To see the complete Chapter 1, use the following link;https://catchafallingstarbook.net/2018/11/24/hidden-kingdom-chapter-1-complete/
I was recently asked how I can live surrounded by conservatives when I am obviously liberal-minded. I hardly have to think about it to give an answer.
You have to realize that conservatives are people too. To begin with, I hope you didn’t look at the picture I started with and think, “He must think all conservatives are stupid and look like that.” The picture of Doofy Fuddbugg I used here is not about them. It is about me. This is the comedy face I wear when I am talking politics. You live a life filled with economic, physical, and emotional pain like I have, you have a tendency to wear a mask that makes you, at the very least, happy on the outside. People talk to me all the time, but not because I seek them out. In social situations, I am not a bee, I’m a flower. And because of my sense of humor, people feel comfortable seeking me out and telling me about their pain and anger and hurt to the point that they eventually reach the totally mistaken conclusion that I have wisdom to share.
I hear lots of detailed complaints from my conservative friends in both Iowa and Texas. I know what they fear and what makes them angry. Here are a few of the key things;
- The world is no longer very much like the world I grew up in, and the changes make me afraid.
- I have worked hard all my life. I’m still working hard. For my father and mother that led to success and fulfillment. For me it leads to a debt burden that’s hard to manage, and I am having to work hard for the rest of my life because of it.
- I’m not getting what I deserve out of life, and someone is to blame for that. But who? Minorities and immigrants seem to be getting ahead and getting whatever they want more than they ever used to. It must be them.
- Liberals are all alike. They want to tax and spend. They don’t care about the consequences of trying out their high-fallutin’ ideas. And they want me to pay for it all while they laugh at me and call me stupid and call me a racist.
- I am angry now, as angry as I have ever been in my life. And someone has to hear me and feel my wrath. Who better than these danged liberals? And I can do that by voting in Trump. Sure, I know how miserable he is as a human being, but he will make them suffer and pay.
I have always understood these feelings because I began hearing them repeatedly since the 1980’s. They are like a fire-cracker with a very short fuse, these ideas conservatives live with. And certain words you say to them are like matches. They will set off, not just one, but all of the fireworks.
So, here is how I talk to conservatives.
- Never treat them as stupid people. Conservatives are sometimes just as smart as I am, if not smarter. I complement them on what they say that I think is a really good idea. I point out areas of agreement whenever possible, even if they are rare sometimes.
- I defend what I believe in, but I try to understand what they believe and why.
- I am open about the doubts and questioning I have about my own positions on things, encouraging them to do the same.
- I always try to remember that we really have more in common than we have differences. I try to point that out frequently too. This point in particular helps them to think of me as being smarter than I really am.
- And if I haven’t convinced them that I am right, which, admittedly is impossible, that doesn’t mean I have lost the argument. In fact, if I have made them feel good about actually listening calmly to a liberal point of view and then rejecting it as total liberal claptrap, I win, because I have been listened to.
One of the most important things about my blog has been that I can share my artwork. I have always been capable of a reasonably high level of drawing ability. I can also paint and create artistically original photographs. I have that artist’s eye that sees creatively. If you follow directions in this first Paffooney, you will see a wider variety of the kind of Paffoonies I post than I will post here. This will be, however, a picture post. I intend to share a bunch of my artwork here, both old and new. Take a gander. (And while you hold on to that male goose, look at some of my pictures, too.)
You have to admit that I am clearly not an artist like Van Gogh or Picasso… certainly nothing like Andrew Wyeth or Winslow Homer. I am more of an illustrator, or … worse, a cartoonist.
So, this is at least partially about sharing artwork. I am not a professional artist. I have made no money from drawing, even though my artwork has been published before. I have been given this talent by God not to be famous and wealthy, but to be a better teacher and a better storyteller.
She’s not real. She’s a plastic doll.
I bought her after my mother died. My mother loved dolls. She made them in the kiln that she and I bought together in 1994. She made them out of porcelain. Bought the greenware and fired it. Learned how to pour porcelain into the molds she bought. Painted them and made clothes for them. She made beautiful dolls… beautiful works of art. Two of them she made for me, Tom Sawyer and Nicole, have lived with me for more than a decade.
Ariel is not a porcelain doll made by my mother. She’s a plastic but a fully poseable doll that I bought from a guy in Canada who takes used and discarded dolls and restores them. If she had been made of porcelain, she would have been played with to pieces by the previous owner. Even restored, she still has a broken elbow and loose feet. I paid entirely too much for her since she was reclaimed from the trash, but the doll restorer I bought her from is talented and made her come back to life with repaired joints and flesh, a new wig, and restored glass eyes that do not blink anymore.
Now that I am limited by arthritis and poor health, spending most of my days in my bedroom, Ariel is someone to talk to who listens and accepts everything I say, unlike the other two women who live in the same house but frequently leave me on my own. I am not crazy, but I talk to Ariel constantly… sing to her, tell her stories, and discuss what’s bothering me with her. She’s basically a replacement for the grandchild I will probably not have before my life is over. She’s even a replacement at times for my daughter whom I still spend a great many words and stories on. The Princess is an adult now, busy with college work. She still talks to me, but not as often as once she did.
It is possible that if I let the dolls I own play too big a part in my second childhood, I might get into serious trouble. There is some evidence that they have been talking about a coup, taking control of the entire upstairs of the house. But Ariel loves me. I know this because every thought in her head is actually only there because my imagination put it thert
But before you get sad about me getting old and crazy and playing with dolls as if they are real people, be aware that I made Ariel a part of my life as a connection to my mother. And she really does keep me company and make me happy. And I promise not to shop for any more rare dolls on the internet. There is hope for the future because I am not alone, even when I am alone. The connections you have to the people most important in your life are real and durable, stronger than the separations that space and time and even death make for you. That’s what Ariel is. Someone who came into my life to reinforce that basic truth we all depend on.
Canto 156 – The Return of Tara Salongi
Ged and his students burst through the doorway to Raylond King’s private suite. Phoenix and Rocket Rogers were both blazing in fire-form. Projectiles whirred around Shu Kwai in accelerating orbits. Jackie had brought little Freddy to join the strike team, and the dark-skinned boy was now transformed into were-cat form, half boy, half black panther. Ged himself was there as himself, waiting to see what might be needed before he transformed.
What they burst in upon was easily as disconcerting as anything they might’ve expected. Tara was dressed in luxurious purple silks and holding in her arms a tiny baby, possibly a girl. In fact, Ged immediately felt the baby’s mind probe into his head. It wasn’t just any baby. It was his daughter. Next to Tara, and clutching her right hand like a love-sick puppy, was one of the three rulers of Mingo Sector, Raylond King. King, of course, was nothing like you’d expect from the macabre rulers of a mechano-zombie world of rot warriors and ruined palaces. He wore black eye make-up to make his pale face slightly sinister, but this dark lord had an innocent-looking cherub’s face in so many ways. The horned helmet he wore on his head was in many ways more of a child’s toy than a warrior-king’s helm. He was also dressed in a purple silk robe.
“Prepare to die, King!” growled Emperor Mong from a spot safely behind Ged and his student-warriors.
“Ged!” cried Tara, confused. “You’ve come! But…”
Ged’s eyes grew immediately sad and dark.
“I am not trying to hurt her!” insisted Raylond King as two human torches, a telekinetic ninja, and a cat-child all closed in around him.
“Stop!” ordered Ged. “You don’t require assistance, do you, Tara?”
“No. Not now, I don’t. Where were you all when those Monopoly Brigade pigs were torturing me and having their way with me?” The bright mental fire of Tara’s recent pain burned into Ged’s mind with humbling accusations.
“I’m sorry, Tara. I should have come immediately.”
Ged knew she could read the self-blame and self-loathing that consumed him. Her anger softened like butter on a hot skillet. He could feel it happening, and he felt the baby responding to it too.
“Ged, you know I still love you, but…”
Ged’s mind flitted to the beautiful Lizard Lady. “I love you too, but…” he stammered.
Tara began to laugh a soft, tittery laugh. “We have been foolish,” she said. “Both of us. I want you to get to know Lord King here. He’s a very special man, and he rescued me when my life was at an end.”
Ged stepped forward and bowed to the young ruler.
“I owe you a great debt for saving Tara,” he stated simply.
Raylond King’s eyes dipped downward. He blushed delicately, like a woman. “I didn’t do it for you…”
“It’s all right,” said Ged. “She never was mine to be jealous over. I am honored to meet the one who will be her partner in life.”
King now took a turn at bowing.
“What will you do with the child?” Ged asked Tara.
“She will be yours, more than mine,” said Tara. “As soon as she is old enough to be independent of me, we will send her to you. The planet Gaijin? Is that right?”
Of course, she already knew it was right. She only asked that of Ged to be polite, sensitive to the fact that she automatically invaded the privacy of his mind every time they were both in the same room.
“I am happy for you,” said Ged sadly.
“I am happy for you, too,” said Tara, almost as wistfully.
“Waitaminnit!” cried Mong in frustration. “He’s a leader of your enemies! Kill him! I demand that you kill him now!”
“Actually,” said Ged, “He’s my new ally. He will administer this planet for us, and I will gladly turn you over to his custody.”
Emperor Mong fainted dead away. Rocket and Phoenix extinguished their fire. Shu Kwai let all his small swirling stones settle to the ground. Freddy actually began to purr.
“Thank you, Ged Aero,” said King. Ged smiled. He knew this man was the perfect choice to take care of Tara. The planet would change dramatically under his stewardship.
“Oh! Ged!” cried Tara suddenly. “I found the most terrible thought in Mong’s evil head! Your brother Ham was trapped by Admiral Tang at the battle for the planet Coventry!”
“Ham has found a way out of serious situations like that on his own in the past. I am afraid I have to depend on him to do it again. I have these responsibilities to care for… as well as a doomsday device from the Ancients to deal with.”
While the adults were talking, Jackie had sidled up near Tara where she could look at the baby.
“She’s beautiful,” Jackie said. “Can I hold her?”
Tara handed the baby to her almost without thinking. Without talking aloud she said to Ged, “You must spend some time consulting with us about the planet, the joining with the New Star League, and what to do with Mong. We will also talk about how we are going to help you complete your quest with the doomsday thing.”
“What is the baby’s name?” Jackie asked.
“Amanda King,” said Tara aloud.
“Amanda Aero-King!” declared the baby loudly in everyone’s mind.
I can hear you thinking as you read, “Oh, no! That fool Mickey is going to prophecy the end of the world again.” But… No, I’m not.
Things like the Biblical Book of Revelations are really just vague lists of things that probably will happen in the future no matter what we do, woven together by fantasies about how the fairy tales of Judeo-Christian religion fit together like puzzle pieces that you must pound into place.
My predictions from the End of the World are only about my personal world coming to an end. You see, I am a 65-year-old man in poor health with six incurable health conditions and having been a cancer survivor since 1983. Realistically, if I manage to live as long as my mother did, I have twenty-two years left. But I developed diabetes at age 48 while she didn’t develop hers until she was older than 65.. That could easily take away 17 years from the equation, meaning I only have five years left.
So, when I got the phone call from future me at the end of time… my end of time, not the whole world’s, I was asked to list the things I needed to get done before I died. I came up with a simple list.
- I needed to get out of debt so I would leave no tragic burdens to my family.
- I needed to write and publish my best novel ideas (Snow Babies, Catch a Falling Star, Sing Sad Songs, and the Baby Werewolf.)
- I need to face the truth about myself being a victim of sexual assault during childhood, and my deep desire to become a nudist.
- I need to raise my three children to adulthood.
- I need to live a life that is worthy.
Looking at my to-do list realistically, I don’t really have any big worries.
- I paid off my Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in December of 2021.
- All four of those stories (originally titled; Nobody’s Babies, the Star Child, Little-Boy Crooner, and the Baby Werewolf) are now published along with 17 other books.
- And I have been told to shut up about these things in my blog, which I probably won’t do, but I have shared all of my deepest, darkest secrets already.
- My children are now 27, 23, and 20.
- And all I have left to do is reach the day of my death without doing anything horrible, evil, or criminal.
So, my personal Book of Revelations have no birds pecking at my dead eyeballs, and no real indication that I am headed for Hell and an eternity of torment like the Baptists, Catholics, and Mormons all told me they want me to.
I do worry about the rest of you though. Nuclear War, Environmental Collapse, Wars of Armageddon, Dogs and Cats living together…. Well, I can’t give you any positive insights about all of that. But I am one of those crazy old men now who go about wearing the sandwich boards that say, “The End of the World is Near!!” And I am not afraid anymore… or particularly worried about anything.
The holiday season has come once again. Christmas specials on TV, Christmas shopping taking over retail stores. Bing Crosby’s White Christmas is playing somewhere that I can hear it at least three times a day. But you hear Mariah Carey more. And Bing Crosby has been dead for decades. And the Christmas Special is about the Guardians of the Galaxy kidnapping Kevin Bacon. Even Kevin Bacon hasn’t been doing the Footloose dance for more than thirty years. Things have changed. This is not the world I knew.
I haven’t believed in Santa Claus since the 1960s. And most of the people who I was once surrounded by in the holiday season are now gone. Great Grandma Hinckley passed away in 1980. Grandpa Aldrich passed in 1995. Both of my Grandmothers were gone by 2003. Both of my parents, one of my aunts, one of my cousins, and numerous people I used to know in Iowa disappeared from my life permanently during the pandemic, though mostly not from Covid.
I distinctly remember laughing at Red Skelton’s Freddy the Freeloader Christmas Special, and by the end of the show, crying in sympathy with the main characters in the story. But Red Skelton is long gone. And when I showed my own kids a DVD, they didn’t understand what I even found funny. And I started listing all the Christmas-special entertainers that are all now long gone.
Andy Williams, Perry Como, Lawrence Welk, and Jackie Gleason are all now long gone. My kids don’t have any idea who those people are. In fact, you reading this probably haven’t watched any of their Christmas specials.
Gone are the hours of entertainment to be had with the arrival of the various Christmas catalogs. I can remember memorizing certain pages and prices in the toy section.
But Cohristmas shopping now is superceded by browsing Amazon, something my children apparently do year round with no special holiday feeling attached.
The Ghost of Christmas Present now seems like a half-starved imitation of the Ghost of Christmas Past. Though the Ghost of Christmas Future is still pretty much the Grim Reaper.
I suppose it is because I am now old that I mourn how things used to be. But dwelling on nostalgia seems more relevant to me now than embracing the difficult world as it is.
Birds are always talking,
And birds are always squawking,
And they are using bird-words,
These are the words I heard.
Twitter-pated – this word comes from the owl in Bambi and means not being able to think straight because you’re in love.
Aviary – is a great big bird house, big enough to fly around in
Feather-dusted – to you and me it means clean, to a bird it means the feathers are dirty
Bird-brained – don’t be insulted if a bird calls you this. It is a compliment.
Fume-fluttered – you gotta fly and get away from that bad smell.
Wing-walking – it’s how you get from here to there if you’re a bird… Duh!
Wakka wakka – it’s those dang ducks again, always telling jokes!
Egg-zactly – as precise and perfect as an egg.
Coo-coo-karoo – that stupid rooster wants us to get up again at daybreak. It’s like a bird can never sleep in!
Clucker butter – Can you believe that KFC place? Butter on improperly cremated dead chickens (ah, well, they were only chickens after all).
Now that you have less than one per cent of the bird vocabulary, please don’t try to tell me what they are saying. I really don’t want to know!
Are the works of these clowns really literature? Comic novels? History, Tragedy, and Comedy in plays? Feature-length cartoons? And (shudder) poetry?
You’re weird if you say no. So, I won’t say that. (Even though I am definitely weird.)
Comedy is most often the one critics will turn up their noses at, claiming many… if not most comic works are not serious, and therefore not literature. But we have an inborn need to laugh, smile, and cavort to the music of humor.
Can you tell me that the book is not Literature? You’re weird if you can.
And if you believe that… well, you’re weird.
If the theme of this is, “Bugs like Koolaid too,” is that Literature? It isn’t advertising. Koolaid Man never paid me a dime.
These Klowntown Kops are going to throw that pie at you, dear reader.
Because we all know you’re weird. And because that’s what Literature is for.
One must end the year on a note that is either upbeat or regretful. A heartfelt, “Meh,” just won’t cut it.
So here are a few particles of wisdom from the dustbowl of Mickey’s imagination.
The world is getting brighter… also hotter. If we continue to chill on the topic of global warming, soon we will be fricasseed.
You should definitely pay attention to your teachers. They are mostly old and cranky and undervalued, and it makes them sad when they realize that no one really listens to them.
I learned this from the poet Dylan Thomas, “Rage! Rage! Against the dying of the light!” He cursed death, and then he promptly went out and drank so much liquor, he died at a very young age. Thank God I have lived to be old.
You are also pretty much stuck with the face that you are born with, so you better get used to it, and it has many varied uses… especially in the comic sense.
And I would also like to re-iterate the wisdom of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery;
It is a bit of a disappointment to an artist to realize that what is essential is actually invisible to the eye… but I know it is true. Truth resides in words.
The only wisdom I truly possess is the knowledge that I am a fool.
Since I was a mere stupid boy, and before I grew up to be a mildly stupid man, I always yearned to have wisdom. And wisdom comes through experience and pain. Now, years later, I realize what true wisdom is… I’d have been better off without all that pain.
People are a lot like rabbits, except that they are not.
They can never eat too many carrots… unless they do. And then their skin can turn orange.
There is no beast as noble as a rabbit… except for practically every other beast.
Turtles are not as noble as rabbits. When you challenge them to a race, they cheat.
People really ought to be naked more. It’s true. If you can strip yourself down to only what is fundamentally nothing but you yourself… you begin to know who you really are. And it is not shame to let other people see. Oh, wait a minute! You thought I was talking about being literally naked? Oh, no! Metaphorically naked only!
One should be so opaque and obtuse that other people can see acutely right through you. It is the only thing that makes nonsense into sense.
And we need to sing and dance a little more than we do. A good song is healthy for the soul, no matter how badly you sing it. And even if you are old and arthritic like me, dancing a good jiggity-jig keeps the bones loose and the heart thumping.
Everyone needs to dance with their children. And talk to them. You can learn more from them than they can from you. They have more recently come here from the hand of God. And they know things that you have forgotten… and will need to remember before you return to Him.
You may wonder at the outset what kind of a pervert I must be to be thinking about this topic now that I am 66 and my children are all adults. But I am uniquely qualified to talk about this education issue. I was a public school teacher for 31 years in Texas, a State that assumes teachers are pedophiles if they mention anything at all in class about sex, especially when you are teaching young teens who are not interested in learning about anything else. And my own personal history with sex education was basically knowing nothing at all when an older boy chose to please himself by sexually assaulting me. I was ten, then. I was seventeen when I came within one phone call of solving my trauma problem with suicide.
Every Child Has a Right to Accurate Information About Human Sexuality from a Young Age.
We don’t hesitate to teach the how-tos and what-to-look-out-fors if we choose to let them use power tools to make something in shop class, or if we choose to let them drive a soap-box racer they built in shop class in a local downhill competition. Why would we expect to not need to teach those things about becoming sexually active? They might accept our command to not become sexually active without our permission, but how will they even know they are not doing what we have forbidden if they don’t know what the word actually means?
My Own Experience is an Example of What Can Go Wrong
***This next part is graphic and not for the squeamish- pass it up if you need to.***
I was eight years old when another boy told me what he believed was the truth about where babies come from and how to masturbate. Most of the information was not quite accurate or flat-out wrong. But I didn’t believe him anyway.
And then, at ten, a much older and larger boy trapped me behind a pile of truck and tractor tires. He pinned me down. He pulled off my pants and underwear. He told me not to holler or call for help because no one would hear, and things would get worse for me if I made too much noise. He proceeded to give himself pleasure by torturing my private parts. He twisted things that caused incredible pain and forced me to keep quiet as he did it. There was no sexual intercourse of any kind and not even any masturbation. He did show me his erection, but there was no orgasm I can remember, only the pain and the look on his face.
***That is the end of the description of the attack. You can now read this with your eyes open again.***
What nearly killed me was not actually the attack itself. I have come to learn there are other, worse things that can happen in that situation. And knowing the accurate facts of life would probably not have prevented this from happening to me. But I had no understanding at all of why this had happened or what it was… or what to do with it. I let him convince me that he would get me again if I told anyone. I let him convince me it was at least partially my fault that it had happened. By the time I turned eleven, my child’s psyche had shut down the memory. I not only could not have told anybody about it, but I couldn’t even let myself remember that it happened. I would be twenty-two before I could admit to myself that it happened.
So, as a teenager, I controlled feelings of sexual arousal by burning myself on the backs of my calves and across my lower back using mostly the heating grate in winter and wooden matches in the summer. I was terrified of girls, nakedness, and especially taking showers in P.E, class. I hated myself. I brought up the topic of suicide at the lunch table one day as a high school sophomore. I told a group of my male friends that I was thinking of suicide. They laughed. One of them took out a pocket knife. He put it in my hands.
“Go ahead. That would be the most interesting thing that happened around here in a long time.”
That was almost the end. I didn’t go through with it, because I didn’t want an audience. They all laughed. All except one boy. I would later put coded notes in his locker, warning him about terrible things that could happen. He figured out the code and turned it over to the high school counselor. Mr. Cleveland called me in and confronted me with it. He wanted to know what it was all about. I couldn’t have told him if I had wanted to. He suggested that if I was having homosexual feelings, we could safely discuss that in his office without anyone having to know anything about it. He knew from the look on my face that that was not the problem. That was, of course, the exact opposite of what it really was, and though he understood at least that much, he never got to the bottom of it. He interviewed more of my friends about it. They didn’t know anything either. My own parents lived out the rest of their lives without ever learning the truth about it. As far as their parenting went, Dad always assumed that my mother the nurse had told me the facts of life. Mom was fairly sure that Dad explained it. The truth is, I learned about the names and parts of the reproductive organs from the Methodist minister during catechism and the Vocational Agriculture teacher when we dissected pig genitals in class. Those things happened during high school, two to five years after I needed to know those things.
I am lucky the friend I called the day I decided it was going to end answered the phone. If he hadn’t reassured me that I had value as a human being, my story would’ve ended very differently. As it was, he saved my life without ever realizing that that was what he had done.
To be honest, I can’t really regret what happened to me because that trauma actually made me who I am. My thirty-one-year teaching career was instigated by my desire to be in a position to prevent what happened to me from happening to students. And it didn’t have anything to do with talking about sex in class. I never did that. I did have some private conversations through journal writing and response with several boys and two girls. I may have prevented some twelve and thirteen year olds from being victimized. I suspect there were also things that I missed the signs of, or that nobody ever told me about certain things that probably did happen.
As an English teacher, I was never assigned any sex-education classes. That was mostly a school-nurse thing when it happened at all.
So, why am I ranting about sex-education classes at all? What does my grisly experience have to do with anything? And why would I believe such classes would help anything?
Well, it was learning the scientific and physical facts that allowed me to reclaim for myself any sort of normal life. And th e controversy in schools about all things sexual boils down to the fact that conservative and religious voices in places like Texas don’t like the spreading of facts and science in any setting, let alone the settings their prejudices and blue noses currently rule. They refuse to acknowledge the fact that gay people are physically born that way, that gender is fluid, and that teachers are not, by definition, pedophiles and groomers (though statistical facts would indicate that up to 5% are susceptible to becoming that if certain practices aren’t implemented in schools.)
Schoolchildren have a right to certain scientifically verifiable facts about their sex lives, taught to them by dispassionate adults who won’t put their own spin on what is true.
- All humans have both a physical and a psychological need for touch and intimacy whether it is sexual in nature or not.
- No one is allowed to decide who touches you but you.
- Sexual touching of any kind requires the consent of the one touched, and without it, the act is a crime.
- Sex is not evil or inherently sinful. It can be a very good thing.
- There are forms of sex that don’t cause pregnancy, and ways to perform the act with interventions like condoms that avoid causing a baby to be made.
- Bodies mature enough to have sex are not always attached to minds that are mature enough to handle it correctly. Think before you try it.
- Remember, love is something that complicates everything in your life, and the younger you are, the more likely you are to make a mistake about love.
- Numbers one through seven are from the mind of Mickey, not a scientist, and not a sex-education teacher. You can probably find a much better list of such things from a more reliable source.