Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Morning Music: Put On Your Sunday Clothes

Wall-E is one of three or four movies that I simply can't watch without getting sniffly. The opening scene is also a better sermon than most sermon's I've heard. So, for this morning's hymn, I give you...

Friday, September 28, 2012

I hate being right

Yes, I called it. Sick kid, maybe-sick parents, and one kid who's bright and chipper - and off to his Nana's and his daycare. (I can't tell you just how much of a relief that is.) Laundry's running, Firstborn is watching Transformers and sipping at a cup of ice, and I'm browsing the Internet in order to preserve whatever's left of my sanity. Whee!

Oh, no, not again.

"Curiously, the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias, as it fell, was, 'Oh no, not again!' Many people have speculated that if we knew exactly why the bowl of petunias had thought that we would know a lot more about the nature of the universe than we do now." ~The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I'm stopping to offer the quote as context for the title. As you might guess from the juxtaposition, I'm feeling a bit like a bowl of petunias here at midnight thirty. What's going on? Let me explain...

(Emetophobes beware. Have some Red Pandas frolicking in the snow instead.)

Just as I was settling down to go to sleep, Firstborn picked up where Secondborn left off last Friday: being noisily ill all over his bed. Which probably means we're in for another week of illness. This, just as Secondborn was starting to get over being sick himself.

On top of that, Beautiful Wife is now coughing and looking uncomfortable, and has moved out to the living room. And frankly, I'm feeling none too stable myself, though that could be the product of carrying Firstborn to the shower and changing his sheets.

So, our house is once again a plague ward.

Somehow, the fact that we've gone through this before is filling me with dread for what's to come, rather than confidence that we'll make it through again. (We will, I don't doubt that, but the knowledge is wholly insufficient to stave off the dread.) Haven't we had enough of this shit?

Apparently not. In fact, I'll go further: no, of course not. We have kids.

I'd claim that the amount of garlic in my lunch (and, now, permeating my entire bloodstream and probably my nervous system as well), or possibly the amount of rum I had after dinner, or both, has clearly proven too much for whatever germ, virus, or blasphemous Elder God is behind this - but I have a sneaking suspicion that my body is about to prove me wrong. Maybe not; we'll see. But if I don't post anything tomorrow, that's almost certainly why.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

My muse is out to get me

So, last night as I was sitting at the dining room table (eating and reading), I had a sort of vision: the creepy opening scene for a rather disturbing little story. So I fired up the laptop, and I wrote it down...

...And it's good.

This is horrible. I mean, I was just starting to make some progress on another writing project, and I have seven or eight more lined up behind that one. And Secondborn is sick with a cough, and Beautiful Wife is completely stressed out, so even if I do try to work on this one, real life is going to come crashing down on any semblance of writing time I might have, and by the time I get back to it I'll probably have lost all sense of the story.

Even worse, I like this story. I haven't been this interested in telling a particular story in years. Bits and pieces of it keep coming together in my head, even - or perhaps especially - when I'm trying to do other things. It's completely taking over my brain, filling all those ridges and folds with its slimy black tentacles, and I don't even have a working title for it. But it just keeps creeping in, and for the first time in I don't even know how long, I feel like I could write this. I feel like I could finish this.

I don't know exactly where it's going. I have no idea how long it'll be. But by all the dark and forgotten corners of the world, I'm going to have a lot of fun finding out.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Traumatizing Children With Literature

This article was reproduced from a stolen copy of the Secret Liberal Instruction Book For Teachers. Don't bother asking your teachers or other educational professionals about it. In order to become teachers, they swear dark and pagan oaths - oaths which require them to follow the directives contained in The Book and forbid them to reveal The Book's existence. Just read, and understand. Perhaps, if you are still in the early stages of your school career, you can use this information to protect yourself.

Chapter 7: Breaking Their Wills

William Tecumseh Sherman famously observed that war is hell, and while most students' experience of school will never rise to the level of full-on armed conflict, you (as an educator) can still expose them to a choice slice of purgatory during their time in your care.

For the most part, this is too easy to merit much discussion of methodology. Physical Education, Art, and Music all offer clear and obvious opportunities to shatter students' fragile egos, using brutal criticism, unearned praise, or both. Topics such as Algebra are so intrinsically torturous that little or no extra effort will be required on the teacher's part. And the Sciences, of course, are where we tear down students' faith in Almighty God in order to keep them vulnerable to our Evil Secular Humanist instructions.

There is, however, one area in which the best methods for following the directives of the Secret Liberal Cabal are neither obvious nor easy: English classes. Spelling tests and grammar are enough to make anyone a little crazy, but most students slog through them despite. Sentence diagrams work better, but they still don't inflict the sort of massive psychological trauma that brought you into teaching in the first place. Fortunately, English teachers have a secret weapon: literature.

To get the full effect, you'll need to use books that seem wholesome and uplifting, but cruelly break their readers' impressionable little hearts. You'll also want to arrange for a strategic escalation, to ensure that your reading choices continue to traumatize your students throughout their time in school. Too little, and they won't require therapy; too much, and they'll become too desensitized to be affected by future readings. Current studies suggest the following titles as an optimum progression:

Step One (4th or 5th grade): Where The Red Fern Grows (Wilson Rawls). Lead your students through the exciting story of Billy Coleman and his two coon-hunting dogs, then watch their heads implode when they reach the tragic ending. Guaranteed to scar their psyches until at least middle school.

Step Two (6th - 8th grade): Bridge To Terabithia (Katherine Patterson). Introduce students to Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke. Encourage young readers to really feel for these two, as their friendship grows and they invent their own magical kingdom in the woods beyond the creek. Revel in the heartbroken anguish of your students when Leslie dies in a horrible random accident. Should keep students in mourning for at least six months.

Step Three (9th or 10th grade): A Separate Peace (John Knowles). Introduce your students to another unlikely friendship, between the misfit Gene and the charismatic Phineas. As with the previous book recommendations, you can savor your students shock as a tragic accident disrupts the friendship... but this time, the initial tragedy doesn't mark the end of the book! After Phineas falls out of the tree, you can watch your students wade through Gene's angst-filled conflict between sympathy and schadenfreude, until the Second Tragic Moment when Phineas kicks the bucket. And then, while your students are still shell-shocked, the book delivers the final blow: the revelation that Gene himself was responsible for Phineas' accident. If that doesn't leave your entire class grieving, moping, and feeling vaguely guilty, then nothing will.

With any luck, this will keep them broken and biddable until they graduate.

Important Note: While we encourage you to explore other heart-rending works of literature and even substitute them for the titles given above, we must caution you to avoid Lord of the Flies (William Golding) at all costs. Not only does this book frequently fail to adequately traumatize students, there have been several unfortunate cases where it appears to have given them ideas. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) should also be avoided, and for similar reasons; the results are generally less violent, but they are no less disruptive to efforts to cultivate a cowed and submissive classroom. And if we don't keep our classrooms submissive, how will we control our workers?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kickstarter: Mildly Exciting Tales of Astonishment

Another Kickstarter campaign worth supporting! Mildly Exciting Tales of Astonishment follows the Freedom Five as they learn to navigate the unexpected difficulties of being a hero, including such important duties as protecting your brand and finding a decent daycare. Sounds like fun, right?

I'm passingly acquainted with the fellow who's running this project, and he's a very talented guy with good geek credentials (and a lot of theater background, if that isn't redundant). This one should be well worth the investment.

We do not die of death

Poetry time on the Blog o' Doom:
Around, around the sun we go:
The moon goes round the earth.
We do not die of death:
We die of vertigo.

Archibald MacLeish
As a musing on mortality, this doesn't really work for me. However, it's an extremely apt description of certain days at work.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Harduk The Slayer and the Beach of Doom

It occurs to me that I haven't been inflicting enough of my fiction on you recently, and I must fix that. Allow me to present Harduk the Slayer. I'd love to protest that I have no idea what I was thinking when I wrote this, but that would be a lie: I was thinking, "Hey, I haven't written a completely over-the-top caricature of a barbarian fantasy adventurer lately!"

Harduk coughed and raised his head. His hand went reflexively to the great sword strapped across his back, but he did not draw the blade. The cries of strange birds and animals reached his ears over the steady pounding of the surf, and the sun was warm on the bronze skin of his massive shoulders. He was lying belly-down on the sand of a beach. Beside him lay the broken timber that had carried him through the night, after the storm-crazed serpent had destroyed his ship.

Though his thirst and hunger were great, he paused to offer a prayer to the Grim King Krak'not, who was chief among the gods of Distractia. The prayer offered Harduk's thanks for the storm and the serpent. He made no mention of the wreckage that had saved him; Krak'not sent only danger and ruin, and to thank the Grim King for salvation was to invite further disasters.

With his prayer complete, Harduk spat out a couple of splinters. When his arms had grown weary during the night, he had clung to the wood with his teeth. Then he strode across the beach and into the jungle, ignoring the burning of the sand against his bare feet with the fatalistic stoicism of a true Distractian. The sounds of birds and animals fell silent as he entered the darkness beneath the trees, and Harduk paused for a moment to let his eyes adjust.

There was food here, and with so much growth there must be water as well. He would find those things first, and then he would climb until he could see more of this place where he had washed up. He cleared his throat, then reached into his mouth and extracted another splinter. Though he had arrived with only his ragged loincloth and the tremendous sword on his back, Harduk had no fear for his chances in this strange place. His icy desert homeland of Distractia was far more harsh, and Krak'not had gifted him with singular strength and stamina. Many men had learned this, to their dismay; and many women, to their delight.

With a decisive grunt, he started into the jungle.

To be continued...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Glow Sticks as a parenting tool

We had a little trouble getting the boys into the shower tonight. So, to help encourage them in the right direction, I turned the lights off and threw a couple of glow sticks in the shower with them. This has worked really well, since they both love having glow sticks in the dark.

In fact, it may be working a little too well. I can't get Firstborn out of the shower.

Oh, well. He'll run out of hot water eventually...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Secondborn, being Not Sick

So here's Secondborn looking pensive on the playground. If you look closely, you can just barely see the remains of his pirate scar.

And, hey, as long as I'm posting boy pictures, here's Firstborn on the playground after school. He's the one in the green shirt, on the left:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Healthier boys, better night

So, last night the Beautiful Wife decided that she wanted to work with Firstborn on his homework, and sent me off to get Secondborn to sleep. Admittedly, for the previous two nights she'd had to give Secondborn breathing treatments for this horrible cough of his, but apparently that wasn't why she wanted to trade bedtime duties. Apparently she really wanted to help Firstborn work on his homework. Which, you know, I don't understand at all, but whatever.

So, after a bit of negotiating, I got Secondborn to go to sleep. I managed this without using a breathing treatment, though that's more because he's getting better than it is any sort of tribute to my parenting skills. Unfortunately, part of the deal involved me stretching out on the bed with him.(Secondborn, despite his limited vocabulary, is a remarkably talented haggler.) This, to the great surprise of absolutely nobody, meant that I quickly passed out on my son's bed, and stayed there for... I don't know, maybe half an hour? Forty-five minutes?

Then he started coughing again, though not as badly as before. So I set up some pillows and arranged the boy so that he was sleeping upright (kind of like he was sitting in a car seat, but just leaning back against a pillow). That seemed to solve the problem. Unfortunately, it also meant that I couldn't go back to sleep.

So I got up, played a little bit of Bulletstorm (which is exactly the kind of game it sounds like), then read for a while, and finally went back to bed. (Where I slept like a rock, though I was a little annoyed that Patrick Swayze didn't want me to play on his volleyball team. Apparently it was my night for dreaming about being left out of things by the Cool Kids?)

...Anyway, somewhere in there I came up with a solution for a problem I'd run into on the Afterworld project. The problem was, basically, that I'd ripped out my opening scene and replaced it with something different. The new scene is, I think, stronger than the original scene, but the change creates some logistical problems: I need the main character to do a certain sort of planning, and that sort of planning doesn't make sense as a direct response to the new scene.

But, as I was lying in bed waiting for Morpheus to drop by with his bag of sand, I came up with a solution. A good, solid, workable solution. And, even better, I still remembered it when I woke up this morning. So I have a plan, and the writing can continue.

So, all in all, I'm going to call this a victory.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

It Came From The Darkness

All they wanted was a good night's sleep...

But IT had other ideas.

The coughing in the darkness...

That horrible sound...

...And then, the full horror revealed!

The Sick Child

Not even a dry cleaner can save them.

Coming soon to a bed near you!

We cannot deny what we know...

Shhhh. Listen.

Can you hear them?

They're down there. They're always down there. Nights like this, I can hear their hooves scraping against the underside of the foundation.

Are they a science experiment gone horribly wrong, the results left to run wild? Are they the loathsome spawn of some obscene elder god? I don't know, but they're down there. Underneath the house. Moving in their herds through the darkness.

We used to think the house kept shifting because of the soil. Warming and cooling, damp or dry, it expanded or contracted and caused the house to tilt and settle. But it's not the soil. It never was.

It's what's in the soil.

It's them.

They're down there. The blind, burrowing sheep of the apocalypse. There is no escaping them.


Can you hear them?

(Pardon that. Sick child. Late night. Punch-drunk parents. Delusions of livestock. Surely that muffled baaaa-ing is only an auditory hallucination, brought on by lack of sleep. Surely...)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Arr, Matey! 'Tis the day, it is.

That's right, me hearties, it's International Talk Like A Pirate Day! So fer t'day, we'll be talkin' like pirates... and singin' like pirates... an' when I get 'ome t'night, I'll be plundering the liquor chest in search o' rum. ARRR!

So join us below the fold in search o' booty, me lads and lassies:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Give us this day our daily weird dreams

Lots of iFriends in my dreams last night, though I don't really know why. I just finished playing the first Dead Space video games, so I'd have expected to dream about Necromorphs or at least space ships. But, no.

Instead I was in church - a nice, big, cathedral-style church - listening to some non-traditional hymns. Why? Apparently Former Conservative was getting ready to start up an Episcopal church, so he was attending this one as some sort of joint venture to help him get his own operation off the ground. A bunch of us, even the irreligious ones, had turned out to support him. (And, yes, I can totally see FC using Arlo Guthrie as worship music. Or maybe the Roues Brothers.)

This was followed by a bit of driving people around in my old home town (FC happened to be visiting that church for his, um, launch service) and me explaining that part of the reason I was so weird was that I'd spent my summers there and the school year in Dallas. Which is sort of true, actually, or at least it was sort of true when I was a kid. And the "old home town" in the dream wasn't actually the place where I spent my summers; instead, it was a dream version of that place, and one I'd dreamed myself into before. Exactly which Imaginary Friends were in the car with me kept changing, but regardless of who it was at any given moment, we were having a good time.

So, apparently my dreams can be plenty weird even without zombies...

Monday, September 17, 2012

God Revealed?

So... this showed up on my Facebook feed:
...And I, just, say what now? Are they seriously suggesting that God needs their help to make Himself heard? Isn't that blasphemy, or at the very least lèse-majesté?

I mean, I realize that it's a little hard for churches and clergies to justify their livelihoods if the Almighty talks freely to everybody, but it's still a bit startling how often I see Christians assume that their God can't (or maybe just won't?) speak to people, except through them. It's almost as if, deep down, they really don't trust Him.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Quick thought...

You know, I really hate it when I accidentally post something that I'd been intending to schedule for later.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Reminder: Mid-October Gathering

Here's the skinny; it's just about a month away. I'll have signs with pics of Cuddles The Zombie Velociraptor on the table, so we shouldn't be too hard to find.
This isn't any sort of themed event; I'd just like to catch up with friends and iFriends, and maybe meet some of you in person (if we haven't already). So if you're in the area and it sounds like fun, please come by.

Time & Date: Saturday, October 13, 1:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Location: Trinity Hall at Mockingbird Station off Central Expressway (Highway 75).
Who's Invited: Anyone who's in the area (or happens to be passing through) and thinks this sounds like fun. Children are welcome (mine will almost certainly be there).

The Kangaroo in the Living Room

So, back on Wednesday night, while I'm busy keeping Secondborn in his room in the vain hope that maybe eventually he'll fall asleep, or at least sit still - which is, by the way, not happening at all, and-

Where was I?

Oh, right. Anyway, I'm busy. Firstborn comes out of his room, and finds his mother in the living room.

Before I recount their conversation, I should explain that back when we were first decorating Firstborn's room, just prior to his birth, we decided on an Australian theme. Part of this involved some well-chosen stuffed animals, including two wombats, a platypus, large and small koalas, and a three foot tall kangaroo that stands on its own. Firstborn is now taller than the kangaroo - I think - but not by much.

So, their conversation:

Beautiful Wife: "Firstborn, you need to be in your bed now."

Firstborn: "I can't. The Kangaroo is looking at me."

Beautiful Wife: "Well, the kangaroo is in the closet. Why don't you just close the closet door?"

Firstborn: "The closet door is closed. It's still staring at me."

So, the kangaroo is in the living room now.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cartoon Janitor's Lament

Well, another episode is over and they've done it again. Oh, sure, the problem is solved, and Toodles is back in his cradle, and the Clubhouse has folded back down into its eco-friendly hiding place underneath the "empty" field. But now that the cameras have stopped rolling and everybody has gone home, who's left to clean up? That's right, me.

I don't have a name. Well, I mean, I do have a name. But I might as well not have a name; nobody knows I exist. The Roll Call never includes me. I never get invited along on the adventures. Mister I-Built-My-Fortune-On-These-Big-Ears-And-This-Squeaky-Voice walks right past me like I'm not even there. Heck, I don't even get to hang out in the Clubhouse. No, no, don't mind me; I'm just the hired help. I'd never be interested in taking the Glove Balloon out for a flight; no, not at all. Not even a little bit. I'm only good enough to keep it clean...

I don't know, I just think a little bit of gratitude shouldn't be too much to ask. Heck, I'd settle for a moment's acknowledgement. Do you know what this place would look like without me? Do you have any idea?

Take this most recent episode. Oh, sure, the baby bird is back with his mommy, but I just spent the last half an hour hiking around in the wilderness. Why? So I could retrieve a slide, a pogo stick, and a baby-bird-sized blanket that all got left lying around when Ol' Round Ears and his buddies were done with them. Just... just stop for a minute, and picture trying to haul a thirty-foot-long yellow slide back through the forest. Got it? Now imagine doing that for minimum wage and no health insurance. There you go. Only if you're me, you've also got the blanket and the pogo stick stacked on top of the slide, because that's slightly better than making the hike over again.

::sigh:: At least I remembered to tape them down this time. When I first started this job, I would have tried to balance everything - and that never, ever worked. Stuff just kept falling off.

This week's not too bad, actually. A couple of weeks ago, the Clubhouse actually came apart... and I have never had so much trouble tracking down their litter. Honestly. A set of wrenches off in one place - with the car, I think. The Clubhouse airplane in another place. They just left it sitting there, you know? Along with a full-sized crane! How was I supposed to get that back to the Clubhouse, I ask you? At least they didn't leave the rocket floating out in space... and, just between you and me, I left the giant pacifier with the Giant. The boss won't mind; the Giant is a part of the show, and if that particularly Mousekatool keeps the talent happy...

Well, anyway. Speaking of Mousekatools, I'd also like to point out just how completely bloody useless the Mousekadoer would be if I wasn't down there organizing the underground storage every night. Honestly. They sing to the Mousekadoer to dispense the tools; they call for Toodles to bring the tools (not that I'm complaining about Toodles, you understand; the little guy works hard); but when it comes to the guy who makes the whole system possible, well... Not so much as a word of thanks for me.

It's just not fair, I tell you.

(If you have no idea what the Janitor is complaining about, there's a sample below the cut.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Nobody is to stone anybody...

Friend of mine reminded me of this scene:

Nope! Ain't happenin'...

Briefly considered the idea that I might be able to pull something together over lunch - like, say, the next installment of The Caffeine Apocalypse. So I'm sure it will come as no surprise to any of you that no such thing even came close to happening. Which brings me back to the two basic themes of this week: Dear Ye Immortal Gods, I Still Need More Sleep, and What Is This Horrible Stuff In The Air???

Maybe I'll write a story in which the Elder Gods corrupt the world through gradually increasing levels of air pollution. By the end of the book, everyone will be walking around in gas masks, while those too poor or too ill to have gas masks will be transforming into horrid new forms. The hero will be plucky young genetic engineer, who will design new breeds of plants that convert pollution back into air.

Or, y'know, maybe not.

Filler: Bulbous Bouffant

Because my brain is still frozen:

I may have real content later; we'll see. Gotta get some stuff done, first.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Slow Week

Michael Mock peeked slowly around the dark corner. It was barely morning, and he was barely moving. He could hear a faint, wheezing hiss, but he wasn't sure where it was coming from. Was there something in the room ahead? He shuffled forward.

In the darkness beyond the doorway, he saw it: the basilisk, a horrible creature whose breath could split rocks. He froze, turned to stone by its dreadful gaze...

Then he yawned and flipped the switch. Light flooded the bathroom, and the monster resolved into his reflection in the mirror... which lessened the horror, but didn't end it completely. He'd need a toothbrush for that. Ye gods, he hated early mornings...

Sorry, folks. It's going to be a slow week around here. I'm trying to catch up on my sleep, and if that ever works (with boys? Ha!) then I need to catch up on a huge amount of housework before I can turn much of my attention back to writing. So the blog is going to be pretty low-key this week.

Random Quote: Entomology

"We believe that it requires great enthusiasm to deal accurately with little things; and that it is, consequently, impossible to meet with a reasonable or sober entomologist."

- Edinburgh Review 1822

Monday, September 10, 2012

Filler: Scary Mary

I guess we're getting close enough to Halloween for me to post this. It's one of my all-time favorite horror movies. May I present... Scary Mary?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Generational Mortality

"Life — and I don't suppose I'm the first to make this comparison — is a disease: sexually transmitted, and invariably fatal." ~Neil Gaiman

I've hit a strange and somewhat depressing season in my life: a significant percentage of my father's siblings are dying off.

Now, before I go any further, I should offer some counter-perspective: my father himself seems healthy; he had heart surgery some years ago, but he pulled through just fine and seems to just keep moving along. Similarly, my mother suffered a broken arm a couple of years back, but she's as close to fully recovered as it's possible to get, and seems healthy as a horse otherwise. Admittedly, she had polio as girl, and her legs are paralyzed; so any long-term forecasts for her health should keep in mind that there just isn't much information on how post-polio affects long-term lifespan and quality of life. Still, my parents look set to continue on indefinitely. The same is true for my dad's younger brother, and my mom's two sisters.

Still... a couple of weeks ago, one of my uncles died. He wasn't actually a blood relation - he was married to my dad's sister - but he'd been part of the family for so long that he might as well have been. Dad's older brother is still in a holding pattern with some sort of circulatory/pulmonary issue, which leaves him physically listless and mentally incoherent. He can still talk, but it's very slow, and it's sometimes hard to tell if he's answering a question you actually asked; he isn't always oriented in terms of place and time. He's currently set to have the doctors remove some sort of circulatory blockage, assuming they can find it, and assuming it's the sort of thing they think it is; but even if he survives that, I really don't expect him to last another year.

His wife is in better shape, but only slightly; she has cancer, in her lungs and elsewhere. It's responding to chemotherapy, in the sense that it has stopped spreading; but it isn't retreating, either. They're continuing treatment, but again I'm going to be surprised (albeit pleasantly) if she survives another year.

So basically, we're losing about a third of that generation on that side of the family. And... I'm not sure exactly how to describe my response to this. Because on the one hand, yes, it's sad - but I'm mainly sad for my father, not myself. I'm not especially scared by it, either; I mean, I'm not ignoring it, but it hasn't provoked any particular moral or philosophical crisis in my life. It's just sort of there.

I feel like I really ought to have something more profound to say about it than that, but I don't.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Nostradamus Predicts...

The President of all Zombie Dreams

Wow. Interesting things in my dreams last night. (I'm guessing they came from reading about the DNC starting, but who knows?)

So, first of all: Zombies. Everywhere. This is not unusual in my dreams. Keeping a little group of strangers moving is also pretty much par for the course. We were trying to find a shelter for the night, and there was some discussion of how the zombies found us - sound and body heat were the two main ideas, and a solid enough building would help with both.

That was how we wound up in an enclosed apartment building. I'm a little less clear on what President Obama and his wife were doing in one of the apartments, but I have to that they were very nice to meet in person, very willing to help people get inside and get settled. Come to think of it, they didn't have any Secret Service agents around, so maybe that's why they were glad to see everyone else.

Anyway, they were a whole lot nicer than the guy down the road, who greeted our arrival by opening fire with a gatling and throwing sticks of dynamite. I can't remember why we went to see him - not everybody, just three of us. Though now that I think of it, one of the three who went to go see him might have been Bill Murray. Anyway, I remember being very annoyed that Fortified Redneck Guy was wasting bullets on the living when there were zombies all around.

We'd just finished handcuffing Fortified Redneck Guy, and I think we were going to take him back to the apartment building, when I woke up.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Caffeine Apocalypse, Part Three

Continued from Part Two.

Sarah and Melanie climbed the steps together, each holding a toddler in one hand and keeping the other hand on the guard rail. Jara trailed along behind them, relieved at not being the one who had to carry the children, but certain that they'd be dumped on her again when they reached the top of the building.

They went up the final set of steps -- bare concrete, and ending in a plain steel door which had been propped open with a cinder block. Jara caught a whiff of coffee as she stepped out into the sun, and blinked at the weight of the smell. She didn't really like coffee, but like everyone else she'd been drinking a lot of it lately. The alternative was too dangerous.

Sure enough, the professor - lean and wiry despite his gray hair - was hard at work on his machine. And, sure enough, he saw them emerge from the doorway and called, "Sarah, Melanie, I need your help."

Sarah came to her rescue. "Let Melanie watch the kids," she suggested. "Jara can help with this."

A rush of gratitude flowed over her as the professor nodded. Melanie looked surprised, but she took the toddler from Sarah's arms and went over to a corner of the roof, where the wall would offer the girls some shade. One of the twins started crying. Probably, Jara thought, she could smell the coffee and wanted another hit. Since the plague had struck, even the toddlers drank coffee.

"I'll be testing the pump," said the professor, raising his voice in order to be heard over the wind blowing across the rooftop. "Watch the line. If it leaks, we'll lose pressure..."

Jara nodded. The professor's machine was their only hope of salvation. If it didn't work, or if it lost pressure while they were using it, they were doomed.

The professor switched on the pump, and Jara watched one section of pipe while Sarah studied the other. She couldn't see any leaks; even a fine spray would have produced a visible rainbow. That was Evan's work, she thought admiringly. The professor might have designed the machine, but Evan was the one who knew how to put things together and make them stay. If he'd paid her even half the attention he'd paid this machine...

Maybe later, if we survive. Jara kept her attention on the machine. That was what mattered now. "It looks fine," she called, and heard Sarah echo her assessment.

"Excellent," said the professor, and powered down the pump. For a moment he slumped, looking exhausted. Then he grinned at them. "Can hyou get up ze ladder? Ve haff to put in ze grindinks."

It took Jara a moment to translate that. The professor tended to slip into a B-movie mad scientist accent when he wanted to put people at their ease, and it wasn't always easy to understand. Once she'd put everything together, though, she stepped onto the ladder and started climbing.

This was an older building, old enough to have a water tank on the rooftop. That was why they'd chosen it. The professor had built his machine around it, and now they needed to load it up so it could work. Sarah took a spot on the ladder just beneath her, and the professor started handing burlap bags up to them.

They were just starting to make progress when Evan and Doug stumbled out of the door and onto the rooftop. Evan turned and picked up the cinder block, while Doug slammed the door shut. A moment later they were wedging a makeshift wooden frame into place under the door knob, and setting the cinder block to hold it in place.

"Hurry," said the professor, and handed up another bag of coffee beans. "The infected are coming."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Disastrous Pics

So, since I'm sure some of you are curious about how Secondborn looks with his new pirate scar, I thought I'd post some pictures. However, since some of you might also be a little squeamish, I'm putting the images below the cut.

On a related note, we joined my parents, my brother, and his wife at the Dallas Arboretum on Monday, to see the Chihuly exhibition of blown glass. This was lovely, but also brutally hot and very, very sunny. Afterwards, we went swimming at my parents' house, which was also sunny. So I wasn't terribly surprised that I wound up with a moderate case of sunburn. (I hate sunburn. It's not the burny parts, it's the wow-I-suddenly-feel-sick parts.)

What was more surprising was that after we finally got everyone home and fed, Firstborn was suddenly and surprisingly ill. I have no idea if the heat brought that on, or whether he was already coming down with something, but it was pretty ugly. Poor kid. Beautiful Wife was also sick, though not quite so spectacularly, so I suspect that sunlight and heat were factors.

So, all in all, the weekend was just a bit less restful than I'd been hoping for. Oh, well.

And now, here are the pictures of Secondborn's pirate scar:

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Disastrous Follow-up

So, as we're leaving the Emergency Room and driving home after last night's adventure, I look over my shoulder and ask, "Firstborn, do you have any questions about tonight?"

Firstborn says, "Yeah. Well, it's actually more of a Secondborn sort of question." He turns to his brother. "Secondborn, when it was time to go to bed, why didn't you just put your head on the pillow?"

* * *
Meanwhile, today I took the boys out for a couple of hours to run errands. Secondborn is, as predicted, sporting a visible black eye along with the line of stitches underneath it.

I spent the whole time wondering just how many people thought I was abusing my kids.

Did I say No Disasters?

Okay, I might have been a bit premature in my last post. You know, the one where I said that this summer had, for a succession of reasons, been especially stressful - but that none of those reasons were actual disasters. I say this because, within twenty-four hours of typing that, Secondborn - who was supposed to be going to sleep in his bed - managed to fall off the bed and whack himself in the left eye. Neither of us were in the room when it happened; the Beautiful Wife got in there first, and her best guess is that he was trying to reach something on the shelves by standing on the railing of the bed, and slipped.

So: pow. Upset boy, both parents in the room, immediate inspection of two-year-old.

My first impression was that he was hurt - because, you know, he was still crying, and he only does that if he's actually in pain - but probably not badly. He had a little blood in his mouth, so he'd probably bitten his lip or his cheek, but nothing too serious.

Then I noticed a spot of blood up on his cheekbone, just below his eye. That didn't come from his mouth... I looked more closely, and saw that he had a deep, curved gash there. Also, his eye was starting to puff up. This was going to need stitches.

The real hero of the night was Firstborn, who got himself dressed in time to help hold the ice-filled wash-cloth on his brother's face so that Mommy and Daddy could pull on clothes. Then we dumped everyone in the car and drove calmly down to the emergency room, because if there's one thing I refuse to do, it's making a bad situation worse by trying to hurry. At the emergency room, Firstborn promised to give Secondborn his feather if he could be good while they were there.

The doctor put three stitches in the cut, and told us to come back in six days and have them taken out. Secondborn was very brave about it. So was Firstborn, actually, though in his case the bravery was expressed by sitting on the chair and playing Fruit Ninja while his brother screamed a little bit, when he could reasonably have been freaking out instead.

Then both boys got popsicles and we all went home. I think some sort of reward is in order, particularly for Firstborn. For a six-year-old, he handled himself very well.

It's probably worth stopping to note that... well, let me put it this way: this is my Happily Ever After. I found the woman of my dreams, I married her, and now we're living Happily Ever After. But Happily Ever After doesn't mean that nothing ever goes wrong. It means that when something does go wrong, we pull together and get through it. In a romance, the wedding is often the end of the story - but it's also the start of another story, potentially richer and more complex than the courtship ever was.