Tuesday, December 23, 2008

First pizza

We made our first pizza in the oven on the 20th. It came out perfectly and made one of the best suppers we have had so far at our new place.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Watchers: a story in progress

Here is the first chapter from a story in progress. Let me know what you think and whether you would like to read more. Happy Holidays.

The Watchers

The girl stood by the stile of the worship house, her dark hair neatly parted and pulled back close to her skull. In her left hand—the soiled one, the evil one—she held a colorless, unglazed bowl. The thin material of her simple, almost seamless, muslin tunic could not conceal either her frailty or undergown nakedness.
The pale-faced cleric turned away, embarrassed by his own observing eyes. She was, after all, a child of God, set here by their holy ones, regardless of which hand she used. Her sex, age or name—if she still had one—no longer mattered. He firmly set his gaze straight ahead, his eyes boring into the dark, shadowless interior of the building which he intended to enter. His vision, adapted to the white-hot sunlight he was about to leave, gave him no objective or dimensional clue as to what it was he was moving into. He paused and blinked, briefly taking in the entry’s carved stone archway with its three-dimensional relief of gargoyles and demons. Cool, hardened clay brushed his left arm. “Please, Sir. A coin, one coin before you die?”
“Bless you, child,” the man answered, but neither reached for his purse, nor shifted his gaze. This child was already in their Supreme One’s hands. He would not be the reshaper of her fate. He habbened his staff and stepped toward the darkness.
“Aaah!” The cleric spun around, pulling his left leg back. “Blessed book! Dare you kick me?” Raising his free hand, he glared at the girl. She stared back, her light-blue eyes steady and bright. She was taller than he had first thought. His gaze shifted to her still out-stretched hand. Hand? She had only one. Where her right should be was only a leather-covered stump the size of a thumb and half a palm. “Ouch,” he whispered.
“A coin, Sir?” she repeated. Her voice was as level as her fearless gaze.
“… and if I don’t, you will kick me again?”
“No, Sir. You will die.”
The man’s appointment in the worship house seemed far away now. “We all shall die, eventually.” He still did not reach for his purse. Not yet, but this child was already proving more interesting than anything he could have planned for this hot, solstice day. “That is the safest prediction anyone can make.”
The child set her chin on the covered stump of her right hand. A smile flickered across her thin, sunburned face. “You speak great truth, Sir. But what is your life worth if you could extend it one more day?”
“A coin in your bowl will do that?”
“No.” She straightened up so that her eyes were almost level with the visitor’s shoulders. “But what I will tell you in exchange for your coin will.”
“Mmm. You know something that, if I know it, will safeguard me for one extra day of my allotted time?”
She nodded. “Something like that.”
“Well, I am late for my appointment. If you be here when I leave, I will look for you. Perhaps then I may find a coin that is worth a day of my life.” The man turned to go.
“Perhaps if I told you that one day was today …”
The cleric stared at the interior darkness. His eyes had adjusted and he now could see shapes: more archways, chairs and large creatures waiting—more than he had been led to expect. A metal blade caught an unseen light and glittered briefly. He took a deep breath and opened his purse without moving his eyes. “Here is your coin, child.”
“Thank you,” she said. He could hear the coin clink in the bowl, its sound harsh against this house’s swelling silence. “The holy ones that you are appointed to meet today are dead. Those who wait for you inside wait only to enjoy your blood.”
“Where am I safe?”
“Outside, in the sun.”
A chillness moved across his chest and down his arms. “Vampires?” he whispered.
“I do not know that term. They are not human—although once they might have been.”
The cleric stepped back out of the doorway and onto the street. “Child, how do you know these things?”
She shrugged and rubbed her left wrist with her right stump before dropping the bowl and coin into the pocket hanging on her left hip. “The watchers know. They told me to stop you.”
“Watchers?” The visitor moved away from the doorway so that he was no longer in the line-of-sight of whoever was waiting inside.
“Watchers: because they watch everything and everyone. Thanks for the coin.” The girl skipped several feet away, circled around a dry, ancient bronze fountain, swung around a lamp post using her good hand, waved once, ducked into an alley and was gone.
“Wait!” A pause and he was snapping fingers in frustration. Now what? He gripped the rim of the fountain’s bowl. It, at least, was real. But what now was truth? He had an appointment—an appointment he was now a day and two dial turns late for. Was that truth? Or was the word of one strange, adolescent girl? If her missing hand was any indication, she was a thief, or a former one who got caught.
He patted the pockets of his under jack, pulled out a small, green tablet, regarded it briefly and popped it into his mouth. As the cool, fresh limey favor began to fill his taste buds, he contemplated his next move. The interior of the holy house had felt evil; it had smelled of mold and old rat poison. It had not been what he had expected. But a thief? He sighed and walked over to the quiet, waiting opening. First tapping the dust from his shoes, he stepped just inside the entry way.

“Good day, kind sir. You are?”
“Huh?” He had been squeezing and blinking his eyes, trying to adjust to the breeze-cooled passage and its dim lighting. But how had he missed this creature, or thing, that now hovered a yard from his right elbow. How indeed, for it stank worse than gutted roadkill under a noonday sun. Involuntarily, he stepped back, pausing at the edge of the light.
“You are?” the creature prompted him again.
“I am Shepherd Benjamin,” the man replied formally.
“Shepherd? A shepherd. Hmm …” The doorkeeper pulled long yellow locks of matted hair away from its grey-furred face and began sniffing at a digital tablet it held in its third hand. “”Mmm. Ah, yes. Here. They are no longer here to meet you. So sorry.” The creature folded its lower arms, causing the tablet to disappear.
“Did the elders leave a message or location where they might be reached?” The sunlight touching Benjamin’s heels and calves was like a safety line holding him to the real, saner world of the outside. Ahead, he could now see and count at least seven other creatures standing in the vestibule fewer than a dozen paces away. Most appeared humanoid, but only in the sense that they stood erect on two limbs and were using their forelimbs to hold and carry tools.
The doorkeeper shook its head. “Would you come farther inside? One of our caretakers might know … I believe a message might be waiting …”
Caretakers? A strange word choice, Benjamin told myself. Time to trust a young thief over the word of a something that used its nose rather then its eyes to read a computablet. “Thank you. I will try to reconnect with the elders from my lodgings.”
“Please come in,” a new voice called, honey-trimmed like a girl-child’s at first commitment. Three of the creatures began moving toward Benjamin. Others shifted left and right. Again he caught the faint reflections of dull, unpolished metal just edging the light behind him. “Do, do come in.” The voice was soft and insistent, but Benjamin felt his stomach rebelling against the rank odor still smashing against his nostrils.
“Wogard!” a deep-throated creature called.
Benjamin tightened his grip on his staff and turned it crosswise, moving it to guard position. As he did, a shining disk flashed by his head and into the interior. “Run,” the child’s voice screamed from behind him. Benjamin leaped back to one side of the entry as silvery, searching tendrils and spinning stars launched themselves toward where he had stood.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Lodge life

Our little garden in our solar house is doing well, despite the recent bitter cold. Swiss chard and zuchini are growing and the zuchini is developing buds.
An evening view. Wes on his computer, the masonry heater burning a charge and our Amish light iluminating everything.