Tag Archives: Literature

Does This Depression Make Me Look Fat?

I think it has been a bittersweet couple of weeks. There needs to be more activity here, and so I should provide it. The bitter part is staring down the barrel of Winter. However, the sweet part was seeing my high school friend and his wife in Madison, WI a weekend ago. Grass always seems greener when you walk off your property, which is usually used (I’ve noticed) to discourage you from doing something new. I think it’s better used as fair warning, to really make sure you’re making a calculated risk. Anyone travel anywhere recently?

The other sweet part is I have written some more. The sentences aren’t strung as cleverly as I enjoy, but I’m trying to keep Kurt Vonnegut’s advice in my head:

Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

And a chunk of what I’ve been writing:

We stop near a large portcullis and even larger pegged wheel, and I stare at Molvin until he wiggles out of his nest in the back. Grabbing the moist boards of the wheel, he cranks and grunts for the better part of a minute. The barely-lit sewer painted a lively picture which entertained me as I listened to his incessant bitching. Water reflected movement all around me, and slid across the walls of the sewer from the manmade river underground. The long pools wave in strange formations.

Inside and out, the moving wall mosaic had a pleasant rhythm, exciting and returning for encore. The grunting mule behind me was too busy to observe anything. Balancing himself horizontal to the ground by his stomach, he crunches his stomach a few times in a fruitless wiggle. The best that comes of it is a clinks of the chains wrapped around the wheel.

Two tunnels down, the lights stop. It shimmers momentarily and stops again. Staring made the made the light return. Returning my attention to Molvin, I whip my head back to the same spot. Black. “Move,” I mutter, “move, move, move, please move.”

“Ye git dan h’re an’ help den, Jesh!” Molvin’s ruddy face cranes from its parallel position to shout profanity at me and I jump out of the driver seat.

“Damn the gods, Molvin, do I have to do everything myself?” Maybe that was my anxiety getting the better of me but there’s no retraction after that.

“I s’pose ye do, now help!” Quitting the acrobat routine Molvin crouches at the rotten straw near the mechanism.

“Fine, if it gets us closer to the bath house.” Sliding down the seat my approach to the wheel is quicker than I would normally perform. Waiting for Molvin to stop his intermittent bitching, I dig my feet hard into the rocks. The portcullis moves in screams as we strain to roll the wheel in motion. A feeling of nausea tingles in my nose as I close my eyes softly and whimper but we continue until a pawl prevents it from falling at the top. The halls return to the quiet display it once was. Swallowing hard, little prompts me to press on through the gate.

Copyright © 2016 Corvidae in the Fields

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Blushing

You would not believe how hard it is to squeeze writing in through all of this scheduling madness. ~ Nate

——

Tiny drops wet the pavement near Jessica’s white satin heels. The circles turn a light sandstone into muddied brown and she sees her reflection for the first time since this morning. While not crystal clear, black shone prominently on her cheeks. The dress wrinkling and smoothing under her hands made restless rustles against the sounds of rain.

Soon the booth housing her dress freckles with moisture and transitions into tiny streaks of precipitation down the side. Stabbing her freshly-painted nail, “Bouquet,” at the lacquered sign, she checks the next pick up time. It would be a while before she would use her phone again or catch a ride. Loved ones are the plague. People dripping with pity and sympathy. Running out the church felt like the only relief available.

The hulking, metallic slug of a transport finally saw fit to grace Jessica with its presence. Childlike splashes came from the filled potholes in the road, as it began to sway left and right. Sliding its cheap, silver doors open an old man in a blue uniform gave her the once-over and looked back out on the road. With exact change, she was permitted to take a seat, possibly without vomit stains on the cushions.

The cracked floor and dirty space of the bus made for a fine chariot. Maybe they’d tie some whiskey bottle to the bumper, too? A survey of the carriage revealed that the only two open seats were beside a bag lady who must have been eating an onion sandwich prior to her journey. She would keep the bird of a feather company. Bunching up her dress, she sat down and knew any attempts to return her gown would be a laughable failure.

“You smell lovely, deary.” A crackle of phlegm punctuates the decrepit one’s sentiments.

“Thanks,” Jessica’s grimace was somewhat hidden by the paint.

Gifts greet her as the apartment lights illuminate the kitchen table. Still sealed, never to be opened. By way of magic, or the work of her parents, the well-wishing invades her space centered around a large, smooth, white cake. Its perfection can be seen from all angles, and would match her perfectly if she wasn’t part of an experiment in public transit.

With a hearty thud, a bottle of vodka hits the cheap tabletop and a generous sweep of the hand launches a cake decoration off into the kitchen. The black-suited, plastic figurine comes to rest smiling stupidly at the ceiling. Jessica’s cat, Miss Havisham, slinks by to investigate the foreign object but walks away in quick disinterest. It will lay they for quite some time.

Staring at the cake for the better part of fifteen minutes, Jess admires the craftsmanship. Forgoing any sort of protocol she dips her hand into the dessert stationed in front of her and shoves a handful into her mouth. More cake matter winds up on the floor, as she lets out a stream of profanity. Fondant is the Devil’s practical joke for confectionery.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Sunday, May 11th, 2014

It has been a very productive week. I’ve gotten to know more of my networking group and the landscaping is looking less “squatter-chic” and more like a house is inhabited by someone who’s not a transient. It’s so nice to be able to work on my lawn again. Sure, I was sweaty and dirty but that’s better than being in the two-foot drifts three/four months ago. This is my element.

One thing I am having trouble with is writing the next story. I’ve got the opening scene, but not an acceptable way to introduce the scene or character. It’s a little frustrating.

I suppose it’s going to be a late-night trip to Waffle House for me.

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Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

thought I was in the clear when Sunday turned out to be 26° C (80° F). Alas, this morning I woke up to a pronounced layer of snow all over everything. This has been, by far, the worst winter in years. I need to move somewhere warmer.

Not much has been brewing since I published “Dusk,” which I found to be entertaining. I’ve been reading Ezra Pound’s “Homage to Sextus Propertius” and “Hugh Selwyn Mauberly.” Apparently, the two are meant to be fitted side-by-side and is done so in Diptych Rome-London. These poems are a bit much for the casual reader, as “Homage” includes a lot of lesser known historical figures such as Sextus Propertius and “Mauberly” uses a ton of imagery. That’s not surprising, as Pound was the developer of Imagism.

There is a very moving section, as noted in the introduction of the book, where Pound strikes hard at the cost of world war.

There died a myriad,

And of the best, among them,

For an old bitch gone in the teeth,

For a botched civilization…

– (“E. P. Ode Pour L’Election de Son Sepulchre, V”, 1-4)

This really puzzles me, as he aided and abetted the Axis powers in the Second World War. One would think he’d remember what it felt like to go through it the first time. Even though I’ve gone through the poems once, I’ll have to read them a few more times to really “get it.” As of right now, I only consider this an “experience” of Pound.

 

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Re-posession

It was in such great shape and a steal for $20,000! Skepticism did lay a blackened edge around my thoughts, but reasoning couldn’t shake out any problem which had a monetary solution. How could I not sign on the dotted line? The American Craftsman was all I could ever ask for in shelter. The flat screen here, office over there, my bed off in the corner… it fit like a jigsaw puzzle.

Facing east, I’d welcome the sun each morning. There was no need for setting an alarm; golden light produced enough power to wake the heaviest of sleepers. I took the new regimen as an opportunity to enjoy my new surroundings. My occupation was executed through remote access anyway. As long as I sent my material in by midnight, I could work on it at my own pace.

Many mornings, I’d sit out on the porch peering through the privacy hedges to observe the activity on the street. People walked quite a bit for being off the main drag. Maybe it was lip service to the health conscience? Possibly friends of the Earth? Dogs seemed a little more obvious reason. Huddling up in a ball, I’d peek out through the privacy hedges upon the unsuspecting world. It made me bold. Only a few pedestrians would stop or look around as if they sensed anything. My house was my castle, which only seemed to last a brief moment.

At first I thought it nothing more than the condition of the structure, a settling of stone and mortar to which a building that age was accustomed. Slight pings and knocks could be heard at the most unpredictable of times. Possessions soon found different ways to present themselves throughout the place. A bucket in the garage one day would be in the kitchen the next. My rope would skip town only to return exhausted on my banister. Then there were even times I felt like I was being watched.

My Monday morning exercise routine was interrupted by a sound as if a window slammed shut. A rudimentary glance about my home revealed no culprits. All portals were open. Angry, I took my Louisville Slugger with me to search the basement. If some animal was wrecking my home, it would take a miracle to save it. This needed to end, and I was willing to consider everything the fault of the unfortunate beast that showed its face below.

An unusual mugginess brought forth a foul, musty smell from the sump basin. This needed to be quick. My eyes spotted an egress window off to the south. Streaks of copper lined the clasp, rubbing away the paint that was put there before I arrived. My heart knotted at the sight and I rubbed my face. Gripping the bat tighter, I surveyed the unfinished mess. Covers were everywhere. A snap sounded off in the corner and I dove at the tarp. As high as a berserker I laid a blow that smashed the lumber underneath. Bits of timber landed on my right foot which resulted in me screaming my head off. With what sense I had left, I limped toward my first aid kit upstairs embarrassed.

Little happened after that day, until I came home from the grocery store Thursday evening.  Jets of water were pouring in my shower at full blast. Certainly there was no way I had left it on, as I bathe before I go to bed. Removing the panel to the back of the stall revealed no obvious signs of tampering. Annoyed, I resolved to call the plumber if it were to happen again. As the grocery bag hit the floor I repeated “what now” several times making my way to the kitchen.

Several canned goods fanned out on the linoleum. My disgusted sighs became the new response as I plucked each and every tin up and socked them all in the cupboard. For a moment, I stared at the stocked food. Didn’t I buy baked beans? Yes, there it is on the receipt. Did they forget to pack it? Don’t tell me they forgot to pack it! This day needed to be over. The traipse of my shoes followed me to my coat.

When I pulled the closet door into its pocket a ridiculously-unkempt man imitated a peanut brittle snake in the nude, knocking me to the ground. I climbed to my feet with my face as red as a beet and sized up my attacker. Dripping from head to toe, he stood up with a can of baked beans clutched in his left hand. He breathed like a jaded animal and his face contorted in ways that left his eyes wide and jaws taught.

Without much time, the tramp fumbled at my knife block and pointed a chef’s knife at me. “This is my house,” he pouted, “they took it from me and gave it to you. It wasn’t theirs to take. I own this. I OWN IT!” He struggled with the first few steps but lunged with all of his strength straight for my chest. I loved that place, but certainly didn’t want to die for it!

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Is It Better to Love and Lose?

Lou jerked the pull chain and the neon sign for La Chaudron de Sorcière flickered to life. They were already starting to draw an evening crowd, myself included. Being a back-alley bar in New Orleans wasn’t the most accessible location in the world but convenient for other reasons. The trip was unavoidable. We all found our way here no matter how far off it seemed. In little time I recall grabbing the next ticket leaving Chicago and set upon a wild goose to find her. My family hasn’t heard from me since.

Justine sat in her favorite chair. She was as beautiful as I last saw her, always dressed to the nines. Tonight she sported a silk top hat with pheasant plumage and peek-a-boo veil. The slit running up her black pencil skirt meant business. Sidesaddle on the stool, her coattails tapped against the brass foot rest as she giggled and flirted with the crowd around her. Everyone wanted her; no one had a choice.

She was quite the thief, a dealer in hearts of the human variety. They gave her life. Travelling abroad, the world was her garden. She’d harvest the most intense blossoms for her bouquet. In its place, she’d plant a stone. Such an exchange would drive the person mad, and they’d eventually find themselves a slave to her.

This slave couldn’t stand it anymore. The whole experience was walking a fine line between the living and the dead. There needed to be some way out. I had to break free of this curse. So, I decided to meet her head on. As I walked up to her, she smiled with the promises of sweet nothings.

“I can’t go on like this. I feel nothing. I am nothing. I can’t even cry myself to sleep. Please, give me back my heart. It belongs elsewhere.” My pent up thoughts slid out on the floor with as much grace as the average wino.

Taken aback by the unusual statement, Justine leaned upon the railing. She spent a moment studying my face and frowned.

“Oh, I’m sorry, mon cher, but I had that a long time ago.” By now she was touching my cheeks with the tips of her fingers. If I weren’t so anhedonic to it all, it’d be a welcomed gesture.

“That means there’s no way back. I’ll be stuck here forever.”

Pausing a moment, Justine pulled her lapel flower close to her nose for a whiff. It reminded me of the arrogant grace that lured me into this. As she set it upon her ruffled blouse, she smiled.

Oui.”

“Louis,” she purred with predatory satisfaction, “another bloody mary, s’il te plaît.” His bulkiness turned with mechanical compliance as he prepared the drink for madame. In his former state, he was an ill-tempered brute of man. No police docket would be complete without a bar brawl involving him. It wasn’t until Justine pulled his heart strings that he became as docile as a lamb.

There wasn’t much left for me to say. I certainly couldn’t take back what was stolen. It was gone. There was no hope for any of us. I turned to meditate on the conversation and looked up at Lou. We stared at each other for some time, and a common link formed between us. We both knew what we wanted. The marionettes wanted to detach themselves no matter what the cost.

With his back to the madam, Lou pulled out a hidden flask from the bar. Justine was too busy being entertained by her entourage to notice. With a flick of the wrist, a bottle of arsenic was added to the bloody mary. There was no living without her. We’d all be dead by morning.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Bless Me, If You Can

Violent rain laid sheets of water on the already weather-beaten facade of St. Francis de Sales. Slick, daggered fingers caressed the building with a day long temptation of eternal ruin. Peering out his office window, Father Molony stared at the smoky tufts creeping off to the east. “Heaven is crying today, Sister Catherine, and it doesn’t look like its showing signs of stopping.”

“It’ll be done when it’s good and ready,” replied the nun as she went about her way to the chancel.

“It certainly will,” Molony muttered with a brief sweep of the grounds. The trees were not yet coming out of Winter hibernation and a figure made itself known in between the barren branches of the oaks. It came closer at a hurried pace, splashing along the sidewalks and roads with little regard to the rest of the world. The long, drawn out complaint of a car horn came through the glass as the person was nearly hit by a Cadillac.

The curtain was dropped, and the priest made his way out into the vestibule. Molony’s face pulled taught as he reached the front door of the church. Cold weather blew in strong gusts, as he and his frantic companion forced the door shut. Letting the man rest a moment, he studied the figure now sopping wet from his journey. He seemed older, but only through stress. His panting gave way to a garbled greeting and gratitude.

“I need to confess, father. I’m torn apart!” Smoothing out his chestnut-colored hair made a few extra puddles on the marble floor. Turning his head to the priest, the pain in his grey eyes could only have come from deep guilt.

“Of course, my son. Right this way.” With an outstretched arm, he lead the stranger to the booths for what he thought was the lesson in adultery or some sort of sexual perversion.

Dark as it was, the booths were warm from the antiquated radiator a few steps away. Stuffy almost, as it seemed Malony needed to open the door a crack to let cooler air in. A step outside in this weather may be beneficial to a man cooped up inside for too long. It might even throw off this sluggishness he had been feeling as of late.

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. My greed has lead to the deaths of many. People have died for my comfort, and they will all be waiting in Hell when I die. They’ll be ready to exact their revenge upon my wretched spirit. Oh God, what have I done!”

“Yes, my son, what exactly have you done to believe this?” The priest was waiting for something melodramatic and a molehill rather than a mountain.

“I signed a contract with the Devil. In basic terms, he would teach me the secret of distilling the best whiskey on Earth and I would be rewarded with prosperity, fame, and the finest of women. Being that I was a divorced nobody without a dollar to my name, I didn’t care about my soul. I was in a state of desperation and apathy. By my logic, I was Hell-bound regardless of what I did. The chance to be wealthy for a hot minute was too much to handle.”

Molony tried very hard to weigh the truth in the man’s words. The whole thing sounded absurd, but he was in the business of believing all sorts of spiritual activity. His guest was not guileful; his words were as grave and sober as a judge. The energy from his visitor reeled him in like a fish.

“It was later revealed to me the whiskey was enchanted to drain the life out of all who drank it. This was a highly addictive concoction. It was slow enough to go unnoticed, but the person would eventually lose all will and become the property of Satan. His minions would be in charge of shipping the victims back to Hell for consumption as the Dark Lord sees fit.” The voice was now down to a whisper, as if he were trying to avoid sharing the secret with someone else occupying his seat. He shuffled closer to the window.

“The lackeys transport the souls back to Hell through water. Baths, sinks, pools… this rain! As we speak people are riding the downpour to the entrance of Hell! Their bodies are so weak in spirit, they dissolve and spend days seeping into the dirt. I’ve watched good customers melt like wax in front of me. It’s terrifying, and it’s all my fault, father! It’s all… all my fault.” Leaning up against the wall, he began to cry quietly. He’d committed a terrible evil among humanity and could only hope his repentance would do something to ease the pain.

The clergyman removed the hand from his mouth. “You have sinned quite deeply, my son. While Heaven forgives those for the sins of the past, no one can guarantee forgiveness in perpetuity. God may be merciful, but He isn’t blind. Your inability to prevent further mayhem will fall upon your shoulders, and you will have to face His decision on Judgment Day.” Without a sound, Father Molony found his pocket flask and rubbed it between his forefinger and thumb. He, too, had been drinking whiskey that day.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Saturday March 8th, 2014

Today I have a couple of things to say for a change! There is reason enough to believe I should break them out into separate posts, as they’re different topics. What fortune! I think I’m more excited about that fact than I am the actual material but what happens next is still a bright spot on the grey-matter-gone-black that is my mental faculties. There may have been a spider or two that scurried away as I cracked open that cellar door.

Last night was shaping up to be a real Emo-city, cut-and-not-so-dry, window-gazer of an evening. All dressed up in suit and tie from a seminar I attended that day, I went to eat dinner out. The hurried, mechanical pace of American restaurants and a waitress too young to flirt with didn’t satisfy what I craved. Fortunately I keep a book at my side, being that dining alone is a way of life here. I thumbed the pages of The Jungle before setting out for a different venue. Ho-hum. That’s not in reference to the book, just the atmosphere.

Next stop was a swankier bar downtown. I’m not entirely sure why I went there. Maybe it’s because the women dress better? With better dress though can come attitudes, especially with the clientele being employees of a large corporate headquarters a few blocks away. Just as a side note, it doesn’t take much money to gain a sense of superiority in the Fields. A yearly salary of $70,000 could cultivate a behavior similar to that seen on “The Real Housewives of…” It’s slightly amusing, as I have been to much more wealthy locations in this country, but mostly tragic… and annoying. Most annoying was the woman so drunk she was laughing like Salacious B. Crumb and loudly.

Scratching cold starts in my journal, I could only stare out the window in efforts to find some sort of inspiration. A video comment by Ira Glass found on Jodie Llewellyn’s blog was running through my mind at the time, and I felt I needed a running start to have the spirit move me. I ended up walking out with little to show for it. The gloom of a failed evening was starting to follow me. So, I did the best I could: change cities.

Driving about 20 minutes north reveals a small college town with a better tone throughout, in my opinion. I set up camp at a sports bar near the highway just to sit and read. Those are what I’ve decided to be the staples in my life right now: reading and writing. Most of the time there was being conscious of a presence sitting next to me. Cocksure and country alpha, I could feel a pissy nature emit from the turned back of a patron. Was he jealous that I was reading, or just a jerk? Later in the evening he was joined by another and his dialog only assured me of the latter. Foul with crass etiquette (i.e. spitting), his  conversation covered a gamut of gems ranging from aggression to sour grapes.

Not quite ready to give up the ship, I stopped by a bar I usually visit for some tonic and whatever else I could squeeze out of Upton Sinclair. I don’t like the idea of being so frequent to an establishment that I either lose interest or wear out my welcome. Last night was not one to mull over that fine point. It turned out to be a great decision, as a girl broke my concentration with an inquiry of the reading material. After a well-received joke, I went back to reading as her significant other body-blocked our field of view. He was definitely jealous of our rapport, and I relished it like a villain.

Stepping outside for another broken promise, I had the pleasure of meeting two gentlemen from the local university. Both were philosophy majors with a interest in books. Naturally they opened up with my selection for the evening and we had a delightful conversation that ran almost an hour in the freezing cold. Steinbeck, Hemingway, Sinclair, Dick, Asimov, Kerouac, Bradbury, Heinlein, Faulkner, and Fitzgerald were all under the same roof. I could not have been happier even if I wasn’t a fan of some of the authors. The spectre of depression had been banished to the void for at least a night. Happily, I drove home content for a change.

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It’s Just a Fairy Tale

“The terms of your surrender are as thus,” Nicator the Ambitious was on his best warhorse, high and ostentatious. Large gold plating coated the exemplary equine specimen with scrolling wheat and cherub faces. He was the new empire, and aggressive expansion was the first priority. The very best of his conquests held at attention behind him. All of them skilled warriors, now duty-bound to serve in his army. Anything less than conformity would mean the systematic cleansing of their lineage.

“You shall submit to my authority and all of your resources shall be shared equally throughout my domain. You shall pay tax, which will be collected at the first of every month. All of you shall be examined by the army physicians for military fitness. Any qualified soldier shall be impressed into the ranks with unconditional compliance. Any resistance shall not be tolerated and your people would face certain eradication. As I see your ‘army’ standing before me, I doubt any of you would have to worry about that last stipulation.”

He was correct, if a bit direct. A hastily cobbled militia of country folk was the best the area could do. Determined to fight for their loved ones, these laymen to Aries would have their blood spilt in seconds. The corner country simply known as “the Thicket” was steeped in farmers and shepherds. Superstitious, but hard working and simple, their removed location from the rest of the world, the known world, their little world, suited them just fine. Burlap sacks travel further on the backs of asses.

“Do you accept these terms?” Impatient, Nicator was now pushing himself to speed up the formalities. This was no fight, and he’d rather be heading north into the mineral rich Isthan mountains. The precious metals found there would fund his overseas campaigns. He always wanted to travel the world.

“I do not, sir.” Quiet and full of breath, yet firm and full of conviction, was the reply. A mounted knight, armored cap-a-pie in flat black plate approached the party divide. The conveyance, pallid yet hale, suggested it had passed its expiry date but was held hostage by the binds of enchantment. At its feet, a wispy shroud mingled in the grass.

With superstitions come fairy tales, and with fairy tales come ghost stories. The Thicket, with its bounty of lush property, espoused a tract of land decayed. Tucked behind the fields of wheat and the mountain sheep, was a mossy bog ever smoking like the fumes of dry ice. Bleached-white ash trunks fractured in the sun, and gnarled oaks stretched their way out to claw and scratch. Black mud rolled with wondrous varieties of serpents and reptiles, fungi and Monera.

This damnable earth carried a long and sad fable. An old tale… one of a boy born on a cold, harvest night to a widow by mining accident. Iuliu the Meek. The child lacked strength. He could barely plow. He couldn’t walk far without labored breath. His eyes appeared a perpetual hemorrhage, and grew to be excluded from the community. Before too long the new demon would be actively repelled by his peers. The sadness and sorrow drove him to seek refuge in the bog. No one dared follow, as it was believed to be a place of malevolent spirits and grief.

As generations came and went, the story was molded into a cautionary tale to keep children out. Reports from travelers would occasionally include the spotting of corpses ambling among the peat and tall grass. Legend had it they were the lives claimed by the swamp, making their pilgrimage to the hidden necropolis founded by Iuliu, now a terrifying necromancer.

A child’s bedtime story, townsfolk mythology at best, now presented itself for all to see. Iulius knew of Nicator’s advance and what would happen to the swamp if in the wrong hands. His refuge would cease to exist, as it would be drained for more crops. There was no way he would let the tactical incompetence of the Thicket destroy another home.

“And who, exactly, are you?” Ignorant to local culture, Nicator was watching a new spectacle unfold right before his eyes.

“I, sir, am Iulius,” the grate on the helmet blew words out like a bellows. His difficulty speaking became apparent, as he slowly and meticulously carved out sentences from these gusts. “I am here to inform you that the empire will not take the Thicket, and it shall fall back to its borders internationally recognized. This land has no need for the empire, and truly, the area is merely a notch in her belt.”

“How dare one knight defy the greatness of Nicator’s army!” A pompous shout, if one were ever to exist, but seconds gave way to laughter. “Your gall is laughable. How do you expect to succeed in this repel?”

“Mighty Emporor Nicator, do not be so foolish to think this emissary traveled lightly.” By this time the threads of smoke had made tendrils about the feet of the villagers. Heavier fog rolled over the battle ground like the tongues of wild animals. Even the most stalwart of soldier sensed the immediate dread over the cards to be played next.

Silence was broken when dozens of shofar blasted the tranquil air about them. Clink-a-clank, clink-a-clank, clink-a-clank. Rumble-thunk, Rumble-thunk, Rumble-thunk. Clip-clop, clip-clop, clip-clop. The dead made themselve known. Warriors from brutal ages, archers of legendary marksmenship, and all ranges of calvary lined up with a motley of ensigns tattered by age and fighting. The seige mechanics milled about, slowly moving their abominations into position. Ghoulish creatures, never completely whole and never completely apart, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the now outrageously frightened militia. The scent of decomposition overwhelmed many, and gave way to the aroma of urine and defecant.

“What sorcery is this?!” Cried the conquerer of nations. “I have met the master of Evil this day! Lo, the empire does not do business with such treachery!”

This gave the gaunt figure pause, for it reminded him of his past. It reminded him of all he wished to escape, and the entire reason for his display. Further encouraged by his decision, he remained silent. A moment later saw the slow draw of a obsidian blade with white relief, the hounds of war, and come to point at the opposition. The drop cut curls into the larthargic mist.

No sooner did Nicator scream his orders than flames pox the sky. Utter bedlam broke out as the militia scrambled to save their own skin. One would think all of them came to fight barehanded, tools dropped so quickly. Blade upon blade, leather upon sinew, forces collided with a remarkable resonance. Fog confused, and smoke blurred. Chaos took his usual seat in the middle of the action.

Savage, but astonishingly harmless, living combatants were rendered helpless as children and no more dead than alive. Any unarmed being was then left to their own devices and soon found a will to live as a spectator. It did make sense, much later around the campfires of caravans, why this was to be. The dead, especially those a casualty of war, wish not to remember their past let alone repeat it. Their benevolence was cloaked in bone and riddle, but served as a potent reminder of the nature of combat. Running swift upon winged feet, messages of soliders returning to their countries spread from coast to coast. Most, if not all, would find a way to honor the dead in return for their sage-like mercy. An era of peace was afoot.

Nicator’s defeat was finalized with the would-be conqueror prostrate at Iulius’s stirrup. “By the gods, this wasn’t meant to happen! How?! I’m to rule the world. I am order! I am law! I am a god!” Weeping through his white silver mask, tears and saliva dripped from the slots masterfully carved.

“You are not a god, sir. You are a monster. You are an animal, and as such, you shall be dinner.” The sputtering line collided with the image of the victor. Someone so weak was now demonstrably formidable, and strong enough to cut the head off an empire. Nicator jumped to his feet in alarm. “What? NO!” could only escape his lips before the commanding officers fell upon him in hunger. Little could be seen of the actual event, but the gurgling wails gave nightmares to all. A revolting mess lay in place of the mightiest of the mighty.

The emaciated figure now turned to the gathering crowd for one last performance. Tired and taciturn, the black grill was finally removed to show the visage of a blood-eyed skull. Thin, ashen skin stretched taught over ancient bones ticked in the light of day while dirty white wisps of hair swayed from his scalp. Iulius preserved himself the only way he knew how.

“Thank you, merciful Iulius, for saving our people in this time of need.” Country folk knew naught of anything else to say. For a moment, it seemed as if all was right with the world until a screech of anger and pain pieced the gathering like a spear. Iulius was not intersted in amends, but not so much in revenge either. Guiding his steed through the mass, his party silently marched back to their domain. It served as a powerful statement to the folly of human nature.

For centuries to come, the swamp of the Thicket would be off limits for different reasons.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Bellerophon and the Ambivalence of Greek Mythology

I think my house is finally done with its first coat of paint. There’s a little touch up here and there, but for all intents and purposes it’s done. That’s not to say my purposes aren’t intensive. Oh, they are. They are…

The best part is it looks 100% cleaner than it did initially, even if it’s straight white. Sure, it’s a snooze fest, but it’s clean. I’ll take a clean snooze fest any day. There’s little in the way of decor in the house, as I’m fairly minimalist, but who knows? If I were to find a partner, that might change the plain nature of it all. You know how that goes. You think you’ve got your life fairly well settled. Oh, no, my friend. Has she got a list of changes for you. One of the reasons I walked away from my last relationship was she wanted me to be like her father. I’ll bend here and there for a relationship, but take me as I am after that. On the other hand, Hell would have to freeze over for me to find anyone worthwhile in the fields anyway. I don’t see Satan adjusting the thermostat any time soon.

How does any of this tie into the story of Bellerophon? It doesn’t. It felt good to rap a while after being on the roof of a garage with hot asphalt shingles. Those burned like the Devil. I’ve learned my lesson to have my suntan lotion on while working on the house. I’m not a huge fan of looking jumbo shrimp pink.

Building a little off of my previous post, I began thinking of all the subjects I took while in compulsory education. Truthfully, reading and writing classes were the most beneficial. Algebra and science classes had their purpose, but to communicate well has served me better than working with imaginary numbers or finding the molarity of a hydrochloric solution. What I wish I could do would be customize my curriculum today and send it back in time to be exercised. I could simply learn all that was important to me and get it over with.

Ancient Greek mythology is only a small portion of the American curriculum today. It has been slowly chipped away with other subjects. To be fair, we have advanced considerably in the sciences and high school wants to introduce you to every little thing. The Greeks still have some great stories, and in my opinion, are still worth learning about. Here’s where Bellerophon comes in.

This is not a story that is covered in school, and I had to do independent study for it. What’s remarkable is how wonderfully Greek it is. A wildly accomplished and extremely pious warrior/demigod tames Pegasus and kills the chimera but still manages to upset the gods at a moment’s notice. It reads less like a fairy tale and more like a mercurial D&D dungeon master after one of his friends has hot dice. “This guy can take on whole armies, tame mythical creatures, kill the chimera, but to Hell with him, if he wants to see his father!”

And here we have the classic nut of Greek literature boiled down to a sentence: accomplishes impossible feats which include loads of murder and bloodshed, but shows a human side and gets punished severely. It’s this ambivalent presage that makes me adore the ancient Greeks. A hero or protagonist is given all sorts of accomplishments only to have the author jealously sabotaging their life at the end. We simply couldn’t have that. We need to cut them down a few notches for their arrogance.

Americans love happy endings. I went there for a split second, but I’m keeping it clean tonight folks. That’s professionalism for you! All joking aside, we do love happy endings, and that’s why I think it’s so easy erase Ancient Greek lit from our curriculum. Sure, you’ll have the occasional “dead white men” complaint, but it takes two to tango and I think the unpleasant nature of the tales make it easier to discard.

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