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Showing posts with label holiday. Show all posts
Showing posts with label holiday. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 04, 2013 6 comments

An Impromptu Launch

The Launch Cannon? Not the exploding pen graphic? That must mean there’s a new book out, right?

It’s true. But it’s not The Sorcerer’s Daughter, which I have nearly finished beating into shape and hope to have ready in the next two weeks. This was a spur of the moment kind of thing. 'Tis the season, and I had a few Christmas-themed short stories laying around, so I had +Angela Kulig find me a suitable cover image and started formatting. And thus…

The Christmas Guardians (and Other Stories of the Season) was born!

This mini-anthology brings five short, and somewhat off-beat, stories to both Amazon and Smashwords. As with all my shorter works, Christmas Guardians is 99¢. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 28, 2013 4 comments

Home for the Holiday

Home, home again
I like to be here, when I can
— Pink Floyd

I took the three days off work that the office was open this week, but it wasn’t even a staycation.

Last week, the wife went into the doc’s about her knee. Over the years, it never really recovered from the car wreck that brought Daughter Dearest into the world a month early, and a chicken house accident certainly doesn’t improve anything. It finally gave up about a month ago. The doc suggested trying this and that, which weren’t likely to be a permanent fix if they worked at all. The wife said, “Let’s cut to the chase, not mess with stuff that isn’t going to work, and just replace it. Because that’s what’s going to happen after these other things don’t work anyway.”

That hardware is going
to be around for a while
The “system,” usually glacial when it comes to elective surgery, got its act together more quickly than expected, and she went in for a new knee on Tuesday. Yup, that was how I spent my birthday: dragging myself out of bed at way-too-early-thirty, taking her to the hospital, playing solitaire on my phone in the waiting room, then joining her in her new room. The operation itself was a breeze, but the recovery will take a while.

Lots of people have said to tell her to make sure she does her therapy. No problem there—she’s been trying to get ahead of the curve, trying to flex her leg a little a few hours out of the operating room. Her actual first therapy session went well, with her gimping around the bed on a walker.

With Thanksgiving looming, Daughter Dearest and I wondered about the timing. Still, there was plenty of dinner on the table, including the rolls I made from Grandma’s secret recipe. We didn’t have any shortening, but I found online that coconut oil is an acceptable substitute and we do have some of that. They turned out just fine. She called me in the morning, and told me to pick her up after I ate.

So it was off to the hospital, wheelchair to walker to van, then down to the in-laws to join the rest of the crowd for the second round of face-stuffing. There were jokes about her and Big V having a walker race, but Big V has more experience. I thought that “Two Gimpy Sisters” would be a fine name for a punk rock band.

So there’s a few things to be thankful for this year: thousands of copies of Accidental Sorcerers sold, Mason started pre-K, wife is going to be able to walk well for the first time in years… and Daughter Dearest is more like her old self than she has been in a while.

Saturday, January 05, 2013 7 comments

Sick for the Holidays

What I’ll look like, if this cough keeps up.
Source: openclipart.org
At least I have an excuse for not blogging much lately, even for #FridayFlash. The afternoon before Christmas Eve, I began to feel fatigued while running an errand. That’s often the first sign that I’m about to come down with what’s officially called an ILI (Influenza-Like Illness). But a cup of coffee erased the fatigue, so I figured it was just lack of sleep.

Unfortunately, I woke up shivering around 4am that morning. I thought to myself, “No, I can’t get sick now!” but viruses don’t give two tin toots about the in-laws coming in later that day. I dragged myself through the last-minute preparations in the morning, then went back to bed for the afternoon. So I missed out on a rather large feast, for which I’d made rolls, but I was too feverish to care much.

Then the wife got it, too. Christmas Day, we both sat in the lounge chairs, trying to be part of the thing. The Boy was here, fortunately—and even more fortunately, he limped in with a deteriorating CV joint, so he was more or less stuck at FAR Manor for the week. Between himself and Daughter Dearest, who got along pretty well this time, they kept Mason busy shredding wrapping paper and blasting through his presents. Snippet, whose boyfriend also has an iPhone, uses FaceTime to “see” Mason every couple of weeks, and they pinged in to watch Mason open the big box of stuff they sent him. That works out pretty well: during those calls, she mostly focuses on Mason, who usually grabs a handful of toys and plays while she talks to him. Being a thousand miles away, she can’t get on The Boy’s nerves or tempt Daughter Dearest to commit ditzicide.

The next day, I was feeling well enough to drive, and took the wife to the doctor’s. I figured she had what I had, and would be feeling better the next day, but I still wasn’t in any condition to argue. They took a throat swab, and she had strep. At that point, I should have asked for a swab as well, but here’s where I brain-farted. I figured since I had a routine appointment scheduled for the next day, I could get it all done then. The appointment was actually scheduled for a week after the next day. I continued to feel incrementally better with each new day, but figured it was better on the half-dozen co-workers who’d be at the office if I stayed home and used the VPN. Oh, and The Boy got his car fixed and departed on time.

So I finally got to my real appointment, which included an application of The Glove cue banjo music. I got the throat swab, and yup, I had strep too. The antibiotics are already doing their thing, but I have this almost-dry cough that won’t go the eff away (cough syrup is effective for maybe 20 minutes). I’m either going to hack up a lung or have washboard abs by the time it’s done.

Here’s hoping your holidays were pleasant and disease-free.

Friday, December 21, 2012 12 comments

Guardians 3: Father Christmas (#FridayFlash)

The conclusion…

The mantle clock struck midnight. As the last chime died away, a tall, thin man stood in the living room, facing the Guardians. His white hair hung shoulder-length, blending with his white beard.

Welcome, Father Christmas, said First Guardian. We have done our work this Christmas season, and now we stand ready. Judge us true.

The solemn figure nodded. “It is so. You have indeed done your work. You have guarded your people, and defended yourselves.” The guardians glowed. “And yet, there is one thing you missed.”

The guardians’ glowing wings flashed red with alarm. Tell us, Father Christmas, First Guardian prompted. What have we missed?

“The most important part of Christmas: compassion.” The guardians stood mute, their wings glowing red and yellow, waiting for him to continue. “Those men who broke in. They were not any danger to your people, who were off doing the things they do through the day. Perhaps you could have thought of a way to deter them, short of obliteration.”

The guardians hung their heads, as Father Christmas continued. “As for the elf, he meant neither you nor the people any harm. He was part of the celebration as much as are you three. Once he settled in, he may well have ceased his bluster and you could have reached an accommodation. As it was, he died a rather gruesome death.”

We are guilty, said First Guardian, not looking up. We accept your judgement and your punishment.

For the first time, Father Christmas smiled. “What I have in mind is not so much punishment, as education. This Christmas night, I will whisper a word in the ears of the parents. She will leave you here on the mantle, and he will not insist otherwise. In the year ahead, you will observe your people and their guests. You will hear their quarrels, share their joys and sorrows, and be amused at the silly things the children say and do.” His smile widened. “And you will not obliterate anyone who is not threatening your people. Understood?”

The guardians nodded. And we will not sleep the year through? asked First Guardian.

“You will not,” said Father Christmas. “You will watch and learn. Not everything your people do is good, and yet they are good people. You must learn to see them as they are, forgive their transgressions, and rejoice at the good they do. And remember that other people are much the same, even if they do not always act it.” He hefted his sack. “And now, it is time for me to fulfill my own purpose. Watch over your people, and remember that charity and goodwill are not only for Christmas.” He turned and walked down the hallway, to bless the people and whisper his word.

Compassion, said Second Guardian, her Sword of Light dim. It seems a hard lesson.

But one we can learn, First Guardian assured her. If we could not, we would be put away. Or recalled. Let us reflect on what we have heard this night. In the morning, we will hear and share the joy of the children. It is a beginning.

Thursday, December 13, 2012 13 comments

Christmas Guardians 2: The Creepy Elf (#FridayFlash)

Sonya Clark’s comment last week gave me an idea, and I got to write some more about the no-nonsense guardians…

“Heyyyy laaaadieeeeezzz…”

That horrid thing, again! Where is it? Second Guardian brandished her Sword of Light.

The Code, First Guardian reminded her. The people brought it in, it’s part of the household.

The creepy voice sang. “I’m just a little elf, sitting on a shelf, with three acute angles, see my legs dangle!”

This isn’t a shelf, it’s a mantle. Idiot. Then Second Guardian gasped. It’s on the mantle! Third Guardian, do you see it?

Third Guardian said nothing. But her wings, always in motion, glowed green, then shimmered left to right, pointing the way.

“I said acute angles,” said the elf, “but maybe you’re obtuse angles instead?”

If you insist on using a stupid pun, said Second Guardian, you may refer to us as right angles. She turned red. And I could cut you down from here. Don’t push your luck.

“Oh, I’m so frightened!” The elf’s tittering laugh grated in their ears. “Your boss spilled the beans on that one, I’m afraid. Besides, I’m just a decoration. With a purpose. Sort of like you, only more fun.” He leaned over to look around Third Guardian. “I certainly get to see more of the house than you guys. This elf gets around!” That grating laugh again, as he looked over Third Guardian. “Don’t you have anything to say? Cat got your tongue? I think I saw the kitty over in the manger scene.”

Third Guardian’s wings twitched, then flashed a medley of colors. She keeps her own counsel, said First Guardian. Those who know her, understand her by her wings.

“No talkee?” the elf grinned. “I like that in a woman!” He lowered his voice, becoming even more creepy than before. “Say… why don’t you and me ditch these pikers and explore the house a little? I’ve got a gift for you, you can open it once we’re alone!”

Third Guardian’s wing brushed the elf. “Hey,” he said, leaning over again, “I think she likes me! Oops.” Another brush scooted him toward the edge. “Hey, careful—whoa!” Her wings flashed yellow and red, and pushed the elf again. “You’re coming down with me, right? Yaahhh!”

The elf tumbled off the mantle, hit the screen, and bounced into the fireplace. “Whoa! Hot! Get me outta here! Yaaahhhh!”

The howls died quickly. Third Guardian, First Guardian asked in shock, did you push him off?

For the first time, Third Guardian spoke: Oops. Her wings glowed with a rosy blush.

“Honey,” the wife groaned, “I told you there wasn’t room for the elf up there! Now look!”

The husband looked at the heap of melted plastic and charred cloth in the fireplace. “Sorry. I’ll clean it up.” He moved the screen and got the scoop to scrape up the mess. “Then I’ll go get another one.”

“No.” The wife sighed. “I don’t think the kids liked it all that much. And to be honest with you, it was kind of creepy. Just listen to me when I tell you there’s not enough room next time, okay?”

“Yeah.” He chuckled. “Those angels are kind of territorial, anyway.”

Friday, December 07, 2012 10 comments

Christmas Guardians (#FridayFlash)

The sound of an unfamiliar vehicle brought the guardians alert. Only their eyes moved as they watched. Carolers, perhaps, one said.

Not through the day, said another. The doorbell rang. First Guardian stretched her wings. Third Guardian’s wings glowed, first blue, the red, then an angry pulsing red as they heard thumping and snapping noises behind the curtains. The alarm sounded, and the guardians readied themselves for battle.

“Go! Go! Go!” One of the three masked men shouted. “Check the bedrooms, we’ll get the tree!”

“What—aaagh!” First Guardian fired her laser cannon. “My arm!” the burglar screamed. “My arm’s gone!” He fainted.

Second Guardian swung her Sword of Light, decapitating the second burglar. The last burglar pulled a gun and fired, but First Guardian’s astershield flashed, and the bullet dissolved into blue sparkles. The burglar took a direct hit from the laser cannon, and was completely vaporized.

Once again, all was calm, but there was yet work to do. The laser cannon reduced the last of them to ash. Third Guardian flew down and flapped her wings, wafting the ashes into the fireplace. Their work was done, and just in time. The howl of sirens told them help was on the way.

“Looks like the alarm scared them off,” the officer told the guardians’ charges. “They weren’t too bright in any case, they took off and left their van. The keys aren’t in it, so we’ll have it towed to the impound.”

“That’s good,” the lady told them. “I’m just glad they didn’t take our children’s gifts.”

On the mantle, the guardians glowed.

Monday, November 26, 2012 7 comments

Mason Monday

The holiday food binge went as expected: we all ate way too much. Daughter Dearest had to work on Black Friday, fortunately just the 10am to 6pm shift. I took her in, and the crush had already abated to merely very busy.

Hangin' out
But for Mason, the highlight was decorating the Christmas tree. Daughter Dearest crawled into the crawlspace behind the closet, and boxes, papers, and bags came flying out—Mason too, when he crawled in to see what was going on. I expect that he’ll be checking that out later on, when nobody’s looking. He has a long memory…

The wife brought home a blender a few weeks ago, because it had a nice sturdy glass container, but she didn’t know if the base worked. So I plugged it in and hit the “Obliterate” button, and it spun up. Mason came running in, “Are you making smoothies?” We haven’t made smoothies since July.

But I digress. We got a new (to us) tree, compliments of the wife’s older sister. It’s pre-lit, but anyone who has read TFM for a long time knows Christmas Rule #1 at FAR Manor: If you can see green, the tree needs more lights. Lights were dug out of boxes, tested, and strung. Then out came the non-breakable ornaments. So far, Mason hasn’t shown a desire to knock ornaments off the tree, like he did last year. But he focused his hanging efforts on one lower corner of the tree, inasmuch as a round tree can be said to have a corner, as shown in the pic here.

Job well done!
Of course, once he finished hanging all the things, the wife re-distributed the ornaments to even it out a little.

Yesterday, I took him to the park. Actually, I took him twice. The first trip was actually meant as a “nap ride,” and he was still going when I hit the last stretch into town. But I happened to look at the rearview mirror, just as he flopped his head over and closed his eyes (aka the Toddler Head Crash). With the actual mission accomplished, I took the other way home and put him to bed.

But when he woke up from his nap, he was still jonesing for a trip to the park. I’d planned to take him anyway. It was much colder on Sunday than it was on Friday, but that’s what jackets are for (if only he’d keep his hood up). I brought along a printout of the second Accidental Sorcerers story to write/edit to amuse myself, and he went tearing off for the jungle gym. A few minutes later, he ran back and jumped on the bench with me, huddling close.

“Did something scare you?” I asked, and he nodded. “What was it?” He pointed at this little redhead girl, about 18 months old, stumping around the playground and occasionally inspecting the wood chips. She waddled up to the bench and stood staring at Mason, who shrank into me even farther. I, and the parents nearby, thought this was hilarious. Yes, those girl things can be scary… so later on, he wanted to swing. The girl-thing seemed to know exactly how close she could get without getting bowled over by a swinging boy-toddler, and watched him until she persuaded her mom to put her in the next swing. The two of them swung quietly, side by side, for a while. This seemed to break the ice for Mason, because when she stuck her head in the covered “dining car” (part of a train-themed playground set) where he was sitting a little later, he didn’t freak out.

After she left, Mason decided to take a run on the track. However, some older kids (tween/early teen) had been horsing around on one end of the jungle gym, and they were now running around on one of the ball diamonds. So Mason wanted to join the fun. I talked him into taking the adjacent diamond, because I didn't want him to crimp the bigger kids. (The youngest girl especially seemed a little rude.) That went on for a few minutes, until the evening and cold set in, and we came home.

So… let the High Holy Daze begin!

Thursday, December 29, 2011 3 comments

A Smooth Visit

Well, as smooth as anything ever goes around FAR Manor, anyway. There were no episodes of Daughter Dearest committing mayhem on Snippet, or even a heated argument. But it wasn’t completely uneventful…

The Boy and Snippet arrived Christmas Eve, almost exactly when expected. I got to talk with The Boy a while outside that afternoon. He seems to really like Manitowoc; he said he plans to stay there two or three years. He’s been working at a snow blower factory, which seems like a pretty steady job in Wisconsin although they haven’t had much snow there this year. He texted me a pic last week (before arriving) of a dusting of snow, with the comment “this is the first snow that stuck for more than five minutes.” It’s been a pretty mild winter so far, north as well as south. But he thinks he has a better job lined up when he gets back… one with good benefits and better pay. That would be good!

Of course, they were off visiting friends pretty much every evening except the last. Mason mostly enjoyed having them around, although he seemed relieved when they were gone. Toddlers do like their routines, and don’t like having them disrupted.

Snippet was mostly on her best behavior while she was here. Mrs. Fetched printed out several of these shots and included them in Christmas cards, including the one for The Boy and Snippet. She opened the card and squealed.

“What is it? A $100 bill?” our friend Jacob asked.

“No, it’s better!” She waved the picture around.

Okay… when someone says a photo I took is better than a $100 bill, it becomes rather difficult to say bad things about that person afterwards. Really, the only problem we had with Snippet is that she seemed to have an upset stomach. A lot.

You think she’s preg? Daughter Dearest texted me (from across the room) at one point. I really really don’t want to think about that possibility. Texting or IM’ing someone in the same room is a kind of telepathy, when you think about it… nobody else can hear what you say FARf! focus!

Anyway. She got better, good enough to go to iHop with us for lunch. One of her friends is working there, was on duty, and they had a nice chat. Snippet had a job at an ice cream factory (imagine that, a dairy job in Wisconsin… almost as strange as a poultry job in Georgia), but it melted away and now she’s at the local Applebee’s. So she told her friend, “If we move back, I could work at Applebee’s and Calvin Klein!” (she worked at the latter in the outlet mall before moving). Mrs. Fetched looked at Snippet, while I looked at The Boy. He didn’t show any reaction at all… like he just tuned her out.

Mason and I both got “happy place” presents. He got the train table shown here, and has left it only reluctantly since Christmas. Mrs. Fetched’s older sister, the sane one (because she lives like 90 miles away) got a new iPhone 4S, stuck her old iPhone 4 into its original box, and gave it to me. SCORE! Her daughter, Cousin Al (long story) gave me a hard-case for it. It doesn’t have Siri, but it works a HELL of a lot better than that crappy-ass Sony-Ericsson thing. I’m looking forward to no random crashes. I just need to get the photos off the old phone now.

There was much of the 3 Fs — friends, family, food — and that’s the part of Christmas I can get into. Of course, that meant I didn’t spend as much time with my online friends as I would have liked, but something’s gotta give when you only have a 24-hour day (and have to sleep for ⅓ of that). I would have liked more time with The Boy, and would have liked to see Snippet make an effort to spend more time with Mason, but overall I think things went much better than expected.

Then came Tuesday. It started out pretty good: I cashed the check that Dad sent, bought a Kindle 3 and a couple $5 CDs (Styx and Journey if you want to know)… and Daughter Dearest’s present for Dia de los Reyes, plus printer ink for her and Mrs. Fetched’s printers. Total: $300, and would have ran more if they’d had a Kindle case I liked. By the way, the Kindle 2 cases aren’t compatible with the Kindle 3. slaps Amazon upside If anyone has $50 that they want to throw away, you can buy me the lighted cover. I plan to de-register my old Kindle 2 and pass it (plus cover) to a friend of mine who wants an eReader. Of course, I’ll leave an ARC of White Pickups, plus Xenocide and a few Project Gutenberg goodies on it.

But I digress. The Boy and Snippet wanted to visit her dad, who is currently in Marietta, and take Mason with them. It’s one of those things that I haven’t managed to wrap my head around, the idea that Mason has another grandfather, but we got our act together and moved the car seat over so they could go. What they didn’t bother to mention was that they went about 40 miles out of the way to pick up a friend and take him along (some things never change). So… we were done with the “blow the Christmas money” spree, and on the way home, when The Boy called: “My car broke down at McFarland Road.”

Yee. Haw. Fortunately, we left the Civic near the freeway. We called our favorite towing service, and the girlies went on home while I went down to pick up the warm bodies — especially Mason. The tow truck was already there, so that was taken care of. That’s when I found out about the friend, but we crammed everyone into the car and got rolling. That’s when Snippet opined, “Maybe we should just stay here.” Again, The Boy gave no reaction. Snippet was less than enthusiastic about this whole “move north” thing to begin with, and she was hoping they’d just stay here once they got here. I had sort of expected them to stay, but they didn’t.

The car was a relatively easy fix: it mostly needed a major tune-up (and a valve cover gasket). So… $100 for the tow bill, $250 for the repairs, and they departed about seven hours behind their original schedule. And yes, we’re the ones who paid for it. Almost worth it to send Snippet on her way, although it would have been better if The Boy had sent her and stayed here. They departed with a car packed to the gills, plus a big carrier that somehow didn’t fall off the roof. Good thing they’re all skinny.

The interesting thing was Mason’s reaction. He seemed to think he was going to go with them, and was relieved when he stayed behind. He was happy to say “bye-bye” even if he enjoyed having his bioparents around for a few days. I hope that one day, not too far in the future, they’ll be able to give him the kind of attention he needs… I’ll miss Mason big-time, but for now he’s where he belongs.

Monday, December 19, 2011 2 comments

Christmas Cheer, all in one place

Mrs. Fetched thinks I’m grinchy. Not so, I just prefer to focus on the social aspects of Christmas — family, feast, reflection — than to make a gaudy show of things. Still, there’s a few things I’ve done over the years to mark the occasion. Some of the newcomers to the free-range insane asylum could easily miss them in the 1300+ posts that have accumulated over the past 6 years, so I’ll gather them together here for you.

A Christmas Story — Santa Claus lives in a single-wide trailer in Lumpkin County, Georgia. Come read about my fictional encounter with The Big Guy.

Podcast from FAR Manor #3 — a special holiday song, and several contributors shared their earliest holiday memories. (I wish I had the time to do more podcasts.)

For This Night — my first #FridayFlash, posted as such. It's about The Slaughter of the Innocents, from the viewpoint of two soldiers.

Music! — the “special holiday song” from the above podcast, as a standalone MP3.


Saturday, December 03, 2011 6 comments

Deck Them Halls

Christmas time is here, by golly
Disapproval would be folly
— Tom Lehrer

With Thanksgiving finally out of the way, Mrs. Fetched went into full-blown decoration mode. I somehow got out of helping with the inside stuff, beyond horking boxes around. I was doing something, not at the manor, but can no longer remember what it was.

However, Mason was there to help, and he did hang some ornaments. Of course, he slapped ’em right back off the tree first chance he got. Mrs. Fetched invested in non-breakable ornaments this year… although as a friend put it, “they’ll cut your foot just like the glass ones if you step on one.” Okay, maybe they should be called shatterproof instead?

We’ve started doing the “one finger” rule with him — if he touches something, touch it with one finger. But that doesn’t stop him from sweeping that one finger across something to send it flying.

I wasn’t so lucky with the outside. We don't go as bat $#¡+ crazy as some people do with their lights (those, as Mrs. Fetched puts it, who “have nothing else to do”), but it’s more than enough in my opinion. She kept us going much of Saturday and Sunday, well past sunset both days, poking hangers onto the shingles and hanging lights every which way. I had to dismantle and re-do the net-lights over several of the boxwoods, since someone plugged them into each other and I had no idea how they were meant to plug into actual AC current. But I got it straightened out in the end and we managed to get it all lit up for a while… until (I think) the breaker fried. Mrs. Fetched insists we didn’t do anything more this year than last, but she always hits the after-Christmas sales and stocks up on more lights and stuff so I know better.

Then there was the strange case of the “decoration” in the field that was once going to be a subdivision. Seems that some merry pranksters snagged this thing from a farm off Juno Rd. My first knowledge of the deed was seeing it in a ditch along the highway one morning, on the way to work. Two days later, it was gone… and showed up here. It’s been there since Thanksgiving, clearly visible from the road going to the in-laws’ place.

If the chicken looks headless, that’s because it is. If the head didn’t shatter into a zillion pieces when it landed in the ditch, I rather expect it’s now a decoration in some goofball’s man-cave. I like to think of it as the Evil Zombie Chicken, protecting the acreage from another developer… or maybe there’s a bankruptcy curse in effect. Actually, I’m surprised that Coldwell Banker (the seller) hasn’t done something about a stolen statue yet.

Saturday, December 25, 2010 2 comments

White Christmas!!! [UPDATED with video]

First one in over 45 years!
The weather peeps said it was coming in at 1 a.m., but I guess it got hung up at the airport. It started at 9 and hasn’t stopped since (now 2 p.m.). Mrs. Fetched said the last time we had a White Christmas here, she was three or four.

Mason got lots of goodies, and Mrs. Fetched got the LCD TV she’s been wanting for over a year (Daughter Dearest and I got it for her).

[UPDATED] Just a little video from out front of the manor:

Mrs. Fetched was really happy with her present; Daughter Dearest and I chipped in on a 32" LCD TV. Instead of wrapping that monstrosity, we covered it with a quilt and stuck it behind the playpen and just wrapped the wall-mount bracket.

Hope everyone has a happy whatever-you-celebrate-this-time-of-year!

Friday, December 24, 2010 6 comments

#FridayFlash: For This Night

Welcome all readers and fellow writers. If you’re participating in #FridayFlash, feel free to leave a link to your story in the comments. If you want to follow my blog, I’ll follow back when I notice. :) There’s also plenty of other fiction here:

• All the short stories on the blog
• The whole of a peak-oil novel, FAR Future, written as blog posts from 2012–2045
• A novel in progress, White Pickups, of people surviving in a depopulated world

Today I give you a Christmas-themed story, based loosely on the events described in Matt. 2:13–16.

For This Night

The soldiers stepped out onto the dark narrow street. They took their positions: back to back, waiting for their eyes to adjust. Their ears needed no time to adjust — throughout the village they could hear shouting and the screams and wails of bereaved mothers.

“This is no work for soldiers, Odo,” one said. “Thugs, perhaps. I may just fall on my sword rather than stain it with another drop of innocent blood.”

Odo was quiet for a moment, watching the shadows. “Others command, Kleon. It is ours to obey,” he said at last.

“And that is all this is to you? Obedience? No. No man could be unmoved by this… work.”

Odo was silent for a moment. “I must admit, Kleon,” he said at last, “I’m relieved that last one was a girl.” He paused again. “Upholding honor is not often easy.”

“Honor? Bah. We served in the Nile campaign, we faced the Saracen horde in the desert — and history will remember us for this night, if she remembers us at all. A night of killing innocent boy-children in a backwater town, at the whim of a mad kinglet.”

“Seditious talk is good for the soul, my friend. But one should take care where it is spoken.” Kleon heard the smile in Odo’s voice. “But is not this king Greek? Like you?”

Kleon spat. “Any barbarian can learn Greek. Even a Gaul.” Odo snorted. “But to be Greek — that is something more. A true Greek would not order all boy-children of a village slain out of hand, especially if that village had offered no rebellion.”

“Perhaps. But this barbarian Gaul can now see the street. Shall we continue?”

“I shall —” Kleon hissed. “Something ahead,” he whispered. “Forward, but quietly!”

The soldiers kept to the shadows, their quarry unaware of their presence until Kleon and Odo were upon them — a young man leading a donkey, which in turn carried a woman. In the dim light, Kleon saw she hid something under her cloak and sighed.

Perhaps seeing his Nemesis, the man dropped the lead and held his staff cross-wise. He hissed something at the woman, but she only sat and watched wide-eyed. Foolish woman, Kleon thought, her husband would buy her life — and their son’s — with his own, but she will sit there and lose her son as well.

“Caesar’s soldiers!” Odo snapped in the local language. “What is your business? Be quick about it!”

“We are… travelers.” Kleon was mildly surprised that he spoke passable Greek — a tradesman then, a tentmaker or carpenter. His accent suggested he was telling the truth. “From Galilee. Going to Egypt.”

“It’s past curfew,” said Kleon. “Bandits are out.”

The woman said something, too quick for the soldiers to catch. “What did she say?” Odo demanded.

The man looked amused, but did not let down his guard. “She said with all the soldiers in the streets tonight, bandits are the least of our worries.”

“Woman. What are you hiding in your cloak?” Their eyes grew wide; the man shifted his footing a little. His face was that of one expecting to die shortly, but would do what he could to buy the seconds needed for his family to live.

“If it’s not a weapon, it is of no concern,” Kleon said quickly. “Is it?”

The woman shook her head. “No.”

“Then go about your business,” said Kleon. “But do not travel through Bethlehem — things are unsettled tonight. The nearest gate is that way.” He pointed. “And things are much the same in Jerusalem. You would do best to go overland to the coast. Take a ship, if you have the means.”

The man nodded. “I give thanks for your advice. And your mercy.” He took up the lead and they departed the way Kleon had pointed.

“What have you done?” Odo demanded.

“I have followed our orders. To the letter, like a good soldier,” Kleon smiled. “Boy-children of Bethlehem under two years of age are to be slain this night. We were not ordered to slaughter Galileans.”

“I am not convinced. What if you just let flee the child that Herod was concerned with? Then all else we have done tonight is pointless.”

Kleon nodded. “True, my friend. And that is how it should be.”

Sunday, December 12, 2010 2 comments

Mason & Moptop Hang Ornaments

Mrs. Fetched wanted the kids to participate…

Kids hanging ornaments

Of course, now that Mason hung ornaments up, he thinks he’s supposed to go pull them off. The pile of boxes make a barricade of sorts, but Mason has demonstrated some pretty good problem-solving skills in getting through it: “Okay… I pull this box back, push this chair forward, and I’m through!”

I’m trying to remember what we did when The Boy and Daughter Dearest were that age… seems like we had the smarts to downscale and uplift the grab-ables. Oh well.

Friday, December 25, 2009 8 comments


Mason close-upMason ponders the true meaning of Christmas… or maybe he’s thinking about lunch.

We got a pretty late start to the day, except for Mason of course, who woke up at 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. Fortunately, Snippet took the early shift (after I got up) and The Boy got the second shift (after Mrs. Fetched got up). We slept until nearly 9, took our time getting breakfast together, and finally got to clearing out from under the tree around noon.

Now I hadn’t planned much in the way of gifts this year; I picked up Mrs. Fetched a pot of miniature roses (she likes). In my mind, this Christmas was going to be Mason-centric. Not that he’s much into the Grand Acquisition of Stuff just yet, but it's always fun to get stuff for a baby because the older folks have great fun showing him how it works… and then he just chews it. The Boy and Snippet, however, went all-out — I think I heard someone say they pretty much shot Snippet’s entire paycheck on stuff for everyone. But relatively, this Christmas was fairly sedate.

Wednesday, though… yeesh. Mrs. Fetched invited both Panda’s family and the Evil Twins (and family) over to the manor. I cut out of work early, urged to do so by my boss earlier in the day, and picked up a few things on the way in. You think we have a lot of people tramping around in our house, you ought to try Panda’s place… they have a two-bedroom house for: his family of four, a brother-in-law and his family of four, plus his wife’s mom and fiance. Ten people crammed into a smaller space than just the downstairs here… kind of puts things in perspective. Panda’s kids (ages 3 and 6 I think) had great fun checking out the presents under the tree (I remember doing the same thing at that age, certain none would be for me but you never know, right?) and the Evil Twins and I had great fun hassling each other. All the festoovities had Mason pretty wound up that night and he didn’t really get to sleep until past 11… and slept until 7.

Yesterday (Christmas Eve) I figured to cut some wood. Mrs. Fetched said the chainsaw chain was not cutting, but I had a non-working saw in the other garage that I thought was also 18" so I figured I could swap the chain and at least get some of it done. It turned out my old chain was 16" — and when I tried swapping the bar onto the working saw, it wouldn't fit on the bolts. The Evil Twins and parents were coming back to help, so I called them to let them know I didn’t have a working saw. “You have a ‘safety chain,’ and they don’t cut,” he said. “Go to a hardware store — take the saw with you — and get the best chain they have. It won’t cost a lot. If they have a hardwood chain, get that.” As it turned out, I had to take Daughter Dearest to the bank so she could deposit a check for next semester’s textbooks, so next stop was the TrueValue in town (which also carries Stihl saws, one of which I’d like to get if the funds ever come through).

“We don’t carry hardwood chains for saws that small,” he said, “but what we got will cut a lot better than the one you’ve got now.” Undoubtedly, seeing this one could barely cut kindling. After 15 or 20 minutes, I walked out with a new chain (looking wicked-sharp, with easily twice as many teeth as the previous) and a file and spent less than $25 on it all. The hardware store was pretty quiet; I could have done all sorts of last-minute Christmas shopping and bought Mrs. Fetched some power tools at my leisure.

I got home, fired up the saw, and applied it to a tree that DD, Sasquatch, Brand X and I pushed over a couple summers back and never gotten around to cutting up — and it went through almost like it was butter. I had everything cut up that I’d planned on cutting in about 20 minutes. Mrs. Fetched returned about then, and asked me to help her feed the cows — “then you can bring the splitter up the back way, it’s already hitched to the 4-wheeler.” I arrived with the splitter, to find our friends here.

“Is that all you planned to cut up today?” he asked.

“Pretty much,” I said. “I figured it would take longer.”

Wood stack“We could get that one,” he said, pointing to a dead-looking oak about 20 yards down in the woods. “Or that over there,” over to the side of the house. His legs were paining him enough to need the cane today, so we decided on the second tree because he wouldn’t have to walk much uphill back to the house. I dropped the tree (a fairly good-sized one) and it took out several more on the way down. Mrs. Fetched’s mom showed up, and told me to get the tractor to drag the trees up to the driveway (where it would be easier to carry). We ended up cutting 6-foot lengths, loading them into the grapple/claw, and carrying them to the stack point. The promised rain had held off so far, and only sprinkled on us a little as we cut and stacked everything — dry stuff went on a rack in the garage (shown here), green stuff off to the side. What you see here is about a third of what we did today. We should be good until February.

So at least I worked off one or two of my Christmas dinners…

Saturday, December 19, 2009 6 comments

Mrs. Fetched’s Village

Taken from the ski hill on the west side of town, a bit before dawn, after Mason had gone back to sleep…

Miniature village
ISO160, 60mm, f5, 2.5s, ambient light

The chicken houses are outside of town, not shown for obvious reasons.

The next episode of White Pickups goes up on Monday morning, as always.

Friday, November 27, 2009 8 comments

Thanksgiving, and Thanks a Lot

Thanksgiving spreadAnother Thanksgiving, one that happened to coincide with my birthday this year (I’ve turned 17 for the 3rd time if you want to know). I was hoping — but not expecting — a little whimsy, like candles on the turkey, and that didn’t happen. But I got something much better: the in-laws behaved themselves and didn’t launch into one of their squabblefests for a change. Mrs. Fetched’s dad hasn’t had Fox Spew on this weekend, at least when I’ve been there, which makes being there a little more bearable.

Big V's prothesisThis has not been a great year for the in-laws, health-wise: Mrs. Fetched is the only one of her immediate family who hasn’t had a stretch in the hospital this year. Big V has been in twice, and not all of her came home last time. She got out of rehab just in time to join us for the festoovities, complete with an initial prosthetic foot. She made a comment about “I wish my other leg was as thin as my new one!" (Careful what you ask for, sis.)

Chicken house cobwebsThe good news: no trip to the chicken houses on my birthday. The bad news: my birthday is only one day out of 365. For me, Black Friday was an appropriate name. The poultry company started subsidizing the natural gas for the growers a year or so ago — which, given the price, is one way to keep growers from just shutting down through the winter. However, they’ve started doing some kind of pressure test to make sure the heat stays inside for just a little while longer. The houses were built in the 1980s, before and after I entered the picture here, and they’re nearly as drafty as they are filthy. They did an initial test last weekend, and they scored a 2 with a minimum acceptable score of 5 (not sure what the dimensions/units are just yet, maybe 1/10 PSI). They delayed putting in a new batch of birds, to give Mrs. Fetched another week to improve things, so it’s all hands on dreck [sic]. While a hired gun straightened out exhaust fans and sagging doors, we spent much of the afternoon inside a closed (and unlit) chicken house, seeking out spots of daylight to spray foam filler into. Mrs. Fetched and I walked around and put screws in some of the plywood that was bowing away from the studs and letting light (and cold air) in as well.

Homebrew door sealsOf course, some cracks of daylight just weren’t conducive for spraying foam into — like the large doors in front and back. Mrs. Fetched had a plan, and raw materials to execute it with: when we put wood flooring in Daughter Dearest’s room, we had to rip out the white carpet. It’s been sitting in the detached garage ever since, and Mrs. Fetched appropriated it for the chicken houses. Panda cut 6-inch wide strips of carpeting and tacked them up… so yup, the chicken houses are carpeted (but a bit askew as always).

After we knocked off, mainly for lack of material to continue, I went to the back yard to continue leaf-removal exercises, and pulled up the wild blackberry vines. They weren’t bearing that well, and I figure Mason will be running around outside by next fall, so I wanted to make sure we have a briar-free area for him. I get better blackberries from stands a little farther from home.

MasonOf course, I’m not going to let one of these go by without a picture of Mason. Daughter Dearest has been home all week, while Mason has been in and out of the manor… but he loves his aunt DD. It turns out The Boy is often unable to wake up, even with Mason in the crib next to the bed giving him the full-throated “FEED ME!!!” roar. Anyway, DD got to take care of him all afternoon while the rest of us were suffering in the chicken houses (I’ve had that privilege a couple times myself). He continues to grow, eat ever more prodigious amounts of formula, and develop. He’s starting to laugh, drooling like Amicalola Falls, and in the early stages of cutting teeth (Snippet cut teeth when she was 3 months old). His brain is wiring up at breakneck speed; you can see him taking more interest in his surroundings and he’s starting to reach for things. Anything in his hand immediately goes in his mouth, of course. Unfortunately, we’re getting more normal weather for this time of year now, so dropping him in the stroller is going to be a very occasional event until March or April.

Just think… we get to do this again tomorrow. Oh joy.

Friday, December 26, 2008 15 comments

Staycation, Winding Down

Me wearing antlersNow it’s Christmas Past. And the staycation is entering its final weekend (although I only have a two-day week next week, good way to ease back in after two weeks off).

I’m SO glad to have “all Christmas music all the time” in my rear-view mirror. They didn't do that when I was younger; they'd just mix in holiday music with the normal programming & that was fine. But I get burned out real fast on the same stuff constantly, and I about went nuts the year “Christmas Shoes” came out because they played it over and over… and over… and over… seemed like 3–4 times an hour. And I’m not a big fan of depressing songs anyway (I mean, come on, the kid’s mom is going to die at Christmas, and how is that going to affect his outlook in the years to come?). On the other hand, there are a few holiday/Christmas songs that I could listen to throughout the year — the instrumental version of “Sleigh Ride” comes to mind — just as long as it wasn’t a steady diet.

OK… I know I was good this year, but this good?

Canon EOS 40D

This (Canon EOS 40D) was the camera I wanted to get before my old PowerShot died… and would have, if the company stock hadn’t tanked in front of the rest of the market. I had pretty much hit the limits of what the PowerShot could do, and I used it to take photos that ended up in my documentation. According to the counter in iPhoto, I took just short of 5000 pictures with it… of course, I deleted a bunch of shots that didn’t turn out or were redundant. When it died, it wasn’t quite like losing a hand — maybe a finger or two. You can mostly get by without the missing pieces, but there are times when it gets annoying and a prosthetic (i.e. cellphone camera) doesn’t quite get the job done. It’s been too rainy for a photowalk, but maybe I’ll have a chance tomorrow. Fog in the morning may make for some interesting shots.

When I got Clickzilla, it came with a Metz flash. The battery pack is all but dead (good for like three shots), but looking around I find I can get it rebuilt for $60. That’s a dang sight cheaper than $300 for a new flash. Interestingly, with the Metz flash attached, I have to hit the shutter button twice: once to flip the mirror back and once to get the shot. I’ll have to go through the camera manual again to see whether that’s normal or if I can change a setting. There will be some learning once I get the battery pack rebuilt, but with that I’ll be set… this flash can reach out and light stuff up.

I think the camera might have seen some service as a floor model… there was a 2GB CF card already in the camera when I got it out of the box and there were a few pictures (that looked like stuff shot in a camera store) on the card — but hey, a free 2GB card is nothing to sneeze at. I also found an old Pelican bag that had a dead camcorder in it (a Sony, Mrs. Fetched’s first DV) and dedicated it to the EOS. Mrs. Fetched has some interesting stuff in her XL-1 bag, including some close-up filters that will fit. The lenses are supposed to be interchangeable between the two cameras, so I might have to borrow the humongo lens off her camcorder and try it out too. I’ve also heard of adapters that will let me use Clickzilla’s lenses with the EOS, and that would be nice.

Mr. Sunshine is up to play some Wii Golf. Hope everyone had a good Christmas. The new year will be quite happy about 20 days in.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008 5 comments

Christmas Eve

More rain, and even a thunderstorm a couple hours ago. I don’t remember ever having to yank the DSL on Christmas Eve… but on Planet Georgia, even the weather is a little neurotic. Winter #2, as I expected, is over after two days; Spring #2 is drooling all over us again. But if I bundle up, it looks like I might be able to ride the motorcycle to work Monday & Tuesday mornings (and then we’ll be out the rest of the week… too bad all work-weeks can’t be two days long).

funny pictures

We spent much of yesterday afternoon cutting and splitting wood, then stacking it behind the manor. The pile is fully replenished, and should last us a month if we don’t cut more sooner… we probably will though.

Daughter Dearest’s boyfriend Sasquatch (yup, it’s official… they’ve been “dating” since October but waited to tell us although we expected it anyway) has been spending a lot of time here. When he’s been gone, DD has been with him. I’m OK with it, and Mrs. Fetched seems to be. He’s somewhat transportation-limited, but he got over to the college once or twice somehow. I suspect that she gave him mono, but it didn’t hit him nearly as hard as it did her. But both of them are pretty much over it & (at least to me) are highly entertaining to have around.

Today was much less strenuous… A package from Mom arrived (which I’ll open tomorrow) and I took Jam down to Woodstock so she could pick up her car. She, Brand X, and Evil Lad NOT are headed north, into some much colder weather than we’ve had here at all. So is DoubleRed, although she’s going elsewhere.

Maybe the kitten can wait up for Santa, but I’m pooped regardless. See you in the morning.

Sunday, December 07, 2008 6 comments


(P)ass the CheerThis morning, I went hunting for my ornaments. I didn’t find the computer, but I found the 6-pack and put it back on the tree where it belonged.

After lunch this afternoon, Mrs. Fetched pulled up a chair right in front of the tree. I still don’t know why. But I was getting ready to help her when she spied the 6-pack ornament and yanked it off the tree. “I don’t want this on there.” I gaped at her. “Well, I don’t.”

So much for helping her clean up. It’s her project, and I have no ownership or say in it. So it’s all hers. I went to get some cat food, since we were out and Sprite was attempting to break his personal best climbing up the glass door to see where we were with the food. I took my sweet time coming back home… no reason to be there, anyway.

Fail treeWhen I came home, this is what I found sitting on my dresser. Nice try, but I don’t know how the thing stays up without that ornament pulling it over.

And I still don’t know what happened to the computer ornament.

Saturday, December 06, 2008 5 comments

A First Attempt

Boxes of Christmas junkChristmas may have come to Whoville without boxes, ribbons, or tags, but at FAR Manor they are all standard equipment. The Boy happened to be around, and Mrs. Fetched recruited him to crawl under the stairs and eject the Christmas stuff. We had to throw back a box of Hallowe'en decorations that he sent out, but he did throw out my reindeer antlers. Daughter Dearest and I had a great time last year, wearing those around the Home Despot and passing them back & forth.

After the ejection was finished, Mrs. Fetched poked through all the boxes to see what there was to see, and then stacked them all up as you see here. It's a marvel to me how we can put up that much stuff every year, but we (as in, “I”) manage.

1st attempt at tree decorationSo with the living room full of the not-so-spiritual end of Christmas, Mrs. Fetched went off to the chicken houses. After poking around the net for a little while, I thought it would be a nice gesture (and the beginning of cleaning up the living room) to get the tree up and throw some stuff on it. Wonder of wonders, the tree was all in one tub and all the pieces were there. (We bought a fake tree like 20 years ago, and have used it ever since. Why kill a perfectly good CO2 scrubber?) I only had to swap one row of branches, at the very beginning, to get it right.

With the tree up, I grabbed the light strings and plugged them in to see what we had. Out of seven strings, only two lit up completely. Several others had sections out, and a couple more were completely dead. Meh. I took the two completely working strings and went to work. Unfortunately, one was a really dense string and the other was not so dense. Can’t be helped, so I went ahead and rummaged around in the boxes of ornaments until I found my ornaments; I hung that box up. I knew that Mrs. Fetched would want to clean it off and start over, and I’m rarely (if ever) wrong about that, but figured I’d done my bit.

My ornaments, you say?

PC ornamentI don’t remember who gave this to me, or when, but I think it’s cute. The computer itself looks like an old Commodore PET (minus the embedded cassette drive), which I fondly remember from college.

I suppose if I was hard-up for ornaments, I’d grab a handful of old computer parts out of the studio. An original ADB mouse, a 3.5" floppy, maybe some components or cards… Merry Geekmas? But who am I kidding? We have hundreds of ornaments… and they all go on the tree.

6-pack ornamentHere’s my personal favorite ornament. This is the only reason I’m glad Daughter Dearest isn’t at home right now… she keeps taking it off the tree. And I keep putting it on. And she keeps taking it off.

Of course, Mrs. Fetched took it off this evening. But she took them all off. I’ll put it back on later.

“We need another string of lights,” she said. Little did she realize that we didn’t have any… or none that were completely working. I shrugged and watched her waste her time. If I’m not mistaken, two hours later she’s still wasting her time trying to get a string working. It was our week to vacuum the church, so I volunteered to take care of it so she could either rest or work on the tree as she pleased. Of course, we needed milk and eggs, and I needed beer (and rum, she used it all up last weekend), so I ran into town first. Once in a great while, things work out the way you want them to.

That’s Christmas at FAR Manor — the usual chaos with pretty lights.


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