Monday, December 31, 2007

The End of Things

The heavy, slate-gray sky is wet and low, pregnant with rain. The water rushes with suicidal abandon at the moist sandy beach, the frothy foam-fringed waves casting like doily-draped seals onto the minuscule particles of silica. They are opaque against the crisp snap of the winter air as they explode into shards that roll and scatter up toward the land before collapsing in on themselves to retreat, regroup and surge the shore again, breaching upon the land in an unending dance made more dramatic by the gloom.

I watch the sunlight dying behind the sodden blanket of overcast that stretches to the horizon and beyond, feeling the sting of the mist on my face and the tears pressed from my eyes by the steady wind. It is never fully aggressive and yet unyielding, tossing my hair away from my face as I stare at the growing, gathering storm. I feel the pressure against the fullness of my body, pushing against me, a constant drag away, back, inland. The fading light retreats to dimness slowly enough for me to garner my thoughts and try to marshal my self control.

This is the last day of 2007. It's a time for many to take survey of what they've done, achieved, gained, lost, how they've grown, changed, regressed, stagnated. It's a time of taking stock, of inventorying things, personally and relationally, and a time for assessment. In that vein, I am no different than anyone else. At this time of year, starting around my birthday, I generally begin to look at my life with a critical eye and see what was done right, what wasn't; what needs to change and what I'd like to change.

So much. So little. Not enough. Too much. Abundance, want, plenty, need. A constant, spinning dance that never seems fully in step, in rhythm, in concert. There is hope. There is despair. There is longing, there is joy. There is laughter, ever tempered by the stream of tears. There is the constant questioning, wondering, pondering. Prayer and action, paralysis and frenzy, faith and worry and weakness and strength. So much. So little. Not enough. Too much.

There is change. There is stagnation. There is wonder, there is bewilderment. There is elation, there is sorrow. Friends lost, friends gained, life cut short and life anew. There is so much agony, so much ecstasy, so much to embrace and so much to reject, to eject, discard, amputate.

The wind gusts harder for a moment, trying to stagger me back, making me shift my weight on my legs to steady myself in the growing, impending darkness. I hear and feel the waves rise and fall, crashing and dashing against the shoreline again and again, rumbling in their frustration. The wearing will constantly nick away, chip away, erode away at the shoreline. The sound is so beautiful, like the most exquisite music, its major lifts and minor falls harmonizing in the rhythmic pulse of the sea. Eventually the shore is breached, a bit of it lost forever to the constant, relentless, inexorable sea, gnashing and clawing gently and persistently.

So much to do. So little time. So much languishing, so little rejuvenating. Aging, shrinking, the world growing dim. Faculties lost; memories forgotten, retreating into the recesses of the unknown. How much longer? How many more grains of sand, like this beach, left in the hourglass? I can feel the significance through my feet, my legs, thrumming through my body like the heartbeat that is fading in me. Each drumming tattoo taking me closer to the edge, farther from the beginning. The road is long and treacherous. We've no guide, no map, no navigator, no sextant, no stars. Only the clouds, swirling and threatening overhead, low but out of reach, ominous and beyond attack or retaliation. Mockingly near, tauntingly heavy, looming, beyond grasp and without mercy or malice.

I smell the salt air sharply, tipping my head to fill my lungs with the air, full of the sea. I hear the wind riffling through my ears, blotting out every other sound. My eyes drift closed, my mind emptied by the rush of the sinister storm filling my very being with the ocean it carries.

The end of the year. The end of things. I feel the mist on my face again, knowing something is there, in the dark, hurling the sea at me in tiny, invisible droplets that will try to leave me sopping and dripping. When the rain comes at last, my tears will be lost forever in it.

The storm is growing. The year is dying. The light is receding.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

History Witnessed

Tonight, the New England Patriots made an indelible mark on NFL history by defeating the New York Giants in a nail-biting, down-to-the-wire game to improve their record to 16 wins, 0 losses.

It was an historic occasion for individuals this night as well, although those things aren't as important to them as the road that lies ahead. For starters, Tom Brady has surpassed Peyton Manning as the all-time touchdown pass leader, throwing his 49th and 50th touchdown passes tonight. Both of them went to his primary long-pass target, Randy Moss. These touchdowns were also the 22nd and 23rd of the season for Moss, which gave him sole possession of the single-season touchdown reception record. Brady's and Moss' record-breaking score came on a 65-yard touchdown pass from Brady in the fourth quarter.

An amazing achievement, although Jerry Rice, who held the record of 22 touchdown receptions for 20 seasons, was able to accomplish his mark in only 12 games in a strike-shortened 1987 season.

In addition, the Patriots scored 589 points this year, surpassing the 1998 Minnesota Vikings mark of 556. They also scored 75 touchdowns this year, breaking the previous mark of 70 held by the 1984 Miami Dolphins. 23 years to break the mark? Not bad, Dan and Company, not bad. But the Pats didn't just break it ... they shattered it. Heh.

My beloved (yes, beloved) Patriots are the NFL's finest for the regular season. But, we all know, Massholes -- it's on now. The tournament begins next week, and there are some very, very scary teams in it. We have a long way to go before we lift high that Lombardi Trophy for the fourth time.

And we all know, if they don't get to the big dance and win it, 16-0 will mean absolutely nothing.

On the night, Brady went 32 of 42 for 356 yards and 2 touchdowns. Laurence Maroney added two more on 19 carries totally 46 yards. Wes Welker was again stellar in his performance, with 11 catches for 122 yards, most of them clutch. And, he threw a key block that sprang Maroney for a touchdown that was probably as critical as anything he did all night. Way to go, Wes! You're a stud and how you're not going to the Pro Bowl is absolutely beyond me.

Kevin Faulk added his own special flair to the game, too. He didn't run so great, but he caught 8 balls for 64 yards, and picked up a couple of tough first downs when we really needed them. Ben Watson, after dropping a couple (or more) that he probably shouldn't have, ended up with 4 catches and 38 yards, 21 of them on a single toss. Donte` Stallworth added 3 more for 32 yards, his longest 17 yards.

And, Stephen Gostkowski was perfect, going 3 for 3 with a long of 45 yards. In total, Stephen added 12 points to the score tonight. Another unsung hero ... except Bill Belichick did crow about him in the post-game press conference. So I guess he's not unsung after all.

The defense could've played better. I mean, they did get ripped for 35 points. But they held up well, got a very timely interception by Ellis Hobbs, and were able to capitalize on that turnover for a touchdown. They held the Giants and forced punts to rally for 22 unanswered points before the Giants made a game of it again from 10 points back in the fourth quarter. Brady ended up taking a knee in the last minute of the game to secure the win ... meaning he played the whole game. You probably couldn't have gotten him out of the game with a Vaudeville hook.

But it's not over yet, Massholes. In fact, it's just getting started.

Still, let's bask in the glory that is the New England Patriots tonight, Massholes. Tonight, let's celebrate perfection achieved. Something no one else in the last 35 years has been able to do, something that most teams don't even consider a possibility (ours didn't either ... they simply set out to play the best game they could, one game at a time). Let's bathe in the revelry of the moment, seize the joy that is right now, and sit back and watch the rest of the NFL jockey for position to earn the right to face the perfect New England Patriots.

My congratulations go to the team, its players, coaches and its owner. What you have achieved here is fantastic, is wonderful and is unbelievable. I'm still letting it settle. It wasn't easy. It wasn't always pretty. But they did it. Like great teams always do, they found ways to win when they had to. And this is a grand, grand moment indeed.

Massholes, unite. WE ARE UNDEFEATED.


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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Software Review: DarkRoom v. JDarkRoom

Someone did a search for "Darkroom vs. Jdarkroom" [sic] and it brought them to my blog.  I've reviewed and recommended both pieces of software in the last several months, and I still swear by them.  But I've not done a comparison, however precursory, of the two side by side.  I thought today, since I have nothing else to post and I'm not generally interesting, I would do a light treatment of DarkRoom in comparison to JDarkRoom and see how the two stack up to one another.

First off, both editors have their roots in WriteRoom, a black-with-text editor that does nothing but process text files, and which is exclusively for the Mac platform.  With nothing out there for Windows or other *nix platforms, some clever folks came up with some knock-offs for other platforms.  DarkRoom was thus born, and in an attempt to extend the portability to other platforms (like those *nix platforms aforementioned), some other clever duck came up with JDarkRoom.

What's the difference?  DarkRoom (hereafter referred to as DR) is a Wind0ws-based text editor, built on Microsoft technologies and utilizing Microsoft technologies in its implementation.  It's based on the .NET programming architecture and utilizes the .NET Framework within the Windows infrastructure to run.  One of the requirements of the latest build of DR is to have .NET Framework 2.0 running on your Windows machine, or to download and install it.

JDarkRoom (hereafter referred to as JDR) is a Java-based text editor.  It's built using Java, and is therefore not platform-specific.  Because the Java programming language was designed to allow programs to run without specifically targeting any operating system in general, JDR is compatible with any and all platforms running the appropriate Java environment.  This may also have to be downloaded, but it's a simple task to install it.  Once completed, JDR will run on a Unix-based machine, a Windows-based machine, or a Mac (which, technically, is also a Unix-based machine).

So, why choose one over the other?

Well, if you're a Windows user, there are certain conventions you've become used to.  Your keyboard shortcuts, for example, or being able to use your wheel mouse to scroll up and down a long page to keep reading, editing or whatever without having to use the horizontal and vertical scroll bars.  They're nice little touches that make the PC more friendly and familiar to us, and we come to depend on them.  In some cases, you don't really know how to work without those shortcuts, so being able to have them available to you is important, not just a luxury.

Enter DarkRoom.  DR allows you to use a lot of your standard keyboard shortcuts within Windows.  It also includes the familiar Windows interface in its menus and selection dialog boxes.  Since it's Microsoft-technology built, its menus and dialogs make standardized Windows menus and dialogs.  With JDR, you have to navigate through the textual menus.  That's not difficult, and when you're in them it's not like you'll be lost, but the standard, theme-based Windows look may not exist in JDR the way it does in DR.

JDR and DR both allow you to control the font and background colors in their environment.  Both have a nearly unlimited array of selections you can make in those capacities.  In DR, you get the standard Windows color selection screen when making your color choices; in JDR, you get one that's not quite as familiar but is just as easy to use.  And JDR's selection dialog presents tabs for RGB and HSB sliders.  Utilizing these, you can adjust the color infinitely to get exactly what you want.

DR and JDR both allow font selections, but here's a big difference.  In JDR, there are 5 fonts to choose from:  Bitstream Vera Sans Mono (whatever the heck that is), Courier New, Lucida Console, Lucida Sans Typewriter, Monospaced.  Remember, the purpose of this thing is to produce text, not get fancy with formatting tricks, and that includes fonts.  So those are your font choices; love 'em or leave 'em.

In DR, you have your entire compliment of standard Windows fonts to choose from.  If it's in your Fonts folder, it's available for use in DR.  That amounts to hundreds of font choices in my case.  Which, naturally, makes the decision a bit harder, but also allows me to find one that fits my mood or the piece I'm working on.  Of course, none of that information is going to be saved in the final document, because it'll be a text file with characters and nothing else.  So pick to your heart's content -- it's not going to make it into the final save regardless.

JDR allows you to configure things pretty deeply, but it doesn't allow you to set the column width.  It's a fixed width, which is easy on the eyes, and prevents you from having to jump long strings of text from one side of your monitor to the other.  It's a nice feature, but you can't control it.  DR, on the other hand, does allow you to set the column width.  You can also adjust other aspects of the page within DR.

Both allow you to see the number of words and lines used in your document.  DR includes a couple of arrows at the upper right of the screen instead of the scroll bars standard in Windows.  This means you can use your wheel mouse to roll around on the screen.  JDR now has this feature too, but it doesn't include the little scroll arrows on your screen.

JDR is a full-screen environment.   When you're in it, you're in it.  You can't see your system tray, your Start button, your desktop or anything else.  Just the editor.  It's fantastic for getting things done.   There's no IM window popping up to let you know your annoying friend from MySpace just came online and is trying to get your attention.  You don't see the clock ragging at you, telling you you're up past your bedtime.  You don't have the distraction of that stupid little animation on the web page trying to get you to click.  Nothing.

That's great for getting things done.  It is -- you can just concentrate on what you're writing and get it done.  It's a Godsend.  NaNoWriMo'ers, take note for 2008!

DR is a bit more flexible here.  It allows you to have that same, black-out type of distraction free environment, but it also permits you to make the app a separate window on your desktop like any other Windows application.  This was a cool and much-needed feature, and one I would love to see implemented in JDR.  Especially while at work, where distractions may be necessary (like your boss IM'ing you or sending you an urgent email you'd better know came).  You can normalize the window into a size that allows you to scoot it off to one side of your Windows desktop and work on things when you can, want to, etc.  Or, you can maximize it so that it takes up your whole screen, but still shows you the task bar, systray, etc.  Or, you can go full-screen, and be left distraction-free.  That's a nice touch.

And, as a bonus, in any of the window modes, DR allows you to see the menus available, so you can use the commands without having to memorize the keystroke combination(s) to call them.  In fact, I usually normalize DR when I need to do something requiring a menu command, just so I get the menu bar.  Then I put it back into full-screen mode for editing when I've finished.

I thought, and it could just be me, JDR's interface was a little crisper.  I don't know why, but the text seemed clearer, and the program seemed to respond more sharply.  DR isn't slow by any means, but it seemed to be more "blurry" for lack of a better term and it seemed the tiniest bit sluggish relative to JDR during editing.  (I could be imagining that, though, so judge for yourself.)

In the end, the decision to use one over the other came in the output file for me.  When I launched a JDR-generated file in a standard text editor (Notepad), the Java-created file included little sets of squares instead of paragraph spaces.  (This is due to the interpretation of the program of the commands and translation into characters, I'm sure -- or something equally techie and over my head.)  So, when I went to copy and paste that text file into a web-document, or my beloved Windows Live Writer, it didn't work out very well.  I ended up having to open it in some program that interpreted the little squares correctly and re-saving it, then copying and pasting into WLW for posting to the web.  This was a considerable PITA when considering how many things I was writing at the time, and JDR became a slow-down instead of a help.

With DR, I didn't have that trouble.  I saved; opened it in Notepad; there were no little squares anywhere, it was just a reproduction of what I'd produced on the screen, including paragraph breaks.  So, I started using DR instead of JDR, but I still recommend JDR to anyone and everyone interested in creating a distraction-free writing environment that lets you be alone with your thoughts and words.

JDarkRoom is available from, and DarkRoom is available from  Give 'em a try -- I think you'll like them.


Update:  Bryce Beattie of Baby Katie Media and StoryHack has chimed in to let me know you can add more fonts to JDR.  You simply have to find the installation folder (where the program files are), and edit the file; specifically, the line that starts with "font.choices=".

Just add in the fonts you want separated with commas but no spaces, and you can have any fonts you want available.  You could add them all if you want, but you have to know the font names to add them here.  Until and unless the source code is made available, at least.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Dude, I'm Nevah Gonna Do It ...

Okay, so ... this guy is my hero.

Here's an "I'm up in the middle of the night and can't figure out why" list of 10 reasons why I want to be him:

  1. He lives in New England.  I wanna live in New England, and not just to be nearer my beloved Patriots, either.  There's the soup factor, too, y'know.   And the rest of the seafood.  Mmm ... seafood.
  2. He has a full beard, and people "respond to the natural grass."  Dude, I so know it.  I can't grow a full beard at gun point.  I can't do a lot of other things at gun point, either, but that's a big one.
  3. He has the classic New England accent.  If I have to have an accent, at least let it be that one.  Jeez.  Or the deep south.  I thought I'd make an awesome redneck, but ... nah.  New England.  It rocks.
  4. He's got the kick-ass sweatshirts.  Dude ... 'nuff said.
  5. He's a business owner.  It's a car wash he runs with his brother, but still -- how awesome is it to never be laid off?  I wouldn't know.  But I bet it's awesome.
  6. He's secure enough in his masculinity to admit that Tom Brady is the most attractive man on earth in his opinion,  who beats out Carson Palmer even when jaundiced.  I'm not ... yeah, I'm not there yet.  Sorry.
  7. He says "dude" a lot.  Dude, that rules.  Just ask Raga.  Chicks like guys that say "dude" a lot.
  8. He's got like an eight foot wingspan.  Just ask him.  That means he can bring down Devin Hester in a diner in less than 14 seconds.  And he thinks Peyton Manning looks like an aerobics instructor out there, waving his arms around.  "I'm not really changin' the play -- but this looks smaht an' cool, right?  Call my agent, I'm available for pahties."  Best.  Commercial.  Ever.
  9. He's got a blog dedicated to the Patriots.  My wife has a football blog, and she did it up in Pats colors (with a gentle bit of guidance from some artist she's sleeping with), but it's not a Pats blog.  Pats bloggers rule -- and they get paid, too.  I saw a job opening on one of the job boards for it.  I was so tempted to apply, but knew I couldn't dedicate the time to it.  Dude.
  10. He's on TV.  Again, 'nuff said, right?

So yeah.  He's my hero.  I wanna be Matty.

You go, dude.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas to All!

I wanted to take a moment -- because I don't have anything else to do, and Christmas is about this sort of thing -- to tell all of you I hope you have a wonderfully blessed, happy and safe Christmas. May all the richest of blessings be poured out upon all of you, each and every one, and may your joy be increased and magnified greatly.

To Raga: God bless you and your family. You've come to mean so much to us, and we are so very grateful the network of digitized data packets routed over circuits and server farms somehow managed to bring you to us. If you ever decide to start a blog, be sure to let us know. We're going to bookmark it immediately, add it to our feed readers and Technorati favorites, pimp it all over our humble little corners of the blogosphere, and visit it every day to drive your hit count up. We love you, and I wish I could tell you what a gift you've been to me.

To Bryce: You've been a great friend, Bryce. I know we don't know each other too well, but I've really enjoyed the time we've spent exchanging comments, posts and emails. It's been a lot of fun to watch you hammering away at Oasis, and over the last few months I've realized how much fun I've had following along. Oh, and I think it would make a great Broadway musical. If Andrew Lloyd Webber can't do the writing, maybe you can get Clay Aiken to write it for you. He might even try to cover your mouth for you.

God bless you and your family. Your generosity has touched me, the strength you've shown has made me respect you as a person and not just a writer and blogger/webmaster/programmer, and you will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers. Know that you are close to our hearts.

To Dwight Wannabe: Thanks for all the great information and fun stuff you provide to wannabes on your blog, Dwight. It's really nice to know that someone cares enough about the rest of us nobodys to try and help us get along and get through, even if it's just with Eff-Around Friday fun stuff. We appreciate what you do ... even if you scare my wife a little.

To Sherri: I'm not sure what to say to you, Sherri. You've grown into a close friend for LOML and I think you're pretty terrific too. You've got your own special challenges and life's little hang-ups haven't ignored you, but you've still managed to form a bond with my wife that is something really wonderful to watch. Thanks for extending that hand to her, and to me.

To Stranger: You've been heavy on our hearts and minds for a long time now, Stranger, and we want to tell you how much we admire you. You're an intelligent, articulate and caring young woman, you're together and strong, you're wonderful. We think the world of you, and have nothing but the utmost respect for you. We're so glad you're doing better and now have found the culprit throwing you for a loop. And, we want you to know you are everything we'd love to be if we ever grow up.

And, to anyone that reads this blog that's not listed, or hasn't commented, and is lurking quietly in the background (if there are any of you): Thank you too. You're always welcome to speak, if you want. We don't bite. And I hope you've enjoyed what you've seen so far, and God willing, will continue to see. It means a lot to me to know you're having enough fun to come back and read some more.

God bless you all, and have a very Merry Christmas. You've made our holiday season special in your own unique ways, and that is a wonderful gift. We all humbly thank you for it.


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Monday, December 24, 2007

Inspirationally Challenged

During my ever-s0-brief stint in college, I had problems with, of all things, English.

That's a little embarrassing to admit now, but it's true.  I struggled with English.  Not so much the class itself, but the assignments.  They didn't seem to be much related to English as a language, and they certainly didn't do much to enrich my command of it either.  There were a series of papers, given by a young woman with thick glasses who was, as far as I could tell, trying to assert her position in the class over the students.  In retrospect, this was likely because she wasn't very much older than we were, was a bit mousy and mealy-mouthed, and not very intimidating or commanding as a classroom presence.

At any rate, she issued stupid assignments, didn't provide any instruction, never taught from a textbook (and if there was one I can't even recall it anymore), and took every opportunity to make sure we were reminded she was in charge.  She took a particular shine to me.  I was going through some personal things at the time, and wasn't the best student in the class.  She wanted to make sure I understood there would be no leniency with her.  She got the message across, loud and clear.

At any rate, one of those particular assignments which I didn't understand (and still don't twenty-odd years later) was for us to write a paper about how to do something.  It could be anything, she told us, but had to be the instructions on how to do something.  The style we took -- instructional, procedural, technical -- was up to us.  It had to be so many words, typed with thus-and-such line spacing, page numbers here, name and title there, yadda yadda, blah blah blah.  We had something like a week or two to do it, so it shouldn't have presented any problems.

Except I wasn't a very good student, and I'm really bad about being told what I have to write about.  When you give me confining parameters, I go blank. This was no exception.  I couldn't think of a single topic about which I knew enough to write a "how-to" manual.  I also don't like being told how many words it has to be.  Margins, line spacing, all the formatting?  Fine.  I can live with that, although I must confess, as an artist, aesthetics are likely more important to me than most.  But I can handle those aspects of the assignment.  The topical assignment?  Well, that sucks, because what you think is interesting and what I want to write about may not be in alignment.

So, I stewed about it.  Since I was young and fairly inexperienced with anything but schoolwork, I considered asking someone else.  But, that would be even more restrictive.  I'd be relaying information from a third party, information I probably wasn't familiar with.  And I wasn't very good at "putting things in my own words" (that was a real buzz phrase when I was in school).  So asking for input was essentially out.

Finally, a couple of nights before the assignment was due, I decided to write the paper on how to write a paper.  I ground away at it over the next couple of nights, along with my other assignments, and I turned it in on time ... one of the rare occasions when I did so.

When we got our papers back a few days later with grades, there were a few the instructor held aside.  She told us before she gave them back, she wanted to read some of them aloud and anonymously to show how the different approaches to the blah blah blah were yadda yadda, and how blah and yadda were blah yadda'd.  Okay, whatever.

She grabs the first one off the stack and sets her unattractive backside on her beat up old schoolmarm desk, looks at us all and says, "I don't like when people write how-to papers about how to write how-to papers.  I think it's a cop-out and shows a real lack of creativity, and generally I give it an 'F' without even reading it."

There I sat, filling my Fruit-of-the-Looms with rice pudding, hearing I'd just been given an "F" outright, without consideration, for doing something I thought was incredibly original and creative, because it showed a lack of originality and creativity.  And she'd never bothered to tell us the topic was off-limits, either.  She never gave us the rules.  (Bitch.)

She continued, "... but this one's really well done, and I thought I'd read it for all of you to show you how the style was addressed."  She then read my paper to an appreciative audience who all giggled at the appropriate times, and gave only positive feedback.  No one said anything negative, and no one knew it was mine.  Unless the beet-red color of my face and sheets of nervous sweat running down my face were a giveaway.

Anyway, at the end of it all, I got an "A-", marked down from an "A" because I didn't do an original topic.  I stopped and considered asking her what how-to article I could have written that hasn't, somewhere, already been written to make it original, but refrained.  What could an 18-year-old college student write about that hasn't been written about before?  The stupidity of her statement gave me clear insight, even then, to the mentality of the person I was dealing with.  So, I took my low "A" and left in peace.

As an aside, I ended up failing the class for not turning in an assignment by the deadline for the umpteenth time, but that's neither here nor there.

The point, if you can use that word here, of this post is, right now, I'm feeling very much the same lack of inspiration I felt when I faced that mousy, hard-assed instructor with thick glasses and a chip on her shoulder all those years ago.

I'm starting a second novel.  I'm using characters I'm familiar with, because I just finished a novel with them in it.  I have a general idea for the story, and I thought I had a plot, too, but danged if I do.  When I looked at it after the initial excitement wore off ... well, I wasn't real fond of the plot after all.  So now I'm three installments into a serial novel which doesn't have much to support it.

This probably isn't a problem for good writers.  Weak writers, inferior writers, however, are easily flustered and put off from their initial stories.  We flee instead of seeing what can be done with what we have -- trying to make it better or revising as necessary.  And weak, inferior writers use the snag as an excuse to stop writing.  Good writers, on the other hand, probably don't start writing until they have the general plot worked out in their heads (at least) and are excited and happy with the direction it's going.

I am not one of those writers.

So, I know a few of you have come here hoping for the next installment.  And I really wanted to give it to you -- really, I did.  I just ... can't right now.  I don't have it, because I haven't written it, because I don't like the plot my wife and I dreamed up as much as I thought I did.

Fortunately for me, it's Christmas Eve, and no one's likely to be around to notice, but when you get back, you'll find my justification.  Just like that English teacher, so long ago, you'll have to decide if this lack of creativity should be dismissed before it's even read, given the worst of all possible assessments and discarded.  For what it's worth, I'm telling you the God's-honest truth, and I'm humbly sorry for it.  If I manage to rescue the story, I'll come back and continue it.  If I don't, I'll probably remove the old installments and go forward with some new ones ... after I have a plot worked out and like it.

Or maybe I'll just write posts telling you how to write posts for a blog.  Would that be worth reading?

God bless and Merry Christmas, everyone.


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Saturday, December 22, 2007

List of Six - Software Review

List of Six, available from Baby Katie Media and created by Bryce Beattie, is a nifty, small program that does exactly what it says it does: keeps short (6 items or less) lists of things-t0-do in an easy to use, user friendly interface that masks the real power of the program.  It's astounding how many things you can accomplish when you keep the list of things you need to do short and sweet.  It's something I know I certainly need, and I have a feeling that when my wife tries this, she's going to be hooked.

See, my wife loves to-do lists.  She likes to keep a running task list in Microsoft Outlook, and Outlook allows her to check a box marking when the item is completed.  The problem is, Microsoft Outlook is an expensive and expansive program with a lot of nuances.  Just getting it installed is a chore.  Getting it to get it installed isn't easy either.  This is no free download from Microsoft, people, this is going to set you back enough money to buy the entire Microsoft Office suite, which is expensive, and that's a lot of disk space to eat just to have a task manager.

Sure, there are others you can use.  Many of them will be free, and dedicated just to being a task manager.  That's fine.  What Bryce has done, however, is take an idea for the software from a story written a few decades ago (when there was still a steel industry in the United States and which is provided on both the website and in the readme file) and based his software on that principle.  It works great, it's efficient, and it's so simple.  I doubt you can find another task list manager that will be as nifty.

The beauty of List of Six is that it forces you to keep the list short.  One of the things that makes my beloved sigh and procrastinate is the length of the list of things she has to do.  Her Task Manager doesn't do anything to help her prioritize the things she's staring at, either.  All of them are just tasks waiting to get done, staring out at her from the Task Manager pane with their metaphorical arms folded over their chests and tapping their tasky little toes impatiently.  All of them clamor for equal attention, and when they don't get done by the deadline they turn a nice, urgent red so that you'll see them better.

Problem is, they're lost amidst the other red items in that task list, which manages to always look like a roulette betting board.

Enter List of Six.  It's simple.  The program presents you with a text field, where you can see the items you have on your list.  It has a handful of buttons that are clearly labeled in normal, everyday English.  No cryptic terminology or jargon to figure out.  You can complete a task, add one, see the history of what you've done, and delete them as necessary from the list.  You can then print the list out so you can take it with you, which is great for those quick runs to the grocery store to pick up a few items.  Now, instead of letting yourself get all off-track and doing the aisle-surfing thing, ending up with a cartful of items instead of the four you actually wanted to get, you can take a moment, make a List of Six list and print it out to take with you.

And, if you get too ambitious and try to add more than 6 tasks to the list, you'll get this little message indicating you can only have 6 activities at a time on the list.

This'll keep you from getting overwhelmed.  Nothing's as flabbergasting and paralysis inducing as staring at a list of 300 things you need to get done before the end of the year.  This way, you put in the top six, order them according to their importance, and get them done.  Voila, no more arm-length lists of stuff to do over the weekend.

As writers, we need some help sometimes to get things moving forward.  List of Six can help us do that by helping us eat the elephant one bite at a time instead of trying to take it all in one gulp.

The program's flexible in its ability to allow you to re-order the priority of your activities, too.  Just throw your list up there as it occurs to you.  Drag the items up or down the list with the mouse to put them in a new order.  It's that easy.  If a task suddenly drops off your radar screen, delete it or re-order the list to address the new priorities.  In addition, there's a history of the activities you've finished over a specified period of time - the prior week, month, year or all time.  Cool, huh?

It's terrific, it's cheap and Bryce provides a money-back guarantee if you're not pleased with the program for any reason.  See the List of Six website for more information.  Is it worth $14 to you to be able to increase your productivity?  Even if you have a hundred things you have to do, tacking those things in groups small enough to see them all in one clear, clean screen and getting them knocked out will make you feel better about yourself.

Give it a try, and let the efficiency begin.


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Friday, December 21, 2007

Witch Hunt - Ch. 3

Just joining us? You may want to start at the beginning!

"I can't believe you're doin' this, dude."

JD rattled around in some boxes tucked into a corner of the walk-in closet in his bedroom, Dillon leaning against the door jamb watching him as he fished out the equipment he needed.

"I made all the arrangements. I accepted the commission. I told the client I would be there, and when ... what's so hard for you to believe?"

"That a guy who's all scientific 'n' shit's so frickin' dumb, dude," Dillon sneered at the back of his head.

"I'm not being dumb. I just don't think this is any big deal. They almost never are."

"Almost? Dude, you're battin' a frickin' thousand. What're you, a dumb-ass? C'mon. Th' only stuff you seen was a big deal."

"That's not true," JD sighed, "and I've been over this with you. I'm going. Wendy wants to go with me. You're welcome."

"No way."

JD shook his head. "You're being irrational."

"I'm makin' sure I stay alive, homey."

"Oh, cut it out. You don't have any reason to believe you'll die if you go."

"I ain't givin' a chance fer that shit t'happen, bro. I think you oughtta make Wen stay, too. You wanna risk your own ass, that's fine. Don't risk her incredibly tight and perky one."

JD turned and glowered at Dillon over his shoulder.

"Sorry ... I can't help it, dude. It's true."

"Keep your eyes above her collar bones, please."

Dillon shrugged. "Whatever. Dude, I'm jus' sayin', this trip's a trip. You didn' learn jack from the last one."

"I understand your position," JD said, standing with several devices in one hand and a small, worn duffle bag in the other. "I do. You've made it clear. What happened scared you. So much you can't compel yourself to go with us. That's fine. But I made a promise and I'm keeping it. Wendy won't be made to stay behind, she's taken the time off work, and she's excited about the trip."

"Didja even tell 'er I don't think it's smart?"

"No, I haven't said anything to her about you."

"You didn't tell 'er I ain't goin'?"

"Why would I?"

"She might care 'bout that ... she might wonder why I ain't goin', an' ask me an' stuff. Then I can tell 'er how stupid I think you're bein', and she'd be all, like, 'Oh, Dilly, you're so much smarter'n JD, I wanna be with you all weekend havin' massive sex an' stuff while JD goes to play with more ghosties.' An' then we'll stay here all warm an' safe an' havin' massive sex, and YOU can go get killed."

JD was staring at Dillon with something between disbelief and disgust. "How ... how long has that fantasy been playing in your so-called mind?"

"Dude, I'm jus' sayin' is all. If Wen knew I waddn't goin', maybe she'd think twice, y'know?"

"She'll be here after she gets off work, why don't you tell her yourself. I'd leave out the sexual proposal component if I were you, though."

"'Fraid she'll take me up on it?"

JD laughed. "Yeah. Right."

"Hmph. Well ... still. When're you leavin', chump?"

"Right away. As soon as she gets here. I'll load her things into the car and that's it, we can go."

"Tonight?? You're leaving tonight??"

"No, this afternoon. It's a long drive and we want to get there as early as possible, so --"

"This afternoon??"

"Yeah. Is that a problem?"

"Dude! That's like -- that's like today, man!"

"Uh ... yes, that would be the 'this' part of 'this afternoon'. Isn't that interesting?"

"DUDE. I didn't know."

"Didn't know what?"

"Didn't know you were leavin' today, you asshole-licker!"

"I told you we ... did -- did you just call me an asshole-licker?"

"Aw, man!! I can't believe this shit! Dude!"


"That don't give me time t'set up a party or nothin', dude! I'm gonna be all bored an' crap, while you're off gettin' laid!"

"Don't be crude. And I told you I was leaving as soon as I could make the arrangements. They're made. We're leaving."

"I ... aw, man. Naw, dude, that ain't cool. I'm all off-kilter an' shit now."

"You'll adapt."

"I can't. You gotta gimme some notice."

"I did."

"More notice."


"It's the rules, dude."

"What rules?"

"The rules that say you gotta gimme time t'be cool with bein' left alone an' shit. Dude!"

"Rules? You're a grown man for pity's sake! What's the matter with you?"

"How do I know you didn't leave a damned ghost up in here, dude?? You could be trackin' it all over th' place like dogshit!"

JD shook his head. "Will you grow up, please? If you're not comfortable staying here alone -- for some reason -- then come with us. Your choice. Or go back to your mom's basement for a week."

"Dude. I'd rather hang with ghosts."

"Suit yourself."

"When's Wen comin', dude? I gotta try an' talk 'er outta this."

JD glanced at his watch, stacking bags near the door of his room. Some were filled with the clothes he'd need for the week. Others were filled with the instruments and laptops he'd need for the investigation. He grabbed a handful of straps with each arm and went into the hallway.

"Should be any minute now. She was leaving work at 11. It's nearly 11:30 now."


"What now?"

"You said this afternoon! 11:30 ain't after noon!"

JD sighed, moving down the stairs. "We'll be going to lunch before we get on the road. Possibly dinner too, depending on what time we get there."

"You're goin' out t'eat? Without me?"

JD stopped and looked at Dillon. "Dill ... do you want to come on the investigation with us?"

"Hellz no."

"All right then. It's your choice."

"I don' want you guys goin' either."

"Sorry, that's not possible."



JD set the bags beside the front door, Dillon close behind him with the rest of the bags.

"Thanks," he said absently, taking them from Dillon and stacking them with the others. "Let me get my list and make sure I got everything I'll need."

"Man," Dillon moaned. "This sucks, dude."

"It is what it is. Okay, let me see ..."

JD slowly walked toward the kitchen, looking at the printed list on the 3 x 5 index card in his hand.

"It ain't like ya never broke a promise b'fore or nothin'."

"I don't break my promises," JD answered absently, still looking over the list.

"Yes you do. Chump."

"No I don't."

"Do too."

"Name one."

"You promised me in 5th grade that in 6th grade you weren't gonna be a geek no more. You been breakin' that promise every year since."

"Oh, stop it."

"I just don't like it, dude. I gotta bad feelin' about this."

"You mean like intuition?"

"No, like a gut feelin' an' crap."

"Do ... do you know what 'intuition' is, Dill?"

"Look, all I'm sayin' is, I got this feelin' somethin' bad's gonna happen t'you guys up there. You should call this off, dude."

JD sighed again. "Dillon ... I'm trying to be patient with you. The entire trip is most likely going to turn out to be absolutely nothing but a few squirrels in the attic, or someone talking in the hallway and voices carrying through the ventilation system. We're being put up for free, fed with 5-star food, and have the entire resort to ourselves. There's wireless Internet access throughout the entire hotel, a store, and a fantastic view of a valley. It's going to be a vacation and a lot of fun. And since you refuse to join us, it's a perfect chance for me to be alone with Wendy in an extremely romantic setting."

"Until you die."

"No one's going to die."

"You so are."

"No, I'm not. Wendy's not going to either. And you'll be fine here."

"Aw man ... you gonna at least call once in a while??"

"Yes, mother. I'll call you once in a while. If I'm not busy."


"Wendy will be here soon. I'm packed. Are you going to help me move this stuff into the car?"

"What 'bout food for me? How'm I s'posedta eat?"

"There's food in the fridge, and if I recall correctly, there are no fewer than three grocery stores all over town, countless fast food restaurants, a Denny's, a buffet, and a mall with a food court. I think you'll be okay."

Dillon pouted. "Yeah. I'll help yer ugly ass."

"Thank you." JD watched Dillon staring down at his Chuck Taylors quietly. "Do you want to come with us?"

"Hellz no."

"All right then. You have my cell number -- for emergencies -- call if you need to."

"What counts for emergencies."

JD shook his head. "You're going to be fine. Try not to destroy the house while we're gone. Clean up after yourself."

"Dude. I've lived on my own before, y'know."

"Clean up after yourself, please." JD strode into the kitchen and sat at the peninsula, going over his list again.

Dillon exhaled loudly through his lips, flapping them together. He pushed himself off the wall he'd been leaning on and paced the floor, staring through the picture window in the living room at the street outside.

"Wen's here, dude." His voice was soft and hollow.

JD got up as Dillon opened the door, and Wendy swept in, all dazzling smile, wafting auburn locks and sparkling eyes. JD smiled instantly, his chest warming internally as he saw her come in.

"Hi, Dilly!" she said, throwing her arms around Dillon's neck and hugging him hard. He held her tightly.

"Mmm! Good to see you, sweetie," she said, pecking him on the cheek.

He laid his head on her shoulder. She giggled and hugged him again, then tried to pull away. Dillon didn't release his embrace, and hid his face from her.

"Um ... did you miss me, Dilly?"

"Uh-huh," he said into her coat.

"It's ... good to see you."


"You ... you can let go now, Dilly. We have to leave."

"Dillon's not going with us, Wendy," JD interjected as he approached her.

Her head snapped around in shock, her jaw dropping open. "What??"

She pushed hard and finally separated from Dillon, his face sad, his eyes not meeting her gaze. "Dilly? You're ... you're not going?"

He shook his head.

"Why?" Wendy stepped back, her eyes stinging with unexpected tears, her hand going instinctively over her mouth. "Why? Are you ... are you mad at us or something?"

"No," Dillon said quickly, taking her hand, "naw. Nothin' like that. It's all good. I just ... I don' ... I dunno. I got a bad feelin' about this one, Wen. I don' think you an' dumb-ass should go."

"JD, he has to come, he's part of our -- team."

"I asked him repeatedly. He doesn't want to come along."

"Dilly," she said softly, her voice wounded. "Dilly, you gotta come, hon. It won't be as much fun without you."

"Wen," Dillon said, his face worried, "I really don't think it's a good idea. I mean, y'know, with all th' crap that went down las' time ... somebody coulda got hurt, y'know? I think ... I think this time someone will get hurt, but Jackass won't listen ta me."

"Oh, Dilly ... sweetie, it's probably nothing. Most of the time they aren't."

"What're you, a cult dude?" Dillon said, scowling at JD. "You got her brainwashed t'say th' same shit as you."

"I don't have anyone brainwashed, Dillon, it's just true. The last time was an anomaly. This time it won't be that way."

"Aw, man ... Wen, I ... I -- I really think you guys oughtta call this off, man."

"I told you I can't do that. But if you think Wendy can be convinced, now is your opportunity." JD folded his arms across his chest and raised his eyebrows at Dillon.

"Wen," Dillon said softly, "don't go. It's gonna be all messed up. Don't go."

Wendy wiped a tear from her cheek. "Oh, Dilly ... I'm going. It's going to be a good time. I wanted us all to have fun. I ..." She trailed off, and wiped another tear. "I'm going to miss you, Dilly."

He sighed. JD shrugged. "I told you."

There was a moment with the three of them just standing there. JD finally moved first. "We have to go, Wen. I'll get these things into the car and then load your bags, too."

She nodded, and threw her arms around Dillon's neck. "Behave yourself, Dilly."

"Wen ..."

She pulled back, tears welling in her eyes again. "Hey, it's only a week. I'll see you when we get back. We'll have a pizza, okay?"

Dillon's face was pained, frightened and worried all at once. He finally made himself nod, and a tear streamed over his stubbled cheek.

Wendy hugged him again, and Dillon grabbed the rest of the bags and carried them out to JD's car. He was arranging them in the trunk when Wendy came and brought along her own luggage. JD was surprised at her having one large bag and a small overnight case.

"Is that ... is that all you have?"

She tipped her head. "Yeah, why?"

"I - I don't know. I expected more."

"I'm very efficient. It's only a week, right?"

"Yes, but ... I guess I expected more, that's all. I thought women packed more heavily."

"I got everything I needed in there. And who needs clothes for sleeping?" She bit her lower lip teasingly while watching JD blush deeply.

Dillon placed the last of the bags into the trunk, and JD shut it. They stood there, staring at each other.

"Well." JD finally said. "I ... guess we'd better ... get going."

"Yeah," Wendy agreed. "We have a long drive."

Dillon was silent, eyes downcast.

Wendy embraced him again. "Bye, Dilly. See you soon, okay?"

He held her tightly and nodded against her cheek. They parted and Wendy opened the passenger door of JD's car, watching Dillon as she slid into the seat. JD watched Dillon closely as he opened the door, but they didn't exchange words. Finally, JD got in and closed the door.

They started the car, and JD did a slow U-turn, passing the house. Dillon stood on the curb, hands tucked into his pockets. JD slowed the car to near a crawl, watching his friend standing in the street, just watching them. They began to creep away, and Wendy wiped her face again as fresh tears rolled from her eyes.

JD was looking in the mirror, his face long and heart heavy, as he gradually pulled away from the house.

Dillon watched the car receding down the street, gaining speed.

"WAIT!" he screamed, bolting after the car, flailing his arms, "JD, WAIT FOR ME, MAN!! WAIT FOR ME!! JDWAITFORMEMAN!!!"

JD slammed on the brakes and parked the car, jumping out with a smile on his face. Dillon raced up to him, looking confused and alarmed.

"I ... I guess I'll go," he said softly, clearing his throat. "I mean ... yeah, I'm good. I'll go."

JD grinned broadly, the two friends standing in the middle of the street. Without a word, they hugged hard for a moment. Then they parted, stepping back from one another quickly, checking to make sure they hadn't been seen.

"So ... yeah. I'm all good."

"Me too," JD said, coughing into his fist and getting back into the car. "How long do you need to pack?"

"Oh yeah," Dillon said, "I guess I'll need clothes an' stuff."

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Witch Hunt - Ch. 2

Just joining us? You may want to start at the beginning!

The phone on his hip began buzzing immediately as he struggled to open the door, the bags of groceries laced over his wrists. The plastic handles dug deep into his skin as stumbled inside, grimacing in pain and struggling to get through the living room into the kitchen beyond, hefting the rattling white bags atop the counter.

Dillon shuffled in after him, more bags dangling from his fingers. He kicked the door closed behind him and ambled through the living room after JD.

"Hello?" JD puffed into his phone as he put it to his ear.

"Hey, baby," Wendy's voiced cooed. "Have you missed me?"

"Oh, hi!" JD sang, his face brightening. "I was just going to call you!"

"Really? See, we are connected, lover. What's on your mind? Besides me, of course."

"Of course," JD laughed in agreement. "Well, Dill and I received a very strange phone call while we were out grocery shopping."

"Oh yeah? How strange?"

"Really strange," JD said, pacing around the linoleum floor. "It was a long distance call, for one thing ..."

"Dude ... really long distance. I mean, the longest possible distance, yo."

"And why's that weird, sweets?"

"Well, the caller said they were referred to me. Recommended, I think the word was. By a friend."

"Okay, I'm still not seeing weird here."

"Well, first of all, I don't really ... really have any friends. I mean, none that would recommend me as a ..."

"No, you were right the first time, dude. You ain't got no friends."

JD sneered at Dillon. "None that know about my paranormal investigation business, anyway."

"Business?" Dillon snorted. "You makin' any bank on that 'business', dude?"

"Okay, so maybe they meant an acquaintance, babe. What's wrong? What's troubling you?"

"Well ... the caller said the referral came from ... Bea Jenkins."

Dillon visibly shuddered, turning his face away. JD noted the reaction, then returned focus to the conversation.

"Did you just say someone called you and was referred by Bea Jenkins, hon?"

Wendy's voice was amused, but there was an undertow of tension.

"Yes, exactly."

Silence; JD paced casually across the floor and absently began pulling groceries out of the first bag on the counter.


"No, I'm here," she said quickly. "I'm just ... I'm just having a hard time processing what you said. You're saying that you got a call from Bea Jenkins. the dead librarian that helped you with the last case. Right?"

"Uh ... no, no. I'm saying that someone called me today and told me they were referred to me by Bea Jenkins, the dead librarian that helped us on the last case."

"Yeah," she said softly. "That's ... that's a bit to process for me, baby."

Dillon began slowly emptying the bags in front of him as well. JD stopped for a moment, listening, one eye trained on Dillon.

"I ... yeah, it was a bit for me to process too. It took me completely by surprise."

"Yeah," Wendy answered fast. "Yeah, that'd be surprising."

"So ... I ..."

"You accepted the case."

"Well ... well, yes. Of course. The person asked for my help. I didn't ... I didn't think it would be right to turn them away out of hand."

"Who is this person?"

"It's the owner of a lodge somewhere upstate. Way out in a very remote area. It's the Winter Haven Lodge."

"The Winter Haven? That really exclusive one where the politicians and movie stars go? That Winter Haven Lodge?"

"Uh ... yes. I've never heard of it before, but I suppose that's the one ..."

"Dude, you never even heard o' the place?"

JD looked helplessly at Dillon, shaking his head. Wendy laughed in his ear.

"Poor sweet Jaded. You don't get around much, do you, love?"

"I ... guess not. Should I know about this?"

"Probably not. This is a multimillionaire's resort, baby. It's for the rich and famous, and not for little commoners like us."

"Dude, everybody knows 'bout it. How'd you not know 'bout it?"

JD shrugged. "Oh. Well, it should be a nice visit then. We're being provided rooms and all we can eat free of charge."

"We? Are you inviting me to come along to an exclusive hotel and resort with you, baby-cakes?"

JD blushed, his voice trembling. "Um ... yes, I am."

"Well ... I'm just getting back from a long weekend. I have to go to work and see if I can take the time ... it's going to be tricky."

"Oh," JD said, his heart sinking. "Well, if you can't come ..."

"I don't know yet, lover. Let me look into it and see. Are you sure you're able to just drop everything and go?"

"Well ... I have a lot of vacation time saved at work. It's ... I've been saving it up for a long time. The only problem might be with the notice. I may have to stall the owners for a while until I can make the arrangements, but I think I can go right away. I'll have to verify that tomorrow, of course, but I think it'll be fine."

He watched Dillon out of the corner of his eye while he pretended to put things away in the cabinet over the counter to his right. Dillon was quiet. Very quiet. JD wasn't sure if something was wrong or whether he was just being polite while JD was on the phone. He seriously doubted the latter.

"Well, I can't make any promises. But I should be able to get some time off next week if I can't get time off this week. If you want me to go with you, you might have to delay the trip for a week. Can you live with that?"

"Sure," he said softly, still watching Dillon, continuing to shuffle items out of bags and put them away around the kitchen. "I could probably just let them know I can't do it on such short notice. I'm certain they'd understand that."

"Well, either way, I'm game."

"Yeah? That's great," he said, trailing off.

"You sure?" Wendy giggled. "You don't sound all that enthused, to be honest."

"OH, sorry. No, I am. I'm just ... I'm thinking ahead already. You know me. I have to prepare a list of things we'll need in terms of equipment and such. I can have all that together and ready before the trip whenever we decide we can go."

"You didn't tell them when you'd be there?"

"No." JD turned to follow Dillon from the back of the kitchen as he balled the empty bags up and stuffed them into a plastic bag holder mounted behind a cabinet door under the sink. "No, I didn't say when I'd be there. I told them I would have to check my schedule and see when it would be possible."

Dillon quietly ambled past JD around the kitchen island, past the peninsula and out through the living room. JD heard his familiar plod up the stairs.

"Babe?" Wendy said. "Baby? You okay, love? You sound really distracted. Everything okay?"

"Yes," JD said, more firmly this time. "Yes, everything's fine. Will you be home tonight?"

"I'm home now hon, that's why I'm calling. I just wanted to let you know."

"Oh! Are you -- how was the shower and party?"

"Great! We had a blast. It was really good to see everyone again. I haven't seen some of those people since high school, so it was nice to reconnect with them."

"Yeah? Did anything ... anything ... special happen at the bachelorette party?"

"Special? Lots of drinking and being rowdy, but special? I wouldn't say so."

"No? Nothing that ... that I should -- you know ... know about?"

Wendy giggled. "Know about? Like what?"

"I ... I don't know. I just was wondering how it went, that's all."

"It was fine. A lot of fun."

"Oh, well that's ... good."

The dead air was heavy on the phone.

"Was there a ... was there a stripper -- at the party?" His voice was weak and he flushed even hearing the question come out of his mouth.

She burst into hysterical laughter. JD shook his head, covering his eyes with his palm in embarrassment while she cackled for long seconds on the other end of the phone. Finally, she could control herself again and she regained composure.

"Is that what's been bugging you? You're worried that there was a stripper at the party?"

JD stammered into the phone, unable to collect himself in his mortification to answer her. She bellowed that lilting, sing-song laugh again, and nearly coughed as she finally exhaled sharply, and drew a deep breath.

"Oh my God," she said, "oh, my ribs hurt. That's the best laugh I've had all weekend. Whew!"

"I'm ... I'm glad I could help cap it off right."

"Oh, baby," she said, the giggles still in her voice as she spoke. "No, hon. There was no stripper. Just a bunch of girls going out and dancing, having a great time, and sharing one last girl's night out with our friend before she gets married. There was no stripper. She's not into that."



"Are - are you? Into that?"

"Well, I dunno," she teased, "I guess it depends on the stripper."


"Yeah. Do you want to strip for me, lover?" She whispered in that incredibly sultry, sexy tone that she knew would completely collapse him. It did.

"Uh -- I -- well, I don't -- I guess I -- ummm ..."

She burst out laughing again. "Okay, okay stop! I gotta pee! Stop! I have to go to the bathroom, now, or I'm going to wet myself!"

"Oh, sorry, I --"

"Stop! I'm going. I'll call you after I nap, okay? I'm a little tired. Bye love!"

"B--" The phone went dead in his hand. "--ye."

He sighed, and then set his jaw. He went up the stairs resolutely, and found Dillon's bedroom door closed when he got to it. He knocked softly.

"Come in, dude."

JD opened the door. Dillon was laying on his bed, his signature Chuck Taylors crossed one over the other at the ankle, thumbing through an Amazing Spider-Man comic book. He looked up, scratching his stubble-crusted jaw beneath his chin.

"'Sup, dude?"

"You tell me."


"Something's wrong, Dillon. You've never been that quiet for that long, especially while I'm on the phone with Wendy. What's going on?"

"Nothin'. Ever'thin's cool."

"Cool? I don't think so." JD sat on the foot of Dillon's bed. "We've known each other too long for that, Dill. Something's bothering you, troubling you, worrying you ... whatever. Something's not right with you. What's going on?"

Dillon sighed heavily, deeply, and sat up and back against his headboard. He fixed his gaze on JD.

"This case ... you already decided you're takin' it, right?"

"Yes, I told them I would on the phone. You heard them. They have multiple witnesses to paranormal activity and need help. And ... well, frankly, a woman who's dead referred them to us."

"Not 'us', bro -- you."

"Me? I don't understand."

"They weren't referred to us, dude, they was sent to you. By a ghost."

"Okay ... I guess. Or someone pretending to be the ghost of Bea Jenkins, I suppose. What's the problem? Are you feeling neglected because your name didn't come up, or because it's not on the business license?"

"Pff. Dude, please. I ain't about that crap. You know better'n that."

JD shrugged. "Then what?"

"I can't believe you forgot already," Dillon said, shaking his head. His face showed no signs of mockery, his body language showed no indication of a coming joke. JD watched Dillon avoid his eyes.

"Okay, what did I forget, Dill?"

"Everything we went through last time, dude. All the crap. The way you was haunted an' stuff after it started. The way you got all beat up 'n shit -- by a ghost. The way all that creepy-ass shit went down. It's like you forgot it all."

JD tipped his head. "I didn't forget, Dill. But ... I'm into this. This is what I do. At least in my own time. I can't let those things sway me from proving that 99% of the 'paranormal' is nothing more than misinterpretation of evidence. Those things that happened -- we have no proof that we weren't experience something like mass hysteria. We have no tapes, no photos, nothing except those weird recordings. And that's something, that's big. It's real EVP, I think, but we haven't really got any reason to believe it's anything more than a strange play of the sounds."

"Aw, dude -- naw, man, naw," Dillon said acidly. "I can't believe you gonna pull that crap again, Jay-Bird. Dude, you're doin' it all over again, man! You're doin' th' same crap you did before that ghost kicked your ass, bro. Don'tcha see?? It really happened, dude! It really did!"

"No, don't misunderstand me -- I believe we encountered something supernatural. I have no explanation, whatsoever, for what happened to us. Especially Bea. And the encounter with Robin Brown. I have no idea what that was, other than experiencing a real apparition. None. I'm not saying that. I'm saying that it may still be that what we went through has an explanation, but I don't have it. A better investigator might.

"And that still doesn't mean that this case is going to be a legitimate haunting, Dill. I still firmly, soundly, whole-heartedly believe that 99% of what people think is a haunting isn't. It's just misunderstanding what they see."

"Dude ... whatevs, bro. All I know is, it scared the shit outta me. For you, for me, and for Wen. Who knows what th' hell coulda happened, dude? One of us coulda been killed, man. Killed. We wandered out inna yard for like five hours, man. We coulda been led inta traffic or somethin'."

"We weren't, though."

"No, not that time. But what 'bout this time, home-brew? What 'bout somethin' goin' all hella wrong an' shit, out inna middle o' nowhere, an' one of us buys it? What if these ghosts ain't nice an' helpful an' shit? Mebbe they ain't tryin'a get their story heard an' shit. Mebbe they wanna be left the hell alone, an' they'll kick th' crap outta anyone that mucks with 'em, y'know?"

"Wh ... what're you saying, Dill?"

"I'm sayin' I ain't goin' this time, dude. I'm out. I don' think you should go, either, and I damn sure don' think you oughtta drag Wen inta this, bud. But ... me? I'm out, dude. I'm out."

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Witch Hunt - Ch. 1

Dillon walked out of the busy little gas station building, a look of disconcerted irritation on his face. He stopped after a few feet, gripping his pants near the top of the thigh and lifted his foot off the ground slightly, shaking it and hopping on his balance leg. He wiggled his hips as he walked a few more steps, then repeated the jiggling hop-dance, bending his knees and shifting his hips. He continued toward the car, pausing to do his bizarre ritual like a mating exotic bird.

JD watched carefully as he approached. He was filling the car with gas, his face stamped with a sort of confused curiosity. Dillon stopped once more before opening the car door and shook his hips again.

"Wh ... what're you doing?"


"Well ... I know I'm going to regret this, but -- what are you doing?"

"What're you talkin' about?"

"That ... little ... move you keep busting. What are you doing?"

Dillon looked lost. "I still don' know what th' hell you're talkin' about."

"You're walking away from the store and ... dancing. Why - why are you dancing?"


"Yes. I guess that's what it is."

"I ain't dancin', dude. I'm a bomb-diggity dancer, dude. You'd know if I was dancin'."

"Okay, it's not dancing, but it's not normal either. What're you doing?"

"What the fu-- OH! Oh, that? Dude, what're you, a girl? I'm adjustin'."

"Adjusting? Adjusting to what?"

"Not TO what, dumb-ass. I'm adjustin' my schlong."

"I knew I'd be sorry I asked."

"You know ... I hadda go t' th' bathroom, and when I put my anaconda away, it waddn't in there right. I'm adjusting."

"I -- I really ... I really didn't need to know that about you."


"Of what? Your inability to pull your pants up properly after going to the bathroom? Hardly."

"If you ain't gotta adjust from time t' time, you're a girl. With NO anaconda."

"I've certainly never had to deal with a large constricting South American snake in the restroom, but then -- I did learn how to use the potty when I was about 2."

"Pff. You ain't gotta schlong, do ya? Why's Wen like you again? 'Cause you're sensitive an' can relate to 'er feelings an' shit?"

"I have all the necessary anatomical parts for her, thank you. And I don't want to have to stop again, so did you use the bathroom all you needed to?"

"Hey, I goes when I goes. That's jus' how I roll, baby."

JD hung up the nozzle on the pump, and pressed the keystroke combination to print the receipt from the purchase.

"Well, we're almost home, so you'll have to hold it now until we get there."

"Blah, blah, blah," Dillon droned dryly, opening the door wider. He paused a moment and jiggled again, then slid into the seat as JD came around the other side.

"All right, let's get back."

"Missin' Wendy, pussy-whip?"


"Pff. You ain't called her all weekend. I'm kinda surprised."

"She had a bridal shower to attend. She said she'd call when it was over."

"What 'bout yesterday?"

"What about yesterday?"

"You didn't call her yesterday either."

"How do you know?"

"'Cause I was eavesdroppin' an' stuff, how else?"

"You're spying on me?"


"Why?" JD said over his shoulder, as he watched for oncoming traffic while he pulled onto the road.

"You're boring. I wanted t'see what you did now thatcha gotta girlfriend an' all that."

"Why would I do anything differently?"

"You said you loved her."

"I did, and I do, and I'm still the same person. Why would that change anything?"

"'Cause, now thatcha told 'er ya love 'er an' crap, you're gonna get all PW'd."

"Stop it, that's ridiculous. Wendy's not that type of person."

"You are."

"Obviously not, Einstein. Or I'd have called her."

"I think you couldn't call 'er."

"Oh, and why would that be?"

"That's what I'm askin' you, dumb-ass. Why didn'tcha call her?"

JD was silent.

"You couldn't, right?"


"HA! Toldja."

"Just because I couldn't call her doesn't mean I'm ... PW'd."

"Does to. If ya coulda, ya woulda."


"So, that's the first sign o' bein' PW'd, chump."

"All right," JD said deliberately, "let me ask YOU something. If you were dating a woman like Wendy, would you want to be with her every moment possible?"

Dillon said nothing.

"Well? Would you?"


"Hmm. You see?"

"Wull ... it IS Wendy ..."


Dillon lifted himself slightly in the seat, squeaking the supple leather quietly, and shook his hips side to side as best he could.

"What are ... still??"

"Dude, I ain't got it right yet."

"Please don't do that."

"I ... gotta ... " Dillon fussed with his crotch and shifted his weight, holding his backside off the seat slightly.

"Dillon, I really, really don't need to know all this about your personal ... business."

"Almost ... almost ..."

"Oh for God's sake ..."

"So why couldn't ya call 'er, dude?" He grunted tightly, still pulling and tugging at himself.

"It's not comfortable to have a conversation with you while you're groping yourself, you know."

"Almost ... not quite ... "

JD pulled to a stop at a traffic light, and noticed the passengers in the cars to their right watching Dillon closely and laughing. He turned to look out his window so he wouldn't see them, or be looking at Dillon as he yanked and wiggled beside him. JD flushed deeply and tried to sink into his seat.

"Please stop doing that."

"THERE!" Dillon exclaimed, and JD jumped. "GOT IT!!"

"Thank God."

"No shit, man. That was drivin' me nuts. So t'speak."

JD shook his head.

"Okay. So -- why couldn't ya call 'er?"

"Because she and some friends were out shopping for the bride-to-be's gifts, arranging the bachelorette party ... things like that. She was busy, and needed to be left alone. Satisfied, nosey?"

"So she gonna get a stripper?"


"A stripper. Lotsa chick-parties get a stripper. She gettin' one for her party?"

"It's not her party, and I don't know. What difference does that make?"

"Pff. Dude -- ask Wen how she'd like it if you was goin' to a party with a stripper. Betcha she won't say 'what difference does it make?'. I'll bet she ain't too happy 'bout it."

"Well, I'm not concerned. I trust Wendy and she trusts me, so why would I have a problem with her being at a bachelorette party with a stripper?"

"'Cause he's gonna show his dong, dude."

"No, he's not."

"His ass, then."

"She could see that on TV."

"But at the party she can touch it."

"I -- Wendy wouldn't -- that's just --"

JD's phone rang, the sound emanating from the car's sound system through the wireless connection. Both of them started. The light turned green and JD pressed the button on the display to answer the phone as he accelerated through the intersection.

"Hello?" he said casually.

Static fired suddenly through the car, making both of them jump again. Dillon quickly turned the volume on the radio down.

"Hello?" JD said again, brows knitting over his eyes.


"He -- anyon -- rows?" The voice crackled, coming partially through the crackle of the hissing noise.

"I'm sorry, could you say that again? You're breaking up and I --"

"A -- ou -- Burrows?"

"Yes," JD said, his voice instinctively louder, "this is JD Burrows. Can I help you?"

"I w -- recom -- a -- end."

"I'm sorry, you're still breaking up, can you repeat, please?"

"I was --commended to y-- -y a friend."

"A friend recommended you to me?" JD said, trying to decipher the caller.

"Yes," the voice said, a bit more clearly.

"What friend? Recommended you to me for what?"

"As a paranormal investigator."

JD paused, glancing at Dillon. Dillon's eyes were wide and he raised his eyebrows.

"I'm sorry, did you say you were recommended to me as a --"

"Yes, as a paranormal investi-ato-."

"Uh ... yes, I've done some work in that area. How ... how can I help you?"

"I --ink I ma- -eed -our help."

"I ... who did you say gave you my number?"

Static, quiet hissing.

"Hello? Are you there?"

"Yes," the voice said back softly. "I'm here."

"Who recommended you to me?"

There was a delay.

"Bea Jenkins did."

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Staring Contest

I stare at it, and it stares back at me.

It doesn't blink, doesn't flinch, doesn't twitch.  It just stares at me, taunting me, defying me, thumbing its electronic nose at me.

The room is darkened in the early darkness of the late autumn, the soft glow burning my retinas with its pale unconcern.  My fingers move to the keys, hovering, itching, ready to pound relentlessly, but nothing comes.  I rub my eyes with my fingertips, sighing deeply.  It's going to win again, something inside tells me.  It's going to win again, and I will have allowed another week to go by without anything remotely resembling a spark emanating from me.   I feel dry, suddenly tired, thirsty, hungry, antsy.  I drag my hands over my face and pause to stare at it again.

Not surprisingly, it's still blank, the cursor blinking steadily at me, flashing as if to double-dog dare me to put something on it.  I set my jaw, reposition my fingers ... and fall back into my uncomfortable chair again, trying to figure out why I can't put anything up there.

There is nothing inside me right now but worry.  There is nothing inside me right now but fear and the knowledge that yet another week is going to pass unproductively.  I can't stand it.  I turn away from it quickly, watching the absently running slasher movie rambling in the background.  It's not interesting and in a moment I spin around again.

There it is.  Blank, white, blinking ridicule.  I want to reach out and slap it, choke it, punch it.  I can't afford to replace it so I have to stare at it again, gritting my teeth in resentment.  I can't force anything out of my brain.  I wring it like a dishrag and it's bone dry right now.  I have nothing to say, nothing witty to pull from the memories of my disturbingly odd childhood.  I have nothing creative bursting through my skull the way that I did in August when I put together my novel over the course of 14 weeks.  I don't have the guts to use an idea or plot generator, and that feels cheap and beggarly to me anyway, like cheating.  I can't do anything except stare at that white, inexorable blankness.  I can't stand it, and I can't stand to be away from it.  If I try the guilt that I should be doing something, should be trying, should be working through the dry spell, consumes me.  When I try, this is the result.  I want something to spill out and I don't have anything to pour.  I'm empty right now.

It's not that I don't know why.  I do.  My circumstances have exerted such pressure on me that there's nothing I can do creatively.  Worry has consumed me and it's killed even the slightest inkling of anything else I may have had boiling in my skull recently.  I was excited when I finished my novel.  I was extremely excited, really.  I had grandiose ideas of a sequel, of carrying the story forward and doing a series of them.  I even thought I had an idea of what that sequel would be.  I wanted to access (and through the grace of a friend, did access) an outlining software to do the outline.  I discovered the joys of outlining as I progressed through my story.  I was outlining the individual segments (chapters? scenes?  whatever they were) before I wrote them.  It gave me a guideline to follow, a direction when things got a little harder to remember.  So I thought it was a cool thing to have available.  I thought maybe outlining the whole thing ahead of time would allow me the freedom to write along the guideline, never losing sight of the overall plot and still work in as many plot twists and things as I wanted.  So anyway, I had the outlining software, I thought I had an idea, and I thought I would write during this time.

I saw it coming.  I expected it.  This crisis isn't news to me.  I knew it was going to happen, and I faced it with hopeful optimism that maybe this time things wouldn't be as difficult as they were in the past.  So at first, I played the game.  I did the work I needed to do, thinking that any day, any moment, the crisis would end and my mind would be free to focus on the creation again.

But it dragged on.  One week.  Two weeks.  Nothing.

I didn't realize until now, though, that I never really had a chance.  I was so overwhelmed by what's happening I can't focus on anything right now.  I have too much going on.

That's the thought that I use to repel the staring whiteness in front of me.  That's the incantation I use to ward off those evil spirits rumbling and grumbling in my head, telling me that I'm too weak to put prose to screen, not good enough, not able to muster through this time of worry and anxiety.

Good writers write.  Weak writers let distractions drive them to blockage.

The thought frightens me a bit.  I stand up, stretching, trying to fend off the vampires of self-doubt with the crucifix of my own need to prioritize things, to allow myself to be focused on the immediate need first.  I've finished the one work, I tell myself.  I need distance from it to re-work it and edit it.  I need time away from it to be able to do it justice.  But that cloying, whispering voice, full of venom and spite hisses at me again, and I turn my head once more to stare at the daunting white screen of my monitor.

Good writers write.  Weak writers don't.  Which are you?

Which am I, indeed.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Genuine Love

I can't tell you how impressive this was to me.  Now that's a true follower.  Today, he's much, much happier.

Congratulations!  It was a hard row to hoe, but you did it.  That's not going to mean much more than not having a perfect bookend season to the undefeated one of 35 years ago, but hey -- a win's a win, right?

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Experiment in Fiction 5

Well, today is the last day of digging through my archives to find old stories to present to you.  Mostly because I'm out of old stories to present to you.  Any further fiction experiments presented will be new stuff, first seen by you, oh helpful and persistent readers.  Thanks to all for coming by and providing feedback.

This one is also from the '04 period, and this is again what I originally called a "prologue".  There's more of it, but I'm not sure how much because I haven't read through it.  The usual disclaimer about being a first draft applies; so does the request for anything you've got to help it get better.  Thank you all for playing along, and thanks so much for spending so much time with me.  I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have.

The foreman watched through the mirrored, shielded faceplate while the crate was slowly lowered from the boom. It swung easily in the light gravity, not pulling into a pendulum swing as it might have in regular gravity. The sealed crate was contained completely, and there were no seams visible from his vantage point. Not that it mattered, but it was still nice to know that a standard crowbar wouldn’t pry open the package. On the bottom of the crate, the tiny multi-wheeled rolling loader was waiting.

The boom lowered quickly, and a cloud of dust exploded away from the platform upon which the putty gray container sat when it touched the surface. White-gray plumes of eons old powdery matter skittered away as if in slow motion from the underside of the lift, then settled quickly in the absence of atmosphere. The men moved about clumsily in their bulky pressure suits, and while great strides had been made to make the work easier, technology still limited them to the heavy materials required to contain the life-sustaining atmosphere and pressure.

Above them, the black sky seemed empty. Despite lacking interference from air, the stars were eclipsed by the reflection from the surface itself. As the crews worked in the cold vacuum, it was like nothing in the heavens could see them. The foreman considered that this fact was probably a good thing. Nothing in the heavens should see them. Perhaps that was for the best.

The crew was small, only four men. The crate was manageable in the fractional gravity, and that was a good thing. All the months of preparation ahead of time had made this mission an easy one, and it was going perfectly. That actually surprised the foreman somewhat, considering what was in the crate. If it was actually what the world’s leaders feared it was, then he expected more … opposition. But there it was, ready to be vaulted, and the entire thing was going off without a hitch. He shook his head in the helmet incredulously. Shouldn’t that in itself be proof that it wasn’t what they all said it was?

Well, he was no one to question authority. A conglomerate of private investors, the same ones that had funded the emergency launch to carry out this mission as well as all the preparatory missions in the previous two years, was handsomely compensating him. And that was all he cared about; the rest was for the eggheads to work though.

The men were ready to load the crate into the vault. For some reason he couldn’t understand, he licked his lips nervously.

“All right,” he spoke over the intercom in his helmet, “it’s ready to move into the vault.”

“Activating rover,” came the reply.

One of the crewmen moved forward with a huge, glimmering and flashing remote control in his thickly gloved hands. He activated the levers with his thumbs, and the wheels on the rolling platform moved and scurried over the dusty landscape. Plumes of gray kicked out from beneath the bulky all-terrain tires as it rolled over rocks and small hills, moving toward the mountainside just ahead of them.

He glanced skyward again, and then shook his head to get himself back in the game. “Prepare to seal the vault after it moves in.”

The other crewmen were silent, watching as the rover passed them and moved into a doorway. It was barely large enough to allow the clearance of the crate and the rover, which would never see the light of day again. One of the crewmembers stepped around the rover as it passed, and moved to the right of the entrance. It was a huge, heavy door, nearly three feet thick, circular and with an electronic lock that blinked a green light and red digits in the gray-and-black gloom and stillness.

The rover moved into the cave, and the tires began to hop and bounce more aggressively over the rough surface of the cavern. A threshold, a band of thick metal that held the gargantuan hinges in place, lined the opening. The rover slowly receded into the blackness of that opening as if being swallowed by a maw, and as the last vestiges of sunlight slipped from the rover’s rear, the crewman beside the door began punching in a sequence of commands on the keypad beside the door.

The door would have hissed on its servos, but the silence was deafening as the door slowly began to swing closed.

The foreman tried to wipe his brow with this arm, but the helmet was between them. Then, and only then, he realized he was sweating. Whether from tension or from fear, he could not, and would not, determine.

The door inched along the hinges, closer and closer to its final resting place. The sliver of light beyond the opening was getting smaller and smaller, moving so slowly, and the foreman was staring wide-eyed and on pins and needles. Irritated with himself, he forced an exhale through his nostrils.

All of them stared at the door as it finally seated itself. There was a flashing of the display lights, and the crewman beside the door frantically began to mash the keypad again. In a moment, the green light blinked twice and then went amber. Another split second passed and it turned red.

“Door sealed!” the crewman cried, unintentionally jubilant. “It’s sealed!”

The crew let out a collective sigh of relief.

“Okay, disable the rover,” the foreman said hurriedly.

The crewman with the remote pushed a sequence of buttons on the face of the unit, and then held up his hands in triumph. “Rover disabled! We’re clear!”

Another excited and relieved breath ran through the crew.

“All right, let’s go home and get the hell out of here,” the foreman said, finally relaxing. He wasn’t sure why he was tense to begin with, but he was glad the mission was completed.

They began to back away from the sealed, cold metal door in the mountainside, and then they turned toward the waiting landing module. The foreman noticed they were hurrying a bit.

Three and a half more days and they’d be back home. This was over, finally over.

The time window was tight, but they were able to get back to the module and initiate the launch sequence in time. The orbital module would meet them on time, and then it was a matter of hours before the departure window was available. The crew scrambled, going through their respective roles as quickly as possible. They barked their read-outs to one another, gathering the information they needed to get the launch in motion.

The chronometer ticked steadily, counting down the moments until they could fire the engines. They began to count down, the pilot ready to fly the module into orbit. The commander was licking his lips, strapped securely to the module’s seat, watching his instruments carefully. The other crew members watched intensely, sweating again.

The countdown commenced.

The pilot depressed the ignition switch and the ship rumbled and shook with the force of the fires raging below them. They watched intently as the instruments started to indicate lift off.

“We have dust off,” the pilot said into the intercom mouthpiece. “We’re away!”

The mission commander shut his eyes in relief.

“Gaining altitude, sir … one hundred meters … three hundred … five hundred …” a voice droned.

Come on, come on, get up, baby, the commander thought, knuckles white on the arms of the chair.

“… One kilometer … two … five … gaining speed.”

The craft moved upward, rising out of the weak gravity and toward orbit. The second stage of the escape was complete. Stage three went much more smoothly, the crew finally relaxing, though none of them could say what it was they were tense about. Docking with the orbital module was flawless, and six hours after they docked, they were ready to leave orbit.

“Okay, gentlemen, we have one more sequence to get us out of here and we’ll be home before you know it,” the commander smiled.

“None too soon, either,” whispered the pilot.

They nodded silent agreement, but no one spoke. They would have a five-minute burn before breaking into escape velocity. Once around the satellite, and they would be bound for home again.

The ship rounded on schedule, sling shotting with the assistance of the feeble gravity and gaining speed as it broke orbit and finally started on its final path homeward.

The commander felt the tension finally leaving him as the huge disc of the lunar landscape receded behind them at last. Earth was never so beautiful as it was that moment, and it was looming larger in their view ports.

“Final escape achieved,” the pilot said softly into the intercom. “We are homeward bound, gentlemen.”

The silence was destroyed by the thundering crash of whoops and yells of jubilation.

The commander smiled at last. “We’re going home, boys.”

“Glad this one’s behind us, sir,” one of the crewmen said happily.

The rest of the journey went uneventfully. The commander and his crew made it back to Earth orbit safely and without incident. When they contacted mission control at Houston, however, they received no answer. Confused and concerned, they were rapidly descending and needed to establish contact with mission control. Trying again frantically, they called out, trying to decide whether to remain in orbit or to go ahead with the unconfirmed landing plan.

They never saw the rapidly approaching shuttle Avenger, specially designed for this mission, and unmanned. It came up on them unannounced, automatically launching the projectile that blew them into billions of pieces as they passed at thousands of miles per hour. The shards spread out over the upper atmosphere, and burned up as they spun down in unrecognizable fragments. The explosive at the head of the projectile was specifically designed to make sure no remains would survive the re-entry process. The avenger reported the planned contact with a meteor of insignificant size and that the project “Protective Shield” had gone exactly as planned.

The mission was a complete success, and no one on Earth except those that executed it ever knew it occurred.

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