March FADness: 03/12/2008: Love or Romance; “Puppy Love” (991 Words)

Jerome stepped onto the long wooden walkway leading up from the stables all the way to the new Main House three levels above. Miguel and Juanito had worked all summer to finish it; the last planks had been laid two weeks ago and the weatherproofing had only just finished being applied. His rope-soled sandals hardly made any noise as he padded up toward the Refectory, his stomach growling.


“I’m here, Pablo,” he called. Pablo still couldn’t manage the English pronunciation of his name and it came out ‘hair-OH-may.’ Jerome thought it was cute.

“It came, Jerome! It came!” Pablo zoomed up, half out of breath, his face red and sweaty. “It came!”

“Okay, Pablo, that’s excellent news! Have you eaten lunch?” Jerome tried to distract him.

Pablo caught his arm, clearly under the impression he’d miscommunicated. He tried again in broken English. “It come, in barn. You come, in barn!” He tugged on Jerome’s arm agitatedly.

Jerome sighed to himself. Lunch would, clearly, have to wait. He let the boy drag him down the stairs and across the neat gravel path to the stables. “Easy, Pablo, you’ll trip me,” he murmured.

“It’s in the main barn,” Pablo told him, switching back to Spanish. “Father Salome is with it.”

“It?” Jerome echoed.

He caught a flash of cheerful brown eye as Pablo glanced at him and then looked back to the path. “Him.”

‘Him,’ huh? Jerome smiled. Perfect.

The stable gate stood open, welcoming traffic from the village a half-day’s ride away. Villagers often made the trek during good weather, bringing the monastery food, animals, and gifts. In return, the monastery treated the sick, tutored the children, and ministered.

“Jerome,” Pablo said, coming to stop just inside the gate. “Has La Chiquita spoken yet?”

Jerome sobered. The other thing the monastery did was shelter the helpless. This part of El Salvador had more than its share of troubles in the last decades. ‘Los Desaparecidos,’ in English, ‘the Disappeared,’ were spoken of in hushed tones, if at all. La Chiquita had been found, naked and bloody, in a ditch by the road not five miles from the monastery. An old farmer brought her to the monastery, hoping to find her shelter and medical attention. She was only about ten years old and, so far, refused to speak a word to anyone.

“No, Pablo. Nothing yet.”

Pablo sighed, disappointed. He gazed over at the barn door and then nodded to himself. “Come,” he repeated to Jerome.

Jerome followed Pablo into the dim interior. The dusty scent of hay filled his nose. The nearby paddock’s heavy gate stood ajar. Jerome stepped through.

“Hello, Father Salome,” Jerome greeted the priest crouched in one corner of the paddock.

“Jerome. This is Alejandro,” he introduced the young man next to him.

Alejandro glanced up and Jerome got a quick impression of large black eyes in an Aztec face before he looked down again.

“And this is Paulito,” Alejandro said, his Indian accent coming through the Spanish.

“Good morning, Paulito,” Jerome told the puppy in Alejandro’s hands. It wriggled forward and nibbled Jerome’s fingers with sharp little needles for teeth. “Good strong mouth.”

The others laughed. “Can we bring it up?” Pablo asked Jerome, not daring to look at Father Salome.

Jerome had already talked to the Father about it, just the previous evening in fact. He smiled warmly. “Yes, Pablo. You may bring it up now, if you like.”

Pablo beamed. Father Salome stood and Pablo looked at him a little apprehensively.

“Pablo, you must keep him warm, okay?” Father Salome admonished. “Come, let’s get some towels from the stable.” He led Pablo out of the paddock to rummage in the storage chests in the center of the barn.

“Do you think it will work?” Alejandro asked Jerome softly.

Jerome shrugged. “We’ve tried everything else. Pablo is desperate. I would let him try for that alone. But if it works…”

Alejandro looked at the wall of the barn, and Jerome could tell he wasn’t seeing it. “My father will make an offer for her to the Abbot,” Alejandro said. “She can live with us when she’s well.”

Jerome smiled. “That is very generous of you.”

Alejandro glanced at him and then down at the puppy, who was gnawing contentedly on his toe. He pulled the mouth away and got his fingers attacked. “Thank you.”

Pablo and Father Salome bundled the puppy into an old horse blanket and he settled against Pablo’s chest, contented. Pablo walked carefully out of the barn and up the hill, hardly aware of the others anymore. Jerome thanked Father Salome and followed the boy up the hill toward the Refectory. They passed it and continued to the Main House and in the back door. The girl’s room was just off the back hall, a small and quiet haven painted a bird’s egg blue. She lay on her side on the bed, bruises faded but still visible on her face and neck. She wore a simple white smock and neat little sandals.

“La Chiquita,” Pablo called softly. He stepped into the room and kneeled down next to the bed. “I have someone to meet you.”

Jerome closed the door gently and sat in the straight-backed wooden chair so he wouldn’t be looming. The puppy wriggled free of his blanket and saw the girl on the bed. He paused and then crept forward, whiskers vibrating. He got within a couple inches of her face and then his pink tongue shot out, covering her cheeks.

She gasped and put up a hand, but instead of pushing him away, she started to pet the little head. The puppy wormed its way under her arm and continued furiously washing every inch of skin he could find.

She looked up at Pablo and then, very softly, Jerome heard it. “Gracias.”

Pablo turned and Jerome saw unshed tears making his eyes bright. “It worked, Father Jerome! It worked!”

Jean’s 26

See other entries here:
Morgan Le Fey

Three screen names that you’ve had
Rogdai, A. Catherine Noon, Amanda

Three things you like about yourself
My eyes, my sense of humor, my creativity

Three things you don’t like about yourself
My nose, my tum tum, my tension

Three parts of your heritage
Irish, English, American

Three things that scare you
Fire, spiders, tornadoes

Three of your everyday essentials
Morning pages, chocolate, sex

Three things you are wearing right now
Underwear, bra, socks

Three of your favorite songs
The Maiden’s Response, The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be, No Man’s Land

Three things you want in a relationship
Sex, food, sex

Two truths and a lie
I’m 5’7”, 36-24-36, blue eyes

Three things you can’t live without
Morning pages, chocolate, sex

Three places you want to go on vacation
Ireland, a cruise, St. Petersburg (bonus points – visit my WR mates)

Three things you just can’t do
Spelunk, sky dive, bungee jump

Three of your favorite movies
Star Wars, Aristocats, Lord of the Rings

Three kids names
Seamus, Fionulla, Padraic

Three things you want to do before you die
Visit Antarctica, walk on the moon, see the pyramids

Three celeb crushes
Johnny Depp, Ken Watanabe, Matt Damon

Three of your favorite musicians
Sting, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lorena McKennit

Three physical things about the opposite sex that appeal to you
Intelligence, humor, graceful hands

Three of your favorite hobbies
Knitting, needlepoint, piano

Three of your favorite people you’ve known in your life
Gilda Schnur, Lea, Ann R.

Three things you really want to do badly right now
Sleep, chocolate, sex

Three careers you’re considering/you’ve considered
Novelist, financial counselor, creative writing instructor

Three ways that you are stereotypically a boy
Action movie buff, upper body strength, car fetish

Three ways that you are stereotypically a girl
Love cosmetics, knitting, pink

Three people that I would like to see post this meme
My WR mates! (Yes, there’s more than three…)

Eden’s Project

Set of Four Coasters with Carry-All

I started this project for Eden with the intent of making coasters. Just a modest set of four coasters. This expanded into a carryall pouch for the coasters, based on a pattern from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson – the cover pattern, as a matter of fact. The bag knit up very quickly, only taking about four hours on the train. Knit in the round starting with 90 stitches, knit for about 3 inches and then do an eyelet row. The eyelet row came out very nicely; I like the way the stitches architecturally arch from one to the next. YO, slip 1, K2tog, psso, all the way around. This leaves 60 stitches. Knit in the round for about 6 inches and a three-needle bind-off means no sewing at the bottom! The two-stitch i-cord was actually difficult because it’s hard to keep the stitches neat, but it is coming out in a cubicle tube. Very cool.

Image I: The bag itself. The colors are from a Worsted-Weight (double DK in the U.K.) acryllic, washable in warm and dryable (although it may fuzz, so to avoid that, just lay flat to dry). The colorway was chosen for a volunteer event to tie in with the Museum of Modern Ice in February of 2008 in Chicago. Our knitting guild participated and this is one of the examples we had for people to play with.

Image II: Eyelet Row Detail. This picture is a little blurred, but I like the way the eyelets came out. They look like little arches.

Image III: I-Cord: Two stitch i-cord, size 7 US (4.5mm) needles. I like how it’s coming out as a square tube, but it’s a challenge to keep the stitches straight.

Image IV: The coaster itself. I like how these look; they’re very bright and festive. The base is a plastic disc and the yarn is the same Worsted Weight acryllic.

March FADness: 03/11/2008: Gambler’s Choice, Untitled (998 Words)

“Clear the chamber!” Boris shouted, and again in Russian. “Now!”

Two more crashes came from the boiler and a gout of flame burst from the side opposite the door.

“All clear, Boria. But Larisa and the others – they’re still in the office!”

Boris swore harshly in Russian. “I’ll get them, Sasha.”

Sasha glanced at the boiler. “Boria, the boiler!”

“Then clear out!” Boria shouted. He turned on his heel and dashed up the stairs toward the office.

After an anguished moment of indecision, Sasha followed.

The door to the office was closed and didn’t budge when Boria tried the handle. Muffled screams came from inside and someone pounded on the other side.

“Where are the keys?” Boria demanded over this shoulder.

“Mr. Benks has them. No one knows where he went.”

“Back up,” Boria murmured to Sasha.


“Back up,” he grated, stepped forward almost against Sasha. Sasha stepped back quickly. Boria turned, set his shoulder, and exhaled.

“What …”

Boria surged forward and hit the door. The frame squeaked, but the door didn’t budge. He set himself again and hit the door twice more. On the fourth try, he grunted and heaved. The door jam shattered with a splinter of wood. Boria grasped the door handle with one large hand and yanked.

“Boris Petrovich!” Larisa shouted.

“We must run, Larisa Mikhailovna,” Boria told her, taking her arm. “How many are here?”

“There are six of us. But Mrs. Daytona is ill.”

Boria looked grim and glanced back at the boiler, now glowing a livid crimson. “Sasha,” he started.

“I’ll get her,” Sasha offered. “You lead them out.”

“What happened?” Larisa quavered.

“Mr. Benks’ machine malfunctioned,” Boria told her, not quite meeting her eyes. “Larisa Mikhailovna, we must go now.”

Larisa nodded, and looked back at her office mates. They all followed Boria down the stairs. A dull gong sounded from the boiler and one of them squeaked.

Boria stopped and eyed the boiler. “Larisa Mikhailovna. Run.”

Larisa glanced at him, startled, and then nodded. She ran on fleet feet toward the exit, the others close behind her.

Sasha struggled through the door at the top of the stairs, Mrs. Daytona held in his arms. He paused on the landing and met Boria’s gaze.

Boria would always remember him like that.

Four screws exploded from the boiler with sharp, high-pitched whines. A panel high on the boiler burst away from the main housing and bright flames shot out, licking the ceiling. A pole from the top of the housing came loose with a twang and swept forward. It hit Sasha across the head. Mrs. Daytona screamed and fell down the stairs as Sasha’s body paused, horribly backlit by flames, and flew out in a long arc to land on the floor not ten feet from where Boria stood.

Boria sprang forward and blocked Mrs. Daytona’s fall with his own body. She came to rest against him, sobbing. “Oh, Mr. Petrovich!” she wailed. “Mr. Petrovich!”

“Come, Mrs. Daytona. We must –”

The secondary cooler for the boiler exploded, the sound deafening. Boria covered Mrs. Daytona’s head with his hand. He hefted the woman in his arms and ran for the door. The fire spread to the main boiler and it groaned like a pregnant cow.

“Boria!” Larisa screamed, standing in the doorway.

“Get out of the way!” Boria shouted. “Go, you fool! Run!”

He sprinted toward her as the boiler disintegrated in a cloud of burst metal and twisted steel. Boria staggered, something thudding into his back, then continued forward. Larisa shouted something but he couldn’t hear.

He cleared the door and kept going. Larisa grabbed his arm and ran with them, angling toward the building across the street. Red and yellow flame burst through the door behind them as the fire consumed the warehouse.

“Boris Petrovich!” a voice cried. “Where is Aleksander Semyonovich?”

Boria stumbled and knelt, laying Mrs. Daytona on the ground by the wall. He turned to see the Foreman, Mr. Simmons, staring at him in shock. “Sasha didn’t make it,” Boria told him heavily.

“Your back…” Mr. Simmons whispered.

Larisa screamed.

Boria started to turn his head, to tell her everything was okay, but he felt himself collapse sideways, narrowly missing Mrs. Daytona’s shoulder. He came to rest on the ground, his cheek pressing into some gravel.

“Boria!” Larisa cried wildly. She knelt by his head and pulled her into his lap, tears on her face. “Please!”

“Larisa Mikhailovna, you should not,” Boria whispered, pain starting dully in his back. “It is not proper…”

“You were going to send the Baba, right?” Larisa snapped. “You plan to die before she brings you back my answer?”

“How did you know?” Boria gasped.

Larisa frowned. “My father wrote me; the letter arrived this morning.”

Boria coughed, dizziness starting somewhere near his solar plexus. “And?”

Larisa laughed through her tears. “Is now the time?”

Boria met her gaze, trying for sternness. “What would your father think?”

“My father gave me his blessing, Boris Petrovich, so I consent to be your wife. Now, will you let me see your injury?”

Boria tried to argue, but couldn’t get his voice to work. Mr. Simmons knelt next to him and turned him on his side to see the wound. He hissed.

“It’s clean,” he reported. “It’s deep. We’ll need the surgeon. But he’ll be fine, Miss Mikhailovna.”

Larisa cried harder, relieved.

“What of the machine?” Boria whispered.

Mr. Simmons grunted. “Mr. Benks will be arrested for defrauding the people of New York, and I have signed papers to take over the factory. His experiments in time travel will be suspended and we will start operations on a new factory as soon as possible.”

“To do what?” Larisa demanded.

“Electricity, Miss Mikhailovna. The future of New York!”

Larisa was no longer listening. Boria had captured her hand and the two stared deeply into each other’s eyes, clearly in love. Mr. Simmons went to fetch the surgeon while Mrs. Daytona looked on, beaming.

March FADness: 03/10/2008: Memory; Untitled (1,000 Words)

It was July twelfth. She checked her watch again. She’d gotten it as a gift from the staff at the hospital, it had a large digital face and showed the time and the date.

The cab let her off on Farwell. She looked at her handwritten directions again. Mary, the secretary on the ward, had written them out in her painstakingly neat handwriting. Four-oh-six Farwell Street.

“Oh, sorry. How much do I owe you?” she asked, flushing.

“You want me to wait, lady?”

“For what?”

He looked around the neighborhood. “This isn’t the greatest place to find a cab, lady.”

She glanced out at the neat brownstones, with their clipped hedges and potted plants. “No, I suppose not.”

“I’ll cut your rate to a flat forty, you want me to wait and take you back.”

She looked back. “Okay, that would be nice.”

“Well, Mary’s a good friend of mine.”

“Oh.” She had forgotten that. Had Mary told her? She felt her brow furrow and pushed it aside, looking back out at the sidewalk. She looked back at her paper. Four-oh-six Farwell Street. She opened the door and stepped out.

The doorbell was wrought iron in the shape of a black cat, with the bell as the eye. “Yes?” a voice demanded from the panel next to the bell.

“Um, hello. This is, um, Denise Cartwell. Mary Simmons made an appointment for me to stop by today.” She looked wildly at her watch, suddenly nervous. July twelfth. Her heartbeat slowed. She had the right day.

After a pause, the voice came again. “I’ll let you in.”

A raucous buzz followed that and Denise pushed the door open. It resisted, heavy and solid. She managed to get into the foyer by dint of throwing her back into it and stood on the patterned marble.

“So, you’re Denise?”

An old woman with iron-gray hair stood staring down at her from the second-floor balcony. “Yes, ma’am.”

The woman swept majestically down the stairs and Denise fought the urge to step back. “You wish to see the apartment?”

Denise nodded, voice somewhere near her solar plexus. The woman frowned but turned and lead the way through the foyer to the hallway beyond. A door on the right opened onto a large and sunny sitting room furnished with white and rose-colored furniture. On the left, a dining room with a table big enough to seat ten. The landlady turned left at the next hallway and went down three short steps to a closed door. She pulled a key from her blouse and unlocked the door.

“There’s an entry on the other side, so you don’t have to come through the main house unless you wish to.” She motioned for Denise to go ahead of her.

Denise gasped. The apartment was gorgeous. Honey-colored hard-wood flooring glowed in the afternoon light, huge windows lined the walls. She saw with approval that the bedroom was just as well-lit with natural light. The bathroom had an enormous claw-footed tub and a skylight.

“When is it available?”

“This coming month, if you want it. I have the paperwork, if you’d like.”

“Yes, please. I’ll have to take it with me; Mary will help me fill it out.”

The woman studied her for a moment, unmoving. “I have to ask. You look so familiar, didn’t you used to live around here?”

Denise turned away, the sudden flash of darkness and sound overwhelming the quiet sunlit space. She was startled to feel tears on her cheeks and reached up a hand to wipe them away.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry.” She sounded embarrassed.

“No, it’s all right,” Denise said quickly, clearing her throat. “I used to live here. Just up the street, in fact.”

Recognition dawned in the woman’s eyes. Denise looked away, she didn’t want to see it.

“So. You have the paperwork?”

“Yes. Yes, I’ll just get it, shall I? You look around. Take all the time you need.” Denise heard her steps receding.

Denise walked over to the window. She saw a neatly manicured back yard, complete with wrought-iron table and two chairs, perfect for reading when the weather was nice. Her vision blurred, washing the trees outside into indistinct shapes.

“Oh, Daniel…” she whispered to the trees. Like always, she seemed to feel a warmth, as though he were with her. She didn’t know how long she stood like that, staring, sightless, outside.

She heard muffled voices, the landlady and another woman.

“…that lawyer,” Denise heard distinctly.

“Shh,” the landlady admonished. “You mind your tongue, Nancy. The last thing the poor woman needs is to be bothered by your gossip.”

“But Mother –”

“Not another word, young lady. Go back to the kitchen, I’ll be along.”

“Yes, Mother,” the other person sighed.

‘That lawyer.’ Denise sighed. For months, that was all they’d said at the hospital when they thought she couldn’t hear.

“Please forgive my daughter,” the landlady said. “Your assault stunned the neighborhood, I don’t mean to be rude.”

“No, no. It’s all right. I’m better now,” Denise managed to say with grace.

“Call me Emily,” the landlady said warmly, handing the papers over in a neat manila folder.

Denise smiled and watched as Emily’s eyes slid sideways to the scars by her ear. On impulse, Denise moved her head and swept the hair back with one hand.

“Goodness,” Emily commented.

Denise let her hair fall. “They say the memory will come back to me in time,” she confided.

Emily nodded, her brusqueness somehow comforting. “Well, don’t you worry. We’ll have you settled in no time. I’m sure all the good parts will come back to you, and Lord knows you don’t need the bad ones, right?”

Denise smiled in spite of herself, charmed. She was still smiling when she got back into the cab and looked on her paper. “Two-seventeen Fourth Avenue, please. Kingston Hospital.”

The cab driver nodded at her and she sat back to enjoy the ride. She had a home again.

FFC Story for 03/12/2008, Letters and Numbers: Untitled (1,000 Words)

This story is my entry for the March Flash Fiction Carnival. The theme is “Letters/Numerals.” I hope you enjoy!


“How abecedarian,” Marjorie jeered. “You always pick the basic elements, Malcolm.”

“Shut up,” Malcolm snapped, repeating ‘alpha, beta, gamma, delta,’ under his breath.

“Why do you want to know the Greek alphabet anyway?” she demanded, tossing her mane of blonde hair over one shoulder.

Malcolm, staring a little, met her gaze and then looked at the floor. “For the uprising,” he mumbled.

Marjorie let out a delighted peal of laughter. Malcolm flushed.

“The uprising. Of what? Nerds for School Service?” She turned her back on him to rummage in her backpack for lipstick or something.

Malcolm glared. She might be the prettiest girl in the university, but damn was she vapid! “They’re coming, you know,” he told her anyway, deciding to try to at least wake her up.

“Who’s coming?” she chirped brightly, smearing red on her lips while examining herself in a tiny makeup compact.

Malcolm looked around and dropped his voice. “The Nines.”

She stared at him, stunned for a moment into complete incredulity. Then she threw her head back and laughed and laughed and laughed.

Malcolm huffed and started to pack up his bags.

“No, Malcolm,” she huffed, still giggling. “I’m sorry, I am! It’s just – the Nines!” She dissolved in another fit of laughter.

“Never mind,” Malcolm snapped. “I’m sorry I said anything!”

A harsh boom startled him and he looked toward the front of the library. He heard some yelling and then the sound of running feet.

“What is that?” Marjorie asked, craning her neck to see. “Can you see anything?”

Malcolm felt himself smile. It wasn’t his usual smile, this was something more… feral. He resisted the urge to touch his face and feel it. Marjorie gasped when she looked at him.

“I told you,” Malcolm said. “It’s starting.”

He shoved his books back in his backpack and zipped it. Marjorie watched him, clearly distracted and beginning to be afraid.

“You coming?” Malcolm asked, standing.

“Coming where?” she asked in a small voice quite unlike her usual one.

Malcolm looked around the edge of the wide bookcase nearest them. “Here,” he told her over his shoulder. “Come on.”

He heard her rummaging with her stuff and then stand. Her perfume tickled his nose as she got close to him, something flowery with a hint of spice. It smelled clean and made him feel a little hot.

He sniffed, trying to clear his nose, and set out for the next bank of bookcases. They wound their way through the section on biology, not seeing anyone. Ahead of them, the windows glowed with late-afternoon light, grey from the overcast outside. He turned left before they reached them and crept down the wide space between the two bookcases toward the door at the end.

“You’re taking the stairs?” she demanded in a whisper.

“Shh, they’ll hear you. And yes, we are,” he murmured back.

The doorway to the stairs was heavy and stuck. The hinges usually squeaked loudly. Rumor had it the biology librarian kept them that way so she could keep an eye on students coming and going. No matter; Malcolm made quick work with some WD-40 and they were through.

“What is that stuff?” Marjorie wanted to know.

“WD-40,” he answered. At her blank look, he added, “Oil. For the hinges, so they don’t squeak.”

Her eyes widened, impressed. Malcolm grinned at her, that strange feral grin he’d found somewhere inside himself, and led the way upstairs. He stopped at each floor to make sure no one was about to barge in on them. He was pretty sure no one knew about this way up, since the other students didn’t routinely explore the library, but it paid to be cautious.

Fifth floor, literature. Sixth floor, fine arts. Seventh floor… they were there. He eased up to the door, every sense alert. He even put a hand palm-down on the door, to see if he could feel any vibrations of nearby footsteps. It didn’t work, but he felt safer having done so. He put his ear up to the door and heard nothing.

“Come on. Stay close, now. They’re probably up here by now.”

Marjorie nodded, eyes wide. Malcolm turned back and started. Her hand edged into his, a little sweaty. He smiled again, and opened the door.

There was no one nearby, but he could clearly see Thom Stacker, the largest guy in their year, standing at the far end. The atrium ceiling, far overhead, let in the silver-gray light for the plants grouped in the huge display in the center. Palm trees competed with a riot of other tropical plants, their perfume heavy in the room. Wrought-iron tables and chairs ringed the planter so library-goers could enjoy their book in the peace.

“Wow!” Marjorie whispered. “I never knew this was here!”

“Keep your voice down,” Malcolm warned softly. “Follow me.”

He lead the way around to the right, away from Thom. He saw his destination up ahead and slowed, careful now. He waited a moment and glanced at Marjorie.

“You ready?”

“For what?” she asked, confused.

He just grinned at her and, after a moment, she smiled back. It lit her whole face.

Malcolm set off boldly, almost dragging Marjorie at first. After a startled squeak she trotted to catch up, her hand still gripping his.

“Malcolm Dennis, pledge,” Malcolm announced.

“Malcolm!” Paul Forbes cried, pleased. “Wow! You’re the first one back! And who’s with you?”

Malcolm looked at Marjorie. “Marjorie Willis. My date for the pledge dance, if she’ll have me,” he added, glancing at her.

“Pledge dance?” she echoed. “You did this for a fraternity?”

He nodded. “Alpha Chi Omega. It’s why I need to know the Greek alphabet,” he told her. He slipped off his glasses, blinking. Even though they had no prescription, they made his eyes a little sore.

“You pledged Alpha Chi Omega?” she demanded.

“Class of Nines,” Paul put in. “Congratulations, Dennis. You’re in.”

“That is so cool!” Marjorie blurted. She grinned at Malcolm.

She sure was pretty.

March FADness: 03/09/2008: Shakespeare FanFiction; “Hamlet and Horatio” (677 Words)

Hamlet and Horatio

“Ratso! What are you doing back from Wittenberg? Won’t your father flip his wig if you’re not at your studies?”

Horatio frowned. “You’re one to talk. You are talking! Who are you talking to, anyway?”

“Myself,” Hamlet mumbled.

“Me,” the Ghost drawled from beneath them.

Horatio jumped back, a chill scattering up his back. “What the hell?”

“Never mind that. How are things at school?”

Horatio glared at him. “They’d be a lot better if you were there to do your papers. Professor Kinton, particularly, is going to have your head you don’t finish that Natural Philosophy paper you promised him!”

Hamlet looked away, something sliding through his eyes that Horatio couldn’t read. “I just couldn’t…” He trailed off.

Horatio felt guilt flood him. “Hambone, I’m sorry. I never meant–”

“Have you seen Ophelia?” Hamlet interrupted.

Horatio stared at him. “No. I haven’t been up to the castle yet. I heard Polonius is in fine fettle, though.”

“From whom?” Hamlet demanded, suddenly intense.

Horatio’s eyed narrowed. “I knew it. What are you up to?”

Hamlet looked, if anything, more furtive. “You must promise me you will say nothing. Promise. Swear it… swear it on my sword.”

“Your sword!” Horatio echoed, shocked.

“His sword,” the Ghost quavered.

“Hamlet, what –”

“You must,” Hamlet interrupted. “You will say nothing!”

“All right, all right! Calm down! I’ll swear.”

“By his sword,” the Ghost commanded.

“Hamlet, what is that?” Horatio demanded. He looked around and spotted the Ghost. He stumbled back with a cry, dropping his backpack. The zipper sprang apart and spilled several heavy, leather-bound textbooks into the grass.

“My father,” Hamlet answered simply. He looked at the Ghost, pain and a strange resolve in his eyes that Horatio had never seen.

“This has got to be the strangest thing I’ve ever seen!” Horatio burst out. “You, a student of Natural Philosophy. I heard they said you were mad, and I half believed it. But this –” He waved at the ghost with an agitated hand.

“Then give it welcome, Horatio, as a true Philosopher. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

“Since when have I been a know-it-all?” Horatio protested, still staring wide-eyed at the Ghost. “Hamlet, is that your father?” he asked plaintively.

“Yes,” Hamlet said again.

Horatio rubbed his eyes furiously for a moment as the ghost began to fade. “What is going on? I receive a letter that the King is dead, his son the Prince is mad, and Polonius is traipsing around the castle while his daughter goes mad from grief. You love Ophelia, dammit! What are you doing?”

Hamlet regarded him sadly. “I would explain, but I need time, Horatio. Time that I do not have. Time to catch a murderer.”



“But who –”

“Have you heard who is to wed my mother?” Hamlet demanded, intense again.

Horatio sighed, feeling like it came from his toes. “Yes. I’m sorry. But that’s surely not cause for murder! Such things aren’t done in these times!”

Hamlet shook his head, disgusted. “Always you seek the best in man.”

“And always you seek the worst!” Horatio snapped, offended. “See reason, man! You cannot just accuse the man who will be King of Denmark of usurping his brother’s throne by murder!”

Hamlet looked away, toward where the ghost had been just moments before. Horatio watched that unfamiliar resolve surfacing again. “Man will act as he has always done, and woman also. If it is truth you seek, my friend, then it is truth you shall have.” He stared into the distance for a few moments more and then turned to Horatio as though nothing had happened. “Come. Fix your bag. I’ll walk you up to the castle. You must be tired from your journey.”

Horatio blinked and allowed the Prince to chivy him onto the road toward the castle. He would speak no more of what they had discussed, but Horatio could not shake the feeling that something was rotten in the heart of Denmark.

March FADness: Story 03/08/2008: Drabble; “Poker” (100 Words)


“Full house.”



“I’m out. My wife’s gonna kill me as it is.”

“Who’s in?”


“Yeah, me too.”


“You’re grinning. What’s got you so happy?”

“He’s winning, isn’t he?”

“Yeah. Good point.”


“What’s your game?”

“Five card stud.”

“Yeah. I’m the stud.”

“Your wife tell you that?”

“No. Yours did.”


“This goddamn game is gonna get me in the shit with my wife for sure.”

“That’s just cuz you keep losing!”

“Laugh it up. I don’t see you win either. Just the new guy.”

“Hey, what did you say your name was again?”

“Mr. Faust.”

March FADness: Story 03/07/2008: Creature Feature; “Letters to a Young Dragon” (811 Words)

Letters to a Young Dragon

My dearest Son,

The time of your fiftieth birthday fast approaches, and it is nearly time for you to go forth, find a mate, and spawn. As my father did for me, and his father for him, and so on back to the First Egg, it is time for me to impart to you the wisdom of our generations upon this fertile earth.

You are of the mightiest race to ever live. The age of dinosaurs has past and they felt the sting of extinction, but we the mightiest will live forever. As such, you have a grave responsibility to safeguard our race from the ravages of Man, that foul little two-legged infestation so recently sprung down from the trees. Oh! by the First Egg how I wish they had never learned the gift of speech! I was there when they first walked upon the valleys and hills of my youth. I was there when they established villages – Feh! – and began to trade with one another. What stench! What foul noise! What ignorance of the ways of our Mother Earth!

It is first of Man that I must warn you, my Son. For as all dragons know, Man has spread like a foul disease the breadth of this continent and will entrench himself and his horrid offspring. If we are to prosper, we must be ever watchful and ensure that our lands are not encroached upon. Why, just last month I caught a party of Man hunting our deer! Can you imagine? The impertinence! Next thing you know, they’ll be building towns like the Tyrannosaurs and trying to float upon the Oceans of Mother Earth, the better to spread their plague.

But I digress.

Now, my Son, it is up to you to contain their number. Wiser heads than ours have decreed that Man must not be fully cleansed from this Earth, for by the First Egg they are children of the Sun just as we. But contain their numbers we may, in fact, we must! It is to that specific purpose that I lay claw to rock this morning.

First, when marauding a village, make sure you come at it from downwind. Man has allied himself with the Sons of the Wolf and, though bastardized beyond all recognition, Dog has a deep mistrust of Dragonkind. While we are allied long and fruitfully with Wolf, Dog – that eater of Carrion – has chosen to ally with Man. Very well. Their noses, though dulled by the midden-heaps of generations, are nevertheless alert to our presence. Downwind, my Son, you must fly from downwind.

Second, it is best to attack in the Dawn, just before the mighty Sun has begun His daily journey cross the Sky. Fly low and fast, and keep alert for their bowman. But the Mother Earth has given Dragonkind a gift: for Man has discovered hops, and barley, and yeast. They have fermented these – foul brew! – into something he calls “beer.” (Don’t drink it; it tastes like week-dead carrion!) It imparts to Man a bellicosity followed by the urge to sing at the top of his lungs – off key, I might add; perhaps you’ve heard the bellowing? After the singing comes the procreation (don’t they look stupid when they do that? No majesty on the wing, no dancing, no artistry at all!). After the procreation comes the sleep. Beer has lent to Man a sleep deeper than the dead, my Son, and this is why Dawn is the best time. They awake, if they awake at all, bleery-eyed and muzzy.

Third, you must destroy the Main House first. This is where their leaders and best ‘warriors’ – hah! – live (if you can call it living – the stench alone will turn your scales!). Burn from the base of the building to the roof, from the front along the prevailing side, then circle once and do the same on the other side. As the rest of the village rouses, take the barns next – they will become agitated for the loss of their livestock and run back and forth, trying to decide whether to save them or fight you. This confusion is exactly correct.

Fourth, eat your fill, my Son, for you have truly earned it. Beware the missiles from their small arms, but by this time you will have landed in the center of the village and have naught to fear. Their weapons cannot penetrate your hide – only your belly is at risk, which is why you take their Main House first.

Best and bright fortunes to you, my Son, as you go forth into the World to make your way. I know that with practice, you can become the Scourge of Man and the Promise of the Next Generation of Dragonkind. Perhaps, in the fullness of time, even Dragonking one day!

All my love,

Your Father, Smaug