Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Here's the gist(s), then. "Quite Confounded By This Mutiny" was a sophomore English assignment: we'd read Shakespeare's dreadful Julius Caesar, then watched the modernization of Macbeth in the film Scotland, PA. The assignment was to write a modernized version of JC. Ho-hum.

"Shadows on the Wall" was a middle school Language Arts assignment: write a piece featuring one of the other significant characters in Stephen Donaldson's novella Daughter of Regals. Someone other than the narrator Chrysalis. I chose to create a childhood story about Mage Scour, Queen Damia's mage.

I think I have one more story assignment for my other middle schoolers. That should be about all the blood I can squeeze out of the turnips. The Natives (and their Keeper) are restless...

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It began with his hands in shadows, casting figures upon the walls of his father’s cottage in the woods. The boy was fascinated by the fire in the hearth and the play of goblins and animals around the walls of the room; standing in the middle of the room and watching himself grow tall as a giant beside his father’s sleeping hulk in the room’s one chair. Natural, then, to mimic the fire’s shadow play with his own shadow creations—birds of paradise, climbing monkeys, racing jungle cats and flying horses.

And then, one night, past midnight, his father long asleep in his chair, the boy followed his own mimicry up the cottage walls and watched in amazement as all manner of fantastic creatures erupted from his hands—wyverns, griffins, dragons, cockatrices, and one grand phoenix climbing higher and higher, then disappearing through the cottage roof. In the night’s darkness, an flash of light exploded in the forest outside, and with it a haunting cry from a world never seen before, yet felt deeply within the young boy’s bones.

“Father!” cried the boy, shaking the man’s shoulders. “Father!”

There was no witness to the night’s magic—the father’s spirit had passed from his body. Any tears the boy might have shed were long gone to the estuary of grief over his mother’s death three years before. He still felt the ache of her loss deep in his heart, but the feeling of his father’s passing was different. Though the body of the man was lifeless, the boy felt the man’s spirit looming large within the room, as if he were somehow connected to the blazing bird in the forest.

Eight years old and orphaned—or was he? The morning after his father’s passing, the body disappeared. The boy hunted for hours in the forest for the man, stopping by the River Loom, as a blue moon rose over him in the night sky. He slept by the rush of the river’s flooding waters.

At daybreak, he found himself lying in the grass in front of the stone cottage. How? He had slept soundly, never stirring—he’d felt no lifting in his sleep. The door to the cottage was open, and on the crude table in the center of the room was a feast of unimagined proportions. He ate his fill, and took up the search for his father’s body again. When he returned home at purple dusk, the table was empty, save for a loaf of freshly baked bread and a roughhewn stone goblet of golden mead.

The pattern of morning feast and evening mead continued for seven months; during this time, the boy felt his relationship with his father grow deeper, despite the man’s absence. Every night, after the boy lit the room’s fire, he sensed an enormous presence that felt like his father and like something else grand and powerful. The figures that flew from the boy’s hands now were all fantastic, images from paintings he might have seen, though he felt that they were from the bottom of a deep mythological ocean, far beyond the boundaries of the world outside his stone cottage.

In the eighth month after the boy’s father’s death, a dark hooded figure slipped through the forest ahead of him, on his daily walk to the clear stream where he drew his water. As he gained upon the darting figure, he saw that it was dressed in dark crimson and appeared to be, by the shape of its body, a young woman.

As the boy neared the stream, the figure slowed her pace, and as he walked up to her, she turned and faced him. Hers was an odd face—it seemed terribly familiar, as if it were a collision of his own features, his father’s, and the dim memory of his mother’s features as well. Even more odd, though, was a very light filigreed lacing of feathers upon the woman’s face. Depending upon the angle of light upon her, she either appeared fully human, or shone iridescently with what looked like a beautiful tattooing on her skin.

The woman dipped her hand in the clear stream and drank from its waters. She cupped another handful for the boy as well. He noted that the water did not slip through her fingers, as he drank.

“You are ready, Shreve,” said the woman, in tones that matched in beauty the chorus of thrushes singing through the trees.

The boy was astonished that the stranger knew the name he had been calling himself since his father’s death. His birth name had been Hod, but out of the depths of his apprenticing nights, he heard the name Shreve whispered to him. He realized now, that the name had been whispered in this same woman’s voice.

“Who are you, and why are you here?” said the boy.

The young woman smiled, and her beauty lit the forest in an incandescence that blazed from the radiance of her face.

“Ah, indeed. You would want to know that, wouldn’t you? My name is Damia. In time, if you follow me, we will come to rule a world beyond your imagination. You will go through many names, as your learning deepens.”

The boy was struck dumb.

“Open your hand,” said the woman.

The boy did as he was told. Damia drew her index finger down the life line of his palm.

“Here,” she said, “is the river.” At the heel of his thumb, she pointed to a tiny mark on his skin. “And here, is the mountain to where we journey. Now.”

In a flash, they rose in the air and vanished.

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“Check this out,” said Cassius.

Brutus jumped right in, as was his wont. Ever his wont, but this time—

“GAAAAAAA! What the hell is this? It tastes like—”

“Hair cream?”

“Exactly. But with an orange—”

“Orange pomade, he calls it.”

“He’s gone completely over the edge,” said Brutus.

“Oh. He’s way beyond that,” said Cassius. “He’s convinced that, with his Iced Hair Cream line, he can capture market share AND the hearts of Wall Street.”

“Capture our conglomerate asses in a sling, is more like it. What’s Antony think of all this?”

“Just what you’d expect.”

“No doubt. The royal suck up.”

“Get out your Hoovers, boys, Tony’s slurping through.”

Caesar called the meeting to order. Big blue harvest moon rising in the east, behind the 75th floor board room windows of Heavenly Dames, Avis to Baskin-Robbin’s Hertz. For now.

“Let’s get this toga party started,” said JC, as he stepped up onto the shiny Formica table.

Twenty-five matching togoids around the table, but Caesar had the shiny gold sandals.

“Awfully slippery up there, J, might wanna—”


Imperial Caesar on his ass; nervy togoids jockeying for position, but Tony-Tone, as always, is first to raise the imperial carcass off the ground. No mean task: the Caesar weighs in at a cool five hundred pounds, though he doesn’t look a pound over four hundred.

Cassius is second to His Royal Moundness, but is slapped away for his efforts.

“Temper, sir,” whispers Hoovering Tony, at his side.

“I will temper as I see fit, Tony. Just look at Cassius. Positively anorectic. We are purveyors of cholesterol, Tony—a veritable Tribe of Hippopotami. How, prithee, does a man on our payroll keep himself under two hundred pounds?”

Cassius feigned obeisance. “Please, your Royal Everestness, if I may—”

“Get away from me,” said His Royal Land Mass. “I want nothing to do with you, Cassius. Get thee to a nunnery.”

“Wrong play,” whispers Tony.

“Oh, foo, Tony. Just foo.”

His Royal Snittiness snitted on out. Tony gathered up his Hoovering accessories and sailed right behind.

Cass drew the blinds on the blue moon, and stood at the head of the table. Half the togoids had fled in the wake of the imperial eruption; those who stayed behind were itching for action.

“Need I say more?”

Snuffling up out of a mammoth root beer float, Publius cut to the chase. “I say we take him out.”

“What, tired of togas at board meetings?” said Casca, to his right. “Toothpaste in your gelati? Dandruff shampoo in your frozen custard? Aren’t we all? I’m in. I am SO in.”

Resounding “yea’s” echo around the table. All eyes turn to Brutus, standing at the windows.

Publius coughs, looks at Cass, nods towards Broot.

Cass walks to the window.

“Time was, we had the corner on flavor,” sighed Brutus.

“Time was, we dressed like real people,” said Cass. “The man’s insane, B.”

“He taught me all I know about the Lactose Arts.”

“B, that Caesar is dead. Ever since Calpurnia took up with the Mr. Fung, it’s been downhill ever since. Old Caesar went bye-bye a long time ago. Too much guano in his oatmeal.”

“So, what would you have me do? Take him out, C? Sounds pretty drastic to me.”

“You got a better idea?”

“How about we get Cicero up in Human Resources in for an intervention? I hear he makes a mean crumb cake. No way Caesar gets past his sweet tooth on Cicero's crumbs.”

“B, get real. Crumb cake? That fool needs to be taken OUT. But, listen, we can’t do it without you.”

“Why not you, C? You’re the one all hot and bothered.”

“In Caesar's eyes, we’re all dishonorable men. Scum. Slackers. Imagine what Wall Street would do to us, if an in-house coup led by Chief Bad Boy gets to the press. But, you—you’re different. I mean, look at your toga. Freshly pressed, crisp creases. Look at the stitchery on that thing, for God sakes.”

“I told you Portia would do the same for you.”

“Same for me. Portia can’t stand me, B.”

“Cass, that was two years ago. Portia is not the kind to hold a grudge, just because you insisted on heavy starch in your toga.”

“Beg to differ, B. Portia is precisely the kind to hold a grudge. And have you seen her lately?”

“She’s my wife, Cass. What do you mean, have I seen her?”

“Exactly that. Too many nights in the office, Broo. Word has it, Portia’s out every night in the square scoring Red Hots. Mouth’s afire.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“When’s the last time you smelled her breath?”

Brutus blushed. Late nights at the office in the ghastly tasting room, Mah Jong with Caesar and the boys, making the scene at Randy’s Rodeo, it was a long time since he’d had a whiff of his wife’s tonsils.

“Stick your head out the window, B. Smell’s everywhere.”

“Julie, please. I beg of you. I had Walter do your chart. He says Pluto is triple trined your quadratic equation, and with your Kung Pao in the seventh house, he sez things never looked worse.”

Caesar continued combing his Caesar bangs in the mirror. Calpurnia stood in the doorway behind him with a frightful beehive.

“Pluto’s not even a planet anymore,” said His Rotundity.

“Not what Walter sez,” said Calpurnia. Looking at the polka dot toga, she added, “The dots make you look fat.”

“I AM fat.”

“Fatter, then. Walter can do your Mayan colors.”

“And who, pray tell, is this mysterious Walter?”

Cal sighed. “Walter Mercado. Channel 42. Univision. He sent us the strawberry marmalade incense last Solstice. Remember?”

“No, but what does that have to do with my planets?”

“He says that something is going down. Something about the Tides of March.”

“Ides of March. What kinda fool soothsayer calls them the Tides of March?”

“Tides, ides—what’s the difference. Wally sez you should watch your ass.”

“I haven’t been able to watch my ass for years now. I’d need a helluva rearview mirror.”

Calpurnia was not amused. “All I know is—”

“All I know, sweetie, is that you need to watch more PBS and less telenovelas. Wally Mercado, my tush.”

The Calpurnian lower lip stuck out like the back porch of a, well, of an imperial husband too far gone on the canoli from Brocato’s down on Bleeker Street.

The Imperial Blimp huffed and kept on chugging.

Wally Mercado stood gloating outside the 75th floor board room. He could feel the buzz on behind the bronze doors to the Heavenly Dames inner sanctum.

In ungodly polka-dottedness, The Royal Salad advanced on the bronze doors.

Wally was trying to blend in, but Herr Kaiser called to him.

“Why so smug, Chug? Something up your sleeve?” The imperial derision was scathing.

With doom at the brink, Wally felt he could be just the tiniest bit sympathetic. He smiled back at Caesar and nodded towards the bronze doors.

A phalanx of Armani-suited busybodies met Caesar as he walked into the board room.

Kaleidoscopes of Armani and Jerry Garcia ties, Oliver Peoples eyewear, kidsglove leather on fashionable feet. Cufflinks flashed silver and gold in the morning sunlight. Caesar stared around the room. All of them—Casca, Cinna, Publius, Decius Brutus, Pillsbury, Elton, Simba, Frausto, and Noteworthy—blazing in their contemporary finery. Simba and Frausto muscled in, pinning the landmass to the wall.

Slim Shady Cassius advanced upon the behemoth in a sleek sable ensemble. Caesar was frothing.

Ignoring the foaming imperial mouth, Cassius said to Simba and Frausto, “Take him to the roof.”

“I spit on you, Slim Shady. Get out of my face. I will not cower for you.”

“To the roof,” said Slim.

The muscle lifted JC and headed for the elevators.

Cassius yelled after them, “Lose the toga—toss him a towel.”

The Caesar's bowels quivered.

Blazing sunlight burned down on the blacktop of the rooftop wasteland of Heavenly Dames Tower. Simba and Frausto shoved their victim into the infernal noonday heat and watched him sizzle. Sweat poured from him, like a half-pounder impaled in ecstasy on a George Foreman grill. The door to the rooftop slammed behind him.

Cassius advanced upon His Holy Rolling Rumpus, still clad in his snappy sable. Not a lick of sweat. He looked over at the two Armani-clad goons and nodded towards the edge of the rooftop. They steered the sweating Rumpus to the brink of his doom; he was in danger of melting completely away, such was his terror of heights—falling sickness, O yes indeed. At 75 stories up, who wouldn’t?

The door to the rooftop opened again. Simba and Frausto turned His Mighty Sumo-ness back around. At the sight of Fate advancing upon him, he blanched.

First was Casca, bearing the first weapon—a pair of blue cotton Polo boxers. Next was Cinna, with a pair of thin silver socks. Then Publius, with a salmon-colored Valentino shirt with pearl buttons. The giant beast was near fainting, but the goons held him steady. Next came Decius Brutus and Pillsbury bearing a $1500 black linen Armani suit. Out of his sabled left back pocket, rude Cass gleefully pulled a psychedelic roiling silk mess of a tie entitled “Volcano.”

Imagine Bugs Bunny and the Tasmanian Devil whirling dervishly across your TV screen—you remember those days, surely. Add two tons of whirling flesh to that picture and you can imagine the rugby scrum that presaged a newly clothed, un-toga’d Caesar. He stood fully clad, but shoeless on the blacktop, waiting for the other shoes to drop.

Trumpets wailed and drums rolled as through the rooftop door stepped The Honorable Schoolboy, none other than Brutus himself, bearing a box of size 12 Italian kid leather T-straps for the imperial feet.

The shock was too much for the Royal Salad.

“Et tu, Brute?” qouth the newly be-linened Emperor. The falling sickness was upon him: he fainted dead out of the hands of the muscle goons and fell seventy-five stories to, well, not to his death, as you would certainly expect, but to a forty foot high column of just-delivered pepperoni pizzas.

It was a helluva dry-cleaning bill.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007



[For Chris]

O, Homework Assignment, that saps my strength,
That worms holes into my already vacant memory,
That fo-shizzles my math, un-shizzles my historical bones, &
Completely be-shizzles the lunatic who ate my assignment
In the first place. Yea, the hair of the dog is always nigh,
But you, you, you augur the very least of my worries.
I would you were the very ice cream I lean upon,
Vigorous adversary to an already departed brain.
But soft—the hour of doom steals in upon
My hippodrome of quiet lust, the ooze of English
Oozing, oozing, oozing down the ‘scaping year,
The 2.0 of a fading grade, the apple of an errant eye,
The semblance of a blazing sky.


[For Leslie]

O, fancy furry boots
On my feet, prolonging winter
Into the long long long night of summer’s call,
Chased by dreams of pajama parties
In sixth period, opalescent popcorn,
Sugar-bellowing volcanoes, and men eating
Cake from the lost horizons of Mr.
Schirmer’s blue-grilled mouth of trout.
My feet are ever so warm—in spring
Even sweaty!—
Yea, O fancy furries, I would dance
Waltzes down snowy paths,
Swoon in the arms of pirates, and—YES!—
Fire the imaginations of the tiny worms at my teeny tiny feet.

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