Hammers, Screwdrivers, and Scissors: An I-Can-Do-It Book (Helen’s Version)

He sat among them, surrounding himself in their company. A neat stack near his right elbow, waiting.  The rest spread out all around, overlapping here and there as thoughts from one source seemed to flow into the next. Stories, myth and legend, fantasy….evidence.

“Still here?! The supplies are packed!  We should be gone already!” the voice echoed too loudly across the library. “We decided this weeks ago, and you lost.”

A set of heavy steps and a set of lighter, quicker ones behind those approached the desk.

“You decided you won,” Filvarel observed without looking up from his study.

“There is no proof. No solid evidence. Nothing. End of story. Book closed. Let’s go.” Dhuggoc scooped up the books and papers and heaped them onto a return cart. Salser jumped at the noise, landing between Dhuggoc and Filvarel.

“The proof is all around you,” Filvarel plucked a volume back from the cart.

“Proof of what? That fairies exist or that they don’t?” Salser prodded.

“I’m not starting this again. Time to go,” Dhuggoc insisted.

“They are as real as any of us. Fairy tales are everywhere. Every culture, every generation. It is based on some truth.” Filvarel marked a passage of his book for further study.

“What is truth? Your truth or mine? Truth can be tricky, like me,” Salser chuckled, hopping from one foot to the other.

“You will shut up,” Dhuggoc warned. “You’re distracting him.” He grabbed the remaining books and papers from Filvarel’s hands and dumped them on a poor, unsuspecting librarian as she passed. “Unless you hand me a fairy, a real live fairy, they don’t exist. No such creature, no such magic. And no more delay!” He turned on his heel and tromped out. It seemed dwarves did not belong in libraries.

Filvarel sighed and gathered up his things. Between Salser’s antics and Dhuggoc’s rough demeanor, his companions were leaving quite a wake in the normally peaceful library. Filvarel whispered an apology to the book-keeper at the center of the library as he passed. And, running his hand along the shelves with a promise to return soon, he slipped between the rows and out into the tree-lined street.

“What if he handed you a dead fairy? Do dead fairies count?” Salser goaded.

“A dead fairy would only prove that they once existed. My point is that they are still with us today.” Filvarel unrolled a small sketch, still unfinished.

“I see no one with us except this trickster. And I’m done with this argument. Nothing has changed. You still have no proof,” Dhuggoc didn’t look back.

“What is your proof? How do you prove they don’t exist? Hand him a not-fairy?” Salser was enjoying this a bit too much. Duggoc glared at him.

“You cannot see the air. Nor can you see loyalty,” Filvarel commented.

“Why must you complicate matters?” Dhuggoc was getting agitated now. “And put away your silly drawing, elf. That is a child’s work.”

“I am merely trying to cut through the flaws in your logic,” Filvarel replied evenly.

“Stop it. I hate that. My mind is set,” Dhuggoc asserted.

“Yes, you do keep repeating your point,” Filvarel left it at that. He rolled his parchment up again, content to work on it later.

“And you said things that are repeated are based on some truth,” Salser triumphed. The little gnome looked like he might break into a jig.

“Just as you said that you can be tricky,” Filvarel countered. “You twist my words.”

Salser laughed gleefully and ran ahead counting himself the winner this round. Dhuggoc shook his head and strode on, eager to continue their journey. Filvarel, however, paused a moment and glanced into the branches of a nearby oak.  “Why can they not see the fairies?” he asked.

“Seeing is not believing,” the winged creature replied lightly. “You have to believe it; you have to know it to be true. Then look closely and see. Fae magic holds this world together. But once dried….”

“Glue is invisible.” Filvarel supplied.

This story shouldn’t have been written…but I wrote it anyway.

Hammers, Screwdrivers, and Scissors: An I-Can-Do-It Book (Brandon’s)

“Heya, Bucket, come ‘ere, boy!” Dougie rapped his HAMMER against his toolbox, looking around for the dog. “Bucket, where you at?”

A jingling and a clanking told of the dog’s approach, and around the corner of the barn came Dougie’s gray pet, with its rusty patches here and there. “Gives it character!” Dougie’s grandpa often said.

“Aw, Bucket, lookitch you,” Dougie sighed. “You git into a fight or sumpin’?”

Bucket just yipped happily and lolled his tongue out to the side.

“Aw, who’m I kiddin’. You don’t even notice, an’way. ‘Sides, we had work to do n’matter what. C’mon, less go git you in the barn.”

Dougie walked into the barn and the dog ambled after him, a grinding/clanking coming with him as he limped on one of his legs.

They got to the tool bench and Dougie grunted as he lifted Bucket up onto the bench and laid him on his side. He grabbed a book off the shelf above the bench, the cover already slightly tattered, the pages curled and dog-eared and smudged with grease stains.

“Awright, lessee here,” Dougie said to himself, paging through.

“For repair of injured limbs below joints, first remove the limb at the joint.”

“‘K, Bucket, you know this oughtn’t hurt a bit.” He grabbed the SCREWDRIVER off the bench, flicked a switch on its side and it hummed life. Pressing down one of the buttons, he touched it to the joint of Bucket’s injured leg. Sparks erupted from the SCREWDRIVER’s head as half a dozen small mechanical arms spread out and began separating a myriad of microscopic connectors. Dougie moved his hand slowly, careful not to stray off his line. Bucket whined once, lifting his head and looking to see what Dougie was doing, but kept the rest of his body still.

At last the limb was free, and Dougie pulled it off to the side.

“Activate access points F and J, and examine the diagnostic panel,” the book read. Dougie flipped the leg over and tapped the small buttons with the appropriate letters next to them. Flaps opened and Dougie was looking at the labyrinthine arrangement of filaments and diodes and condensers and resistors and processors and spires and nanobeds and linkages. In the center of it all was a screen, and an amber colored light was blinking at its corner.

Dougie consulted the book. “For amber light codes, see page 294-G.” Dougie turned the pages, shaking his head. “Too many diff’rent codes, if ya’sk me,” he muttered. He reached the appopriate page and looked at the list. He had to count in his head how long between blinks, and how many shorts and longs followed by how many seconds of darkness. At last he was sure he had it right, and turned to the page the chart indicated.

“Using your PLIERS, position the fiber clusters at hinge joint 2 into a zeta-max form, as indicated by the following diagram.” Dougie studied the diagram carefully, then grabbed his PLIERS and applied them to the hinge joint.

Zeta-max turned out to be much more complicated than he expected. It required him to hold the PLIERS in both hands so that he could touch three buttons simultaneously and still flip the impeller switch on an off at the right intervals. A few times he felt the tickle of Bucket’s tongue licking the back of his hand while we worked. “Leave off, Bucket,” he grumbled, intent on the work.

At last he had things arranged according to the diagram. “Once you have the hinge joint into zeta-max, apply setting 17-B to your HAMMER and strike three times, pause for five seconds, then strike two more times.”

Dougie scratched the soft whiskers on his cheek that he hadn’t dared to shave for fear they wouldn’t grow back, picked up the HAMMER, turned the switches to setting 17-B. He struck the limb right at the spot where the PLIERS were holding things in place. A whoosh swept out from the toolbench and shook the whole barn, so that Dougie hesitated a he pulled the HAMMER back. He gulped, not expecting that kind of reaction (though he had to admit he’d never used setting 17-B before). He struck again three times quickly, and each time there was a different noise that drummed at his ears and shook the wood of the barn. A screeching, then a buzz, then a strange crackling energy kind of noise.

He paused. Had he struck three or four times? He looked at the limb. How long was he supposed to wait? It took him several seconds to find the spot in the book, and once he had he realized he had waited far more than five seconds. He looked at the HAMMER, wondering if it had built up too much of a charge and something terrible would happen.

“Welp,” he said to Bucket, “no goin’ back now. Either you’ll have a workin’ leg else you’ll be as lame as my grandpappy. Here goes!” He struck another time, and there was no sound at all, not even the sound of the HAMMER hitting the limb. Dougie cocked an eyebrow, then scowled, then grit his teeth and tried striking one last time.

Colors burst from the HAMMER and sprayed out around the room, and the tool swung out of his hand and flew across the barn, putting a crack in one of the timbers before it came to land on a hay bale. Dougie’s hand felt a little tingly, and it smelled like burned rubber.

Cringing, he undid the PLIERS and closed the flaps. At first they wouldn’t latch down together, and Dougie wondered if that was related to the original problem or something he had done. But he noticed that the screen was no longer blinking, so he thought maybe it was okay.

He brought the leg back over to Bucket and, with more sparks and what not from the SCREWDRIVER, reattached it. He gingerly set Bucket on to the floor.

“Well, boy, give it a go.”

Bucket turned a few circles, no strange noises issuing forth and no sign that it was giving him problems. Then he faced the door of the barn, wiggles his hips once, planted the leg Dougie had just worked on, gave a little bark, and launched out of the barn doors.

Dougie stood staring, mouth agape. “Well, I’ll be darned,” he said. “Never done that afore…”

Bucket came trotting back into the barn, tail wagging happily. Dougie retrieved his HAMMER, set it next to the book, and stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Bucket,” he said, “go fetch grandpappy.”

*****
This story should not have been written, but I wrote it anyway.

Hammers, Screwdrivers, and Scissors: An I-Can-Do-It Book (Jon’s Version)

Or: I am not Shel Shilverstein.

Children now, gather round,
Come over and give heed:
It’s fun to play with scissors,
It’s not so fun to bleed.

A screwdriver may seem safe
Until it finds your eye.
But your father warned you, kid,
And now you’re gonna cry.

A hammer you can slam
And with it you may smash.
Don’t aim it at a window;
The curtains glass will slash.

“I can do it!” you scream
Through tears and cheers and pain,
“I finally really did it!
I drove my mom insane!”

But be careful, now, my child
To my warning now take heed:
An insane mother seems so nice
Until she makes you clean.

“Your hammers go in this pile!
Your screwdrivers in this!
Your scissors go in the ceiling,
Nowhere near your sis!

“With the hammer smash the dishes,
With your scissors slash the drapes.
Use your screwdriver to poke
Some holes in every little grape.”

And now your mom’s insane
And you’ve got lots to do.
Hope you’re happy with your project
And hope that soon you’re through.

This story shouldn’t have been written… but I wrote it anyway. 

A Tale of Two Men

I wrote this story as an introduction to a class for 7th and 8th graders. It’s heavy handed and allegorical, an approach I usually don’t care for, but I was trying to illustrate a point and had just come off of a read through of C.S. Lewis’s Pilgrim’s Rergress, so it felt like it worked. I offer it here just because it isn’t benefiting anyone sitting as a file in my Google Drive. 


 

Once there were two men, both from the same village, both near to each other in age, both having grown up in similar homes, and both were slaves. Raiders had come to their village and carried them off in chains, and sent them far off across the sea to be forced to work for a foreign king.

They were set to a very difficult and unpleasant task, to work inside a mine every day, digging and hauling and pushing and pulling and carrying huge sacks. The entrance to the mine was barred by a massive iron gate, which was locked with a heavy key kept on the belt of the captain of the guards. Every day they were marched into the mine, the gate was locked, and they worked.

This left them feeling weary, sore, and sad. Many nights they talked with each other and wondered together if they would ever have hopes of being rescued, or if they would be slaves for the rest of their lives. One night, as they sat wondering this, a messenger came to them from the king they served. This messenger was going to all the slaves with a message: “If you work hard and do all the good things you are commanded to do, I promise that someday you will be set free.”

One of the two men, Gregor, said, “This is very good news! I will work very hard to please the king and I will someday be set free!”

But the other man, Pilgrim, asked, “How much work do we have to do to be set free?”

The messenger from the king said, “That is not something I can tell you. You are just to work, and when you have done enough, you will be set free.”

Pilgrim was troubled by this answer, because he thought it very strange that someone would promise him he would be set free if he did enough, but would not tell him what enough was. Gregor, however, told him not to worry about it, and that they should just try their hardest. And so every day as they were put to work, they both tried as hard as they could, and each day they were weary, sore, but not as sad, because they knew they were working for their freedom. But Pilgrim was still troubled every night as he went to sleep, because he wondered if he was doing enough.

Then one day they met another slave from their own homeland. After they had worked hard throughout the day, this slave was also sent to Gregor and Pilgrim’s cell to sleep. That night they questioned him about how things were in their homeland, and if they had any word about their loved ones. The man could not tell them much, but one this he did tell them was that their lord was concerned about them, and that he had a plan to rescue them. “Our lord sent a message throughout the land that he is going to rescue the slaves. He said all you have to do is wait, and soon you will be free.”

Pilgrim liked this very much, but Gregor was not so sure. “How long do we have to wait?” asked Gregor. “And what should we do in the mean time? How can we make sure that when he comes he frees us, and doesn’t forget about us?”

The man shook his head. “I don’t know how long you’ll have to wait, but I know that the lord said that he will free all the slaves, no matter what. You don’t have to do anything, just wait.”

Gregor seemed upset about this, but Pilgrim felt very hopeful. The man would say nothing more, and night after night, though Gregor questioned him, he could offer no more answer than, “You don’t have to do anything, just wait.”

Eventually that man was taken away and sent to work in a different place, and Pilgrim and Gregor were left alone. They continued to labor as slaves, but while Gregor worked harder and harder, trying to earn his freedom, Pilgrim just did enough to get through the day and all the while waited.

Eventually another man from their homeland came, and he brought the same message as the first, “Just wait.” Eventually he was taken away, and they were alone again. This happened twelve different times, and still Pilgrim waited, and Gregor worked. It came to be that Gregor never even listened to the men who came from their homeland, because he always said, “What good is waiting when we can work to be free?” But no matter how hard Gregor worked, he was not being set free. And no matter how long Pilgrim waited, they were still slaves.

Then everything changed one day. A new slave came, and he was a very special slave, because he was the son of the lord of their homeland. At night in their cell he told Gregor and Pilgrim that he had come to set them free, and that he had an escape plan. He told them simply to wait for the signal and they would go free and go home.

Pilgrim was overjoyed, and eagerly waited for his freedom. But Gregor was angry, and did not believe the plan would work. In fact, he didn’t want the plan to work. “I have been working hard to do everything right so that I can get free! How can you come along and promise to free me and him and everyone without asking us to do anything? Has he worked as hard as me? Does he deserve to go free? I want the work I’ve done to count for something!”

The son only said, “My brother, I just want to set you free. Isn’t that enough?”

It was enough for Pilgrim. So he waited. And then the day came. The son gave the signal, and he did something unbelievable. He charged at the captain of the guards and tackled him to the ground. Grabbing the keys from the captain’s belt, he leapt up and ran to the gate and unlocked it and threw the gate open. All the other guards saw what was happening, and raced after him. Then the son took the key and ran away from the gate, deeper into the mine, shouting, “Free! Free! You’re free! Go, and run for your freedom!” The guards foolishly did not understand what was happening, and all they could think was to get the key back from the son. So they followed him deeper into the mine, leaving the gate open and unguarded.

“We’re free!” said Pilgrim to Gregor. “Let’s go!”

But Gregor growled and scowled. “No! Leave me alone! I’m working for my freedom!”

“But we don’t need to work,” said Pilgrim. “We don’t need to do anything! The gate is open, we’re free!”

“I don’t want to be free if my work means nothing,” said Gregor.

Pilgrim tried one last time to convince him, but Gregor didn’t want anything to do with it. Since he wanted to be free, he took one last sad look at Gregor and then ran out of the mine.

Once Pilgrim and the other slaves had escaped from the tunnel and were out under the open sky, they wondered what to do. The son had freed them, but where was he? The last they had seen of him, he was going deeper into the mine. Some feared the son would be killed by the guards, and that they would all be taken captive again. Some began to wonder if it would be better for them to go back in the mine and work, and wait for the king to free them. Some even went back into the tunnel and disappeared again into the dark.

But Pilgrim did what he had learned to do – he waited. And so did some of the others. They didn’t have to wait long before another slave came running down the road. “I have just been set free from another part of the mine!” he called as he ran up. “The son freed us there too! We thought he was lost, because we saw the guards take him and beat him. He looked like he had been beaten to death. But I’ve just seen him! He is alive, and he is free, and he said to meet him at the seashore!”

That man ran to go find another group of slaves, while Pilgrim and all the slaves went to the shore as fast as they could. As they went, if ever they saw a slave coming out of a tunnel (for there were many tunnels along the road as it wound around the mountain down to the sea), they told him that he should come with them to the sea, for the son had freed them. Some went with them, but others shook their heads and went back into the mines.

At last they reached the sea, and there they met a wondrous sight – many large ships, with room enough for all, were waiting at the shore. And standing in the largest of the ships, dressed in royal clothing, was the son, smiling with open arms. “Come, brothers! It is time to go home!”

 

I am the villain of my story

Originally posted on The Family Minister's Blog:

I am big fan of fantasy and science fiction stories. True, I love almost any well-written story, but when I have my choice, I reach for the stuff with dragons or spaceships on the cover. And if there’s one thing any good fantastical story needs, it’s a good villain. I don’t mean a villain who is morally good, I mean a villain who is so compelling, so intriguing, and so convincingly wicked that you just can’t help but turn the next page to find out how he’s going to get his comeuppance. You know who I’m talking about – Sauron, the Emperor, the White Witch, Arawn of Annuvin.

I think what captivates me is the idea that I can step into the shoes of the hero who overcomes the villain. I can imagine how I would meet the challenge, and I can celebrate with the hero the victory as good…

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Fun Four-Letter Words to Know and Share (Brandon’s story)

Dear Arthur,

In respect to your request of several months ago, I have had my team analyzing the word in question, giving due consideration to its many and varied uses in ancient literature. We addressed its complex morphology, its varied spellings and tenses, and the fact that it seems to appear in all parts of speech. While we attempted to cross reference it with other words within the context you provided, it is with regret I must tell you that I cannot give you any definitive answers as to what it means.

The problem is not, as I originally expected, that the word has too few instances of occurrence to ascertain its correct meaning. Quite the opposite, the word occurs so often throughout all archives, and in so many contexts, and with such diverse apparent meanings that it is virtually impossible to determine with accuracy how it was used.

In general terms, it seems that native speakers used it to indicate a position of preference for or fondness toward a person or thing. However, its appearance in both the most trivial and mundane of contexts, as well as the most ardent and serious, lends the notion that it is not intended to convey a specific thought. For example, looking at archival documents all written by a single individual, we found instances in which it was used in reference to food items, and other instances in which it was attached to individual people, and still other cases it was used to refer to a particular activity. It occurs in certain contexts as a sort of pronoun for a group of people, and in one case we found (used with an alternative spelling, phonetically identical) was part of an imperative.

It is entirely possible that it only occurs to modify other words within its context, much as modern day speakers use words like “UGH” and “ZIPPY,” to provide some examples. In conclusion, my team’s finding is that for 21st century English speakers, the word “LOVE” held virtually no meaning whatsoever.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jasmine Feingold

* * * * *

This story should not have been written, but I wrote it anyway. 

Fun Four-Letter Words to Know and Share (Helen’s Version)

It stood perhaps two feet tall, all gangly and out of proportion. Its head and feet, if it had feet under there, tiny. Its legs too fragile to support its squishy middles, and its arms dangling like broken elastic.

“What is that thing?” Devon wasn’t sure whether to be curious or repulsed.

“It’s an ugly sack of stink if you ask me,” Dirk held his nose.

Devon picked up a stick. The thing just stared at them.

“Devon, be nice. Maybe it’s hurt or something,” Julie swiped at the stick and missed.

“Yeah, right. Let’s just let it be and maybe it will follow us home. And maybe mom will let us keep it as a pet. And maybe I’ll grow golden wings and fly home.” Dirk laughed. “Go on, poke it. I wanna see what it does.”

Devon took a hesitant step forward.

“Yeah!” the thing glurbled suddenly. “Does!” Continue reading