Goodbye Christmas, Hello Resolutions

Whew! Made it through another holiday and I’m still here. No more sappy Santa or snow songs at Starbucks. No more pressure to buy, buy, buy. Two peaceful family gatherings and a peaceful neighborhood this morning. Today, nothing more dangerous than heading to the theater to finally see Rogue One. All that’s left is the year’s weirdest week…and next year’s resolutions.

I usually ignore the New Year’s Resolution tradition because it seems everyone else observes it, and I prefer going against the grain. Yesterday, however, my younger daughter spoke about hers and it made me wonder if it isn’t time for me to do the same, especially since I’ve been sharing with my son the importance of having goals, both long-term and short.

So now I sit at Starbucks pondering my future. Do I have any goals? Well, yeah, I think everyone does. I’d like to find an agent, I’d like to perform well at our big swim meet in April, I’d like to see my son graduate high school. Three good, valid goals I’d like to see happen in 2017. However, I’ve realized these are goals already in place, not new.

The more I think about it, the more one of my favorite Bible verses comes to mind: “God has told you, O man, what is good and what he requires of you: to do justice, to love kindness (or mercy), and to walk humbly with your God.”(Micah 6:8)

Good noble goals, don’t you think? I do love justice, but do I practice justice? How can I live this out? Justice (as opposed to vengeance) is popular to talk about in America, but I know enough of the Bible to understand that this is about justice for the poor, the weak, and the defenseless. Who can I stand up for? At this point, I’m not sure, so I’ll have to start researching if this resolution is to become reality.

I definitely love kindness and mercy, especially when it’s extended to me, but I need to work on extending it to others, most notably with those I don’t like. And walking humbly? Ouch. Far too often I make my life all about me, not just from the way I act, but the way I love to talk about myself rather than listening to others.

All three of these goals, if I really want to pursue them as resolutions, will require changes in me that will be difficult to achieve. Isn’t that the point of New Year’s Resolutions, however? To seek to better one’s self and, hopefully, make a small change for the better in the lives of others? Damn, but that sounds noble. LOL! I guess 2017 will show if I have any nobility in me.

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I am King

Note: This takes place maybe 10 years before events in my book, Blood of the Dragon. The character has a supporting role in the book, but I expect him to be one of the main characters in the sequel. This is a writing exercise to help me find his voice.

I did not expect the human to accept my offer of lunch. None ever have before, but she is young. Maybe she is simply intrigued that I said I would pay her only in gold.

I don’t like the way humans look at me as if I am not worthy of being near them. I know I am not beautiful like my former master, but I am a king and I do not wear rags anymore. They should bow when they see me, not sneer down their fat noses! That is why I want this website. She is very clever and makes ugly people appear beautiful and smart. That is what I want. The world should see me that way.

I don’t eat with humans often. They ruin their meat, cooking it until there’s no blood left, but the pub I will meet her in makes a very tasty turnip pasty with perfectly golden brown crust, and serves a wonderful Irish Cream Ale that makes me dizzy when I have too much. The pub has dark corners as well, which are good for staring out of but not for peeking into.

The waitress knows me and shows me to my favorite table close to the kitchen exit but still a dim corner. They like my gold, even if they don’t know the design. Human banks always take my gold. It must melt down just fine.

My tankard is in my hand and a bit of froth above my lip when she arrives, squinting in the dim pub. I squint back at her dark shape outlined in the doorway by an overly bright afternoon sun. I watch and wait to see how long it takes for her to find me. Eventually she does—there are only a couple of other patrons this early—and threads her way past the tables to me.

She’s a bit wobbly on those heels. Those are clearly not shoes made by me. Her choice of clothes is strange: gray leggings and a gray-white striped shirt that hangs a bit loose, colors that remind me of when I was a servant, but she clearly thinks they make her look pretty. She might be pretty. I certainly have noticed human men stare at forms like hers that are plump in the rear and chest. I don’t like fat unless I can eat it. I do like her hair; it is long and as brown as rich dirt, and her skin is fair, not ruined by too much sun. These contrasts in her appearance—beauty and ugliness—make me think of how the world sees me: what I can make for them and how I appear to them.

Her young face is the same: small blue eyes that almost glitter and a cute little nose, but a wide mouth that does not stop chomping gum. I sip my ale until she reaches my table, my eyes never leaving her figure. Humans like that, but it scares them too. They are flattered but fear I like them too much.

“Hagr Cummins?” she asks timidly. When I nod, she says, “I’m Sara Walsh.”

I put the tankard down and gesture for her to sit. I want to laugh, but humans are too stupid to understand the joke of the surname I have chosen. “Little bent one” is what it means.

“Would you like a drink, dear one?” I ask with all the politeness I can muster. She stares at me, a bit aghast. The humans who do that all think they are too pretty for one like me, even if I am a king. This is why I need a website. When a human sees me, I want them to already know how rich I am. Even pretty girls would like how I look then. I could change that right now if I put a bag of gold coins in front of her, but I don’t want her to know how wealthy I am. Not yet.

“Just water,” she says as she sits, and I snap my fingers for the waitress.

As we wait, she fumbles for small talk, settling on the unseasonably warm weather. Mostly I nod, letting her talk. When I was a servant, my master would do the same, and I would always say too much. Then I’d feel foolish. So I let her ramble until she grimaces and addresses the point of our meeting.

“So, you’re the king of shoemakers?”

I nod. I’m the king of much more, but I never let humans know that. They never believe the truth until it bites their nose off, and even then they pretend the world is what they want it to be. I reach into my bag and pull out a pair of heels, setting them on the table. They are black like hers, but the lines flow with more style. The heel is narrower and taller. The color screams, “Wear me and be beautiful.”

“Try these on your pretty feet, Sara Walsh. If they fit, they are yours.”

Her eyes widen at my offer. I want to snicker but my master’s beatings taught me that I can only do that with those I rule. She reaches for them as if they are made of glass, then gasps as her fingertips brush the leather. When the look in her eyes, initially full of astonishment at how soft and supple the leather is, transforms into desire, I know I will not have to give up any of my gold.

Tentatively, she removes her shoes and slips her feet into these. Of course, they fit perfectly, better than any shoe has ever fit her. She stands, bracing herself on the table and I smile. She has never worn such a narrow heel and expects to fall.

She lets go and takes two small steps, then a third and fourth that are normal, and she does not wobble. She struts to the door and back. The other patrons—all older men—stare at her hips, entranced. She clearly feels their eyes, and her countenance twists from desire into greed as she once more sits. I smile, knowing she is mine.

“They are perfect! It’s like magic! Do you really mean I can keep these?”

“Oh yes, Sara Walsh. These and many more can be yours if we reach an accord. I will keep you supplied in all the shoes your heart can desire if you can make my shoes famous.”

I already know her answer. She is ready to sell her soul for Leprechaun Shoes because her shoes are indeed magic.

Interrogation

My assignment: to write a short story using “subject of an interrogation,” “person who steals cats,” “lightning,” and “worst haircut ever.” Here’s the result. It does get a bit ridiculous, but I hope you can enjoy it nonetheless.

I don’t like this room. It’s cold and there’s no color. The top half of the walls are white like old snow and the bottom half dark grey like heavy clouds. The plastic table is the kind of white that screams how unimportant I am. The metal chair that freezes my butt is grey. So is the chair on the other side of the table, but it’s empty. The only light is one of those long skinny lights that belong in basement.

The only color is when I look in the mirror that covers the wall opposite my seat. It doesn’t have color, but I do, so I stare. Normally, my hair is brown, but I let my sister cut it. If anyone reads this, give them this warning from me: never let a girl cut your hair after you’ve pissed her off! It was the worst haircut ever. Some parts are long, others short. Part of the hair on top of my head stands straight up—the right side when I look in the mirror. I run my fingers lightly over it. That part is so spiky I’m surprised I don’t stab my palm. The other side lies down because she didn’t cut it short.

I bend my head down and try to look up to see the bald spot. I can just barely see it and rub it. I shouldn’t have a bald spot. I’m not an old man like my dad. He’s almost forty. He’s supposed to have a bald spot. But my sister made sure I had one to match his. That’s why I went to Jimmy’s house.

Jimmy Baker has a big sister who’s a teenager. My sister will be a teenager next year, that’s probably why she doesn’t know how to really do hair yet. I used to have a crush on Brittany. That’s Jimmy’s sister. She has a boyfriend now, and he’s really big, so I don’t stare at her anymore. I think he’s on the high school football team and I don’t want him to beat me up for staring.

Brittany dyed her hair pink for something at school, and had some leftover dye. Jimmy said he could use it on my hair and mix it with some of his mom’s hair dye. Her hair is black and he said if we mixed the two colors together, I could have purple hair. Then no one would notice my worst haircut ever and would only see the color.

Jimmy told me that even Ava Jackson would notice me then. She’s the prettiest girl in fifth grade and all her homework is perfect. When he said that, I figured he knew what he was talking about, because he kissed a girl in third grade. I was there during recess when he did it. He was dad and Olivia Robinson was mom and Mia Thomas was my sister. Right before the bell rang, he kissed her because he said he was going to work, and Olivia kissed him back. So every boy in our class trusts Jimmy when he says what a girl will like.

I never made it to school, though. I made it here to the police station. It was the cat’s fault. I keep wondering if there’s anyone behind that mirror staring back at me like on cop shows so I start making faces at myself. My purple hair is the only real color in the room except for my pink tongue, so I stick that out a lot. Then I laugh, because any adult who’s watching me must be rolling their eyes.

But then I think of that darn cat. I didn’t take the bus this morning because I wanted to walk to school so everyone could see my purple hair, even if it’s the worst haircut ever. How was I supposed to know the cat belonged to somebody? It didn’t have a collar with a license and was just wandering around. It was sooooo cute, like it belonged on a calendar. All grey with big green eyes and this lightning-shaped white streak on its forehead just like Harry Potter, and it came right up to me, rubbing against my jeans.

When I bent down to stroke its back, it purred as loud as the garbage truck! That’s when I knew I should take it home. My parents don’t like pets, but how could they resist this cat?

I called him Lightning and he purred even louder, so I picked him up to carry him home. Then some huge man charged out of his house yelling at me in some language I didn’t understand. He made Brittany’s football boyfriend look small. It makes sense to you why I ran, doesn’t it? I suppose I should’ve dropped Lightning, but now he was licking my fingers and his fur was sooooo soft, so I kept running until I got home. The man didn’t chase me very far. He was too fat.

I should have gone to school to show off my purple hair to Ava, but I would’ve been tardy, and I needed to take care of Lightning. He had just curled up on my bed, still purring, when the police cars came to my house, tires squealing. Five of them with their lights flashing and sirens screaming. Lightning ran under the bed and I haven’t seen him since. The police all jumped out and hid behind their cars with their guns pointed at my house.

A policeman had one of those electric speaker things that you hold in one hand and yell into.

“Put down any weapons and come out peacefully with your hands where we can see them!” At least, I think that’s what he yelled. My heart was beating pretty loud at that point, because there was no one home but me, and I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.

Lightning meowed rather loudly from under my bed and that’s when I knew I’d committed a horrible crime. I’d stolen the big man’s cat. Unless the principal sent the cops after me. Either way, I was in big trouble. Then I got scared because there was no way my dad wouldn’t find out, so I decided I’d better not pretend to not be home.

I yelled, “Don’t shoot, I’m coming,” out my window, then went downstairs and out the front door. My mom would be proud of me. I remembered to lock the front door and had my house key!

The policemen came out from behind their cars with their guns pointed at me. That’s when I figured my principal must’ve figured out I was skipping school. It’s just the sort of thing she’d ask the police to do to scare a kid who didn’t show up.

So that’s how I ended up in this room at the police station. The “integration room” or something like that, the lady who took me here called it. I think it might’ve been a Russian word, because the policeman who drove me here kept asking me how I knew the Russian, but I don’t know any Russian. Maybe he meant the big man.

The door to the room opened and my heart sank. I’m in real trouble now. My dad just walked in. Maybe I could blame it all on my sister. I mean, she’s the one who cut my hair.