The Evening Mouthful

reasoned splutterings & hasty wisdom

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The Yellow Balloon: A Personal Parable

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I wrote this almost a year ago, when I was undergoing a major period of spiritual discovery and renewal. It was original published as part of the Great Expectorations update series, both as an article and in the audio podcast series. Here it is in its original form. I plan on publishing a poem version sometime soon. I’m curious if the parallels to Christian surrender are as clear to others as they are to me.

***

There was once a Yellow Balloon.

There was nothing about it worth noting before it was inflated. It was just a flat, sticky piece of rubber.

One day the balloon was inflated, with helium. It was filled with that heavenly element which caused it to swell and rise – it became instantly an item to be admired, enjoyed: it was pleasing and even valuable. It began rising to the heavens, and got some little way… until it was stopped, tethered to a grubby, ill-mannered boy who would not let go of the string. If the balloon tried floating higher, it was jerked quickly back down, and the boy would insist it was “his balloon.”

The balloon reluctantly decided it was satisfied: it had already been freed once from the astounding worthlessness it once knew, what more could it want? The truth that his beauty was best meant for higher heights faded from his mind all too quickly, and he contented himself with being towed about by the filthy little boy. The boy was his world: it was a small and dirty world, but he told himself he could make the best of it: he must make the best of it.

But gradually the boy’s sweaty, slimy fingers began to dirty the rope: he sometimes handled the rubber of the balloon as well, and got brown fingerprints all over it. The balloon never rose any higher than the string would let it, and he gradually became dirtier and dirtier. His essence as a beautiful yellow balloon never disappeared, but it did become frightfully less apparent. His connection to his tiny, spoiled world, and his dull coating of the earth that covered from his world, masked his inherent qualities, value and purpose.

And then one day the boy grew a little bit older. The beauty of the balloon was well known to him: perhaps better than to anyone else, for the boy still knew what the balloon had looked like when it was new. But now it was wearing old on his fancy, and he decided that the balloon might be a better, more worthwhile balloon if it was seen by other people. He brushed it off, shined it up as best he could, and took it outside to show it off, to see if anyone would notice it.

But no one would: they too had owned balloons, but now none of them held one except the boy. They would glance at him as he walked by, and then go back to their business. The boy waved the balloon about, shouting loudly about its size and colour and magnificence. But it was still tied to a grubby, selfish boy, and people could not notice the balloon without also noticing the repulsive child to which it was tied.

And then the boy looked up and saw the deep blue sky, and billowing white clouds: he saw the golden Sunlight beaming down, and he saw the balloon straining to reach higher. He saw the sky and the Sun and the balloon all of a sudden as one beautiful picture, and the sight caused his grip on the string to loosen.

The balloon shot up into the sky.

The boy was upset for a moment, but then he looked again and saw that the balloon, higher now in the lofts of the sky, made the stunning picture he had just seen even better. He watched the balloon float towards the sun, and realized that as it went higher it became more beautiful, more amazing, more worthy of his attention.

And then he saw something even more magnificent: as the balloon drew even higher towards the fiery orb of the Sun, as it became lost in the glory of the celestial beams, it joined something that the boy had failed to notice when he had been trying to boast about his balloon a few minutes before.

He saw a huge and resplendent cloud, a shimmering swarm, made of many more balloons, hundreds of balloons, of all different colours and sizes and shapes: and they all rose to the sunlight in one giant balloon-shaped cluster, infinitely more awesome and gorgeous and stunning and valuable than any one individual balloon.

Then the boy looked about him, and remembered that all the people he had just tried to impress with his one balloon had all had balloons, and had all likewise let them go.

And, high up in the air, the balloon looked around him. He noticed that some balloons were higher, and some were yet beneath him as they rose to joined the cloud: but they all rose as one towards the glory of Heaven, and as he looked about he realized he could see not only the boy who had been his world, but also the neighborhood where the boy lived, and the river near the town, and the mountains which the river flowed down, and the oceans that the river met at its end. And his world was suddenly so much bigger and cleaner and more beautiful than he had ever imagined it being that he began to grow yet again.

As he flew higher, he began to grow bigger and more wonderful: and the higher he went, the brighter the light of the Sun was through him. The balloons were all swelling and growing brighter and more colourful.

And suddenly, as the entire cloud of balloons reached an amazing, breathtaking height, they all burst.

They had grown so full of light and grown so large and so beautiful that they could no longer remain balloons. Their thin, fragile skin disappeared and was pierced for good and all by the intense and blinding glory of the Sun, and their beauty was absorbed forever in it.

The people down below watched it happen. And the boy did not even remember having the balloon with him before. He would never recollect how the balloon looked in his bedroom, or how it felt to hold the string and look up and see it straining above him. His attention was completely absorbed in the ecstasy and majesty of what he had just seen. After some moments he declared that it was the most amazing and beautiful thing he had ever seen, and ever would see.

And everyone around him nodded in agreement.

The End.

Written by Dave Dueck

January 21, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Posted in fiction, journal

Great Expectorations: Chapter XII

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Currently
Supergirl (1984 Film)
Arrival on Earth/The Flying Ballet

Welcome to Chapter XII of Great Expectorations. This is Dave Dueck once again, and I’m sorry I’m late.

Last time I wrote one of these things, there was snow outside my window. Now the brown earth is laid bare before the blinding sun, which has only come out this weekend after a week of cloudy gloom; one which had everybody around here somewhat depressed to one extent or another. It’s still fairly cool outside, the temperature has been hovering only slightly above the freezing point, and there is chance of heavy snow this week, but for now the sun is out and people are chipper.

And fitting this sunshine is indeed! For I have finally been hired, after months of frustrating, agonizing job-hunting, and although it’ll be another few weeks before I’ve settled into the routine of the new job, it’s safe to say that a great cloud has been lifted and the golden rays are starting to break through. God be praised!

I’m pretty excited, but I’m also pretty busy preparing myself for my new duties and getting things cleared out of the way, and I’m pretty tired as well, so instead of filling this update with some pretty boring twaddle (my last two weeks have been practically identical to the ones already chronicled), I will wish you well and give you a preview of a comic fantasy I began writing in mid-2006. The following is an excerpt from my novel-in-progress,

The Day Right After the Night Before that One Christmas, Chapter 6

Kap Keestor, surely one of the world‘s more massive chieftains, was fuming. He poked his head out of the wigwam’s door-flap and looked around the camp. Where was that boy? The gorgeous sunrise was wasted on the scruffy chieftain. It was bad enough that Klem was always meddling in that stupid waste of time he called ‘technology,’ now he was nowhere to be found, just when Kap needed his morning coffee. He growled and went back inside.
His wife Crystal looked up from her drawings in the dirt floor in concern. “Is he gone again?”
Kap snarled. “Yup. That boy’s gonna have to learn a lesson soon. I’m sick of him always not being around here, and always never making my coffee on time. He’ll pay!”
Crystal returned her attention to her drawings, which consisted of an attractive bunny eating a pomegranate and a wolf trying to kill a Forest Ogre with a sand wedge. She spoke timidly as she resumed her artistic scratching.
“You’re not going to revoke his technology privileges again, are you? They mean so much to him. He’ll only get angry.”
Kap chuckled. “Then he’ll know how I feel. Not making coffee for me! The idea! His silly technology privileges can go hang. How am I supposed to gear up to battle the Castle of Administration when I have no coffee to drink?”
It was Crystal’s turn to chuckle. “You know, it’s not really proper coffee at all. He just mixes dirt, soap and hot water. You could do it yourself.”
“I thought that’s what real coffee was made up of.”
“Nope.”
“Oh.”
There was an awkward pause.
“But it tastes like dirt and soap.”
“Yes.”
“What is it really made from?”
Crystal shrugged. “Something that looks like wet dirt and tastes like soap?”
Kap’s eyes narrowed suddenly. “How do you know all this?”
“Klem told me. He said that his way of making coffee is just a stand-in until he can figure out how to use technology to make real coffee.”
Kap slowly allowed his eyelids to resume their normal positions and he sat down heavily on his stool. It was cleverly fashioned out of a donkey’s butt, and was very comfortable. Kap pursed his giant lips in a sort of perplexed frustration. At length he spoke again. “Where’s Kyle?”
“He said he was going fishing.”
“But how? We haven’t invented the fishing pole yet.”
“He was taking along a piece of bread and one of his tube socks. He said he was going to try luring the fish into the sock with the piece of bread.”
“Well, at least Kyle has sense. None of this technology nonsense with him. He’s got a head on his shoulders and he’s got practical ideas. Now if only he could think of a practical way for our tribe to storm the Castle of Administration…”
Suddenly there was a shout from outside, and Kap recognized Klem’s voice. He jumped up off his stool and ran outside, taking off his belt as he did so. Crystal sighed and went outside too. Perhaps she could stave off another unpleasant scene, but there were never any guarantees with Kap.
What Kap and Crystal saw as they emerged from the wigwam was totally unexpected and made them forget all thoughts of spanking and familial conflict: Klem was leading a donkey which was pulling a suit of armour on a flat wooden thing. Kap was particularly befuddled by the harness which connected the animal and the apparatus. What sort of dark sorcery WAS this? Klem appeared concerned, an unusual appearance for the typically jaunty young rogue. He reached the middle of the camp and gestured at the donkey.
“Well, Pops? Eh?”
Kap approached the animal and ran his fingers gingerly along the mysterious harness, his eyes ablaze with wonder and curiosity. “What sort of sorcery, technology or weird thing IS this?”
Klem shrugged. “No idea. Pretty clever, though, eh? The wonders of technology know no limits!”
Kap walked around the donkey a couple of times, his giant lips pursed once again. “It appears to be some sort of device for allowing the animal to pull the burden!”
“That’s what I figured. See how simply it’s made, using a combination of seemingly unrelated parts to create a uniform and useful whole? Ingenious! All I want to know is, why is it pulling this–”
CLANG!! Kap kicked the suit of armour with his gnarled, woode-clad foot. A scream, hoarse and high-pitched, escaped the helmet.
“HEY! Knock it off!”
Kap looked at Klem in angry surprise. “Why didn’t you tell me there was a real person inside of here?”
“I was about to…”
The voice from the armour spoke out again. “Somebody get me out of here! Stupid armour!”
Klem and Kap looked at each other for a moment, and then Kap went back to the wigwam. When he returned, he was carrying a crudely-fashioned but humongous sword, five inches wide at the blade’s base. Instead of swinging it like a glorified, sword-shaped axe, however, he used it like a crowbar, inserting the blade’s tip into one of the links of chain holding the armour to the wooden base. He twisted the sword suddenly and SNAPPO! The sword blade shattered under the incredible pressure of the massive chieftain’s strength, matched beyond hope against the indestructible forged steel of the chain. The armour still didn’t move. The voice came out of the helmet again. “Even if you HAD broken the chain, I still can’t move! This suit is way too rusty!”
Klem stooped down and began to examine the suit. He noticed several dozen round metal studs with little crosses engraved deeply in them, but aside from a passing sense of amazement at the advanced knowledge one would need to create such detail, he felt nothing but frustration. He couldn’t think of any way to release the suit’s prisoner. He turned to Kap with his arms spread wide in helplessness. “What should we do?”
Kap’s eyebrows had lowered. “No doubt the man’s a former prisoner of the Administration. Clever devils! After torturing this man for years, they’ve gotten the information they needed from him and released him like they promised… but in an iron, man-shaped prison, pulled by clever harness to wherever this witless animal may choose to go! The sheer inhumanity of it all reeks of Tweed and his Administration! I say we do the only thing a decent clan CAN do: attack!”
Klem couldn’t help smirking. “Attacking won’t help us rescue this poor soul, and we’d most likely end up sharing his cruel but ingenious fate. I say we find a way to rescue him, and he can share his knowledge of the Castle with us. THEN maybe we can attack.”
Kap snarled. “Nobody tells Kap Keestor how to run his clan! I’ll do the thinking here. But you’re right. This man could be of some help, and rescuing him gets us karma points, too.”

To be continued…

Thanks for listening! I hope to be back next week with something more substantial and more entertaining, if that is even possible. God bless and Love All,

Dave Dueck

PS: Mikal wins the last episode’s music clip contest with an astonishing 24 points! Beka comes in second with 10 points. The answers are:
Clip 1: “Potter Waltz” from The Goblet of Fire by Patrick Doyle
Clip 2: “Theology & Civilization” from Conan The Barbarian (piano solo version) by Basil Poledouris
Clip 3: “Coda” (hidden track) from Johnny English by Ed Shearmur
Clip 4: “The People’s Princess I” from The Queen by Alexandre Desplat
Clip 5: “Mr. Smith and Joan” from Doctor Who: Series 3 by Murray Gold
Clip 6: “The Ballroom” from Arsene Lupin by Debbie Wiseman
Clip 7: “Hogwart’s March” from The Goblet of Fire by Patrick Doyle
Clip 8: “Valjean’s Journey” from Les Miserables by Basil Poledouris
Clip 9: “March of the RHPS” from Valiant by George Fenton
Clip 10: “Qui Es Tu” from Arsene Lupin by Debbie Wiseman
Clip 11: “Le Festin” from Ratatouille by Michael Giacchino
Clip 12: “Ratatouille Main Theme” from Ratatouille by Michael Giacchino
Clip 13: “Vassili’s Fame Spreads” from Enemy at the Gates by James Horner
Clip 14: “Off to Ireland” from Marley & Me by Teddy Shapiro
Clip 15: “Russian Tank Victory” from Call of Duty 2 (VG) by Graeme Revell

Written by Dave Dueck

March 29, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Posted in fiction, journal

Another Bit of my Novel

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Currently Listening
Shadow of the Moon
By Blackmore’s Night

Another nearly-finished section of my comic fantasy tale,

THE DAY RIGHT AFTER THE NIGHT BEFORE THAT ONE CHRISTMAS

or

THAT ONE CHRISTMAS
DISCLAIMER: I use British English spelling

Regarding the Navy Blue Forest
The last time I visited the Navy Blue Forest (which coincidentally was also the first time), the only truly remarkable things I noticed were A) the complete absence of the Forest Ogres, the only natural enemy of the Pink Moss Recluse, and B) a complete absence of anything resembling the colour navy blue. Local legend claims it was really navy blue once, before Florian Tweed and his horde of Vandals had come through with their cans of black spray-paint in the Last Age, but modern sceptics say it’s just a way of making the forest sound less dangerous to strangers, who tend to be off-put by the forbidding appearance of the massive forest.

The place cannot be said to have any colour in the regularly accepted sense of the word ‘colour,’ meaning it has no vibrancy or exciting variation in its visual appearance. Most of the time, it looks straight black. The evergreen trees are of a strange variety which from afar appear pitch-black, but up close are revealed to be a very dark grey, hence the designation ‘Ever-greys.’ On very bright days after a hard rain during the night, the reflection of the sun of the wet boughs causes the forest to take on a dark grey brilliance, and in mating season (February) the trees are literally covered with Pink Moss Recluse spiders, which gives the forest a temporary bright pink resplendence.

But mostly it’s just black. The name ‘Navy Blue’ forest is totally misleading in every sense, but it must have worked in its intended purpose of reassuring strangers to the area because there was an identical forest surrounding the Castle of Administration for miles in every direction, only this one was called the Black Forest of Eternal Death and people generally avoided the area, whereas travellers were quite common in the Navy Blue Forest, despite there being no actual difference in the two forests besides the name. In fact, travellers through the area were so prolific that the iron-fisted Castle of Administration decided to profit from it and make travel in the Navy County legal only if you travelled by train. There was no feasible way for the Castle to enforce this law, of course, but the economy in that country was quite stable at the time and nobody minded shelling out a few extra shillings to ride a nice shiny new train instead of walking through a creepy forest. Especially in February.

So the paths through the forest had gone out of use, and nature had taken back its own again with a vengeance, with itchy weeds covering the paths a foot deep and large spider-webs forming a silky ceiling overhead. But you never actually saw the spiders unless you were miles away from the forest in February: they didn’t come out in daytime, and nobody travelled the forest at night, and if you happened to live in the forest in a well-hidden cottage with a water well in the front yard, you did not, in any circumstance, step out of doors during spider mating season. If you wanted to see a Pink Moss Recluse and live to tell about it, you had to do it from at least two miles away and watch as they covered the trees during the February ‘Pink Mist,’ as locals called it. That the spiders should be so plainly visible from so far during this season is made all the more remarkable by the fact that a Pink Moss Recluse is, at its largest, all of four inches in diameter, including its legs. One can only imagine, watching the swirling, pink swathes of live spiders pulsating through the ever-grey boughs in February, how many billions and billions of spiders there actually were in the Navy Blue Forest. While I cannot begin to guess accurately at their actual population, I can tell you that the reason they were in great numbers in the Navy Blue Forest was because of the aforementioned absence of Forest Ogres, which despite a generally uncultured outlook, consider Pink Moss Recluse to be a delicacy. That is, if only the Ogre can kill the spider before ingesting. It is an item of particular interest (and no small wonder to Administration biologists) that the Pink Moss Recluse ceases to be poisonous after its death.

I went to the Navy Blue Forest for no other reason than to research for this novel, so unless I was looking for things I wanted to include in the text, I generally didn’t pay attention to my surroundings. I did notice, rather by accident, a rapidly approaching wolf who appeared to have been ingesting soap suds, but when I produced my shiny new sand wedge and threw it deftly at the creature’s head, it decided I meant more business than it had anticipated and left me to my observations. I mention this to show how, on the whole, the Navy Blue Forest was not a particularly affable place, and Blair Liverstone, despite his reluctance to quest at this time of year and to such a place as the Castle of Administration, was not at all opposed to leaving the bleak hostility of the  Forest for greener, more amiable pastures.
The two of them left very early the next morning. I don’t know how exactly they managed to leave while it was still dark and yet escape horrible death by Pink Moss Recluse, but I think it has something to do with the fact that Sir Sigmund spent this portion of the journey shouting hoarse, high-pitched philosophical questions to his black surroundings. Philosophy is a weapon unusually effective against the primal, animalistic tendencies of the Pink Moss Recluse‘s intellect, but doubly so when uttered in a voice not unlike that of the female Forest Ogre in its prime, to which Sir Sigmund’s own voice held an uncanny resemblance.

The morning dawned, but the sun refused to show his cheery face. The sky was cloudy and the wind was sharp. In the grey-blue light of early morning, two travellers were visible working their way eastward toward the sun that no one could see. Peasants having their morning mug of coffee-flavoured beer looked out the window and shivered, glad that they had finished their quests earlier that summer. What are those two thinking? It must be all of twenty-four degrees out there! Who would go questing in the middle of November? They look like they’re coming from the Forest! How did they get out of there while it was dark? Don’t they know the spiders feed at night?

Written by Dave Dueck

April 5, 2008 at 10:29 am

Posted in fiction

Dave’s Post-Indianapolis-Induced-Amnesia Update

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Currently Listening
Heaven and Hell
By Vangelis

As my title suggests, my memory of the past week is a bit foggy. Part of this may be due to the fact that as soon as I arrived back at my apartment from the Indianapolis Training Center, I sold my soul to the false gods of Commander Keen, decaf coffee, Gustav Holst, and chocolate chips. But I shall attempt to remember everything exactly as it happened, so… sally forth! (Veiled, obscure reference to a video series I made once upon a time. Maybe I’ll publish them eventually.)

Monday morning was spent packing up the trailer with our boatloads of video equipment. I had been up until about 10:30 pm the previous night packing up my own stuff, of which there was not much, considering the the amounts of personal clothing and toiletries I’ve taken on previous Conference trips. This time, I only had a small bag with jammies, my blankie (made for me one Christmas by my wonderful Oma), my leather toiletries bag (stuffed full, I regret to say, with aloe vera and deodorant, among other things), dress shoes, and underclothing, plus a bag containing my suit and shirts, and several ties. I was, needless to say, proud that I could take so little to a conference. Experience, it seems, comes in unexpected ways. But regardless, Monday morning saw us finally packed up and on our way to Indianapolis.

We arrived at the training center at about 2:00 in the afternoon and proceeded to unpack some equipment and set it up. We did not set up everything, however, because the bulk of the Conference would be held at the nearby Clowes Auditorium at Butler University, and due to Workers’ Union rules we were not allowed to bring our equipment there until Tuesday Morning. So we finished up at the Training Center and went on a long walk in search of either a McDonald’s or a Starbuck’s facility. We were disappointed in our quest, however, and returned to our rooms hot, soaked in sweat, and ready for cold showers. Even in this respect I was disappointed, for although there was a shower in our room, it was so powerful that we would have been better off if the shower stall was fifteen feet long, so painful were the narrow, arrow-like streams of water. I would not have been surprised if that shower had drawn blood.

The next morning, we took the rest of our equipment to the University and slaved away. It is at this point that my memory begins to fail me. After completing our setup, we proceeded with the actual Conference, the last ATI Regional Homeschooling Conference of 2007. This conference was different from the others, however, in at least one respect: my own family was attending! As I took my position at Camera One, I was surprised and pleased to see my family sit around me. It was they, and most specifically my sister Grace and brother Mark, who provided the moral support I needed as the week wore on. Their presence was a terrific blessing to me, and I regret to say I didn’t tell them so. So here it is: Mark and Grace (and Paige and Steve and Mom and Dad and Olivia and Anna and Claire), THANK YOU!! I love you guys and I wish I didn’t have to wait until Christmas to see you again. Oh well.
I don’t want it to seem like the week was a waste: it was quite the opposite. God moved in people’s hearts and many were touched in powerful ways as the various speakers delivered their messages. For me personally, it was the most powerful conference I have yet attended. One Roger Magnuson, a Minnesotan pastor who has spoken at every conference thus far, changed his message to be analogous with the 35-W bridge collapse in Minneapolis. It was a gripping message, poignant and sparkling with application, yet sprinkled with humor. I always appreciate Mr. Magnuson’s exquisite command of the English Language. I thank again Lemony Snicket for teaching me the meaning of a word employed once or twice by Mr. Magnuson, the word “detritus.” Look it up.

Despite the obvious working of God in Indianapolis, and the expert assistance of the Clowes Hall backstage staff (who made life much more bearable for us video guys), I found myself descending into a state of unbelievable fatigue. I don’t know quite why it happened: it was a pretty easy conference to videotape, and some days a got more sleep than should have been legal for a staff member. Nevertheless, by Friday night I was extremely whooped. But not whooped enough to keep from going to CiCi’s Pizza Buffet with my family and the rest of the video department for some cool food and fellowship. After that, a few of us siblings, plus buddies Peter Baehr and Tyler Elkins, went to Starbuck’s for one last ‘hanging out’ session before we split up once again, never to see one another until late December. I was, as always, saddened to see my beloved brother and sisters leave, but I know God has a purpose for separating us, and it will make Christmas this year that much more fun.

Saturday Morning was spent re-packing our personal belongings and cleaning the Training Center, which took us until about 10:30 am, at which point we ate breakfast and loaded up into the vehicles for the 3+ hour drive back to Chicago. The drive was boring and uneventful, but it was made easier by my iPod and several songs which issued from thence, such as “Hombre Religioso (Religious Man)” by Mr. Loco, and “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon” by Jim Henson, one of my favorite songs from my Sesame Street days. We arrived at IBLP HQ sometime in the early afternoon, unpacked, and I proceeded to sell my soul to the aforementioned idols for the remainder of the afternoon. At 7:15 we went to dinner, and many engaged in a fine evening of ping pong, but I opted out and instead went for a much-needed three-mile walk to clear my head. I arrived back at my apartment, showered, and did some online socializing before going to bed, whereupon I slept harder than I have slept in many weeks. And I dreamed. I never dream, but last night I did. I dreamed I was up north in Minnesota, running very fast along the coast of some huge lake, and I ran out onto a long dock and jumped into the freezing water. There was some other weird stuff that happened, but that’s the part I remember best.

And now you know almost everything about my week! Summer is almost over, and then begins the best part of the year: Autumn and Winter!! My birthday, cold weather, Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day, National Talk-Like-a-Pirate Day, Thanksgiving, dead vegetation, and eventually snow and Christmas! Yessssss! I’m excited about what God has in store for the next half year, and I hope you are too! Never lose faith in Him: He is ALWAYS faithful and the least we can do it return the favor. God bless you and keep me posted!!
Love all,
Dave Dueck

And here, for those of you willing to read a lot more, is the next section of my comic fable, The Day Right After the Night Before that One Christmas.

.  .  .  .  .

The next morning dawned, but the sun refused to show his cheery face. The sky was cloudy and the wind was sharp. In the grey-blue light of early morning, two travellers were visible working their way eastward toward the sun that no one could see. Peasants having their morning mug looked out the window and shivered, glad that they had finished their quests earlier that summer. What are those two thinking? It must be all of twenty-four degrees out there! Who would go questing in the middle of November?

Blair pulled his collar up around his neck, wishing he had been able to find his Polartec® sweater before he had been shoved out the door by Sir Sigmund, who was warm enough in his wool-lined suit of armour. In all the years he had been serving Sir Sigmund, Blair had never seen him actually wear the armour before this time. The armour was very old, and it was quite rusty in spots. It made nasty noises when Sir Sigmund moved and it was impossible for the aged soldier to turn his neck in any direction. Since Sir Sigmund could hardly walk at all with his armour off, he really could not walk at all with his armour on. So Blair was carrying him on his back, and was getting fatigued. He wheezed out a question that he thought relevant to the situation.
“Why don’t we just take a train?”
No answer.
“We’ve been hiking for over three hours now. When can we eat something?”
No answer.
“What are we going to do when we arrive at the Castle?”

No answer. So Blair trudged on. After a few more minutes, he heard a small noise coming from the knight’s helmet. “Zzzzzzz…”
Blair stopped. If the old soldier was sleeping, that meant he could go wherever he wanted. So he turned around and began walking the other way, west towards the train station. The peasants who were just coming outside to do the morning chores saw the two travellers coming back again and didn’t know what to think. As he walked, Blair noticed a sign: ‘NAVY BLUE FOREST TRAIN STATION: SEVEN MILES.’ It didn’t take Blair long to realize that this meant they’d only travelled three miles from their cottage to where they were . This meant they were only going one mile per hour. At this rate, they would not reach the train station for another seven hours. This meant that Sir Sigmund would probably wake up well before they reached the station, and then he would just make Blair turn around again and keep going east. This meant that all of this was just going to be a waste of time. Rats! I’m really getting sick of this. With a wheezy sigh, he turned around again and continued eastward. The peasants, who were by this time out cutting their lawns, saw him has he walked by with the rusty knight on his shoulder for the third time, and went back to their chore without a word.

It was a good eleven hours later when they finally arrived somewhere. Blair had been on autopilot for the past 1 ½ miles when a harsh voice woke him up.
“Hey! Blair! What time is it? Where are we?”
Blair replied that he had no idea what time it was and that it was too dark to tell where they were, but also that he could see the lights of a large building ahead of them.
“I have no idea what time it is, and it’s too dark to tell where we are, but also I can see the lights of a large building ahead of us.”
“Go towards it,” the stiff knight replied. Blair toyed with the idea of throwing the knight off his shoulders and screaming at the top of his voice that he had been walking towards the stupid lights for the past five hours, but he had, you will remember, long since learned to restrain his impulsive nature, so all he said was, “I’ve learned to restrain my impulsive nature.” He kept on walking towards the building.

It turned out to be an inn. In those fairy days of yore, an inn was a place near the road where weary travellers could stop and rent a room to sleep in, and perhaps get a bite to eat. Of course, there are many inns still in business around the world, and their function remains the same. But there are no inns quite like the one our weary travellers approached that dark night. On a sign that hung over the door were the words “THE ADMIRABLE BEN BOW’S INN: ROOMS TO LET AND VIENNESE SAUSAGES TO GO.” Also on the sign was a picture of the inn itself with a giant sausage next to it. The picture was drawn in an attractive crosshatched manner, and there was even a smiling face on the sausage.

Blair was so grateful to see this haven of rest that he almost didn’t hear the old knight speaking to him.
“Hey! Blair! What kind of place is this?”
Blair told him, but carefully omitted the detail about the face on the sausage. Sir Sigmund deprecated the anthropomorphization of inanimate objects, which basically means he viewed happy-faced sausages with disapprobation.

They entered the inn, which was a very easy task since there was a large orange door with the word “INN” clearly printed at eye level in bright brown letters. As Blair swung open the door and marched across the threshold, he became aware that something was not right. Then all became clear.

He had not taken the corroded, beleaguered knight off his shoulders. There was a sickening PING!! as the knight’s helmeted head met squarely with the top of the door frame. Just as Blair was completing his stride across the threshold, he was yanked backwards. His weight was no longer on his back foot, and it was impossible for his weight to be on his front foot, so he went down backwards like a ladder of besieging enemies that had been shoved away from the city walls.

CRUNCHLE-PING-a-LINGGG!!! His back landed squarely on the threshold and Sir Sigmund landed full force on the brick pavement outside, his armour ringing melodiously on the bricks. He skidded a couple of yards before coming to rest. Blair lay on the threshold awhile, waiting for his breath to reappear. After about seven minutes, he managed to expel a low moan and slowly curl into the fetal position. Another groan, a few spasmodic twitches, and he finally pulled himself to a standing pose. He examined himself as best as he could, but apart from a blue, throbbing hump in his back that was apparently new, he seemed to be fine. He then walked over to Sir Sigmund.

“Sir Sigmund! Are you OK?”
No answer.
“Can you hear me?”
No answer.
“Sir Sigmund! There’s a drawing of a sausage with a smiling face!”
Still no answer. Hmmm, thought Blair. This could be serious. He took Sir Sigmund by the ankles, dragged him inside, and managed to hoist him onto one of the tables in the tavern. The innkeeper walked out from behind the counter and came over to the table.
“What’s the trouble?” he asked politely.
“He smashed into the door frame, and then into some bricks,” Blair replied. “Didn’t you see it happen? It was right over there.”
“Ah yes, now I recall. About seven or eight minutes ago, was it? A tad strange, I said to me self, carrying one’s armour through the door on one’s shoulder. But if you want to dent it up and wreck my door frame, be my guest. Get it? I’m an innkeeper! Be my guest!” He slapped his knee and guffawed loudly. “Methinks that was a pretty good one. Admirable, I dare say, admirable. I say, how long are you going to leave that suit of armour on my table? ”
Blair raised one of his eyebrows. “This isn’t just a suit of armour. There’s a real person somewhere inside of here.”
The innkeeper’s eyebrows lowered and his jaw opened, and then it shut with a neat click, his eyebrows simultaneously raising.. Then he opened his mouth again. “Do you expect he’s alright?”
“I can’t tell. I can’t seem to get this helmet off his head. Would you mind lending me a hand?”
For a few minutes, they examined the old helmet and discovered to their chagrin that it was attached to the rest of the armour with Phillips™ brand sheet-metal screws. The polite innkeeper’s brow furrowed.
“Hmmm. I haven’t any Phillips™ brand screwdrivers on the entire property. I suppose we’ll have to call the blacksmith.”
“The blacksmith? What can he do?”
“Dashed if I know, old chap, but he’s our only hope. Unless…”
“Unless what?”
The innkeeper smiled. “Not to worry, old boy, I’ve just the things we need.”

Written by Dave Dueck

August 12, 2007 at 2:24 pm

Posted in fiction, journal

Some Ostensibly Christmas-Themed Fiction

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Well, I’m writing this update early (normally I do ’em on Sundays) because I don’t know if I have time tomorrow and I’d rather get it over with. This is my last update before I go on vacation back home in Minnesota (ahhhh…), so after this you won’t hear from me until August. After I leave, there will be precious few guys in the Video Department for a while. Thursday and Friday, I was the only guy besides my boss in the office. VERY boring to just sit around at work, not having anyone to talk to. Everyone else is on vacation, and soon I will be too. Yessssssssss!

Nothing of note happened this week except that I got an iPod and I was in the kitchen for the fifth time in two weeks. Meh. Nothing grosser than piles and piles of shredded beef, refried beans, coconut, rice, peanut butter, ranch dressing, and other unmentionable, unsavory foodstuffs swirling around and getting clogged in the filter, requiring you to reach down THROUGH all that so as to pull out the filter and wipe it off. I feel like CinderFella.

Well, I think I shall use the rest of this update to give you the next section of my comic fable. Because it is a Christmas story, and because I generally start getting ready to celebrate Christmas as soon as July 4th is out of the way, I shall begin the new section with a cool Xmas-y picture.
PS: Due to extenuating circumstances, I cannot release any production pics from my Christmas movie until August, and there will be only one trailer. But it’ll be good, never fear.

Sir Sigmund Irving Capillary eased his stricken frame slowly onto another stricken frame, namely that of his armchair, which had been a wedding present from his third cousin all those miserable years ago. The chair had been purchased at the local Kingdom of Charity™ discount store (he had almost bought it himself two weeks before the wedding) and it was already threadbare when he had received it. Now, nearly seven decades later, the chair was a mass of cracked, ancient wood, peeling latex, and irregular lumps of solder. The chair had always threatened to collapse, and Senile Sir Sigmund had tried everything to keep it together, so to speak.
The chair creaked and groaned as Sir Sigmund rested his miserable, nasty body on the old chair. Many of the other knights in the province had asked why he still kept that chair, after all these years. “To remember,” he always told them, and they always nodded knowingly, but they really must have not known it that well, because they always kept asking later on, at which point Sir Sigmund would drive those annoying knights away by singing “Auld Lang Syne” in a minor key. Naturally, Sir Sigmund did not have many friends, but he didn’t care. He just liked to be alone with his nasty, miserable char, and remember.
After a minute or two of reclining on the ancient armchair, Sir Sigmund got bored. After another minute or two, he got up, picked up the chair, and threw it with all his might into the fireplace, where it smashed into an unrecognizable heap of latex and solder. The line of glass bottles on the mantelpiece quivered, and a satisfied smile flickered across Sigmund’s countenance. Remembering is so boring and stupid! I need a change of pace , he thought. He slowly hobbled over to the door and yelled out of it.
“Hey! Blair! Get your measly self inside this moment!”
In the distance, a shuffling pitter-patter could be heard, and in an instant, Blair Liverstone walked over the threshold, grinning weakly through his chapped, yellow lips. “Thou called me, Sir Sigmund?”
“Yup. Light a fire for me, will ya? It gets cold in here. And I’ll need a new chair, too.”
“Sounds good.” Blair walked over to the fireplace, took one of the bottles off the mantle and smashed it over the broken, twisted wreckage of the chair. He took a match out of his pocket and, after deftly scratching it across the sole of his foot, tossed it into the fireplace. Soon the room was filled with the cheery light of the blaze, and with the smell of burning latex, solder, and sixty-eight-year old vodka. Sir Sigmund looked with disapprobation at his young helper.
“What makes you think you can use those bottles of vodka for just any old fire?”
The wheezy wimp shrugged. “We’re all out of the regular ale. What else was I supposed to use?”    Sigmund’s face softened and he nodded sagely. “I suppose you’re right,” he said. After a moment, his face hardened again and his bony finger pointed at Blair in an even more vigorous display of disapprobation than before. “You still haven’t obtained me a new armchair. Hurry up!”
Blair sighed. Sir Sigmund never missed a chance to get angry with him, and he was getting fed up. Serving this senile guy is so boring and stupid! He thought. I need a change of pace. Maybe if I snuck out at midnight and took the express train to Montyshire… but his thoughts were interrupted by the harsh sound of Sigmund asking when dinner would be ready.
“Hey! Blair! When will dinner be ready?” Blair sighed again and started looking for that spare can of Spaghetti-Ohms®.

After dinner, Sir Sigmund stretched his shrivelled legs toward the fire and closed his eyes, listening to the crackling of the fire and letting his meal settle. His new chair, despite being fashioned from two old wine kegs and a slab of polished shale, was actually far more comfortable than his old one. Blair finished doing the dishes and pulled another keg close to the fire, and began warming his hands. It was now the middle of November, and the well water he had used for doing the dishes was very cold. Of course, it was not as bad as in winter, when the water would freeze and he would have to drop boulders down the well to break the ice. Once he had not been able to find any boulders, so he had grabbed a passing alley cat and chucked it down the well as hard as he could. It had worked fine, but the next summer he realized that he would have to dig a new well so they would have safe water to drink.
Now, his hands were cold and damp and he needed to work some feeling back into them, so he stretched his hands towards the fire and arched his back, listening to the CRACK! POP! SNAPPLE! of his vertebrae as they realigned themselves. In a few minutes, his hands were their old room-temperature selves again, and he sat back on his keg and looked at the old knight, whose eyes were opening again. Sir Sigmund looked at the fire for a few moments, then at Blair. Then he spoke, and what he said was the last thing Blair could have expected to hear from a man who had done nothing but remember for the last sixty-eight years.
“What ever happened to that old alley cat that used to hang around here?”
Blair knew from experience that he would have to answer honestly. That old knight could spot a lie a mile away. “I chucked it down the well last winter.”
“Is that why you dug the new well last summer?”
“Yup.”
Sigmund frowned in disapprobation. “You know I deprecate violence. Unless, of course, the cause is good.”
“I did it to break the ice at the bottom of the well. It was frozen.”
“Couldn’t you have used a boulder?”
“We were fresh out.”
“Well, that’s all right then.” Sir Sigmund looked at the fire again, and then spoke, and what he said was what Blair would have expected to hear from a man w
ho had done nothing but remember for the past sixty-eight years.
“I’m bored.”
Blair wanted to get up and scream, “ME TOO! I’VE BEEN BORED EVER SINCE MY FIRST LAME AFTERNOON IN THIS PLACE! LET’S BOOGIE ON DOWN TO THE MARKET-PLACE AND RUSTLE UP SOME PRINCE VALIANT COMICS!” but he had long since learned to restrain his selfish, spontaneous nature, so he merely replied, “Why?”
The ancient knight looked at him sharply. “Why shouldn’t I be bored? Nothing ever happens around here, except remembering, and I’m so fed up with remembering those terrible memories that I’ll go crazy if I don’t do something soon!”
Blair shrugged. “Do something? Like what?” The senile soldier looked at him with an icy, abstract chill in his eyes.
“Like Getting Revenge.”
Blair did a double take. “Revenge? I thought and old but incredibly experienced geezer like you would have gotten all the revenge you wanted years ago.”
“Nope.”
“Oh.” Blair thought a minute. “Like getting revenge on whom?”
Sigmund’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t know. It could be anybody.”
Blair frowned. This wasn’t making sense. “Are you sure you’ve been drinking out of the right well?”
Sigmund glared at him. “I have all my wits about me, thanks.  I just don’t know who it was who wronged me all those miserable years ago. I would sort of like to know who it was. And give him what for.”
“What did he do to you?”
“It’s a long story.”
“Oh. Well, forget it then.”
Sir Sigmund looked at Blair sharply. “Be that way, then. Nevertheless, I want you to prepare for our journey tomorrow. It‘ll be a long quest and its cold out. Pack accordingly.”
Blair let out a cry of anguish. “Quest? But it must be all of twenty-four degrees outside! Where could you possibly want to go questing at this time of year?”
Sigmund’s lips opened wide in an anticipatory grin. “The Castle of Administration.” At this, Blair’s yellow, chapped lips opened wide as well, but not in an anticipatory grin. Rather, they parted in a scream of dismay that rippled through the cottage, thundered throughout the surrounding forest, and was even audible at the Navy Blue Forest Train Station four miles away.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

To be continued…


Written by Dave Dueck

July 14, 2007 at 5:18 pm

Posted in fiction, journal, photo

Literature

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Currently Listening
Napoleon Dynamite
By John Swihart, Various Artists
Solamente una Vez

Well, as both a way to motivate me to keep working on this and as a way to see how people like it, I have decided to publish my work of fiction on my Ksanga. It’s an oddball comedy that makes no pretense at being realistic in any sense, so don’t come at it expecting much redeeming value. I just wanted to write a comedy, and this is how it’s turning out. It’s the first thing I’ve ever bothered writing for a larger audience, so lemme know what you think.

It’s called The Day After the Night Before That One Christmas and it’s a spoof/mock-fairy tale something along the lines of a Shrek comedy, only without crude humor. I’ve already written the first two chapters, plus a lengthy introduction. I’ll just publish the first section of the first chapter today, and release the rest in small increments as I see fit and as my public demands more (right). And if there’s enough demand, I might publish the intro!

Chapter One

The Rose Garden was starting to die. Oswald Tweed had begun to notice this. It made him a wee bit melancholy, which was understandable since he had hidden a magnificent treasure in those roses and he didn’t want anyone seeing it through the dead, leafless rose bushes. Why didn’t I think of that when I first hid those dumb but incredibly priceless jewels? He thought to himself. Crabs! Now I’ll have to find a new hiding place.

he prospect was not an agreeable one. In this modern day and age, hiding places for treasure were getting fewer and farther between. Oswald put the thought out of his mind and continued to throttle the sinewy young prince who had just discovered his true identity. It was not an easy thing to do, because the sinewy young prince was wriggling very hard and had a short but rather sharp sword in his grasp. I doubt if you have ever tried to choke a sinewy young prince who is wriggling and holding a sword, but if you have, you will remember the difficulty of trying to maintain a hold of his throat with both hands while keeping the sword blade as far from your vitals as possible. This is managed mainly by using one of your elbows to pin the prince’s swords arm to the brick path, but Oswald was having trouble doing this since he had no elbows. He was having to make do with his shoulder, which was bony enough to do the job, but because using his shoulder meant he had to basically lay down on one side in order to do it right, the sinewy young prince’s left arm was completely free and was currently in the process of drawing a short but rather sharp dagger from the young prince’s left boot.

Oswald thought fast. He had to make a tough decision: should he let go with one hand and stop the dagger from entering his larynx without permission, or should he choke harder and hope that his sinewy opponent became asphyxiated before he could drive his point home, so to speak? He chose the former option and gripped the prince’s left wrist as tightly as he could, and not a moment too late, either, because the prince was trying to kill him with that dagger! Oswald’s thin, attractive moustache was nearly inhaled as a cyclone of oxygen flooded into the sinewy fellow’s lungs, which I imagine were somewhat desperate after a good eleven minutes or so of being throttled.

For a moment, they were at an impasse. And, as so often happens when two people find themselves in an intellectual deadlock, they resorted to childish rhetoric. “Give up now!” cried the young prince. “Never!” replied the nefarious Oswald. “You shall regret this!” bellowed the prince. “See if I care!” roared Oswald. “Tell me where you hid those coupons!” the wiry nobleman persisted. “You’re a miserable, meddling, sinewy dunce!” cried the outraged, elbow-less, moustachioed villain. Something in the back of his mind told him that this did not sound quite right, but this was no time for useless quibbling. The important thing, he realized, was to finish this feisty fellow in the fastest, fiercest, and most furious manner he could manage. Then everybody would know who was the man.

Written by Dave Dueck

July 3, 2007 at 8:45 pm

Posted in fiction, regular