSpeech Dictate mishears meat least once every sentence, usually more often, you can help by letting me know what things you find that donʼt make sense (I already spotted and correct an “I” that should have been “A.”

Although, this, from the very original draft assumes that they are leaving from the Golden Bull, having just met. You and I know better, and this is really the second night, and I need to come up with a good reason to have them begin “well fortified with wine,” or else change the start of this chapter (which will be chapter 4; I was still writing chapter 3, all brand-new, when I scheduled this).


“medieval thoroughfare” image search result

Thus, fortified with a powerful dosage of wine, and moderately fed, this small and the tall set out in the middle of the night to renew the interrupted escapade. As Judah had taken the route specified by Reynaldo’s plan when beset the day before, they both concluded the wisdom of trying an alternate path to their goal, the Green Tower.

As the planned route had wound through back ways and had been assaulted so easily, Søren suggested that they try the most public way possible, and the Street of Dreams led directly across town, just a few rambling blocks from the large, empty square where stood the witch’s power. It lay a bit further from the nasty alley which the Golden Bull fronted.

Even at this hour merry crowds filled Calle de Sueños, one of the five principal avenues across the city, and the two melted into the flow of folk, although Søren’s height placed him conspicuously overlooking the streams of heads.

On the other hand, no one was looking for him. Or so the two hoped as they strode along and dodged among the mixed classes and religions thronging the Street of Dreams.

Once, in a dark place between wavering cones of light from civic torches, a man rushed from an obscure doorway directly at Judah. But when Søren stepped in his way, the fellow appeared simply overstimulated with drink. A few minutes later, in another dark stretch where the crowds had evaporated into amusements within the buildings alongside, a pair of horsemen appeared ahead and charged down at the duo, who both dodged aside, as the mounted police laughed and clattered on. More sinister, both men felt and nervous pressure at every intersection and separately kept turning ahead to check behind. Søren plowing people aside, judo weaving and docking between folks and around groups. Every time all seem secure unless that group which quickly turned aside into that tavern on the left was the same group that had slipped off briefly to cheer a Gypsy dancer in a side street earlier.

In the better part of town, public buildings, palaces and places of worship — mosques, churches, synagogues — stood stately and widespread along the margins of the street. On this side of the city, businesses of all repute’s with rooms above, taverns, in his and gambling dens massed thickly on each side. The street remained wide, providing passage to pedestrians, carriages and carts, worsening as well as burdened donkeys and stevedores balancing pallets of goods on shoulders and heads. Upper stories are on side streets might nearly or truly touch over the passageway, but here have been remain clearly visible above.

As they advanced, the number of people gradually dwindled along with the streetlights and the noise until they found themselves alone on the now black street, just a block from the turning to the narrow way debouching into the bleak and vacant square outside the Green Tower.

A cat yowled suddenly when they stepped into the square of few minutes later and fled, all white streak, across an open area and to one side.

“I hope that wasn’t some demonic guardian warning of our approach,“ Soren opined.

“If she cares, if she’s away, she probably knows all that transpires around her tower. But our boss says she’s grown comfortable and careless. Thus her supernatural slumber twixt midnight and dawn. Come, let’s hurry. Always lies where the Went, a coincidence not at all reassuring to me.“

“medieval green tower” image search result

“Maybe he was sent by the wizard we indirectly serve, Judah.“

“A thought even less comforting. I almost think I’d rather have her attention on me than that blackhearted Necromancer’s. Here’s our alley. Follow.“

Halfway down this side passage, Judah drew a key from his purse, using the device to open very small and the road door in the building they had been passing. Quickly he rushed Søren, ducking and twisting, within, and although the plan had not called for the action, relocked the portal from inside.

“That will make it difficult to leave again, should the need arise,” objected the Northerner.

“Our plan is to exit her tower another way.” Nathan repocketed the key. “Besides, safely locked, I hope no one can follow us from here. Go. Grope ahead: a stairway should open on the left.”

It did, and the two climbed in darkness, up and up, turning on landing after landing until suddenly Søren’s head thumped against the rough unseen in the utter black. He swore under his breath.

“Perhaps I should have gone first. Sorry. Feel for the ring,” Judah urged. “It’s a trap door onto the roof.”

Søren made no sound locating the ring his head had barely missed in the collision, turned it as instructed, and heaved upwards slightly, just a few inches, peering out on the vaulted surface of the rooftop. All looked silent and deserted in the single direction he could barely see.

The thin slit of starlight illuminated the top steps to Judah’s dark-accustomed eyes, and he quickly located the gear Reynaldo had promised hanging on the wall. Gathering this stuff into his arms, he asked, “All clear?”

In reply, Søren pushed the door up right and leaped out, his left hand still on the ring as his right swept his sword up and out to challenge… nothing. All clear. He stepped aside as Judah swarmed up and out with his new burdens, and then he lowered the door again, dropping the ring and grasping the portal’s edge.

“Let it close all the way,” Judah instructed. “There’s little enough we could do were we able to retreat this way again.”

But Søren cautiously kicked a pebble to lodge in the gap as he released his grasp. Now they could return through the trap door, if necessary. An unlikely need, perhaps, but he also noticed no ring topside to lift the door again to permit ingress. The Green Tower loomed to their left across about twenty yards of open space. They crossed to the edge of their roof, standing behind a low parapet just higher than Judah’s knees. From up here they could see that the open square actually surrounded the tower on all sides, isolating it with at least the distance before them between it and any other building. Indeed, their rooftop came closer than any other structure to the Green Tower.

And it was green, even in the nocturnal darkness which made the tower black, hints of reflection winked greenly. Color by starlight was almost impossible to perceive, but Søren realized he had seen the towerʼs top as a memorable element of the cityscape when he rode down out of the mountains to the plain. And Judah naturally had several times circled and deleted the building in the square, providing a sop and a stimulant to his everthirsting curiosity. Looking upward, Søren could see the rows of periodic windows which would be their primary interest. Far higher yet that crenellated tower top — far too high for any strength to launch a climber’s hook.

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

More Dreamworld, or Scary Stuff for a Sunday

This continues the story begun with this post. It was about as scary as I could devise for today. Happy Halloween!

I grabbed a towel, wiped myself fast and wrapped the dingy thing around me as the doorbell wheezed for the fifth time. I leaped out of the bathroom and barreled dripping down the hall to the front door.

Stop. Started the wrong way first, but I recognized the kitchen door up ahead before I actually got there, turned right around and went half-naked and still damp to the door. I didn’t even hesitate opening it. Bad guys or robbers, mayhemming murderers—on a day like this it just didn’t seem to matter very much. Let them take me off. It’ll be a relief.

Two guys were there. Suits. Nice suits. Armani maybe. Better suits than I owned. Better suits than I remembered ever talking to before. Good ties too. Not too shiny: real silk probably.

Both looked good as well. Healthy. Tanned but not cancerously so. They seemed athletic without flaunting it. Either one could probably beat the crap out of me with one hand tied behind his back and drinking an iced cappuccino at the same time.

Just one of those days.


“Mr. Bronson?” Number one didn’t even move his lips as he asked.


“You want to speak with us.”

“I do?”

“You do.” Number two echoed with no inflection whatsoever. Suddenly I felt as naked as I was.

“You gotta be selling something.”

“Not exactly.” Number one smiled.

“And I don’t think I’m buying.” I started to pull on the door.

“Then I assume you haven’t had time for breakfast yet?” Number two inquired mildly, his face unexpressive.

“I just got outta the shower. Couldn’t you tell?” Moving the door some more.

Number one just kept smiling. “You probably want to visit your kitchen then.”

“Maybe after you’ve gone.” And I tried to completely shut the door.

But number two simply pushed on inside. It wasn’t any effort for him at all. And his friend followed. All three of us were just cozy together there in my little hallway.

“Maybe right now, Bronson.”

Number one shut the door completely. I felt claustrophobic.

It was a hold-up. I knew it. You shouldn’t think about things: it makes them come true.

“What do you think you’re doing?” It sounded lame even as I said it.

Number two started pushing me down my own hall, backward, toward the kitchen. He thumped my bare chest with both hands, repeatedly, to make me move. He was pushing at a pretty good rate. I stumbled over my own feet, and fell flat on my rump.

Number one, trailing behind, laughed. “Clumsy little runt, isn’t he?”

Number two kicked me. Hard. Right in my gut. I couldn’t even breathe, he slammed me so hard. And he never even grimaced; his face stayed blank and unconcerned. “Get up, f——face.”

I just sat there, hurt, trying for air like a landed trout, a pathetic excuse for a man in a green bath towel. I wasn’t moving fast enough for old number two. He kicked again. Harder.

“Get up.”

I was gasping, the wind totally knocked out of me, vision swimming. I couldn’t move.

So he kicked me again. Really hard. He was smiling now. I think I felt something crack in my lower chest. A rib? I couldn’t breathe worse than ever, and my gut was a swollen bag of hot pain.

“Stop stalling.”

My sight went dark as I sagged completely supine on the hallway linoleum.

“Oh, no, you don’t. Dipstick. You’re staying with us.”

Hands grabbed me, hauled me upright, roughly, against the wall. Hands I didn’t even see slapped my face about a dozen times, rapidly. I sobbed out loud. My belly and ribs hurt like hell. Whitehot pain with every strangled breath.

“Go ahead and cry. But you’re staying here, buddy boy.” And he shoved me on toward the kitchen. Seven eight nine staggering-backwards steps and I smashed into the door frame.

“God! What a jerk.” Number one’s voice chuckled.

“We really sure he’s the one we’re after?”

“Oh, yeah. He’s the one.”

“Hard to believe. —Come on, douchebag. Let’s take a good look in your kitchen.” He grabbed me by the shoulders, spun me and shoved me right through the swinging door. I fell down inside, and even half-conscious I saw it.

The kitchen was a shambles. Literally: a slaughterhouse.

Everything was blood.

“My my. What have we here?” Number one was still laughing. This was real funny.

“What have you been doing in here, Bronson?” Even number two found it humorous.

There was a body in the chair at the table right in front of me. She was naked. Lying flat on my back, I was looking right up at her. She was ripped open, and I could smell her intestines, a warmish toilet odor—excrement. A blonde, she was looking at me, her mouth hanging obscenely open. But she was dead. It was her blood that was all over the place. All around my head.

“Looks like you’ve been a bad, bad boy, Bronson.”

And number two kicked me once more. In the crotch.

I vomited. The pain, the hideous kitchen, terror and shock all collapsed into me.

“Nice job, Richie.”

“Goddamn. The wad puked on my shoe.” His name was Richie. For some reason I focused on that. He just kicked me again. Right in the nuts. Again. “You puked on my shoe!”

I knew then I was going to die. I really couldn’t breathe any more.

Richie still couldn’t get over it. “The little rat’s rear puked on my goddam shoe, Travis.”

Now I knew both of their names. Travis and Richie. Realizing that made it hurt a little less. Realizing that they didn’t care if I knew their names scared me. And the blonde was still somewhere behind me, sitting dead and gory in my kitchen chair.

My crotch felt warm. Bleeding? No… not quite so bad. Travis looked at me, noticing it himself. Worse.

“He’s peed his pants, Richie. Look at him. He peed his goddan pants!”

“Would have if he had any pants.”

“Peed his little towel then. What a jerk.”

“Guess he’ll need another shower now.”

“Guess he will, Richie.”

“Gonna take another shower now, Georgie-boy? Now that you’ve gone and wet yer little self.” He kicked me. There. “Come on, creep. Talk to us.”

Travis had moved around above my head. Now he kicked me in the back and neck. “Come on, Bronson. React. You miserable cocksucker.”

Everything hurt. More than hurt—red stinging pain made my body feel jagged. I couldn’t see straight; the two goons and the kitchen looked blurry. Where was the dead girl now? Still in her chair, jerk. The dead don’t move. Then I realized I was crying.

I was terrified. They were going to kill me. I didn’t know why. Two strangers walked into my house on a rotten morning, before I’d even had breakfast, and they were going to kill me. Torture me first. And for how long?

Now it was more than just tears in my eyes. I sucked in an agonizing breath and sobbed. Out loud. I sobbed in sheer pain and fear.

My neck and shoulder exploded. “What a wuss. The little baby’s cryin’, Rich.”

Richie took a swing at my crotch again. “Don’t cry for me, Argentina. You spineless little crap factory.”

Another kick from each of them and the whole world seemed to turn into fire. Things popped inside of me, cold, and then it seemed warmth was oozing through me. They were sending me to join the blonde. Sheer agony bloomed through my whole being. I really felt I was dying…

…And the alarm shrilled…

Anguish. Rolling waves of mindbending distress. Stabs of torture and wild throbs filled my being. Everything felt hot and cold all at once and all together. Everything was torment. Redness going black…

I cleaned up Travis and Ritchieʼs dialog a little, and at this level it doesnʼt even seem to do any harm (maybe make them just a touch less dangerous).

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

Whaddaya Think?

One of my stories, that could never fully appear here for reasons of language, concerns a mild-mannered, weak guy who has troubling waking up in the morning. Some really bad guys show up after a few thousand words or more, and theyʼre so bad their language is the problem. However, the story starts okay, so I thought I would see what you might think of the opening…

Right now it doesnʼt really have a title, although at one time I called it “Where Is Your Head This Morning?” I think you can see why itʼs essentially untitled at the moment from that. On the other hand, this guy is really, really having one of those mornings…

When I awoke, I felt as though I had lived through lifetimes. I often feel like that when I wake up. Today was one of the bad ones. I dreamed I’d awakened five or six times since the alarm first went off more than an hour ago, and every arousing–showering–coffee drinking–driving had been interrupted by the re-ringing of the alarm and my fumblefingered punching of the sleep delay, only to drift off into awakening again and endure another variation on my morning routine.

Only now I was awake for real and down to under forty minutes to get to work. 7:22. Ain’t life grand?

Forty minutes was impossible. It took forty minutes to drive to the office. Well, to the parking lot and then walk to the office. I’d never make it. How could I possibly have overslept that long? I must have conked the snooze button twenty or thirty times; or else it was giving me a heck of a lot longer than six minutes between ringings. What to do now? I’d just have to call in. I couldn’t show up an hour or more late. Not without some kind of explanation.

Some mornings, life just isn’t fair.

Most mornings, come to think of it.

Can’t wait for the shower: Lunging up from the bed, I reached for the telephone. It felt funny in my hand, too light. I stabbed my finger at the dial, but three buttons each hit just wrong beeped at me. Buttons? Beeping?

I felt confused for a half-second. I must be exhausted. Dial phones? Did I think I was ten all over again?

The brain is a funny thing. Take care of it, give it plenty of mental exercise and also plenty of rest—and it keeps you up on everything and solves your problems for you. Wear it down through tedium and too little sleep—as I had done lately—and it plays petty little tricks on you.

I punched up the office number. The line droned once, twice, popped and clicked:

“Richardson and Fielding.”


“Richardson and Fielding, Attorneys at Law. How can I help you?”

“I— I’m sorry. Wrong number.” I hung up, embarrassed. What the hell—? I was sure I punched in the right number. 876–5549. I tried it again.

“Richardson and Fielding.” I clapped down the receiver again. Damnation!

What was I thinking of? 867–5549… That was our old number in Michigan, when I was a kid. Well, with a 3 for the 8, and the 67 reversed. Where was I getting these notions?

I dialed the right number. 876–5032.

“Vex and Blight, Realtors.”

“Hi, Stace. It’s George.”

“Georgie? What’s up, bud?”

What’s up, Stace? Everything but me. Yeah, Stace, I overslept by two hours, and I won’t be in for another hour. —Sounds real good, Georgie-boy, real good…


“Yeah, Stacy. It’s me.”

“You feeling all right?”

“Feeling all right?”

“Yeah. You sound kind of strange…”

“Uh…” What the hell. “No. I don’t. I don’t feel all right, Stacy.”

“I thought so, George. You sick?”

Took the words right out of my mouth, kid. “Sicker’n a dog.”

“Staying home today, then?”

You got it. “Yeah.” What the hell? I didn’t have anything major on today. Did I?

“All right, George. I’ll tell them.”

“Thanks, Stace.”

“Don’t worry about a thing. You just rest. Get better.”

“Yeah, right. Thanks.”

“Goodbye, George. —And, uh, George, you really must be out of it.”

“You can tell?” Got her fooled.

“Silly, I’m Sara.” Click.

Sara? Who’s Sara? The receptionist’s name is… —Sara, idiot.

And you thought you were fibbing. Dweeb. Where is your head this morning? Where is it any morning? Same place. Ozone land. Wrapped in wool or something.

I shoved my hands against my skull, rotating the heels against the dry heat of my forehead, pushing hard.


I could feel the ice of my fingertips. What the—? That got me out of the bed, in a hurry. Straight across to the bathroom door—

Don’t you mean closet?


Bathroom’s down the hall, dork. Got your whole life upside over this morning? Must have. Would have sworn my bathroom’s just off the bed… Not here, not ever. What am I thinking?

While racing down the hall, rip open the bathroom door, and look into—the shower. Left side, braindead. Shower’s on the right, blue-green curtain. Toilet in front. Sink’s left.

I looked left.

And the face in the medicine chest mirror gleamed with a baldness I had never imagined. And I knew was not my own.

“Kee–raisss…—t.” Something was very wrong here.

What? Afraid to recognize yourself? Living in the past or what?

I’ve been bald for years. A decade. More. I was twenty-two and in Minneapolis with Karen and Guy, sitting in a booth in a Country Kitchen—it was Bloomington; we’d driven up after work and couldn’t find a motel, it was the fair weekend. We had finally paid too much for two Holiday Inn rooms just off I-35 and then gone to find something to eat at about one—and in the booth, as we finally got our food, they both started giggling like junior high schoolgirls when I leaned down to pick some crumb or something off my lap. They couldn’t help it. Mr. Hair was thinning out, right at the crown. Right where I always can feel—

No. That’s not right.

I was holding my skull again. I looked up. Same face.

Same face as always. Hairless skulltop gleaming fleshblue through the darkness of fingers. Glaring eyes between the palms expressing fear of everything. Dirty brown fingernails.

What’s with me?

I am not bald! …Am I?

Like I said, some mornings life just isn’t fair. Most mornings. …I must have been enjoying some pretty hairy dream not too long before the alarm first went off… Hard to forget your fleshy pate’s been your morning wake-up since… 1998—no matter how much hair, no matter how cut and combed, you have tried to part across the gap.

It just seemed so unreal, though, staring at myself. I had felt so sure. Not wishing, not nostalgic, just that’s the way it is, matter-of-fact… Better men than you have had trouble facing it, otherwise all the rug shops would have gone out of business back in George Washington’s day. And you only have to think of Harry Vex’s unhairy head buried in that medium brown Astroturf® to realize it.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe I’m just joining Vex in a midlife panic. Nothing like two hard jabs to the lower ribs at once. Bald, that’s all it is. You’re bald, you’ve been bald, you’re still bald, and you’re going to keep getting balder. Accept it.

I still felt funny, splashing some water in my face, stripping off my yellow—no, blue-green—PJs, showering in the oddly tiny bathstall. I felt myself standing at a distance as if everything remained unfamiliar. I was a stranger in my own apartment, in my own body even—clunking into everything, finding the soap dish only after a search, having forgotten that I’d never used Head and Shoulders. Everything seemed inexplicably irregular.

I didn’t even recognize the doorbell’s asthmatic whimper when, predictably perhaps, it sounded just two-thirds of the way through the shower. This is the kind of crap I should expect, especially on a day like this.

After yesterdayʼs photo caption, maybe you can tell why this bit of this story seemed to rise to the top of my own unhairy head. And, yes, if you might be wondering, there is a big dose of me in this fictitious character, not just no hair. His long-ago moment of recognition about his evolving baldness is taken pretty closely from my own introduction to the joke of my genetic heritage. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. I, however, have never awakened convinced that I wasnʼt me. I wonder, now, what it might be like to wake up and have hair… Or wake up as some other bald guy.

Kind of makes me wonder what it would be like to wake up one morning and find yourself Picasso — bit of time travel necessary or itʼd be a hideously messy corpse nightmare…

Say itʼs 1950…

Okay, back to the actual story at hand.

I have been thinking about this one a lot lately, rather than stories you are more familiar with. That explains its sudden appearance today. (That and sheer desperation to get something posted that didnʼt take any work last evening.)

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

Editing and Revising, part 2

The following passage of “Mistakes by Moonlight” comes at the very end of Chapter One, following this piece originally posted and proceeding this post, the start of Chapter Two. As I had indicated in my notes to myself (of which you got to see a glimpse here), this element corresponds with last weekʼs addition to add the complication of Sørenʼs new red cape and the Ducal Guardʼs involvement in the attack on Judah that begins the story.

As both drank deeply, the door flew suddenly open and a group of men, uniformed, entered. Duke’s Guard, thought each man differently, Judah casually recognizing the uniforms he had seen in the streets and at parade rest in the halls around the Great Library, where he had once briefly worked for the duke, Søren envious of the elite corps which he had recently aspired without success to join.

The sergeant of the guard halted his group and scan the complex interior of the tavern, examining the motley gathering of sullen drinkers. Hidden in their alcove, Søren and Judah at first escaped notice, but as the crew moved into the center, one of the men caught his leader’s arm and pointed directly at Judah. The half dozen guardsmen swarmed directly to their table. The sergeant stepped nearest.

“Jew. Are you Judah ibn Efrayim, also known as Gershom, the Kabbalist, once in the dukeʼs employ?”

Judah nodded uneasily. He had other cognomens and identities as well.

“You are to come with us. Immediately.” The other guards closed in around Judahʼs seat. “The Duke has ordered your arrest.”

medieval guardsmen (these are, I believe, Byzantine)

Two laid heavy hands on each of Judahʼs shoulders. He felt outraged and confused. He hadnʼt done anything — not yet. Heʼd had no dealings with the duke nor with any noblemen. Now soldiers were laying rough hands upon him, perhaps to drag him off to the ducal dungeons, and he had no idea why.

The soldiers jerked him brutally to his feet.

Now Søren also stood, and the guardsmen observed him for the first time. Quite a striking figure he made, towering over them all, his newly acquired red cloak swirling off his right shoulder about him, the golden brooch glittering handsomely in the torchlight, hilt of his great sword thrust upward from behind the other shoulder. The scowling face, expressing his surprised disapproval at this turn of events, may have seemed threatening, but the soldiers’ reactions dumbfounded both Judah and Søren.

The two soldiers not holding their prisoner kneeled, bowing their heads toward the blond giant, while the sergeant made a formal gesture of obescience, saying, “Commander! Our apologies. We did not realize you had… — apprehended… this one yourself.”

Behind him, Judah herd one of his captors whisper to the other, “Commander? Who is he?”

“See the cloak, dummy?” the other responded, also sotte voce. “Itʼs the new Captain, the one come in from over the mountains, the one who knows about… you-know-who…”

Søren, not privy to this revelation, had the presence of mind or wine-inspired confidence, to act intrepidly authoritative. “Thank you, sergeant,” he responded breezily. “I, uh, have the situation, uh, in… hand. As you see.”

“Of course, sir. We didnʼt see, ah,that is — realize… ah… what I mean to say is… that… you — both — here in this place, ah, together…” His nervous statement ended in a tone of interrogative wonder.

Søren looked confused, as he felt.

Judah interposed quickly, “The Captain discovered me. Here.” His mind raced. This new captain had been one of the alleyway assailants. Clearly. The others must have been his squadron, sent from the ducal palace to find and arrest him. And although it had been deep dark, those men had not been in uniform. Why not? He tackled the issue of them being alone first, “He sent his men… away, being new in our city, so as…” Invention faltered. Arrested. What happened to arrested men? Besides imprisonment. “ — So he could speak with me informally…” It sounded weak.

Søren picked up the cue. “I have experience with interrogation and have found…” he trailed off himself.

“…That one gathers more with honey than a stick?” the sergeant hazarded helpfully.

“Exactly,” Søren agreed lordly, not sure if he had understood the sergeantʼs Aragon accurately, but a swift answer felt best. “Besides, I had not eaten, uh, recently… and thought to combine two activities in one.”

“And wine,” snickered on of Judahʼs guards, “can free a tongue quicker than torture.”

down to a dungeon?

“Costs more, though,” agreed the other.

The sergeant turned to glare at his two men, the obsequiously returned his attention to the supposed New Captain. “Our apologies — again — Commander. Congratulations on your success in tonightʼs mission. The duke will be pleased. Shall we report, upon our return to quarters, that youʼll bring in this man later?”

Judah felt the imprisoning grips lighten on his shoulders. Their halfwitted ruse seemed to be working. But he worried it would be unwise for these men to return too quickly with reports of his — perhaps irregular — capture and questioning. Desperately, he sought inspiration to stall or prevent their arrival at headquarters, where contrary news might already be waiting.

At the same moment Søren, also concerned how to maintain this fortuitous misunderstanding, reached without thought for his wine mug and quaffed a huge swallow. Judah found his idea in that action and using his eyes to catch the Northmanʼs attention, shifted his gaze elaborately between the wine on the table and the soldiers around them. Drink, he though, willing the notion impossibly into his companionʼs mind. Get them drunk.

Søren looked, a little startled, at the mug in his hand, then back at the Jew he had so recently rescued from death. His initial reaction had been to be rid of these intruders as quickly as possible, but problems arising around their return to the palace put doubts in his head. Perhaps they would insist on taking their prisoner back with them for incarceration. He wasnʼt going to permit that to happen, of course. He too had figured out that the dispatched assailants must themselves be the Commander and his troopers, and they had left at least one of them alive. These guardsʼ misunderstanding could be dramatically and quickly rectified if they went back to their barracks. He had to stop them from heading for home…

And then the meaning of Judahʼs nearly comical, desperate grimaces penetrated: the wine…

“More wine!” he roared with a truly heartstopping bellow. And invited the sergeant and his men to join him, and his prisoner, would would pay, for a drink or two. Before their return to the palace.

To everyoneʼs relief, the soldiersʼ as well as the two new friendsʼ, the sergeant accepted. Jaime arrived with three pitchers, much more rapidly and serviceably than when it had just been Judah calling for drink, and the Kabbalist with a sidelong glare at his companion forked over more of his recently acquired coins. The troopers found stools and a bench to drag to the table and sat, and the carousing persisted long through the night, the happy guardsmen swilling themselves unconscious, as both new friends intended — they themselves sipping at their drinks while appearing to guzzle as mightily as their unwanted companions.

Dawn wished to pink out the buildings of the city in silhouette against the eastern sky as Judah led Søren away from the snoring soldiers at the Golden Bull, toward his shabby rooms elsewhere in the Blue Quarter.

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