Friday, November 18, 2016

Bathroom Tile

Hello! I haven't posted anything for quite a while so if you did follow me, I'm sorry for the abrupt lapse of nothingness. I've dabbled in writing short stories, novels, etc while absent and decided to post one of the short stories here. If you do read it through, feel free to leave feedback if the urge presents itself.  This story is roughly 3K words in length. Here is: Bathroom Tile

There’s no mystery about it, I have a loose wall tile in my bathroom that keeps falling off.  I won’t yammer on though.  I’ll get straight to it.
            I have a couple of glue options to hold this rebellious tile up.  One of them is an off brand called Super Duper Stuff I got free by way of some promotion years ago.  I used it once, but it can’t hold two sheets of paper together so going with the other glue makes the most sense.  The problem there is it’s dried out.  Just great, I’ll have to go with Super Duper.
I forgot that it stinks like old tomatoes as I dab some of it onto the beige wall tile and stick it to the empty space like the final piece of the easiest puzzle I’d ever done.  I want to be satisfied with a job well done.  We’ll see.  I tidy up the bathroom and that’s the end of it.
            As I shower, three days later, the tile falls off.  It clatters on the tub floor as my body stiffens, hoping it doesn’t break.  I’ll give credit where it’s due – Super Duper Stuff gets none.  It doesn’t shock me.
            After I step out of the tub I notice the spot where Super Duper failed.  I blink, thinking it’s my vision.  No, I see a black space, staring right at me.  Now what is that?
The dark blot is nine by nine inches and shaking my nerves while an icy chill blows from the black void as if it were an open freezer door.  The cool wind laps at my nether regions so I put on my pajamas.  I sit on the edge of the tub, looking down at my new air conditioning vent as my fingernails chill in the current.  The cold air reminds me of winter, which doesn’t make sense considering it’s July.  The kitchen is on the other side of the wall, making this frigid breeze baffle me more.
            I look down to find the stubborn tile lying unbroken.  I look back up.  How did this black space get here though?  I want to test the shadowy opening by sticking my hand in, but my gut urges otherwise and I trust my gut like a best friend.  There’s nothing to see in the square hole.  No lights, wires, or pipes – empty.  Using the towel rack, I pull while my legs lift my girth.  Time to check the kitchen.
            Luckily, the wall is bare on the adjoining side.  No black square.  No problem.  Relief smiles at me as I go back to the bathroom to have another look at the starless black hole.  It’s gone.  Well I’ll be.  All that’s there are the dried remains of Super Duper glue.  I touch it – solid.  I’m fifty-six years old and have never had a single delusion in life, but what I just saw or thought I saw broke my lifelong streak of being sane.  Pushing that dark space from my mind feels impossible, but I’ll try.  I leave the wall as is for the night.
            The next day I don’t put the tile back up right away, which bothers me because I like to see things complete and in order.  It’s the pitch-blackness I want to see again, but I don’t.  Whatever it is must be my imagination.  The problem here is, I don’t have an imagination.  I cave in, go out and buy some real glue then try again.  This time, I clean off the surface of the blank spot and put a thicker layer of glue on.  I open the window after I finish to let the stench vacate.  Why do they make all glues stink?
            I have lunch while watching the news when a faint tapping noise catches my ears.  I ignore it at first.  Very little can stop a hungry man from eating.  It doesn’t stop though.  Think of a dripping faucet and you’ll get the idea.  I finish my meal because cold food is for Eskimos.  The tapping seems like it’s coming from the kitchen, which is fine by me I have to go there anyway to wash my dishes.  I pass by the bathroom and hear soft tapping, but first I need to take care of these dishes.
             On my way back, I stop outside the open doorway to the bathroom as a case of the jitters grabs me.  The tapping doesn’t sound right.  I step inside, slowly while looking straight at the trouble tile.  It’s jiggling like a sledge is pounding on the other side, but there’s only a light tap.  As I take a step closer a puff of cold air touches my exposed leg and again after each jiggle.  What’s causing that?
            This marks the second time in life that I see something that can’t be real.  How many strikes before the men in white clothes show up?  I believe what I can see and I can see that tile wiggle just as I had seen the dark void behind it.  Uh oh Larry.
            I sit on the edge of the tub, leaning over while pressing my finger against the jiggling tile.  A weak vibration coming from the other side warns my fingertip, but it stops.  My finger comes back as there is no further movement and the tile fits in with its neighbors once more.  I’m not missing any vegetables from my cornucopia after all.  No strike three for me.
Straining to push myself up, the mirror shows me something that sucks the breath from my lungs.  It’s a thin, black stream of liquid trailing down from the mischievous tile to the tub floor.  I twist around, but it’s gone so make it three strikes for my “going crazy” card.  Back in the mirror, I stare at the same spot the wormy, black line had been, but it doesn’t show.  Am I seeing things or not?  This concerns me.
            At night as I strip down before lumbering into the tub I swear a delicate tap knocks on the tile.  I wait, but there are no further taps.  About halfway through soaping I hear a distinct tap, which precedes the clatter of my favorite tile onto the tub floor.  I glance behind me to see the black, drafty space has returned.  An appointment would have been nice.
I finish the shower quickly, towel off and put on pajamas.  I stare at the mysterious hole, finding it no longer amazes me.  It’s irritating me.  It’s keeping my bathroom from being clean!
Grabbing the toilet plunger, I twist off the wooden handle and don’t waste time.  I sit on the edge of the tub, gazing into the little, black window that keeps appearing like a nervous thief.  The stick passes into the darkness as cool air blows in exchange.  Can’t complain about the free cooling.  I shake the handle once it’s in far enough, but nothing happens and the cold wind stops.  I am seeing this.  I’m alert, sober and fully aware of everything around me, the men in white coats aren’t here yet.
            A frigid breeze huffs on my hand, pauses then huffs again.  Rhythmically.  Panic squeezes my chest, but I don’t give in, not while I hear the – breathing.
The fear puffing onto my skin has me tense as my hand grips the stick.  I try to take it out, carefully, but the handle burns my palm when something yanks it into the gaping, black mouth.  I see nothing in the void.
            Paralyzed, I sit with my hand clenched as if still holding the stick.  Snapping to, I feel dread pulsing in my veins while standing up.  A distant gnawing, coming from the dark space, fills the silence.  What is it?
My ears reaching out, trying to listen can only pick up some kind of biting frenzy like being in between radio stations.  It stops as I peer at the blackness.
            Out shoots the wooden handle like a stick running away from a dog and clacks against the sink vanity beside me.  I stare at the plunger handle, noticing a gooey green substance covering the chewed parts.  Disgust washes over me, as I smell something like rotten cabbage.   Thinking it’s the slime, I want to throw away the gnarled stick, but one more peek at the wall can’t hurt.  The black space is gone, again.  I refuse admitting that a brief terror had rattled me.  I pick up the stick by the opposite end, holding a wad of toilet paper under it to catch any dripping snot, go to the kitchen and throw it in the garbage bin.  Good Lord.  How many strikes now?
            The next morning, I take out the kitchen trash first thing.  I can’t believe I forgot to the previous night!  Now, in the bathroom, I’m staring at the wall with its one missing tile, thinking whatever bit deep little gashes in that handle might try to test its luck again.  I don’t want to put the tile back up with glue.  That’s not working.  Instead, I’ll go with cement.
I patch up the eyesore on the wall in no time and while it’s an easy job, I don’t like the look of it.  With the hairdryer that once belonged to my beloved wife, God bless her soul, I use it to speed up the drying.  Later I can touch the cement up with a bit of beige paint to make it look halfway decent.  The important thing is to seal up the black spot once and for all.  I admire my work, tidy up and that’s that.
            It starts to dawn on me the men in white coats are closer than I think.  If I don’t see the black hole again, I know I’ll be fine.  That’s what I want, my ordered life once more marching along like honorable soldiers doing their duty for our great country the U.S. of A.
            The following night, while smack dab in the middle of my shower, I hear a clear tapping.  I trust the homemade barrier I’d made so continue soaping when a loud knock shakes my soul.  Startled, I angle my head around to the cement piece, which is trembling like a battering ram is on the other side.  It’s strong, but how resistant will it be?  The bunting keeps coming.
            Water droplets are splattering everywhere as I find staring at the shaking cement piece, numbing.  The construction pauses.  I listen.  I fear whatever is on the other side has gone to get a better tool.  Just as I turn to finish my shower, a heavy crack sends my sanity into a blender.  I twist back around while catching an eyeful of pressured water.  Blinking and rubbing the sting away I see a thin line angling diagonally from corner to corner on the failing cement piece.  With another powerful crack, the blackness returns as the cement dives to the tub floor.  The men in white coats are on my doorstep.
            All I see is a blur shooting out from the dark gap.  In my alarm I fall sideways, landing with a painful thud on the tub floor.  My hip feels like its getting pinched, but that’s probably Larry’s homemade tile suffocating under my fat.  I scrunch back against the faucet as I see, for the first time, a lean charcoal colored arm reaching from the wall with claws as gold as the sun.  Terror chilled my bones.  It’s searching.
It has an opposable thumb with three long fingers sniffing about.  Inner greed suggests I try to collect the golden claws, but I send the thought away when the burnt looking arm with the expensive claws begins extending further into my world.  I can sit tight and hope it doesn’t find me or I can act.
Leaning forward while trying to avoid any eyes peeking from the dark abyss, I reach out with both hands.  This is it.  I clamp my strong hands onto the foreign arm.  It’s rougher to the touch than it looks, but I don’t let go.  No screech, shriek or yell comes, as I hold tight to it, which feels odd.  Not that this entire scene doesn’t.  Does the thing have the capability to make noise?
Standing up while holding the creature proves difficult given my size and a slick floor beneath me with water beating down.  My plan is to break the intruding arm at the elbow, hoping it retreats.  The arm isn’t very thick so it’s worth a try.  The wall, acting as my leverage, helps me get into position and to my surprise just as I’m ready to snap the creature’s arm like a twig – it relents trying to shake me loose.  Has it given up, knowing I’m stronger?
The inaction of the rough arm breaks my concentration as the coarse brown hair on it begins to rise.  I don’t want to know what this means.  It’s too late.  A dozen tiny pricks snap my hands open as the porcupine-like quills do their work.  I pull my hands up, looking at them, expecting little red beads all over my palms, but there’s not one puncture.  My rough hands are worth something.
I look down, but the arm must have slinked back into the dark hole when I examined my hands.  Cold air pumps from the blackness as I turn off the water.  I keep my eyes on the shadowy square, wondering what it’s doing in there.  The cool wind is chilling my naked body so as I try to step out of the tub, the savage arm with its golden claw open comes out of the forbidding void like a striking snake.  I can only hold my forearm up to block the frantic attack while the brilliant claws slash, leaving three nasty streaks of deep red behind.
            I roared.
The attacking arm hesitates.  I don’t.  Grabbing the arm, my hands are like two steel traps.  Anger pushes me like a demanding coach.  You got to want it, Keepers!  Again, there’s no sound from the thing.  I try to snap the struggling arm, but I can’t.  I know what is to come this time so with my other arm I reach for something – anything – I can get at.  My hand closes on a slick bar of soap.  It’ll do.  With the fragrant weapon in hand, gripping it firm, I slam it onto the creature’s arm a couple times.  What am I doing?  I feel the arm jerk more hectically.  Success!  I keep smashing until I hear a sizzling noise.  Now what?
Breathing deep, I hold the soap back, seeing the cause.  Bubbles on the dark skin, pop, forming a soupy texture while an acidic vapor fills the air.  My eyes begin to water, I loosen my grip, and the arm retracts back into the black hole like a toy doll’s string.
I wipe my eyes with my forearm that doesn’t have any scratches on it then look at the soap, which has a grayish liquid on it.  The burning in my eyes is too much so I toss the soap down.  What kind of reaction is this?  I get out of the tub and open the window as refreshing warm air breathes in.  With blood running down my forearm, I stare at the wall while it performs a new trick.  I hope the front door is locked because the men in white coats will want to see this.
            The grout lines begin to darken into an inky black like the dark shadowy square.  Spontaneous mildew!  The black gelatin pushes through the lines very slowly like molasses.  The hole wants to widen.  Fear knocks at my door, but I don’t answer.
            I wrap up my forearm with a hand towel and put on my pajamas in a hurry.  Maybe I can wash the stuff off.  I use the detachable showerhead to spray the goop, but the water only beads on it then anger gives me a shove.  Stop dirtying up my bathroom!
I slam the showerhead onto the tub floor, regretting the action, but push forward anyway.  With a quick swipe of my finger against the black gel, I jerk my hand away like as if something bit it.  The black substance sticks to my fingertip so I turn to the sink for help.  What am I doing?  Cold water.  Hot water.  It doesn’t matter!  The dark goo doesn’t wash off no matter how hard I scrub.  I glance up into the foggy mirror as I’m scratching at my fingertip like it has the worst itch when my forearm begins to tingle.  With my unclean hand, I wipe away the sight hindering cloud on the mirror and to my surprise the black goop stuck to it.  There isn’t a trace of it on my finger.  Relief patted me on the back.
However, I don’t want this filth to spread throughout my home.  What can I do about it?  I try to calm down when I notice the black gel on the wall stopping its advance.  That’s better, but the tingling in my forearm begins to burn as I look down at the three little slashes.
I pop open the medicine cabinet, grabbing the peroxide then pouring it over the wounds.  It stings like an ex wife’s kiss while a low hiss escapes from my lips.  If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not working.
I turn and lean against the sink vanity, staring at the dark lines receding into the wall and disappearing.  I wonder if it has something to do with the peroxide?  The original dark spot remains though like a ghost that can’t move onto the next life.
            The black streak on the mirror dares me so I try the peroxide on it.  It remains.  My nerves are spent.  I bandage up my arm properly, dispose of the grayish acidic smelling bar of soap into an empty jar then toss it in the garbage bin.  Returning to the bathroom, I tidy up and try a couple different cleaners on the mirror, but none of them work.  I’ll have to leave it as is.  I don’t want to, but I’m tired and out of ideas.  The men in white coats are making noise outside.  They’ll have to wait.  I shut and lock the bathroom door then try to get some sleep.
            In the morning, I check the bathroom to see someone had shut the door on the other side.  The dark spot is gone as well as the black streak on the mirror.  It helps me regain some sanity to see a bare patch of wall.  I still have a handle on the situation.
There is no episode as I shower this night.  As I look into the mirror, combing the few hairs I have left on my head, the black streak appears.  I glance down at the bare spot on the tiled wall in the reflection and it’s still just an empty spot that needs fixing.  Okay, at least it’s just the one – for now.  I look back at the black streak, seeing something in it.  I move my head closer, and see dark rolling waves crashing into jagged rocks in a forbidden sea.  I stare for a short time then glance over at the hairdryer, neatly stored on the shelf next to the window.  I feel cold.
What if I end up there?  All it would take is a black hole large enough to swallow me up while I shower.  It’d only take one of those gruesome arms to pull me in.  I might consider paneling, but I’ll wait first.
One week later.
            My forearm itches all the time.  The three scratch marks have scabbed over, but it’s very thin.  Once, a few days ago, my nerves played me wrong.  As I looked at the three lines ripped into my skin, I swear the dark goop I had seen on the bathroom wall was beneath my skin, snaking around like squiggly worms.  I keep a close eye on it now.
            I have put the tile back up and it hasn’t fallen off yet.  There hasn’t been any tapping coming from it either.  The black streak on the mirror shows up sometimes, but I ignore it.  I’m not out of my mind.  I believe strange things can happen to anyone.
No monster is going to chase me from my home.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Poison Belt – Book Review

Author –  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A review of The Poison Belt

I liked it, only because love is such a strong word.  As far as sequels go this doesn’t fall off the map but rather holds its own.  Of course leaping from the map would be an option in avoiding The Poison Belt.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, even in death, can never escape from that masterful detective we all know of but the crew he’s assembled in these ‘Challenger’ books are a worthy second banana in my book.  It brings me genuine comfort to read about the boisterous Professor Challenger, the cranky old Summerlee, that great hunter Lord John Roxton and our journalist Ed Malone.  Naturally I was excited to see what they were up to in this second go around.

            Knowing there were more ‘Challenger’ books following this one it was shocking to read that the entire human race and animal kingdom had died.  I really wondered where this story was going.  Was the next adventure to be a zombie apocalypse?  Can you imagine Doyle writing that?  I drool at the arguments between Challenger and Summerlee, “Clearly my close minded friend a human in such a state will revert to its primal instincts and seek the savory flesh of we who are not them!  Once again my hairy friend you don’t see that such a reanimation is impossible in every way.  What is to…All of us being engrossed in the debate left us unaware of one of the dead creeping up behind Summerlee and ripping flesh from his neck in the vilest of ways.  At any rate I suppose that had to be the proverbial hook for me.  What happens now if everyone is dead?

As it turns out everyone had been suffering from a condition that basically slows your heartbeat to unreadable levels and shuts down the body.  With each farfetched happening that came to be its Doyle’s ability to carefully write out of it and bring the story back from the dead – so to speak.  I found myself thinking that the story was about to head downhill like a boulder but he’d smash that hunk of granite every time.

            Decent portions of the book are of the dead people and what they were doing at the time of supposed death.  The crew drives to London as you see the aftermath of the fastest moving extinction I’ve ever read or watched in a movie.  How’d it happen?  The ether level on earth was the cause of the mass wipe out and was unique enough for me.  True it seems absurd and easily criticized, I’ll grant that but this is a work of fiction right?  You can bend rules when it’s not real, although it came across as real to me.  It’s more or less does it read well?  Yes, it does.

            Moving along, a point could be made as to how these four men could get together just in the nick of time for another memorable experience.  If the book had been thicker than a magazine it would’ve had room to include detail as to how the others assembled and what they have been up to the past three years.  I for one thought the fellowship gathered together nicely.  It was BANG there they are – let’s get on with the story.  If you’d read the previous book its pace isn’t as bothersome, however if you start here then you would be questioning much more as opposed to enjoying the book.  How do you use these characters with limited words?  Not with a long drawn out collection of old friends taking up half the book.

            Where was the adventure though?  That’s what put The Lost World over the top; instead it’s a camp out in Challenger’s house with oxygen tanks.  Which honestly I thought they’d be going on an underwater adventure – I could not have been more wrong.  Yes, I admitted that.  Lord John Roxton thrives outdoors, being delegated to drive the auto was demeaning.  Who wouldn’t like to see Lord John sling a shotgun from his back and blow apart some zombies?  Anyone?  Despite these few deficiencies, I read without a sigh or forced break.  When I sigh that’s a sign the story is going south.  It was interesting and if I was asked to read this book again I would.  I doubt it would be anytime soon but thus far The Lost World and The Poison Belt don’t disappoint.  I do look forward to the next book.

Friday, March 27, 2015

If You Can't Take the Heat..

Summer of 2000, I had turned eighteen and was going to get a job – my first.  With high school a couple months behind me and no college in sight I truly felt free.  The summer treated me well the highlight being a road trip to Alabama with my friend Spanky.  That’s no typo that’s his name.  We traveled by RV with a man named Bobby, my step dad at the time, and a couple of his friends.  Those couple of weeks were very fun but that’s a different story for perhaps another time.

            This is about the week of August 26, 2000, at my first job.  It started off much like the rest of summer, fun.  My friend Spanky used his pull at a restaurant, House of Pizza, to get me hired.  He worked there as well – things couldn’t be better.  In a way Spanky was like an older brother to me in those days.  I never thought of it until now.  A good guy that Spanky.  Anyway I worked in the back, making the pizzas, a perfect job for an eighteen year old that grew up during the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles era.  It was a busy restaurant in those days and early on I was just trying not to mess up.  I was one of many youths working in the back so that gave me some comfort.  I was quiet in those days more so than now.  One night I had to work a shift without Spanky, which helped me to not rely on him for everything at this job.  It was busy as usual and hot, very hot – it felt smoldering to me..

            I wasn’t used to such temperatures especially in small poorly ventilated areas.  This place had a giant six shelf, rotating oven that churned the heat out.  At the tail end of the dinner rush I asked my manager if I could go outside and get some air, I was dying.  I couldn’t fathom how the others could take it.  This was hell.  She looked at me with cold eyes, which seems impossible considering heat waves were rippling out from the oven nearby.  She asked if I could wait until the orders were caught up but I couldn’t.  I wanted to leave and never come back to be honest.  I wasn’t comfortable there it wasn’t for me.  I had to get away.

            She granted me leave although I know she thought little of me at that point but I could care less.  I hurried outside to get a welcoming blast of fresh air.  I breathed, relaxed and looked beside me.  There was another chap squatting near me also complaining of the heat – I wasn’t alone.  His name was John Wright he was a bigger fellow.  He didn’t last much more than month there.  I quickly gathered myself and returned to my station for fear of taking too long.  I, as usual, finished my shift quietly and walked home as I did in those days.  I thought long and hard (that’s what she said!) about continuing to work at that restaurant.

            I arrived home and talked with my mom about how work went.  She understood although I had mentioned I wanted to quit numerous times.  All she told me was to try it out for a few more days and see how it goes.  If worse came to worse I could quit.  I accepted that, not easily but I did.  Now what I failed to realize at the time was she probably didn’t want me to quit so soon especially due to the fact that earlier in the summer I never showed up to an interview for a local grocery store.  She was very upset at me that day – I remember it all too well, it wasn’t one of my finer hours.  Ask Spanky he was there – I was terrible in my laziness that moment.

            Being young none of that came to my mind though, I never even thought about that no show interview.  Instead I pressed on and put my nose to the grindstone and worked extremely hard from then on out.  It earned me two pay raises in the next month alone.  I quickly became one the best at my job behind Spanky of course.  I went on to work there on and off for the next six years.  I don’t often think of this moment in my life but it poked my brain the other night and now I feel as if I have no choice but to write it down.

            Is there a moral to this story?  I’d say if someone gives you honest advice digest it and try it out.  I have some fantastic memories as well as woeful ones I gained from that job that are something I value now.  I learned a good many things over my tenure there and out of all the places I’ve worked since I dream of this one the most.  In those dreams I’m always returning to pick up where I left off on the pizza line.  It’s but a dream but I like to think that it means something.  And remember if you can’t take the heat – give it another try.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Study of Scarlett (Chapter 4)

My Subject & I - Early Moments

On this day we walked back to the Jockey Club Clinic for Scarlett’s hearing test.  She passed with completely normal scores.  She fussed momentarily before the nurse put the fitting device into her ear then she quieted down.  With everything finished we returned home safely.

            For now the above paragraph is what I’ll send in my report.  The below is a private journal entry I keep for myself.  It’s only what I saw which cannot be trusted as truth.

            The documentation in this chapter consists of two photographs (I did send with report) I casually took outside the clinic’s boundaries.  The barbed wire fencing that completely encircles the compound suggests the kinds of activity that goes on inside.  Why would a clinic in a city as safe as Hong Kong need such defenses?  Perhaps it’s not for those trying to get in but rather those who are in to get out.

Outside the Clinic
            Our subject is of a rare case, which inevitably will bring her into highly uncommon situations on a more regular basis.  Although this clinic appears inside and out to be a routine place for treatment I did notice one unusual phenomenon.  It occurred as my daughter was being tested.  I sat with a clear view out the open door.  The empty hallway stretched quite a distance.  I glanced down the corridor and toward what appeared to be its end I saw a small figure step into view from a room no doubt.  Thinking nothing of it and awaiting Scarlett’s results I returned my eyes to the test in progress.  That’s when my mind put the image of the small figure back in the front view of my brain.  I must have looked dumbfounded because I realized what I had seen.

            I turned my head back to the corridor but there was nothing.  I went to get up but thought it better to remain.  I am bound to the study of Scarlett.  I could not shake the image from my head no matter how much I tried.  As my eyes flickered from hallway to my little babe I knew I could not have been mistaken.  I saw a baby no older than my own walking upright!  It was far too tiny to even be the shortest of people even by genetic defect.  The locals are generally smaller than average but it couldn’t be one of them.  I know what I saw.  I was baffled by the manner in which the baby walked, as though it had well versed in it.  It strode in an adult like manner.  I was lost for words.

Mom & Daughter
            As the test concluded and all was well I desperately tried to see the tiny figure one last time to confirm my suspicion but there was nothing.  We would be making journey’s back to this clinic in the future so another chance would be forthcoming.  Scarlett is well now but could these tests be the beginning of similar advanced physical characteristics?  Will she be able to hear more keenly after today?  I wondered.  How could we discover if she could hear more acutely?  As we walked out the gate, snapped some photos and made our way home I muttered to myself in nothing more than a whisper.  My eyes caught our little squirt’s that was clearly out of range to hear me but she smiled and gave me what I perceived to be a wink.


Monday, March 23, 2015

The Scarlet Pimpernel – Book Review

Author –  Emmuska Orczy

A review of The Scarlet Pimpernel

My entire knowledge pertaining to this most amazing book consisted of Daffy Duck masquerading as the Scarlet Pumpernickel.  What a sad truth to admit.  I hardly remember the Looney Tunes version I seen as a child so thankfully nothing was spoiled.  I do wonder what took me so long to read it though.  Perhaps fate knew I was ready to appreciate it at this time.  Which would make tremendous sense, as my younger self would probably have thought this was a boring story.  It however is truly a wonderful read.

I likened to the book in no time, as the idea that the Englishmen were saving the aristocrats from France out of sport was shocking.  Rescuing those rich French people wasn’t out of nobility, to be a hero or simply to do what’s right but because it’d be a challenging activity.  Finally a quirky reason to risk one’s life and in doing so breaking the mold in storytelling, I can’t help but to be impressed.

Lady Marguerite and Sir Percy’s relationship played out very well.  He appears to be seen as a rich dimwit and she a popular na├»ve beauty in the public’s eye.  Actually he pulled off the charade at all times which is quite admirable.  Marguerite was none the wiser.  I’m not sure if the story would have worked so well if not seen through her eyes.  As she was the actual clueless one of the two it was fun trying to put the mystery together as she plodded her way along.

It was very entertaining to get a taste of 1792 in England and France.  I’m sure the era was at times terrifying to live in but the visual sense in this story is satisfying.  As I read England had this vibe of safety, freedom and a sort of utopia while France was dangerous, confining and out of control.  I couldn’t help but hope that the rich people would get saved from that mighty guillotine.  Well actually I wanted to see how the Scarlet Pimpernel would sneak them to paradise.  The drab old lady rescue at the beginning and the old Jew disguise at the end were both fantastic.

Reading about Marguerite’s character growth was compelling to me.  I wasn’t totally on board with her to start but somehow I accepted her as the main character and began to root for her to improve as a person.  I’m not meaning she is perfect now as the story took place over only a few days but that amount of time in certain situations can help you grow up fast.  She still struggled to put two and two together when it became clear whom the Scarlet Pimpernel was which makes her human and relatable.

If you decide to read this book don’t expect costumed people with swords at their side slicing through Paris leaving a bloody mess.  The story manages to omit violence, aside that nasty guillotine, and still provide a suspenseful story.  If you like the era it was written, 1903 I believe, then that can only help make your decision to read all the more easy.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Lost World – Book Review

Author – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A review of The Lost World

I’ve now read two books by different authors bearing this title.  This is the one I like more which speaks volumes since the other was written by my favorite author Michael Crichton.  I relish a story that has adventure, exploration, party formation and great dialogue.  This book struck gold, (or shall I say diamonds?) on all fronts.

            I knew little of this book other than what the title suggests and that the author wrote Sherlock Holmes, one my favorite all-time characters to read.  There’s nothing more exquisite than reading a book you know practically nothing about, I hardly ever read summaries.  As the story drew to an end it was a book I was most satisfied with in it’s conclusion and the idea left in the final sentence would make me very excited to read another tale involving at the least Mr. Malone and Lord John Roxton.  I wouldn’t mind owning a physical copy of this book as I read the e-book this time.

            Should I even go into the story itself?  A book I like so much I’d hate to spoil in a review for the interested reader.  But alas I’ll strike on a few points I can’t restrain myself from.  Mr. Malone, our narrator, opts to prove his worth to a girl he has grown to love by partaking in the expedition to The Lost World to fulfill her fancy of belonging to a man she can be honored by.  A sad day awaits our young man in the final pages when upon return from said journey she has chosen to wed a mere clerk.  I’d say its better for him, as a woman of such mind would no doubt be folly to spend a life with.  Anyway I still liked the draw of his want for joining the party on the whims of a girl asking the incredulous.

            The difference between the characters was well balanced.  It gave for delightful companionship and very humorous conversation.  I also liked the progression of the story it had wonderful pacing.  I read, read, and read because it had me hooked from one leg of the journey to the next.  It was interesting to find out who and how the next obstacle would be conquered.  The storytelling ability of Doyle really makes it a fun adventure.  As the story wrapped up and the characters, which were mostly strangers to one another at first, then grew together it was tough to see them disband.  I would happily read further accolades involving these men.

            A Lost World, in itself, is a unique idea and one would imagine that would make for all a story needs but the intertwining of the people made the book complete.  It makes it an instant favorite for me.  The descriptions of the extinct scenery are short and precise so its not bogged down by lengthy ramblings.  I enjoy reading books from this era.  I believe 1912 was when this story released.  To me it’s a way to view the past and admire it in an entertaining fashion.  As far as recommending books I highly put this atop the list especially if you’re curious about works from this era.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Study of Scarlett (Chapter 3)

Welcome to My World!

Interesting developments continue to unfold with our subject Scarlett.  We’ve chosen to take the runt to the hospital, don’t freak first and foremost, but there are some conditions, physically; we would like to have checked out.  So it’s into the stroller for our little one, she sleeps as we make our way to a nearby hospital.  It’s the same as the one she was born in.

The day is sunny; at last, the clouds have decided to stop pestering Hong Kong.  My friends and family most likely envy mere overcast as bad weather.  On our way we slice through a park methodically like a knife making a gashing wound in your side.  Err; probably don’t need to make it that colorful.  Anyway I want to take pictures of Scarlett in her first stroller outing, however, we need to be at the hospital by 11:20am.  That’s right we allotted enough time to make it there without any delays but perhaps on the way back.

A couple things to share at my expense: I’ve been given a camera to use to snap lots of pictures of our little squirt from my wife’s dad, I’ve been, umm, lacking to do so lately.  Why a camera, (digital even!), because he likes to make prints, you know its like a flat real life version of you, froze still and stuck on paper.  That way he can see how his granddaughter is changing in these early months when he may be unable to see her.  Its admirable enough and shows that all empowering word – love.  I hoped our walk would prove a wonderful time to pick up my slack.  It’s not that I don’t take pictures or videos but we all use our phones for those things now.  It’s a surprise we don’t use them to wipe our rear ends with yet.  Anyway it’s the quality!  A digital camera does have that on all these devices we pour our minds into nowadays.

My second folly was my wife’s mom, yes I’m picking on my Chinese parents, would be coming back home with us from the hospital and I thought we may taxi it, so I was crushed my photo opportunity may be missed.  It’s these early moments I found I wanted to capture.  Being so young little Scarlett hasn’t been able to get out so I was filled with excitement when we finally would go out.  Right about the taxi and mom – well she has a bum knee so I’d never want to push her to walk more than she was comfortable with.  I may be crazy but I’m not stupid.  I did manage to keep from crying – OK one tear!

            Lets skip ahead.  After we check in our daughter, my wife goes to join her in the examination room to get the rundown on her body.  (What is a rundown?!)  I opt to stay in the waiting area; usually my wife will let me know if I should join, it was a call I made to stay.  I’m not a negligent dad.  Don’t turn me in social media.  ‘We want to get you in trouble!  The hell with what’s right or wrong!  We want to be judge jury and executioner!’  Ranting, your voice on display for good or bad.  Mom arrives shortly after and notices I’m alone, she demands why I’m not with my wife – No!  She would never say anything of the sort.  She joins her daughter though – I continue my waiting.

Grandma & Scarlett
I open an e-book on my I-phone to read A Modern Utopia by H.G. Wells – I recommend it, so you should read it too, of course after finishing my collected works here.  But enough with promoting a book over 100 years old, kids are frolicking all around me.  One mother, a younger woman, is continually chasing around a little boy.  All the while she has a flat pink rectangular piece of plastic smashed against her ear chattering away like a parrot with an oversized vocabulary.  She is half-heartedly doing both.  Sometimes she stops chasing the boy, lowers the pink tablet away from her ear (interrupting her conversation, unbelievable!) enough to say, “Where are you going?” to a two-year-old boy, maybe even younger.  He’s potential thinking; uhh I’m going wherever I want if nobody is going to, you know, look after me with more effort.  Now I’ll stop here – I didn’t call her out for being negligent as I previously stated but you need to get a proper handle on your child.  He gradually began to push his limits, knocking things over, trying to open the glass door to leave the room continually.  No, I confess it doesn’t seem terrible but the waiting room has many people in it, have respect for others and don’t let your kid make you look like a hapless fool.  My counter to any who say, “If you had a two year old boy let’s see what you’d do!”  Well ~ a young lady arrived shortly thereafter and a boy, I’d suppose is her son of near the same age as the other, sat calmly near me watching the other kid run wild.  It’s not a huge deal, it doesn’t affect me but I wanted to include it here anyway.  I’ve deviated from the whole point of writing these case studies of Scarlett.  Let’s rejoin her.

Umbilical Hernia
            My little mixed bag of fun has an umbilical hernia which when I heard made me a bit startled.  She’s had a protruding belly button for a short time now and my wife and I didn’t know what it was.  Search it on the Internet right?  The world’s infinite library of knowledge can never fail you.  The hernia looks like, as my wife noted, “She has a ping-pong ball” sticking out.  It would have to be a ping-pong ball – Chinese!  I had a hernia when I was a wee lad decades ago so I’m thinking surgery for a one month old!?  I was sorely mistaken – it’s actually rather common and will go away in a year or less.  That’s welcoming news to any ignorant parent.  The Internet actually gave more information than the person who checked Scarlett.  It’s some of her intestine that pushed up through the stomach muscle causing the ‘ping-pong ball’ shape to protrude.  There was agreement that it would go away in less than a year.

            The other concern is tiny clumped little bumps on her head.  Like goose bumps at first glance, almost like pimples, which seems odd – I know they grow up fast but this would be ridiculous.  Turns out there is such a condition as baby acne.  It can occur when the baby gets too hot.  It may have something to do with her color change ability but I thought best not to reveal that to the doctor at such a time.  She was given some skin treatment cream so we’ll see how that goes.  She shows no outward signs of pain or discomfort.  The Internet told me babies don’t even feel the acne.  Further inquiries must be made.

            A happy finale to the afternoon’s event saw my wife – her mom and myself walk home while pushing Scarlett along.  At the park, which we returned through, we took some photos to commemorate the day.  Not a national holiday, nor historical date, not even an anniversary of some kind but rather it was a splendid day with my daughter.  The study of Scarlett will continue.