Saturday Sharing Time – lets see some bits from your WIPs (c’mon. you know you wanna.)

It’s been quite a bit since I’ve asked you people to share bits and pieces from your hidden pages, and I think it’s high time to do it again. Because it’s fun! I’ll start:

(and this piece – called “The Unlicensed Magician”, will likely never see the light of day. It is a novella – and where the heck do you publish a 30k novella? Nowhere, alas. Ah well. Maybe I’ll self-pub it someday. After I fuss at it. Endlessly. For years.)

The Minister had never counted on the wind. He built his tower higher and higher – a wobbly, twisty, unlikely-looking structure, uncurling like seaweed toward the shimmering limit of the sky. Dark stones, blackened windows. Impossible without magic. And now it was higher than any structure in the history of the world. The Minister knew the history of the world. He had all the history books. The ones he hadn’t burned, anyway. And while the books told of impressive structures, they never mentioned the winds.

The wind, at the top of the tower, once nearly sent him careening to his death, which would have been unfortunate seeing how long –how very long – he had spared himself the unpleasantness of dying. Falling off his own tower? The very idea! He started binding himself with straps to keep him in place as he gazed at the sky through his stargazer, and watched for the first glimpse of the Boro Comet.

Four times a century it came. The Minister had seen it more times than he could count. And now he would see it pass by once again – and so close – but he still would not be able to catch it. Not yet, anyway. How many more magic children would he need until his tower was tall enough? Ten? Hundreds? Thousands? How many enhancements would he require before he was able to pluck the comet from the sky and carry it in his pocket forever? It sickened him, of course, this business with the children. But the sickness in his heart didn’t interfere with the surety of his purpose. Besides, that first, singular act of cruelty made the thousands that followed infinitely easier.

There were large red flowers growing along the edges of the walls defining the rooftop patio – a gift from one of his magic children, right before she died. “To help you breathe,” she said kindly, before she breathed her last. Her lips were pale; her eyes were the color of milk, her hair had fallen out months before. He usually did not learn the names of his magic children – or anyone, really. People die so quickly when they are not enhanced, and only the Minister is enhanced. He has seen to that. But the magic children. They die quicker. Best not to know them.

This one, though. This one he knew. Not her name, of course, just the fact of her – that inscrutable bit of the Self that cannot be drawn or recorded or named. And after all these years, he still mourned her. A raw, painful, immediate feeling of loss.

Red flowers, his heart whispered. Red, red, red, red.

He picked a flower, breathed deeply, and felt a tightening in his throat. He inserted the flower stem into his lapel and returned his gaze to the stars, as the taste of sweetness and promise – and magic, always the taste of magic – lingered on his tongue.

Got any bits – a sentence? A paragraph? A page or two? Post it in the comments!

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49 thoughts on “Saturday Sharing Time – lets see some bits from your WIPs (c’mon. you know you wanna.)

  1. Justin Bartholomew Bonesack knew his biology final would be a doozie, but life threatening? It never crossed his mind.
    The test started like many others: Mr. Haggard’s eye roll as he plopped the questions on Justin’s desk; Justin forgetting his pencil then begging a pen from Mr. Haggard’s pocket protector; plus the feeling that the final was looking back with pity, because the instant he scanned the questions, any information about phylum—class, order, family, genus, and species—seemed to drool from his ears.
    Gritting his teeth, he refocused on the paper, but the scrabbling pencils around him chaffed like the coarse-grit sandpaper in Mr. Tollefson’s technology class. Justin slumped as crowds of everything but test answers chattered in his brain, and milled about as if they owned the place—which they often did. Jostling to the front was his memory of the morning bus ride. He shivered, despite the classroom temperature hovering near record highs. The bus ride had left him wondering if his eyes could be trusted anymore. This was a highly offensive state of affairs for anyone relying on observation as much a Justin.
    Lots of kids played Wii until their thumbs dropped off or over-parentally supervised sports, but Justin’s hobby was Sherlock Holmes. He was Cheddar, Wisconsin’s only paid member of London’s Sherlock Holmes Society, and even had a pair of the Calabash pipe and deerstalker hat logo socks tucked in his top drawer.
    Was the hobby an obsession? Justin didn’t think so. No more than breathing was to anyone else. It was his refuge. Also an activity he didn’t have to share with others. Like the singular sleuth, Justin preferred his own company.
    Yeah, it was weird that his best friend lived in short stories and books. But what choice did he have considering the middle school cretins seated on the bus? Justin’s eyes narrowed, lurking beneath the shambles of his reneged hair. They were an odd pair, his eyes: one shone moonlight grey, the other glistered sea green. A moment later they softened, as if dipped into more likable times. When had everyone changed? Mentally puffing on his Calabash, he pondered, picturing Sherlock seated alongside doing the same—replacing the chunky kid currently picking his nose. Only a few years before, his classmates were good-natured and playful, and now it was as if the chill of trying to be cool had stiffened them into jerks. Justin’s imaginary Sherlock rolled his eyes and disappeared as a kid seated behind split the air with a slimy burp.
    Cretins or not, Justin should have been mired up in some last minute studying, but was honing his observational skills instead. He unconsciously thumbed the dog-eared copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles in his lap—letting his eyes take stock of the bus.
    A two-minute egg on wheat toast for breakfast—he’d arrived at Jeffery Setterholm, after an all-nighter studying binge. Justin smugly crossed his arms, cataloguing the evidence: hardened yellow yolk spotting Jeffery’s chin and the sprinkle of brown crumbs on his shirt. As for the all-nighter, elementary, the mismatched socks told that tale. Ooh and a late spring cold, he added, as a gloop of nasal runoff spattered his classmate’s biology notes.
    Oh, yeah. Biology notes. A fresh draft of finals-worry wafted through his mind. Setting it aside for the time being, he drew up his mental cape-coat collar and let his eyes riffle up the aisle, as if sorting through a case folder. Braces tightened yesterday. Substantiation: Mindy Griffin’s lips were pruned to one side of her face, her tongue probing beneath her cheek as if the orthodontist fingers were still lodged inside her mouth. Justin’s eyes sped on when she caught him staring and frowned.

  2. Ok, I’ll play. Now this is stream of thought longhand so it hasn’t even been tinkered with yet. It’s from a piece with a working title, ‘He Is Among Us.”
    He watches them. He always watches them. Why would tonight be any different than last night, or the night before? He never makes friends; he never stays long, but always just long enough.
    His name is Herman and he isn’t the best looking fellow; even has a little hump between his shoulders, but not so noticeable that I’d call him Quasimodo. He lives in a crappy dump of an apartment with a mattress that looks like it’s been thrown away twice. I’ve heard him mumble a few times that he likes the springs jabbing out of the mattress because it makes him feel alive. I don’t know about you, but in my hell hole of a world, that’s still twisted.
    And me? I watch him. It’s my job to watch him. The pay’s not that great, but the alternatives are much worse. So I watch.

  3. My hardship letter is turning into a memoir!

    Dear Nationstar Mortgage,
    I wrote you a bulleted version of a hardship letter, but that’s not enough. It’s never enough. Please let me do this short sale (if a buyer shows up). Don’t send the sheriff to kick out my tenants and auction this place away.
    My nights are awful. If I’m not dreaming about this house, I’m wide-awake sweating ice over it. It’s taken all my money. It remains a threat (a poison balloon hovering over my head). Yet, I love this house (and I hate it) and I want my tenants to be okay. This is my hardship letter.
    I might be an idiot, Nationstar Mortgage, but I’m not an asshole. You’re an asshole, whoever you are (corporations are people). Granted, my experience with you has been fine. Your little hands and fingers (customer service representatives) have been fine, some actually pleasant. One customer service rep even said, “Wow, that’s crazy,” when I described the behavior of one of my tenants (the guy burned the walls of his apartment with some kind of torch). Having now spent a great deal of time reading about you, however, I know that you’re an asshole. You’ve been a great big jerk to thousands of people who, like me, had mortgages serviced by Bank of America (also assholes) whose business you purchased in June of 2012. You don’t answer questions. You lose peoples’ payments. Jerks.
    Sorry. I’m not writing to call you names.
    I sort of hate everyone in this terrible game.
    Hardship? Where do I begin?
    How about the year I purchased this giant Edwardian house that has repeatedly fallen to pieces in ten thousand different ways, both natural and unnatural? 2006.

  4. Ooo. I’ll PLay. This is from another unpublishable novella called “Search For Coffee”.

    Which leads me to something else I learned. When we got on the bus the driver greeted our guide by name. “Yo, Tristan. How’s it rollin?”
    “Hey Markus,” he replied. “How are you?”
    “Fit and fine. Fit and fine. You got a couple of seekers tonight?”
    “Yep. Taking them out on the town. You seen him?”
    “Not tonight, but I’ll pass the word along.”
    “I’d appreciate that Markus.”
    “De Nada.”
    Tristan and Buster moved near the back. I saw my brother stop near some boys dressed in yellow Captain Swankypants shirts and yell out, “Dudes.” To which they replied, “Dude.” Before long they were talking like life-ling friends. The secrete code of pre-teen males. I decided to sit near the driver while Tristan kept on eye on my brother.
    “You known him long?” I asked.
    The driver turned one eye to look at me. “Tristan, you mean? Everybody know who he is.”
    The driver was a heavy man, and old. Like Dad. Maybe forty something. He had four or five different screens up on the window in front of him, and he kept a careful eye on all of them as we talked.
    “First time?” he asked.
    I was trying to figure out the exercise settings as he spoke so it took me a minute to answer. “On the bus, you mean, or looking for Coffee?”
    “Either,” he said.
    “Yes,” I said. “To both.”
    The driver shifted his head from screen to screen as he carefully maneuvered the large bus around a corner in busy traffic. Pedestrians and cars swarmed around the bus like flies, yet he made the difficult task look easy with deft simple movements.
    “You ever meet Coffee?” I asked.
    “One time,” he said.
    “Does he really make good coffee?”
    The driver shot a quick “huh” almost like a snort. I realized it was a laugh. “I’d been drivin’ the late shift”, he said, “when Coffee got on. He surprised me by asking if he could stay at my house. Everyone know he favors those who work for the city, but still and all it was a surprise.
    “I said yes, of course,” he added.
    The bis stopped and it picked up some more passengers. Some old lady with bright pink hair these really huge boots sat down on the other side of me, but most of the others went towards the back.
    After we merged back into the traffic I asked, “So what happened?”
    The driver smiled as he looked at his screens, then continued. “So I brought Coffee to my house, see, and my wife went all crazy. She doesn’t know, don’t get it. She thinks he’s just some freeloader with his dreads and all. Someone living off the good work of others as she like to say. Dora, don’t like that, let me tell you.
    “So she pissed and moaned while I made him a spot on the coach, and then pissed and moaned some more when we went to bed. I didn’t get but a few hours sleep that night what with her carrin’ on and all.”
    We stopped at a light and the driver let a few people off.
    “So then what happened?” I asked.
    “Well, come morning I wakes up to find Coffee sitting at the kitchen table just as happy as you please, and my wife, she making him breakfast. Now Dora, she don’t cook for nobody, no sir, but she cooking for him.”
    “Really?” I asked.
    He smile again. “Really. Later that morning he made us a second pot, grabbed his skateboard, and leaves Dora and me standing at the door, arm and arm.
    “But that ain’t all,” he continued. “Ten months later, the Dora gives birth to a baby girl. She was supposed to be incapable of having children, see, at least that’s what her doctor’s said. But what do they know?”
    He reached up and touched an image on the top of the window. It was a video of a pretty little girl, about 6 or 7, dancing and giggling about something. “That’s her,” the driver said with obvious pride. “Right there.”
    Under the image was the girl’s name: Miracle Coffee Johnston.

    • Novellas, man. Even Stephen King had his mouldering in a drawer for YEARS before they ever saw the light of day. And it’s weird because some of my favorite works of literature are novellas. “Bridge Over San Luis Rey”, for example. And King’s “The Body”.

      Miracle Coffee Johnston. Love it.

      • Yep, like your novella, their value remains relative to the author’s notoriety. Publish a book that moves 100k units in its first year, and you can put a price on your novella, Otherwise…the internet and electronic publishing it your only friend.

        My favorite novella is “Heart of Darkness” but there are a lot of others. Frankly I think its a better size to translate into film than a novel, but we don’t sell novellas like we do novels so they’re not as popular.

  5. “We’ve received our parking orbit, ma’am,” Captain Myers said, sticking his head through the hatch. “The shuttle will be leaving in about an hour.”
    Jasmine Drake looked up from the game she’d been playing with her daughter. “Oh, thank you. Can we see it?” Alexis hopped to her feet excitedly. “Ooh! Can we?”
    The captain grinned at the girl’s energy. The freighter’s entire crew – all eight of them – had been doting on her the entire trip. “I don’t see why not.”
    He tapped a few commands into the wall panel by the hatch, bringing up a camera feed. Centered in the view was a brown-green sphere, specked here and there with white flecks. “The planet Marsh,” Myers said gesturing grandly. Jasmine put a hand on Alexis’s shoulder as they stared at the star-speckled view. “There it is,” she breathed, “Our new home.”

     The aircar settled on the pad with a gentle bump, and Jasmine popped the door. Warm, muggy air swirled around her as she stepped outside and looked around. "Well, Alexis," she said, taking her daughter's hand, "here we are."
     Like everything on Marsh, the house was built on stilts. Less than two percent of the planet was what humans considered dry land, and only another six had anything like deep water. Marsh must hold the record for Galaxy's Smoothest Planet. But it was a new colony, which meant land was cheap and jobs were plentiful. When word had reached Al-Ghadda that a new colony had been started barely ten light-years away, she'd sold everything they had and booked passage on the first ship scheduled to stop by.
     Now, after a two-month trip, they'd finally arrived.
    
  6. Okay. So this is the opening of “The Murder Ballads,” a sequel to “The Only Ones” that I started writing and gave up on a few years ago. It will probably never see the light of day, so why not?

    THE MURDER BALLADS
    “The Day”

    The sky fell and fell hard. Trent Bethany didn’t see the plane hit, but he felt it—the quake and the spray of the rubble, the heat from the fireball. By the time he was at his window, clutching the sill and surveying the damage a few hundred yards away, a second plane crashed, slicing through the arrival gate barely a mile in the distance. A few moments later, a third, off on the horizon, skimming the surface, and spiraling out of view. Then a fourth and a fifth, and on and on for a while, planes raining down from the autumn blue, pummeling the metropolis.

    Having lived near an airport his entire life, Trent was saddled with what he thought was an irrational fear. What if a 747 overshot the runway and plowed through his neighborhood? That seemed quaint compared to the current reality. Cars had crashed too, hopped curbs and dove headlong through shop windows. Gas tanks, leaking and seducing ignition, delivered walloping booms. Flocks of pigeons burst and scattered like flaming ribbons of fireworks. Broken hydrants spurted like open veins. Yet, there were no people outside, no teeming mobs, no hollers for help. It was as if the machines had been given free will, and had no idea what to do with it. Pockets of eerie silence inflated and broke, and inflated again. Planes continued to crash.
    “Mom!” Trent finally called out, shaking off the paralysis of shock and running into the hall and down the stairs. The bottom floor of their brownstone was where she kept her medical practice, and he was sure that he would find her and her patients huddled in the corners and beneath the examination tables, waiting for the bombardment to end.

    “Mom!” Trent finally called out, shaking off the paralysis of shock and running into the hall and down the stairs. The bottom floor of their brownstone was where she kept her medical practice, and he was sure that he would find her and her patients huddled in the corners and beneath the examination tables, waiting for the bombardment to end.

    The reception area was empty. Magazines were draped on seats. Clipboards with half-completed medical forms were scattered on the floor. Yet Trent could smell perfume in the air, so he knew they couldn’t have gone far. He rapped on the office door.

    “Mom!”

    When no answer came, he pushed the door open. A syringe stuck up from the edge of the examination table, its needle piercing the padding and holding it in place. But there wasn’t a single person in the room. Trent whipped out his phone and speed-dialed his dad’s office. The rings cycled through without a break and, in turn, conjured a whirlpool in his stomach. When the voicemail came on, he hung up and tried his dad’s cell. No answer. His mom’s cell? Still no luck, so he left a message.

    “Mom. I…I…Are you seeing this? I’m scared. I’m so scared. Call me now. Please call…I’m…I’m getting into the…time machine.”

    Trent didn’t really have a time machine. He had a closet, filled with boxes. It was where he went to sit in the dark and plunge his hand into piles of toys and clothes from his days as a toddler, to imagine a time when dropping an ice cream cone caused the same amount of trauma as a plane crash, when fear could be banished instantly with a kiss to the forehead. A psychologist had done her best to convince Trent that he didn’t need his time machine, and he didn’t go in there all that much anymore. But with the world coming apart, exceptions could be made.

    Hunkered down in the closet behind a fortress of cardboard, his bare legs pressing against the cold tile floor, Trent took measured breaths. Sounds of explosions still found their way to his ears, but they were muffled. He opened a box and dug inside, hoping to find something that would distract him. His hand emerged holding a small aluminum kazoo. He hadn’t felt it in years. It was something his mother had given him after he had endured a particularly difficult round of radiation therapy that was supposed to banish the growths that had plagued his body since infancy. The treatment had left his throat so sore that he couldn’t speak, so the kazoo spoke for him. With simple puffs of breath that didn’t rattle his voicebox, he could make it buzz with emotion. He could use it to confirm and deny, to request. Through the kazoo, he could laugh.
    He didn’t want to laugh now, but he lifted the kazoo to his lips anyway, and he gave it a go. It dispatched vibrations from his teeth to his jaw, down his neck and into his torso, where the temporary distraction became a harsh reminder of what he truly needed. He swapped the kazoo for his phone, which he pulled in close. He wanted nothing more than to feel the phone vibrate against his chest…

  7. What a great idea (and helpful… therapeutic?) in the middle of writing (or revising, which is where I am now). I saw your earlier Tweet tonight between a book club holiday party and a little late-night reading, and I got inspired to add something to your string; thanks for the invitation. Here are a couple of completely random outtakes from a middle-grade novel I’ve written:

    Two pairs of eyes were fixed on the facade of a shined-up old apartment building on the blue-skied morning of June 10.

    One pair of eyes darted erratically, anxiously. The other gazed steadily at the double doors of the apartment building, not blinking.

    The owner of the darting eyes sat in plain view directly across from the apartment building at a cafe table in front of a charming bakery. This bakery usually had an almost magical, magnetic pull for passersby, but the watcher at the table had merely sniffed with disgust at the sight of the bakery display window that morning.

    Only the truly hard-hearted could have resisted smiling at the swimming pool cake filled with spun-sugar swimmers, beach balls and floats.

    The owner of the second pair of eyes stood quietly behind a flower cart 10 feet away, calmly watching the apartment building through the narrow spaces between stalks of bright Gerbera daisies.

    Five minutes later, the heavy glass doors of the apartment building opened slowly, and a young girl with long black hair pushed through onto the sidewalk, squinting in the bright sun. Across the street, both pairs of eyes were suddenly alert.

    A weathered canvas bag slung over one shoulder, the girl stepped to the edge of the curb and looked right, then left, waiting for an opening in the traffic. Her unnoticed audience watched closely as she crossed to their side of the street, then turned and disappeared around the corner.

    Immediately, the watcher seated at the table stood up and disappeared around the the corner after the girl, eyes narrowed.

    The second watcher did not move; the eyes hidden among the Gerbera daisies closed, almost as if in prayer.

    Tallulah awkwardly lifted her tall, lean form out of the tiny chair used by Zan’s petite mother. She began walking slowly among the costumes. As Tallulah stopped in front of a lovely black ball gown, Zan became aware of new movement. As her eyes darted around the room, she again had to stifle a gasp; the movement came from the costumes themselves. As Zan watched, the mannequins faded away and were replaced by … people?

    …Tallulah appeared lost in thought, a faint, child-like smile flickering across her face. Zan refocused her attention on the costumes. It was just as she thought: They were now inhabited by celluloid-like figures who, according to her memory of both the films and still photos in her mother’s books, were dead ringers – so to speak – for the stars who had worn them on the silver screen long, long ago. The figures moved gracefully despite the close quarters of the costume display capsules, appearing to converse with unseen companions. It was a magical sight, and Zan wished her mother was there to see it.

    Tallulah continued to walk slowly among the costumes, the pleased, sad smile still softening her face.

    For each of them, it turned out, Flora was somehow like caulk, flowing into and filling the cracks and gaps that they did not realize they had.

    Thanks again for the invitation to share…
    Carla

  8. Well, you’re going to get an excerpt anyway. This is from the early part of my novel that I’m finishing up. This was the original intro, but I’m reworking it in order to emphasize the back-story between my two main characters (the protagonist and the girl he loves). I need to know if it’s endearing or attention grabbing. Really, any ideas you guys have for improvement will help, even if I’m going to change it anyway.

    BANG! BANG! BANG!

    “What in the name of cold toast is that?” I asked myself, dropping my pen in complete frustration. Here I am trying as hard as I can to wrap my brain around these accounting pay sheets. I loathe accounting. I mean, look. I’m going into computers. Computers! Why the heck do I need to know how to differentiate between a credit and a—

    BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!

    That just interrupted my thought process. Time is supposed to freeze, indefinitely, while I hash out every single detail of my thoughts. Before the event occurs, a person who can mysteriously read my mind should be able to know the political candidate I’m voting for, my cat’s name, and what’s on my computer’s desktop wallpaper. I mean, this is just an—

    BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!

    Okay. That’s just uncalled for.

    “I’m coming! Seriously, are you trying to punch a hole in the door or something,” I yell at the top of my lungs. “Who is it?” I ask the fictional gorilla that my mind conjures up behind the door. I foolishly glance around for a weapon, even though I have a good idea of who really is causing this raucous.

    “It’s me,” replies an always frazzled voice from the other side.

    “Assuming I don’t know who “me” is, are you going to kill me?” I ask in just about the snarkiest tone I can muster.

    “No! Now let me in,” screeches my aggravated mother.

    “Fine.” I say as I nearly yank the failed attempt at an art project, also known as “the Door of Shame” off of its hinges. My mother pretends not to notice the neighbor’s critiques of “her masterpiece.” Her one of many masterpieces, that is.

    I roll my eyes as I open the “Door of Shame” – my dad and I simply refer to it as DoS so we don’t offend Mom – and I look at my mother and sarcastically remark, “What’d you forget this time, your head?”

    She just glares at me, grabs her keys, and walks out. But not before conveniently reminding me for the third time this morning not to forget to take the dog out. You’d think I’d remember, considering he is MY dog.

    “I love you, Ollie,” she says with typical apprehension from somewhere beyond the closed door. It’s almost like she acts like she’s never going to see me every time she leaves the house.

    I guess mom thought she had to get my attention by nearly beating DoS in, poor thing. Instead she almost gave me a heart attack. It makes me wonder how she survived as long as she did when I lived in my apartment in Montgomery. My mom is an unsolvable case. She thinks she can paint, she thinks she can cook; she can really do neither. But… she’s the best mother I’ve ever had. Well, the only mother I’ve ever had. Hey, who’s counting, right?

    [Let me know what you guys think. Also, follow my blog. Self promotion and all that. :) http://www.alinktothematt.com

    • My mind as well often goes straight to fictional gorillas. :-) This is great! Love the humor here, and the interaction between mother and son is crushingly real. And that voice is killer.

      Isn’t it fun to share bits? I need to do this more often.

  9. You are so awesome, Kelly. I’m reading Jack’s story right now, and loving it oh so hard. Here’s a random excerpt from a manuscript I finished this year, but it’s YA not MG (I think). Still, though crazy, this excerpt should not be too innapro:

    It’s a beautiful day though, an unfairly sunny and mild afternoon. The sky is wide and blue, and the air smells of pine and dogwoods as we begin to climb the slopes north of town.

    Powder tells me the town is called Sand Point, and he says it like it’s two words, even though I saw the sign, and it’s only one: Sandpoint.

    It doesn’t take long before we enter another world. We leave the pavement of the highway. It’s so easy to take the smoothness of a good road for granted, especially when you can’t spread your legs for balance. The path leading up the mountain is scarred with ruts so deep; it’s like the surface of the moon.

    And Powder doesn’t take it easy, either. He guns it on every straightaway, drifts through every switch back, and assaults each crevasse in the road like some mad charioteer from the astral plane of bad acid trips. I’m rocking violently from side to side, and hitting my head repeatedly on the ceiling, so I reach across and grab the other seatbelt, trying to lean down far enough to secure myself to the cushioned protection of the seat as best I can.

    It helps, but the car shakes and hops so drastically, there’s no way I can hold still.

    • What a nice thing to say!

      This makes me think of my husband’s descriptions of getting to his ranger station in Great Basin National park. Though officially front country, the “road” was a washed-out, rutted nightmare that took hours to ascend. Amazing though. (I preferred my ranger station in the Olympics – a thirty-mile hike over two mountains with a seventy-pound pack, as god intended).

      I love the physicality here, and the integration with the natural world (of course, I typically groove on natural world stuff). I feel like I’m right in that car, you know? Good stuff.

  10. Thomas, the Tone-Deaf Mockingbird.

    Mockingbirds are amazing singers. They can imitate the songs of any other songbird. Sometimes they imitate the sounds of cell phones and car alarms. They can also imitate barking dogs, frogs, crickets or almost any sound they like. Some mockingbirds know up to two hundred songs and sounds and nearly all know at least fifty.
    But one mockingbird couldn’t sing any songs. Thomas was tone-deaf. No matter how hard he tried every song he tried to sing would sound terrible.
    One Fall day a gray squirrel saw some nuts at the foot of a walnut tree. He hopped over to them and begin sniffling and snuffling them. Suddenly he heard a loud “Chick, Chick” and a large gray bird with white patches on her wings flew down and started to peck him with a sharp beak on his head. This was Clarissa Clipfeather, a mockingbird, and she thought the tree was hers.
    “Ch’Ch’Chick!” she cried. “My territory! Get out! Chewk!”
    “Choing?” asked the squirrel.
    Clarissa Clipfeather spread her long straight tail slightly and flicked it up and down. The white feathers on the edge of her tail showed and she moved her tail from side to side. Then she pecked at the squirrel’s head again.
    “Choing?” she imitated the squirrel perfectly. “Choing?” and then she imitated the Black Phoebe, “cha-cheeep, cha-cheeep. Cha-cheeep, cha-cheeep.”
    The squirrel ran away and all the mockingbirds in the neighborhood started to laugh and imitate Clarrissa Clipfeather.
    “Choing? Choing? Cha-cheeep, cha-cheeep, cha-cheeep. Choing?” laughed Patrick Feltwing.
    “Choing? Choing? Cha-cheeep, cha-cheeep, cha-cheeep. Choing?” chirped Nancy Throbblethroat.
    “Shewingh.., uh, Schonk,” sang Thomas the tone-deaf mockingbird, “Sha-boom, ka-bam, croak, uh, sha, wait, sha-beet.”
    He tried. He really did. But this was the best he could do! “Sha-greep. Ka-boom…”
    “Oh, Thomas,” laughed Patrick Feltwing, “that was awful! Hey, gang! Let’s do the Chestnut-backed Chickadee.”
    He flew down to Clarissa Clipfeather. He lowered his wingtips so his white patches appeared wide. “Chickadee, chickadee, chip, chip. Chickadee, chickadee, chip,chip.” He sang perfectly and anyone would have thought it was a real chickadee singing.
    Clarissa Clipfeather also lowered her wingtips and sang exactly as Patrick Feltwing had. “Chickadee, chickadee, chip, chip. Chickadee, chickadee, chip,chip.”
    She finished by pecking Patrick Feltwing sharply on the head. “My territory!” she said sharply. “From this tree root to that fence is my area, Patrick Feltwing, and you stay out of it!”
    Patrick stepped back to his area. Nancy Throbblethroat laughed. “Chickadee, chickadee, chip, chip. Chickadee, chickadee, chip,chip,” she sang perfectly.
    And Thomas started to sing “Shake a leg, croak, croak” but Clarissa Clipfeather gave him such a withering look that Thomas stopped singing and just mumbled the ending.
    Nancy Throbblethroat felt sorry for Thomas. “Let’s do an easy one,” she said. “Let’s do a Red-breasted Nuthatch.” So everyone sang “Wrangh, wrangh, wrangh, wrangh. Wrangh, wrangh, wrangh, wrangh.” But Tommy didn’t want to get it wrong so instead he sang “On top of Spaghetti. All covered with cheese. I lost my poor meatball. When somebody sneezed.”
    All the mockingbirds laughed. Patrick Feltwing flew over and pecked Thomas on the wing. “Oh, Thomas,” he laughed, “you’re alright.” But Clarissa Clipfeather looked cross. “I wanted to sing some songs seriously,” she said crossly “But it looks like some of us just want to joke around.”
    Poor Thomas felt so bad he scuffled through the bushes home.
    Mockingbirds are very territorial. This means that a mockingbird will find its own private area and fight to keep other birds and animals out. Clarissa Clipfeather had the nicest area with the walnut tree and the bit of yard. She liked this area because it had the best seeds and bugs to eat. When she picked this area she flew around the border while singing complicated songs. Then flew straight up and then did a sharp swoop and perched on the very top of the tree and sang for an hour. With this display, she let all the other mockingbirds and other animals know that this was her territory.
    Patrick Feltwing had a nice little territory with a tiny bit of fence and a few blackberry bushes. His area was next to Clarissa Clipfeather’s. Sometimes Patrick Feltwing would try to take a little of Clarissa Clipfeather’s territory. When that happened they would fight by walking around the border of the area with their wings lowered and imitate each other. Nancy Throbblethroat had a good area with several shrubs.
    Thomas didn’t have any territory of his own because he was tone-deaf. He couldn’t sing anything so he couldn’t do a territory display. Thomas lived with his mother, Arline, and his grandfather, Andy. (Thomas was his mother’s maiden name by the way.) They felt very sorry for Thomas.

  11. “Someone broke into my dad’s office this morning,” I said, before adding, “Again.”

    They reacted about as well as you might expect, which is to say they didn’t seem to know how to react. I knew a girl once who had two kids by the time she was eighteen. The first kid was a big deal, everyone was either congratulating her or chastising her. But when the second kid came around, the reaction was more of a resigned acceptance. Really? Again?

    That was probably how my second break-in landed with Ivy and Winston. The first break-in had been cool and new and exciting. The second break-in was old hat.

    “Any idea who did it?” Ivy asked, the same way someone might ask an eighteen year old about her second kid.

  12. So I’m not bold enough to share a WIP, but I did want to share how much I enjoy your blog. In fact, I’ve nominated you for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers award!

    I just learned that this existed a few days ago when I was nominated, but the gist is this: you accept the award by posting that you were nominated, then answering some questions about yourself, and listing out ten blogs that you would like to nominate as awesome. I name you here: http://michellejoelle.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/how-to-hygge/

    • Thank you!

      (you should still share work, though. IT’S FUN! Even funner – share some stuff that you don’t think you’ll publish. Why have it languish in the proverbial drawer?)

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