The Woven Tale Press Issue #5

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The Woven Tale Press

(c) copyright 2013

Editor: Sandra Tyler Author of Blue Glass, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and After Lydia, both published by Harcourt Brace; awarded MFA in writing from Columbia University; creative writing professor; freelance editor; Stony Brook University’s national annual fiction contest judge; a 2013 Voices of the Year. Follow her blog at

Editor’s Note The Woven Tale Press is a monthly culling of the creative blogging web. Too many well-conceived and artful blog posts are relegated to their archives too soon. So enjoy here an eclectic mix of the literary, humorous, and innovative – blog posts ephemeral, meant to be indelible. If you enjoy particular posts, click on their URLs to visit the actual blogs. To submit a post go to:


Printing From Paper

Mixed media in visual arts is when more than one medium is employed. When creating a mixed media work, it is important to choose the layers carefully, and allow enough drying time between the layers to ensure the final work’s integrity. In this mixed media work, I’ve combined spray paint, charcoal, monotype, collage and paper stencils for masking. Pulling all the processes and media together can be a bit of a juggling act, but half the fun is discovering how the different mediums will work together; how to layer this type of work; understanding the effects of previous and future layers. The key is to make the final work appear seamless and effortless. Mixed media I have found can still be frowned upon, but If it were good enough for Picasso, we should all follow by example and at least give it a go.


Yet more printing from paper, aluminium, paper stencilling, collage-and-ink overlays:

This work was created from hand-pulling and printing from paper, using the side of my hand or the back of a spoon. Using your hand, you can feel the ink move under the paper and can direct it where you feel it should go, pulling from one corner or another of the paper. After allowing for each color to dry, the next can be applied, and slowly the image emerges, in some ways, revealing similarities to a screen print. Finally, I applied ink mark-making by hand. Naturally right-handed, I chose to markmake with my left, allowing for more freedom and gesture within the stroke or line. We all can get into bad habits holding a brush or pen. I found this experience to be especially rewarding, for both the hand and the eye. 2

The Mating Game and More

Mating season is underway here in Florida. The other day, I drove into a parking lot and nearly mowed down a great egret wandering about in a drunken erotic swagger. In the movie Bambi, Disney’s Thumper called it “twitterpated.” By the flashygreen down between the egret’s eyes and bill, I had to agree with that spunky rabbit. Being twitterpated is not limited to birds. Alligators get downright mean and nasty when the urge to mate overtakes them. One lusty gator saw its reflection in the sliding-glass door of a local resident and pursued the image as aggressively as if it were a prospective mate. The terrified homeowner called animal control when the twitterpated reptile stood upright against the glass to “get a little closer.” Lucky for her, the door held until local authorities arrived. One memorable morning, a “testy” gator proceeded to crawl across the road right in front of me. Apparently a grate at the edge of the pond had prevented the gator from swimming under the roadway instead, presumably, to meet its prospective mate. The gator drew quite a crowd as it hissed and snarled across the asphalt, warning passerbys to keep their distance. Even anoles get in the act, pumping their brightred throat fans to impress the opposite sex. This undulating process goes on all summer and into fall, as these lizard-like creatures mate and nest. During the winter months, anoles and lizards hibernate, and I rarely see them scurrying across my path.




Lovebugs are another southern phenomenon. These red-headed black bugs spend their entire adult life copulating. The male and female attach themselves at their rears and remain that way even while flying. From April through May, they can be found splattered across windshields and car radiators. Shortly after mating, the lovebug male dies. But that doesn’t dampen the female’s incredible urge to reproduce. She simply drags her dead mate around until she lays her eggs in the grass. Only then does she die, most likely from exhaustion. Her eggs will hatch in the warmth of rotting-grass mulch and become the next season’s wave of lovebugs. Squirrels in my neighborhood get downright silly during the mating season. They show off, turn backward somersaults, and play games like “twitch” the tail and “tag you’re it!” For two seasons running, a mated-squirrel pair built their nest in our cabbage palm, cleaning and securing it within the spiked bark protruding from the top of the tree. Their nest included escape tunnels, and front-and-back points of entry. During the gestation period, all was quiet except for excursions, in turns, by the parents to obtain food. After about two-plus weeks, three babies appeared. The youngsters brazenly crept to the edge of the palm fronds of their front porch, and peeked over the side. Before long, they were chasing each other through the tunnels and playing “hump” games in preparation for their own future mating and nestings. When the squirrel mama decided her litter was ready for life outside the nest, she carried each baby by the scruff of its neck much the same way a cat carries its kittens. One by one the tiny squirrels were transported to a nearby live oak. The process was repeated until all three babes were safe. Two families of squirrels were born and nurtured in my cabbage palm, and then hurricane Charlie whipped through the area and scattered the nesting bark to the far winds. Many times the squirrels and their offspring returned perplexed, sniffing and searching my cabbage palm for evidence of their former home. I miss those squirrels.


I Have Something To Tell You... I have something to tell you...! Hmm.. Go on.. You know.. I am thinking of it... About? ...How to say it... Mokka.. Don’t create a scene.. What’s up? Umm.. I don’t know.. I am just wondering... Come to the point, idiot.. :@ Yeah. but that’s what matters... Uff... At least you tell me what it’s all about? Er.. Something... Ahem... What’s wrong with you, today? I don’t know but still.. Grr.. are you going to tell me or not? Hmm.. Hey, you fell down again anywhere.. Seems this time you injured your head, eh? Er.. What.....?? Nooo..!! Then... What’s your problem.. huh? 5

I dono how am I going to... L

Umm.. Going to...? Write this week’s WoW post... Grrr.... What’s the topic? ‘I have something to tell you..’ :@ x-( :-/ :-I Hehe... Now I think I have got something to write about ;-) @?!# Wait, I’ll post and come back.. :D AARGH.. @?!#


Guest Author, Patrick O’Scheen

The small, pale creature extended a hand containing bread crumbs. The strong scent of vulnerability invaded the relative darkness. “Go ahead and take it.” It was always like this. At first they might seem to be gentle and giving, but then he would find himself poked and prodded, tortured and tested. He let out a low growl as the diminutive being slowly approached. He heard his stomach answer the noise with a gurgle of its own. He was hungry. With the flick of a long tongue, he pulled the offered meal into waiting jaws and chewed. The salty crunch seemed dry and clung tenaciously to his incisors. Maybe the creature carried more. He sniffed the air in an attempt to discern the presence of another morsel. As he licked the last bits of food from his long teeth, he examined his benefactor— thin, short—probably gristle. There would be little point in eating it. He stared, fixated on the motion of one of its spindly limbs as it extended toward him. “Easy boy.” The noise issued from between pink slits.


Cowering in fear of the inevitable touch, he closed his eyes tightly and crouched. He had not expected a soft pleasing nature of the connection. Relaxing under tender strokes, he allowed himself to relish the next caring brush of the extended digits through his thick hairs. He could bite—show it who controlled the interaction – but something inside of him was calmed by the sensation upon his skin. “I have to go for a while. I don’t want to leave you here…but I’ll be back. I promise.” The small form stepped backwards and climbed the planks toward the light from where it had first entered. Lifting his head with some difficulty, he watched the creature go. The familiar thud of the door left him in echoing darkness. He was alone again, only able to dream of the encounter. Maybe it would return with more to eat. He would allow its kind ministrations, even welcome them. If only it would come back…. Without an understanding of the passage of time, he waited, watched, listened. Shuffling to a position against the far wall of his containment, he strained his ears in the silence. The constant thump of his heartbeat was the only distinguishable sound. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep. A clatter of metal on metal, the sound of something pushed closed woke him from his restless slumber. Someone opened the door above and a beam of light penetrated the still air, forming a visible shaft in the dust that lifted from the dirt floor. “Look, Joey. I’m telling you nothing good can be in old man Devlin’s cellar.” A rattle and a clump announced a larger specimen similar to the one before. He idly wondered if it also had something for him to eat. It moved into the light and he could see it held a shiny object that cast a beam of illumination. “I am telling you, Pa…” The small one hesitated. “Joey, go back to the car.” The intensity of the creature’s call resonated in an increased pitch as the creature gestured to the lesser. 7

one approached him slowly. “But, Pa…” The plaintiff bleat underscored misery. “I said git!” The tone had become louder with a ferocity. “No, Pa!” The tiny being refused to respond, as it had apparently been directed, and it clung to the other’s lower limbs. “It could be rabid or dangerous.” The taller specimen crouched in a posture that suggested it would defend. A glimmer of reflection hinted at a weapon that was aimed toward the center of the enclosure. The large creature moved forward and the trace of the brightness played over the scene. Caught in the full force of the radiant stream, he whimpered mournfully, his head drooping to the floor in a pitiful motion of acknowledgement. This would be the end. He should have known they would come and take away what little he had left. Snarling in a last effort to claim a dignity that was far beyond repair, he flashed his teeth and heard them draw in their breath. They saw him clearly now. It would soon all be over. For moments that seemed an eternity there was absolute quiet as the larger raised and pointed its weapon in his direction with an unsteady hand. He shuddered involuntarily as he drew in what he knew would be his last taste or air. He shut his eyes tightly expecting he would soon feel the pain of death. “No, Pa!” Again the cry of sadness filled the chamber. A soft touch played upon his head, and a gentle sensation stiffened the hairs down his back. It was not as he had expected. He cracked an eye open to look directly into the tiny face. “Joey, I’ll run and get the old blanket from the car. I won’t guarantee we can fix him, but we will take him home, son.” He felt the gentle touch around his ears and heard the small one whisper: “It’s going to be all right, boy. I promise.” 8

It’s a Doozy!

“It’s a doozy” returns about 3,710,000 results on Google, and until a few weeks ago, I was using it incorrectly, taking the word “doozy” to mean expansive, huge, imposing, powerful or monumentally difficult. Was there a Nor’easter on the way? “That storm’s gonna be a doozy.” Huge bill from the hospital from some recent surgery? Without health insurance, “That would’ve been a doozy.” Most stinkbugs are about 3/4 inch from end to end, but I saw one crawling up my siding last spring that was around 2 inches from antennae to abdomen—a real doozy. Then I went to the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance’s Americana show one fine June Saturday, and saw the origin of the phrase “It’s a doozy” up close. And it’s a work of art. Google defines “doozy” as “something outstanding or unique of its kind,” and this Duesenberg Model SJ (I snapped a picture on the Concours lawn) drew every eye in the crowd like kittens to a laser pointer; it was that beautiful.


This is a circa 1933-1935 Duesenberg Model J (SJ), I believe.

Credit: Rex Gray,

Although some sources dispute this fact, the phrase “It’s a doozy,” very likely originated from Duesenberg, a high-end American car manufacturer that was popular in the 1920s and 1930s, and carried the nickname “Duesy.” (This nickname itself likely originated from the audible profile of “daisy” fused with “Duesenberg.”) Duesenbergs represented the pinnacle of elegant technological refinement paired with a distinctive aesthetic that still earns these cars stops and stares wherever they go (although not all of them smell very pleasant; this was years before catalytic converters were standard). Although Rolls and other car manufacturers also put out similar iterations of the elongated tourer style, complete with flared running boards and yards upon yards of chrome, nobody did it like Duesenberg. However, the Duesenberg company and its fine automobiles only lasted in general production until 1937 (barring a brief revival after World War II). “It’s a doozy” sadly outlasted the company that gave rise to (or at least greatly increased the usage of) this phrase. 10

Lot Ant.

One thing we haven’t yet replaced after the big wind is our TV antenna. I have no idea where the old one is. Maybe somewhere out there in California, I’d guessed.... So I went down to the local hardware store to get a good old-fashioned TV antenna. The store is one of them big box stores. I went in and a young twenty-something asked if he could help me find something. I told him I was looking for a TV antenna. He said that they had some in the electrical section in the back of the store and he would take me there. Well we went on the march down one aisle, then over down aisle 5 or 6, then down another, backtracked a bit and then down another. At this time, I was beginning to think I should have brought a lunch and a compass or maybe a GPS. Now I have followed an old Indian scout through the hills after deer, but at least the scout knew where we were going. We finally got to the electrical section. Then he started in with the sales pitch; he pulled out a long box and said that this was the best TV antenna on the market. It was on sale for $299.95 plus tax and was the best “HD digital color TV antenna.” Then he went on to tell me that all the TV stations are now digital and you needed this special antenna to receive digital signals, and this one would let me get color and in high definition.

This feller’s gee jawing would put an Arkansas mule Skinner to shame. Whoa Nellie! Hold the phone Mabel! This carpet baggier is so full of it, that a honey dipper would set for life.

I didn’t know whether to break out laughing, rolling in the aisles, or sit down and cry. The fact is, I put up my first home-built TV antenna in about 1956, and since have designed and built many antennas. I’ve put up so many antennas for my ham radio, the place looked like an antenna farm. An antenna is design to pick up RF (radio frequency) signals. It is only a conductor cut to a desired-frequency length, most commonly quarter wave length. An antenna as important as it is, is passive. It cannot determine what type of signal it receives and it receives all. It is a lot like a fish net – lets the real big ones go and the ones that are too small. I know more about antennas than Marconi did, as we have learned a lot since he built the first one. Well after I pulled myself together, I educated the young man on the fact that he could drop the “HD digital color” and simply call it a TV antenna. A rose by any other name is still a rose. Then I bought a nice Yagi TV antenna for $37.95 plus tax. (P.S. A Yagi is the TV antenna design most commonly in use today.) Just a little explanation may be needed here. I used some old expressions in this post that some may not understand so here is some help:

Gee jawing: The seemingly meaningless chatter a mule skinner, or driver use to drive

his or her team. For example, “GEE, you dam not heads” means to go left or right, I don’t remember. Making some noise behind mules will keep them moving, most of the time. Kind of like dogs barking at your heels.

Whoa + Name of Mule: Means stop. Hold the Phone Mabel: Comes from the WWII men calling home before going over seas. Mabel is a slang contraction ma bell (the phone company).

Carpet Baggers: Were and still are people who after the Civil War went around the

country seeking to make it big off of the misfortunes of others. A lot were swindlers with get rich quick ideas.

Honey dippers: The fellers who clean out the outhouse.


Sonic Blasting Genitals Hawkmoths have been shown to be capable of producing ultrasound as a defense against bats. This on its own isn’t unique, but what is unique is the source of that ultrasound: their genitals. Have you ever casually glanced down at your genitals and wished that they had more functions?

Well if you have, this story might make you pretty envious. That’s because recent evidence has suggested that hawkmoths (found mainly in the tropics) are capable of using their genitals to produce a loud beam of ultrasound. While I wish there weren’t any purpose to this, there unfortunately is. For millions of years, bats and moths have been competing against one another in an epic battle; each have been adapting and evolving in an attempt to outdo the other, and this genital sonic blast seems to be just the latest in a long list of adaptations. 13

Moths produce this ultrasonic sound whenever bats approached. It can there-

fore be assumed that the hawkmoth’s ultrasound either is a warning to the bats to stay away, or is capable of jamming the bats’ sonars used to visualize their environment, thus preventing the bats from “seeing” the moths. This is a great little discovery, and just goes to show how far evolution can push a species in self-defense. Also, just in case any of you have ever played Pokemon, yes, one of venomoths moves was supersonic. Maybe we should look to Pokemon for more future discoveries about animals?

What Don’t You Ever Throw Away? It’s interesting the types of objects we collect and never seem to throw away. I’m not talking about sentimental things like photographs, just the general bric-a-brac we are inclined to keep instead of discarding.

With me, it’s cigar boxes and coffee cans. I’ve used them to store everything from nails and other hardware, to tickets, baseball cards, and other trinkets. I think of them as handy storage units so hate to throw them away, even if I have an ample supply. Most of the time, I’ll ask friends and colleagues if they want them, but most decline. Inevitably, it is with deep regret that I finally decide to throw them in the garbage. What a waste. There are other miscellaneous items we do not like to dispose of: Shipping boxes are typically collected with the thought that they can be used to mail something to a family member or friend. They are particularly handy for birthdays and the Christmas holidays, but we tend to collect too many. I’ve seen boxes reused so many times over the years, some even date back to the 60′s. Towels and cloths have a long-life expectancy. Even after we’ve stopped using them in the bathroom, they end up in a ragbag for outdoor use, such as washing cars. Have you noticed the ragbag only gets bigger, never smaller? Just about every household has some sort of container to collect spare change. For years, we used an old wine jug, and when we finally “cashed out,” I was amazed at how much we had collected. It was easily over $100. I know of several house14 holds though, where the containers are never emptied, just sent to the bank.

I don’t think a lot of people want to waste their time counting pennies, nickels, and dimes. A lot of homes seem to collect an inordinate amount of refrigerator magnets, some with such an extensive array of pictures, it is difficult to see the refrigerator. Every now and then you should clean those out. Records, CD’s, DVD’s, and VHS tapes abound. I still have quite an impressive collection of 33 LP’s from my youth, as well as 45′s. Fortunately, I still have a decent turntable and will occasionally play an “oldie.” However, I know a lot of people who have maintained their record collections, but have nothing to play them on. I also do not use CD’s much anymore. My kids collected a mountain of them which were quickly abandoned for the iPod. I am reluctant to dispose of them, once a substantial investment. There are people who have collected magazines, even though this kind of collecting essentially has evaporated over time. From the 60s, I have old TV Guides, and copies of Life featuring the space race and other newsworthy events from that decade. People also like to keep their old Playboys, which I’m told are now worth a lot of money. The one magazine though that most people are hesitant to dispose of is National Geographic. My parents kept their copies for years until I finally helped clean them out. Your first inclination might be to give them to the local library. If you want to see horror in the eyes of someone, bring your copies of NATGEO to your librarian. They will only throw them away. People also like to keep the cheap plastic pots that plants come in. They are cleaned out, dutifully stacked, and tucked away in a garage or shed where they do nothing more than take up space and collect dust. I guess this is one of those “You never know…” type of items. 15

Parents like to keep old board games their offspring played during their youth. I think it’s a law that every household must have a copy of Monopoly tucked away in a closet somewhere. My mom also has an old Parcheesi set, as well as checkers and chess which nobody has used in decades, and an old Erector Set. By the way, does anybody remember Chinese checkers? There are lots of other items people collect, such as old cameras, kitchen spices, even paper sales receipts for insignificant items. Some things we collect due to sentimental value or as potential investments, others for hopefully some practical use sometime in the future. The reality though is that most of it just belongs in the garbage. With that said, does anyone need a coffee can or cigar box? Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

The Dragon’s Egg (Chapter one)

Dragons. Where had they all gone? Of the last five great-horned beasts believed to cast their winged shadows across the land of Chimera, only three were rumored to actually haunt its forests and grasslands. The lack of dragon sightings was a cause for concern. There had always been dragon protectors in Chimera. They kept the dark things lurking at the outer reaches. Slevyn loved the old tales of the mighty serpents. How they would swoop down from their dens hidden away in mountain crevices to breathe fire on marauding trolls, or to tear goblins limb from limb with razor-sharp talons. There were tales of dragon warriors and dragon riders. Female dragon riders at that! Slevyn imagined herself seated on the back of one, her knees tucked into its sides and her hands grasping the spines of its cowl. What would the wind feel like against her skin? How magnificent her red hair would look against the blue backdrop of the sky! What would she wear? She looked down at her threadbare, cotton shift dress. No peasant’s attire for her. Instead, she would don a suit of armour from dragon scales, and a helmet fashioned from a claw. Yes! Drunk with joy, Slevyn giggled and stretched out on the soft grass. The giggles turned to sighs. The serpents no longer came down into the forests and vales when the people called them, and ever since, evil things had begun to encroach on the land. 16 Slevyn didn’t want to think about such dark things, not on such a wonderful, fall

day. Slevyn closed her eyes and let the early-morning rays fall on her like a feather-filled blanket. She checked herself. She did not have a feather blanket so she did not really know for certain whether or not if it would feel as dreamy as the sun’s rays. Nor did she have a real bed or even decent shoes. Crude, sewn pieces of dried cow hide resembling socks more than shoes, were what the people in her water-front village wore. Legends told, however, of a wonderful place in the faraway mountain peaks of Perth where people lived in villas that shone like crystal in the sun, where lakes were as still as mirrors and the streets were paved with gold. Slevyn snorted. She may only be an ignorant twelve-year-old girl, who always dreamed about lands that did not exist instead of focusing on the one that did—her father’s words – but she had eavesdropped enough on his conversations with the village men to know that was not true, or at least not entirely. Still, what if such a place did exist? Slevyn pulled up tufts of grass and let them fly away through her fingers in the wind. It did not matter. Any place, even a made up one, was better than this. Slevyn curled her fingers into her palm, and with one finger, traced the streaks of white clouds in the sky. Next, she moved on to the birds, mere specks bobbing up and down aagainst the pale-blue. The hawks soared, rising and dipping on the shifting air currents. When she came to the last dot, she moved her arm to the right side of the sky, where a solitary form shot across the blue expanse. Slevyn frowned and sat up a little, resting on her elbows. This was no hawk. For one, it did not release itself to the wind to soar as the others did, and this thing was far, far bigger. She could tell that much even from this distance. “What?” she began. “Oy, Slevyn! Wha’ch’ya doing out here, girl? Don’cha know your da will skin you alive if ‘e finds you’ve ducked yer chores, again?” “Girl? Who are you calling girl? You’re not much older than I am, Doret Mayorson,” Slevyn shot back. She sat straight up and glared at the intruder. Doret was the mayor’s son. He stood tall with his shoulders back to emphasize his full five-feet-six inches, of which he was very proud. He was the tallest boy his age in the village, but Slevyn cared nothing about that. She cared nothing at all for Doret and never would, even if he grew to six feet! Why he had taken it upon himself to be her keeper she would never know. He was like an efficient hound dog, always sniffing her out no

matter where she went, always ruining her precious moments of peace and quiet. “Old enough ta tell ya to get off yar behind and back ta work. Girl.” Oh, he had a way of getting under her skin. If she’d had a rock, she would have thrown it at him. “Wha’cha smiling fer?” he demanded. He jammed the butt end of his walking staff into the grass with a dull thud. Slevyn grinned, knowing it would annoy him further. “Don’t you know your voice cracks when you talk?” He gripped the staff in one hand and took a step towards her. While she had been talking, as inconspicuously as possible, Slevyn had reached for the brown blob of soap in the unused wash bucket beside her. She tucked it into the palm of her hand, ready to launch it at Doret, if need be. It wouldn’t hurt as much as a rock, but it would do. He retaliated the only way he knew how. “I’m going ta tell tha mayor ya was lazing off again instead a helping tha women with tha washing.” She lifted her chin. “So? And what are you supposed to be doing at this hour? I don’t remember the mayor giving you the job of watching over stray wash girls. Go find your sheep. They’ve probably been eaten by trolls by now.” Doret’s eyes narrowed. “You’re not allowed to talk to me like that. I’m an elderboy. Since last week.” Slenyn rolled her eyes. “Maybe when you start leaving me alone I’ll be more pleasant with you.” Doret took up his staff and pointed the crooked end at her. “Tha’ doesn’ make any sense!” Slevyn was laughing now. “You only now just figured that out? Get going, Doret. You’ve already ruined my morning.” He shook with anger. Brown freckles stood out on his paling face and his dark eyes seemed to darken even further. “I don’t ‘ave ta put up wi’ this! I’m telling yer da.” That stopped Slevyn cold. Of all the things Doret could have said to hurt her, this was 18 the worst. There was no way, however, she would let him know of the fear his

threat stirred in the pit of her stomach. “It’s just a thrashing,” she said with what she hoped was a nonchalant shrug. “I’ve had my share.” “More’n yer share. It’s like ya like ta get in trouble.” Doret shook his head. “Silly girl.” The sun warming her back soothed the tender skin that still smarted from the last thrashing. Silly girl. It irked her that he was right about that particular thing. No matter the number of beatings she suffered, Slevyn could not seem to stop herself from getting into trouble. But women’s work galled her, made her hands sore and her back ache. And when the sweet smell of the wild flowers would roll down from the meadow, through the trees, to swathe the village in a blanket of perfume, how could she ignore their call? She remembered the tears glistening on her mother’s cheeks when she had lurched through the front door from the wood shed, the back of her dress glistening with red stripes. Somehow, she had crossed the dirt floor and pulled herself up the ladder to her room in the loft. Her mother’s eyes had pleaded with her: Why? Slevyn had only been able to look back, her own tear-rimmed eyes answering, I don’t know. “No one likes to get caught, Doret.” “So why can‘cha listen? Is it so hard ta do what yer supposed ta?” “Why do you even care? All you do is tell on me.” Doret closed his mouth, cutting off whatever he had been preparing to say. He broke off his gaze and dug his toe into the ground. “I…I –” “You what?” “Nothin‘. Slevyn, I won’ say anything, this time. If ya promise ta get ta work, like yer supposed ta.” Slevyn considered answering with a cutting remark, but in the end, grateful he decided to spare her, she nodded. “Alright.” 19

He did not leave then as she had hoped he would. How could someone go from

being so irritating, to decent back to irritating so quickly? Slevyn took her time gathering her things. As she bent to pick up her bucket, the wind rustled the reddish hairs on her arms and tugged at the braids running down her back to her waist. From above, birds called to one another. When she looked away from the sky to the path leading back to the village, Doret was already headed for it. For the moment, she was alone again, just the way she liked it. For these last precious seconds, she was free. As Slevyn put on her cotton hat and tugged at the front until it rested properly on her brow, a noise, like the croak of a gigantic frog, blasted through the meadow. Slevyn cast her eyes all about her, looking for its source, while her mind tried to conceive of what kind of a creature could have made such a sound. There it came again! This time, from above. Lifting her face to the sunrays, Slevyn’s eyes widened when she saw a black shape swooping and dipping in the sky. Massive wings bent and stretched, lifting the bloated body into the air while a forked whip of a tail sliced through the air behind it. It was too far to see more of it, and though Slevyn had never actually seen one, she knew that what she was seeing was a real, live dragon. With a last croaking whoop, its wings sliced the air, and in the time it took to catch her breath, the dragon shot through the sky and disappeared into the distance. The air left Slevyn’s lungs in a great whoosh. Her knees bent and she dropped to the ground like a stone. And for a reason she could not understand, she began to weep.


My First Dig

Guest post by archaeologist Andrea Williams of It had been 1,920 years since Vesuvius’ most catastrophic eruption, and I was buried alive three metres below ground in that ancient city. To be more specific, I was standing at the bottom of a deep stone-lined cistern in the ruins of a Pompeii house. I had been lowered down there by the site director, to investigate how the cistern connected to the house’s water system. As an undergrad archaeology major, I was required to take a field course, so I chose to go to Pompeii, the world’s most famous archaeological city and UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was 1999, and there were about 90 people, students and staff, from all over the world. We lived in tents and were fed a daily menu of cappuccino breakfasts, pasta lunches and wood-oven pizza dinners. The campground was located directly beside the Circumvesuviana train line. On the first night, while I was dozing in my sleeping bag, the ground started shaking and there was a thunderous rumble. I thought Vesuvius was erupting! It was just a train passing mere metres away from my tent. In Pompeii, we were followed everywhere by stray dogs. I picked up a decent Italian vocabulary quite quickly. We learned a lot about the physics and the chemistry of volcanic eruptions and about the 79 A.D. eruption in particular. Every morning and afternoon, our group would hike from the lower, modern town of Pompeii through the Porta Marina and the forum of the ancient city, all the way up to the House of the Vestals at Porta Ercolano, where our excavation was centered. 21

And every evening, in the free hour or two between work and the dinner bell, I’d explore the ruins – my official archaeologist’s permit allowed me to walk around a significant portion of the city that’s off limits to regular visitors. There were so many questions that came to mind on site: how is it possible to care for an entire open-air ancient city like this? How can visitor access and site protection be balanced? How is it possible for visitors to understand such a large, complex archaeological site? What about the large unexcavated sections in the city – can these be exposed and studied even as so much of the rest of Pompeii is crumbling? That’s me in my trench (right), which was part of the sidewalk on the Via Narcissus. It turned out that my square was the spot where people dumped their broken pottery; I uncovered stacked-up sherds of the same vessels. Someone had collected the smashed pieces, then placed them in the alley. Once the excavated soil was sifted and water-sorted, we also found tiny fish scales and bones, pieces of sea urchin shell, seeds and nuts. I even found a preserved beetle shell. My personal best artifact (below) that summer was an ornate copper alloy handle. The


beautiful green of the metal stood out clearly as I brushed away the gray-brown soil. I also found gorgeous iridescent glass gaming pieces that looked like turquoise and purple jellybeans. In that alleyway, we uncovered evidence of the Siege of Pompeii by General Sulla in 89 B.C. This part of Via Narcissus is right up against the city wall. Sulla’s army must have set up their catapults just there on the other side. We discovered lead shot and volcanic stone ballista balls buried in the deeper layers of soil along the street (left). I know that the situation in Pompeii has changed since 1999. I heard that there is better wayfinding signage now, and that more buildings have been opened for public viewing. I also know that damage and decay of the walls, streets and other elements is continuing. Now, 14 years later, I’m working as an archaeologist in site management, not in the field but for the government. It’s not UNESCO level but I think it is important work nonetheless. Pompeii street view from city wall


Companions – Boon and Otherwise


Are You Googling That? My Character of the Day

So, I’m next in line at Walmart, placing my groceries on the conveyor belt while the bagger and cashier are having a conversation. After I place the last item on the moving piece of rubber, I look toward the automatic-glass doors and notice the sky churning out a few ominous looking clouds. This worries me, because we’re planning to take the boat out on the river, and showers are not welcome. I pull out my iPhone and check my weather radar app. The bagger stops bagging my things and says, “Are you Googling that?” “Excuse me?” “Are you Googling that?” “Googling what?” The cashier chimes in: “Are you Googling dark-chocolate versus white-chocolate?” A look of anticipation flickers across her face She eyes me with an urgency greater than my husband’s when he’s prodding me for sex. “Why would I be Googling that?” I ask this because I cannot fathom why dark-chocolate versus white-chocolate would suddenly pop into my head, and I am even more perplexed by the thought that the Walmart staff would know precisely the moment this thought occurred. Like, really? They both start to talk, but then the cashier finishes with “We were just talking about how dark chocolate is healthier for you than white chocolate.” She holds up a chocolate-covered pretzel as evidence, and in one swoop, pops it into her mouth. I’m stunned. Was I involved in this conversation and not aware? Did the bagger and cashier at some point invite me into their conversation and perform some ritual which has now rendered me void of any memory of said conversation? 25

I pull out my debit card to pay for my items. Then I offer my input: “No, I’m not Googling anything. However, if you eat enough of either of those types of chocolates, you’ll get fat, and that comes along with so many health problems like type II Diabetes, gallstones, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and sleep apnea.” They both look at me. There’s this long, silent pause. It was as if I’d just come out of a trance – the cashier mid-bite into a pretzel and the bagger with one hand in a plastic Walmart bag. Something niggles at me and I realize both ladies are obese. Note: Characters of the Day on this blog are inspired by true happenings. I’ve withheld names to obscure the identities of the stupid people so that I don’t get sued in some stupid manner which our government deems a viable path to redemption for stupid people.



Through the Looking Glass How to climb an elephant

The journey – taken leaning out of a train


Drop of water


Modern Mythology: Superman and Batman!

Comic books as we know them today, started as reprinted newspaper comic strips in book format. This format became incredibly popular and lucrative in the early 1930′s. In 1935, DC Comics, seeking higher sales, published the first ever comic books of entirely original material, with the then novel new characters of Superman and Batman. Around that same time, prose-style pulp magazines were gaining ground in sales, but DC comics wanted more. In June of 1938, DC Comics was going to realize its goals with the release of what would become the Holy Grail of comic books — Action Comics #1! The book was an anthology series, contained several different stories, and new characters, but all paled in comparison to the final character introduced into that issue: a

strong man from another world raised as a child by humble Kansas farmers, who wore blue tights and a red cape. He could see great distances; run faster than a speeding bullet; leap tall buildings in a single bound; and was far more powerful than a locomotive. Created by two Jewish teenagers from Cleveland, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Superman was success that the publishers at DC were looking for, one that initiated an entirely new genre, the superhero. ďżź The actual conception of this character, however, was not entirely original; Superman originated from many different sources, including ancient mythology and the biblical. Much like the Greek legend of Prometheus, Superman was a stranger to humankind 29

who became a virtual demi-god. He travelled from a distant world of superior beings to aid mankind. He was also fashioned after the mighty biblical hero Samson; and just like the classic Greek warrior Achille, Superman was virtually indestructible. As to the bliblical, Superman’s origins bore a close resemblance to the prophet Moses. In the very first pages of Action Comics #1, two passing motorists discover a rocket ship blazing across the sky and landing in a field nearby; the couple investigate and find a young child. In the Bible, Moses is found in a basket floating down the river by the Pharaoh’s daughter. Given that Siegel and Shuster were good regularly-attending-synagogue Jewish boys, it is not inconceivable that they culled many of their character ideas from their teachings. Not only was Superman modeled after many great mythological and biblical characters, he also owed a great deal of his origin to classic literature. Co-creator Jerry Siegel was a big fan of the 1930 novel Gladiator by Philip Wylie, a grim tale about a man bestowed with incredible invulnerability by an injection administered to his mother while pregnant with him. Recalling this novel several years later, Siegel conceived of a character reminiscent of the main protagonist in the book — as well as of Hercules and Samson, and all other strong-male characters he had ever learned about. He then began collaborating with long-time friend and illustrator Joe Shuster. Having remembered what he learned about Friedrich Nietzsche and his work Man and Uberman, Shuster suggested the name Superman for their mutual creation — the anglicised version of the German word Uberman. Within just a few short weeks of Superman’s debut, every issue of Action Comics #1 “flew” off of the newsstands. And In May 1939, with the uncanny success of Superman a little less than a year beforehand, DC Comics was in the market for more cape-andtights superheroes to adorn the newsstands. Looking to revamp their Detective Comics series, issue number 27 marked the very first appearance of the caped crusader himself, The Batman!  While Superman was the ultimate science-fiction creation, a man who descended to Earth from the stars, creator Bob Kane wanted Batman to be more grounded as a street-level hero and essentially the ultimate human.  30

The tale of billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne (Batman’s real identity) was to follow in the traditions of the classic pulp heroes — a man who has endured great tragedy by witnessing the murder of his parents at a tender young age. Out of this unspeakable tragedy, young Bruce vows to dedicate his life to the eradication of evil. He masters multiple fighting styles, excels academically and trains himself to be the world’s greatest detective, in much the same manner as the detective of French literature, Arsene Lupin or the British counterpart Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s masterful sleuth Sherlock Holmes.  Bob Kane, a young cartoonist from the Bronx, NY, had dreamed up Batman, some believe, as early as 1934. Kane was deeply inspired by the classic sketches of Leonardo da Vinci‘s; his early designs of Batman were of a man in a gliding bat-winged costume in much the same manner as the famed inventor da Vinci’s layouts of flying machines. An avid movie-goer and fan of Gothic literature and architecture, Kane loved the caped look of Bela Lugosi as the famous necromancer Dracula in the Universal Studio‘s monster movies. Although it was his collaborating partner, Bill Finger, who brought the Batman to life on the printed page, it was clear that Bob Kane’s designs and influences won out in the end. Once again revisiting the mythological gods of Grecian lore, Batman bore similarities to Hades, the deity who ruled and was greatly feared by the underworld; Batman is feared amongst the hoodlums and criminals of the seedy underbelly of Gotham City. The character of Batman gained instant popularity. Detective Comics sales featuring the caped crusader were an astounding success. They even surpassed the sales of Action Comics featuring Superman. In 1941, National Periodical Publications began labeling all of their stable of book titles with a ‘DC’ logo — an abbreviation of its most successful title to date…Detective Comics.



Dog Days of Summer

In the swamps of southern Louisiana it gets quite hot and humid in the summer – frankly, downright miserable. It’s the dog days of summer, as they say. Ever wonder where that saying came from? I happen to like researching the origins of such sayings, so I found out, interestingly enough, its origin actually to be from Egypt; turn the clock back about four thousand years, to the days of Pharaohs, when the happenings in the sky were just as important has those on the ground. And when one of the brightest stars, Sirius, was also the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major. Obviously, that translated into Big Dog. As the sky watchers that they were, the Pharaohs knew that Sirius, being the brightest star, was in the sky at the same time as the sun – the constellation and the Big Dog star rose in the east just before the rising of the sun. This lead to their belief that the Big Dog star was contributing to the heat of the day. So the four weeks from mid-July to mid-August came to be known as “The dog days of summer.” The Sirius star no longer rises at that time because everything in the universe is in constant motion. And we now know that other stars add almost zero radiant heat to Earth. But I wonder how many people in Louisiana realize that New Orleans and Northern Egypt are very near the same latitude. The same angle of the sun that bakes Egypt, bakes Louisiana. So sometimes on hot summer nights, maybe turn off the TV or shut down the computer and be an Egyptian; go outside to watch the stars rotate in the sky. After all, in the dog days of summer, nights are much cooler than days .