To see the complete Chapter 1, use the following link;https://catchafallingstarbook.net/2018/11/24/hidden-kingdom-chapter-1-complete/
It has always been a hopeful sign for me when my favorite sports teams do well in the playoffs. The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series in 2011 and the blossoming of my novel-writing career began right after in 2012. The Arizona Cardinals made it to the Super Bowl in 2008, and though they lost, they came extremely close to winning, losing only in the final minutes, presaged my successful shift to the ESL teacher position at Naaman Forest High School in Garland, Texas. And now the St. Louis Blues hockey team won a first round playoff series for the first time in a while, against a top-ranked team that was supposed to beat them, and set themselves up for a deep playoff run that might turn into their first ever Stanley Cup championship of the NHL.
Jaden Schwartz, a Blues scoring star, got three goals in one game, called a hat trick in hockey, in the final game against the Winnepeg Jets this last weekend. They are on the road to more victories, and even if they lose going forward, it is still a positive sign for me at a time when I desperately need something positive to happen.
Here’s a movie review of a film that has disappeared from the nation’s consciousness about things I think are critical for keeping the dream alive. I want you to think about which wolf we are feeding at this time in history.
I am compelled to review this movie precisely because it has been a box-office disappointment and has been criticized for not being the best work director Brad Bird is capable of. Other reviewers have said the set-up for the trip to the other dimension was wasted time and the plot is too slow…. they didn’t make enough use of the marvelous “other world” that they labored so intensively to create. I think the main reason people are disappointed in this movie, which I saw for the first time by my lonesome self at the metroplex in Lewisville, Texas, is that people have either forgotten how to watch intelligent movies, or they have simply never learned.
The thing I loved most about this beautiful, inspirational movie, is its basic intelligence and the wonderful way Disney/Pixar’s Brad Bird weaves complex themes of past, present, and future together into a…
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Texas weather is getting wildly wonky. For the third time, and also the worst time, it rained so hard that the water coming downhill from the neighbor’s yard flooded through cracks in the brickwork outside and endampened the family room carpet. It is a mess. And probably not covered by insurance, since we didn’t specifically have flood insurance, and if we did, we didn’t have downhill-racing flooding insurance rather than up-from-the-creek flooding insurance. The Princess’s bedroom had two inches of water on the floor where flooding had previously destroyed her carpet.
And since that wasn’t test-of-our-character enough, the electricity went out at 11:00 p.m. and didn’t come back until 11:00 a.m. this morning. Twelve hours of darkness, no air-conditioning, no fans, standing water everywhere, and a panicky dog afraid of the thunder… How can that not be good times? But we survived it. Better than a tornado. Right? That’s probably reserved for next time.
Canto Sixteen – Uncle Dash
Mom loved to cook. She could do wondrous things with a casserole. In fact, her Tater Tot casserole was such a hit that it had spread to households all over the county and people from as far away as Illinois were writing her letters to get the secret recipe. It wasn’t such a secret. Browned and loose ground beef, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, Tater Tots from Ore-Ida, and real cheddar cheese went into her magical casserole. But friends of friends and family were practically rabid about wanting to get their hands on the special secret recipe. They didn’t realize until she told them that the recipe came from the label of a Campbell’s soup can to begin with.
So the house smelled wonderful because Uncle Dash and Valerie’s cousin Stacey were coming to dinner.
Stacy was college age now, and Valerie looked up to her. She was smart and independent, and she knew how to dress up like a fashion model whenever there was an excuse to do it. As Val and Stacy set the table, the two had a brief moment or two to catch up on cousin stuff.
“I hear the Pirates are re-forming,” Stacy said. “And they tell me you are going to be one of them?”
“Well, yeah… so?”
“Don’t bring it up tonight. Daddy will get mad. I mean, more mad than he already is.”
“Uncle Dash is mad?” Valerie was slightly taken by surprise. Uncle Dash was the kind of guy who was always laughing, always joking. Valerie had relied on his sense of humor and mature wisdom her whole life long. She believed he was even wiser than Daddy Kyle. He was a farmer. He had the wisdom of the Earth.
“Your Uncle Dash is mad at me,” said Stacey.
“Why would he be mad at you?”
“I told him a secret today. One I have to tell everybody sooner or later.”
“Really? Tell me.”
Stacey was obviously biting her own lower lip for some reason. Why would she do that? It didn’t really make sense to Val. There were tears in her cousin’s eyes.
“I mean it, Stacey. I love you. You can tell me.”
“Well, I…” Before Stacey could spill it, the adults came into the room.
“Really,” Uncle Dash said with a frown on his face, “We could sell that sixty acres southwest of town and the big pasture along the Iowa River. That would give us enough money to at least bargain for more time… maybe another growing season.”
“But, Dash, that’s all your land. This is my debt. I can’t let you sacrifice from your share. It should be some of my land.” Kyle sat down at the head of the table with a defeated-seeming kerplunk. Valerie knew her dad’s basic onomatopoeias, the sound-words of his soul, and kerplunk was definitely not a good one.
“But it is some of the less-valuable land I am offering to sell. All of your land is better, and we should be trying to keep all of it.”
“Yeah, well… I still don’t want you to make sacrifices to pay my debts.”
Uncle Dash took the seat next to Daddy Kyle where Valerie would’ve sat if they didn’t have company.
Mom came in carrying a big casserole dish full of steaming-hot tater-tot casserole. She proudly set her work of art down in the middle of the dining room table. “Stacey, will you help me get the peas and the mashed potatoes?” Mom said. Then she dashed back out to the kitchen.
“You’re my brother, Kyle. You have to let me help you. And it is all family land. We have to work together, even though we divided the farms when Dad died. It is all one large farm, really.”
“Well, yeah, but…”
That conversation died too as Mom and Stacey brought the rest of the supper to the table, and Mom insisted that everybody sit down and eat. Valerie said Grace and food was passed all around. Everybody at the table had a farmer’s healthy appetite, and soon mouths were too full to talk. Conversation was suspended for the more important thing… at least until all were stuffed and satisfied.
“It’s a shame that Patricia couldn’t come with you this evening, Dash,” Mom said.
“She was sorry to miss it, but she really wasn’t feeling well. She needed to take some medicine and go to bed. Which reminds me… Stacey has some new she needs to share with everyone in the family.”
Stacey looked at her father with a distinctly angry expression.
“Well, you may as well tell them.”
Stacey’s glare at Uncle Dash made Valerie suddenly worried for her cousin. What could be wrong?
“I’m… not going to college anymore.”
“Oh, Stacey!” Mom said. “Why not?”
The pause was unbearable.
Stunned silence followed. Uncle Dash’s face was so sad it almost made Valerie burst into tears. Stacey did cry, and that was almost worse.
“How, I mean… who?” Daddy didn’t know what to say. He was kinda tongue-tied, right up until the answer hit him square in the memory. “Not the Toad! Oh, Stacey!”
“His name is Brom, not Toad. I don’t know why everyone needs to call him that.” Stacey’s tears were replaced almost instantly with fury.
“It’s the way he drives. He reminds everyone of Toad in the Disney movie Wind in the Willows. You know how recklessly he roars about in that yellow Ford Mustang of his.” Uncle Dash was very direct and soft-spoken. It was an argument Valerie had overheard before.
“He also has a big mouth like a frog,” said Valerie timidly.
“Oh, Val…” Stacey shot her a wounded look. Whose side was she supposed to be on, anyway?
“Well, I have to say, it isn’t such a big surprise. You have been in love with that boy for a while now, haven’t you, Stacey?” Daddy Kyle said.
“Yes, I love him with all of my heart.”
“Is he going to do the right thing by you?” Mom asked.
“He’s willing to marry me… if Daddy doesn’t forbid it.”
“Dash, you can’t forbid it,” said Daddy Kyle. “That’s no way to start off a life… for Stacey or Brom either one.”
“You would take their side, wouldn’t you,” Uncle Dash said harshly. “You know, as my little brother, it wouldn’t kill you to take my side once in a while.”
Daddy stared straight at his plate. His mouth was a tense and very straight line. “Stacey would be good for Brom. As Mrs. Brown, she’s bound to settle him down at least a little bit. Like the way Julie settled me down. You remember what a wild kid I was, right?”
“We haven’t decided how it’s going to be, yet,” Dash said calmly. “There is a lot to be decided yet.”
“You really can’t decide for her, you know,” Daddy Kyle said.
Uncle Dash got angry at that. “How would you feel if it were Valerie in this situation? Maybe with somebody like that Murphy kid… or Richard Martin’s little rag boy?”
“It’s not the same. Valerie is still too young to be a mother.”
“And Stacey isn’t?”
“Kyle, Dash, please!” said Mom, “don’t discuss this in front of the girls. They can hear everything, and I don’t think it helps anybody to hear you two argue about this.”
It was quiet for a few moments, but a very tense quiet.
“Julie is right, Dash,” Daddy said. “Why don’t you and I go for a drive in your pickup, and the girls can spend some time together here.”
“We have a lot to talk about, Kyle. But it won’t do a lick of good if you don’t listen more than you talk.”
The two brothers glared at each other. But they were family, and too much alike not to smash heads together like a couple of rams in springtime. So they both went out and got in Uncle Dash’s Chevy pickup and drove on into town.
“Headed for Martin’s Bar and Grill,” said Stacey, blowing a stray hair out of her eyes to show disgust.
Valerie wordlessly snaked her thin young arms around her beloved cousin and gave her a distressed and tearful squeeze.
“It will all get worked out for the best,” said Mom in her most comforting voice.
“I hope so,” Stacey said. Then after a long pause she repeated, “I hope so.”
Spring has sproinged on us, and springy-sproinged hard. We have had a wet March and a wet April so far. Pollen is heavy in the air to a record degree, and guilty of making my head ache blisteringly for the third day in a row.
I will also have to take a while recovering from my tax headache. I owed money again either because the overworked retirement system representatives didn’t figure the withholding tax correctly… again, or because Trump’s tax-cut bill required more money from pensioners and poor people… again. Either way, I have no emergency funds in the bank once again, one of the perils of bankruptcy and a source of headaches..
Another of the perils of bankruptcy is the lovely way the court treats me, sending me letters in the mail that suggest they are about to drop their bankruptcy order and allow creditors to swoop in and skeletonize my bank account like piranhas, just as they do to James Franciscus in that crappy man-eating-fish movie of the seventies. (Piranhas, not creditors, I mean, though the differences are small,) The skeletonization will strip meat off the bones of my financial health for about ten months at this point. And why are they suggesting such a personal Armageddon for Mickey? Because mortgage-payment-verification paperwork wasn’t confirmed for two days. Now there is another plan-adjustment hearing scheduled for the end of May. My lawyer says it is all routine. Don’t worry. But I still worry that I have tastier flesh on my bones than James Franciscus had on his in the seventies. (Never let it be said that Mickey doesn’t know how to flog a simile to death!)
So, I could potentially starve to death in the coming months, have my bank account skeletonized, and have my head explode from allergies. Somehow I must deserve all of that, right? And, meanwhile, Trump has survived the Mueller Report with the help of his criminal friends. He may even get re-elected to the Presidency, because there is no accounting for voter stupidity.
It is a springtime full of various headaches, and they have all got me down.
I am having trouble drawing due to arthritis and other illnesses all mixed together like witches’ poison. So, today I apologize with old drawings and a promise to do better next Saturday.
Let me also show you Firefang, a D&D character who may soon make her way into a novel, The Forever Boy. She’s supposedly a dragon traveling in human form. I don’t know if we can believe her, but I don’t plan to make her mad anytime soon. The dragon in the picture is what she says she looks like au naturel. Let’s not try to argue with her about that. Fiery temper, don’t you know.