Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Eleventh Beginning: Magic Safety Procedures

Sudavic Safety Procedures #26:  Effective Use of Steam Circle

                                                                  A Magical Health and Safety Publication 

Steam sterilization of materials can be a dependable procedure for the destruction of small forms of unwanted life, whether normal microbes, encroaching essences, generated pseudocules, or lingering elementaloids, including fire ones.  Whether called Steam Circles, Sterilizers, or Autoclaves, they are a common laboratory tool that must be properly used to be effective.  This Safety Procedure establishes guidelines for the effective use of Steam Circles for the decontamination of cultures, equipment, and other potentially vitahazardous materials.  We will assume that all basic safety precautions for magical circles (Safety Procedure #11) are in effect.

Successful Components of Sterilization

Any sterilization procedure should include validation of decontamination effectiveness.  Validation of effectiveness requires monitoring of the temperature, pressure, and duration for each sterilization cycle and the gathering of apparatus effectiveness data.  The gathering of effectiveness data can be done on a monthly schedule if, and only if, the Steam Circle has been converted to a permanent form in the lab and the permanence of the circle has been certified by the Safety Committee.  If the Steam Circle has merely been drawn with temporary materials, or has not been certified, apparatus effectiveness must be tested with each use.

Apparatus effectiveness is assured by recording the results of decontamination challenges using currently approved vitalogical indicators.  A logbook should be used to record Steam Circle use and effectiveness of test results.  The logbook should be stored near the circle and be available for inspection at any time.

To Be Logged

The following information should be logged for each use or test of the Steam Circle:

  • Saturation - The Steam Circle must achieve a saturated steam as verified by water elemental testing or approved alternate spell. 
  • Pressure - Pressure within the operating area must be at least as heavy as atmospheric pressure in the Hades Valley.  Lighter pressures will not force the steam into the pores of the material and will leave residual living contamination.  Grimtooth's comparator may be used as may a physical metal tube with a weighted end, approved by the Mystic Artificer's Guild.  Do not attempt to form any connection of the operating area to the Hades Valley.
  • Temperature - Under approved pressure, the temperature of the operating area must be hot enough to sterilize exposed material within half an hour.  Results higher than the following are acceptable for the following heat measurement spells:  Celsius’s Signifying Circle, 121; Fahrenheit’s Flame Taster, 250; and Sally's Salamanderia, periwinkle blue (use approved comparison chart).
  • Time - The time of operation is measured after the temperature of the material being sterilized (not the operating area steam temperature) has reached the required saturation, pressure, and temperature.  Use a standardized half hour sandglass to measure time.  Do not use a larger sandglass with a half hour marking.  Sandglass markings are not sufficiently accurate.  Do not use a water clock unless it is separated from the circle by at least two doors, which must be shut during operation.
  • Contact - Steam must reach all areas of the material being sterilized.  If bagged by an impermeable material, the bags should be left partially open to allow steam to penetrate the bag.  Trapped air pockets or inadequate steam penetration will cause sterilization failure.  Soil has many pores and is difficult to penetrate with steam.  Soil to be sterilized must be spread to no more than a single knuckle thickness in an open container.  Sand is easier to penetrate and can be spread to a depth of a finger.  Sandy soil is still soil and must be treated accordingly.
  • Containers - Materials to be sterilized should be carried to the Steam Circle in leak proof containers.  Containers typically used to hold material within an operating Steam Circle are:
Primary Containers - Clear steam circle bags and sheets can be created using Petros's Oleaginous Concentrator.  Do not use bags created by other spells as they may melt or release toxic fumes when autoclaved.  Bags of natural materials will decompose after a few uses and may absorb living and other material during autoclaving.  Bags are usually placed in secondary containers which catch liquids that may leak from the bag.

Secondary Containers - Spelled steel or specialized frozen oil containers (Trademarked Spells) are commonly used to contain material during autoclaving. 

  • Indicators - These tools may be used to indirectly determine the state of the autoclaving process.
Chemical indicators change color after reaching the required temperature, but they do not indicate required saturation, pressure or duration of process.
Ribbon indicators also change color after reaching the required temperature, but do not indicate required saturation, pressure or duration.
Vitalogical indicators have been approved to demonstrate that a Steam Circle has been operated through a process that will sterilize the material in its operating area.  A load test using Bacillus stearothermophilus or a gelatinous cube two knuckles long on each side should be performed monthly by trained operators.   

  • Record Keeping - Records of maintenance, usage logs, test logs, and any other calibration results should be kept for a minimum of three years.  The logbook, containing current usage and test results, should be kept near the apparatus.
Steam Circle Training and Operation

Primary Initiators and all supervisors must train and qualify their staff for operation of Steam Circles for decontamination of materials and equipment.  The specifics of the training will be the prerogative and responsibility of the Primary Initiator.  Qualified Steam Circle users should understand all basic circle casting processes and all operation testing spells.  In addition they should understand the saturation, pressure, temperature, and time relationships necessary for complete materials decontamination.  Additional training on handling materials to be decontaminated and on containers to be used should also be provided.  Supervisors should maintain a permanent record of training provided to their staff. 

  • Operators should wear protective clothing and equipment, i.e. heat resistant gloves, eye protection, and heat resistant robes or aprons, particularly when unloading the circle.
  • Regularly inspect your circle components for proper alignment of components and continuity of lines.  Follow the circle template at each inspection.  Steam Circles should be inspected on a regular basis and saturation, pressure, and temperature spells should be calibrated at least annually.  If a problem is found, promptly notify your area supervisor who will close the circle and call for maintenance.  Do not operate a problematic Steam Circle until it has been properly recast.
  • Never place sealed containers in the Steam Circle.  Sealed containers will explode.  Large bottles with narrow necks can simulate sealed containers if filled with too much liquid. 
  • Do not autoclave items containing solvents, volatile or corrosive chemicals, or any infernal or extraplanar materials.  Contact MH&S if you have questions regarding the suitability of materials in need of sterilization.
  • After loading and starting the circle, processing time starts after the operating area reaches saturation and the material in the operating area reaches the required pressure and temperature.
  • Decontamination conditions vary with the type of load, therefore processing times can vary according to conditions.  A half hour is the minimum needed to decontaminate exposed vitalogical waste.  Your material or equipment may require a longer time.  Contact MH&S if you have questions.
  • At the end of a decontamination, make sure that the pressure in the circle matches room pressure before opening the circle.  Use a directional opening spell, rather than dropping the circle all at once.  Stand on the other side of the circle from the initial opening and allow the steam to escape from the operating area before completely opening. 
  • Take care when opening the circle.  Opening the operating area to room pressure too quickly may result in glassware breakage and/or steam burns.  Standing behind a barrier while opening the circle may be wise.
  • Allow materials inside the operating area to cool for at least a quarter of an hour before removing them from the operating area.  Use protective garments and equipment as necessary.
  • After successful autoclaving, formerly vitahazardous waste can be disposed of as solid waste.

For additional information, contact your Magical Health and Safety Advisor in the shingled building near the student's pub. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Comments on the Tenth Beginning

I've been picking at this one by sending myself emails, mostly regarding names for additional characters.  One name that I've settled on is Wu Kwan Tam (if you shift the names into the Chinese order, it's Kwan Tam Wu, a pun).  I strongly suspect that it's his grandmother throwing the spell, and I'm pretty sure why, but I'm not sure how to build up an explaination of why that makes sense in the story. 

I'm also not sure that it's a short story, rather than a novel.  Or that the main character's name is Jasper.  I keep wanting to call him Buck, and to have that be a shortening of an odd Latin name.  [From an email - Buckminster Godot Lastname - Sheriff's assistant.  Probably not, but I wonder how many people would get it.]

I can't get very far into the story that Jasper's trying to write unless I expand it to novel length.  Just in case, though, I've done a little bit of checking on Dickens and Drood.  First Wikipedia, then a Google search.  I bought the novel Drood by Dan Simmons, which perports to be based on Dickens' life.  Haven't read it yet, though.  I listened to another novel on CD.  The Last Dickens:  A Novel, by Matthew Pearl.  

According to Bookmarks magazine, as quoted on, American critics didn't like the subplots, and British reviewers thought Pearl hadn't quite gotten English culture.  In general, the level of Pearl's research was said to be impressive, though.  And both it and Drood are said to be based on the same research material.  So if I find something in both books, it's either fairly reliable or difinitively false. 

But back to my own fractured maunderings.  Let's pull a few old emails from the pile.  The first one to apply to FOE reads:  a mirror on a door - a whistle hanging from the doorknob - a toxic magic cleanup - pigs flying - a redneck wizard - a sheriff - dust and dogs - flying carpets in the front yard like clunker cars - semis and trailers with fancy fringe - spitting on a wooden porch - (another note to self - read more Neil Gaiman.) 

Well, shoot.  It looks like I've already included all of that.  I still need to read more Gaiman, but doesn't everybody?

OK - I think I found a line of patter for Wu.  I don't know whether to just quote Douglas Adams and go from there, or try to explain what he'll be proposing without the quote that triggered the thought.  I think the first would perhaps give Wu an excuse for reading a book instead of answering Jasper's questions properly. 

The quote:

[the characters have been talking about how history has become jumbled due to time travel]  ". . . that not only had the great Cathedral of Chalesm been pulled down in order to build a new ion refinery, but that the construction of the refinery had taken so long, and had had to extend so far back into the past in order to allow ion production to start on time, that the Cathedral of Chalesm had now never been built in the first place. Picture postcards of the cathedral suddenly became immensely valuable. "  Life, the Universe, and Everything

I'm wondering whether if everyone was given the ability to start things earlier in order to meet slipping deadlines, if the summed procrastination of all sentient beings would push the start of everything back to the big bang, with the subsequent discovery that the big bang had been triggered by too many timelines crossing. 

Creation by procrastination. 

So that's one bit of Wu.  Big Kay listed three possible reasons to be angry with her.  " Some people just don’t want to believe that their rug can’t be fixed.  Or that it ought to cost what it does.  Or that they bought a lemon."  I think it was Wu who bought the lemon.  He's not put out by it though.  He's drawing up comics.  Or writing plots for them.

From another email:  Sadly, I have zombie story ideas.  Well, they could be story ideas, or they could be game ideas. Similar things. It started tonight with Eric saying that he had heard of a tower defense game called Cowboys vs Zombies. In a tower defense game, successive waves of attackers come at you while you try to use your wits and resources to create a maze of defense fortifications that will take them out befoe they get all the way to your home base.

So I was thinking, what if it was the zombies that were being attacked. You're one of the attacking humans and after winning or nearly winning, you begin to suspect that the zombies are just a new kind of human, protecting their loved ones. That's been done. With vampires, instead of zombies, but it's been done.
Still, it's a dilemma. What if they deserve to just go about their lives? They haven't been out raiding. They do not come into human areas and snatch people. You've discovered that rumors that they have are unfounded.
What is a hero to do. You offer to switch sides. You offer try to convince your neighbors and government to leave the zombies alone. You just have this one little nagging worry about what they eat. I mean, why call them zombies if they don't eat people? Are they called that to make them easier to attack? You see that their food seems to be packaged and distributed from a central location. Eventually you're trusted enough that you're allowed to go anywhere within the zombie territory. Why not, you've worked to repell several waves of attacking humans. So you go to check out the distribution center and follow the trail of trucks arriving there.
That's when you find the pens. Mutated humans are being raised for zombie food. These scientifically modified humans grow faster than others and their heads are huge. They're harvested before they're fully grown and their massive brains are packaged and distributed to all hungry zombies. The zombies aren't attacking regular humans because they have domesticated humans to harvest.

Another dilemma! You're a defending hero. Don't these genetically modified humans deserve to be freed from captivity and certain death? It takes you a long time, but you finally put together a squad of humans that are trusted by the zombies and who sweep in and free a sizable number of these big-brained children. Oddly, the government had no interest in liberating them. In the process, most of the zombies are killed. 

Later, you discover why the government wasn't interested. They've dealt with the mutants before. When they're allowed to become adults and form communities, they are super smart and mildly telepathic. They begin taking over the government and are obviously going to slowly take over the world, perhaps leaving some remnants of normal humans in nature preserves. The zombies were the result of an attempt to modify humans (Modification B) to be immune to the modified humans (Modification A) mental influence. The zombies had been volunteers, heroes who sacrificed their humanity to save humanity from (modified) humanity.

Another dilemma. It takes a lot to convince you that it is inevitable that the Mod A's will despise and mistreat mainline humanity. But you're eventually convinced. This is where the story is complicated and I'm not sure exactly how you do it, but eventually not only are most of the zombies wiped out, but all of the Mod A's in human territory are dead.

That's when you discover (or decide) that the government is evil. And that the only thing keeping the government from collapsing into a totalitarian hellhole is the threat that the Mod A's might get loose and put them out of business. Or they might be used to spy on the government, revealing dastardly plans.

Your head spins. It had all been in balance before - a horrible, yet wonderful balance. The zombies kept the Mod A's alive as a threat to the government, but kept them from overrunning the government. The humans kept the zombies from overpopulating and, what? There's got to be some kind of balance here, too. I'll think about it.

Anyway, you and your group hit the labs and become zombies. You join the remnants of the zombie hoard and establish new defensive positions. The government will make sure that you're never completely devastated by humans. Before you left you found a couple of Mod A children and used them to identify and take out a few of the most corrupt leaders. Now you're going to get the balance going again. You get your fellow zombies ready for the inevitable Night of the Living. (Eric thought of the title.)
What else is Wu up to?  Puns?  Weird plays with words?
Sounds like you were held to a hire standard. 
And this isn't for some "whoa is us" Police Story.
You halved by sympathy.
Excuse me, I need to reverse the polarity of my nutrient flow.  (he barfs)
We return you to your timeless void, already in progress.
"It's the anthropocene: Stuff gets around."
Remember: Friends don't let friends invoke the names of the Elder Gods.
She said, "Wow, I'm having some really strong deja vu."  So I said, "We heard you the first time."
Butt hiss hart was rite their!
It was a kind jester.
altarnative  All tarnative?  Altar native?
And the barman says "Sorry. We don't serve your kind in here!"
Tachyon walks into a bar.
Yeah, I'm chagrinning from ear to ear.
Urethra! instead of Eureka.
"I'm going to use age progression software on my two year and put the resulting photo on the mantel. He'll see it all the time as he's growing up and eventually he will realize that it's him. Then I'll convince him that he's a time traveler"
Second character.  Old fat guy who used to be well-off but is now a near recluse and hoarder.  Need a name.  Perhaps Tartle, a Scottish verb meaning to hesitate while introducing someone due to having forgotten his/her name.  Jayus (Jay) Tartle.  He can't believe that his old rugs can't be fixed. 
The first impression was that something had been nesting in the drawer. There was a swirl of hard and poke-y things mixed with and overlain by soft white. Focusing on individual items in the gyre brought recognition of straws, plastic sporks and knives, packets of various condiments, stained popsicle sticks, wrapped tooth brushes, the thin combs included in hospital packs, and other things, sticking out of a mound of free napkins. You could tell that the napkins were free, because there were so many different kinds, some with Wienerschnitzel logos on them.  (I don't know if I wrote that or lifted it from somewhere.  Should probably Google to be sure.  Looks like I'm good.)
Of course, those will have to be Diner napkins in the story. 
He also collects old stories, gossip, and sayings.  "If you think a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, try calling a woman another woman's name."
Hope is the first step on the way to disappointment.
From a nearby city newsletter - The staff also got the opportunity to observe a falconer with his three peregrine falcons. The falconer was hired by Forward [City Landfill] staff to use his falcons as a natural deterrent to keep sea gulls from the landfill. Due to Stockton Metropolitan Airport's close proximity to the landfill, the 500-600 sea gulls normally found at Forward, can be a serious hazard to airplanes during landing and take off. The falcons never attack the gulls but by their mere presence, the gulls instinctively leave the area, as well as the airport flight paths.

When he's depressed he says, "I am holding my own."  [The last communication from the Edmund Fitzgerald.  During the storm Anderson notified Fitzgerald of an upbound ship and asked how it was doing. The reply, "We are holding our own."]

If gnawing my leg off like a fox in a trap would have allowed me to escape, you'd be calling me Stumpy today.

I could eat alphabet soup and shit a better threat letter.

Mice digging in the sand - or my life view as composed of magazine articles about experiments. 

Clarence Darrow*: "I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction."

"You can't fertilize a five-acre field by farting through a fence."

Would this one be Jay's or Wu's?  Time passed, like Friday night's beer on a Saturday morning.

Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.
To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
Is the third suspect Trina, the cook at the Diner?  I'll have to re-comb the emails for Trin-isms.  Or should there be someone else? 
She's not all there, making you wonder where else she is.  No that's the waitress at the Diner.  Maybe we could make her Courtney Nichols, after Nicholas Courtney, the Brig. 
When I was little, I thought that Lincoln had freed the sleighs, which must have gotten stuck in the snow.
This . . . thing . . . grows in your body like a tumor, bursts out and then immediately starts sucking life-giving fluids out of you. How is that not Lovecraftian?!
For general conversation in the Diner - everyone has a corpsicle story. 
There was a brief crime wave in Antarctica recently. [Actually, a glitch in some crime web site transposed the X and Y coordinates, placing a bunch of Houston crimes down there.]
Plus, of course, if you leave your car unlocked in the summer, there's a risk that some gardener might leave a zucchini on the front seat. Chronos
Old email -  Bus Stop Cafe [The Diner in this post]  Tables far from building if magic is high or line is close. 
NM's can't go into the dry lands for very long without nerve damage. Dusty [so now he's been Jasper, Buck, and Dusty] is not a true deputy, but can go into the lands, while the Sheriff can't. There's "a lot of not talking going on." Perky Edna [Courtney aka Sharon Dippity] notices and comments.
Patty [or Trina] believes what she says and gets mad at people who keep trying to steer her back to facts. Waiters, other cooks, and bus boys have a high turnover because it's hard to deal with Patty.
Bus stop [diner] people tend to say fractured things. Dusty and some of the other drylanders are regulars. The Sheriff often drops by to meet with Dusty. Edna makes sure that the diner is stocked with place mats that Dusty can draw on.
Edna makes mobiles, possibly with fragments of poetry on them.
You are a few sentences from an idea sparked by:  In the Land of Invented Languages by Arika Okrent.  In which Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty (Marty Crow?) invents a language in 1653 that he calls " . . . a new idiome of far greater perfection than any hitherto spoken." " . . . a most exquisite jewel, more preciouis than diamonds inchased win gold, the like whereof was never seen in any age."  Explained by some as a sort of arithmetic of letters.  His invented words include: Ekskubalauron "Gold out of Dung"  and Logopandecteision "An Introduction to the Universal Language".  For the Diner, he also invented quomodocunquizing "any-old-way-ing".  That would be quomodocunquiz for the menu.  Order that, and you get whatever the cook feels like giving you.
Food service is writhe with this kind of thing.
Found an email where the sheriff is Mark Banner.  Not sure if that fits.  There was also another name for Buck, but it didn't fit at all. 

Tenth Beginning - Face of Evil

The sun rained heat onto the truck roof.  The man inside twisted to write on a small red book propped on the steering wheel.  The pages weren’t staying flat, so the man had to struggle with it.

"The ghost of Charles Dickens is trying to finish The Mystery of Edwin Drood.  He's decided there shouldn't be any ghosts in it because he doesn't believe in ghosts anymore.  He's become a bit frayed over they years, a bit unraveled.  He's never been good at possessing people, not even when he was freshly dead, and his increasing incoherence has made things progressively worse.  That and the writer's block probably mean that the world will never know who dunnit. 

There is a reporter or an author or a wandering temp who is following the ghost of Charles Dickens.  He swings back and forth between trying to banish the ghost and trying to help the ghost finish the story.  He may be the descendent or past protégée of other ghost followers.  This will have to be a short story.  It could never be a TV series or a comic book.  It lacks the necessary gettings:  Getting the Girl, Getting Along, Getting Ahead, and Getting the Bad Guys.  Getting laid could substitute for getting the girl.  Could making a friend count?  Maybe.  If the show followed other trends or if the comic had a really popular artist."

The man sighed.  He was wandering from the story after only a paragraph and a half.  May as well get on with the task he was avoiding.  It was a hard thing when his most trusted means of procrastination failed him.  (Was there such a word as anticrastination?) He made a note to look that up.  

A later note, stuffed into the red book would read:  1540s, from L. procrastinationem "a putting off," noun of action from procrastinare "put off till tomorrow," from pro- "forward" + crastinus "belonging to tomorrow," from cras "tomorrow," of unknown origin.

On the back of the note would be:  “So, would anticrastination be doing things now or would it be consciously working against the future.  That puts me in mind of a story about a witch trying to live forever, but being fed incomplete information by the demons she summons.  Her final spell slows her life processes so that she will not die until the universe ends, but only because each second of her life has been smeared over millennia.  She becomes, effectively, a statue and the world has become an unintelligible blur to her.”  

But that will happen later.

Now the man is stretching and closing the truck door.  It’s an old Chevy, old enough to have a starter pedal.  It’s blue paint has oxidized and the white powder on the surface brushes off onto your clothes if you’re not careful.  The truck door shuts with a heavy clunk.

The man isn’t old enough to be retired, but he’s getting there.  His jeans and denim shirt are faded, but unstained.  They’ve been carefully worn and carefully tended.  He can make clothes last a long time.  No sense paying extra for carelessness. 

The hair he palms back is faded brown and the cowboy shaped hat is woven of straw.  He settles the hat on his head to ease the glare.  Squinting gives him a headache.  The hat and the cowboy boots make him think of something he heard a comedian say, once.  The comedian had a name like a western lawman.  What was it, now?  Gallagher.  Strong name.  The boy had said something about the only difference between a lady and a cowboy was that the lady tucked her elbows in while the cowboy stuck his out.

He had strutted around the stage demonstrating.  Out – cowboy, in – lady.  Both with pointed toes and high heels.  Both with hats.  Out – In. 

The man walked down the dirt driveway towards the trailer, conscious of his elbows.  He decided they weren’t really out or in, and that the real difference was that he walked with his knees loose.  A lady wouldn’t do that.  A woman wouldn’t, either.

She knew he was there, of course.  Probably had known before he got there.  Maybe she’d see the time spent at the end of the drive as politeness.  Maybe not.

Dogs came pouring out from under the trailer, straight through the dusty red fringe around its bottom.  They were baying or yapping, depending on their bent.  Although running, they weren’t running in much of a hurry.  They’d have a few seconds before they got far enough down the drive to reach him.

He stopped and shifted his hat.  They were an odd assortment, but he couldn’t place any new ones.  No danger or nips or bites, then.  At least none from the dogs.

He let them boil around him, sniffing and raising a dust.  The whole yard was dusty, with a bit of coarse grass growing here and there.  He looked around while he let them get their noses full of him.

The red fringe on the trailer was raveling a bit, but might still be usable.  Rolled flying carpets laid around the front, in a disordered pile under the one tree.  Two rose bushes flanked the front porch stairs.  They weren’t blooming now, but when they did the tops of each petal was a velvety red while the bottoms were a silky white.  They were quite a sight when they were going at it. 

Around each bush was a round watering trench, currently dry and cracked, the way clay soil did when it dried.  Each trench had a green garden hose balanced on the crater’s edge. 

Just off the drive from where the man was standing was a yard lamp.  There was a small model rug tethered to it with some fringed macramé.  It dipped and flew in the breeze, looking sharply patterned and dust free.  He guessed it was gathering solar energy to power the lamp at night.  Big Kay did good repair work when she got around to it. 

The dogs began to lose interest.  He started back up the driveway, then stopped as Big Kay, herself, came around from the back.

“It’s on the front porch,” she said.  “I left it alone because I knew someone would send someone out to check.  I was perfectly legal.  Perfectly within my rights.”

The woman was dressed in faded denim overalls and a purple flowered shirt.  She wore work boots and black leather work gloves with the ends of the fingers gone.  Two grey and brown braids were looped back and tied at the base of her neck.  She was probably less than five feet tall, but stocky and solid and obviously used to getting her way, although, if he remembered correctly, she was usually polite about it. 

“Hey, Kay,”  he said.

“Hey, Jasper,” she replied.

He waited.  They looked at each other for a space.  Then he ducked his head.

“Better get on with it, then,” he said, and sauntered up the swaying steps. 

There were only two steps, and the porch was maybe four foot deep and ten foot wide.  Jasper knew the steps and porch had been meant to be temporary, but had been there nearly twenty years, now.  That’s the way temporary fixes went, sometimes.

A roof rug hovered over the porch.  It was striped white and black and brown and red, although nearly all of the colors were closer to grey than when it was new.  There was a slit running against the stripes through two thirds of it.  It had been patched.  You could see the sagging interlacing holding it together.  Only Big Kay could get a carpet that damaged in the air on a regular basis.  At least, she was the only one that he knew of.

She followed behind him, but didn’t step up.  She stayed back out of his business and let him get on with things comment-free.  He appreciated that.

“You get a complaint?  Or was it just a tattle?”

“Oh, it was a full-on complaint.  Went to the Sheriff.”

“Any particular reason that the Sheriff didn’t come?”

“Got paperwork, I expect.  That or the Deputies are near overtime.”

“Yeah, that would do it.”

Jasper looked at the porch.  There were shards of glass.  He squinted.  If he looked at them just right, If he thought of them as coming originally from the front door, well, then they looked like they had sprayed out in a narrow cone from the door to nearly east. 

“Mirror?” he said.

“Yup.  Defensive spell.  Pure defence.”

“Well, nothing is completely pure.  This all finished?”

“Yeah.  It’s spent.  Completely inert.  Unless you want to say that nothing is completely inert.”

“Well, that is true.  Nothing is.  At least not completely.  Mind if I take a sample?”

There was a squeaking sound, like rubber netting being stretched.

“Flying pigs?” he asked. 

“Yup.  No idea why anyone would want them.  I raise ‘em up, they take them home.  Then they end up back here again. “

The pig pen was located in the back of the lot.  Jasper would take a look at them before he left.  He had a weakness for flying pigs.

He got out his metal retractable tape measure with the plumb bob and the compass.  He fiddled with it a bit on the porch.  Then he backed down off the porch and fiddled with it across the porch, from ground level.  When he was satisfied, he made a few marks in the little red book.  Then the book went back in the back pocket and the measure clipped to his belt. 

“Recon you know who it was.”

“Coulda been, oh, about three different folks.”


“Well, three different groups a’ folks.  Some people just don’t want to believe that their rug can’t be fixed.  Or that it ought to cost what it does.  Or that they bought a lemon.

Over all time it’s more than three bunches a folks that might be mad at me.  But recently – only the three.  And I don’t suspect one bunch more than another, I just wanted to be safe and sure.  The babies need me to look after them.”

Jasper looked back at Kay.  Some of the dogs were laid in the dust around her.  Two of the bigger ones had gone to lay in the shade of the tree.  They were sniffing out a good place in the rug pile to sprawl. 

“And some folks just don’t take kindly to wizard . . . esses.  At all.”

“Just wizard, Jasper.”

“Wizards, then.  They just don’t like them.”

“Then they shouldn’t come looking for one.  Pure foolish, that is.”

“I’d have to agree with you, there.  Say. . . “ he squinted at the trailer.  “Is that a whistle hanging from the doorknob?”

“Yup.”  Kay shifted something around in her mouth.  She knew Jasper meant something more by that question and she was making him figure out how to ask it.”

“What does the whistle add to the mirror?”

Damn.  The man knew more about the spell than she thought. 

“I know that the silver disappears from the mirror glass when the spell is triggered.  I know that the glass splinters to absorb the force of the spell and then rebounds back the way the off-en-sive spell came in.

I also know that it usually happens quiet-like and slow.  The glass floats down slow and deliberate-like and looks like it’s going too slow to embed in the wood like that, but it’s going fast just, well, on a different plane or something.  And it’s spooky quiet.  Nothing to warn the caster that his spell’s coming back at him.  Or her.”

“That about covers it.”

“I’ve heard it needs the quiet to turn certain kinds of spells, just like it needs the slow to turn certain other kinds.  If you tied a whistle in, you’d be introducing a flaw into your defence. 

Seems to me a body would only do that if they knew what kind of spell was coming in.”  He turned to squint at her.  “Did you know?”

“I . . . suspected.”

“That’s a lot to leave riding on ‘suspected.’”

Kay rolled something around in her mouth and than spat onto the porch.  The spit sizzled, hopping around in shiny little balls, like angry mercury.

Jasper’s jaw dropped.  “That’s an active spell.  Dammit, woman!  That’s an active spell!”

“Yup,” said Kay. “I had a suspicion that someone would be stubborn.  So I added the whistle, to warn them.”

“You mean they’re hearing the whistle.  They’re feeling the spell come back at them, and they’re still pouring it on?”

“Yup,” she said.  “Stubborn.  And possibly they think women are weak.  Lotsa men make that mistake.”


“Yup.  Some folks,” Kay shook her head , “some folks, there just ain’t no tellin’ ‘em.” 

“Damn.  Can you tell what kind of spell it’s sending back.”

“Not safely.  And I don’t feel like getting burned or worse to help out someone who’s doing me harm.  Especially not when they’re this determined about it.’

“You just going to sit here and wait to see what breaks first, your hater or your front door?”

“Well, the other thing the whistle does is warn me when the spell’s about to break, or when his spell stops.  There’s that comfort.”

“You sure it’s a he?”

“Pretty sure.”

“I’d still be worried about staying near that.”

“Can’t take the babies away with me.  Certainly can’t take the pigs.  Don’t want my roses to die, or my lilies.”

“You got lilies, now?”

“In the back.  I’m making a patio.  With a fountain and a patchwork dome.”

“That sounds nice.  You’d know if an actual ‘nother wizard moved in, wouldn’t you?”

“A full-on wizard, sure.  If it’s just someone who stored up a lot of spite and then let it go – that wouldn’t show up on the radar, as they say.”

“I’ve heard that phrase.  You know what a radar is?  It’s one of those capital words.  Well, almost.  It takes more than one letter from a couple of the words in the phrase.”

Jasper waited.

“It stands for RAdiating Demon ARray.”

“Huh,” said Jasper.  “That makes sense.  Sounds military.”

“Commercial, too.  If I could do radar, even just the maintenance and repairs, I’d be making the big bucks.”

“You do all right.  That’s a nearly new double-wide I see there, right?  With the fringe still on so you can move it?”

“Yeah, if I had sense or more get up and get, I’d wrap that so the dogs didn’t fray it.”

“They like the added shade, though, don’t they.”

Kay blushed a bit at being caught out.  Not that there was anything wrong with liking your dogs and indulging them a little.  Still.  Working fringe was expensive.

Speaking of which – Kay dug into her pocket.  She fumbled with what looked like a tassel, mumbling to herself. Then she tossed it out into the yard.

It went dancing and bobbling along, just over the heads of the dogs, who ran after it with wide grins.  It took fifteen to twenty seconds before one of them caught it and started to shake it in snaps of the head from side to side.

“Release.” Kay called, and the tassel rose and bobbed again.  The chase resumed.

“They love that thing,” she said. 

“You sell those?” Jaspar asked. 

Kay shrugged.  “Have to tune it to the yard it’s used in and to the hand that throws it.  Have to figure the command that would work for a non-wizard.  Be expensive for what it is.”

“Less than a day’s wages?”  They both knew he meant a field hand’s wages.  There were all kinds of local currencies.  Folks sorted them out by comparison to minimum wage in all of them.  Hour, day, week, etc.

“Almost.  Well, about that.”

“Might be worth it for some.  Especially old folks whose arms get tired before their dogs do.”

“Thinking of anyone in particular?”

“Sadly, thinking of someone who lives a ways out of town.”

“Well, it might be worth it if you help me out with this.”

Jaspar let himself look completely surprised.

“I thought you were holding back on me, here.  You know I’m working for the Sheriff, right?”

“Yeah, and I’m not offering to give it to you for nothing.  I’m just willing to travel, assuming it’s only about a day and the boys can ride in the truck.”

“We’ll see.  You’re gonna have to come cleaner than this, though.”

“I expected that.”  Kay looked Jasper over, then sighed and said, “Come on around back.  That’s where the real money is.”

Jasper felt a tightening in the small of his back.  Wizards got up to things.  Even wizards out in the sticks in trailers with dogs in the front and pigs in the back.  He did not relish having to decide whether to tell the Sheriff whatever he was about to find out. 

But he couldn’t leave that spell twanging away on the front porch, there.  It was dangerous.  The Sheriff would approve of lying to the Wizard to get that cleared up.  Unfortunately, the Wizard would approve of lying to the Sheriff for the same reason.  Jasper had an older sister and a younger sister and they had given him a profound aversion to being caught in between.  It never worked out well.

He straightened and concentrated on holding his elbows in a manly way as he followed Kay around the trailer.  As he came around the corner, he saw the pig pen and the sheds behind it.  They were low-roofed.  One was directly behind the pen, so that the pigs could get in, out of the sun.  He bent and looked into the shadow.  There were only three pigs, total, in the pen.  It sounded like more.  There was plenty of room for more. 

Three more sheds ran parallel to the trailer, the last in the line being deeper and therefore coming out even with the edge of the pig pen, making an upside down U from his perspective.

Perspective, he thought.  That’s a word about seeing.  Spec.  That meant either seeing or eye, he wasn’t sure which.  Spectacle.  Specs. Inspect.  Suspect. Speculate? Did that fit with the others? 

The pigs were big.  Not a piglet in the lot.  Fully grown.  Fully grown pigs could get mean.

There was a rubber net over the top of the pen.  It looked rugged.  The wings on the pigs looked tiny compared to all that pork.  Could one of them really get airborne?  Airborne enough to make the net creak?  They sure weren’t doing it now.

One of the sheds rattled and more pig noises came through the closed doors.  The movement of one of the doors drew Jasper’s eye.  The door didn’t quite reach to the ground and Jasper could see hooves milling around behind it.  Pig sounds were coming from all of the sheds.  It sounded like old boars, and not happy ones.

Kay unlocked the padlock on the deep shed and threw open the door.  Inside were no pigs, just the sound of pigs.  Jasper ducked and entered slowly.  He looked around.  Here and there, in corners or on tables, were teacups.  They were thin and white and delicately fluted.  Jasper inspected one.  There was water inside.  A single lily was balanced straight up in the water. 

Jasper looked more closely.  There was nothing propping the lily up.  Its stem barely broke the surface of the water, he was sure.  Up from the cup and through the lily came the sound of irritable pig. 


He looked around for something besides dangerous pigs, now.  On six saw horses, resting on plywood planks were four rugs in the process of being sewn together.  Well, not just four.  At each junction, another small rug overlapped, and then another overlapping on top of that, so that there were two rugs on three rugs on four rugs.  Then at the ends, there were runners that crossed the front and the back and draped down the sides to the ground.

String came out from the inner joints of the rugs and wound around spindles and spools.  More spools held red and black yarn.  On a frame, the red and black yarn was being woven and knotted into netting and tassels.

The yarn in the rugs had been bleached light grey and was being slowly dyed into geometric shapes by clasping syringes.  He was sure that if he took it apart, the exact pattern would match up on each layer of rug.

“It’s a semi-tapestry,” he breathed.

“Almost,” she said.  “It’s illegal for someone unlicensed to build the engine.  So this has to be towed by a cut-back hauling tap.  It’s an all purpose commercial- weight hauling trailer.”  She sounded proud, and Jasper didn’t blame her.  This was going to sell for a pretty penny.

“Does anyone know that you’re doing this?”

“I’d have said no, but then I’ve got a spell knocking on my door.  One more persistent than normal.  Not that there aren’t people fool enough to do that over a small slight.  I’ve met a few who would have.  The ones I know of, mainly, their families would step up and shake them out of it.”

“But if one didn’t have a family. . .”

“Eventually they’d come to the notice of the law.  The law frowns on resentful, defensive Wizards.”

 “True.  Well, now I suppose it’s time to get the names of the folk who might be peeved at you.”

“S’pose it is,” said Kay.