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Chloe : Bweinh!

My Rat Jude

09/3/2008, 11:00 am -- by | No Comments

I\’ve admired my sister and her skill with animals ever since she got her first dog, a pit bull named Jazzy. Now Ashley has three dogs: Jazzy, a German shepherd named Trinity, and a Sheltie named Hank. They are all meticulously well-behaved: she can put a bowl of food in front of any of them, and they will ignore it, watching her until she tells them to “take it.” I want dogs just like my sister\’s.

I live in an apartment, however, and a dog isn\’t feasible. So I settled for the next best thing — a rat. His name is Jude, and he\’s a fancy hooded rat, which means his face and spine are black, while the rest of him is white. Rats are great with people if they’re hand-trained, but as Jude was meant to be snake food, he isn\’t. He\’s very timid and frightened of people and noises, and he doesn\’t recognize a person as a being.

My sister has six rats, five of whom are highly interactive and playful. They weren\’t like that when she got them from the pet store, of course. One of them would attack as soon as the cage was opened when Ashley first got her. But Ashley worked with her as she did with them all, slowly gaining their trust with food and eventually turning them into something out of Cinderella.

I\’m following in my big sister\’s footsteps now, hand-training Jude, slowly but surely. I\’ve never had the responsibility of taking something antisocial and socializing it. Just by virtue of my responsibility and Jude\’s fear, I love this rat so much. What\’s more, I admire my sister for the patience and care she must have given to all her animals to bring them to the level of behavior and socialization they have attained. Not just anyone can take care of an animal the way it needs.

So thank you, Ashley, for teaching me how to be a good pet owner.

Once Upon A Time (Part Six)

08/26/2008, 10:30 am -- by | 4 Comments

Read part one, part two, part three, part four, and part five! Or read the entire story, all at once, here!

All activity ceased. Suddenly every single human being was staring in the prince’s direction, her eyes wide and her breath held. The prince froze, as well, waiting for the women to attack him.

The nearest woman knelt by his side and cooed, “What\’s the matter, deary?” and clutched him to her buxom bosom.

The prince detached himself from the woman and cleared his throat. “I — I need to see”¦” he chose his words carefully, heeding the dragon\’s words. “I need to see the lady with the magical powers.”

And so it was that the young and dashing prince found himself in the presence of the great and terrible sorceress Vashti, who had stolen away all the women of his kingdom. “Can I help you?” the villainous Vashti asked.

She didn\’t look like a sorceress. She looked like a rather ordinary middle-aged woman dressed up like a man, just come in from her gardening. What\’s more, her throne — for she was the president of the government, which the prince\’s guide called a “democracy” — was not very majestic. It looked more like a desk.

The prince cleared his throat awkwardly. He had more expected to battle the sorceress in the bowels of the earth, his sword against her spells, or perhaps on a vast plain, his skill against her cunning. Instead he was in an office, having been relieved of his weapons before entering. “No need for these barbarities,” the guard had said, picking the things up with her fingertips and grimacing before tossing them in a pile of other weapons. The prince had assumed the other weapons belonged to other noble princes who had fought and courageously died for the sake of their womenfolk. Perhaps he would join their ranks today, though he didn\’t particularly want to. He preferred to return home in time for some soup.

The prince cleared his throat a second time. “Where have you put the women you stole from me and my father\’s kingdom?”

“My father\’s kingdom and me. The pronoun is always last,” President Vashti corrected, then looked down at a memo on the desk. “What did you say your name was?”

“I am Prince Charming of the —”

“Oh, yes.” She cut him off. “Your father is a dirty lying scumbag.”

“You will not speak of my father with disrespect, woman!” the prince roared, reaching for his sword and grasping air.

“Woman?” the woman repeated, not even rising from her seat but succeeding in making the prince tremble with the look in her eyes. “I am President Vashti to you, worm. And don\’t you forget it.”

“Yes, ma\’am.”

“As I said, your father is a dirty lying scumbag. The fact of the matter is, we got so sick and tired of dealing with you idiots that we left. We warned you, but you never believed us, called us your little women, told us not to worry our pretty little heads, ordered us back to our hearths and to hush the baby. Meanwhile, you ran the country into the ground with your greediness, licentiousness, and plain stupidity — honor, you called it. So we packed up in the middle of the day, right in front of your gaping faces, and we left. So you can go back and tell your father, young man, that we\’ll be back when we damn well please!”

There was a little cheer from a guard in the hall. The prince stared at President Vashti and said, “Mother?”

The president stood and tidied her papers before straightening her vest and striding from the room. “Evil sorceress, indeed,” she muttered.

When the prince arrived back at the castle, admitting a sound defeat at the hands of the guileful sorceress, he gave his father and the whole kingdom a detailed account of his heroism and courage, then delivered the terrible news that the women had developed a highly successful society and intended to peacefully take over their country within the week.

At these foreboding tidings, the king said, “Man, that woman is stubborn,” and continued gnawing dejectedly on his beef jerky.

One Hundred Words (31)

08/25/2008, 2:30 pm -- by | 2 Comments

I heard this in Target’s shoe section on Sunday:

Mom: Don’t you pull that tooth out, Morgan Bradley!
Daughter: Why not?
Mom: Because the tooth fairy is off tonight.
Daughter: No, she’s not! Really?
Mom: She’s in Jamaica. Didn’t you know that? She’s on vacation. I wish I was in Jamaica with the tooth fairy.

Later, the daughter wandered the shoe aisles, preparing to ask for Hannah Montana paraphernalia.

Daughter: Mom! Mom, where are you?
Mom: (sneaking around the aisles) Mom isn’t here right now! Please check back later. (snicker)
Daughter: Mo-om!

I could enjoy being that kind of mom.

–CLA

Once Upon A Time (Part Five)

08/18/2008, 10:00 am -- by | 2 Comments

Read part one, part two, three, and part four!

The prince, now almost completely at his wit’s end, could no longer find it in himself to kill the dragon. In all honesty, he was almost sure the lance would glance off the thick black scales and the dragon would laugh at him again.

He simply could not bear that.

And so he tapped the dragon\’s shoulder with the tip of his lance and said politely, “If you please, which way to the evil sorceress\’s lair?”

This was how the prince came to find himself at the shore of a massive island, having first taken advantage of the ferry provided to assist commuters in traveling to and from the mainland. It was a nice ferry, well-kept and reasonably priced, and the prince enjoyed the slow chug of the engine and the sea breeze in his hair as the little boat crossed the channel. The horse did not enjoy it because he was not allowed on the ferry as he could not pay the toll, and the prince simply could not lend him any more money.

Upon reaching the island, the brave young prince leapt upon the land and bellowed, “I challenge the evil sorceress who stole the women of my country and turned them into slaves to a duel to the death!”

A fishwife on the dock stared at him for a moment before muttering, “Terrible grammar. What are they teaching in schools these days?”

No one else paid the bold prince any attention. So he sought out the nearest tavern, which was surprisingly clean and quiet for a dockside pub. In fact, it more resembled a tea house. The prince strode bravely to the bar and slammed his fist down on the counter. “I vow to handsomely reward any man who takes me to the evil sorceress residing on this island!”

He was met with silence. “Is there no one man enough to aid me in my quest?”

Someone cleared their throat primly. “Not particularly,” a voice answered. It was, in fact, a woman. They were all women, dressed in trousers and smudged with dirt.

The prince backed out of the tavern. “What manner of enchantment is this?” he cried, rushing into the street, where he only saw more women, women everywhere, and all in men\’s clothes, doing men\’s work, and scratching like men do.

This, the prince decided, was the last straw. He had been laughed at, threatened, and insulted, and now he was faced with more of the fairer sex than he had ever imagined existed — and they all acted like men. The trembling prince fell to his knees and wailed, “I want my mommy!”

All activity ceased. Suddenly every single human being was staring in his direction, her eyes wide and her breath held. The prince froze, as well, waiting for the women to attack him.

The nearest woman knelt by his side and cooed, “What\’s the matter, deary?” and clutched him to her buxom bosom.

The prince detached himself from the woman and cleared his throat. “I — I need to see”¦” he chose his words carefully, heeding the dragon\’s advice. “I need to see the lady with the magical powers.”

To be continued — one last time!

Once Upon A Time (Part Four)

08/12/2008, 10:30 am -- by | No Comments

Read part one, part two, and part three!

For three days longer, the prince and his steed traveled. On the third day, when the prince began to despair of ever returning home, he came upon a boneyard, stretching on for miles beyond the horizon. In the center of the carnage was a dragon, massive and black, and curled up asleep.

The prince and his cautious steed crept quietly amongst the refuse until they were close enough for the dragon\’s breath to singe their eyebrows. As the prince raised his lance to plunge it into the dragon\’s stone heart, it opened one eye and said, “You\’ll be lost for all eternity if you do that.”

Now, the young prince did not normally hesitate at the empty threats of his enemies. But he had been laughed at by both an ogre and a kraken, and his self-assurance was flagging. “Why?” he asked, a little bit whiny, lance still at the ready.

“You\’re the bloke means to round up all the women and take them back to their husbands?”

“How did you know?”

“News travels. You took a wrong turn few miles back.”

“And why will vanquishing you to the depths of Hades cause me to be lost for all eternity, wretched beast?”

“No, no. You\’re already lost. I know the way to where you\’re going, and I ate everyone else who knows. Knew.”

“Foul beast! You seek to lead me astray!” And the prince hefted his lance once again, to his wise steed\’s alarm.

“Before you kill me,” drawled the dragon, “may I offer you two pieces of wisdom?”

The brave prince, thrown off guard by this small generosity, assented. “First,” said the dragon, stretching leisurely, claws clicking on bone. “Stop calling people names. It\’s not nice. Second, ask for directions.”

“Is that all?” the prince asked, hefting his lance a third time.

“Oh, yes, and — ” The dragon released a colossally smoky guffaw. “That was in reference to your quest,” he said, and curled up to go back to sleep.

The prince, now almost completely at his wit’s end, could no longer find it in himself to kill the dragon. In all honesty, he was almost sure the lance would glance off the thick black scales and the dragon would laugh at him again.

He simply could not bear that.

And so he tapped the dragon\’s shoulder with the tip of his lance and said politely, “If you please, which way to the evil sorceress\’s lair?”

To be continued!

Once Upon A Time (Part Three)

08/6/2008, 11:00 am -- by | No Comments

Read part one and part two!

The prince rode on for three more days, until he came to the edge of the forest and the shore of a wide, deep lake. On either side and as far as he could see, the water stretched on. The prince was perplexed, and had no idea what to do with this turn of events.

At that moment, a great and ugly beast reared its head from the depths of the briny blue. “Hello, little prince,” the kraken gurgled.

“You know, I\’m not that little where I come from,” the prince muttered, hefting his spear. “And unless you tell me how to cross this great water, I shall force you to forfeit your life, monster!”

“Will you?” the kraken asked, but his amusement didn\’t show well on his mucky face. “Well, then, I will tell you how to cross this water — if you will first tell me why you are so intent on crossing it.”

The prince, still somewhat stung by his encounter with the ogre, chose to slightly amend his quest. “I journey to release my countrywomen from the clutches of an evil sorceress and to find my one true”¦ queen.”

The kraken\’s peals of laughter were truly terrifying, boiling and churning the waters to a frothy gray soup. The prince missed soup.

When the kraken recovered himself, he said, “I will gladly take you across this water. You\’ll need all the help you can get. Climb onto my back, you and your gentle steed. You have nothing to fear from me.”

“What were you laughing at?” the prince asked tentatively, as he settled onto the kraken\’s briny back.

“Me? Oh, nothing. Frog in my throat, all that.”

When they reached the other side of the vast lake and the kraken deposited the prince and his noble sea horse on firm sand again, the kraken said, “I leave you with one piece of wisdom, little prince. Nothing is as it seems. For all your power, your greatest weapon is knowing when to surrender.”

“But a real man never surrenders!” the prince called out. The kraken, however, had already disappeared into the deep.

For three days longer, the prince and his steed traveled. On the third day, when the prince began to despair of ever returning home, he came upon a boneyard, stretching on for miles beyond the horizon. In the center of the carnage was a dragon, massive and black, and curled up asleep.

To be continued!

Once Upon A Time (Part Two)

08/3/2008, 11:00 pm -- by | 1 Comment

Read part one here!

The prince rode his noble steed in the forest for three days, seeing and hearing naught but their own breath. On the third day, the prince entered a beautiful glade, at the center of which was a massive snoring ogre.

The brave prince vaulted off his steed and unsheathed his magnificent sword, declaring, “Stand, Ogre, and meet my Doom!” Doom was, of course, the name of his blade.

The ogre sat up groggily and proved more massive than the prince might have imagined. The clever steed moved a safe distance away as the ogre yawned, filling the glade with the stench of death. Then the ogre stood and said, “Little prince, I will let you pass through my glade unmolested if you answer my question.”

The prince barked a laugh. “Let me? Nay, ogre, I will pass by on my own terms, with your head severed from your warty neck! Now stand and fight!”

The ogre sighed and shook his head. “Little prince, the first lesson you must learn is this: choose your battles wisely. There is more to won than glory, and more to be lost than honor. I ask you, then, what is your quest?”

The prince stood squarely and declared, “I go to release the women of my country from the clutches of an evil sorceress so that they may return to home, hearth and husband!” As an afterthought, he added, “I also go to find my one true love. And treasure, if there is any.”

At this, the ogre fell to his knees in a fit of laughter. The trees shook, the rocks trembled, and the prince faltered. “What are you laughing at?”

The ogre composed himself with some difficulty, wiping a mossy green tear from his eye and rising again to his feet. “I will let you pass, little prince. I will even let you jab your little doom at me, if you like. You have far greater battles ahead.”

The prince mounted his distant steed then, and did indeed jab his sword at the ogre, because he didn\’t like to be laughed at. He didn\’t break the skin, though; he didn\’t much feel like jabbing any longer.

The prince rode on for three more days, until he came to the edge of the forest and the shore of a wide, deep lake. On either side and as far as he could see, the water stretched on. The prince was perplexed, and had no idea what to do with this turn of events.

At that moment, a great and ugly beast reared its head from the depths of the briny blue. “Hello, little prince,” the kraken gurgled.

To be continued!

Once Upon A Time (Part One)

07/30/2008, 10:30 am -- by | 1 Comment

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a prince. This prince had fair hair and blue eyes and chiseled features, and when he donned his armor, any lady would swoon for him if she had any sense at all.

No ladies, however, swooned for the prince when he donned his armor. This was not for lack of ladies with good sense; on the contrary, it was for lack of any women at all, ladies or otherwise.

The prince had been brought up with the knowledge that long ago, when he was a mere lad, an evil sorceress had come to the land and stolen all the unsuspecting women from their unsuspecting husbands and families in one terrible night. To this day, a national day of mourning was held to remember the country\’s women. Since these men were neither known for their coping skills nor their capacity for any emotion at all, this sacred day was more one of drinking and acting awkward around each other and puttering about the house like a child without his security blanket. Which is exactly what these men were.

This tragic event, the cornerstone of the prince\’s existence, was why he had donned the armor that would have made any sensible lady swoon. The prince had always known that as soon as he came of age, he would set out to rescue his country\’s womenfolk by vanquishing the evil sorceress and her dragon (he assumed), triumphantly returning the lost women to their hearths and choosing the most beautiful and noble as his bride, to stand beside him throughout his long and prosperous reign.

After bidding farewell to his aging father and his countrymen, the prince valiantly vaulted onto his noble white steed and rode off into the forest with nothing but his armor, his weapons, and a knapsack full of dried venison. No man had mastered the arts of bread, cheese, butter, or food in general since the women had disappeared — but they understood meat.

The prince rode his noble steed in the forest for three days, seeing and hearing naught but their own breath. On the third day, the prince entered a beautiful glade, at the center of which was a massive snoring ogre.

To be continued!

Once Upon A Time

07/30/2008, 10:30 am -- by | No Comments

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a prince. This prince had fair hair and blue eyes and chiseled features, and when he donned his armor, any lady would swoon for him if she had any sense at all.

No ladies, however, swooned for the prince when he donned his armor. This was not for lack of ladies with good sense; on the contrary, it was for lack of any women at all, ladies or otherwise.

The prince had been brought up with the knowledge that long ago, when he was a mere lad, an evil sorceress had come to the land and stolen all the unsuspecting women from their unsuspecting husbands and families in one terrible night. To this day, a national day of mourning was held to remember the country\’s women. Since these men were neither known for their coping skills nor their capacity for any emotion at all, this sacred day was more one of drinking and acting awkward around each other and puttering about the house like a child without his security blanket. Which is exactly what these men were.

This tragic event, the cornerstone of the prince\’s existence, was why he had donned the armor that would have made any sensible lady swoon. The prince had always known that as soon as he came of age, he would set out to rescue his country\’s womenfolk by vanquishing the evil sorceress and her dragon (he assumed), triumphantly returning the lost women to their hearths and choosing the most beautiful and noble as his bride, to stand beside him throughout his long and prosperous reign.

After bidding farewell to his aging father and his countrymen, the prince valiantly vaulted onto his noble white steed and rode off into the forest with nothing but his armor, his weapons, and a knapsack full of dried venison. No man had mastered the arts of bread, cheese, butter, or food in general since the women had disappeared ”” but they understood meat.

The prince rode his noble steed in the forest for three days, seeing and hearing naught but their own breath. On the third day, the prince entered a beautiful glade, at the center of which was a massive snoring ogre.

The brave prince vaulted off his steed and unsheathed his magnificent sword, declaring, “Stand, Ogre, and meet my Doom!” Doom was, of course, the name of his blade.

The ogre sat up groggily and proved more massive than the prince might have imagined. The clever steed moved a safe distance away as the ogre yawned, filling the glade with the stench of death. Then the ogre stood and said, “Little prince, I will let you pass through my glade unmolested if you answer my question.”

The prince barked a laugh. “Let me? Nay, ogre, I will pass by on my own terms, with your head severed from your warty neck! Now stand and fight!”

The ogre sighed and shook his head. “Little prince, the first lesson you must learn is this: choose your battles wisely. There is more to won than glory, and more to be lost than honor. I ask you, then, what is your quest?”

The prince stood squarely and declared, “I go to release the women of my country from the clutches of an evil sorceress so that they may return to home, hearth and husband!” As an afterthought, he added, “I also go to find my one true love. And treasure, if there is any.”

At this, the ogre fell to his knees in a fit of laughter. The trees shook, the rocks trembled, and the prince faltered. “What are you laughing at?”

The ogre composed himself with some difficulty, wiping a mossy green tear from his eye and rising again to his feet. “I will let you pass, little prince. I will even let you jab your little doom at me, if you like. You have far greater battles ahead.”

The prince mounted his distant steed then, and did indeed jab his sword at the ogre, because he didn\’t like to be laughed at. He didn\’t break the skin, though; he didn\’t much feel like jabbing any longer.

The prince rode on for three more days, until he came to the edge of the forest and the shore of a wide, deep lake. On either side and as far as he could see, the water stretched on. The prince was perplexed, and had no idea what to do with this turn of events.

At that moment, a great and ugly beast reared its head from the depths of the briny blue. “Hello, little prince,” the kraken gurgled.

“You know, I\’m not that little where I come from,” the prince muttered, hefting his spear. “And unless you tell me how to cross this great water, I shall force you to forfeit your life, monster!”

“Will you?” the kraken asked, but his amusement didn\’t show well on his mucky face. “Well, then, I will tell you how to cross this water ”” if you will first tell me why you are so intent on crossing it.”

The prince, still somewhat stung by his encounter with the ogre, chose to slightly amend his quest. “I journey to release my countrywomen from the clutches of an evil sorceress and to find my one true”¦ queen.”

The kraken\’s peals of laughter were truly terrifying, boiling and churning the waters to a frothy gray soup. The prince missed soup.

When the kraken recovered himself, he said, “I will gladly take you across this water. You\’ll need all the help you can get. Climb onto my back, you and your gentle steed. You have nothing to fear from me.”

“What were you laughing at?” the prince asked tentatively, as he settled onto the kraken\’s briny back.

“Me? Oh, nothing. Frog in my throat, all that.”

When they reached the other side of the vast lake and the kraken deposited the prince and his noble sea horse on firm sand again, the kraken said, “I leave you with one piece of wisdom, little prince. Nothing is as it seems. For all your power, your greatest weapon is knowing when to surrender.”

“But a real man never surrenders!” the prince called out. The kraken, however, had already disappeared into the deep.

For three days longer, the prince and his steed traveled. On the third day, when the prince began to despair of ever returning home, he came upon a boneyard, stretching on for miles beyond the horizon. In the center of the carnage was a dragon, massive and black, and curled up asleep.

The prince and his cautious steed crept quietly amongst the refuse until they were close enough for the dragon\’s breath to singe their eyebrows. As the prince raised his lance to plunge it into the dragon\’s stone heart, it opened one eye and said, “You\’ll be lost for all eternity if you do that.”

Now, the young prince did not normally hesitate at the empty threats of his enemies. But he had been laughed at by both an ogre and a kraken, and his self-assurance was flagging. “Why?” he asked, a little bit whiny, lance still at the ready.

“You\’re the bloke means to round up all the women and take them back to their husbands?”

“How did you know?”

“News travels. You took a wrong turn few miles back.”

“And why will vanquishing you to the depths of Hades cause me to be lost for all eternity, wretched beast?”

“No, no. You\’re already lost. I know the way to where you\’re going, and I ate everyone else who knows. Knew.”

“Foul beast! You seek to lead me astray!” And the prince hefted his lance once again, to his wise steed\’s alarm.

“Before you kill me,” drawled the dragon, “may I offer you two pieces of wisdom?”

The brave prince, thrown off guard by this small generosity, assented. “First,” said the dragon, stretching leisurely, claws clicking on bone. “Stop calling people names. It\’s not nice. Second, ask for directions.”

“Is that all?” the prince asked, hefting his lance a third time.

“Oh, yes, and ”” ” The dragon released a colossally smoky guffaw. “That was in reference to your quest,” he said, and curled up to go back to sleep.

The prince, now almost completely at his wit\’s end, could no longer find it in himself to kill the dragon. In all honesty, he was almost sure the lance would glance off the thick black scales and the dragon would laugh at him again.

He simply could not bear that.

And so he tapped the dragon\’s shoulder with the tip of his lance and said politely, “If you please, which way to the evil sorceress\’s lair?”

This was how the prince came to find himself at the shore of a massive island, having first taken advantage of the ferry provided to assist commuters in traveling to and from the mainland. It was a nice ferry, well-kept and reasonably priced, and the prince enjoyed the slow chug of the engine and the sea breeze in his hair as the little boat crossed the channel. The horse did not enjoy it because he was not allowed on the ferry as he could not pay the toll, and the prince simply could not lend him any more money.

Upon reaching the island, the brave young prince leapt upon the land and bellowed, “I challenge the evil sorceress who stole the women of my country and turned them into slaves to a duel to the death!”

A fishwife on the dock stared at him for a moment before muttering, “Terrible grammar. What are they teaching in schools these days?”

No one else paid the bold prince any attention. So he sought out the nearest tavern, which was surprisingly clean and quiet for a dockside pub. In fact, it more resembled a tea house. The prince strode bravely to the bar and slammed his fist down on the counter. “I vow to handsomely reward any man who takes me to the evil sorceress residing on this island!”

He was met with silence. “Is there no one man enough to aid me in my quest?”

Someone cleared their throat primly. “Not particularly,” a voice answered. It was, in fact, a woman. They were all women, dressed in trousers and smudged with dirt.

The prince backed out of the tavern. “What manner of enchantment is this?” he cried, rushing into the street, where he only saw more women, women everywhere, and all in men\’s clothes, doing men\’s work, and scratching like men do.

This, the prince decided, was the last straw. He had been laughed at, threatened, and insulted, and now he was faced with more of the fairer sex than he had ever imagined existed — and they all acted like men. The trembling prince fell to his knees and wailed, “I want my mommy!”

All activity ceased. Suddenly every single human being was staring in his direction, her eyes wide and her breath held. The prince froze, as well, waiting for the women to attack him.

The nearest woman knelt by his side and cooed, “What\’s the matter, deary?” and clutched him to her buxom bosom.

The prince detached himself from the woman and cleared his throat. “I ”” I need to see”¦” he chose his words carefully, heeding the dragon\’s advice. “I need to see the lady with the magical powers.”

And so it was that the young and dashing prince found himself in the presence of the great and terrible sorceress Vashti, who had stolen away all the women of his kingdom. “Can I help you?” the villainous Vashti asked.

She didn\’t look like a sorceress. She looked like a rather ordinary middle-aged woman dressed up like a man, just come in from her gardening. What\’s more, her throne ”” for she was the president of the government, which the prince\’s guide called a “democracy” ”” was not very majestic. It looked more like a desk.

The prince cleared his throat awkwardly. He had more expected to battle the sorceress in the bowels of the earth, his sword against her spells, or perhaps on a vast plain, his skill against her cunning. Instead he was in an office, having been relieved of his weapons before entering. “No need for these barbarities,” the guard had said, picking the things up with her fingertips and grimacing before tossing them in a pile of other weapons. The prince had assumed the other weapons belonged to other noble princes who had fought and courageously died for the sake of their womenfolk. Perhaps he would join their ranks today, though he didn\’t particularly want to. He preferred to return home in time for some soup.

The prince cleared his throat a second time. “Where have you put the women you stole from me and my father\’s kingdom?”

“My father\’s kingdom and me. The pronoun is always last,” President Vashti corrected, then looked down at a memo on the desk. “What did you say your name was?”

“I am Prince Charming of the —”

“Oh, yes.” She cut him off. “Your father is a dirty lying scumbag.”

“You will not speak of my father with disrespect, woman!” the prince roared, reaching for his sword and grasping air.

“Woman?” the woman repeated, not even rising from her seat but succeeding in making the prince tremble with the look in her eyes. “I am President Vashti to you, worm. And don\’t you forget it.”

“Yes, ma\’am.”

“As I said, your father is a dirty lying scumbag. The fact of the matter is, we got so sick and tired of dealing with you idiots that we left. We warned you, but you never believed us, called us your little women, told us not to worry our pretty little heads, ordered us back to our hearths and to hush the baby. Meanwhile, you ran the country into the ground with your greediness, licentiousness, and plain stupidity ”” honor, you called it. So we packed up in the middle of the day, right in front of your gaping faces, and we left. So you can go back and tell your father, young man, that we\’ll be back when we damn well please!”

There was a little cheer from a guard in the hall. The prince stared at President Vashti and said, “Mother?”

The president stood and tidied her papers before straightening her vest and striding from the room. “Evil sorceress, indeed,” she muttered.

When the prince arrived back at the castle, admitting a sound defeat at the hands of the guileful sorceress, he gave his father and the whole kingdom a detailed account of his heroism and courage, then delivered the terrible news that the women had developed a highly successful society and intended to peacefully take over their country within the week.

At these foreboding tidings, the king said, “Man, that woman is stubborn,” and continued gnawing dejectedly on his beef jerky.

The Wardrobe of a Homeless Man (Part Two)

07/7/2008, 2:00 pm -- by | No Comments

Read Part One here!

George’s third layer is a gray zip-up hoody with pockets right where he can slip his hands in. He wears this in the fall and spring when the weather hasn\’t chosen its extreme yet. He found it in New Mexico at a thrift store. He saw a woman come in with boxes and bags filled with all kinds of coats and gloves, so he asked her where they were from. No one person could have that many clothes, he thought. She told him they were from the school she worked at. “Every winter,” she explained, “the Special Ed department offers a free cup of coffee to students who bring in clothes to donate to the Good Will. This is the first week\’s drop.” He found the jacket and left. He keeps the kindness of strangers close to his heart, but far enough away so that the kindness won\’t burn when it turns sour. It almost always does.

His fourth layer is his big army jacket — the one that keeps him warm on the harsh New York winter days. He carries all his belongings in the pockets: his skipping stone with “prosperity” carved into it, his Canadian dime, a ticket stub from the first and last movie he ever saw — Gone with the Wind — a business card from the pastor down at the soup kitchen, and his gold — the library card.

When it gets too cold, all he needs is that card and he can go to the library and read a book or go on the Internet or do whatever he wants. Sometimes he\’ll just sit and watch the people go by. He knows this makes them quicken their step and clutch a purse or a child\’s hand a little tighter. It doesn\’t matter. He wears all his layers on top; their stereotypes mean nothing to him. His coat used to be dark green like his T-shirt, but after years of falling asleep in it, using it as a pillow or a mattress, there is no color. There is Broadway, 24th and Main, Times Square, Central Park, the obscure alleyways in Queens. The color of his coat is New York. He wears his life on the top layer — who he is, where he goes, what he does. It\’s all there for everyone to see.

Then there are his regulars. His black jeans, now gray with white spots and oil stains, his black boots with scuff marks, scratches and a hole at each pinky toe, and his brown socks that used to be white, the ones he nicked from Payless six years ago. There\’s also his cap with a broken bill and his driving gloves with slick leather grips and holes at each fingertip. These are all the commonalities in his life. These are the sins he\’s committed, the good he\’s done, the things that have scratched him and scuffed him and taken things out of him. These are the things that have stolen his years and over time put dirt under his nails and in the wrinkles of his face, dirt that will never wash out. These are the things people assume are there because they see them in everyone else like him. He wears these assumptions no matter what the weather, right against his skin.

Last, there\’s his blanket. It is brown and frayed at the edges. There are torn places where a strip or two has been shed. He found it a long time ago on a subway, covering another degenerate who had been lucky enough to find a token for a ride, but unlucky enough to choose a car where no one would realize that he had expired. George saw him and informed the conductor, but not before he took a memento of the man to remember him by. Now this blanket is what protects him when the world gets to be too judgmental. He wears a shield as his last layer so he can wear his other layers on top, show them off. He wears his last layer to remind him that this too shall pass, that when he dies, the world will still go on and the subway will not stop running.

The Wardrobe of a Homeless Man (Part One)

07/2/2008, 10:30 am -- by | No Comments

They say people have layers, that each layer gives you a little insight into a person\’s life. Most people hide their layers, though, so you won\’t see who they really are, what they care about, why they\’re here. Most people go their whole lives without anyone seeing all their layers. They die as undiscovered people.

Almost everyone in New York City wears one layer: the executive accountant, senior partner, musician. They scream their success with cell phones and hair dos and million-dollar purses. The lawyers live in Armani, the musicians in black, and the artists under crooked berets. That is the only layer you see. Most people don\’t show underwear or bare skin. They don\’t want you to know about that part of them.

George chose to be different the day he walked away from his childhood. He was 15. Since then, he\’s learned a lot of things — about the world, about the people, about himself — and he\’s learned that the best way to wear the truth is out where everyone can see it. Shock ”˜em. It\’s the only way to go.

He wears his thinnest layer nearest to his heart: a wife-beater that used to be white but somewhere along the way turned yellow, and boxers with little stars and moth holes all over it. They are always there, by him, but in the summer is the only time he shows them off to the world. He lets them know, “This is what I left home with, and I still have it.” Then he asks, “What do you have?” This is the layer he keeps nearest to his heart, with the things most important to him held close.

His second layer is for those warm summer days: an old pine green T-shirt that used to smell like a woman\’s perfume. There\’s a lipstick stain on the ragged collar from the only girl he ever loved. It\’s faded, but it\’s still there. On the shoulder seam, there\’s a long tear from when they parted ways. The cops were pulling them apart and she was holding onto his sleeve and it ripped. Now on summer days when the world seems to have reached the edge of perfection, he sees his sleeve and he remembers there\’s no such thing as perfection. He keeps hatred and love right above his home.

Continued here!

One Hundred Words (22)

07/2/2008, 2:00 am -- by | 1 Comment

I fall in love with every car I drive.

The first was a huge silver Dodge with a diesel engine and a roar that herded cows more than once.

The second was a little red Toyota stick shift. I loved to hear the (shift) VROOM (shift) VROOM that made me feel like a drag racer. (The very day I named it Macbeth, it blew a head gasket and soundly died.)

Now I\’m driving a Ram Charger with gargantuan wheels and fantastic speakers. I lean back with one arm out the window, music blasting, and feel a little bit awesome.

–CLA

New Developments in the Field of Silence

06/26/2008, 3:00 pm -- by | 2 Comments

I\’ve tried silence as prayer a few times now. The first one was the hardest — sitting in the dark, trying to empty my mind of all the thoughts and songs crowding my brain. Once the critter that scurries around on the roof at night started up, and a pack of coyotes began howling, I realized I would not be able to concentrate.

The second time, I fell asleep while sitting up in bed. Note to self: sit in silence earlier. Also, get more sleep.

But then the other night I got some news, news that could either be nothing or be very, very bad. I was scared. I needed God, and I didn\’t know what to pray. So I sat there in silence, opening my mind and all the waves of thoughts going through it to the only One who could comprehend it all, and then do something about it.

I didn\’t try to organize my thoughts into cohesive ideas. I didn\’t try to summarize my complex emotions. And I didn\’t hide anything. Before, I felt like I could hide behind my Pharisaic prayers, but now, consciously acknowledging all my thoughts before God, I can\’t conceal anything.

When I got up, I felt calmer, more like I didn\’t have to worry about the situation. What came to my mind while I was on my knees were Paul\’s pivotal themes — faith, hope, and love. These, I think, are what God wants me to remember and practice tirelessly, whether or not the worst news comes.

“Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

“So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him . . .”I Kings 19:11-13

One Hundred Words (19)

06/18/2008, 11:30 am -- by | No Comments

They sat on the porch because it was too hot inside.

There were four of them, and they smoked one pipe between them as they sat on rickety chairs made of fallen branches with their feet up on the solid porch railing.

They didn’t talk, but there was only the street and the sky to talk about anyway. The street and the sky and a couple of mangy dogs, scratching at their fleas and chasing a cat all over the road.

So they sat and they smoked, one pipe between them, because it was too hot to light four.

–CLA

Silence

06/11/2008, 10:00 am -- by | 1 Comment

— I —

I don\’t know how to pray. I ask God to forgive my sins and take care of my family and heal this or that other person, but it\’s as if, as has been said before, my prayers aren\’t reaching beyond the ceiling.

But that\’s not it, exactly. It\’s not that I feel like God is ignoring me. I feel like my words are missing something, and I have no idea what.

— II —

I went to a new church last Sunday. I didn\’t care for the sermon too much. The lay pastor tried to prove Jesus\’ Christology through reason, something I believe cannot be done, just like you can\’t prove God\’s existence — that\’s the profound beauty of faith. Sunday school, on the other hand, was remarkable. We watched a video done by Walter Wangerin concerning the four steps of prayer: we speak, God listens; God speaks, we listen. This was the final lecture of the series, regarding emptiness before God. Wangerin told about a life-changing decision he had been praying about, sure that he would be receptive to what God would say to him. But Wangerin heard nothing, and nothing, and nothing. Only after driving through the treacherous Alaskan hills in a snowstorm, where one misstep meant the end of his life, did he hear God\’s answer. He was empty before God, finally depending on Him completely to survive moment by moment. That is when God spoke.

— III —

The Carthusian order of monks is considered the most strict and austere of the Catholic orders. Founded in 1084, the order has changed only trivially in the last millennia. Carthusian monks depend on solitude for their spiritual formation, and entry into the order is difficult simply because many men would go crazy for the silence.

The Carthusians devote their lives purely to prayer. To them, prayer ranges from liturgy and study to petitions and meditation. The monks teach the novices that the purpose of the endless hours of meditation is to empty oneself and hear God speak.

— IV —

I do not know how to pray. I am missing something vital, something I suspect no one can teach me — I have to discover it for myself. And so instead of praying loudly in my head, asking for this or giving thanks for that, I will sit quietly, empty myself of my life in this world, and listen for God\’s voice in the silence.

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