Hidden Kingdom (Chapter 2-adding page 9)

To see the complete Chapter 1, use the following link;https://catchafallingstarbook.net/2018/11/24/hidden-kingdom-chapter-1-complete/

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An Unexpected Gift 

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This post is a movie review for Thor : Ragnarok , though I don’t really plan on talking about the movie very much.   It was an excellent comic book movie in the same tongue-in-cheek comedy tradition as Guardians of the Galaxy.   It made me laugh and made me cheer.   It was the best of that kind of movie.  But it wasn’t the most important thing that happened that night.

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You see, I spent the weekend in the hospital thinking I had suffered a heart attack during the Thanksgiving holiday. I thought I was facing surgery at the very least.   I knew I might have had an appointment to play chess with the Grim Reaper.   It is a lot to worry about and drain all the fun out of life.

Well, one of the things that happened that day, Tuesday, my first full day out of the hospital and, hopefully, out of the woods over heart attacks, was that I received my new replacement bank card because my old one had a worn out, malfunctioning chip in it.  So, I took my three kids to the movie at the cheapest place we could find.  I tried to run my bank card for the payment, and it was summarily declined.  I had activated it previously during the day, and there was plenty of money in the account compared to the price, but it just wouldn’t take.  So I had to call Wells Fargo to find out whatever the new reason was for them to hate me.  It turned out that it had already been activated, but a glitch had caused it to decline the charge.  While I was talking to the girl from the Wells Fargo help desk, the lady who had gotten her and her husband’s tickets right before us put four tickets to the movie in my hand.

The middle-aged black couple had lingered by the ticket stand before going in to their movie just long enough to see a sad-looking old man with raggedy author’s beard and long Gandalf hair get turned down by the cheap-cinema ticket-taking teenager because the old coot’s one and only bank card was declined. They were moved to take matters into their own hands and paid for our tickets themselves.

That, you see, was the gift from my title.  Not so much that we got our movie tickets for free, but that the world still works that way.  There are still good people with empathetic and golden hearts willing to step in and do things to make the world a little bit better place.  The gift they gave me was the reassurance that, as bad and black as the world full of fascists that we have come to live in has become, it still has goodness and fellow feeling in it. People are still moved to pay things forward and make good on the promise to “love one another”.  I did not have a chance to thank them properly.  I was on the phone with Wells Fargo girl when it happened.  The only thing that couple got out of their good deed was thank-yous from my children and the knowledge that they had done something wonderful.  I plan to pay it forward as soon as I have the opportunity.  Not out of guilt or obligation, but because I need to be able to feel that feeling too at some point.

I do have one further gift to offer the world.

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After we got home from the movie, I opened an email that contained the cover proof for my novel, Magical Miss Morgan.  Soon I will have that in print also if I can keep Page Publishing from messing it up at the last moments before printing.  It is a novel about what a good teacher is and does.  It is the second best thing I have ever written.

Sometimes the gifts that you most desperately need come in unexpected fashion.

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Filed under commentary, compassion, happiness, healing, humor, illness, movie review, NOVEL WRITING, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Illness Makes Ill Humor

I am on the third day of a severe cold… or possible flu. Yesterday I couldn’t even write. Body aches, chills, fever, cough, and sore throat, All those things I used to enjoy so much as a kid, because it meant a day off from school, even though I had to suffer royally to get it.

I remember my mother used to think I was faking it if she couldn’t actually see the symptoms. And, of course, she would often take me to the doctor to get a shot in my behind if I actually did have them. She was a professional registered nurse, so you couldn’t get away with faking it, or even get a day off for a mild case.

Yesterday I was supposed to substitute for an English teacher at Perry Middle School. Seventh graders, I think. I actually thought about faking being well so I could make the money for the day and get a chance to take out my grouchy ill humor on seventh graders. That in itself always used to make me feel a little better. Yelling at kids for their evil behaviors is medicine for the soul.

So, I ended up giving them the gift of a day off from me, one of meaner subs who actually expects kids to work when the regular teacher isn’t there. Of course, I had a fever of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so I didn’t really have the option to go in and infect everybody and give them heckfire from a cranky old man. The school district frowns on teachers who intentionally spread the flu, small pox, or the Black Death to their students. So, I stayed home and uncomfortably suffered quietly and alone.

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The Miniature Figure Factory

On days when I feel sick, like today, I can do things like work on paintable miniature figures for D&D or HO-scale model train layouts at the little table in front of the fake fireplace.

Paints and recent projects.
The Toonerville Congregationalist Church receives a snowfall.
Weretigers and Disney Princesses and unpainted Tieflings… Oh, my!
An aerial view.

I know it isn’t much. But with body aches and sore throat, it was the best I could do.

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AeroQuest 3… Canto 70

Canto 70 – Frying Pans and Fires (the Green Thread)

Hooey, King Killer, and another Pinwheel Corsair known as Willie Culver knelt in rags and chains on the cold metal deck of the Bregohelma.  Wormheart Toadsucker rubbed rubbery white hands together with glee over them.

“Pirates are you?  Fearsome are you?  Killed many men, have you?” crooned Toadsucker. “It will not help you now.  The master has you in his power.  You are doomed.  DOOMED!”  The ugly sycophant cackled in a particularly ugly way.

“Charming company we’re keeping,” King remarked to Hooey.

“We have to put up with him in order to get where we are going,” said Hooey matter-of-factly. 

“Jeez,” said Willie Culver, “we’re gonna die and you guys are making jokes!”  Willie’s young face was contorted with fear.

“Well,” said King, “I guess it’s because I wanta die, and the Doctor here believes we can’t no matter what we do.  You know, Willie, he’s a Time Knight and supposedly knows the future.”

“I know seven of them, as a matter of fact,” said the good doctor.  “It’s just a matter of making sure we arrive at the correct one.”

“And what did Sheherry mean right before she died?” added King.

“About what, exactly?” asked Hooey.

“She said to take care of our children.  She’s dead.  We don’t have any children, nor ever will have!”

“Oh, well…  You have to find out some time…  You actually have three children, all boys.  All three of them are growing up in the distant past, safe places where they can be retrieved at the proper time.”

“What?”  King was stunned.

“Sheherazade knew she was going to sacrifice herself to save you.  I showed her the video of the possible outcome of the battle.  She decided to have three children by you in the short time she had available to her.  That’s why I had to take her in my time ship to give birth three different times within the space of a week here in this timeline.”

“I have three boys?”

“The eldest she named Prince.  The younger two are Terran and Sejii.  She told me where and when I am supposed to pick up each of them and hand them over to you.”

“Let’s find them right now!”  King’s face was red and hot.  The chords in his neck bulged with emotion.

“Well…  We sorta hafta get back to my time ship first.  That’s going to take a while.”

“Yeah, especially if we die,” said Willie.

“Oh, we aren’t gonna die,” said Hooey.  “I have an ace in the hole yet.”

At that moment, Brona Tang entered the Brig.

“So, Bad Guy in red armor, what will you do to us now?” said King with a perilous grin.

“Oh,” said the electronically enhanced voice, “I thought about putting you all to death, but I know from my uncle, Sir Saurol, that you can’t kill a Time Knight without it being the thing he wants you to do.  They have some kind of uncanny power over the future.  I won’t fall into that trap again.  It cost me too much when I killed Shan Sasaki.”

“Ah, so you are the one!” said Hooey, surprised.  “I should have known you were the one.”

“I have a much better plan for you three.  There is no way you could’ve anticipated being marooned on the prison planet I have in mind.  It will mean a long, slow degradation and death.”

“A desert planet, then?” asked Hooey.

“No,” snapped Tang.  “I told you that you couldn’t guess.  I will take you to the planet Stanley.  You can play with the scalies, dinosaurs, and damnthings there.  They will be happy to meet and eat you.”

“Oh, gawd!” cried Willie Culver.  “No one has ever escaped from there.”

“I welcome it,” said King.  “You are giving me just what I want!”

Tang laughed and waves of fear rolled over the three prisoners.  “You will languish and live out your days there in terror and pain.  Maybe your friend Tron Blastarr will be joining you there.  We’ve found his little pirate base at the place he calls Outpost.”

King glared at the armored Admiral.  “So, you think you’re gonna beat Tron?”

“Oh, I intend to take my time about it,” said Tang.  “I know that Arkin Cloudstalker is making his way there with his allies.  I might even trap Conn and the Blackhawks there, destroying all my enemies in one barrel.”

            “Dream on,” said King hotly.  “Tron and Maggie are the best you’ve ever faced.  You give them time to put together the space forces, and you’ll never live to regret it.”

“Ooh!  I’m so scared!” said Admiral Tang.

“We’re scared!” mimicked Toadsucker.  “We are worried about one-eyed star sailors and their skinny, red-headed wives too!  Ricky and Lucy fight the evil Admiral.”

            “Shut up, Worm!”  Tang backhanded the lowly mutant across his ugly faced and made him sink, weeping, to the deck of the Brig.

“You make me mad,” said King Killer.  “In fact, you make me wanta live long enough to escape your stupid prison and pay you back what you’re worth.”

“Rot on Stanley, you ugly monkey.  The jungles there will take all three of you in a week.”  Tang turned on his armored heel and walked away, his red cape swirling and billowing out behind him.

“We’re gonna die a horrible death,” moaned Willie Culver, tears streaming down his young cheeks.

“Willie, I intend to bring us all three back alive,” growled King.  “Just to spite that red bughead.  He made me mad!”

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Filed under aliens, humor, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, science fiction

The Sedentary Stradivarius

The greatest tragedy known to man is the finely-tuned instrument that is merely sitting, barely active, when instead it should be soaring to heights never seen before.

It is a real shame that so much of human endeavor is bent towards the accumulation of wealth… And when the lucky few reach the pinnacle of that wealth-acquisition, measured in billions, they choose to hoard it and salt it away for their own exclusive use rather than solve problems like poverty, hunger, ignorance, pollution, violence, and want. The act of creation, being musical, artistic, literary, or profound, is given so little value that the idea of the starving artist is an idea that exists in every head.

I fear that far too many people don’t t truly understand what value means. For life to be worth living, you have to have priorities that justify mankind’s very existence. Surely we were not created… by either God or an indifferent random universe… to merely exist like the blue-green lichen that graces the bark of a rotting stump, or to elect Donald Trump as President just so we can see smarty-pants liberal elitists chopped down by a corrupt plague of racist frogs. The tragedy lies in the knowing… or the not knowing.

Perhaps you recognize Beethoven’s 9th Symphony when you hear the Dah-Dah-Dah-Dummm! of death knocking in that familiar musical phrase. But do you recognize the pastoral beauty of the sunshine-and-rain-filled 5th Symphony? Or have you heard the sorrow and the striving of daily life in the city streets depicted in the 7th Symphony (offered above)? If not, why not? How can you listen to any of it and not hear the many underlined reasons that it is considered among the greatest music ever created? And that by a man who was mildly insane and eventually stone deaf, unable to hear his own music anywhere but in his imagination?

I have reached a point in my life that I cannot do much beyond sit and think such thoughts. I am limited in how I can move and what work I can do by my ever-more-painful arthritis, stinging me in every joint. I am also limited by lack of money in where I can go and what I can afford to do. But I refuse to be that finely-tuned instrument that does not make much in the way of music. Hence, an essay like this one today. It is me, using my words to the best of my ability, to fill the sky with hopelessly beautiful attempts at making the stars twinkle.

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Stepping Through the Looking Glass

I am having trouble writing today. I keep passing out for no particular reason. I know for a fact, if I go to the ER they will put me in the hospital and my tenuous hold on financial stability will go down that money drain. And my heart is not really the problem. My last hospital stay only yielded the theory that arthritis in my neck, in proximity to my spinal cord, is causing EKG machines to get false readings that suggest I am having a heart attack when I am not. It also complicated my bankruptcy situation. I cannot afford the health care I need. And I am not the only one in Trump’s America that has that problem. I don’t think I am going to die today. But there are no guarantees in life. Especially not in this hazy, cold morning in America.

Not everything is bad on this side of the mirror, though.

My family returns from Florida today. I have earned money from book sales on Amazon for the fifth month in a row, even though I am averaging less than two dollars a month. The sun is shining again in Texas after a stretch of arthritis-wringing pain from bad weather. I bought a gingerbread house kit at Walmart. I have at least one substitute teaching job this coming week.

I have passed the 35,000 word bar for my work in progress, long enough to qualify as a complete YA novel. But it isn’t finished yet, and probably going to be nearer to 50,000 words.

So, going forward, the world now looks very different. Thanos has been defeated. Trump is being impeached, though probably not removed. And though I am a pessimist, and am preparing for the worst, I am not unhappy about what the future may hold.

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Filed under commentary, health, illness, irony, Paffooney

Mickian Fantasy Art

There is a reason why anything in my artwork starting with a rabbit is assumed to be autobiographical. I raised rabbits as a 4-H project from about the age of 10 and we kept rabbits in pens until I was finishing my undergraduate degree. (Rabbit chores fell to my little brother when I was away from home.) In many ways, I was a rabbit-man. My personal avatar as a school teacher was Reluctant Rabbit.

The panda known as Mandy in my cartoon world is an avatar of my wife, an immigrant from the Pandalore Islands.

There is often an exaggerated sense of adventure in my cartoonally weird Paffoonies, the very name of which is a fantasy word.

I have been known to actually believe gingerbread can be magical enough for gingerbread men to come to life once baked. It is the reason I bite the legs off first, so they can’t run away.

I have been known to see elves, fairies, and numerous other things that aren’t really there. In fact, a whole secret hidden kingdom of them inhabited the schoolyard in Iowa where I attended grades K through 6. They were all mostly three inches tall. The biggest ones, like dragons reaching only about six inches tall at their largest.

Of course I am afraid of death, evil, and… (shudder) mummies.
I think of art and story-telling as a form of music. I am a troubadour whose songs (like this one) are often completely silent.
My fantasy art tends to be more “comic book” than “art gallery”.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, cartoons, cartoony Paffooney, colored pencil, humor, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism

We Can Sing Together

This is wisdom from the late Fred Rogers. We can sing together. The life we live is a form of music, that, played right, energizes the universe. Live in it, sing in it, and laugh. It is very good to learn many things.

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