Practicing With Mistress Writer’s Magic Box

Practicing With Mistress Writer’s Magic Box

Elf facing rightHello, cherished readers! Cleric here. I fear the news this week is not encouraging. Both Mistress Writer and Master Miles are still sick.

Mistress Writer returned to her doctor for what is termed a follow-up. She came home with two new medications in addition to what she was already taking. Master Miles’ doctor also put him on several new medications. They both have strict orders to rest during their respective recuperations, so Mistress Writer was unable to prepare this week’s blog.

Cleric caring for sick Mistress and Mastercamera for blogI devoted much of my time this week to caring for Mistress Writer and Master Miles, administering their medications and preparing their meals. In my spare time, however, I practiced using Mistress Writer’s magic box, the one she calls a camera. About a month ago, Mistress Writer starting teaching me and my fellow characters how to use this device, but this is the first time since then I had the opportunity to practice. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/03/24/magic-or-technology/

Cleric and camerabirdwatchingMistress Writer loves to observe the birds who visit our yard, something she has been unable to do during her illness. Therefore, I decided to surprise her by using her magic box . . . er, her camera . . . to capture images of the birds on our deck and in our yard. That way, she can enjoy them once she has recovered from her malady. I hope you will enjoy them, too.

Directly after Mistress Writer took ill, we had one last, big snowstorm. I was surprised to see a Red-breasted Nuthatch visit our deck in the snow. They are not a common visitor to our yard.

Another surprise was the female Wood Duck who came right up onto the deck to eat alongside some American Robins. Normally very shy, she ignored my presence as she gobbled up as much food as she could.

The flock of more than 100 American Robins that over-wintered in our neighborhood thinned out once the snow was gone, but many robins still visit our yard and deck.

The Dark-eyed Juncos, whom I have come to expect here in the winter, have extended their stay, still coming to the yard and the deck even though all the snow has melted.

The Common Grackles have returned from their winter homes. I love the way their feathers iridesce in the sunlight.

 

Another bird who has returned is the European Starling. Mistress Writer does not care for this bird, as it is an invasive species that harms many of the native songbirds, but I still find it beautiful.

European Starling

The Red-winged Blackbirds are back as well – the very recognizable male with his red epaulettes, and the delicately beautiful female, a much plainer brown bird.

 

We have numerous woodpeckers in the yard, ranging in size from the diminutive Downy to the immense Pileated.

The male Northern Cardinal has been serenading us each morning from his perch in a neighbor’s tree.Northern Cardinal

I had to ask the Gypsy lad to identify a hawk that has been worrying our backyard songbirds. He said it is a Cooper’s Hawk who has been eyeing the small birds from the trees and even venturing onto the deck railing to hunt them.

Since all the ice on the pond has melted, we once again are enjoying a number of waterfowl, including a small raft of Bufflehead.

Buffleheads

Numerous Mallards have been swimming in the pond and visiting the back yard in search of food.

PhotographerCleric and camera 2I know I am not as skilled as Mistress Writer in capturing images of the birds who visit us, or in describing them for you, but I hope you have enjoyed my efforts. And I hope Mistress Writer will be well enough to prepare next week’s blog. Thank you, cherished readers, for allowing me to entertain you in her absence.

Please come back next week and see if Mistress Writer has recovered. We will leave the porch light on for you.

Fixtures Light Elegant Lighting Fixture And Supply Company Intended For Front Porch Light Fixtures Front Porch Light Fixtures

Advertisements

Characters I Write About and Characters I Write

Characters I Write About and Characters I Write

Young hero 2

NightmareI didn’t get a chance to talk to Dragon for the better part of a week. Thankfully, it was a fairly quiet week. My Young Hero no longer seemed to be wrestling with nightmares. If he was, he was doing it quietly.

Smoke drifting from Dragon's snoutOn Friday, I found Dragon in the conference room, shivering in front of her illusory fireplace. She greeted me with a growl.

“Nice to see you, too.” I frowned. “I’ve been looking for you all week. I need to talk to you.”

Dragon’s eyes narrowed dangerously, the tip of her tail started twitching, and acrid smoke puffed from her snout. “I do not wish to talk. I wish to warm myself.”

I scoffed. “You’ve made this room hotter than a dwarven forge with your illusory fireplace!”

Dragon nodded solemnly. “It is my only defense against your Minnesota weather. What happened to spring? Last week, the temperatures were just starting to rise to comfortable levels, and some flowers had started sprouting.” The unhappy beast scowled at me. “Then the ice and sleet and snow came again, and the temperatures are frigid!”

I laughed. “Oh, come now! The temperatures aren’t that bad, at least not by Minnesota standards, and the slush is already starting to melt. By Sunday, it should all be gone.”

“For how long?” The despondent creature hung her head and looked miserable.

“Hopefully until next winter, but in Minnesota, you never can tell. The latest snow ever recorded in MN was June 4, 1935, when one and a half inches fell in northern Minnesota.”

“Oh, you are just full of fascinating minutiae.” Dragon glowered at me.

I raised an eyebrow and chuckled. “Funny, you don’t look fascinated.” Before Dragon could respond, I quickly pressed on. “But I didn’t want to discuss the weather. It’s not like we can do anything about it anyway.”

Dragon growled and thumped her tail on the floor. “I have offered more than once to change your weather to something more agreeable.”

“And I told you that is not an option.”

“Did you?” Dragon gave me a coy look. “I am afraid I do not remember.”

“Funny thing, memory.” I steepled my fingers and gazed at Dragon. “And that’s exactly the topic I wish to discuss.”

“Oh?” The big beast looked interested in spite of herself.

I nodded and took a seat in the recliner, pausing a few moments to gather my thoughts.

manuscript“Dragon, do you recall when you fell from my manuscript and entered this world?”

Dragon frowned. “Of course, I do. It has been a number of years, but I clearly remember the look on your face when you entered your office and found me sitting at your desk.”

I smiled at the memory. “Ah, yes! I remember that day, too. You weren’t the first of my characters to make the passage from book to reality, so it wasn’t as much a shock as it could have been. Still…”

Dragon in officeThe memory of the scaly creature sitting on the arm of my chair, shock and disapproval clearly etched on her reptilian face as she surveyed the chaos I call an office, still made me chuckle.

I shook my head and dragged myself back to the conversation at hand. “But I am really more interested in your memories of the world from which you came. Do you remember what you were doing when you fell from the manuscript?”

Dragon frowned. She rolled onto her stomach and tucked her front arms under her chest, assuming a sphinx-like pose. She tilted her head in thought and remained silent for a long time before replying. “No. No, I do not.”

“What memories do you have of your previous existence?”

Dragon studied my face. “Why do I get the feeling it is not my memories that concern you?”

I ducked my head guiltily. “How easily you can see through me, old friend. You’re right . . . or at least partially correct. I am trying to understand something about a character’s memory once that character has fallen from the manuscript into this world.”

“Any character in particular?”

“Yes, but we can discuss that later. For now, I am curious about your memories. Since you first arrived here, it has been obvious you and my Old Dwarf share a very special bond.”

dragon and dwarf

 

Dragon nodded. “Indeed, we do.”

I frowned. “Yet, in the two manuscripts I penned, you never met.”

Dragon blinked. “Are you sure?”

I raised an eyebrow.

Dragon scratched her head. “But I have such clear memories.” She paused, then frowned. “Well, maybe not so clear. More like snatches of memories – friendly banter, small gifts the dwarf carved for me.”

I shook my head. “Those events were not part of the stories I chronicled.”

Dragon stared off into the distance. “No… no, I do not suppose they were. I was just a very young dragon then, barely more than a wyrmling.”

I wrinkled my brow. “So, if the memories are from before the events in my manuscripts, how is it you can recall them? Remember, you are not the Dragon about whom I wrote. You are the Dragon I wrote, the Dragon I created in my books. And the only memories you should have are the events in the book from which you fell.”

dragondragon-1964202_960_720Dragon pondered. “I believe I may have an explanation. The Great Wyrm. I believe she is the Dragon about whom you wrote, only much further along in her life than when you wrote about her. I believe she may have inadvertently shared some of her memories with me when she and I crossed paths.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/10/01/waiting-to-see-if-it-worked/

I raised my eyebrow. I was surprised she had worked that out. I put that tidbit of information aside and continued the conversation. “I see.” I sighed. “Well, that solves that mystery, but it doesn’t help me understand recent events regarding my Young Hero and his memories. Unlike you, he seems to be missing memories he should have.”missing memories

“Oh? Enlighten me.”

I raked my hand through my hair. “You remember my Young Hero recently suffered a spate of nightmares.”
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/03/31/nightmares/    and
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/04/07/do-heroes-have-nightmares/

Dragon nodded and frowned, a puff of black smoke escaping her nostrils. “Yes. He should have come to me for help.”

I waved at her dismissively. “Perhaps, but he was embarrassed. You know, a hero being frightened by bad dreams.”

“Ah, yes. He felt a hero should be brave enough to face his nightmares.” Dragon nodded sagely.fear vs heroism

“Exactly. But when he described his dreams to me, he said they were people and images he thought he should know but didn’t. He felt they were snatches of memories he could not clearly recall. From his descriptions, however, I recognized them as scenes from my first manuscript. I assume my Young Hero fell from my second book, as he has very clear memories of various people and events from that book – the Innkeeper, the snowball fight with my Gypsy . . .”
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/vacation-is-over/

Dragon nodded again. “So, you wonder why he has no memories predating the second book, even though you wrote about your Young Hero in the first book as well.”

“Exactly.”

Dragon shrugged. “You answered your own question. It is as you said of me, Mistress Writer. I am not the Dragon about whom you wrote. I am the Dragon you wrote, the one you created.”

I frowned, not understanding.

Young hero 2Young Hero passing out“Well, neither is your Young Hero the hero about whom you wrote. He is the hero you wrote, the hero you created. But, having fallen from your second manuscript, he is also not the hero you wrote in your first book. So, his memories would not be the memories of that hero. Those memories would be but an echo in his subconscious.”

I blinked. “I think I understand. You know, I may have to go back to my manuscripts and rewrite you. I don’t think I made you nearly as wise and insightful as you really are.”

Dragon smiled smugly. “Does that mean I can go back to warming myself by the fire, while you go change me in your book to a creature more closely resembling my most splendiferous self?”Dragon looks up from fireplace

I chuckled. “Go back to your fire, old friend. I’ll try not to disturb you again until spring is really here.”

“I can make that happen any time you say.” The big beast winked at me.

Be sure to come back next week and see what is happening with my little band of displaced characters. We might be in the middle of a heat wave by then. You never can tell about the weather in Minnesota, especially if a Dragon is involved. And, of course, we’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Fixtures Light Elegant Lighting Fixture And Supply Company Intended For Front Porch Light Fixtures Front Porch Light Fixtures

Elf facing rightHello, cherished readers. Cleric here. Shortly after the completion of this week’s blog, Mistress Writer went to see her doctor. (Why she never allows me to treat her, I cannot understand!) Mistress Writer has been diagnosed with pneumonia, and is undergoing treatment. Master Miles is experiencing heavy chest congestion and will see his doctor this week. We all hope Mistress Writer will be able to continue her duties preparing this blog for your entertainment; however, it may be a while before she is up to such strenuous activity. If we are absent for a time, please know we have not forgotten you, and we look forward to returning with more adventures and misadventures.

Do Heroes Have Nightmares?

Do Heroes Have Nightmares?

wide-eyedangry eyesI gaped at my Young Hero. Rarely had I seen this easy-going half-dwarf lad so upset. Never had I seen his ire directed at me.

I tried to keep my voice even. “What do you mean, I should know? Just what should I know?”

The lad continued to glare at me. “You should know what is going on. Are you not The Writer, The Scribe, The Chronicler? Are you not the one who knows everything about every one of your characters, even things we do not know about ourselves?”

Before I was able to compose a retort, my Young Hero stomped out the door and headed toward the barn. I stood there watching him, my mouth hanging open. Finally, I turned to my Gypsy. “What is he talking about?”

magic energy tracegypsy-facing-rightMy Gypsy lowered his eyes and shuffled his feet. “He has been dreaming about his past life, his life back in our own world. At least, that is what he thinks the dreams are. He . . . he has not been able to understand the dreams. He sees mere snippets of scenes in his dreams, moments that he feels are snatches of memories . . . memories he cannot fully recall. He is confused, frustrated . . . and more than a tad fearful.”

“I see.” I raked my hand through my hair and heaved a huge sigh. “I’m not sure how I can help him.”

My Gypsy rolled his eyes and scoffed. “As he said, Mistress, you are The Writer. If you cannot help him, then who?”

I had no answer.

* * *

Young hero 2Chocolate palomino pony 3While my Gypsy and I were talking about him, my Young Hero had stomped down the steps and had headed toward the barn. He had ducked between the wooden rails of the pasture fence and walked over to his pony, a saucy little chocolate palomino. He patted the pony, and the animal nuzzled his young master, nickering contentedly. As he stood there stroking the animal, the boy could feel much of the tension leave his body. After a few minutes, he walked over to the barn, intending to get a brush to groom the pony. Instead, the exhausted boy collapsed onto a bale of hay.

Palomino ponyThe boy awoke, his pony nudging him and whickering. He opened his eyes, and saw the golden pony standing over him. He stood up and patted the small yellow creature.

The pony turned and started walking away, through the emerald pasture. The boy followed the pony.

canyonThe landscape wavered. They were in a canyon. Something big was chasing the boy through the canyon, something big enough to kick up a huge cloud of red dust. The boy ran as fast as he could. He could hear two voices in the canyon, calling him. He knew these voices but could not quite remember to whom they belonged. Before he could identify the voices, their yells turned to screams and their screams mingled with the screams of his pony.

The screams went on and on and on.

* * *

“Wake up!”

foremanyoung-hero-facing-leftMy Foreman shook my Young Hero, first gently, then with more force. “Come on, wake up!”

My Young Hero jumped up and looked around. He was still in the barn. He could see his chocolate palomino pony through the open door. “Wha . . . what happened?”

“You tell me.” My Foreman frowned at him. “I was just coming out to work my horse, and I heard you in here screaming.”

Backyard 050“I heard you too, all the way up in the house.” I rushed to my Young Hero’s side and reached out to touch his shoulder, but he shrugged me away.

I sighed. “I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s happening.”

Without a word, my Young Hero turned and walked away.

* * *

Going into cliff wallghost in caveThe young half-dwarf touched the wall of the cliff. His hand went right through the stone. He pushed forward, and his whole body passed through the rocks, emerging in a dark cavern. A ghostly figure approached him, coming closer, closer, closer, until the boy screamed in terror.

* * *

“What is that caterwauling?” Dragon stomped into the living room, smoke drifting from her reptilian snout.

I ran into the room right behind her. “It’s my Young Hero. I think he’s having another nightmare.”

Dragon shaking Young Hero awakeDragon reached the prone figure on the couch and shook him awake. “Why did you not seek my help if you have been having nightmares?”

Instead of answering, my Young Hero glared at me.

Dragon looked from the boy, to me, and back again. “Well? Will someone tell me what is happening?”

My Young Hero attempted to stomp off again, but Dragon snagged him by the collar with one of her talons.

The smoke spewing from her snout grew darker, and she narrowed her eyes dangerously. “What is going on?”

The boy snarled. “Ask her.”

“I am asking you.” Dragon’s tone invited no argument.

I placed a hand on her arm. “It’s okay. Let him go.”

I turned to my Young Hero. “I don’t know what you think I know, but any time you want to talk, you know where to find me.”

* * *

The young half-dwarf was walking his pony across a meadow. Another boy, taller and of human heritage, walked with him, leading a larger version of the golden steed. Suddenly, the two boys saw something disappearing down a large hole under a fallen log. The half-dwarf leapt on his pony and raced toward the hole to see what was there.

The human boy swiftly mounted and rode his horse between the boy and the hole. “No! You cannot go with him! I will not allow it!”

The hole disappeared, and the human galloped away. The half-dwarf rode after him, pushing his pony to the limits of his speed and endurance. “Wait! Wait! Why will you not wait for me?”

The half-dwarf and his pony fell farther and farther behind the other horse and rider. Finally, the youth pulled his mount to a stop, slid from his pony, and fell to the ground, sobbing.

Why won't you wait

* * *

I walked into my office and found my Young Hero waiting for me. He sat on the edge of a chair, his hands clasped tightly in his lap. His tear-stained face was pale and drawn. He jumped up as soon as he heard me enter the room.

“Mistress.” He gave me a beseeching look but said no more.

I nodded and bade him sit. He slowly collapsed back into the chair. I sat at my desk and faced the lad, studying him for many long minutes. He sat, staring at the floor, silent.

Finally, I cleared my throat. “I understand you have been suffering nightmares for several weeks now.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/03/31/nightmares/

I paused, but got no response. “Would you care to tell me about them?” I tried to keep my voice soft and soothing.

“You do not know what I dreamt?” My Young Hero seemed confused.

I raised my hands, palms up, spread my arms, and lifted my shoulders. “How would I?”

He stared at me, wide-eyed. “You are The Writer.”

I raised an eyebrow at the boy. “You’ve said that to me before. I don’t know what you think a writer does, but my skill as a wordsmith does not grant me clairvoyance.”

“But you have written about the things that happened to me, to all your characters, in our own world.” He scooted to the edge of his seat again and looked at me earnestly.

I nodded. “I have, but not through clairvoyance or any preternatural means. I simply documented what happened.”

My Young Hero furrowed his brow and chewed on his lower lip. “Mistress, I cannot remember all that happened to me. I have been seeing things in my dreams that I feel . . . nay, that I fear may have happened to me, but I cannot recall.”

He told me of his dreams, the snippets of scenes his sleep-fogged brain had seen.

“And you think these dreams may actually be memories attempting to surface?”

The lad nodded.

I narrowed my eyes and stared intently at the lad. “Do you have any recollection of your previous life? Any at all?”

The boy nodded. “Some. I remember most vividly the things about which my fellow characters and I have spoken. I know that three of us – your Foreman, your Gypsy, and myself – were horsemen in my world. I know my father owned the largest and most successful equestrian breeding and training farm in the kingdom. I know that Cleric was my Protector – something akin to the concept of a godparent in your world, only with equal emphasis on physical protection and spiritual guidance. I know your Gypsy was my best friend. I know we spent a lot of time in an inn, and our friend, the Innkeeper, made a stew so renowned, the king himself used to come to the inn to sup.”

He paused, furrowing his brow as if trying to dredge up other memories. He shook his head. “Other than that, I have little knowledge of myself.”

I tilted my head and studied the boy. “Are you certain this is all you remember?”

He nodded.

I squirmed in my chair. “Is it necessary for you to know more?”

The boy sat, pondering. Finally, he looked me straight in the eye. “Yes, Mistress, I think it is. The dreams I have had – the people and events seem familiar, as if they are a part of my past, not a construct of my imagination.”

manuscriptI sighed heavily. “You know each of you – the characters who have fallen from my manuscripts and now reside here in this world – each of you fell from a different spot in the manuscripts. I do not know the exact moment at which any of you left the story.”

My Young Hero tilted his head and mulled over that information, then nodded.

I stood up and paced the length of the room. “Then you know I cannot reveal more than you already know.”

The boy frowned. “Why? If all of us characters get together and compare what we know, those of us who fell out of an earlier part of the manuscripts will discover what happened after.”

I nodded, hoping he did not notice the beads of sweat that were forming on my forehead. “Perhaps. Perhaps not. I certainly cannot prevent you from doing just that. But remember, none of you know all that happened. You each know only the tale from your own perspective. Even if you had fallen from the last page of the manuscripts, you would know little more than you know now – much of your stories remain unwritten. There are several more books for me to pen.”

My Young Hero slumped in his chair, disappointment written clearly in his face. Finally, he rose and headed for the door but stopped half-way there. He turned and looked at me. “Can you reveal but one thing to me, Mistress? There is one thing I must know.”

“What is it?”

“Why do you call me a Young Hero? I do not remember any heroics in my past life, and I certainly have done nothing heroic in this world. And the fear engendered by the nightmares that plague me points more to cowardice than heroism.” He stared at the floor, and continued in a timid voice. “Mistress, how could a hero have nightmares?”

fear vs heroismI pursed my lips and rubbed the back of my neck. “Fear and heroism are not mutually exclusive; nor is fear solely the province of cowards. Suffice it to say, the best definition of a hero I ever read was in a publication called Psychology Today. I keep the quote here on the wall over my desk. See?” I pointed to the memo on the wall.

What actually makes a hero? I’d argue it’s the willingness to make a personal sacrifice for the benefit of others.”

Framed quote in office

I paused, giving my Young Hero time to ponder that quote. After a moment, I continued. “Without revealing any details, I can assure you that you are the most heroic person I know. You sacrificed more than most for the benefit of others, for people you did not even know. Some of what you sacrificed was ripped from you by others, by happenstance, by fate. Some of what you sacrificed you surrendered yourself, knowing full well what you were giving up.”

I approached my Young Hero and placed my hand on his shoulder. “Wear the title proudly, Young Hero. Never doubt but you have earned it a hundred times over.”

A smile slowly spread over the boy’s face. When he turned and left the room, he held himself a little straighter, and there was a new confidence in his step.

Once I heard him going up the stairs, I scurried off to find Dragon.

Why do I need to speak with Dragon? What is it about my Young Hero’s memories that I find so disturbing? Be sure to come back next week as the tale continues. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Nightmares

Nightmares

Sat bolt upright in bedA scream shattered the night, ripping me from a deep slumber. My husband and I sat bolt upright in bed and looked around, wide-eyed.

“What was that?” Miles tore his CPAP mask from his face and jumped out of bed.

“I don’t know, but I think we should . . .”

ElfAnother scream cut me off mid-thought. I grabbed my robe and pulled it on as Miles and I raced into the hallway, where we almost collided with one of my characters.

“What’s going on?”

Cleric was wringing her hands. “I fear your Young Hero is wrestling with another nightmare.”

I frowned. “He’s been having nightmares? How long has this been going on?”

Cleric lowered her eyes. “Several weeks now, and the problem seems to be getting worse.”

My frown deepened. “Then why is this the first time I’m hearing of it?”

Cleric blushed. “He asked that I not share this information with anyone, Mistress. I believe the lad is embarrassed. I only know about it because his best friend, your Gypsy, came to me and asked if I might help.”

I nodded. “And is there anything you can do for him?”

sleeping draughts and healing potionsCleric shook her head. “I have prepared sleeping draughts for him, and have even tried various healing potions, but I fear his nightmares still plague him.”

I sighed and raked my hand through my hair. “Do you have any clue what’s causing his nightmares?”

“No, Mistress, and that is why I have not been able to create the proper healing potion for him.” She hesitated, biting her lower lip. “Perhaps you should speak with him.”

My husband frowned and put his hand on my shoulder. “Honey, if the boy’s embarrassed, it might do more harm than good to question him about it. After all, if he wanted your help, he would have come to you.”

I furrowed my brow and scrunched my lips into a moue. “I know you’re right, but I can’t just ignore it if one of my characters is having problems.” I sighed. “For now, I’ll let you deal with it, Cleric. Miles and I will try to get some more sleep. But please try to convince my Young Hero to come to me. Perhaps I can help.”

* * *

Morning was barely breaking. The yellow disc of the sun was just starting its ascent into a cloudless, azure sky. Dew sparkled on the emerald-green grass. Wildflowers shone like brilliant gems scattered haphazardly around the meadow.

Surrounding the pasture, sturdy fences stretched for miles, the boards so dazzlingly white that even in the early morning light the young half-dwarf could not look at them without squinting. The youth walked along the fence-line, peering between the boards, searching the pasture. A cool breeze tousled his red hair, and birdsong filled his ears. The day was perfect, and the lad had not a care in the world.pasture fence

Slowly, the landscape changed. The fences, the grass, the flowers, were splattered blood-red. The smell of copper overpowered the fragrance of the wildflowers and assaulted the lad’s nose. He bent over and wretched. As he straightened, he saw something in the field.

pasture fence splattered with red

 

A scream tore from the boy’s throat.

scream

* * *

Young hero 2My Young Hero shuffled into the kitchen. His hair was unkempt, there were dark circles under his eyes, and he all but fell into a chair.

mug of coffeeWithout a word, Miles poured a large mug of coffee and placed it before the lad, who tried unsuccessfully to smile and nod his thanks.

“Rough night?” I quirked an eyebrow as I sat down across from my Young Hero.

He slurped some coffee and frowned. “No more than normal. Why do you ask?” I noticed he did not look at me as he spoke.

I sighed. “I ask because you look like something the proverbial cat drug in.”

The young half-dwarf shrugged and swallowed another mouthful of coffee. “Yeah. Well, I . . . ahh . . . I guess I did not sleep very well.”

I furrowed my brow. I took a deep breath and leaned closer to the lad. “Something bothering you?”

He glared at me. “Nothing.”

I shrugged. “Fine. But if anything is ever bothering you, talking might help.”

He scowled. “I will remember that.” He gulped down the rest of his coffee, pushed away from the table and stumbled toward the living room.

* * *

Second NightmareThe young half-dwarf and his companion had been walking for hours. The scorching sun beat down on them as they stumbled through the deep sand of the desert. A pack of jackals advanced toward them. Suddenly, men with swords surrounded them. At first, the men were protecting them from the vicious animals. But soon, the men turned their swords toward the boy. The young half-dwarf and his companion backed away. A hawk screeched and flew at the men. But the bird turned into a dragon and flew straight at the boy. The beast opened its gigantic maw and threatened to swallow the boy.

His scream went on for many long minutes.

scream

* * *

Miles and I ran to the living room. My Young Hero was sprawled on the couch. My Gypsy was bent over him, shaking him. “Wake up! Wake up!”

I grabbed my Gypsy by the arm. “What’s going on? Was that him screaming?”

My Gypsy nodded and frowned.

I looked at my Young Hero, who was struggling to sit up. “Are you okay?”

The boy’s cheeks flamed, and he refused to meet my eyes. When he finally answered, he mumbled. “I . . . I must have fallen asleep.”

Backyard 050I frowned. “That wasn’t the question. Are you okay?”

The lad shrugged. “Of course! Why would I not be?”

“Well, I don’t know. What I do know is this is the second time I have heard you calling out in your sleep. We heard you screaming last night and now again. What’s going on?”

My Young Hero sat there, silent. His mouth was a thin, angry line, but his eyes were full of fear.

I crossed my arms over my chest and tapped one foot impatiently. “Well?”

The lad glared at me, the fear in his eyes replaced with venom. “Well, you should know!”angry eyes

What is happening with my Young Hero, and why does he think I know anything about it? Be sure to come back next week. Maybe you can help me sort out this mystery. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Fixtures Light Elegant Lighting Fixture And Supply Company Intended For Front Porch Light Fixtures Front Porch Light Fixtures

Magic or Technology?

Magic or Technology?

Looking foward to relaxingIt had been a long day. I was finally home, and all I wanted to do was grab a huge bowl of ice cream, sit down, put my feet up, and maybe watch some television with my husband. Instead, I found my characters waiting for me in the living room.

Out of the jumble of excited comments that greeted me, I could only make out a few. “Did you get it?” “Where is it?” “Can we see it?”

I scowled. So much for ice cream and television. “Can you see what?”

Elf facing rightCleric tilted her head and furrowed her brow. “We thought you said you were going to purchase a new . . . what do you call that type of magic box?”

laptopI sighed. Even after all these years in this world, Cleric and my other characters still struggled to understand some things. I tried not to sound annoyed when I answered her. “It’s called a laptop computer. Yes, I did purchase a new one. The old one was a piece of junk, and I was unable to use it any longer.”

My Gypsy pushed to the front of the assembled group. “So, can we see your new laptop computer?”

I shook my head. “Afraid not. I didn’t bring it home.”

“You purchased it, but you did not bring it home?” My Bounty Hunter gave me a perplexed look.

“I left it at the store. Their tech department is going to set it up for me.”Set up

My Old Dwarf gave me a look that clearly said he thought I was a bit strange. “They be settin’ it up? Where? Be they placin’ it way up on a shelf or on top o a big, tall piece o furniture?”

tech setupI shook my head again. “They’re going to prepare the laptop so I can start using it as soon as I bring it home. Between the time the computer was manufactured and now, there have probably been several updates issued. The technicians will install those updates for me. They will also install my preferred browser – the program I use to access the internet – and a word-processing program – the program I use for writing. They will eliminate any unnecessary software, and they will install a top-of-the-line anti-virus program.”

computer virus“Wait!” Dragon gaped at me. “Anti-virus? Did you not once tell me a virus, a type of germ, makes people sick? Do germs attack inanimate objects in your world?”

I tried not to chuckle. “Yes, I did explain to you that viruses and germs make people sick. But a computer virus is not a germ. A computer virus is a piece of code that can harm a computer.”

“Code?” My Arrogant One frowned.

I sighed. “Let me try to explain in terms you might understand. Computer code is a set of instructions that tell the computer what to do. Think of code working in the same way the words to one of your spells work.”

Sorceress nodded. “So, the anti-virus code is like the wards Dragon places on something to protect it.”

I nodded. “That’s a good enough analogy, I suppose.”

My Gypsy frowned. “So how long will the store have to keep your new laptop?” How long will it take for them to get all this done?”

“It should only take a few days, depending on how many orders they have to complete before working on mine. They’ll call me when the laptop is ready for me to bring home.” I looked at my characters and narrowed my eyes. “Why are you all so interested in my new laptop, anyway?”

gypsy-facing-right“We want to see what it can do.” My Gypsy’s tone of voice placed an unspoken duh at the end of his explanation, as if it should be obvious to me.

Backyard 050I folded my arms across my chest and glared at them. “You know what a computer can do. You’ve snuck into my office on more than a few occasions to read my stories on my desktop computer. You also took my laptop computer into the conference room to read the anthology that contained two of my short stories. You even managed to download the book onto the laptop. How you can manage that when you don’t understand technology is a mystery to me.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/12/02/its-here/

My Gypsy grinned. “Cleric remembered all you had done to get the book onto your big computer, and we just did the same thing on the laptop. That is the nice thing about your magic boxes. Someone with no knowledge of your system of magic can still get them to work, just by pushing the right buttons. It is not like our magic, where you need to have magical ability in order to cast a spell.”

I laughed. “That is because it isn’t magic. It’s technology.”

“So, what is the difference between magic and technology?” My Foreman asked the $64,000 question.

“I think my Gypsy pretty much summed it up. Technology can be learned, but one must have magic within them.” The expressions on the faces of my characters told me they did not understand. I raked my hand through my hair and tried again.

turning on the lights“If I asked if someone would turn on the lights in here, one of you would walk over to the switch on the wall and flip it to the on position. The lights would go on. It wouldn’t matter which of you did it – it would work just as well for my Old Dwarf or my Foreman as it would for Dragon or Sorceress.” I looked around and saw all my characters were nodding.

creating light by magic“Now, if I asked if someone would cast a spell creating light, only those with magical ability would be able to do it. Even if the rest of us were given the right words to say and the right components to use – and we recited those words precisely and combined the components correctly – we could not produce light.”

examples of technology“But not everyone can use what you call technology, either.” My Young Hero frowned. “For example, I cannot drive a car. I cannot use your communication device that you call a cell phone. I cannot use the things we see in stores that you call cash registers. I cannot use the thing you termed a sewing machine that your friend uses to create clothing. And I cannot take a picture with that other magic box, the one you call a camera.”

I chuckled. “Yeah, I can’t use a sewing machine, either. My mom didn’t have the patience to teach me. But most people can learn to do such things. People who do not have magical power can never learn to cast spells.” I had a sudden idea. “Say, since the weather is improving, the temperature has gone up, and most of the snow is gone, maybe some of you would like to go on a nature walk with me tomorrow and take some pictures. I will teach anyone who is interested the basics of using the camera. That way, it might be easier for you to understand the difference between magic and technology.”

The next morning, I was surprised to find all my characters waiting to go on the nature hike with me. I looked at my Foreman and the two lads. “I thought the three of you would be working with your horses today.”

“We are easing into that.” My Foreman ducked his head, cheeks flaming. “We rode yesterday for the first time since the beginning of winter. We are all a bit sore right now.”

“A bit?” My Gypsy snorted, rubbing his rump. “More than a bit, I think.”

My Young Hero nodded. “We thought we would go with you this morning and do some walking to ease our muscles. We can do some more riding this afternoon or tomorrow.”

I smiled. “Okay, let’s go to Memorial Park in Shakopee. They have open water already, and for the past week, my friends from this area have been posting photos on social media. They’ve been seeing a lot of different waterfowl at that park.”

Squirrel near snowPhotographerThe first thing we saw at the park was a squirrel. “Well, this will be a good opportunity for me to show you how to use the camera.” I removed the lens cap and showed my characters how to use the viewfinder and shutter button. Then I explained how to use the zoom feature, and what settings to use. “Since this is your first time using a camera, I think you should leave the settings on automatic. Then you won’t have to try to remember so much.”

I snapped a shot of the squirrel and showed my characters how to view the photo I had just taken. “Okay? So, who wants to try?”

“Are you being honest with us?” My Arrogant One viewed me suspiciously. “We really do not have to intone an incantation or use any spell components?”

I raised an eyebrow. “I am being completely honest. This is technology, not magic. Have you ever heard me recite an incantation, or have you ever seen me use spell components, when I have been taking photographs?”

The elf furrowed his brow, then shrugged. “No. No, I have not.”

“You’ll see. The photos taken by those of you who are adept at magic will be no different than the photos taken by the non-magic users among you.”

All my characters still looked doubtful.

“Let’s go over to the river bank to start. I see a number of waterfowl on the ice by the opposite shore. There are also numerous birds swimming in the open water.”

writing spellcamera strapWe walked the few yards to the river, and my characters gathered close as I gave them their final instructions. “Take turns with the camera. Just be careful not to drop it. When you are taking pictures, you need to have the strap around your neck.” I took out a notebook and pen. “And I’ll keep track of who takes what photos so when we get home and I download them onto the computer, you will be able to see there is no difference between the photos taken by the magic users among you compared to the ones taken by those with no magical ability.”

The rest of the morning was spent photographing the various waterfowl on the river, birds in the trees, and a few mammals. When we got home, I downloaded the photos onto my computer so my characters could see the results of their efforts.

bounty-hunter“Okay, I think most of the photos turned out exceptionally well.” I turned to my Bounty Hunter. “You were the first to attempt taking photos. You captured three images – a pair of swans and a flock of Mallards on the ice on the opposite side of the river, and some really good shots of the Wood Ducks in the protected cove to the right of the first photo you took.”

My Bounty Hunter turned a critical eye on his photos. “Yes, I believe you are right – they are not too bad!” He smiled proudly.

foreman“Our second photographer was my Foreman. He took two pictures of a pair of Blue-winged Teal.”

My Foreman and the others crowded around the monitor to see. “They are not as good as I had hoped.” He looked downcast.

“That was due to the limitations of the zoom feature on my camera. The teal were pretty far away. I think these are good images, considering.”

gypsy-facing-rightMy Gypsy clapped my Foreman on the back. “I bet my images are no better than yours. I also took photos of birds quite distant from us.”

“Yes.” I nodded. “You got six shots of some Hooded Mergansers which were only slightly closer to us than the teal. Again, not bad images considering the distance.”

young-hero-facing-leftMy Young Hero stepped forward. “I believe the first image I captured was from a distance, but the other three were closer. How did they turn out?”

“The Redheads with the Ring-necked Duck were about as far as the swans and Mallards my Bounty Hunter took, not quite as far as the birds my Foreman and my Gypsy took. It turned out very well, as did the images of the closer Redheads.”

My Young Hero looked at his images on the monitor and grinned. “You’re right! They are as good as the others!”

Elf cleric“And how do my photos look?” Dragon, in her customary guise of an elf maiden, pushed to the front of the group.

I brought up her images on the monitor. “You got some excellent photos of the Canada Geese!”

Dragon smiled and acquiesced.

Stu-04-NatGal“And my ducks?” Sorceress moved closer to the monitor.

I smiled. “Your Mallards are excellent as well.”

arrogant-one-facing-right“And my images?” My Arrogant One looked nervous.

“Your Trumpeter Swan images are superb!” I pointed at the monitor. “I particularly love this first close-up.”

The elf drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak with both hands. “That is my favorite as well.”

ElfI looked at the remaining photos. “Cleric took some shots of birds in trees – a Black-capped Chickadee, three shots of a Northern Cardinal, and a Pileated Woodpecker. They are all exceptionally good.”

Cleric blushed, but a smile spread from ear to ear.

I brought up the final three images. “My Old Dwarf captured the only images of mammals today, other than the squirrel I photographed at the beginning of the hike. He got an Eastern Cottontail Rabbit, a Red Squirrel, and an Eastern Chipmunk. Nice photos!”

DwarfThe dwarf grinned. “I be liken’ furry thin’s moren feathery thin’s. They do na be hidin’ so easy, and they do na be takin’ off the minute I be tryin’ ta look at ’em.”

I smiled at the old reprobate. “So, looking at the images you all took today, can we agree that the photographs taken by the magic users were no better than those images taken by the non-magic users?”

Everyone nodded.

“But ye do na be provin’ anythin’ by thet, lass.” My Old Dwarf shook his head.

I tilted my head and furrowed my brow. “I think I have proven that technology, unlike magic, can be used by everyone.”

“Eh, I been thinkin’ aboot thet, and I be sayin’ thet be twaddle. There be some magic items what kin be used by anyone. Back in me ownest world, I been havin’ a ring o takin’ me places.”Ring of transportation

I raised an eyebrow. “A ring of what?”

Sorceress cleared her throat. “I believe he means a ring of transportation.”

“Aye, thet be what it be called. Tha wearer o such a ring kin be goin’ anywhere jus’ by tha power o tha ring. Anywho, I been havin’ such a ring, and it been no problem fer me ta be usin’ it. Ye be seein’, lass, tha power be in tha ring, not in tha user. Thet means e’en a dwarf liken meself, what be havin’ no magical power whatsose’er, kin be usin’ tha ring. An’ I be arguin’ thet it be tha same wit yer magic box what ye be callin’ a camera. Tha magic be in the item, so’s even non-magical folk kin be usin’ it. It still be magic, though, not thet teck-noll-o-gee stuff ye be blatherin’ aboot.”

I gaped at my Old Dwarf, who stood before me with a smug smile on his face. How do I argue that point? I sighed.

So, what is your opinion? What is the difference between magic and technology? Are objects like cameras magical? Let me know what you think. Be sure to come back next week and see what my characters are doing. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Not Exactly Déjà Vu All Over Again

Not Exactly Déjà Vu All Over Again

For today's blog 001“Honey?”

My husband came into my office.

I looked up from the computer screen and saw a big frown on his usually cheery face. “Uh-oh. What did my characters do now?”

Miles laughed. “It isn’t your characters this time.”

“An historic moment! You’re frowning, and it isn’t because of anything my characters did!” I blinked. “Wait! This is weird. I feel like we’ve had this conversation before.”

Miles frowned and stroked his chin. “I get that same feeling. To quote baseball great Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

I raked my hand through my hair and frowned. “Yeah, but I can’t quite remember the particulars.” I shrugged “Oh, well. Back to the problem at hand. If it isn’t my characters, then what is the trouble?”

“The heat element in the rain gutters out front doesn’t seem to be working. We’ve got icicles hanging from the gutters, and the beginning of an ice dam on the roof. There’s already a six-inch-thick glacier in the roof valley over the front porch, and I don’t think today’s temperatures will be high enough to melt it.”

I gaped at my husband. “Hold on! I’m sure we’ve had this conversation before!”

Miles wrinkled his brow. “I think you’re right, but how could that be?”

“We had problems with the heat element before. Let me check my files. I know I kept the receipt.”

looking for fileNote 2It took me about twenty minutes to find the receipt in the mess I termed my filing system. “Yeah, here it is. We had someone here to fix it in December of 2017. And the repair technician, Guy, attached a note to the receipt. It says if the heating element ever fails again, please call another company to deal with it.

“Oh, that’s right! How could we ever forget that? Your characters caused quite the hullabaloo. I thought Guy and his co-worker – I think his name was Bill? I thought the two of them were going to have coronaries!”

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/12/17/just-another-typical-day/

I sighed. “Yeah. I remember that, too. And now the heating element isn’t working again?”

Miles nodded.

“Great. Well, why don’t we look at a few things before we make any calls?”

checked everythingWe checked that the unit was plugged in, we checked that the power switch was on, we checked that neither the ground-fault circuit interrupters nor the circuit breakers were tripped, and we checked everything else we could remember the repair technicians checking the last time we had a problem. They all looked ship-shape and Bristol fashion. We walked back to my office.

I frowned and chewed on my lower lip for a few minutes. “December 2017 . . . that was, what, 15 months ago?”

Miles nodded.

“Do you think we could risk calling the same company to send someone to look?

Miles shrugged. “Why not? I mean, what are the odds the same techs would still be working for that company?”

I brightened a bit. “True. Companies don’t seem to retain employees like they did years ago. I’ll give them a call and see if I can get anyone to come out.”

phone with caller IDI dialed the number and I was quickly connected to the company’s automated phone system. A recorded voice directed me to please listen to the entire message, as their menu options had recently changed.

I listened. The options sounded the same to me as they had 15 months ago – press one for sales, two for customer service. I pressed two. The same recorded voice told me to press one for billing inquiries or two for repairs and technical assistance. I pressed two, and got more options from which to choose. After navigating through all the correct options, I heard a different recorded voice sweetly advise me that all service representatives were helping other customers.

I looked over at Miles, who was waiting patiently next to my desk. “All service representatives are helping other customers. I guess they haven’t hired any more employees.” Back when we first contracted with them to install covered rain gutters and heating elements, the company only had a total of about a dozen employees, including Skit and Skat, co-vice-presidents in charge of rodent control in their warehouse.

Skit and Skat

The disembodied voice droned on, informing me that all calls were taken in the order received, and cautioning me to remain on the line. Then I was treated to some soothing music.

I glanced over at Miles again. “I’m on hold, with music. It sounds like the same crossover thrash version of the 1812 Overture, accompanied by yowling dogs and cats during a car crash that entertained me the last time I called them.”

noise 2

The music was blessedly interrupted at regular intervals by the sweet voice endlessly repeating how much they appreciated my business and assuring me that a customer service representative would be with me shortly.

Forty minutes later, I was finally connected with a live being, whose tired, irritated voice contrasted sharply with the sweet tones of the recorded voice on their automated system. After taking all the pertinent information, the representative put me on hold again, this time, blissfully music-free.

Another twenty minutes passed. I was beginning to think either I had been disconnected, or the customer service rep had forgotten about me. Then the tired, irritated voice came back on the line – this time sounding a lot more irritated. “Mrs. Tesch?”

“Yes, I’m still here.”

“Mrs. Tesch, our records indicate you just had the heating element replaced in December.”

December 2017I corrected the speaker. “December 2017.”

I heard the rep shuffling through some papers. “Oh, yeah, December 2017. Still, that’s only . . . what? 15 months ago? Why are you calling about it again? What’s the problem?”
eyes rolling
I sighed and rolled my eyes, even though I knew the other person couldn’t see me. “I should think that would be obvious. The problem is it’s not working again. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be calling for a repair technician to come look at it, would I?”

“Well, why isn’t it working?”
scowl
I scowled. “How should I know why it’s not working? Why don’t you just send a repair tech out here and let him determine why it’s not working?”

Completely ignoring that suggestion, the customer service rep proceeded to ask me questions. “Are you certain the heating element is plugged in?”

eyes rolling“Yes, I’m certain the heating element is plugged in.”

“Is the power switch in the on position?”

“Yes, the power switch is in the on position.”

eyes rolling“Are the ground-fault circuit interrupters tripped?”

“No, the ground-fault circuit interrupters are not tripped.”

“What about your circuit breakers?”

“None of the circuit breakers have been tripped.” I sighed. “Look, my husband and I have already checked out all the obvious things. We need a repair tech.”

I heard more shuffling of papers. “Well, Mrs. Tesch, we might be able to get someone out there next week. Or maybe we could refer you to another company?” The voice sounded hopeful.

I could almost feel the steam coming out of my ears. My voice dropped to a dangerous growl. “Look. By next week, the damage to the roof caused by the ice dams could be considerable and costly. We need someone here today.” When I got no response to that, I took a deep breath and pressed on. “Your company installed this system, and your repair techs worked on it last. So I suggest you get someone out here now.”

The voice responded, sounding considerably cowed. “Ah, yes ma’am. We’ll have someone there within the hour.”

Backyard 050MilesAfter hanging up the phone, I shared the details of the conversation with Miles, who looked impressed. “My wife, the tiger!”

I grinned. “Well, the tiger better go have a chat with her characters, so we don’t have a repeat of the last debacle! Care to accompany me?”

“Actually, no. I’d prefer not getting on the bad side of any of your characters, thanks.”

“Coward!” I gave Miles a quick peck on the cheek before scurrying off to round up my characters.

In less than 10 minutes, I had my characters rounded up and corralled in the conference room.

Elf facing rightCleric was the first to speak up. “Why did you wish to see us all here, Mistress? Is something wrong?”

I nodded. “There is a problem with the heating element in the rain gutters out front. The . . .”

Arrogant OneI was cut off mid-sentence. “Well, we certainly did not cause it!” My Arrogant One drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak with both hands. My other characters nodded, and several muttered similar comments.

Dwarf“Aye, we be inn-o-sent, lass!” My Old Dwarf was beet-red, obviously upset at the notion he stood accused of anything.

I sighed and waved my hand dismissively. “I am not accusing anyone. I just wanted to let you all know the company is sending someone here to fix the problem.”dragon looking right

“The same repairmen they sent last time?” Dragon snickered.

I gave her a narrow-eyed glare. “I don’t know. What I do know is you are all to stay right here in the conference room until the repairmen finish their work and leave. I do not want a repeat of the trouble you caused last time.”

My Old Dwarf gaped at me. “But lassie! We just been tryin’ ta be helpful.”

I rounded on him. “Well, don’t. Just stay here, out of the way.”

My Old Dwarf’s face crumpled, and I almost felt bad about speaking so sharply. Almost. Until I remembered the murderous look in the dwarf’s eyes when Guy called him Gramps. And the looks on the repairmen’s faces when they witnessed Dragon change from her elf maiden guise to her true form.

“The repairmen will be here any minute. I don’t know how long it will take them to fix the problem. Not one of you is to leave this room until I come back here and tell you it’s okay. Understand?”

There was a lot of muttering and grumbling, but everyone nodded their understanding.

I headed up the stairs and had just reached the landing by the front entry when the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find an old man standing there, squinting through his coke-bottle glasses at a clipboard.

repairman

“Can I help you?”

The man looked up, startled. “Eh?”

I sighed, perceiving his eyesight was not the only sense with which he had problems. I raised my voice. “Can I help you?”

He relaxed. “Oh, yeah, maybe you can. Are you Mrs. Tesch?”

I nodded. “That’s me.”

He smiled hesitantly, and flashed me his company identification. “I’m Crawford. I was asked to look at your heating element.”
icicles
I pointed at the rain gutter, festooned with icicles. “There it is.” I pointed to the cord and the power switch. “It’s plugged in, the switch is on, and my husband and I have checked the ground-fault circuit interrupters and the circuit breakers.”

CrawfordCrawford looked taken aback. “Well, seems you folks did half my job for me.” He looked at the rain gutter and squinted at the notes on his clipboard, then turned back to me, grimacing. I wasn’t sure if the expression was directed at me, or if the man just had a touch of indigestion.

Crawford 3Suddenly, Crawford seemed a bit startled. He looked over my shoulder and seemed to be squinting at something behind me. I glanced behind me, but saw nothing. I turned back. Crawford was looking directly at me and giving me a big smile. “Well, Mrs. Tesch, why don’t you give me about an hour or so, and I’ll see if I can’t get this little problem resolved.”

Somewhat confused, I merely nodded. “Okay.” I looked in the direction of his truck but didn’t see anyone else. “Do you need some help? My husband could . . .”

“Oh, no, ma’am! The company frowns on non-employees assisting us. Insurance and all that, you understand.” Another big smile.

He turned to begin work, and I went back inside and returned to my chores. I thought Crawford’s estimate of an hour to be optimistic. I figured it would take the old man, working alone, several hours to complete the job.

I was surprised when, only about 40 minutes later, the doorbell rang. I ran to answer it.

Crawford stood there, a bill in one hand and a thick, flat cable in the other. “Here you go, ma’am. I replaced the heating element for you. The old one was damaged. It looks like a chipmunk or squirrel was gnawing on it, maybe last fall, and the melting snow just shorted out the unit. Happens all the time.” He showed me the damaged cable. I could see the bare wire and the scorch marks on the insulation.

After examining the damaged unit, I stepped outside and looked at the rain gutters and roof. The ice dams were gone, as was most of the snow.

“Wow! That was fast! How did you manage to clear all the ice and snow so quickly?”
Crawford 3
Crawford gave me a sly smile and a conspiratorial wink. “I have your friend to thank for that. Never could have done it without her.”

“My . . . friend?” I furrowed my brow and narrowed my eyes.

“Yeah.” He smiled again, looking like the cat that swallowed the canary. He leaned closer and lowered his voice. “You know, your dragon should get together with my griffin. I bet they’d have a grand old time together!”

Dragon and Griffon

Crawford leavingI gaped at him as he thrust the bill into my hand, turned, walked back to his truck, and hopped in. Before he drove away, Crawford rolled down his window and called back to me. “You know, there’s a great writers’ group that meets twice a month at the local Coffee Shoppe. Maybe I’ll see you there sometime. Be sure to bring your dragon!”

I stood gaping at the departing vehicle for several stunned moments. Then I turned and charged back into the house. “Dragon!

scaly dragon

Is it possible that other writers have had characters fall from their manuscripts? Hmmmmm. I guess we may never know for certain. Be sure to return every week to see what new adventures and misadventures await my band of displaced characters. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Fixtures Light Elegant Lighting Fixture And Supply Company Intended For Front Porch Light Fixtures Front Porch Light Fixtures

Armchair Birding Ten Days Before Spring

Armchair Birding Ten Days Before Spring

Elf facing rightPurgatory Creek and Staring Lake 099“It is only 10 days to the vernal equinox, the first day of spring.”

Dragon opened one sleepy eye and regarded Cleric with disdain.

“What? Am I incorrect?” Cleric blushed under Dragon’s glare.

Dragon in front of fireplaceSnowy deck“I do not know. I do not care.” Dragon rolled over to toast her other side by the heat of her illusory fireplace. “I do not understand the climate of this world. Spring, indeed! The temperatures are still frigid, and the snow is so deep you could lose a good size horse in the drifts!” She glanced out the French doors to the snow-covered deck and snorted. “In our world, spring meant green grass, flowers, birdsong, sunshine, and blessed, blessed warmth!”


“You and the Arrogant One should be glad you were absent from this world for a while. The temperatures while you were gone were brutal! What Mistress Writer terms the feels like temperature due to the wind chill factor was as much as 30 degrees below zero! Even the real temperature was below zero, though not by as many degrees.” Sorceress gathered her cloak closer around her and sipped from her cup of hot tea.

Dragon scowled. “Those numbers mean nothing to me. I do not comprehend the various systems of measurement they use in this world. Mistress Writer calls the temperature here degrees Fahrenheit, while other parts of this world measure temperature in degrees Celsius. I do not know what comprises a degree, nor do I understand Fahrenheit or Celsius.

Cleric nodded. “I agree it is confusing. I only know it was positively numbing. Only Mistress Writer and Master Miles have ventured out of the house since you and the elf left for the other world, and they only go out when absolutely necessary. But even in the house, I can feel the chill.”

sorceress-facing-rightcup-of-teaSorceress placed her teacup on the end table. “The Foreman and the lads are getting quite cranky. They have been unable to work with their horses since the beginning of winter.”

Smoke drifting from Dragon's snoutunicorn“And I am so cold, my scales ache.” A cloud of black smoke drifted from Dragon’s snout. “I think we should all go back to visit the Lord of the Forest and the others in his world! It was tolerably warm there!”

I walked in in mid-conversation, but I had heard enough to comment. “From everything you told us about your recent adventure there, I’m not sure that would be a good idea. I must admit, though, the part about it being warm there makes it tempting. I can’t stand much more of this weather myself. And I don’t think the birds are very happy about it, either.”

I juggled several plastic containers as I struggled to open the door to the deck. “How about a hand here?”

Cleric jumped up and opened the door for me and grabbed half the containers from my arms. We went out and filled the various dishes and food stations around the deck with mealworms, assorted seeds, peanuts and grapes. We were hardly in the house again before a huge flock of birds descended to gobble up the food.

American Robins - overwintering flock (1)

Dragon birdwatchingDragon glanced out the door and her eyes widened. “So many birds!” She shrunk to the size of a housecat and clambered onto the back of the sofa to watch through the window.

Cleric nodded. “And they are all so hungry!”

“Well, it is extremely cold, so they need a lot of food to stay warm.” I watched them make short work of the mealworms and start on the peanuts and grapes. “They are ravenous today!”

“Yes, they seem to eat even more than your Old Dwarf.” Sorceress quirked an eyebrow and smirked.

Dwarf and hamAs if on cue, my Old Dwarf walked into the room, munching on some ham. He gave Dragon an affectionate look, then followed everyone’s gaze. “Wow! Thet be one big bunch o birdies!” He walked over to the doors and watched as the birds ate. “They be makin’ me hungry! When be lunch?”

I gaped at the rotund figure. “Lunch? You’re eating right now!”

“Eh, thet be jus’ a little snack ta be holdin’ me over.” He turned and walked toward the kitchen. “I be seein’ iffin yer mister be needin’ any help ta be fixin’ lunch.”

I shook my head and chuckled at the old reprobate.

“Mistress?”

I turned my attention to Cleric. “Hmmm?”

She tilted her head and scrunched her brow as she looked at the birds. “Are these birds all robins?”

I checked the flock and nodded.

American Robins - overwintering flock (2)

“Is that not unusual for Minnesota in the winter?”

“Well, I don’t know how unusual it is for the rest of Minnesota, but I have never seen such a large flock of overwintering robins in our neighborhood. Most winters, if we have any robins at all in our yard, there are only a few, never more than three or four. This winter, we have a flock that has grown from around 30 birds in December to almost 100 now.”

After a frantic few minutes, most of the food was gone. Cleric and I stepped out and refilled the plates and feeders, then returned to our seats to do some more birdwatching.

gypsy-facing-rightMy Gypsy entered the room and came over to join us as the birds returned to the buffet. “Oh, robins! I love them. They display more variation in color and markings than most people notice.” He pointed to specific birds on the deck railing  as he commented. “Some are pale and have a great deal of white while others are deep brick-red on their fronts. And some have much more white around their eyes than others.”

Once the robins ate their fill and flew off, other birds ventured onto the deck, or waited their turn in the nearby trees. Cleric and my Gypsy settled into their favorite game of seeing who was quickest to identify the birds.

My Gypsy was first. “See the little brown bird on the dish, eating safflower seed? The rufous cap and line through his eye, the smudged dot on his chest, and the bi-color bill all tell me he is an American Tree Sparrow.”

American Tree Sparrow

The two companions looked to me, and my Gypsy grinned as I nodded in agreement with his assessment.

Not to be outdone, Cleric quickly identified some birds. “See the two birds on the posts and the one on the dish? The black cap and bib, the white cheeks, the gray wing feathers edged in white, and the stubby bill tell me these three are Black-capped Chickadees.”


I smiled and nodded. “One apiece. Who’s next?”

My Gypsy immediately pointed to another small bird on a post. “That bird also has a black cap and white cheeks, but no black bib. His longer bill, his white throat and belly, and his bluish-gray back tell me this compact little bird is a White-breasted Nuthatch.”
White-breasted Nuthatch
“Two for my Gypsy and one for Cleric.” I smiled approvingly at my two characters.

“Oh, look!” Cleric pointed to another bird that had just landed on the snowy railing. “Blue crest, black necklace, gray front, blue back, and various shades of blue with some black plumage on the wings and tail tell me he’s a Blue Jay, and there are two more in the trees.” She pointed again.


“Two-all. You’re both getting really good at identifying these birds!”

My Gypsy grinned, missing the opportunity to score another identification, as Cleric quickly continued. “Those three are Dark-eyed Juncos, also called snowbirds, as they are winter visitors here. They are mostly dark gray to black, with white bellies. They have white outer tail feathers, which, of course, you can only see on the bird sitting on the post. Oh, and they have pink bills.” She pointed to the birds, one on the post, one eating from a dish, and one pecking at some spray millet.

“You forgot to identify the sub-species.” My Gypsy gave her a smug look. “There are at least seven sub-species of Dark-eyed Juncos. These three belong to the Slate-colored subspecies.”

“I’d say you each get a point for that one. That puts you at three apiece.” I grinned.

My Gypsy immediately tried to pull ahead in the competition. “There are three female Northern Cardinals eating from the clay dishes.” He pointed, and continued, “See the short, thick bills, and the pale brown coloring, with tinges of red in their crests, their wings, and their tails?”

Cleric nodded, and quickly pointed to the trees. “And there are three male Northern Cardinals in the trees, waiting for their mates to finish eating. They have brilliant red coloring, long tails, and black masks. And one is singing!”


“Another point each! You’re doing so well!” I gave them both an encouraging smile.

Cleric beamed at the praise. “It is fun to practice our skills identifying the birds of your world, Mistress. While we knew most of the birds in our own world, everything was foreign to us when we found ourselves in your world.”

My Gypsy nodded. “Even after several years here, we still sometimes have trouble identifying some birds. For instance, I can tell the little woodpecker eating from the dish on the deck is a Downy Woodpecker. He is close enough that I can see he is very small and has a short beak relative to the size of his head. But there are three woodpeckers in the trees that look like Downies, but I cannot be sure. They might be the larger look-alike, the Hairy Woodpecker. From this distance, I cannot judge their size accurately, nor the relative size of bill-to-head.”

Cleric and I looked where my Gypsy was pointing. I turned to her. “Do you want to weigh in on this?”

Cleric nodded. “I believe all three are the smaller one, the Downy Woodpecker. Although there are no other birds near any of them by which to judge their size, they appear very compact to me. Also, while I am not positive, I believe I am seeing dark spots on their white outer tail feathers, which would confirm their identity as Downies.”

“Excellent! You both scored another point!”

My Gypsy furrowed his brow, obviously upset that he was unable to confirm the identities, but he quickly brightened when he saw another bird. “Well, I can see that bird in the tree well enough to identify it. A soft-gray bird with black spots on its wings, a long, thin tail, pink legs and a thin, slightly curved black bill – that’s a Mourning Dove!”
Mourning Dove
I nodded. “Very good! You just took the lead.”

“Oh, no! I do not suppose that one would count – an Eastern Gray Squirrel, who has chased all the birds from the deck!” Cleric frowned at the furry animal, then laughed. “I think he wants to know if we have any more peanuts. The birds did not leave any!”
Eastern Gray Squirrel (1)
“I don’t think we should put any more out right now, and you might want to suggest to the squirrel that he gets out of sight.”

No sooner had I said that when a hawk flew down from the tree, landing on the railing. The squirrel made a hasty escape into the bush next to the deck.

Cooper's Hawk (2)

“Oh, my! I am glad our furry little friend did not end up as this bird’s dinner!” Cleric gaped at the bird, who struck a regal pose. “Mistress, is this a Cooper’s Hawk or a Sharp-shinned Hawk?”

Cooper's Hawk (1)My Gypsy, eager to show off, did not even give me a chance to answer. “Oh, I know! This bird is larger than the average Sharp-shinned Hawk, which is only about the size of the Blue Jay we saw earlier. The eyes are close to the front of the head, and the feathers on his nape are lighter than his head feathers, giving him a capped look, rather than a hooded appearance. This is a Cooper’s Hawk.”

I nodded. “Yup, and the red eyes and the vertical barring tell us it is a full adult.”

There was a commotion on the deck, and we watched as a smaller hawk came and chased off the Cooper’s Hawk. The newcomer settled itself on a post and looked around.

Sharp-shinned Hawk (1)

Cleric tilted her head and studied the bird. “Oh, this hawk has yellow eyes and streaks rather than barring. This is a juvenile, is it not?”

“Yup. But a juvenile what?” I grinned.

Cleric chewed on her lower lip. “A Sharp-shinned Hawk?”

My Gypsy raised an eyebrow. “Are you certain?”

Cleric grinned. “Yes. This bird is smaller than the other hawk, and the barring is very large and bold. The barring on a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk would be thinner, finer. It is a Sharpie.”

We watched as the bird moved around, showing off its beautiful plumage.


Dragon frowned. “The Gypsy said a Sharp-shinned Hawk was about the size of a Blue Jay. While this hawk is smaller than the other hawk, it is noticeably larger than the Blue Jay we saw earlier.”

Cleric nodded. “It is probably a female. The female birds of prey are larger than the males. A female Sharp-shinned Hawk could be almost the same size as a male Cooper’s Hawk.”

I nodded. “Excellent! I am very impressed by both of you!”

My Gypsy frowned. “But which one of us won? Who identified the most birds?”

I reviewed the birds we had seen, and who had identified each one. “I think it was pretty much a tie.”

“Well, I will win next time.” My Gypsy squared his shoulders and set his jaw.

“We will see about that!” Cleric smiled.

Sorceress rose from her chair and beckoned us. “Right now, I think we should see if perchance lunch is ready.”

Dragon hopped down from the back of the sofa, resuming her former size before her feet hit the floor. “Only if I can move my fireplace into the dining room.”

fireplace2

We hope you enjoyed our winter armchair-birding adventure. Be sure to return every week to see what new adventures and misadventures await my band of displaced characters. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Fixtures Light Elegant Lighting Fixture And Supply Company Intended For Front Porch Light Fixtures Front Porch Light Fixtures