Monday, April 18, 2011
"What have you to report, Sir Liam?" the king's words sounded more patient than was to be expected.
The knight, who had watched the floor since entering the room, faced his king, though not so courageous as to meet eyes, and unable to find the words dropped his head once more, like a man on a noose. Perhaps he was rehearsing his inevitable reward for failing King Marcus.
Slowly, but lacking any patience now, King Marcus persisted, "What have you to report of the blasphemer? Have you found him?"
Sir Liam answered to the stones at his feet, "Yes, my Lord."
Like thunder from a clear sky, "You will look at me when I ask you to address me!" King Marcus demanded.
"Yes, my Lord," he replied. One who did not know of his greatness might have believed those to be tears swelling in the eyes of Sir Liam the Bold. Impossible.
"I believe there was to be a pike with his head when you returned to me. Where is the head of the blasphemer?"
"It is here your majesty." He thought better of whatever he had considered saying after this, and closed up tightly with a resonating gulp.
"I am not a man with time for puzzles, Sir Liam. I believe you to be wise enough to know that. So I will give you one last chance; bring me his head." He stared through Sir Liam's eyes into the softest spot within him, and squeezed it as though wringing its juices. The room had fallen so silent that it seemed to shake the walls as the king whispered, his words sizzling like a cannon fuse, "Now!"
The knight trotted quickly from the chamber like a guilty puppy, and moments later returned, the blasphemer leading the way, his still-attached head held high. He was an old man with a long grey beard, and soft hazel eyes. He looked pious, dignified, and above all, unnervingly calm.
King Marcus swelled to his feet, roaring, "How dare you bring this villain into my chamber! Knights! Seize him!"
The knights, some dozen posted about the room like tapestries, did not move.
"Your majesty, if I may..." spoke the old man.
"You may NOT!" The king's eyes could have lit torches.
"Tell him!" shouted one of the faceless knights, safely behind the visor of his full set of armor.
Sir Liam spoke reluctantly, "Your majesty, he is no blasphemer. What he says is true: he is a sorcerer."
The king forgot every word in his vocabulary in the wake of being contradicted, for what he was convinced was the first time in his life.
"We found him in the tavern, had him surrounded. He didn't even flinch, sire. He looked in my face as calm as I've ever seen a man and he says 'No need for that,' and he pushed away my blade. It was like I couldn't control my own body anymore. And he says to me, 'Have a drink at my courtesy.' Then ..." the knight looked to the ground once more, scanning to see if maybe that's where he had dropped his courage. Not one scrap anywhere to be found, he looked up, his eyes apologizing for what he was about to say, "Your majesty, he ... He reached up and ... he pulled a gold coin out of my ear. As I live and breathe your highness, I've not seen a sight like it in all my days."
The king looked about the room for any sign of sanity, but every person stood still. No outrage at the preposterous statement. No objection from any of these knights, each a member of a swift channel of gossip by which the story no doubt had already traveled in great detail.
"If you are," the king challenged, and then continued as though vomiting the words, "some sort of sorcerer..." He spread his hands, presenting the floor to his unwelcome guest.
The strange man took several casual steps toward the king, as though on a stretch of his evening constitutional. As he reached in his robe, the chink of swords flying from sheaths poured over the room. But none was so brave as to step toward the reputed wizard.
He withdrew his hand slowly, as if he'd not heard the blades calling for his blood, and revealed a thick stack of stiff squares of parchment, bound by a small ribbon. He tugged one end of the string and let it fall to the floor, looked the fearful king in the eyes and spoke with a mystic lightness, "Pick a card. Any card."
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
It would be easy enough for me to say, "Well, it was snowing for God's sake!" Or, I could say, "I would have picked up anyone," or "How could I know who she was?" That's ridiculous of course, to not know who she was, professionally speaking. And, while the other two attempts might be honest, let's face it, anyone knows why I picked her up. Anyone but me, I suppose
Farrel, she told me was her name. I'd seen her on the billboard out near the airport. You know, the one with the lady in a top hat, lying lengthwise so that the dimples of her lower back stop midway off the right side of the board? If you'd seen it you'd know it.
I'd never been to that particular establishment. But, even if I hadn't seen that sign before, I could have ventured a guess at who--I just don't feel comfortable saying "what"--she was; there just aren't too many ladies going down that street who aren't visiting one of the intimate apparel shops or... well, working. And--I figure this was the kicker--she was wearing a latex naughty nurse uniform. A white little number that didn't completely cover her rump and a top that didn't completely cover anything, and of course a nurse's hat that read "Head Nurse." Cute.
So, I pulled alongside the snow-banked curb, rolled down the passenger window and asked if she needed a ride. She hurriedly accepted.
"What the hell is your problem?" my wife nearly bit my ear off as I leaned over her to offer; a rather uncharitable nature, I thought.
"Wha-at?" I defended feebly. "There's room... right kids?"
Saturday, April 2, 2011
"Forty-eight years is a life time, and this company, Mr. Holderman, will forever be reflective of that life you gave it." I had been petrified when they asked me to conduct Mr. Holderman's retirement presentation, but I was the only one with any real media editing knowledge, and not a body in the firm had ever been the stand-up-in-front-of -people type; that's why we lived in cubicles.I wish so many things, given the advantage of retrospect, but chief among those is the simplest: pick any other moment in my entire life to turn around to face the screen instead of the audience.
I had stepped beside him and placed my hand on his shoulder. Suddenly, possessed by the feeling that this was going so much better than anticipated -- a terrible, terrible mistake, every single time -- I paused after a solemn, crowd hushing remark, and faced the video montage projected on the wall.
Then a horrific little creature I remember vividly from my grade school days, bunched up behind my belly button and gave me a catastrophically resonant inner-raspberry, as my backside stared, dormant yet guilty looking, right over dear Mr. Holderman's shoulder.