Unable to get well enough to drive for Uber without risk, I now face economic and health uncertainties that could bring about the end of everything for me personally.
I have submitted an application for substitute teaching in the local school district. They still haven’t offered me a job, which I am clearly qualified for, and which I did for the same district successfully more than a decade ago. School is starting Monday. And even if they give me the job, there is no guarantee that I will be well enough to do it.
So, do I panic now? Or wait and panic next week? Or give up already?
That, of course, is not my way. I always approached teaching as a swashbuckling adventure. I may die in the attempt, either at the cruel hands of little school bunnies, or possibly behind the wheel of my rusty, trusty Uber car, But, either way, I will go down fighting with my pirate boots on.
So, I will sign on with Zorah the Sea Witch, joining her pirate crew, and I will set sail towards the sunrise of a new and potentially dangerous new day.
One of the things I was taught by the good people of I-Universe Publishing is that writers do Twitter. They set me up with a Twitter account that never got followed by real people and got no traction of any definable kind.
There are obviously magic spells out there somewhere that help you sell copies of your beloved first real novel if only you are willing to go on Twitter to engage… to sell yourself and your books… to trolls… and nudists and other writers and nudists who are writers… and, inexplicably, the Norwegian Branch of the Tom Hiddleston as Loki Fan Club. In order to do this I ended up having to establish my own Twitter account to handle what the I-Universe account couldn’t. What a mistake that was!
I have after six years finally gotten past the 2,000 follower mark. I have sold a precious few copies of more than one of my books. And I have learned what a horrific alternate universe Twitter actually is.
Trying to sell my books to Twitter followers who seem like the kind of person interested in reading YA novels full of humor and fantasy and goofy stuff, obviously generates more marriage proposals than sales.
Apparently, young women on Twitter are looking for husbands and lovers online. It you answer their direct messages thinking they are women interested in your writing, they will aggressively try to convince you that they have fallen in love with you, one even saying this without asking for a better picture of me than the cartoon I use to portray myself. They ignore the fact that you have been married for a quarter of a century. They ignore the protestations that you are only on Twitter to sell books, and ask you to send them money for an airplane ticket so they can come to where you live and have an affair with you… even though you protest that you are married and don’t have money for airplane tickets even if you wanted to have an affair with a young lady who could be your granddaughter age-wise. One essential function on Twitter is learning how to block someone. Ooh! That was a lifesaver. Learning who not to answer is useful too.
And women are not the only ones with dangerous schemes to take your money away from you.
I was Twitter-friended by Arab royalty. Prince Hamdan of Brunei wanted to give me money as part of his charity work to salvage the image of his royal family. He offered to put thousands of dollars of oil money in my bank account just because he liked me and felt sorry for me. All I had to do was give him my online bank account number. I may have told Arabian royalty that I had a fatal disease that made me forget all my bank account numbers and would cause me to die before he could get a reply sent back to me. I stupidly gave him no bank information what-so-ever. And my bank account audibly breathed a sigh of relief.
So, I have successfully now used Twitter to sell copies of Snow Babies and Recipes for Gingerbread Children. I have become a member of Twitter’s #writingcommunity. I have also become a member of a group called Writers Without Clothes. (#FF#naturist fiction by: @Mr_Ted_Bun, @buffprofwally, @CalowAndrew, @AuthorMatBlack, @NakedDan, @smdenham3 and @mbeyer51 (growing list!)) They offered me a chance to join their group because they liked the nudists in my book Recipes for Gingerbread Children, and because they learned I have written for nudist websites and do much of my writing in the nude. I recently also got a tweet from a fellow author who is reading Snow Babies and loves it. She says it is a well-written book, high praise from another published author.
So, I intend to keep writing… right up until the end… and maybe I can learn how to use Twitter from beyond the grave so I can keep my writing alive and my future ghost-tweets can make you all horrified enough to be compelled to buy my books. They say my books are funny, even the nudist parts, and maybe I can make more Tom Hiddleston jokes to keep that part of my Twitter following happy too.
If you are foolish enough to look for me on Twitter, you can find me at @mbeyer51.
Canto Nineteen – The
Log Book of the Reefer Mary Celeste
It would be two days before anything more could happen in
the quest to understand about the Captain.
Valerie finally found the time to visit Mary Philips’ house while Pidney
was also there. None of the other
Pirates proved available. Danny had a
4-H meeting to attend in the old Norwall School House, and Ray Zeffer also was
in 4-H. 4-H Club was the center of
farm-boy life in small farm towns in Iowa.
Both the boys and the girls had their own division of the club. Heart, head, hands, and health, the 4-H’s were
an international organization that encouraged youth development and prosperity
through projects and learning goals. 4-H
was to farmers what Boy Scouts were to the Army, Navy, and Marines…
indoctrination into the secret cult of the tillers of the earth. Technically, the three Pirates meeting in the
basement of the Philips’ house were supposed to be at the meeting too, at least
Pidney was. The Norwall Pirates were
also technically a 4-H softball team, so there were definite ties to things
that couldn’t be ignored for long.
Still, this secret meeting was temporarily more important.
“I’m glad creepy old Doble couldn’t come,” Pidney said. “I don’t trust him around you girls. He doesn’t go to 4-H meetings any more, but
he apparently has more important things to do with himself anyway.”
“We have to consider him a Pirate, though,” said Mary. “He is the only remaining member of the
“Yeah, whatever.” Pid
was frowning until he looked at Valerie.
Then he smiled. “But I’m sure
glad you could come, Val.”
Valerie smiled her thanks at the big Polack. He could be kinda dense at times, but Valerie
was deeply in love with him anyway.
“I have the log book here,” Mary said, “and we can pick up
reading where we left off.”
“About the mermaid?” said Pid.
“Yes, about the mermaid.”
“Chinooki,” reminded Val.
“Let me turn to the book mark,” said Mary.
The mermaid was a miraculous creature. Kooky actually had very little trouble catching her in the nets he used for catching prawns whenever we were near the island of Tahiti. It was like she wanted to be caught for some strange reason. And we soon discovered that keeping company with Chinooki was something every man aboard desired with a passion. Her singing voice charmed the men to sleep and suggestibility. The mermaid possessed every piece of scrimshaw, every golden ornament, and every valuable jewel on board the ship in very short order.
“Chinooki likes sweet mens,” Chinooki said so often we never stopped to think that it might have a double meaning.
Chuck Jones was the first man to disappear. Kooky later told me that Chinooki told him she ate the sweet man. But she could say practically any scary and awful thing, and then sing a sweet song, and everyone would smile and think she did no wrong. The cabin boy disappeared next, and Bob Clampett swore he saw the kid’s severed foot at the bottom of the oyster stew Cookie served that same night.
“I am becoming alarmed here at this story,” said Pidney. “Is this one of those things where you read the scary story in a book and then it comes true in real life?”
“It can’t be,” said Mary.
“You know full well that Captain Noah Dettbarn was a fool and a liar
long before he ever went to sea. He has a
reputation in this little town, and the old folks all say that telling a lie is the same as telling a Noah.”
Mary continued reading aloud.
Chinooki was a favorite of every sailor aboard. She entertained us constantly with stories and songs. She could play Kooky’s ukulele, too, like a professional. She had us all dancing and singing along without being truly aware of what was going on. Crewmen kept turning up missing. Then, when Kooky started kissing her on the lips at every opportunity, I realized I needed to confront her. I think I owe Kooky for that, because if he hadn’t interrupted her songs with his kisses, I might never have returned to my senses.
“Chinooki,” I said, late one night at the aft rail, “you have to stop doing to us whatever it is that you have been doing to us.”
“Chinooki not know what you are meaning, nice Captain mans.”
“Don’t accuse her without all the facts,” Kooky said.
“The crew likes what Chinooki has been doing for us,” added Bob Clampett.
“Look around, Bob,” I said. “Where exactly is the rest of the crew?”
Bob looked all around the deck. There was a lot of nobody to count. His eyes got big and round. “Good Lord! You are right, Captain! Something is definitely wrong!”
“Ho ho! Sweet Bobs has seen through the glammer! Maybe silly Captain mans too!” said Chinooki. She then wobbled up to Bob using her fish tail to travel upright in the manner of a cobra. She put her silvery arms around his neck and gave him a big old smooch on the lips. Then she bit deeply into the side of his neck. Together they pitched backwards over the ship’s rail and fell into the ocean below. Poor Bob did not even have a chance to scream.
At that point in the story, poor Pidney was so pale, that
Mary stopped reading, apparently afraid the big Polish football hero was about
to pass out from fear.
“Don’t stop now!” Valerie insisted. “This old log book thing is getting really, really good.”
Canto Fourteen – Log
Book of the Reefer Mary Celeste
Valerie opened the book to the page Mary had indicated with
the red paper book mark.
“That’s the spot where the story seems to begin,” said
Mary. “The part before that ‘s all cargo
manifests and navigational data.”
“Okay,” said Valerie, “Then here goes;” She began to read
We were sailing southwest from the
Republic of Palau in Micronesia where we had taken on supplies at the big
island of Koror. It was September of
1979. The seas were calm, although the
first mate was tracking a big storm that could potentially turn in our
way. We were supposed to deliver the
refrigerated meat and vegetables in our hold to Pinoy Proud Food Markets of Manila by the beginning of
October. There were supposed to be
bananas too, but we had made the mistake of putting the bananas in the freezer
and frozen bananas become just the right shade of poo-poo color to make them
unmarketable. So the crew had been eating
a lot of frozen banana pops. Doc
Johnson, whom we call Doc because he knows a lot of useful stuff was worried
that we might inadvertently cause hyperkalemic death among the crew, which
worried me a bit, but since no one else seemed to know what the heck
hyperkalemic meant, we were okay with eating that many frozen bananas, but I
was later led to wonder if, in fact, the whole hyperkalemic death thing might
be the source of hallucinations.
It was a valid worry as it turned
out. Because that September, in the
early morning on Monday, September 10th, Kooky Smith first saw the
“Wow!” said Danny Murphy, “a real mermaid?”
“Well, that’s the debate, isn’t it?” said Mary. “The story starts to get stranger and
stranger. And he even says it might be
because they ate too many frozen bananas.”
“Does it say what the mermaid looked like?” asked Pidney.
Valerie looked carefully at the block of text ahead written
in Captain Dettbarn’s goofy wrong-way-leaning handwritten letters.
“Um, yes, let me read that part.”
Chinooki was a naked woman from the
waist upwards, with comely breasts and long pinkish-white hair. Her skin was a kind of fish-belly-looking
silver and her dark red eyes looked brown most of the time, but glowed like
fire at night.
“Gonga!” said Danny, a word he often used to express both
surprise and admiration at the same moment.
Pidney, however, was blushing a cherry red that covered most
of his crew-cut head and neck.
“Chinooki?” asked Mary, “What kind of name is that?”
“It sounds kinda fishy,” said Valerie. “Like Chinook salmon.”
“Or maybe Chinese,” suggested Danny.
They all turned and looked at Danny.
“What? They call
Chinese people Chinks, right?”
“Polite people don’t,” suggested Mary.
“Read more about what happened,” Pidney asked Valerie.
Kooky said that he saw her the
first time off the starboard rail, swimming with her head and shoulders raised
out of the water. He thought she was
some kind of shipwreck survivor, but when he hailed her to offer help, she
waved at him and smiled, then dove and showed him her fish tail.
Of course, no one believed
him. Sea stories like that get told all
the time, and Kooky liked to drink… sometimes even on duty. We all knew he was quite capable of seeing
things that weren’t real.
But the second time she was spotted,
Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones were also on deck, and when Kooky shouted they
immediately came to the rail and saw her too.
Now, Bob was like Kooky in a lot of ways, so we woulda thought he was
making it up too, or just backing Kooky’s kooky story for yucks and
kippers. But Chuck was well known for
both sobriety and honesty. He was the
man I trusted to keep the ship’s books because I knew he’d never cheat any of
us out of a single penny we were due.
And he’d sooner cut off his own hand than tell a lie.
“We have ta catch her and bring her
aboard,” Kooky said.
“You gonna eat her?” Bob asked.
“Are you daft, man? I don’t want to hurt her,” Kooky said. “She’s beautiful. I want to catch her and keep her.”
“Be wary,” Chuck said. “If she’s not a natural creature, then she’s
some kind of unnatural menace sort of thing.
Bringing her on board this ship might be the last thing we ever do in
“Well, I for one, would very much
like to see this real mermaid,” I said.
I would later come to regret those words more than any I had ever said
before in my whole life.
The four young Pirates all looked at each other, and all
four of them shivered at once. Valerie
could certainly read out loud in a way that would scare you out of your under
Valerie was on her skateboard on Main Street. She was thrashing. It didn’t matter how dangerous Daddy said it
could be. She was a thrasher, and she
knew how to ride. If he thought he could
forbid her from doing it, well, that was just so boofoo! No.
She couldn’t use that
word. Not after Danny Murphy told her
what it actually meant. Yeesh! Okay, un-cool, then.
She was ten. She was wearing her latex biker shorts. You know, the ones Mom forbid her to wear because they were skin tight. But why did it matter so much? It was not like she actually had a butt to show off. She could ride her skateboard naked and no one would really notice. She did an ollie off the edge of the sidewalk and onto the hot pavement. Summer was ending, but the last day of the Labor Day weekend was still hot. Iowa hot. Eighty degrees in the sun with warm, humid air that boiled you right out of your biker shorts sort of hot. But Valerie wasn’t ready to find out if it was true that no one would notice. She needed to keep them on. They were black with a purple slash of color on the sides. Her favorite thing to wear.
Across the asphalt street her wheels and trucks buzzed as
she rode to the south side of Main Street.
It was a small Iowa farm town.
Only maybe four cars were parked there at any one time, and no one was
on the street but her. Still, she wished
she could burn her way across right in front of someone’s moving pickup truck
and scare them into dropping a bale of hay or two. No one marked her passing by in one of the
most boring places in the whole Mr. Boofoo Universe. No.
The Mr. Un-Cool Universe. She had to remember not to say that other
thing anymore. Especially in front of
Mom, even if Mom didn’t have a clue what it really meant.
She was headed for the Ghost House on the south eastern edge
of town. The Ghost House was the only
remaining haunted house in Norwall, Iowa, and it had collapsed in on itself.
It was more a pile of broken boards and garbage than a house, but it was
the place where she was headed because, unknown to most of the adults in town,
the Ghost House still had a functioning cellar, shored up with railroad ties by
her cousin Brent Clarke and the rest of the original Norwall Pirates. The Pirates had been a secret club in the
1970’s, a secret that nearly everyone knew at least one thing about. They had been a liars’ club of young boys who
supposedly caught a werewolf once and chased an undead Chinese wizard around
town. Liars’ club was more than just a
local nickname for it. It was more of a
literal definition. But she had been
called to attend a secret Pirate meeting.
A meeting that shouldn’t exist because there had been no Norwall Pirates
since they had graduated high school in 1978.
Mom would have a fit if she knew Valerie was headed to the
Ghost House. It was the kind of run-down
rattle-trap that all mothers worried about.
No decent mother worthy of her official Mom-card would stand for a child
of theirs going to such a place, especially not Val’s Mom, the Queen of
She thrashed her way down Whitten Avenue and then around the
corner, zigzagging for two blocks, and then passing Ugly Bill’s Junkyard to the
huge pile of broken crap that had been described to her as being the actual
She came to a stop, kicked up her board and grabbed it, and
looked around, not quite as certain now as she pondered a wilderness of junk,
thistles, and burdock leaves. Ugly Bill
Pixeley had tons of used car parts and wrecked truck parts from which he
salvaged the pieces that he, his brother, and his two idiot sons put together
as trucks and other vehicles which he then sold at a huge profit. Pixeley was a talented mechanic and a very
crafty self-taught engineer.
“You here for the Pirate meeting?” asked Danny Murphy,
pulling up on his bicycle.
“Yeah,” she answered, popping her Bazooka Joe bubble
gum. “Mary Philips says it ain’t just
gonna be for boys anymore.”
“Yeah. I heard that
too. And I’m glad you’re gonna be a Pirate,”
Danny said with a sly grin. He was a
sophisticated man of twelve… well, not really… but he was a boy older than
Valerie by an entire school year, though only about five months in age. Older boys being in the club was one of the
main attractions for her. “It will be
cool to have the most beautiful little girl ever born in Norwall in our club.”
Valerie blushed and dropped her eyes a little bit at
that. Her Uncle Dash had always said
that about her since she could remember.
But it was one thing to hear it from family, and something else to hear
it from somebody she rode the school bus with.
Some things get around by word of mouth a lot faster and farther than
you ever wish they would.
“Do you know how to get inside?” Valerie asked.
“I can show you a secret entrance … for a kiss?” Danny blushed intensely as he proposed the
bargain, a truly dark red that can only be achieved by somebody as
boney-skinny, white-skinned Irish, and shy of girls as Danny Murphy was.
“Boys who think like that all grow up to be rapists,” Val
shot back at him. “That’s what my Aunt
Jennifer says, anyway.”
Danny turned an even darker shade of red-violet. Valerie was suddenly feeling guilty, as if
she might possibly have caused his head to explode from embarrassment by her
cutting remark about his personal urges.
She didn’t dislike him. She just
didn’t want to kiss him.
“Aw, I didn’t mean anything by that. I’ll show you the Tunnel of Doom.”
Danny pointed to a large concrete drainage tile that had been rolled up against the side of the Ghost House’s foundation. She could see that if you crawled through the tile, you could enter through a large crack in the brick foundation. Spiders and potentially snakes to crawl through. Ughh! But Valerie was no Shrinking Violet. She pushed Danny out of the way and went in.