To see the complete Chapter 1, use the following link;https://catchafallingstarbook.net/2018/11/24/hidden-kingdom-chapter-1-complete/
A Small Murder of Crows
I came to with a splitting headache. The skull was still intact, but the rest of the skeleton was gone. And now the other eye-socket had a hole in it, while most of the inside of the skull was covered in blackened soot that apparently came from the explosive elf-magic that destroyed our bone walker.
“Kack? Are we still alive?”
“You are. I wasn’t technically alive at any point in this mission. But now my magic power is completely exhausted. Used up by keeping you from being burned. “
He was telling the truth. My skin was not covered in the charcoal and ash that everything else was.
“Thank you for saving me, Kack. I know you didn’t have to.”
“I have grown fond of you, Derf.”
I rolled off the spoiled dandelion blossoms and got to my feet. The skull had landed right side up, and the new eyehole was big enough to easily step through out into the wider world outside.
“Hey! Pick me up and take me with you!” whined Kack.
I reached back in and picked him up by the one unbroken horn he had on his little severed head. “It’s not like you are any good to me with all the magic blown out of you.”
“I am rechargeable, you know. And I saved your life. Don’t you owe me?”
“Yeah. I don’t have anything better to do. The fairy army of Cair Tellos will be here any second to execute me.”
“Oh, surely as sugar they won’t do that. Charm them with your naked sex appeal.”
“I’m a Sylph, but I’m not pretty like most Sylph girls. I’m plain… homely even.”
“I’d keep you around for romancing if I could.”
“You are just a dirty old demon. And not even a live one.”
“Well, of course you would have standards… that figures…”
As we were ragging on each other in our defeated misery, two huge crows landed, looking us over with both eyes on both crow heads.
“What are you looking at?” I said to them.
“Derfentwinkle? Daughter of Bizzbumble the Mediocre?”
“Yes… wait a minute, you can talk?”
“I’m Homer. This is my brother and best friend Bert. I… uh… don’t know how I know this, but I’m your familiar.”
“What? Impossible! Familiars are always magical creatures like dragonets or spirit doves, never full-sized, real animals.”
“I don’t know anything about that. How am I even talking to you?”
“Um, your mouth is not moving when you speak, so, I’m guessing you do it the way all familiars do… by telepathy.”
“Hmm… well, how about that?”
“That’s the silliest thing I eva hoid!”
“Stop with the Groucho imitations, Bert. It’s annoying.”
“Who’s Groucho?” said the other crow, apparently Bert.
“How can I be hearing both of you?” I asked.
“Well, you talk to me in my head, just like Bert does,” said Homer.
“So, this familiar arrangement is a package deal? And you are both way bigger than me?”
“I guess so,” apologized Homer. “I don’t really know how to be a familiar.”
“Um, Derfie… Dearest?”
“An elf and some Sylphs are coming to kill you.”
“Uh-huh. I know. Wrong time to be a first-time familiar, bird-o.”
And then, without further warning… they were there.
Rowan, Iowa… Not the place I was born, but the place where I got to be a stupid kid, and have the lessons of the good and god-fearing life hammered into my head hard enough to make a dent and make it stay with me for more than half a century. I got to go to grade school there. I learned to read there, especially in Miss Mennenga’s third and fourth grade class. Especially in that old copy of Treasure Island with the N.C, Wyeth illustrations in it, the one Grandma Aldrich kept in the upstairs closet in their farm house. I got to see my first naked girl there. I learned a lot of things about sex from my friends there, and none of them were true. I played 4-H softball there, and made a game-saving catch in center field… in the same game where my cousin Bob hit the game-winning home run. But those were things kids did everywhere. It didn’t make me special. There was no real magic in it.
Being a farm-kid’s kid taught me the importance of doing your chores, every day and on time. If you didn’t do them, animals could get sick, animals could die, crops could be spoiled, the chickens could get angry and petulant and peck your hands when you tried to get the eggs. Cows could get grumpy and kick the milk bucket. Cats could vow revenge if you didn’t direct a spray or two at their little faces as they lined up to watch you milk the cows. And you never knew for sure what a vengeful cat might do to you later, as cats were evil. They might jump on the keyboard during your piano recital. They might knock the turkey stuffing bowl off the top of the dryer when Mom and Grandma and several aunts were cooking Thanksgiving Dinner. And I know old black Midnight did that on purpose because he got to snatch some off the floor before it could be reached by angry aunts with brooms and dustpans. And all of it was your fault if it all led back to not doing your chores, and not doing them exactly right.
But, even though we learned responsibility and work ethic from our chores, that was not the real home-town magic either. I wasn’t technically a real farm kid. Sure, I picked up the eggs in the chicken house at Grandpa and Grandma Aldrich’s farm more than once. And I did, in fact, help with milking machines and even milking cows by hand and squirting cats in the faces at Uncle Donny’s farm. I walked beans, going up and down the rows to pull and chop weeds out of the bean fields at Uncle Larry’s farm. I drove a tractor at Great Uncle Alvin’s farm. But I didn’t have to do any of those things every single day. My mother and my father both grew up on farms. But we lived in town. So, my work ethic was probably worth only a quarter of what the work ethic of any of my friends in school was truly worth. I was a bum kid by comparison. Gary G. and Kevin K, both real farm kids and older than me, explained this to me one day behind the gymnasium with specific examples and fists.
Being a farm kid helped to forge my character. But that was really all about working hard, and nothing really to do with magic.
I truly believe the real magic to be found in Rowan, Iowa, my home town, was the fact that it was boring. It was a sleepy little town, that never had any real event… well, except maybe for a couple of monster blizzards in the 60’s and 70’s, and the Bicentennial parade and tractor pull on Main Street in 1976, and a couple of costume contests in the 1960’s held in the Fire Station where I had really worked hard on the costumes, a scarecrow one year, and an ogre the next, where I almost won a prize. But nothing that changed history or made Rowan the center of everything.
And therein lies the magic. I had to look at everything closely to find the things and strategies that would take me to the great things and places where I wanted to end up. I learned to wish upon a star from Disney movies. I learned about beauty of body and soul from the girls that I grew up with, most of them related. And I invented fantastical stories with the vivid imagination I discovered lurking in my own stupid head. I embarrassed Alicia Stewart by telling everyone that I could prove she was a Martian princess, kidnapped and brought to Earth by space pirates that only I knew how to defeat. And I learned to say funny things and make people laugh… but in ways that didn’t get me sent to the principal’s office in school. Yes, it was the magic of my own imagination. And boring Iowa farm towns made more people with magic in them than just me. John Wayne was one. Johnny Carson was one also. And have you heard of Elijah Wood? Or the painter Grant Wood? Or the actress Cloris Leachman?
Yep. We were such stuff as dreams were made on in small towns in Iowa. And that is real magic.
Yes, now that I am a goofy old coot, I am becoming forgetful. I have repeatedly been unable to remember names of people, places, and things. Last week I couldn’t remember the first name of Arizona Cardinal’s hero quarterback Kurt Warner to give him credit for almost winning the 2008 Superbowl. Worse than that, I couldn’t remember the word “fiancé” when I needed to introduce my eldest son’s fiancé at my mother’s funeral. Saying, “My son’s lady friend,” got me into some trouble. Jack Warner? Was it Jack Warner? No.
I am used to having an incredible stockpile of useless trivia available in my stupid old head to pull out at a moment’s notice. It was so bad that nobody was willing to play Trivial Pursuit with me. Even now when nobody is even able to remember that that was a game you could play a decade ago. Now, however, there must be holes in my head that regularly leak nouns.
I even forgot to write a new, original post yesterday (when, ironically, I was supposed to post this essay) because a family member has decided to contest Mom’s will to get money instead of keeping the farm in the family. Of course, I forgot because I was busy arguing and being called a liar on the phone. Siblings can be both a comfort and a curse.
On Saturday my memory helped prevent me from telling the verifiable truth when I say, “I am a nudist.” I had plans to visit Bluebonnet Nudist Park for the first time since 2017. I had called ahead to get permission to visit. I had bought all the necessary supplies; sunscreen, mosquito repellent, emergency diabetic snacks, etc. I had thoroughly bathed, applied sunscreen on parts that hadn’t seen the sun in years, and bought a charging converter for my car that could keep my phone alive for the fifty-minute drive.
And then I set out.
But I forgot to pick up my mask in the bedroom. So, I circled back. As I pulled into the drive again, I found the mask on the seat next to me where I had intentionally put it in order not to forget it and then forgot that I had done that. So, I set out again.
But I forgot my towel. Not a thing you want to attend a nudist park without. So, I circled back again.
..And on the drive returning home for the second time, I realized that doing a fifty-five-mile drive with the inability to remember important details was not a very safe thing to do. Of course, the adventure of going to a nudist park where you potentially only know three people who’ve seen you naked before is not a thing you do for safety’s sake. But it was not worth the risk. It may have been kinda cold anyway. So, maybe next Spring. If I can remember…
I have friends and relatives that believe in angels. Religious people who believe in the power of prayer and the love of God. And I cannot say that I do not also believe. But I also happen to believe that angels live among us.
My Great Grandma Nellie Hinckley was, as far as I am concerned, an angel. Born in the late 1800’s, she was a practical prairie farmer’s wife. She knew how to make butter in a churn. She knew how to treat bee stings and spider bites. She knew how to cook good, wholesome food that stuck to your ribs and kept you going until the next meal rolled around. She knew how to cook on a wood-burning stove, and knew why you needed to keep corn cobs in a pile by the outhouse door. Or, in the case of rich folks, why you needed to read the Sears catalog in the little room behind the cut-out crescent moon.
She also knew how to head a family. She had seven kids and raised six of them up to adulthood. She sent a son off to World War II. She had nine grandchildren and more great grandchildren, of which I was one of the not-so-great ones, than I can even count on two hands and two feet, the toes of which I can’t always see. Great great grandchildren were even greater. Tell me you can’t believe she was a messenger from God, always knowing God’s will, and making the future happen with a steady hand, and eyes that brooked no nonsense from lie-telling boys.
Mother Mendiola was an angel too. I met her at my first school, Frank Newman Junior High in Cotulla, Texas. She was the seventh grade Life Science teacher. She had been a nun before becoming a teacher, and she was a single lady her whole life. But she was a natural mother figure to the children in her classes. She’s the one who taught me how to talk to fatherless boys, engage them in learning about things that excited them, and become a lifelong mentor to them, willing to help them with life’s problems even long after they had graduated from both junior high and high school. She was not only a mother to students, but she nurtured other teachers as well. She showed Alice and I how to talk to Hispanic kids even though we were both so white we almost glowed in the dark. She went to bat for kids who got in trouble with the principal, and even those who sometimes got into trouble with the law. She had a way of holding her hand out to kids and encouraging them to place their troubles in it. She even helped pregnant young girls with wise counsel and a loving, accepting heart, even when they were seriously in the wrong. When they talk about being an “advocate for kids” in educational conferences, they always make me picture her and her methods. I can still see her in my mind’s eye with clenched fists on her hips and saying, “I am tired of it, and it will get better NOW!” And it always got better. Because she was an angel. She had the power of the love of God behind her every action and motivation. It still makes me weep to remember she is gone now. She got her wings and flew on to other things a long time ago now.
Some people may call it a blasphemy for me to say that these people, no matter how good and critically important they were, could really be angels. But I have to say it. I have to believe it. I know this because I saw them do these things, with my own two eyes, and how could they not be messengers from God? I convinces me that I need to work at becoming an angel too.
Some Sunday thoughts require the right music.
Some Sunday thoughts actually are music.
- 1.a state of being pleasantly lost in one’s thoughts; a daydream:”a knock on the door broke her reverie“
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I had originally thought to call this post “A Walk with God.” But that would probably offend my Christian friends and alienate my Jehovah’s Witness wife. It would bother my intellectual atheist friends too. Because they know I claim to be a Christian Existentialist, in other words, “an atheist who believes in God.” Agnostics are agnostics because they literally know they don’t know what is true and what is merely made up by men. And not knowing offends most people in the Western world.
But Debussy’s Reverie is a quiet walk in the sacred woods, the forest of as-yet-uncovered truths.
And that is what I need today. A quiet walk in the woods… when no literal woods are available.
This pandemic has been hard on me. I am a prisoner in my room at home most days. My soul is in darkness, knowing that the end could be right around the corner. I am susceptible to the disease. It didn’t slay me on its first visit to the house, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get me on the second or third visit. Health experts are expecting a resurgence of up to 3,000 deaths per day before the end of the year. If I am relying on luck to avoid it, luck will run out.
I am not afraid to die. I have no regrets. But I have been in a reverie about what has been in the past, what might have been, and what yet may be… if only I am granted the time.
And, as always, I feel like I have writing yet to do. I am about to finish The Wizard in his Keep. And I have stories beyond that to complete if I may.
But the most important thing right now is having time to think. Time for Reverie. And reflections upon the great symphony of life as it continues to play on… with or without me.
Some of the drawings and paintings I do, I do because they make me happy. I know it’s more noble if I do it to make you, the viewer, happy. But part of making art is that you are making it for your own needs. Art is therapy. Often, art is love. This picture of Shannon (not her real name) makes me happy. She was a student I loved, (only in the legal, Platonic sense.)
This one makes me happy. I drew it on a day I needed to laugh. And I laugh a little even now when I look at it.
This one is also a smirkable smirk-maker.
I drew this on a day when I was lonely.
This one tickles me on many levels.
These Telleron, temporary Martians helped me start my publishing career with the publication of Catch a Falling Star.
And pretty girls can make me happy too.
Especially naked ones.
And I mean drawing them, not what was in your evil mind.
One should never be snarky. All you can accomplish by being snarky is making Snark Smallberg mad. He doesn’t want to be called “Snarky” anymore. And we should respect him since he is a movie star and makes millions of dollars by making terrible movies. Don’t you get why he deserves respect? Did you not read the words, “Millions of dollars?”
Of course, I understand snark really well. I was a middle-school English teacher for many years. The answer to most teacher questions asked directly to students is made up of 50% teacher-pleasing and 50% needing to be translated from teen-speaking Snarkese. You have to understand that half the time the answer means the opposite of what is being said.
“You are such a good teacher, Mr. B, and you teach us really useful stuff. That’s why we throw spitballs at you when your back is turned, because we love and respect you so much.”
And I would see that same level of love and respect in my paycheck each month.
And of course, we are coming out of a golden age of good government right now. Under the greatest president we ever had (by his own testimony) we were treated to a healthy time of nothing but helpful tax cuts to the fortunes of the golden job-creators who continue to generously agree we can keep living this wonderful life if we just work hard enough. Pulling ourselves up by our boot straps because gravity doesn’t exist if you are rich. The problem of climate changed, though not real in any way, is solved by removing regulations from industries who want to enhance our waterways with chemical waste. And any crime committed by those in public office is to be forgiven because it is so good for the economy. And we should stop all witch-hunts because we have already caught too many witches, and we are not finding enough of them on the Democratic side.
Daffy is definitely angry because things are going so well, and we just aren’t appreciating it enough.
And why am I sparking with so many snarky sparks in today’s hitching post for horses of a different color? Well, my two sisters, my brother, and I recently inherited a 150-year-old family farm. In our parents’ will, nothing could be done to the property, including selling any part of it, without the agreement of all four of us. But little brother, by the unique privilege of being the youngest and most spoiled of us, has decided to contest the will. One out of four of us is aparently going to use legal means to split up and sell off a family legacy. Life is so wonderfully fair. God bless his Republican abilities to be generous, kind, and thoughtful… but before I can snark any further, I am getting a phone call. Caller ID says it is “Spam Risk.” That’s a Russian name, isn’t it? I am sure it will be an important phone call.
Some books come along telling a story that has to be taken seriously in ways that don’t make sense in any normal way. The Alchemist is one of those books.
What is an alchemist, after all?
An alchemist uses the medieval forms of the art of chemistry to transmute things, one thing becoming another thing.
Coelho in this book is himself an alchemist of ideas. He uses this book to transmute one idea into another until he digs deep enough into the pile of ideas to finally transmute words into wisdom.
There is a great deal of wisdom in this book, and I can actually share some of it here without spoiling the story.
Here are a few gemstones of wisdom from the Alchemist’s treasure chest;
“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting…” (p.13)
“It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary; only wise men are able to understand them.” (p.17)
“All things are one. And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” (p.24)
“And when he had gone only a short distance, he realized that, while they were erecting the stall, one of them had spoken Arabic and the other Spanish. And they had understood each other perfectly well. There must be a language that doesn’t depend on words, the boy thought.” (p.45)
All of these quotes from the book, as you can see, come from the first third of the book. There are many more treasures to be found in this book. I should not share them with you here. Just as the main character of the story learns, you have to do the work for yourself. But this book is not only an enjoyable read, but a map for how you can execute your own journey towards your “Personal Legend”. In fact, you may find that the book tells you not only how to go about making a dream come true, but, if you are already on that journey successfully, it tells you what things you are already doing right.