To see the complete Chapter 1, use the following link;https://catchafallingstarbook.net/2018/11/24/hidden-kingdom-chapter-1-complete/
Category Archives: artwork
Canto Two – Bait Worth Biting On
Describing the feeling of entering the Ghost House for the first time would prove quite difficult for Valerie when she tried to do it later on in Miss Bierstadt’s class for an English essay assignment. But at the moment she crawled through the Tunnel of Doom, she would’ve described it as a feeling in her belly like eating a bowl of iced earthworms and trying to find a place to throw up in a jungle full of man-eating plants that smelled an awful lot like marigolds or something. It was that kind of combination of anticipation, bad smells, icky things to see and touch, and the sensory deprivation of entering a candle-lit darkness from the bright September world outside.
“Welcome, Miss Valerie Clarke,” said freshman football hero and huge Polish hunk Pidney Breslow. Valerie was deeply in love with the square-shouldered giant, and sincerely hoped he would be the leader of this Pirate club.
“Hello,” she said, almost timidly.
“You are just in time for the first official meeting of the reforming Norwall Pirates’ Club,” said Mary Philips brightly. Mary had extended the official invitation to Valerie to come here, although Val didn’t really know why. Mary had said that she didn’t want to be the only girl in the club, but why would a girl like Mary want to be in a boys’ club? She had a bad feeling that the high school freshman girl also had her cap set for winning Pidney as a boyfriend. But, plain-looking as Mary was, Val was only mildly concerned.
A quick look around as Danny Murphy crawled in after her revealed the other boys in attendance at the secret meeting. Ray Zeffer, another high school freshman was there. He was kinda handsome in a way, too, but he was always so sad-looking with those big puppy-dog brown eyes of his. He had a neatly combed mess of jet black hair too, which was also attractive. Val could easily learn to like this club.
The other boy, a high school junior, was kinda creepy. His name was Conrad Doble. He was the only one at the meeting who had been a member of the original Norwall Pirates. He was tall and thin, with lank blond hair that hadn’t had a haircut in too long. He had a distinct problem with facial Acne. And he insisted on leering at Valerie, like he wanted to take a bite or two and eat her up. For the first time Val understood why he had the semi-Shakespearian nickname of King Leer.
“You know that re-forming the Pirates is a sucky idea, right?” said Doble, leering at Mary Philips for the moment. “There’s no way to go back to those things. Milt Morgan had all the ideas and told us what to do. Brent Clarke was the leader and made the ideas happen. How are we gonna fight werewolves or undead Chinese wizards without them?”
“You know that those adventures were mostly lies and fairy tales,” Mary said.
“Still, who will be the wizard? And who will be the leader?” Doble glared at Mary accusingly. “I actually saw the werewolf!”
The two older boys, Ray and Pidney looked at each other sheepishly.
“Re-forming the Pirates was my idea,” said Mary. “I think I should be the leader.”
“A girl as leader?” asked Doble. “We only used to let girls in for sex parties.”
“Be careful what you say to Mary, Goon,” said Pidney.
“Or what? You’ll beat me up with your football muscles?”
“No,” said Ray. “The two of us will beat the crap out of you.” The fire flashing in Ray Zeffer’s eyes was even more intimidating than Pidney’s football muscles, and Pidney’s football muscles were seriously huge.
“Yeah, well… I guess there might be benefits to having girls in the Pirates,” grumbled Doble menacingly.
“So, it’s settled. The Norwall Pirates exist once more,” said Mary with a sparkly smile. “I will be the leader and Pidney will be second in command.”
“Who is the wizard?” growled Doble. “Milt is the hard one to replace.”
“I get that you always thought of Milt Morgan as Merlin and Brent Clarke as his King Arthur,” said Mary, “but do we really need a wizard?”
“Yeah, I think we do,” insisted Doble.
“You know we don’t have to let you be a Pirate this time,” warned Pidney.
“I’m the only real Norwall Pirate here,” said Doble imperially. “You have to have my permission to even do this.”
“It’s all right,” said Mary. “What is it you think we need a wizard for?”
Conrad Doble stood up to his full height and lightly bonked his head on a cellar rafter. After he rubbed his somewhat flattened head of hair, he went over to a nearby cabinet, and removed the right hand door which basically fell out when you touched it. He reached in and brought out a large peanut-butter jar filled with formaldehyde. Floating in it was the severed head of a huge black cat, its dead eyes popped and staring. He placed that on the crate in front of the old couch.
“Gack! What’s that?” asked Pidney.
“The secret mystical symbol of the Pirate leader,” said Mary.
“Smart girl,” said Conrad Doble. “If you know that, then surely you know what a wizard is for.”
“I’m guessing the keeper of secrets,” said Mary.
“The teller of stories!” Valerie blurted out.
“Yes!” said Doble. “Both of those things. But story-teller most of all. That’s what Milt used to do. He told us stories and made us believe in stuff.”
“So, who here is a story-teller?” asked Ray Zeffer.
“Tell us the story of your Uncle Noah,” Pidney said to Mary.
“He is NOT my uncle,” said Mary. “He’s just Dad’s friend. I used to call him uncle when I was little.”
“But that’s the idea, isn’t it?” asked Pidney. “That story you were telling me about your dad’s friend on the freighter in the South Seas? You could tell us that.”
“Maybe. You have to give me time to pull it all together. I think we need to leave that position open for the moment, to give others here a chance to tell a story of their own.” Mary glared in Conrad’s direction for a change.
“Okay,” said Doble. “It’s a deal.”
“Who will be in the club?” asked Pidney.
“I invited everyone here to be a Pirate,” said Mary. “I think all of us need to be here. The Norwall Pirates used to be a group of friends that supported each other and helped each other through hard times. That’s what we all need again. Especially Ray.”
Ray Zeffer blushed and looked off into the darkness of the far corner of the cellar. Valerie wondered why. She decided she would find out… soon.
“Why didn’t you invite Billy Martin?” asked Danny Murphy. “He needs to be a Pirate too.”
“You are right,” said Mary with a smile. “But I didn’t know where to find him or how to get the message to him. Inviting him can be our first club project.”
“Club project? You make it sound all girly!” complained Doble.
So it was decided. Valerie Clarke was now the second girl ever to be a Norwall Pirate. She smiled to herself, but when she caught Doble looking at her again, she changed the smile for a frown.
If you would like to see the complete Chapter 1, here is the link; https://catchafallingstarbook.net/2018/11/24/hidden-kingdom-chapter-1-complete/
I have taken up a foolish notion that I can create a picture book in pen and ink about the fairies that live in the fairy kingdom of Tellosia. Here’s a first experimental picture, a picture of the Scribble Witch Fairy Fay. She is a large butterfly child. She is a full three and a quarter inches tall when she stands upright. I tried to talk her into writing the script for this new book idea. It didn’t work, as you can see. Working by candlelight makes her sleepy. So more of this story will have to wait for another day.
My life as a school teacher is definitely over. That part of my story is complete. I thought, as I found that driving for Uber to earn extra money was becoming too difficult to do, that maybe I could get healthy enough to be a substitute teacher again. Money-wise it makes sense. Three days of substituting in a single week would easily surpass my best days as an Uber driver. And they correctly figure withholding for tax purposes, something that neither my teacher pension nor my Uber account seem capable of doing. I face tax penalties again for 2018.
But my health never seems to stabilize since the car accident in August. Of course, that figures too since my diabetes has gotten worse, insulin has gotten more expensive, and my personal economy tanks monthly. So I have to let go of teacher daydreams. Those chapters are now closed. I must read on more slowly and carefully in the Book of Life.
The way forward is now through being a story-teller. Writing and drawing are things that I can do without leaving the house, sometimes without even getting out of bed. I know that becoming even more sedentary is basically a slow death sentence. But my arthritis, COPD, and diabetes have all worked hand-in-hand to reduce my mobility. They also make driving more dangerous. So, slowing down probably reduces the chances of sudden and destructive death. And I have never been more prolific in my writing.
I have published eight novels. They are, in order of publication, Catch a Falling Star, Magical Miss Morgan, Stardusters and Space Lizards, Snow Babies, Superchicken, The Bicycle-Wheel Genius, Recipes for Gingerbread Children, and The Baby Werewolf. Number nine, Sing Sad Songs, is in the revision and editing stage and will be completed early in 2019. I have When the Captain Came Calling well under way, though the end is not yet in sight. And I recently began work on the rough draft of Fools and Their Toys. I am also working to finish my graphic novel, Hidden Kingdom.
These novels of mine will probably never generate meaningful money in my lifetime, but the creation of them feels like the fulfillment of my life’s arc. I spent four decades in education, and now I am investing my remaining life force in story-telling, using many of the students and fellow teachers in novels of surrealistic fantasy and humor, giving meaning to the memories of a life spent in service to higher ideals.
So, there you have it, the Story So Far. I will continue to work on it, polish it, perfect it, and continue not to worry if no one reads it or even cares. It is my story, the story I live to create, and that is all the meaning that matters.
I had been promising my daughter for a while that we would build the gingerbread train. I was looking forward to it as an art project. She was impatient to eat it. So, on December 27th, I was finally feeling well enough to do the deed.
So, we prepared the work space on the kitchen table. We laid out the items that we could use for assembly. I made my daughter promise to stop eating elements of the train before we could actually put it together.
I started decorating the Christmas trees that go into the baggage car. My daughter ate several of the sugar-ball decorations.
The baggage car was assembled first. I call it the baggage car because even though it is in the tender position for a steam train if we called it that, that would mean that the engine burned Christmas trees instead of coal. My daughter snuck a few more decorations as we argued about that.
It was encouraging that the first part came together without looking too incredibly terrible.
My daughter decorated a majority of the engine and only ate a few more of the decorations while doing it. This was no small thing given how much she loves to eat gumdrops.
It ended up looking vaguely like the picture on the box. We had a great deal of fun making it. And the last time I checked, portions of it still were uneaten… something I am confident won’t be the case for much longer.
The last couple of years we have started a new Christmas tradition, making a gingerbread house together. Of course, any Christmas tradition for my kids is a new one. We were Jehovah’s Witnesses up until recent years when the Brotherhood left us behind. You probably know already that it is against their religion to celebrate traditional holidays like Christmas. And I bear them no ill will for anything, but their ways are really not my ways anymore. So, since we are having our fourth Christmas mini-tradition, I prepared by finding gingerbread kits on sale at Walmart. I am not Scrooge anymore, but I still need to cut costs for poverty reasons.
I scored this one for only $5 because the Christmas rush is ending and they are trying to sell out the goodies that are growing old on the shelf. My daughter the Princess saw this and immediately declared she was looking forward to biting the head off Charlie Brown.
I responded to her somewhat-unexpectedly hostile comment against a cartoon character I love and identify with by showing her the back of the box.
The Charlie Brown figure will be the cardboard cut-out from the back of the box. The only candy figure is Snoopy. Of course, she then promised to decapitate and then cannibalize Snoopy. The girl ordinarily likes cartoons, so I don’t fully understand the double meaning behind her ravenousness.
As an added challenge to our artistical gustatory creativeness I also scored this gingerbread train, seen here pulling across the tracks at the Toonerville train station. All aboard! That won’t last long if we get it made this year. Of course it will fossilize if we try to save it for next year.
That, then, is the evil plan for Christmas that we are probably not supposed to be celebrating. But we will not roast in Hell for executing this evil plan. Jehovah’s people don’t believe in Hell.