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Friday, December 29, 2017

Christmas Storytelling

Instead of a flash fiction, I have collected my Matt Allen serial from the past year to put them in one convenient post (albeit an extremely long one).

Christmas Storytelling
A Matt Allen Serial
The Wait

            “Come in, Nikki,” I said. It didn’t freak me out to invite her into the office, anymore. The fact that I didn’t freak out was beginning to freak me out, but that was another matter.
            My invitation popped the invisible bubble of the consecration, and Nikki walked in. She took off her sable coat, hanging it on my tree in the corner with my hats. She wore a dark green blouse and pencil skirt over hose and heels. She looked like she was there for business. She sat down in one of the two chairs in front of my desk, and looked at me.
            “Nothing,” she said.
            “Do you have a case for me? Want me to break out the chess board?” Business was slow; it always was around Christmas. The supernatural waned at this time. Belief in Christmas tended to dampen their powers, which was another reason it was odd to see Nikki out and about.
            “No case, Matthew. And I’m not in the mood for chess at the moment.”
            “So why are you here?”
            “For your company.”
            “You want to talk? About what?”
            “No conversation.”
            “You’re just going to sit there.” It wasn’t a question.
            “For now, yes.” She gave me an amused smile.
            She wants to sit. Fine. I have to finish up the report for Collins, anyway.
            I went back to my laptop, typing up the narrative of the report from my end, careful to avoid any direct references to the supernatural. Though Collins did head up his own task force specifically for these kinds of cases, the higher-ups didn’t like to see it in reports as it wouldn’t stand up well in court.
            As I typed, I could feel Nikki’s eyes on me, and I would occasionally glance up at her. She still sat with that amused expression as she relaxed in the chair. Finally, the pressure was too much for me. “Why are you staring at me like that?” I said.
            “I’m waiting,”
            “Yeah, I got that part. Waiting for what?”
            “I’m not sure.”
            “Nikki, you’ve been hanging around me for a week, now. You’ve brought me to work, several days, taken me home, we’ve gone out every night this week. Even gone with me to investigate crime scenes with the cops. I thought this morning you were finally done with it, but here you are. What is it?”
            Like we’re married or something.
            I have noticed a pattern, Matthew?”
            “What pattern?” I closed the laptop, curious.
            “For the past few years, something odd happens to you around Christmas.”
            “What? I don’t start acting weird. Well, weirder than normal. I like Christmas is all.”
            “I didn’t say it was your behavior. I said something odd happens to you.”
            “She’s right, Boss,” Jessie said from my door, coffee in her hands.
            “Like what?”
            Jessie set down a mug for Nikki, then myself. “Well, like me.”
            “Let us also not forget the department store with your niece,” Nikki said.
            “Or last year on the street where I received a letter from medieval Germany.”
            “She’s right, Boss. Jen would agree with us, too, if she hadn’t gone back to South Dakota this year.” Jessie grinned, then looked back toward the outer office, frowning, and she left.
            “Okay, yes, things may happen around me, but it’s not me. I’m not doing it.”
            “Nevertheless, you are a focal point.” Nikki said, suddenly serious.
            “So, what, you’re just hanging around to see what happens this year?”
            “Precisely. Two times may be coincidence, but three is the beginning of a pattern, and these are only the instances of which I am aware.”
            “I don’t know what to tell you, Nikki, but if you want to waste your time, then—What’s that?” I asked, looking at Jessie.
            “It was a little boy,” she said. “He just came in and handed me this box. It’s addressed to you. No return address.”
            “A boy. Perhaps eight to ten years of age? Sandy hair with a big smile?” Nikki asked.
            “Yeah, that’s him.”
            Kid, you’re going to have to start aging or people will catch on there’s something about you.
            I motioned for Jessie to bring it over. It was an average-sized package, but it wasn’t taped up. Instead, it was wrapped in plain brown paper, tied with twine. The only marking was the label on the front with my name in neat script. I recognized that script.
            I used my knife to cut the twine, then neatly sliced the paper, butting the box free. Instead of a box with folding flaps, it had a lid. The lid was white, but the box itself was fire-engine red. Nikki leaned forward, intent. Jessie was grinning, almost bouncing on her toes.
            Underneath the lid was a folded paper and some tissue paper wrapping something else. I picked up the paper, reading it.

Dear Matt,

            I told you this might be coming. You’ve been really good. So I officially name you as a Helper.


            My eyes bulged, and I read it three times. The note was short, but the implications were huge. I set the note down, and saw Nikki’s hand hovering over the tissue paper.
            “I cannot get closer to it,” she said.
            “Huh?” Jessie’s grin fell in confusion.
            I just nodded. I opened up the tissue paper to reveal a Santa hat.
            “That is not some cheap prop found at a drugstore,” Nikki said. “Do you still deny?”
            “I can explain,” I said.
            Nikki leaned back, folding her hands in her lap. “I look forward to it.”
            “Me, too,” Jessie said.
            Oh, boy.

Where to Begin

            Nikki leaned back in her chair, regarding me with the lazy eyes of a cat. She crossed her legs, spent a moment arranging the skirt of her dress, and then folder he hands in her lap expectantly.
            Jessie had pulled up a chair to the side of my desk, practically bouncing with excitement.
            I still stood with the red and white Santa hat in my hands. I sat down and rubbed my chin.
            “Do not try and weasel out of this one, Matthew,” Nikki said tersely. “You promised an explanation.”

Monday, December 25, 2017

M³ Mismatched Cultures

            We’re done with Samson! We’re done with Hercules! Mostly. Yeah, I can’t just let them go with what they’ve got. See, there’s an inherent problem with both of these characters. They don’t fit in. We’ll start with a direct comparison of the two
            Hercules and Samson share many things with their respective myths. They are both: strong, warriors, have women trouble, fond of clubs (a jawbone in Samson’s case) and defeat a lion. This is a significant number of similarities, especially in ancient times.
            What gives?
            There are distinct possibilities. 1) One side copied the story from the other. We had something like that with Odysseus and Sinbad, so it’s not really a surprise. Ancient plagiarism happens (wonder if I can get that made into a bumper sticker). 2) These stories are about a common figure, and they each put their own spin on the story.
            But there’s a problem with this, even. With Odysseus and Sinbad, the Muslims rewrote the hero so he fit into their culture. Sinbad had to be pious, humble, and an ordinary man instead of an arrogant warrior king worshipping pagan gods. The rewrite makes sense. It fits. Samson and Hercules don’t.
            We’ll start with Samson, since he’s freshest in our minds. He’s arrogant, a warrior, doesn’t follow any of the rules, immoral, stupid, and selfish. This does not sound like a Hebrew hero. He doesn’t have any of the usual earmarks with, say, Abraham or Moses. He also doesn’t have a real connection with God. He’s strong, and he flaunts it about.
            Hercules, on the other hand, is repentant, humble, follows the rules, is intelligent, and very moral. He actually doesn’t fit in much with the Greeks. Odysseus doesn’t hesitate to show off and proclaim himself a total badass. He also won’t be subject to anyone else’s rules, but Hercules has to work for a total jerk, and just takes it.
            So what gives? What’s going on here? The stories don’t appear to belong to either of their respective cultures, which rules out theory 1. Stay tuned and we’ll dive into theory 2 next week to see if we can make sense of this.


Friday, December 22, 2017

F³ Home-Cooked Meal

            I peeled off from the dwarven caravan as they approached Roderick’s kingdom, saying my goodbyes and thanks for the kegs of beer in the cart Ranger pulled. Along with the beer was a last gift from Redscale, a thanks for brokering the deal with the dwarves.
            Once home, I did all the things that needed doing, currying Ranger, unloading the cart, rolling the barrels of beer into my cellar where they’d stay nice and cool during the warm summer months, but wouldn’t freeze in the harsh winter of the Realms. Everything was done except for Redscale’s gift. I used metal tongs to extract the hot scale that was the dragon’s namesake. I slid it into the oven’s firebox, and closed the heavy iron door, sealing it in. It would take time, now, but I had preparations to make.
            I went back inside, and busied myself. When finished, I had four dough balls. I slid them into the oven above the scale to rise, and set about the rest of the work. Along the way back from the Dwarves’ mountains, we had stopped in several villages for supplies and to drink ourselves silly. I had taken the opportunity to purchase sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, and milk. Now I set about preparing all of these.
            The cheese was just starting to take shape when I retrieved the dough balls, risen beyond what I had expected. From there I spun them out, topped them, and slid them into the now blistering oven. It was as hot as Giuseppi’s, but I didn’t have to add coal to the fire every few minutes. I was rewarded with fresh, hot pizza and cool beer, the best meal I had ever had in the Realms.
            I leaned back in my chair looking at the oven, smiling as I ate. The beginnings of a new idea were beginning to take shape. I had a 24/7 heat source. There was no reason I couldn’t put it to more use.
            Wonder if the blacksmith can make me a metal barrel.

Monday, December 18, 2017

M³ Not a Hero

            I know I already answered the question as to whether Samson is a hero (he’s not), but it bears more explanation as to why. Mostly it comes down to how he goes about things. Yes he killed a mighty number of Philistines, who were enemies of the Israelites, but he hardly dented them. It’s not until much, much later when King David is around that they finally rout the Philistines completely.
The absolute best that can be said of Samson is that he would have made the Philistines think twice about going into Israel for fear that there were more like him. But at the same time, they had never before encountered a single one like Samson, so there was no reason to fear there would be more.
And we also have to examine Samson’s qualities as a hero. Abraham and Moses are our two templates, and they both tick off the same boxes. They are humble. They’re respectful to God. They’re family men. They pray and communicate with God often. They make a lasting difference to all of Israel. They were pretty selfless, thinking of serving God first, never themselves.
Samson, though, is all about himself. I’m sure he would fit in well on Facebook, posting his riddle about honey (though he’d probably kill the riddle with a selfie of him eating the honey out of the lion’s corpse). He has womanized, murdered, stolen, murdered some more, sought revenge, slept with prostitutes, and just been an absolute jerk overall. Oh, and he’s complete and total dumbass. Seriously, I think only Siegfried shows less intelligence than Samson, but it would be a photo-finish.
This story should never be looked at as one where Samson is a role model. He’s not! He’s breaking commandments and acting more like a savage than an Israelite. In fact, Samson is probably a message of what not to be. The warrior hero of the Greeks may work for them, but it’s a poor fit for an Israelite. Samson can hurt the Philistines, but he can’t do anything good for the Israelites, nor does he care about anyone other than himself.
            Israelite heroes have always followed a specific pattern, which is conspicuously absent from Samson’s character. He just is ineffective because he doesn’t have those traits. Moses, Abraham, Joseph, and Joshua are all phenomenal Israelite heroes who don’t abuse the power they have, but use it to help their people.
            Samson, if anything, is a message of how physical strength corrupts. The strongest warrior is nothing more than a bully who doesn’t even respect God.

Friday, December 15, 2017

F³ Boxing Day

            The knock on my door was mildly insistent. Each knock loud enough to be heard, and quickly repeated, but not hard enough to be urgent. I staggered towards the door in my pajamas, barely having any presence of mind because the sun hadn’t even come up.
            I had the presence of mind to look through the peephole and stare into darkness. Then I flipped on the front light and saw Nikki out there, parasol folded, but ready to deploy to shield her from the sun on the off-chance the earth would suddenly speed up its rotation. It was raining, as usual, but Nikki would never risk her parasol in the rain.
            I threw open the door. “Nikki?” I wanted to say something biting or witty, but that part of my brain was still asleep.
            “Happy Boxing Day, Matthew.”
            “Wha?” I managed.  “You want me to go shopping?”
            She gave me a slight shake of her head and amused smile as she pushed past me. The consecration on the house was still gone from last night. She sat on the couch and patted the cushion next to her while I stood like an idiot with the door open.
            I shut the door and joined her, yawning into the back of my hand.
            She pushed a small box at me.
            I looked at her questioningly, and then popped off the lid of the box to see a stack of bills staring back at me.
            My questioning look deepened.
            “The old custom was to give a small amount of money to those who perform services for us.”
            “This isn’t a small amount of money. It’s gotta be at least two Gs.”
            She smiled and gave a toss of her hand. “A pittance, really. But if it helps to think about it as a down payment for services you are about to perform.”
            “Like what?”
            “I know you have more stories about how you got that hat.”
            I sighed. “You know, it’s not like Nick gave me a list of the ones that made his decision.”
            “Nonetheless, I believe you have something more in-depth than what you have let on.”
            “I can’t think without coffee.”
            “I can wait.”
            I sighed again.

Monday, December 11, 2017

M³ Samson's Downfall

            So this is Samson’s last chapter. He will not have a sequel. There will be no final redemption for him. Yep, I said it. Instead we have the illusion of redemption. Post-haircut, Samson is shackled and working at the mill. But the Philistines were not thinking because they didn’t keep cutting his hair. For reasons passing understanding, this man that they had taken such great pains and expense to capture was not closely monitored.

Friday, December 8, 2017

F³ Let's Make a Deal

            Behind me, the party of dwarves looked nervous, but I was cool as the rink at Rockefeller Center. I nodded to Pyreus, who pulled on the door with four of the dwarves. The rock wall swung open slowly, the mechanism allowed it to swing open, but it was still a few tons of solid rock to move, reminding me of the door from Tron. The first one, not the second one.
            When open, I started through, but Pyreus put a hand on arm. “Hmm, are you sure, Friend Sam?”
            “I’m sure, Friend Pyreus. Close it up after I go in.”
            The dwarf didn’t look sure behind his beard, but he nodded and gave a kind of musical grunt.
            When through, the wall slid closed with barely any noise. Keeping the secret entrance silent into the dragon’s lair was a prudent move. I had no interest in being prudent, though.
            “Redscale! It’s Sam Faraday!”
            Flame erupted into the cavernous lair, providing light enough to make my way around the passage until it opened up.
            “It is curious,” the dragon boomed, “to welcome someone to my lair instead of eat them. It is a good thing I do not bear a grudge for the last meeting.” Giant eyes narrowed to malice-filled slits.
            “Hey, you arranged the last meeting. And this one! So, what can I do for you? It’s the raids, isn’t it?”
            He snorted smoke, which curled into impossible shapes, kind of like the Caterpillar’s hookah from Alice in Wonderland.

            “All right. Let’s make a deal.”

Monday, December 4, 2017

M³ Little Covenant, Big Covenant

            Samson is sans hair. This is a clear violation of his covenant, and we have confirmation that he no longer has strength. It was unobtrusively slipped into verse 20 that “the Lord had left [Samson].” This reinforces that the strength was a gift directly tied to the covenant regarding Samson’s hair. No other force governs it. Certainly, Samson was never beholden to following other commandments.
This is interesting as it shows a departure from the Abrahamic Covenant. That one, as we’ve already gone over, stipulates that Israel needs to follow God’s path, which is actually a very broad range of commands, but the payoff is that the Lord is with them always.
Samson’s covenant is a micro-scale version of this with only one requirement, don’t get a haircut, and you’ll be strong. If you get head lice, you have to live with it. No hair = no strength. This is a highly specific covenant, but what is interesting is that Samson, in holding to this covenant, does not hold to the Abrahamic Covenant at all. He’s breaking commandments left and right with murder and theft, he’s had a Philistine wife, been with a prostitute, and Delilah.
Could it be that the adherence to the lesser covenant gave him power to get what he wanted, so he saw no reason to follow the larger covenant? Samson doesn’t appear to have any regard for anyone but himself. He even caused suffering to his fellow Israelites, but it didn’t appear to bother him that they were angry with him.
So after all the people who have been hurt by him, has he done any good? Has he been a hero? If so, to whom? Yes, he will kill thousands of Philistines in the end (sorry, spoilers), but does that change anything for his people? Was he a good example for them to emulate?
(Answers: No, no, no one, no change, not a good role model)

Friday, December 1, 2017

F³ The Power to Cloud Minds

            The doorbell rang, and I frowned, getting up.
             It’s not Nikki because she just left. It might be Ivan’s goons.
            I looked through the peephole to see Brian holding two red cups.
            I opened the door and smiled.
            “Lemonades, Mr. Allen? It’s a hot day.”
            “It is.” I took the cups. “Cassie, lemonade.”
            Brian wore shorts and a video game tee shirt, what most kids would be wearing on a summer day. Tommy, though was not normal. He stood off to the side of the front step, halfway behind the bushes in front the house. He had a dark blanket wrapped around his shoulder, safety pinned together at his throat. A red, knit scarf covered his mouth and nose, and he wore a broad brimmed dark hat. Likely all three belonged to Tommy's mom Andrea.
            Cassie took one of the cups from my hand. “Hi, Brian.”
            “H-hi, Cassie.”
            "What's with Tommy?" she asked.
            "There is no Tommy!" Tommy proclaimed. "For I," he flourished the makeshift cloak for effect, wrapping it around him, "am The Shadow!"
            I couldn't stop my chuckle. Cassie looked questioningly at all three of us. “Anyone want to clue me in?”
            "My fault," Brian admitted.
            "How so?"
            "I dug up the old Shadow serials on the internet."
            "Who knows what bad stuff—" Tommy began.
            "Evil," Brian and I corrected.
            "Lurks in the hearts of men. The Shadow knows!" Tommy finished.
            I chuckled. "Any evil nearby, Tom—I mean, Shadow?"
            "The Shadow knows!" And with that he swooped his cape and ran off, ducking behind hedges and trees to stay hidden.

. . .

            "What's done is done. Besides, that was too much power. It would go to my head, then I'd be in real trouble. Brains over brawn. You know that."
            Brian nodded.
            Tommy approached, giving his best Shadow laugh. "Mom wants you to take the trash out." Tommy said behind his scarf.
            "How do you know?" Tommy replied.
            "The Shadow knows!"
            "Uh huh."
            "She said so."
            "You're old enough to take it out. Why didn't she ask you?"
            "I have the power to cloud mom's mind."
            I snorted into a laugh. "He's got you there."
            "Come on, Shadow. Let's go take out the trash." Brian turned.
            "Villains beware!" Tommy flourished again.

Monday, November 27, 2017

M³ Wow Samson Is so Stupid

            We knew from the riddle that Samson thought he was smarter than he actually was. It’s not until this moment, however, that we realize the depth of Samson’s stupidity. Not once, not twice, but count ‘em, three times does Delilah ask for Samson’s secret. She’s not even subtle about it, with a casual “Please tell me what makes your strength so great, and how you could be bound, so that one could subdue you” (Judg. 16:6).
            She’s not using any subtlety whatsoever, and we can only guess as to why. Personally, I envision it as Samson is too stupid to understand it in other terms, so she has to be direct. The thing is, he lies to her the first three times. And each time she asks him the question, he miraculously wakes up in those conditions. It’s a complete coincidence! /sarcasm.
            And she persists until Finally, after she had nagged him with her words day after day, and pestered him,” he gives in. Why? Because he’s an idiot. It would be one thing to have her ask it once and him lie about it, but after the first incident where he ends up bound by bowstrings, you’d think he’d do the mental arithmetic to figure out Delilah was working for the bad guys.
            Anyone possessing even a modicum of intelligence would have stopped and said, “she might be up to something. Maybe I should leave.”
            Instead we have Samson falling for the same trick time and again. And, chances are, that the circumstances under which she’s asking the question are the same each time. See, the pattern goes like this: She asks the secret, he tells a lie, she follows-up and binds him, she yells that the Philistines are upon him (which they were since they hid), and Samson kills them.
            Now, the first two times it doesn’t say he was asleep, but it would be pretty weird for him to simply allow her to tie him up while he’s awake. The third time gives us the instance that is most likely. He was asleep when it happened.
            But how did he get sleepy? Well, chances are that because he loved her, they engaged in some intimate activity that left him sleepy afterwards. He was probably so drowsy that it was pretty easy to get him to talk, too. And while Delilah is not a prostitute, she has no qualms about using Samson’s love for her against him, and she probably used sex as a weapon as well. Samson loved her, but she never returns that love in word or deed. But there’s really no reason for her to do so. The story clearly states that Samson fell in love with her, and given Samson’s penchant for breaking covenants and taking what he wants, she could very well have just been another object that he desired.
            The only other thing we know about Delilah is that she disappeared. After turning over Samson, she is out of the story, persona non-grata, Lady Not-appearing-in-this-story. It’s not surprising, but it is noteworthy, especially since a movie version of the story had Delilah fall in love with him and stick around when Samson brought the house down, but that’s next week.
            Oh, and Samson has now broken his Covenant with God, which is a drop in the bucket compared to everything else he’s done.

Friday, November 24, 2017

F³ Priorities

            “Just so. Are you sure we can’t leave this wee room and get a pint? Talking’s thirsty work.” Michaleen licked his lips.
            “I’m here with people, as you know. I don’t even know where the nearest bar is.”

            “Don’t know where the nearest!—you don’t have your priorities in order.”

Monday, November 20, 2017

M³ Delilah Unleashed

            Having had his fill of murder, Samson takes off “to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute and went in to her” (Judg. 16:1) to drown his sorrows after murdering Philistines. I choose to believe that murder made him depressed, because if it excited him to the point he needed female companionship, this is one disturbed individual (well, more disturbed than we’ve already gone over).
            Now, to be clear, this prostitute is not Delilah. He meets Delilah afterwards. In fact, it makes a point of saying “After this he fell in love with a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah” (Judg. 16:4). The prostitute was in Gaza, he went to Hebron after that, then into the valley of Sorek. Nowhere does it mention that Delilah is a prostitute. The story goes out of its way to introduce her as a woman with a name.
            Furthermore, the lord of Philistines offer to “each give [Delilah] eleven hundred pieces of silver” to discover the secret of Samson’s strength (Judg. 16:5). The nobility do not treat prostitutes this way. If she was a common prostitute, they would have threatened to kill her if she didn’t cooperate, as was done to Samson’s wife. Clearly, then, Delilah is something different.
            The amount of money they’re offering her is staggering, which is both a show of their desperation, confidence in her ability to get the information, and a clue that Delilah must have a certain status among the lords.
            Sadly, the only other information we have about her is how she manipulates Samson, which is next. Oh, and btw, we can add adultery to Samson’s list of broken commandments.

Friday, November 17, 2017

F³ A Vicious Retort

            I nodded slowly, looking over the notes one more time, wondering as to how stupid I was going to be. “My Lady,” I said softly.
            Pretty damn stupid, apparently.
            “You asked for my discretion, and you have it. I cannot help you, though, if you do not share all you know.”
            “I have told you all that you need to know.”
            “Respectfully, my Lady, you have not.”
            A fist seized my shirt, and the man, whose name I still didn’t know, hauled me to my feet. “You will not decide that, peasant!”
            I nodded. “Then I cannot help you. I bid both of you a good day.” I adjusted my hat.
            The man released my shirt, growling, “Coward,” under his breath.
            “Dickless,” I growled back, gratified at the utterly blank, confused expression on his face.

Monday, November 13, 2017

M³ Revenge Is A Dish Best Served by Whoopin' Ass

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served by Whoopin’ Ass

            Samson’s Revenge by fox doesn’t go unnoticed by the Philistines. So they kill him!
            No, sorry (it might have been better that way).
            Instead they burn his wife (ex? It’s kind of unclear given Samson’s reaction) and her father.
            Samson takes this as a slight against him, promising “will I be avenged of you” which is about as B movie villain as you get.
            Oh, right, he’s supposed to be the hero. Sorry, my bad.
            So he started slaughtering them. And the Philistines went up against Judah, slaughtering them. At which point the tribe of Judah wants a time out. The logic of all of this is that the Philistines don’t believe they can take down Samson, so they’ll just continue hurting other people to get to him, and it works as Judah “will bind [Samson] fast, and deliver [him] into [Philistine] hand[s].”
            When the Philistines got him, though, he broke through his bindings picked up a trusty jawbone, and “slew a thousand men.”
            Samson is good at killing people. We already knew that, but he’s definitely kicked it up a few notches since losing his wager. He’s graduate to outright murder, and has even brought more misery to his own people by provoking the Philistines into an attack. Yes, he is killing Philistines, but it’s not really deterring them much. There’s no talk of any kind of withdrawal or lessening of the occupation of Israel. If anything, the Philistines are more intent on making the lives of the Israelites miserable as punishment for Samson’s actions.
            It should also be noted that Samson is just killing Philistines, and not necessarily Philistine soldiers. We’re not told it’s a Philistine army, and the place where Samson sets about killing is not remarked in any way except by the name Samson gives it: Ramath-Lehi or “Jawbone Hill.” Was this a Philistine outpost? Was it a rest stop in the wilderness? We don’t know, but it became a mass graveyard thanks to Samson.

Friday, November 10, 2017

F³ A Short Message

            “And of course,” Geoffrey resumed, “you remember my companion, Sir Sam! Without his keen aid, all would have been lost!”
            I went down on one knee, which protested after the long ride, but I hid the wince behind my bowed head.
            “Rise, Sir Sam,” King Gregory said.
            I pushed up, but it was a real effort convincing sore muscles it was worth it.
            “You have been gone for many weeks. We began to worry when we heard no word of your journeys.”
            Huh. Should we have sent messages back? Can we send messages back? It’d be like Pony Express, wouldn’t it? I wonder if they have regular couriers between kingdoms or something. I could use that to send word back to Henry’s kingdom. ‘Dear King and Queen, your son was an asshat and got himself killed. Bygones, Sam.’

Monday, November 6, 2017

M³ Retribution by Fox

            After Samson’s stunt with murdering people to pay off a wager, and being thoroughly ticked at his wife, he’s MIA for a while. When he comes back, his wife has been given to someone else, but dear old dad-in-law tries to placate Samson with a younger, prettier daughter. But Samson is still ticked off, and decides to get revenge in his own particular idiom.
            He catches 300 foxes (I don’t know, from Fox City, I guess), and then ties a pair of them together by the tails, and turns them loose on the countryside. Oh, did I forget to mention he also tied a burning torch to them, too? Right, so 150 pairs of panicked foxes go tearing through the crops of the Philistines.
            First, his method of revenge on the Philistines is a bit excessive. He disappeared, but still has to take his anger out on them, but this is nowhere near equitable. It’s like setting off a nuclear weapon for stealing a bike. It’s also aimed at the wrong people. While the wealthy Philistines will feel a little bit of sting to their pocketbooks, it’s the peasants that will suffer. They won’t have any food. Lastly, this will not convince any of the Philistines to withdraw from Israel.
            Secondly, this is just one more example of Samson’s cruelty. The guy has no conscience whatsoever. Even though foxes were seen as a nuisance, the cruelty is apparent. Samson is not a good person by any stretch of the imagination.
            Why is this guy considered a hero, again?

Friday, November 3, 2017

F³ Returning Heroes

(I am once again doing NaNoWriMo, so instead of our regularly scheduled F³, I will be posting bits of what I’m writing just to keep me on track. Hopefully, I’ll actually finish off a couple of WIPs [that’s work in progress to those of you not in the writer trade].)

The castle town erupted in cheers as Geoffrey rode in and waved to his subjects. Sarah beamed with radiant smiles and waved, too, from her perch behind him. Geoff’s horse pranced; not to be outdone, Ranger did the same, milking in all the adoration as if it belonged to him. I nodded and gave a few waves whenever someone yelled out a “Shamus!” or “Sir Sam!” It was all for show; I was giving ground in my fight against fatigue. My body and mind felt the weight of the journey, and now that we had made it to relative safety, I needed rest, and soon.
            Shower. I would kill someone for a hot shower and Old Spice bodywash. And food. I need some good food. Pizza. I really could use an extra large pie with pepperoni and mushrooms. God, I think I can actually smell it. Melted cheese and wood-fired dough. My mouth is watering.
            And then I realized I wasn’t remembering. I really did smell pizza. In one of the shops lining the main boulevard to the castle I saw a man holding up a pizza on a wooden board. It was sliced sausage instead of pepperoni, but it definitely was a pizza. I tried to edge Ranger that direction, but the crowd kept us corralled.
            I waved at the man, but he wasn’t looking my direction, his eyes on the prince ahead of me.
            “Hey! pizza man!”
            He didn’t look.
            “Hey! You with the pizza!”
            A boy next to him caught my wave then looked up at the man, then tugged on his shirt and pointed my way.
            The man saw me, and waved. “Sir Sam! Bringer of pizza!”
            “How much?” I pointed at the pie.
            He laughed and pointed at the pie, too.
            “How much?” I yelled, almost turning around in the saddle.
            He pointed at the pie again and then waved, not hearing me.
            My stomach growled in agreement.

Monday, October 30, 2017

M³ Riddle Me This

            Okay, so, Samson has a wife, and he’s still brimming with machismo. What’s a guy to do? Slay a lion! No, really, that’s what he does. He takes the jawbone of an ass and beats the lion to death with it. I mean, sure, why not? That’s one way to impress people, right?

Friday, October 27, 2017

F³ The Tables

            I rattled the dice in my hands with everyone else around. Nat stood beside me, with Jack on the other side and Wally at the end of the table. The rest of the table was filled with regular people crowding in to get in on my “hot streak.”

Monday, October 23, 2017

M³ Love Is in the Air (sort of)

            Samson, brimming with machismo because of his strength, decides he wants a wife. A nice, pretty Philistine girl—time out! Okay, this is a big deal. A big, big deal. Samson should be marrying a nice, pretty Israelite girl. But he’s not. His parents are not happy with him, either. This is a violation of the Abrahamic Covenant. Yes, we break out the capitals for this one.

Friday, October 20, 2017

F³ No House Advantage

            We immediately hit the best thing about Las Vegas: the buffets. Not the cheap ones, either. We popped for the top-of-the line buffets. The casinos still offered them to their more discerning customers with the understanding that those customers would never have an appetite to that would change the profitability of such a gourmet offering.

Monday, October 16, 2017

M³ Strong Guy with Long Hair

This is another kind of covenant, the benefits of which to Samson are that he will be uber-strong. Not Hulk level, more like Spider-Man.
            In the Ancient World, this is pretty darn strong. Herc is more like Hulk level as in one of his labors he actually lifts up the world for Atlas (but that’s another show). The reason for Samson’s strength is that he is to begin the battle against the Philistines. See, the Israelites done gone and got themselves occupied by a foreign power after Joshua took the land of Canaan.

Friday, October 13, 2017

F³ Storm Riders Take Las Vegas

            Las Vegas loomed below the clouds, the Luxor Pyramid’s light did nothing but define the thick, black masses that drizzled rain. But it wouldn’t stay a drizzle. The various weather stations predicted a thunderstorm, but not until much later. However, they hadn’t reckoned with me and the other storm riders.

Monday, October 9, 2017

M³ A Child Is Born

            No, not that child, that’s much later.
            Yes, I know I promised Arthur, and I’m getting there, but I have to talk about Samson after talking about Herc. I know, it doesn’t make sense, but it—well, okay, it probably won’t for a while, but it’s still really interesting.

Friday, October 6, 2017

F³ The Last Gift

            Nikki and I sipped at our hot chocolate both looking at each other’s letter from Nick. I wondered at the scope of Nick’s power. All of the legends were quite clear that he had lists and knew every girl and boy, but for him to make specific reference to missing Nikki had some odd implications.

Monday, October 2, 2017

M³ Humble Pie

Herc is without a doubt the most famous of the Greek heroes, so much so that other heroes’ stories have written him into their tales to gain more popularity. Jason brings Herc along for the quest of the golden fleece, at least part of the way. Theseus writes himself into the story of Hercules and Hippolyta. Herc is the man, but why? What sets him apart?

Friday, September 29, 2017

F³ Wish List

            I took the letter, which was more of a note than mine had been.


            I paused, glancing over at Nikki. Very few people knew her real name. I wasn’t surprised by Nick knowing it, but it was still jarring to see it in print. I knew it would be even more jarring for Nikki.
            She nodded at me. I continued reading.

Monday, September 25, 2017

M³ If You Strike Me Down

            As I said, I’m not going to go through all of Herc’s labors and adventures . . . yet. I might come back to them at a later date, but for now I want to skip all the way to the end. Herc, somewhere along his many labors, finds the time to marry Deianira—third time’s the charm, right? (wrong).

Friday, September 22, 2017

F³ Hot Chocolate & Memories

            “I had no idea Nick could be such a jerk,” I muttered.
            “Hmm?” Nikki said, all her concentration on her letter.
            The awkward silence stretched on for a moment. I really wanted to know what was in Nikki’s letter, but it would be rude—potentially dangerous—to read over her shoulder, so I didn’t.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

M³ Cultural Assimilation

            Yes, it’s Wednesday, not Monday, but this is a special edition (which I meant to have up on Monday, but ran out of time). One of my readers has asked for an explanation regarding Helios and Apollo. Why are they both the sun god?
            Well, okay, here goes. Because Greeks.
            Yeah, I didn’t think that would satisfy anyone.
            So both Helios and Apollo are listed as the sun god in Greek mythology.
            The reason for this is because the Greeks—like DC and Marvel comics—didn’t care much about continuity. Most of the Greek gods weren’t originally Greek. Only a handful were. While we think of them collectively as the Ancient Greeks, they were anything but. Athens, Sparta, Rhodes, Ithaca, Crete, Argos, and all of the others were separate kingdoms or city-states that were more united by the assimilating mythology than by anything else. As some kingdoms and city-states began to create political alliances and conquer other places, they found these people had their own, local gods. The crafty Greeks realized there was no reason to strike these people down to get them to worship Zeus when they could win through guile. It might have gone something like this:

            “Have you heard the good news about Zeus?”
            “Well, sir, I’m sure he’s a fine god, but we worship Apollo.”
            “Do you? Well, that’s great! Apollo is the son of Zeus; the gods are all related, so really you worship Zeus anyway.”
            “Is that so? Well, come in and have some pie and tell me all about Zeus.”

            I might have made up the bit about pie.
            By explaining that all of these regional gods are related to Zeus, Greek culture spread without overwriting the existing culture. It also explains why Zeus slept around so much; he had to father the other gods.
            And so one island worshiped Helios as the sun god, and others worshiped Apollo. Now, two gods cannot hold the same job, so they fudged things a bit. The myth states that Helios is pulled across the sky, which actually makes him the sun.
            Apollo, on the other hand, is simply the god of the sun. it’s a subtle difference, but it allows both gods to exist in the same pantheon. Helios literally is the sun, and coasts across the sky every day, while Apollo takes all the credit for being the god of the sun. Apollo doesn’t like responsibilities, anyway, so he would be a poor choice to make sure that the sun goes across the sky everyday.
            So in the end the doubling (and even tripling) up of gods with similar jobs is because the Greeks kept assimilating new cultures. Instead of replacing gods, they simply added them to the mix and created a convoluted family tree with weird job assignments. It can make for difficult reading at times because the myths don’t come with complete historical notes telling when each god entered the mix. Add in the fact that there are regional variations to myths, and it becomes a soup in telling who is who and what is what.
            The big thing to remember, however, is that there is no such thing as a definitive version of the story. In some myths, Aphrodite is Zeus’s literal daughter, and her mother is Dione. In another, she is Zeus’s adopted daughter (Gaea is her mother Gaea and her father some pieces that Uranus no longer needed). Some versions are more popular than others, and most of them have specific regions where they were popular, but each of them tells something different about the values of the people.

Monday, September 18, 2017

M³ Stable Boy

            Yes, I know, I skipped the hydra. Well, I’m not out to chronicle all of Herc’s labors. The hydra story is good, yes, and shows off that herc can adapt to circumstances, but the stables, the stables truly showcase Herc’s cleverness.

Friday, September 15, 2017

F³ Christmas Letters

            “Looks like you got two, only one of them is from me,” I said, returning to the couch.
            Nikki’s eyebrows knit together in thought, considering the two envelopes. “Is this from . . . ?”
            “Looks like his handwriting.”

Monday, September 11, 2017

M³ Lion Among Us

            Often listed as the first labor is that of slaying the Nemean lion. The lion terrorized the countryside, often abducting women to lure would-be heroes to rescue them. Of course, it cheated. Its fur was impervious (Superman levels of impervious) to weapons. Hercules tried arrows, which bounced to no effect. On the reverse, its claws could cut through any armor, so it had a distinct advantage against anyone who came for it. To overcome it, Hercules had to go for brute force, using his strength to strangle the creature.

Friday, September 8, 2017

F³ Extra Gifts

            “So, do you want your present?” I asked.
            “You already gave me a fresh sprig of mistletoe, days ago.”
            “Doesn’t mean that was your only gift.”

Monday, September 4, 2017

M³ You Won't Like Herc when He's Mad

            We fast forward a bit past Herc’s childhood. Sure, there was the thing with the snakes Hera sent against him, his feeding incident which created the Milky Way, and he grew up learning from the best and the brightest, but we want to see a serious struggle, right? Right. So we come to the most devastating act of revenge that Hera ever implemented.
            She drove Hercules mad.

Friday, September 1, 2017

F³ The Next Day

            Nikki, good as her word, showed up at my place Christmas morning. She didn’t look her usual stunning self. She looked tired and run-down, and lacked the usual sparkle in her eyes. Given all that, though, she had attempted to be in the spirit of the day, dressing in a red and white dress straight out of White Christmas, the part at the end. The dress flattered and hugged her without revealing. As usual, she was elegant.

Monday, August 28, 2017

M³ The Last Affair

Side note: All right, I promised my friend and stalwart reader Jay that I’d would do some Arthurian legend. I will. I’m working towards it. It’s just that, in deciding to do this, I realized how many mythologies I need to give some kind of background on because they tie directly to Arthur in some way. So, bear with me. We’ve still got some mileage to put on our coconut shells.

            Zeus, as everyone knows, sleeps around. Shamelessly. Incest is no barrier to this. He would have been perfect to appear on Jerry Springer or some other daytime talk-show. Moreover, he was completely unrepentant in how he had these affairs, often assaulting women to get what he wanted. That’s just who he was.

Friday, August 25, 2017

F³ Transencdence

            Ann was sweating as Lita helped her out of her suit. Her hands shook with the endorphins and adrenaline coursing through her. But more than all of that, she felt completely overwhelmed by the surfing. She wanted to think about it, but at the same time, didn’t.

Monday, August 21, 2017

M³ The Triumph of Monotheism

            By the time the Arabian Nights are being penned, Rome has already converted to Christianity (and fallen). Christianity spread throughout the rest of Europe and Russia. Only a little behind, Islam had spread throughout northern Africa and western Asia. Aside from India and China, most of what we refer to as the civilized Ancient world had abandoned polytheism in favor of monotheism.

Friday, August 18, 2017

F³ Lost Record

            Alex took a moment to survey the lecture hall, which buzzed with conversation, as always happened before a class began. The seating had shifted dramatically, though, with a large number of students crowding the front rows. Alex recognized many of those faces as ones that had asked questions and followed her to the coffee shop in the student union.
Good. Those are my most engaged students. The rest look interested, too.
Of course, she had the usual rows of slackers in the very back, most of whom had eyes focused on phones, tablets, or laptops.
“Well,” she began pleasantly, “hopefully now that we’ve got the Civil War out of our way, we can dive into a lecture I had actually planned out.”

Monday, August 14, 2017

M³ Our Hero Is Better than Your Hero

            We know that Odysseus is a strong leader, a great warrior, and very clever, which are all very admirable traits, especially in Greek culture. However, he’s also arrogant, destructive, intolerant, and did I mention arrogant?
            These traits make it difficult for him to be a hero to Muslim Arabs at the time when Sinbad’s story started circulating. These traits are simply incompatible with the values of the culture. Couple this with the fact that Odysseus is Greek (aka a foreigner) and it’s clear that he’s got to go and make way for Sinbad.

Friday, August 11, 2017

F³ Unbeing

            Ann went loose, letting her body twist in the wind. All she did was keep her hands tight on the rail. What was once a tempest, throwing her about became something else, something wild, but with a guiding force to it. She knew—but didn’t know how she knew—where the wind would go, and moved her body and the sail before the wind did. The sail's telltale sensors still screamed at her as they only went blue for an instant.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Islands in a Sea of Fog

            Anyone who has driven in West Texas knows that the landscape is nothing to write home about (and yet I’m doing it, anyway). It’s bleak desert occasionally broken up by flat-topped mesas, many of which have become the home of windmills.
            Most of the time, that is. Dawn, just east of Fort Stockton, Texas. The sun is a golden hemisphere struggling to break free of the horizon, promising a summer heat responsible for hammering the desert into anvil-topped mesas. But the air is not dry on this morning. Recent monsoons soaked the air, and a low fog clings to the ground. This is not the fog of San Francisco or of “pea soup” fame. It’s a veil that barely conceals, and as one gets closer, much like Salome’s enticing dance, the veils are stripped away.
            Yet the beauty in this fog is not in piercing through the veil, but in looking out across the valley, where those flat-topped mesas rise out of the fog like island oases, and fog laps at their sides, trying to swallow them. But they are too tall.

            I’m taking in all I can; the camera on my phone doing poor justice to the view as my car surges down the interstate. In a few minutes, I’ll be swallowed inside the nebula and see the fog as just a slight haze barely worth noticing. And after that, the sun will climb high enough to boil the sea away as if it never was. But the mesas remember, and the windmills remember, and I remember.

Monday, August 7, 2017

M³ A Hero of Their Own

            So, Sinbad’s 3rd is a reimagining of book 9 of The Odyssey, but the question remains, why? Why not just rewrite Odysseus as the hero they need him to be? The first part of the answer is easy. They wanted their own hero, someone from their part of the world. Greek heroes are fine and good, but they only speak to Greek culture. Sinbad is a hero of the Arab world, representing that culture. It’s only natural that they would want to tell stories of their heroes instead of relating what the Greeks did.
            This is not a new idea, either. The Romans readily assimilated Greek mythology with their conquest, making Heracles into Hercules and Odysseus into Ulysses, but they also had their own hero Aeneas who also copied and piggy-backed off of The Odyssey (at some point I may even go through the Aeneid).
            Part of the reason for Sinbad is to give the Arab world their own cultural hero in the same vein of Odysseus. Many cultures feature some type of wandering heroes. Sinbad’s 3rd Voyage copies more closely than others, but it’s still valid to establish Sinbad as the hero of his culture.
            The culture also dictated why it couldn’t be Odysseus, but more on that later.

Friday, August 4, 2017

F³ Wind's Mercy

The board bucked underneath Ann’s feet, while the sail jerked, almost beyond her control. The idea that she, using simple human strength, could control a sail caught up in a dark energy wind that propelled a ship at 1.1 light years per hour was ludicrous. It was beyond insanity. None of the math would ever work out, but then she hadn’t tried.
At first Ann fought for control, but the futility quickly became apparent. She and the board tumbled in front of Calypso, though the ship was gradually gaining on them. Flynn kept the sails trimmed so there was no spill, while Ann was tossed like a leaf in a tempest.
Procedures for how to trim sails flew through her head. The readouts on her HUD flashed information from the board’s telltales. Numbers and alerts cascaded, flashing from blue to white to yellow to red before going back along the spectrum.
“Ann,” Lita’s voice sounded in her helmet, “your pulse and blood pressure are jumping. Blood oxygen saturation is dropping. You’re coming close to hyperventilating.”
The sail jerked again, her left hand slipping free.
Flare it!
She couldn’t see her hand, nor could she see the rail on the sail. All she had as a reference was where her body knew her other hand was. She flailed blindly, a sense of panic rising up as her right hand ached from its death grip on the rail. Several times her hand glanced off, but she was never able to grab it.
“Ann, your vitals are spiking again.” Lita’s voice took on worry.
Flaring thing!
“Ann!” Panic welled in that voice.
“Flynn!” Lita was now on the ship-wide comms. “Ann is not responding. You have to bring her in.”
Flynn’s voice cut in. “Stay calm, Doctor. Ann, we’ve got telemetry and know your comms are active. Call it.”
She said nothing as she continued to flail. Fingertips hit something, and she grabbed reflexively.
“XO,” Lita came over again. “You have to reel her in. She’ll go into a panic attack soon.”
“Got it!” Ann yelled.
Despite the assurance, the sail kept fighting her, and she was amazed her feet hadn’t torn free from the board. Dully, she could feel her whole-body ache from every muscle exerting to try and control the board.
Just . . . stop! Stop fighting it. Stop thinking. The wind can’t be thought out. Stop being. Feel the wind. Surrender control to the wind’s mercy.

Monday, July 31, 2017

M³ Sinbad: Odyssey Redux

            With Odysseus’s adventure with Polyphemus out of the way, we’re wide open for something really interesting. We’ll segue into Sinbad the Sailor, who is famous for having his own adventures. We’ll skip his first and second voyages, going straight for the third. Why? Simple, we know this story. If you don’t have your own copy of the 1 Nights, you can read Sinbad’s third here.
            Sinbad’s third adventure finds him restless, as usual, and soon shipwrecked, also as usual, on an island. This island is home to an evil giant that will eat the crew. It is up to Sinbad to come up with a cunning plan to blind the giant using to spears after heating them—
            Wait! Come back! No, really, this is the story, and, yes, I know it’s a direct plagiarism of The Odyssey. If this were modern day and Homer were alive, he would be suing . . . well, we don’t know who wrote Sinbad—they weren’t even part of the original Arabian Nights—but Homer would sue somebody.

Friday, July 28, 2017

F³ Final Checks

            Ann and Kimball arrived at the kite hatch. The kite was just a large sail to be deployed when they sailed at a run, or as an emergency sail for the cockpit if the rest of the ship was lost. Ann and Hank had carefully replaced the kite while in the last system, putting in her windsurfing board and sails.
            “We’re at the hatch,” Kimball relayed.
            “Copy,” Flynn said. “opening the hatch.”
            Ann felt the hatch lift under her gloves, and she reached in to grab the hand bar on her mast. It was a single, triangular sail set on a pivot inserted into a board. Everything was made from sailcloth, which caught the wind. Already she could feel the wind threatening to tear the sail and board from her grasp. Only the anchoring line to the ship kept it from flying out into the stars.

Monday, July 24, 2017

M³ Mind Over Might

            The enduring lesson of book 9 is hard to miss: brains over brawn. Yet the pattern for Greek heroes have not emphasized this. Perseus, Theseus, Hercules, Achilles, Agamemnon, and others too numerous to list have all possessed intelligence, but it’s been subsumed behind their battle prowess. Like most fighters in Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, they take up their big-ass swords and proceed to execute their problems.

Friday, July 21, 2017

F³ Tethered

            Ann climbed out of the airlock awkwardly, the mass of the umbilical and extra burden to be accounted for. The first was a tether to the ship, made of thick, strong titanium that was more than secure. The second was a dataline, feeding her HUD with images from the ship’s sensors, relating her position on the ship’s hull, her vital signs, and other minutiae. She needed it since she couldn’t see, at all.
            According to the HUD, they were already sailing at a paltry 11 knots. The sails were full, with no luff to them, but they sailed at a close haul, quite nearly in irons—which would be directly into the wind.
            Flynn’s is starting me off with training wings. Fine, I guess.

Monday, July 17, 2017

M³ Prophesied Fate

            On escape from the cave, Odysseus takes his men and the sheep they escaped with back to his ship, but he doesn’t just leave. That would be too easy. Instead, he starts taunting Polyphemus who is surprisingly good at echo-location and hurls boulders at the departing ship. These hit so closely that the waves threaten to drive the ship back to the island. Odysseus’s men are so freaked that they beg him to stop taunting Polyphemus.
            Odysseus refuses.

Friday, July 14, 2017

F3 Aftermath

            As was typical after a lecture, students came up to ask questions. Usually it was a bare handful, most wanting to know about mundane issues like registration, the syllabus or the online learning management system of the university. And as soon as she answered one of those, the others filed out, having gotten their answer.
            This time, though, many stuck around for something more substantive. One student asked her, “What do you propose we do about Confederate Flags and monuments to Lee?” From her accent, it was clear she was from a Southern state.

Monday, July 10, 2017

M3 Insight to The Problem

            When we last left our heroes, they were trapped in a cave with the dreaded cyclops, Polyphemus! The barbaric giant vowed to feast upon all, including the great Odysseus. Can they escape the peril? Can they hope to defeat such a giant? Can I drop the lame announcer voice?
            Yes. Yes, to all three. The only one of those that was actually a question was the last. There really are no spoilers when it comes to a story recorded over 2,500 years ago.

Friday, July 7, 2017

F3 Carols

            Everywhere the stage was littered with fallen sheet music for the Christmas program. I glanced to the two men keeping me on my feet, and whispered. “Sing.”
            “What?” the man on the left looked at me as if I had gone insane.
            I probably am.

Monday, July 3, 2017

M3 What's in A Name?

            One of the more famous parts of the story between Odysseus and Polyphemus is that of the name Odysseus gives the cyclops. This is famously translated as “No man, No one, or Nobody. These are all correct, and the cleverness of this answer comes through, but also paints Polyphemus as a bit a moron. Certainly, he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but the translation doesn’t do anyone any justice.

Friday, June 30, 2017

F3 Things Look Bad for Our Hero

Looking Bad for Our Hero

            “What are we going to do with them, Bruce?” One of the teens called out to the leader.
            “You freaking butthole! Don’t say my name!” Bruce, the one with the barbed wire bat said.
            Bruce is evidently in charge, which is not a good sign. He seems like he’s going to start popping people with that bat. If someone did get 911 off before tossing the phones, the cops will have a hostage situation, and I’m guessing that the demon in him is going to go down the collateral damage route rather than let people go.
            “You freakers are just some little witches for this holiday crap, aren’t you? Well it ain’t gonna happen.” He held up the plastic Jesus, tossing it high in the air and whacking it with his bat. He didn’t connect very well, so it glanced off and ricocheted into the rows of seats.
            His fellows jeered at that, while the group cringed, seeing their own fate. The one teen who spoke up earlier, pointed at the rest of us.
            “Look at ‘em. They’re pissing their pants.”
            “They should.” Bruce said. “Pinky, get the gear. We’re gonna show ‘em what to be afraid of.”
            No one moved or responded.
            “Pinky!” Bruce whirled on the guy at stage right.
            “Wait, I’m Pinky? When did we decide that?”
            “When you wore that freaking pink shirt, Gary!” Another laughed.
            “Freakers, shut up with the names!” Bruce said. “Just go get the gear. We’re going to show ‘em.”
            “Sure thing, Bruce, er, sorry.”
            “Freak me sideways!”
            Gear could only be summoning supplies. I don’t think these guys have the mojo to bring in anything really powerful, but there are different ways of summoning. Whatever is in them is dangerous, and they might try and possess other people. Gotta do something.
            I didn’t have the proper weapons on me, and I was in no condition to fight, anyway. Plus there were too many innocent people around. I started scanning my surroundings, looking for something to use, something to neutralize these teens when I heard a whimper from my knee.
            A little girl clutched her mother, arms wrapping around the woman’s legs. The mother tried her best to comfort and shush the girl. The girl, maybe eight, was a breath away from full on sobbing. I caught her eye for a bare instant before it disappeared back into her mother’s skirt, but that look pleaded with me to help, somehow.
            I scanned the faces of other people, and most of the adults tried to look brave, but I could see the worry in shifted feet and nervous fidgeting. Here and there other children glanced back, shielded by their parents.
            I looked down, sighing heavily, and I saw the answer.

            “Dun dun dun!” Jessie said.
            “Jessica!” Nikki snapped. “It’s bad enough I have to deal with his constant interruptions.”
            “Sorry,” she said, but it was clear she wasn’t sorry.
            “This is your bad influence,” Nikki glared at me. “I know you have corrupted poor Jennifer, but did you have to spread it to another innocent?”
            “No. Just, no.” I pointed a finger at myself. “Nice guy, I’m on the list and have the hat to prove it.” I pointed at her. “You, bloodsucking vampire, AKA corruptive influence. The bad habits Jen has picked up from you—”
            “Are not infuriating when it comes to telling stories.”
            My mouth was open to continue pressing the attack, but I closed it. “Okay, you may have a point there. Hammett and Chandler I’m not, but I’m not selling fiction. This happened. Now, I’m almost done, so let’s get back to it.

Monday, June 26, 2017

M3 Civilization Fail

            With the gods not present on the island of the Cyclopes, it’s no surprise that the law of the gods really holds no sway over them. Specifically, we’re talking about the law of hospitality, for “Zeus is the avenger of suppliants and strangers—Zeus, the strangers' god—who ever attends upon reverend strangers” (line 271). This a big deal. We’re not talking about some minor deity being in charge of strangers. Zeus, king of the gods. The head honcho, the big cheese himself. The language, too, is strong. Avenger is no word to be tossed about lightly, and the same is true for reverend. These mean that strangers, travelers, have a sacred position within Greek society, and to do wrong by them is to invite the wrath of Zeus.
            But the Cyclopes are far from Greek society, “for the Cyclopes reck[on] not of Zeus, who bears the aegis, nor of the blessed gods, since verily we are better far than they” (276). We already established that the Greek gods are not omniscient, and now we have the Cyclopes whothink they are superior, and is not willing to follow the law of Zeus regarding strangers. The Greeks divided the world into those who “are cruel, and wild, and unjust, or whether they love strangers and fear the gods in their thoughts” (176).  We take this even further, and the cyclopes all live in caves and subsist only by their flocks. They do not cultivate the land in any way, nor do they build. Their living is very primitive. In short, the Cyclopes are barbarians. By every measurement the Greeks have, the Cyclopes are a tribal people, not much above monsters (if that).
This is very bad news for Odysseus and his men, who are about to become dinner. The only measure towards civilization and mercy—in Polyphemus’s eyes—is that he will eat Odysseus last. Not exactly a good host. How will our hero escape this peril? Tune in next week for “What’s in a Name?”

Friday, June 23, 2017

F3 The Climax

            “Shut the freak up!” one of the demon teens screamed—

            “Okay, now what is it?” I asked.
            “Freak?” Nikki arched an eyebrow.
            “Yeah, Boss,” Jessie added. “Even I don’t buy that one.”
            “Well, yeah,” I said, “but you both know how I am about swearing.”
            “I believe you take issue with blaspheming more than simple cursing,” Nikki explained.
            “Just because I don’t take religious issue with other forms of cursing doesn’t mean I approve of it. It’s not like dropping the F-bomb is going to add to the story in this case. You know what he’s really saying.”
            “It’s still kind of weak, Boss,” Jessie said.
            “Okay, I am not going to sit here and drop bombs for the next twenty minutes as I tell this story.”
            Jessie held up her hands defensively, then gave me a ‘just yanking your chain’ grin.
            Nikki gave a slight shake of her head. “Very well, carry on.”

            “Shut the freak up!” one of the demon teens screamed through the community center. I couldn’t tell which one, but he was clearly angry, but then most teens were.
            “We mean freaking business!” yelled another one from what sounded like the other side of the stage.
            “We’re not freaking leaving until we get what we freaking want!” chimed in a third, from the front of the stage.
            I sat up, trying to see through the sea of legs for their location, but fortunately two people helped me and held me up, my ankle still too tender for any kind of weight. I was afraid I would see guns in their hands, but was only slightly relieved they had baseball bats. One had gone the extra step to wrap barbed wire around his bat. It was enough of a threat to cow the entire group, especially with so many kids in the room.
            “We weren’t going to take it this far, but now, we’re going to freak all of this up!” barbed bat said. He was tall and stocky with menace in his voice and a tattoo of a skull on his neck. He wore a tank top that showed off muscled arms and torso. He looked as built as a linebacker, and there was no way that people wouldn’t get hurt if they tangled with him.
            Especially me.
            “Call the cops,” I whispered to the men holding me up.
            “Before any of you idiots get any stupid ideas about calling the police,” barbed bat continued, “throw all your phones off the front of the stage.” Some people hesitated. “Every person I catch with a phone is going to get my freaking bat shoved up their freaking rear!”
Cell phones sailed through the air, landing in the first rows of seats. I added mine to the mix.
Not like the cops will get here any time soon, and I don’t want to provoke these guys more than necessary. Guess I’ll have devise something clever to get us all out of this. Good thing I’m Matt Allen, genius detective—

“Matthew!” Nikki slapped a palm on my desk.
“Geez, you really know how to kill a story,” I said. “Fine, I’ll tell the version where the hero—and that is me—is more or less real. It’s not as fun, though.”
Jessie unsuccessfully tried to stifle a laugh.

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