...to bıdı bıdı and thanks for signing on!


See You All Next Year

I've had a lot of problems with Word documents, internet connections, etc. over the past few weeks and I haven't been able to compose the several stories that I had planned before the end of the month. So I'll leave you with the timeless bit by Stephen Colbert to last through Christmas and into the New Year. Godspeed to 2011, hopefully we'll see each other in a better 2012!


A Violation of the Exclusion Act

His father had kept bees, and his father before him, and his before him. Tradition spoke of his ancestors pulling honey from trees for years untold before the first Portuguese sailors had even sighted Brazil. He was well-known by the biologists at the university in Rio Claro. He was their local expert.

So it was nothing out of the ordinary when he was seen walking around the experimental sector of the agricultural research facility on October 15, 1957. Everyone who’d seen him simply assumed he’d been invited to observe the apiary while the lead scientist was away. Several of the staff had even waved to him as they passed by and no one said a word when he began to open the hives.

Dr. Warwick Kerr returned a few days later and noticed a stack of metal-screened frames propped against an outbuilding nearby his experiments. He recognized immediately what they were, he’d built them himself, but he didn’t at first understand why they were there. They should have been in the...

Dr. Kerr quickly pulled on his hood and rushed to the hives. Each one that he opened revealed the same shocking fact. They were half-emptied and the queens were gone. All of them.


The unnamed local bee-keeper didn’t realize what he was doing when he removed the “excluders” that kept the queens confined to their hives. He was right in his knowledge that it was too early in the season to keep the queens and drones from entering the upper “supers” but it might have been better had he been less generous in applying his knowledge.

Off in the jungles of southeastern Brazil, twenty-six swarms of African honeybees were spreading out, finding new homes in trees and caves and barns. It wasn’t long before the first casualties appeared.


OCCUPY Pittsburgh!

Since the federal government assumed the obligations of all state liabilities the nation was faltering under the weight of crushing debt. It seemed there was no easy way out of it. Austerity was proposed but it wouldn’t be enough. A new tax had to be enacted and it would be met with resistance.

The first protests were by just a handful of malcontents. They claimed the new tax was unreasonable, that it placed undue burdens on the working man while the money-men sitting behind their desks at the mega-corporations in the east didn’t miss a meal. It almost seemed like a deliberate plan to ruin small businesses, a conspiracy, especially since the big ones were fully supportive of it.

The movement grew organically. Those with any axe to grind against big government or big money filtered in and joined the phenomenon. Secession was a hot topic among the protestors. Foreign revolutions were pointed to as models for the next stage of the movement. Posters and flyers advocating the cause dotted billboards and newspapers ran threatening letters of opposition. The authorities, outnumbered, were powerless to stem the tide of revolt; any figures that tried to assert their authority were answered with violence.

When the radicals exercised their right to freedom of assembly in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, their numbers had reached 7,000; significant considering that the population of the town was only 1,000 at the time. Several buildings were burnt. Finally, the President had to act.

Around October 23, 1794, a contingent of militia (larger than the army that had defeated the British just a few years earlier) entered western Pennsylvania and began to quell the Whiskey Rebellion. Those arrested for resisting America’s first internal direct tax on its populace were all eventually pardoned but the precedent of federal sovereignty had been established.


A Gentleman's Agreement

The President was beyond frustrated and he vented to his old Chancellor.

“I’m tired, Franz. I’m 85 years old and you know I didn’t even want to be here. I’m missing my retirement and instead what am I dealing with? We’ve suffered to keep this land together since the end of the war and we’ve never been able to form a consensus in the government – not once! All I’ve done is use Article 48 to bypass the representatives in order enact the most basic of legislation. And when they manage to somehow find enough agreement to try and nullify the laws, I simply dismiss the government and call for new elections! What’s the point of even pretending that we have a Constitution?

“Since you were forced to resign the Chancellorship, I’ve been miserable. The American banks calling in their loans, hyperinflation, six million unemployed, spending cuts, higher taxes... The economy? I don’t remotely understand it and frankly I have no desire to!”

Franz consolingly frowned at his old friend.

“There is a way; a way to peace. I have secured a gentleman’s agreement with the leader of the majority party. But there is one condition...”

It has been said that a person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it. Paul von Hindenburg appointed a man to the Chancellorship in order to placate him and avoid the continued deterioration of the Weimar Republic. He inadvertently placed his nation on its fated path because a year later he was dead, and the man he legally appointed used his unique power to merge the office of Chancellor with the vacant office of President.

Neville Chamberlain also made a gentleman’s agreement with Adolf Hitler on September 29, 1938 naively intended, as before, to achieve a “peace for our time.”


The Megalithic Magician

Edward stopped his work when the frogs quit their night-chorus. Someone was prowling about. Outside the walls surrounding his property two teenage boys crept through a grove of palms:

“I’m tellin’ you Johnny, that stone floated like a balloon, right over his head.”

“Okay, but if mama finds out I sneaked out on a school night again, I’m done for.”

“Come on, you chicken; boost me up...”

A few minutes later, the two boys peered wide-eyed over the top of an 8’ coral wall. By the light of the moon, they saw a short man in coveralls standing motionless before an intricate stone machine.

“What’s that thing?” Johnny whispered.

“I don’t know. Keep it down ‘for he hears us.”

The man didn’t move for a long time and Johnny grew impatient.

“He ain’t doin’ nothin’, I’ve gotta’ go... hey... is he singin’?”

A low chant echoed through the night as the man finally broke his trance. He raised his hands into the orans position and slowly repeated a single word over and over.


Suddenly the wheels on the machine came to life and began to turn. A shower of sparks erupted from it and a boulder beside the man shakily lifted into the air. But just as quickly as it happened, it ended. The machine went still, the rock dropped, and the man violently turned towards the boys.

“Who’s there?!” he shouted.

The boys didn’t stop running until they reached their beds.

Satisfied that he was alone again, Edward matter-of-factly went back to his block and tackle.

On December 4, 1951, after 32 years of solitary work, Edward Leedskalnin hung a sign on his front door: “Going to the hospital.” Three days later he met his end, but the mystery and legend of his Coral Castle was just beginning.



Welcome and thanks for the "follow" to YADU KARU!


"... or the goose gets it!"

A small group sat on a bench by the door of Callahan’s General Store, waiting for it to open.

“We ought to just snatch one from Town Lake,” Captain James said.

Lori shook her head, “Look, the press is already on our side, we don’t need to add a crime to whatever publicity we get.”

Mother Nature added quickly, “But there definitely has to be some kind of consequence, right? Like when those Vietnam protesters out in Berkeley threatened to burn the puppies if no one listened, right?”

The bells on the door jangled and an employee poked her head out.

“Good morning, folks!”

Diana replied with a warm smile, “Can you show us where you keep your swans?”

A few days later on May 6, 1988, the officers from the newly-formed Street People’s Advisory Council met on the banks of Barton Creek in Central Austin, Texas. About a hundred supporters were there, along with representatives from most of the major press outlets.

A man was listing his grievances behind a microphone but the attention of the reporters kept being drawn towards the bird honking away inside a parakeet cage.

“...and these are our ten demands: First, a public meeting with the mayor...”

A journalist from the Statesman leaned over to Lori, “What happened to the swan?”

Lori blushed.

“We only had $17... Who knew swans cost so much? We had to improvise...”

As the speaker wrapped up, “Either these demands are met...“, another homeless man came swimming up from the creek. He removed a Bowie knife from his mouth and yelled out, “...or the goose gets it!”

Homer the goose didn’t “get it” though, this time or the next. And his perpetual reprieves soon made Homer one of the celebrity-faces of homeless advocacy across the nation and the world.


Сардэчна запрашаем і дзякуй

Dimitri Bashko, the latest and bravest to "follow" here!

Sensical Nonsense!

Welcome and thaks for the "follow" to alix-black!


The Cosmic Conspiracy

Trudy Truelove. That was truly her name. What a name. She was Jim’s girl, in Roswell on July 2nd, 1947, anyway.

The couple reclined in the bed of Jim’s pickup some 35 miles north of town, giggling and kissing. A collection of empty beer bottles lay on the ground and bits of clothing were hanging randomly about; a shirt draped over the tailgate, a sock balancing on the mirror, a bra clinging precariously to a branch above them.

On the horizon, lightning flashed.

Trudy sat up and inhaled the ozone as the wind suddenly whooshed down from the sky.

“Jim, we better get the tent up before the weather sets in.”

Jim grunted and gently pulled at Trudy’s wrist, inviting her to lie back down.

“Sweetie, I’m serious!”

With a smiling sigh, Jim got to his feet. A long groan of thunder echoed through the hills and a streak of light unexpectedly caught his eye.

“Look at that!”

Trudy looked up just in time to see a fiery disk whiz overhead at a tremendous speed. A loud clap accompanied its disappearance over the ridge a mile or so away.

The lovers quickly dressed and sped off to investigate the crash-site of the flying saucer.

What followed proved to be a tangled web of deceit, fraud, and cover-ups. The government tends to be the usual suspect in these types of cases, but in this particular case the web was especially spun by the “witnesses.” (This version of) the story of Jim Ragsdale and the stories of nearly every single participant in what has become the colossus of all conspiracy theories don’t hold up to competing and contrary facts.

But that has never stopped man from believing, once he’s set his mind to it... or if there’s a dollar to be made.


And "Gunk" Makes Three!

Welcome and thanks for the "follow" to caseofdisappearingtiregunk!


Welcome to Choco Mumbo Jumbo

Thanks for the "follow" to Prixie and her muse, who, together, are happy with chocolate, sleep, chocolate, writing and chocolate :) It's been a few weeks but I hope to once again have more time for a few new tales this weekend!


Welcome and Thanks!

Glad to have you "following," Hossain!


The Box Trick

Henry stood outside of his rented Richmond home staring at the approaching wagon. He’d had time to consider this moment for some time but now that it was upon him, his mind drew blank. The tears that had left their tracks on his cheeks were gone and his mouth was dry and numb, unable to form the words he’d wanted to say even if the words had come.

He stepped out into the road as the wagon passed slowly by. In the back, covered with a canvas awning, sat a pregnant woman and three children, all in chains and crying. Henry reached out and grasped the woman’s hand and walked beside them until the pace of the wagon quickened. He remained motionless in the middle of the street as the faces peering back at him grew smaller and smaller.

“Out of the way, slave!”

Henry narrowly avoided the second wagon coming from behind and he felt the hot breath of the horse team on his neck. He looked up blankly at the driver. It was the Methodist minister who’d purchased his wife of twelve years, along with their children, for work in the swamps of North Carolina. The minister leaned over and spoke down to him calmly.

“Don’t pout; you’re permitted to find another wife...”

Twenty-five years later, Henry was living the good life. He’d become a successful author, speaker, and showman in England – as a magician. He worked hard to refine his act and the crowds that came to see him as the “African Prince” had their favorite tricks and would call them out to him at each show. But Henry Brown’s best trick, he’d only performed once – on March 23, 1849, when he stuffed himself into a 3’ x 2’ box and express-mailed himself to freedom in Philadelphia.


Howdy Howdy

to Dr. Rob Rob, welcome and thanks for the "follow!" (This guy knows his coffee).


The Abduction

“Where did your father go?”

“I don’t know,” said Francisco.

As the three unkempt little children turned to go back into the church on August 13, 1917, a man in a crisp suit stepped from a portico and lit a cigarette. They must have passed right by him when they came out and now he was blocking the doorway. The children pretended not to notice him but even with their heads turned away they couldn’t escape his gaze. They felt it on their backs as they crept tentatively back down the stairs.

Before reaching the bottom, they heard the clopping of hooves on the street. The horse whinnied as the driver pulled back stiffly on the reins, stopping the carriage right in front of them.

The man in the suit was suddenly standing right behind them.

“Come on, children! I’ll give you a ride,” he said in an unconvincingly friendly voice.

“We can’t, we've an appointment and my father is walking us,” Francisco said bravely, carefully backing away.

“Yes, your father’s asked me to take you. Let’s go! You don’t want to keep the lady waiting!”

The children hesitated but when the man picked up Francisco and plopped him in the front seat, the two girls reluctantly climbed in. As the man hopped on, the driver cracked the whip and the horse bolted ahead. The carriage turned onto the main road leading out of town.

Francisco cried out, “This isn’t the way! Where are you taking us?”

The man leaned over and whispered in the boy’s ear.

I’m going to boil you all in oil...

Arturo Santos, mayor of the Ourém Municipality in Portugal, would release the three children of Fatima the next day, after unsuccessfully trying to scare them into recanting their tale of visions of a heavenly lady.


Welcome Again!

SAMULI16 has rashly decided to "follow" here - Thanks! More to come this weekend!


Jason is here

Thanks for the "follow!" I don't know why new "followers" tend to arrive here in threes but you are the third, sir, welcome!


Another New Face!

Welcome to The Other Faces, thanks for "following!"

Son of the Dragon

His heart matched the tumultuous times into which he was born, for it had the blood of a Dragon coursing through it. Every two minutes, a black and venomous fluid oiled its way through his body and returned to the heart, more hateful and fouler than when it left. It poisoned him and sustained him. He fed on death.

As a child, his heart had not yet grown dark and he absorbed all the duties of a Christian knight. Wladislaus was taught by his father to trust in no man. At the age of thirteen he learned the truth of that lesson: that “no man” included his father. He was sent along with his younger brother to Adrianople as hostages to the Sultan in return for Turkish support of his father’s ambitions.

But he wasn’t a willing guest and he refused to accept his role. In chains, he watched the traitorous conversion of his brother to Islam. In prison, he learned of his father’s betrayal by his boyar allies and his subsequent murder by the Hungarian king. These things pained him infinitely more than the daily beatings and torture he accepted from his hosts.

He’d prayed for peace but none came. Only more hate. He longed for good but found none anywhere in his life and his hatred extended for having just been born. “Trust no man” became “trust no one.” Only “he” would ever again be the arbiter of justice, of good: his good. He remembered every face, every place, and every name that would someday pay at his hand for their treachery.

And then, around December 2, 1448, just after his seventeenth birthday, the door opened to his sunless cell and he was freed. The story of the remade Wladislaus - Vlad the Impaler, Dracula - would begin.


How do, Becca?

Girl Met Dog. Thanks for the "follow!"


The Right Stuff

First, the characters...

The resin came by U.S. Mail from Lufkin, drawn from the piney woods of east Texas. The rubber came by ship from the Philippines, tapped at a plantation in Mindanao. The calcium carbonate came by train from a limestone quarry in Ontario, Canada. These ingredients all came together at a manufacturing plant in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin and left again in a cardboard box in the back of an eighteen-wheeler.

A thrilling beginning to our tale...

The semi unloaded the box at a distribution center in Orlando, Florida, and there it sat for several weeks before being loaded onto another smaller truck. That truck drove east for an hour through the gator-filled swamps and delivered the box to a small hardware store in Titusville. The box was opened there and the innocuous contents placed upon a shelf.

The plot thickens...

A handyman working at Merritt Island soon stopped into the store and put a few of the items from the box into his basket. When he came back to work, he tossed them into the janitor’s closet. There they sat until a young supply clerk came along with his clipboard. He took one of the items and dropped it into a toolbox which he then loaded onto a jeep that was driven out to a lone tower, its base shrouded in steam. On April 11, 1970, the mundane little item began another journey, this one a long and nearly disastrous one.

...and then it twists...

NASA still lists duct tape on the inventory sheets of every space-flight made. However, the instruction manual states that it’s to be used to restrain someone suffering from severe psychosis, not to jerry-rig a carbon-dioxide filter to save the lives of three freezing, oxygen-deprived astronauts aboard a crippled Apollo 13 lunar command module.


The Great Race of Mercy

At first, Doctor Welch was sure it was tonsillitis. No one else in any of the surrounding villages was displaying any symptoms: fever; sore throat; exhaustion. But by the next morning, the two-year old child was dead.

Upper respiratory infections started to appear in more children over the next month. It would last from a few days to a few weeks and disappear. But then another child died. His mother wouldn’t allow an autopsy despite the massive swelling on his neck.

When a third child died a few weeks later, and then a fourth, Doctor Welch was finally able to confirm what he’d feared worst. The grayish lesions on the throat and nasal membranes pointed only to one thing.

A lot of far-reaching events occurred on February 2, 1925: a 6.2 earthquake rocked the northeastern seaboard from Quebec to Virginia; the French government met to renew its suppression of the Vatican Embassy; crowds packed theatres to see the first feature-length stop-motion film, “The Lost World”; and the American delegation to the League of Nations prepared its speech to propose action on the worldwide opium trade. All of these happenings would impact upon millions of people around the globe for many years to come. But in tiny Nome, Alaska, population 1,500, they were just waiting on the mail. With temperatures across Alaska dipping down to −70 °F that were accompanied by blizzards and hurricane-force winds though, it wasn’t likely to arrive at their isolated village in time.

At 5:30 am, Doctor Welch’s heart skipped at the sound of barking dogs on Front Street.

The relay team of 20 mushers and 150 sled-dogs had heroically covered 627 miles in just 127 hours to bring the first batch of antitoxin from Fairbanks to Nome via the Iditarod Trail, narrowly averting a diphtheria epidemic.


The Rival at the Revival

“New York? So what brings you to Iowa, Mr. Hull?”

“On my way west, Reverend, I hear there’s gold for everyone. Thought I’d stop in and see my sister before I strike it rich. I didn’t expect to find a revival going on here.”

“Watch that ‘root of all evil...’ Hmmm, New York... I know a good Methodist preacher there by the name of Titus Sinks. You don’t happen to know...”

“Let me stop you there, Reverend,” George said, holding his hand up firmly.

“I take it you’re not a church-going man, Mr. Hull?”

“No, Reverend, I’m not.”

“Shoulda’ guessed... New York after all... you ever even opened a bible, Mr. Hull?”

“Oh, yes indeed I have, Reverend.”

“And what did you find there?”

“I don’t want to offend, but mostly a load of superstition... sprinkled with some good advice here and there, I’ll grant you!”

“Superstition?! Good advice?! Why, every word is the word of God!”

“Now surely you don’t believe that, Reverend... I mean... every word?”

“Every word the truth!”

“Talking snakes? Two of every animal? Even the part about... giants?”

“I assume you’re referring to Genesis, Mr. Hull, chapter six, verse four: There were giants in the earth in those days... yes, yes I do. I’m sure it’ll eventually be proven, even to atheists like you.”

George believed him. Not about the bible, but he believed that the reverend believed. That he really believed. And the gears started turning in his head.

On October 16, 1869, workers digging a well in Cardiff, New York came upon an amazing discovery. The petrified remains of a ten-foot-tall man – a giant! The Cardiff Giant. And despite the laughing dismissal of every scientist who examined the gypsum carving, George Hull still collected over $30,000 in viewing fees from the unwavering public.


Duck on a Rock

James was under pressure. He’d only just begun as phys-ed director at the YMCA Training Academy in Springfield and the head of his department had already put him under deadline. He sat on a bench outside of the gymnasium watching the cold December rain soak the soccer fields in a nasty mud.

Two weeks. Two weeks to come up with some “distraction” to keep his students in shape during the winter months. Something fair for all the players. Something that won’t take up too much room. He turned and glanced into the gym to see his bloody-nosed students wrestling on the hardwood floors. Something not too rough.

The rain began to let up and James took a walk across campus. Stopping at a pond, he watched a little duck swim up and jump onto a rock to shake out his feathers. James laughed to himself as he remembered the game he used to play as a child back in Canada. Some passing teenagers noticed the bird and started throwing pebbles at it, trying to be the first to knock it off his perch. But all the boys’ hard-thrown pebbles were missing their mark and the duck nestled down and tucked his head under his wing.

James walked over to the boys. “Put a little more loft on your shots, fellas. Softer, with more loft.”

One of the boys tried out the advice and the stone followed a high arching path before it found its mark and the duck let out a startled quack as it plunged back into the water.

“Hey, I think you’re onto something, mister!”

On January 20, 1892, James Naismith nervously oversaw his Duck on a Rock inspired “distraction” played out for the first time - basketball. The peach baskets would eventually be replaced with iron rims.


The Water Carrier

He’d been running for an hour and a half; through the dirt and rocks and clouds of biting flies; across creeks and up hills. Crowds blocking his dusty track often delayed him and more than once he leapt the writhing bodies of fallen men. His throat parched and his legs cramping, he entered the town of Pikermi. A small inn by the roadside caught his eye and he ran straight into its open door.

An old woman was there to greet him with oranges in her hand and escorted him to a soft chair by the window. He kept a close eye on the events taking place outside and savored every pulpy gulp during his short respite. He rose to continue his run but a gentleman, smelling faintly of musk, stepped in front of him and blocked his way. He was holding a glass.

“Take this, son, and the gods will carry you to Athens.”

He swallowed it in one long draw and warmth spread out from his navel until it reached the tips of his toes. He was off again and he could hear the shouts of “Hellene!” behind him as he followed the road out of town.

When he reached Athens, he was greeted by royalty in celebration of Greece’s victory over the world. The King offered to grant him whatever he asked for. He asked for a new donkey cart to carry his water when he returned home.

Spyridon Louis’ time of 2:58:50 in the first Olympic marathon in 1896 wasn’t spectacular by today’s standards. It didn’t even hold up when two extra miles were added to the marathon on May 27, 1921. What makes it truly incredible is when you take into account the other stops Spyridon made along the way for beer, milk, and eggs.


Life IS Beautiful

Welcome and thanks to the newest "follower" here!


The Making of a State

On March 27, 1776, Father Fuster entered the temporary chapel at the presidio of San Diego and began preparing for Mass. A little reliquary holding some bone chips of Saint Didacus rattled against his chest as he moved, bequeathed to him by Father Jayme whose death was still horrifically fresh in his mind.

Working his way to the sacristy he was surprised by a human shape concealed in the shadows. His knees buckled and he reached out to brace himself on the altar but the altar cloth slipped off and he frantically reeled it through his hands as he landed hard on his back.

The figure slowly rose from his hiding place and revealed himself, a young naked man with long, filthy black hair. He was bone-thin and his eyes were sunken into the hollows almost to the point of disappearing.

“Carlos,” the priest gasped.

“I’m tired of running, Father. I turn myself in to you.”

“...But are you sorry, Carlos?”

Carlos had been on the run for five months since he’d led the revolt of some 600 Kumeyaay Indian warriors that looted and burned the Mission San Diego de Alcala in the Spanish colony of California. Miraculously, only two of the eleven people present died in the attack, one of them a Franciscan friar: Father Luis Jayme. At the time of the incident, there were only 170 Spanish soldiers in all of California. If the settlement had fallen, it was possible that the entire colony would have been abandoned.

Another smaller event also occurred which put a close to the incident. Father Fuster not only forgave Carlos and offered him sanctuary in the church but obtained pardon from the Governor for all involved; likely a vital reason San Diego became the nexus for all that California would later become.


Where Xu Fu Flew To

On January 11, 210 BC, an escort of the Emperor’s guards accompanied Xu Fu as he disembarked and walked up the docks. The guard’s expressions were as uninviting as the thousands of black banners flying over every building in the city.

There’s no reason he won’t believe you again... compose yourself lest you fumble.

China was unified for the first time. But the legalism inflicted upon the population left many longing for the good old days of constant war. The state’s supremacy over the individual was raised so that people lived in fear of saying the wrong thing, thinking the wrong thought, of their cart length being an inch short of the standard.

As they approached the palace, they passed two gangs of prisoners en route to execution. Xu Fu recognized several of them as court advisors from his last visit and asked one of the guards what they’d done.

“They failed. Three times the Emperor asked them to find eternal life... some others are illegal philosophers, and the rest were hiding history books in their homes.”

A few minutes later, Xu Fu found himself at audience with Qin Shi Huang, a man mad with the quest for immortality.

“Nine years ago, I sent you over the sea to find the immortal grass. Five years later you returned and said you needed craftsmen to retrieve it. I gave you forty ships and sent you off again. You’ve returned now with what news?”

Xu Fu licked his dry lips.

“My Emperor, this time the immortals there placed a great dragon in the sea, blocking the way. I will need many more men, archers... We are very close!"

Of course, Xu Fu had no intention of coming back a third time. He and his flotilla would start a new history in Japan.


Two Bills and a Pile of Bones

Bill had made a name for himself; several of them actually; a few of them profane but still complimentary in a backhanded way. Many knew him by “Medicine” ever since he saved the life of a young Indian girl by biting off her rattlesnake-poisoned finger.

He was a scout and one of the best. Like most scouts living in the wilds and wearing buckskins, his was life was a mystery to those who employed him yet he’d earned his share of respect. Colonel Custer made comment that he was "perfect in horsemanship, fearless in manner, a splendid hunter” but he also added that he was “as modest and unassuming as he was brave." This last compliment evidently pushed the limits of truth because Bill was anything but modest when it came to his good name.

One of his names was “Buffalo” and there was a rival claimant in town. By coincidence his name was Bill also but the argument was only over who could continue to use the “Buffalo” moniker.

So, sometime around the 17th of August, 1867, the two met on the field of battle in Logan County, Kansas to settle the argument. Eight hours later, the score was in: 69 kills for the newcomer Bill Cody, 48 for Bill Comstock. Honorably, Bill went back to being “Medicine” Bill and didn’t claim the title of “Buffalo” again.

“Buffalo” Bill Cody proudly carried his title for another fifty years, racking up his kill-count into the thousands.

On the other hand, Bill Comstock didn’t have to live with his defeat very long. A year later he died the typical ugly death of a scout, his dead body used as a shield against the attacking Indians.

The American Bison, and the Plains Indians who depended upon them, wouldn’t fare so well either.



"Nickie Hugh"

As morning broke in the little parish of Borgue in the south of Scotland, Hugh climbed down from the loft in the barn and walked stiffly past his house and down to the creek. The dirty wig on his head was backwards and his shirt was covered in little patches he’d cut from his trousers.

When he reached the brook, Hugh knelt down and removed his hair-piece and held it under the water until he’d recited the Lord’s Prayer ten times. Lifting the sopping wig onto a branch, Hugh sat down cross-legged and stared. At first the water poured out of the woolen strands in a thick stream and Hugh’s eyes remained transfixed on the sparkling braid. Soon the stream slowed to a steady drip but Hugh’s gaze didn’t move. It remained focused on a point of air a few inches below the wig.

He sat like a statue for two hours, eyes unmoving, until the wig was completely dry and the silence was finally broken by his mother’s voice.

“Hugh, what are you doing?”

Hugh didn’t answer, didn’t turn around, but ever-so-slightly began to rock back and forth.

“Hugh, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

Hugh stood and turned to see his mother with a young woman.

“This is Nickie, Hugh,” his mother said.

“Nickie Hugh,” he repeated and turned his head swiftly away.

"No, Hugh, Nickie Mitchell," she corrected but Hugh was already on his way back to the creek where he began arranging pebbles into neat little stacks.

“Nickie Hugh.”

There was no term yet for Hugh Blair’s behavior on this July 4, 1745, but the court records detailing the challenge and invalidation of his arranged marriage to Nickie Mitchell due to mental incapacity would later be used to document the earliest identified case of autism.


Welcome to a Random Follower

Thanks to Jillian from Random Ramblings!

Miracle Mike

Mike lived like a rock star. However, since it was 1947 and rock and roll hadn’t yet arrived, Mike was a bit ahead of his time. Traveling the country, drawing crowds, living out of hotel rooms, making absurdly easy money. But Mike was pushing the envelope every day. He’d been on the road for eighteen months and inevitably the road began to take its toll. He put on weight. The stubble on his neck was a premature grey. And the unfortunate incontinence...

Late one evening, in a dirty Phoenix hotel room (sometime around March 15, though we’ll never know the exact date because of the ensuing cover-up), Mike’s breathing became labored. Panic set in and he began flailing furiously, desperate for a gulp of air. His manager, Lloyd was in the bed next to him and leaped to his feet at the commotion. Lloyd had been through this a few times before and knew exactly what to do. Unfortunately, when he reached for the medical bag that he always kept on the nightstand, it wasn’t there. He’d left it at the show. Without it, there was nothing he could do to clear the blockage in Mike’s throat. The Heimlich Maneuver hadn’t yet arrived either...

That night, Mike would share the same fate of so many others that lived the fast life, cheating death, until it would finally catch up to them. And he would become an early part of an oddly long list of celebrities (Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, John Belushi, Anna Nicole Smith, and David Carradine to name but a few) whose lives ended tragically and suddenly in a hotel room. But that is where Mike’s similarity with mega-stars ends...

Mike’s stage name was “Miracle Mike.” He was a chicken and his miracle was that he had no head.


Welcome to Anthony O.

Thanks for the "follow," a new tale is immanent!


Howdy to Charlene

And thanks for the "follow" from writing. mine. join me.


The Boston Molassacre

On January 15, 1919, Bridget Clougherty was in the kitchen of her North End, Boston home mixing cookie dough. She called to her son upstairs.

“I’m out of syrup! Sneak over and bring me back a cup!”

Stephen had been unemployed for months and spent most of his days helping his mother around the house. He dawdled in bed for a few minutes before getting up and found her impatiently tapping her foot at the bottom of the stairs. She was holding out a wooden mug and he took it from her without a word. Dragging his feet he turned towards the distilling company on the banks of the River Charles.

As the police station came into view from behind the massive storage tank, Stephen was startled by a loud rumbling. He’d never served in the war but he was fairly sure it was the sound of a machine gun. Instinctively, he wheeled around and began running home, calling out to his mother on the way.

Bridget heard the yelling and felt the house shake. She poked her head out the kitchen window and gasped. Her son was running towards her and screaming out, “Shootout at the police station!” Behind him was a massive wave. He never knew what hit him. In a split second he was submerged and pounded against the cobblestones below.

A moment later, the Clougherty house was ripped from its foundation and pushed down Copps Hill Terrace before it finally flipped over and crumbled beneath the thick brown tide.

It wasn’t a shootout and it wasn’t a tidal wave from the river. The echo that Stephen heard before he perished was the sound of the rivets bursting from the leaky tank that held 2,300,000 gallons of molasses. The 35 mph 10’ wave killed 21 unsuspecting people.


"This Thing of Ours"

Two detectives sat on a bench near the cathedral in New Orleans pretending to read their newspapers. Jackson Square was crowded with people out for their morning strolls before the blazing sun came out to chase them all back inside on this July 5th, 1881. Occasionally, one of the detectives would glance up and check for a signal from the umbrella vender.

“Would ya’ listen, Patty,” O’Hara said, “all these smelly dagos here speaking their gibberish...”

Patrick grunted, “Aye, it’s gettin’ so you wouldn’t even know we was in America.”

They both sighed and went back to pretending to read their papers.

O’Hara leaned back and said, “Y’know, not all these guineas is degenerate, the trouble is tellin’ the good ones from the...”

Patrick cut him off with a nudge to the ribs. Their informant, the umbrella man, was wildly flapping a big white parasol open and closed.

Walking towards the pair was a short, heavy-set man with a thick beard and a distinctive Panama hat. His gait was casual, giving time for several young men to walk along with him for a minute before he dispatched them on some other business.

He’d passed by the policemen and his back was to them when O’Hara called out.


Half a dozen men turned around. The man in the panama hat, though he stutter-stepped, did not.

“Hey, Giuseppe!”

The man stopped and angled his downturned head back at the officers.

“Is Vincenzo... And I no speak English.”

It would be two more months and a trip to New York City before Giuseppe Esposito’s identity could be verified by two Italian gendarmes. The accused murderer of more than a dozen men in Palermo was deported back to Italy but it was already too late. The Cosa Nostra had established itself in America.


Where Theories Begin

Like the ridiculously great number of men who’ve gone on to leave their mark on the world, Bernhard was born sickly. The doctors who cared for him throughout his youth told him he wouldn’t have a long life. So much for prophecy: he died at age 93, having lived, without hyperbole, one of the most remarkable lives ever lived.

And he lived relentlessly.

When Hitler’s army invaded the Netherlands, he was there, rallying the guards at the Royal Palace and firing at the German planes. Forced to flee to England with his wife, Juliana, he continued the fight, first in the war-planning councils and then in fighters and bombers over occupied territory. Before the war was over, he had been appointed Supreme-Commander in the Dutch Armed Forces without having ever received any formal military training. And during the rebuilding of the Netherlands, he stood in the spotlight as the orchestrator of the new economy.

It didn’t end there. He founded Rotary International. He began the World Wildlife Fund. He would sit at the board of directors of over three hundred corporations. Ian Fleming took note that Bernhard drank his martinis shaken, not stirred.

Because such a life would have been incomplete without scandal, Bernhard found himself at the center of more than a few, including such messy topics as illegitimate children, bribe-taking, and international assassinations.

But there remains one event that ensured his eternal notoriety.

On May 31, 1953, Bernhard stood up from behind a long table in the conference room of a new hotel in Arnhem, the Netherlands, and pronounced the meeting closed. Before each guest departed, they personally shook his hand and promised to meet again the following year. This annual gathering brought about by Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld would come to be known as The Bilderberger Group.


John Frum America

The New Hebrides Condominium had been under joint French-British rule for twenty-five years. The old ways were disappearing fast. Whatever traditional customs that the colonial governments didn’t prohibit, the Presbyterian missionaries made sure to anathematize.

This was why, on February 15, 1931, the tribal elders called a meeting of all the men on the island of Tanna. Chief Nikiau was the speaker.

“We have had a vision tonight, a vision of God. He came out of the volcano and spoke to us. He told us that we must stop following the white man’s ways,” he warned, “or we will disappear into the ocean like the sun. First, throw away their money, their francs and pounds!”

A tense silence engulfed the gathering as he paused.

“...throw away their clothes...”

A murmur began to roll through the crowd of several thousand.

“We must take our children from their schools and quit their churches! We must return to our customs! We must drink kava and worship the magic stones and bring back our dances!”

Shouts erupted as a spark of pride glowed in the natives and Chief Nikiau delivered the final message.

“God told us that he would send us a savior and his name will be John. John Frum! He will deliver to us all that we are lacking!”

This return to tradition of the natives of New Hebrides struggled for over a decade. And then something unexpected happened.

Several thousand American soldiers arrived in New Hebrides. Among them was one with some slightly progressive ideas. He was only there for a short time but when he spoke to the locals he introduced himself as John from America.

All they remembered was “John from.” A bonanza of American goods followed the army and the most memorable of the cargo cults was born.


Welcome Che!

Bucking the trend, a "follower" enlists here after I actually post a story :) Thanks to From Kafka to Kindergarten!



All of his seventy-seven years were reflected in Talbot’s wrinkled jowls. “Please! No more gifts for my wife, parson, she might get used it! Now, is this your nephew you’ve promised to my daughter?”

“Indeed! And I’ve brought along a few close friends, I hope there’s room at the table...”

“Of course! Now come in, let me’ missus’ take care of these young men while we go down to the basement and take a peek at what I promised ye?”

“Again, I don’t want to impose but would ye mind if my friends came along also?”

On May 9, 1671, the group descended into a basement below Talbot Edward’s apartment. They’d met only a month before when Talbot had taken the parson in to treat his wife for a bout of dizziness and they’d hit it off immediately. Now Talbot was about to give a free tour of his workplace.

As he opened wide the heavy door at the bottom of the staircase, Talbot felt the smash of a wooden mallet against the back of his head. He crumpled to the floor and heard the door slam behind him.

“Parson!” he screamed.

“No parson here,” came the reply as a sack was slipped over his head. “Blood is my name. I believe the King is familiar with my work...”

After the long con, Thomas Blood and his companions almost escaped with the Crown Jewels. Almost, except for the surprise arrival of Talbot’s son. Blood and his gang were arrested after a desperate struggle. The trip to his prison cell was short, just a few stories up from where the crime occurred in the Tower of London.

Oddly enough, King Charles II not only pardoned the “bravo” but gave him a plot of land that entitled him to £500 a year.


An Oath by Night

Grace lifted her head from a dead sleep and shook her husband’s shoulder, “Cal, I heard something...”

John opened his eyes and remained motionless, listening in the dark. Footsteps on the lower stairs brought an abnormal sickness to his stomach. They suddenly stopped at the first landing and there was a heavy silence.


Grace reached out and lit a kerosene lamp that illuminated a clock on her bedside table.

“That’s your father, Cal! It’s two-thirty!

John snapped out of bed, pulling on a robe as he walked into a pair of waiting slippers.

“Son!” came the voice again.

He took the lamp from Grace and walked down the hallway towards his father who was now almost at the top of the stairs. A crisp yellow paper was in his trembling hand.

Grace watched from the bedroom door as John took the paper and read it. And reread it. She noticed a pronounced slump in his posture as he gave the paper back and slowly turned. His father made his way back down to the sitting room.


John took a few hesitant steps and stopped. He seemed to be staring right through her, the color gone from his face. But he suddenly straightened up and leaned over the railing, calling down to his father.

“Dad, do you still have notary powers?”

When President Warren Harding unexpectedly died in San Francisco on the evening of August 2, 1923, it took seven hours for the news to reach the Vice President in his primitive Vermont farmhouse. John Calvin Coolidge, Sr. administered the Oath of Office to his son by lamplight with his wife and chauffeur as witnesses.

Asked later how he knew that he had the power to swear his son into office, the father replied, “I didn’t know I didn’t.”


Never Get to Work Too Early

Jasper was a man of action. It was in his blood. From sunup to sundown he was doing. It was how he’d managed to build a business and keep it successful for almost forty-five years. And he’d done it with his own inimitable flair. He fancied himself in the light of Moore County’s other most famous resident, Davy Crockett.

But Jasper was bad with numbers. Smartly, he always made sure to keep close by him assistants who weren’t burdened with that handicap. Lem, his favorite nephew, had most recently stepped into the role of bookkeeper as Jasper gradually began to relinquish the daily duties of his business. Still, at the age of sixty, Jasper was always there to greet the first employees arriving for work.

On one typical morning, Jasper was alone at his office doing the weekly paperwork. Some of the reports he needed weren’t at his desk so he got up to retrieve them from the safe. Leaning over the dial his eyes glossed over.


For ten minutes, the dial clicked left and right as Jasper tried every possible combination but never came the sound of the bolts.


Jasper checked his pocket watch. Still another half hour before Lem arrives. He kicked with all his might against the lock. Somewhere wrapped within the hollow thud of boot against steel was a crunching sound, his big toe shattering into tiny pieces.

“Confound it!”

Precisely thirty minutes later, Lem arrived.

“You okay, Uncle Jack?”

Jasper never saw a doctor.

The blood poisoning set in rapidly.

On October 9th, 1910, Jasper opened his eyes and requested, “One last drink, please.” Jasper “Jack” Daniels, master distiller, passed later in the night.

There are several lessons to be learned from this tale but only one of them is a first cause.


The Avatar

Little Sathya was a happy and extroverted child. He loved candy and he was chubby. He loved to dance and to sing and to pray. And he loved being generous, especially to the numberless poor that surrounded his village of Puttaparthi in steamy southern India. All of the villagers loved him back. The cowherds and the beggars, the young and the old, the wise and the feeble-minded, his parents grew perturbed at the flow of visitors to the door.

Despite his popularity, Sathya was still just another boy. He’d done nothing remarkable and nothing remarkable had happened to him in his thirteen years. Nothing, that is, until sunset on March 8, 1940.

Sathya was walking with some friends along the crest of Serpent Hill when he suddenly shrieked in pain. His friends turned to find him hopping up and down, holding his foot.

“A black scorpion stung my toe!” Sathya screamed before an abrupt faint took him to the ground.

Some of his friends ran for help while those remaining searched and searched for the culprit. They never found it. It had simply vanished. None had seen the scorpion, none but Sathya.

Over the next two months, Sathya’s parents desperately sought a cure for his newly strange behavior. A line of physicians and exorcists could offer no results. He stopped eating. The once active and boisterous child had become still and silent. His comatose-like meditations were broken only by spontaneous hymns of Sanskrit poetry, a language which he’d never been taught. His recitations of Hindu verse proved flawless and encyclopedic.

When his father became frightened at the boy’s materialization of objects from thin air, he raised a stick to him, “Who are you?!”

“I am Sai Baba,” he answered.

Sai Baba would later reveal himself to his followers as God-incarnate.


My Theory Stands

"Not" writing for a weekend continues to garner more "followers" than when I post regularly. Thanks and welcome to SixWordFractal!


Forty-Seven Days

Sam turned his one good ear towards the woman, “Run that by me again, miss."

It was a crowded day and rather noisy for the Museum of Modern Art. A group of school children was moving by, so Genevieve had to lean in close to the security guard for him to hear. “It’s the one down at the end!”

Sam stared off into the ether and Genevieve wasn’t sure if he’d heard her this time either. She began again, “I said it’s...”

“I heard you,” Sam said, suddenly coming back to the moment, “I ain’t deaf.” He still didn’t move from his place along the wall.

She was a New Yorker and fairly accustomed to rudeness but Genevieve reddened and raised her hands at her sides.


The old guard gave a slight whine and looked at his watch.

"All right, it’s gettin’ on my lunch break anyway. It’s right by the cafeteria you say, right?”

She nodded and maneuvered her way down the hall. The line for the cafeteria was long and it stretched out past the sign that read “The Last Works of Henri Matisse.” On the wall near the cash registers was a painted cut-out of a sailboat. She went up to it and held up a catalog.

Sam squinted at the catalog and then at the painting and then back at the catalog again. “You the artist?” he asked.

Genevieve Habert reddened for the second time, “No, but...”

“I can’t imagine we’d make that kind of mistake here. See, we can’t be responsible for the printers, miss. ‘Sides, how do you know what’s up and what’s down?”

It was December 4, 1961, and Henri Matisse’s “Le Bateau” had been hanging upside down for forty-seven days and not a single soul, including Matisse’s own son, had noticed.



Malachi sat back in his worn recliner and closed his eyes. He held his breath and felt the irregular beat of his heart pounding through his head. Perspiration beaded on every corner of his angular face as he rubbed his eyes and then his temples. He could still hear the words of the young Bishop: “Don’t come to me with your nonsense, Father. No one believes in the devil anymore.”

He let his hands slip slowly down his face to his neck where they found a knotted chain and fingered it for a short time, tracing its linked ridges to the large crucifix lying across his sternum. He cupped his hands over it and despite his exhaustion found a bit of solace and mechanically formed a prayer.

His lungs whistled as he drew in a sharp breath and reached for the water on the table beside him. The back of his shaking hand racked the glass and sent it toppling to the floor, splashing several pages of the manuscript he’d been working on.

He clicked his tongue and brushed the water from the papers. The ink smeared over the working title at the top of the page, Primacy: How the Institutional Roman Catholic Church became a Creature of the New World Order.

“Oh, dear.”

With some effort, he got to his feet and started for the kitchen to find a towel. Without warning, he toppled forward and his head splintered against the coffee table. The lamp crashed next to him and the room went black.

He woke only once from his coma to whisper to a bedside confidant, “I felt something push me but no one was there...” Father Malachi Martin, one of the most controversial figures of the modern Catholic Church, died several days later on July 27, 1999.


A Neverending Story

On the morning of April 18th, 1985, Clarence opened his eyes and found himself again in familiar surroundings: the county jail. He was fifty-two years old, not a young man anymore; it was getting more and more difficult to recover from his binges. His head was splitting and... how many drinks had he had last night? “Ten?” he asked himself, “Twelve?”

He pushed himself up and found a soft coil on the edge of the mattress to sit on. As he stared at the peeling grey floor and rubbed his stinging neck, bits and pieces slowly returned until his heart suddenly jumped and he stumbled forward against the metal bars.

“Officer! Hey, officer!”

The deputy looked up from a newspaper and raised his eyebrows.

“My car... “

“Your car? Your car?”

Insult flashed across Clarence’s face. “... I was in a little Chevy, is it still, uh, drivable?”

The deputy shook his head and threw the paper down. “Your concern is touching, but yeah, it’s a miracle that the girl in the Mustang you T-boned is okay.”

“Oh... right... the girl.”

“Besides,” the deputy added, “I don’t think your temporary license is going to survive this one. This is your fifth D.U.I. and the laws have tightened up a bit since your last one. Better make your phone call now that you’re sober.”

Sometimes, one life can be the beginning of change. And sometimes, one death. Clarence wasn’t that one life, but Cari Lightner, the thirteen year old girl walking to a church carnival that he mowed down while driving drunk five years previously was that one death. Outraged at the light sentence that Clarence Busch received for her daughter’s slaughter, Candice Lightner began a relentless push for tougher laws combating drunk driving that culminated in the formation of M.A.D.D.


Welcome x 2

to Ungern and Roger! Thanks for adding me to your "follows."



Scattered outbreaks had been occurring for some time. In England. America. Mexico. The contagions always remained relatively contained but now, something was in the air and the winds were carrying it across the continent. On February 16, 1848, two railroad workers sneezed and fell dead at the feet of a squad of Royal Guards in the streets of Paris. A week later, King Louis Philippe abdicated his throne and in the next, the Second Republic was declared in France.

In March, signs began to appear elsewhere, especially among the urban poor and unemployed, among the waves of immigrants as they wandered searchingly for cures across the invisible borders of the German States, Denmark, Schleswig, Hungary, and the Habsburg Empire. Natural disasters heightened the anxiety of the increasingly unsettled world as hurricanes struck North America and earthquakes shook New Zealand.

As 1848 progressed, cases appeared in more and more nations. Switzerland, Poland, Wallachia, Ireland, and Belgium all diagnosed incidents of the spreading fever. Death by the thousands followed in its wake. Even across the oceans and far away from the hosts in Europe, Brazil and India were forced to put quarantines in place.

But it seemed that as quickly and as violently as it had come, it suddenly disappeared. By the end of the year, although some places continued to experience outbreaks until as late as 1852, the dead were all wrapped and buried; the epidemic that swept across the globe had ended and the faces of the affected states remained relatively unchanged.

No one has yet to give a precise definition to what happened to the world in 1848. Some called it democracy, others liberalism, some nationalism or socialism. Idealism. Freedom. Whatever one names it though, the revolutions stemmed from frustration: and wherever that grows in abundance, it becomes infectious.


Another Maniac Aboard

Welcome and thanks to the newest "follower" AriaManiac. Off to Mardi Gras this week but will be back writing again next weekend!


The Carpet Weavers

Zari’s first impressions of the city left her imagination vastly disappointed. Her face was pressed hard against the window of the careening van and the fires and rubble passed by like blurs in the early dawn hour. Gangs of men wielding clubs and machine guns turned their suspicious eyes toward the sound of the honking transport. She still didn’t understand why she’d been summoned except that it had something to do with her expertise.

The driver eyed her disdainfully through the rear view mirror. He spoke to the man sitting next to him as if she wasn’t there.

“Are you sure she is the right one? Her name is Saborjhian, nothing but a lowly thread painter.”

“Her family has been making rugs for 2,000 years,” was the response, “they may have started out lowly but they’ve since come out of the desert. There is no mistake...”

The van made an abrupt turn down an alley. It screeched to a halt and the door flew open. She was grabbed by the arm and hustled into a dimly-lit warehouse. Inside were at least a dozen frightened women and several men, guns on their hips, and scattered across the floor were bags spilling over with long thin strips of paper.

“Zari,” the man still gripping her arm said, “you are to handle and recreate these bits as if they were priceless Persian rugs.”

He led her to a loom where a project had been started. Within a few minutes she’d already connected several strips: “SEP 19” formed before her eyes.

All the shredded documents recovered from the gutted Embassy were soon rewoven by the superbly skilled professionals, revealing to the new theocracy the tale of chaotic activity by American diplomats before they were taken hostage during the initial stages of the Iranian Revolution.


Three More Welcomes

Thanks for the new "follows" from Europa, Quachell, and TH2. A fresh story forthcoming!


Howdy Zach!

Thanks for another "follow" from the Cynical Optimist!


Beinecke MS 408

Wilfrid’s dedication had been unquestionable in striking at the threads of the Russian yoke and his subversive activities in the name of a free Poland eventually got him exiled to Siberia. His daring escape, after which he found his way to London, proved only to cement his convictions. He and a group of ex-patriot nationalists founded the Society of Friends for a Free Russia and sent both moral and financial support behind the lines.

With the passing of each of his fellow comrades though, he found his passions subtly growing weaker. He could never abandon his cause but it was time for younger blood to take his place. He slowly disassociated himself from the day to day plotting and scheming until eventually he found himself “settled down” and he looked forward to a quieter life. An acquaintance recommended he get into the book business.

So it was, fourteen years later, he found himself sitting in his shop looking over the thirty antiquated volumes he’d secretly purchased from the Jesuits of Villa Mondragone in Italy. There were some rare ones; some in French, most in Latin. He might make enough on them to open a second shop in New York.

But there was one he kept coming back to. It was hand-scripted on vellum, filled with lavish illustrations of... what, he couldn’t tell. Impossible plants. Cosmological charts. Parades of bathing women. What was most confounding though was the language. Despite having become an authority on old manuscripts, he could make no sense of it. Unexpectedly, he’d stumbled upon a new passion, and like the old one, it would dominate his every waking moment.

Experts today are no closer to unlocking the secrets of the mysterious 600 year old “Voynich Manuscript” than Wilfrid Voynich was when he died on March 19, 1930.


Hello Irwan!

Thanks for the "follow" and the link!


A Literary Voyage

The Bachelor Frigate set sail from the island of Guam on March 22, 1710, and in its wake were two smaller ships loaded with supplies. The Englishman in command of the little fleet had just pulled off a spectacular coup. On the run from the Spanish navy in a stolen ship sorely in need of repairs and his crew starving for rations and medical treatment, the Captain snuck right under their noses – not just for a brave moment but for eleven whole days. A simple letter explaining that he was a great friend to the Spanish despite his government’s position, capped with a not-so-subtle hint of the power of his cannons, had garnered him an open-armed welcome. He’d even dined at the Governor’s mansion while graciously accepting gifts of valuable cloth and slaves. It was this latter part that probably landed the Governor a four year jail term after the investigation was completed.

Privateers. Most nations at one time or another have employed them during times of hostility: men whose patriotism is kindled by personal profit. During peacetime they’re called pirates, and the captain of the fleet was one of the best at his job. Ordinarily, this might have been enough to land him a paragraph in the history books.

Upon his return to England though, the Captain added to his legacy with a book about his experiences sailing ‘round the world, making fools of the Spanish, and it sold like limes in a scurvy-ward. However, this literary jaunt of Woodes Rogers was just the tip of the iceberg. For among the crew that sailed out of Guam that day was a pair of men whose lives would inspire two of the classics of western literature: Alexander Selkirk and Simon Hatley, respectively remembered as Robinson Crusoe and the Ancient Mariner.


Welcome to Mandy!

...and thanks for "following!"


Twenty Paintings

William walked about the factory expressionless, glancing here and glancing there. Occasionally he’d stop for a moment in front of a painting hanging on a wall and stare. Albert would notice this and move close behind him, peering over his shoulder, waiting for a word. But William would just sigh and move on again, spinning a watch chain around his finger until it tightened and spun back outward, not saying a thing.

Finally William spoke, but only to Albert’s frustration.

“So this is where you’ve made your fortune, eh? What is it again you make here?”

Albert squinted at his friend, “An antiseptic... for infants... Say, William, enough about that. What about my collection?”

William, still spinning his watch, looked his old classmate in the eyes. He’d heard that Albert had become a stubborn and proud man since they’d been children, slow to forgive or forget. And knowing full well that Albert had put himself through medical school on earnings hard-fought-for in the boxing ring, he hesitantly said, “Would the word dilettante offend you?”

Albert flushed a little and pushed his glasses higher up the bridge of his nose. “Only if it came from someone other than you, William. Teach me what I need to know.”

William responded without hesitation, “I’ll need to go to Paris...”

The twenty paintings that William Glackens returned to Philadelphia with at first produced no emotion in Albert. But the more and more he studied them and the more and more he read about them, a little spark began to burn.

When Albert Barnes rolled through a stop sign and was broadsided by a truck on July 24, 1951, his private collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Early Modern artwork was unparalleled.

Though historically priceless, the collection today is estimated to be worth thirty billion dollars.


Once Upon a Time

“...that’s how all the good ones begin.”

Jacob laughed, “Is that right? Then please, continue...”

“Once upon a time,” Henriette began again, and Jacob sat enthralled as she relayed a tale filled with wicked stepmothers and princes and magical beasts. She’d just finished with the accustomed “and they lived the rest of their days in peace” when the pharmacist returned from the back of the shop with a small bag.

“Here you are, Jacob, I hope my daughter hasn’t been trying your patience with her stories.”

“Quite the contrary, sir,” Jacob replied with a hint of excitement, “Where on earth does she learn all these tales?”

“This is the only pharmacy around. Every peasant with a hole in his pocket eventually finds his way in here, and as you can tell, little Henriette is anything but shy. Now be sure your mama gets this and I pray she gets back on her feet soon. Just... just pay me when you can, Jacob, I know you and your brother have a lot on your plate since your papa died.”

As Jacob departed, he swung the door open wide, revealing his brother Wilhelm waiting quietly outside. He glanced in at Henriette as the door began its arc and took a second longer look before it closed again.

“Sorry to take so long,” Jacob explained, “but the girl in there told me a most fabulous story...”

The orphans were to make success stories of their own lives and become well-known among their countrymen, as linguists and for the massive dictionary they produced. And before Jacob died on September 20, 1863, he paid the pharamacist his debt. Wilhelm, on the other hand, married young Henriette Wild, who grew to be the greatest source of what truly made the pair world-famous, as the Brothers Grimm.


Thanks for another "follow"

...to Richard, glad to have you here!


The Peacock Angel

The cloud on the horizon could have been mistaken for nothing more than an approaching squall. Jalil focused absently up on it as he chanted his morning hymns.

"How often two executioners came upon me as the morning sun arose. O poor man, stand up and bear witness...

The cloud grew wilder and Jalil could tell that indeed a storm was coming but not one that would bring rain. He hurried the last of his song.

“... unto the grave of time, and the Last Day."

Jalil ran barefooted through the little village of white-clay houses and up the rocky slope towards the shrine where the Sheik lived. He found him praying before an exquisite peacock engraved onto an ancient stone. Panting, he slowed when he saw him and approached with his head lowered.

The Sheik didn’t move, nor open his eyes, but spoke with softness in his voice that was natural to his position, “Why so excited, young man?”

“The invaders are here,” Jalil whispered.

The Sheik didn’t react. Jalil anxiously rocked back and forth on his heels, making several unsuccessful attempts at speaking. He arched his neck out the door towards the rising sun. The dust cloud was palpable now and he could hear the murmured voices of his villagers below.

“Why do you worry?”

Jalil jumped.

“We’ve weathered invaders for six thousand years; do you think that now that we live under the age of Melek Taus we will be forsaken? Go, welcome them...”

The 101st Airborne Division made its way west of Mosul on April 17, 2003, several weeks into Operation Iraqi Freedom. One soldier could be heard yelling among the din of the transports, pointing out a lone figure approaching from the slope of a small hillside village, “Yazidis... them’s the devil-worshippers in these parts.”


Estropeado Español

Rarely do letters of recommendation carry the purpose of destiny that the two held by the young private did on September 26, 1575. Folded neatly into fours and bound with a thin silk strand, he kept them tucked into his doublet covering the two thimble-sized pink scars on his breast. His left hand, irreparably maimed, reached up and patted them reflexively every few minutes to make sure that they were still there. The few paragraphs of flourished script marked upon those papers, he knew, would determine the course of the rest of his life.

One was signed by Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, the Duque de Sessa, and the second by none other than the hero of Lepanto, Don Juan de Austria. With them, King Philip of Spain would grant him the merced so necessary for his promotion to a Captaincy in the Spanish army. An illustrious past behind him, a long and likely distinguished career now lay before.

The letters were never to reach their destination. This fact however did not hinder their purpose; they were still indeed to alter the life of the holder, just not in the way that he had expected.

Only a few miles from the Spanish coast, the ship carrying the letter-bearer was surprised by a small fleet of Turks. Those few Christian soldiers who survived the short battle were bound to be galley-slaves for the remainder of their short tortured lives, lost to the memory of Europe forever. But when the royal letters of recommendation were found on one prisoner, the pirates knew they had a special prize worthy of a hefty ransom.

The letters not only spared his life, they set him on a new path. In the five years that Miguel de Cervantes spent as prisoner awaiting ransom, he began to write.


And Thanks Yet Again X 3...

...to the several new "followers" here, megds, lana, and "anonymous." There's been more welcomes recently than stories - shall be remedied soon!


Welcome Alana :)

...from A Big Bowl of Life, thanks for "following." On a little vacation right now, will be back writing next weekend!


Welcome to Jan!

Happy New Year and thanks for following!!!