Friday, July 31, 2015

To surrender the last cookie

1. Because it is the other person's birthday. So you should be nice to them, right?
2. Because you were only supposed to eat one, and your parents are coming into the kitchen. Quick, frame the cat!
3. Because there is something wrong with the last one. Maybe it contains the missing spoon that fell into the dough, or perhaps someone covered it with hot sauce. In any case, it isn't worth it for you to eat it anymore.
4. Because someone new just joined the party. They haven't gotten a cookie, and there aren't anymore on the plate. So if they don't mind a missing bite, then this one will be great!
5. Because you like the other person. A single cookie might be just what it takes to win their heart.
6. Because otherwise aliens will destroy the world. And as you happen to live there, it might be a good idea to keep it in one piece.
7. Because none of your friends got any cookies in their lunch. So we'll cut the cookie in half, and then cut it again and again until there are enough pieces!
8. Because it is a weird flavor that only certain people like.
9. Because you were the one who made the cookies, and so can just make more.
10. Because you've already eaten fifty-three cookies.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Into the darkness

The candle was flickering, flame sputtering in a sea of wax.
Soon, it would drown.
Hurrying through the cavern, I hoped that little fire would last.
The exit was so close, I could feel it.
It had to be.
Ahead, something shuffled away from the dim light of my candle. Its unseen stare sent a shiver through me as I passed the pool of darkness in which it hid.
The monsters here didn't like light. It was how I'd made it this far. Torches, candles, even a lantern.
I'd gotten in, and even found that silly treasure King Tazal demanded.
Get the treasure, free my sister. Not an unreasonable plan, right?
But I'd miscalculated how long it would take to get back out.
My last candle was dying.
And at least seven monsters hounded me. Held back only by the light.
Turning a corner, a breath of warm air tickled my face.
The exit!
Surging forward, I could almost make out the crack in the wall that was the way out.
Something struck my foot, and I stumbled.
The wax splashed, and the little flame hissed as it vanished.
Drawing my knife, I dropped the candle and made a wild slash. So close! If only the King had let me keep my sword.
The monsters were quiet, with only that shuffling to reveal them.
I kept swinging my knife, backing toward the breath of air I'd felt.
All I needed to do was get to the crack. Well, and squeeze through it without getting mauled by whatever lives in the dark.
Not an encouraging thought.
My back hit something cold and rough. The wall!
Groping with my free hand, I let out a hiss as all it found was solid stone. Where was that crack?
Suddenly, something struck my knife hand. The blade clattered to the ground, and something cool and sharp pricked my throat.
"Thief." A voice rasped, startling me. Monsters couldn't talk!
"Light bringer." Another growled, and something shuffled closer. "Kill it."
"Wait," I croaked, and the thing pressed to the throat shifted.
"It speaks." A third voice grumbled, deeper than the others.
"Thieves don't speak." The first rasped.
"I didn't mean to steal from you." I said, shifting my hand down to my belt. The thing against my throat shifted warningly.
"Drove away guardians with harsh light, took heirloom, and fled. This not stealing?" The deep grumbler asked.
"Lies." The growler, even closer than before.
"I didn't know you were here." I hadn't. King Tazal didn't tell me anything except the I was to get the treasure from a labyrinth of caverns in the sea cliffs.
Releasing the pouch from my belt, I shakily held it out. "Here, have it back."
Something snatched the pouch.
"Is it safe?" A fourth, surprisingly gentle voice asked.
"Yes." The first rasped.
"Why you take?" The deep grumbler asked.
"My sister was taken. In exchange for your heirloom, I get her back."
The monsters shuffled, except for the one holding the thing against my throat. After a few minutes of silence, the gentle voice spoke.
"Hold out hands."
Shivering, I  reached out.
Something clamped around my wrists.
"Hey!" The thing against my throat vanished as something jerked me forward. "What are you doing?"
"Not killing yet." The second voice growled.
"Taking you."The deep grumbler said.
"No!" I strained against whatever pulled me forward, wrists aching. But my captor was stronger, and I was dragged deeper into the darkness.

Friday, July 24, 2015

To keep a journal

1. So you can remember stuff. Your memory won't always be as sharp as a tack, so why not save yourself some frustration and write down exactly what happened at Grandpa Sue's birthday party?
2. It can provide a laugh. Keeping a journal now means that you'll be able to laugh at yourself later down the road. And even if you don't laugh, your great-grandchildren might.
3.You'll find out what is most important to you. People tend to write about what most interests them, and you might surprise yourself with what you choose to focus on each day.
4. It can relieve stress. Don't believe me? Then get a cheap notebook and fill it with everything that frustrates you. Then burn it.
5. It can make you think. Journal writing is hard. Coming up with something to say every day, without sounding like a broken record or being extremely boring takes effort. But stick with it, for it is possible to find something interesting in each day.
6. It takes time. Yes, you're tired. It's been a very long day, and your bed is singing its siren song. But you must resist! Yes, this means possibly five minutes or more that you won't spend sleeping, but at least you'll be able to remember how you rescued that tabby cat from the neighbor's dog.
7. You might learn more about yourself. Journal writing is a personal experience. If you're not open with yourself while writing, then what makes you you will not make it to the page. But once you do open up, what is revealed can be amazing.
8. You could help someone else. Sure, you never plan on letting anyone read your journal. But perhaps, one day, your kids will find it. And read about your struggles in Minnesota as a taxidermist. And somehow, the answer to their problem is within those pages.
9. You could help yourself. We all have problems. Things we struggle with, things we fear. And sometimes, we forget what we've already faced. Until we flip back through an old journal, and find an entry. And within it, we rediscover who we are.
10. It can be fun. You don't have to write every day, and you don't even need to write about your day. Just pick whatever makes you happy, and write about that. A single sentence will do. Just write.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The midnight unicorn

If you ever hear the doorbell ring in the middle of the night, don't answer it.
Otherwise, you'll end up with a unicorn.
It was a little thing, scarcely larger than a house cat. Thinking it a toy, I almost left it there.
Until it moved.
Once I knew it was real, I couldn't leave it out in the night. Seriously, what would you do if there was an actual unicorn on your doorstep?
It protested as I brought it inside. It was so light, with lanky legs.
Turning on the kitchen light, I set the creature on the counter. Grabbing a towel, I started drying its wet coat.
The unicorn wiggled beneath the cloth. Once it was dry, I ran a hand through soft, chestnut fur. "I would have expected it to be white."
At the sound of my voice, the unicorn twisted its head to look. "How did you wind up at my door, little one?" I asked, deciding that this was probably just a foal. It had a horn, but it was only three inches long.
The unicorn shook its head, and I smiled. "Don't want to tell me? Alright, but I don't normally take in strays," Seeing as I didn't have anything I thought a unicorn would eat, I scooped up the creature and left the kitchen. "I'll let you stay tonight, but come morning, we're finding someone else to care for you.
Who that would be, I didn't know. I wasn't the type to obsess over mythical creatures.
Especially ones that were no longer mythical.
"Besides, you could just be a dream." I told the unicorn as I set it in the bathtub. Grabbing some towels from the cupboard, I added them to the tub. The little unicorn watched me, head tilting slightly.
"Trying to look cute won't change my mind." I said, crossing my arms. "Either you're a dream, or I don't get surprised very easily when woken in the middle of the night." Yawning, I shook my head and turned away from the tub.
"Whichever it is, don't get too comfortable here. Good night." Flicking off the light, I headed back to my room.
When I went to crawl into bed, I found the beast curled up on my pillow.
"How'd you get in here?" Frowning, I lifted the unicorn and headed back to the bathroom.
"This is your bed." I said sternly as I set it on the towels in the tub. The unicorn gazed up at me with wide eyes.
"That won't work on me. Now stay." Leaving the bathroom, I made sure the door was closed.
Back in my room, the unicorn was yet again on my pillow.
"No, this is my bed." This time, I grabbed both the unicorn and the pillow.
"If it'll keep you in the tub, you can have the pillow." I said as I put both in the tub. The unicorn sniffed the pillow, and I made my escape.
Bathroom door firmly shut, I went to my room and shut its door as well.
Sighing, I got into bed.
And felt something settle next to my head.
Jerking up, I glared at the little unicorn. There it was. It'd even brought the pillow! "You're not going to win me over with an ability to warp from one place to another. If you won't stay in the tub, then at least stay on one side of the bed."
Grabbing another pillow and the blankets, I settled as far from the unicorn as I could.
Yet as I fell back to sleep, I felt the creature nestle beside my head once more.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The danger of lies

1. They seem like an easy out. Is someone asking for your help with something you really don't want to do? It may seem simple just to tell them you've already got plans. But that isn't fair to either of you.
2. They offer a way to hide guilt. Accidentally break a window, or forget to do something you promised to do? Telling a little lie to turn the attention away from you isn't worth it. That little lie will lead to other lies, until you forget what the truth actually was.
3. They seem to give you what you want. A friend asks if something they found belongs to you. It doesn't, but you really want that object. So you lie and say yes. Sometimes, you'll be found out. Other times, you won't. But what about that person whose thing you just claimed? Did you think about how they will feel?
4. They offer conditional protection. Sometimes you'll be put into a position where you either have to stand up for your beliefs and possibly suffer, or lie and avoid the danger. Is that lie worth sacrificing your beliefs?
5. They let you hide. Lying about how you feel just to keep others from worrying, or to avoid making others uncomfortable, is dangerous. The layers those lies create are difficult to remove, and often leave you feeling worse than if you'd just told the truth.
6. They can provide a false sense of security. When things aren't going well, pretending that everything is fine can seem like the best thing to do. But there is a difference between pretending things are fine and having a positive attitude. A positive attitude can bring hope to yourself and others, which can help improve the situation. Pretending that everything is fine can lead to ignoring the problems until they grow so large that they cannot be ignored. By then, it is difficult to make changes to improve the situation.
7. They are destructive. A lie is not a self-contained thing. It effects everyone around it. The person telling and the person told, the people involved in whatever the lie is about, the people who are told the lie by those believing it to be truth, and the liar's family. Once a lie has been told, it is difficult to kill it without causing some kind of harm.
8. They drain you of happiness. Lies hurt your heart. Once you begin lying, your perception of others becomes tainted. You start wondering who else is lying, and begin to see dishonesty everywhere. Bitterness creeps in when you lose trust in others, and then that bitterness transforms into anger or grief. Sure, at first the lie seems to give you whatever you wanted. But a happiness built upon lies is like a sand castle in a storm.
9. Lies are addictive. It only takes one lie. If you get away with it, then the urge to tell another will be harder to resist. On and on it goes, until you won't even realize at first that a lie has slipped out.
10. They harm relationships. Any lie, even a tiny one, will cause others to lose some of their trust in you once they find out that you've lied to them. It will be hard to earn that trust back once you've lost it. And even if you do, that relationship will not return to what it was like before the lie.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


The pitter-patter of rain against soft earth. Howling through the trees, the wind blows droplets sideways.
Splattering against the window, the droplets slip, sliding down.
Off the glass, joining together to form a streamlet off the sill. Flowing ever downwards, the streamlet plummets away from the wall.
Merging with the puddle, the streamlet is lost. Swirling, surface muddled by constant bombardment.
Until slowly, steadily, the bombardment ceases.
Light shines down, warming the puddle.
Warmer, and warmer.
The puddle steams. Bit by bit, the surface layer rises higher and higher, toward that warm light,
While at the puddle's bottom, the soft earth draws in droplet after droplet, claiming all that it can hold.
Trapped between the two forces, the puddle has no chance.
It is torn asunder.
Part, beneath that soft earth, to nourish the fresh and living things it finds.
The other, up to the warmth high above. Only, before it reaches that warmth, it cools. Cools, and takes on new form.
Heavier and heavier it becomes, as more such as it fail to reach that warmth above.
Then, when it can no longer bear the weight, all that has been collected falls.
And separates once more.
Into the droplets of rain.

Friday, July 10, 2015

To go out of town

1. You'll be able to experience new things. Like snow in the winter, traffic in the city, the strange silence of a small town, and the different attitudes of people.
2. It gives you a chance to meet new people. Old and young, nice and rude, people are almost impossible to avoid during a trip.
3. You could learn something new. Sure, being at home lets you stay comfortable, but getting out and about means you could get firsthand experience on how to gut a fish, catch a cab, or even change a tire.
4. It means a chance to try new food. Yes, a lot of places have similar cooking styles or restaurants, but how could you not try something new while on your adventure?
5. It could be fun. The trip to wherever you're going could be a bit dull, but once you get there, the fun begins.
6. You could get a souvenir. Few trips are truly over until you have some knick-knack to take home. I suggest those little rock animals that can be found at gas stations.
7. It'll give you something to write to friends and family about. Even if it is just a postcard, being able to share a part of your trip with others is almost a valid excuse for the trip. Almost.
8. You'll be able to escape undesirable weather. Be it heat or the cold, a trip to somewhere with the opposite weather can be quite enjoyable.
9. You'll be more excited about running into a friend or family member. Face it, seeing your aunt Agatha a home isn't nearly as exciting as see her in the middle of a hiking trail.
10. It will give you an opportunity to relax. Most people leave town so that they can enjoy some time off from the normal routine. That's fine, so long as you don't overdo it to the point that you lose all desire to return to your normal life.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Pizza delivery, part XXVI

"This is beyond my abilities." Brend said, shaking his head. Callan slammed his mug down, liquid sloshing out onto the tabletop.
"They're not going to do anything to help you?" Callan asked, his voice dangerously soft. I shrugged and stared down at my own drink. One of the palace guards had brought me to the Blue Belle, but neither the princess or either wizard had come with me.
"They haven't a clue about how to get me home, and Tigernach implied that I shouldn't even try to find a way." It was frustrating to have finally made it to the end, and find that going home was impossible.
Brend frowned, and Callan gave a sharp shake of his head. "That apprentice shouldn't get away with this, laddy. None of them should!"
"I agree, but what can we do?" I said, and felt Smoky shift within the cloak.
"I could consume them." The wraith said in my mind, and I looked down with a frown.
"That isn't an option." I said, noticing as Callan shifted uneasily. He and Brend hadn't been happy to learn about my deal with the wraith.
"What about the wraith?" Brend said, and I looked up at him.
"Yes, let me feed." Smoky said, and I frowned at my friend.
"We're not letting him eat them."
"Oh, no!" Brend shook his head quickly and waved his hands. "That's not what I meant."
"Then what?" Callan asked, turning toward the wizard.
"The wraith has consumed much in its lifetime, right?" Brend asked.
"Countless memories." Smoky said, and I could almost sense his pride at the declaration.
"Yes." I said, folding my arms. "Is that important?"
"Possibly." Brend said, resting his hands on the table. "Perhaps one of his acquisitions can provide an answer."
Could Smoky be the key? I shifted in my chair, and took a deep breath.
"Countless memories cannot be sifted in an instant." Smoky's response was a low grumbling in my mind.
"But you'll look?" I asked. It was hard to ignore the flicker of hope I felt. Sure, I had friends in this world. But I wanted to be able to choose whether or not I stayed here. I needed that choice.
"It could be amusing." Smoky finally responded, and I couldn't help but smile.
"He'll look, but it could take a while." I said, looking at my friends. Brend smiled, while Callan shifted in his seat before resting an arm on the table.
"In the meantime, you'll need something to do." Callan said. I nodded, fighting back a grimace.
"Her Highness wants me to open a pizzeria." I said. Perhaps if I wasn't so frustrated by their disregard for how being snatched from my own world and then told I couldn't go back could be unsettling, I might have taken the princess's suggestion more kindly.
"Is that what you want to do?" Brend asked. I shook my head.
"Longing for a pizza recipe is the reason I'm here, and I've no desire to give that away right now."
Callan nodded, then set a scroll on the table.
"Well laddy, then until that wraith can find an answer, how about you join my band?" Callan said as he leaned back.
"Officially." Brend motioned at the scroll. I reached forward and picked up the scroll. Opening it, I scanned the contract. It listed things like what some of my roles would be within the band would be, how treasure would be split, and even would let me list what was to be done with my possessions should I perish in the midst of an adventure.
"Official cook?" Glancing up from the scroll, I couldn't resist a chuckle. "Isn't that Lorcan's position?"
Callan waved a hand. "Oh, he knows when to pass the ladle into more skilled hands."
Looking back down at the contract, my hands shook.
Yes, I couldn't go home. Not yet. But the friends I'd made here wouldn't let me dwell on that.
Instead, they'd offered me something better.

"I guess my days as a delivery boy are done." I said, and reached for the quill and ink Brend offered.

Friday, July 3, 2015

What to do with a new puppy

1. Work on housebreaking. Because a new puppy doesn't know not to go on the rug.
2. Learn its name. Your puppy probably won't respond to Sir Fluffypaws on the first try ... or on the fifteenth.
3. Basic commands. Sit, stay, come, lay down. Both you and your puppy will be happier once the basics are known.
4. Be careful when introducing to other animals. Some older animals do not like it when their home is invaded by an energetic baby. Don't try to thrust them together immediately. Take it slowly, and both critters could become best friends.
5. Pay attention to their personality. Your puppy is learning what kind of person you are, so you should do the same with them.
6. Don't spoil them. Yes, it is a new puppy. You want it to love you. But you also want it to listen to you and not constantly beg for treats.
7. Keep it in good health. Puppies can handle a lot, but they're still babies. Watch for signs that playtime is getting too rough or that the food isn't agreeing with its stomach.
8. Break bad habits. Shoe chewing? Bad idea. If you don't try to break bad behavior while your puppy is still a puppy, then it will be much more difficult to break it later on.
9. Make time for it. Don't get a puppy if you're going to be too busy to give it the care and attention it needs. Puppies are babies, and need a lot of love from you.
10. Remember that it will grow up. Puppies do not stay puppies. They get older, bigger, and even less cuddly. That isn't a bad thing. Because the puppy you've fallen in love with is still within that dog.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Pizza delivery, part XXV

We can't.”
I stared at the old wizard. Can't?
Why not?”
Tigernach shifted his staff and leaned against it. “We don't know how. Frankly, I was surprised when Miach said he'd brought you through to our world.”
Miach smirked at that, though the look faded when he caught my gaze. “Just do whatever you did to bring me here.”
It won't work.” Miach shook his head. “I think it was your connection to the delivery bag that got you through. Without a similar anchor and a strong magical pull from your world, I don't see how it could succeed.”
I shook my head, biting back a laugh. “So this entire trip has been a waste!” Everything I'd done to get here with Callan's band, just to be told I couldn't get home? It was too much.
Perhaps not a waste.” Tigernach said slowly, motioning around the room. “You've seen wonders none of your world can claim to have seen. You helped slay a dragon, and somehow tamed a wraith. You're in the royal palace, and have met the most prized princess in all the land. What more could you desire?”
I stared at him.
If these people were my only option, then I'd never get home.
Luckily, I'm friends with a wizard.

Take me to the Blue Belle.”