Sunday, February 26, 2012

Join the Wyoming Navy-It's every man for himself

Obnoxious Republicans, the dominate species of that particular animals these days, absolutely love to point fingers at the failure and stupidity of government and with a self-righteous glee declare how superior they are for wanting to save taxpayer dollars. These people will move heaven and earth to expose all sorts of government abuses, both real and imagined, to prove their point that only they can rein in the evils of bureaucrats. More times than I want to think about I have heard some giggly conservative fool talk about outrageous liberal programs that fund the arts or education, which they feel undermine the foundations and principles of the United States.

I admit, some of the art stuff does boggle my humble and plebeian mind but in the greater scope of political pork I know from experience the Army throws away the annual budget of the National Endowment for the Arts in the space of a day or two so it doesn’t bother me all that much. As for education funding my favorite example of hypocrisy comes from the resident morning blowhard on CNBC who out of one side of his mouth is in a panic over nasty socialist schoolteachers out to undermine the holy capitalist system. The next minute he blathers on about their incompetence and how they could not teach a wino how to get drunk.

To be sure there are multitudes of incompetent or corrupt government officials and employees engaging in actions that anyone with an IQ over 50 would never consider. The uncomfortable truth that few seem to understand, namely because they are pushing a narrow-minded agenda, is that idiocy is not exclusive to any one political party. Whenever humans are involved to some degree or another stupidity, foolish behavior, and in my opinion cowardice always follow.

This brings to mind a laughable/absurd/insane article that I found this Sunday morning as I was sipping my coffee. It seems that the good folks way out west in Wyoming fear that the federal government could collapse and bring with it the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. Given the conservative tendencies of Dick Cheney’s home state this “worry” over the catastrophic breakdown of the national government is almost heartwarming to this liberal's bleeding heart.

Now I have absolutely no problem with preparing for the worst, as much as some liberals are out to deny it there are some very nasty people in this world out to harm Americans as much as possible. Yes, you can dither about the imperialistic foreign policies of the United States at the behest of unethical, immoral and unrestrained corporations but when you boil it down to the basics there are still individuals and nations out to harm us. Throw in natural disasters of varying degrees and it is prudent to have plans when the metaphorical shit hits the proverbial fan.

But friends, Americans, countrymen lend me your ears for a moment because what the good people of Wyoming are talking about goes beyond simple preparedness to outright cowardly abandonment of the rest of the country.

"Wyoming issuing its own alternative currency, if needed. And House members approved an amendment Friday by state Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, to have the task force also examine conditions under which Wyoming would need to implement its own military draft, raise a standing army, and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier.”

Before I touch on the most glaring part of the above statement I do not know about anyone else but when Wyoming state officials talk about implementing a draft and raising a standing army I get the feeling someone is worried about those evil people from Colorado, Utah, Kansas, Idaho, and the Dakotas. Frankly, I understand the sentiment about Montana, with all that big sky country people there have always seemed a little loopy to me. Moreover, when you add their stated desire to purchase strike aircraft this starts smelling less like disaster preparness and more like preparations for a civil war.

Conservatives usually wrap themselves in the flag proclaiming how pure American they are and how proud they are to be citizens of the “freest, greatest, nation God ever graced this planet.” This bill, and others like very much like it all across the United States, in my opinion are articles of cowardice. Sure, all sorts of crap could hit the United States disrupting every aspect of our lives and killing thousands if not millions but instead of planning on how to successfully emerge from what may come and assisting other Americans many plan for nothing further than taking care of themselves. Sort of makes a huge joke out of whole “We will all hang together or we will hang separately” as Ben Franklin said long ago.

Finally, not to further question the intelligence of the elected officials of Wyoming, but does anyone out there have a map? Wyoming is a seriously landlocked state and they want to buy an aircraft carrier?!?!?!

Added this so the geographically challenged will know where Wyoming is located. And here is the entire article:

Wyoming House advances doomsday bill
 CHEYENNE — State representatives on Friday advanced legislation to launch a study into what Wyoming should do in the event of a complete economic or political collapse in the United States.
House Bill 85 passed on first reading by a voice vote. It would create a state-run government continuity task force, which would study and prepare Wyoming for potential catastrophes, from disruptions in food and energy supplies to a complete meltdown of the federal government.
The task force would look at the feasibility of
Wyoming issuing its own alternative currency, if needed. And House members approved an amendment Friday by state Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, to have the task force also examine conditions under which Wyoming would need to implement its own military draft, raise a standing army, and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier.
The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. David Miller, R-Riverton, has said he doesn’t anticipate any major crises hitting America anytime soon. But with the national debt exceeding $15 trillion and protest movements growing around the country, Miller said Wyoming — which has a comparatively good economy and sound state finances — needs to make sure it’s protected should any unexpected emergency hit the U.S.
Several House members spoke in favor of the legislation, saying there was no harm in preparing for the worst.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in this room today what would come up here and say that this country is in good shape, that the world is stable and in good shape — because that is clearly not the case,” state Rep. Lorraine Quarberg, R-Thermopolis, said. “To put your head in the sand and think that nothing bad’s going to happen, and that we have no obligation to the citizens of the state of Wyoming to at least have the discussion, is not healthy.”
Wyoming’s Department of Homeland Security already has a statewide crisis management plan, but it doesn’t cover what the state should do in the event of an extreme nationwide political or economic collapse. In recent years, lawmakers in at least six states have introduced legislation to create a state currency, all unsuccessfully.
The task force would include state lawmakers, the director of the Wyoming Department of Homeland Security, the Wyoming attorney general and the Wyoming National Guard’s adjutant general, among others.
The bill must pass two more House votes before it would head to the Senate for consideration. The original bill appropriated $32,000 for the task force, though the Joint Appropriations Committee slashed that number in half earlier this week.
University of Wyoming political science professor Jim King said the potential for a complete unraveling of the U.S. government and economy is “astronomically remote” in the foreseeable future.
But King noted that the federal government set up a Continuity of Government Commission in 2002, of which former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson, R-Wyo., was co-chairman. However, King said he didn’t know of any states that had established a similar board.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

F3 Cycle 68 "The Death of a Salesman in New Orleans"

Flash Fiction Friday Cue: Write a story set during Mardi Gras (location: open)
Genre: Open
Words: 1000
Deadline: Wed 2/22/12 9PM EST
(Author's note: Yeah, it's way over the word limit.)

“Yeah honey,” Peter March said to his wife over the cell phone looking out his New Orleans hotel room window. “Negotiations here in Shreveport have run into a few snags. I’m certain to be here for at least two more days, the client came up with new demands and is being a royal dick about several points that were settled long ago.”

“Sure thing baby,” his wife Sally responded back at their home Greenville, South Carolina. “Just remember your son’s birthday is this Saturday and if you have to be away you damn well better remember and call him.” She finished clearly communicating her frustration at the possibility of her husband missing yet another important family event.

“Listen Sally,” Peter said standing up from his bed, “I understand how you feel about me being away but it’s funny how you seem to really enjoy the fat bonus checks I bring back home after these trips. If you do have a problem with this arrangement you can always be replaced, I’ve done it before.”

Caught in a conundrum of her own making Sally March was unable to say anything for several seconds. “Peter, just call your son on Saturday.” She finally said before hanging up the phone.

Again feeling the euphoria at successfully being able to manage people Peter switched his expensive cell phone over to voice mail and inserted it into the pocket inside his sports coat. Taking stock of his appearance, he walked over to the full-length mirror and looked at himself.

Peter realized he had long since passed the point of simple vanity and was touching on narcissism as he looked at himself. He was a fifty-five year old man whose body looked better than most guys did in their thirties. He had not only kept his full head of hair from his youth but it was only now showing strands of grey significant enough to be seen.

The black sports coat, white button-up shirt, khaki slacks, and leather loafers he wore were all tailored and very expensive giving the impression of him being some sort of major player in the world trying to lay low and relax. It was a thought that Peter was beginning to believe more and more about himself as his sales numbers rocketed into orbit.

With a huge house on a lake, expensive German cars sitting in his garage, and a drop-dead gorgeous trophy wife watching over it he did feel he had entered the big leagues of life. Peter felt so certain of his privileged position he had long since begun to allow himself certain benefits that came with playing among the big boys.

Leaving his hotel room Peter leisurely strolled down the hallway towards the elevators with the confidence of a man who believe everything in his life was under his full control. Peter did find some irritation with having to wait a minute of two for the elevator. The waiting was enough of an issue that he made a mental note to find a more exclusive hotel the next time the opportunity to visit New Orleans popped up.

Down in the lobby he did not have to wait for the concierge once the small, bald man saw Peter step out of the elevator. “What are your desires tonight Mr. March?” He asked while mentally deciding what might make this all too particular but high tipping customer happy this evening.

“Raymond I want to visit a dignified but popular bar tonight, someplace where I do not have to mingle with the trash walking the streets.” Peter said knowing he was in town during Mardi Gras.

“But sir, you cannot appreciate the flavor of New Orleans if you do not experience the emotion and vitality this time of year offers.”

“Listen,” Peter said, “save the propaganda for the idiot tourists. Do you know of a place like I want or do you want me to speak with your manager?”

“No sir, I do not want any issues, try L’heure du crime four blocks south from here,” the concierge said passing him a card which would allow him admittance. “Shall I call you a cab for you sir?” He finished wishing the man would just go away.

“No Raymond,” Peter smiled back now that he had gotten his way, “I’ll walk it, the night air will do me good and maybe I do need to be around some people tonight.”

Peter then abruptly walked off but not before tossing a fifty-dollar bill on the concierge’s small desk. Raymond watched the man walk out the revolving doors then under his breath whispered, “What a huge asshole.”


After fighting the crowd along Bourbon Street, Peter walked into L’heure du crime and took a seat at the bar. Right from the start the ambiance of the place immediately satisfied his tastes. The actual bar was circular and occupied the center of the room, beyond that were small tables surrounded it looking almost as if they were in orbit. Further out along the circular wall were booths with privacy screens that offered total seclusion for those who needed them. Looking around, Peter was quite satisfied with the place; it had elegance and style with a cliental he felt equaled his own position in society.

An hour passed with Peter sipping drinks and going over the options in his mind for his next great adventure when the door facing Bourbon Street opened and a beautiful black woman entered. Peter was stunned at the beauty of the unknown woman who while wearing just a business suit carried herself like a queen entering a room full of commoners.

As their eyes caught each other a momentary look of recognition passed between them as she passed the doorman the same type of small card Peter did earlier allowing entrance. He remembered seeing the woman in the lobby at his hotel and he figured she must of seen him as well. A minute later, he left the bar and strolled over to sit with this beautiful, unknown woman.

“Sugar,” the woman said with a Texas drawl looking at smiling Peter sitting across from her, “you must think an awful lot of yourself to barge in on a woman just looking to get a drink?”

“Why yes, I do in fact think a lot of myself.” Peter said with self-assurance.

The woman looked away fighting off a smile. “Good, I like direct men, my name is Abelle, and who might you be?”

Without hesitation, Peter not only told her his name and immediately began explaining his line of work, and how successful he was at it. Peter reveled in Abelle’s beauty and how impressed she seemed at his accomplishments. Abelle began flirting with him and making a point of stroking his hand and rubbing one his legs with her foot underneath the table.

“Now enough about me,” Peter finally said after exhausting all his exploits and victories, “tell me what brings you to New Orleans?”

“Me,” Abelle said coyly,”I’m here on business but I have a good bit of family that still lives here.”

Feeling slightly curious for both personal and business reasons Peter asked, “What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a trouble shooter, I fix relationships between people that have complex and deep issues that for some explanation or another refuse any mediation or compromise.” Abelle said looking straight at Peter, the intensity on her face unsettled him for some reason that he could not quite put his finger on. As an afterthought, a second or two later Abelle added, “But my actual training is in complex organic chemistry.” Something Peter completely ignored.


As Peter expected, Abelle and him ended up back in his hotel room a few hours later. The sex was rough but Peter had long since come to believe in his virility and stamina and did his best to keep up with the mysterious but amazing women. Eventually both collapsed in exhaustion on the sweat stained sheets with Peter drifting off to sleep quite happy with himself.

He awoke what must have been hours later with Abelle sitting on the bed next him, the bathrobe she was wearing was loose exposing much of her body and Peter, figuring she wanted a repeat tried to sit up and pull her to him. Completely by surprise, an explosion of pain wracked every part of his body but it particularly seemed to affect his heart.

“Listen sugar,” Abelle said, “its best you don’t try too much right now, see last night I injected you several times with a concoction that my granny was particularly famous for. It’s a nerve paralytic, which causes massive coronary spasms that eventually kills those injected with the poison.

Peter, unable to speak, just laid on the bed more dumbfounded than scared.

“Didn’t I tell you my life story?” Abelle asked rhetorically. “No, you were ever so eager to get me in bed. Oh well, see if you had thought to ask I would have explained that my loving granny was a voodoo high priestess and that while I was born and raised in Houston, Texas and do have a PhD in organic chemistry I sort of took up granny’s work after she passed on.”

Somehow a more sensible and rational part of Peter’s brain began to get worried. “Money, you want money?” Peter whispered fighting back the pain that rippled through his body.

Abelle laughed slightly, “No, sugar, you have no money now. No matter what, you are going to die today. The only choice you have is to lay still and go out relatively pain free or fight it and die in utter agony. I’d rather you lie still for now, someone will be here in a few hours to say goodbye.”

Stunned and hoping for a miracle Peter did his best to stay still even though Abelle made a point of checking on him every few minutes. The pain returned when he saw Abelle opened the door for the room service she ordered, rage coursed through Peter’s body as he heard her joke to the maid about him being exhausted and fast asleep. The pain forced Peter to calm down and clear his mind.

The biggest surprise came for Peter when after what felt like an eternity someone knocked on the door of his hotel room. When Abelle opened it none other than his first wife Jennifer stepped inside the room and walked over to the bed while speaking on a cell phone.

“Yeah Sally, I finally made it.” Jennifer said to person on the other end of the call who Peter assumed was his current wife. “The hidden tracking software on his cell phone worked fine. Abelle was able to easily follow him, and like we thought he fell all over himself to get her in bed.” Peter could hear something of what Sally said and it involved money. “Yes, after we pay Abelle I agree we will split the rest fifty-fifty but you can have the house. Truthfully, I just wanted enough to pay for my children’s college.

Peter looked over at Abelle and desperately wanted to say something but could not due to the effects of the drug. Still wearing the robe, she just smiled back down at him touching Jennifer’s shoulder and whispering something in her ear. Jennifer quickly finished the phone call and bent down towards Peter getting just inches away from his face.

“You thought yourself invincible,” Jennifer said with unconcealed hate, “you said I would never touch a hair on your head.” With that, she reached up and yanked a patch of hair off Peter’s head causing pain to cascade all through his body. Peter could feel his heart exploding but it was not something quick and short but almost as if time had slowed to a crawl extending his torture. When the blackness started to envelop him it was a welcome release, but Abelle found a way to twist the knife one last time.

“Sugar,” the voodoo priestess said after quickly leaning over close to Peter’s face, “just to let you know, you were terrible in bed. Peter’s consciousness evaporated to the sound of his ex-wife’s riotous laughter at his expense.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Cruel Sabotage of My Creative Process

Weekend mornings are about the only time I can sit down and write before the all too normal clamor and chaos of family life restarts making it difficult if not impossible. So, if I have a decent idea for a story or feel motivated for some rant as early as five o’clock Saturday mornings I can be found sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop typing away in a near desperate attempt to get something down before I am interrupted. Far too many times events involving the children or my wife have upended my feeble efforts with whatever muse that had decided to visit me evaporating back into the quantum foam that the theoretical physics boys and girls say make up our reality.

There are few things that frustrate me more than to return to some story or essay I started just a few hours before and feel nothing of the original idea that seemed to possess me earlier. It is an extremely rare occurrence for me to be able to ever pick back up on something once I am derailed but it does happen, such was the case last Saturday. The story in question is one that I started several months ago but just sort of died on the vine. Sometime during the middle of last week I reread what I had already written and in the surreal universe that makes up the grey matter between my ears very early Friday morning several new ideas on how to proceed struck me like lightening. So, Saturday morning I eagerly jumped up to begin believing I might actually write something decent.

Looking at my watch as I got out of bed I saw it was nearly six-thirty in the morning, a little later than I planned but luckily both the kids and my wife were still asleep. Within a few minutes I had the laptop booted and my coffee ready and had actually started typing when my daughter came into the kitchen.

“Daddy, whatcha doing?” Darth Wiggles asked sleepily as she came to stand beside me far sooner than I liked.

“Just writing sweetie,” I answered back actually foolish enough to believe I could get her to go to the living room with a Pop Tart and glass of milk and watch television while I continued. That probably would have worked too if we had milk that morning. Apparently someone, Darth Spoilboy, decided to have milk and cookies after I went to bed leaving just enough to make a sloshing sound if you shook the container.

Needless to say there was nowhere near enough for Wiggles much less Dragonwife or Spoilboy when he finally decided to wake up and grace us with his presence around noontime. This forced me to make a milk run to the nearby grocery store, of course Dragonwife called out for me to take the shopping list of items we needed before I left. Wanting to protect my reborn muse I made a few notes on a piece of paper, saved the small amount I had already typed, and closed up the laptop figuring I could pick everything right back up.

All told it took about an hour for me to go to the store and return. By that time Dragonwife was up and much to my horror motivated and full of energy to “get the backyard cleaned up a little” a depressing development since the night before she complained about “feeling bad.” Such a non-optimal condition for her is a near certain sign that nothing substantial or complicated would be tried that weekend. For those unfamiliar with the workings of my family during a slacker inspired uncomplicated weekend just picture a bunch of lazy people lying around the living room watching DVD’s and ordering take out and you will understand.

Not only did Dragonwife feel like working outside the cloudy skies and constant drizzly the high paid television weather people said would make up the weather that day had utterly failed to appear. Things were going so wrong that it was almost like the bright sun that was slowly appearing above the tree tops was laughing at me. Good thing I do not live near any of those overly chipper and extroverted television meteorologists, I would have had their asses raking my yard.

While this might sound like a minor issue my lovely wife is very funny when it comes to yard work. She actually hates it worse than me but any resistance to her plans is met with a stubborn persistence to do even more. This is where Darth Spoilboy comes into play. From the moment I forced him out of bed around eight o’clock Dragonwife and him were at odds over everything steadily ratcheting up the yard work brinkmanship.

It did not take long before my son and I were doing the annual cutting of the crape myrtle trees that line the fence surrounding our backyard. For reasons that escape me all the garden and landscaping experts say crape myrtle trees are suppose to be cut back each winter. I personally feel it is a grand conspiracy involving the gardening/landscaping industrial complex out to scam even more money from foolish Americans vainly trying to recreate English country manors in miniature. But anyway, our crape myrtles are rather large making it a tedious and time consuming job that I am usually able to talk my way out of doing with us instead hiring a landscaper to come and cut the limbs for us right before springtime. Unfortunately Spoilboy's inability to keep his mouth shut and not dig our yard working hole any deeper gave Dragonwife the bright idea that we would do it ourselves this year.

With Darth Spoilboy exclaiming to the heavens how both his mother and I were ruining the special plans he had with his girlfriend he and I began cutting the limbs with Dragonwife standing a few feet back offering her wonderful micromanaging advice. Dragonwife stayed with us because she is convinced that I am out to kill all our trees and bushes to avoid yard work. I would usually disagree just on principle but it happens to be true but no matter how hard I try everything refuses my best attempts at plant murder. All told it was an opera of bickering that I am sure some comedy writer would compare to the best Simpson episode.

Spoilboy and I met most of my wife’s expectations on the crape myrtles somewhere around noontime but given how riled up she had become had not the clouds and drizzled that was expected earlier pick that time to come rolling in we would have been out there all day. With the clouds taking up positions above us Dragonwife almost as if on cue said she was feeling bad again and called it a day.

A cry of joy and freedom rang out of both Spoilboy and I and we scrambled to put away all our tools while leaving a huge pile of cut limbs all over the backyard. My newly liberated teenage son was inside the house, in the shower, and speeding off to his girlfriend’s house far faster than the laws of physics should allow. I on the other hand took my time and had my shower then a leisurely lunch. Somehow my muse was still with me and now that I had the rest of the day to relax and write I took my time.

Around one o’clock I sat back down in front of my laptop and began looking at my notes and the small amount I had typed before everything went to shit. I took a deep breath thinking of how to proceed when Dragonwife came into the kitchen.

“Oh yeah,” she said innocently from the kitchen counter fixing herself something to drink, “you wanted to write some more in one of your stories. Well you have all day now, Wiggles and I will leave you alone.”

I have no idea how it happened or why but my muse that had stuck with me all that day popped like a soap bubble blown by a small child on a summer’s day when my wife said those words. My laptop screen displayed several paragraphs that absolutely made no sense and my detailed notes might as well have been written by someone else. For about thirty minutes I just sat there playing with a few sentences trying to jump start whatever I once had, but nothing worked.

Seeing the futility of just sitting in front of a laptop screen contemptuously displaying just the few lines I was able to write on my word processing program I closed everything up and plopped myself on a seat in the living room with Dragonwife who was already on the couch. “I thought you were so eager to write today?” She asked doubtfully.

“Yeah, but it didn’t work out like I wanted.” I said sinking into the comfortable chair next the couch while beginning the process of dozing off for a nap.

Now, that might have refreshed my creative juices after that damn unscheduled yard work. Sorry, I just could not resist adding it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

"Akhmed and the Atomic Matzo Balls" by Gary Buslik

 A Carolina Parrothead book review.

There was a time no so long ago when I actually believed many of the important people intricately involved in world affairs like government, religion, and business knew what they were doing. Yes, it was a sad and stupid mindset but I have never claimed to be the sharpest knife in any drawer, although I have lived most my life in South Carolina, which should by itself be an acceptable excuse.

Since then I have come to terms with my sad and naïve condition. These days my more enlightened observations suggests to me that human civilization is nothing more than a game of “King of the Mountain” that has gone on far too long and is being taken far too seriously by the participates. What drew me to this conclusion was my nasty and unhealthy habit of reading history.

You can outfit the various players that have appeared all through the ages in different costumes but it remains a game. I feel this is true whether it be the justification the Athenians and Spartans used to tear each other a new one or the United States and the Soviet Union who engaged in a largely subtle but dangerous game of global chess. On a side note, I just had a strange and disgusting vision of Reagan in a short Greek toga at a summit with Mikhail Gorbachev dressed out in homoerotic Spartan armor.

You would have thought with the worst of the Cold War dangers now behind us the human race would had enough of the usual silliness but with the start of the twenty-first century, this game if anything has gotten even stranger.

Members of the United States Congress, both left and right wing, which in the best of times were never paragons of ethical and stoic virtue to begin with, are even worse puppets these days. These high paid prostitutes regularly perform kabuki dances of outrage and debate in the hallowed halls of congress but somehow very rarely figure out a way of doing the right thing for the country. Religious figures whose job it is to be the beacons of spiritual light and good moral judgments are very often more corrupt than the aforementioned political whores. And corporate figures? Well, let us just not go there, my blood pressure is bad enough as it is already and I do not want to feed my dark side today dreaming of bankers dangling from lampposts all down Wall Street.

On the international front things are even worse from my perspective, we literally have a cornucopia of bizarre and surreal figures in charge of both large and small nations that in a rational world would be forbidden upon pain of death from even having the power of the common meter maid. Yet somehow, because of the great cosmic joke that is human civilization such megalomaniacal figures very often end up in charge of some nation and in this day and age are moving heaven and earth to get their hands on nuclear weapons.

Being a father I would love to buy a sixty foot sailboat, load up my kids and depending of my mood that day maybe even my wife, and sail off searching for some safe harbor well out of the strategic line of fire. In my mind, the usual destinations are Tasmania or the south island of New Zealand but these beautiful and enlightened places have very little use for Americans unless they arrive with big bucks which leaves me up poop creek without a canoe, much less the paddle or a lifejacket. So what is a well intentioned but hopelessly befuddled dude like me suppose to do? I usually placate my fears and insecurities about an increasingly uncertain future by submerging myself in a good book that makes fun of the whole situation.

Such a book is “Akhmed and the Atomic Matzo Balls” by Gary Buslik. Right from the start, we are introduced to Akhmed, the reigning Iranian president who deals with the frustrations and trials of being a glorious leader by seeking refuge in kosher Israeli deli food, particularly matzo ball soup.  Above all Akhmed wants a nuclear weapon so he can play in the big leagues of international politics but his best scientific minds just quite cannot put it all together. That is until a series of events leads to the discovery that matzo balls have the extraordinary ability to safely contain the most radioactive of materials.

Now add a certain old and senile Cuban dictator along with his good buddy from Venezuela who team up with Akhmed to teach the horrible Yankees a lesson and the fun quickly begins to roll along. Throw in a stymied middle-aged English professor who is a scholarly legend in his own mind, his one-time lover from the glory days during the Age of Aquarius and their social climbing hell spawn of a daughter and things spin off into even more outrageous circumstances. I very highly recommend this book, which I certify can greatly relieve the low-level but constant anxiety that pervades our society these days.

Wait a minutes, did I mention the voracious mutant termites? Just read the book for yourself and find out.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

F3 Cycle 66 "Here Be Dragons"

Flash Fiction Friday Prompt: Write a fantasy fiction piece using these words: Forest, Fortress, Flying, Forever, and Brimstone.
Word limit: 1,500
Deadline: Wednesday, February 8th at 9:00 pm ET

The king sat at his writing table lost in his own thoughts while staring at the flames dancing in the nearby hearth. Cloaked in fine robes he did not feel the cold wind blowing in from the ocean outside his window nor did he truly realize that the aides and scribes that assisted him in his duties had long since excused themselves from his presence. Before leaving his private study, each had left their strips of parchment involving the business of the realm on his desk but the distraught man simply had no interest in the tasks arrayed before him.

Hours had passed since he had given into his despair shutting out all around him but the sound of the ornate door to his private study opening pulled him back to reality. Apprehension and fear froze the king in place as watched a group of priests and the kingdom’s remaining Healer walk into the room. Three of the priests were dressed in white linen togas while wearing the medallions of their office unfortunately making them almost equal in power to the king himself. The Healer was dressed in sensible, heavy woolen robes, like the king, in an attempt to deal with the cold weather.

Still in the hallway stood two of priests of the warrior caste, clad in armor and armed with swords and spears. A clear affront and not so vague threat to the king since none of his own guards were nearby. On instinct, the king stood and tucked his hands deep into the opposite sleeves of his robes feeling for the knives strapped to his forearms.

The Healer’s grim look confirmed the king’s worst fears while the smug expressions on the faces of the priests meant they had finally outmaneuvered the him. Standing just inches apart from the priests and the lone Healer, the king resisted the urge to unleash his knives and slash their throats. He knew the priestly warriors in the hall would kill him within seconds but at least he would die a satisfying death.

“There is nothing else I can do for your son King Adzell,” the Healer said clearly upset, “the dark spirits possessing your son have spread all through his body.”

“None of your Atlantean magic retains any power?” The king asked struggling with the news that his only son was going to die.

“No sire,” the Healer said heavily, “and it was never magical, it was methods and procedures that since the destruction of the islands of Atlantis just do not work anymore.”

“And what of you priests,” the king asked turning his attention to those that wished only to usurp his power and return to the old pagan ways, “can you do nothing to help my son?”

The oldest priest stepped forward, “Sire, you have offended the gods with your stubborn refusal to not accept our council. We have valiantly tried to save your son but the gods now wish you to suffer.”

“Then what good are all your magic potions and spells,” King Adzell said stepping forward and ripping off the medallions the brave priest was wearing. True to their training the warriors in the hall reacted quickly by drawing their swords and coming to the aid of the senior priest. In response Adzell quickly drew one of the sharp daggers hidden in his cloak, grabbed the priest by the head with his other arm, and positioned the tip of his weapon at the base of the neck.

Surprisingly, the priest raised his hand signaling his warriors to stop. “Everyone, we will leave the king in peace as of right now, the kingdom will not be served by the spilling of his blood.”

The huge warriors instantly listened and withdrew outside the room along with the other priests. Feeling the danger had passed Adzell released the priest who instead of retreating himself just turned around to face him again. “Your Highness, we have won the long struggle that started with your great-grandfather, you will either forever accept that we are the earthly representatives of the true gods or when your son dies leaving you without an heir, will pick the next king. The choice is yours.” With that, the priest retrieved his medallions from the floor, gave the Healer a look of disgust, and walked out of the room.

“Walk with me Healer,” Adzell said as he moved outside his study to the private overlook facing the ocean. They stood there silently watching the raging ocean crash against the cliffs while a curious moon hung the sky and looked down upon them. “How long does my son have?” Adzell suddenly asked the Healer breaking his silence.

“Unless there is a miracle he will be dead in eight months with him painfully confined to his bed for the last two.”

“There might be just enough time,” the King Adzell of the city of Ker-Ys wordlessly responded more to the moon in the sky than the Healer beside him as the cold winds blew around him. Adzell’s mind drifted off into space again leaving him to wonder how it all could have gone so wrong.

Three centuries before Adzell was born, the Atlanteans arrived in Europa with promises of raising all people out of the darkness of ignorance and poverty. Their special magic was strong and they freely shared it with everyone. Some, like the priests in Ker-Ys, resisted feeling their position of authority and privileges were threatened but they had no way to counter the power of Atlantis.

With nothing and no one able to oppose what the Atlanteans wished to do their greatest and most powerful enemy proved to be their own selves. As the years passed the Atlanteans became arrogant and prideful abandoning their original goals for a decadent lifestyle with the people they were suppose to bring out of darkness becoming unwilling subjects of their empire. Any city or village that refused to do the bidding of mighty Atlantis would soon feel the fury of flying dragons that would spout fire and brimstone upon the surface of the earth, laying waste to all that opposed them.

The Atlantean Empire ended during the lifetime of Adzell’s great-grandfather. Those that raised them to their position of power became dissatisfied with how they were using it and struck them down in the space of a day nearly wiping them off the face of the earth. In Adzell’s time only whispers of isolated Atlantean outposts scattered across the globe remained.

The vacuum created after the elimination of Atlantis allowed for a resurgence of those wishing for a return to the old ways of superstition and ignorance. Over the centuries they had hid in the shadows clinging to what they could just waiting for a chance to regain their power. Some like Adzell’s great-grandfather attempted to keep the spirit of Atlantean knowledge and methods alive but without their support, the old ways slowly reclaimed their position in human affairs.

Returning to the here and now Adzell turned to the Healer. “Do you know enough of the Atlantean texts to use it to heal my son?”

“Yes sire, I am fully trained but like I have told you the items I use are old and have long since lost their power.”

“Never mind that,” Adzell said, “make my son ready for travel and tell no one. Prepare yourself for a long journey but take only what you absolutely need, we sail before the sun rises in the morning. I know of a place where we may well find working Atlantean magic.”

As the Healer left, Adzell called the Captain of his guard and told him to gather all the gold he could and his most trusted men and their wives and children. True to his word, as the sun rose Adzell, his son, the Healer, a full squad of guards, and as many people they could bring along were sailing south watching the city of Ker-Ys disappear behind them.

They sailed south, stopping at small cities along the way to purchase supplies telling no one they encountered of their origins or the reason for their journey. Sailing past the entrance to the Lesser Sea, they entered the mysterious regions of the Aethiopian Ocean where myth overwhelmed fact. The region so terrified the crew of the vessel Adzell and his people sailed he was constantly working to prevent them from mutinying. After several weeks, Adzell was greatly relieved to see their destination appear on the horizon. Ahead of them lay several huge islands, lush with vegetation and looking like just the place for and advanced race of people to claim as their own.

“What were these islands to the Atlanteans?” The Healer asked Adzell as they stood of the bow of the ship.

“They were the site of a working military fortress and cultural outpost. When their home islands disappeared, my great-grandfather ordered expeditions to see what remained of the lands under their control. My grandfather found a self-sufficient Atlantean colony here. The survivors welcomed my grandfather upon arrival but asked him never to speak of them when he returned home. ”

Adzell and his people sailed around the islands but found no sign of them being inhabited. Having given up so much and traveled so far Adzell had the ship dock at the port of the main island and with his guards began searching for working Atlantean magic. Within days of their landing the Healer had located the main complex devoted to curing the sick and injured.

True to his word, the Healer proved adept at reading the Atlantean texts and figured out how to use the lost magic. With the devices he needed properly energized the Healer cured Adzell’s son changing the corrupted parts of his body back to what they should be.

Much to Adzell’s surprise he soon realized how mistaken he was concerning the working of Atlantean items. They were highly complex machines far removed from the simple water wheels and cloth looms his own people used to make their lives easier but machines nonetheless. The biggest surprise came with the discovery of Atlantean dragons lacking only the power to carry them back to Ker-Ys allowing them to end the tyranny of the priests.

“Sire,” the Healer said as the Adzell gazed at the inert but workable machines, “I know enough now to have the dragons recharged within a week. We can all return home allowing you to usher in another period of reason and logic all through Europa and the world like the Atlanteans were originally tasked to do.”

“No Healer,” Adzell said finally making up his mind, “these machines will be destroyed and we will stay here and make these islands our own. Long ago, the Atlanteans warned my great-grandfather that the world was getting warmer and that eventually the sea would flood our city and all the lands surrounding it. As much as it pains me to leave so many innocents behind, let the priests have their watery grave.”

“We could resettle on higher ground my king and proceed from there; surely you do not want to condemn all people to a life of ignorance and superstition.”

The king smiled touching the side of the strange flying craft. “Healer that is my very point, I fear this temptation of ultimate power and figure that while we might start out with good intentions we would ultimately share the same fate as the Atlanteans. It is far better we just make our lives here and allow the world to work at its own pace without our interference.”

Finally satisfied with King Adzell’s answers the Healer left him to his thoughts, there was simply so much to read and learn here on these islands they were beginning to call home. 

(Author's note: Many of the strange words and places mentioned in this story come from ancient history or legend. I imagine the location of the Atlantean colony Adzell found as the Canary Islands, just to let everyone know. I am also working off the Arthur C. Clarke quote that any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic. So if you want to split hairs this isn't really fantasy but very loose science fiction. Finally, excuse the many typos I am sure are lurking all through this insane grouping of words. Its been a busy weekend and my writing time has often been counted in single-digit minutes rather than any sustained concentrated effort.)