“Yer a wizard…”

iTunes recently had the Harry Potter series on sale, and I went ahead and plunked down some cash for all eight movies. Before long I was two movies in and had the strongest urge to reread the books. I finished the first book in less than two days. I’m being irritated that other responsibilities are distracting me in my quest to do the same for the second.

There is something about the books that I love; the adventure perhaps, the writing is strong, and the stories certainly hold up. But I think the part that I love the most, is the idea that magic is hiding just out of sight.

That behind a brick wall in London is an alley where all manner of magical things can be found. That the strange person you saw out the window of a train was actually a wizard on their way to some endeavor. That the cat prowling through the neighborhood is really an animagus in disguise.

My imagination has always run wild; the idea of flying on a broomstick, casting spells or riding dragons was never far away. To have stories like that at my fingertips is too much to hope for.

I like the good and evil nature of the stories too. Voldemort is the ultimate evil, the Death Eaters  (whose name may as well be a Black Metal band) with their Dark Marks are plainly on the opposite side of truth, justice, and apple pie. Conversely, how much better can Harry Potter be. Or Professor McGonagall or Hermione. They stand in direct opposition, and it is nice in our world to have the simplicity.

It is nice to think that in some corner of our world, that it would be so easy to learn the truth with veritasium. That you can plainly see who the bad guys are with their Dark Marks. That you can tell when someone has committed an unforgivable curse or used underage magic. Or just that you can enchant a scrubber to do the dishes.

The Harry Potter books hold a special place for me, for the same reason as Doctor Who; the strange in the world is just the wonder leaking out. Magic is everywhere, we just aren’t looking hard enough.

Until next time, my friends, good night and good luck.

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Rewind – Salmonella

This week is a post rewind.  I am working on a few other projects and prepping for a long-awaited and well-earned vacation with my family.  So this week, enjoy a story I wrote for a project called Flash Fiction Friday that my friend Krisann sponsored a couple of years back.  And speaking of Krisann, I am pleased to announce that she will be Sword & Quill’s first guest blogger.  Look for her post on March 16.


It sat before him, like an idol in some long ago temple.  The din of conversation and music was the buzzing of flies, and the sound of firecrackers no more than far off gunshots.

It was Independence Day, the middle of the hot summer.  And here he was.  While everyone else thought they were at a family bar-b-que, to him it was training for some war, not yet started; ice buckets, hot embers blown up into the air, dogs, sisters and squirt guns.  And this.  It was Agent Orange, Napalm, the Weapon of Mass Destruction they had never found: Aunt Clarice’s Egg Salad.

The red plaid table-cloth fluttered innocently in the slight breeze caused by two cousins chasing each other.  He just kept staring at it with an unblinking gaze, as if afraid that if he took his eyes off it for a second it would leap down his throat.  The picnic table was the tower built for the Trinity Bomb, and it was almost time for detonation.

He looked up to the sun.  97 degrees.  He shook his head.  Poor bastards, they’re not even going to know what hit them.  He could see them preparing plates; tri-tip, beans, salad, potatoes, fruit.  The laughter and joy mingled in his mind with thoughts of what that Egg Salad would do to these people.

Suddenly, he saw the first spoonful dip into the creamy top layer, and something snapped.  He exploded from his prone position, running full speed, as fast as his legs would take him. He zeroed in on the target, a bullseye over the glass bowl.  He hit it with the force of a rocket, and watched in fascination as it blew apart upon the ground.

He breathed a sigh of relief, a dollop of egg salad on his nose.  The threat was neutralized.  He knew there would be yelling, but he didn’t do it for the recognition.  He looked around and, for the first time, noticed that the conversation had stopped.  Everyone was looking at him.  He looked at his parents for the first time.  They looked at each other.

“There’s something not quite right with that dog…”

That Woman: Part 4 of a Story

For Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

The Woman and Mr. Williams

The moment was palpable.

I was riding the elevator down from the 32nd floor, my mind still on the meeting I had just left.  The music was irritating in a vauge way and the person behind me was standing too uncomfortably close.

I was just thinking about what i would have for dinner, and that maybe I would have a beer with it.  Maybe I would even take John and Marie up on their offer to go listen to a friend of theirs play a club downtow…the doors opened.

The moment was palpable.

Everything was right; blonde hair cascading around her face and shoulders like a retro-chic waterfall, the blue eyes that were cold as ice and as warm as a summer pool, the high cheekbones and button nose, the business suit that fit just so.

I noticed other things while we talked; her grandmother’s ring on her right index finger, the black patent leather heels that made her feel taller, the same slightly worn Coach briefcase.  But all of that took time to see.

All I could see were her eyes.


“How long did you talk to each other?”

The question brought me back.  I had gotten lost again.  I cleared my throat.  “Not long.  Maybe five minutes.”

“What did you talk about?”

I took a deep breath.  The bastard wasn’t going to like my answer.  “Nothing.”


“Linds.”  I always called her that.

“Oh my G…Jake.”

You know how sometimes movies do that effect where they’ve mounted a camera on the guy’s chest and then do a strange time state so that the image behind him moves all jerky and weird, but the character stays perfectly center in the frame?  That’s how I felt.  Like the world was crumbling around me, but I was the calm center of it.

“Hi Linds.”  The doors started to close.  We both reached to stop them, our hands almost touching.  I hadn’t even noticed everyone filing out around me.  I’m sure they shot me dirty looks.  It was hard to care at that moment.

“Umm…how are you?”

“I’m…,” how do you even begin to answer a question asked by your ex-fiancée while running into her three years later in the lobby of an office building.  I chuckled at the ridiculousness.  “I’m fine.”

“Good.”  She didn’t seem sure.  “What are you doing here?”

“A firm is wanting to do some remodeling.”

“Oh!  We are renting some space on 14 while we wait for the Newbourne Building to finish it’s facelift.  Wish they had given it to your group.  It’s taken forever.”

“Yeah.  Look Lindsey, we don’t ha…”

“I’m sorry Jake.”  I saw tears welling up in those blue pools.

“Stop.”

“No, really.  I’ve wanted to call and…”

“Stop.  Stop it.”


“And that’s how you left it?”

“Yeah.  I told her to stop.  I told her I was fine.  She was fine.  I told her that life moves on and things get better and…  I told her to stop.”

“Have you stopped Jake?  Have you taken your own advice?”

“Of course.  Only reason I called was because I missed the view out of your window.  Thought it might be nice to come poke a needle into an infected wound that’s five days fresh.”

“Have you moved on?”  He has started ignoring my smartassedness.  Not a good sign.

“Sure!  I got a new apartment.  Started a new architecture firm.  Even started going to a new bar.  I’ve totally moved on.”

“Are things better?  Are you better?”

I turned to look out the window again.  The ferry steam out into the harbor again.  I thought about my life and how it had changed.  I thought about how I would answer.  About how much I wished he would have just let me have that drink at the beginning.

“We did a lot of good work today Jake.  But that’s all the time we have.  Let’s meet again next week.”

Bastard.


I walked down the street.  The warm day was just developing an edge of coolness that spoke of evening arriving.  A breeze was coming off the bay, and I knew soon the fog would come with it.

I was lost in my thoughts; about my feelings for Linds, about the life I thought I was heading towards and in so many ways, still clinging to.  I thought about the changes I had made and why I had made them.  Why no relationship of mine had worked in the three years since Lindsey had left.

When I finally looked up I realized I was in my old neighborhood.  I had walked nearly 2 miles in the wrong direction.  I chuckled at myself, “Typical.”

I looked at the cross-streets.  There’s a pretty nice bar about a block down there, I thought to myself.  “Let’s toast to old memories.”

I pushed the door open, and sat at the bar.  It was empty and quiet inside.  The bartender sidled over.

“What’ll you have?”

“Double Jameson, on the rocks.”

“You got it.”  He busied himself with the drink.

A sign hung behind the bar, “Time flies like a arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”  I read it as he handed me my drink.  I raised my glass to it.  “I’ll drink to that.”

The liquid burned just a little before the ice cooled my tongue.  It was time to move on.

I took a deep breath, and lowered my glass.

That Woman: Part 3 of a Story

For Part 1 and Part 2.

The Sadness and Mr. Williams

I had lied.

Not about a lot, but a couple of little ones sprinkled through.  It made the story better if I left out a couple of parts.  Like not telling Barry I had already gone to Vegas for a lost weekend, and forgotton most of it.  Or like not telling the Doc that the last time I had seen her, technically, was when i had driven past her apartment accidentally on purpose one night.

Or telling the Doc that he was up to speed.  Here’s a tip, doctors don’t want to be up to speed; they want to investigate.  They want to discover.  They want to make it hurt.

They say that’s how the healing happens.

I say they’re sadistic.


“How did it feel when you saw her?”

I watched a yellow and blue sailboat pull into it’s mooring.  I repressed the urge to be a complete smart ass.  “Time stopped.  I wanted to throw up and scream and cry and all I could do was…nothing.”

“But how did you feel?”  He hadn’t looked up.

“I felt frozen.  I felt…what?”  He was shaking his head.  He finally looked up.

“Those aren’t feelings.  Those aren’t emotions.  Those are sensations and reactions.  What did you feel?”

Tricky bastard.  “Like I needed a drink?”  Smart ass had won the battle.

“And we’re back to avoidance.”

“Buildup,” I countered.

“You pay me by the hour.”

He had a point.  I breathed deeply.  “Fear.”  He wrote in his notepad.  “Anger.”  He looked up at me over the edge of his glasses without moving his head.  “And sadness.”

“How do you feel now?”

“Just the saddness.”


Once she walked away, I kept myself composed until I walked into the lobby restroom.  Then I had let go.  There were tears, vomiting, thinking I was done.  More tears.

More vomiting.

I remember making it to the bar down the street.  I remember ordering.  I vaugely remember pouring myself into a cab a couple of hours later.  I don’t remember getting home or falling into my bed.

I knew I was sleeping when I woke up, and I knew I had been dreaming about her because I was crying.  That was all I knew or cared about.  I had seen her.  I had been in front of her.


I had imagined that moment for so long.  I had thought about how it would go.  All the things I was going to say.  How I would tell her how she hurt me.  Apologize if I had hurt her.  That I was finally going to get answers.  I was going to find the truth to what had happened.

Instead, the truth I found was that of normal conversation followed by vomiting.  So pretty much every date I had been on for the last three years.


“So, what happened?”

“When?”

“How did you see her again? How did it happen?”

It was my turn.  I couldn’t keep building it up.  “Well, Doc…”

Continue to Part 4

 

 

That Woman: Part 2 of a Story

Here’s some advice folks: Don’t go near a sick 2-year old.  They are Petri dishes and a violation of the Geneva Convention’s ban on chemical warfare.  They look all cute and cuddley, then you feel like death warmed over for days.  So, after a short delay, Part 2.
If you missed it, or need to refresh your memory, here’s Part 1.

 

The Friend and Mr. Williams

Who she is was a fairly easy question to answer.  Lindsey Walters: 32-years old, blonde hair of medium length with blue eyes of a cooler hue.  Human Resources manager at a large firm Downtown, and fiercely independent.  I loved her.  We had been together for 4 years, until, we simply weren’t anymore.

The rest of it.  Well, that was a little harder to answer.


“…-lliams, did you have anything to add?”  Oh, Mr. Barrow and his gruff bark.

I didn’t look up from my doodle.  I felt Barry’s eyes looking at me from across the table, urging me to say something.  I had nothing.

I made two more lines on my sketch before I answered.  “The supports on page…,” I glanced at the screen of my iPad, “…14A.  Are those braces going to be enough for any further expansions in the upstairs unit?”  My voice was monotone.

Mr. Barrow looked at the head engineer with a raised eyebrow.  I never even listened to the response.  I didn’t care.  The meeting wrapped up and everyone gathered their notes and laptops and iPads and headed for the door.  The meeting had gone 45 minutes longer than it was supposed to.

“So much for scheduling it right before lunch to try to keep everything on time,” Barry muttered.  I nodded in agreement.  “Nice save, by the way.  I thought Barrow had caught you napping.”

“Disinterested, yeah.  But not napping.”  Sadly I hadn’t been napping, I could use the sleep.  I hadn’t gotten a good night of sleep in three weeks.

“Well, judging by the questions Barrow was sending your way, you better get interested in a hurry.”  I acquiesced with a short exhalation of air.  “Ready for lunch, or are you meeting Lindsey?”

Knife to the heart.


“Jake?  You haven’t said anything for several minutes.”

“I was thinking.  Isn’t that what you want me to do?”  I lash out when I feel vulnerable.  I’ve learned this in therapy.

“What were you thinking about?”  This guy is still a bastard.  “All I know is roughly what,” he looked at his notes, “…Lindsey,” still hate hearing her name, “…looked like, her job and that you were together for four years, and engaged for 7 months.”

“Well Doc, you know almost what I know.”  I watched a ferry steaming towards the dock.  “I thought I knew.”


Barry and I finished our beers.

“…and that was it.  She was gone that morning.”

“Three weeks ago? Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Well, your fiance leaves you for another guy, you get a bit bashful.”

“Let’s go out this weekend.  Guy’s Weekend.  Vegas.  Strip clubs and booze.  We can just…”

“No.”  I interrupted his interruption.  “No.”  I put my hand up.  “I don’t feel the need to run to Vegas and sleep with something.”  I motioned to the bartender for another beer.  “More than that, I don’t want to go to Vegas to watch you try and sleep with something.”  Guys have an inate need to drag their heartbroken friends out to get drunk and messy with some coked up blonde when romantic disaster strikes.

“Jake, you have to do something.  You have to get this out of your system.”

“No Barry.”  I avoided eye contact.  That’s the key, always avoid eye contact.  “I didn’t want to talk about it.  That’s why I didn’t bring it up at any point in the last three weeks.  I still don’t want to talk about it.”


I still don’t.  But here I sit anyways.  “So, there you go Doc, consider yourself up to speed.”

He sucked on his upper lip as he reviewed his notes.  “How long ago did this happen?”

“It’s been a while.”  He did that pen tapping thing I loved so much.  “Since the last time I saw her?  Umm…,” I took a deep breath, and tried to act like I didn’t know exactly how long it had been.  “Three years, one month, and eighteen days.”

“And that streak was broken when?”

“Five days ago.”

The bastard nodded his head, made a note, and opened his mouth…

 

Click here for Part 3

That Woman: Part 1 of a Story

Happy 2016 everyone.  We are going to try something new on Sword & Quill this month; instead of posting seperate stories or random thoughts on here every Wednesday, over the next four weeks I will be posting one continuous story, told in four parts.  Let me know what you think in the comments.  Enjoy!

 

The Bastard and Mr. Williams

“Are we allowed to drink at these get togethers?”

“It’s frowned upon.”

I looked up. “That’s not a no.”

He made some marks in his notepad, then peered at me over his glasses. “Consider it a no.”

I shrugged. “Shame. Some of my best conversations have happened over a drink.”  He smiled with a coldness in his eyes.

“Avoidance, Mr. Williams. You promised no avoidance.”

I licked my upper lip.  It was a habit I had picked up at some point.  “Avoidance?  I would only call it that if I never got to the point.  This is just a skillful buildup.”  He ticked his pen pointedly on his notepad and stared at me with those infernal blue eyes.  I looked out the window at the activity on The Bay.  It looked peaceful.  “I’ve been having a pretty rough couple of days.”

“Is that why you called me?”  I peeled my eyes off a particularly stunning sailboat to shoot him a look.  “Ok, that’s fair.  Allow me to rephrase.  Did you call because you’ve been having a rough couple of days, or because of what started the rough couple of days?”

I thought back to five days ago.  Through the alcohol induced haze.  Past the insomnia fueled dreams.  I thought about the day the elevator doors opened, and She had been there.

That Woman.  I never really believed that She would come back into my life.  I may have secretly hoped for it, dreaded it, avoided it, but never believed that it would really happen.  Until the day it finally did.

“Mr. Williams?”

“Just a rough couple of days.”  I lied.  “Not even really sure why I called.  Just thought maybe you missed me.”

“It’s fine.  We can sit here in silence if you’d like.  I get paid by the hour.”

“An hour to sit here and watch the boats come in and out of The Bay.  Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.”  I shrugged.  “Be better with a bourbon and water,” I whispered under my breath.  But just loud enough.

He frowned over his glasses at me.  “You’re such a Puritan, Doc.  What, did you grow up Baptist or something?”  I was itching for a drink.

“Who is she?”

The question hit dead center.  We’ve lost the mizzenmast Captain, and taking on water on the port side.  “She?”  It came out as a croak.

The bastard waited.

“I think we’ve had enough buildup, Mr. Williams.  Don’t you?  Who is she?”

I inhaled.  I wish he would have let me have that drink.

 

Click here for Part 2.