Friday, September 23, 2011

Sally, Part 23

1. We have running water.
2.  I have a home.
3.  I have family who cares about me.

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You'll need to read Part 22 for this post to make much sense.

A week passed.  Stacey spent his time cooking, cleaning, and finding odd jobs to keep his mind occupied.  It wasn't all bad, he learned how to tie knots, climb a mast, sow sails, sing shanties, and probably the thing that intrigued him most, carve letters into wood.  He helped the carpenter as he removed the ships old name and put a new one on: "Liberation" it said.  Stacey had no idea what it meant, but it sounded nice, or at least a lot better than Ginger, the ship's old name that The Captain had given it after a visit to the Calamine Isles.

During that week Stacey also saw men training for war.  The most impressive was an elf named Syrin.  He used a rapier and a dagger, but with the way he moved you'd think he was made of water.  Stacey never watched for long, as it brought memories that he wanted to keep hidden, but it was hard not to stay and watch Syrin, because with him, it looked to be more of a dance than a battle.  It was beautiful in its way.  Whether he was sparring with someone else, or going through his own form perfecting routine, each movement looked effortless and balanced.  It looked almost peaceful, until Stacey looked in Syrin's eyes.  Stacey had anticipated a peaceful, or satisfied look, but instead saw pain.  It made Stacey look more earnestly.  He assumed that someone who would perfect this craft would be someone who delighted in bloodshed, but there was no delight in Syrin's eyes.

"Syrin, perfect at his craft."  It was Mattias.  He always seemed to show up just as Stacey was really wondering about something.

"Yes he is."

"Have you looked into his eyes?"

"I just was actually. He looks sad."

"He is.  Syrin is no ordinary warrior.  He's really no warrior at all, but a survivor."

"What do you mean?"

"Syrin is a Shalakian Elf.  His people were enslaved thousands of years ago.  Though small, they have a great capacity to work together, so men used them."

"How did he escape?"

"With his dance.  The slavers wouldn't allow them to train, for obvious reasons, but they would allow them to dance.  So, each night, Syrin and a small group of his people formed what they knew about sword play, and made each movement look like a dance.  It didn't take long until they found blades and fought their way out of slavery.  A beautiful story really."

"How did he end up with you?"

"I found him in Chindal.  He was part of a circus.  After he and his group escaped they couldn't find work.  So, they split up and tried their hand at whatever job they could find.  Syrin was nimble, and eventually found his way into Chindal's circus.  By chance I heard his story and asked if he'd join our cause.  His dancing blades have been on my ships ever since."

"Speaking of your ships, I helped Andrew carve a new name into her.  'Liberation,' what does it mean?"

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sally, Part 22

1. I didn't have school today, so I got to catch up on part of the sleep I've been missing
2.  Alan Wake is as awesome as I thought it'd be.
3.  My wife is supportive.

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You'll need to read Part 21 for this post to make much sense.    

Stacey didn't move from watching the pirate ship go, he rested his forearms against the boat and stared into the frothing sea, out to where the bodies had been dumped, where the sharks were already feeding.  Stacey couldn't make out the boy he'd killed among the trail of red.  He didn't have to.  He knew that his victim lay somewhere in the line.  It made him sick to his stomach.  So much so that he didn't notice Mattias come and lean next to him.

""Not what you thought it'd be, was it?"

Stacey looked from the crimson oil spills to Mattias's blue eyes.  "No."

"It never is."  Both men stood in silence as they thought about what the battle had looked like.  Mattias finally spoke again, "Stacey, you did what you had to."

Stacey's chin bounced as he tried to hold back to tears, "But it wasn't right."

"No, it wasn't.  Killing never is."

His chin stopped shaking as he felt both confusion and curiosity, "But you've killed dozens of people."

"I never said it was right.  Each time I killed was a failure, either on my part or on the part of someone else.  Sometimes killing is a necessity.  That boy was on our ship, and though he didn't know you, he was trying to kill you.  That's not your fault Stacey.  You couldn't have prevented that failure."

"Then why does it feel so wrong."

"Because you're a good person.  Because you know that life is precious."

"Are you sure you want someone like me fighting on your side."

Mattias stared into Stacey's eyes, "You're exactly the kind of person I want fighting on my side.  We don't need murderers on our side, we need good men with hearts like yours.  We need men who know that killing is wrong.  We need someone who values life.  I need to get back to the rest of the crew.  What happened will still be raw for you for a while, try doing something to get it off your mind now, so you can come back to it when it's not so fresh."

Stacey had turned back toward the sea when Mattias finished talking and walked off.  What he'd said helped, but he was right, killing that boy was sandpaper rubbing against a sunburn on Stacey's mind.  Stacey was being asked to look at himself and change, but he had little direction.  He wanted to be courageous, but not stupid, alive, but not bloodthirsty, and feeling, but not sad.  After standing for a good while longer, he finally pulled himself down to the kitchen, where he pulled carrots our of his cleansing sack, some potatoes he had left over, and some beef he'd bought while in Andrill, and made a stew for the men.  Cooking didn't cleanse his mind of the boy's lifeless face, but it did help him not to look at it so often.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sally, Part 21

1. Got to eat lunch with an old friend who remembered he owed me ten bucks (gotta love the friend who remember they owe you money even when you forget).
2.  My copy of Alan Wake comes tomorrow.
3.  Got two new followers.  Welcome to both of you.

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You'll need to read Part 20 for this post to make much sense.   

"Mattias!"  The other ship's captain had a device called a voice projector.  It was really just an enchanted horn that made your voice loud when you spoke into it.  They were sold at most magic shops and almost all pirate captains had one, so that they could call out orders to their victims.  "Mattias, I know that ship is yours!  Surrender peacefully or we will continue firing and your crew will die with you."

Stacey looked around to see the crew's reaction, but got nothing from them, other than the group of dwarves and gnomes as they scurried below deck.  Mattias then jumped up on the side of the boat and held on to some of the rigging as he yelled back, "Captain Tiamus!  You know as well as I do that my crew is too loyal to me to..."  And his last word was cut off by an incredible blast of cannon fire that struck Tiamus's ship, most importantly his rudder.  Mattias's smile was so big Tiamus must have seen it.

Tiamus's ship let loose its own volley that damaged the ship, but did not destroy her.  Mattias's crew were at their station before the volley hit, and the ship was quickly sailing away from the pirates.  Tiamus's men also ran to stations, but quickly found out that they could go nowhere but straight.  "Damn you Mattias!  We will catch you!  You will pay for this!"

Stacey watched as Tiamus's ship slowly turned into nothing but a speck on the horizon.  The battle had not been what Stacey had imagined.  The crew threw the lifeless boy overboard while Stacey watched Tiamus's ship disappear, so that Stacey wouldn't have to see him again.  It was bloody and quick.  There was no real hero, every man stood and fought for his own piece of ground, for his own life.  The crew had been lucky, only a few were wounded, and the healer was able to quickly take care of their wounds before they got too severe.  The pirates had not been so lucky.  The boy had not been so lucky.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Some Awards

So, on Friday I got a message from A Little Sprite that said that she had something for me at her place.  Now, we all know what that means in blog land, so I hurried as fast as my little mouse would carry me over to see what she had for me.  Sure enough, she's given me the:

As part of the award acceptance, I'm supposed to delve into the cellars of my blog and find good posts that fit seven criteria.  So, here goes.

Most Beautiful:  Some of My Writing.  I'm not sure if this really counts as beautiful, but my medium is writing, and this was a character sketch I did for a friend that I think really turned out well.

Most Helpful:  Yet Another Post About Bad Drivers: It's Cliche, but That Doesn't Make it Any Less True .  It's an oldy, but it does teach how to drive in roundabouts so other know what in the hell you're doing.  It may only be needed by people in Utah, but I still think it would helpful if the whole state would read it.

Most Surprisingly Successful:  I'm. So. Cold. Part II: Paul May or May not Get Taken, He'd Never Know .  This one's about our heater going out.  It's still my most successful post and I have no idea why.

Most Underrated:  Where did I put that... .  It was my third post and has zero comments. I don't even think I can find how many hits it has because the number is so low.  Anyway, it's about the phrase "I lost my virginity."  I think it's a fairly clever way of looking at it.

Most Controversial:  Faith in Science .  This one is about how it takes just as much faith to believe in science as it does to believe in God.  At least it's controversial around the college.

Most Prideworthy:  Sally, The Adventure Begins.  I really am proud of the story I'm writing now and this is the start of it.

And now, I get to pick seven blog that I follow and award them the opportunity to take a stroll down memory land and show off some of their lesser known posts.  The winners are:
Semi-Coherent Thoughts
Average Girl
Vinny C
Oilfield Trash
J Little John

And Sprite also gave me:
Which she then gave to all the people she gave the last one too.  I'll do that same. :)

Pretty sure the Liebster is supposed to go only to bloggers with 200 followers or less, which I might be breaking... but I don't really care.

Sally, Part 20

1.  I found an awesome new game last night to be obsessed with. Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning
2.  The swing my daughter falls to sleep in.
3.  The sleep I get when my daughter is asleep.

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You'll need to read Part 19 for this post to make much sense. 

Swords met, guns fired, and in the middle of it all stood Golnar swinging his battle ax at all who came within distance.  The attack was an overwhelming success, with some of the boarders diving into the water to escape the wrath of The Butcher and his crew.

The Crew cheered and danced in the glow of their overwhelming victory.  All except for Stacey.  As lucky as he'd been, he hadn't really done much but scare.  Most pirates hadn't even dropped by the time he ran out onto the scene and were able to get away from his knives.  Stacey was only able to catch up to one pirate, and he'd done just what he was supposed to do.  He chopped into the base of the pirate's neck with his cleaver.  The pirate had fallen quickly and had barely even made a noise, but after dropping to his knees, he fell backwards and revealed his face to Stacey.  He couldn't have been older than fifteen, very much an adult by that world's standards, but still too young to die.  The Demonic Butcher fell with him in the midst of clashing swords and exploding flints, he fell and held the boy's head in his hands.

Battles end quickly, so none of the pirates saw any of this transpire, no one did, except for Mattias.  All the while, he'd been swinging his sword and looking at Stacey.  He wondered if Stacey would even be able to catch up to any pirates.  Mattias hoped he wouldn't.  But when he did, Mattias knew where he would need to be once this was all over:  with Stacey.

The cheering was silenced by the roar of another cannon.  The pirate ship had more than a boarding party and was now ready to contend with Mattias and Crew over the sea until Mattias surrendered or drowned.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sally, Part 19

1.  I'm pretty sure I did well on my first test of the semester.
2.  My daughter (all inclusive)
3.  It's the weekend for me now, so I might be able to get some sleep.

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You'll need to read Part 18 for this post to make much sense. 

Mattias and the crew had congregated on the quarter deck to devise a plan.  In all honesty the situation looked bleak, much worse than Stacey could have guessed.  They were out manned, and had been caught by surprise.  Mattias had been in tight spots before, but even he couldn't see a way out of this one, and the crew could see it on his face.  The other ship's men were already boarding, which meant that he couldn't place his men in any strategic way, they were on the quarter deck, and that's where they would make their stand.  He also couldn't have them try to run, because there weren't enough men to fight who had boarded AND get the ship going. 

So, when Mattias heard a barbaric yell that burst from below the deck, quickly followed by what looked to be a mad man on a rampage, he suddenly had hope.  If Mattias wanted a rally cry, if he wanted surprise, if he wanted to strike fear in the hearts of the enemy, he couldn't have devised a better plan than The Devil's Butcher.  Stacey was their saving grace and didn't even know it.  All he knew was that he didn't want to let Sally down.

Not a man of convention or pride, Mattias drew his sword, grabbed his pistol, and joined in the war cry of The Butcher from below. The crew, after seeing their make shift captain take heart, followed suit and soon the band of brothers were pushing against their attackers, who had already been put on their heels by the bloodthirsty cook (or so they thought).

Stacey, once again, showed how lucky a man can be.  Without knowing it, he had thrown himself headlong into a group of pirates who prided themselves on killing an entire village, not because the village had something they wanted, but because they enjoyed killing people.  If Stacey had known, he probably wouldn't have ran in the way he did, but then, if he hadn't ran in, they wouldn't have had any chance at all.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sally, Part 18

1.  I'm getting a hair cut today.
2.  My mom was cool enough to take care of my daughter while I'm there.
3.  I need to leave in five minutes so I really can't think of another thing I'm grateful for.

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You'll need to read Part 17 for this post to make much sense.

Stacey's ears rang and his sight blurred as his body was thrown out the door of his little kitchen and up against the opposing wall.  What was that?  His sight was still hazy when he saw what he could only assume was Mattias come stumbling through the door, he had obviously fallen to a similar fate.  Goodness, Stacey's ears would not quit ringing as he tried to stand but simply could not.  The ship was rocking heavily, and each sway sent Stacey back to his knees.

His vision began to clear when he saw a few members of the crew come running down the hall.  The first two passed him, but the third member, a dwarf with a bald head and a long red beard stopped to bring him to his feet.  In a thick Dwarven accent he said, "Lad, you're going to have to get up, we need you up top."  Then the dwarf steadied Stacey against the wall, and continued running down the hall.

A cannon roared a little ways off and Stacey suddenly knew what was happening, they were under attack.  His first instinct was to hide in his quarters until the fight was over, but he remembered Sally.  In the back of his mind Sally had become a very special child, one that watched over him always and wanted him to do the right thing.  The brave thing.  So, with the face of a little boy in an ally in his mind's eye, Stacey ran for the only weapons he really knew well, his cleaver and his carving knife.  Then, in a burst of adrenaline, The Cook burst through the kitchen door and ran up the stairs to the deck with a carving knife in his left hand, a cleaver in his right, and a blood stained apron tied around his waist.

If the other ships boarding party had known Stacey, they would have known that he was hardly a threat, but rather, just a tall fat man with a couple of knives, but they didn't know Stacey.  So, as they were swinging over on ropes, and looking down on the ship, they saw, what looked to be, the cook from hell, with the knife of pain in his left hand, the cleaver of destruction in his right, a warcry in his throat, and an apron, stained with the blood of his screaming victims tied around his belly, where the truly evil souls of the damned resided.  All of this was amplified by the large red circles around his eyes (where he'd been crying).

To say that he was completely harmless would not be fair.  He had killed a great many animals and knew where to cut so that the animal died quickly and painlessly, but then, the animals didn't fight back. He was running at men with swords and guns, but we can't disregard the effect of surprise and terror on people, and as far as the boarding crew could tell, this was a graceless lumbering demon who was coming for their souls.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sally, Part 17

1.  I have what looks to be a good group for a group project I have to do.
2.  I found another person to edit my dating book today.
3.  My mom is making white chili tonight.  SO GOOD.

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You'll need to read Part 16 for this post to make much sense.

Stacey was starting to feel agitated by Mattias's beating around the bush.  "Well, if the generally feeling is that you're pirates, how are you not?"

"Pirates seek only for personal gain.  They rape, pillage, plunder, and murder because it either makes them happy or because it helps to further their financial situation."

"You killed The Captain and stole his ship.  I'd say that furthered your financial situation."

"Good point, but it's not only in the action, but the reasoning.  I didn't kill him because I wanted his ship; I just happened to get his ship because I killed him."

"Then why'd you kill him."

"For the reasons you gave me when we first met.  Do you remember?  You said he had no character, that he was rude to his crew and was generally a despicable man.  The world was a better place without him."

Stacey had never thought of 'the world' and its current situation.  He had been preoccupied with his stomach, and its current situation.  "Why 'make the world a better place?'  Isn't taking care of yourself hard enough."

Mattias's smile grew.  "Stacey, I'm not from here."  He paused as if the words he wanted to use were hard to find, "The world I'm from doesn't allow the type of evil men that are allowed here.  They either change, or we kill them."

"How do you kill all of them?"

"We have fewer to start with.  Our society is ran in such a way that we all work together to make each child grow up to be good."

Even though Stacey had been at sea for most of his life, and though he had met many people, he had never heard of  any culture like the one Mattias described.  Even trying to imagine a country like that was difficult.  "Who decides how you work together?"

"No one does.  We just do.  We always have.  Each child belongs to everyone, and everyone takes responsibility for teaching that child."

Stacey's mind immediately went to Sally.  If only Sally had been born in a society where children were taken care of by everyone, then he wouldn't probably be dead.  Stacey wouldn't have had to worry about him getting an education, or being worked to death.  The society itself would have taken him in.  "Why isn't our society like yours?"  His voice was choked with emotion.  He loved Sally, but had no way of caring for him.  How he longed for a safe place for his boy to grow up.

"Not all societies can be, Stacey.  Yours especially.  You've been following orders and fending for yourselves for too long.  Trying to make you change now would inevitably lead to war."


"Because each person here cares too much about what they own.  Where I'm from, we all have what we need and we share the excess with each other.  If we tried to force that on you, people would eventually fight each other so that they could have more than everyone else."

"Why not just kill those who didn't want to do it?"

"You make it sound as if we're trying to force our culture on yours.  We're not."

"Then what are you doing here?"

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sally, Part 16

1.  Love the free Amazon Prime trial for students.
2.  I've gotten some good feedback on my story.
3.  Season 7 of The Office is awesome.

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You'll need to read Part 15 for this post to make much sense. 

How many kinds of pirate were there?  They sailed around, ambushing unsuspecting ships, and taking whatever they wanted.   If it came down to the flag they raised or the colors they wore, Stacey was hardly interested.  "What kind Mattias?"  Stacey's words dripped with sarcasm, "The kind who shoot first, or the kind who ask questions first?"

Mattias chuckled a little, "That's a good question.  To be honest, I guess that would depend on the situation..."

Stacey had decided that he wouldn't be a coward anymore.  It didn't matter if he died on this ship, "Mattias.  I do not care.  Pirates are pirates."

The ever present smile on Mattias's face had left.  "Is that really what you think?  Do you think we're just ambushers of merchant ships?"

"If The Jolly Roger fits..."

"Have you seen The Roger flown on our ship."

"I honestly hadn't looked."

"We don't fly pirate colors, and we don't live pirate lives."  Mattias was starting to sound agitated.

"Then what do you do!  Why'd you shoot my captain and why'd you steal his boat?  Aside from you being nice to the crew I'd say all clues point to pirate."

In a flash of light Mattias produced his rapier and put it to Stacey's throat.  "I should kill you for that.  If we really were pirates, we should have killed the cook a long time ago.  I shouldn't even know his name."

Stacey was suddenly wishing he hadn't been so rude.  He didn't want to be a coward anymore, but then, he didn't want to be dead either.  The blade came a little closer, and Stacey tried to hold his ground.  Mattias's eyes grew hard and stared into Stacey's as Stacey tried desperately to match.  "Bravery isn't stupidity, Stacey.  It's standing for what's right when you need to, even when you have to die for it.  It's not trying to sass a man who has held your life in his hands for days, but hasn't taken it from you."

Stacey's eyes tried to drop, but all he could see was sword.  "Okay then, if you're not pirates, what are you?"

Mattias took his rapier from Stacey's throat, and his smile came back.  "Well, in the eyes of most governments in the world, we're pirates."

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sally, Part 15

1.  My daughter's grandparents love her.
2.  She's starting to smile and giggle socially.
3.  I feel like I should do well in school this semester.

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You'll need to read Part 14 for this post to make much sense. 

Stacey continued to look at his hallucination.  Had he done the right thing for the boy?  Aside from his walk back to the ship, Stacey hadn't found the time or energy to think about his choice.  And the more he thought about it the worse he felt.  Stacey had left an infant with a little girl.  What was he thinking?  For all he knew he wasn't hallucinating, but looking at an apparition of who the boy would have been had he lived past the first week with Scratch.  How could he think that a starving orphan would know how to care for a baby.  What a fool he'd been.  What a coward he'd been.  If he had just ran when The Captain called out to him he wouldn't be stuck on this leaky excuse for a boat.  Why was he so afraid then?  The Captain was a good shot, but he was far enough away that he would have been a challenging target, not to mention The Captain hadn't pulled the gun from his trousers and was drunk.  He may not have had a great chance, but he didn't have a bad one either.  His cowardice probably killed the boy.

The vision faded and Stacey saw a crew who hadn't noticed any change in their new found cook.  Stacey picked up the empty serving pots and trudged back to his kitchen.  Mattias's compliment had faded and melted away, and all that was left was a feeling that he wasn't the man he wanted to be, and that crime had probably lost him the only family he had alive.

Stacey swung the door open and clamored inside before anyone could see his tears.  The pots hit the floor and his back hit the wall with nothing on it.  He slid down with his face in his hands until he came to sit with his legs stretched out.  And there, amid the meat, and the grain, and the banging of the waves, Stacey wept.  He allowed himself to think of what he had lost, and who he had been, and cried deeply into his callused hands.  The should haves of his life burrowed deep into his soul, and agitated his mind.  Should haves that he'd buried rose and walked again inside of his mind's eye and made him sob even harder.  He'd set his sights so high for little Sally, and yet, he had thought so little of himself.  Why hadn't he shot higher?  Why hadn't he tried for more?

When his eyes finally cleared, he saw Mattias crouched in front of him.  Exhausted, his head banged against the wall and he closed his swollen red eyes.  "Mattias, how long have you been here?"

"Long enough."  Stacey let out an exasperated sigh.  "Long enough to know that you're in pain, and maybe it's partly my fault.  I think I need to let you know what kind of pirates we really are."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sally, Part 14

1.  Babies cry, letting you know what they want.  Really, it's a biological miracle.
2.   My wife played Portal 2 with me.  It's just fun to play with her.
3.  I'm grateful that we don't have more car accidents.  Considering how many people drive, we really should

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You'll need to read Part 13 for this post to make much sense.

Mattias's words of praise were a cold drink after crossing a desert.  The Captain, though he often ate Stacey's cooking, never gave a word of praise.  What Mattias said flooded into Stacey and made him smile.  "Thank you sir."

It also gave Stacey a secret.  He knew that Mattias didn't know much about cooking.  No spice, or assortment of spices, could possibly remove the taste of Andrill from potatoes.  Potatoes are like sponges, they soak up every flavor around them.  The trick to removing Andrill from them was not in the cooking, but in the sack they were carried in.  Stacey's mother, before she died, taught Stacey how to make a sack, and what to make it out of, that cleaned produce in such a way that it pulled out contaminants, like Andrill in general.  The flavor of Andrill was out of those potatoes a few hours after Stacey was on the boat.  It still made him happy though, because potatoes, like sponges, really have no flavor all by themselves.  So, for Mattias to have said anything, Stacey did have his spices right.  His mashed potatoes were good.  Come out of Andrill and still deserve praise good.

Mattias walked away and sat with some of the crew to eat his meal.  Stacey looked across the ship and saw the crew sitting and laughing together, each holding a plate of mashed potatoes and pork.  This was what he wanted with his inn.  He wanted his food to bring people together, and to give them an atmosphere where they could put their differences aside and just enjoy an evening.

Of course, thinking of his inn made him think of Sally.  Sure, he wouldn't know about Stacey's food until he was much older, but that wasn't what concerned Stacey.  A father may want to share his talent with his son, but that isn't what he cares the most about.  Stacey didn't want his legacy to be food, but goodness.  He didn't care about teaching Sally how to make a great meal, but teaching Sally how to be a great friend.  Stacey had seen so much evil in the world, that his greatest dream was to help at least one more person fight against selfishness and pride.  He wanted Sally to be a decent person, and as he looked across the boat, he really only saw a little boy standing in an ally way of Andrill, dirty and cold, trying to scrape by.  And in that moment, Stacey realized that there was little chance of Sally being a decent person.  He had seen the poor of Andrill and noted that constant need often leads to unsavory action.  How far would one go to fill his belly?  Would he steal to do it?  Would he kill?  Would Sally kill?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sally, Part 13

1.  I'm still sick (which is why I didn't post yesterday), but I haven't thrown up for at least 12 hours.
2.  My baby got her shots yesterday and didn't cry to much.
3.  We got her ears pierced (don't judge) and she didn't cry too much then either.

You'll need to read Part 12 for this one to make much sense.

And to The Cook's surprise, Mattias let it happen.  He peeled and boiled potatoes, seasoned pork, mashed potatoes, cooked pork, seasoned potatoes and put the food in large bowls to take out to the crew, all without a single person coming in to bother him.  Stacey stepped out of his room and noticed that no one stood guarding it.  No one cared that he hadn't left his room yet, and no one cared if he was going to try to escape.  Of course, 'escaping' off the side of the boat in the middle of the sea was hardly an intelligent thing to do.  It was certain death to sea-monsters or sharks if you were lucky, exposure if you were not.  So, it made sense to Stacey that no one stood by his door.

It didn't take long for the crew to come though.  Like animals in the desert know it's going to rain because it happens so rarely, so it is with sailors and good food.  The aroma spread throughout the ship, starting at The Cook's quarters and on.  Like the Pied Piper he walked through the ship and on to where he usually fed the men, and most of the crew had formed a line behind him.  Even Mattias interestedly stood at a distance, but not too far a distance that the food's smell could not flood his nose when the breeze caught it just right.

The intoxication hadn't fully taken effect yet though.  Like with all great art, the first look, the first listen, or the first smell only piques an interest.  When a person fully gets immersed, that's when its full beauty can be felt.  And so, the sailors lined up for what could only be described later as their own slice of heaven.  The first in line was the giant who had lifted Stacey off the deck upon their first meeting.  To be fair, he wasn't actually a giant, but had giant ancestry.  And the humans that made up the rest of his blood were not small people either (which is how one of them came to mate with a giant).  He took his share and thanked The Cook.

Stacey hadn't meant for this to happen, but his cooking would give him a proper look at the crew, all 183 of them.  To call it a mish-mash of lifeforms would be an understatement.  Golnar was hardly the most interesting. Along with the humans Stacey expected to find, here were Dark Elves, Dwarves, Goblins, Orcs, Halflings, Half-Elves, Wood Elves, Hobgoblins, a couple of Trolls, and a few species that Stacey had never seen.  Each of them grabbed a plate of mashed potatoes and pork, and each of them got lost in the flavor.

Great food is hard to come by, and even harder to explain.  It starts with the scent.  It can't be overpowering, but soothing.  Great food smells like a home never lived in, but only dreamed of.  It's a warm blanket, and a crackling fire, both inviting and interesting.  It's a smell that beckons, and asks everyone in the vicinity to just take one bite.  Then, when the food finally makes its way past the lips, a whole new sensation comes, a warm delightful feeling that spreads from point of entry to every extremity.  It makes the eater forget where he is, forget every worry and every care that he had before that magnificent bite.  Often, it's said that great food is gobbled down, but that isn't so.  Great food, truly great food, requires no effort to savor.  One need not remind himself to take his time and enjoy every single bite, because he will do it naturally.  Every mouthful will amaze him, and it will take time to overcome that amazement, no matter how fast he might want to finish his plate.

And so it was with Stacey's meal.  Mattias was the last to get a plate.  He had already heard the moans of delight from the other sailors, but he kept his affect to a minimum.  "It's not poisoned is it?"

Stacey suddenly realized his stupidity.  He had the ingredients and could have sent every sailor to hell, but instead, he fed them all heaven.  "No, sir."

"Good, because we have an amazing cleric who could have brought us all back from anything, and then we would have had to kill you."

Maybe not so stupid.  "Yep, it's just food.  Take a bite."

For Mattias to be properly described, it has to be said that he is a master of his own faculty.  Nothing phases him, and he knows how control every joint and tendon, and yet, when he took that first bite, even he had to close his eyes and marvel at the flavor.  He was a little short of breath.  "You say you got these potatoes in Andrill?"

"Yes, sir."

"How did you get that rancid taste out of them?"

"I've been working on that for years sir.  Potatoes were the first I tried with, I'm working on the carrots now."

"Goodness."  He'd taken another bite. "We still need you to be able to fight, but I care much less now about you closing your eyes."

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sally, Part 12

1.  We're going 4-Wheeling today.
2.  My daughter more or less slept through the night.
3.  My wife is getting better at feeding my daughter in the middle of the night, so maybe she's not sleeping through, I'm just not being woke.

This post won't make sense unless you've read Part 11.

Mattias flashed him one more knowing smile and walked away.  Of course, Stacey knowing that Mattias knew he'd closed his eyes put some more weight back on his shoulders, but at least he was alive and Mattias obviously had no desire to kill him that day.  Though, in Mattias's defense, he was like no pirate Stacey had ever met.  Maybe he wasn't as bloodthirsty, or crooked, or evil as Stacey had imagined.  He'd let Stacey live even though Stacey had obviously shown his luck more than his skill, and before that he'd let Stacey have a chance to show his skill rather than throw him overboard.  Mattias would have to be a mystery for another day though.  Stacey's head started to hurt, and the rocking of the ship wasn't helping.  He steadied himself on his cutting board and looked down at his knives.  Each blade he knew exactly how to use, where to cut and how, so that each meal was prepared on time.  He knew how sharp they were and how to sharpen them quickly when they got dull.  What was he going to do now?  It was a life he'd come to know and love, and occupation that fit him.  He could cook a full meal for the crew in the middle of storm and not even break a sweat.  Would he ever do that again?  It didn't seem like Mattias thought the crew needed a cook, but another soldier.

Stacey had never wanted adventure.  His mother never read him stories about great war heroes; his father never showed him maps of far off places.  Even when he played with his friends he never dreamed of greatness, but dreamed that he had a good job and was a decent person.  To be fair, in his mind, he was living his dream up until a couple of days ago.  So, while some of us might think of becoming a swashbuckler and of the adventure that might wait for us if our luck didn't run out, Stacey thought about when he could just be a cook again.  He thought about when he could work with decent people, so that he could be a decent person.

Finally, the ship stopped rocking long enough for Stacey to bring out his bedroll and ease himself down for the nap Mattias said he needed.  Sleep did not come quickly, for while Stacey was exhausted, his mind would not stop going over his predicament.  He went down every 'what-if' road he could think of at least ten times and usually came up with the same ending: Him dead on some island, or at sea, without ever meeting Sally again.  And when a person can see few alternatives other than death and never seeing loved ones again, it makes sleep hard to find.

Daylight flooded into The Cook's cabin, waking him.  He'd slept all day and all night, and Mattias and crew had allowed him to.  When he got up, out of habit, he started to make lunch.  Sure, Mattias may or may not have been the captain, and the crew may not have been the crew he'd known before, but after several days of catastrophe, one day of making mashed potatoes (before the potatoes went bad) and salt pork sounded nice.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sally, Part 11

1.  I don't have school on Fridays, which is just nice.
2.  I'm sick, but I've only got a little phlegm.  Nothing like what some are dealing with.
3.  We own blankets.  They just feel nice.

You'll need to read Part 10 for this post to make much sense.

Why would he need to know if Stacey could shoot a gun.  Stacey was a cook.  He'd been an assistant cook when he was twelve and completely did the job on his own when he was sixteen.  Then Stacey remembered that he'd seen The Captain participate in 'duels' when agreements couldn't be come to.  Surely Mattias didn't think Stacey capable of beating anyone in a duel with a weapon that would be completely foreign in his hands.  Cooks were the last people asked to fight in battle and Stacey was hardly an exception.

"Sir, I hardly think a duel will be necessary.  Why not just shoot me and get it over with?"

Mattias grinned and sniggered a little at The Cook.  "Why would we have a duel?"
"Well... I just thought..."
"You just thought I was some blood thirsty pirate who could only see violence as a solution."
"Well, yes sir."
Mattias only smiled harder at Stacey's honesty.  "To be truthful, it's probably not too far from the truth.  But the actuality of our situation is that this ship here is a Frigate.  And it can use around two hundred men.  Your old captain hired one hundred and eighty three of us.  It would hardly seem smart for the few men we have to engage in games of murder now would it?"
"I supposed not sir."
"You suppose."  Mattias handed him the rifle, "We just need to know if you can be useful at something other than making eggs.  If you can't, then we'll figure out what to do with you."
If Stacey had his way he would have tried out for a spot on the sailing crew, not the fighting, but he was hardly in a situation to be choosy about his placing.  Mattias obviously thought they either needed another fighter, or that it'd be fun to see the old cook try to shoot a gun, or perhaps he saw something in the old seaman that the rest of us might not have seen.  Of course, to ask a pirate to do the last is almost unthinkable, but we shouldn't disregard it as a possibility.

Stacey took the rifle.  Luckily for him, Mattias had been reloading while they spoke, or he'd have been holding a useless tool without the knowledge to make it useful.  Mattias pointed to the bell.  It was on the opposite side of the ship.  "Stacey, it's time to ring the bell mate.  Ring it for us, from here."

The Captain had only allowed them to get into an occasional fight.  It could be said that he, and subsequently his crew, was a scavenger.  He sailed from place to place, finding other people's treasure so long as there were not too many traps or swords in the way.  In turn, Stacey had only seen battle a handful of times.  So, it took him some work to remember what others looked like when they held the rifle.  For his lack of experience he didn't look too bad.  The butt of the gun went to his shoulder, and he dropped to a knee to attempt to stop his shaking (it did little good).  But can we really blame him?  This shot meant life or death.  Stacey put the gun to his eye and looked down the barrel at the bell.  He would never hit it.  Mattias might as well have asked him to shoot out a candle and leave the wick.

It's hard to say whether Stacey actually meant to leave the shot to luck, or if he was just too terrified to look, but he closed his eyes, took a deep breath and pulled his index finger back toward his hand.  He thought of Sally.  He thought of the inn he wanted them to own.  And in the end, he wondered what that high pitched sound was, followed by cheering.  Mattias's rising above the rest.

If Stacey had been a master marksman he couldn't have made the shot he did.  Not with the rocking of the sea and the lack of scope on the gun.  For, amid it all, the ball flew into the bell, rattled around a little, and then fell to the deck.  Stacey couldn't have impressed the crew more if he'd meant to.  And he didn't even see it happen.

After hearing the bell, Stacey opened his eyes, stood up, and was met by one hundred and eighty three warm smiles and congratulations.  He would live, that was sure.  Perhaps not past their first battle, but at least he'd live for a while longer.

Mattias yelled above the throng, "Let him to his quarters!  He deserves a nap, he does."  and then followed the old cook to his four by four home.  Mattias stood at the door smiling while Stacey tried to catch his breath.  "Mighty good show Stacey.  It was a good shot to be sure.  But next time, try opening your eyes."

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sally, Part 10

1.  My last teacher is cool with my opinions being different than hers.
2.  My mom has been watching our daughter while I've been at school.
3.  I got a free redbox rental today.

You'll need to read Part 9 for this to make sense.

Stacy's first reaction was to hide, though hiding on a boat was hardly useful, as someone will eventually find you.  He didn't have time to hide though, as he was lifted off the ground by some enormous force while his ears rang with, "He's right here, Mattias!"  Now, when we're children we're picked up often, so being lifted raises no real concern, but once we get a little bigger, we quickly start to like our feet planted firmly on the ground.  Stacey had been too big to lift since he was about five, so suddenly being airborne made him feel even more uncomfortable than he already was.  Mattias approached two wildly kicking feet with a full bellied laugh that didn't suit his slight frame.

"Golnar, put him down."

Stacey wasn't thrown, or dropped, but placed back on the deck.  He was even held just low enough for his feet to touch until they stopped kicking and took purchase of the wood.  If Stacey had met Mattias in an ally way he would have thought nothing of him.  He had shoulder length auburn hair that was lifted by each passing breeze, and a smile that felt like a warm blanket.  By no means a big man, he stood just shorter than Stacey and Stacey probably outweighed him by double.  But, they weren't meeting in an ally way.  They were meeting aboard a commandeered vessel where Mattias apparently called the shots (and even aimed, pulled the trigger, and took them occasionally).

"What's your name?"  Mattias's smile never faultered.
Stacey felt particularly out of place.  Why would Mattias need to know his name?  Did he gain some sick pleasure by knowing the details of his victims?  So, Stacy reverted back to what he said to every other loathsome creature he came in contact with, "I'm The Cook."
"No," Mattias burst out, "no, not what you're called!  What's your name?  The one your mother gave you."
Stacey braced himself for ridicule.  "My name's Stacey."
"Well met, Stacey."  And his hand shot forth to grab hold of Stacey's.
Fear was melting into confusion as Stacey felt his arm being moved up and down by the pirate.  "What... what are you doing?  Aren't you going to kill me?"
Mattias stopped using his hand as a lever and stared straight into Stacey's eyes.  "That all depends on you companion."
"Depends on me how?"
"Were you a lover of that captain we just sent to the sharks?"

Oh, no.  Stacey surmised that there was a right answer to this question, but what that answer was was not easily guessed.  If Mattias was of the belief that an enemy of an enemy is a friend, then it was fine that he had no good feelings toward The Captain.  If he was under the impression that a man either loved or loathed authority, and that he was an authority that demanded love, then admitting to loathing of the old captain was suicide. 

Finally, he decided that he might as well be truthful.  In all reality, he was dead either way.  "I didn't particularly care for him, sir."

Mattias's smile broadened a bit, Stacey guessed he'd answered right.  "Well, what didn't you like about him?"

Goodness, why couldn't he just ask easy questions.  Stacey thought about bringing up Sally, but then thought better than to give the name of his son to a murderous pirate.  Instead, he laid out his loathing as underlying reasons without example.  "He was a man of no character.  He had no love for humanity or human decency, and had no love for anyone but himself.  His crew was nothing more than a tool to him, and he disposed of that crew as soon as he thought he saw something better."

Mattias's eyebrows came together as if he were pondering something very important.  He then began to nod, and his smile reappeared.  "Those seem like good reasons to hate a man.  You may already know that it's custom to kill the cook of a ship, but I feel like giving you a sporting chance.  Can you shoot a gun?"

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sally, Part 9

1.  One of my teachers talked about how his daughter died a few years ago.  Made me feel lucky.
2.  My classes don't sound like they'll be too tough.
3.  I've got a class with one of my buddies.  It doesn't happen very often at college so I fell blessed.

It will be hard to understand this post without reading Part 8.

Mutiny.  It might as well have been tattooed on their foreheads.  On his way to his room Stacey did not see any familiar faces.  The Captain, in his great wisdom, must have fired the entire existing crew because he thought this one looked better, all except his cook of course.  Stacey imagined the old crew back in Andrill, sitting in The Pig's Pajamas, cussing their horrible luck, to have lost their jobs and to have been left in Andrill.  Even under the circumstances, The Cook couldn't help but laugh a little.  They hated their situation, and he probably would have given his left eyeball to switch positions with them.  Mutinies seldom worked out well for sea cooks.  There was a general belief, as untrue as it was, that captains and their cooks were always the best of friends.  They were far away from one another on the chain of command on the ship, but they often formed a bond that was closer than brotherhood.

Stacey and The Captain held no such bond.  If anything The Cook found The Captain a revolting, spineless man, and The Captain found The Cook to be an uneducated moron.  The mutineers didn't know that though, and shortly after The Captain was disposed of, The Cook would follow.  Stacey looked out his little peep hole at the main sun setting on Andrill, with a minor one off to the left of it.  The two made an interesting barrage of colors that The Cook had to smile at.  This might be his last sunset as a free man, but more likely, this would be his last sunset ever, and in the grand scheme of sunsets, it was a pretty good one to end on.

 Once the main sun had gone down the entire way, and the second minor followed it, Stacey unrolled his blanket and laid down, hoping they would give him one more night of uninterrupted sleep.  They nearly succeeded, but Stacey awoke to the sounds of shouting and gunfire.  He imagined The Captain on the Quarter deck, fighting for what he would have seen as his territory.  Stacey opened his door slowly and peeked out to see several dark figures running down the hall in front of his door.  He closed it momentarily and waited for the boots to run past him.  He then ventured out.  Stacey wasn't sure what he planned to do once out of his room, but knew that staying there would be certain death, so he walked down the hall and up the stairs to the main deck.  He saw flintlock pistols and sabers in every sailor's hands.

Quickly, Stacey shrank down into a pile of ropes to watch the scene.  Surely some other ship had boarded, because the sailors weren't fighting The Captain, they were fighting other sailors.  Sabers met and clanked, hammers fell, and exploded, but each sailor seemed perfectly matched to the man in front of him.  The Cook had seen no sailor fall, and just as he was about to stand to see why not, a dark figure with red glowing eyes appeared in front of him.  The figure was half a man taller than he was, and just as The Cook was about to protest, the figure buried a saber deep in his chest, and Stacey woke with a start.

Sweat poured out his forehead and he couldn't gulp air fast enough.  It had been a dream, a nightmare, and Stacey looked out his peep hole to see a storm off in the distance, where thunder rolled across the ocean and to his ears.  Why did he walk back to the ship at all?  Why didn't he just run with the child when he had the chance?  In the morning he would likely be executed, and for what?  For a captain he never truly respected.  For a life of borderline servitude.  It was almost too much for the poor cook to bear.  He had a child to look after.  He finally had a reason to live, and the next day he might see a guillotine.  The Captain had purchased one back in Haresmoot.  It would make sense for them to use it on the both of them.

Stacey did not find anymore sleep that night.  The dawn came, and to his surprise, no sea dog was sent to drag him to the main deck.  As he fretted, he realized this to be just another bit of torture before the end.  Surely they had seen the terrified cook and wanted nothing more than to play with him before his demise.  So, The Cook got up and left his quarters.  Surely he would be killed, but he would not die the play thing of evil men.

The Cook came up the stairs just in time to witness The Captain's execution.  He stood on the plank, hands tied, with a sailor pointing a flintlock rifle at him.
"I have no wish to shoot captain!  Jump so that we may save the bullet!"
The Captain almost looked dignified as he stood in silence.
"Suite yourself!"  Was the last thing The Captain heard before the hammer fell and a lead ball sent him over and into the deep.  The executioner looked at the rifle and let it hang in one hand.  The coldness with which he killed was telling of him.  He was a pirate no doubt, and his companions must be also.  The rifleman looked up and down the length of the ship, "Now where's that cook?"

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sally, Part 8

1.  I have an opportunity at an education.
2.  My daughter slept through me typing this.
3.  I woke up to my alarm ( I was a little worried).

This post won't make much sense without reading Part 7.

The voice brought fear to Stacey's heart, because it was The Captain, and if he came looking for you while he was in the mood to leave, you might as well brace yourself for a long voyage.  But, to The Cook's surprise, The Captain was trying to entertain some people with the story of The Woman and had just gotten to the part about the birth.

"Go on, Stacey!  Tell 'em how ya took care a tha li'll bastard."
Stacey was shocked at how angry The Captain's words made him.  Just as he'd assumed, The Captain had no idea what had happened to Sally, and assumed that The Cook had done the unthinkable.  Stacey loved the boy as only a care taker can, and even the thought that he somehow disposed of the infant made his blood boil.  But, he was all too aware that The Captain's blood seldom got cool enough to simmer and that blowing up now would mean his demise.  His mind raced over the past few months:  A child swinging in his kitchen, making a bottle out of a sheep's stomach, seeing Sally's first smile, looking for a care giver, finding the girl, leaving the baby, fighting back tears on the way back to the ship, and The Captain's words.  Then his dream about running toward the west and the inn.
"Well, go on Cook!  We don' have all day!"
Then a bullet in his back as he tried to run back to Scratch's hovel.  Stacey wouldn't be making up his mind about running today.  He had waited too long, and there was nowhere to go but the ship, and nothing to do but lie about what he'd done with the boy, the infant, the precious baby, his pride and joy. Sally.  The Captain, while always hot tempered, was not an observant man, which was a service to Stacey as he fought back sobs while making up an awful story about what he'd done that night.
"It wasn't too difficult.  The baby..."
"The bastard he means!"
Stacey gulped saliva in attempts of keeping down his rage.  "Was half dead anyway.  I just threw him overboard."
"Ha!  I knew ye'd do the right thing!"

The Captain, calling his own son a bastard, was almost too much for The Cook, but hard situations make cowards out of most of us, and words seemed a poor reason to die.  So, Stacey would forget Sally was a child of The Captain's at all.  Sally was, in his mind at least, a sea cook's son.  His dad had to go away for a little while, but would come back when he could.  Andrill seemed a horrible place to leave his only living relative, but The Cook had no choice.  He would continue sailing under the sail of a tyrant, and every night would be spent thinking of Sally, where he was, what he looked like, and what he was doing.  They would be together again someday... someday.

The Cook walked for the ship before The Captain was entirely done with his story.  The Captain didn't mind though.  Stacey had been there for the part The Captain needed him for.  Stacey's legs felt heavy, as if dry land didn't suit them, or maybe they felt that they were on a death march, and the longer they took, the more time they'd have to live.  The Cook didn't worry about it.  He had to carry on as if nothing had happened.

Stepping on to the ship sent a shiver up The Cook's spine.  He wasn't sure if something was actually different or if he was just sad to leave Andrill, but the ship seemed to have a new sway.  The rocking didn't feel right and as Stacey found his way to his quarters, he noticed some new faces.  The Captain had taken some new men for his crew and they didn't look like the rejects he normally picked up.  The Cook was hardly a judge of character, but even he could tell that these new men smelled of trouble.  They were too bright to have signed on with someone as dull as The Captain, and The Cook tried not to imagine what he already knew to be true.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sally: Part 7

1.  I have parents who care if I succeed.
2.  My baby is still alive and well.
3.  School starts today.  I may not like all of it, but at least I have the opportunity to go.
You'll need to read Part 6 for Part 7 to make sense.

The walk back to the ship was longer than The Cook remembered.  It seemed every miscreant and rabble rouser was on full display, and that made each step tiresome.  Was leaving Sally with Scratch really the best idea?  Look at these people, charlatans.  Each one would sooner steal you blind than give you a hand, and half of them are standing BEHIND the store fronts.  How would Sally ever make it in Andrill?  The sack in his strong hands grew heavy as the worry did on his shoulders.  Maybe he could have kept Sally a few more months and dropped him in Shimbly, with the tribe there.  He may not have gotten an education, or lived past twenty, but at least his death would be at the hands of a troll instead of another human like it was bound to be in Andrill.  He might grow up to be honest too.  Respectable, at least in the only way the Shimbly tribe knows how.  In full disclosure, The Cook had come to love the boy and didn't want him to go anywhere except his little kitchen, but of course that was worse than everywhere else.  Assuming The Cook could keep him a secret from The Captain and crew, how would a toddling child stay around big open barrels of water, cleavers, and sacks of grain.  He'd be cut or suffocated before The Cook could say, "Bob's your uncle."  Scratch may not have been the best choice, but she was the only real one The Cook had.  While she seemed almost certain death to the boy, all other options were absolutely certain death.  Sal would call Scratch, 'Mom.'

The ship looked shoddier than it had when he'd left it.  The wood on it was warped and bowed, it was a wonder it stayed afloat at all.  The sails were torn, and the crew always seemed half drunk, which made him wonder how they got anywhere.  The Cook stopped about one hundred yards from the dock and stared through the ship.  He thought of all the nights alone, listening to the crew yell accounts of their sexual escapades, or shout sea shanties with their own vulgar verses.  Sally had been his friend these last few months.  Sure, he didn't talk much, or at all, but at least he was good company.  He didn't cuss or spit or drink too much (The Cook had only given him a little whiskey to help him sleep once or twice).  And perhaps best of all, Sally didn't call him The Cook, or make fun of his real name, Stacey.  Why his mother had named him after his Great Grandmother was beyond him, but Stacey was indeed his name.  When he protested as a boy his mother would tell him Stacey was a name for a boy or a girl, but had no answer when Stacey asked why he didn't know any other boys named Stacey.  And here The Cook stood, friendless, and on the cusp of a life he knew he didn't want to live.

For a moment, Stacey played with the idea of staying in Andrill.  He'd turn right around and walk, no run, straight back to Scratch's shanty beneath the brothel and he'd demand that Sally be placed back in his custody.  The Cook and the boy would head for the west, escaping the stench that was Andrill, escaping their fates as poor outcasts, and escaping the uncertainty of the sea, where both of them had found hard luck.  Where the boy had been unwanted by his own mother, and Stacey had given away every dream he had for a four by four room and a man who chose his every fate.  The two would run through fields and look for a small town to settle down in.  The Cook would build and run a little inn that would be known for miles around for its excellent cuisine.  Sally would learn the trade, and when Stacey was old, he would give the inn to Sally, and like a good son, Sally would keep the inn going and allow Stacey to keep on there to dispense of old age wisdom and cooking advice.Surely there was no better dream than this.  Surely they could make it.  Surely he would not take another step toward that awful vessel, which held nothing but pain and shame.

"Stacey!  Git to the ship b'fore we leaves ya!"

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sally, Part 6

1.  I have some awesome facebook friends who shared my blog.
2.  Figuring out this story has been easier than anticipated.
3.  I found a couple more people to help edit my dating book.

You'll want to read Part 5 if you want to understand this part.  Thanks for reading.

At first The Cook wondered if little people held the same time honored custom of opening a door when it was knocked on.  He tried to listen  for any sign of movement, but nothing came.  He looked closer at the door and noticed that there was hardly a crack to be seen.  This little person's hands had either done some marvelous work, or had found a real treasure.  The Cook knocked once more as a last ditch effort.  Perhaps it wasn't a good idea to leave a baby with a child.  He was reminded of "The blind leading the blind," but didn't all parents fall into this saying?

"What are you doing?"  The voice was high and quiet, but mysteriously powerful.

The Cook turned to see a little girl who he guessed was about seven, standing behind some boxes.  To say that she had surprised him would be an understatement. She was a submarine attacking a battleship, much smaller, but at an advantage.  If she had had a mind to stab The Cook he would never have made it back to the ship.  "I wanted to talk to you."

"Why?  You don't look like the men who sell us to the rich."
"No miss.  I'm the cook of a ship docked here.  I have..." he started to question his plan again, "I have something very special I need to give to someone."
"And what does that have to do with me?"  She took a couple of steps back.
"Well... well what's you're name?"
"My name?  I don't have one."  Of course she had no name.  Mother's give names, not dirty cities.
"Um... what are you called then?"
At this her eyes lit up and she stood up straight "The other kids call me Scratch."
"Why do they call you that?"
"Because of how good I am at scratching the bad parts off food and being able to eat the rest."
The chef in him cringed, but the foster father saw a survivor.  "How long have you been doing this?"
Scratch gave The Cook a puzzled look.  "My whole life."
"Well, how do you feel about babies."
At this The Cook saw the girl flash a big row of rotting teeth.  "Oh, I love babies.  I've got a bunch of them."
"A bunch?"
"Yeah."  The girl took a step forward, and then stepped back and stared at The Cook.  The Cook waited, but she just kept staring, as if she were expecting something.  After about thirty awkward seconds The Cook took a step away from Scratch, and she took a step forward.  He then took two, and she followed.  This dance continued until The Cook was far enough away from the door that Scratch felt comfortable using it, but close enough to notice that in that very well made door was a hole just big enough for Scratch's index finger.  Any big men looking for children to sell couldn't get their way in there without breaking the door or themselves.  Scratch stepped away from the door and walked back into the ally, so there was room for The Cook to walk to her door again and notice, neatly lined up, four good sized stones laying in little beds of hay.  Little Scratch did indeed love babies.
"This is great.  Would you like a real baby?"
Scratch looked offended, "Those are REAL babies!"
"Oh, I mean, would you like this baby?"  And he pulled out the infant he had been carrying around for so long.
Stars appeared in the little girl's eyes and it was all she could do to keep her distance from The Cook.  "Yes!  I do want that baby."
"Okay.  Well come here, so I can tell you how to take care of him."
This took bravery on Scratch's part, but eventually she stepped forward.  Not close enough for The Cook to grab her, but close enough to see what he was talking about.
"Do you see this sack?"  He held up the sheep's stomach.
She nodded with enthusiasm.
"Okay, I'm going to give you two of them in case one breaks.  I'll give you enough money to buy goat's milk to put in the sacks.  Put this much in."  He held up his thumb and index finger to show Scratch how much milk to put in at a time, "Keep giving him milk until the money for the goat's milk runs out.  Okay?"
She nodded again.
To be honest, he, himself, didn't know much more than that about how to care for a baby.  He did want to be able to find the child again though, so he asked, "What will you call him?"
"Sally."  The answer had come faster than he'd anticipated.
"Yeah, I name all my babies Sally."
"But he's a boy."
She spoke slowly, as if The Cook wouldn't be able to understand her, "I call all of my babies Sally."
The Cook almost gave his same argument again, but saw that this was not an argument he was going to win before needing to go back to the ship.  "Okay, well, can you call him Sal, for short?  Just so people know which baby you're talking about?"
Scratch thought a moment, "Maybe.  I'm not sure if I'll remember to, but I'll try."
"Okay.  Well, thank you."  And with that, The Cook left young Sally in the arms of what was actually a ten year old girl in the port city of Andrill.  Likening Andrill to 'the deep end' really doesn't do the city justice, it's more like 'the ocean near a pack of sharks.'  Sally had better not just learn to swim, but swim faster than the sharks, and soon.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sally, Part 5

1.  I have clothes.
2.  We have grapes going bad in our fridge.  I don't so much like that they are going bad, but that we have food enough to allow that.
3.  Silverware.  Without it, cereal would be much less enjoyable.

If you have not read Part 4 you'll probably want to.  This probably won't make much sense if you haven't.

Finding and buying the food needed for the voyage would be easy.  The Cook had already made many business partners in Andrill who always had food ready for him and who gave him remarkably good prices because he purchased in such quantity.  The idea of currency was still young in the world, but The Cook was of the first to fall in love with it.  Just two years before he had found himself running around Andrill, buying a mule from one man with gold so that another would sell him jerked venison.  For a man trying to catch a boat bartering was not an option.  So, as quickly as he could, he found vendors who dealt only in gold.  Gold was the way of the future, and The Cook wanted only to deal with those who were on board.  As an added bonus, the year he stopped bartering was also the year he had an extra two hours to experience Andrill (which was sometimes pleasant and sometimes not).  He figured this year to be no different and that two hours would be just enough to find someone to give the child to.

As The Cook walked from one vendor to the next he started to look for someone he thought would be a good care taker to leave the child with.  Andrill had no shortage of wealthy people and The Cook began to dream for his little ward.  Perhaps the boy could go to school.  Maybe he could ride on horses, and buy expensive jewels to be set into trinkets that had no use but to be pretty.  Perhaps he could buy a large mansion and have servants.  Then The Cook really began to dream.  Maybe he would hire an old sea cook for his kitchen, and that cook wouldn't have to buy awful produce and feed his creations to ungrateful mouths.  What better sea cook than he, the man who saved the boy in his infancy?

Angry shouting roused The Cook from his fantasy.  There, amid the throng, was a woman, dressed in a large purple dress with gold trimming, yelling at a small boy, dressed in rags and carrying a very high stack of packages, with one lying at his feet.  She demanded he pick it up and not let another of her boxes touch the ground.  The Cook then noticed more children, walking shortly behind rich adults, dressed in worse than poor pirates.  Only occasionally did he see a child dressed well, and when he did, that child always bore a strong resemblance to the adults he or she walked with.  He had never noticed it before, he had never had a  reason to, Andrill's wealthy enslaved orphans.  What The Cook could not see was that child slaves were practically a commodity to the rich.  A family was not considered respectable, or part of he elite of Andrill unless it owned at least a couple of children.  Granted, the slaves always had a roof, always had food, and were often taught a trade so that when their masters had no more use for them, they could find work.  But the labor was hard, too hard for little fingers, and many of the children would drop dead in the fields before reaching adolescence.

The Cook had worked too hard and risked too much to leave the boy to such a fate, but who else was there to leave him with?  The other adults The Cook saw were barely getting by themselves, he feared (and this was his prejudice of the people of Andrill) that the baby would end up in a stew for much needed protein.  An even worse idea would be to give him to one of the scampering halflings who were shrewd enough to sell him to a wealthy family for a tidy profit, and then The Cook would be back to his original fear.

The time to get back on the ship was drawing close, and still The Cook had not found a suitable guardian.  It could be argued that The Cook hoped too much for the child, after all, what could really be expected for the bastard child of a whore?  Perhaps fighting to stay alive as a slave was the best situation for him.  Just as The Cook was about to give up, and leave the boy to a destiny of servitude, he noticed a little face peering out of a darkened hole in the wall nestled within an ally way.  As he walked closer the face noticed him and disappeared.  The Cook investigated the hole she had been looking out of.  For a child, the deception was quite remarkable, as the hole was no longer there.  It had been crafted so that the face could live beneath a house, but that the panel that worked as a door to her dwelling was concealed whenever an outsider came near.  The Cook then got an idea, could this little face care for a baby?  The thought at first was ludicrous, but after seeing the other inhabitants of Andrill, The Cook began to think seriously about it.  He could teach that little face to feed the baby using goat's milk in a sheep's stomach.  The face had crafted a very deceptive door.  And, if The Cook remembered right, children often loved, even if it was not in their best interest to do so.  This cleverly disguised hiding spot might just be the home The Cook was hoping for.  Sure, the boy would not have an education, but he would have his freedom, and in Andrill, if he were clever enough, he could make his fortune.  The Cook hesitated once more, and then gave a sharp rap on the make shift door.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sally, Part 4

1.  My baby likes the pacifier.  Judge if you want to, but that little instrument keeps her happy and gives me time to work.
2.  I wrote a Mantra two days ago that worked yesterday, and seems to be working today.
3.  Football has started.

If you haven't read Part 3 then this post won't make a lot of sense.

Andrill, the port between all lands, the hub of all commerce, and perhaps the most disgusting city to ever be built by hands.  Throughout the city was a horrible stench that wafted up and down ally ways, from street to wandered street that would occasionally make foreigners throw up just after stepping off the boat.  It was a mixture of rotting fish, feces, and some unknown scent that gave it a sour quality.  The people sweated it, the buildings were stained by it, and the food tasted of it.  How anyone stayed living there was a mystery to most in the world, but for Andrill's inhabitants, the answer was simple:  Money.  If someone wanted to get rich Andrill was the place to do it.  Ever since the invention of ships that could cross seas, Andrill had been known as The City of Commerce.  It lay just between the main continents of Bilnah and Calman, and near enough to all other major land masses to make it a gateway for all things exotic.  Two headed snakes from Hitno, swords from Callen, gems and rubies from places no one had heard of with sellers who didn't speak common well enough to tell.  If it's worth something, you can find it in Andrill.

The Cook stepped off the boat, his legs wobbly from being at see for too long.  He felt Andrill an awful place for him to have to get supplies, with the food tasting of sour milk or worse.  But The Captain was a man whose money purse was hard to please, while his taste buds were not, so Andrill was the right place to pick up produce.  Aside from the stench, and the discolored buildings, Andrill really was an amazing place to look at.  It teamed with life from all over the world.  For the most part the inhabitants were humans whose ancestors had founded the city centuries before, but one could also find Dwarves from the mountains, selling their weapons, or Wood Elves  from the western wood selling their bows.  And everywhere, like mice keeping their tails from carving knives, ran swarms of halflings who had left their homes beneath hills looking for riches in big cities, but found only filthy apartments and demeaning work.

More than a dozen times The Cook would almost step on a halfling, and more than twice he had to get after one for digging around in his pockets looking for gold.  The Cook had been here enough times to not be impressed by the wonders in the streets, and to keep his money hidden where pickpockets' hands would not find it.  Being a true man of his trade, The Cook had a very impressive sense of smell, which made his food breathtaking in the best of circumstances and eatable at the worst, but his sense of smell was his demise in Andrill, for each time he breathed in he was disgusted by what he could smell in the air, because while you or I could only pick out a couple of awful tidbits in the cacophony of odors, The Cook could pick out almost all of them, from what we could easily pick out as rotting meat, to what we would barely notice as rotting humans.  The city's worst qualities were laid wide before his nose, but again, he had been there too often to care.  He had two jobs to do, buy enough food to keep the crew alive for the next ten months at sea, and drop off one precious child.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sally, Part 3

1.  I have friends, both blogging and otherwise who put me in my place.
2.  I've made a list of things to do today, so I should be able to get more done.
3.  My baby takes right to the bottle while my wife is at work (it was a concern).

You won't get this post unless you read Part 2.

Keeping the baby would prove to be more difficult than The Cook had anticipated.  Even finding a place to lay the baby while he cooked was difficult.  Each surface and sack had its own pitfalls: the maggots in the meat, the knives on the block, the insects in the vegetables.  In the end, the cook made a sling for the child, little more than a piece of cloth hung up with the sausages.  The Cook carefully laid the boy in his new hammock and then stared at it.  When he was satisfied, he took his bedroll and set it up underneath where the baby swung.  The Cook stared up at what looked to be the fattest tube of salami ever to end up in his seasick kitchen.  And finally the sway of the child hypnotized The Cook into a deep slumber.

To his relief, and to be completely honest, to his surprise, the sling had worked.  When he woke up to make breakfast the child still hung there just as he had the night before.  The Cook was also surprised that the child didn't end up seasick, but then again, he had been growing with the rock of the ocean his whole life.  Expertly, The Cook started making the morning meal while he took a bag made of sheep's stomach, poked a hole in the bottom, and poured a little of the goat's milk into it, as much as he thought the baby would drink.  He knew that he couldn't take the baby into the mess hall, so he put his mind to work again on how he could feed the child without disturbing the morning ritual, for surely The Captain would not come looking for his illegitimate son, but would come looking if breakfast was not on his plate at the usual time.  So, with the baby getting fussy, The Cook tide a string to the sack, hung it from the ceiling and down into the sling, and tied it off when it was just low enough for the baby to latch on to it.  Once again, The Cook was surprised at his success and was able to keep his shipmates unaware that he himself hadn't killed the child.

Don't be mistaken, The Cook knew little to nothing about babies.  It is merely by luck that the baby was not found.  He hardly fussed because he was soothed by the steady rocking of the boat, the hiss of the ocean's spray, and that his hammock kept his fist more or less in his mouth.  The Cook fed him every time he got a chance, which was just often enough to keep him happily full, and The Cook often had linens to wash so it didn't seem odd that he was washing a few more each time.  If it all sounds like a happy coincidence, it was.  By all calculations the baby should have been thrown overboard the night of his birth.  And yet, by exceptional luck, he lived through that night, and the nights to follow.  Then, when The Cook thought that there was no possible way to keep the child one night longer the sailor in the crow's nest finally let out the signal that he saw land, and The Cook knew that the boy was saved, because the next land would be the port city of Andrill, and there he would be expected to go and resupply the stock of food.  His plan was simple, though effective:  he would hide the baby in a sack, and while he was out buying the rations, he would leave the child with the first big hearted person he could find.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sally, Part 2

1.  When the baby projectile pooped on me, it only got on my pajamas and not any nice clothes.
2.  Portal 2.  One.  Awesome. Game.
3.  Beating Portal 2.  It felt pretty good.

Part 1 of this story is here.

A cry cut through the night and into every sailor's ear.  The child, the horrible monster who might soon condemn someone to death had finally arrived.  The Cook commanded the woman to push again and its slimy body slithered the rest of its way out.  The Cook had been volunteered to be the doctor when The Woman was seen pregnant.  They had no proper doctor, but The Cook had dealt with meat and butchering, so he seemed the best choice.  He agreed to the job, not so much because he felt qualified, but because he knew The Captain's temper.  Once completely out, The Cook looked at the exhausted mother and made a noise in the back of his throat to get her attention.  She looked over and he showed her the infant, framed beautifully in his huge and expert hands.  The Cook knew that there was little chance of the child living aboard that ship, but he was a man of principle.  Surely, a hard life would not bring The Woman to doing the unthinkable, that of rejecting her own young.  And yet, even when she looked at her child, and saw that it was a strong and healthy boy that had a nice resemblance to The Captain, she glowered and then looked away.

As he showed the child to her, The Cook was looking at the men and could feel their relief at a large mass of thick black hair, olive skin, and clearly entirely human.  Word quickly got out to all those who could not see for themselves, and while they would not allow themselves to say a word, for fear The Captain would hear them, they did rejoice in their hearts.  With the looks of the child The Captain could not punish any of them.  The Captain was in the room too, and hardly gave a sideways glance at the child.  The boy was clearly his, but he was a captain, a tyrant in many ways, and he knew that having a child, even a strong son, would slow him down in ways he did not know and might keep him from directing the ship as he now did.

To look at The Cook one would think him a stupid man.  His head was entirely bald, he had soulless eyes, a slacked jaw, and what looked to be a wattle just below his chin.  His belly also spoke of him sampling his own cooking frequently, and a tattoo on his arm read, "Marm" with a heart around it.  But, behind what looked to be a moron stood a man who had been taught by his mother to love life and be a hard worker, so when he told his shipmate to tattoo "Mom" on his arm, he hardly meant for the title to be spelled so absurdly.  He could tell that The Woman didn't want the boy, and that The Captain would just as soon throw it to the sharks.  So, like the honorable seaman he was, he hid the baby under his apron and walked back to the kitchen, knowing that, so long as the baby stayed there, it would be safe from the tyrannical hands of The Captain.

So there ya go.  Again, if you want me to keep going with this let me know, and if you don't let me know also.  It's nice to always have something to blog about, but there was a wise author (Stephen King) who said that no one writes something entirely for themselves in a public forum, writing for one's self is what diaries are for. So, let me know.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sally, The Adventure Begins

1.  My beautiful daughter is sleeping.
2.  I can write because of #1.
3.  I just finished watching Little Women (I know, I'm a nerd), and it made me remember a story I had an idea for.

It would be storming.  The whole voyage had been unsettling, but it made sense for it to be storming tonight.  This, the paramount of all that had gone wrong.  The Captain would later say that he had let her on board because she was destitute and she had said she would be no trouble.  He would explain that his heart broke at her story about a man who left her in St. Hollen penniless because she could not bear him a child.  And how it made him all the more amazed when she started to show six months in.  The truth of it though, was that she was beautiful, the kind of beautiful that The Captain found particularly fascinating, with long black hair, blue eyes, and long legs.  The Captain would also throw in that he would never again disregard the council of his crew, because they had all told him at the start that having a woman on board was bad luck.  In the end of his story though, he would finally tell a spot of truth, that he was angered at the fact that it was impossible to know whose the infant was, because he had not been the only one bewitched by her.

Thunder tried violently to drown out the exhausted moan of the woman on the table, but the sailors cared not for the storm.  Each of them had enjoyed the woman, and now each of them waited to see if it would tell who the father was.  Would it have red hair like Jimmy, or have black skin like Donba'.  There was also Zunkar, who was half Elven, who would give the child a distinctive look.  In most cases they would not know whose the baby was, but each certainly wished to pass blame if possible.

For surely, judgement would be passed on to whoever would allow themselves to be seduced by The Captain's woman.  For, although The Captain never said so, the woman was his, and any man found touching her would certainly feel all the wrath The Captain could inflict.  If there was any question as to what The Captain would do, one had only to remember Derek and Jeremy.  Derek had already been seduced and upon finding her with Jeremy, proceeded to start a knife fight on the main deck.  It's hard to remember now who won, but it is easy to remember that the dead one was tied to the mast to be pecked at by the seagulls and devoured by the flies, and the other was tied just below him, so that his blood would fall on his head, and the gulls would be drawn to him.  No one wanted the child to have their features, and none of them could sleep until they knew for sure.

So, that's kind of the beginning of it.  I'm not sure if I'll ever finish it, but I felt like writing it.  Hope you liked it.  I'm debating writing the whole story in short segments here on my blog... not sure yet.  Let me know if it's something you'd be interested reading.

I almost forgot, have a nice day.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day 1: Paul May or May Not Ruin His Child

1.  A friend of mine told me how to play Oblivion so I don't get killed all the time.
2.  I have opposable thumbs.  They're just useful.
3.  The pacifier.  Whoever figured that out deserves the peace prize.

Well, today is my first day alone with the pretty princess.  I wasn't sure her mother would actually leave me alone with her, but today was her first day back at work and the girl is all mine.  The brain washing has begun.  Her and I are watching Remo Williams as I type this (a goofy action movie).  I want to make sure she likes the kind of movies I like so that when a vote is cast on what to watch it'll be like two votes automatically for my side.  I debated explaining their, there, and they're so I'd have another Grammar Nazi on my side, but thought it was too soon.  I mean, we need to teach her to act superior to everyone else and feel the joy of making people feel stupid before we get into grammar.  It just won't stick unless she realizes how much joy it can bring.

All kidding aside I was a little nervous for this day.  I don't think I've been alone with her for more than three hours in a stretch and now it'll be a total of eight hours.  I was afraid she'd start crying as soon as Mom left and then I'd have eight hours of screaming.  As it turns out, our little girl really doesn't seem to mind being around me, or she's just too nice to tell me so.  She slept until nine or so. I fed her at ten.  And now she lays in the little bouncer watching a movie.  Ladies and Gentlemen, this may actually work out.  I might not let our daughter die, or go crazy.  I have a feeling I'll have a good day.

You go and do the same.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I Don't Always Get Sick of People

1.  Burt's Bees Chapstick.  Just gotta love products that work.
2.  The Fisher Price swing.  It may not always keep my baby quiet, but it sure helps.
3.  When my wife recognizes something I've done and compliments me on it.

Most of the time, when I'm really sick of being around people, it's because of closed mindedness and prejudice.  Lately though, I've been amazed.  Not at how closed minded people are, but how accepting they've been.  I really have two big examples.

The first is how my wife and I have decided to care for our daughter.  Because we need my wife's employment, we'll be going the non-traditional route of me being the primary care giver.  We've even talked about this being the case in the future.  My wife is a school teacher who loves her students and loves teaching, and with me being a writer, I'll be able to care for our daughter while my wife goes to work.  I may be Mr. Mom forever.  When we first decided to do it, I was ready for arguments from every older person we came in contact with.  I imagined it going something like:

"So, will ____ be quitting her job?"
"Oh, no.  She'll keep working and I'll be taking care of ______"
"Hmmm.  You know, God made women to be care takers and men to be bread winners right?"
"Well, it's true that women are often better at being care givers, but that doesn't mean men can't be.  I'm a very loving person who isn't afraid of diapers or messes.  I think I'll do just fine."
"Is 'just fine' really what you want for your daughter.  Your wife was MADE to do what you are going to try to learn to do."
"Look.  As things are we need her income and we need insurance.  Do you really think that our daughter would have things better if we didn't have those things?"
"Maybe you should try being a man and getting a job."
"Maybe you should mind your business!"

I'm not sure why I thought it would go this way.  It could be because I try to think of the worst possible scenario to cope with anxiety, but that makes me think of worst possible scenario always.  What we've really received from everyone we've told goes something like this:

"So, will _____ be quitting her job?"
"Nope, I'll be the primary care giver."
"Oh, well that'll be good.  Then she won't have to quit teaching."
"Yeah, we have it figured out so that she can keep working and I'll keep going to school.  My mom is going to help while I'm at school."
"It's so great that couples can do that now."
"It really is isn't it?"

To say the least, it's been refreshing.

The second is me deciding to be a writer for a living.  I was expecing:

"So, if you're not going to be a therapist, what will you be?"
"My wife and I talked about it, and I'm going to try writing."
"What kind of stuff will you write?"
"Mostly novels."
"You know how much competition there is right?"
"Don't you care about your family?  There's no security there."
"That's not totally true.  I'll be my own boss, which means that I'll never get laid off.  I just sell my product to someone else."
"Think about it however you want.  I think you should be responsible and get a real job."

What I've really received:

"So, if you're not going to be a therapist, what do you want to be?"
"_____ and I talked about it, and I'm going to try to be a writer."
"Really?  That's great.  What kind of stuff do you want to write?"
"Novels mostly."
"That's awesome.  I didn't know that about you.  Let me know what you've published one and I'll go buy it."
"Thanks, I will."

Again, refreshing.  I just love the people around me.  They're so supportive, even when what I want to do isn't the convention.

Have a nice day.