Mirror

So, maybe it was just a dream. I know that it can’t be real, right?

I think it started because everything was going wrong in life.

Lately the mirror had become an enemy. I looked into it and didn’t recognize the reflection: it was a person of faded hair, and loose skin. There were wrinkles on her forehead, and her eyes had lost the shine that had got me those contracts selling mascara.

I’d stopped putting makeup on, not only because it seemed to look funny — like a painted skull — but because I couldn’t stand looking at myself in the mirror.

Peter laughed at me. “Relax!” he said. “You look fine,” he said. “You’re fifty and you look thirty. Stop behaving as if you’re a decaying crone.”

Mind you, he was older too, but men get more handsome as they age. They become distinguished and gain authority. Women on the other hand, as I told him “Are like summer roses, and as a chill sets in we just look faded and brown and ugly.”

“What?” he asked. “You’re taking up poetry, now?” And he kissed me, and when he kissed me it was all worth it.

“Perhaps the obsession with being old is because Liddy is away at college?” he asked. “Go visit her for the day.”

And I had. And that only made it worse.

You see, Liddy was my vindication. Liddy was my proof I’d been right all along.

Mother had been very upset, when I decided to quit modeling and get married at twenty. She said I was just at the beginning, just starting to make it out of local markets. That spread in Teen Chic was only the beginning. I was going to go all the way to the top and make millions for one sitting. And then maybe work in movies.

But I’d met Peter. And I loved him. We were going to get married and have a dozen children.

The dozen children never came. Only Liddy. But Liddy was…. perfect. Oh, not as beautiful as I’d been. Or at least beautiful in a less conventional way. Instead of my oval face, my blue eyes, the hair that had once been a bright gold, she had Peter’s round face, and very white skin. She had dark air, and dark eyes, and a mobile mouth always disposed to smile.

Mom sighed when she visited. “Pity she took after Peter,” she said. And, “Unfortunately her face will never be her fortune.”

So, instead of being dragged to beauty pageants as soon as she was out of diapers, my daughter had learned to read at four, and she’d learned to play piano — all by herself, with just some video for help — at six, and she sang like an angel, and she was brilliant, truly brilliant. She liked building things, and she wanted to study engineering.

At the end of highschool MIT had accepted her, and Georgia Tech had offered a scholarship.

She’d chosen the state college, instead, just an hour away, because her high school boyfriend, Mike, was going there. I’d bit my tongue really hard, but I figured she could always go somewhere better for graduate school.

And she seemed to be enjoying school. And making friends. Only it left me very lonely, I guess. Peter told me to just find something I liked to do, and asked if I wanted to go back into modeling, since I was still a very handsome woman.

But I looked in the mirror and frowned, and I knew I was no longer “the fairest of them all.”

So I drove out to spend the day with Liddy. We went to the zoo, where we used to take her when she was little and then we went for a walk in the park. And that’s when she told me.

When Peter came home, I was sitting in front of the mirror, tracing the indentations on my forehead that would become furrows soon.

He didn’t talk. He sat on the bed. And I told him.

“Liddy is pregnant,” I said. “She and Mike want to get married this month. And then she’ll drop out. He’s going to finish his degree, but she–” My aged face looked even worse while crying. “She says she can get some work in the evening, playing piano in restaurants and stuff, while he stays home with the baby, and then….” I was fully crying now. “She says she just wants to stay home, and raise her kids.”

Peter looked troubled, but didn’t say anything. He folded me in his arms, until I’d stopped crying, and then we went to bed.

It’s a thing, even after thirty years of marriage, that no matter how bad the day has been, when I hug Peter at night, under the covers, it’s like we’re in a paradise of our own. We drift to sleep as if we existed in a place with no time, as if this, just the two of us, warm, together were the best eternity.

Only that night I couldn’t drift off to sleep. So I put on my sweater, and my jeans, my boots and my heavy coat. I put my coat and gloves on.

Outside, it was snow and blowing wind, and it was near midnight. But our suburb is very safe. Just a dozen houses, in the middle of wooded land. And perhaps if I walked enough I could sleep after.

I walked out, into the sting of wind-driven snow, and I walked and walked. I felt as empty and barren as the landscape outside. I’d had so many dreams for Liddy. I’d given up so much for Liddy. And now instead of being my vindication, my proof I’d been right all along, she was just going to be a suburban wife and mom, like every other wife and mom.

What had the point of my entire life been? I wish I could go back, take it all back, start anew. And my heart was prey to a darkness darker than the night, to a fury greater than the wind that blew grains of ice into my face.

I’d just said that, in a low and vicious voice, “I wish I could take it all back and start again,” when I heard the wheels behind me.

You know those fairy tale illustrations, where the carriage looks like a pumpkin, only it’s all gold, and the tendrils that would be stem and leaves are golden ornament?

There was a carriage like that, coming up behind me, in our perfectly mundane suburban street. It was pulled by four horses so white that they seemed to give off light, and so perfect they didn’t seem to be flesh and blood.

The carriage slowed down — the dark caped man driving it said something I couldn’t understand — and then it stopped, and the door opened.

I stepped back, because pumpkin carriage or not, I, like every child of the twentieth century, knew not to get in a vehicle with strangers. Only the person inside was no stranger. She made that clear, as she leaned forward and said, “Isabelle, get in here right away.”

And it was mom. Only it was mom as I remembered her, when I was very small and she was young and always put together, make up and hair and clothes always perfect.

As I scrambled into the seat, I realized other things. She was wearing this amazing dress, all blue and silver, as though it had been woven of moonlight, and she wore a tiara made of the brightest silver, and covered in pearls.

The smell, in the carriage, too, was as I remembered when I was very young: the scent a mix of mom’s perfume and face powder. It was a fragrance of roses at their peak, all woven with dream. When I was little I’d thought that was the smell of adulthood and of being beautiful, and always put together perfectly.

Inside the carriage, it was very comfortable, like riding on a cloud and I wanted to ask mom how she’d got this pumpkin carriage, and where had the horses and coachman come from.

But instead she said, “So, are you done with your little adventure?”

I blinked at her. “Adventure?”

“This whole, I want to live in the mortal world, thing, daughter. The, I don’t mind if I die, I’ll live forever in my children?” She laughed, and the laughter too was as I remembered from childhood, the tinkle of crystal, the sparkle of ice. “Are you ready to come home?”

“Home?” I said.

“Oh, of course, the spell. You don’t remember.” She leaned forward and touched my forehead.

And then I remembered. Only it was weird, because I remembered my “real” life too, being a child model, and the pageants, and all that stuff. Only at the same time I remembered. Really remembered.

I’d been a princess of fairyland, daughter of immortal Titania, worshiped and loved by the whole court. I’d danced away every night, laughed away every morning. In the vast, dream-like landscape of fairyland, I’d seen my reflection in lakes and ponds, and it was always perfect of course.

I didn’t know how long I lived, or how many centuries, because every day was unchanging and perfect, every morning dew-washed, every night blue velvet with the diamond pin prick of stars, and no problem was bigger than what to wear for the ball that evening.

And then Peter had come. Strong and raw boned, with a round and ruddy face, sparkling black eyes, hair that wouldn’t lie down right, and a mouth disposed to smile.

“That ridiculous boy would fight every dragon to get to our inner keep,” Mother said. “And I’d still would have sent him away empty handed. Only you wanted to live in the mortal world. You said your children would live after you, and that this too was immortality.”

And I remembered. The argument had shaken the crystal columns and made the white ceilings tremble. And I’d left with Peter. On his steed. Well, okay, actually his mustang convertible. Or at least that’s what it was outside fairyland.

We’d kept it going too, for near thirty years, and Liddy still had it, though it was much the worse for the wear.

“So,” Mother said, leaning forward. “Are you ready to come home?”

I leaned back on the seat. Mother looked at me avidly. She was not used to not getting her way. In this my true memories and the spell both agreed.

And something tugged at me, something missgave in my heart, like when you’re about to jump, and you realize it’s too long a jump and you’ll fall. Not that this ever happened in fairyland, where every jump was perfectly timed.

“I can’t go back,” I said. “I”m not the same. I’m so old–“

“Not in fairyland,” she said. “You will be as you always were.” From beside her on the seat, she pulled a mirror, and she handed it to me. And there I was. No wrinkles. No loose skin. Just my face as I remembered it, my face as I always knew I was, somewhere, inside the aging body.

And it had all been a mistake, hadn’t it? Liddy was not going to be my vindication. She might be smart, and she was beautiful to me, and she’d been given so many gifts, but she was going to throw them all away and live a small life, in a small way. It had all been for nothing and I was aging, and would die. And I didn’t even know if there was an everafter for the likes of me.

“Do humans live after death, Mother?” I asked, suddenly.

She shrugged. “They think they do. It’s not for us to know.”

“Do we?”

She laughed. “We do not die.”

And there it was. We do not die. So supposing I died as a human, would there be anything after? Even the humans didn’t know.

It had been yesterday, it seemed like, in my mind’s eye, that Peter and I had ridden away, on his steed. And I was already old. And what had I done with my life? I’d raised a daughter, who was going to do nothing with her life, but raise children and–

Mother knocked on the ceiling, and the carriage slowed. “I have to give them time,” she said. “To open the silver gates of fairyland.”

We’d go in. Past the guardian dragons. And the gates would close. And I’d dance away the nights, sing away the mornings–

Peter would wake and know himself abandoned. And what would Liddy’s son or daughter look like? And would she have more?

She and Mike weren’t going to have a lot of time. Perhaps we could take the kids, now and then, and go to the zoo, as we had with Liddy, when she was small.

And there would be a bit of fairyland in their laughter, the tinkle of merry bells, and they would laugh and dance, and then grow up and–

The carriage had slowed. “Stop, stop I must get out.”

But Mother knocked on the ceiling. The carriage picked up speed.

And I opened the door, and jumped out.

I hit the ground hard. Probably would have broken something except for the snow. And I rolled, and got up, feeling hurt and cold.

Why had I jumped? Why? What sense did it even make? Why trade perfect eternity for a few good moments, and then regret and failure?

I managed to pull myself up. My hip hurt, and my side felt bruised. But the carriage was nowhere in sight. Instead, I was at the end of the subdivision, a mile and a half from home. An easy walk which I often took in summer.

Across the street from me, the lights of the convenience store sparkled. I didn’t have a cell phone, and thought of going in, and asking them to call Peter to come and get me. But that was stupid. He’d be asleep. He didn’t deserve to be awakened.

And the walk back would give me time to think. I limped back, through the snow, and thought, and thought. You know, eternity of perfect everything was…. eternity. And I’d always be young there. But there was an intensity to the moments of happiness and triumph. And I had eternity whenever Peter held me.

But no. A temporary eternity made no sense.

I was about halfway home, and saw someone coming towards me, through the white blizzard. He was big and bulky. But our suburb was safe, so probably someone like me, walking to calm down.

Then he drew closer, and I recognized, Peter.”

He said “Belle” at the same time, but instead of rushing to me, he stood.

I went to him, gave him my hand. He took it. I felt his warmth through the snow. “I woke, and I was all alone,” he said. “And I thought you’d left, you’d gone back home to your mom.”

I raised an eyebrow at him. “My mom?”

“To fairyland.”

I felt a little shock. It must have shown. He smiled, “Of course I remember. It was only you who had to forget so you could leave.” He paused. “I saw a drawing of you, when I was twelve. In an illustration of fairyland. And then I had to go in. I had to win you. My own piece of immortality.”

I walked forward, then, and he held my hand. “I’m sorry about Liddy,” he said. “I knew you had great hopes for her.”

“I still have great hopes for her,” I said.

“Now, Belle,” he started. I remembered vaguely, in my earlier rage of crying, talking of abortion of adoption, of–

“No, not that,” I said, quickly. “I think that was the fairy. You don’t have much will of your own, you know. So you expect your children will be like you. You plot their courses and they’ll be exactly as you expect.” I paused. “And even then, you can be wrong. Some young man might come in and fight the guard dragons….”

He laughed and I said, “Yes, but you know, that’s part of it. I don’t get to choose her path. It’s not fairyland where every day is the same. This is what she chooses, the dragons she must slay.”

“But you had hopes–“

“Sure, and maybe she’ll do something absolutely wonderful, some day. Or maybe not. Maybe in time between childhood and death, she’ll just be happy. Maybe that’s all it is. Even if you don’t do much, really, but take the kids to the zoo, and read to them, and listen to them laugh, and feel happy.”

He looked at me worried, then, “Have you been happy?”

I laughed and kissed him. “Maybe we should sell the house and move closer to Liddy. Remember how tired we got when she was little? We can have the kids over now and then. We can take them to the zoo. We can read to them and play with them.”

Yes, Peter said, and smiled. “We can love them.”

Later, when we were in bed, after the passion had been spent and I was warm again, as he was half asleep, and I snuggled up to his warm, familiar form, I thought that, yes, maybe that was all it was.

Maybe there was no other life after decay and death for me. Maybe there wasn’t even one for humans. But here, together and warm, here was happiness. Here was the certainty of love that outlasted decay and death. Here was eternity.

I needed no other.

******************************

It occurs to me, I’m an idiot who always forgets to promote, and should tell you that if you like my short stories, you might enjoy my collections, like:


So Little and So Light.

Or perhaps Wings

Or Dragon Blood

Or even Here Be Dragons

Seriously guys!

When I said show up for the group photo, who thought that meant “non-humans only”?

And who the heck is the floating eyeball?

The only people I recognize are Paul Howard, Orvan and Bobtheregistered.

I guess the rest of you were too busy for the Hun family photo? How are we going to send a getwell cat to HerbN like this?
(And yes, this is me being silly and trying to cheer myself up.)

UPDATE: Foxfier sent this as her pictoral excuse for not being in for the group photo. I don’t believe her. That kitchen is way too clean and there are a bunch of kids missing!

Go be Americans

It is becoming clear the left is going to steal this election. Either through fraud (so much fraud), or through their time-honored methods of obfuscating and lying to the population.

Just like Nixon became the greatest crook ever and they preened for years over having brought down this would-be Hitler, they will now for decades shape the narrative to be that President Trump mishandled the virus, and destroyed the economy and therefore deserved to be brought down. And that their savior and spokes- zombie, China-Biden has with the touch of his regal hand, and his harsh and bizarre mandates on who can make a living, and who can’t, and also on no one being able to show their faces to human beings not related to us, saved the nation.

In the mean time, he’ll also save the planet, because of how many people will die of things non-Covidial and probably famine “In these trying times.” “While we’re all in this together.” I mean the fewer people the better, right, since we are after all “a cancer on the planet” and the most important thing, the spokeszombie assures us, is to stop the Earth from “literally baking.”

Yes, I am open to a miracle that will save us, at the last minute. But not hopeful. As far as I can tell, between the media gaslighting the country and the massive fraud they stand ready to deploy, we have not a chance.

It is unfair, unjust, insane, but I’ve studied enough history to think that it needs to make sense, or that vast crowds of people possess some sort of wisdom.

I’ve been very afraid since March, watching the gaslighting and people willingly ceding control of their brains to news stations THEY KNEW WERE KNOWN FOR LYING.

The American people are furious, and as such will lash out. Unfortunately in our times of central federalized power, most of them don’t realize our highly unusual, freedom-loving president did not lock them in; did not slap them with mask mandates; did not make them wear masks in airplanes; did not close their church and make their ministers parrots of min-truth. That was their — mostly democrat, though Lord knows some Republicans are thick as pig shiit as well, particularly in Texas and Ohio — Instead of being angry at their appalling governors, they’re mad at the president. I’ve actually heard people — salt of the Earth, who of course follow the covidiocy with gaping mouths, sure that millions have died in this — say that Trump should not have closed the churches or wonder why Trump won’t let their favorite restaurant open.

Which brings us to…

What next??

And how bad will it get?

Well, one thing is for sure. They believe what failed in Obama’s drive to break us and drive us into socialism was the fact we’re all too rich and comfortable. You see — and this is not strictly true, but it’s what they were told and what they’ve seen in movies, and our would be rulers are not very smart and have the depth of a puddle — in their minds all that stood between them and complete overturning of the American system was enough suffering that the dispossessed masses will “rise up.”

This is not true, but they do not know that. They don’t understand the actual, real mechanics of revolution, nor what happens in them.

Therefore the first thing they’re going to try to do is immiserate the country. No, I mean really immiserate the country.

I’m not afraid of being poor. I grew up being very poor and for various reasons, throughout our lives, we’ve brought ourselves to the brink of utter ruin long enough.

So, this won’t be a big deal. Probably. Though I think we are about to experience this at a level most Americans have never even heard of. (Mostly because most Americans haven’t heard about Cubans peasants (everyone is a peasant but the rulers) having their purses searched for SEAFOOD, which they’re not allowed to have or eat. You know, in a tropical island, surrounded by ocean, laden with food, they keep the peasants starved.)

That’s fine. Yeah, it will probably shorten my life expectancy to 10 years or so, because, you know, that’s the age at which people die in such societies (do not let them tell you that everyone always lived about as long as we do. We’ve almost doubled what people can aspire to living. Mostly through the free market and real, not socialist science.) But then again, as grandma used to say “To a bad life, little time is needed.”

Unfortunately this type of extreme poverty does preclude revolt. Because what we’ve found is that the starved masses don’t rebel. And as we’ve found during 2020 neither do the panicked masses. So as long as our utterly incompetent would-be rulers keep us both starved and panicked, they’ll stay in power.

I’m not sure if they will go for roundups and show trials. I suspect so. I’m seeing rumblings of this, at least. They are positively lustful for reeducation camps, and “truth and reconciliation” commissions. And frankly they’re very angry at us for how long we took to fall. Like the citadel that holds the invaders too long, we are to be destroyed.

I am sure I am on several lists, though it’s entirely possible that I’m small enough potatoes they won’t bother. I’m not sure which I prefer, but my kids assure me they prefer I stay alive. So, who knows?

I believe they will actually not go after their political enemies but after those they hate, which weirdly have very little to do with politics, and mostly with the politics of envy.

If they weren’t about to toss us all in the pot with them, I would laugh, because the darlings of science fiction who sold their souls to Marxism, in an environment that is highly fraught with favoritism and arbitrariness, and therefore filled with envy and malice, think they will be safe and on top, when in face every shrieking little harpy who ever got rejected is just waiting to drag them down and make them confess to privilege, regardless of their color or status as victims.

And it will be like that all over.

Will Lizard Man Zuckerborg and meth addict Dorsey also be dragged from their glittering mansions, their piles of white powder to be hanged in the street? I don’t know. In former times I would say no. I mean, at that level of wealth they can always move to another country and live it up, right?

But what other country? No, seriously. I think most people, American born and bred, have absolutely no clue of what an outsized foot print America has in the world. America falls, the world falls.

More importantly, electing China Joe (and the Ho) will give China control of our nation. While the would be tech lords are convinced their status as prime-vassals entitles them to better treatment and perhaps a sort of vice-roy status, they are dreaming. They should have spent some of the time they spent indulging in interesting mind-altering substances and strange sex acts on reading Chinese history. To begin with, as round eyes, they are de-facto inferior. Second as traitors to their homeland, they will never be trusted.

We might yet see them receive to the hilt what they’ve earned. I wish I could like it more.

In terms of world situation, I beg you to pray for Israel. They’ve seen this coming and they’re a tough people. But they’ll be left friendless and exposed in an hostile world.

What I’m concerned with though is not “mere” survival or even the survival and thriving of my kin. (And part of my fear is that we’re all about to be confined to small areas, and I’m not sure my family will be able to get together, in an area where we can see each other. Because in case you haven’t noticed, over the last 8 months planes became something to look at not ride in — at least not if you can’t endure a mask every day — and they’re about to clamp restrictions and prices through the roof on the oil.) What is acting upon me is deeper and more worrisome: it is the survival of mankind, the survival of the idea of freedom, the survival of enough civilization to allow us to go to the stars.

Yes, I think people should still be marrying and being given in marriage, and having children is perhaps more important than ever, particularly if you’re willing to raise them — really raise them — and inure them against the gaslighting of the mass media. Make them free citizens, able to think for themselves, and perhaps there is a hope for the world. Even if it won’t be easy for them.

It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be really hard. Particularly for those of us who are no longer able to either be any help in a fight or do much of use to society.

Oh, our new self-agrandizing elites (including the ones on the right who are enabling this, and who think they will be a permanent kept “loyal opposition” — and some of them will, but the mask has fallen off and we’re not stupid.) aren’t competent enough to run a brothel with free and ever-renovating beer kegs. But that is actually a plus for their plans.

There is a reason that communist governments only survive when the populace is utterly destroyed, when poverty is rampant, when they can establish a sort of backwards feudalism where everyone is poor save the flea bitten ruler who gets to rule in hell.

They come in on crisis — though if there are historians in the future, they will possibly be amazed at how ably they conjured this one out of nothing — and perpetuate the crisis.

We know they will take the internet down, as soon as possible. Even with it curtailed by their willing lackeys it’s too easy to get around and to communicate with our like.

They need to take us back to the 1950s and the narrative spilling form TV screens 24/7 being the only and the only acceptable history. They have had a taste of how powerful they can be with their gaslighting, and they’re not about to let it go.

Which will of course also mean that all entertainment must be under their control and come from approved voices.

How long do I have? How long does indie publishing have? A year? Two? If we’re very, very lucky.

After that comes control and censorship that will make China look like a playground.

And that’s part of what worries me. When I tell you to build under, build over, build around I am not actually joking. And many of you are qualified and can indeed do it. And are young enough to have kids, and teach them, and send them forward to maintain or re-establish civilization, to carry the banner of freedom into humanity’s future.

Me? What the hell can I do? I can write stories, and I can write blog posts, but both of those are subject to sudden and complete eradication. And have to be paid by trackable means. So–

I don’t know. I’m going to ask you, right now, that those of you who have appreciated this blog copy and save the posts you find most useful. Print them. Print the stories, too, if they amuse you. Perhaps some words will go into the future. Some.

Other than that what can I do?

That is ultimately what is eating at me. It’s come to this: I sit here feeling old and useless.

What good is it to be present at the fall, if I can’t fight it, and can do nothing to prevent it?

All I can do is send those of you who are younger, better educated, stronger.

Go forth. Be not afraid. A just G-d might allow evil to prevail for a time, but He won’t allow it to reign over humanity forever. Be prepared for the fact that it might be a long time, though. (Yes, the scraps of flag will go out. I’ve been stuck in the house, because I don’t do well with cold.) Keep the faith. Stay alive. Do the best you can.

In the time we have left with unprecedented access to knowledge through the internet, buy courses in real stuff, and download them and save them (on CD if you can) or print them. In as long as we have, learn everything you can. If nothing else, it’s knowledge you might pass on, which might be useful in the future.

Build over, build under, build around. Have children and teach them well. Be Americans, even if they take America away from us.

Be not afraid. The worst they can do is kill us, and that’s no final victory.

I might not be able to do much, but one of you might hold the key to the future.

Rumpled

She was crying in the copier room when I came in, and she looked up at me with moist blue eyes, like pansies under the rain.

I couldn’t remember her name. Too D*mn Young isn’t a name. Even my name is not that weird. Crying like that, she looked about sixteen. No makeup. Blond hair down to the middle of her back. Very pretty. Maybe one of our high school interns?

And then she grabbed a tissue from box on the shelf, wiped her eyes, blinked at me and said, “Oh, Mr. Rumple, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know– It’s just I don’t know what to do. This promotion.”

And I realized she couldn’t be an intern — they didn’t get promoted — and that she knew my name, which probably meant she’d been kicking around the office for more than a year, because I didn’t come in that often. I’m just the accountant, okay? Mostly I work from home, or come in after hours to look through the books. Sometimes, rarely, I have to come during the day for some documents. But not that often.

Now she was more composed, I upgraded her age to early twenties.

“You’re crying because you had a promotion?” I asked.

She nodded. “It’s Maddie,” she said. “She says I was being oppressed by remaining a receptionist. She said that receptionists are outmoded, and I need to work as– As a copywriter.”

Maddie, which is what all the young women in the office called her, was Ms. Madeline Maddoc, AKA Mad Maddie to all the male members of the staff. Mad Maddie had struck again.

Look, I’m not sure what had happened to poor Mad Maddie back in the dim years of her youth, before she’d become CEO of Baileng Copyrighters Inc. Maybe a man had bit her, or not bit her. Whichever.

What I know is that if allowed to go on at any length in a staff meeting she’d bore you with a long list of men who had made discouraging statements about her abilities, starting, seemingly, in her cradle. At one of the meetings I attended, I swear she said that the doctor who delivered her said, “Well, she’s a girl, she’ll never amount to much.”

At any rate, the mad one had achieved control of the company by age 40. And since then she’d been on a mission to make sure none of the women hired by Baileng ever had to suffer in an inferior position. If this meant promoting the cleaning woman ahead of our top copywriter? Well, so be it. Girl power!

Look, I didn’t care. I was the accountant, and no one in the glitzy daylight business cared much about what I did in the dark after hours, with our books, provided it wasn’t criminal and the IRS didn’t take enough taxes to shut us down.

The problem was that what Maddie had done was make our company near-unable to keep decent female help, from receptionists to executive assistants to — even — cleaning ladies. If you weren’t hiring for top posts, you might as well hire a man, or else you’d not have her long. She’d be promoted up the ladder, fail, and leave, either in disgrace or for a better position, aka, to be someone else’s problem.

But no one dared explain this to Maddie. She’d tell us again about how her science teacher had told her girls were stupid at math, which frankly sounded pretty unlikely for the 70s in the US.

“Ah….” I said, noncommittally, and prepared to back out of the room, except the young woman was actually very pretty and seemed devastated. “And you don’t think you can do it?”

The tissue came out and pressed against her nose. “I don’t know anything about advertising,” she said, nasally. “I have an associates in English, for crying out loud.”

“Well…. that means you know how to write in English, so that’s a beginning. You’d be amazed how many of our executives can’t do that. Between the impacted and the incentivized, they verbify the language to death.”

This got me a pallid smile, around the tissue. “She brought me in to the meeting, and she made a big song and dance about the Straw Brothers account and how I was perfect for it. I had no clue what to say, so then I went to my desk and looked it up. It’s a lumberyard in Caroline. She wants me to do a big advertising campaign for their straw bales. Apparently they have a big straw bale event every fall, and they hired us to– to–“

“Promote it?” I asked, helpfully. To be fair, this was pretty small potatoes, which meant Mad Maddy was moderating her reach somewhat. Maybe old dogs did learn new tricks. This thing was probably worth maybe two thousand for us.

She threw her arms wide, “Why would I know anything about straw. I was raised in Denver.”

I shrugged. “It’s just Maddie. Look, it’s not as scary as it seems. Yeah, Straw Brothers has stores all over the front range, but I doubt they’ll pay us more than about ten thousand for a campaign. I’m not even sure why they did it. Maybe they’re looking for a deduction. People do buy straw around this time of year, for animal fodder, and to cover fields, and to do straw bale gardening, it’s apparently better if it rots a bit over winter, and stuff. But it’s a pretty closed market that’s going to happen anyway. I don’t think you can fail.”

She made a face, “The only time I saw a straw bale was when we went to this cowboy pancake breakfast, when I was little, and we sat on bales.” She sighed. “I still have no idea what to do. They want to do some kind of TV spot?” She started crying again. “I don’t know what to do!”

I normally don’t get involved in this stuff. The faster Mad Maddie’s pushes fail, the less damage they do. But the kid was young and looked scared.

“Okay,” I thought of a way this couldn’t be claimed to be sexual harassment. Us ugly guys can be accused just by staring vacantly in a woman’s direction. And as ugly guys went, I was the ugliest. “Look, if you want to spitball, we could maybe grab a coffee. Or not. Entirely up to you.”

“Would you? Let me throw ideas at you, that is?”

“Oh. Sure. I’m just here to pick up some stuff, and it will only take me about ten minutes.”

“Okay!” she said, and grinned, and looked like I’d promised her something wonderful.

So she grabbed her laptop, and we went to the coffee shop across the street. Her name was Amber Golden, and she was 25. I didn’t even ask her any of that. And I also didn’t do much in the way of suggestions, honest. It’s just she was really creative. I was just there to listen, and the fact that I couldn’t help being delighted with some of her ideas made it better.

You see, the kid was good at doggerel rhyme and line-cartoons. She kept drawing these funny figures doing funny things, and explaining what they were doing with silly verses. In the end she concluded by pointing out that straw bales were great for seating and tables at Fall and Thanksgiving parties, and really, who was I to argue.

I took her funny rhymes on Straw for Pa, and asked her if she wanted a tune for it. Look, something you accumulate over a few thousand years of life is music. At least if you have a memory for it. Her rhyme fitted perfectly to this jingle that medieval maidens used to dance to.

I hummed it, then she got up some sort of program that I could play it in, and which would record the tune. And then I showed her a program that took line drawings and animated them, and was free, even.

By the time she had a great spot, about two minutes long, there was a server standing by our table, all serious, “Sorry, guys, but we close at seven, so–“

So, we’d taken up a table and only bought two coffees and a couple of pastries. I gave him a generous tip, to compensate, while Amber gathered up her stuff, and thanked me all confused, “Thank you so much, Mr. Rumple. Is that what I should call you, Mr. Rumple? And gosh, I don’t know how to thank you.”

I laughed. “Oh, just give me your first born,” I said. “And call me Rumple. Just about everyone does. Also, I didn’t do much for you. You did it all yourself. All you needed was some self confidence.”

She grinned and skipped away, and I shook my head. There were echoes and memories in my mind, but it had never gone well for me, so why would it now? I wasn’t even going to try.

Over the next month our paths didn’t cross, although I heard comments from some people about the new Golden kid. But perhaps it was the “new golden kid” and might not be amber at all.

Then about a month later, when I was leaving the office, I heard her call, “Mr. Rumple?”

I turned. She was wearing nicer clothes. Still a skirt suit, just nicer. I was just glad she hadn’t gone to pantsuits. Those weren’t designed for the female anatomy and always looked weird.

She blushed. “I… I have a new marketing campaign they gave me? Achyro restaurants…. and…. well…. I wonder if I could take you to lunch and talk to you? It seemed to help so much last time?”

We went out to one of the Achyro restaurants, Achyro Diner, and stuffed ourselves on dolmades and baklava, while she told me her ideas. Not line drawings, that time. She was thinking of taking various members of a large family,and showing them celebrating their occasions with Achyro restaurants, from the young couple with kids going to the diner for their pancake special, to the young man proposing in Achyro Heart which was sort of a bistro-ey thing, to– You get the point. Ended up we stayed through lunch, and then with the complete campaign sketched out, she invited me to for dinner to celebrate.

Of course I was wary. Look, I really am very ugly. Or would be, if I were human.

Somehow, and I swear I made no moves — and kept expecting some sort of trap, honest — this became a thing. Every week, she’d take me out somewhere — she was very insistent on paying — and talked to me about her projects.

“It’s just, see, that I feel very comfortable with you,” she said, after a few months. “I don’t have any family, you know? Mom and dad died in an accident when I was young, and grandma died three years ago. With you, I feel like I’m with family.”

Which figured. I wanted to tell her I wasn’t family. I wasn’t even really human. I was… Lonely. Really lonely. I looked back over the last few thousand years. There used to be more of my kind around. Now, it was just me. It had been just me since the few remaining of my kind had died in the black plague, leaving me all alone. That’s when I’d tried that foolish gambit. I kept wondering if she’d connect the dots.

And I thought she hadn’t. We went out all the time for six months. Then she invited me as her plus one to the company’s Holiday dinner. People kept looking funny at us, because there she was, five eight and blond and beautiful, while I was five four and…. well, very ugly indeed.

Then she asked me out to dinner, and came in looking all serious, and told me some guy named Walter Furst had asked her to marry him. I felt my heart sink to my feet, and she looked at me, all serious, and said “You know…. the thing is…. I mean….. Would you be all right with that?”

“Only if you give me your first born,” I said, and grinned, displaying teeth that I knew were just a little too sharp for humans. Most humans backed away from that, but instead, she reached across and grabbed my hand.

I was so shocked, I didn’t even pull away. She looked straight into my eyes and said, “It wouldn’t work. I know your name. I mean, your real name.”

And then she said it.

I want to assure you that the legend about my vanishing in a puff of smoke was embroidery on what actually happened. Though I might very well have thrown a massive snit, because I’d worked so long and so hard and then–

This time I just blinked at her. She smiled at me, “Yeah. I looked in company records, after our first meeting,” she said.

“And?”

“And it doesn’t matter to me. I was just hoping you wouldn’t want me to marry Furst. I was hoping–” She took a deep breath, “But I didn’t know what the whole thing with the first born was….”

“Oh,” I said. “Well, most of my kind — there is no name for us, really. Though elves or fairies or whatever fits, if you don’t go thinking of us as Tolkien elves — died in the Bubonic plague. Maybe all of us. I don’t know. I’ve never met another. I just… I was lonely. I thought if I raised a baby, I’d have a family. Okay, it was stupid.”

She gripped my hand harder. “We’re not so different, you and I. I mean, I’m not an elf or anything, but you always felt like family.”

And I realized suddenly that’s what she’d become. Family. Kind of an important part of the family. We’d encouraged each other, supported each other, joked together. What had been my very lonely life with numbers for company had been… well, kind of the life I wanted the last few months. I sighed, “You’d marry me?”

“In a minute!” she said.

That’s when I lost my mind and kissed her. Afterwards, as I laughingly told her that we couldn’t get married in a minute, but I thought we could in 24 hours, in this state, she looked serious again, “You won’t dye your hair white or something to pretend to get old along with me, right?”

I grinned. “Oh, no. Solved. You see, if we marry a mortal, we become mortal.”

She pulled back. “I couldn’t let you do that. Trade immortality for me?”

I laughed. “A worthy trade. Better a few years with you than endless, lonely immortality.”

That was when she kissed me.

I did get her first born, it turns out. And the second and third and fourth. All of which look like their mother, fortunately.

And she knows my name, of course. My name is her name too.

Mrs. Rumplestilskin has never complained.

Speak!

On the first weekend of this month, at the meeting with my fans at Pete’s Kitchen on Colfax, a young and enthusiastic fan/friend/adopted nephew got to talking about politics.

He is not a leftist, and he was speaking very loudly.

Pete’s is not exactly downtown, but it’s on the periphery, and area solidly liberal. It is also frequented mostly by people who have been taught they’re down and out because of those evil non-leftists. I never inquired, though we’ve been going there for decades, but it is quite possible, not to say likely, that our favorite waitress is leftist. (Going on clothing, demeanor, tattoos. Which could be completely wrong, btw. G-d knows I dress liberal (mostly through not giving that much of a hang about how I look most of the time).)

I started to tell him to tone it down. And then shut up.

Why?

Sure. It’s “rude” to speak politics loudly enough to be heard in the entire area (though to be fair, he could only be heard in the immediate vicinity which was empty except for busboys and servers.) Or at least I’ve been discommoded by conversations from the next table.

If you search my past posts, about 10? years ago, I went for a writing-weekend away and the table next to us was filled with people our age who should know better, talking about how stupid Americans were because we didn’t wish to give government more power. I HELPFULLY engaged them in discussion by telling them to keep their ignorant mouths shut about things they didn’t understand. Mind you, if instead of being offended, I’d be perfectly willing to discuss it with them.

And here’s the thing, okay? Think about it: of all the times, in every public place where you heard a table/group/party loudly discuss politics. How many times were the politics even vaguely center or the right of Lenin?

“But that’s rude!” you say.

Yes, it sure it. And yes, the left sure does it.

And then we’re surprised they have absolutely no clue who we are, that they buy into the stories the left and their pet media tell, that they think of people who don’t believe in socialism/communism as bigoted evil, and full only of hate.

Well, what would you think if those people were afraid to speaking up, of even mentioning their politics in public, much less defending their opinions.

But Sarah, you’ll say, what can we do? How can we do that if they will just cancel us/take everything we own/destroy our livelihoods/attack our families and loved ones?

You can stand out against evil.

Look, I know any number of you HAVE to stay quiet at work. I know any other number of you keep quiet around your aged parents, obeying the Biblical injunction to respect them.

I’m not saying to break that, not really. Not unless you have a place to fall should they take away your way of making a living.

But this is the stuff communist dictatorships is made of. And now we know — and I want to put this very bluntly to all of you out there who think that voting third party or not voting this election is cute — what waits us if Biden wins.

It’s not just the truth and reconciliation commission, the packing of the court, the destruction of the constitution by writing a “modernized” one. All of that and more is on the way.

Oh, it won’t look like it’s all gone, and my friends who are naive and count on the constitution and the forms of the republic protecting them will be thrown a sop. After all, all the communist regimes had a loyal opposition, who were given crumbs from the table and allowed to exist.

But you and I won’t be. Not as free people.

2020 has shown us exactly what is going on, and how far they’re willing to go, both for power and to hide their corruption, their vices, their utter debasement. What they’re willing to do is appalling, not just what the media is willing to do, but the elected democrats in various states, and the FBI and the agencies who took oaths to protect America (I wish on them the hell of oathbreakers.) It also amounts to selling our country out to the Chinese Fascists. Who are actual fascists and will destroy everything of value in the US as they remake us in their image. This will save the rule of the CCP and extend it all over the world.

Will we rise again? Maybe. But none of us reading this now will see it. Do you wish that on your children and grandchildren? Will you throw away your vote on a third party, or not vote, even if it might save us?

The worst part is that I can see this going on, and the right staying quiet. Because we have jobs and families and lives.

Until we don’t. If you give up your liberty, the government can take anything else from you at the drop of a hat. And will. Look at China.

Again, I’m not asking you speak out if it will make you destitute (not yet) or that you speak out if it will break your elderly parents hearts (not yet.) And I’m definitely not asking you to put your name on anything that will target you for reprisal. Yeah, I’ve done it, but at this point in time that’s just stupid. Because they will come for you. At least don’t do it, if you’re not ready to fight back.

But I know more mixed marriages than I care to mention. And the conservative is always quiet, even as the leftist spouse needles, attacks, and snarks on a regular basis.

“Because I love her/him” and “take our marriage seriously.”

No. No, you don’t. And in fact you don’t have a marriage. You never did. And don’t tell me “My wife/husband just thinks I’m stupid.” Some marriage.

It always baffles my friends in this situation when the children of the union then embrace the left. Well, why shouldn’t they? Did you ever defend your point of view? You have moral and justice on your side, why not explain that? Why not explain that we can’t go on like this? that we’re effectively being destroyed/invaded/perverted by people who mouth pieties and are in fact human horrors?

Sure, it might end your marriage. But if it does, how much of a marriage was it?

And that applies to friendships too, at least those that won’t cost you your way of life.

Look, many on the left are knaves, villains, horrible human beings. But a lot of them aren’t. They just never hear the other side of the story.

We’ve allowed leftism to become social signaling for being “good people.”

We don’t speak out against things like addicted ferals taking over our downtowns, because we don’t want to be thought heartless…. even though the policy of mollycoddling the mentally ill and anti-social is destroying livelihoods of business owners and property owners, and just working people who can’t afford to leave.

We don’t speak out against the COVID restrictions, because we don’t want to be thought heartless. Even though this is gutting the constitution and making us effective slaves, preparing us for take over by people who don’t respect individuals at all.

We want to be cool and hip, even as the left is making disagreeing with them unacceptable.

And we censor ourselves in public. In the rare times we don’t, sometimes we get weird looks, like people are going “but he/she is so nice.”

You need a lot of those experiences of reality to break through the indoctrination.

The hour is perilous. Win or lose — and be aware we might lose, because fraud will be unimaginable — it is time to speak up.

Yes, I know the potential costs. I’ve paid them.

They’ve removed their masks. Will you remove yours? At least a little bit?

Will you teach the children now? Before it’s too late?

New York Slimes – by Dan Hoyt

*As some of you know my husband is a mathematician. What you might not understand is what this means. What this means is that numbers are vitally, incredibly important to him. And when numbers don’t add up, he goes slightly unhinged. How unhinged? Well, he once spent over half an hour trying to give 45c to a clerk who had undercharged us. This wasn’t an unusual occurrence. I only remember that one, because we had a girl both boys had a crush on along on that outing, and she looked near-terrrified, until I pointed out Dan is a mathematician and that’s not so much an avocation as a condition. He’s also far less political/politically aware than I am, so he keeps coming up with a bang against things I’ve known for — I think — my entire adult life, like the fact the media is irretrievably crooked.
A combination of these two fueled him to post the following on Faceborg. I’m posting it here as a guest post with his permission. He would like me to point out — and this was said indignantly — that the NYT mostly repeated stuff from other reports, which means — he says — this is an MSM-wide problem. I didn’t meme it with “welcome to the party pal” nor did I say “you sweet summer child.” He is far smarter than I, just not a politics-addict. Which tells you how normal people have missed these things, for how long – SAH*

New York Slimes – by Dan Hoyt

The NYT takes what SHOULD be a human-interest story about how people’s livelihoods are being threatened by the current COVID-19 situation and turns it into a blatant attempt to manipulate voters. For shame!

https://www.nytimes.com/…/…/pandemic-unemployment-covid.html

My favorite passage in there is from a PA guy who is a stunning example of a low-information voter who believes everything the MSM spoon-feeds him without question. Point-by-point:

“I’m not real happy with the way President Trump has handled, or continues to handle, the pandemic. I think what he’s doing is hurting more than helping.”

Dude, you need to stop watching the MSM. Just because it’s on TV doesn’t make it true. Trump didn’t order the lockdowns that put you out of work, your governor did. Blame him. And in PA, that would be a Democrat, BTW, not even the same PARTY as Trump.

“First, he started with, “I built the greatest economy this country has ever known,” which is not true.”

Again, stop watching MSM; the Bureau of Labor and Statistics disagrees with you and supports Trump’s claim. The stock market does, too, even now. The 3 years leading up to the lockdowns that were ordered mostly by Democratic governors WERE the greatest economy we’ve seen in the US. Even more so for blacks and asians than whites, BTW. Go look at the numbers (https://www.bls.gov/). There’s some great historical documents there that tell the story. If you’re a hardcore Obama fan, do NOT look at 2008-2016 unless you want your preconceptions shattered, especially when it comes to black employment.

“And now he’s talking about bringing that back, which I think is great, but you can’t do that until you deal with the pandemic properly.”

Oops, didn’t you just say Trump did NOT build the greatest economy that you know want him to bring back? Which is it, hypocrite? Make up your mind. As for how to “deal with the pandemic properly,” Biden is promising to continue the lockdowns and make masks mandatory nationwide. Despite the facts that any doctor worth his salt will tell you that putting a mask on an asthmatic is a really bad idea, and even the CDC isn’t even SURE that masks do any good. From their FAQ (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html): “Masks MAY slow the spread of the virus and help people who MAY have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.” That’s a lot of weasel words there, all translating in plain English to, “We’re not sure, but it PROBABLY won’t hurt to wear masks.”

“And not only is he ignoring it, but he takes steps to limit and slow down testing.”

Well, now you’re just being ignorant. Trump isn’t ignoring COVID-19; he tested positive, quarantined and recovered well before October 23, when this article was published. The fact that the “journalist” at the NYT included this statement this late in the game indicates clear and present malice, rather than credible journalism practices. As for slow testing, we’ve had faulty tests for 7 months with

“He continues to go to his rallies; he’s encouraging people to gather in rallies. For me, it’s about human life.”

Again, old news, and the BLM continued to gather in protest rallies, too, during that time. AND they didn’t wear masks for WEEKS, until conservatives started pointing out the hypocrisy. THEN they started wearing masks. And burning building, looting businesses and murdering innocent bystanders. But, yeah, it’s about human life. Just not ALL humans; only those who agree with their politics.

“There’s about 200,000 people dead, and we’re still counting.”

Yes, yes there are about 225K deaths under discussion, although it’s not clear WHAT caused the deaths. Do you know what happens when a gunshot victim bleeds out, then tests positive for COVID-19? It’s listed as a COVID-19 death, that’s what. Most of the first 100K attributed deaths were made with clinical diagnoses, in fact. That means no test, just a doctor saying, “Yeah, the patient died of respiratory failure, so it’s PROBABLY COVID-19.” Think about it. The tests just weren’t available in quantity at the time, and the efficacy was suspect. Even the official COVID-19 site for PA (https://www.health.pa.gov/…/cor…/Pages/Symptoms-Testing.aspx) includes the disclaimer:

“No test is perfect. There is a false negative rate and false positive rate that varies depending on the test and the collection modality. Accuracy of antigen tests may be problematic due to poor sensitivity.”

The FDA site on testing (https://www.fda.gov/…/consumer-u…/coronavirus-testing-basics) is more specific:

“Some things that may affect the test’s accuracy include:
– You may have the virus, but the swab might not collect it from your nose or throat.
– The swab or mucus sample may be accidentally contaminated by the virus during collection or analysis.
– The nasal or throat swab may not be kept at the correct temperature before it can be analyzed.
– The chemicals used to extract the virus genetic material and make copies of the virus DNA may not work correctly.”

So the test results are suspect, even now. And the cause of death rarely gets changed after the fact. That mean those attributed numbers are HIGHLY suspect and should be taken with a grain of salt. Witness the NYC numbers. As of today, there are almost 20K “confirmed deaths” in NYC, but less than 5K “probable deaths” (https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/covid-19-data.page).

So how much of that 225K is actually deaths FROM COVID-19 as opposed to deaths WITH COVID-19? Well, if it’s similar to the NYC numbers, that would be about 50K nationwide. Contrast that with about 35K deaths from flu/pneumonia for the previous flu season (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/2018-2019.html).

BTW, the CDC data is fascinating reading, and the NYT “journalist” really should take a quick look, at the very least. Here’s some highlights from 2018 (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db355.htm) with some notes on the current situation:

“In 2018, a total of 2,839,205 resident deaths were registered in the United States.”

That’s an average of 236,600 per MONTH. So, the total number of ATTRIBUTED COVID-19 deaths (see above) over 7-8 months is still less than the number of TOTAL deaths in a normal SINGLE MONTH in the US. So how many total deaths there have been in 2020? CDC reports 2,399,494 through Week 39 (September 26): https://gis.cdc.gov/grasp/fluview/mortality.html. The previous year, over the same 39 weeks, the CDC reported 2,123,573. That means that 2020 has resulted in a net increase in TOTAL deaths of about 13% (275,921). Compare that to a 4.4% (86,599) increase in the 2014-15 flu season or a 3.2% (64,531) increase in the 2016-17 flu season.

So, yes, 2020 looks worse than anything we’ve seen since 2013, and nobody’s denying that, despite what the MSM is claiming, but it’s hardly the “we’re all going to die” story the MSM has been pushing.

And don’t forget that the population since 2013 has been steadily increasing, so the raw numbers are less important than the mortality per 100K, which is a COMPARABLE metric.

So how bad is 2020? Go back to 2018:

Leading causes of death:
All causes: 723.6 per 100K
Heart disease: 163.6 per 100K
Cancer: 149.1 per 100K
Chronic lower respiratory: 39.7 per 100K
Flu/Pneumonia: 14.9 per 100K
Suicide: 14.2 per 100K

The CDC’s latest info says 7.6% of the 2020 deaths were ATTRIBUTED to flu/pneumonia/COVID-19 (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm). Using the current US population of 330,491,064 from the Census Bureau (https://www.census.gov/popclock/), that means:

Flu/Pneumonia/COVID-19: 55.2 per 100K (attributed)
Flu/Pneumonia/COVID-19: 13.8 per 100K (probable, based on NYC)

That’s a big range, but if the PROBABLE numbers are accurate, that’s LESS than 2018 numbers for flu/pneumonia alone. And if the ATTRIBUTED numbers are accurate, it’s still about the same as 2018 for flu/pneumonia/chronic lower respiratory combined. And we already suspect that most chronic lower respiratory deaths were attributed to COVID-19, so were does that leave us?

With a lot of questions, still. Only one thing is crystal clear:

Tying COVID-19-related unemployment to an election is irresponsible “journalism.”

My second favorite story, from a Salvadoran in Vegas, deserves a separate writeup:

“The other sad update is that the president got a green light to end the T.P.S. program (which has allowed families who fled El Salvador and other countries to temporarily live and work legally in the United States).”

First off, what is TPS? From https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/…/temporary…:

“Congress created Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the Immigration Act of 1990. It is a temporary immigration status provided to nationals of specifically designated countries that are confronting an ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or extraordinary and temporary conditions. It provides a work permit and stay of deportation to foreign nationals from those countries who are in the United States at the time the U.S. government makes the designation.”

The key word here is “temporarily.” Trump EXTENDED the program for Salvadorans A YEAR AGO (https://www.dhs.gov/…/us-and-el-salvador-sign…) to 2021, ensuring the program DOESN’T end during his first term. The program will end for El Salvador eventually, as that’s it’s stated intent:

“TPS beneficiaries return to the immigration status that the person held prior to receiving TPS, unless that status has expired or the person has successfully acquired a new immigration status. TPS beneficiaries who entered the United States without inspection and who are not eligible for other immigration benefits, for example, would return to being undocumented at the end of a TPS designation and become subject to removal.”

In plain English, that means he’s not at risk of being deported if he’s not an ILLEGAL alien. If he IS, why hasn’t he done anything about that in the 6 years he’s been here (which included 3 years under Obama)?

He ends with:

“If Trump wins, we have no more hope.”

I’m really not following the reasoning here. Trump extends TPS for Salvadorans, and even provides ADDITIONAL time:

“Additionally, the Trump Administration is providing El Salvadorans with TPS an additional 365 days after the conclusion of the TPS-related lawsuits to repatriate back to their home country.”

As stated early, the POINT of the program was NEVER a path to citizenship, but some protection for foreigners in the US when bad things happened in their home countries (in this case, El Salvador). This does NOT sound like Trump is planning to kick out the Salvadorans:

“TPS is a legal mechanism to provide temporary status for some foreigners who need humanitarian relief. The Administration’s goal is to create an orderly and responsible process to repatriate Salvadorans and help them return home; however, a sudden inflow of 250,000 individuals to El Salvador could spark another mass migration to the U.S. and reinvigorate the crisis at the southern border. Taking into account these concerns, we have decided to provide additional time to work out that plan. We cannot allow the progress the President has made the past several months to be negated.”

Note the word “progress” used with Trump’s efforts. How does that translate to “no more hope”? Answer: it doesn’t.

It’s a blatant attempt to sentimentalize the story and make out Trump to be evil (the unsubstantiated narrative of the left in general, and the New York Slimes — sorry — Times in particular). Once again, irresponsible “journalism.”

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike and Book Promo

*Note these are books sent to us by readers/frequenters of this blog.  Our bringing them to your attention does not imply that we’ve read them and/or endorse them, unless we specifically say so.  As with all such purchases, we recommend you download a sample and make sure it’s to your taste.  If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com. If you feel a need to re-promo the same book do so no more than once every six months (unless you’re me or my relative. Deal.) One book per author per week. Amazon links only. Oh, yeah, by clicking through and buying (anything, actually) through one of the links below, you will at no cost to you be giving a portion of your purchase to support ATH through our associates number. I ALSO WISH TO REMIND OUR READERS THAT IF THEY WANT TO TIP THE BLOGGER WITHOUT SPENDING EXTRA MONEY, CLICKING TO AMAZON THROUGH ONE OF THE BOOK LINKS ON THE RIGHT, WILL GIVE US SOME AMOUNT OF MONEY FOR PURCHASES MADE IN THE NEXT 24HOURS, OR UNTIL YOU CLICK ANOTHER ASSOCIATE’S LINK. PLEASE CONSIDER CLICKING THROUGH ONE OF THOSE LINKS BEFORE SEARCHING FOR THAT SHED, BIG SCREEN TV, GAMING COMPUTER OR CONSERVATORY YOU WISH TO BUY. That helps defray my time cost of about 2 hours a day on the blog, time probably better spent on fiction. ;)*

FROM JOSH GRIFFIN: Pyre & Ice (Wayward Sun)

Spacers Stobbins and McGregor are just maintenance techs at the far end of the solar system, keeping Jotunheim Station running on Saturn’s big moon Titan. The work is hard and the world is harsh, but when a pattern of equipment failures nearly proves fatal, can their efforts avert a disaster that threatens the lives of the whole mission?

FROM MEL DUNAY: Waking The Dreamlost (The Jaiya Series Book 2)

New, professionally edited edition!
Journey to the country of Jaiya, in a world not quite like ours. Here, humans ride trains, drive cars, and use cell phones, but they share their world with insect people and trollfolk, and stranger things lurk in the shadows…
In a place like Jaiya, a woman can’t just back out of an arranged marriage to a bigshot, even if her amnesia keeps her from remembering when and how she agreed to it. Her engagement to a politician makes Itana a target for terrorist attacks, but a former soldier named Marish keeps rescuing her, and gives her a chance at real love. She doesn’t remember hiring him to find out who is stealing her memories, but he is determined to finish the job…or die trying!
Note: Itana and Marish are friends with or related to a few characters from Marrying a Monster, the first book in the Jaiya series, but Dreamlost is meant as a standalone with a “happily ever after” ending. The romance is on the sweet side, but there is some violence due to the main characters’ encounters with monsters and terrorists.

FROM ALLENE R. LOWREY: Einarr and the Tower of Ravens: A young adult action-adventure Viking fantasy (The Adventures of Einarr Stigandersen Book 5)

Time to rob a god.
Having just escaped from the demonic fleet of the strange cult, Einarr and the crew of the Vidofnir are in need of some way to fight the horrors unleashed and eliminate the cult for good. Fortunately, it just so happens that those who are experienced in the ways of magic and story tend to accumulate wisdom as well as lore…

FROM MARY CATELLI: Isabelle and the Siren

Isabelle had come to the seaside to rest while she suffered melancholia.

But a haunting song wafts over the village one day, ready to lure all to danger.

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike.

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: FUNCTIONAL

Witch’s Daughter, Installment 18

*For the previous chapters, please go here. These are posted first draft, as the brain dictates to the fingers which are remarkably stupid. Also there will be inconsistencies because until September or so, the timing on these is wonky, and I’ll forget stuff between posts. Eventually it will be cleaned up and fixed just before page is made secret/taken down and the book is published. At that time I will take lists of typos or volunteers to proof read. For now, it’s written in a hurry, usually an hour before it goes up. And, let me remind you, it’s free – SAH*

The Language Of Birds

“Fifi?” Lord Michael gave her the oddest of looks. Then looked back at the thing flying nearer.

“It’s a dragonette?

“My brother, Aaron got a dragonette and put it in my embroidery box.” She cleared her throat. “He…. set fire to the drapes.”

“There are no dragons in Avalon,” Lord Michael said. “Our world.”

“I know, but Aaron likes animals.”

And then Fifi was upon them, making sounds of great irritation and exhaling puffs of flame. And Lord Michael did the strangest thing, reaching out, with his hand cupped. She sensed the spell in the hand, but didn’t recognize it. His hand reached behind Fifi’s head and petted it.

The dragonette turned an eye towards him and blinked, and that eye caught all the reflections in the environment, so it looked iridescent. “Oh,” she said. “It’s beautiful. But I thought he’d be grown up.”

Michael looked at her and raised an eyebrow. “Fifi is a he?”

“Aaron likes the name Fifi. He names almost all his animals Fifi.”

“I see.”

“What…. what did you use? We didn’t know how to stop him burning the curtains. Only when he was with Aaron he wasn’t destructive. The rest of the time….”

“I see.” Lord Michael scratched Fifi behind the little holes that Al thought were its ears. Fifi crooned, then perched on Michael’s shoulder and headbumped his chin.

“Is it…. what magic did you use?”

“Just a spell to make him feel safe.”

“Why is he here?”

And then they heard it. It was the trumpeting of a swan, and turning around Michael said, “Geoff?”

But the dragonette flew off Lord Michael’s shoulder to sit on the swan and at any rate, Al didn’t need it to, to know the swan, coming solemnly down the road towards them was, in fact, not Geoff but Aaron. It was the way he moved, the way he squared his shoulders.

And that’s when she realized she could understand exactly what he was saying with his Trumpeting, “Al, thank heavens. I’m starving!”

“Oh, you poor thing,” Al said, going to meet him, and hugging him awkwardly, because, even though he was larger than Geoff, he was still a swan, and so not human sized. “I suppose there’s nothing here you can eat? Or perhaps nothing here you want to eat?”

He trumpeted back, and it was obvious he was saying, “Nothing I could eat. It’s dangerous.”

“I see,” she said.

And then turning to Lord Michael. “Can we give him some of the cake, and perhaps some of the bread, and also, I think some water? He’s hungry.”

Lord Michael blinked. “You understand the language of the birds?”

“No, just my brothers,” she said, and thinking about it. “It’s his expression and…. the way he trumpets, you know….”

They fed Aaron, and then suddenly in the middle of eating, he gave a very startled squawk that made Fifi fly out.

And Aaron ran. He ran behind a tree, and there was some very odd rustling, before he emerged, wearing a suit that looked much the worst for the wear but was recognizably one of the suits the boys had had at home.

Oh, he was also human. Which was a good thing, because if he were a swan the suit would fit really oddly. “Al,” he said, and ran his hand back through hair that was much too long. He also had stubble. Well, frankly, an unruly over all beard. “You shouldn’t have come.”

“Well, that’s some fine way to thank me,” she said.

“No, you don’t understand,” he said. “I came out and I was …. captured by the first task I was asked to do.”

“Oh,” Lord Michael said. It wasn’t a question, but he made it sound like a question, anyway.

Aaron looked at him, then at Al, and Al realized that she had completely foregone introductions. Mama would kill her, if she knew. She hurried through the introduction, and Aaron looked confused. “Lord Michael,” he said. “I don’t know–“

“Too long a story to tell you,” he said. “If I understand you, like your brothers and father are under a spell where only one of you can be human at a time. So. you say you got stymied by the first challenge. Will you tell us what it is?”

Aaron bowed, then shrugged, then led them down the road, at a fast trot. A path led off from the one they’d started off on. He said “This is how you know you can leave.”

Al was conscious of Lord Michael doing something she wasn’t sure what, but she knew it was to determine that Aaron was who he appeared to be. He seemed to be satisfied, as he followed after Aaron.

The path climbed a steep hill. At the top of it, there was a castle. “In this castle,” Aaron said. “There lives a king, who has no servants and who is trapped in this pocket universe. He cannot return to his own world until all the wheat in these fields,” he gestured to acres vanishing into the distance. “Is bread in his larder. Until all the fish in that river,” he said, pointing to a creek running by. “Is smoked and stored in his pantry. And until all the game in that forest,” he pointed to the other side of the mountainn. “Is also smoked and salted and stored.” Aaron’s shoulders slumped. “I tried. I really did. but I could not do it. I kept changing into a swan, and I couldn’t even eat any of the food from here.” He looked on the verge of tears. “So, I’ve been stuck here, and unable to go on and save our father!”

Al looked around, and then she too felt like crying. “I don’t think it’s possible,” she said.

But Michael smiled. “Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “I have an idea.”

Instruments

This is going to be a very religious post, and you’ll have to excuse me. I normally don’t talk about my religion, partly because more and more, like others who belong to mainline churches I feel betrayed and besmirched by what those institutions have become.

Partly because though I am religious, I believe we’re supposed to live in this world in the light of reason and facts. If it were not so, we’d be given other perceptions and other ability.

I don’t mean to imply that only the material matters, obviously, since humans are far more than material. Sometimes it’s almost as if we’re stories being moved around by all too fleshy bodies. But we are fleshy too, we are…. well…. great (or pretty darn good) apes. And it’s important to remember that.

But sometimes, living in the world, you can’t help the feeling something else is going on. Something you can’t quite put a finger on. Oh, perhaps it’s all the deceit of our hindsight, our flawed natures. And perhaps it’s not.

I’m going to start by telling you that when I first heard Obama talk about how we stood “on the precipice” of great achievement I felt that. And it wasn’t good.

You see, a precipice is a great chasm, a bottomless pit. Though the establishment immediately went into overdrive to picture precipice as summit, and I’ve seen other people use it that way since, I believe he meant it exactly as chasm. He meant to take us down a deep hole from which we’d never recover.

Did he mean to say it?

Well…. Let’s be real, shall we? What else would we expect? He was raised in hatred of the US both by his mother and his grandparents. And he wanted to “undo everything Reagan did.” He told us so. No matter how much he dissembled, or what he said to try to woo people (and honestly, he didn’t, really. Our media just lied, lied and lied again, same as they’re doing for their current great hopes.) he hated America. What he wanted to undo was Reagan winning the cold war, which bruised the ego of his family, who had thrown their lot in with the USSR and viewed themselves as superior because of it. Out of that wounded prided, he wanted to revile America and extol and elevate the communist dictatorships of the world. Remember his fan-girling at the Venezuelan dictator? The Reset button with Russia? Or– well, in China he just continued the policies that Clinton started and Bush helped along. (And perhaps it is time to remember that Bush’s own daughter says Bush and Clinton are “like brothers.” The media also doesn’t report much on that.)

I believe when people are possessed of a strong feeling, a strong belief, it comes through. Precipice was the word it came through.

Biden and Harris are just the continuation of that. They want us reviled and dragged in the mire. In Biden’s case, I suspect because “he’s so far gone over” that he can’t stand that everyone else isn’t embroiled in betrayal and filled with rot. He wants to destroy the country, because there is just enough goodness in us to make him feel bad about what he’s become, what he is.

They hate us, they really hate us.

Harris… I confess when Amanda Green read her book and reported on it, just reading the excerpts filled me with a sort of creepy crawly feeling at the back of my spine.

There is in her the same feel there was in Obama. In her, in fact, they have chosen the form of America’s executioner.

And they can’t help in telling us what they intend for us. The Green New Deal, something of no value whatsoever to ecology or the Earth (all the predictions of the global warmists have been as accurate as the predictions of the covidiots. I’m not impressed. Science is predictive, or it’s garbage.) but which they’ve confessed will allow them to bring America “under control.” Specifically, under their control.

And then there’s Trump….

Four years ago, at this time, I was still not sure I could vote for him. Part of it was a great big disinformation campaign which appeared to support him, while writing the most vile things in comments on blogs I frequented. There’s a lot fewer of those, I suspect, because it didn’t work last time. But also possibly because last time he attracted the support of a lot of Bernie bros who just wanted to see the world burn, and who thought that they could get that by endorsing Trump. And who, bizarrely, tried to impersonate conservatives by saying the things the media tells them we believe. I knew a few of those. Most have grown up and become mature human beings who actually see hope now.

I’m not going to tell you Trump is a wonderful human being. Though he seems to be far cleaner than we could expect anyone ever engaged in 20th century business to be.

I heard from very religious (not to say offbeat and cultish) that Trump had been sent from G-d to save us, and I snort-giggled. Partly because, surely G-d could have chosen someone more accomplished?

And then I spent four years watching this man, this flawed, not very suave man, endure things I can’t even imagine. I broke, for the last six years. I broke under far less pressure than he’s taken, and for far smaller stakes.

He was betrayed by our deeply infiltrated governmental apparatus, reviled by all our organs of communication, survived two coup attempts, and over the last year has presided over a nation that the media and the left (but I repeat myself) have driven insane, deliberately and with malice aforethought. They’ve done this for the sake of no greater good than taking control of us, and our wealth, and hiding their own deep evil and shame. He’s survived at least two coup attempts engineered by his own government, and the deployment of Antifa, Obama’s own brown shirts, in an attempt to destroy everything he accomplished.

And yet, he keeps on.

Steve is a friend. He was also, like me, profoundly ambivalent four years ago.

I must apologize to my very religious friends. You were right. I was wrong. Partly because I didn’t realize how far off course we had gotten, how badly wounded the nation I loved was, how penetrated by those who hate her, and who will betray everything in her for the sake of…. I don’t even know? The respect of the left, who command the heights of money and academic/intellectual power? Surely those of them who are not completely stupid can’t help seeing how hollow both of those are.

Anyway, this morning, thinking about what Steve said in that post, I remembered other men who were deeply, deeply flawed but who brought their country through as it should be, and survived as Trump has. Because His hand was on them. (Solomon and David, to be exact.)

They weren’t perfect, but they fought greater evil.

What Trump is fighting is nothing less than a world plan to have us all under the foot of one hegemon: China.

China, with the help and cooperation of disappointed communists and those they corrupted with money (not mutually exclusive, btw. Ego will cause people to do things even money won’t.) has been taking over the world while America slept.

And China is… China. With an added flip of Fascism. Frankly, in China human life has always been cheap, and there’s no such thing as regard for the individual. They took to fascism like ducks to water, and everything Nazi Germany did, they’ve done more of and worse. And are still doing it, while the trained seals in our press, paid by them, applaud in unison.

I don’t know what the never Trumpers expect. Yesterday, on Facebook, I was tagged in the post of an idiot saying Hunter Biden didn’t matter, and repeating a lot of Trump “scandals” which are mostly scandals in the left’s mind.

I don’t know what they expect. I don’t understand how people who can tell the struggle we’re engaged in, can, nonetheless, say they won’t vote for Trump. There is “principled” and there is insanity.

Sure, Trump is flawed. Deeply so. Although to my knowledge he’s never had a woman’s husband killed so he could marry her, which frankly I think people who consider themselves Christian would recognize.

We are fallen beings and live in peculiarly fallen times. I realized sometime ago, that though I believed, I behaved in daily life as if I didn’t. I’ve been trying to change that with mixed success. It is not easy.

People get twisted by the times they live in. Frankly if Trump were a flawless saint, or an inspired prophet, I’d want to know who was playing us.

But he’s not. He’s just right on the main struggle of our times. On the fight between the idea of human liberty, individual freedom, and the regime that butchered Hong Kong, that rapes women, kills people because of their beliefs, and generally despises anyone not of a specific ethnicity.

At the crossroads of humanity, Trump, such as he is, is the champion for the side of the Light. I’ve mentioned before the Author has a sense of humor, right?

It doesn’t mean if he wins, he won’t put a foot wrong. It doesn’t mean I’ll agree with everything he does. It just means he will give us time, a little bit of time, to see things clearly, to survive a little longer, to perhaps get through this.

But the choice is stark, unavoidable and clear. I have no patience whatsoever with anyone who sees it and yet thinks they can’t vote for Trump. Because to them is not worth it to save us from falling down Obama’s bottomless precipice, if we’re not going to be transported immediately to paradise with trumpets and angels.

Perhaps Trump can offer us no more than blood, sweat and tears. But what is the other side even CLAIMING to offer?

If you didn’t follow the link above, read this:

The people who claim to be “saving” “the soul” of America do not believe in the values that made America the beacon of the world. They do not in fact believe America is good. They look around at the horrors of human history, the horrors of the rest of the world, and wish they could make us more like THAT. Because they see themselves as the fat, catered to overlords of that hellish landscape.

We don’t have a functional press, or America would recoil from the corruption, the vile sewer of betrayal, of graft, of grosser indulgences of the left.

We haven’t had a functional education system for a long time, so our young people believe in “democracy.”

And e have an army of fraudsters ready to do what they need to install these corrupt serfs of an enemy power (note they don’t go to the countries they admire. Their goal is to bring us down.) and a bevy of complacent utopians, both right and left, who think they can throw in with the corruption by omission and commission and that their lives will go on, pretty much as it’s been. (Among the many things our schools don’t teach is an understanding of economics. Or for that matter of cause and effect. And they haven’t a long time.) They choose not to vote, to vote third party, or to vote for Biden, even as though this were a game. 2020 and the lunatic lockdowns and casual takings of people’s lives and livelihoods by democrat governors have revealed nothing to them. Some, poor sheep, are disappointed the government hasn’t “done more” to somehow make them perfectly safe.

I don’t want them to find out how wrong they are, or how swiftly they can tumble down that precipice. I don’t want them to, because it would mean the loss of everything I love and unending hell for those I care for and who do not deserve this (and even some who do.)

Against this precipice, with arms outstretched, stands a very unlikely band. Trump, and maybe a half dozen other people. And us. And there isn’t hell of a lot we can do, you and I, which has been eating at me since March, since I realized the left was willing to destroy the country to rule it. Not piecemeal destruction, as they’d been doing, but utter, irrevocable destruction. Just for power.

I can’t convince you the situation is as dire as I say. Nothing can. I can only say if we fail to defeat the left this time, if we fail to defeat the margin of fraud, you’ll find out. But I hope you don’t.

All I can say is all our petty disputes are dwarfed by what these people intend for us. Kind of like the troubles of 2019 are dwarfed by the river of sh*t poured on us in 2020.

And yeah, I wish we had an angel come from heaven to defend us. We don’t. We have, for the love of heaven, Donald Trump. And honestly, I’m starting to believe he is far, far better than we deserve or have the right to hope for.

If of G-d’s kind mercy, we get another 4 years, use them as best you can in fighting at whatever level you can: educating, speaking out, working.

Time is short, and night comes fast.

May G-d have mercy on our souls.

Wild Hair

It wasn’t like her to have a wild hair day. It simply wasn’t.

Rahel had been a compliant child and was a well behaved adult. And if sometimes she was a little impatient with herself, if she felt lonely or locked into a life that was predictable and ordered and dutiful, at least she was safe.

Being safe had been her goal since she was very young, and since mom had told her what happened. And what her father had been.

So the last thing she expected herself to do was dye her hair a strange and artificial gold. And she’d never be able to explain it. It was, she supposed, a combination of things. For one, two days before, she’d found a white hair amid her mousy brown mane. Not that it mattered. Why should it matter? She supposed at 28 she was not so young. Women in the middle ages would be dead by her time of life, right?

But the white hair had bothered her. Like it was unfair. White hairs should come when one had lived a long life and done a lot of things, not when all one had done was study and work, live at home, and then in a very clean apartment in the big city.

So she’d put her hair up, as she always did, and pinned it, but it seemed to her like it screamed for attention from the mirror.

It didn’t, of course, and even if her hair went white overnight, like Marie Antoinette’s was said to have, it didn’t matter, because she worked from home. She’d moved to the city mostly …. well, mostly because it was easier to be alone and to keep to herself in the city than to be alone and keep to herself in the small town she’d grown up in.

If what mom had said was right, sooner or later, people back at home would notice. They had already noticed that she had stopped dating in 10th grade, and distanced herself from all her friends.

No one noticed in the city. The neighbors probably wouldn’t even notice if she dropped dead. Part of the reason she didn’t even have a cat — besides the fact she was afraid she’d go weird and turn the cat into a frog or something — was that she didn’t want her cat to eat her, which seemed to be the inevitable conclusion of someone who lived alone dying. As was, she wasn’t absolutely sure that fate or luck or something wouldn’t conjure up a cat out of nowhere to eat her, should she die in her 22nd floor apartment.

And perhaps that too was part of the reasons she’d bought the hair dye. After a long day of scientific translation — it paid well, and it was easy, but it didn’t do much for those parts of her mind that weren’t fully rational and logic — and catching glimpses of that bright white hair in her reflection on the window, she’d gone to the grocery store for food. Because, of course, she’d run out of food that day. The heat-and-eat dinners that she bought by the month-supply and of which she was supposed to have ten left had mysteriously vanished, leaving her freezer empty.

She glared at the empty freezer for a while, then put on jeans and a sweatshirt and ran to the grocery store two blocks away. Really ran, because the weather had turned unexpectedly cold . Well, maybe not unexpectedly, since it was Denver and it was October. But it had been in the seventies last time she’d been out of the house, and now it was …. felt like twenties.

She ran all the way, thinking she’d come out and buy a proper amount later. She’d just grab frozen pizza or something.

And on the way to the frozen pizza — rushing across the store amid couples shopping with their kids, and singles who seemed to be giving the eye to each other more than the food, she found herself, inexplicably, in the hair dye isle, and staring at a box that promised “Metallic golden sheen.”

How the box happened to be in the bag with the frozen pizza by the time she got home, she’d never be fully able to explain. But while the pizza was baking, she thought, well, if she was going to have white hairs soon, shouldn’t she have really extraordinary golden hair? Just once in her life?

And after eating half the pizza — it wasn’t very big — she found herself in her tiny bathroom, fooling around with malodorous chemicals, and an hour and a half later her hair was gold. No, really gold, like it had been spun from pyrite, which always seemed more gold than real gold.

She stared at herself, in the mirror, mouth half-open. It wasn’t that it was ugly, precisely. What it was, wasn’t natural. And it certainly wasn’t …. right. Not for Rahel. She’d always been the sort of girl who tied her hair back, who didn’t wear makeup, who didn’t call attention to herself.

Because after all, anyone who got close, other than mom, might notice she wasn’t quite human.

Now she had a golden mane, sparkling and catching the light, and it made her small, pale face look smaller and paler.

She glared at herself in the mirror, and tied her hair back, as she always did, and went to bed.

There was a storm, during the night. Nothing surprising there, of course. It was Colorado, and it was fall. But as she woke up in the morning, she could swear she heard, amid the howling of the wind, and the tap-tap of the snow and hail against her window, a voice crying out, very faintly “Rahel, Rahel, throw down your golden hair.”

This both made her giggle, and annoyed her. She didn’t like fairy tales, anyway. And of all the fairy tales she despised Rapunzel the most. Partly because it was so insanely non-sensical. What kind of person would let anyone — let alone a full grown man — climb up an endless tower on their hair? It would hurt.

She ate a cold slice of pizza for breakfast, and washed it down with tea. With the cold outside, she didn’t even bother dressing. She wasn’t going anywhere today. Instead, she put a robe on over her fluffy slippers and sat down to finish the research on a new kind of ceramic that she was translating from German to English.

As the night started falling, she heard it again — even though the wind had gone quiet — “Rahel, Rahel, throw down your golden hair.”

She went to the window, then, and looked down her building. Which wasn’t exactly easy to do. It had to be done sideways and at an angle, since of course, she couldn’t look straight down.

The snow was still falling, and with the street lights sparkling on it, it was hard to actually see anything very clearly, but she was sure — she would always be sure — that there was a man, climbing up the glass wall, looking much like a cartoon spiderman. Except that he wasn’t wearing the suit and that — she swore — he waved up at her. Even though he must be 10 floors down.

She frowned at him, and closed the curtains. She had the rest of the pizza for dinner, and then went to bed.

The morning was calmer, still cold looking, and she woke up to a voice, now more distinct “Rahel, Rahel, throw down your golden hair.”

Well, okay, it was probably hallucinations, because she hadn’t eaten in much too long. Or she hadn’t eaten anything but pizza. Not that this was unusual. But obviously as you got old enough to have white hairs, you couldn’t skip meals.

She showered and dressed, and put her hair up, but it didn’t look right. That mass of golden hair, and her small, pale face.

She looked through the drawers thinking she might have some blush from when she’d come to town for the interview. She didn’t really like makeup, and she didn’t think she looked particularly good in it — it tended to look ridiculous and artificial — so she was surprised to find she had not a little box of blush, but a full make up kit. Thinking about it, she could dimly remember having bought it because she was in a hurry and it was the only thing available at the store where she’d stopped.

Tentatively she applied blush, and was surprised because it looked natural. Really natural. Just better, so that … well, it went with the hair. Next thing she knew, she’d applied eyeshadow and mascara and some lipstick, though really, it was more like lip gloss.

She glared at herself in the mirror, because it didn’t look like her. It didn’t look bad, though. Just like a complete stranger.

She grabbed her winter coat from the closet, but didn’t pull up the hood, and as she walked to the grocery store, she saw that the diner she usually passed at a run was only half full — not full to the door as it usually was — and thought: why not?

Part of it might have been the smell of breakfast and the fact that she was really, really hungry.

Sitting at the table, in the corner, she ordered breakfast, and wished she’d brought a book. That’s what she usually did on the rare occasions she ate out. She brought a book, and read it, and that kept people from approaching her.

But she’d forgotten to bring a book, which is why she looked around and realized there was someone staring at her. He was tall and dark, and blunt featured. And he was holding a book in his hand, but he was staring at her like he’d never seen a woman before.

She knew she’d put the makeup on all wrong or something. She probably looked ridiculous.

Just then her eggs and pancakes arrived, and she ate in a hurry, then got to the supermarket and bought — rather blindly — some fruit and bread, and a dozen eggs and some milk.

By the time she got to the apartment, her phone started ringing in her pocket.

I was mom and Rahel talked to her, while putting things away. “No, mom,” she said, as she’d been saying every week, for a year. “I’m not seeing anyone. I promise I won’t. And no, I haven’t turned anyone into a frog by accident.”

Mom squawked on the other side that she’d said nothing about turning people into frogs, and that she never said anything about that nonsense magic, and that–

But the truth was that it was little more than what she said. All about dad’s amazing, near-supernatural attractiveness to the opposite sex, and how he couldn’t help being the way he was because he was so stunningly beautiful, and had something near irresistible, and how Rahel needed to be careful, because she’d likely inherited it.

Mom was still saying it, of course, “You know, it’s just I don’t want you to end up having relationships with people and breaking their hearts, and promising more than you can give, and–“

It was the old sermon all over again, first brought up and unrolled when she’d been dating Bobby in tenth grade.

“Oh, Bobby Smith,” mom said, suddenly out of the blue. “Remember him?” And interpreting Rahel’s mumble as assent. “His wife just had their third kid.”

Just for that, because she felt inexplicably resentful, but also because frankly she didn’t want to put up with another sermon, Rahel didn’t tell mom about the hair and makeup.

Instead she worked and had some dinner, and spent some time in front of the mirror brushing her golden hair, before going to bed. The weird thing was even after she washed her face, she still looked like the golden hair belonged. Maybe that was all the young man in the diner had been looking at.

She was reading a very boring — well recommended — book before bed when she heard it, clearer and much nearer “Rahel, Rahel, throw down your golden hair!”

She ran to the window and threw open the curtains, and he was there. And he couldn’t be there, because it made no sense. Men do not climb the glass faces of buildings to knock at the window of single ladies, just because they saw them a few tables away, in the diner.

But he was there, knocking at the window, with a big grin on his face, and she could see his lips form the words, “Rahel, Rahel, throw down your golden hair.”

She closed the curtains, ran to the bed and sat huddled, trying to figure out if she should call 911. But what would she tell them? “Some guy climbed my building and is outside the window of the twenty second floor?” They’d think she was doing drugs.

She went to the window again, and peered around the curtain. And of course, there was no one there. She must have dreamed it. But the snow had picked up again, and it howled outside.

She sighed. Well, at least she had food. But she had trouble sleeping that night. Everything kept coming back to her, and suddenly, as if she’d both always known it, and it were a nrew and startling idea, realized that she was lonely. Very lonely.

Dad had left when she was what? Four? Five? And she’d never really bonded with mom.

Mom wasn’t mean or cruel, or anything like that. Rahel figured out early on, mom was just hurt. She’d been really upset when dad had left like that. It was all part of living in a small town. Dad had blown in out of nowhere, and mom had married him, and then he’d disappeared. And everyone in town said she should have known better than marrying a stranger.

Mom said he’d left her for another woman. That he’d had affairs all the time they’d been married. And that it was because he was so fatally attractive. She said Rahel was too — though Rahel had never seen it in herself — and that she shouldn’t trifle with young men, because she couldn’t be faithful and it was better not to break anyone’s heart.

Which was why Rahel had broken up with Bobby. Good Lord, they’d never even kissed. Just held hands and talked about books.

She realized she very much wanted someone to hold hands and talk about books. Was that so terrible? Was it because she was too much like dad?

In the morning, she had time. The job she’d been doing was ahead of schedule, because she’d been working late — probably because the current book was really tiresome — and she thought she’d look up dad’s name, see if she could find pictures.

She did. Online. Not recent pictures, but some pictures of himself as a young man — though he was online even now. Or at lest she found a facebook account with the same name — and she did not look like him at all. If anything she looked like mom. Not that she looked a lot like mom.

As a young man, dad looked like…. Well, his name was Earnest Prinz. And he looked like the Disney version of a fairytale prince. Though the hair was not quite as dorky. He was blue eyed, and had golden hair, and the broad shoulders and narrow waist of a cartoon character.

Looking at the pictures, she thought she heard a knocking on her window and the distant calling “Rahel, Rahel, throw down your golden hair” but ignored it.

Instead, she friended her dad on facebook, which required of course making p an account. And sent him a message saying “I know you probably don’t even remember me–“

She got back an answer before she was done typing, “Rahel! Is it really you?”

A quick exchange of texts. He swore he didn’t know she was even alive. He’d looked for her. He’d even hired a detective. But they couldn’t find her, and mom had told him Rahel had died.

There were strange things in what he said. Almost as weird as mom’s. Like his saying that he might not have hired the best detective, “Because I’m not sure about those things in your world.” And also “It wouldn’t be weird if you’d died, because you know, our kind sometimes does, there.”

But he’d said he had the facebook account simply to talk to her, and that if she just waited, he’d come and see her.

“You live in Denver?” she asked.

“No, but I can be there in minutes.”

Because she wasn’t sure — yes, he was her father, but he was also a stranger — she arranged to meet him at the botanic gardens, despite the snow.

She didn’t even mind the snow that much, as she stood in the deserted Japanese gardens and saw him approach. There was something strange about his attire, like he was trying to look mundane, but couldn’t quite manage it. His clothes looked…. too new, his hair too perfect. Maybe that was all mom meant.

“You look like your grandmother Titania,” he said.

“My grandmother’s name was Titania. Maybe I can turn people to frogs.”

He smiled uneasily. After a while he asked what her mother had told her about him, about herself.

“But we are magical, Rahel. Your mom was afraid of it. She was afraid the magic would manifest. You see, this is not the only world. There is a place… You can call it fairyland if it makes you feel better.” The story was fantastic, unimaginable. “I should never have married your mother. But I fell in love with her. And then she …. she couldn’t accept it. And I wasn’t very good at this world. There aren’t many jobs for elf-prince. Well, maybe movies, but that’s not the point.”

Rahel would like to think he was insane. But the thing was, dad, and she was sure he was dad, wasn’t young, but he wasn’t old. There was this feeling of eternity around him.

“But I’m not like you,” Rahel said. “I’m just human. I had a white hair!”

“I think you made yourself have white hairs. No, I’m not going to argue. I know it’s hard for people like you to believe in fairyland. But you need to be who you are. You’re at odds with the world because you don’t let yourself be who you are.”

He didn’t ask to meet her again, though he said anytime. And Rahel went back home, sure it was all insane.

Later, she stood in front of the mirror and thought about letting herself be who she really was. How did one even do that? But she could feel as if there had been…. something over her thoughts, something heavy.

Perhaps dad was right. Or perhaps he was just crazy. Not that mom was particularly sane either. But perhaps it was time to be her, and not who her parents said she was.

It seemed to her, suddenly, she looked quite different.

She brushed her hair, and tied it back, and then she thought she’d send dad a picture of the hairdye box, so she could show him it was just dye. Because he kept saying her hair was just like her grandmother Titania’s.

The thing was the box had disappeared. I was completely gone. Not in the bathroom trash, and not in the kitchen trash, and she hadn’t taken it out, and she didn’t have a cleaning service.

She did some work, and went to bed. As she was falling asleep, someone knocked at the door. Which was strange, because she had a doorbell. Weirder, as she reached for the light switch, nothing happened.

She put on a robe and went to the door, and there, looking worried, was the young man from the diner. “Hi, I’m John. I live next door. Something blew in the building, and they’re trying to figure out which apartment caused it.”

She’d never have let him in, of course, but there were other men, and they had IDs from the electric company, and anyway the hallways were full of people looking around, people she remembered seeing before.

They found the short, eventually. The lights up on the roof terrace had blown. Probably too much snow, the guys said.

And John had seen her back to her apartment, and stood, and cleared his throat, “Would you– You wouldn’t–That is…. breakfast? Tomorrow?”

They’d had breakfast, and then other breakfasts. And they’d held hands and gone to the movies and talked about books.

Eventually he’d asked if it wouldn’t be a good idea if they got married, and she tried to explain what mother had told her, and what father had told her. And he hadn’t laughed. He hadn’t called a psychiatrist only. He’d held her hand and said, “To me you are magical. And that’s a good thing.”

Her hair never went back to mousy brown. In fact, she couldn’t find a picture of herself with mousy brown hair, and all the kids — three boys and two girls — had the same bright gold hair.

And she could never find her dad’s account on facebook, again. A year after being married, she got a text with his name that said, “you made your choice.”

And she had. Mother came around eventually and stopped giving Rahel that strange look, like she expected Rahel to turn people into frogs. And she never gave it to the kids.

John always said Rahel was magical, but he didn’t seem to see anything wrong with that.

Her hair did, eventually, go white. But it didn’t matter at all, when John held her in his arms and whispered in her ear, “Rahel, Rahel, let down your golden hair.”