Monday, January 31, 2011

Chariots of the Household Gods

The cacophony of the charging warriors upon the battlefield resonated long into the day. As if some impending doom might smite them, these soldiers were hellbent on the success of their holy crusades. Woe be to he who stood in their path.

This Charge of the Light-headed Brigade was not for the pursuit of some elusive Holy Grail, it was not being mounted to recapture usurped homelands, and it was not a call to arms to appease their gods. Nay, their quest was being fueled by the need for survival.

Onward through a phalanx of chariots they laid siege upon the unprotected stores. They raided the shopkeeper's larders, hoarded the fruits and vegetables of the farmers' gardens and claimed the meats of their livestock. They pillaged the dairies and sacked the bakeries. Hungry for more spoils of war, they ran gauntlet after gauntlet to amass even more booty.

The combatants cursed those charioteers who might veer into their path. The weaker of the enemies were forced to yield to the skill of the fastest and to the power of the strongest. Seasoned warriors, veterans of such wars, see these encounters as mere skirmishes.

There are no standard bearers - no flags furled or unfurled rise above these chariots of the household gods.

These soldiers wear no armor or suits made of chain-mail. Their battledress is as varied as individuals themselves. They are not armed with lances, spears or arrows - but nonetheless, they are heavily armed.

They carry weapons of great power - cash, credit cards, debit cards and even food stamps.

They are driven by words of the doomsayers, the seers and the oracles. Are these purveyors of doom wizards? In days of yore, they might have been thought to have mystical powers. In the present times, however, they who spur these crusades are known as meteorologists.

Thus it has come to pass that these prognosticators of the weather have set into motion the marauding hordes who are bearing down upon the establishments to purchase their goods.

When it comes to weathermen and weather-women, is it me, or do they seem to regale in nasty weather forecasts? They do not seem to be as enthusiastic when the weather is going to be sunny and fair. However, when it comes to a blizzard - it looks like some of them get rather ... orgasmic!

Beaming from ear to ear, the meteorologists are once again spreading their cheer.

Before sunrise tomorrow, Tuesday, February 1, snow will begin falling in parts of New England. By the time the sun sets there will be 6 inches of the white stuff piled up on the remnants of last week's 11 inches.

If that forecast wasn't bad enough, he all but danced a jig as added a caveat - there will be more snow on Wednesday.

(If he is at all able to see over the snowbanks, I don't think the groundhog is going to like what awaits him.)

The forecast for Wednesday? Snow all day - to the tune of 18 inches !!!

This afternoon my wife and I were among those warriors charging through the throngs behind our chariot. We fought the heavier than usual traffic to and from the grocery store. We foraged at the fast-emptying shelves and displays cases. We endured the torture of the long checkout lines.

There's a good chance that I'll be spending most of the day Thursday shoveling, digging us out. We might end up being housebound until Friday. Like any warring faction, we had to stock up to endure Mother Nature's siege.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Butterfly Dreams (45)

(A sequel to The Strange Story of Mr. Black and Ms Gray.)

They had died when helping thwart a plan to undermine the government of the United States. Now Ben and Susan have returned from the dead and they must bring that government down. Standing in their way are Michael Black and Michelle Gray, the bodies of whom they now occupy.
-(The Story begins HERE)-
Out Minded

Brock hefted his service revolver from one hand to the other. Craning his head in my direction and then to the exit door, it was obvious that he was weighing his options.

His eyes narrowing into slits he grunted, "How's the headache? You able to function?"

"I'll live," I replied warily before realizing what he was implying. "Why are you stalling? You can't be thinking of blasting your way out of this mess."

Wingate's voice rang out again, "You are trying my patience, O'Day."

"Nothing as hair-brained as that," he gloated ignoring the threat from outside. "But I do have an idea ... and it just might work too."

I shook my head in disbelief that he thought there was a way out of our situation using force. To my way of thinking, at that moment surrender was the best option. We would have a far better chance of coming up with a means of escape as live prisoners than as corpses.

It was Baxter who was next heard, "Michael, Brock ... the colonel is serious."

A tense pounding grew behind my eyes when Michelle shouted, "Please, Michael. As long as you're on that plane, I cannot protect you."

"Brock," I pleaded, "this is an Air Force base. It must be Nellis. There must be dozens of armed airmen out there."

"Nellis? Nellis is over 800 miles as the crow flies from here. We're in Amarillo, my friend."

Stunned I muttered, "Amarillo? Texas? Are you sure?"

He gave a slight nod of the head, "I know there are no wind farms in operation in the Vegas area. I caught sight of them when we turned into the landing pattern. The only wind turbines near a desert and an airbase that I know of are part of the Wildorado Wind Ranch outside of Amarillo."

I took a deep breath and tried to digest Brock's words. "We were supposed to hook up in Las Vegas. What is Michelle doing here? Why is she helping Wingate?"

O'Day's eyes widened and he barked, "Michelle? What makes you think she's here?"

I glanced at the bloodied welt on the side of his neck, "Did that shot affect your hearing? You didn't hear her voice out there?"

A quizzical look on his face, he remained silent for a few moments before responding. "No, I didn't hear her. Michael, that headache ... someone is trying to get in your head. You're being out-minded!"

There was a sudden thump as something struck the side of the entrance. The object careened toward the front of the cabin, rolled on the floor and came to rest next to the door to the cockpit area. There was a hiss of escaping pressure from the cylinder followed by a billowing cloud of grayish smoke.

"Tear gas!" Brock yelped. "Haul ass to the back of the plane!"

It was at that moment that another one of the objects clattered against the interior of the plane. Hurled from a different angle than the first, it bounced along the decking toward the back of the cabin.

Choking on the first wisps of the spreading cloud O'Day blubbered, "Close your eyes and try not to breathe, Michael. Work your way to the back cabin. Hurry!"

Too late his warnings, the large gulp of air I swallowed was already burning a path from my throat to my lungs. The involuntary defensive action of my tear ducts did little to ease the searing irritation in my eyes.

I felt a sudden vice-like grip on my arm. My body, weak and limp like that of a rag doll, was being dragged to the aft section of the plane. Even as the door to the back cabin slammed shut, a convulsive eruption wracked my body and the ejected sputum splattered on the floor next to my face.

Although his voice sounded muted O'Day shouted, "Lie still. You need fresh air. I'll open the cargo ramp and get you out of here."

( To be continued

A Helluva Plan )


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Six Years and Still Ticking

It just occurred to me that back on January 20, 2005, six years ago to date, I posted for the first time to a blog site which I named: "It Occurred To Me."

For the better part of those six years the hammer in my profile has been relentlessy pounding on the head of one stubborn nail.

Viewing myself as the hammer and the keyboard as the nail, it has been an on-going and enjoyable project. This, my 2088th posting, is intended as a reflection of what this site means to me - what it began as and what it has become.

Below the blog title, it reads:
My feelings, beliefs, and/or ideas about just about anything. These may not agree with you, and that is okay. Nothing I say or imply is meant to offend. Allow me to hammer home my points. Satire is my cause and humor is my sword and pen.
I've never felt a need to rewrite those words, because that mantra, if you will, still holds true. That's not to say that my writings have not evolved. They have. As for my feelings, beliefs, and/or ideas - perhaps they have been at least ... tweaked ... by an ever-changing world.

There have been times that I've felt as if I were on the brink of burnout - not only from suffering from bouts of writer's block, but from having my head so full of ideas that nothing could be committed to a post!

It was at those times when the creative juices weren't flowing that I began to "harvest" material from the web to post here. When using this "copy-and-paste" method of plagiarism, I have always tried to give credit to the source either by hyperlink or by mention of a name. Of course this isn't always possible when the material is received in an e-mail, as the source is often omitted.

This past weekend my site meter hit 500,000! Although I had been aware that number would soon be hit, when I saw it I said to myself, "Wow! That's a half-million visits to my site." Applying a little math to the numbers, that means that over those six years, I've been averaging a little over 315 hits per day!

To those 500,000+ visitors - yes, I realize that many of those are return visitors - THANK YOU! I must be doing something write right.

It catches my attention ... it relaxes my mind ... it inspires me ... watching my kitten play with some red yard.

Really, readers, if that was my kitten, do you think I'd be sitting here typing, trying to compose this narrative?

If you are offended by that picture ... remember that satire is my cause and humor is my sword and pen.

Yes, much of my work is of an adult nature. I can only assume that most of the readers who visit here are adults. I've poked fun at religion and do not pretend to be pious. I've kicked literary sand in the faces of politicians without showing partisan favoritism. Some of my posts have had me walking on thin ice between being a gentleman and a chauvinist. While not bigoted, I have thrown some jabs at ethnic groups.

What will the seventh year bring? I started this blog to be a collection of humor, and I intend to keep the focus in that area.

Having said that, since July of 2006, with the posting of the short story, Talking To the Walls, I have posted 12 other works of fiction with a 14th in progress. While I'm not sure exactly in length (number of words) what constitutes a short story and a novella, my works of fiction probably fall somewhere between the two.

There will come a time, when I feel I have built up a sufficient body of work, that I will explore the idea of publishing these stories. (I think it will be sooner than later, especially now that I'm retired.)

If you've read into the last paragraph that I have more stories in my head - you'd be right. I might even consider drafting a few stories for publication and not post them here.

In closing, I hope that no matter the content, I will be still be blogging whenever it occurs to me, for many more years to come.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

After 20 Days - Still Retired

There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want. - Bill Watterson


Old Faithful

My nookie days are over, my pilot light is out.

What used to be my sex appeal, is now my water spout.

Time was when, of its own accords, from my trousers it would spring.

but now I have a full time job, just to find the blasted thing.

It used to be embarrassing, the way it would behave.

For every single morning, it would stand and watch me shave.

But now as old age approaches, it sure gives me the blues.

To see it hang its withered head, and watch me tie my shoes.

Retirement is the time when you never do all the things you intended to do when you were still working. - Anonymous

It's Better Than a Watch!

The neighborhood postman was retiring after 25 years.

On his last day of delivering mail, all of the people on his route left him something in the mail box in honor of his retirement. Some left money, some left small gifts, and some met him at the door and invited him in for a meal. This went on all through the neighborhood.

As he proceeded through his route, the gifts got better and better. One house even gave him a gold watch!

He was so satisfied, but the last house paled in comparison.

As he was putting the mail in the mailbox, the door opened, and the woman of the house stood there in beautiful lingerie. She invited him inside.

He knew that this woman's husband was a truck driver and was away, so he went inside.

She proceeded to give him the day and night of his life.

The next morning he woke up to find she was bringing him breakfast in bed.

He found a dollar bill under his plate as he ate and asked her about it.

She explained, "When I called my husband to tell ask him what we should give you for your retirement, he said, 'screw him, give him a dollar.' Breakfast was my idea."


I Heard You

An elderly gentleman had serious hearing problems for a number of years. He went to the doctor and the doctor was able to have him fitted for a set of hearing aids that allowed the gentleman to hear 100%. The elderly gentleman went back in a month to the doctor and the doctor said, 'Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.'

The gentleman replied, 'Oh, I haven't told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I've changed my will three times!'

You Know You're Retired ...

# There are three signs of old age. The first is your loss of memory. I forget the other two.

# You're getting old when you don't care where your spouse goes, just as long as you don't have to go along.

# Middle age is when work is a lot less fun - and fun is a lot more work.

# Statistics show that at the age of seventy, there are five women to every man. Now isn't that a great time for a guy to get those kind of odds?

# You know you're getting on in years when the girls at the office start confiding in you.

# Middle age is when it takes longer to rest than to get tired.

# Middle age is when you have stopped growing at both ends, and have begun to grow in the middle.

# You know you're into middle age when you realize that caution is the only thing you care to exercise.

# You're getting old when you wake up with that morning-after feeling, and you didn't do anything the night before!

# The cardiologist's diet: if it tastes good, spit it out.

# It's hard to be nostalgic when you can't remember anything.

# When you lean over to pick something up off the floor, you ask yourself if there is anything else you need to do while you are down there.


Q: Where can women over the age of 50 find young, sexy men, who are interested in them?
A: Try a bookstore under fiction.

Q: What can a man do while his wife is going through menopause?
A: Keep busy. If you're handy with tools, you can finish the basement. When you are done you will have a place to live.

Q: How can you increase the heart rate of your 50+ year old husband?
A: Tell him you're pregnant.

Q: How can you avoid spotting a wrinkle every time you walk by a mirror?
A: The next time you're in front of a mirror, take off your glasses.

Q: Why should 50+ year old people use valet parking?
A: Valets don't forget where they park your car.

Q: Is it common for 50+ year olds to have problems with short-term memory storage?
A: Storing memory is not a problem; retrieving it is a problem.

Q: As people age, do they sleep more soundly?
A: Yes, but usually in the afternoon.

Q: Where do 50+ year olds look for fashionable glasses?
A: Their foreheads.

Q: What is the most common remark made by 50+ year olds when they enter antique stores?
A: "I remember these."

Even Retired Men Like Exotic Dancers


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Butterfly Dreams (44)

(A sequel to The Strange Story of Mr. Black and Ms Gray.)

They had died when helping thwart a plan to undermine the government of the United States. Now Ben and Susan have returned from the dead and they must bring that government down. Standing in their way are Michael Black and Michelle Gray, the bodies of whom they now occupy.
-(The Story begins HERE)-
Enter the Traitor

The sound of the landing gear being lowered could be heard beneath us and I tightened my grip on the armrest in anticipation of its contact with the tarmac. The huge military aircraft may have been sufficient for the armed forces, but its attention to passenger comfort fell short of its commercial cousins.

There was a series of jolts when each set of the jet's wheels met the earth. The whine of the engines being powered down resonated throughout the craft as it taxied along the tarmac.

Although Baxter was still training the pistol on him, I was studying Wingate's composure. When he looked about at each of us there was a menacing scowl on his face, except when his eyes fell upon Faye O'Day. When their eyes met, the furrows of his brow became less apparent.

As for Faye, her countenance had remained stoic. Even when the colonel glanced in her direction, she sat in silence and stared straight ahead. For someone who only minutes before had been enraged at the man who would've killed her along with the all the passengers on the plane, she was sitting across from him with a remarkably calm demeanor.

I didn't like it. I couldn't help but think that her actions were all too convenient. While the other passengers up front had been asleep under the influence of Wingate's drug, why had she waited until that precise moment to enter our cabin? Coincidence? I didn't think so, it was too perfect.

In the past year I had experienced more than enough treachery on Faye's part to allow myself to tender any trust in her. Cringing I tried to suppress the memory that I'd even been married to the woman! The memory of that union spawned a pain at bridge of my nose, between my eyes.

After we'd divorced, I'd sworn I would never get married again. Yet, as I looked over at her, I couldn't help but think that perhaps there was a chance we could start anew. She was looking back at me with a warm smile. Maybe, just maybe she felt the same way.

It must have been a middle-aged crisis thing. That young woman, Susan ... she was half my age! What was I thinking? Wait! That was part of my cover. I was working on a story to expose an underground pornography ring, which was operating under the name of Butterfly Blue. I'd seen the scathing video tapes. The participants, unwilling as I had discovered, had been subjected to mind-altering drugs.

Because high-ranking officials had been involved, the Globe was threatened with libel suits. So it was that the paper decided to kill the story, to suppress it. The two whistle-blowers, Mr. Black and Ms Gray, had been summarily discredited.

Brock O'Day appeared in the doorway and announced, "It's time to get off this crate. What are you waiting for?"

I looked around and found myself alone in the cabin. I rubbed my forehead and muttered, "I just had a migraine attack. It must have been all those beers and the altitude."

"Beers?" O'Day said with chagrin. "All we had were some lukewarm colas. We didn't even get any pretzels! Now that we're here, I gotta get some grub."

I pushed myself to my feet and queried, "Just where is ... here?"

He shrugged and shook his head, "Beats me. It's definitely a military base of some kind. When I asked Baxter, all he would say was that the place was classified."

"I don't like the sound of that. I don't think they're going to let us just walk away from here. One thing in our favor, at least we can use Wingate as a bargaining chip."

"What? What are you talking about?" O'Day said wide-eyed.

"Jeremy got the drop on him. That crazy bastard was going to blow up the plane with us on it," I exclaimed.

"How many beers did you have anyway? Blow up the plane? Where did you get that crazy idea? He and Baxter led the others into the hangar. Baxter didn't have a gun in his hand."

I grabbed his arm and pulled him back before he stepped through the door and onto the departure platform. "Bear with me, Brock! Are we the last two on board?"

He wrenched his arm from my grasp, "Yeah. What of it?"

"Who sent you back for me?"

"Colonel Wingate, of course," he replied.

"I don't like this one bit, Brock," I muttered. "I think you and I have been deemed expendable."

"Don't be ridiculous!" he snapped. He turned away and stepped onto the platform. A loud crack echoed across the grounds. O'Day fell back into the cabin clutching the side of his neck.

Pulling him away from the portal I cried, "Brock! Are you hit?"

Still clutching his neck he moaned and sat up. "It just grazed my neck," he growled. He lowered his hand to view the blood in his palm. "Son of a bitch! Who shot at me? ...And why?"

"You in the plane!" boomed a voice outside. "That was a warning. Officer O'Day toss your service revolver out of the plane and onto the tarmac! Then both of you come out with your hands behind your head!"

"Damn!" I yelped. "That's Ferrara ... one of the FBI agents!"

Then Wingate's voice rang out, "Don't make me give the order to my men to open up with armor piercing shells! That's one expensive airplane, gentlemen. I don't want to put any holes in it."

"Sergeant O'Day, do as he says. He will give that order," Jeremy Baxter shouted.

Brock looked at me and said, "It's getting so I don't know who to trust anymore." He reached inside of his jacket and removed his gun. He grinned and added, "Where's backup when I need it?"

"Brock, do as they say. Throw the gun out." I cried.

Baxter shouted again, "Michael, if you don't trust me or the colonel ... then listen to the one who is charge of this operation."

"Please, Michael ... Brock! Do as they say," the all too familiar voice cut to my very soul.

Tears of anger and betrayal formed in the corners of my eyes. She had turned against us! She was a traitor ... my wife ... Michelle!"

( To be continued

Out Minded )


Monday, January 17, 2011

Butterfly Dreams (43)

(A sequel to The Strange Story of Mr. Black and Ms Gray.)

They had died when helping thwart a plan to undermine the government of the United States. Now Ben and Susan have returned from the dead and they must bring that government down. Standing in their way are Michael Black and Michelle Gray, the bodies of whom they now occupy.
-(The Story begins HERE)-
An Unlikely Savior

The door at Wingate's back swung open and struck him, the force of which threw him off balance and onto the deck. I looked up to see Faye standing in the doorway. There was as an angry scowl on her face.

"Don't just sit there!" she bellowed. "Grab the son of a bitch's gun!"

Without hesitation I knelt beside him and removed the pistol from the holster, but I was caught off guard when with a sudden reflex motion he grabbed my arm. Despite my efforts to secure the weapon, it squirted from my hand and fell onto the floor between our bodies.

His years of military conditioning proved too much for the more sedentary attention I'd ever given to exercise. The drive of his knee into my groin all but put an end to the struggle. Having reacquired his gun he got to his feet and pointed it at Faye.

"Mrs. O'Day, what do think you're doing?" he roared. "Have you forgotten whose side you're on?"

"You bastard!" she screeched. "You were going kill everyone, including me! How dare you question my loyalty."

There was a sudden jolt of the plane. Wingate seemed to be expecting the disturbance and gloated, "That would be my troops opening the cargo ramp. It's time for us to disembark."

From the corner of my eye I caught movement to the colonel's right. He was turned slightly and realized a second too late that Baxter had been feigning unconsciousness. There was a gush of air escaping Wingate's lungs when the toe of Baxter's shoe impacted his solar plexus. In one moment Wingate had been training his gun on us, in the next it was Baxter standing over him with the gun in hand.

"It was you who taught me to never assume that your enemy is incapacitated. Colonel, it would appear that you violated your own rules of combat," Baxter pontificated to the fallen officer.

Rubbing his abdomen he spoke in defiance, "It doesn't matter. My men have already left the plane. Private Jones has his orders. With or without me, he will detonate those charges the moment he hits terra firma." He moved his arms outward with dancing fingers and said, "Boom!"

Craning his neck to see out of the window Jordan remarked, "I can see several parachutes floating to the ground."

"How ... how can the three of you be so calm? We're all going to die!" Faye cried.

"I don't think so, Mrs. O'Day," Baxter responded, "I'm guessing that the Colonel here has a contingency plan. Despite his outward toughness, this man is no hero, and he's not about to die for any cause."

Wingate snarled, "How dare you speak of me as a coward. You, Baxter, are the coward ... and a traitor!" He didn't wait for Jeremy to respond but turned his verbal tirade at Faye. "...And you! Your father would be ashamed of you and what you've done."

Professor Jordan stood and wagged his finger at the man, "No, he would not! In fact, I'm quite proud of her."

His mouth agape Wingate uttered, "What? What are talking about? Julius Gates is her father."

Her hands on her hips, Faye shook her head and said, "Step-father, Colonel. This man is my biological father."

Baxter addressed me, "Michael, this plane will not be able to land with that cargo ramp down. Could you go close it?" When he saw the word 'how' forming on my lips he said, "In the rear of the troop cabin you will see a panel with a series of buttons. The top-most button will close the ramp."

When I returned to the cabin I nodded to Jeremy that the ramp had been closed. Grinning, I noted that the angry exchanges between Faye, Baxter and Wingate had not abated.

"You fools!" the colonel roared. "You don't realize what you're messing with, and with whom you're messing. It's bigger than all of us. Nothing that happens here on this plane will change anything. Mark my words, there is no stopping us."

Faye turned and looked back into the main cabin. "It looks like whatever you put in the drinks is wearing off, Colonel. They're all beginning to come to."

"Drugged?" Jordan said.

"Yes, drugged. It seems that the colonel here slipped a micky in our drinks. He was going to blow up the plane while they were sleeping."

"You weren't affected?" I asked.

She smiled and shook her head, "No. I didn't have a drink. I tend to get very airsick when I fly, so I took some Dramamine. I thought it best not to mix alcohol when the medicine."

Baxter chuckled, "He knew you didn't drink it, but he wasn't concerned about you being awake. You were part of his team!"

Nodding she responded, "Right. He didn't count on me eavesdropping behind the door and learning about the explosives."

"All I know is that you are our unlikely savior, Mrs. O'Day," I remarked, "even though you acted as such only because you were being betrayed."

Professor Jordan touched my arm and said, "Michael, you should not be so quick to judge her."

I was about to recite any number of suspicious and treacherous acts that could be attributed to her when a voice boomed over the intercom. "This is the pilot, we are approaching the landing strip. We will be touching down in one minute. For your safety, please be seated and secure your seat belts."

( To be continued

Enter the Traitor )


Friday, January 14, 2011

After 'Once Upon A Time'

Do you remember all those fairy tales from our youth?

Have you ever wondered what ever happened to the characters?

Wonder no more!


Snow White

Little Red Riding Hood

Sleeping Beauty

Jasmine  (from Aladdin)

Belle (from Beauty & the Beast)

Ariel (The Little Mermaid)

- Thank you, Cathy


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Butterfly Dreams (42)

(A sequel to The Strange Story of Mr. Black and Ms Gray.)

They had died when helping thwart a plan to undermine the government of the United States. Now Ben and Susan have returned from the dead and they must bring that government down. Standing in their way are Michael Black and Michelle Gray, the bodies of whom they now occupy.
-(The Story begins HERE)-
Purple Mountain Majesty

All but overcome by the old man's revelations, I pressed my index fingers hard against the sides of my head to relieve the throbbing pressure of my temples. I was lost in a sea of chaos where not only nothing was it as it seemed, but no one appeared to be who they really were.

I could feel the plane begin to bank slightly to our right. Glancing in that direction, I figured that it must have been a mid-flight adjustment to bring us on course to our final destination.

Next to me the professor began a slightly off-key chant, "Oh, beautiful for purple mountain majesties ..."

Perhaps he deliberately left out the spacious skies and amber waves of grain lines, or maybe he didn't really know the lyrics I thought. Through the window next to him I could see what had inspired him. In the distance, rising above the clouds, the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains had come into view.

The mountains, however, failed to fill me with patriotic sentiments. If anything, they evoked a sense of dread of what awaited us beneath their peaks. My redundant announcement caught their attention, "We're almost there."

Baxter glanced at his watch and nodded, "Yes. We'll be starting our descent in ten minutes."

"When we land, just what is our plan of action?" I asked. The only response was Jordan's shrug and Baxter's unblinking eyes. "There is a plan in place ... right?"

"A plan?" Baxter grinned. "I would venture to say that there are several plans in place." He waited for the anguish on my face to dissipate and elaborated, "Out there in the main cabin sits Wingate and two FBI agents. I can assure you that the plans of the military and the FBI are not from the same play book. They are not about to share the prize."

My eyes darted between the pair and I growled, "If we're not collaborating our efforts with them, then why on earth are we traveling together?"

"Michael," the professor offered, "might I remind you that there is yet another faction out there? The fact that their organization doesn't officially exist, doesn't mean that they are to be dismissed."

Rubbing my chin I realized what he was inferring. "Ah, our unlikely alliance is intended as a show of force?"

"Precisely," he answered.

Bemused I threw my arms above my head and expounded, "So, when our unnamed friends learn that we are working together ... they're going to shit their pants and just ... walk away?"

"Great plan, eh?" Baxter said, sarcasm ruling the tone of his voice.

I clasped my hands behind my head and stared up at the ceiling for several moments before asking the question to which I already knew the answer, "Who, pray tell, came up with that brilliant plan?"

Although Baxter saw through my feigned query, Jordan did not, "Why, our illustrious Commander-in-Chief of course!"

The door to the main cabin swung open. Wingate walked in and addressed us, "Gentlemen, we are about to land. Buckle up!" He then strode past us and opened a door at the back of the cabin. He looked inside and belched an order, "Men, lock and load!"

Stunned, I attempted to get to my feet but Professor Jordan grabbed my arm. I glared at Wingate and yelped, "You've got armed troops in there! Why?"

Glancing at me he replied with a haughty arrogance, "We might be on the same team ... for now ... but I have my orders to be prepared for armed resistance."

"I was promised that there would be no violence!" Jordan cried. "We are here to seize control of the research facility. We have Butterfly Dreams. There is no need for weapons."

I turned and glared at the old man, "You ... you're a part of this? Whose side are you on?"

"Enough, old man!" Wingate shouted. "My orders are neither subject to interpretation nor open for discussion. Allow me to inform you that as of this moment you are no longer useful to us."

At that moment a soldier stepped forward from the rear cabin. He snapped to attention and saluted, "Everything is ready, just as you ordered, sir."

In what seemed to be one fluent move, Wingate withdrew his pistol from the holster at his waist and swung his arm to his left. Baxter crumpled in his seat from the force of the gun striking the side of his head. I had no more than opened my mouth when the muzzle of weapon was pressed against my forehead.

"Relax, Mr. Black," he said holstering his gun. Standing before me, his hands on his hips, a menacing sneer stretching his mouth into an angry crevice, he spoke slowly and deliberately, "I'm afraid there is going to be a most unfortunate accident. When I give the command, the private here will be detonating several strategically placed C-4 charges."

I slumped in my seat and sighed, "Of course you and your men will have disembarked by then."

"Of course! My mission is to eliminate the subversive elements that are a threat to our operations and to protect those operations at all costs. While my men and I are parachuting safely to earth, you and your friends on board will die in an unexplained midair explosion of this craft."

( To be continued

An Unlikely Savior )


Saturday, January 08, 2011

Here's Mud Ennui

Well, it's been nine days since I officially dropped out of the ranks of the working stiffs. It's too small of a sampling to know how I like being among the retired stiffs.

So far it has felt more like I've been off for the long New Year's weekend followed by a week's vacation. In a nutshell, it really hasn't registered yet. One thing is for certain, ennui has yet to come knocking.

The New Year began with taking down the outdoor Christmas decorations, followed by stowing the fiber-optic tree away until next December. Of course, there was still some cleanup from the Blizzard of 2010. Then on two occasions my wife convinced me I should accompany her to the grocery store because more snow had been forecast for the upcoming weekend.

Oh yeah, why should she have to cook after we'd gone food shopping? Just what I needed: to wait in a long line at a popular restaurant with others who didn't want to cook either.

I had almost forgotten that last week I'd promised a friend I would take to him a doctor's appointment. Oh well, I had nothing better to do than to sit in a hospital waiting room for those three hours anyway!

Damn! I remembered that I needed to run to the gas station to fill up my gasoline can. I wouldn't want to run out of gas for the snow blower!

(Expletives deleted) We went to the grocery store twice this week - what do you mean we need milk?

Bored? I haven't found time to get bored!

It seems that I've been spending more time in my shoes than in my slippers! I've been sitting behind a steering wheel more than I have been in repose in my recliner. Things seemed to be less hectic when I was working.

Among my Christmas gifts were some DVDs. I've had them sitting in waiting for when boredom sets in. Needless to say, they haven't come into play to be played as of yet. The movies include: Avatar (the Director's cut); The Town; Inception; Jonah Hex; The A-Team; and Knight and Day.

Then there is the matter of this blog - especially the fictional story, "Butterfly Dreams," which has been in limbo since 12/10/10. Distracted by the NFL playoff games this weekend, I will be delving back into that tale starting tomorrow, 1/10/11, and will be posted the next installment soon. (I'll have to go back and read previous installments to refresh my memory where the story stands.)

It would seem that it will not be soon that I find time to become bored.

Here's mud ennui !


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Deconstructing Christmas

The bane of Christmas decorations: 

Taking them down and storing them until next year.

It's one of those annual rites of the New Year. Remember how you get into the spirit of Christmas when you cheerfully deck your house inside and out with all those festive decorations?

Isn't it kind of ironic when it comes to taking it all down, I think of it as deconstructing Christmas, that the task seems to be rather laborious? It tends to become one of those chores that you are prone to put off until later, like say, tomorrow or the day after.

While performing this duty today, I came across a box of ornaments that we haven't used in quite some time. These were special and have sentimental value to us. I'd like to believe they are probably one of a kind.

I thought it would be a good idea to share the images of them. I scanned them and uploaded them to this post.

They were hung on our Christmas trees when my daughter, Gretchen, was younger and still lived with us. All of them were hand-made by myself. They are hand-drawn and hand-painted onto various shaped pieces of wood. You might recognize that the one to the left was fashioned from a wooden stirrer.

The 3 figures at the right were made from those wooden sticks used to stir a can of paint.

Quite a few of our Christmas trees over the years had no store-bought ornaments on the branches, instead they were decked out with these hand-made ones.

On several occasions Gretchen has taken a few of my pieces, her favorites, to her new home. I've been noticing that the contents of the box housing my collection has been dwindling in numbers over the years. That's okay, of course. I guess we should look at them as family heirlooms which are intended to be handed down.

Now that I'm retired, I'm thinking that I should return to my shop and start producing more of these items. I use to sell my wood crafts and did alright. For us retirees, extra spending money in the pocket never hurts.


Monday, January 03, 2011

Zanter Klauzen (Part 8)

Stranded in a cabin deep in a Minnesota wood, a woman and her two children face an uncertain Christmas. With their supplies dwindling she began to pray that they would survive to see the new year. Then he appeared, a strange man lurking in the shadows of the snow covered firs. How long would he watch them before making his move?

The story begins HERE

Zanter Klauzen reckoned that he had been living alone in his beloved forest for all of thirty-four years. Except for his occasional visits into town to sell his toys and firewood, he had kept his distance from civilization. The people hadn't bothered him and he had been only too happy to return the favor.

Then one day she had returned. He had been observing Norma's treks through the deep woods. Ever since she had first arrived at the cabin she had been taking daily hikes into the forested tract. He had dared to suspect that she might be looking for him. It was with heavy heart that he'd decided that any contact between them was to be avoided.

The weight of the world began to weigh heavily on him when another eleven years had come to pass. He knew then that his hermitic life would never be the same. He knew that the young woman and her two children, although he'd never seen them before that day, were his daughter and grandchildren.

He had raised the orphaned fawn after a hunter had taken its mother as a trophy. It would follow him whenever he ventured into the woods. So it was three days earlier that it had strayed into the path of an oncoming vehicle.

Marilee tiptoed out of the closet and closed the door. She didn't want the intruders to know where she'd been hiding or that her two children were there. She hoped that they would believe she was alone in the cabin.

"Come out!" Jim bellowed while his cohort took up position behind him. "Don't make me come in there after you."

"I'm coming out now," she cried. "Please don't shoot!"

At the same moment that she appeared in the doorway to the back rooms there was a loud crash somewhere outside of the cabin. She saw both of the men turn toward the window they'd broken. She stood frozen, not daring to make a move that might be considered threatening.

With his gun trained in her direction he shouted, "Billy, go see what that noise was!"

There was another loud noise and then another. Billy's hands were shaking and his eyes were wide with fear, "Jesus Christ, Jim. Someone's banging on the door!" He fell to his knees and crawled to the window. "It must be the cops! They found us!"

Jim was trying to remain calm. He knew he had a bargaining chip. "Billy, tell whoever it is we've got a hostage."

There was more banging, not at the door, but on the far side of the cabin. Beneath the window his partner was on the floor curled into a near fetal position and was sobbing. "They ... they've got us surrounded!"

"Come out where I can see you!" Jim roared at the back of the house.

The banging at the door resounded again. Jim heard the shuffle of Billy's feet and turned to see his partner scrambling to get outside through the broken window. "Billy! What do you think you're doing? Come back!"

Marilee was trembling and struggled to hold back the tears of terror wracking her body. "Go away! Leave us alone!" she screeched. She gasped when he spun around to face her.

Jim leveled the gun in her direction and sneered, "You think you're brave, eh? I've got news for you, you're one dumb broad!" He squeezed the trigger twice.

Norma heard the sound of two cracks echoing through the dense stands of evergreens. She tried to pick up her pace in the knee-deep snow. Her head was throbbing and she could feel the trickle of blood upon her forehead.

She cursed her dumb luck. Sergeant Barker had told her that the two men had run out of gas and had left their car in the road. She cursed the blizzard conditions. She hadn't seen the car until she was on top of it. She had plowed headlong into it.

When she stepped into the clearing in view of the cabin she stumbled and fell into the deep snow. She looked up and saw two men struggling to climb up the small hillock next to her home. She panicked, realizing that they must have broken into the place. Were they the bank robbers? Were those gunshots she'd heard?

She caught movement to the right of the fleeing men. Something was following them from within the ground-hugging branches of the firs. "Zanter, it must be Zanter," she muttered.

She allowed her face to rest in the snow. She hoped the cold surface would ease the pounding in her head and perhaps stop the flow of blood from the gash on her forehead.

She was still trembling after the second man had also fled through the window. Dumfounded, she ran her hands up and down her chest and abdomen. He couldn't have been more than ten feet away from her. How had he not hit her?

Rebecca and Jon had come out of hiding and were standing next to her. The tracks of his tears still visible on his cheeks, her son queried, "Are they gone, mommy?"

Marilee's nod was weak, but it assured the nine-year-old that they were safe. She turned to Rebecca and said, "You and your brother, go sit on the couch and be still." She inched her way toward the door and added, "I'll make sure it's safe."

She freed the dead bolt and swung the door open and was greeted by a swirl of snow kicked up by a gust of arctic-like wind. Her eyes fell upon the tracks of the two men. From the window, they disappeared beyond the crest of the small hill. Then she saw something moving parallel to their tracks. She was sure it was the old man. One moment he was there, and then he was gone. Moments later she heard two retorts of what sounded like a gun being fired.

Terror once again grabbing at her, she was about to close the door when something else caught her eye. Straight ahead was ... someone face down in the snow. "Mother?" she muttered. She inhaled deep to gain strength in her lungs and screamed, "Mother!"

He looked down upon the unmoving figures. When their bodies were found, probably after the spring thaw, it would appear that one had shot the other before turning the gun upon himself. Kneeling and without emotion, he positioned the pistol in the hand of the nearest body. He looked up through the driven snow and guessed that they would be completely covered beneath the night's accumulation before sunrise.

He stood within the shelter of some fir branches and looked up onthe scene below. He watched Marilee help the Norma to her feet. He felt a strange sensation of warmth within his chest as the two youngsters emerged from the cabin.

He turned away and slipped into the woods. He would not be welcome at the tearful reunion of mother and daughter. Unlike Norma, he would not be able to experience the joy of meeting the grandchildren. "Not now," he murmured, "perhaps later when they are ready."

He had chores to complete, but first he would have to retrieve the Christmas bundles from Norma's car. He would make certain that those kids awakened to find gifts beneath their tree on Christmas morning.

At least he could find solace in the fact that he'd arranged for his family to get together for the holiday. When and if they would eventually realize his part in the drama of the past few days, perhaps then, and only then could he join them.

He reached the edge of another clearing. He stopped and looked around. He knew that place. He remembered that it had happened in that very spot. He looked up. It was still there. He didn't wish to remember that day. He tried to concentrate instead on events that were more current.

His deer had stood by at the top of the ravine while he had worked his way down to the nearly buried vehicle. It had taken him thirty minutes to pull them from the SUV and up to the road. The two children riding on the back of the deer and he carrying the woman, it had taken nearly an hour to get them to the cabin.

He had put them into the beds, had lit the logs in the fireplace to keep them warm, and had maintained a vigil on the cabin for several days. On two occasions when he'd checked on them, the woman had seen him through the window. It had been unsettling to have made eye contact for the first time with the daughter he'd never known.

He'd been watching the two men. He'd felt that they were not to be trusted. They had ignored his presence but he'd followed them nonetheless to the cabin. It was then that he'd heard the sound of an automobile crash.

By the time he'd made it to the scene of the accident, Norma was slumped forward, her head against the steering wheel. As he had done with the young woman and the children, he'd pulled her from the mangled wreckage and then had made the arduous trip carrying her to the cabin. 

He'd just set her down in view of the cabin at the edge of the clearing when he'd heard the two gun shots. He'd never before acted in anger until then. He knew that if he'd stayed within the tree line, he would be able to overtake them while they struggled to climb the drift-covered hill. Although he'd been surrounded by death, he'd never killed until that moment.

His thoughts returning to the present, he continued to stare at it. Through all the years it still hung there. He had climbed high into that tree. He had slipped the noose about his head. Then he'd leapt out into space with only the length of the rope to prevent him from hitting the ground below.

"It's funny," he whispered to himself, "how one can die and yet feel very much alive." It had taken him until that very moment to realize that he'd died almost thirty years ago.

He glanced back in the direction of the cabin and thought of the woman he had loved, their daughter and their grandchildren. How long would it be before they asked him to join them in their celebration? How long would it be before they too realized that they had died in two separate accidents?

In the early hours of the morning he stepped back and admired the Christmas tree and the many presents beneath it. He knew he should not be there when they awoke in the morning.

He was about to move toward the door when something on the sofa caught his attention. It was an open coloring book. He picked it up and stared for several moments at the page that had been recently colored by one or both of the children. He smiled and nearly laughed.

Except for the bright red, as opposed to the purple of his own apparel, he had to admit that there was a striking resemblance between him and the image of the iconic jolly old man.

At the top of the page one of the children had written the words: Santa Claus. He was momentarily stunned to see what had been written beneath the picture. In Norma Jorgensen's own handwriting and in large letters, the name seemed to jump from the page: Zanter Klauzen !

He stepped through the door and closed it behind him. He didn't notice that Norma had been standing in the doorway to the back of the house. He didn't realize she'd been watching him. He didn't hear her words when she exclaimed, "It's good to see you, Zanter Klauzen."


Saturday, January 01, 2011

Zanter Klauzen (Part 7)

Stranded in a cabin deep in a Minnesota wood, a woman and her two children face an uncertain Christmas. With their supplies dwindling she began to pray that they would survive to see the new year. Then he appeared, a strange man lurking in the shadows of the snow covered firs. How long would he watch them before making his move?

The story begins HERE

Although his friends, all of them long dead, had advised him against it, he had filed the deed to the property in the name of his beloved Norma. To him, it would have been the ultimate gift to the woman he planned to wed. Surely her parents, who had been against their relationship, would have seen that he was worthy of their daughter's hand.

Alas, that would never happen. He had been devastated two months later to learn that the Jorgensen family had pulled up stakes and had moved to somewhere in the southeast. Norma had made no attempt to contact him.

He had made up his mind to burn the cabin to the ground and he would have done so had he not received news that Norma had given birth to a child. With only faith to guide him, he knew the child was his.

So it was that he'd built another cabin deeper in the woods. He had vowed to himself to watch over the land that he hoped would someday belong to his daughter. To keep himself busy, he'd set up a small shop to make toys in the structure. He had dreamt that one day his daughter might play with his creations.

It hadn't taken him long to learn that there was a small market for his toys. In time his products supplemented his meager firewood business and brought in enough money for him to subsist.

He had been mildly amused when his toy-making prowess and the similarity of his name had many of the local children thinking he was a certain mythical figured associated with Christmas. That was when his troubles began in earnest.

She didn't know where she'd found the courage, but Marilee began to crawl from the hiding place in the back of the closet. Before opening the panel she looked back over shoulder at her frightened children.

"Remember what I told you. No matter what happens, stay put and be quiet," she whispered to Rebecca and Jon. Whimpering they huddled together and nodded in solemn obedience.

She froze and held her breath when a piece of flooring creaked under the weight of her hand.

Billy spun around and shouted, "What was that?"

"What was what?" the other man asked.

"You didn't hear that?" queried the more nervous of the two intruders.

Jim frowned at his friend, "Nope. You must be hearing things."

To her horror when Marilee lifted her hand from the suspect floorboard, it creaked again in protest to her shifting weight. She had been so worried about her kids giving away their presence, that it was she who had made the only sounds.

"There it is again!" Billy uttered. "Tell me you didn't hear that?"

"You wuss!" his partner scolded. "It's an old cabin. It could be the wind, the snow on the roof, just about anything could make the timbers creak." He grinned and pointed to the sofa and the objects upon it. "Why don't you sit down over there with those coloring books and crayons?"

"No!" Jon moaned. Rebecca was quick to cover his mouth with her hand.

Jim twisted his head in the direction of what sounded like a voice. He glanced at Billy to see if he'd heard it also.

"Creaking timber? I never heard of timber talking!" Billy snapped at his companion.

Raising his hand to quieten the other Jim said, "We're not alone. There's someone else in this cabin." He reached beneath his jacket and produced a pistol he'd used in the bank heist. "Come out. I know you're here. I've got a gun and I know how to use it!"

Panic setting in, Marilee pushed aside the panel. She couldn't let them find the kids. Her welfare was of little consequence if she could at least protect Rebecca and Jon.

Norma's thoughts were taking her back to a past she had been suppressing far too long. Her past was rife with mistakes. She knew that with her stubborn resolve she had ruined too many lives. This was her chance to make things right with her daughter ... and with the grandchildren she'd never known.

A sob escaped her throat as she realized she could never hope to atone for what she'd done to poor Zanter. She was overcome with shame that it had taken nearly all of her life for her to feel any remorse whatsoever. When she'd returned to Minnesota, she had been stunned to find that the cabin he'd built was on record at city hall in her name.

Tears began to well up in the corners of her eyes. Her parents had been wrong about Zanter Klauzen. He was worthy of her. Had she learned from her parents' misguided control? No, she had not. She had tried to do the same thing to her own daughter. Her daughter, however, had been stronger than she had been. She had gone against her mother's will and had followed her heart. If only she had been as strong.

Years before, she'd heard talk in town that the local kids believed that Santa Claus lived in the forest. There were many reports of a strange man being seen in those woods.

One little girl, sincerity glowing in her eyes, had told her that she'd seen him one Christmas Eve. According to her he was carrying a large sack full of toys. An urban legend perhaps, but the little girl was only one of many local children who believed in him and his presence in the deep woods.

Norma had no doubt in her mind that the mysterious figure had to be none other than one Zanter Klauzen. She had spent one summer exploring the woods near her cabin hoping to find the man. If he had been out there, she'd never found him. She sighed and accepted the fact that he must have been avoiding her.

( To be continued ... the conclusion. )