The Wall

siyan-ren-43352-unsplash

Today, I hit The Wall.

Not only did I hit it, but I carried it with me for the entire time I spent at the gym. I even felt its musty, bricky presence most of the day.

Maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about and are duly concerned for the safety of my person or my vehicle. Don’t worry; I’m referring to an exercise term. first learned of The Wall in high school from my track coach. She was good at coming up with power slogans each year, and one of my favorites was Break on Through to the Other Side.

Runners hit this figurative wall when they feel they cannot move any more. Usually, a dedicated athlete can keep going, at an easier pace, and find his stride again. Some days, however, nothing helps and one has to walk.

Today was one of those days.

I woke up early, put workout clothes on, ate a bit of toast, then drove over to our local gym. I could tell it was going to be a tiring, ho hum, nowhere, very bad run. I could tell because when I climbed the stairs to the track my knees hurt and I felt tired already. And then, when I warmed up, I felt as though I had already run my usual two miles even though I had only done 1/28th of that.

No matter which song I shuffled to or which motivational lie I told myself, I felt exhausted the entire time. My body was not my own; I was dragging it by my (draining) will power alone, at a pace that would shame a sloth.

roger-burkhard-14310-unsplash

During my cool down, I recalled another memory from my high school running days: a race in which I hit The Wall. This was during my brief stint on the cross country team, near the end of our season.

Every race, the coach recommended we have a personal goal. Mine was that I would stop and walk one fewer time each race. At this point, I was up to not stopping at all. I hadn’t really set a personal goal, but I was just going to do my best since it was the last race if I didn’t place. Unfortunately, Coach should have recommended that we share goals with people if those goals were going to affect them.

Case in point: one of the girls who was always behind me kept trying to pass. I’m somewhat competitive and knew that she paced slower than I did. Every time she came up on me, I went faster. My logic was more that my pace must be slowing, not that I should keep her back.

Before the midway point, I was toast. She finally passed me, and I had to walk. Coach took a picture of me on that race that I still have. She didn’t do so to humiliate me; she was always snapping good action shots. I was moving slowly enough to capture the moment without much blurring…

I’m the sort to jump to bad conclusions easily. If the husband’s not home from work yet, he must have been in an accident. If a child says he needs to talk to me, he’s committed a felony. If I had to walk a race, then I’m a horrible athlete and should never put my running shoes on again.

Except that running usually feels good.

Except that despite my melancholy, the sun still comes up the next day.

And running in the morning sunlight is one of my favorite things to do. Why would I let a little setback ruin a perfectly good sunrise like that?

Woman Sun

I won’t.

 

 

unsplash-logoSiyan Ren
unsplash-logoRoger Burkhard

Dinotopia

Amazon

There’s some odd, old lady part inside me that has always loved musty topics like geography, classical architecture, and steampunk-like metalworks. I loved spying on my dad when he played Myst and enjoyed watching The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen when it came out.

I’m not certain when or from where my parents purchased Dinotopia (James Gurney), but it quickly became one of my favorite children’s book. If you have never heard of nor looked at a copy, please do so. I feel that truly extraordinary books -ones that an author or illustrator clearly spent a lot of time on- are severely underappreciated.

Dinoptopia is one of those few works written and illustrated by the same person, and the art is FANTASTIC. The story is interesting as well; it reads like a juvenile Robinson Crusoe or Swiss Family Robinson.

In fact, these stories begin very similarly. The first page of Dinotopia is made to look like a water- and ink-splattered journal entry from Arthur Denison. He describes a storm that he and his son (Will) are able to weather, though their boat and crew do not. They wash up on the beach of a strange land with ancient ferns, and are soon greeted by… a dinosaur?

Thus begins Arthur’s journey across an entire mysterious island with his son. One settlement is upon the treetops, like Lothlórien (Lord of the Rings). Another is around a volcano. The capital looks very like the capital city of Naboo (Star Wars -apparently fans were upset at Lucas for “stealing” from Gurney). My favorite city is one built over several waterfalls.

Many of the pages have “clippings” of leaves and flowers or sketches of dinosaurs supposedly drawn by Arthur.

There’s not much story besides chronicling. Now that I’ve read science fiction and fantasy novels, it reminds me more of journeying sorts. There is some mystery. They discover a mysterious portal, and Arthur is determined to travel through it.

I feel my paltry review cannot do this beautiful book the justice it deserves. Just go buy it; the artwork alone is gorgeous.

(Part of my reviews from Children’s Books.)

 

Skinwalkers, XXI

A full shift later, Nathan and Shin followed their less-than-ebullient guide back through the lift and out the service entry. It left them in the alley, returning inside after commenting on how happy it would be to endure their company next shift as well.

Next shift, Nathan realized, he’d need a new partner. He and Shin stood amongst the other unwanted garbage of Carapace and swung their tired limbs in the premeal air.

“Gotta get back to Chomsy,” Shin said, after a bit. He smiled ruefully. “I need that last load if I don’t wanna walk back to The Virginias.” They started back through a shadowy cityscape, their path lit by building glows and occasional autoads.

*Low on load? Fastcred’s here to help* crooned a male voice of exactly the right tone and timber. Nathan couldn’t help but feel reassurance, almost a calming, as he walked through the visual and heard its words. He stopped just past the autoad’s glow. Confused, Shin halted beside him.

“Shin,” Nathan began. “Have you tried -” He stopped himself. Suddenly aware, suddenly suspicious, he scowled at the embedded adsensor they’d just activated.

“Ayight?” his friend asked. Nathan did not respond. “N? Nathaniel?”

“That was different,” Nathan finally answered.

“Oh?” Shin sounded curious, but wary. “Let’s keep walking -a bit guttery.” Nathan glanced up; they shared a look. Together, they continued down the citypath, intentionally walking nearly in the deserted street.

“So?” Shin prompted. His slipshods barely gripped the walkedge; he exaggerated the effort required to balance.

Nathan smiled at his friend’s antics, but could not be moved to full-out laughter. He felt deeply shaken, even violated. “I think,” he said, and could not find the right words. “I think that wasn’t sensory.”

Spinning, Shin tried his balancing trick backwards. His flailing arms and waving legs did not match his serious expression. He raised an eyebrow; queried, “Then what was it?”

Nathan slipped a bit on the edge. Regaining the path, he mumbled, “It influenced me.”

Shin took a misstep and stumbled dangerously close to an autodrive strip. Recovering, he climbed back out of the street and next to his preoccupied friend. Another autoad flickered to life and they jumped aside as if burned.

*Drink your meals the natural way.* Symphonic music swelled and a grassy, beast-less Outlands scene played. The projection became encapsulated in a virtual bottle, which poured into a virtual glass. *LIVE has everything you need, for a charge that’s hard to believe.”

Nathan and Shin uncharacteristically watched the ad to completion. It flickered off, returning two sobered expressions to building-light darkness. Shin turned to Nathan. “Might be a good thing to die in a cave after all.”

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XX.

Another Set of Limericks

There once was a woman, not spry
Who couldn’t find clothes in her size.
“These ‘one size fits all’
Could not fit a doll!”
So she sat in the food court with fries.

Why is it when women buy clothes,
They travel in pairs or in droves?
Through fitting room walls
I hear their trite calls
And eavesdrop on mirr’r-mod’ling shows.

A flat-footed human named Sue
Could never find just the right shoe.
The options were varied;
The shopper was harried.
Bewildered, she opted for nude.

Wilhelmina Winters, Forty-Nine

Wil was last to reach the minivan. She slid open the side door and climbed over seats to sit in the back row.

Besides an encouraging smile after a brief glance up from her phone, Reagan pretended she and Wil did not know each other any more than they had before Wil was listed as “talented.” Wil knew the group wanted anonymity, but that didn’t prevent a sudden, small, hard lump of self-consciousness from forming in her stomach as Reagan acted obliviously.

They moved out toward home. Wil watched the gray, February landscape of commercial suburbia flash past the minivan windows. Why do they pretend they aren’t friends, except at lunch yesterday and today? She wondered to herself. Surely, the secrecy didn’t matter if everyone in the school saw them all eating together.

With that in mind, she pulled a notebook from her backpack.

Next, she withdrew half of a pencil. She tried to write, but found the tip was broken. Sighing, she dropped that pencil back in the backpack and rifled around some more. After withdrawing the same broken tool twice more, she remembered her pen was inside the folder from History class and took that out instead.

She glanced at the other passengers, and even Mrs. Crandall. Vic was engrossed in their English reading assignment; Reagan and Jorge interacted with their screens; and Mrs. Crandall was eating chips from a crinkling bag, reading a celebrity gossip article on her phone, and occasionally looking out of the windshield. Eric was looking steadfastly forward, though Wil thought she’d seen him move a few moments before she’d looked up.

With waning ink, Wil scrawled a hasty message. Then, keeping her eyes on the back of Eric’s head, she dropped the note discreetly into Reagan’s lap.

Reagan casually dropped her hand down to cover the note. After a minute, she looked at her midsection and read it quickly from a carefully-cupped hand. Wil heard Reagan sigh. Reagan rotated her head a bit to stretch her neck, then grabbed a pen from her pocket and wrote something under the original message. Looking around the car and out the window nonchalantly; she yawned, stretched her hands to her shoulders, and dropped the note back on Wil.

Impatiently, Wil picked up the note and read it. Under her own, “Why all the secrets if we eat lunch together?” Reagan had scrawled what looked like, “Speciel meetings for you.”

Wil sat in her seat, blank-faced and blinking. She didn’t even notice Eric glance back at her quickly. She barely saw another wad of paper -this one purple- drop over Reagan’s shoulder and onto Wil’s boots.

Copying Reagan’s subtlety, Wil stretched down to pick up the paper, then smoothed it out quietly across her legs. Reagan’s handwriting spelled out, “Sorry. I was supost to tell you details. Sorry.”

The minivan screeched the turn into their complex, forcing everyone to one side as their bodies stretched at their seatbelts. It bumped gratefully into a parking stall and Mrs. Crandall remembered to put it into Park before turning off the engine and getting out.

Eric, Vic, Jorge, and Mrs. Crandall exited. In the brief few seconds they were inside together, Reagan looked right at Wil and said, “I have a paper to give you, but I lost it. Stephen is supposed to sneak it to you Monday. It will explain everything.”

Reagan grabbed her things and got out. Following suit, Wil took her backpack and lurched outside. Again, she thought she saw movement; but Reagan and Jorge were almost to their street corner, Vic had almost reached her building, Mrs. Crandall was absently staring at her phone with her mouth open, and all she could see of Eric was his curling red-blonde hairs on the back of his head. He was looking elsewhere again.

Wil shook her head and walked to building four.

Eric turned to watch the retreating figure of Wil and her black scarf blowing behind. She and it disappeared around the nearest building. Sighing, he turned back to the car to retrieve his bag. His eye caught something else moving, but through the open door of the minivan. Moving forward, he saw two notes -one purple- lying on the floor of the car. The slight wind caught at their edges, gesturing to him.

 

Continued from Forty-Eight.

Warrior Women

Youth, untried, stands blinking into the equatorial sun. It shuffles awkward spears; tilts dented shields.

Two thousand feet nervously stamp the earth.

Their leader looks upon his neophyte army. “What say ye, my sons; will ye go against them to battle?”

Two thousand of them have never fought. Two thousand just left home. Two thousand eager voices cry, “Our God is with us! Let us go!”

Thus they march, thus they go, thus they draw their spears. The enemy, surprised, falls beneath their untrained arms.

The leader, awed, counts two thousand. “How came ye by your courage?”

“Our mothers.”

Two Thousand Warriors

 

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction

Award Thingie

Liebster

The way cool and twisted guy over at There Be Monsters Here nominated me for the Liebster Award. As far as I can tell, awards are blogging chain mail. Ignoring that point, they’re a great way to learn about site writers and find more blogs to follow.*

The questions he presented us with are below, with my answers.

1 – What was your favourite scary story as a child?
In terms of scary, I’m a wuss. I got nightmares (as an adult) from watching Scary Movie 3, for Pete’s sake.

As such, I read all the classics that children did in the 80s and 90s like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and several Goosebumps books -and could not be around empty cars or dark bedrooms without expecting an ax murderer who feasted on brunette children and came out the second my eyes were closed.

I believe my favourites were The Witches (Roald Dahl), Voices After Midnight (Richard Peck), and the Blossom Culp series (also Richard Peck).

Ghost

2 – Who is your favourite book character of all time?
Seriously? Who can ever pick that? For one thing, I always have characters I love to hate; when the author does such a good job fleshing him/her out that I can’t help but admire the work going into absolutely despising someone in a story.

I also tend to love the side characters more than the main. Even when I relate to the hero/heroine, I find such depth and respect for those who help in his/her development.

Oooh! I thought of one: Eugenides from The Thief and its series (Megan Whalen Turner). He’s a very well thought out character; one you want to go to a party with, but never turn your back on.

Image result for the thief megan whalen turner

3 – When did you first begin writing?
Preschool. ABCs and all that.

4 – Who of your friends have you used as characters in the things you have written?
I haven’t really used any, though I did somewhat reference the name of someone who is a real jerk as a jerk in a short story. She deserved it.

5 – Were you a ghost, where and who would you haunt?
First, I’d pick major leaders of countries. I’d be like Spy Ghost.

Then, I’d leave nice things for the people who deserve them, like Robin Hood Ghost?

6 – If you were given the opportunity to live in any era, what and where would it be?
I love the romantic notions of past times, but really enjoy modern conveniences like toothpaste. Given the permanency of “living” there, I’d pick future America.

7 – What noises can you hear right now?
The lovely, twittering chatter of my darling offspring, heatedly discussing who has cheated at Exploding Kittens and in which ways.

Exploding Kittens Game Box

8 – If you could make one blog related statement, what would it be?
Live long and blogster.

So, this is the part where I nominate other blogs. If they want to participate, cool beans. If not, no hard feelings. Mostly I hope readers use this list to meet and read some amazing people.

Candace at Revenge of Eve, an honest writer who is open and encouraging about mental illness.

Steve of Steve Still Standing. He’s a word artist who writes quite a lot of excellent poetry.

Babbitman, an absolutely smashing storyteller and complimentary person.

How I Killed Betty, written by Kate. She’s basically my hilarious UK soul sister, if I wrote better.

Sweeter Than Nothing, another excellent writer who primarily addresses mental illness.

Nitin, who bleeds on the page at Fighting the Dying Light.

I could keep going through my entire Reader’s Feed here, but think I’ll cut us off while we’re already bored.

If you feel like it, nominees, here are some questions to answer:

  1. What is your favorite music video, and what character/psychedelic element would you be in it?
  2. What is the best dessert you have ever tasted?
  3. Who would win in a boxing round; rock, paper, or scissors?
  4. How would you finish the following limerick: There once was a man from Nantucket?
  5. Who is the most misunderstood nursery rhyme character?

Thanks!

 

*Fine print/explanation of how to avoid dying in the next seven days:

The Liebster Award is an opportunity for bloggers to recognize and support other bloggers for their achievements. It’s available between January 1 – December 31, 2018. All nominations are voluntary and geared towards blogs with 1000 readers or less. The Rules are below if the nominees choose to accept.

IF YOU HAVE BEEN NOMINATED AND YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT, WRITE A BLOG ABOUT THE LIEBSTER AWARD, IN WHICH YOU:

*Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.

*Display the award on your blog, by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or “gadget.”  (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your computer, and then upload it to your blog post.)

*Answer 11 questions about yourself which will be provided by the person who nominated you. Provide eleven random facts about yourself.

*Nominate 5-11 bloggers that you feel deserve the award, and who have fewer than 1000 followers.  (NOTE: you can always ask the blogger how many followers he or she has, as not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information).

*Create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.

*List these rules in your post (you can copy and paste from here.) Once you have written and published the blog, you have to:

*Inform the people/blogs that you have nominated for the Liebster Award and provide a link for them to your post, so that they may learn about it.

Skinwalkers, XX

Nathan found most of hardware upkeep monotonous and repetitive. Given his and Shin’s current location inside Carapace, however, his senses were acutely more strained. He stole a glance at his friend. Shin wore the same introspective expression he’d modeled at Check In.

Nathan withdrew a tray and bowed over it with his currentmeter. Under cover of verifying a key bus, he studied Shin more closely. His friend sighed as he worked at a pace that would shame a lamed elder. His brows drew together; his face drew together. A small storm cloud hung over Shin’s dreary, hunched form. Nathan set his personal anxieties about Carapace aside.

“So, what’s itching you?” He casually asked.

He was rewarded with the nearly silent *clink* *clink* of a circuit board against metal side mounts and the eternal hum of machines and fans. Shin exhaled loudly, then answered, “Nothin’, Nathaniel. Thanks for asking.”

They finished a rack. Five down, thousands to go, thought Nathan. He and Shin stood and stretched their arms and legs before squatting in front of Rack #6. Each man removed a tray and began inspecting it.

“I’m not buying that,” Nathan said, in between trays.

“Good,” Shin quipped, shaking a tray slightly toward him. “‘Cause you can’t even afford a capacitor on this.”

Nathan laughed. “Nice.” They worked in computer silence once more, before he tried again. “You know what I meant. You look like my Grams at a deathing.” He glanced over and caught the end of Shin’s smile, just before it sunk back to its habitual frown.

They stretched, then opened Rack #7. “I gotta leave,” Shin mumbled. Nathan almost didn’t hear him.

“What? Why?”

*Clink* Hmmmm *Clink*

“Are you running?” Nathan asked. Shin didn’t seem the sort to be in trouble, but one never knew these days. Even he, Nathan, had gotten tangled in some less than legal dealings recently.

Shin coughed out a bitter laugh. “Nah, N. I just ran out of charge.” They each withdrew another tray from the tower. “The place is getting deactivated tomorrow,” he explained from a pretend-close scrutiny of the circuitry in his hands.

“Oh,” Nathan said. “Sorry.” The housing in the city may not have been picturesque, but he knew eviction black-marked one’s record for years. They worked their way through racks 7 thru 10 without adventure. “What are you going to do?”

Shin shrugged and returned a tray to its rack. “Go back home, I guess.”

“Oh.”

“Probably get stuck in a shaft before payment.”

“Oh? The mines are that bad, huh?”

Shin didn’t answer; just smiled sadly. “I’ll send you a shiny rock before it happens,” he offered.

Nathan forced a laugh, attempting a lighthearted sound. “All right, Shin,” he said. “But if it’s not shiny, I demand an in-person replacement!”

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XIX.
Read to Skinwalkers, XXI.