Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Thirty-First Beginning: The Palest Ink

"I see you there.  Don't think you're hiding.  You've got no call to be haunting me."

"I have every call.  Murder calls the shade to the sorcerer."

"Is that poetry?  I've  never heard that one and I've never done murder, so you can be on your way."

"You are a witch."

"Possibly.  My mother was.  I never could stick the course to find out.  The first time Mom explained why blind puppies weren't hard to find, I just went elsewhere."

". . .      Blind puppies?"

"Yes.  They're eyes don't open for a bit.  All newborn puppies are blind."

"I won't ask what a witch would do with a blind puppy."

"Boil it.  And don't blame witches.  At least witches don't blame witches.  It's the nocebo effect.  If there's not something really nasty in the potion and if the potion doesn't taste like hell, people don't believe that it will work.  Nasty minds people have."

"So the potions don't work, they only use people's belief in them."

"If you've got the dosage right, yes.  Most drugs are powerful.  Take the puppy broth one.  It's supposed to induce, or at least quicken, labor. . . you know, birth pangs?"

"I've never heard it called labor.  That's work.  Work may be pain, but pain isn't work."

"Well giving birth is just work if you do it right and don't listen to a pack of celibate priests or wrinkling grandmothers. Anyway, if you get the dose on that just a little too high, it causes a good deal of pain and some extra bleeding.  Which is not good.  So we aim for just a slightly too little drug and let the nocebo effect take it the rest of the way."

"So the stronger the drug, the more disgusting the added ingredients?"

"Sometimes.  Some recipes are kind of neutral and just diluted out.  That's for drugs with a strong tell."

"A tell.  Like in poker?"

"Exactly.  Although the idea that you can spot people's tells in poker is vastly overrated.  Say a drug makes folk sweat when it's working.  You make the potion dilute and say to take two sips and sing a verse of the hedgehog song - or rather chant some incomprehensible healing spell that you write down for them - then take two more sips and so on, until you start to sweat."

"Witches write?"

"Can't trade recipes if you can't write."

". . .                  You're sure you didn't murder me?"

"Pretty sure.  I tend to remember important things.  I have to write down little things in my diary or I forget them, but murder would stick in the memory."

"You couldn't have cast a general spell without knowing it was directed against me.  Say, because I kicked you cat or something?"

"Which cat did you kick?"

"I was speaking hypothetically, but, well, a big orange tabby."

"Good for you.  He's a nasty pest.  Digs in my plants."

"Not your cat?"

"Nope.  Mine are both dark grey tabbies.  A couple of happy, eunuch pillow cats.  The dark one gets out of my rooms from time to time, if I'm not quick with the door, but mostly they're happy to sun on the balcony. "

 "The dark one.  You mean that black one, there?"

"You can see the stripes if the sun hits him right."

"You're sure you didn't bespell me by accident.?"


"Could you check the diary?  Just in case?"

"Sorry.  When I checked the last entry this morning, it said not to read back further until I had met three new people."

"That sounds suspiciously witchlike to me."

"Hate to disappoint you, but I'm not a witch, just an eccentric old woman in a boarding house who talks to her cats.  Trust me.  If my mother couldn't get magic out of me, it can't be gotten.  She was a determined woman.  I don't remember half of my childhood.  At least not half of the real things.  I could give you a pretty accurate chronology of my daydreams, though.  Protective things, daydreams.  Great insulation against magic."

"You don't look old any more than that cat looks tabby.  I'd like to believe you, but your story tends to stray from strict veracitude in odd places."

"Veracitude isn’t a word.  And the cat is not black to anyone familiar with magic.  If you were given a list of potion ingredients by a witch and you brought poor Sydney in, she'd say 'sorry, I said a BLACK cat. . .see this pale underfur. . . see the striping in his tail and on his forehead?'.  That's the way I've learned to judge a black cat."

"So people bring the ingredients in?"

"Most of them.  Pretty much all of the unimportant ones.  It gets people involved with their own cure, you see.  Or with their own obsession.  Not everyone comes for a cure and not everyone gets what they want.  Like I said, people can be nasty.  I prefer talking to cats."

"And the claim that you are old?"

"I have more than ten grey hairs.  See?  I've just got that mousy dull hair that doesn't show grey much.  I'll be half gone grey before anyone notices.  And I'm done with the world.  That's the main thing.  I'm not going to go out changing things or trying to get attention.  I have my meals sent up most days.  Don't even go down to the dining room.  You can stay if you like.  I'm not telling you to go. We can haunt these rooms together.  The cats are good company."

"I can't stand cats.  Dogs are all right, if properly trained.  But cats are too aloof."

"That just means one's never befriended you.  Stay or go, makes no difference to me."

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Thirtieth Beginning: A Shaggy Drabble

[Definition of Drabble]

Wishes can be tricky things.  A poorly worded wish can go badly awry.  But when he had finished describing to the fairy his heartfelt wish that his songs would live forever, spreading from mind to mind and heart to heart ever forward in a time-defying wave, she smiled and said there was nothing simpler.
She led him by the hand down a misty path and pointed to a dilapidated wooden fence in the distance. "All you have to do is sing your song while leaving our fair lands without looking back.  And take care to leave through yon Promul Gate."

Monday, May 6, 2013

26 Twenty-Nineth Beginning (Nanowrimo 2007) Organizing Aunt Sheila

[Time warp to an argument.  One that would occur in the second half of the book, if the book should ever be finished.  First draft, of course.  No dialog tags and still getting a feel for the characters.]
You knew that Father was alive.  You knew that I didn’t’ know.  You knew that you were supporting a smug, lying sack of shit who was deliberately torturing her husband for not loving her.

How dare you!  You come waltzing in here and pretend that you know what has been happening.  Mother was a saint looking after Father.

Mother was a hateful, stupid cow who always hated Father and reveled in finally having him under her thumb and helpless.  She could pretend he was anything she wanted him to be without him being able to say anything about it.  Gods but she must have loved him losing the power of speech. 

Oh, words.  You have fine words.  He never did know what he was creating in you.  Puffing you up and pretending that you were important when you were nothing but and empty shell.

I hate it when you parrot Mother and do it badly.  Has she been dead long enough that you’ve forgotten most of her spleen.  Well, you’d better hope that you’ve been coward enough not to do anything provably illegal.  You’ll be clutching your bible and chewing on her liver in jail, if you have. 

You are a trumped up. . .

Oh, I’ll trump you all right.  You have nothing in your hand but a little bit of information that might be interesting to me and you know what?  I’m willing to let that go.  The family history can die with you.  You and Mother and your sluggish bile.   You have nothing on your side but possibly a little local corruption and xenophobia.

You are Satan’s tongue.  We were a happy family until you were born.  Tempting a good man with the weakness of his pride in his intellect.

Happy family.  She got herself knocked up.

Myrtle was shocked rigid.  She was gripped with fear.  This had never been said and there were no familiar arguments to put up against it.

Do the math.  Barbara was born six months after they were married.  You were born six years later.  In a world with no birth control, that means it took him that long to be willing to touch her.

You would speak of sex.

And she would not speak of sex while humping for her own purposes.

I must forgive you.  You have become unaccustomed to the company of Christians.

I know plenty of Christians and I know that chanting Jesus, Jesus, Jesus doesn’t keep anyone from fucking like bunnies.

Your words!  If Mother were alive.

If Mother were alive I’d spit in her hateful face.  But she’s not so I’ll settle for undoing some of her crime.  I’m having the tumor removed from Father’s brain.

Father had a stroke.  Myrtle’s voice was small.

That was a lie.  That was the lie that Mother told me.  She didn’t bother to tell it here, so this proves that you helped her lie to me.  Here she just told people that they didn’t have enough money to do the surgery.  She let everyone think that Father was sitting in his own drool, piss, and shit because she couldn’t part with the cash to fix him.

And you know what?  The surgery that would have been fairly simple then may kill him now.  He’s been wasting away for decades.  He may not have the strength to get through it.  How does it feel?  To murder your own Father.  For someone else’s spite.  How did it feel?  You had to snuggle up against Mother, she had emptied you out so that she was all you had.  You’d have had to go into that house knowing that he was upstairs dying.  Upstairs so that she could complain about going up and down.  Too pigheaded to convert a parlor into a sickroom because that wasn’t done.  It was a parlor.  I can just hear her saying something stupid like that.

I will pray for you.

You do that.  And pray for yourself.  Old farts don’t do well in jail.  And you’re going to be talking to a lot of earnest law enforcement personnel.  It’s going to get embarrassing.

It will not embarrass me, as I have done nothing wrong.  Not like some people who abandon their own kin to go swaning off.

How marry unwisely and get dumped.  I’m sure you enjoyed knowing that I was in the hospital and left without the wherewithal to answer the divorce.


Yes.  Mother knew.  Mother got the pleasure of telling me that the infection was the supernatural striking me down for not honoring her properly.  Selfish cow.  God, I hate it when her hatefulness comes out of  my mouth.  But I’m angry.

Do not refer to God as the supernatural.  It belittles Him.

Your worship belittles him, but that’s a topic for another time and a brain that’s actually working.  I’m excoriating you about Father.  You knew he had a tumor and that  Mother was using it to imprison him.  You knew it and you did nothing.

There was nothing that I could do.  I had cleaved to my own husband and had a child to care for.  You’d know nothing about that, I’m sure.

You are lucky that my knees are sore or I’d stand up and slap you.  You helped Mother help my lying ex-husband steal my daughter and you have the gall to accuse me of having no children.  You can’t even keep your indignant lies straight.  You betray yourself on all sides.

I can’t blame you for hating Father a little.  After all, he left you, and he left you with a hateful, spiteful woman.

Father never left me. 

He left when Barbara died.  When she was six.  He never said much about it, but he told me some.  He stayed away for years.

But  he came back in the end.

He came back because she played her standard card.  It didn’t turn out quite the way she hoped.

Sheila let that sit.  Maybe Myrtle could understand a little innuendo of a certain type.

What standard card.

She got herself knocked up again.  With me.  Without him.  He was states away.

So you know.  You know that you’re a bastard and no part of this family.  And yet you come back and make trouble for us.  Oh, you are a viper.

You are an ass.  Of course I’m part of this family.  He was willing to stay married to the goring cow to be sure I was his.  He checked the law and you’d better check it, too, before you start thinking that you can just brush me off. 

You knew you weren’t his.

I’m his.  I guess she picked someone that he valued to bump uglies with.  You were around her enough that you probably know who it was.  Heck, you were living with her when she did it.  I wouldn’t blame you for not wanting to think about it, though.

He killed himself.

Most men would, waking up with that.

Myrtle’s face contorted with anger.  The anger was galling and caused her to pace around the room.

You’ll be talking with the Feds over helping John kidnap Elizabeth and pretend to be Father to sell off his property.  I’ll leave that mostly in their hands.  Unless Father dies, of course.  I may have some time to devote to checking in on the case, if I’m left at loose ends.

May have the time.  You talk about persecuting me if you have the time.  Do you even hear the evil in your voice.

You’d know evil.  I’ll leave it to you.  I’ll leave Elizabeth to John, too.  She’s grown up twisted and gutted.  Being in the same room with her disgusts me.  He can have what’s left. 

What’s left?  Barbara is a fine woman.

You don’t like her any more than you like me.  From what I hear you don’t like anybody.  You visit your daughter, but she’s difficult to take, except in small doses. 

Sometimes the Lord gives us burdens.

True.  And sometimes it’s jackasses piling on your back.  I will give you that the jackasses don’t have quite the ammunition that the Lord does.  Although some of them do try to hurt you to biblical proportions.

And who has hurt you more than you’ve hurt yourself?

You for one.  And to no purpose other than humoring an idiot.  I suppose I never had the fear of Mother put into me the way you did while Father was gone and there was no one to protect you from her whims and crotchets.  It must have been frightening for a child.  I’ve always pitied you for that. 

Pitied me?  Pitied me because Mother loved me?

Mother never had enough perspective to love anyone.

I pity you if you think that.  To think that a person needs perspective (the word was spat out in a hiss), an intellectual distance to love.

They need enough wit to be able to tell that there’s another person there.  You were never there for her.  No one was.  There was just her.  Her and her daughter.  Her and her husband.  She had no clue who Myrtle was and no care for what Myrtle wanted.  She was the center of the universe and if she was happy, all was well in the kingdom.  It didn’t matter who else was bleeding or in pain.  They were only complaining about selfish things.  People were dolls to her.

And don’t think that I didn’t notice that John enjoyed being able to call Elizabeth Barbie, like she was a doll.  That’s just sick.

He doted on her the way Father doted on you.  And he ruined her just like Father ruined you.

And you stood by and let it happen.  You enjoy watching evil, don’t you?

There is no enjoying evil, there is just no getting away from it.

Trapped at home with Mother.  Yes, I can see how you’d come to see that.  I’ll let the Feds find out if you were paid off.  If you were, your butt will be warming a jail bunk.

Myrtle hugged her bible.

I take it that’s a yes.  I take it that the theft has already been sanitized with holiness. 

I have a daughter.  You wouldn’t . . .

You’re lucky you stopped yourself.  There’s an ugly shepardess within reach that I’ll be throwing if you ever sully your lips with that particular lie again.  And there are ways to get money besides back-stabbing relatives.  I know.  I was left penniless and sick. 

John was a good man.

John was a leach.  And a liar.  He ran from me and if they let him out on bail, he’ll run again.

He can’t run.  He has someone he loves, now.

Maybe.  It’s been years since I’ve laid eyes on him.  I remember his love as being a bit thin, in the old days.  His sense of entitlement was thick, and his spite was thicker.  His love wouldn’t warm a butterfly. 

Well, I’ve said everything I wanted to say.  You are a coward and a criminal.  I pity you but I’m tired of pussyfooting around you out of pity.  I’m going to take care of Father.  And then I’m going to have surgery myself.  There will be lawyers and lawsuits and I’ll be taking back everything that John took from Father.  You can have Mother’s house.  He never liked it. 

I forgive you.

Liar.  You hate me.  I got away.  At least you think I did.

I don’t expect you to forgive me or to understand.

Good.  I’ll be too busy for either for the foreseeable future. 

You lack the love of God.

But I do love my Father.  And I hate his enemies.  I’m not used to hating.  Tell me, does it get easier with time?

I’ll be going.

[Not much left in the Nanowrimo doc for this Beginning.  And I haven't checked the remainder.  If it's just filler, I won't bother posting it.]

Sunday, May 5, 2013

25 Twenty-Nineth Beginning (Nanowrimo 2007) Organizing Aunt Sheila

[This is the last of the conversation between Barbara and her Aunt Sheila.  That does not mean that the conversation came to a conclusion, only that the writing for Nanowrimo shifted to another topic - one with less filler and a smidge of plot.  It would probably be a mistake to expect chronological order, though. 
Below, Barbara is still working through the collection of her aunt's notes.]

Let me see.

Met E as planned – the oven got up to 450 in 20 minutes, so we should have no problem cooking the turkeys.  E will be coming and bringing the keys and heraldry stuff.  She may go home and rest if she gets tired, . . . skipping stuff.
No garbage down the disposal – it will back up, not only in the sink, but through the floor drain in the smaller kitchen – that would be a real mess – have the herald announce that the food from all dishes must be scraped into the trash before they are washed – we might want to post a sign, too
Skipping more stuff.
We can use the coffee urns if we want, - - - They’re letting us use the spices in the pantry if we want. - - - trash to go out at the end  - - - may want to bring a dolly for moving the trash cans - - -The center will be open for senior drop-in from 10 – 2 – blah, blah, blah.

Ah, that’s an old note about getting ready for a medieval Yule Feast.  It was awhile ago.  It wasn’t a strict recreation.  We provided turkey and ham and everyone brought pot luck.

The turkey was not period.


It was anachronistic to the period being recreated. 

Which period was that?

The Middle Ages.  That covers quite a few centuries,  so the event was anachronistic in itself because we didn’t narrow the time zone to, say 14th century Burgundy.
I thought burgundy was a drink.
It was also an area in France.  Still is.

There were no turkeys in the Middle Ages?

Not in the European Middle Ages.  Turkeys were imported to Europe from the Americas.  They arrived after Columbus.

Ah. European Middle Ages.  DWG syndrome.

Dead White Guy?


I think I’m going to take another nap.

You need to see a doctor about getting your energy up.

Or I need to get more done so I don’t feel as much weighing down on me.

Did you remember to take your pills this morning?

Yes Mother.

Remember to pop a Tylenol if your head is feeling squinty because of all the computer work you’ve been doing.

You know, that might profit me.  I wouldn’t have though to check to see how my head was feeling.  But you’re right and that might be draining energy.  To the Tylenol.

Should I set a timer?

No, it still feels like I’m catching up.

Want me to start dinner if you sleep late?

Oh, don’t let me sleep past one.  But you can cook any time you like.

Well, you may not like it.  I haven’t had much practice.

Start with the Mac and Cheese – you can’t miss if you follow the instructions.

When all else fails. . .