30 March 2011
I've mentioned before that my husband is a garbage truck driver. He doesn't do it all the time, just as the backup driver. No one else wanted the job. The one responsibility he does do every week is emptying the compactor at the food court of the establishment. He does it once a week. He used to do it Friday mornings, but since starting school (yay!) he now does it Saturday mornings.
This last Saturday was really foggy and visibility was limited to about 50 feet. He had picked up the compactor and was heading to the dump. He passed a sign that read "Nightly Road Closures" because of nearby construction. At 8 o'clock in the morning, this wasn't a problem, the road opened back up before then. A block later he ran over a "Road Closed" sign.
He quickly pulled the truck over, checked for damage (the grill, already breaking, was now broken a little more), and hurried to the sign to put it back up. A police officer walked over and asked if everything was okay. My husband, now feeling a little foolish that someone had seen the whole thing, said everything was fine. The officer asked if he'd seen the warning ahead. When my husband explained it wasn't a warning of the current closure but of the nightly closure the officer groaned.
The reason the road was closed was not in fact because of the construction itself but because of a small accident. One of the cranes had knocked the light and they were trying to fix it. Three more officers arrived at the scene and they were all surprised that there was no warning or mention of a detour. They wrote an incident report and my husband went on his way, into the fog.
I'm glad he wasn't injured. I was out of town at the time, but I still think it is pretty funny that he flattened one of the large "Road Closed" signs with the truck. I almost wish I could have been there to see it.
27 March 2011
Jaethryn stopped the mare, Lythialan, and stared at the pile of refuse lying on the ground under the "No Trash On Ground" sign. He buried his nose in his shoulder and stepped forward. The stench increased with every step he took. His eyes watered as he opened the garbage can behind the pile of trash. Not a speck of garbage decorated the inside of the can. Jaethryn took a deep breath, intending to curse, and instead coughed at the putrid smell. He started picking up the trash and tossing it in the can, all the while mentally cursing his fellow elves inconsiderate actions.
The can's not even full. But they couldn't be bothered to put their garbage in it. Oh no, can't have them staining their precious hands by touching a rubbish bin.
With the pile now deposited into the can, he grabbed the handle, pulled the can off the ground, and carried it to the cart. Four other cans already rested on the wooden planks. He was only halfway done and already running behind. Lythialan shied away from the foul smelling gloves, nostrils flaring and eyes rolling. Jaethryn sighed. He clicked his tongue and walked towards the next can. She followed after him, but back a few paces. Every so often he could hear her blow out air and shake her head.
We both got the short end of the stick, didn't we? Too bad we didn't realize it when we volunteered.
The next can looked similar to the previous one. Only this time the can was about half full and the garbage piled in front smelled worse. As he cleaned up the mess, a glob of something rank fell and left a long streak down his trouser leg landing on his boot. He dropped the stuff still in his hands in the can and bent down to clean up the rest.
"I'm glad to see you, Jaethryn," a voice called out.
"Great. Just what I needed," he mumbled then turned to the speaker with a strained smile. "Nessilida, how good it is to see you today."
"I do hate to bring this up," the woman stared and then plunged on. "Even in this cool spring weather, we find the rubbish to be particularly offensive to the nose. We do hope that you can come up with a solution to the difficulty before summer is upon us."
"I'll do my best," he replied and turned to pick up the can. There wouldn't be this problem if you actually put the trash in the can.
"We know you will." She hurried away, covering his nose and mouth with a delicate hand.
Lythialan tossed her head as he carried the can to the back of the cart.
"Come on, before we offend someone else with the stench of their own trash."
On the last pickup, Jaethryn was approached by another member of the community.
"I understand that this position you hold may not be the easiest, but when you were chosen, it was under the assumption that this important duty would be fulfilled in a timely manner. If you are late again, I'm afraid we will have to take drastic measures."
What kind of drastic measures?
Jaethryn nodded, his cheeks burning at the reprimand. Under the man's watchful gaze, he cleaned up the rubbish and hauled the can to the cart. He walked in silence with Lythialan to the dump and methodically emptied all of the cans then covered everything with a fresh layer of dirt. His back ached and his mind raced. The great trees kept most of the sun off him as he worked but the air in this air weighed down on him.
He went through the route for tomorrow. The seconday and fourthday routes were the most time consuming because he had to circumvent the council chambers. The councilmen didn't like to look at the garbage pickup and insisted he take a longer route. He took a moment to check the compost pile to see if it would be ready for thirday and then headed back into civilization. He passed a couple of cans on the way to the stable and groaned inwardly as he saw the piles around the cans.
With Lythialan rubbed down, fed, and stabled, he headed home, looking forward to a shower and clean clothes. The Council of Elder Elves waited outside for him. All of their faces were grim and they wore their official robes.
"Jaethryn, we understand that there have been some concerns regarding your performance," one of the men said.
As the councilman continued to explain their complaints, Jaethryn concentrated on his toes.
"And in conclusion, we expect you to perform better in the future."
How embarrassing. At least they can't threaten me with docked pay — the joys of living in a commune — wait a minute. They can't dock my pay. How are they going to punish me? Make me pick up garbage?
The council had already turned away.
"Excuse me, councilors. I resign."
They stared at him for a moment. "What?"
"I quit. I don't want to pick up your garbage anymore."
"You, you can't do that."
"And how are you going to stop me?" Jaethryn asked, his lips twisting up into a smile.
"Have a good day," he said and turned on his heel.
He walked home and laughed to himself.
Let's see the other elves of the Enchanted Forest try and be a garbage man. Maybe when I decide to take the job back in a year, they'll actually do what they're supposed to.
Jaethryn pulled his gloves off and threw them in the nearest garbage bin. Then he went home to pull out his tuba and practice. He would miss his job, but he didn't want to let anyone know until they were ready to change.
25 March 2011
Since I enjoyed the first two books in this trilogy I had high expectations when I started reading Dragon Spear by Jessica Day George. Though I had no idea where this book was going to go, the title didn’t give anything away and I was drawn immediately back into the world with Creel and Prince Luka and their new adventure. I have been rooting for these two characters the whole time and was so grateful that this book doesn’t have a typical dramatic breakup before the happily ever after. While the previous two books focus a lot on the development of Creel and her position in the world — Can she be more than a farm girl? Is she worthy of a prince? — this book focuses on how much she has changed and puts her self confidence to the test. This time instead of there being conflicts with human and dragons, it all revolves around the conflict with the various groups of dragons. There are some significant sacrifices in this book and while I am living in the modern world and don’t have the same dilemmas or have the same attachments I can relate to what she is going through.
This is a great story and wonderful conclusion to the series and really made me focus on what I would be willing to sacrifice if I was ever in dire situation. This is an amazing series that I cannot recommend highly enough.
23 March 2011
20 March 2011
Every night, the night sky contained a new flashing light. The alien ships crossed the sky faster than any plane and remained a constant light. The ships posed no immediate threat and Garth knew there wasn't anything they could do about them anyways. The humans didn't have aircraft anymore.
Garth leaned back against the rock, his gun across his knees as he watched another light rise over the mountains and pass above him. He waved and one of the other soldiers humphed.
"You look like an idiot," Ryder said.
Garth didn't reply. He kept his gaze on the horizon. It kept his mind occupied.
"The snappers aren't coming," another soldier said sitting down on a nearby rock. He let the butt of his gun rest against the ground.
"What makes you so sure, Marcus?" Ryder asked.
"How they going to find us out here, in the middle of nowhere? It's not like there was anything interesting here before the snappers invaded."
"That's what I thought at the last base," Ryder said.
Garth's ear pricked up. Ryder rarely spoke about his last base. All anyone knew about Ryder was the last base he was stationed at had been destroyed by the snappers. They'd found Ryder wandering in the deserted wasteland nearly three weeks earlier.
"And what exactly did happen at your last base?"
The silence stretched for nearly a minute.
"Wasn't pretty. The beasts came out of nowhere. A few blasts from their fighter ships then a deployment of foot soldiers from a transport ship. Everyone died."
"So how did you get here?" Marcus asked. "Or are you some ghost an alchemist dragged back?"
Though Garth couldn't see his face, he could picture the sneer twisting Marcus's mouth. A sneer often plastered Marcus's face.
"Ghost?" Ryder said.
That was not the answer Garth expected. Everyone knew about ghosts. Garth didn't want to be brought back. He'd rather stay dead.
"Are you stuck in the 24th century or something? Ghosts, you know. Sprits the alchemists bring back."
Garth tuned out the rest of the conversation content to stare at the stars. Every so often he glanced down at the base in the valley. A few shapes moved around the buildings. Tomorrow night, he would be one of those shapes. Guard duty was uncomfortable at the best of times, and this particular duty was on a voluntary basis and not everyone had volunteered. That created contention without all of the stress from worrying about the snappers attacking.
"Ghosts, how interesting. I will have to look into that," Ryder said, tilting his head to the side.
"We don't have any alchemists at the base but some are sure to come soon. They're required to enlist for a year."
Ryder looked up at the sky and then moved to sit on the ground next to the rock. Garth watched him as Ryder ducked his head. A blue light lit up the sky and the barracks exploded. The ground where they sat nearly a quarter of a mile away rocked with the impact.
"Gorefest," Marcus spat scooping up his weapon and taking cover behind the rock.
Garth clutched his gun and ducked as another explosion smashed into the ground. He glanced in the sky. A flaming black shadow above them fell towards earth. Its descent was stopped momentarily and another shadow in the dark exploded. Glass rained down. The clear shards sliced through his clothes and skin, leaving thin red lines which welled blood almost instantly. He could hear Marcus cursing behind his own rock and glanced at Ryder. The man stared up at the sky, ignoring the still falling glass as the ships plummeted towards them.
"Come on," Garth called, climbing to his feet and rushing towards the barracks.
The barracks still burned but it seemed safer than being at ground zero when the two ships crashed to the earth. Other men ran beside him, faceless shapes in the dark. The air stank with their combined terror. The ships crashed. The world buckled. Garth flew forwards into the sand, between two boulders. Marcus wasn't so lucky and Garth turned away from the body.
Great fires bloomed behind him. He turned, shielding his eyes with his hands. Snappers moved out of the ship. He could see the dual-tail claws dancing in the firelight. A human shape walked from the fire, unscathed. Garth raised his gun, pointing it at Ryder and fired.
One alien snapped from two legs to four and charged. Garth let out a scream of rage as the snapper attacked. He fell to the earth, the strength leaving his body with his blood.
Ryder walked up and bent down."You want to know how the last base I was stationed at fell? You just learned."
Garth watched the snappers swarm towards the base. He focused Ryder until his vision blackened.
A bright light pulled at him, and Garth felt warmth spread through his body. He opened his eyes and stared at the young man kneeling in front of him.
"What happened?" Garth asked, licking his lips. Everything looked a little faded and he appeared to be inside the snapper ship. Someone must have dragged him in here. He glanced at the floor and noticed the archaic signs through his translucent body. He felt like vomiting.
"Welcome to the recon division of Clash," a soldier said moving forward. "Everything will be explained, but we need to move quickly."
He followed the man outside racking his memory. Holes peppered his memory, especially around his death. Another man waited outside next to a truck.
Garth moved forward to get a better look but stopped when the soldier said, "Stay away from Commander Ryder. You sit in the back, with Fligg."
Something tugged at him. He pictured a man walking through flames but nothing else came to mind. He climbed into the truck with the alchemist and they sped away into the dark night. Being a ghost was worse than he imagined.
18 March 2011
After finishing Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George, I was so glad to learn that there was a sequel to the book. I love the characters, especially Creel and Luka. These two are back in action when Prince Luka visits another country which uses dragons as steeds for their army. Once again Jessica Day George gives the characters depth and development through the story. Though we already know what Creel’s talent is, the creativity and resourcefulness of her character, as well as the others, astounds me. The new setting is presented in a vivid way that has me picturing everything down to the minute detail without her even needing to specify it.
This book is just as good as the first one and I fell in love with the characters even more as they struggle together to solve the latest dilemma. Not only are the humans complex individuals but the dragons also have a depth and development that makes each of them unique, endearing, and individualized. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read about dragons and magic with a fresh take on heroines who are strong minded and independent yet retain femininity and culture. She is a heroine that I can admire.
16 March 2011
13 March 2011
The first thing Henry saw when he opened his eyes, was his breath. His last remembered location was a beach in Southern California watching the firework display and enjoying the open bar. He had just called his friends and told them he was headed over after the festivities finished. Even though the car wasn't considered new anymore, he still liked to show it off. He had to sign a mountain of paperwork and hand over his phone for a day before they would even let him drive it off the lot.
When his eyes focused on the scenery behind his frozen breath he sat up and hit his head. The white room was marred by a figure sitting in one of the corners. Henry couldn't tell the sex or age of the person because a large parka enveloped everything from the feet to the top of the head. A chill snaked its way down his back and he rubbed his arms as he continued to look around the room. The ceiling curved as did the walls and he saw the cracks of the bricks.
"I'm in an igloo. I'm in a freaking igloo."
The person spoke but it didn't sound remotely like English. He thought it might be some dialect of an oriental langue but wasn't sure. Not only did his head ache from hitting it on the ceiling but from all of the booze the night before. He rummaged through his pockets and found a rock and a few coins Not exactly what he was hoping for, considering his wallet and everything in it was missing.
"Where's my wallet?"
The person just rattled off another string of text he couldn't understand. The voice sounded familiar.
"I can't believe this is happening. I feel like I'm trapped in a bad movie. You don't expect me to save the day, do you?"
Henry's frustration mounted with every freezing minutes. For a while he crawled around the space but there wasn't any sign of a door. He rubbed his arms, breathed into his hands, wiggled his legs, anything to try and stay warm. The headache from the hangover lessened but his head still hurt from hitting it.
Just as he was getting ready to pummel the Inuit-wannabe a portion of the wall clicked open.
"Mr. Johanson, you have been cleared to leave," the Inuit said pushing back the hood. "Have a nice day."
"Have a nice day, my foot," he grumbled climbing out of the igloo into the warm California air. A young woman outside handed him his wallet, phone, and keys. He snatched them.
"What the blazes is going on?"
"Your phone call last evening that led us to believe you were in danger of breaking your contract."
"The one you signed when you purchased your car saying you won't drive the car while intoxicated."
"I didn't call you."
"No," said the Inuit, who was actually a thin young man under all that coat. Henry knew he'd met him somewhere but couldn't place it. "But we received the call nonetheless."
For a moment, Henry just stared at him then fingered his phone. "That's called a wire tap and it is illegal," Henry said.
"No, you signed all of the release forms when you bought the car."
"You're that salesman who sold me the car."
"Have a nice day," the man replied. "This is strike one. We catch you drunk again with the intent to drive, you lose your license privileges."
Henry fell silent and fingered his keys. Losing his license would be stupid. He was the only one out of his group of friends who could drive.
"Hey," the young woman said with a smile. "Don't feel too bad. At least no one was injured. We got to you in time."
Henry stayed for a couple of minutes after the staff left counting the igloos at the designated driver training camp, Stone Cold.
11 March 2011
I have heard Jessica Day George speak on several occasions and her personality just drew me in. When I first started reading I was sure I knew where the story was going. I mean the title of the book lets you know that the slippers Creel gets from the dragon in the beginning are obviously importantly. What I didn't realize was how deep into the story everything was going to be twisted. While she gets the slippers early on, the next portion of the story is for the development of the character in the city and her relationship with others. The story drew me in, not only the characters and the plot but the settings and the nitty-gritty details as well. I loved the descriptions of the town and just the day to day activities of the characters, from the prince to the seamstress.
One of the best parts of this story is Creel's chosen profession of seamstress, especially embroidery, in the capital city. The idea that a character could use embroidery and sewing to help save the day is totally awesome. I wish I'd read this book years ago when I was taking sewing lessons. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read about dragons, and a determined young woman who uses her head and the practical skills she has learned and practiced. Not only are the protagonists, Creel and Prince Luka, lovable and someone you want to cheer for but the antagonists I just wanted to slap them upside the head. I enjoy stories where I know who to cheer for and a villain I can truly loath.
So the long and short of it, this book is a great read that takes all of the fantastical elements (dragons, kingdoms, alchemy, and a happily ever after) but presents it in a new and fresh way. This book doesn't mock needlepoint skills and shows people that it doesn't matter what your hobbies are, but to use the skills you have on hand to solve the problems presented.
09 March 2011
This last week I wrote one of the two short stories. I had to write a story that fit in with my flash fiction already accepted. It shouldn’t have been that hard but I have limited practice writing short stories. Somehow I had to write a story between 3,000 – 10,000 words when I normally write under 1,000 words or over 80,000 words. So here was my solution, write three 1,000 flash stories with the same characters and compile them as beginning, middle, and end. I guess I’ll have to see what the editor says before I start the next story.
06 March 2011
“Did you hear about Michael? Whoa — didn’t you look in the mirror before you came to work today?” Lyle asked as I slid into my chair. “Imagine, a man who wins the lottery, still working and still can’t seem to afford a mirror.”
“It’s not like I have the money yet. Do I really look that bad?” I pressed my hand down on top of my head and tried to flatten it. After last night, no piece of glass remained unbroken. I was surprised I hadn’t cut my feet as I walked around getting ready for work. It only postponed the inevitable. The demon would be back as soon as I slipped up but the money from the lottery would be coming in soon. I worked hard to get the money. Once I had it, I could quit. Never have to show my face, any face, again.
“It’s not your hair I’m worried about, Dave.” Lyle replied and tapped his tie. “The presentation today, remember? Only the most important business deal of our careers.”
My hand flew to my neck and found nothing but unbuttoned collar. “Sorry, Lyle. I’ll go get one.”
“No time now. We present in five minutes. Maybe you can borrow one from someone.”
I nodded, letting my eyes scurry past the blank monitors to look over the short cubicle walls. A few of our coworkers wondering which one I should approach first. Barry, from accounting, was the most likely candidate and I hurried over to him. The stress made the wounds from my recent surgery ache. I pushed it aside and focused on getting a tie from Barry. Talkative Barry. I use to avoid him but I couldn’t now.
“What’s up, Dave? You haven’t stopped by in nearly two weeks. Is something wrong?”
“Sorry about that. I’ve been really busy lately.”
“I can’t believe Mike was on the news today. Did you see that? They found the remains of his body in the river, he was missing his face. They identified him through his clothes and driver’s license. Poor fellow never did have much luck with anything. You and Lyle knew him best though. Did he seem like the suicidal type?”
“I didn’t catch the news before leaving today.” I said with an apologetic smile. “Can I borrow your tie for the presentation today?”
“Are you guys still going ahead with that, I mean with Mike being gone and all.”
“Michael —” My voice caught for a moment and I clamped my jaw shut.
“Right. Sorry about that. Sure, you can borrow my tie.”
Barry’s desk used the large windows as one wall and though I try to remain focused on my friend, the horned demon is visible in the glass. A knife clutched in its hand, it skulked towards Barry’s back.
“Here,” Barry said, the silk tie swishing as he pulled it free. “Good luck on your presentation.”
“Thanks. I owe you one.” I grabbed the lose end and gathered up the tie.
“Nah, this will make up for you helping me with my presentation last year. Remember?” Barry nodded and turned back to his computer screen.
“Of course,” I lied.
Pictures of his wife and children rested on the desk and the demon crept through them, knife still in hand. I pivoted on my heel and trotted to where Lyle waited for me. The framed artwork on the walls caught the fluorescent lights and the demon followed Lyle as we walked down the hall. Its mouth spread wide, salivating.
At the conference room, I hurried to open the door, blocking the glass and the demon from sight. I followed Lyle into the room, sweat running down my back. Not because this presentation would not only determine my future at the company but the company’s future. The glass windows at the end of the room winked in the sunlight. The demon stood at attention, fingering the blade of the knife. The hideous face melted. My face grinned out at me.
“Dave, are you alright?”
The demon held the knife up and stepped closer. Its face, my face, filled the glass.
“Can you live seeing this face in the mirror?” The demon asked.
Its faced morphed again, and I squeezed my eyes shut.
“No. He’s dead. This is a lie.” I could still see his face in front of me and let out a scream of rage. “The money’s mine!”
I opened my eyes and picked up the nearest chair. The glass crashed to the floor. Thousands of faces looked up at me from the pieces, Dave’s face and my own.
04 March 2011
First things first, I love the music from the opera Phantom of the Opera. I grew up listening to my older sister playing the songs on the piano and singing along. I inherited the piano book after her and spent hours practicing. Now the book is with the youngest sister. I don’t want anyone to read this review and think I don’t like the opera.
That being said, those who haven’t read the novel are missing out. I didn’t realize how intense the book was when I first read it in college. There are only a few people that actually die within the story itself because of the Phantom but throughout the whole book I feared him. The Persian, who isn’t even in the opera, gives some background to Erik that adds another level to the character and explains his knowledge and some of his reasonings. At the end of the book is this line: “He had a heart that could have held the entire empire of the world; and, in the end, he had to content himself with a cellar.” It just makes you wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t been disfigured. This book takes a snapshot of society and though we would like to think we would not judge someone on their physical appearance alone, what other similarities can we draw between the actions of the doubting managers, the jealous singer Carlotta, the love struck Raoul, and the pitying Christine and our society.
This will always be one of my favorite books if only for the wonderful story telling that Gaston Leroux uses. He was a journalist for several years and left it to start writing fiction. This story emulates a journalistic style in presenting the facts of the situation in a way that you almost wonder if it really were true.
02 March 2011
In this age of technology, I am continually saddened by the lack of personal communication. There are lots of ways to get information out en masse, and I use several of them. I love the freedom I have by posting on a website where my family, scattered across the country, can read the stories and things I have to say. Yet when I don’t hear about a bridal shower because I chose not to participate in Facebook, I am a little disheartened.
There is a time and place for all forms of communication; I still find it useful to send up smoke signals when I’m lost. I hope I remain old fashioned in my love of the hand-written word and beautiful stationary.