tap-tap-taptap-tappity-tap *ding*

(LJ Idol folks: feel free to skip this and scroll down.)

"It was a dark and stormy night..."

I know that was the famous opening line by Bulwer-Lytton, but years ago, when I got my first typewriter, I remembered that as what Snoopy wrote. My parents got me the new electric because I had just started high school typing class, and from then on through college (and beyond!) I'd need to type things.

So I was taking this new machine out for a spin. I thought of the line, and how to restate it so that it was still a dark and stormy night without being so cliche -- or at least without plagarizing the beagle. So I started writing, and before I knew it, I had written a short story. It was liberating that here at last was a means of writing at the same speed as I was thinking up the words. On a whim, I showed the story to my English teacher, and she loved it! Just a simple one-pager with a twist ending, but it was probably pretty good for a 10th-grader.

I haven't written like that in a while, here's my place to do it.

And this is the post where you can

comment to be added

to the friends list for this journal.

I'm keeping most of my writings friends-only for the sake of limiting my audience prior to publication (yes, I'm hoping this will lead to that) and limiting drama (if any) over anything I write. And if this is on your friends list, you'll know when I've written something. It may be a while between posts, but I do plan on writing stuff here.


As an official Helper to Santa Claus, I have to be ready for the questions, such as: Does Santa really live at the North Pole -- and why?

An easy explanation is that Santa’s address is The North Pole because it’s on top of the globe, in international waters, making him a Citizen of the World, rather than a single country. Children today are likely sophisticated enough to know that if you went to that part of the Arctic ice, you would find no workshop or elves. But they would also understand that for security reasons, the North Pole Complex would be in a secret place, hidden somewhere near Greenland, Canada or Norway (to not appear to be “taking sides” in international politics if discovered, Alaska and Russia are unlikely). There’s also the hidden Antarctica facility -- by treaty, the continent belongs to nobody -- but most of the world’s population is on the top half, which makes this logistically impractical.

St. Nicholas’s move to the far North is more recent than most people realize. At a time when Napoleon marched across Europe, where every little country had an aspiring emperor of its own, the ancient saint sought out a place where it would be easier to contemplate true Peace on Earth. The region of his birth, then part of the Ottoman Empire, would not do, and as he was venerated in both Rome and Constantinople, it was best to get away from the noise of the prayers in his name. Thus he felt compelled to travel northward.

As he made his way through Scandinavia, the Patron Saint of Children and Gift-Giving attracted the attention of the magical beings there. Odd how the passing of time affects a man; it was once said he got in a fistfight over Church doctrine, yet he found himself comfortable with the legacies of the Old Gods. Nicholas made it clear, though, that he would not serve them, but the One True God.

“Serve us?” they laughed back. “Over the centuries, you have become one of us! But your insistence on clinging to humanity, of being one who serves rather than is served, by that way you may outlive us all.”

Some say a man traveled with him, an African, his former servant.

“Just as all men are free in Christ, I gave you your freedom long ago,” Nicholas said to him. “Why do you still follow me?”

“My people are not free,” Peter replied. “So I stand with you, where I can stand as an equal.”

As the fjords gave way to the sea, the magical folk who joined them -- elves, gnomes, fae, etc. -- helped continue the journey. Local reindeer were enchanted to carry the party to the distant icy wilderness.

The trek across the frozen wasteland went surprisingly smoothly. And it somehow didn’t surprise Nicholas when he was greeted at the Pole by the patchwork man.

“Gruss Gott!” the tall figure smiled. “The voices in the Northern Lights told me you were coming. I’ve been making ready.” He gestured around him. The materials from a hundred shipwrecks were taking shape as a village of residences and workshops. As also the patron saint of sailors, Nicholas appreciated the significance of this.

“I am Adam,” the man said. “I see you are like me, you cannot die. But for you, it is not a curse.”

“All are blessed today,” Nicholas responded, hardly noticing Adam’s scars and conflicting skin tones. The patchwork man, in turn, looked into a face that, in the glow of the Aurora Borealis, constantly changed appearance, color and form -- a loving grandfather to every child on earth.

Peter and the elves immediately started unpacking the sleighs. Soon fires would be lit, shelters would be completed, and enchanted planter boxes would occupy the makeshift greenhouse. Adam had carved caverns to the sea below for fishing. They would be self-sufficient.

“No other man has been here,” Adam said.

“Not yet,” Nicholas replied. “In the next century, there will be adventurers arriving at the Pole. We will have to move to keep our solitude, our sanctuary.”

“Svalbard, Norway, Russia, Canada, Greenland,” Adam gestured around him. “We have the world to choose from.”

“And they will have us,” St. Nicholas said. “My mission will continue when darkness comes, at my Feast Day. But for now, this is our Polaris. Our home.”

- - - - -
Entry for LJ Idol: Season Eleven, Week 6; Topic: My True North. The author (Beldar) is a member of the International Brotherhood of Real-Bearded Santas. Notes:Setting is 1800s, when the North Pole first made its appearance in stories of Santa Claus. “Black Peter” is still part of the Santa celebration in the Netherlands (stirring a lot of controversy). “Gruss Gott”, literally translated “Greet God”, is a friendly greeting in parts of Germany. And if you don’t recognize Adam, you likely know him more by his adopted last name.

Take it

Probably one of the most profound things baseball legend Yogi Berra said was, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

Go left, you get to these places and do these things.
Go right, you get to those places and do those things
These would be nice, so would those.
But I might not like these or those
Or I'll like these better than those, or those better than these --

A horn blares impatiently behind you.
Hit the blinker, push the gas.
It's like taking a small step...


As the Lunar Module approached the surface, no doubt there were a lot of concerns on Armstrong’s mind. It was speculated that the Moon’s surface would be too unstable, that the legs of the module would sink into dust. Or that unknown forces on the surface could wreck the vehicle.

And what an insane idea to actually put on a flimsy silver suit and go outside!

One small step…


Ball is high. Up there. Over there.
I climb up. I stand.
This feels tall. I like this.
But ball is over there. There is gap.
Don’t want to drop down. I like tall. Like big people.
Look around. They look back. No one helps. Cry?
I see ball. I can get ball. Ball over there. How?
Move along where I stand. Hand over hand.
Now to gap. No help here. Only open space.
Ball over there. I want over there.
Can I go?

Engage synapses, calculate for mission: energy required, momentum, muscle movement, effects of gravity, balance, physical capability, distance, allowance for error. Alert: this body has not done this before, outcome doubtful. One step outward experiment reveals instability, grasp for support, regain erect posture, recalibrate. Muscular fatigue possible. Balance recovering. Attention Neural Control: Objective is still in sight, body integrity shaky, tantrum possible, time running short, do we abort or are we GO?!

One small step...

- - - - -
Entry for LJ Idol: Season Eleven, Week 6; Topic: Solvitur ambulando ("It is solved by walking")

Is it You?

Remembering childhood, the games you would play;
You reconnect now, but not much to say.
Should be so much, after a decade;
Keeping in touch, a promise you made.
Just down the block, they’re so far away
You start to wonder: Did you change, or they?

Online they grill like an auto-de-fe,
Positive everyone must see their way.
You recognize nothing from what they say
In all that you hold in your heart today.
It’s like you each march in a different parade
As you consider, did you change, or they?

Sometimes it seems the whole U.S.A.
Has forgotten all the rules of fair play.
Those you don’t trust are making it “great”
Despite all the words and people betrayed.
Those you thought better are shouting, “Hooray!”
Just what has happened? Did you change, or they?

— — — —
“My enemies are all too familiar.
They’re the ones who used to call me friend.”

-- Jawbreaker, “Boxcar”

Entry for LJ Idol: Season Eleven, Week 5; Topic is the song quote above.

Count to Six

1.  The planet I’m thinking of is real, and has unique atmospheric effects.

2.  The people there have evolved in a certain, familiar way.

3.  They have a rich history which has molded their society.

4.  They have religions that have evolved to a principle sect, which dominates social and political life.

5.  There are people involved in creating and resisting change, with their own stories.

6.  One day, I will have written this novel that is growing in my head.

*Toast pops*

1.  Justice and truth will prevail in my country.

2.  Laws and rulings by those in authority will make sense.

3.  Faith will truly be used to spread peace rather than discord.

4.  People will see how their leader is poisoning what their party stands for.

5.  They will think through what hey hear before repeating it.

6.  I won’t have to hear from them when they parrot it anyway.  

*Pours coffee*

1.  I’ll get a handle on the ever-shifting nature of reality.

2.  I will understand the motives of inanimate objects.

3.  I will get the damn things to respect me.

4.  I’ll finally get this “time management” thing under control.

5.  I’ll have a productive and satisfying day.

6.  I will be worthy of this.

*”Yay, waffles!”*

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” 

-- the Queen, in “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll

—  —  —  —  

Entry for LJ Idol: Season Eleven, Week 4; Topic: “Impossible.” Feed your head.


All I see

I’m gaining perspective on the old phrase, “ignorance is bliss.”

When you are a child, how often are you aware of how much danger is around you, under your feet?

It amazes me sometimes to look back, think on things we did as kids, nearly oblivious to the hazards. Some parents freak out about children riding unrestrained in the back of a pickup; I remember riding on the tailgate, my toe dragging on the road just to feel the vibration and hear the sound. No worries, I had a good grip on the truck, right? Just another daredevil day of life on the farm.

Looking around the old barn, I see what was once a wonderland, a three-dimensional playground. Places to climb, rails to walk on — especially on top as balance beams — haybales to rearrange as a straw fort that kept changing shape as its walls were consumed by the cattle.

There were always chores to do, and when you’re 10 or so you’re big enough to do them — feed the animals, turn on the hose on the water trough, open and close gates, watch for what’s broken or otherwise amiss. And folks understand that if you play around a bit, it’s easier to get you out there to do it — in fact, it might take shouting “supper” more than once to bring you back.

Collapse )


No problem, they told him. You have very well-behaved students, they said.
Yet they are still middle-schoolers, full of fidgeting and shuffling, murmers and whispers with each other, or lost in their own individual worlds, even though the bell to begin class rang over a minute ago.

And the tacher barely able to speak above a whisper.

Everyone has been accommodating while he heals; even the kids work fine with minimal instruction. But he has to get this room full of wandering minds to focus, first.

Glancing around the room, his eyes settle on the piano in the corner, and he has an idea. The students barely notice as he walks over to it, and with a sweeping motion of his index finger, solidly hits Middle C.

Do,” the instrument sings

The commotion among the desks mutes somewhat, but not completely. He continues.



It’s noticably quieter in the room.



He winces a little - this piano needs tuning. Still, he goes on.



He stops, letting the tone dissapate into the silence, and looks across the room. All eyes are on him. He holds their gaze as they look back to him, expectant.

But he turns from the keyboard, feeling the tension around him as he walks to the whiteboard and starts writing the day's lesson. The room is pin-drop calm, so he barely senses the movement behind him.


He smiles for a moment, then waits another beat before turning around, lest he catch the brave soul who darted forward to resolve the scale. He has what he wanted, after all, their complete focus on their teacher.

Now they can begin.


Entry for LJ Idol: Season Eleven, Week 1; Topic: Resolution. This story based on an anecdote I heard in a college music class.


The Fall

Earlier this month, the Stuttgart Daily Leader newspaper folded.

My family emailed and Facebook-posted to let me know, since up here in Indianapolis I wasn’t likely to hear about it. Mom said that the holding company that owned the DL and other Arkansas papers decided it wasn’t making enough (newspapers on their own are almost never profitable today; losses are usually offset by things like printing for others).

I hadn’t worked at that paper in 20 years, but the news still stung. It was like hearing your old school burned down or closed (both of those things have also happened, by the way).

I was seriously reconsidering my career path when I first heard about the Stuttgart job. I had my journalism degree from the University of Arkansas and had finally gotten to use it the previous year -- accepting less pay than I was making at a food-production plant, and moving from Fayetteville down to Fort Smith -- but was let go from the daily paper just a couple of months later. 

Newspaper jobs aren’t easy to come by, and this was before the Internet took over the world. Just as my unemployment benefits were running out, a new Wendy’s opened right next to my apartment building. I was on its starting crew.

The next summer, I got word that the Stuttgart paper was hiring a sports editor. It paid about what I was making flipping burgers, and required me moving all the way over to the flat side of the state, where I didn’t know anyone. But it was what I wanted, and the break I needed.

Stuttgart (named after the German city) is the “Rice and Duck Capital of the World” as it has the world headquarters of Riceland rice, and hosts the World Championship Duck Calling Contest during a fall festival. All the rice fields along what is known locally as the “Grand Prairie” meant the area was heavily mosquito-infested, but we made ourselves at home there as best we could. Our apartment was atop a downtown drug store, run by the great-great grandson of the town’s founder.

Being at a small paper, I was a one-person Sports crew. Fortunately, there was mostly just one local high school to focus on (home of the Ricebirds!). I also got very familiar with duck-hunting culture by working the Outdoors beat, and covered the duck-calling contests.

I could give you a lot of anecdotes about my three years there, but the point is that this was the work experience that helped me get established as a journalist. I left there for the daily paper at Benton -- a larger city, closer to Little Rock -- and after following my companion the_dark_snack to Indiana, worked for 13 years at the Greenfield paper (town just east of Indy).

I got the Greenfield Daily Reporter job in part because I impressed the editor with an oddball story I had covered while in Stuttgart. He still jokes with me about it.

The ongoing crisis with the newspaper industry caught me a few of years ago, when the Daily Reporter had to reduce staff. I landed at the local LGBTQ-focused monthly free paper for a while, and did some freelance for a regional agricultural paper.

Now? I’m basically reporting for free, keeping up a blog on the local theatre scene (I’m a stage addict). My day-job is making copies and scans for a downtown law firm -- it’s not journalism, but I’m immune to its instability.

But I still care about newspapers and those who devote their lives to them. It bugs me to see the decline everywhere from Indy’s statewide daily to my old haunt at the Reporter. And now to see a daily paper that served a small city of nearly 10,000 just disappear feels like a gut-punch -- like I and my comrades-in-ink have failed those people.

Hopefully, someone down there is keeping up a local blog or launching an independent weekly, someone to cover the doings at City Hall, give the Ricebirds their due, and report on the festival.

At this point, I’m merely an observer of what could be considered the fall of printed news. But I feel that in one way or another, journalism will continue, as long as the First Amendement holds out.

In my small way, I’ll keep doing my part.


Entry for LJ Idol: Season Eleven, Week 0; Topic: Introduction. I decided to go with an essay that says a lot about me, rather than “hi, this is me and I am blah blah blah” -- and hopefully it tells a decent story. Glad to see all the new and returning players in this “Homecoming” season. Edit to add: Poll with all this week's entries here.


Still around

Non-story entry here.

I thought it best to let the site know I'm still around and not done with this account yet.

Haven't done any intense fiction writing in a while. Hope that changes soon, but for now oh so busy (ain't that always the way of the world)