Category Archives: novel

The Necromancer’s Apprentice… Canto 4

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.”

“Aw…”

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.”

“That’s obvious.”

“Um, Derfie… Dearest?”

“Yes, Homer?”

“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.

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The Necromancer’s Apprentice… Canto 3

The Skeleton Attack

The alarm roared through the castle Cair Tellos on the feet of Sylph boys just like Mickey and me… except that they carried bull horns used by town criers to amplify their shouts, none of them were wererats, and over half of them were nude.

The Master ordered us to carry the boom-n-banger on it’s launch stick up to the middle parapet of the upper keep.  Once there, we were to fix it for possible launch to one of the ironwood merlons and attempt to aim it at the skeleton even though the powder-loaded thing was as big as me and bigger than Mickey.

“Eli!  You do not have permission to light that thing in my castle!” shouted Pippen, the castle’s wizard and high protector.  He was a large Sylph with a booming voice and flowing blond hair.  His robes were richly colored blue, and he wore the golden necklace of Merlini the Gray to show off his basic right to rule.

“How are you going to keep the bone-thingy from smashing us all up, then?” retorted Master Eli.

“My scouts have told me that the boy with the shottygun has been summoned by two of the slow-one boys.”

“And you’re going to rely on the same kind of lucky shot that Murphy hobbledehoy got off at that last bone-thingy?

“It worked before, didn’t it?”

“Well, what’re the odds that luck can save our bacon more than once in a blue moon?”

“I don’t have your faith in stolen slow-one magics.  That thing could just as easily explode the castle wall as it would the attacker.”

“Maybe you’re right.  Perhaps I use my sorcery to summon Golden Dragonfire?”

“You’ve got to be kidding! Captain Bobkin’s headquarters are still smoldering from the last time you used that.”

At that moment, the two “hobbledehoys” that Master Pippin had mentioned showed up with the third one, the bigger one (hobbledehoy, as I understand it, means a tall, skinny and totally awkward slow-one youth) with the so-called shottygun in his hands, following behind while trying desperately to pull his pants on with one hand.

“Couldn’t this have waited until I was finished in the bathroom, Mike?” shouted the biggest one,

“It’s a walking skeleton, Danny!  Right out of a horror movie,” shouted one of the other hobbledehoys.

At that moment, the bone walker passed through the castle’s glammer shield meaning it would be totally hidden from the slow ones by Fey magic.

“I don’t see anything!” growled the one trying to pull his pants on while hopping on one leg, pulling on the pants with one hand, and trying to aim the shottygun with the other hand.

“It was right there a second ago!”

“You shoulda let me kill it with a baseball bat, Bobby!” swore the other smaller hobbledehoy.

Suddenly, “BLAM!” the shottygun went off, shredding the unoccupied leg of the hopping hobbledehoy’s pants.

“Dammit!”

Mickey grinned at me.  “He must be too stupid to remember to wear pants too.”

“Of course,” I said.

Meanwhile the skeleton reached up with one boney hand and totally smashed that hand against the ironwood walls of the lower parapet.

Up in the hornet’s nest, Captain Bobkin ordered an attack by the wasp-riders as the three hobbledehoys hopped back towards their own distant domicile.

“What did Master Eli mean when he called those things hobbledehoys?” Mickey asked me.

“It’s a slow-one word, in English, I think, that means what you and I would be if we were as big as slow ones.”

“A foofy git that blows up his own pants when trying to put them on?”

“Exactly.”

The skeleton brought his bone fist down on the parapet again, but this time the bones splintered and the fist turned to dust.

“Aim the boom-n-banger at the skeleton’s nearest eye socket, Bob,” commanded Master Eli.

“Even though Master Pippen told us not to?”

“Of course.  He just doesn’t understand slow-one magic like I do.  I’m gonna light that sucker up.”

Mickey and I turned the powder-filled thing until I could sight a strait line along the top of the tube all the way to the right eye socket of the skull.  Eli then snapped his fingers and a spark set the fuse ablaze.

When the thing took off with a fizzing sound instead of a boom, I was disappointed.  But it hit the skull, removing the head from the rest of the skeleton and flying it off into the bean field.

Once the skull was gone, the evil magic dispersed, and the rest of the skeleton fell apart at the roots of the willow tree that formed the base of Cair Tellos.

Master Pippin looked Master Eli in the eye.

“Well, you disobeyed me again… but it worked.  It is now your responsibility to go find the skull and kill the evil thing that was controlling the bone walker.”

Master Eli’s smile instantly faded.  “By your will, Master Pippen.”

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Composing the Next Chapter

My life now, after retiring from teaching for poor health, having a heart kerfluffle that created a hospital bill that dumped me into bankruptcy, and a pandemic that could easily have been the death of me, is really now only a matter of writing the next chapter and completing the next book.

Currently the novel I am working on is a fairytale called The Necromancer’s Apprentice. The title is a play on the Fantasia segment where Mickey Mouse plays the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, set to the orchestral music piece by Paul Dukas.

The current chapter is called Mickey’s Gambit. In this chapter Derfentwinkle’s bone-walker, a skeleton she has been driving like a tank to attack the fairies of Cair Tellos, the fairy castle in the willow tree, has been destroyed by the Sorcerer Eli Tragedy. Now Derfy knows that Tragedy and his two apprentices are coming to kill her. But she is not the typical gobbulun, all warty and green. She’s a nude Sylph girl, no different than hundreds of Sylphs who live in Cair Tellos.

But she is also the apprentice to an evil necromancer who sent her to attack the fairy castle.

Now, the other characters involved in this chapter are the Sorcerer Eli Tragedy, his apprentices Bob and Mickey the Wererat, and a handful of gingerbread children. Eli is a grumpy old coot who is quite capable of putting Derfy to death. But Bob, his number one apprentice, is much more pliable and soft-hearted. And Mickey the Wererat, is a cursed child, half-Sylph and half-rat, who can always be relied on to make the worst possible choices. There is a slim chance of survival.

The chapter is purposed as part of the story that drives the plot forward. This is the first meeting of the protagonist (Bob the apprentice) and the antagonist (Derfentwinkle.) This chapter reveals the over-arching danger of the evil necromancer. It puts Derfy in the hands of her enemies. And it is the beginning of the major themes of the book; No child or student is irredeemable, and all people, no matter whether they are Elf, Sylph, Fairy, Wererat, Gobbulun, or Crow has value.

So, that’s a look at my writing process in working on a novel, showing you how I put a chapter together. You will be seeing this chapter soon on my Tuesday novel-writing posts.

But life in reality is also about turning the page daily and setting the scene and working out the action. This I am doing by exercising more. I am also trying to get healthy enough to visit Bluebonnet Nudist Park again on the weekend before the weather rules against it. I am eating healthy. I am doing what is necessary to continue after losing my mother. I am dealing with household repairs to plumbing and yardwork. And I am working particularly hard not to lose anything more to the pandemic.

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The Necromancer’s Apprentice… Canto 2

An Ordinary Day at Bob’s Place

Eli Tragedy, my master, was busy writing on a parchment with a quill pen.  He did a lot of writing, that one.  He claimed that he didn’t like writing magical script, especially with a quill pen made from pigeon pin feathers.  Yet, he was writing morning, noon, and night whether he really needed to or not.  And he wouldn’t use any pen but a pigeon quill.

“Bob, be a dear and pour me more of that head-straightening potion,” Eli said as he held out his mug made from an acorn shell.

“Master, the slow ones you stole that from call it coffee.”

“Of course, they do.  The giant piffle-brains never name a thing for its actual usefulness, now do they?”

“No, sir.  Of course, they don’t, sir.”

“Bob, you call me sir way too much.  You need to vary it up some.”

“What else will I call you, sir?”

“How about Gloriously Majestic Magic-Master Tragedy?  Or the Most Powerful Mage of Tellosia?”

“Yes, sir.  I shall try, sir.”

“I guess that’s the best I can hope for, isn’t it?” the master said in the grumpy voice he always used before he had enough of his stolen head-straightening potion.

The master, of course, told me regularly that I was not very smart.  And being the master, he was, of course, right about that.  But I thought it best not to contradict him in any case.  After all, I was only a stupid Sylph boy that had to be reminded to wear pants every day.  I never actually forgot my pants before being reminded by the master.  But I regularly took his wise directions anyway.  He was a wise and famous Elf Sorcerer known far and wide amongst the Fey Children throughout the countryside.  And I was his apprentice.  He was going to teach me real magic one day.

“When will you teach us real magic?” complained Mickey the Wererat.  He was in the tub near the stove, bathing himself by the master’s orders, trying to remove at least some of the stench of being a wererat.

“I am teaching you real magic now.  Use that magical stink-removing potion on yourself.  Every bit of your furry little stink-factory body needs to be covered with the magical lavatory potion.”

“The slow ones you stole that potion from call it soap, master.”

“Of course, they do, Bob.  You are so good at reminding me of the English name for all the little things we borrow.  Now if only you were not so dumb all the time…”

“Yes, master.”

It didn’t pay to argue with a sorcerer.  Especially not one who could turn you into a frog, newt, or grasshopper.  I had been a grasshopper for a week once.  Once is enough.

“I just wish you would teach me a spell to allow me to control my were-form so I wouldn’t always be a half-rat boy all the time,” complained Mickey, scrubbing furiously at black rat-fur.  His body always seemed to naturally morph into the form he was trapped in at the moment.  He had a mouse-like face, the naked body of a regular Sylph boy covered in black-and-white fur, a rat’s tail, and paws instead of feet.  We would’ve called him a “weremouse” if it weren’t for the fact that he got lycanthropy from the rat-bite of Augustus the Gut, wererat from Suchretown.

“So, when are you actually going to teach us real magic?”  That question was a central theme to Mickey.  I wanted to learn magic as badly as he did, but I had also learned that asking annoying questions only got you one of two answers.

“Stop complaining.  Magic is a volatile thing and must be handled with great care.  You should be grateful that I am making you master slow-one magics like coffee and soap first.  It keeps you from blowing yourself up with a fireball or freezing yourself with a winter-wind spell.”

So, there was one of the two answers.

“Or shall I turn you into a newt?  Newts smell better than wererats.”

That was the other possible answer.

At that moment, Anneliese the Storybook came in through the castle passage into our tower rooms.  Now she was a fine-looking young Sylph.  But, of course, she was way out of my league.  Storybooks are immortal Fey magically created when a human storyteller writes down actual stories that happened to the actual fairy.

“Hello, Eli.  Hello, boys.”

She had a rare Germanic beauty about her.  I was told that she had once been a human girl, put to death by evil Nazi humans in the slow ones’ years of the 1940’s.  And her mother brought her back to life with human witch-magic.  Her mother. Gretel, was also a Storybook Sylph now, and served as our castle cook-witch.

“You have gingerbread for us, Anneliese?” asked Eli while slyly looking over her bare-bodied beauty.  Some Storybooks wear clothes.  Anneliese and Gretel did not.

“You know I do.  Mutter knows you have a taste for it.  And it is fortified with magic to make you healthy, strong, and wise.”  She put the basket she had brought for us down on the table.

“Bob, can you bring me my pants?” begged Mickey from the tub.  Mickey was shy. He was like a tree with no bark on it when he was naked in his rat form, and he didn’t want the beautiful girl to see his naked personal twig.  I grabbed his little blue lederhosen from the chair where he left it.  I looked briefly at the two yellow buttons he always wore on the front of his pants.  No suspenders to attach, but buttons there anyway. He snatched the pants from me and put them on while still wet.  Then he was out and greedily sorting through the basket to find his favorites before I might take one.

“You are very kind to your brother apprentice, Bob,” Anneliese said to me.  “And I am amazed at the way you always seem to notice everything,”

“I am teaching him that.  One must be very observant if one is to succeed at the ancient arts of Sorcery.”

“Yes, I see you are teaching him by example, Eli.”

She had him there.  She was fully aware of the parts of her that the old Elf was looking at.  Probably aware that I was trying not to look at those parts as well.

My master wasn’t evil or anything.  But he did appreciate girl Sylphs and fairy beauties.

I liked the fact that Anneliese came by at least twice a week.  I wanted to see her even more often.  But I could not for the world summon up the magic it took to talk to her on purpose and tell her how I felt.

But the moment ended with a gingerbread boy coming through the door.

“Ah, Pavel, what brings you to my tower, cookie-man?” the Master said to him in a joking manner, managing to hide any embarrassment he might’ve felt in front of Anneliese.

“You are to come right away!  The castle is under attack by a second bone-walker!” said the animated cookie.

That, of course, immediately had us rumbling out of the tower door to do our magical duty.  Necessary implements of magical firepower were all well in hand.

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The Necromancer’s Apprentice… Canto 1

Derfentwinkle’s Sick Ride

It was not the kind of ride in the country that I really wanted to take.  The skeleton walked with a really random sort of limp-and-jerky motion that pitched me regularly out of my seat in the skull. 

“Kackenfurchtbar, can’t you control these stupid bones better than this?” I asked the little moron severed demon-head.

“Derfentwinkle, you expect too much!  All I am is a head.  I have to control this entire skeleton with phantom muscles made out of what little demon telekinesis I have left in my broken little skull.”

“Kronomarke put you under my control and this pile of loosely connected bones is what you are supposed to be in control of.”

“I am doing the skunky best I flipping can!”

I know, I know… You did hear that right.  One of the few actual spells the dorky necromancer taught me was how to turn demon swearwords into euphemisms.  My name is actually Derfentwinkle.  I am a two-and-a-half-inch tall Sylph, six-slow-one-years old, but all the Fey children tend to age two years for every one year a human child would age.  So, I am a girl Sylph on the verge of becoming a Sylvan woman.

After the last jolt, I picked myself up and sat back on the pile of dandelion blossoms that I used as a seat to look out on the cornfield we were trying to navigate through.  The left eye socket of the empty human skull had a hole through the back that Kronomarke had carved out to serve as a pilot’s window.  Being a severed head, Kack needed to see out of the skeleton through my eyes.

“All I can see is corn,” Kack complained.

“Well, you don’t want me to make you walk out on the gravel road, do you?”

“Kronomarke says that the last apprentice did that and got blown to pieces by a slow-one farm hand with a shottygun.  That doesn’t sound like a good thing that we might want to happen to us.”

“Shottygun?”

“It’s like a slow-one magic wand.  It throws lots of high-speed pebbles at you at very high speed.”

“Did the apprentice survive that?”

“Why do you think the master had to kidnap you?”

“Slow ones are not used to seeing walking skeletons, are they?”

“No, definitely not.”

“Look, we are coming out of the cornfield.  Straight ahead is the slow-one village named Norwall.” I pointed as I said it, but the gesture meant nothing to the stupid severed head.

“Good, good.  We have almost reached Cair Tellos.  It is built into the willow tree on the north side of town.”

“But that thing straight ahead that we have to cross is the Shiggway Drei.”

“Don’t use the gobbellun name for it.  Call it Highway Three in English,” Kack said smugly.

“Right.  When we cross the thing the zoomdahs ride on… er, the cars drive on… we will be seen by everyone.  Including farm hands with shottyguns.”

“But the reason we are walking in an animated human skeleton is that it scares humans as well as the Fey children.  We will scare them out of our path.”

At that moment, the walking skeleton we were trying to steer into the human village stumbled into the fence around the cornfield.  The fence was made with two strands of barbed wire along the top.

The skull was pitched forward at such an angle that I was nearly vaulted out of the eyehole.  “Pull us back a bit, Kack.  We’re getting tangled in the barbed wire.”

“Isn’t it called bobbed wire?” 

“Only by the dumbest slow-ones I’ve seen.  They have to be the dumbest ones if I know English gooder than they do.”

Kack used his magical mind-strings to pull the puppet skeleton upright again.  But as we climbed over the fence, the barbs in the wire pulled at the ghost-flesh and ligaments that held the bones together.  A lower leg popped off, and Kack had to make the skeleton hop on one leg bone as it reached down, retrieved the leg, and popped it back on the dismembered knee joint.

Then we stumbled across the pavement, hurrying the last twenty yards because a big, big truck zoomdah came roaring at us from the west.

Lurching into town and spinning over another fence, we found ourselves in a field of soybeans.  We stumbled on towards the abandoned school yard where the willow tree stood.

Two human boys, each towering at least four feet in the air, were playing a ball-tossing game on the old ball-tossing field. 

“Ah!  The zombie apocalypse has started!” cried one slow-one.

“Bobby, that’s just a skeleton, like the one that killed you in the Swords and Sorcerer’s game last night.  They are only six-hit-point monsters.  We could kill it with our baseball bat.”

I was personally very alarmed.  I did not know that slow ones had any control-bat spells.  And I had never heard of the species known as a baseball bat.

“No!  Let’s go get your brother and his squirrel rifle.  Zombies are dangerous!”

“We’re doomed now, aren’t we?” I asked Kack.

“Probably.  You should’ve worn that armor the necromancer gave you.”

“Nonsense!  I’m a Sylph, not an Elf.  Sylphs are meant by the god Pan to be naked.  Especially the female ones.”  I know they only gave me the armor to protect me, but I wasn’t feeling like wearing anything at the moment that I wasn’t willing to die in.

“Well, turn towards the willow tree.  If we must die, let’s go out fighting.”

We turned the skeleton towards the tree with the fairy castle in it. We started to run.  We were doomed.

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The Surprise of Sudden Glowing Reviews

I returned from my trip to Iowa to attend my mother’s funeral to find a Twitter friend has given me a few glowing reviews on books I was not expecting to earn any reviews at all with.

Gerardo Cisneros is a nudist from Twitter who not only reads and enjoys my nudist-related stories, but my other books, including YA novels as well.

Gerardo Cisneros-S.@gcs_nudista Nudist since 1996, founding and former Board Member of the Federación Nudista de México, A.C.; AANR member since 2000. #NormalisingNaturism#NormalizingNaturism

He retweets my Twitter blatherings and promotions and does a lot to help promote my work. The review on Catch a Falling Star was really unexpected. That book, still under contract with I-Universe, is over-priced even in e-book form. Gerardo does a better job of promoting my work than the I-Universe publicists that I had to pay for their work ever did.

Amazingly he even read these two books in their proper sequence, a thing no one else has ever done despite a few of my books having sequels and companion books.

He even read and reviewed the messy first novel I ever completed while still being a teacher in deep South Texas.

Horatio T. Dogg, Super Sleuth is the novella I most recently published.

I write novels because it allows me to deal with the deepest, darkest things in my life. I have trauma as a sexual assault victim from my childhood. I have lost loved ones. I have been a long-time teacher of middle-school-aged kids. Some of whom I grew to love deeply with only the most proper of teacher-child connections possible. I have lost some kids that I loved to violence, accidents, suicide, and one to AIDS. I have been on the dark doorstep of suicidal thoughts more than once myself. I have been broke and broken and bankrupt and mortified. And all of that makes me write novels with humor, imagination, poignance, and love. I have labored hard to turn darkness into light.

And it all becomes worth it when I connect with a reader and give them something of myself that brings a smile to their face. Or a truly heartfelt tear to their eye, because that can be a beautiful, artful thing too.

Gerardo CIsneros, Ted Bun, and other Twitter nudists have done more to fulfill my purpose in life than even my other literary Twitter friends and publishing acquaintances. I am blessed with wonderful readers.

https://www.amazon.com/Michael-Beyer/e/B00DL1X14C/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

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Horatio T. Dogg… It’s Finished!

The book I have been using as a demonstration of my writing process, showing you the second edit of each chapter at one chapter per week, is now finished. It is also published and available on Amazon.

The book is a novella, meaning it is only about 15,000 words. I have not shown you the last few chapters on Tuesdays, but if you have been reading every chapter in order, it isn’t too much to expect to charge you 99 cents to get the whole thing from Amazon, is it? Not everything in life is free. At least, not in my experience.

The next Tuesday offer will be The Necromancer’s Apprentice, either another novella, or a short comic fantasy novel.

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Tellerons from Outer Space

Yes, green men from outer space are among us. The thing is, they are invisible (and more than likely fictional too.) They have amphibian ancestors. They have sucker tips on their fingers and toes. And they can disintegrate you with their ray guns.

Of course you can learn more about these aliens and the amusing threat they are trying to pose in the novel Catch a Falling Star. Of course, of course, the greedy publisher of that book still has it insanely over-priced. You would be better served by getting a free copy of the sequel Stardusters and Space Lizards, available now in Kindle e-book form for free from September 24, TODAY, until midnight September 28.

The patent for this alien technology actually belongs to the ruling council of the Telleron Star Empire.

There are many things that make the fin-headed, amphibianoid Tellerons dangerous. Their dangerous technology includes the highly lethal Skortch Ray which disintegrates the target, dissolving sub-atomic bonds between molecules and turning people, things, and insane attack-poodles into piles of molecular dust. They also have personal cloaking devices that allow them to move around our planet invisibly.

But the most volatile and dangerous factor about these space men is that their species, heedless for centuries of the dangers of inbreeding, are now almost totally incompetent.

The two Tellerons in this spaceographic depiction are standing near a Galtorrian Space Lizard girl.

Being incompetent and totally failing to invade and conquer a small town in Iowa, let alone the rest of the planet, they flee back towards possible safety at a potential home-world. But, being incompetent, they accidentally end up at the planetary system of the Galtorrian Space Lizards, a highly treacherous race of cannibalistic saurian humanoids. And even worse, they find themselves in a situation where they either have to successfully invade and conquer a world far ,more dangerous than Earth or resign themselves to being nothing more than space-lizard food.

Brekka and Menolly, female Telleron tadpoles, demonstrate their love of Mickey Mouse Club music by dancing, something totally learned by watching Earther TV.

Although the Tellerons could not conquer the Earth, they did benefit from their visit there. They learned another way of life from Earther television programs. They learned to love music and dancing. They even learned that children are useful for other things besides being a supplemental food supply.

Now, you may think that invisible Tellerons infiltrating our society is not as big a problem as I am saying it is… well, based on what I have told you, that is probably true, They are more clownish than even we are.,, except for Boris Johnson. But Telleron-invasion awareness is important never-the-less.

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Horatio T. Dogg… Canto 14

Reichenbach Falls

Bobby and his book were perched in the rocking chair on the porch with Horatio curled up on the rug by his feet.  The reading lamp was on, but otherwise the porch was mostly dark.  Dad and Grandpa had finished closing the porch-window shutters over an hour earlier.  Thunder rumbled eerily somewhere out in the dark of the early evening.

“It sure is spooky out there,” said Shane from his seat in the darkness around the porch sofa.

“It’s just a summer thunderstorm,” said Bobby, turning a page.

“Whatcha readin’?”

“Sherlock Holmes.”

 “Oh?  What’s the story called?”

“The Final Problem.”

“Is that a good one?”

“No.  Sherlock fights Professor Moriarty at a waterfall in Switzerland called Reichenbach Falls.  They both go over the edge and fall to their deaths.”

“Sherlock dies?”  Shane sounded genuinely alarmed.

“Yeah.  But he’s not real.  And he comes back to life.  The Hound of the Baskervilles happens after this story.”

“Oh.”  Shane sounded relieved.

Then the place was briefly white with light from outside, and the thunderstrike that followed almost instantly meant that lightning had hit something nearby.  ProbaHbly the lightning rod on the barn’s cupola.

But Bobby and Shane both jumped as the electricity went out, leaving them in inky blackness.  A few seconds later, the lights were on again.

“What was that!?” Shane practically screeched.

“From the ozone smell in the air, I surmise that lightning struck nearby.  Close enough to cause a brief power outage via electromagnetic pulse.”  Horatio looked calm and unconcerned as he said it.

“Horatio says that the lightning struck the barn and caused the electricity to go out for a moment.”

“Oh.”

“I don’t wish to alarm anyone, but I smell rats out and about,” said Horatio.

“Professor Rattiarty?” asked Bobby.

“What?” said Shane.

“Yes, but not alone.  He has the corpse of a poisoned rat with him.  Possibly Darktail Ralph.  He probably wants to tempt me to poison myself.”

“You won’t eat the dead rat, will you?”

“No!  Yuck!  I don’t want to eat any dead rats!” remarked Shane loudly and with disgust.

“I concur with your brother.  I will not be eating any rats tonight either.  Rattiarty is himself filled with rat poison.”

“What?  Rattiarty is poisoned but not dead?”

“What… what?” gasped Shane.  “Are you talking to Horatio again?”

“Rats often ingest poison slowly enough that, instead of slaying them, they become immune to it.”

“What are we gonna do if the rats are now immune to poison?”

“They are?  Bobby?  What is Horatio telling you?”

“What are you telling me, Horatio?”

“Professor Rattiarty is out there now in the storm.  He’s out of evil minions and wants to challenge me to a final battle.”

“Horatio says Professor Rattiarty wants a final showdown now.”

“The evil rat is out there in the storm?”

“He is.”

“Bobby, if you open the porch door for me, I must answer the rat’s challenge.”

“Now?  In the storm?”

“Yes.  If not now, then never.  My aged body is soon to give out, and I would not let that evil rat continue to threaten the Niland family that I have loved for so long, and who loves me in return.”

Bobby put Sherlock Holmes aside and rose from the rocking chair.

“Bobby, why are you crying?  What did the dog say?”

“Not now, Shane.”

Bobby moved to the porch door.  He opened the screen door inward and the storm door outward against the wind and the driving rain.

“Bobby!  What are you doing?”

Horatio leaped up and bolted out of door as a lightning strike illuminated everything with a burning blue-white light.

Bobby thought he saw the rat scampering across the farmyard as the light faded to blackness.

Shane, terrified, jumped out into the downpour.

“Horatio!  Come back, doggie!”

Bobby, too, went out in the rain.  Straining his eyes to try to find Horatio and the rat he was chasing.  He could see nothing.  A car out on the gravel country road had its brights on as it barrelled along towards Highway 69 going much faster than it should in the rain.

“Horatio!  Come back, it’s not safe!” Shane screamed, crying as he shouted it.

Grandpa Butch was suddenly directly behind Bobby.

“What’s going on?  Why are you boys out in the storm?”

“It’s Horatio and the rat.”

“Shane!  Come back to the house!”

“Grandpa, Horatio is out here in the rain somewhere!  Bobby let him out the front door!”

A car horn blared.  Brakes screeched.  Bobby thought he heard a sickening thump out there on the gravel road.  And the car skidded to a stop in the dark and the rain.

“Oh, god, no!  Shane!” 

Grandpa ran toward the car.  Bobby followed right behind.  As they drew near the stopped car, they heard Shane crying as if he were heartbroken.

“Shane!  Are you all right?”

“Grandpa, it’s Horatio.”

“Butch, I am sorry,” said Mr. Beetle Jones, out of the car and kneeling by the lump of soaked fur on the gravel road, illuminated by the headlights.

Bobby’s stomach quivered, leading to an uncontrolled string of chest-constricting sobs.

  “Ah, Horatio.  You have been a good and faithful friend,” said Butch Niland wearily as he kneeled down and petted the badly damaged body.

“Is he…?  Is he dead?”

“I’m sorry, boys.  He was an old dog.  It is a blessing that it was over quickly.  It means his life won’t end in prolonged suffering.”

“Bobby, how could you?” cried Shane.  “It’s your fault!  You and your dumb old imagination.  You shoulda never let him out of that door.” Bobby could take no more.  He lit out for the house as fast as he could run.  The lightning and thunder lent drama and illuminated his path.

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Horatio T. Dogg… Canto 13

Rat Poison

Bobby had always been amazed at the calm, easy-going way that Grandpa Butch handled a crisis.  He had examined Horatio himself when he had first learned of the eating of a part of Whitewhiskers Billy’s poisoned corpse.

He had then called the vet in Belle City.  They put a couple of soft but old blankets in the back of the red pickup and then driven Horatio to see his doggy-doctor while Bobby and Shane rode in the back to keep Horatio calm and safe.

The doctor had checked him over carefully, determining that the dog probably had not eaten enough of the poisoned rat to get any of the poison in his own system.  So, they gave Horatio some precautionary anti-coagulant injections, induced some vomiting, forced a bit of activated charcoal into him, and then, knowing Horatio would be better tended back home at the Niland farm than he ever would be in the Belle City animal hospital, sent him home.

“So, they’re sure that Horatio’s not gonna die?”  Shane asked on the ride back home.

“Pretty sure, yeah.  It’ll be our job to make sure he doesn’t eat any more poisoned rats.  And we have to tell Grandpa if he vomits again, or shows any more symptoms.”

“Yeah, that makin’ the dog vomit thing was sure icky.”

“But it got rid of any poison still in his stomach, Shane.”

Bobby put one hand on Shane’s shoulder as he continued to stroke the fur on Horatio’s neck with the other hand.  Shane had both hands deeply buried in Horatio’s brown-and-white fur coat.

“So, did Professor Rattiarty win this round?” Shane asked.

“No, he didn’t,” said Horatio confidently.  “He meant to kill me with this poison-eating ploy.  And we made him fail.”

“Horatio said he didn’t because Horatio is still alive.”

“Oh, that’s good.”

                                    *****

Rattiarty glared at Darktail Ralph.

“Don’t look at me.  It isn’t my fault the damned dog didn’t eat enough of Billy to do the job!”

“Well, we just have to try again.”

“Not that way.  There has to be some other plan.  Something that works better.”

“This plan will work if you eat more of the poison.  Saturate your system with toxins to make the dosage more lethal!”

“But there are only two of us left!  Why should I be the one to sacrifice myself?  Why don’t you let Horatio eat you?  You have a lot more poison in you than I have in me.”

“It may come to that if you fail too.”

Ralph snarled at the Professor.  “I won’t even try.  You can’t make me do it!”

“We shall see about that.”

Rattiarty made the first lunge, going for Ralph’s throat.

Ralph was a veteran rat-warrior, however, and still very quick to dodge.  He had the advantage of youth over Rattiarty, as the Professor was quite old for a rat.

As Rattiarty’s attempt at grabbing Ralph with teeth in his throat, the old rat’s superior strategy came into play.  The lunge having missed, the Professor snagged the right nostril of Ralph’s nose with one claw.  He ripped the skin all the way up to the Darktail’s right eye. 

Blood half-blinded Ralph.

Rattiarty built on that advantage to swing his thin body up onto Darktail Ralph’s back. Stabbing rat teeth descended on Ralph’s neck, gouging into his spinal cord and effectively paralysing him.  In mere moments more, the head was off, and Rattiarty was alone, but ready to drag the poison-filled body to some place where Horatio T. Dogg would see it and eat it.

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