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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Filed under artwork, comic strips, fairies, Hidden Kingdom, humor, Paffooney, pen and ink

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

AeroQuest 3… Canto 91

Canto 91 – Ruins in the Jungle (the Green Thread)

The building itself was one of the strangest constructs King Killer had ever seen.  It was like a disintegrating pyramid, but, impossibly, it defied gravity and hung above the jungle floor in an upside down position.  The stone it was made of looked sandy and crumbly, but was cold and metallic to the touch.

Ookah pointed upwards at what appeared to be an upside-down doorway with a vaulted roof.  It didn’t take Slythinus’ expertise to understand what he meant.  All the many monkey-people quivered with fear as they stared upward at the opening.

“Up there?” moaned King.  They want me to get up there?”

“The Lemurians can do it,” offered Hooey helpfully.

“Yeah, well, I don’t have a tail to swing by.”  King’s face darkened as he felt ready to bop the old Time Knight on the nose.

Wicked Wanda was grinning at King.  Her green eyes were full of satire and insults as she laughingly got King’s attention.  He would’ve hit her instead of Hooey, except he suddenly noticed how beautiful and shapely she was.  Why did women do this to him?  He hadn’t recovered yet from the loss of Sheherazade.

“I’m wearing the answer,” said Wanda.

“Oh?”

“Yes.  You’ve heard of grav boots, haven’t you?”

“You mean you’ve been wearing grav boots all this time and never told us?”

“Well, not exactly.  It’s the same anti-gravity technology, but it’s in my brassiere.”

“What?!”

“You know… When a woman reaches a certain age, she needs a bit of extra support in strategic ways.”

“So how does your anti-gravity bra help us?”

“Oh, it has an intensity control.”

Hooey began to laugh.  “I get it!  If she turns the thing up high enough, she can fly!”

“That isn’t the funniest part,” said Wanda.  “In order to get us all up there, I’m going to have to take it off and throw it back down to you.  Each of you has to wear it in order to get up there.”

Hooey rolled on the undergrowth, howling with laughter.

“I don’t think it’s funny,” said King, frowning.

“Ahh,” moaned the eyeless Emperor, “there are times when I really regret losing my eyes.”

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

Polly Ticks

Politics are complicated. Our economic and quality-of-life issues are basically killing us during this pandemic. And you cannot blame it all on the Simian in Chief. Or even on his Mean Monkey Party (GOP stands for Greedy Old Primates). They get a lot more of the justified blame than they are willing to accept without a lot of monkey howls and poop throwing. But not all the greedy evil people are Monkey Party People. There are definite problems with the black spots on the armor of the white knights we were depending on to slay the dragons.

The problems with Herr Twitler, the Chaos Clown have only gotten worse. We failed to hold him responsible for any of the many crimes he has committed. Impeached, but turning impeachment into peachy pie, Trumpalumpa the Oompaloompa is now able to do anything his manic monkey mind can conjure up for him to use against us. We suffer for the crimes of being poor, or a minority, or an immigrant. No matter what he does to us, he will get away with it, and then take away the whistle-blowers’ whistles and turn all Inspectors General into blind-folded privates.

And if I die from Covid 19, the terrible Trumpinator will not exactly be convicted of murder. But he is directly responsible. After Ebola there was an extensive pandemic playbook and procedures and protocols in place for the next health crisis. But because the Trumptastic Trumpaloo detected Obama-cooties on it, he threw it all away and fired the special task force and pandemic office.

And it is not even fun to make fun of him anymore. Nothing that used to be funny can still create even a wan smile. And how much of this is my fault?

I voted all Democrats in the last election. I have called most of my Republican, Trumpatater-loving friends doody-heads enough to alienate all of them (though admittedly I used a number of big words so that they don’t know what they mean). I have explained the problems with Trumpapalama and his minions like Devos and Barr on social media until I’m blue in the face, and purple on the inside. But none of that gets rid of the pumpkin-headed Cheeto-man.

I even need to get some of these dividers for the family dinner table. I am beginning to prefer lyme-disease ticks over Polly Ticks. I have had way too much of my blood sucked out these last four years.

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Filed under angry rant, cartoon review, cartoons, clowns, foolishness, humor, politics

Dealing With It… With Grace

Yesterday the Princess graduated from Turner High School. Her time as a Turner Lion has come to an end… in the middle of a Coronavirus pandemic.

The last two-and-a-half years of her senior year were lost in a miasma of a mismanaged world health crisis. We have been in quarantine. Both of her parents are diabetics with blood-pressure issues. And we live in Red-State Texas where shutting down the State to keep poor people alive was a step taken grudgingly only at the last minute.

Senior celebrations and time with senior friends during graduation season simply could not happen.

But graduation happened in spite of the virus. It was an unusual sort of ceremony. It happened at Texas Motor Speedway, a NASCAR-and-redneck sort of place. The families were on the race-track infield in their cars, with a separate area for guests and extended families to park their cars. We all watched the graduation on the big video monitor where they normally show violent car-crashes in slow motion. Students were seated on the race track itself, their chairs all distanced six feet from each other. The graduates wore masks except for those brief times when pictures were taken. And some even wore masks during the pictures. (High School Staff was there to hand out masks to anyone who forgot to bring one, and to yell at anyone stupid enough to take them off at the wrong moment. Something that only happens with 25% of seniors… the ones eligible to graduate.)

I have only the greatest respect and appreciation for the staff and principals of R.L. Turner High School. As a former teacher, I know how extra-hard it must be to pull off something like this in the middle of something like we all faced this particular year. In 1975, during my graduation, a thunderstorm struck just as we were starting the processional to “Pomp and Circumstance” for our outdoor ceremony. We literally ran for the gym, and ended up crossing the stage in the auditorium while friends and family who couldn’t squeeze in watched on a tiny closed-circuit TV in the library. Everybody was water-spotted and smelling like wet farm animals. This year was a much bigger adjustment with a lot less weather problems. We sat in our cars as if we were in a drive-in movie and watched our daughter graduate on a huge outdoor screen. And her brother in Oklahoma and her grandmother in Iowa got to watch what we watched through a link on their mobile devices.

So, for all the regrets this year has brought already, at least this graduation ceremony was carried out with style, and will one day make a great story to tell future children.

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Filed under autobiography, humor, kids

What the Heck is Wrong with Me on Art Day?

There are probably too many things on my mind today. My daughter is graduating from High School today at the Texas Motor Speedway. A graduation in cars going around a circle because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

There might be a bug or two in my thinking machinery today.
I tend not to look at things the way other people do. I even sign my name to my artwork backwards.
My friends tend to be imaginary and highly unusual.
Beauty is fluid and open to opinion.
Open also to interpretation.
Here’s an artwork that I was looking for yesterday and didn’t find until today.

My daughter the Princess is graduating today. That is probably what has my head swirling.

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Another “Oops!” School Story

Eating pencils when you are supposed to be writing something isn’t a recommended learning strategy, but is more useful in South Texas than having blue hair.

When I was a rookie teacher in the Spring of 1982, I had to take two busloads of eighth graders nearly a hundred miles to see the State Capitol in Austin for their annual 8th Grade Field Trip.

If you don’t see the potential for disaster in that, well, you are in for a tougher life going forward than the one I am about to complain about.

Anyway, it was an extra-warm sunny Texas day and we had an endless-hours journey in an un-air-conditioned bus with sixty kids and four teachers per bus. And I was the new teacher filled with sizzling rage from enduring eight months and fourteen days worth of get-the-new-teacher tricks by fourteen-and-fifteen-and-sixteen-year-old kids (I didn’t have to rage at the eighteen-year-olds on the field trip because the same things that kept them in the eighth grade until they were eligible for Medicare were the things that disqualified them from going on the field trip). And because the principal was convinced that you could prevent death by throwing things on a bus by having a teacher sitting near the perpetrator, or the potential target, the teachers had to spread out and sit with the kids. Of course, our bus had 59 perpetrators and one potential target (Tomasso, the kid nobody could stand). And the coaches got to sit by the vatos locos most likely to fling metal and hard food. I, of course, got Tomasso.

So, I sat for five hours on the way up to Austin practicing trying to kill apple-core tossers with my best teacher’s stink-eye while ducking gum wads, wrapper balls, and half-eaten Rice-Krispies Treats. And I was also listening to Tomasso’s endless weird questions and comments about penguins that made him the popular target. I got extra practice recognizing bad words in Spanish and resisting the urge to call them “pendejos” in return.

And we got to Austin tired, sweaty, and hungry because it took extra time in both San Antonio and San Marcos traffic, and we missed our lunch connection in a parking lot in central Austin. The kids were mostly not hungry. They were full of chips and hot Cheetos and other salty, unhealthy snack food. Instead of hunger, they were dying of thirst. And while the History teacher in charge of the trip and the coaches were consulting maps and trying to reach the lunch connection with a walkie talkie, I spotted a herd of students going over a wall into a nearby parking garage. I followed to see them walking over the hoods of parked cars to get to a fire hose that they were using as a watering hole.

We were, of course, unable to single out any individuals for punishment. They were dying of thirst, and it was a three-hundred-degree-in-the-sunshine parking lot where we were waiting.

We got to the Capitol and walked around, bored by the tour guide, and found the one entertaining fact about the Texas Capitol Building. Governor Hogg once had two daughters named Ima and Ura. Their pictures hang in an upstairs display case. Kids laughed and called them “pendejos”. Even the white kids.

Then, the way home took an additional seven hours. All of the coaches fell asleep on the way home, and I was the only teacher awake and standing between unpopular nerds and death by de-pantsing. I was told that somewhere in the middle of the writhing masses of eighth grade arms and legs and ultra-loud voices, a shy kid the teachers all liked lost his virginity to one of the more sexually aggressive girls while the other kids close enough to see in the general darkness watched. Was it true? When he got asked in the classroom, he just grinned.

I remember a lot of “Oops!” School Stories happening on field trips. I went on more than twenty of the big trips like that one, and I only remember a handful that went smoothly. But this one stands out in my memory because it was the first. And first experiences set the standard the rest are judged by. And I tell you this because, this time of year, if things were still like they used to be, and there was no pandemic, field trips to hell like that one would be going on for first-year teachers.

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Filed under autobiography, education, humor, kids, Paffooney, teaching, Texas

Garrison Keillor

I am definitely feeling old. So, as a result, I am re-posting something old. My literary hero, Garrison Keillor, somewhat faded now by the #metoo movement, still makes me laugh and still inspires me.

Catch a Falling Star

Sometimes it is good to acknowledge your influences and the people whose work has changed your life into what it now appears to be.  Such a person, a profound influence on my story-telling habits, is Garrison Keillor.

"GKpress" by Prairie Home Productions. Licensed under Attribution via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:GKpress.jpg#/media/File:GKpress.jpg “GKpress” by Prairie Home Productions. Licensed under Attribution via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:GKpress.jpg#/media/File:GKpress.jpg

This man in the picture who looks like one of my relatives, is the story-teller, writer, and radio personality Garrison Keillor.

The only way to accurately explain this whole honorarium-business is to tell you a story…  You see, Great Grandma Hinckley, when she was reaching the tarnished end of her golden years, the latter part of her 90’s, the nearly-a-century mark, always called me “Donny”.  Apparently “Michael” was too hard a name to actually remember.  To be fair, though, it was my Uncle’s name, and I did look in the 1970’s very much like Uncle Don when he was a…

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Hindsight

A collage of some of my drawings posted over a year ago.

The world is different now than it has ever been. More of my life is in the past than will ever be in the future, so looking back is really most of what is left to me.

I have a lot of good memories. In fact, my novels are mostly about those memories. But there has to be a bit of the bad memories too. There is no story without conflict. No life is lived and learned from if there has been nothing to battle against, nothing to overcome.

I hope we have learned something from the past few months. But experience has told me that we probably haven’t. We didn’t learn hard lessons before… as a species. It is more or less up to the individual to stay away from the pit traps the herd is heading towards.

But as we swiftly approach future troubles, we need to look once or twice into the rear-view mirror.

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