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 

thor-ragnarok-end-credits-avengers-infinity-war-870508

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

What Will We Become?

Davalon, Tanith, and George Jetson

What we are undergoing right now is actually a part of the process of Evolution. You know, that evil science-lie that the devil created to distract us from the incessant worship of God Almighty. Or as non-fundamentalist Christians who don’t read the Bible as a book of Science might think of it, the theory that Charles Darwin created to explain the observed factual evidence of how living things change over time to fit into new environments and new circumstances. That heretical idea that has been promoted by such heretics as highly trained biologists, environmentalists, geneticists, and other scientists qualified to test and re-shape science-based theories that come about through experiment, recording new observations, correlating new data to old data, and changing the theories to fit the new paradigm, which will also be re-examined and adjusted through the Scientific Method.

Yes, Duck-people! We are all going to turn into Duck-people when the pandemic is over. Amorous and risque Duck-people who don’t wear pants.

But it should be obvious enough to anyone who doesn’t think like Trumpkins and evangelicals do, that the survivors of the Coronavirus Pandemic will have to evolve when the plague is through with us. For one thing, we may have to evolve beyond handshakes. For another, we have to stop thinking of the human race as “Us and Them” and start treating each other as if we were all the same, had the same human rights, and had the same basic value to society. Now that I have thought about it a bit more, I’m not sure we can say that it would be a good thing to turn into Duck-people. That might be a bad move if the next pandemic is another bird flu. But we can’t help but evolve into a species that has developed natural resistance to Covid 19. Natural selection will see to that. Though, you should keep in mind that all natural selection isn’t based on just physically getting ill and not dying of the viral infection. Behavioral adaptations are a part of evolution too. Many will survive because of social distancing, hand-washing, and mask-wearing. I personally hope to be among those.

I really doubt that we will need to evolve the way Johnny did in this old illustration. But I am fairly certain we need to continue to evolve in matters of “Loving thy neighbor”. We have to get out from under the life-shorting notions that profits are more important than people’s lives. We have to do away with a system where power is given to those with the most money rather than those with the most moral character and depth of understanding.

Modern middle school classrooms have already evolved into this. But maybe they need to evolve further still.

Now, obviously, this was all written as a humor-post, because that’s what I do. But that doesn’t mean my ideas are all hair-brained… or even hare-brained. Yes, the rabbit pictured above is supposed to be me. You are welcome to argue with me, but I believe most of what I have said here is not only funny and weird… but true.

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Snarks and Snags

I am from Texas, but this is not me.

I am really not fond of people telling me how to live my life and what I should be doing differently. Especially when the thrower of verbal stones lives in houses made of metaphorical glass.

This particular angry-old-coot rant was inspired by the bitter old octogenarian in the park sitting on a park bench trying to catch coronavirus. She watched me as I walked my female dog. Then, when Jade squatted to pee and expel a couple of gallons of canine message-juice for the benefit of male dogs sniffing grass everywhere, the angry old crone points at the wet spot and hollers, “Pick it up!”

I shrugged and showed her my handful of poo-plucking plastic. “I didn’t bring a sponge!” I quipped back at her.

“Pick it up!” she screeched.

“It’s PEE!” I coot-howled without profanity.

The dippy old cat lady didn’t understand the difference between how male dogs pee (hind leg pointed skyward) and how female dogs do it (back legs carefully folded out of the way like a dainty lady and back end pressed to the ground}. Either that, or she was just so far gone in her senile viciousness that she really desired me to scrape up all the urine-soaked mud from under the grass.

I am aware that tempers are sparked to life by the flint and steel of crisis management, and these are dark times under the threat of death-viruses in Texas public parks.

And somebody is out there telling us what to do (I won’t mentioned the names of any current Presidents of the United States going to war in orange warpaint to make tons of money off of Hydroxychloroquine made by a company partially owned by an orange-faced moron criminal) in ways that may get us killed by the pandemic just so he can restart the economy early enough to get re-elected and stay out of prison.

Okay… enough angry ranting by dog-walking crazy old coots today. i managed not to get in any fist-fights with cranky old cat ladies today, a feat I should be proud of because she would’ve beaten me to death with her multi-footed cane. And I didn’t mention the moron criminal’s actual name today, so the NSA should leave me unharmed too.

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What Makes the Story Worth Writing?

On the face of it, a lot of what I am writing stories about is nonsense. Snow Babies is about a town coming together to survive a blizzard populated by naked children made of ice who select people to freeze to death and possibly become snow babies themselves in the afterlife. Fools and their Toys is a story told by a ventriloquist’s dummy in the form of a zebra sock puppet. Clowns from the world of dreams (specifically H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands) come to a small Iowa town to teach children how to share their dreams and face death and grieving in the novel Sing Sad Songs. You get the idea. I am a surrealist story-teller who uses the melting-clocks method of presenting my ideas about love and life and laughter.

And I have this weird thing about nakedness too. I mean, some of my characters are practicing, unabashed nudists. While others, though not comfortable with social nudity, find themselves facing significant life events naked and completely vulnerable. Of course, some of this stems from myself being the victim of a sexual assault at the age of ten. Themes about overcoming fears about sex and being taken advantage of are prominent in my fiction. Much in the same way that Roald Dahl often wrote about defying the authority of those in charge who mishandle their authority. or Charles Dickens often wrote about the soul-crushing nature of child poverty and the effects it has on the development of people and their character. These writers, like me, share obsessions based on their own childhood experiences. And they do it for the same reasons I do it.

But the kind of story a piece of fiction is, isn’t itself what makes the story valuable to both reader and writer. It isn’t the weirdness or the colorful insanity of a piece of surrealist literature that is the worthwhile point of it all. It isn’t even the teachable moments bound up in every theme or literary device that gives the story its meaning. No, it is the act of creating the story that takes the very real events in life and weaves them into a vehicle of understanding, peace of mind, and epiphany about everything that makes it valuable to the life of the writer. And, depending on how it is received by the reader, it can offer the very same things to many of them.

From my mind to your mind… my words to your heart… therein lies the real value of a story.

I am saying stories have value beyond merely boring children to sleep at night.

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Filed under humor, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism, writing, writing humor, writing teacher

AeroQuest 3… Canto 85

Canto 85 – Digging In

Outpost was abuzz with activity.  The airless world had only limited defense from attack.  The primary protection had always been the secret of its location.  As an airless world, the surface could easily be lasered or bombarded with no atmosphere to interfere with the destructive force.  Tron had ordered the mirror fields raised, hoping that some laser fire could be reflected back into the surrounding darkness.  He knew, however, that the only hope he had was in his fleet.  If they could somehow destroy enough of Admiral Tang’s fleet to make him feel the losses were no longer worthwhile, then maybe the groundside installations could survive intact.

There were still very talented corsairs able to fly fighting ships.  Elvis the Cruel and Apache Scout were both peerless star warriors.  But Tron had to believe that Admiral Tang had a few potent killers left to his name too.  There was every chance that the situation was hopeless and would end in massacre.

Still, there were a few unknowns on Tron Blastarr’s side.  The crazy alien star ship known as the Megadeath was the most agile killing machine that Tron had ever seen.  The goofball rock-and-roll crew that flew it for Trav Dalgoda was now very adept at handling the alien thing, and Tron had kept them to help in his mad last stand.  They were not smart enough to be scared of the upcoming battle. 

He was able to send his son onward to Ged Aero on the unknown planet Gaijin, where little Artran would be safe and well-cared-for long after Tron and Maggie’s bones littered the airless sands of Outpost.     He had put Artran on the scout ship himself with the somewhat strange courier that had come with the ship from Don’t Go Here.  This Bill the Postman really worried Tron.  The man was not entirely right in the head somehow.

“Boss,” said Hassan the Elf, breaking Tron’s train of thought, “I have made something that I think might be of help.”

Tron looked at the child-like Peri and the invention he was now holding up.  “A suit of armor?”

“Yes, boss.  A special kind of suit of armor.  It is made up of nanites.”

“What?  Nanites?”

“Yes, microscopic robots that share a command pulse and can reform themselves into any sort of armor that might be needed.”

Tron looked quizzically at the bluish suit of nanite armor.  “How do you make it work?” 

“Well… for instance, if you want it to form an anti-grav pack on the back, you just say FLIGHT-PACK.”  The suit rearranged itself at Hassan’s command, and an anti-gravity flight-pack instantly took shape on the back side of the armor’s breastplate.

“Does it have weapons?”

“FUSION-GUN!” said the elf with a grin.  A man-portable fusion generator and its discharge-barrel formed on the pauldron.

“That’s really good, Elf.  That will help.  But one isn’t going to be enough to save us.”

“Oh, that’s the best part,” said the Peri.  “Nanites can replicate themselves from raw metal ore.  Since the planet is mostly metal and crystal, we can set them to making a million copies of themselves in an hour.  You have to specify the number, though.  We wouldn’t want the little buggers transforming the entire planet.”

“Amazing,” sighed Tron.  “If only I had a million commandos to fill them with.”

At that moment Maggie came trotting up to him with a handheld communicator.  “The call is for you,” she said, looking grim.  “Arkin Cloudstalker has found some allies to help us fight.  He says he will visit one more planet and then be on his way to this system.  Admiral Tang is sure to follow.”

“Yes.  Sure to follow,” said Tron automatically, still gazing at the grinning elf and his newest invention.

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The Truth is…

  • The truth is… this pandemic will not be the end of the world even if it is the end of me.
  • The truth is… if we don’t learn some fundamental things about ourselves, the whole world won’t survive very long after the pandemic is over. We have only a few short years to get our environmental act straight.
  • The truth is… the people who are most in control of our world have far more than their reasonable share of the wealth and power in this world, and it is not fair and healthy for our society.
  • The truth is… too often it is the selfish, narcissistic people of the world who rise to the top, and they have no compassion or regard for the rest of us.
  • The truth is… we have to change things. And violence is not the most effective answer. But besides extraordinary acts of heroism and ultimate grace from unnoticed individuals, it may be the only answer we have left. The good things Obama tried were mostly shouted down and defeated by the corrupt and greedy among us. The power of the vote may have been completely undermined.
  • The truth is… wisdom only comes through time and hard experience. If you don’t face hardships, you will never learn how to deal with hardships. That is the gift we are being given by this pandemic.
  • The truth is… our leader at this moment is a criminal. He has stolen wealth from the American people and wrecked parts of the government that are essential to the American way of life as we have always known it. And in his incompetence, he has done things and failed to do things that have caused people’s deaths in this pandemic.
  • The truth is… Trump needs to be prosecuted and put in prison once we have removed him from office.
  • The truth is… if we don’t do something to solve these problems and fix these things, we don’t deserve to survive as a species.
  • The truth is… the Truth is sometimes a very hard thing to hear.

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Filed under angry rant, battling depression, health, illness, Paffooney, politics

Critical Steps

Last night I reached the climax of the novel, A Field Guide to Fauns. I pulled the scene off in a way that made me cry and feel like a part of my soul had been pulled out through my nose. But a critical question remains to be answered. Does it matter to the reader as much as it does to me?

The climax occurs after a group of four characters participate in a Chicken Dance, and the critical conflict is resolved by talking about the past.

Devon Martinez as he appears in A Field Guide to Fauns.

Probably not the most cinematic approach I could have used.

But this is not a cinematic story. It is introspective. It grapples with chronic child abuse and suicidal depression. It deals with recovery from a seriously traumatic event. And it is set in a nudist park featuring characters who are trying to rebuild families after divorce.

Can I leave it like it currently is? Knowing me, I probably will. It is an essential sort of story that I need to write because of who I am, who I was before, and where I am trying to be. I don’t write for anybody else but me. But I do hope others will read it. I will, in fact, continue to coerce family members and friends who are not sick of my story-telling (if such rare creatures still exist) to read it and make faces afterwards. And I firmly believe it is well-written, but it is a well-written, introspective and highly metaphorical novel. How many people do I know, after all, that read and enjoy Marcel Proust or William Faulkner or Saul Bellow? (I myself have only read multiple books from two of those three, and that because I can’t read French to get the book in its original language),

Starlord and Spiderman as they appear as blue elves in Onward, the Pixar movie.

Last night I watched what I thought was a marvelous movie on Disney Plus. And the truth is, the gut-punching climax of that movie happens when the main character is reviewing his to-do list while sitting on a rock. So, it is not only me who sometimes soft-peddles the critical steps in a story plot.

In truth, then, the next critical step for me will be to finish the falling action of the novel, carefully re-read and edit the manuscript, and then publish it. The novel will be done soon.

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The Art of the Paffooney

There was a rollerskating rink in the little town of Lake Cornelia in Iowa from the 1940’s until the 1980’s. The first time I went there as a ten-year-old learning to roller-skate for the very first time, I spent the entire time cleaning the dusty floor with the knees and seat of my pants. My parents could both skate with fantastic ease. Dad could even skate backwards. During the couples’ skate, when they turned the lights down and turned on the blinking colored lights, they didn’t merely skate, they danced in circles around the rink.

But I wanted desperately to skate like that. We went numerous times to that same rink that Summer of 1967. The second time I went there I had spent a couple of nights dreaming of myself successfully skating. And practicing in my dreams apparently worked. I could skate the complete oval of the rink, and I only fell down three times the entire couple of hours we were there. We went to the A&W drive-in for root beers to celebrate afterwards.

We kept skating and I kept improving. In 1969 the song “Sugar, Sugar” was a number one hit. It played at least five times a trip to the skating rink, often during the couples’ skate. That Cornelia skating rink was the place where I skated hand in hand with a girl during the couples’ skate for the very first time. To that song, of course.

That rink was also the site of my worst embarrassment in junior high school. I fell because of a dreaded gum-wad on the floor and split the inseam of my pants from the crotch all the way down the right leg. When I got up, the girl I had a crush on and three of her female friends got a good look at my fruit-of-the-looms. Strangely, nobody made fun of me for it afterwards. The rink manager came up with enough safety pins to hold my pants together for the remaining hour of skate time. Embarrassed within an inch of my life being over, I was still not going to miss out on skating-time,

I hadn’t thought about skating in long time. I am not able to do it anymore with arthritis in my knees and feet. But this old colored-pencil drawing of a girl I once adored on roller skates brought the memory of it back again. It is a permanent part of who I am. A core memory. A foundation-stone in the edifice of Mickey-ness.

And a picture I have made with the story that goes along with it is what a Paffooney is. If you want to see more examples of Paffoonies I have created, you can do a Google picture-search of “Beyer Paffooney” and you will see a lot of them, mostly linked directly back to this blog. It is word I invented that nobody else is using (as far as I know), and so, it functions as a sort of magic word for my silly little blog.

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