Mom’s waiting for me, Lucas thinks, better hurry!

He thunders down the back stairs and into the wild back yard, clutching a tattered and faded green book. She is waiting for him, and he throws himself into her lap, making her grunt. Oops, got her with an elbow! When he poked Mary Jane Weiler with his elbow last summer when they were watching a softball game, it had made her cry. “Sorry,” he says.

“It’s ok, honey,” Mom says, and he feels better. Mom really likes to snuggle.

He plops the book into her hands. It’s really old, maybe older than Mom, and it looks sad and beat up. Once Mom had turned a page and it fell out, and it made her cry. It had been her book before she gave it to him; she said her momma had read it to her when she was a little girl. She didn’t have anything else left from when she was a kid, so this book was special.

It was also the best book he had ever read. Maybe it was Mom’s favorite, too, even though she read lots and lots of books. Most of them didn’t even have pictures, and most of the ones that did were dumb. Pictures of rats in mazes, or rows and rows of green plants that all looked the same, not pictures of witches and mermaids and two little girls named Amy and Clarissa.

“Read the part about Malachi, Mom,” Lucas says, “that’s where we left off.” Lucas bets he’s read this book a million times, and it’s still cool!

Mom reads really good, with voices and everything, so the wild back yard starts to turn into Old Witch’s gloomy house on top of a glass mountain. Old Witch is very wicked and knows lots of bad spells and stuff, but she’s kind of dumb. She gets caught being wicked by two little girls and they banish her to the top of a glass mountain where she could never, ever get down, even if she tried for a hundred years. She has to stay there until she learns to be good.

pencil drawing of bumblebee on flower
bumblebee pencil sketch

Amy and Clarissa are friends with a magical bumblebee, and he ends up on the glass mountain with Old Witch. Old Witch looks and looks and looks for him, so that she can send him back to the two little girls! Why? Why not just make friends with him? It would be soo cool to have a magical bumblebee as a friend! Lucas had wished for a friend like Malachi every year on his birthday when he blew his candles out. Those sorts of wishes are supposed to come true, weren’t they? He also wished for a snake and a gerbil and a pony, but never, ever on his birthday.

They finished story time by chanting the magical incantation for about the zillionth time, by heart:

Oh, Malachi,
Oh, Malachi,
You are a magic
If in trouble
e’er I be,
Then mumble,
here to me.*

Mom closes the book carefully. Story time is over. Now it’s monster-roaring time! The long grass is awesome to roll in. He’s a horse — no, a dinosaur! An allosaurus! They used to roll on their backs when their backs itched, didn’t they? They must have. He starts to giggle when he thinks about an allosaurus reaching up with his puny arms and scratching his own back.

Appalachiosaurus montgomeriensis, art by Peter Schouten
Appalachiosaurus montgomeriensis, art by Peter Schouten

Oops! Mom!

He pops his head up over the tall grass. Oh, jeez, Mom’s watching him. Better mind his manners. He grins and tries to pick the dead leaves and twigs out of his hair, but he gives up after a second. It hurt! Mom’ll pull them out later, but she’ll laugh at him. He can’t help it, it’s like his hair is a weird magnet for all kinds of stuff. She calls it a bird’s nest, but he never found any eggs in it. Anyway…

“Thanks for reading to me, Mom. We’ll do more tomorrow, okay?” She smiles at him and nods, and he takes off running, whistling something by that silly laughing guy, Mozart, back toward the creek, to look for tadpoles and fish in the mud.

But the creek is a mud hole, no rain this week. Icky. He didn’t even want to wade in the gooey stuff, it’s too hard to see through, and he’d die if he got bit by a cottonmouth. He slumps in disappointment. Darn, there were tadpoles down in there somewhere. Nice, big, fat, slimy tadpoles that must turn into giant toads that eat mosquitoes. Just have to wait until there was more rain and the water didn’t look so creepy. He scratches one of the gazillion little bumps that the skeeters left from sucking his blood. Bloodsucking bugs were pretty cool, but Lucas wished they’d suck someone else’s and leave his alone. They itch! Mozart wouldn’t laugh at this. Boooring.

Well, until he sees some little tiny tracks printed in the mud. What made those? Okay, birds, yeah, and that’s a squirrel–he knows the way their toes splay out–and that looks like one of the barn cats, the one with the crooked hind leg who’s missing a toe– and awesome, a tiny little hoof print! A dee-, no, a fawn! Where was its mama?

There’s a path beat down along the bank of the creek, one that he’s never seen before. Why not follow it? It might lead to pirate treasure, or a meadow with flying unicorns living in it. Hey, he could catch one and fly up into the clouds! Or maybe there’s a wizard like Merlin, that would teach him spells like the one that calls Malachi. That would be good, too.

The path leads away from the creek and winds through some baby trees that shiver in the wind. Lucas knows that he’s too far away from the house now, Mom will yell if she finds out. She always seems to yell whenever he does anything really interesting. The meadow waves at him, making him want to walk farther into the grass. Something strange stands out in the sunshine, something haystack yellow and shaped like a big, upside-down basket. Who knows what was inside?

Lucas stands in the sunshine and listens. Above and around the leaves rustling, and a dog barking, there was a strange humming. It seems almost, kinda familiar.

Then a honeybee flies around his head twice, like he’s checking him out, and lands on his arm. He doesn’t sting — no, wait, this bee was a girl bee, not a boy bee like Malachi — she just crawls around a little bit and flies away. It feels way different from when a fly or a mosquito crawls on him. Like soft or fuzzy, maybe. Huh. Lucas wonders what her name is, and if she’s magical or not. Maybe not, maybe the magical ones are the bumblebees. But maybe all bees are magic. Maybe bumblebees knew spells, and honeybees knew Aikido, like Mary Jane Weiler’s mom did. Then they’d be awesome fighting bees! Now that makes him giggle. Commander Lucas of the Fighting Bee Squadron, reporting for duty!

More of them come to take a look at the weird human, like the first girl bee did. They buzz around him like all those old-fashioned planes flew around King Kong’s head, but he doesn’t roar at them and wave his arms. That’d be stupid. They don’t want to hurt him, after all. They want to be his friends! Where did he find all those flowers on his shirt? Must check it out, crawling around. Must find where that dirt came from, and that bit of mud. Yes, got it, ma’am, over this way!

And some of them zoom off, on patrol, gonna go find those wild bean flowers where the garden at the Back Forty used to be, not far from the cellar hole. The beans are kinda strange back there, giant and speckled and the bean pods are a dark purple until they dry out. They look like Martian beans! Maybe that’s where the Pod People come from. On second thought, maybe the bees better not go there, maybe the Pod People will eat them! But it’s too late, they’ve gone already. Well, good luck, bees! Will they come back transformed into Purple People-Eating Martian Bees? Ewwww.

He stands very still and lets them buzz around him, crawl on him even, if they want to. This is crazycool. He wonders if he could take one back to show Mom. She likes Malachi, after all! He reaches out with the place in his throat, unrolls the invisible leash that he uses when he sends out the secret centipede, and clips it onto one of the bees.

He’s not too sure she likes it, it makes her buzz harder in a circle around his head, held by the leash. It works, though!! Can’t hold her too long, she’ll get frightened and fly too hard trying to get away, and get too tired out to get back home. She’s not used to it. It’s like Mom’s friend Sonja working with a puppy, that’s it. But when the puppy figures out how much fun it is, getting to go everywhere, watch out! They’ll have to get used to it first. Maybe he could make enough leashes for all of the bees and hold on very tight to the other ends and they could fly away together, if they work very hard at it. Wonder where they’d take him?

Go bees! Go fly high, find lots of flowers so you’ll be strong! Lucas waves good bye as they go.

He’s gonna have to come back later, maybe tomorrow, and visit his new bee friends again. But now, he can hear his mom calling him, from very far away. It’s gonna take him a while to get back, so he breaks into a run down the worn path.

cartoon illo boy with red umbrella
What If I Blew Away?

Dark splatters and splotches mark the dried mud on the edges. Whoa! He didn’t even see those clouds coming up, and here’s the wind, too! Big ploppy warm drops smack in his face and his hair. He runs harder, skidding, and slides at the line of trees. He’s just getting up, with a rip in his pants knee, when he sees a flash of blue flutter down by his foot.

It’s a big feather, like a jay. It’s very bright. He squints upward against more big plops of rain in his face.

Oh boy, this is gonna take help.

He grabs the feather, and runs harder.


*Exerpt from The Witch Family by Eleanor Estes, copyright 1960. If you haven’t read it, please do. It’s utterly charming.

A late evening collaboration between Numaari and Nagasvoice. But the Aikido bees are GreenJudy’s fault. 🙂

The Caves of Altamira, Steely Dan

I’d been meaning to pick up on earlier references to “the Caves of Altamira” for The Principles Of Moments website where we’ve been working on story.


I think this one comes from a different one, not sure of its provenance.

Just Google–ignoring Wikipedia for the moment, as I’m sure I’ll get back to it–we have Steely Dan doing said song. The images are a photomontage done by a fan.

Some map images here:

From this site,

we have the following text. [Bolding of text is mine.]

…There are three major sites containing cave paintings in Northern Spain which are presumed to have been painted by the Magdalenian people between 16,000-9,000 BC. Spanish archeologist Don Marcelino first discovered the caves at Altamira with their unique showcase of cave paintings. The paintings are located in the deep recesses of caves in the mountains of Northern Spain, far out of the reach of the destructive forces of wind and water. Thus these paintings have undergone little change from when they were first painted 11,000-19,000 years ago. The wall illustrations are not the only signs of human habitation here. Tools, hearths and food remains were preserved here for thousands of years. Altamira is the only site of cave paintings in which the signs of domestic life extend into the first cavern which contain the actual paintings. Oddly, the walls and ceilings of the Altamira caves lack the soot deposits which have been found in other similar caves. This might suggest that the people at Altamira had slightly more advanced lighting technology which gave off less smoke and soot than the torches and fat lamps which Paleolithic people are given credit for.

Back to “Paleolithic Period” Chronology

The paintings at Altamira primarily focus on bison. We can infer that bison were important because of the hunt. They were hunted primarily for the food they provided, but many other useful commodities like skin, bones and fur could be extracted from the remains of such a large animal. The ceiling painting is of 15 large bison with a few interspersed animals including a horse. The groups of animals portrayed, particularly those on the walls, are of bison, deer, wild boar, and other combinations which do not normally aggregate in nature. These pictures are of the animals only and contain no landscape or horizontal base.

What means did ancient peoples use to paint on the walls? The paints used for these creations were derived from natural earth pigments like ochre and zinc oxides. The paintings at Altamira boast of as many as three colors in the body of a single animal–a significant advance in technical skill over most cave artistry. This technical skill is further reflected in the accuracy of the physical proportions of depicted animals. Another advance in technical development at Altamira is that many of the animals are painted on natural protrusions from the rock face; most samples of cave painting ignore the natural character of the rock concentrating on only one dimension.

The paintings at Altamira are unique from other cave paintings in many ways. The technical skill of the Magdalenian people set the Altamira paintings apart from the rest. For they employed many different colors, where others used only one. They used the facets of rock to complement the animal design instead of painting a flat picture. They discovered more advanced lighting approaches. And finally, they were fortunate enough to have resided in caves so remote that all their hard work and creativity would remain unscathed for thousands of years. Archaeologists, historians, sociologists and students are just a few of the people who have learned more about ancient people through these masterpieces at Altamira.


Hadingham, Evan, Secrets of the Ice Age: The World of the Cave Artists, (Walker and Company: New York, 1979)

Ucko, Peter J. and Rosenfeld, Andrew, Paleolithic Cave Art, (McGraw-Hill Book Company: New York, 1967.)…

edited to add:
as noted she would like traveling in Spain and Portugal, of course I’m also flashing back to classical guitar performances filmed at the Alhambra.
I’m not sure exactly why Gaudi’s work always reminds me of cave art as well. Something about the rounded forms and the rhythmic breaks, I think.
I’d love to see would be some of Gaudi’s more…friendly works. At one point I was fascinated with his architectural organic forms and looked up everything the library had on him. (Research geeks, hands up?)
Some of his pieces, I understand from some of the books you call coffee table size, with amazing pix, that some of his work is striking but very disturbing rather than attractive. Dark, schmoopy, unpredictable, like some of the jewelry insect designs by Louis Comfort Tiffany. More of that uncanny valley stuff…
So I thought I’d add some visuals on Gaudi here.

Greet the Ragged Stranger at the Gate

Aztec Serpent Goddess
An Aztec Serpent Goddess

You must always remember, Drin tells himself, to greet the old man at the crossroads in the morning. Acknowledge the crone at the railroad crossing.

It’s always surprising, the results you get when you do.

And even more so when you don’t.

When you forget.

Worse yet, if you were rude, or hasty, or hostile, for some reason.

That leads to…troubles.

The symphony has an over-abundance of weird old ladies who…watch things.

He’s sneaked up through the folding chairs. He’s listening to a rehearsal go badly. The conductor calls a break, and the noise shifts over to the seats where the audience sits.
The musicians aren’t talking much. Dance is going through the sheet music steadily, marking things, with his jaw set in a perfectly neutral position. The other first chairs are muttering over theirs.

The folding seats are hard. Drin picks a seat next to an aisle, where he can come and go without making too much fuss. He smiles and nods at the clump of older women in jogging suits and sweats and sneakers. Some of them know him, and smile back approvingly, but most of them are busy waving their hands and overriding each other’s conversations. Most of them have wild hair dragged up in scrunchies. They’ve clearly come from the gym down the street, and they’re just as clearly going to gossip their way leisurely through the rehearsal, and then they’re going out to dinner. There’s comments about committees. It’s unclear which of the musicians, if any, will be going with them. There are diamond tennis bracelets flashing on mottled wrists. It’s not like they need to be anywhere.

man's shoulder with bag strap
shoulder strap

“My goodness,” she says, blinking up at Drin in a deceptively old-lady way as he sits down. “Now that is a man-purse!”

Just in time, Drin remembers her name is Joscelyn. He shakes hands with a few of the others too, only those who offer. He heaves the strap off his shoulder and gives a little shrug. “Work, you know how it is.”

Always greet the rude old goddess at the crossroads.


It’s stood him in good stead before, and got him in more trouble than he cares to remember.

“You just go ahead dear, don’t mind us yelling at the top of our lungs,” Joscelyn advises him.

She turns back to her knot of friends, and waving her blue-veined hands in a vast gesture, she says, “Anyway, so Gladys just gets in, puts her stuff down, and totally forgets she still has her driver side door open. She backs out of the driveway like a shot–” there are groans from the other ladies, as of people who know Gladys and her lead-footed ways, “–and she hits the mailbox.”

There’s a groan. The old bitch points her forefinger at them, warning them there’s more to the story. There always is. The finger gets used for this a lot. It bears a huge Navajo ring with a turquoise. Her other hand bought Zuni, entire pavĂ© sheets of tiny turquoise chips, beautifully set. Emma could glance at it and tell him where it came from and who made it. She gets annoyed sometimes at galas, growling when she sees stuff she knows was stolen from some museum back in the forties.

Drin opens up his leather bag, pulls out the work, finds his place, and listens with one eye cocked to watch. He can do sums without thinking on these, he’s done it so much by now. He’s brought work with him a lot lately, reading and taking notes while he waits through protracted rehearsals. As a conductor, Maestro Young is one of those who fancies himself in the model of Georg Solti or Herbert von Karajan, taskmasters with hearts of flint when it comes to getting musicians to make the sound balance right. Richard Young intends, some day, to get somewhere better than the Metro, and he’s been showing his true colors now the party is over and it’s time to work, but Dance wasn’t there to mediate for the other first chairs. Or to soften the man’s abrupt changes of direction. Dance was off seeing caves, with Emma. Three days off, that’s all, is enough to make everyone scream for his help when he returns. They’re not grateful at all, just demanding his time. Especially Richard Young, who had no idea of the true size of Dance’s shoes.


Dance refuses to say a bad word about Young. “He knows his stuff,” Dance says, with that grim little line to his mouth that means, God help us all.

And by God, they all hate to say it, but this is helping the performances. Dance has been working his ass off, and hitting the older scores he hasn’t looked at for awhile. The other night Dance made them both laugh when he read out an old clipping he found: “Explaining why he preferred conducting the Berlin Philharmonic to the Vienna Philharmonic: ‘If I tell the Berliners to step forward, they do it. If I tell the Viennese to step forward, they do it. But then they ask why.'”

Poor man, the conductor is clearly trying to do the traditional style with unsuitable material. Robert, the pretty second cellist, has been coming in for very sharp remarks on his timing.

The audience is awfully rowdy too. Joscelyn is waving both hands. “Now, that’s bad enough, right? She takes down the mailbox, bam! But there’s the mailman’s truck right there, too, her door hits the end of the truck–” there’s more gasps than groans this time, “–and the poor guy in the mail van, he dives out the far side, you know those open doors they have. Dives right out on the street.”

Drin looks back down at the sums. Another saying that he’s been remembering a lot: Render unto Caeser what is Caeser’s. Pay effing attention, as Emma might say sternly, and get your bloody work done. Caeser is currently being a greedy landlord, as it happens, and Drin is not happy about all the work he’s taking home these days. It didn’t use to bother him. He’s got better things to do these days. Including nothing. Absolutely…nothing.

He doesn’t dare look up at the musicians. He braces himself to ride out one of those acute memories that live more in the body than in the mind. Remembering Dance moving under him.


man's torso muscles tensed
torso, muscles tensed

It still hits him hard, at the damndest times. Sometimes, if he’s careless, when he looks up, he sees Dance is staring at him blindly with exactly the same expression, and it’s incredibly hard not turn the both of them into slack-jawed idiots, right there in public. So he’s learned to be careful where he turns his eyes, during rehearsals.

“And she damn near drives up over him–” she holds up the finger to still the other ladies, “–because she’s still turning. Her car is still moving. Thank God, she told me later she panicked and swung the wheel round so hard the other way she’s skidding, but at least she missed him–” and there’s more exclamations of horror, “–so the poor man only had scratches and scrapes from falling in the street.”

Drin doesn’t get to sleep in late with Dance curled up in his arms every morning, the way he’d like. Dance is living at the Metro, working with young musicians who’ve been reduced to tears. He’s very patient. Drin knows what he has to do about that–he gets to live at the Metro too, if he wants to see more than an exhausted hug out of Dance. At least here he gets to wallow in Dance’s playing. And God, is it so much more worth falling into than he knew, than he had any idea, when he first started coming. This extended struggle has opened his eyes to entire other aspects of his lover’s personality. But here, he doesn’t even get to kiss him, not in front of people; it wouldn’t help the concertmaster and disciplinarian, to show his keeper.

He senses eyes on him. Automatically, he says, “So was Gladys hurt?”

“Oh no, a couple of bad scratches on her legs, that’s it. Can you believe it? Totals her car, the mail van, and the other car that she swung into, instead–oh yeah, there were two other fender-benders right there–bang, bang!–here’s the car door flung off into somebody’s yard like a goddamn Frisbee–and she walks away with a few scratches. My God, it’s always like that with her. I don’t know how she gets away with it. Strews wreckage in her way, and toddles along like some gray-haired little Weeble or something. You remember those?”

Drin nods. “Inflatable punching bag toys.”

“That’s what she makes me feel like doing!” Joscelyn the Queen Bee roars, shaking her fists in the air.

“You’re not the only one,” exclaims another. “Did you hear what she did to my poor old committee last week?” and they’re off.

He rakes his hair back out of his eyes. It’s hot in the hall, which is great for some instruments and not so great for others. The old ladies in their jogging suits love it, and given the aches they talk about, he can’t blame them. But it’s not so wonderful for the musicians who have to work hard and think about what they’re doing. Dance is wiping sweat from his face and hands with a rag, and drinking from a bottle of water. Drin glances up when some of the ladies nearby start leaving.

“You know, that’s a lovely shirt,” Joscelyn’s rings flash at him, and her departing friends wave their hands at her, and giggle in embarrassment.

Drin glances up at her. “Thank you,” he says.

“But it shows how your nips harden up when you look at your boyfriend,” she confides to him, not blinking.

He stares back. “Ah,” he says.

She taps him on the forearm. “It’s a little casual, let’s say. Lovely, though.”

“Thanks, I didn’t realize.”

“Goes with your eyes. Did Emma pick it out?”

He blinks again. “No.”

“Oh, then it was Dance,” she says, nodding in satisfaction. “Such a strange young man, so serious. Nobody knows what you see in him. He gives me the creeps, frankly. You should have seen Brian Ericson yesterday. My God, he storms in, accusing Dance of seducing his wife, says there’s pictures, my God–he swings at Dance–”

“What?” Drin says, focusing both eyes on her. Brain Ericson, second violin, his tired mind supplies the information.

“Oh yeah,” she says seriously, nodding and touching his arm again. “Poor little Brian, he gets these rages, you wouldn’t believe. Every month, you can tell when his wife’s on the rag, he loses it. So, hey, we’re all used to it, you know, except faux-Solti Mister Young there, who gets all wound up, just makes it worse. Everybody’s shouting, and Brian squares up like a damn boxer, he comes around and tries to punch Dance, right in front of everyone. Doesn’t work, of course. Never does. I don’t know why he always goes after Dance, who’s maybe the one person in the building could handle it without somebody getting hurt.”

“Maybe because he knows Dance can handle it?” Drin says, and Joscelyn laughs. Dance has said it’s a huge advantage to a concertmaster to know some kind of martial arts. He just hadn’t realized how literally Dance meant it. But then, Dance is often more literal than the laws of physics should allow.

“So yeah, then he has to go drag Brian-boo off and have a nice long talk where the guy screams like a girl–we all heard him start crying, my God, try to run a rehearsal through that–especially without Dance to make them pull themselves together–and Dance comes back with his shirt all ripped, and he tells everyone the second violin is going home because he’s ill, Dance apologizes to everyone, and he sits down and he gets out his music and that’s it. Is he going to press charges?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t seen the shirt yet.” It sounds weak; he has to clear his throat before he can get the words out.

She cackles, and pats his arm, and settles back to pay attention to the rehearsal, leaving Drin thoroughly unattentive.

Things don’t improve when time winds on and other people settle around them.

One of the younger men who sits down near Drin leans close, introduces himself–making it clear he’s the younger son of somebody important in a law office that does pro bono for the symphony–and he nods significantly toward Dance, and he confides, “You know, you really could update the poor man’s training methods. Drills to Locatelli, can you believe it? So Eighteenth Century. I mean, I realize the organization is strapped, but surely we could afford more modern training than that. Not the best fingering, is it?”

Having helped with the annual audit that very month, Drin knows that no, the symphony can’t afford to send their strings for more modern workshops, not for some time to come. They can’t even pull themselves together well enough to send Dance by himself. Emma’s tried, God knows. “I’m not sure any of the instruments are fingering well when they put in these kinds of hours.”

Which is a joke on the demands of the conductor.

The younger man smiles, simpers, and taps his arm. “Naughty!” he says, as if he’s been flirted with. “I like it!” and he moves on to chat with the next person, just like that.

Drin looks back at his work. If he flirted with anybody, by God, they’d know he was doing it when he got done with them. He’s annoyed. He knows it’s going to get back to Dance, and he can see how it will get there, and he knows he may have to explain. Well, if Dance bothers to worry. Drin’s not sure if he will or not. Which is a strange sensation. In his mind, though, he hears the thunk of Dance’s bedroom door — and he knows that there is one thing in his life he’ll never doubt. Which is, also, a strange sensation.

Dance is flexing his wrists oddly in the car on the way home, grimacing. His jacket is soaked, his hair is as spiky as if he’s been sprinting, and he’s clearly unhappy. He hunches in the passenger seat, which is not like him.

“Do we need to take you in for tendonitis or anything?”

“No, no, it’s just bruises from–”

Drin lifts a brow.

Dance looks guilty. “I saw Joscelyn giving you an earful. I assume she told you about poor old Brian going berserk yesterday. Poor guy loves his bloody stupid twit of a wife, and that’s how he proves it to her, that’s all. God. True love.”

Drin lifts the other brow.

“Oh, not you. That’s not what I meant.”

“Oh,” Drin says, neutrally. “How come I never saw Brian going off on you when I was mooching around, watching things?”

“Because nobody does stupid shit like that while money is in the house.”

“Oh,” Drin says again. “And Joscelyn isn’t money in the house?”

“Oh, she loves it, she eggs him on. Gotta feed Joscelyn something for her adrenaline, or she’ll find something to make up. Drama is her business.”

“Yeah, I got that,” Drin says. “Funny as hell. Provocative is her middle name. Is there one in every group of humans?”

“We have at least four of them,” Dance says, in comic despair, and he finally lets his head sink back into the support of the leather, and he sighs, and closes his eyes.

“The sound of success, as Emma would say.”

“What, that we’re large enough to support that many vampires?”


“Jesus Christ on a pogo stick fucking a koala bear. As Emma would say.”

Drin laughs. “Better him than me. You ever see the claws on one of those bears?”

“Yes, I have,” Dance’s hand slides across the gearbox to rest on Drin’s thigh. “I still need to take you to the San Diego Zoo. I have cycads to show off.”

Drin glances over at the sharp angles of exhaustion in that face. “How bad is the shirt?”

“I’m not showing it to you, I threw it away,” Dance says, opening his eyes.

“You threw away a good dress shirt?”

“Yeah,” Dance says, with a sort of fury. “I damn well did.”

Drin smiles. “Good.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, you’ve been trying to rip me out of my ratty old sweats, you see what bad habits you’re getting me into now,” Dance says, and looks at him.

“Joscelyn says this shirt shows off how my nipples tighten up when I look at you,” Drin says.

Dance opens his mouth wide, in disbelief. “She didn’t.”

“Oh yes.” Drin smiles. “Maybe I should keep this shirt for more … personal moments.”

“I liked looking at you in that shirt!” Dance says.

“And now we all know why,” Drin says, grinning.

Dance tightens his knees together and hugs himself, as if he’s in pain. “Oh God, maybe she’ll forget,” he says. “In a few months. If we behave ourselves.”

“That seems very unlikely,” Drin says. “She saw the illustrious Mister Eldred Charles the Nineteeenth or whatever it is sit down confidentially with me and get his flirt on, too. I assume you’ll hear about that.”

“He doesn’t do it very well.”

Drin cocks up the brow again.

“He leaves slime behind, like the snails on the sidewalk,” Dance says, austerely.

“Oh no, snails still have quite a lot of structure to them. Shells, all that. I’m thinking slugs.”

“Yes,” Dance says slowly. “Yes, you are right. You ever get tired of being right all the time?”

“Do you?” Drin flips it back at him. “Drills on Locatelli are so much work, my boytoy of the week is all tired out. It’s time to replace him– with a lawyer’s son.”

“Slimier than slugs,” Dance says.

“Makes me wonder what Charles the Eighteenth ever did to deserve a child like that,” Drin says. Hey, he can be a bitch with the worst of them, when it makes his musician laugh like that.

Dance squints upward at the soft interior of the car’s roof, and says, “Not pretty enough for sea slugs, not smart enough for octopus or even squid. Hmm.”

Drin says, “Dearie me, are we down to the liverworts?”

Dance opens his mouth, and Drin holds up a hand briefly, knowing he’s going to say something incredibly rude about Eldred Charles the Nineteenth, and he doesn’t want to miss it.

“Hold the thought,” he says. “We’ve got a bad-tempered archivist to pick up here.”

“This late?” Dance says, blinking at him. “She was working this late? Oh Jeez. Potty-mouth is in the house.”

“Fucking believe it,” Emma says, banging open the car door, and slinging her cloth grocery bags of books in the back seat. She always has groaning armloads of them. They trail around after her, Drin finds them everywhere she’s been, in neat tidy little piles. Emma-spoor. At one point Drin asked if they mew and ask to be fed, and she yelled at him. “Move your ass, Dance,” she says. “You’re gonna sit in my crotch, and I’m getting my hands all over something good for a change, and then Ima gonna get my–”

Dance doesn’t sigh, or grunt, or complain. He just gets out, lets her in, and lowers himself gingerly, settles himself between her thighs in the nice wide seat. It takes her about twenty seconds to find the bruises on his forearms.

“What the hell?”

“It’s okay, love, just sparring.”

“My ass, Dance, you haven’t been at the dojo in a week, what happened?”

“It’s normal concertmaster wear and tear,” Drin puts in.

“Like hell it is!”

“Brian Ericson is having his period,” Drin says.

Of course she knows exactly what he’s talking about. She never forgets anything. “Sparring, hell, last month he brought a knife in–”

“Sparring,” Dance says gently. “Like Don Quixote. He knows I’ll win.”

There’s a silence that has quite a lovely texture. After awhile Drin turns on the radio. Civilized things caress their ears. Until Dance says, “Shit, did you hear that b-flat?”

“Shut up, you bitch, I was liking that.” Emma growls, holding Dance around the neck, and shaking him gently side to side, and he lets his head roll as if she’s strangling him. They seem to find this amusing. They’ve played like this since they first met, Drin knows. Dance lets Emma smack him, twist his arm behind his back, wrap her hands around his neck. It was how they could touch. “Give me some excuse to beat you up. You think you’re getting away with this? You diiiirty raaat–”

“You tattled,” Dance says.

“Did not,” Drin says.

“I’ll tell on you about Joscelyn liking your shirt,” Dance says.

“You know, that’s what I like around here, a nice grownup conversation–” Drin begins.

“I don’t see any grownups, do you see any grownups? Where’s the grownups?” Emma says, rather wildly. “I don’t have any grownups at work, why should I have them at home?”

“Don’t tell me, it was Tour Day,” Dance says, letting his head flop back into her shoulder. Drin hears him sigh. Then Drin feels Dance’s hand slide onto Drin’s thigh, come to rest over his knee, tired, just resting there as he’s driving, and it feels… damn good.

“Why, how’d you guess?” Emma says, in that crisp brittle voice, fragile as some lacy glass confection from a lampworker. “There were quiet, well-behaved little children with bladder issues. There were large children with beards starting, who go, ‘duuur hur huur hur’ a lot. There were screaming children. There were children with communicable diseases, there were–”

“You know, it’s kind of hot to be laying on your boobs and hear you say, ‘commmuuuunicable diseases,’ like that,” Dance says.

“Hell, it’s kind of hot to see you laying there getting words like that out of her,” Drin adds, because he knows it’ll make her happy.

Her voice is getting louder. “–there were children with psychological handicaps, there were children with sociopathic tendencies, there were children who touch inappropriately and giggle in the stacks, there were children who look at you and tell you wierd shit that you were thinking anyway– what are you laughing about, dammit?”

“You can go on, if you like,” Dance says politely.

“Like you’d effing stop me!” Emma growls. “Like you effing could stop me from–”

Dance looks over at Drin. “Oh yeah, I could,” he says, smiling that little smile.

Drin says, “And her diseases are catching.”

“I like sharing Emma’s communicable diseases,” Dance says, making no effort to stop her talking. She’s saying something that Drin thinks may in be German, something rude about Freud. It is staccato and throaty. It doesn’t quite come out fluid enough for Italian.

“Hell yeah,” Drin agrees, and pulls the car into the driveway of the house. Their house. The house with Dance’s garden in it. The house that is still nowhere near big enough for all of them. There’s no place to put a bed big enough for three people. He’ll bring up the possibility of renovations, soon.

3 figures with open mouths, Trio by Ruta Elze
trio by Ruta Elze

“What about her weird shit?” Drin says then. “You like Emma’s weird shit too?”

“Well, you don’t have to go looking for extra, got enough of your own to stock a couple warehouses,” Dance says calmly.

“How about you?” Drin says.

“Oh, me? C’mon, look at this gorgeous front yard. Look at this stuff. You want the weird, I got it. I got enough wierd shit to hand it out for free.”

Dance and Emma go up the path on each other’s heels, stumbling and squabbling. Drin walks behind, watching through weary eyes. Those numbers he works on are leading him to some conclusions he’s not real happy about. Joscelyn’s comment rings in his ears; “Nobody knows what you see in that boy.”

Wierd shit, indeed.

===Challenge: respect/disrespect
Writers’ notes: Well, this chunk started off from the prompt, anyway. This is part of a story begun off some prompts in doll photography. It’s gotten completely out of hand by now…It was also run through more collaboration, and definitely much the better for it!

me=Nagasvoice, and GreenJudy, Kiyakotari, and Stella_Omega

Accidental Beauty

crocheted pillows and comforter on lounge by log wall
comforter and pillows

Emma sinks into a corner of a battered leather sofa, and pulls a thick crocheted comforter over her legs, and rests her head on the cracked back cushions. A faint odor of incontinent animals and children rises from the area. Her eyes close. She’s not sure she cares.

When she opens her eyes again, she’s aware that she’s been slumped to one side, snoring a bit, and her eyes are scratchy and her mouth is dry. She blinks, unsure what woke her up. A flash of white and then arcs of rainbow colors dazzle straight into her eyes, making her blind. She jerks, unable even to fumble up a hand in time, and squints her eyes shut. She struggles her arms up out of the comforter’s wallowing tangle.

Lights and rainbow fractions of it flash around the whole room, shifting and scattering and hypnotic.

Dance is sitting in a chair with his feet out in a patch of sunlight from a window. His arms cradle a classical guitar, one knee propped up slightly higher on a cardboard box. He is playing flamenco music on it, fingers moving all over the neck of the guitar. His face goes remote and stern when he concentrates so hard, eyes shut.

He forgets to think about anything else when his whole body is focused on the guitar. His whole body shifts gently and sways with his playing.

He has forgotten that this body includes a prehensile tail that he didn’t have some weeks ago. It is a tail with new vertebrae, a tail that has been growing out of the base of his spine in a matter of days. He is still clumsy trying to grip things and move it. He is still learning how to move with it, how to use its unknown optical properties. When he is fearful or alarmed, it will look so much like its surroundings that it can virtually disappear.

When he forgets himself, like this, the tail emerges from all its various camouflages to astonish them.

It is the tail, lying in the sun around his ankles, curling and shifting and coiling in time with the breaks in the music’s beat, that is punctuating all the pauses with knuckle-like thumps and knocks on the wooden floor, thudding like the castanet beats of a dancer’s heels.

rainbow light on cat
Surprise the Cat

In the stretch of sunlight, reflections flash and glitter off the keeled surfaces of the tail, flaring off diamond-paned scales in sprays of color. It flares back the light in an almost perfect mirror, creating lenses and throwing brilliant arcs of sunbow spattered across the walls.

Emma squints, watching the colors flicker around the walls. For some moments, she stares up in amazement at an entire wall filled with little diamonds of color. It looks like a snakeskin of pure light stretched up the grubby stucco wallboard. The reflected light ripples, like a soap-bubble, rippling through all the colors of the rainbow, over and over. When she puts out her hand in the way, the little diamonds of color move and breathe over her fingers.


Challenge: Diamond
Writer’s note: I’ve had a plotbunny take off from the previous bjd_30minfic prompt, “Cornered”, so I’ve been a bit preoccupied with seeing where it went–and it turned into plot-elephant. It isn’t a matter of *planning* on this prompt–it’s just that this story arc is all I seem to be thinking about lately! This bit is part of the same skewed universe trying to join your regularly-scheduled reality.

Unlovely, Unsung, and Really Not Hawt at All

The Gadgeteer is either wearing a wig, or the kind of hopelessly rigid hair that marcels itself with nobody’s help, and hasn’t been in style since the Barrymores were all men.
It is quite a struggle for people to accept that raw pedal-to-the-metal intelligence is sexay when it appears to look like this.
This is because any sensible person knows what a nerdboy does with a proper user manual.
They read it, they digest it, they tear it to shreds and stomp on the bits in total fury, and go design a better object, or a better manual, or both.
When this attitude is applied to dealing with the desire to please someone else in various ways, the results can be truly awe-inspiring.
I’m a little afraid to show pictures.
I couldn’t possibly do justice to the capabilities of nerdgrrls, either, who are even more wildly inventive on these matters.
I merely mention that these days manuals are available on quite a startling variety of subjects.
You may just have to remind them, when they have gotten deeply into pickling vs. fermentation experiments or the biochemistry of gill filaments, to swing back through some of their earlier interest in minor topics, such as, say, sex.
Just saying.
Mind you, this test result is particularly amusing given that I was just locked away from the Intarwebs for 2 days by a wireless router which probably overheated and required merely being unplugged and plugged back in again.
So I’m back, safe and sound, and swearing that no, I’m not an internet junkie, I can stop ANY TIME I Like.
You’ve heard this before, haven’t you?
On the positive side, while caged away from the siren lures of the web, I got a book chapter re-edited, and also edited a chunk of a rather bewildering little thing that sounds remarkably like Dance and Drin in another lifetime on an estate somewhere in the British Isles (most peculiar, and in dire need of Brit-picking) and then I hunched over my little desk and kept kicking various cats off my keyboard and I hammered out another two and half chapters of the English wierdness. Oh, and looked at various other surprising old bits that, at the time, I thought could never see the light of day, and which now seem like some nice ordinary queer boys who probably belong in a poorly-drawn yaoi manga, honestly. It would take industrial editing to fix the clumsy bits.
I can see some of the flist is looking at their watches and exclaiming over the time.
So, gadgeting!
It seems a bit odd to me that gadgeting could seem sexay to folks who grew up on GW Bush’s reign of willful ignorance. OTOH, perhaps it’s the usual appeal of generational reversal: What your grandmother or great-grandmother was doing was very geekily bizarrely intriguing but what your parents were doing is totally dorky and full of FAIL. So you get this flipflop of styles and fictional tropes and a thin line of grim survivors who carry it over through the unfashionable eras until it is rediscovered. Tattoos, anyone?
Science, apparently, may be one of those tropes now.
Especially the ebullient tinkering experimental type of science of the Victorian and Edwardian periods, when people were figuring out how to build lab equipment with some glassware and a Bunsen burner and lots of wacky specimens.
The originals were deriving their energy from a very positive mood.
It makes me feel better to see that.
I’m just not sure if nostalgia for the happy period of experimental high explosives is quite what we were talking about.
If I’m tinkering successfully with objects, apparently they really must be Victorian.
I mean, I could show you pictures of my aquarium with the CO2 gas tank associated with growing better aquatic plants, for instance–never mind the plants are real, they still look like the weird plastic ones. Why yes, gas regulators are an important part of Victorian scientific history, why do you ask?
However, you’d also notice that, strangely, my tank just looks remarkably like all those other tanks which desperately need cleaning.
At least wipe down the algae on the front glass, Igor, for crying out loud!
BTW, , I do notice that the elegant creature portrayed as the Aristocrat from the same meme over on ‘s entry for the 2nd, see here:
I don’t quite know what Drin is up to, but he left a rather cryptic email to forward to you.
He notes that picture, and continues:
Given the powder dusted on the shoulders, it looks remarkably like a chemtrail assassin to *me.*
Must be fairly self-sufficient with all the antenna in the hair, even if it’s hard to tell precisely which kind with the sensor array folded back for a social occasion like that. Probably a heavy-duty military installation there, which is a little too obvious with the out-of-period clothing. Claiming to be steampunk does not mitigate the necessity to be careful about the fabric combinations and styles. The power-generating part of the outfit is clearly visible as the stripes in the pants, which jars on one’s delicate historical senses as anachronistic with the jacket. They must be losing any kind of oversight, because that sort of sloppiness was never tolerated before. It’s a mark of bad training as well as bad maintenance.
I assume Eric can sort it out? I daresay he’s not pleased to referenced in public so often.

Research Goodies, Music, home again, home from work again, my head is killing me

is such a mischief-maker. She turned me to the dark side left a comment that had me running back to YouTube again.
And no, I don’t suggest listening to this with a headache.
This stuff, I don’t care.
Yoshida Brothers!!

And yes, some other musicians out there do things on shamisen that are modern and don’t sound like these guys at all, too. Get to them in a minute.

Okay, those of you who know more about anime probably already know these guys and their soundtrack work.

Samurai storm, anyone?

Here’s the link kiyo gave me.

This one’s nice, a little less challenging.

Yes, I did find some very nice cool almost-traditional music from them. You may notice the western instruments sneaking in there (like a movie score) trying to pretend they belonged there all the time. The vid shows a temple with azaleas in bloom, too. Very nice.
Everybody’s obi is tied just so for the pictures, and the granddaughter looks darling in her bright purple rayon.

But somehow…

…it makes me hear the musical question being asked about how much it cost to keep that garden intact, and how many dead courtiers have floated in its waters…

And yes, other folks play western-style on the shamisen. These guys are not flashy. My head wasn’t up for their take on Led Zeppelin, though. One of them also has a vid entitled, “Beyond the Yoshida Brothers”, a sort of negative fame which I always take as a good sign that somebody had made a bit of name for themselves.
Get these guys a video editor and they’d be gold, right?

Here’s Mozart’s Turkish March. If you think it sounds painfully like a toy piano, you begin to see why Yoshida Brothers have arrangements that include other things beside shamisen.
I have no idea how much pain must have gone into getting Mozart’s music to do this, because I understand it can be..challenging. Oh yeah, I can hear the horse laugh from here.

some similar guitar neck-plucking tecniques here, in a cheerful piece performed by Celedonio Romero, one of a quartest of famous bothers.