Friday, March 11, 2011

Myth continued

This is the last part of a five day post.  If you haven't read the first one take the time to go back and read it.  It will make more sense that way.


The boy was amazed at the story.  It seemed to him more of a myth than reality.
“And the seeds, they’re locked up and just waiting?  What are you going to do with them?  Are you going to plant them?”  The boy began to rattle off questions as fast as his mind could come up with them.  He noticed that his father didn’t seem to be listening.  He was gazing off into space not focusing on anything in particular.
Then it hit the boy where the seeds were.  They were in the stand that held the book of knowledge.  He realized that it must have been made especially for that purpose.  The pictures then must be important to the story that he had just heard.  The pictures were telling the story through symbol.  It was a reminder of the forgotten.  He could see many of the pictures vividly in his mind. Many of the pictures he could make fit as a part of the story.  Others however were still mysterious.  There must be other parts of the story that he still didn’t know or understand.
When he looked back at his father he saw an outstretched hand holding a small bronze colored skeleton key.
“This,” he said, “is now yours.”

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Myth continued

This is the fourth part of a five day post.  If you haven't read the first one take the time to go back and read it.  It will make more sense that way.


In the breeze it will sway and carry the fragrant scent on the air like dancing happiness.  It is the smell of charm and luck. But it is subtle, it won’t overwhelm.  It tickles and teases the periphery of smell and awareness.  It is there but will fade with any attempt to single it out.  It joins in with every other smell and enhances them and made them complete.
For all the beauty of smell the plant holds it is nothing amazing to be seen.  It tries to be plain and not be noticed.  It is the face in a crowd that is seen and never remembered, the face that is almost forgotten even while looking at it.  And while it is plain it is everywhere in the high plain and low mountain.  It hugs the cool and shaded spots and it could also be found on two pages in the book.
The page for Cannegor (making up names is hard) was like any other.  It had the name (right after Ca’artil and before Casret) at the top. Beneath the name was a diagram of the plant in bloom.  There was a history of the plant and its origins.  The pages then gave explanations on uses for the plant.  It laid out the method of preparation and instruction on administration.  There was also a section of warning about the harmful effects of its use in unwise dosages.
Among the uses of Cannegor are the mundane (like as a cleaning agent and demulcent for enflamed tissue) and the very useful.  The most useful was as an antidote for venom of the grass snake that was common in the farmers’ fields.  A beverage made from the roots was taken orally to counteract the effect of the poison.  Without the antidote the snake venom would paralyze the body and put the unfortunate soul into a coma that ended with death when the heart stopped.
            While the drink would cure the bitten it had side effect of its own.  It would cause a high fever that would cause delirium.  In that state of delirium there would be a hallucinations and a semi-euphoric high.  If taken while no grass snake poison was in the blood it would cause the hallucinations and high without the fever and sweating.  It was known as the escapist drug to those who used it as a tool to forget the pain and woes of life’s hardship.  To many of the citizens of the kingdom the drug was unknown; but there were those who knew it and used it.  Among the users was the king.
Before the unexpected and unexplained death of the king’s wife and son he was a proud and optimistic man.  But when sickness hit and took his wife and the kingdom’s heir the king was ashamed at having only surviving daughters and a no queen to stand by his side.  Instead of taking a new wife and bearing another son the king slid into depression and turned to addiction.
As the king’s addiction grew his ability to rule diminished.  Slowly the burden of the kingdom’s operation shifted to the king’s council.  They, worried with the condition of the king, took matters into their own hands.  They signed a secret edict outlawing the plant’s existence.  A group of men was hired from the kingdom’s treasury to destroy every last trace of the plant. It took nearly a year to do but they eliminated the plant from the whole of the kingdom. It was these men, under the stamp of the king’s personal seal, that took the pages from the book.
As their work progressed the supply of Cannegor shrank.  It became increasingly hard to obtain.  Because of the secrecy of the operation no one took action to hoard or save any of the plant or seed.  It was only a matter of time until the last plant was destroyed and it became extinct.
And while different stories about the mysterious disappearance began to circulate the knowledge of what really happened (that was held by so few) was tucked away in the deep parts of the mind not to be spoken of.  The king’s council let the stories continue and even promoted them.  One man however remembered the story and saved it for the time when he could tell his son.  He told me. And now I am telling you, son.  I will begin to teach you about the plant and its use and how to identify it.
My father collected seeds from the plant because he could not bear the thought of the plant being lost forever.  He collected enough to be able to bring it back at some point in time.  He wasn’t able to do it in his lifetime.  There were those still alive that were part of the conspiracy to destroy it.  He gave me the key to the lock that protects them.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Myth continued

This is the third part of a five day post.  If you haven't read the first one take the time to go back and read it.  It will make more sense that way.


Out of a fog of unawareness there began to come into focus a picture.  Above him he began to see the color and outline of a face.  As the picture cleared he recognized it as his father’s face.  His father was leaning over him and had a damp rag that he was dabbing on the boy’s forehead.  He turned his attention to his surroundings.  He was in his room in his bed.  He felt comfortable lying there.  His father caring for him gave an added sense of security.
“What happened?  I heard a sound and when I got into the study you were on the floor,” His father inquired with raised brow.
And with those few words the sense of comfort was gone.  Into his mind the memory came flooding back, like a broken dam letting loose a torrent of water crashing down the once clam river bed.  His head began to throb and he could feel the sweat beginning to form on his brow.  The study, the pages, it all came back.  He cursed for forgetting, now here he was at the mercy of the man who now hovered above him.  He wanted to flee and escape to somewhere safe.  He began to breathe deeply.
“Whoa, whoa.  Son, what’s wrong?” his father asked in a soothing tone while putting his hand on the boy’s shoulder.  “Everything is all right.”  The boy felt his heart begin to slow.  He was concerned that he was calming down.  He found himself wondering if his father was using a spell or some sort of trick to take away his fear.  He wanted to stay on edge but found he couldn’t.  All he could do was squeak out one little phrase.
“You ruined it…you’re a…bad person.” He felt silly for making such a weak accusation.  He wished he could have been bold.  He realized that his father would have no idea what he was talking about.  His father would have thought himself clever and would be shocked to know his young son had found him out.
“Ah, the missing pages?  Of course the missing pages.  No, don’t act so surprised.  I knew you would notice some day. It seems that today happens to be that day.  I remember the day that my father cut them out of the book and burnt them.  I thought that he would be smitten or drop dead instantly.  I wanted to die myself when he did it.  I thought it was evil what he was doing.  How could he dare? I thought.  Well I think I may understand now what I didn’t then, though it took me many years to really get it.  Let me tell you a story that you have never heard before.  It is a story that very few are old enough to remember.  Not even the king who is younger than me knows it.  It might help you understand the book better.”

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Myth continued

This is the second part of a five day post.  If you haven't read the first one take the time to go back and read it.  It will make more sense that way.


The boy’s father often would ask him, “What is the difference between a poison and a medicine?”  The first time he had been asked he had said that medicine was good and poison was bad.  His father shook his head slowly and said after a pause, “They are the same thing, except for the dosage.”  It wasn’t until a later day that he had explained that taking the right amount of something will be helpful, but too much of same thing would be harmful and sometimes even deadly.   That was the baseline for the boy’s instruction and tutoring.
As the son of the kingdom’s medicine man (the sage) it was expected that he would take over for his father when the time came.  That time would be when he was ready. And that would mean when he knew all that there was to know about healing and medicine in the kingdom.  His father was training him and had been for the last two years.  He would take the boy out to gather plants and herbs in the forest.  He would be taken on the royal hunting trips where strange beasts were killed; his father would take certain parts of the animals before they were cleaned and butchered for feasts.  All the things that were collected were prepared to be stored in the study.  Some things were dried, like the stringy fruit of the Agælton to be used as a remedy for skin sores.  Other plants were ground into fine powder to be inhaled, like the leaves of the Chîmpuur tree.  Some animal parts were kept immersed in water or alcohol.  Others were not stored at all, needing to he harvested fresh to be of any potency.
After any expedition to gather or collect his father would show the boy in the book the pages that contained all there was to know about the plants they had before them.  The explanations of his father were always easier to understand than the words of the page.
It was for its difficulty to understand that the book held so much mystery.  It was an enigma to the boy, one that would take years and years to begin to grasp.  Though while it remained an enigma the boy had always believed that it was complete and whole, there was nothing lacking.  If his father found something that wasn’t known he would add it to the book and it would be complete—though that hadn’t happened for many years.
Because it was so engrained in his mind that the book was omniscient it was more than a simple shock when he saw what he saw.  While flipping absent-mindedly through the pages he noticed that something was missing.  He stood staring at the book not moving, his hands hanging at his sides.  The feeling of power that he felt for having held the book drained from his body.  He was left cold and his skin went clammy.  A deep shiver ran from the base of his skull down the length of his spine and then to the bottom of his feet and to his toes.  A fear gripped him and made it hard to breath.  He drew short shallow breaths and began to feel light-headed.
He tried to focus and understand what he was seeing.  He closed his eyes, clamping his eyelids hard, hoping that they were playing tricks on him.  He left them closed and focused on the black of the insides of his eyelids.  He told himself that when he opened his eyes he wouldn’t see what he thought he had seen.  He would see everything exactly as it should be.  But when he opened his eyes everything was the same.
There in front of him in the book was the work of malfeasance.  Pages had been removed. It was almost impossible to see because of the expertise that had been employed to do it, but at the close range of the boy’s eyes it was noticeable.  Someone had cut pages from the book, two whole pages, front and back, were missing.  The book was not whole.  Someone was trying to hide something, had gone to great lengths to hide something.  The boy immediately thought of his father.  He had never had any reason not to trust the man he loved and had always looked up to.  But now a doubt began to grow.
The boy began to wonder what manner of man his father really was and what secrets were locked in his head.  He began to think of his father as evil and malicious—a plotter and a schemer.  The man must be up to no good if he would take pages from the book, even to allow that pages be taken was enough to tarnish his reputation and make him a cheat.  The boy began to feel trapped and closed in.  While the room was spacious, he felt a growing feeling of claustrophobia.  He needed to get outside, get fresh air.  He needed open spaces where he could think.  He turned toward the door to leave, but before he could move in that direction he heard a sound that kept his feet anchored to the ground.  From the lock in the door he heard the sound of a key being inserted and turned.  The knob turned and he heard a click as the door began to open.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Myth

I am posting this short story in parts over the next five days.  It's kind of long for a single post, so breaking it up will make it more manageable.

Chapter 1

The book was heavy.  That meant that it was important.  The weight pulled down on his arms and made his muscles tingle with a thousand little pricks.  The huge volume of a book was open in roughly the middle.  He held it on the palms of his two open hands.  His fingers spread out over the front and back covers giving him more support.  He could feel the texture of the leather, rough and worn.  It was the feel of protection to the hundreds of delicate pages within.  It was the first time he had lifted the book.  He had hefted it from the stand where it had lain every day for as long as he could remember.  He wasn’t supposed to lift it off from the stand, but had felt compelled.  The feeling was one of empowerment. So much collected knowledge was held in his hands.  He felt the power of it.  And at the same time he felt a knot forming in his stomach.  It was the nervous feeling of impending danger. What if he were to drop it?  What if his father were to walk in and catch him in his disobedience?  He slowly and delicately replaced the book on the carved wooden stand making sure that he lined the edges up with its outline of dust, to conceal evidence of his tampering.  With the book safely back in its place, the knot in his stomach untied itself and the taste of fear in his mouth went away.   But the feeling of power did not go. He could feel the magic of the book flowing through his veins.  It must have seeped into his finger tips and from there into his blood.  He decided that it was his imagination that gave him the feeling of being full of magic.  His mind was only playing tricks on him.  He turned around and took in his surroundings with new perspective.
He was in the study, or the library.  It actually could have been an apothecary or physician’s office.  There was a desk covered in papers and books in one corner.  There were bookshelves covering four of the six walls of the L shaped room.  They were full of leather bound volumes displaying names of every subject imaginable.  Some had not been used in years, others in decades, it seemed.  There was dust covering many of the books and the smell of dust was one of the many that occupied the room.  There was also a table in one corner that was covered in a various bottles and glass containers, there were tubes connecting some of the bottles as well as pots and clay jars some with lids laying beside them.  It could have passed for the laboratory of an alchemist.  On the two walls around the table there were countless maps and diagrams hanging.  They were pinned one on top of another in what must have resulted from a random frenzy of activity.  They were organized by a mind thinking of a thousand things other than order.  The floor was old and wooden and parts of it creaked under the weight of a walking.  It had faded stains that had been worn into the wood by pacing feet.  The boy’s eyes circled the room and took everything in, though he had seen it all a thousand times before.  It was on the book that his eyes stopped and came to rest.
It lay on a wooden stand to the left of the desk. The workmanship of the stand was impressive.  It was carved wooden column a foot and a half wide and a foot deep.  The sides were covered in scenes of the kingdom’s past.  Dragons, castles, strange ceremonies and people.  As a very young child the boy had looked at the pictures for hours upon hours.  They followed no pattern that he could identify, but were also not random. He often wondered at their significance.  On the front in the middle of the right side was a keyhole.  The boy had never seen what might be opened when a key was turned within it and didn’t know what might be inside.  The top of the stand held the book, angled toward the reader.  It was the perfect height for a man to read from while standing in front of the open book.  For the boy it was nearly eye level.  Without a stool he had to stand on tip toes to get a good look.  He would rather pull up a stool to sit comfortably and read and look at pictures.
He found that the pictures were the most intriguing part.  The words didn’t make any sense, there were so many that he didn’t know, strange words hard to pronounce.  The pictures were easy though.  There were diagrams and charts and drawings of plants and animals and their various parts. Even the letters that started each page were decorative and interesting; entangled vines and fairies, pictures of shields and swords, ships and serpents.
After returning the book to its proper place he began to flip listlessly through the pages.  He didn’t really have any interest in what he was seeing; the feeling of power that came from having held the book was too distracting.  His eyes were on the pages but not really seeing.  He was simply staring blankly.  But his eyes snapped into focus as his eyes noticed something that he had never seen before.

Tune in tomorrow as the story continues.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Spark for Writing

Once when hiking a friend asked me if nature gave me an inspiration for my writing.

No, it doesn’t.

Nature can’t inspire me to write about life.  What does a beautiful red rock canyon, with lush green vegetation and foggy blue waterfalls know about real life?  I write about life as it affects people.  And the solitude of nature’s beauties cannot speak of those truths.  Nature speaks an altogether different language.

I find the inspiration for writing in the humdrum of life as it happens in a bustle around me.  The chance words, the snippets of overheard conversations, the random thoughts, the strange interactions of strangers and people who think nobody is watching.

Sometimes I hear a phrase that I like.  It will become the title of a story and the story will form around it.  I will pull hundreds of pieces from the mental bin of odds and ends and see how they fit together, discarding those that don’t blend in.  I will try dozens of combinations until I find one that will work for the idea or feeling that I wish to express.

Nature is sterile.  Life is dirty and therefore interesting and real. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Today I spent some time sanding an old trailer.  I took the boat off to give more space and better access to the areas that needed attention.  I used a wire wheel attached to a drill to remove rust and chipping paint.  It was easy to get the tops and sides, but more difficult to get to the underside.  I found myself lying on the ground next to the trailer and working on the bottom, holding the drill above me.  At the time I thought it was a hassle.  But for some reason I just accepted it as the way it was.  It wasn’t until later that it finally hit me that I could very easily flip it over for convenience sake.
The reason it took me so long to think of flipping the trailer over was because of perspective.  More specifically it was my static, narrow perspective that held me to a single way of thinking.  With more dynamic perspective I would have come to my conclusion sooner. 
The first thing that I did as I started the project was to remove the boat.  At that point it was just trailer.  And to go one step further, it wasn’t hooked up to anything and it wasn’t being pulled anywhere, so it wasn’t a trailer.  It was just a piece of rusted metal with wheels (but those eventually came off too).  If I had seen it as simply a piece of metal it would have been easier to break out of the idea that it had a under-side and a top-side.  Of course it needs to be oriented a certain way when it is hauling a boat, but beyond that it doesn’t.
Of course it still is a boat trailer even when it’s not attached to a vehicle to pull it and when it doesn’t have a boat on it. The problem was how I saw it.

I am a writer.  Which isn’t to say that I am always writing, or that I am a writer only when I am actually putting words together in a way to express something.  Like the trailer it is the way I am built that makes me what I am.  My experience with the trailer made me wonder if I am the same way when I write.  Do I get caught in the rut of thinking that my way of telling a story is the only one?
Stories are never really one sided.  They can be told from the vantage of the characters or they can be told by a narrator.  Either way there may be a degree of lopsidedness that comes from limited perspective.
It makes me curious.  I want to read the other side of stories.  Books often have the protagonist and antagonist, the good guy and the bad guy.  But that qualification has more to do with vantage point than with objective universal right and wrong.  The bad guy has a story too.  I suspect that in his version he is good.  It’s just that we are rooting for the other guy.  We root for our favorite sports team but the other team isn’t intrinsically bad because of it.
One story I would like to read from the bad guy perspective is The Poisonwood Bible.   As the reader I found my side.  I found it easy to blame and accuse the father while forgiving and vindicating his family.  Perhaps I was too hasty.  Perhaps I was stuck in my perspective.  Maybe I saw a man in the same way I saw a trailer, from a narrow vantage point.