THERE ARE GECKOS

THERE ARE GECKOS

by

Jennifer Macaire

Copyright © 2002  All Rights Reserved

There are geckos crawling up the sides of the tent. The moon is so bright that I can see their silhouettes as they trot across the canvas. The only problem is, I can’t tell if they’re inside or outside the tent.

Beside me in the dark I can hear my sister’s soft breathing, and the harsher breathing of my mother and her boyfriend as they try not to make the cot squeak. It makes no difference to me. What bothers me is the thought that maybe a gecko will leap on a spider and they will both fall onto my face during the night. The thought keeps me awake while the soft moans from across the tent fade and snores take their place. My eyes trace the geckos’ paths across the tent, while the moon slides through the tropical night and waves crash softly onto the beach.

The next morning we snorkel around the reef. I’m tired, and let the waves carry my body where they will. Up and down I bob, my hands dangling beneath me, my hair floating all around, my eyes half closed and the sound of my own breathing in the snorkel-tube lulling me to sleep.

“You’re the only person I know who can sleep in the water,” my sister tells me. I crawl just far enough to reach my towel and then I sleep again. Parrotfish, yellow tangs and angelfish swim through my dreams, while my back burns to a crisp.

That evening we eat at a cafeteria. We were going to have a barbecue but we didn’t buy meat, my mother’s boyfriend is too stoned to light a fire, and besides; the bright neon lights and white linoleum tables lure us into the cafeteria like moths. I take a tray. There is wilted salad with anemic tomatoes, half grapefruits with faded maraschino cherries, and tuna sandwiches. I take a sandwich and a can or orange soda. “Get your elbows off the table,” my mother hisses. “Stop slurping.”

Her boyfriend says, “Leave her alone,” and gives me a wink. Lately he’s been winking at me a lot. I turn away. He has bright, gecko eyes.

We spend three nights camping on Saint John. Each night I stay awake, listening, watching. There are rules to living in a tent. A blanket becomes a wall. In the morning, take your toothbrush to the showers and hold the toilet door for your sister so you don’t pay an extra dime. When you fall asleep on the beach, make sure you’re in the shade. No one tells me the rules; I learn them by myself. When the sun sets, we take the ferry back to Saint Thomas. My mother’s boyfriend lights a joint and when she isn’t looking, offers it to me. I refuse. As the boat cleaves the waves, I wonder what rules guide other people’s lives, and how they learn them. Then I close my eyes, and think about geckos.

 

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Ashley’s Easter in Alexandria

Ashley's Easter

Festivals took up a lot of time. There were rituals for every holiday, each god had to be honored, and some months were so full of festivities it’s a wonder the people got any work done. Maybe the secret to progress was ditching the deities, I thought one day, as I helped Chirpa clean the house. I was tired of always getting stuck with helping with ancient festivals. Fine, I was stuck in the past around 300 BC, but that shouldn’t mean I had to impersonate a goddess every time there was a solstice or something. Once, I’d blessed the fields — and couldn’t walk for a week. I wanted my kids to be civilized, not pagan. I’d have to install some of my more modern traditions in the family. The problem with being born in 2377 was that time travel had been invented, but children’s stories and religion had been banned. I would have to invent my own traditions to share with my children.

We’d been back in Alexandria for a few weeks now and the spring solstice was just around the corner. We were making sure not a speck of dust remained, so that the house would be ready for the goddess’s return. And who was coming back? Persephone, of course, my namesake – leaping from the cold arms of her husband, Hades, into the welcoming arms of her mother, Demeter. And since apparently Persephone wouldn’t come if the house wasn’t clean (I have had guests like that) we scrubbed.

I was getting sick of scrubbing. Axiom had gone to fetch the fresh herbs we needed to make the posies and bouquets, and I’d talked the boys into fetching eggs from our neighbor. In the back of my mind, I was planning a surprise. A real Easter egg hunt in ancient Alexandria – complete with dyed eggs, candies, and stories of the Easter bunny.  I had been keeping the onion skins, beets, purple and red cabbage, turmeric and carrot tops for dyes. Chirpa, who had dyed eggs in Persia as part of the fertility festival, was my reluctant helper. Instead of cleaning, she argued, we were making more of a mess. At this rate, spring would never come.

When Paul and Chiron returned with the eggs, I sent them off on another errand with Brazza. Then Chirpa and I started boiling the ingredients and soaking the eggs. It was messy, slow work, and I was afraid Brazza would return with the boys before we finished. Chirpa was cross because the house wasn’t cleaned, and Alexander, who came to see what “That awful smell was”, fled the house and went to oversee construction of the Great Library.

I put all the different colored dyes in separate bowl, and put the hard-boiled eggs in to soak overnight. Chirpa grumbled about wasting dishes, and it occurred to me we had none left for dinner. But since I’d wanted to get a new set of dishes anyway,  I left Chirpa to clean up the mess (her glare would have frozen the real Hades) and went to the market. Free at last! There was the newscaster, standing on his marble soapbox, the sale on parrots by the fountain, and the usual heckling and haggling going on at every stand. I located the pottery and dithered over a set with dolphins or a set with a chap in a chariot. The dolphins won, and I gave our address for delivery that evening. There were no street names at this time, although I’d suggested to Alexander he might want to start that trend. Instead it was, “The hill over there, yes, that one. The big house on the top with the black front door – with the lion scratched on it.” (Chiron’s work. He got a scolding for scratching up a perfectly nice paint job).

That evening, after we’d hidden the eggs in the garden, I told the boys the story of the Easter bunny, which I didn’t remember so well. My parents had never read stories to me, but I thought it had something about a watering can, a mean farmer, a goddess called Mary, her son Jesus, and their pet rabbit, Peter. I was embroidering a little – getting to the part where the mean farmer was about to kill the rabbit – when Alexander, who always liked to listen to my stories, interrupted.

“Does the rabbit get cooked with tarragon?” he asked. “Because I’m getting hungry, and that sounds good.”

“Of course not!” I was cross. “The rabbit escapes, and becomes immortal, and brings the Easter eggs to good little boys and girls. He hides them in the garden.”

Our scribe, Pan, (short for Panteleimon) had been listening, and had written the story down. Before I realized it, he headed towards the Great Library to file it. I was worried, then remembered the library would burn in a few centuries. Maybe a fragment of the story would remain, but it shouldn’t change the timeline any.  At least, I hoped.

The boys hunted for their eggs. Alexander found most of them. A few were found weeks and even months later. Chirpa liked the new dishes, (I gave them to her as a gift, for cleaning the house), and when I showed Chiron how to scratch drawings in the eggs, he promised not to scratch anymore lions on our front door. All in all, a good Easter, I thought!

Happy Easter from Ashley!  319 BC, Alexandria near Egypt. 


The Road to Alexander  cookinglight.com

An interview with Alexander the Great

(Guest Post on author Karen King’s blog)

This week we’re going back to Ancient Greece for an interview with Alexander the Great by Ashley Riverain, from Jennifer Macaire’s The Road to Alexander (Book 1 in the Time for Alexander series).

First, let’s find out a bit more about the book.

Blurb:

512Bbgw3nqLAfter winning a prestigious award, Ashley is chosen to travel through time and interview a historical figure. Choosing her childhood hero Alexander the Great, she is sent back in time for less than a day. He mistakes her for Persephone, goddess of the dead, and kidnaps her, stranding her in his own time. What follows, after she awakes under the pomegranate tree, is a hilarious, mind-bending tale of a modern woman immersed in the ancient throes of sex, love, quite a bit of vino, war, death and ever so much more.

intrigued? Let’s move onto Ashley’s interview with Alexander

Notes from Tempus University – time travel program. Background: Ashley Riverain won a prestigious award, and was sent back in time to interview Alexander the Great. All that made it back were part of her notes, inscribed on a memory stick disguised as an amulet. What follows is the transcription.

Ashley Riverain (hereby known as AR): Testing, one, two, three, test…holy shit. Sorry. Erase. Repeat. Erase. (Tapping sound). I have arrived in 333 BC. It is early morning, nearly sunrise, and the air is incredibly clear. I can see smoke rising, so I will head in that direction. I believe Alexander’s encampment is just over the rise. (Sound of footsteps on grass. Thud.) Ouch! Shit. Stupid sandals. Who made these things? (Sound of footsteps and then a gasp) I’ve just topped the rise. The encampment is amazing. Huge. Well organized. It is set up not far from a river. I see stables with paddocks and horses. On a plain, the soldier’s tents are all set up in neat rows. There are blacksmith tents, cooks’ tents with hundreds of clay pots for baking bread, there is a hedge of spears outside another tent. Must be the weapon repair shop. There is a large tent set up by itself, it must be Alexander’s tent. Since there are guards outside it, I’m assuming he’s inside.

(Sounds of footsteps, another thud) I hate these sandals!

Note by student: AR has prompted her tradiscope (cortex implant that enables speaking any language) so the rest of this interview is conducted in ancient Greek, Persian, and a barbarian dialect believing to be from Bactria. Alexander was testing her in different languages, but because of the tradiscope’s abilities, Ashley was able to reply in every language. We believe this may be part of the reason why Alexander kidnapped her. We skip the part where she speaks to the guards to let her pass. She claims to be an oneirocrite, and says she has an important dream to relate to Alexander. The guards announce her, and she enters the tent.

AR: I have come from far away to speak with you, O Mighty King.

Alexander: You can call me Alexander. I dislike titles. Where exactly are you from? I’ve never heard an accent such as yours, and I have traveled widely.

AR: Um…far away. Over the mountains. You wouldn’t know the place.

Alexander: Try me. I like a challenge.

AR: I’d rather talk about you.

Alexander: Not until I’ve heard all about you. You say you’re a oneirocrite – someone who interprets dreams, is that right? So, Where are you from, and what have you dreamt? Here, have a bunch of grapes.

AR: I dreamt you told me why you were conquering the world.

Alexander: Don’t take that bunch – that’s the poisoned bunch I keep in case an enemy comes to call. I’m not interested in conquering the world, I am interested in Greece and Macedonia. I’m heading towards Babylon, where Darius will sue for peace. Did you see my soldiers? Everyone is in awe of me, now that I beat Darius. (Sound of chuckle). You still haven’t told me where you are from.

AR: Uh. I don’t suppose you’ve ever heard of America?

Alexander: Why no! I have not! You do come from a place I’ve never heard of. How amazing. (Sound of someone getting up and pacing. Sound of tent flap moving) The sun has fully risen. Soon I must make my rounds.

AR: Did you just wake up?

Alexander: No. I wake up before dawn. I already have been to see the cooks and the horses, and my generals. You’ll have to come see my horse, he is quite amazing. So, what dream did you have of me again? Something about me conquering the world? I have no wish to do so. You must be a poor oneirocrite – that’s why they chose you to see me – no one else wanted to walk so far, right? Don’t look so downcast. I don’t mind. I don’t believe in that stuff anyhow. Or not much. Birds!*

(*Here Alexander switches from Greek to Persian)

AR: Birds?

Alexander: I think birds are portents of omens. The other day, a hawk dropped a mouse at my feet. What do you think that means?

AR: I have no idea. Um, look, I hate to insist, but I have some questions for you, if you don’t mind. First-

Alexander: What color is your hair? Why did you shave it all off?

AR: What? Oh, it’s blond. I shaved it because someone told me it was the latest fashion.

Alexander: Someone doesn’t like you very much. It was the fashion a decade ago. Nowadays, all the women wear their hair long.

AR: (Sounds angry) It was the same person who gave me the sandals. (Whispers into the recorder) When I get back, the fashion consultant will have some explaining to do.

Alexander: That’s too bad, because you are a striking woman. Almost as tall as I am. And straight, white teeth.

AR: Please, could we get back to the subject of my questions?

Alexander: A woman with a one-track mind. You remind me of my mother. (Switches to a barbarian dialect).

AR: Your mother?

Alexander: She used to tell me to stop sucking my thumb, so I did it for years. Just to annoy her.

AR: That explains your teeth. You have a slight overbite.

Alexander: I’d like you to explain your gift for languages. No one but my translators speak so many. Are you a spy?

AR: (sounds frightened) No, no, of course not! I just had a few questions for you, about your plans for the future…

Alexander: I told you. I’m going to Babylon, I’ll probably marry one of Darius’s daughters for politics, then I’ll go back to Greece and rule from there. Darius will have to go to Ecbatana, where his mother lives. She’ll keep him out of trouble. I may let my mother rule Bablylon. She’ll like that. And it will keep her out of trouble. She keeps trying to poison people.

AR: Er…that is so, um, completely different from my, er, dream. Are you sure that’s what you plan to do?

Alexander: I already told you. You’re a terrible oneirocrite. But you’d make a good translator.

(Note – the amulet recorder was damaged in the tractor beam from some sort of scuffle. Therefor, no more of Ashley’s interview survived. The Time Senders believe Alexander kidnapped her to become one of his translators. No one can explain the discrepancies between Alexander the Great’s plans for the future as told to Ashley Riverain and what he subsequently did (i.e., go into the heart of Persia and then all the way to India. Why? We may never know. The second time traveler sent back to interview Alexander disappeared as well – his amulet/recorder was not recovered, and Alexander the Great has been classified as a particularly dangerous subject. Idem for his mother.)

Excerpt from “The Road to Alexander”.

‘Oh! There you are!’ cried Alexander, standing up and holding out his arms. ‘I was worried. Did you find your new shoes? Yes, I see you did. The village priest has come to thank you for your sandals. In exchange, he has agreed to forsake all virgin sacrifices. Isn’t that wonderful? Your mother will be thrilled.’

‘I’m sure she will be,’ I said with the utmost truthfulness. Then I went into the tent and collapsed.

Alexander came in to join me about an hour later. He stretched out on the bed next to me and tickled my back until I finally turned to face him.

‘Is it so very difficult?’ he asked me, his face a study in sorrow.

‘What?’

‘Living with mortals. I’m sorry if you’re unhappy. I wasn’t thinking when I snatched you from Hades’ grasp. I thought you wouldn’t want to go back. I admit to being selfish, I wanted to keep you by my side, but I didn’t think of the consequences. Will they be terrible? Will your mother put a curse on me? Is it too late for you to go back?’

I thought about what to say. Alexander folded his arms beneath his chin and waited patiently. Today, his eyes had the candid stare of a lion.

‘I can never go back,’ I said, ‘at least not in your lifetime.’

‘You’re bound to me for my lifetime,’ said Alexander. He said it as if he were pronouncing vows, and I shivered.

‘I did want to go back. But some of it was my fault because part of me wanted to stay here with you, and I was lost because I couldn’t make myself clear.’ I was silent again, watching him. His stare never wavered. ‘My mother will not put a curse on you,’ I said. ‘You will never have to worry about that.’

‘But what about Hades?’ he asked. ‘I’ve cheated him out of a bride.’

‘We won’t have to worry about him either.’

cookinglight.com

Want to read more? You can buy the book here:

Amazon.com: http://a.co/1eUv5aF

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/fr/en/ebook/the-road-to-alexander-1

Publisher’s Weekly

Publisher’s weekly review of “The Road to Alexander”

Macaire’s imaginative opening entry in the Time for Alexander series transports time-traveling journalist Ashley Riveraine back 3,000 years to 333 BCE via a frozen magnetic beam to interview the legendary king and military general Alexander the Great. Ashley loses her ability to return home when Alexander pulls her out of the beam believing she is the goddess Persephone. Alexander is unaware that Ashley is from the future, and she must not do or say anything to change history or she will be erased. She soon becomes Alexander’s lover (steamy scenes ensue) and a resourceful operator in a society in which people rely on omens, oracles, and gods in everyday life. Alexander’s relationships—with his treacherous mother, Olympias, his three wives, and his troops—are reasonably well-developed. The book’s most engrossing sequence sees Alexander matching wits with the Persian king, Bessus, while pursuing him in a grueling ride that sees many men and horses die. A loose ending will entice readers to find out what lies ahead in the series. (Booklife)

512Bbgw3nqL

 

 

The Road to Alexander

Hi Naomie – thank you for having me as a guest on your blog! Let me introduce myself, I’m an American living in France. I write for Evernight press, Medallion Press, and I have three books out, The Road to AlexanderLegends of Persia, and Son of the Moon, from Accent Press.

The Road to Alexander is a love story as old as time itself – a love that spans centuries. Ashley, the time traveling heroine, is stuck in the past with Alexander the Great, and the one thing she misses most – is chocolate! If she could, she’d make brownies and give them to Alexander’s army (how many eggs would she need to make brownies for 40,000 men?) It boggles the mind. At any rate, here is a basic recipe that makes enough luscious brownies for 8:

Related image

Recipe: 

4 oz dark unsweetened chocolate, 2 sticks sweet butter, melted. Melt chocolate in the microwave or over a double broiler and add melted butter. Stir well. In another bowl, mix 4 eggs and 2 cups granulated sugar together until creamy. Note: I used 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup light brown sugar. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla. Blend chocolate/butter mix with sugar/egg mix and add 1/2 cup of flour. You can also add a cup of crushed walnuts or pecans if you like. Butter and flour a rectangular baking dish. Pour in batter and bake in a preheated 350°F  (220°C) for 25 minutes or until middle is set. Do not overcook! Let cool and cut into small squares.

The Road to Alexander: Ashley is a one of the elite, a time-travel journalist who has fought to prove herself in a world where everyone believes her road in life was paved by her parents’ money and her title. After winning a prestigious award she is chosen to travel through time and interview a historical figure. Choosing her childhood hero Alexander the Great, she is sent back in time for less than a day to find and interview a man whose legend has survived to the present day. He mistakes her for Persephone, goddess of the dead, and kidnaps her, stranding her in his own time.  What follows, after she awakes under a pomegranate tree, is a hilarious, mind-bending tale of a modern woman immersed in the ancient throes of sex, love, quite a bit of vino, war, death, and ever so much more!

You can order the first book in the Time for Alexander series to be published by Accent Press! It’s fun, it’s adventure, it’s romance, it’s a modern woman stuck in 300BC without her cell phone or decent shampoo – but with the greatest hero who ever lived, Alexander.

UK, USA, France…available on all Amazon sites!

We are having a baby girl!
The Road to Alexander, “First of the Time for Alexander series. Time-traveling reporter Ashley is trapped in the past of Alexander the Great, when Alexander thinks he is rescuing her from the god Hades. […] Entertaining, fast-paced, and knowledgeable.” ~Spinoff Reviews

Excerpt:

We walked through the doorway to find Darius sitting pensively on his throne.

He was taller than I’d expected. Most of the people I’d met were of medium height. Darius, when he stood up to greet us, towered over me. He was nude, except for a golden chain around his neck. Nudity was so common that I’d ceased to be aware of it. The soldiers went around unclothed, and in the villages children were nude. Persian men wore very brief loincloths. Women wore robes or belted a cloth around their waists, although slave women were often naked. Alexander chose the Greek mode, which meant he wore a pleated tunic or slung a short cape over his shoulders. Today he wore his tunic.

Darius’s hair was long, black, and wavy, brushed back from his high forehead. He was clean-shaven; the beard he wore on ceremonial occasions was in his hand. It was made of finely knotted black silk. He looked at his beard and then placed it gently on the seat of the throne.

“It’s yours now,” were his first words to Alexander.

“You can keep it.” Alexander’s voice was neutral. It almost sounded like pity, and I looked at him sharply. So did Darius. For a second his eyes flashed, and I saw a glimpse of the king he’d been.

“Thank you.” His voice was careful too. They talked about the battle, verbally dancing around each other like fencers. Neither gave the other any advantage, but there was an undercurrent of sadness in Alexander that I could not fathom. Darius was puzzled as well, because after an awkward silence, he motioned toward the table where a tray of fruit sat. “Would you like some figs? They’re fresh. I imagine you’ve been living off dried ones during the march.”

Alexander said, “No thank you.”

Darius nodded. “Ah well. How’s Statiera?” It was almost an afterthought.

“She’s well. She’s ruling Babylon.”

He looked surprised. “Oh? And your mother?”

“I sent her back to her own people. It was either that, or kill her.”

Darius froze. I held my breath. He turned his head very slowly and looked at me for the first time. He had long-lashed, honey-brown eyes. Vanity prompted him to line them with kohl, making them appear even larger and more brilliant. His face was dark and his eyes were lighter than his skin, like a lion’s eyes. And like a lion he blinked and looked away from my gaze. “So you knew,” he said.

“Why did you think I came after you?” Alexander’s voice rose, a note of anger in it.

“Oh, I suppose I’d guessed.” Darius shrugged and took a plump fig. He squeezed it appraisingly and then put it back in the bowl. “You want the babe.”

“Where is he?”

“Is it true she’s a goddess?” He wouldn’t look me in the face and I found that disturbing.

“It is.” I was startled by Alexander’s answer, but even more startled at Darius’s next question.

“Tell me when and how I shall die, Goddess.” He was staring out the window, bracing his hands against the sill. His body was all flowing lines and muscle. I couldn’t help admiring his physique.

I looked at Alexander who nodded once.

I drew a deep breath. “You’ll be killed by someone you trust before the summer ends.”

A shudder ran through his body. When he spoke his voice was broken. “The child is in the hands of a Bactrian satrap. I gave him to a caravan going east. He’ll be in Bactria in the spring. The babe is marked by the goddess. He’ll come to no harm.”

I put my hand on Alexander’s arm to steady myself. “Why?” I whispered.

“Because of the oracle,” said Darius. He sighed and then looked at me at last. “When Olympias came to the city she had the babe brought to the temple of Marduk. She was going to sacrifice him. An oracle told her that the babe would be her downfall. In a way, I suppose it was true. However, my astrologer said that if the babe died I would lose everything that was dear to me. I love my daughter Statiera more than all the gold in this city. And I love her more than my own life. How long do you think she would have lived if you had found out that your child had been sacrificed on the altar of Babylon’s god? Now she is the Queen of Babylon. The babe is safe, but the prophecy said one more thing, Iskander, about you.”

“What did it say about me?” asked Alexander.

“It said to ask her.” He pointed at me. “The oracle said, ‘All Iskander’s questions can be answered by the child’s mother.’ It claimed she knows all.” Then he turned to the window again. “Ask if you dare, Iskander. I did.” His voice was almost inaudible.

I would have run out of the room, but Alexander caught my wrist. He bowed to Darius, and made me bow too, although Darius had his back to us and was staring out the window. Alexander knocked on the door, and Lysimachus let us out.

“He can see anyone he chooses,” said Alexander.

“Anyone?” Lysimachus looked surprised.

“Anyone. He’ll be trusting no one now.” He looked at me with flinty eyes as he said this, and I quailed.

When I got outside the palace, I gulped the air. The atmosphere had been suffocating. Darius was doomed.

I had hated Persepolis from the moment I’d entered it. Perhaps it was the emptiness of the city. No one had ever lived there. There were no women, no children, only Darius and the soldiers. Or maybe it was the pall of smoke that hung low in the sky. Thousands of men were clearing the bodies from the battlefield. The dead soldiers were being cremated, and the smell was ghastly. Darius had lost nearly half his army. The rest of Darius’s men had either been absorbed into Alexander’s army, or if they wouldn’t swear allegiance, sent to the mines as slaves.

Alexander brooded as we walked. Several times he made as if to speak, but each time he fell silent. At first, I wondered if he were thinking about the men he’d lost, and their families’ grief when the news arrived. Then I saw him looking at me out of the corners of his eyes, and I realized he was thinking about what Darius had said.

I reached out and touched his arm lightly, meaning to comfort him, but he flinched.

“All right, that does it!” I stopped in the middle of the path and folded my arms across my chest. “We have to talk about this. It will do no good for you to go on sulking.”

He spun around and faced me, his eyes blazing. “Sulking? Sulking, am I?”

“Yes.” I glared back at him, but I couldn’t stay angry long. My eyes softened. “Oh Alex, I’m sorry. I never should have said anything to Darius. It was a mistake, I admit. I regret it and I wish you had never made me do it.”

“Made you do it? I made you do it?” His anger was terrible to behold. “I told you not to!”

“You nodded!” I was furious. “You nodded your head like this!”

“That means ‘no’!” He sputtered. “Everyone knows that!”

“I forgot,” I said miserably. “I’m sorry. Where I come from that means ‘yes’.”

“Where do you come from?”

I shook my head. “That means no, where I come from. And I can’t tell you.”

We stared at each other. Alexander’s face was paler than usual, his forehead damp. “The gods are playing with us,” he said slowly.

“Perhaps it’s true.” I couldn’t face him anymore and I turned my head.

“Oh, no, you don’t.” He took my chin and made me look into his eyes. “How do you know he will die by the hand of someone he trusts?”

I shivered. I would have to tell him, and by doing so change the course of history. A sharp pain was starting in my toes and I wondered if it was the erasure that was beginning. In a moment I would disappear. Probably writhing in horrible pain. I glanced down, expecting to see my feet disappearing but no, it was just Alexander, standing on my foot. “You’re on my foot,” I said, pointing.

He cursed and stepped backwards. “I need to know. Are you really an oracle?”

I shook my head. “No, I’m not. I’ve never even seen an oracle, and I don’t know what they do, or how they act. When I was in the palace, all I could think of was my baby, and that Darius had kidnapped him. I was angry. I said something I regret. If it turns out to be true, we’ll talk about it then. Right now I’m just glad to be out of there and away from him.”

“He was a great man,” said Alexander.

“But you’re a greater one.” I touched his face and then pulled him towards me and kissed him. “And you’re the best kisser in the world. Who taught you?”

He opened his mouth to speak then snapped it shut. “My mother was right. All women are sorceresses.”

My mouth twitched. “For once, she was probably right.” I linked my arm through his, and he didn’t pull away. He was not convinced and was still angry, I could tell. He hadn’t forgiven me, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d have some serious explaining to do. Bleakly, I wondered what I could invent.

~ You can visit the Facebook page for the series here 

End of Winter burn out

End of Winter burn out

I think I run on solar power – at the end of winter, my energy levels are so low I can hardly get out of bed. When the alarm rings, I just feel like crying – if I had the energy. Instead, I drag the covers over my head and wait for the five minute warning – sometimes I fall asleep waiting, and the reminder alarm wakes me up all over again. Those are the days I know nothing will go right. I can’t hold two ideas in my head at once. I start getting dressed, then remember I have to shower. I get out of the shower, and find I’ve not rinced my hair. I start to brush my teeth, and then do something else. Each one of my chores is interrupted by something else, until, at the end of the morning, nothing is done and I’m late for work.
At work it takes all my concentration to keep on track. Usually by then I’ve had a coffee or two, and I’m waking up. But depending on the day, things can get better. Usually, if it’s a sunny day, I’ll perk up and find myself becoming more alert. But if it’s dark and raining, I need cup after cup of tea and coffee to keep me going.
And then spring arrives – suddenly the forsythia are in bloom. Yellow flowers shining on bushes and trees – as the poem by Robert Frost goes, “Nature’s first green is gold…”

Nothing Gold Can Stay
Robert Frost, 1874 – 1963

 Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Fuck you, I like Guns

 

Also, anger management classes starting in elementary school and continuing through college would be a good idea.

via “Fuck you, I like guns.”

BCMCarryHandleAR-15-3

America, can we talk? Let’s just cut the shit for once and actually talk about what’s going on without blustering and pretending we’re actually doing a good job at adulting as a country right now. We’re not. We’re really screwing this whole society thing up, and we have to do better. We don’t have a choice. People are dying. At this rate, it’s not if your kids, or mine, are involved in a school shooting, it’s when. One of these happens every 60 hours on average in the US. If you think it can’t affect you, you’re wrong. Dead wrong. So let’s talk.

I’ll start. I’m an Army veteran. I like M-4’s, which are, for all practical purposes, an AR-15, just with a few extra features that people almost never use anyway. I’d say at least 70% of my formal weapons training is on that exact rifle, with the other 30% being split between various and sundry machineguns and grenade launchers. My experience is pretty representative of soldiers of my era. Most of us are really good with an M-4, and most of us like it at least reasonably well, because it is an objectively good rifle. I was good with an M-4, really good. I earned the Expert badge every time I went to the range, starting in Basic Training. This isn’t uncommon. I can name dozens of other soldiers/veterans I know personally who can say the exact same thing. This rifle is surprisingly easy to use, completely idiot-proof really, has next to no recoil, comes apart and cleans up like a dream, and is light to carry around. I’m probably more accurate with it than I would be with pretty much any other weapon in existence. I like this rifle a lot. I like marksmanship as a sport. When I was in the military, I enjoyed combining these two things as often as they’d let me.

With all that said, enough is enough. My knee jerk reaction is to consider weapons like the AR-15 no big deal because it is my default setting. It’s where my training lies. It is my normal, because I learned how to fire a rifle IN THE ARMY. You know, while I may only have shot plastic targets on the ranges of Texas, Georgia, and Missouri, that’s not what those weapons were designed for, and those targets weren’t shaped like deer. They were shaped like people. Sometimes we even put little hats on them. You learn to take a gut shot, “center mass”, because it’s a bigger target than the head, and also because if you maim the enemy soldier rather than killing him cleanly, more of his buddies will come out and get him, and you can shoot them, too. He’ll die of those injuries, but it’ll take him a while, giving you the chance to pick off as many of his compadres as you can. That’s how my Drill Sergeant explained it anyway. I’m sure there are many schools of thought on it. The fact is, though, when I went through my marksmanship training in the US Army, I was not learning how to be a competition shooter in the Olympics, or a good hunter. I was being taught how to kill people as efficiently as possible, and that was never a secret.

As an avowed pacifist now, it turns my stomach to even type the above words, but can you refute them? I can’t. Every weapon that a US Army soldier uses has the express purpose of killing human beings. That is what they are made for. The choice rifle for years has been some variant of what civilians are sold as an AR-15. Whether it was an M-4 or an M-16 matters little. The function is the same, and so is the purpose. These are not deer rifles. They are not target rifles. They are people killing rifles. Let’s stop pretending they’re not.

With this in mind, is anybody surprised that nearly every mass shooter in recent US history has used an AR-15 to commit their crime? And why wouldn’t they? High capacity magazine, ease of loading and unloading, almost no recoil, really accurate even without a scope, but numerous scopes available for high precision, great from a distance or up close, easy to carry, and readily available. You can buy one at Wal-Mart, or just about any sports store, and since they’re long guns, I don’t believe you have to be any more than 18 years old with a valid ID. This rifle was made for the modern mass shooter, especially the young one. If he could custom design a weapon to suit his sinister purposes, he couldn’t do a better job than Armalite did with this one already.

This rifle is so deadly and so easy to use that no civilian should be able to get their hands on one. We simply don’t need these things in society at large. I always find it interesting that when I was in the Army, and part of my job was to be incredibly proficient with this exact weapon, I never carried one at any point in garrison other than at the range. Our rifles lived in the arms room, cleaned and oiled, ready for the next range day or deployment. We didn’t carry them around just because we liked them. We didn’t bluster on about barracks defense and our second amendment rights. We tucked our rifles away in the arms room until the next time we needed them, just as it had been done since the Army’s inception. The military police protected us from threats in garrison. They had 9 mm Berettas to carry. They were the only soldiers who carry weapons in garrison. We trusted them to protect us, and they delivered. With notably rare exceptions, this system has worked well. There are fewer shootings on Army posts than in society in general, probably because soldiers are actively discouraged from walking around with rifles, despite being impeccably well trained with them. Perchance, we could have the largely untrained civilian population take a page from that book?

I understand that people want to be able to own guns. That’s ok. We just need to really think about how we’re managing this. Yes, we have to manage it, just as we manage car ownership. People have to get a license to operate a car, and if you operate a car without a license, you’re going to get in trouble for that. We manage all things in society that can pose a danger to other people by their misuse. In addition to cars, we manage drugs, alcohol, exotic animals (there are certain zip codes where you can’t own Serval cats, for example), and fireworks, among other things. We restrict what types of businesses can operate in which zones of the city or county. We have a whole system of permitting for just about any activity a person wants to conduct since those activities could affect others, and we realize, as a society, that we need to try to minimize the risk to other people that comes from the chosen activities of those around them in which they have no say. Gun ownership is the one thing our country collectively refuses to manage, and the result is a lot of dead people.

I can’t drive a Formula One car to work. It would be really cool to be able to do that, and I could probably cut my commute time by a lot. Hey, I’m a good driver, a responsible Formula One owner. You shouldn’t be scared to be on the freeway next to me as I zip around you at 140 MPH, leaving your Mazda in a cloud of dust! Why are you scared? Cars don’t kill people. People kill people. Doesn’t this sound like bullshit? It is bullshit, and everybody knows. Not one person I know would argue non-ironically that Formula One cars on the freeway are a good idea. Yet, these same people will say it’s totally ok to own the firearm equivalent because, in the words of comedian Jim Jeffries, “fuck you, I like guns”.

Yes, yes, I hear you now. We have a second amendment to the constitution, which must be held sacrosanct over all other amendments. Dude. No. The constitution was made to be a malleable document. It’s intentionally vague. We can enact gun control without infringing on the right to bear arms. You can have your deer rifle. You can have your shotgun that you love to shoot clay pigeons with. You can have your target pistol. Get a license. Get a training course. Recertify at a predetermined interval. You do not need a military grade rifle. You don’t. There’s no excuse.

“But we’re supposed to protect against tyranny! I need the same weapons the military would come at me with!” Dude. You know where I can get an Apache helicopter and a Paladin?! Hook a girl up! Seriously, though, do you really think you’d be able to hold off the government with an individual level weapon? Because you wouldn’t. One grenade, and you’re toast. Don’t have these illusions of standing up to the government, and needing military style rifles for that purpose. You’re not going to stand up to the government with this thing. They’d take you out in about half a second.

Let’s be honest. You just want a cool toy, and for the vast majority of people, that’s all an AR-15 is. It’s something fun to take to the range and put some really wicked holes in a piece of paper. Good for you. I know how enjoyable that is. I’m sure for a certain percentage of people, they might not kill anyone driving a Formula One car down the freeway, or owning a Cheetah as a pet, or setting off professional grade fireworks without a permit. Some people are good with this stuff, and some people are lucky, but those cases don’t negate the overall rule. Military style rifles have been the choice du jour in the incidents that have made our country the mass shootings capitol of the world. Formula One cars aren’t good for commuting. Cheetahs are bitey. Professional grade fireworks will probably take your hand off. All but one of these are common sense to the average American. Let’s fix that. Be honest, you don’t need that AR-15. Nobody does. Society needs them gone, no matter how good you may be with yours. Kids are dying, and it’s time to stop fucking around.

In Unison

There is something terrifying about the North Korean cheerleaders. Have you seen them? Sitting straight, tight smiles on their faces, their eyes wary. They sing and clap in perfect unison, but have no reactions to the people around them. They are surrounded by “minders” – older men and women, and plainsclothes policement keep anyone away. When the South Koreans ask them questions, they smile brightly but do not respond. They are like robots, and truth is, they frighten me. They scare me because they represent a State where people have been culled, constrained, ad forced into one single mold. There are no differences. There is no diversity. It is an incredibly fragile State.  And so, for your reading pleasure, I have dug out an old Kurt Vonnegut story about a world where everyone must conform. Enjoy! 

HARRISON BERGERON

by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

French Translation from Avice Robitaille.


THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though. April for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn’t think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

George and Hazel were watching television. There were tears on Hazel’s cheeks, but she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about.

On the television screen were ballerinas.

A buzzer sounded in George’s head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm.

“That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did,” said Hazel.

“Huh” said George.

“That dance-it was nice,” said Hazel.

“Yup,” said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren’t really very good-no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in. George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped. But he didn’t get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.

George winced. So did two out of the eight ballerinas.

Hazel saw him wince. Having no mental handicap herself, she had to ask George what the latest sound had been.

“Sounded like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer,” said George.

“I’d think it would be real interesting, hearing all the different sounds,” said Hazel a little envious. “All the things they think up.”

“Um,” said George.

“Only, if I was Handicapper General, you know what I would do?” said Hazel. Hazel, as a matter of fact, bore a strong resemblance to the Handicapper General, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers. “If I was Diana Moon Glampers,” said Hazel, “I’d have chimes on Sunday-just chimes. Kind of in honor of religion.”

“I could think, if it was just chimes,” said George.

“Well-maybe make ’em real loud,” said Hazel. “I think I’d make a good Handicapper General.”

“Good as anybody else,” said George.

“Who knows better than I do what normal is?” said Hazel.

“Right,” said George. He began to think glimmeringly about his abnormal son who was now in jail, about Harrison, but a twenty-one-gun salute in his head stopped that.

“Boy!” said Hazel, “that was a doozy, wasn’t it?”

It was such a doozy that George was white and trembling, and tears stood on the rims of his red eyes. Two of of the eight ballerinas had collapsed to the studio floor, were holding their temples.

“All of a sudden you look so tired,” said Hazel. “Why don’t you stretch out on the sofa, so’s you can rest your handicap bag on the pillows, honeybunch.” She was referring to the forty-seven pounds of birdshot in a canvas bag, which was padlocked around George’s neck. “Go on and rest the bag for a little while,” she said. “I don’t care if you’re not equal to me for a while.”

George weighed the bag with his hands. “I don’t mind it,” he said. “I don’t notice it any more. It’s just a part of me.”

“You been so tired lately-kind of wore out,” said Hazel. “If there was just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls. Just a few.”

“Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out,” said George. “I don’t call that a bargain.”

“If you could just take a few out when you came home from work,” said Hazel. “I mean-you don’t compete with anybody around here. You just sit around.”

“If I tried to get away with it,” said George, “then other people’d get away with it-and pretty soon we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else. You wouldn’t like that, would you?”

“I’d hate it,” said Hazel.

“There you are,” said George. The minute people start cheating on laws, what do you think happens to society?”

If Hazel hadn’t been able to come up with an answer to this question, George couldn’t have supplied one. A siren was going off in his head.

“Reckon it’d fall all apart,” said Hazel.

“What would?” said George blankly.

“Society,” said Hazel uncertainly. “Wasn’t that what you just said?

“Who knows?” said George.

The television program was suddenly interrupted for a news bulletin. It wasn’t clear at first as to what the bulletin was about, since the announcer, like all announcers, had a serious speech impediment. For about half a minute, and in a state of high excitement, the announcer tried to say, “Ladies and Gentlemen.”

He finally gave up, handed the bulletin to a ballerina to read.

“That’s all right-” Hazel said of the announcer, “he tried. That’s the big thing. He tried to do the best he could with what God gave him. He should get a nice raise for trying so hard.”

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” said the ballerina, reading the bulletin. She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred pound men.

And she had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody. “Excuse me-” she said, and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetitive.

“Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen,” she said in a grackle squawk, “has just escaped from jail, where he was held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. He is a genius and an athlete, is under-handicapped, and should be regarded as extremely dangerous.”

A police photograph of Harrison Bergeron was flashed on the screen-upside down, then sideways, upside down again, then right side up. The picture showed the full length of Harrison against a background calibrated in feet and inches. He was exactly seven feet tall.

The rest of Harrison’s appearance was Halloween and hardware. Nobody had ever born heavier handicaps. He had outgrown hindrances faster than the H-G men could think them up. Instead of a little ear radio for a mental handicap, he wore a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick wavy lenses. The spectacles were intended to make him not only half blind, but to give him whanging headaches besides.

Scrap metal was hung all over him. Ordinarily, there was a certain symmetry, a military neatness to the handicaps issued to strong people, but Harrison looked like a walking junkyard. In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds.

And to offset his good looks, the H-G men required that he wear at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle-tooth random.

“If you see this boy,” said the ballerina, “do not – I repeat, do not – try to reason with him.”

There was the shriek of a door being torn from its hinges.

Screams and barking cries of consternation came from the television set. The photograph of Harrison Bergeron on the screen jumped again and again, as though dancing to the tune of an earthquake.

George Bergeron correctly identified the earthquake, and well he might have – for many was the time his own home had danced to the same crashing tune. “My God-” said George, “that must be Harrison!”

The realization was blasted from his mind instantly by the sound of an automobile collision in his head.

When George could open his eyes again, the photograph of Harrison was gone. A living, breathing Harrison filled the screen.

Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood – in the center of the studio. The knob of the uprooted studio door was still in his hand. Ballerinas, technicians, musicians, and announcers cowered on their knees before him, expecting to die.

“I am the Emperor!” cried Harrison. “Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!” He stamped his foot and the studio shook.

“Even as I stand here” he bellowed, “crippled, hobbled, sickened – I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!”

Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds.

Harrison’s scrap-iron handicaps crashed to the floor.

Harrison thrust his thumbs under the bar of the padlock that secured his head harness. The bar snapped like celery. Harrison smashed his headphones and spectacles against the wall.

He flung away his rubber-ball nose, revealed a man that would have awed Thor, the god of thunder.

“I shall now select my Empress!” he said, looking down on the cowering people. “Let the first woman who dares rise to her feet claim her mate and her throne!”

A moment passed, and then a ballerina arose, swaying like a willow.

Harrison plucked the mental handicap from her ear, snapped off her physical handicaps with marvelous delicacy. Last of all he removed her mask.

She was blindingly beautiful.

“Now-” said Harrison, taking her hand, “shall we show the people the meaning of the word dance? Music!” he commanded.

The musicians scrambled back into their chairs, and Harrison stripped them of their handicaps, too. “Play your best,” he told them, “and I’ll make you barons and dukes and earls.”

The music began. It was normal at first-cheap, silly, false. But Harrison snatched two musicians from their chairs, waved them like batons as he sang the music as he wanted it played. He slammed them back into their chairs.

The music began again and was much improved.

Harrison and his Empress merely listened to the music for a while-listened gravely, as though synchronizing their heartbeats with it.

They shifted their weights to their toes.

Harrison placed his big hands on the girls tiny waist, letting her sense the weightlessness that would soon be hers.

And then, in an explosion of joy and grace, into the air they sprang!

Not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well.

They reeled, whirled, swiveled, flounced, capered, gamboled, and spun.

They leaped like deer on the moon.

The studio ceiling was thirty feet high, but each leap brought the dancers nearer to it.

It became their obvious intention to kiss the ceiling. They kissed it.

And then, neutraling gravity with love and pure will, they remained suspended in air inches below the ceiling, and they kissed each other for a long, long time.

It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.

Diana Moon Glampers loaded the gun again. She aimed it at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on.

It was then that the Bergerons’ television tube burned out.

Hazel turned to comment about the blackout to George. But George had gone out into the kitchen for a can of beer.

George came back in with the beer, paused while a handicap signal shook him up. And then he sat down again. “You been crying” he said to Hazel.

“Yup,” she said.

“What about?” he said.

“I forget,” she said. “Something real sad on television.”

“What was it?” he said.

“It’s all kind of mixed up in my mind,” said Hazel.

“Forget sad things,” said George.

“I always do,” said Hazel.

“That’s my girl,” said George. He winced. There was the sound of a rivetting gun in his head.

“Gee – I could tell that one was a doozy,” said Hazel.

“You can say that again,” said George.

“Gee-” said Hazel, “I could tell that one was a doozy.”


“Harrison Bergeron” is copyrighted by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., 1961.

A Certain Amount of Delusion

~ The Evening Muse #8 ~

Like most writers I constantly battle with confidence and the lack of constant validation (especially since I’m not publishing regularly anymore), but I’ve come to realize that one way to battle that is to simply adopt a certain amount of delusion — an elevated sense of self and ability as a writer — a delusion of grandeur, if you will. Essentially just have a belief in self that may not even be true, but so long as YOU believe it, that’s all that matters, right? It goes along with the old adage that “If YOU don’t believe in yourself, who’s going to?”

via A Certain Amount of Delusion