Saturday, November 22, 2014

Fifth Beginning - Part Three Nanowrimo 2014

Over-ripe banana, Sums decided. The smell was composed of over-ripe banana and . . . dog food? Yes. Dry dog food that had been moistened and left to sit. Sums forced images of her sisters' parts of the house out of her mind. There was also something that was almost a faint armpit smell, but it was somehow bringing up an image of microscopes.

Perhaps she was thinking of microscopes because she had thought of research earlier. And perhaps she was getting ahead of the evidence in assuming research. Just because she had never heard of cobweb/body magic didn't mean that it was new. Still, she had said research to Charles and there was no reason to gainsay that until there was reason to.

No. Thinking of research wasn't the reason she was thinking of microscopes. There was an intuition guiding the image. If she had been talented enough to do systems monitoring, she'd be able to tease out the subliminal impressions that lay behind her intuition.

But she wasn't a system monitor or a system operator or a system designer.  She only had enough talent to measure and chart energy flows and to use manufactured devices.  Most days she was completely comfortable with that.  She was talent heavy for an analyst and relied on her intuition to guide her through odd patterns quickly.

Some part of her intuition was saying 'research'.  In a normal situation she would be content to trust her intuition but verify the flows.  Standing in a factory full of dead bodies, though, she wished that her intuition could be more forthcoming about what was happening here.

Sums slowed as she approached the first entry.  The entire first floor was wooden walls up to slightly more than waist height, then windows up to a high ceiling.  The entry, which had no doors, was not quite wide enough to drive a delivery truck through.

Charles bustled past Sums.  "Department of Permits.  Routine inspection.  Mr. Asmundson?"

He seemed not to care about what was in the room besides the fact that it wasn't Mr.  Asmundson.  Mr. Asmundson must have made quite an impression.

Sums stood in the doorway and scanned from left to right.  This was a delivery and storage area.  There were bolt holes in the floor and discoloration in the concrete indicating that this used to be four rooms.  Now it was one open area.  The support pillars had been painted in the regulation stripes required for areas where fork lifts and mover wands were used.  There were stacks of bags and bins and boxes on wooden pallets.

Sums lifted the L-rods and rotated.  Nearly nothing.  She frowned.  There had been more.  She heard clanking and looked up.  Charles had found a set of very open metal stairs and was tapping up them quickly.  Sums had a brief impression of a child running with a balloon.  

Saturday, October 25, 2014

It's Nearly Time for NaNoWriMo

It's Nearly Time for NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month.  If you plug NaNoWriMo into the search field, you'll see that I've participated several times.  Pre-meetings have started in the Stockton area.  I'm heading for one in just a second.  I'm going to have to decide which Beginning to continue, because starting another one just to start another one would be depressing.  

Not that I won't start another one if I get an idea, just that I won't force it.  

Wish me luck.  I think I have it narrowed down to two choices.  

The planning meeting was fun.  There were eight NaNoWriters there and four of them were new to the group.  I still need to decide which story to work on.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sixty-Third Beginning: Cache of Old Poetry

I have to warn you that most of these are old and most of them haven't been edited.  I do not post them here as an example of good writing.  They're here so that I can throw away the paper copies and give me a bit more room in my file cabinet.

See, I like you well enough to warn you.  I'll also try to put the shortest ones first.  

Small brown footprints walk

     across the red tiles and up

          the carpeted stairs.

[counts out as a haiku]


Ohio trees

Caught season-short and

Full of life at winter's start

Tremble with rage before,

Screaming crimson,

They die.

[I forget the name of this form.  The syllable count is 2-4-6-6-4-2.]



     the book from both ends - - - Write


     when the words begin to

     you are



My lover smiles, his eyes still closed,

With a lazy ease


By pools of warm cats


Like melted crayons on the summer sidewalk;

And the hammock sways

As he moves

His arm to pull me close - 

- deep into his delicious



Buster did it right.
[My father's words.]
He died in his garden
While his wife was out.
Just sat down in the
Upturned wheelbarrow to  nap
And never moved again.

A neighbor noticed
Two hours later.
The coroner's boys
Didn't push the gurney
Down the gravel drive,
Just wheeled him round
To the front.

Father didn't get
A wheelbarrow, but
Did get his wish to
Die in his sleep.


I can meet you now
I am ready
and I have
a good
of what we'll say
and what we'll do

once we meet.

I know the way
your eyes will fold
when a small thought
brings you laughter,

once we meet

I have a 
good idea
I am ready
for good ideas:

I can meet you now.


And the girl found the hawk
in her fourteenth year - 
the hawk with the broken wing.

But the healing was fast
and she set it free
on the noon of her fifteenth birthday.

And it flew away
without looking back
and her eyes scanned the hawkless clouds.

And the old woman's voice
sang behind her ear:

     That is the way of flying - 
     It wears no roads in the sky

     That is the way of flying - 
     It wears no roads in the sky.

[This one is a chant, rather than a poem.  It came with a tune, although, being a chant, it wasn't a very melodic one.  I think that's why the sentences start with conjunctions.]

You know, 
    it should be gone by now,
Melted down 
    to a blunt nub
    from so much use
    in such a warm, wet place.
But there it is
    right on his hand
    if you can see it:
Eric's thumb,
   which slips, pop, into his mouth
A perfect fit,
Damming so much noise
    where it rattles itself still
    with the help of some busy sucking
    and a

For David - - 
     - - who shows lies

forget that stuff about
wrapping him up to
remind him
of the perfect place he'd known.
he'd had enough of
that cramped space
had longed
to s t r e t c h.
just try to bend that kid
in half.

and just try to quiet him
or tell him
he's supposed to be
some other way.
he won't believe.
he's know himself 
since long before
you breathed.

just try - - 
     - - but beware
I won't have him harmed
to protect
your rules.

that's right, David,
rattle your presence

[there are multiple versions of this one]

See her sit
so sure and smug
just sit and smile
look at her sit
see there?
she sits
look at her chin
just see her sit
just sit and smile
just smugly smile
just look
her chin, she lifts
stare straight at her
she lifts her chin
stare at her smile
she lifts her chin and smiles
so stare right back
when she smiles
stare straight into the
pock-eyed faith
of the moon.

[That one's full if sibilants.  I like the words for the sounds of language:  sibilants (s, sh, z, zh), plosives (p, b), dentals (t, d, th), nasals (m, n, ng), fricatives (f, v).  There are others, I'm sure.] -----

Poetry as a Hologram

The poet - - 

     gathering Words,

     polishes some

     mirror-bright  and  Arranges them

     in Exact Pattern;

     stacks and shrinks


     to a grid of fine lines

     which He places


     among the mirrors;

     folds others together,

     compressed tight and ruby-dense

     These (stimulated with reading) emit

     a thin, bright Thought

     that bounces

     in a tangled dance

     among and through the other words

     to form (from their dissonance)

     hanging softly sudden and three dimensioned

     above the page

     (a poem)

[This one was written back in the old days when I was in junior high and National Geographic had articles explaining what these new things called lasers and holograms were.]
[This one needs editing.  It was done quickly to snag an idea.  I had ridden on a bus at night and the driver had left the inside lights on.  That made the windows into reflective surfaces, so that unless you really worked to look beyond the windows, all you could see is reflections of the inside of the bus.]

Night bus
     lit inside, the windows are dark mirrors
     reflecting unplugged faces
     mute as angelfish
     in dormitory pews.  

     click of announcing sign
     button fireflies in unison  
     a football card section
     Yay!  A-Line!  Go, Downtown!

     hiss of brakes,  squeak and rattle
     as the door folds and unfolds.
     heads bob in unison as tires flex,
     grain-heads in a field of wheat

     cardboard ads above
     not, as in Sac, of contraception,
     prenatal care, foster care,
     but of votes and theater.

     in our blind aquarium
     we trust we are going home
     and not riding that other bus
     the one we've seen whose sign reads
Nowhere in Particular.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Sixty-Second Beginning: Ribs

I stand
Antecoarctate, shivering,
My father's ribs broken, bloody on
My feet, 
A lumpy road to walk.

My mother moans,
Scrambling to reshape
The cage of him, mourning,
As the air congeals the stickiness
On my skin.

He looks away,
He would have saved the world
If I had not broken


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sixty-First Beginning: Kaleidoscope

the passing pattern
the jeweled dance

[I keep changing the form of this one, while keeping the exact same words.]

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sixtieth Beginning: Quiet Bones (poem)

Quiet bones
they beat no drums

Quiet bones
have no regrets

Quiet bones
they mouth no curse
accepted bad
accepted worse

Quiet bones
they spread no pain
they spill no blood
in search of gain

Quiet bones
get no parades
enforce no dreams
lead no crusades

Quiet bones

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fifty-Sixth Beginning: Invasive Species 02

I'm halfway through the burrito when Terry comes out with the goods. She parks them in front of me and parks herself in the next chair, stretching out her legs. Which means she's on break now. Most of the girls at Sid's like okra. I'm not fond enough of it to eat a whole order. So it works out.

"How goes Monday," I ask.

"Too busy for before the lunch rush. We're supposed to get a lull, let us get our prep done before lunch."

"A lull-less Monday. I wonder how many L's you'd have to put in that, if you didn't use a hyphen."

"No idea. Ask me when I'm sane."

"Should I make an appointment for that?"

"Sure.  Wednesday, mid-morning, I should be sane for about an hour."

"How so?"

"I actually have two consecutive days off.  Tomorrow will be spent recuperating and doing chores that are way behind.  Wednesday I can relax a little.  Of course by lunch I'll be worrying about everything that I didn't get done on my 'weekend' and the sanity will go by the wayside again.  At least I'm working days again.  Shift work sucks."

"How are classes going?"

"I hate when you ask that.  I get close to chucking the whole thing twice a day, but I know you'll be asking.  Bill-bill got sick, so I late-dropped everything but econ.  I kept that just to keep up the momentum."

"How is he?  Did he miss much school?"

"Nearly two weeks.  He's made up most of it, though.  Make-up is easier in fifth grade."

"So he's over it."

"Yeah.  He's well enough to cause trouble again.  How has life been treating you?"

"Been mostly poking along.  Things have been slow and profitable."

"You hate that.  But you don't look like you're hating that.  What else is up?"

"Went to visit Larry.  Got a couple of new toys."

Terry's a nice person.  She worries about me.  She's smart and knows me well enough that I can talk about my work and she'll understand without a lot of side questions.  I show her the toys.  She likes the book.  We bounce ideas around pleasantly - making alternate notes for arrows A through JB.  She avoids looking at the other toy.  Eventually I start to fiddle with it while I talk, just to see how far she'll go to not look at it.  It isn't all that far, really.

She lets her eyes fall on it completely and her eyes start to get sad.  She's stopped listening to me, so I stop talking and just hold it.  She reaches out and takes it from me, turning it over, looking down on it.

"I don't like it when you play with Larry's toys.  You go too far.  You get impatient with people and treat them badly.  You said you had nightmares when you were doing the sunglass pieces.  And the way you treated Mary was just wrong."

"Not nightmares.  Scary dreams.  And I didn't treat Mary at all."

"You let her hang around and think she meant something to you.  And what's the difference between a nightmare and a scary dream?"

"A nightmare is all about fear.  The events of the nightmare may not even by logically frightening, but the fear is there, pounding in you and knowing that it's a dream doesn't stop it.  A scary dream as logically dangerous or frightening things in it, but you don't necessarily have to take them seriously."

"What do you mean, knowing it's a dream?  You don't know it's a dream while you're dreaming."

"No.  You don't know it's a dream, maybe.  And maybe most people don't.  I can count on one hand the times I didn't know I was dreaming."

"You're joking!"

"No.  It's called lucid dreaming if you want to look it up.  There were a bunch of articles on it awhile back.  I was surprised when I read the first one.  The idea that someone could not know when they were dreaming had just never occurred to me.  I mean I've had that dream where you wake up and then you wake up again, so I know it feels like.  Once in junior high I went through half a day and then woke up and had to do it again.  I was not happy with that."

I scratched the back of my neck and continued.  "How do you rewind a dream if you don't know you're dreaming?  How can you decide it's time to float?"

"So you control your dreams?  That sounds wrong, somehow."

"I don't control them much.  I mean, they always have sort of a flow to them, and you can't go against the flow.  In one dream I was at the Rose Parade and there was a queen on one float who threw her crown into the crowd.  I wanted to catch the crown, but I was in the wrong location.  I was about half a block away.

So I reran the scene with me in the right area and she threw it again.  I forget if it took three or four reruns before I was in exactly the right spot."

"That's wild.  I like that better.  It just doesn't seem like a real dream if it's just you making things up."

"Yeah.  I mostly leave things alone. I figure it's always possible that whatever is guiding the dream may know something I don't."

"Nice to know you're open to it."

"Besides, if you know you're dreaming, it doesn't matter if something rips your lungs out through your mouth.  Your dream self doesn't need oxygen.  Of if it does, it can get it some other way."

"I thought that was 'rip your lungs out through your nose.'"

"In the dream I'm thinking of, they came out through my mouth.  Don't remember how it happened.  I think I just coughed them up."


"Way yuck."  It was at a party, too.  You'd think someone would have noticed.  But once I told myself to stop fighting it because it didn't matter, it just happened and the champagne trays kept passing and the conversation kept buzzing.  I think that within the logic of the dream the lungs kept working even though they were hanging against my chest and getting my shirt wet."

"Damn.  You must not like parties much.  Think you were trying to say that people expect you to cough up too much personal stuff at parties?"

"Doubtful.  I was in high school at the time and mostly didn't go to parties.  It would apply to my life now, but as far as I know I've never dreamed it again."

"As far as you know?"

"Most people dream three or four times a night.  I'll go months without remembering my dreams.  I assume I'm still dreaming, I just don't remember what it's about."

"Maybe dreams aren't tied to linear time like our lives are.  Maybe that was a dream from now that just happened to hit you in high school."

"Good.  I like that idea.  I think it's unlikely, but it's interesting, which is better.  Pity I don't write stories.  That would make a good story.  Maybe I'll find a way to work it into something, somewhere.  I'll certainly find myself thinking about it.  Hmmm.  Today has been a good day."

"Yeah," she said, picking up her pad again.  "You have enough now to go hide for weeks."

"Nah.  Today is still an acquisition day.  I'll probably go down to Weber Park and see what the fishermen are up to.  If I ever paint a canvas, I'm going to paint a fisherman leaning his pole against one of those hexalingual Do Not Eat The Fish signs."

"Yeah, I've seen those.  Tell them hi for me.  And what you did to Mary was still wrong."

"What kind of woman moves in because a guy starts ignoring her so thoroughly that he can't tell when she's there?  You know how I am when I'm working."

"Yeah, but she doesn't.  You should have warned her."

"We weren't even having sex.  I just stopped talking to her and she moved in."

"How do you know you weren't having sex?"

"I asked.  I'd say she might be lying, but that seemed to be the thing that made her eyes go all sparkly.  We weren't having sex and I hadn't kicked her out.  So it must be love.  I just hope she has enough sense or enough pride to stay away."

"You didn't stop her from cooking and cleaning for you."

"I wouldn't have stopped her from stabbing me if she'd managed to do it without bumping my arm or getting blood on the piece."

She heaved a sigh.  Why are sighs always being heaved?  It makes them sound heavy.  She tossed a sign lightly behind her as she turned to walk away.

"I know.  I explained it to her.  She still doesn't believe it.  I think it makes her look too foolish."

There was one piece of okra left.  Terry never takes the last piece.  But it was too cold to eat, now, so I bused my table and headed back downtown.  
A lot of people don’t think of the end of the channel as downtown.  Other’s think of it as the heart of Stockton.  It’s impossible not to think of it, though, because it’s the center of the City’s redevelopment plans.  It gets press.
That’s where I headed:  to Weber Point where you can walk on the site of the old Weber House, to which they have erected a monument.  The house itself didn’t do much for Stockton, but Captain Weber donated the land and surveyed out the City.   Well, first he put up some money and convinced this Dutch guy (Dutch?  Danish?  Something European.) to buy a Spanish Land Grant.  Then he bought the guy out.  He couldn’t get a grant directly because he was American and the Spanish Grantors were nervous about all of these Americans moving into the neighborhood.  Then he donated the land and had a surveyor come in. There’s an amusing story about the surveyor’s chain.  After that he promoted the city as a natural port.  The appeals for federal money to dredge came later, from the City Fathers.
During the Gold Rush, he could say that it was the furthest east that a body could get by boat on the west coast.  In a land with no paved roads, that is not a small thing, especially if you were going to be walking the rest of the way to the gold fields.
It was during the Gold Rush that California became a State and Stockton became a City.  I think Stockton beat the State by a few months, but I’m not certain.  What was left of the local Indians helped the Americans beat back the Spanish, whose influx into the area had pleased them not at all.  Insert the ironic phrase of your choice here. 
Early settlers in the Stockton area wrote home to say that the flocks of ducks were so huge that when they took to the air they blotted out the sun.  We have other ways of blotting out the sun in this century.  The tule elk can be found only on the Stockton City Seal.  You will no longer find it in the Central Valley.  The beaver that gave the Spanish Land Grant it’s name is no longer found in the area.  (The land grant was xxx which translates as French Camp – as in French fur trappers.)
All of which is a long way of saying that I walked down to the park.  Hey, a guy can think while he’s walking.
Down at the park I did not walk on the site of the old Weber House.  Nor did I walk through the adjustable maze by the tot lot.  I didn’t go that far.  Just barely reaching the park, I turned left and walked along the promenade on the south shore of the channel.  It’s where the deadbeats and the serious anglers go.  The deadbeats usually stay up on the grass on the street side of the promenade clumped in happy, drunken arguments, while the anglers stay quietly against the rail on the channel side.  Pedestrians pass in between.  It usually works.
There are cement platforms, spaced a couple of hundreds of yards apart, that jut out over the channel.  There are gates through the railing to them that are always locked.  I have no idea why they were installed, but they’re just big enough for an angler to stick a chair on and deploy his gear about him without feeling crowded.  Some anglers ignore the lock and slide over the railing to set up shop.  I saw a familiar face on one of them.
When I say face, I mostly mean back, and when I say back, I mostly saw backside.  Lawrence isn’t that far overweight, but he does not carry his weight in the middle and his fishing chair is small.  He doesn’t mind talking while he’s fishing, but he never turns his head.  His eyes are always on his gear or on the water or on the fish that he is pulling out.  His hat is always pulled down and his sunglasses are always on.  While most channel fishers catch catfish or carp, Lawrence comes for the stripers and usually gets them.  He says he has a system.
No system is foolproof, though, and that day he had a catfish in his bucket. 

“Is that a channel cat or a black cat?”

“All this time and you still can’t tell?  They’s no hope for you.”  Lawrence only shifted into Ebonics with folks he knew and even then he shifted in and out. 

“I’m surprised you’re keeping it?  You can’t be hungry.  Your gear’s too expensive and shiny.  Not to mention that car.”

“I am upholding my black heritage.  I’ll keep one catfish, if it’s a nice one.  I won’t keep carp, though.  Only beginners and chinamen keep carp.”

“Now I’ve heard that they’re unjustly maligned.  They have carp tournaments over in Europe.  In Europe they prize the lovely fight a carp can put up.”

“Well, that part is true.  But you can get the lovely fight without eating the fish.  I catch and release if I don’t plan on eatin’ ‘em.  Even the stripers.  What you doin’ down here in the fresh air?  Shouldn’t you be off in a dark room sniffin’ paint fumes or welding smoke and gettin’ pale?”

“I come out sometimes.  I have to come out and get some new ideas or everything starts looking like the results of incest.  Besides, if the mitten crabs ever take over the world, I don’t want to miss it.”

“Them mitten crabs ain’t no joke.  Lost lots of bait to mitten crabs.  You won’t usually find them here.  They like an earthen bank and this is a metal seawall with riprap against it. 
They’s folks say that the population goin’ down.  That’s what the folks in England thought once, too.  Now they know they’ve got a cycle goin’.  Boom and bust.  They be back.  They an invasive species.”

“I hear the delta’s full of them.  Invasive species, I mean.”

“Yup.  The San Francisco Bay is the most thoroughly invaded water body in the world.  What folks didn’t import and let loose, the ships brought in with their ballast water.  They got laws now say the ships need to drop their ballast water in the ocean and pump up new, local seawater before they come in to port.  We’ll see how well that works.  Maybe it’ll slow it down, but it’s got a long history. 
The carp were brought in on purpose: released to be fished.  The water hyacinth was brought in and just kinda let out.  Got tiny potamocorbula clams pushing out all the native species in the bay.  Clams and bivalves and shrimp.  And the native fish can’t eat them as well as they can the stuff that’s been pushed out, so they in a decline.  Not that they weren’t declining before.  The natives match the delta and the delta has always flooded.  The invasives do better when the floods are controlled and the government do like to put out the control.  And don’t get me started about pollution.  We still got mercury in the delta that washed down from the gold rush.”

He was well in stride.  I pushed back a little, arguing that the gold rush had also seen government enact legislation against hydraulic mining, the first environmental protection act in the state, if not the country.  But that was only to make sure he kept going.  I liked listening to Lawrence.  Back when I first met him, I checked out some of the things he claimed, and he knows his stuff.  Claims to get it all from the internet.  Says he’s allergic to books.  Says books chase him in his dreams and bite at him.  I still don't know if Lee is his first name or his last.
After a bit I told him about the disc and the book and the ideas that were forming.  Some ideas you can’t talk about while they’re half-formed or they’ll tear.  Others have to be talked about in order to shape them.  Watching other people listen to them helps define the shape.  I told him about seeing Terry and about her talking about Mary.  He agreed that Mary is whack, but points out that I’m crazy.  Crazy first because no sane man gets that wrapped up in his work that he can’t tell a woman’s moved in on him and crazy second because I didn’t just shrug and let her clean and cook and buy me things.

“But she was thinking that I loved her or something and I don’t.”

“Well, you never said you did.  That was all her craziness.  If she say she love you, just frown and grunt.”

“That’s probably exactly what I did.”

“That’s good.  Good instincts, even if you are crazy.  It not your fault if her craziness drive her to look after you.  Long as you don’t lie to her, you can let her crazy take her any which way.”

We went on.  I started seeing forms in the water.  Started feeling like I needed to take that disc out and look at it and turn in over and over.  Funny, I though that I’d do the piece with the book first.  Oh, well.
Lawrence caught his striper and let the catfish go.  Lawrence didn’t believe in freezing fresh-caught fish. 
I stayed and watched the sunset.  The forms got closer and closer to the surface of the water.  They weren’t as firm as mitten crabs or as pretty as jellyfish.  They were ooze colored:  grey and black and brown and dark green.  There were eyes and teeth and other things.  They climbed up the side of the seawall and began to eat me.  It was a good thing I knew that I was dreaming.
You  might think that being eaten would be a harder thing to deal with, in a dream, than coughing your lungs out.  But, even dreaming, I remembered that neopagans claim that if something eats you in a dream, you get to become that thing and use its power.  There was a flickering moment when I considered that this might be a problem, rather than a help, in some situations, but the thought passed quickly.  I discovered that I tasted pretty good.  Sweeter while I was still alive, but not bad after I was dead. 
Once we/I were all full, I just sat and looked around.  There was too much hard concrete and other dry, uncomfortable things.  The minds around me were too placid, nearly flavorless.  When I say minds, I was focused broadly on the entire City.  I felt no real terror anywhere.  I knew, intellectually, that in a City this size, someone had to be feeling fear, but it was washed out in a lowing, background moo of, not contentment, really, more a vacant submission to the presumed undangerous ordinary.  Who would have expected that of Stockton?
I focused in closer, to try to pick out individuals.  Maybe I could push or prod a satisfactory reaction out of someone.  Closer in were some of the deadbeats, long drunk and completely ignoring the voices inside them that said that they were killing themselves, that said that they were no good and no use to anyone, that said that they deserved to die and should do it, do it, do it, ah, yes, you are doing it, thank you.  You can feel good now.
If I could turn up those voices. . . but the deadbeats still floated, like individual tapioca beads in a pudding of the other minds around us.  The voices were buried, like tiny worthless diamonds in the center of each shifting, gelatinous bead.  It would take a sharper knife than I had to cut to the center of one tapioca bead in the middle of the pudding to get at the voice inside.
Then I touched a mind that had been opened.  No voices talking about booze or death.  Just confusion and a sincere wish to get back to his can, which would pull him from his body and take him flying again through all eternity and all possibility.  He had no defenses at all.  I boosted both the confusion and the longing, then shifted the longing into the surety that he would never, ever find the can again.  The fear was delicious.  The images got clearer and clearer as I sucked him dry.  Images of where he’d been, both in the can and in other bodies on other worlds.  There were canisters closed in a dark place.  Soft things flitted with no sound.  It was better than sex. 
I slumped back satiated and let my focus slide back open.  As I fell asleep, I felt the presence of others of my kind in the City.  I remembered the bay and the delta and the invading species and the Indians and the Spanish and the Americans.  We were there too.  We had been there for a long while.  We just moved slowly.  Reproduced rarely.  Were best suited for a moist environment. 
I remembered that Stockton had once been called Mudville and Tuleberg and had been the inspiration for the poem Casey at the Bat.  I remembered city histories saying that, before paving, a horse would sink up to its knees into south Stockton roads in the rainy season.  Just before I woke up, I remembered that bats made almost no sound when flying.  I knew I was waking up.  Knew I’d only been dreaming and that no harm could possibly come to me.
I woke up walking along a dry gully towards a bridge.  Mormon Slough.  Not the right direction.  My studio was the other way.  I climbed the closest bank and walked along the top of it to the bridge.  Diamond Street.  Damn.  East of where I wanted to be, too.  Oh, well.  Walking is good exercise.  The images had been vivid.  Well, not images, exactly.  Not related to sight.  More toward smell and taste and a very tactile sense of position.  Our language is skewed toward the visual.  Ironic, that.
My feet felt foreign the whole walk home.  I felt cold, too, although I’m pretty sure the temperatures were in the upper eighties.  It would have been higher, but the delta breeze was blowing.
I slept.

I don’t remember the dreams, but I did not wake up refreshed.  I pocketed the disk and headed to breakfast.  Why not Sid’s?
Sid's actually does a pretty brisk breakfast.  There are no combo breakfasts, just a la carte prices for breakfast items.  I'm feeling oatmeal, bacon, and orange juice.  Maybe a couple of other things.  Since I don't order toast, I'll have no toast to leave behind like greasy, dry parsley at the end of the meal.  
Terry is on, but so is Mary, so I won't get any conversation with my porridge.  Pity.  I could use a good talking to.  I can still see the shapes slipping against the underside of my eyelids.  This will not do.  I look around, hoping to see something to engage my focus, and I see Weber.
There aren't any real goths in Stockton, but Web comes close if you catch him in dim light.  His slut of a mom never did him any favors and naming him Weber was just the first sign that she was going to screw that baby over.  I've tried to convince him that the name means that he was conceived on the ground next to a cheap kettle grill; but for all his skepticism, this is one point on which he needs hope to spring eternal.

He was sitting inside at Sid's, eating oatmeal with no sugar.  The OJ was already finished, of course, because he always drank it first, slowly.  He probably took exactly the same number of sips every day.  The glass of milk was untouched.  He didn't like it cold and would only begin on it after the oatmeal.  He was wearing black trousers with an ironed-in crease, a black polo shirt, white socks, and black boots.  You couldn't see the socks, of course, but I've known Web long enough to have heard the lecture on dyes next to your skin in intimate places more than once.  So I knew the socks were white.  I didn't know why feet were intimate places, but I've learned to leave monologs alone.  If you ever get the chance to hear the warm-up, feel free to prolong the experience.

I sat next to Web and didn't say anything.  He thinks I'm terribly intuitive for not talking to him before he's done with meals.  Like Mary, it's another case of someone reading something of their own into being ignored.  Neither Terry nor Mary can be expected to come take my order, so I flash Sid three fingers when he looks at me pointedly from behind the counter.  He brings me coffee and oatmeal with everything.  He'll bring the rest later.  I say "Thanks, Sid" politely and load up half of the oatmeal with sugar, brown sugar, raisins, and sliced peaches.  I pour on a little cream.  Well, half and half.  Web does not comment.

At the first bite I discover I'm famished.  While Web steadily measures oatmeal from his bowl to his inside, I dig in and am finished before he is.  Sid notices and brings over a danish and the pot to top off my coffee.  Usually the danish is last, but the bacon evidently isn't ready and Sid doesn't like to see people waiting.  Just as well.  I'm on the danish.  I add creamer to the coffee, too, which I almost never do, and more sugar than usual.  Web watches without comment.  His spoon slows for a few beats and then resumes its pace.  I beat him easily, draining the coffee.

By the time the bacon arrives, Web has started on the milk.  Slow sips.  I'm slowing down, but still outpacing him.  By the time he's finished I'm on my fourth cup of coffee and going slow.   Web won't talk until his dishes are taken away.  Just as well.  I'm not sure I have anything I want to talk to him about.  The dream from last night is still vibrating my bones like a gong that's stopped sounding, but hasn't stopped moving yet. 

"You're working." he says, as one of the girls buses the table.  He's pleased that he can tell. 

"Yeah.  I've got more than one thing going.  It's annoying.  No - it's a little frustrating.  I ended up sleeping down by the channel."  I could have said Weber Park, but he was looking halfway content.  And I was feeling halfway content.  I decided to keep us that way, if I could.

"What did you find?"

That's what I liked about Web.  He knew that I found stuff and made art.  And he always asked about the found stuff, the seed that gave me the idea.  Never about what I wanted to do with it.  Never how the collection was going.  Never, thank all small gods, how I felt while I was working.  He'd ask about the found stuff and then think over what he saw in it and what he'd do with it, if he were making art.  I suppose it was self-centered of him, but it was relaxing for me. 

I showed him the book, pointing out the pictures.  He traced the lines with his fingers.  He frowned.  I went to get another cup of coffee.  I was starting to feel a bit wired.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fifty-Ninth Beginning: That's the Ticket

No demon walking, lumbering, or flying down the tunnel would have noticed the little red imp as it crouched, rocking in its nook.  For the tunnel was dark, barely lit by the sullen miasmas of hell, and the waste vents, set into one side, dripped a hissing lividity that caused the air to shimmer and quake.  This camouflaged the movements of the imp and covered its chittering.

Aimless was the chittering of the nameless, naked imp as it curled and rocked around its prize.  It had been very daring.  It planned to be more daring still.  In this moment, it gathered its nerve and congratulated itself on its cleverness.  Relaxing somewhat, it held its prize before it, still hunched and rocking, and crooned to it with the voice of a howler monkey.

The Bloodwishstone was its master's stone and more magic than the imp had ever held.  It could feel the magic seeping into its skinny arms.  The imp's master, a demon of some note by the name of Gargak, neither knew nor cared that this particular imp had a second master, a lesser being barely named with a single syllable:  Sul. Imps crawled through hell, ubiquitous as lice.  Demons wasted little thought on them.

As understanding from the stone seeped into it, the imp stilled and quieted.  It began to know that it was a very lucky imp.  The stone would cooperate.  It began to understand, too, why Gargak did not use the stone.  It smiled.  Sul had little, yet, to distinguish itself from other demons, but he had one thing that the imp could use.  He had formed an inflex, a point of shadow transfer to the mortal realms.  Nothing could actually pass through an inflex, but anything held within it cast a shadow of its essence on the other side.

The Bloodwishstone's shadow would do interesting things among the mortal sheep.  Perhaps interesting enough to gain one small imp a name.  Just now other imps were needed, as colleagues and witnesses.  The red imp left its nook, clutching the stone and its cleverness.
It was difficult, but Laura managed to remember to lock the door when she left the house.  Although it ran counter to her nature, her philosophy, and her usual needs, it was a necessary action while house-sitting.  Laura might have nothing worth either stealing or locking up, but the house, only temporarily her place of shelter, owned a great deal and expected to keep it.  Laura was willing to help it, when she could remember.  It was a nice house.

Laura had a split in her sneakers and a garbage bag in her jeans pocket.  The second was due to the first.  The sneakers would have to be replaced soon, and today that meant can-scrounging.  Laura knew where to go first.

In the center of the fancy development in which the house lived, there was a golf course.  Through the course ran a stream, which fed a series of duck ponds.  Following the stream in either direction out of the development would take her to either undeveloped stream beds or blocky, cement culverts, both used by the development teens for beer drinking.  It was can heaven.  New sneakers were at most a month away, probably half that.
The red imp and its cohorts sidled cautiously through Sul's passages, ready to jump and cower in fawning hopefulness at the least sign of any demon.  It was unlikely, though.  Sul was sleeping, exhausted from haunting dreams in the inflex.  It had successfully caused a medium amount of mischief, some of which had the potential to expand into greater mischief unaided.  It was the way of hell that other demons knew this, and that, in deference, they were unlikely to disturb its rest.  The imps picked lightly through the chilly, dripping phosphorescence of Sul's passages, as nervous and abrupt as flies.

They stopped, hovering, uncertain, when they discovered Sul sleeping beside the inflex.  Soft clicks, squeaks, and strangled moans seeped from them, as sign of their worry, leaking out despite all need for caution.

The red imp, alone, was silent and still.  The power of the Bloodwishstone steadied and led it.  It padded directly to the eye- and mind-bending here-and-notness of the inflex and thrust the stone into it.  The other imps quieted as the stone floated in the center of the inflex, and stared, rapt, as images from the mortal world began to bloom.  By the magic of the stone, understanding shone through the unfolding sight.
Laura cashed the check from the recycling center at the 7-11.  The town was a bedroom community on the interstate.  The development was on one side of the overpass and the rest of the town was mostly ignored on the other.  On the development side were grocery stores, restaurants, and one lone pizzeria, all catering to the upscale and keeping up the landscaping.  A row of professional offices buffered the development from even this well washed mercantilism.

The town on the other side was centered, by chance, about a mile north of the freeway.  It was its fringes, therefore, that touched the divide, placing the bits of the city that the citizens shunted aside closest to the development.  Laura had, therefore, only had to cross the overpass to reach the recycling and scrap yard.  The remainder of her trip, past light industry and a few
hog pens, had been burdened only with the weight of the check.

Normally the 7-11 would not cash third party checks.  But the recycling center was known to be good for it and Laura was well known, if not quite an employee.  She did small, temporary jobs - cleaning or subbing or hauling - that were paid under the table by half of the small stores in town.  So six dollars and thirty-three cents changed hands without even a request to see a driver's license.  Laura balanced the money in her palm, jingling the coins slightly.  

"Five dollars is enough of a take for today.  What do you think?  Should I get a coke or a lottery ticket?"

The turbaned man behind the counter smiled.  "You know you want the ticket.  It's always the ticket with you."  He reached and tore one off of the behind the counter display, not waiting for her answer.  It was the right one, he knew, the one with the worst odds but the best prizes.

Laura chuckled, enjoying his understanding.  She held out her dollar.  "You know me too well.  Nothing I have is ever as wonderful as the next thing that might happen."

"So scratch it and see if you win."

Laura took the quarter from her loot and scratched.  Behind her a junior high aged boy juggled and armload of candy, chips, ice cream, and soda meaningfully, but with no success in catching the clerk's eye.  Both he and Laura watched as the markings on the card were revealed.

$50,000 - - $50 - - WISH.  Laura stopped.  Wish?  Usually it said CHANCE or GO or TV.  Wish?  Laura and the clerk exchanged puzzled glances and shrugs.  The boy pushed in beside her an started unloading onto the counter.

"I've never seen that," said the clerk.  Laura displaced herself down the counter a bit, to make room, and the clerk displaced with her.  The boy brought out money, which hung in the air as Laura continued scratching.

WISH - - $1,000 - - WISH.

"Hey, I won a wish!  That's too cool for words.  What's the prize?"

"I have no idea.  I will check the rules."

"Hey!"  The boy waved his money as the clerk calmly rooted under the counter for a pamphlet.  The boy visibly controlled himself as the clerk read the pamphlet thoroughly.  

"I will phone their number, here.  There is no mention of a wish."  The clerk ducked under the counter and exited the store to use the pay phone."

"Shit.  Doesn't he want my money?"

Laura shrugged absently and looked at the ticket.  "I get a wish," she said.  I wish I had a coke."
Down in hell, a handful of imps sucked in a hiss of breath.  So much potential, for very much potential for harm, and it was starting so poorly.  The Bloodwishstone had manifested as the full, traditional wish triad in the mortal world.  Their hearts had raced at the sight of it, sure of grand success.  And now, so weak a wish!  How much harm could even the Bloodwishstone squeeze from such a weak wish?
There you are, you thieving little . . . !"  The boy beside Laura looked vaguely ill for just a second, then his face flared with resentment.

"What do you mean 'thieving', witch?  You ran off without leaving me anything to eat."

"I ran off to work, you spiteful little piece of garbage, and I left you a casserole in the refrigerator."

"You left garbage in the refrigerator . . . "
"And don't call me a witch, you thief.  Now give me my money."

Things began to deteriorate from there, with violence looming closer, until the clerk leaned in at the door.  "Do not worry, ma'am.  I call the police and they come arrest the thief and give you your money."

Both unhappy customers began to yell their opinions as to the desirability of this action, but the clerk just smiled and nodded and turned back to the phone, shop door closing behind him automatically.

As the objections dwindled to a couple of muttered imprecations, Laura picked the ice cream bars out of the pile and popped them back into the freezer before they could melt.

"He's talking to someone else right now," she said.  "If you're gone before he finishes, he'll have no reason to make another call."

The mother held out her hand, an ultimatum.  The boy threw the money on the counter and stomped off, trailing obscenities.   The woman echoed his obscenities dully as she hung there for a moment, tired and defeated.  Then, with a second wind, she grabbed the money from the counter, jammed it into her pocket, and headed after him.

"I guess it could have been the floor," she muttered as she strode toward round two.

Laura began re-shelving snacks.  The clerk re-entered.  "They say it is a fraud.  There is no such ticket.  I say I tear it from the roll myself, see you scratch.  They say slight of hand, a switch.  I argue.  They argue.  Phooey.  I will get you a new ticket."

"No.  I like this one.  Do you think it's one wish or thr . . ." Laura stopped, her eyes wide.  "Look!"

The clerk read the ticket:

$50,000 - - $50 - - $50

WISH - - $1,000 - - WISH

"It must have been three," he finally said.  "I do not like this."

"But did I make a wish?  I don't remember it."  Laura frowned, but worry was foreign to her and it passed quickly.  "Oh, I put his stuff away.  Except for the coke.  Fountain drinks don't go back very well."

The clerk slid it toward her, an obvious offer.  Laura smiled and drank.  

"Thanks.  You don't know how good this feels."

"You should be careful.  Wishes can be bad things."

"Like in the Monkey's Paw?"

"Monkey's Paw?"

"A story about a magic monkey's paw that granted wishes.  An old couple used it to wish for money and it came immediately - but it was from their son's life insurance.

"Ah, so their son died from the wish.  Yes, that is what I mean.  Wishes can be bad."

"Their next wish was worse.  They wished him alive."

"That is bad?"

"They forgot to wish him healed . . . and he had been buried for three days."


"The last wish sent him back to the grave.  I wonder why it's always three wishes."

The clerk shrugged.

"There's the story of the fisherman and his wife.  They got three wishes too."

"I have heard that one - sausages, sausages on the nose, sausages off the nose."  The clerk smiled, relaxing.  "That one is not so bad.  The lesson is to make small, careful wishes and to watch your tongue."

"And to make the wishes soon, before you forget and wish for something odd.  That will be hard.  I like things that haven't happened yet.  Well, thanks for cashing the check and for the ticket and for the coke.  I needed a caffeine fix.  Bye."

"Be careful."

"I will."
The imps all but vibrated in place.  This was hell for them.  Sul's presence required quiet.  But the ambiguity of the Bloodwishstone's working frayed their nerves and drove them to chatter.  Possibilities span from the first wish.  Rancor danced with reconciliation.  Mayhem brushed by generosity.  The mother and son shared both miserable circumstances and a basic love.  And the wish had been neither theirs nor directly about them.  Therefore the stone could not continue its influence.  There was no telling how things would end.

Beside the inflex, Sul stirred.  The imps froze, then sank down and seeped toward the walls.  Al except one.  Unable to move from his handiwork, the red imp slid between Sul and the flickering images and turned his back on the sleeping demon to gaze into his magic's heart.  It saw, as the others did not, the evil the stone had gathered, had infused into the inflex.  If it could not be siphoned through, what would happen to it?
The split in Laura's sneaker widened on the way back to the house.  When she got there, there was a letter from her sister.  Although purporting to be a civil, helpful letter, it was, instead, an admonishing letter that often reached far past politeness to touch the sarcasm it plainly felt entitled to.

Laura sighed and folded the letter back into its envelope, re-containing it.  For extra protection, she laid it on a table in the entry, near the door, and put the wish ticket on top of it.  The phrase 'bread on the waters' echoed in her head.

'Bread on the waters' was another protection, Laura's personal talisman against the proper animosity of her sister, Cheryl.  'Bread on the waters,' 'lilies of the field' - these phrases, plucked by deliberate study from the bible, could send Cheryl into a spitting, howling rage, when properly applied.  Not that Cheryl yelled.  No, the biting, scattershot attack these words could provoke would be delivered in a strangled whisper, a show of righteous anger held back by propriety.  

How dare Laura quote scripture?  It wasn't Laura who had turned to religion.  She had been the one who had done that in a selfless attempt to guide her wayward sister's ways.  She had been the one who had joined a proper church, run the cleaning committee, held bake sales.  She was the one who called relatives and kept the family Facebook page active, offering her judgment and advice and her help when needed.

How dare Laura quote scripture when she had done none of these things.  How dare she talk about 'obvious new testament themes' as if all a person had to do was read a fool book!  As if Cheryl had the leisure to read, busy as she was.  And if a certain person was responsible enough to have a cell phone like an adult, she wouldn't have to waste time writing letters.

"Bread on the waters," Laura said it out loud. Then she looked down at her shoe.  "Well, you won't last the week at this rate.  Should I wish for new shoes?  No.  Then I might find a dead body with sneakers just my size.

Let's see.  I could wish for cans.  After cleaning up it will take them awhile to build back up.  But I don't want them to build up forever.  How to cover the bases?

Okay, ticket, here it goes.  I want seven days with just as many cans as today, exactly where I collected them today, and after that I want no cans there.  I want it to stay clean after that."

Laura turned the ticket over.  It read:

$50,000 - - $50 - - $50

$1,000 - - $1,000 - - WISH

"Cool,"  Laura said, putting the ticket back on the letter.  She smiled as she turned toward the kitchen.
The red imp hugged itself to contain its rising elation as understanding of the images filled it.  The wish had centered on a location - two locations.  The stone's effect could be focused there, could work unseen to apply the wish and its curse to the best effect.  

The stone hummed as influence after influence formed in the inflex, formed and cast shadows outward.  Drunkenness, argument, rape, defiance, vandalism, and death simmered, occurred, in the air before it.  So many cans to come, each splattered with the blood that would be used to prevent the coming of further cans after the stone had worked its magic for seven glorious days.

Against the walls, the other imps stirred and chittered, impressed into incaution, or so the red imp thought until a hand grabbed his neck and thrust him into the inflex.  Another hand grabbed the stone from the air and brought it crashing into the imp's head.  Sul had awakened.
In a back bedroom of the house, Laura prepared cartoons for mailing.  Three were for fantasy magazines and one was for a mystery magazine.  Laura had a list.  The cartoons would be sent away in sequence down the list until accepted.  Lately, they were all accepted eventually.

This was Laura's health insurance and retirement plan.  Every bit of her cartoon and story money went into savings and mutual funds.  Food came from small gardens and odd jobs.  Clothes came from recycling and from garage sale resales.  Beyond food, clothes, and security, what else did she need?  A house?

Laura was well-known to those who needed house-sitting, in-house baby-sitting, and in-house cleaning.  She also had friends with couches or soft rugs.  And she had learned that begging to use computers after hours could get her locked into offices overnight, where begging for couch space wouldn't.  Laura trusted the world in general too deeply to feel homeless.

Life would be grand if only Cheryl would back off.  Lately all her other relatives were either avoiding her or regaling her with Cheryl's advice or both.  It was sad.  It was obvious to Laura that they'd been bullied into it, smothered with Cheryl's talk until, gasping, they'd taken in some of it as their own:  the cost of a breath of air.

Laura went back to the entry.  She picked up the ticket with one hand and the letter with the other.  She looked at both and considered.  Then she shook her head and began to set them down.  
Floating in both the inflex and the inherent ironies of hell, the red imp span limply and recognized for the first time his name:  Bot.  Enough trouble, finally, to earn a name and most of the trouble seemed to be his.  He would have smiled bitterly if he'd had that much control, but his skull was smashed, leaving him alive, oh yes, in hell, eternally alive, but helpless.

Intimate, now, with the inflex, the imp knew the full danger of his actions.  If the evil the Bloodwishstone had gathered was not shunted through into mortality, it would rebound, would backlash viciously.  The mischief from the coke was not enough.  The mischief from the cans was yet to come.  All depended on the third wish.  The third wish could lessen the danger from the second or it could open the floodgates of hell.

Yet either way, what would happen to him?  What would happen to one small, trapped, paralyzed imp?

Sul was also aware of the buildup of evil but, unlike the imp, he could send his influence through the inflex.  The imp flet him push, an insistent imperative for an immediate, substantial wish, forget the risk.
Laura still held the ticket, thinking.  She loved her sister, even admired her in some ways.  She just couldn't stand her.  And she really didn't understand what drove the woman.  It seemed like that was the key.  If they only understood each other, things would be different.

The letter landed in the wastebasket.  "Okay, ticket.  Listen closely.  I don't want to change my sister and I don't want to change me.  I want us to stay just the way we are.  But within that constraint, I wish we understood each other."

It was the biggest wish that Laura could think of - changing Cheryl's mind.  A reverent moment or two passed before Laura turned the ticket over.

$50,000 - - $50 - - $50

$1,000 - - $1,000 - - $50

"Oh," she said, surprised.  "I won."
Back in Sul's den, even the lichen felt the wrongness coil to unleash.  Bot was all but smothered with it.  Bot alone felt the tendrils of change unwind and reach even as the evil cramped itself tighter in the hanging air.  He was not surprised when Gargak burst, roaring, into the chamber.

Imps fled as demons fought and the canker of the Bloodwishstone festered toward eruption.  Bot saw only a swath of the floor as he hung, turning slowly.  He would be annihilated, he was sure, reduced to a pained awareness caught in the inflex.  And if Gargak won, as he probably would, and decided to unravel his opponent's resource?  What then?

The inflex erupted, flaring outward to join the battle of Sul and Gargak, to joing Sul, to join Gargak, to join much else beyond them.  Bot felt pain, great pain, but he knew it wasn't his.  The pain belonged to Sul, to Gargak, to the inflex, to every living and unliving thing in the chamber and the passages just beyond.  He felt the pain of these things as they melted and ran together while he floated safely in the eye of the wishstorm.
Laura bought her own coke this time at the 7-11.  She handed the money and the ticket to the clerk.  "What do you think of that?"

"I think you have won.  Is this the same ticket?"

"Yep.  I think I figured out what the first wish was.  It was the coke.  And that boy got into trouble."

"That is fine.  The mother brought him by to apologize.  They paid for the coke.  It seems they were up all night yelling and crying and hugging.  The boy will get a paper route to earn snack money.  It will keep him busy after school until his mother comes home.  It is good."


"You made other wishes?  What were they?"

"I wished I'd find as many cans as yesterday for seven days and then that there would be no more cans in those places."

"Cans for money, yes?"


The clerk shrugged, not quite understanding.

"It felt like it was going to happen, too.  I was sure of it.  Then I made another wish.  I wished that my sister and I could understand each other."

"What happened?"

"Well, it seemed for a second like it might happen.  Then I was suddenly sick all over the floor.  I spent the next four hours groveling in the bathroom and then poof! the sickness was gone."

The clerk began to laugh.  "Ah, you asked for too much.  I know your sister.  She's been here twice threatening to turn me in to the IRS for giving you money with no taxes.  What you asked for was too much for the poor ticket and it died."

"My sister threatened what?:

"Do not worry.  I asked my bother if she could do it and he said she could, but it would be stupid.  On your end, the little bit you get for the little bit you do, it would be like trying to tax a lemonade stand.  On our end, you're not an employee, you're an independent contractor, like the boy will be when he delivers newspapers.

My brother says let her notify whoever she wants."

"Oh, good," Laura smiled and shook her head.  "You're right, I think.  I asked for too much and it broke.  Oh, well.  It was a nice idea while it lasted.  Tell me, is this ticket good?"

"Let me call in the side codes and see."
Bot shied and danced around the now-living chamber.  The lives of Sul and Gargak and two of the fleeing imps, not to mention the lichen and ooze, had been woven into the inflex, extending its power and the power of the chamber.  Bot himself was healed.  Not just healed but winged as well and larger than before.  He shone with healthy, red vigor.

The paradox of the wish had been too much.  Understanding was a change.  It was not possible to change a person and leave them unchanged.  The backlash of the aborted wish had destroyed the shadow cast through the inflex.  The Bloodwishstone was not unhappy, though.  It radiated contentment and promises from the floor by the chamber entrance.

Bot knew, now, that the stone was happiest when causing grief in hell, which he had helped it to do.  Now he had a name and here was the stone in a powerful new chamber with no master.  It was a deadly trap and he knew it.  He tensed himself to spring, hoping he had enough strength to fly over the stone and out of the chamber.  He did not believe the odds favored him.  The stone's promises were so very sweet.  Bot hoped that the human would suffer as much as he did.
It was such a nice day in the development that Laura decided to go jogging in her new shoes.  "I should have wished for a winning ticket at the start," she thought.