Because I Simply Don’t Talk Enough.

So here’s the thing:

I’m turning this blog into a podcast. I bought the domain over at http://www.ClaireDeLunacy.com and I’ve migrated this blog over there.

In addition to the occasional scribblings you get from me here (or, er, there, in the future at least), there will be (God help us all) the Claire De Lunacy podcast. That’s right, a whole hour, every week, of yours truly, with call-in guests (it’s true!), some commentary, and a few new surprises (e.g., every tenth caller is randomly either hugged by a stripper,  hit in the stomach by a large, angry Hungarian, or given the power of flight*).

Every week starting NEXT SUNDAY, MAY 2nd, 2010, I’ll be hosting an hour-long free-for-all discussion covering topics (in no particular order) that I’ve posted here on Claire De Lunacy.

I already have the call-in set up, I’ll be posting the info as we get closer to the big day. In the interim, my dear, sweet friends, ruminate on these topics:

1) The hubbub surrounding Israel Luna’s odious “transploitation” film “Ticked Off Trannies with Knives.”

2) Clash of the Smitin’s: Unnecessary Remakes and Why They Suck.

3) And speaking of Things That Should Not Be™, a whole new slew of, er, Things That Should Not Be™ (got a nomination? SEND IT TO ME…NAO!)

4) LGBTidbits™ (Those of you familiar with my Twitter feed will recognize this topic. Everyone else, just be prepared to discuss the week’s LGBT news. Well, I mean, not SUPER prepared. There won’t be a quiz or anything.)

5) The Super-Fun Book Club of Fun-ness™ returns! Our book for the month of May is “American Lion,” a very compelling biography of Andrew Jackson by Jon Meachem (you don’t have to read the entire book for the first podcast, we’ll be discussing it in general and also you get to sit and listen to me explain how the SFBCOF™ works…I know, I know – does the fun ever START?)

6) Random Review: NetFlix for the Wii Or, as I like to call it, “My television’s desperate final ploy to remain relevant to my existence.” (as ploys go, it’s surprisingly effective)

7) SPECIAL BONUS TOPIC!  CASTING: UR DOIN IT WRONG We’ll be discussing how remakes SHOULD be cast, as well as remakes we’d like to see, and a whole bunch of other nerdy stuff that will make the non-nerdy among you (should you exist) throw up your hands and say “But I LIKE Matthew McCan’tActy as Dirk Pitt!

Eventually, I’ll be taking these podcasts into Audacity to strip out all the “erms,” and “uhhhs” and “Doyyyy” sounds. But for the first month or so, it’s the Wild effing West, baby! (something tells me that we’ll earn our “Explicit” rating within the first ten minutes. I know how you think, Hordelings!)

Each week’s info will also be posted to the web site, so don’t get your collective panties in a bunch if there’s something we natter on about that catches your…ear(?) and you don’t have a pencil handy.

I hope to hear from you, friends. It’s sure to be a fun time, or at least more entertaining than having your pinkie torn off by an iPad thief.**

*No, not really.
** OK, to be fair, some people might get off on that, so I will say it’s LIKELY to be more fun. You sick bastards.
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Claire & Company Winter Wallpapers

Happy Holidays, Horde!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I thought I might share with you a little gift: FREE holiday wallpaper, featuring the characters from my very-occasional comic, “Claire & Company!” (also known as “Claire De Lunacy,” depending on the vintage!)

Anyway, here they are.  Consider them a lil’ “Thanks!” for being a reader.

Cheers!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Oscar is what we call a "special needs" cat.

Oscar is what we call a "special needs" cat.

CDL Blogoversary, Day Seven: TV is Life

We’re celebrating Claire De Lunacy’s First Blogoversary, and I’ve invited some very gracious and awesome friends to contribute to this mess, sharing their words with you, my beloved readers. Through June 10th, there will be a new post from a different guest each day, culminating with a new, full-length short story by yours truly. I hope you enjoy my guests’ work as much as I do, and I hope you’ll stick around to see what happens during the NEXT year.

[Today’s Guest Blogger is Megan Gesing, a pal I met on The Twitter. Megan is a 27 year-old Instructional Designer, Actress, Filmmaker and Artist.  She’s from Cleveland, OH but lives in Las Vegas, NV for the time being.  Contrary to popular belief, she doesn’t live in a casino and hates gambling. She really loves the sun and doesn’t eat meat.

Megan writes a blog called Love, Megan.  Check it out! http://www.lovemegan.net]

I watch a lot of TV.  I always have.  I’ve been acting since I was a kid, so I attribute this to research.  With all of this TV watching, I began developing this theory… See, my life can be pretty bizarre- Sometimes unbelievably so.  Stuff happens to me that you only see on TV… so, I’ve come to the conclusion that my life is a TV show- or more accurately a series of TV shows based on the same character.

When I was a kid, I was the cute little girl on a family comedy.  The kind of girl who’s mom dressed her up in pretty clothes and dress shoes, but who insisted on going outside and attempting to climb a tree anyway.  This always ended badly… but not horribly, so the audience (whoever and wherever they are) could laugh and shake their heads at her.  “Aw, that poor girl.” There were ups and downs, laughs and tears… Just like any good family comedy.

Through Junior High and High School, my show was more like “Boy Meets World” or something like that.  I had a great group of friends and we were pretty wholesome.  There was always just enough excitement and embarrassment to make the audience cringe and fall in love.  C’mon- you know the kind of show.  There were some great characters that got their own spin-offs and you always knew it was going to end at some point.  It may be sad, but high school can’t last forever, right?

Well, then I went to college.  My show got a complete overhaul: new location, new cast, new attitude.  It wasn’t really “wholesome” anymore.  It was dramatic and intense.  I got into trouble, I got my heart broken, I learned a lot about myself. I’m pretty sure it made for great TV week after week.  We always had summer break and a new season started every fall.  Each spring, something shocking would happen that would leave us all hanging waiting for the “season” to start in the fall.  Each year we’d welcome new characters and say good-bye to others.  People were scandalous, crazy, supportive and loving.  I mean, it was college.  Then I graduated and I’m pretty sure my show got cancelled.

But, audiences must like me because I landed a part on a wholesome kids show, playing their sarcastic-but-loving daycare teacher.  I couldn’t take this for too long, so I moved to Las Vegas.

That’s the show I’m on now.  It’s been “on the air” for three years now.  It’s exactly what you’d expect from a 20-something dramedy.  Insane roommates, ridiculously unhealthy relationships, challenging jobs, new friends…  It was a great show for a long time- but it’s pretty boring now.  I need a change.

I’ve been doing my best to change to the storylines myself, but sometimes I get the sinking feeling that I have no control.  I get the feeling that nothing’s going to change right now.  Maybe the writers are on strike, or the production company gets a great deal to shoot in Las Vegas.  Something completely out of my control is keeping me stuck here.

We’re going on summer break.  The show’s going to be in repeats for a few months and for the first time in a lifetime, there’s no big cliffhanger ending… There’s no big mystery to solve or surprise to wait for next fall.  Just a 28th birthday. Woo!

Think about it, we’re all stars of our own TV shows.  People make guest appearances on each other’s shows and shows spin off from each other.  We’re all the star of our own show… or at least we should be.  When the storyline falters and you start to feel like a secondary cast member on someone else’s show, there’s a problem.

Actors have shown us that it’s possible to demand quality from your writers: more face time, a more interesting plotline for your character- whatever you need. Just look what it did for the cast of Grey’s Anatomy- OK, maybe not the best example…

But as the star of my show, I’m demanding better storylines.  This fall, it’s going to be the start of the BEST SEASON ever.  Something big is going to happen.  Things are going to change.  I just really hope I don’t get a brain tumor or hit by a bus…

Stay tuned.

[It’s me again. Speaking as the star of literally dozens of mental television shows, I can confirm that we are each living in a program of our own making. Be sure to tune into Megan’s site for more fun and a possible season-ending cliffhanger involving ninjas, ferrets and a surprise special guest!*

*NOTE: I am, in fact, making this up.

Coming up tomorrow: The CDL Blogoversary celebration comes to a close with a COMPLETE short story from the Circe universe, courtesy of yours truly. Walk, don’t run, to your nearest chair and perch on the edge with anticipation, won’t you?]

CDL Blogoversary, Day Six: Reduction Redux

We’re celebrating Claire De Lunacy’s First Blogoversary, and I’ve invited some very gracious and awesome friends to contribute to this mess, sharing their words with you, my beloved readers. Through June 10th, there will be a new post from a different guest each day, culminating with a new, full-length short story by yours truly. I hope you enjoy my guests’ work as much as I do, and I hope you’ll stick around to see what happens during the NEXT year.

[Today’s Guest Blogger is Heather Holmes. I met her through a mutual friend and then got to know her better on The InterWebz via Twitter and Facebook. Heather’s undergoing breast reduction surgery TODAY, and has opted to share her story with us here. Drop by her web site, Bohemian Bumblings, and say hi!]

We always want what we can’t have.  We all are always saying, “I wish I had this,” or “I want that” (insert your own wishes and wants).  I think women in particular are guiltier of this, perhaps because of the standards to which we often feel we’re held by society.

Let’s take a common example – breasts.  Breast augmentation accounts for nearly 20% of all procedures done today in plastic surgery.  That is a whole lot of fake boobs, especially when you consider just how many procedures fall into the plastic surgery category.  A week ago, I was sitting in a scientific session where researchers were discussing a promising new material for breast implants that is potentially safer and more durable than what’s being used today.  Huh.  “That’s funny,” I thought, “considering that in a week I’m going in for breast reduction.  My SECOND breast reduction. SO many women are paying thousands of dollars [or using myfreeimplants.com – yes, it is a real site] for something I’m willfully getting rid of.”  It would seem that I have the unique ability to regenerate boobs.  Don’t you wish you were me?

No, you don’t, actually.  You can sit there and wish all you want, but take it from someone who is on the not-so-much greener side of the grass, large breasts aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.  Maybe I’m a bit more negative because I have had them for so long.  I’m not gonna lie –  I’ve used them to my advantage on more than one occasion.  But, when you’re 11 years old with a D-cup and most of your friends have barely hit the training bra stage, you can be sure it’s going to be a rough ride.

I remember sitting at lunch in 7th grade and all the boys giggling and being stupid.  Come to find out they were acting that way because one of them happened to notice I was sitting sort of hunched over (a common way to sit when you have ginormous boobs) with my boobs resting on the table top.  Not something I was doing intentionally I assure you! At that point in my life. I was really doing all I could to try to hide how huge they were.  Plus, in schools (or any big building) the air conditioning makes you freeze, and freezing boobs = erect nipples.  Try to hide D cups with high beams as a 12 year old – Ha!  Another time, in 8th grade, one of the boys told me that I had an uncanny knack for wearing tight shirts.  He was complimenting me; I was trying to figure out WTF “uncanny knack” meant.  Funny, I use that term all the time now.  Once I learned what it meant back then, though,  it just added to my trying to minimize them.

Bad posture is another problem.  Clothes that don’t fit properly, either because they’re too tight, or too loose and sloppy.  High beams.  Nicknames (my favorite being “Mount EverBreast”).  Custom-made bras because they don’t make ones to fit you at the store.  Yeah, all fun that you want to have, right?  I have yet to mention that up until I was about 25 I was moderately thin.  And short.  Little woman, ginormous boobs.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Skipping ahead to 2007.  I decided to undergo breast reduction surgery.  I was very open about this with my friends and family and received an amazing amount of support, mostly because they all knew what I’d suffered with for so long.  Sure there were a few naysayers.  “You’ve got a gift most women would kill for.”  Well, as it turns out I’m not most women, and I’m nearly willing to kill to be done with them.  I’m not an organ donor but I did tell a few people that if I could donate my breast tissue to them I would (I guess that’s something that hasn’t been scientifically studied yet).

About a month after the surgery, I was sporting great new perky boobs and feeling pretty good.  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that another downside to these monsters is that they sag.  I look fine when I have a GOOD bra on but if I don’t my nipples are having a party with my navel.  Imagine how fun that is!  The weight is ridiculous.  I have no idea what this translates to, but with the procedure in 2007 about 450cc’s was removed from each breast [Editor’s Note: That translates to 15.2 ounces, or nearly two cups].  I think that’s quite a bit.  So yeah, back to the perky boobs…they were awesome.

“Were” being the operative term, naturally.  Shortly after the surgery, I went for my annual gynecological exam and decided to start on a different birth control.  I use the term “birth control” loosely, because for me it has always been hormone adjustment.  That is, keeping me sane, keeping my family from killing me, and keeping me from having 20 day periods.  Any ideas yet on where this is going?

People are all prone to different things.  Acne, weight gain, allergies, breast regeneration.  Oh wait, that last one is just me.  Or just me and about ONE in every 200,000 women that undergo reduction.  It isn’t a natural thing really, it is something that we do to ourselves, but it happens to so few of us that it is hardly acknowledged.  It seems that one of the things I am prone to is receptive hormones.  That probably explains the 20 day periods and the psycho moods (okay, more psycho than normal).  Oh, and it also explains why within 2 years my C’s went back to DDD/F’s.  What can I say?  Hormones love me.  It isn’t a mutual love though, that’s for sure.

Interesting though, isn’t it?  All of it – the way the human body works, the way the mind works.  We want and wish and hope and dream.  Often times, we can’t appreciate what we have, other times we are seriously hindered by what we have.  Someone once said to me that I was going to sit around and wish my life away.  Rather prophetic if you think about what that means.

I am fortunate that I am able to deal with my problem – and I know what caused it so I shouldn’t have to deal with it again.  IF, and that’s a BIG IF, it happens again while I’m not putting any hormones into my body (other than what is pumped into my food) I’m finding some budding scientist to do testing on my genes and find out what is causing my spontaneous re-growth and I’m bottling that shit and selling it.  I could give so many women what they think always wanted and I could make serious bank.  Seriously though, I hope it doesn’t come to that.

Back to where I started though –thinking about women, and some men, who actually get implants so they have breasts.  I can certainly understand the desire.  Breasts can be great confidence builders, they can give an appearance of absolute feminism, they are simply identifiers of that which is woman.  You’ve seen a very small part of my story to know that they can also be a really horrible thing to live with.  I haven’t even touched on the back pain that I have or how hard it is for me to find nice clothes or how hard it is to sleep at night or how I’m constantly fighting a rash that develops underneath them.  The pain is the real reason I am having it done again, it isn’t because I love surgery or anything.  It is because I’m miserable.  Yuck.

So to all the girls and boys out there that love boobs – keep on loving them.  If you want them I hope you get them.  Just remember that sometimes you really do get what you hope for, and sometimes it turns out to be a nightmare.  By the time you read this, I’ll have undergone the procedure and should be near recovery.  Know that you’re reading the words of a woman written with DDD’s but at the end of the last sentence she’ll be a C again.

Cheers.

[It’s me again. What can I say? I’m speechless. I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly re-evaluating my personal wish list. Be sure to stop by Heather’s site and wish her a speedy recovery, or hit her up on The Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/LaVieBoheme73 (she’s got her updates protected, so a little paitence may be in order).

Coming up tomorrow: Television, and why it is is both inescapable and necessary. See you then!]

CDL Blogoversary Day Five: “Simon Velour Retaliates”

We’re celebrating Claire De Lunacy’s First Blogoversary, and I’ve invited some very gracious and awesome friends to contribute to this mess, sharing their words with you, my beloved readers. Through June 10th, there will be a new post from a different guest each day, culminating with a new, full-length short story by yours truly. I hope you enjoy my guests’ work as much as I do, and I hope you’ll stick around to see what happens during the NEXT year.

[Today’s Guest Blogger is Stuart Beaton. Stuart’s something of a mystery to me, I only know him through his strange – well, to be honest – warped persona on Twitter. He masqueraded as a stuffed monkey for several month, then threw in the towel, to move on to “somewhere else”.

Somewhere else, it seems, is China. There he pretends to teach English, whilst trying to do as little work as possible.

Judging by his website, “The Small Picture” (http://rastous.spaces.live.com), he’s succeeding. It seems he’s a plump little thing with a penchant for food, guns and an expanding collection of Totoros, Spongebobs and Doraemons.

Which leads me to think he’s probably right round the twist, but, hey, who cares, right?

Anyway, Stuart’s Australian by birth, educated at Adelaide Uni, and has lived and worked in both China and Japan.

It seems that occasionally, he’s struck by brilliance – so here’s a short piece of fiction, weeded from the normal dross he produces.]

The man opposite Simon was unusually tall for a Japanese, and muscle filled out the lines of his Armani suit. He gripped a tumbler of whiskey and ice in one hand, and a punch corona in the other.

“Velour-san, let me understand what you’re asking of me… you are asking me to help you to recover something stolen from your government, by a rival clan?”

Simon sipped at his drink, and shuffled gently on the soft leather sofa. “Er, well, yes. It’s rather embarrassing really… I can’t make it official, but I must get the briefcase back. And I understand that you have no love for this other mob, anyway.”

“Ah, Velour-san, perhaps you do not realise that your request, as it stands, is very unusual. Why should I help you with this endeavour?”

“Oh, Kenichi, you have such a short memory… who saved your arse last year, when those bastards tried to blow your head off in the bar, eh? Weren’t  you glad that the lads and I were there that night?”

“Verlour-san…”

“That guy did have the barrel of a pistol to your head, Kenichi, when I hit him with the bench.”

“Ok, Velour-san, we’ll do what we can to help you. Now, what do you need?”

“Kenichi, old son, I’m going to need a light for this cigar for starters….”

*

The black limo rolled to a halt outside the office block, and Simon stepped out of it onto the footpath.

“Jesus, this is their headquarters? At least the Guineas have a little more style.”

The grey block was two minutes walk from the Kashiwa train station, but a world removed from the department stores that the Station Mall housed.

Barely 15 stories tall, it was a light weight beside its Shinjuku cousins.

The ground floor housed a run down bar and a florist, which were separated by a small lobby.

Simon stuck his head into the limo, and told the driver to keep the car running.

“Ok, Kenichi”, he muttered under his breath, as he strolled across the lobby, “we’ll try it your nice, polite way first.”

A reception desk was located next to the lift wells, and pretty young lass behind it rattled off a string of Japanese at him as he approached.

“Sorry, M’Dear, I didn’t quite catch that – come again?”

“I said, sir, can I help you?”

“Yes, you most certainly can. Get on that phone, and tell Mr Suzuki that Mr Velour is here to talk to him about a briefcase.”

“Er, sir….”

“Do it. Now.”

The woman picked up a phone, and held what sounded to Simon like a rather heated conversation, before she replaced it again on its cradle.

“Mr Suzuki will see you now, sir. If you’d like to take that lift to the top floor….”

As if by magic, the lift doors glided open, and a pair of heavyset guards stepped out. Simon got in, and the goons flanked him as the doors closed.

Simon was quickly but efficiently patted down for weapons before the lift arrived at the top floor. When the doors opened, Simon was stunned for a moment by the subtle opulence of the place – a far cry from the shabby exterior of the building.

“Ah, the remarkable Simon Velour… you honour us with your presence. To what do we owe such an honour?”

Simon slipped walked across the polished floor towards a large mahogany desk, by which a short man in a dark black suit stood. Behind him, a pair of cleaners worked diligently on a descending rig, polishing the large plate glass window.

“Mr Suzuki, I presume?”

“Yes.”

“I believe you have something that belongs to me… a briefcase one of your lot lifted from a cargo terminal at Narita. I’d like it back… and I’d like it back now.”

Suzuki’s face flushed red, and he snarled, “You have a lot of impertinence, even for a gaijin, Velour. What is to stop me from simply killing you now, and keeping the briefcase?”

“Because, you idiot, there are two men with machine guns standing behind you.”

Suzuki turned, and gazed at the smiling faces of the two “cleaners” who stood holding H&K MP5’s outside his office window.

“No use calling for help, either, Suzuki mate, your lads are a bit tied up with a punch up in your bar, too. Now… about that briefcase?”

Suzuki’s face was a mask of rage, one that would have suited any samurai’s armour, as he walked towards a large bar against the wall of the room. Simon crossed the distance to him, careful not to interrupt the line of fire of the two gun men.

“Ah, ah, ah, not so fast Suzuki”, Simon said as the man unlatched a concealed panel. “A smart man would have a weapon in there, too. Open it nice and slow, and don’t make any sudden moves.”

The panel slid silently open, revealing the plain black leather briefcase – and a pair of 9mm Glock pistols. Simon picked up the case, and gave it a careful heft.

“I trust you’ve not been stupid enough to open this? No? Good. Then I shall bid you adieu, Suzuki….”

“Velour, you gaijin dog, how do you expect to live long enough to even take that case out of this building?”

“Oh, please, Suzuki, no idle threats. Do you remember that hotel you took that little schoolgirl to in Shinjuku? The one that had all kinds of closed circuit programmes to watch on the TV?”

Suzuki’s face blanched.

“Well, smile, dickhead”, Simon deadpanned, “you’re on candid camera. I’d love to see what the other clans would say if that video became public….” He turned on his heel, and strode back in to the lift.

“Next time, you might want to dispense with the Superman outfit, too.”

The lift doors closed.

*

Still clutching the case tightly, Simon walked past a raging brawl that had erupted in the bar, and in to the waiting limo.

Kenichi handed him a cigar, and asked, “Well, Velour-san, you have the case, and I have a nice little video tape in case that little prick Suzuki decides to throw his weight around. I do hope my men aren’t getting hurt in that punch up you engineered, though.”

Simon took a draw on the cigar, and nodded. “Thanks for your help, Kenichi, I reckon that makes us even. Nice of you to lend my lads the cleaner’s outfits… just how long have you had the maintenance contract on Suzuki’s building?”

“About six hours, Simon – long enough for your purposes… and ours. By the way, what’s in the case?”

“Promise me, Kenichi, that you won’t be angry if I show you?”

“I give you my word, Simon.”

Simon extracted a slim key from his coat pocket, and unlocked the case.

Opening the lid, he revealed to Kenichi eight large black jars, each with a bright yellow label.

“For this, Simon, you would have my clan go to war, and risk your life?”

“Oh, c’mon, Kenichi, everyone knows Vegemite’s worth more than gold in this country….”

[It’s me again. He’s a funny sort, isn’t he? Pay him a visit at his site, I’m sure he’ll appreciate the interaction – it’ll give him something to talk about with the guards.

Coming up tomorrow: A fascinating piece on something I’m sure nobody ever expected to see on this blog – breast reduction surgery. See you then!]

CDL Blogoversary, Day Four: “The Bride Comes to Black Hawk”

We’re celebrating Claire De Lunacy’s First Blogoversary, and I’ve invited some very gracious and awesome friends to contribute to this mess, sharing their words with you, my beloved readers. Through June 10th, there will be a new post from a different guest each day, culminating with a new, full-length short story by yours truly. I hope you enjoy my guests’ work as much as I do, and I hope you’ll stick around to see what happens during the NEXT year.

[Today’s Guest Blogger is Stacy Stephens.  She was born in Omaha’s Near North Side, spending much of her early childhood in the same neighborhood where Malcolm X had spent his. However, she spent her adolescence in Gerald Ford‘s old neighborhood, her family having moved out of the aptly misnomered Pleasant View Housing Project.

Like Henry Fonda, she graduated from Omaha’s Central High School, where she attained the rank of Cadet Corporal in Army JROTC, and got good grades in the classes she liked. During and after High School, she worked a number of food service and telemarketing jobs, finally settling into a retail position at a locally owned pharmacy, ultimately becoming manager of retail merchandise, over-the-counter pharmaceutical products and liqour before marrying, having a child, and divorcing.

While raisng that child, she attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where she was elected to Student Senate three consecutive years, made Dean’s List twice, and was selected for membersip in Omicron Delta Kappa. She majored in Secondary Education Language Arts, graduating with a 3.08 GPA. Her formal writing classes included Journalism as well as Poetry and Fiction Studio.

You can find her online at http://www.msstacy.com]

“He paused as if,
though this was too dark a chapter to be gone into,
it must have its place,
its moment of silent recognition.”

Willa Cather
A Lost Lady

I don’t suppose it would be correct to say that David had returned from the Yukon.  He had been there, had set out among thousands of others hoping to find gold in the wilderness, and found only wilderness.  He had given up everything, which in his case probably wasn’t much, to invest in corn meal and back bacon, picks and pans, canvas, rope, tent pegs and a mule, which he ate before spring came.  Having thus survived the winter without profit, other than experience, he again gave up everything and made his way south once more, his wherewithal being adequate to bring him no further than Black Hawk, Nebraska, which was nowhere near where he began.  So he had not returned, but only found himself here.

Among those who bothered to hold an opinion of him, he wasn’t considered much of a man, but what man is?  That’s only my opinion.  He might be called wiry, if the speaker were polite or had nothing to imply.  Otherwise, he’d be called wispy, to suggest a delicacy which might approach criminal behavior of a sexual character given the right wrong circumstances.  This is, once again, only my opinion, but I had always sensed the fragrance of sour grapes when any man spoke of him like that.  Whether he was too innocent or too discriminating to accommodate the rough-cut pansies who fancied him, I couldn’t be sure; I could only be certain, when they spewed their vitriol, that he had spurned them, if not naively, then gently.  And none of them seemed ever to realize that their sinister implications cast more profound aspersions on their own characters by inference than they were casting on  him.  It’s only the man who burns his lips on a tin cup who complains about the coffee being too hot.

“Some day, Edna,” David said to me one spring morning as we rode out to mend fence, “I’ll have put enough by to invest in a shop in town.”

“A shop?” I asked.

“Reckon I can sell dolls,” he explained.

“Dolls?”

“And trains of cars for boys.”

“You mean a toy shop?”

“Exactly.”

We stopped at a post without barbed wire and began looking.  If it had merely worked loose, we could just hook it to the post again.  If it had broken, we’d have to splice it back together with a strip of new wire joining the loose ends.  If it were entirely gone, we’d have to string up a new length from the previous post to the next one.  It’s the kind of work where strength is wasted.  You just need the dexterity to use pliers with gloves on your hands.

“Can’t people order toys from a catalog?” I felt compelled to ask.  The proposed venture struck me as inherently risky.

“Of course they can,” he replied, reaching down to grasp a snarled strand.  He gripped it just loosely enough to let it slide through his glove as his horse crept along.  “Whoa!” he instructed the horse as he came to the end of it.  “Cut me yea much,” he instructed me, tilting his head to indicate the distance to the next post.  He didn’t have to tell me to add the extra length needed for twisting the pieces together.  “But just imagine a girl actually seeing her dolly in a window,” he went on with our discussion as I snaked the vicious wire from its spool.  “Not just a little ink drawing on paper.”  He paused as I cut the fresh strand.  When I handed it to him, a loop raised high above our heads and our horses, he resumed.  “Think any daddy won’t buy his little girl a dolly once he sees her eyes light up?”

I had never had a dolly.  My eyes had never lit up when I looked at one.  Still, I could see his point, and knew it was valid.  He might not have found gold in the Yukon, but he had learned how to prospect. He had the splice knotted tight.

“And I reckon I can put a train of cars in the window,” he added as he nudged his horse toward the post, pulling the wire taut.

“What makes them toy trains go?” I asked.

“Alcohol burner,” he grunted as he cinched the wire around the post.  “The locomotive is a real steam engine.”

“Isn’t that dangerous?”

“Sure,” he admitted as we moved on.  “That’s why little boys love ‘em.”

He knew his product and his clientele.  How could he fail?

“Then I figure I’ll find me a good Christian woman,” he added, almost as if it were the moral of his story.  He’d never said or done anything that gave me the impression he would know what he ought to do with a woman, although it was clear that if he wanted a man, he would have had one by that time.  Perhaps he believed the sort of woman he hoped to marry could guide him into the uncharted waters awaiting him, or perhaps it was truly a matter of still waters indeed running deep.  Although I was a bit curious about this, it was really no concern of mine.

* * *

Eli McNichols had arrived in Black Hawk when I was still a child.  I assume his arrival had something to do with a potato blight, although my grasp of history is imperfect and indistinct.  I only know that while he found no particular advantage in being Irish, his being Catholic was no detriment to him, either.  The protestants of the County, divided into several congregations, lacked the political clout contained in the County’s single large and united Catholic parish, which elected him sheriff once he marshaled it behind him, not long after his naturalization.  He then learned that by exercising his authority regularly, he could keep it strong.  It was often observed that while the Governor commanded the militia, Eli commanded respect.  Accordingly, no one remarked on his bride simply arriving on the Burlington, having departed Ireland at his instruction and expense some weeks earlier, other than to say that she was lovely.  She was, of course, covered with damp soot, but this standard veneer of rail travel scarcely detracted from her obvious charm.

“Sure an its a warm reception your town’s folk are giving me, Eli,” was the first thing I heard her say.  I was struck by her Irish way of rhyming “warm” with “arm.”  We had all come to see her, not only out of curiosity, but from a wish to avoid explaining to Eli why we hadn’t done him the honor of welcoming his fiancee.

She looked still more beautiful the next day, at her wedding.  Her dress, which was sparkling white and had arrived in town several days before she did, was rumored to be no less than nine yards of the finest silk available.

Even if Eli had been a lesser man in the county, it’s unlikely that anyone would have talked much about Alice’s increasingly obvious clumsiness.  It went without saying, generally, that the bruises and black eyes revealed a propensity toward walking into half-open doors in the darkness, and that she ought to be more careful.

* * *

It was well into summer when, on a Sunday morning after mass, David went to fetch the buggy for my parents and I went with him, being restless.  We saw Eli and Alice, who didn’t notice us, walking slightly ahead of us.
We couldn’t quite hear what she said, but did see Eli raising his hand, drawing it back.  As he did this, his head turned, and he saw us behind them.  He lowered his hand.

“Mind yer lip,” we heard him say.

David trembled, and I realized that I had never seen him angry before.  When we stopped to unhitch the horses, Eli and Alice continued on their way.

“Ought to be a law,” David said as he shook the reins.

“If there were,” I observed, “we could hardly expect him to arrest himself.”

“Whoa up,” he said to the horses when we were at the church.  Mother and Father got in, and we said nothing more about it.

* * *

It was a few weeks later that we saw the badger.

We had just finished dinner.  Mother was pouring coffee.  Although the day was hot, it’s never too hot for coffee after dinner.

“What ails that creature?” she asked suddenly, gazing with an uneasy intensity at something outside.  I stood and looked.  A badger, having emerged from the shallow draw beyond the yard, was ambling toward the house.  At night, this might be only slightly strange, but in the heat of the noonday sun, the best explanation and certainly the safest assumption was that the animal was in the earlier stages of rabies.  At once, I had my rifle loaded and was soon outside, quickly kneeling and firing as soon as I had my aim.

The badger flew backward, flipping in the air and landing several feet behind where he had been.  Already, David had brought a shovel.

“If I’d had you in the Yukon with me,” he said as he began digging a firebreak around the carcass, “I wouldn’t have had to eat my mule.”

“Do you even have a gun?” I asked.

“Just a pistol,” he told me.  “The only thing I brought back from the Yukon, besides the clothes I was wearing.”

After putting my rifle away, I fetched a tin of kerosene, soaked the animal down, and put a match to it.  We watched it burn from a comfortable distance, and that evening we turned the earth over on it to a depth of a few feet.

* * *

After the incident with the badger, it occurred to me that since rabbit tastes like chicken and their fur does fetch a small price, I could prolong the lives of our best layers and help David put by a little for his toy shop while keeping in practice with  my rifle.  We began hunting rabbits.  I’d shoot them, he’d skin them and dress them, and my mother would cook them.

On toward Autumn, we had accumulated a large number of pelts, and the night of the Czech festival, David figured there would be several people on hand to buy them, although we would have to wait until late, since nobody would want smelly rabbit hides with them all evening.  By that time, his buyers would also be drunk, which would doubtless enhance his negotiating skills.

We were riding into town, each with a pile of skins across our horses’ flanks, when we saw a couple walking in the moonlight, going away from the activities.  We knew, when we heard Eli’s voice carrying, that it was him and Alice.  We couldn’t make out what he was saying, but could tell that he was drunk and surly.  We heard the impact of his fist on her cheek just moments after we saw her sprawling away from him and stumbling to keep her feet.  Instantly, David was at the gallop.  I reined my horse in and dismounted, noticing then that my rifle, in the saddle holster, was still loaded.
I saw David’s pistol sparkle in the moonlight.  I couldn’t hear what he said, but I heard Eli.

“Are ye daft?  This is the twentieth century, boy.  This is nineteen-aught-three.  We don’t have gunslingers here anymore.”

A number of people were hurrying out from a brightly lighted barn, where there was still some dancing going on.

David spoke again.

Eli replied, “As ye will, then.”

I saw moonlight flash on the barrel of his gun.  There were shots, I saw splinters fly from the side of the barn, above everyone’s heads.  The breeze dispersed them behind the crowd, from the midst of which came several screams.
Eli lay on the ground.

In just a few moments, it was known that he was dead.  Holding his pistol between his fingers, David surrendered it to one of the men nearby.  Several of them escorted him to jail, where he waited with them until a deputy could be sworn in to officially arrest him.

* * *

The jury, made up of Presbyterians and Lutherans, couldn’t see hanging David for shooting an Irishman.  The argument his attorney presented allowed them to consider it as a crime of passion, what with Alice being so strikingly beautiful, and they found him guilty of manslaughter, sentencing him to ten years.  The circumstances having occurred in full view of the public, there was no autopsy, or even a careful examination of the body.  So it was never known that David had, in fact, hit the broad side of a barn.  The fatal bullet had been fired from my rifle.

[It’s me again. I hope you enjoyed this great story as much as I did – be sure to swing by Stacy’s site to say “hi,” or catch her on “The Twitter” at http://www.twitter.com/msstacy13.

Coming up tomorrow: another great short story!]

CDL Blogoversary, Day Three: “Flight”

We’re celebrating Claire De Lunacy’s First Blogoversary, and I’ve invited some very gracious and awesome friends to contribute to this mess, sharing their words with you, my beloved readers. Through June 10th, there will be a new post from a different guest each day, culminating with a new, full-length short story by yours truly. I hope you enjoy my guests’ work as much as I do, and I hope you’ll stick around to see what happens during the NEXT year.

[Today’s Guest Blog comes from my charming Tweep Mari Kurisato. Her short story, “Flight,” is set in the same world as her upcoming short story “Lurker,” to be published in M-Brane SF Magazine later this year.

Mari Kurisato is a 32 year old recovering hikikomori (shut-in) digital illustrator, Twitter addict, and unpublished novelist, working on her third novel. She lives at home with her wife and cat somewhere in the US. She has an irrational crush on Masamune Shirow, and considers Elizabeth Moon her personal deity. Despite her pen name, she is not Japanese. Her website can be found at http://www.marikurisato.com]

The young woman whipped through the air, large black feather wings angled sharply behind her. Thermal drafts helped Sumiyo rocket upwards through blue sky of the Realm. The cold wind stung her face, and strands of her black hair snapped about in the breeze, but it didn’t hurt her at all. Here she had nearly infinite power, and was respected by nearly everyone else who lived in these lands.

She banked on her right wing, hung in the sky a moment, and stretched her perfectly muscled frame, before allowing the gravity to tug her body back towards the trees below. She plummeted towards the forest. Sumiyo rolled and flexed her shoulder blades at the last moment. Her great wings whispered against the leaves of the tree canopy as she swept away just above the aspen trees.. She inhaled a great deep breath of warm fragrant air into her lungs, and sighed. She didn’t want to go home.

A small golden sphere like a miniature sun appeared in her vision, and tinkled like a cat’s bell. She frowned as she sped along inches above the treetops, her shadow dappling the green and yellow leaves. She thought about swatting it away, but the glowing sun bell would only get more insistent, and not even she was that powerful.

Sumiyo rose into the air and scanned around for a place to land before settling on a high, jagged blade of red granite that over looked the valley. She braced herself, and whistled the log out tone.

The brilliant and warm world slithered away into cold darkness.

Leaving the Realm was always hard, not just because of the mental fuzziness of the Sensemit cable Sumiyo pulled from the port at base of her skull. (She hated the popping sound.) Her office was dark except for the glow of her thirty inch touchscreen computer where the small golden sphere sat on screen, chiming.

She touched the glowing ball; it chirped and unfolded into a video mail from Koichi Yanagata  (Mr. 770 he called himself.)  He appeared on the video screen and squinted a moment before speaking.

“Kurimotosan. Something has happened with Kajiyama. She has-”

Sumiyo slapped the pause button onscreen at the sound of that name. Her. Ryoko Kajiyama.  The memory of the incident came to her mind’s eye in great detail, as if created digitally in brilliant  colors and sharp focus.

Two years ago, Sumiyo and Ryoko were standing on the top of a brown spiral staircase in the alleyway behind the ladies’ bar Kinswomyn, in Shinjuku. Ryoko looked amazing, with long brown hair and pale blue eyes, dressed in a form fitting red cocktail dress with a flared hem. But Sumiyo hadn’t noticed. They were both drunk and arguing.

Ryoko had later told the police that Sumiyo had slipped backwards and fallen by herself, and at the time Sumiyo didn’t remember anything.

But after that night she never saw Ryoko again, and she still had nightmares about Kajiyamasan’s grinning face as she looked down at Sumiyo falling over the railing.

Doctors said she had been relatively lucky. The T10 spinal fracture had sent fragments of bone into her spinal cord. Though she had only fallen about twelve feet, she could have easily broken her neck and died, instead of being just paralyzed, they said.

Cold comfort that, thought Sumiyo as she sat staring at the frozen face of “Mr. 770” onscreen. She leaned forward in her wheelchair and tapped the play button

“has finally been formally charged in the murder of Mika Anzai. Kajiyama committed suicide last week.” Koichi said, with the empty look of a Bunraku doll. He continued, his voice flat. “I know you haven’t been out of the house since you returned home from the hospital, but I think we should meet and talk about what has happened. I’ve enclosed an RSVP for coffee if you like. I think you should talk about what happened between you and Ryoko.”

The screen returned to the text layout of the email, and Sumiyo sighed, her breathing ragged.

So, Ryoko committed suicide.

Sumiyo took a deep breath, or tried to, but breathing outside the Realm was harder, and her breath was harsh, her lungs felt full of water and she was tired besides.

That was just the psychological side of things, she thought to herself. She set the Sensemit cable down on the desk  The creaking of the wheelchair and her breathing matched the sounds of her Prime Realm computer’s constant humming. She rolled herself across the room, the lights coming on as they sensed her movement. The door at the other end of the room slid aside silently, and out in the hall way the two story arched windows splashed rainbow hued beams of light  across the marbled floor bathing it in fiery patterns of color.  The hall was large enough for a three lane street, and a carpet of deep scarlet ran the length of the hall in the middle, a river of red  against the white stone floor.

Two years ago she and Ryoko had walked that length of carpet holding hands, much to the disapproval of the house staff at the time.

Now the carpet was ribboned with light from the windows, and Sumiyo squinted a moment until she could see the outline of Tokyo’s skyscrapers and the Tokyo Tower rising above Minato. Two years ago, she would have taken a car to the base of the Tower and walked around it just as the twilight of the sky faded to night just to watch the lights of tower.

Now she couldn’t even leave her apartments in the Mori Tower. The scars on her face drew too much attention, and she couldn’t force herself to even step outside. Not that she had too, when he died, her father left her the residence and a sizable inheritance.

Though she felt guilty at the emotion, as she looked out at the harsh pale blue sky and the menacing razor straight edges of the buildings she felt grateful that she could afford to stay inside. She couldn’t be out there anymore. The one time she tried, people stared at her. Sumiyo could feel the pressure of their gazes even if she wasn’t looking at them directly. It was as if they were glaring at her in anger at what she had done. It had been her fault after all.  She had been so careless.

She had never even made it out of the building

Her father would have frowned upon her choice to remain in her apartments all the time, but he hadn’t seen her like this. He died five years ago, and back then, she was fresh out of high school and taking university entrance exams hoping to pursue a degree in economics at Todai.

That seemed forever ago.

The weeks after her father’s death were a blur of paper work, and Sumiyo found herself buffeted by the hurried rush of it all. She sold her father’s shares in his company, a move that shocked her cousins and the national press but ensured she never needed to work again.

That was when she met Ryoko Kajiyama at a coffee shop. Also forever ago. Ryoko wove herself into Sumiyo’s life easily, because she asked for nothing other than friendship. At least at first. As time progressed, it became something deeper. Taboo. They had to be careful about it, but even though Sumiyo knew her house staff disapproved they didn’t quit their jobs in protest. For awhile, Ryoko and Sumiyo roamed Nichō getting drunk together and staying up late, living careless lives when the sun went down.

In the daytime Ryoko worked as a financial manager for a Chinese owned financial services company in Aoyoma  and Sumiyo spent time in Ginza shopping, or surfed the net. When she discovered 2.ch, an internet forum, she found out about the Realm, though at the time she didn’t get into it, because it seemed like a waste of time.

How wrong she had been.

Sumiyo never admitted that the night on the spiral staircase was anything but an accident, and yet, the nightmares of Ryoko grinning at her as she feel seemed too real, too detailed to be just a fragment from dreams. It wasn’t until she read the threads on the 2ch. forum about the death of Mika Anzai that Sumiyo knew something about Ryoko’s polished personality was off.

She met Mr. 770 there, as she followed his account of what might have happened to Anzai. Mr. 770 knew she was a Realm Player, and they began chatting online as Sumiyo helped his new avatar gain more power through quests. They spent time together, talking about the Mika Anzai suicide turned murder case, and a few weeks ago Koichi shared with her his suspicion of Ryoko’s involvement. After that, Sumiyo withdrew from Koichi, spending her time in the more wild parts of the Realm where he could not follow her.

And now Ryoko was dead, by suicide.

The grin on Ryoko’s pale face as Sumiyo fell played through her mind again. It was so real.

The sun slid across the sky as Sumiyo sat there, staring at the skyline, shadows moving over  the tiles and carpet.

Now Koichi wanted to meet with her to talk about it? He knew she was a recluse, a hikikomori. Sumiyo sighed and asked Hayashi to prepare a dinner for her before going back into her room and closing the door.

She dove from the red granite ridge, her black Angel’s wings beating the air with thundering cracks, like huge flags in a storm. A new avatar had ventured into her valley, a tenth-season warrior who must have thought this place would yield easy treasures. Sumiyo had seen him just as she returned, and so had the Scarlet Chimera  jumping through the trees, chasing the terrified warrior. The new avatar was running as fast as he could for the river.

The Scarlet Chimera leapt from an oak tree, tearing it apart with a crack, and the dragon’s head shrieked, a gout of liquid fire splashing the forest floor just behind the warrior. The beast flung the trunk of the oak it had destroyed at the warrior, striking him hard. He fell, and then Sumiyo slammed into the Scarlet Chimera from above.

The creature screamed as it clawed at Sumiyo for purchase, but the woman grabbed the dragon’s head and whispered the simple spell. Suddenly the beast squealed in terror and fell apart, blood and ash in Sumiyo’s hands.

Sumiyo drifted to the warrior’s body on the floor of the forest, and threw some silver dust upon his misshapen form. The dust caught fire and bathed the warrior in golden light, and he screamed in pain as he resurrected.

“You shouldn’t be here,” Sumiyo said to the new avatar as he stood up, his armor ruined.

“Neither should you, Kurimotosan.” said Koichi as he took off his ruined faceplate. “Will you join me for coffee?”

Sumiyo simply stepped up into the sky and soared away, her speed breaking the sound barrier.

Sumiyo thought Hayashi was having a stroke when she asked her head staff to ready the car.  Sumiyo had dressed herself in a blue blouse and white slacks and was waiting by her private elevator. Hayashi looked dumbstruck. Sumiyo repeated the request.

“I’m sorry this is so sudden, but today is the day, and I definitely don’t want to be late. Please?” Sumiyo said. The older woman nodded (smiling,) and agreed to drive Sumiyo herself.

As they rode the glass elevator towards the garage, Sumiyo looked at the blue sky above the city skyline, trying to project more confidence than she felt. She was trembling. As she gazed at the Tokyo Tower to the east, a lone crow flew past the glass elevator, black wings extended, drifting. Hayashi clicked her disapproval, muttering about  “pests,” but Sumiyo just smiled, remembering.

Now was the time to fly for real, she thought.

[It’s me again. I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I did – clearly, Mari is a talent with many great things ahead of her. Take a moment to stop by her site, won’t you?

Coming up this weekend: the Blogoversary fun continues, with a pair of short stories and another excerpt from my book Cleo and Meander. Stay tuned!]