Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Poetic Interlude Number III

This is my apology for not having a story to post. You see, my laptop has the death and is refusing to even start up, so I can't even pull files off of it onto something else. It is generally a horrible situation. I'm hoping it will magically start working again, at least for a short while, but either way it looks like I need to do some shopping for a new computer. I'm still working on two or three ideas. I might even try writing some by hand when I'm at home. We'll see.

An Apology

An apology in verse
Short and sweet and terse
I'll return with more to say
Of one who dug a grave
For those he loved so dear
And of a boy in fear
Lest his mother, in a whirl
Should dress him as a girl

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The King's Prerogative

[My current writing project is in the non-fiction realm: a column for the diocesan newspaper. Once I finish that, I will return to posting new fiction. I got an idea today that I think will be good.]

Honor and modesty are ornaments of the soul without which the body, beautiful though it be, should not be so esteemed. – Don Quixote

The newly crowned king of the land strutted confidently – almost arrogantly – down the aisle toward his throne. Yesterday had been the coronation; today he would choose a bride, and two days later they would be married. His mother would bless them, and they would be king and queen.

“This is the good life,” he thought to himself as he settled into the throne to await the beginning of the ceremony. No thoughts of his father clouded his mind, because his father was still alive and well. No man ever died king, unless he died in battle. The new king’s father was old, older than most were when they handed the crown to their son, but he was healthy. Still, the king had felt it was time to hand the kingdom over to his successor, and so yesterday the old man had taken the crown from his own head and placed it on that of his only son. The king had looked him in the eye and said, “The responsibility is now yours. Do you undertake to serve your God, your country, and your family?”

The young man had replied, “I do.”

“Then I place into your hands the welfare of the people, the safety of the land, and the care of your parents and sister. May the weight of the crown never be a burden to you. May it serve as a reminder of the cares you will face in this life, and may its glory be your glory.”

The old man had then turned toward the court and announced in his strong voice, “People, your king!”

Yes, that had been a fine day, when his father had entrusted him with the responsibility of a man, and a king.

Today the ceremonies would continue with the selection of the new queen, who would then be allowed one day and two nights to take leave of her family and prepare for the wedding.

The young king looked around him at the faces in his court. Some were old – the faces of his father’s friends who would now serve to moderate his youthful passions. Others were no older than he. They were the friends that he had grown up with and that he trusted.

A herald approached to announce the beginning of the day’s ceremonies.
“My king, I present to you – in all the fullness of their natural beauty – the fifty maidens deemed most worthy of your choice, both in character and personal beauty.”

The king’s stomach tightened with anticipation as he spoke. “Maidens,” his voice thundered through the hall, “approach, that you may be judged.”

The monstrous doors swung wide and the girls began to step slowly into the hall and down the aisle toward the king. They were, indeed, in the full state of their natural beauty, for not a single one of them wore a shred of cloth to hide herself from his eyes. The king sucked in his breath at the sight. As the girls reached the end of the aisle they spread out in a horizontal line before him, their heads held level, their eyes averted but not fixed on the floor. Their hands hung close to their sides without giving any impression of awkwardness.

The king allowed his eyes to scan from one end of the row to the other as the girls continued to file in. There was a slight commotion in the back of the hall and the king looked up to see the last girl in the procession marching down the aisle. She was fully clothed in a simple but elegant cream colored dress that formed a stunning contrast with her thick black tresses. The king was shocked.
“Do you dare to ignore the law of your land? You were selected to appear before your king, and you have the impudence to defy all laws and traditions? Speak, but speak wisely, for such defiance is no light matter, and your life may depend on your words or my whim.”

The girl curtsied so low the king thought she must lose her balance. “Majesty,” she began, “do you not have a sister?”

“Yes, what of it!” he snapped.

“Majesty,” she tried to look calm, but her shaking hands betrayed her fear, “do you allow your sister to parade herself around in public?”

“Certainly not.”

“Majesty, may I ask why not?”

“You have no right to ask such a question. I do not need to justify myself.”

She continued, “Of course, Majesty, but would you allow your daughter, if you had one, to parade around in such a way?”

“My girl, I most certainly would not. Such behavior would be a disgrace upon the royal family.”

“Is it not a disgrace for the future queen to be seen in such circumstances?”

“Eh?” he finally began to see some sense in what she was saying, but he held his ground. “Sister, I certainly have no wish to disgrace my wife; however, I must be allowed to make an informed decision. This is what the law provides for. Would you buy food without first examining it for flaws?”

“Majesty, you called me sister just now,” she whispered.

“Eh? So I did,” he caught her drift. “The title is an arbitrary one. You are no blood relation of mine.”

The girl kept her voice steady. “Majesty, of course I examine food before I buy it, but the food has no shame to be concerned over. Would you insinuate that we are but pieces of fruit and bread?” She was stepping further onto the ice and she new it. “I did not ask to be selected to appear before you…”

The king interrupted her with a glare, snapping, “Do you mean to imply that you are not honored to be here? The idea is a disgrace to yourself and your family. My patience wears thin…maid,” he uttered the last word with a hint of disgust.

She dropped her eyes and her voice softened with humility. “I did not mean that, Majesty. I am honored beyond what you can imagine to have been chosen to appear before you, but remember that I, too, am a sister and a daughter. I cannot put my father and brother to shame anymore than you could let your sister or daughter do what you ask me to do. That it is the law does not make it right.”

“My dear, you have no choice. This is my prerogative.” As he said this, though, his heart began to tighten inside him. He admired the girl’s courage and modesty, even more than he admired the haunting eyes and slender figure. He could not make up his mind. The law clearly stated the procedures for how the king was to choose his bride, but he was finding it difficult to think about what was prescribed for those who defied the law.

“Majesty, the beauty of the soul far outweighs the form of the body. My honor I cannot compromise. What the king would not allow, he should not require.”

“Those are bold words, my dear. You do understand that you could be hanged for them, do you not?”

“Majesty, I have appeared before you that you may judge my beauty. Look upon me. Does beauty require the absence of modesty?” She lifted her head and looked straight into his eyes.

The king had been looking at her – all thoughts of the other forty-nine beauties had left his mind. He was intrigued by this girl, and he found himself becoming more and more attached to her spirit. Those eyes…they were…captivating. That was the only word for them.

“Majesty,” the girl said, “if I must be hung for my act, then I must be hung, but I refuse to compromise my honor and shame my family. If you are not pleased with what you see, I beg you to let me return home unharmed, if only because my helplessness touches your heart. If, on the other hand, you are pleased with me, I would be willing and honored to be your wife.”

The king marveled at her words. Never had he heard a girl speak so firmly in his presence. He scanned down the row one more time, but his eyes kept returning to that cream colored dress that stood before him. Her head was bent now and he could no longer see her eyes, but their image was still burning in his mind.

“Guards…” he said, almost musing aloud.

The guards stood ready and the girls visibly tensed.

“Guards, I have made my decision.” He paused. “Escort these others back to their chambers. This one,” he indicated the girl who stood humbly before him, hands clasped loosely over the front of her dress, “let her return to her family, that she may prepare herself for the wedding day.”

The girl lifted her head a little and blushed scarlet, but her face broke into a subdued smile.

“My dear, what is your name?” the king asked.

“Starla, Majesty,” she replied.

“Starla,” he whispered, “Starla with eyes like the stars. Very well, Starla, go – prepare yourself. Your courage and beauty have served you well. Two days hence you will become my bride.”

Starla curtsied and turned to go.

The king watched her as she left, fascinated. Those eyes, he could not get them out of his head. They were so blue, almost violet. Well, being a king wasn’t exactly what he had expected, at least not so far, but he had a feeling that this was a good start. What a girl she was. She would make a good wife, a good mother, and a good queen.

A thought tugged at the back of his mind. Was he right to disregard the law? Well, why not? After all, that was the king’s prerogative.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Self Portrait

Alone, the writer stares out the window. The ceiling fan hums overhead, stirring the first warm air of spring into a soothing caress. Images play across the television screen, colors bouncing, flowing, the sunset tones bleeding off into the distance. He pays little attention to the words coming from the cd player. Opera is hard enough to understand in English. He picks out snippets of the German, but focuses on the music behind it, music befitting the season, even if it is not yet Good Friday.

He scrambles around the corners of his mind, searching for ideas. They are there, little slips of paper, some of them long forgotten, some he told himself long ago that he would write, but never did. A few he crumples up and tosses towards the wastebasket. They miss. Baseball season is almost here. He should work on his aim, if only on principle.

With a pile of good ideas at hand he sits down and begins to sort them. One is too personal; it feels too much like violating a trust. Another, just as personal, would work if he turned it into a novel and really fleshed out the characters. Then they could come alive as someone other than their inspiration. Then the personal would work, for it would lie hidden behind a mask.

Novels aren't written in a night, though. And there is no plot yet, just a cast - a cast of sinners in need of redemption. That is the beauty of writing - if one works hard enough, one can redeem the world. Not so in this life.

"Mein Gott, mein Gott, warum hast du mich verlassen?"

Aber Sie varlassen mich nicht...

Bock - it means strength. Strength beer. Perhaps one could say it is beer for strength. All beer is for strength. "I drank sixteen bottles for the price of one, trying to find the courage to talk to the one..." Bock is certainly an early spring beer - rich, creamy, but hinting at the freshness to come. The smell of cigarettes on a cool rainy day, and the whisper of new leaves on a warm April afternoon - all these are tied up in the beer, if one tastes carefully enough. Or maybe it's the glass... real German glass, that - birthday present from a friend.

One friend has provided the poor writer with a wealth of ideas, but none of them are working right now. The love is not there, and without love one cannot create. These, too, are discarded for the time.

Something longer must come soon, something with action and suspense, something with wit and polish, something that cannot be written in a night. The others, though, they must not be forgotten, those little snapshots of joy, and sometimes of sorrow, but oh how to write them! Snapshots are a photographer's business.

He needs new inspiration, something like the story of Benedict and Scholastica, something to smack him in the face and say, "Write me!" It will come. Writer's block is not forever. The stories will come; they must.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Poetic Interlude Number II

Sorry for not posting last week. I've been having minor writer's block, primarily due to spending all my free time watching Arrested Development with my roommate. But we finished it last night, so I should be back on track next week. Hope you enjoy the seamonsters. Until then, here's a little mood music for ya.

In a bar down the street
There's a lass you should meet
With her hair tied back
Red ribbons on black
Her hand's never shaky
A smooth pour she'll make ye
And ye'll never wait
When your maid's bonnie Kate

Oh bonnie Kate, another round
We'll drink the night away and drown
Our sorrows and our joys as well
With a pint of Guinness in our hands
We'll take our fall and never stand
And laugh at the devil in hell

She'll never twist your arm
Just use her Irish charm
And soon you're drinkin' more
Than you ever have before
To prove to all your friends
That you'll win her in the end
But she's better than ye, lad
Though ye think ye aren't half bad

Oh bonnie Kate another round
We'll drink the night away and drown
Our sorrows and our joys as well
Oh bonnie Kate, our lovely lass
Pour yourself a pretty glass
And laugh with us at the devil in hell

Sure it's all you can think
Not to think but to drink
She said any man
Must drink two times ten
Just for half a chance
To get in her pants
But hold onto your shirt
'Cause, lad, she wears a skirt

Oh bonnie Kate another round
We'll drink the night away and drown
Our sorrows and our joys as well
And slap that silly lad right there
We know your bed you'll never share
Until you've heard that wedding bell

So bonnie Kate come laugh with us
And drink a final pint with us
And share our times both good and bad
So she flashed a wink and poured a round
And we'll drink one more together now
Our bonnie Kate and her brave lads

Scotch and Seamonsters

Alone, he sat on the sand and watched the sun hover above the tiny ripples on the lake. Nearby a bird sang an evening song, thanking his maker for a beautiful day and longing for a companion with whom he could share this charming view. At least, the man on the sand thought that was what the bird wanted. The solitary warbling, with never a response, was haunting and lonely.

His fingers found a rock buried in the sand, worn smooth by the beatings of time. Digging the rock free, he reached back and hurled it toward the water, smiling as it skipped out over the waves. Behind him his friend stopped singing.

“Don’t stop now, Sam. You’re all the company I got until Katy shows up… if she shows up…” his voice trailed off. Sam must have heard him, for he began to whistle a new song, another mournful tale of solitude and woe. The man wondered if birds ever felt sad or lonely or happy. Probably not, he decided.
Something caught his eye in the distance and he spoke to Sam. “Here she comes, sing her in softly now, don’t scare her away.” Sam ignored him and continued singing just as loud as before. Together they watched as the thing grew closer, rising and falling gracefully in the water, outlined against the setting sun, and then disappearing again.

“Katy…” he whispered. He couldn’t remember why he’d settled on that name. Katy was a pretty name, and as good as any for her. Sam kept on singing, his voice rising in pitch, wailing about some lost love, one that likely had never been.
Katy was majestic, gliding through the waves, now and again leaping into the air, sailing, twisting, seeming to fly and then slapping down back into the waves. A monster she surely was, but he had known fine, highbrow ladies with less grace and fewer manners than this creature. She seemed perfectly satisfied, rejoicing in the beauty of life, of the evening sun and the chilly water of the lake.
In awe the man watched. Even Sam, who rarely thought of anything but his romantic endeavors, changed his song, weaving the notes in with Katy’s dance, rising and falling, swelling his chest with pride in the knowledge that he alone could accompany the display.

The dance and song continued for a time and the man leaned back on his elbows, smiling as every care seemed to melt in the beauty of the moment. At last, Katy disappeared under the water. She did not resurface for a time. Sam stopped singing, and the man popped the cork from his bottle of Scotch and held it up to the fiery horizon. “Goodnight, my bonny lass.” He took a drink, sighed, replaced the cork, and stood up to leave. Then, a short way out, where the water was deeper, she burst from the water, shooting into the air to a height he would not have thought possible. Spreading what looked to be wings she twisted in the air, curled over like a monstrous dolphin, and plunged back into the depths.
Unconsciously he uncorked the bottle again and, taking a couple more pulls, muttered the word “impossible.” He stood there, staring into the fading light. Sam tried to sing, but even he was too astounded. Well, once one accepts sea-monsters, is anything really impossible?

“Good night, Sam,” he said, and the bird lurched into a sorrowful tale filled with black nights and empty hearts as the man turned his steps homeward, away from the beach, away from his friends, to return to a cold, empty bed.