Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thong Dong Dong Dong ...

Been communicating with Don Ahlquist, our publisher on Thong and the girls. Dunno the details yet, but it does look as if there will be an e-version of thewboy and the sluts. Stay tuned. Where else can you find somebody lampooning E.E. "Doc" Smith, R.E. Howard, and H.P. Lovecraft, all in the same book? 

The last lines of Ed Bryant's review of the thing, in Locus, when it came out:

"Perry and Reaves are good writers. They knew what they were doing. May God have mercy on their souls ..."

Meanwhile, I can probably get my hands on a couple copies if anybody is looking for a collector's item ...

This is probably not the cover image, but it kept me from doing real work for forty-five minutes while I put it together, using art that Alan Newcomer sent me a while back ...

Classy, hey?

Mo' Books

Might as well stick Master of Pamor up as as Smashwords title, what the heck. Be a while, since there are seven hundred other books ahead of it in the queue, but I don't have to sit and wait ...

Vigilante Dreams

Now and again, I have these fantasies about taking the law into my own hands. See somebody slapping their three-year-old around at the market, or some dweeb blowing through traffic at ninety-five, or otherwise being a danger and/or displaying general tomfoolery, and the urge to do something wells.

To this end, a little card I'd have to print up:

Dear Idiot,

If you are wondering why your car window is broken and your dog is gone, it's because you brainlessly left the poor creature bottled up in your vehicle on a hot and sunny day. You can find your dog at the local animal shelter, though you don't deserve to have a dog. 

You can chalk the cost of your window up to your own stupidity. If I see this situation again, you won't get the dog back, and you you'll need to call AAA to have what's left of your car towed to the scrap yard.

Have a nice day.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I can't do that, though I have to say, if I were on the jury and this was the case? The DA wouldn't be adding this one to his won column.

I can point out that there are non-emergency police numbers that you can call to report such things, and that if the officer arrives in time, there are legal ways to punish somebody who leaves his or her dog in a hot car. 

And if I thought the dog was in real distress? I'd bust out the window anyhow. (When we used to go to dog shows, there was usually a note on the program book to the effect that if somebody reported a dog in a hot car in the parking lot and it looked as if the dog was in trouble? They would break the window and remove the dog, and consider yourself warned.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Songwriters R Us

Had the tune and chords, took the guitar outside and sat in the front courtyard -- well, such that it is, basically a porch behind a fence -- and came up with some lyrics.

Winter Song
The winter’s come, it’s cold and gray and rainy, but that don’t matter at all/
Inside my head the sun is shining, and I’m having a ball.
Snow on the roof, but fire in the basement/
What else do you need?
Doesn’t matter what the weather does/
Because my baby’s with me. 
The kids are grown, the house is nice and quiet, we have all the books we can read/
The dogs are sleeping, the cat is by the fireplace,  a cooking show’s on TV.
Been many years though it seems like only hours, and we’ve come such a long way/
More roads behind us than we have left to travel, but still a few places to play.
(Chorus - repeat, and out)

Only runs a couple of minutes, even with a bit of fingerpicking between verses, but that's okay. I'm not shooting for the Top 40 ...

In songwriting -- as in any kind of artistic effort -- you should do stuff that matters to you -- things that resonate with your experience. Since I'm not planning on getting up on a stage, I'm doing these to please myself, which as Rick Nelson said, is the way to go. 

At this point in my songwriting career, it doesn't matter if they are any good, I'm going to be clearing the decks for a while yet. 

I'll get a recording this one done and up in the next couple days, all things going well.  Three new tunes in three weeks and I was planning one on a month. I'm on a roll. 

Tell 'Em, Wordman

Image from Eddie and the Cruisers, one of the few good rock 'n' roll movies around -- The Commitments, about an Irish band, is also a good one. 

There's a big character conflict at the heart of the Cruisers.  The band's leader, Eddie Wilson (Michael Paré) is a street kid from New Jersey and he's got ambition, but he needs a lyrics writer. Frank Ridgeway (Tom Berenger) shows up to fill that role, and play keyboards, but because Frank is a college kid, Eddie doesn't like or trust him. That Frank has the hots for Eddie's girl JoAnn (Helen Schneider) doesn't help.

The band comes up with a hit album, and moves into new musical territory -- more than a nod in Jim Morrison's direction here -- but splits up after Eddie drives his car off a pier and (supposedly) dies, for reasons having to do with ... art.

Years later, a documentary filmmaker, Maggie (Ellen Barkin) finds Frank and interviews him, and the fates of the band members, how it was, and what ever happened to the master  recording of the second album all come to light. Is the ghost of Eddie Wilson haunting them? Or is it something more mundane ... ?

Eddie called Frank "Wordman," and there's a great line when somebody asks what "susurrus" means. Eddie grins, as if the question is something only an ignorant fool would ask, nods at Frank, and says, "Tell 'em, Wordman."

The movie didn't make any money on the original release, it was told mostly in flashback, but it had some great music (John Cafferty's) and it captured the essence of a rock group on the way up, at the top, and then falling apart. Became a cult classic, and you see it from time to time on VH1. Berenger and Barker went on to fair careers; Paré, not so much.

All of which is a long-winded way to say that when I write songs -- such that they are -- I usually come at it from the lyrics side. Being a wordman, that's where I'm comfortable. But this week, I decided I wanted to approach writing a song from the other side, so I've noodled a tune and some chords, and I'm going to try to see if I can manage it that way.

Live and learn, maybe. I'll keep you posted.

Man's Sandwich

Western half of the country was a tad warm yesterday -- record highs in SoCal, running all the way up to San Francisco and into Arizona and New Mexico. 113º F. in downtown L.A. Yeah, it's a dry heat, but still.

Our Indian Summer was less fierce in western Oregon -- 82º, but muggy, humidity pushing eighty percent. Warm enough to justify cranking up the grill for supper. I did some onions, peppers, an eggplant, some chicken-apple sausage, and warmed up some bread. The resultant sandwich, on homemade walnut wheat/rye bread, also warmed on the grill, with a bit of sliced tomato from our whiskey barrel garden and a slather of Dijon mustard. 

And a bottle of Black Butte Porter to wash it down ...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Thong in a Drawer

Cleaning the office, and I came across the original ms and correspondence file for Thong the Barbarian Meets the Cycle Sluts of Saturn, with Michael Reaves. 

Originally, we sold this story to Pulphouse, having to twist Dean's arm to get him to take it, and it turned out to be a magazine killer -- shortly after he agreed to buy the piece, Pulphouse was overwhelmed by the recurring small press tsunami and drowned. This was a loss for the field, even if Thong and the girls maybe not so much. (Looking at email that Reaves and I exchanged, I see that I once called the piece Thews and Hooters ...

Um. Eventually, Don Ahlquist heard us reading our orphan aloud at a convention, to much merriment amongst ourselves and the audience, and approached us to publish it as a short book. It is pretty damned funny read aloud. 

Only novelette-length at 12,000 words, that meant small pages and big type, as well as illustrations reflective of the prose. To make it a tad longer, I did an intro -- "How Thong Got His Blade Sharpened," and Reaves did a Retrospective, in which we explained how we had come to create the monster ... and there we were.

Eventually, the book came out. Don never said, but I suspect he lost his shirt on it -- the world wasn't ready for such a magnificent thing -- though they are now collector's items and spendy, if you can find any. One was a dust-jacketed regular hardback; two versions were bound in leather: Ten copies in red; one hundred numbered and twenty-six lettered copies in blue, the leather versions all autographed by the writers and artist. Last time I looked, there weren't copies for sale on eBay, though somebody had one of the plain ones up somewhere for like $250 or so -- I stuck my two leather covers into the gun safe.)

I haven't heard back if it's going to be an ebook or not yet. I'm still not sure the world is ready ...

Wishful Drinking

I finally got around to reading Carrie Fisher's most recent book, Wishful Drinking, the memoir that is the basis of her one-woman show that ran on Broadway, and the documentary of which will be on HBO.

As every fanboy knows, Fisher was Princess Leia, and the object of much fanboy lust in her brass bra, which is, of course, a fanboy in-joke. And no, when they shot the first picture, nobody had a clue that Princess Leia and Luke were brother and sister, thank you very much. During the filming, Fisher and Ford reportedly went at it hot and heavy every time the cameras went off.

What a lot of fanboys probably don't realize is that Fisher is funny and a talented writer. Even though Star Wars will pay the rent forever, she has made a good living as a script doctor, i.e., a writer who touches up or rewrites material for the big screen and usually for good money but little or no credit. 

In her books -- four novels and this non-fiction effort -- you can see how funny and clever with words she is. She's a much better writer than actress.

She's also a drug addict, bipolar, and in the book, discusses electro-convulsive shock therapy, which she underwent for major depression.

It takes balls to write a book where you let it all hang out, and all of her personal work has done that. Postcards from the Edge, which was turned into a movie starring Shirley McClaine and Meryl Streep, starts with a stomach-pumping OD and ventures into rehab. 

In this latest effort, you can see the raw edges of Fisher's psyche, only slightly padded by her wonderfully-clever humor and writing. She writes about being manic-depressive. About failed marriages. About a gay man who died in her bed, and it is grin-and-shake-your-head time. About long phone conversations with Cary Grant about LSD ...

Sometimes, funny is right on the edge of madness, and it's laugh or die. I give you the late Richard Jeni, my all-time favorite stand-up comedian, who could put an audience peeing and in tears laughing, and who killed himself. 

Fisher, whose mother is Debbie Reynolds and whose recently-departed father was the 50's crooner Eddie Fisher, was raised in the unreality of Hollywood stardom. Her parents were America's sweethearts, on the cover of every Hollywood fan magazine. Her father, who apparently had a magic zipper that opened every time he stood within dick-range of a handsome woman, nailed actresses left, right, and from all angles, and wrote a tell-all biography about it. When his best friend, Mike Todd, died in a plane crash, he hurried off to hold the widow's hand. And quickly held other body parts, those belonging to Elizabeth Taylor. America's sweethearts split the sheets. Fisher and Taylor married, then divorced when she hooked up with Richard Burton filming the god-awful Cleopatra.

Debbie Reynolds, for those of you asleep in Hollywood history class, was the female lead in Singing in the Rain, with Donald O'Conner and Gene Kelly, and part of what is one of the most fun dance sequences ever put on the silver screen ("Good Mornin'!")

Reynolds was also in a movie called Tammy and the Bachelor, and during the shooting of this, was pregnant with Carrie. I had my first movie-star schoolboy crush on Debbie as Tammy, a picture I saw when I was probably nine. The song that Reynolds sang in this movie, "Tammy," was nominated for an Oscar™, and spent five weeks at #1.  Had lyrics like "the old hootie, owl hootie, whoos to the dove/" in it. That I can remember that fifty-four years later is a measure of ... something ...

Um. Anyway, if you have a warped sense of humor, you'll enjoy anything written by Carrie Fisher. (Doing flack for her one-woman show, somebody asked her about it, and she said she would talk about sleeping with the Ewoks and how she and Jabba did it ... In the book, however, she didn't talk about how she and Harrison Ford broke furniture all over the set of the first SW's movie getting it on, though she did mention that the reefer he had was so potent she had to lay off the stuff because it put her over the edge. And remember, she was only nineteen when she starred in that first one.)


My wife and I decided to upgrade our printers this weekend. Long ago, when she had her office on one end of the house and I on the other, we had two printers -- a habit we kept when we bought new systems. 

Recently, my printer (6+ years old) clogged up past the point that the self-clean operation would do it any good. If you have ink-jet printers, you need to crank them regularly, else they do that, gum up. My office isn't completely paperless, but it isn't far from it, so the printer doesn't get the exercise it once did. 

Hers -- also ancient in computer-years -- was also getting spotty, and since both were from two or three computers back, we thought it was time. 

Gotten a lot cheaper, these devices, and all-in-one -- printer, fax, copier, scanner. We found one at Costco, and since we now live in an age wherein electronics can talk to each other wirelessly and since we really don't need two printers, we got one. 

Good that we aren't using such a toy as much, the ink cartridges, of which you need five, cost almost as much as the hardware itself to completely replace. 

These are supposed to be plug-and-play, but of course, they aren't. Eventually, I got around to doing what every red-blooded American man only does as a last resort -- I read the manual, and thus equipped with how it's supposed to be done, mostly got it working.

My wife can access the printer from her laptap anywhere in the house. We can print, copy, and, in theory fax, though I didn't bother to hook that up. Scanner doesn't want to light up, and turning things off and on and re-installing HP's software doesn't seem to help. Odd that the computers can see the printer and copier just fine, but can't find the scanner via any of the three kinds of software I have that are supposed to do that. 

Always been something of a problem with flatbed scanners and my Macs, Lord knows why. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Humanist Hymn

Got a version of the new song, "Let It Go,"  recorded. It's still ragged -- vocals are off a hair, timing, too, but you can get a general idea of what I'm going for if you want to have a listen. Here, or in the music player down the page. I'll redo this one once I learn how to play it.

That's not something you think about if you don't write songs. I mean, mostly, we listen to something we like on the radio or live or from an album, sing along, maybe look at the words in the liner notes, to learn to sing it. If you are using music or lyric sheets, you can do that. But just because you write a song doesn't mean you know it -- you have to learn it as if it was done by somebody else. Odd.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Inertia and Entropy

What with one thing and another, we haven't made it to the gym in the last couple of weeks.

Well, actually ... make that the last couple of months.

Oh, all right, if we are being honest and all, the last couple of years

It's not like I've been sitting on the couch all that time. I weigh the same. I have a couple barbells at home, a chinning bar, punching bag, the little strider machine, and there's silat and walking the dogs and all. I worked up several ways to use muscle-against-muscle resistance and walls and chairs, and have been doing that. I have lost a little muscle mass, and I know I'm not as strong as I was. Last time one of the Italians came to silat class, he used more muscle than he he should and he had some to spare. Back in the day, I'd have just shoved him around. This time, I had to depend on technique. Which is what you train for, of course, to be able to overcome pure strength with skill, but, of course, I want it all.

Older you get, the harder that is to pull off. 

Two years back, my wife started taking yoga teacher training. After she finished the course and passed the test to be certified, she started teaching classes, and going to work the iron and machines at the local rec center kind of fell off the radar.

So we decided to rejoin, now that things have settled down a bit. Kind of spendy for Parks & Rec  -- living in the district sets us back us eight dollars a month each, with the senior discount. Not many gym bunnies in spandex, mostly older folks in sweats. You go there to work out, not to be seen. There's a pretty good weight room, and another room full of bikes, walkers, and stair climbers for aerobics. Basketball gym at the end of the hall, and a baseball and soccer field out back. 

Friday nights are not busy. There were three other people in the weight room with us, and maybe five in the aerobics room. 

Tonight was the first session in two years. Couple things I noticed: First, I hadn't lost as much strength as I thought. After than long a lay-off, I knew better than to try and push my former maximum reps on anything; but I didn't have any particular trouble doing sets with 75-80% of those weights. So you can maintain a certain base level with less than full gear. (Things like lat pull downs, I wasn't worried about, since I do bodyweight chins or pull-ups every other day.)

Second thing was, my endurance was less than it was. I got tired quicker. Half an hour, I was done. We went to the book store afterward and at one point when I sat on the floor to check out the books on a bottom rack, my triceps were really weak when I shoved off to get back on my feet. 

Twice a week is probably going to be what I can manage doing full body workouts. Be interesting to see if I can regain the strength I had, or improve on it. At this stage, I don't want to be tearing ligaments or muscles or burning up my joints, so I ain't going down the heavy iron road in any case. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Haunted Automobiles

Came home yesterday and pulled my car into the garage. Switched off the key and -- 

There came the sound of a small aircraft taxiing for take-off -- from under my car's hood.

Oh, my. Key is off, but something's definitely running. And not that old chudder-chudder dieseling I used to get in my old Chevrolet once it got warmed up.  

This can't be good, thought I.

Actually, it can. Apparently the Mini, as other "modern" cars, has an auto-feature that causes the coolant fan to keep going if things are too warm, kind of like in the convection oven we have. 

After a minute or two, the fan shuts off, and end of story. I dunno why yesterday would have been any different than any other day, but apparently the car must have thought so.

So, no problem -- except sometimes if a switch has gone bad, because something is apparently wired oddly in these critters, and so the little cooling fan might kick on and keep going until your battery dies. That would be bad. 

Fortunately, that wasn't the case here.

Learn something new every day.

Let It Go

This month's song -- maybe I'll count it for next month's, depends on how creative I feel, since I'm only making myself write at least one every four weeks, and I did the old hippie song only a couple weeks back.

I wanted to do a hymn, well, okay, sort of, so consider this a humanist hymn, for what it's worth ...

Let it Go

Krisha says it’s Maya and Buddha says you’ll suffer, and
that’s not at all what Jesus said/

The Abos say it’s dreamtime, a-theists say it’s nothing,
Sigmund says it’s all inside your head.


Let it go, let it go, you got to let it go/
Your vision might be right, it might be wrong/
The only thing that matters is to love your fellow man/
Let it go, let it go, and move along.


We all have different viewpoints and whose can say what’s true? I wish I had the answers but I ain’t got ‘em/

The sages throw their nets out and gather in the converts, but what happens to those left down on the bottom?



Ole debbil Expectation, he’s a’waitin’ in the dark, and he’ll grab you by the throat if he is able/

The things you thought you knew they don’t always come to pass, and the answers that you want aren’t on the table.



I thought I had the solution but it turned out that I didn’t, I never even got within a mile/
The last thing that I ought to do is offer you advice, but here it is and given with a smile.

(Chorus twice, and out ...)

I'll inflict it on you once I get it recorded ...

Things That Go Bump in the Night ...

When poking around on an SF database that listed most of my bibliography, I came across the short story list. One of these was "A Few Minutes in the Undead Hunter's Gunshop."

Sometimes people ask me how come I don't write vampire stories, or those featuring hot babes who hunt and kill vampires and other assorted monsters, but who are also in love with one of the undead.

Been there. Done that.

" ... Gunshop," published in the Dark Fantasy edition of Pulphouse (the hardback magazine), in the Fall of 1990, is a three-character short story.

The set-up for the tale: Cecil owns a gun shop in SoCal, at which he sells weapons for those who want to hunt supernatural creatures: vampires, werewolves, fairies, elves, gnomes, water sprites ...

Alas, I don't have the story in e-form, and the back issues, if you can find them, start at around thirty-five bucks and go up. But I'll give you a flavor of the story:

The opening paragraph:

"Mary Ann was wiping stray grains of gunpowder from the reloading bench when the beach boy came into the shop. He looked about as at home here as a green lizard in a cherry snowcone. She shook her head. Cecil would have every dime the guy owned in ten minutes, tops. The kid might as well have a big neon sign flashing 'Sucker!' over his head. He was too Redondo Beach to be way out here in the Valley. Encino was cruel to his kind."

Or a bit later:

"Mary Ann wanted to moan. Troy. Of course. A volleyball-playing beach muffin who wanted to go out at night and hunt the undead. Troy. Jesus."

And since you probably won't find it, the spoiler, in which Troy turns out to be more than he pretends to be:

"'Jesus!' Cecil said. He started pulling the trigger again and again, the little red dot of the laser still centered on Troy's heart. The gun ran dry after five more shots. Mary Ann saw the holes punch into the sweater, saw the cloth dust and little shreds of it fly every which way. Dead, really dead.

"Her ears hurt, ringing to drown out everything else. He was still standing. How could he–?

"Troy reached up and ripped the sweater apart with his clawed hands, revealing a vest of dark gray material under it. Mary Ann recognized it immediately. Cecil wore one like it sometimes when he went out hunting."

"Kevlar," Troy said. He laughed."

A Valley boy vampire who wears Kevlar to stop wooden-cross-tipped bullets.

I got your Twilight right here ...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Legal Eagle

We went to see a lawyer today, to work on what is euphemistically referred to as "estate planning." What this means is, who gets your stuff after you die.

This was after my wife had spent an hour in the dentist's chair having a tooth drilled.

Sounds like a fun day, hey?

Not that we are really looking at doing that, dying, any time soon, but the reason you get a will or a trust or whatever is for those unforeseen circumstances wherein you go out to, say, collect the mail -- but you don't come back -- least not under your own power. It happens, and while most of us put it off as long as we can and would rather think about more pleasant things, at some point, you have to bite the bullet and get through it. If you die without a will, it will take a long time for your spouse or kids to collect, and the estate tax, which comes and goes, depending on the current administration, will be a killer.

We had a simple will, witnessed and all, years back. I die, my wife gets what's left. She dies, same deal. We both die, it goes to the kids. But that was out-of-date long ago, since the folks we would have had administer stuff for our still-at-home minor children have all passed on themselves. Plus now we have IRAs and SEPs and maybe even the odd book royalty, plus the house and cars and all.

The attorney was a delight. Young enough to outlive us, got kids and dogs of her own, and she was funny. Told some hilarious, non-specific-generic-lawyer stories, and it was, by and large, much more pleasant than one is apt to think when going it to talk about revocable trusts, powers-of-attorney, and who decides when to pull the plug when grandpa snores with the carrots.

And it is a load off our minds, knowing that how we want things to go after we croak will be how we want, and not up to the state or feds to beat our children about the ears before they take half of it.

Other Toys

A short story from F&SF from some years back. If you are a Peter, Paul, & Mary fan, you'll get it. If not, probably not ...


THE FEAR SITS IN MY BELLY like a lump of rock from the bottom of the sea, cold, icy, indigestible, stretching my bowel, weighing me down. Worse than pain, worse than death, worse than anything— the thought that God has forsaken me clutches at me with claws so sharp they pierce to my very soul, causing my essence to spew forth like a fount of spiritual blood.

God has forsaken me. I am doomed.


What could I have done? What vile act could be worth this, this the ultimate curse? Surely I am a sinner, never have I claimed otherwise, but surely my crimes have been in the doing of small sins, never drawing near the murky swamp of heresy, never veering from True Devotion, nary a misstep from The Path. This I can attest to, this I can affirm, for in my heart I know. I am not — never— have I felt moved to the slightest apostasy; always have I kept the Faith, always, by my life...and yet —

And yet, God no longer answers my prayers. I am abandoned and the thought of never feeling His light upon my worthless self again tears asunder my being. Please, my Lord, forgive me for my errors! In Your infinite mercy, pity me, for I do not know what I have done to deserve this, the worst of all punishments.


If he hadn’t been on vacation, John Cartas would never have noticed the piece. The article in the paper was short, a filler, really, buffed in the back pages under the ad for tires and the new woman sportswriter’s column. In what the city editor called the “Science Section,” trying to keep a straight face while he said it. No byline. They either pulled it off the wire or had one of the drones hack it out:

ANNA-BY-THE-SEA — A team of visiting paleontologists from the University of Arizona have made what one representative terms “an amazing discovery” in a cave near the town of Anna-by-the-Sea.

According to Professor Peter Lipton, head of the team, the searchers have uncovered the remains of a new and unique dinosaur.

“It appears to be the entire skeleton,” Lipton said, “we’ve never seen anything quite like it before.”

Lipton’s team hopes to complete the excavation of the dinosaur before winter

sets in.

If he’d been on the beat, dealing with the scum of the city, he would have been too busy writing the news to read it. He was a good reporter, if getting long in the tooth at forty-five to still be on the cop shop; still, good reporter or not, he got most of his news when he was working from the tube. Dan Rather. Peter Jennings. Even Tom Brokaw, when the cable sometimes went out and he had to tune the damned set manually.

Cartas leaned back in the rickety cane-bottomed chair that had belonged to his grandmother. The wood was old, the screws had pulled halfway out on one side, the caning was stretched by too many fat asses over too many years. He reached for the cup of coffee and sipped at it, but it had gone cold, the cream giving it a sickly and almost rancid paleness. He put the cup down and looked at the piece again. It didn’t mean anything, didn’t mean anything at all. He was on vacation. He was forty-five, bald, thirty-five pounds overweight and sitting alone in his matchbox of a kitchen in his rented house, drinking too much coffee. Who would have ever thought it would be like this? He’d had such big plans, once upon a time. A long time ago. It had gone south somewhere along the way, one day he’d looked up and half his life was over. He’d lost it somewhere and damned if he knew where. Or when.

So, some scientists found some bones, big fucking deal. It didn’t matter.

Peter Lipton wished he had a gun. Better, one of his more Neanderthal football-playing students with a machine gun, standing outside the cave, ready to blast anybody who got too close.


Lipton pulled himself away from the fantasy. Might as well wish for the royalties to Jean Auel’s next novel, while he was at it. He looked at the speaker, his post-doc assistant, a long-haired boy of twenty-six who bore the rather absurd name of “Ocean Cummings.” Most of the time he went by O.C. His parents had apparently been hippies in the sixties and inflicted much upon him as a result of their rather solipsistic new age cant. Some of it must have stuck, for he wore his hair in a long braid that nearly reached to the middle of his upper back.

“We’ve found another one,” O.C. said.

He held his hands out as might a man offering gifts to a king.

Lipton had seen sixty-eight of the things by now, they had that many whole ones, plus fragments of maybe fifty others, but each time seemed like a miracle. It was greenish, almost a jade color, veined with dark red twisted lines just below the surface. This particular specimen was the size of a saucer, roundish but irregularly so, perhaps the thickness of a fifty-cent piece and slightly curved.

“You have it tagged and located?”

“Sure, Doc. You think being in a cave has made me stupid?” Lipton smiled politely.

“Uh, one other thing, Dr. Lipton. I dunno if I ought to even say anything about it, it’s only a rumor, something I picked off the computer net when I was online last night.”

“Go on.”

“Well. Noel, out in Montana, I get the impression he’s planning on heading this way.”

Lipton felt his stomach lurch. As a boy in New Orleans, he had spent more than a few happy hours at Lake Ponchartrain, back when the Zephyr was still the scariest roller coaster in the country. He’d never enjoyed that ride, though teenage bravado made him climb on it every time he went to the park. His stomach felt now as it always had right after that first big drop on the Zephyr. Noel!

“I will personally box the man’s ears if he shows up,” Lipton said. He meant it, too.

O.C. laughed. “Hey, we were here first. When you get your paper done on this, Noel will be begging to polish your shoes.”

Lipton’s smile was larger this time. Now there was a pleasant thought indeed.

I must be in error; I am mistaken. Surely it is so. God is busy, He has so much to do, it is selfish of me to think that I among all His creations deserve His presence more than another. He has not forgotten me, rather He has winds to direct and stars to place in the Heavens, myriad chores I cannot begin with my limited, small mind to understand. How dare I hope to fathom the mind of God?

This is surely a test, a simple one of my Faith, and All Knowing as He is, God has seen that in my fear I had begun to fail. I allowed my fear to create doubt and down that path lay reason for my panic. But no more. I shall abide, I will stand fast. My life will go on as it normally would, I shall do those things for which I am designed: I shall eat and sleep and pray and maintain my purity and upon me God will smile once again, once He sees my love is true. He cannot have deserted me, his most faithful of servants. It is beyond belief.

Cartas called the desk and got Kohler, who was stuck on rewrite. “Kohler.”

“Hey, dickhead.”

“Well, well, John-boy. What are you doing calling in? I thought you were on vacation.”

“I am, but I need you to look up something for me.”

“What — is there a sign on me that says ‘lackey?’”

“Come on, Kohler, deadline is passed and you don’t have jackshit to do.”

“All right. What?”

“We ran a short piece in the Sport-Science section this morning, about some scientists out at Anna-by-the-Sea.”

“Hold on.” Cartas heard the sound of the keyboard clicking as Kohler called up the file. “Yeah, I got it. So?” “Is that the whole piece or is there more?” “Looks like the whole pyramid, Jackie, baby.” “Nothing on the log?”

“Oh, yeah, right, we’ve sent four guys and a camerawoman out to do a layout for the Sunday mag. Buncha diggers from the U of Geek rummaging around in fossils, hey, that’ll blow Thanksgiving right outta the paper.”

“Your sarcasm needs work, Kohler.”

“‘You’d know, you’re the expert.”

Kohler cut the connection and Cartas cradled the phone and stared at it. He sat there for a long time before he sighed and shook his head. Fuck it. What else could he do?

IT IS NOT right! It cannot be fair! I have been faithful, I have obeyed His every command, His every whim and my reward for selfless devotion is that I be tossed aside? To be shrugged off as one without value? To be of no more concern than the scat of a recent meal?

No! Damn Him! I will have have it! I will turn my face away from Him! If he ever returns I will spit on Him! I will huff my defiance at Him and no matter what He does, I will not repent!

How dare he abandon me? This is not how the world should work, it cannot be so if there is any justice under the heavens!

No God of mercy could behave this way!

Damn Him!

Damn Him!

“We’ve got the measurements on the skull, Doc. Looking at two meters, three, from snout to the base.”

The air in the cave was damp and smelled of seaweed and salt spray, the late autumn winds had freshened and, coming off the water, they drove into the hollow sometimes with a force to make the crags and crannies howl. Like blowing across the mouth of a Coke bottle, Lipton thought.

There were only five students in the cave now. It was late, and while the lamps on their stands kept the darkness well at bay, the night’s cold touched them with bolder fingers.

Lipton walked over to where the half-excavated skull lay. The bone was nearly clean where it was exposed. Even though the remains had not been there very long, the damp air and rot had done their work, and small scavengers had taken their share of the thing’s flesh.

It seemed to Lipton that the beast wore an Archaic Smile, and he said as much to O.C., who stood aiming the laser tape at the skull.

“Archaic Smile?”

“The term for the expression on the faces of many Greek statues from the Archaic period,” Lipton said. “From around 750-500 B.C. Some schools of thought have it that the smile resulted from the Greeks’ belief that the expression reflected perfect health; others believe that the smile simply represented a certain amount of technical difficulty in carving a curved mouth around a rather block-like head, which was all the rage at the time.” O.C. nodded. “Interesting.”

“Our friend here seems to be wearing an almost Mona Lisa-like smirk.” “Yeah, it does kinda look like that. Wonder what he was thinking about?”

“That we’ll never know. But when the world finds out what we have here, we’ll have reason for plenty of smiles of our own.”

Truly, Lipton thought, as O.C. continued his measurements. While every reptile was unique, more or less by definition, no one had ever seen a creature like this before. And it had not lain moldering here for tens of millions of years, either. This was his coelacanth; this was going to set the scientific world on its ear! His career, steady but undistinguished, was made. His students’ careers were made. He was at the scene of the biggest find in history and no one would ever be able to take that away from him! Not even the despicable Noel.

I am going to die. I cannot eat, I cannot sleep, I cannot stir myself even to defecate. I lie in pools of filth, waiting for the end. Forgive me, dear Lord, for my blasphemy. I was weak, I know, I found anger where there should never have been any. I deserve this state. I deserve to die for having raised my voice against You. I ask that You consider my pain as an excuse — not really a justifiable excuse, I know, but all my withered mind can offer. When you have frolicked with God, to be left alone is a wound from which you cannot easily recover. It made me mad, there can be no other answer. In my grief and pain and fear, I cried out, and thus condemned myself.

You know this. Of course You know, You who are All Things.

I ask for Your forgiveness even as I am cast down into the depths of The Pit.

I was unworthy of Your love; I failed You, and I will spend Eternity in sorrow and regret for my weakness. Forgive me . . .

Cartas found the cave. The stink of seaweed permeated the air, and it was getting really cold. The wind cut at him, found the openings in his worn leather jacket, polished his bare head as it passed. Fog was forming and rolling in.

He felt the sense of dread he’d been expecting but he pushed on. He saw the lights from inside, a couple of kids leaving carrying plastic coolers and green plastic trash bags as they left. They were laughing enjoying themselves, full of life and youth. He couldn’t remember feeling that way.

Cartas moved closer, picking his way across the rocky shoreline. The tide was in and the path was narrow. He slipped a couple of times on the slimy rocks, nearly fell, but managed to keep to his feet. By the time he’d gone up the slight incline to reach the cave’s mouth, he was cold and out of breath. Twenty years ago he could have made it without breathing hard. Fifteen years before that he would have danced across the treacherous rocks at a run and never worried about falling. Nor would he have fallen.

“Who are you? What are you doing here?”

A tall, thin, ruddy man with salt and pepper hair, dressed in a windbreaker over a T-shirt and blue jeans stood there, staring at him.

“I’m Jack Cartas,” he said, finally getting his wind back. “I’m a reporter-”

“Out, out!” the man said, shooing at him as though he were some kind of small pest. “We aren’t ready for the media, this entire area is off-limits!”

A second man, much younger, wearing braids and a questioning look, came up from the depression behind the older man.

“Are you Professor Lipton?”

“Yes, I am, but you’ll have to leave. You have no right to be here.”

Cartas nodded. “Boy, that’s true. But I have to take a look at him before I leave.”

“Impossible. The site cannot be disturbed!”

But Cartas had come too far to turn away now. He knew he shouldn’t have made the trip, it wouldn’t solve anything, wouldn’t make anything any better. He started up the incline, smiling vaguely at the professor, so as not to seem menacing.

“Stop! You’ll step on something!”

Sure enough, he did, not two seconds later. He stopped, bent, picked it up. Held it up and stared at it.

“Put that down!” The Professor seemed as if he might have a stroke. “You have no idea what you are fooling with!”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” Cartas said. He waved the mostly-flat but slightly curved greenish plate. “This is a scale. It came off your dinosaur, there in the pit behind you, right? Thirty-seven years ago, I’d guess.”

Cartas moved up the slope. When Lipton moved in front of him, he put out one hand and moved the man aside. He reached the edge of the shallow depression and stopped. Stared clown into it. Shook his head.

“Ah, Jesus. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I — I didn’t know. I was just a fucking kid. Forgive me.”

He turned around and looked at the two men. The younger one’s face wore a shocked expression, his eyes wide. He knew.

Too late, Cartas thought. For you. For me. Too late. It had all started to go downhill then, he knew that now. One day thirty-seven years ago. No going back now. Shit.

He walked out past the two scientists. He did not look back as he left. Old, tired, used up, worn out.


“Oh, man,” O.C. said. He shook his head as the fat and bald little man left the


“He took one of the scales,” Lipton said. “We’ll have to call the local authorities, the police.”

“Well, he’s got a right, if he wants it.”

“Excuse me?”

“Jesus, Dr. Lipton, don’t you know who that was? What this thing is we’ve found here? Oh, man.”

Lipton stared at his assistant. “What are you talking about?”

“He’s been here before,” O.C. said. “Haven’t you heard the song? Christ, my parents were old hippies, I grew up listening to it from the time I was a baby.”


“And his name, he told you what it was, didn’t he?”

“He said it was ‘Cartas,’ that would be Italian, I believe.”

“Yeah. ‘Jack Cartas.’ Cartas is Italian. It means ‘papers.’”


“Jack Cartas. What might you call an eight-year-old version of him? Jackie?”

Despite his general myopia outside academia, Lipton was not stupid. “It can’t be,” he said. But his voice was not much above a whisper and the little boy inside him who used to ride the Zephyr knew beyond any doubt that it was so. Jackie Papers.

And that same little boy in Lipton also knew what the scientist would still try

to deny: That wasn’t a dinosaur behind him at all.