Monday, December 21, 2009

blood, guts, and goodbye

And look just there, how the goat guts drip down your scythe. Liquid rubies slipping down the obsidian blade, like your fingertips once slid down the length of my arm, both coming to rest in a warm, messy tangle of life and death. Oh, Dark Lord of the Barrrowlands, we were once something great.

Now we have spent fortnights unnumbered with each other and yet apart. We have always been about our own tasks, yes, but between the cruel ruling of our own lands won with dark magicks and deceit and our respective insatiable appetites for obscene power and raiment, we once found time for one another as pleasurable and simple to make as a virgin sacrifice to the wicked forest warrior priests of the ancients.

We once loved each other as madly and fully as our own ambitions. We oft made the blood and bed and breakfast pledges to each other, to our love, to join our great powers as one High King and High Queen of Endsong. Violent and vicious and wild-eyed, we made love and promises. Grown men shook before us united. Fair kingdoms were ruined. Children were eaten. Now we would sooner share an awkward moment of forced pleasantry than a bed, or even a set of runes. How could there now be so little to say to each other, when once there were tomes? How could we both inwardly cringe at the thought of taking on another joint campaign of dark wizard hellfire?

Though our bed has always wailed with the voices of innocents meeting their doom, another sound has joined their enchanted chorus. And oh, my love, what a dirge it is! A tune much like but far superior to the funeral of a dwarf monarchy I once witnessed briefly before igniting with flames thrown from my Staff of Nether. Sad and slow and sung by the ghost of this, us, what we were and could be but are no longer.

Many moons could be wasted lamenting this loss, our fates. But know this my once-love, my Darkness. If I had a heart I would hold you in it forever, a prisoner being slowly starved for food and hope. I would let your memory fester and die there, in that space inside me that should be.

But since we are heartless folk, I say this. A bit of the old black magic flared when you struck the guts of the goat that would be your final sacrifice to me. Remember what we once had always as I will, riding for strongholds unknown, this intestine pendant round my neck.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"I feel like I'm always learning my opponent."

My friend Philip has been a teacher and writer for longer than I have, and is an undeniable hotshot in both fields. He's all the things good teachers and writers should be: kind, creative, honest, funny, and tough. Plus he's won awards, written under the advisement of the dude who wrote Hotshots, does Kung Fu, and has a downright oldtimey mustache.

Philip: he's pretty great.

So it was great to get to vent and moan and be all the things good teachers and writers are in their off hours with him. To let all the cuckoo-clock-wound muscles unfurl and show their strain. To talk solutions, small losses and wins. To know other teachers have hit walls too, beg signs of life from a sea of blank stares and don't get so much as blinks. To hear of other Larissas and Philips giving up or doubling down, finally walking out or finally getting through.

Philip said something earlier about a cage fight he recently attended. He said, "the guy we were rooting for didn't win but he fought a good fight. He really dominated in the third round, was stronger in the second, but the first...I dunno, it took him too long to learn his opponent."

Earlier, in class, the kids and I were talking about conflict and conflict resolution. It was a great conversation, blooming like the rose at the end of some serious scrub-brush season. It got heavy, with kids opening up about a lot of the hardships they face and wondering about the effect small losses have on the psyche of themselves and others.

One kid said, "well even if we never win, we've still got to try."

I said, "Yes! Why??"

I looked around the room at twenty faces screwed up in thought. Finally, another kid piped up.

"We just have to. Right?"

"Right." I said. Then looked out at the class again. "Right?"

Twenty kids shrugged and nodded. The sound of a small win symphony.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

silver bullet with butterfly wings

“Quit rustling.”

“I’m not rustling.”

“Shut up!”

“You shut up!”

“You…you're lazy, come on.”

“Okay, Dad.”

“Shut up.”

“You’re the one who said I was bad at his.”

“No. I said you’re too loud. You’re slouching. Stand UP, Kyle.”

“I AM!”

“Shh. Puff your shoulders up. Pretend there’s a hanger in them.”

“In my skin? In my body?”

“Like you’re wearing a dinner jacket and there’s a hanger still in it. Like you’re nervous. But also like you’re angry. Like you’re ready to pick up a table and throw it.”

“Do you see this stuff on TV?”




“Great. Maybe I should start praying to the patron saint of bad-“

“SHUT UP Kyle. Jesus. I’m trying to help you.”

“You want me to stand like…I am angry…at a dinner party.”

“ Ugh. Yes.”


“I’ve never been at a dinner party though.”

“It doesn’t matter. Imagine.”

“Oh. Kay.”

“That’s…at least you’re not slouching.”

“I am bad at this.”

“You won’t always be.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Did you…were you bad at it?”

“No.A little, I guess. At first. But then…”

“That girl-“


“That’s the part I am going to be really bad at. The standing part, I can figure out. The actual…attacking part. I’m not cut out for it.”

“It's not like how- And you haven’t changed yet. Fully. You have to see how you're...The moon-“

“What is the moon gonna change? It’s not gonna change me. Who I am.”

“So you think it changed who I am?”


“Do you?”

“No! Ow. I don’t know.”

“It…I didn’t do. What dad thinks. What dad says we should do when the moon is…”

“Like that?”


“But you said- the cheerleader-the harvest festival-“

“I made it up.”

“All of it?”

“There was a harvest festival. There was a cheerleader. I just didn’t- We just kinda…talked. And we…kissed, you know. I didn’t make her or anything. It just happened.”

“Because of the moon? Or the talking?”

“I don’t know. Lower your voice.”

“Both, I think.”



“But the change? Did it-”

“It didn’t really do anything. It made me a little braver, I guess. It made me feel a little wild. Not killing wild, or anything.”

“Hungry? Like Dad-“

“Kind of hungry. But not to eat, you know?”

“Not …yeah. I guess. Yeah.”

“I think it’s different from when Dad and Granddad felt it. I think the moon is different now. Or we’re different, I don’t know.”


“This girl from class. Is she pretty?”

“I think she is. You probably won’t think so.”

“Shut up.”

“You probably won’t though.”

“Do you think she’s pretty, Kyle?”


“Then she is pretty. Jesus. What is wrong with you?”

“Why are we even out here? It’s cold. And we’re not gonna turn into monsters, apparently.”

“I know.”

“Why then?”

“Because…the moon is gonna come out. And something will happen. And I’m gonna help you figure it out.”


Monday, December 7, 2009

pearls before swine

Science is almost always the biggest waste of time. We never get to go to the lab because Deongelo and Edwin are idiots. Even when Mr. Wick tries to do easy stuff so we can earn going in the lab, Deongelo and Edwin ruin it because they curse and are playfighting. I mean, it’s hilarious, but it’s also stupid because then we never get to go in the lab and we just do stupid worksheets and that just makes them act up more, so also it’s stupid of Mr. Wick to do that. It’s like our afterschool teacher says, nothing works with seventh graders because we are hellbent on ruining everything. Hellbent is a curse, but she says she’s allowed to say it because it’s in literature and we curse more than her anyway. And we do.

But science has been NOT a waste of time this week, it has been pretty cool but also gross. We are dissecting pigs. They are baby pigs or something, and they look really nasty and kind of see-through but it is cool that we are doing something in Science that is not worksheets. We are working in groups to dissect the pig and learn about its body parts and anatomy. Deongelo and Edwin are actually good at it, go figure. It is disturbing that the only time they don’t talk is when they are cutting a dead pig, but whatever.

I wanted to try to cut it but when it was my turn I got sick. Like, at first I thought I was going to only be a little bit sick in my throat, but I don’t know. It was something about how it felt cutting it, it felt like cutting an orange. Like a really nasty orange. And I just started remembering this pig that used to run around my cousin’s house in Puerto Rico and even though that pig was bigger, I don’t know, I guess I just started confusing the pigs or something because all of a sudden I just missed Puerto Rico a lot and I felt really bad for that pig and I…I puked, man. It was gross.

All of the kids are always mean to me anyways, calling me stupid and ugly and say I look like Shrek, but when I puked they were even more mean. For a second I didn’t think it was as bad as it felt but when I opened my eyes I looked and it was really bad. Some of my puke even got on the pig. They said I puked because I felt bad for cutting up my own kind. Mr. Wick yelled at them to shut up, but even he looked mad that I puked on the pig. I hated my life.

For the rest of the week Mr Wick told me to take it easy and to read articles about Science he had on his computer. One of the articles was about this woman who brought a heart back to life. The heart was a a dead rat heart, and she cleaned it off really good with this chemical from shampoo. And once it was really, really clean she put all these new rat heart cells in it to see what would happen. And the new rat cells brought the dead heart to life. The rat heart started to beat again. It was like a zombie or something, but not evil or anything. Everyone who the woman knew was really happy for her. I guess they think one day we will be able to bring back friends and cousins and people you really miss. People who it just breaks your life to lose, you can bring back one day.

When I asked Mr Wick why she started on a rat heart and not a people heart, he said in Science you have to think big but start small.

I have been thinking. I am going to bring in shampoo tomorrow because tomorrow they get to the heart part of dissecting. I know we need more than a heart to live. But this kind of science is like magic. If you can bring a heart back from the dead, it should just start pumping blood into all the dead things and wake them up. And the legs and the brains and the guts will think they are alive and then soon enough they will actually be alive. And then the pig will wake up and it will be exactly the same except it will not think it is ugly anymore, or gross, even if it still smells like formaldehyde which it probably still will unless I bring in some perfume but even perfume mixed with that smell would be gross. But the pig won’t think it smells gross. It will think it smells like magic. Because no matter what, it broke every rule. It is a magic pig.

I got Mr Wick to print out the article for me. He is glad I am reading more advanced this year.

I am going to go home and study and come here and bring the heart back. Then I will keep the pig as a pet and teach it all new things about life. I am going to be really good to that pig.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

the shadow hero

Ale, mead, and honeywine flow freely in the hero hall. It is always a celebration here: a town has been saved, a demon has been slain, a witch outwitted. There are always stories to tell and they are almost always the same.

We heroes come to the hero hall to show off bloody heads, severed from beasts of infamy, from hell, from the deeps. We take time to mention the manner of severing: axe blade, sword, our own teeth. We eat. We drink. We make merry with maids.

From time to time something odd happens in the hero hall. A shadow will darken the hall’s threshold, turn a maid’s fair locks grey, her face white, her hands to shaking birds. Steins will clatter to the ground and grown men will groan or tremble as they face the shadow dead on.

The shadow becomes a man, or a woman. The shadow heaves and sighs. The shadow collapses at the bar, and only picks at the pretzels and popcorn offered there. The shadow man or woman may order a drink, but if they do or don’t they always just stare at the space where the drink is or would be. They sigh ever so. And breathe ever so. And think hard.

After a time of generally killing the rest of the heroes’ buzz, the shadow hero will cry. And wonder why it didn’t work. And blame themselves but try not to. And wish they could just let it go, this very unheroic way they have about them, of worrying and wondering and ruminating. And they will ponder for a moment another life, one where simple mead and empty kisses could heal their wounds. Or true love could strengthen their weak spots. Or belief could rush steady and strong at the base of their spine and out through their limbs and provide that flexibility so needed on the battlefield, in the woods, alone.

The rest of the heroes will watch this awkward hot mess transpire. Most will edge away or look at their shoes; wonder out loud about the time. But one or two or maybe three will sit nearer the shadow hero, and listen to the quiet tears. They will put hands on the shadow’s back, push the popcorn closer and say:

Eat something.


You’re still here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

remember eXistenZ?

The Cronenberg joint from the late 90s about thrills, chills, and escapades in the seedy underbelly (and bioported gamepods) of a not-so-distant future, starring international sensation Jennifer Jason Leigh and a relatively unknown British chap named Jude Law?

I was a pretty big fan of that movie. And that part where Jude Law/Ted Pikul licked ol' JJL's infected bioport in game.

If that sentence sounds like code to you while simultaneously turning you on, do yourself a favor and give this flicker a watch. Even though it's ridiculous, if you equate gamepods to iPhones it will chill you with its on-pointitude about the fetishistic addiciton people have to their personal technology. And if the chills don't impress you, Willem Defoe as (shock!) a madman will at least make you laugh.

DP: And that light is just...right. Thanks for standing in, John!
JUDE: It's Jude.
DP: Thanks Jude! Just think, one of these days this could be you starring and you'll have your own stand-in.
JUDE: I'm actually the actor. I'm not a stand in.
DP: That's the spirit, Jim!