Not actually a #BayWriteClub submission: A response to a dragon-moved-into-your-neighborhood writing prompt

The dragon’s voice barked defensively out of the darkness. “You don’t tell me what I can and can’t do!”

Nick answered aggressively, “No, you tell you that. It was you who told us when we first arrived here why you don’t leave your cave, why you don’t hunt any more,” but his voice betrayed a hint of fear.

“Hundred of years!” the dragon answered. “Hundreds I’ve been cooped up in here!” And a roar and a burst of fire lit his corner of the cave, and Nick and Dora saw a flash of Dimclaxadon, horrible in his agitation, the royal blue scales of his crown black in his own read light.

“I don’t–” Nick started, but he faltered, startled. “I don’t–” he began again, but he couldn’t find the words.

“You put yourself in here,” Dora answered, as calmly as she could, as if she were reassuring a friend. This was only her and Nick’s third visit to the cave, and neither had ever seen him in such an agitated state. “You keep yourself out of sight. You hide from the humans,” Dora said plaintively, hoping to elicit some reason and self-control.

The humans,” Dimclaxadon sneered. “And what of you humans?” he asked with contempt, his head leaving the shadows of the darkest corner for the first time since Nick and Dora’s arrival, his eye a cruel slit that put fear in Dora’s heart. She gasped and clutched a hand to her chest, and Nick stumbled and fell over backwards onto the cave’s stone floor, and he scrambled backwards quickly, his eyes wide.

This time Dora faltered: “We–” she said, but her racing heart had frozen her mind, and suddenly all she wanted to do was grab Nick and leave the cave. Then, as quick as his head had emerged, Dimclaxadon’s eye softened, and his head fell to the floor at his feet. “I–” he stammered. “I’m sorry,” he said at last. Dora’s heart skipped a beat as if it couldn’t decide whether to calm down or take her out of the shallow cave. “I–” he started again. “I’m… restless.”

Nick got to his feet and placed a dirty hand on Dora’s shoulder. He gripped her warningly, and she could sense his strong unspoken suggestion that they leave. They had discussed their fears at home after the first visit, but after leaving unscathed that time, they had returned, and now they had returned again, even more confident. But Dimclaxadon inspired fear in them anew. He was fearful to behold, a towering fifteen feet tall, and since they’d never seen him in the light, they didn’t know his full length, but they knew enough: a dragon, larger than them and firebreathing, worthy of fear and awe.

“Humans,” Dimclaxadon said accusingly, “and their guns.” He inhaled a long, rattling breath and sighed. “Sometimes the price of safety is more than I can stand.” Then he fell to the ground in a great clamor as his scales shifted and rippled. Dust and dirt flew about the cave, blasting abrassively into Nick and Dora’s eyes and against their skin.

“It was always assumed that we were magical,” Dimclaxadon said sadly with another sigh. “No swords, no spear, no arrow could pierce us, and though there were never many of us, we roamed the world fearlessly. “I don’t know how many of us still are, but I know some of us have died, and we never knew death before.” He had fallen again into moping, which was the state Nick and Dora knew best. “I live here on deer and bear and dog, too afraid to take humans or what they count too closely.”

Dimclaxadon’s head had fallen within ten feet of Nick and Dora, eyes closed. She approached him and kneeled down next to him and placed a hand on his head. Nick had given her one last meaningful squeeze as she left his grip.

“It’s you,” Dimclaxadon said thickly. “Your arrival has woken something in me that I haven’t felt since I fled the world.” He sighed deeply again, and the heat of his breath brushed over her leg and made her wince as she pulled it away instinctively from the corner of his mouth.

She asked, “What is it? What makes you so restless now when you’ve stayed here hidden so long?”

“Respect?” he asked. “Fear?” he asked next. He breathed deep and sighed again finally, and Dora heard a conclusion made in the sound. “The smell of you,” he said without a questioning inflection. Then he said with an unmistakeable note of bitter anger, “I have power.”

Dora had backed away from him as he spoke, and she now felt distinctly threatened and began to turn to Nick to leave, but the dragon’s head lurched towards Dora and knocked her backwards. Her legs flew in the air as she tumbled, and he bit her, ripping her body apart at the pelvis, and her bones cracked between his teeth as she screamed, but the noise petered and stopped quickly, and he dropped her lower half from his mouth. Nick barked a scream, too, and it echoed around the cave and off Dimclaxadon’s scaly hide. He turned to run, but the dragon was on him in a heartbeat, and Nick felt the heat of his throat on his head and smelled his own seared hair as the dragon’s jaws closed, the teeth pierced him, and he died.

Dimclaxadon roared savagely and victorious, a sound that hadn’t been heard west of the Rockies since he went into hiding more than two hundred years before, and his cave acted as a trumpet, blasting the sound out over the Pacific. No longer would he wait patiently for prey and pounce like some lesser lizard. Fire roared forth from his mouth, turning his cave’s ceiling a bright red, and in that glow he reveled in his madness, for madness is what had won: he would be Dimclaxadon, horror of the west, strong and awful and free to fly and fight and eat as he wanted.

He scrambled from the searing cave over the ripped and bleeding bodies. He stretched the wings he hadn’t used in so long and moaned a terrible screech at the feeling in his muscles. He pulled with them, and the ground trembled beneath him, and he took flight and cried again with another burst of flame. For a moment, the world was silent except for the echoes of his power.

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Sunday writing 20150802 (#BayWriteClub): A (second) fantastical start, cont’d: Birth of the recorder; Rewrite second half of first scene first- to third-person

The eldest woke up in rain. It had washed the mud from him and shriveled his skin, but no wind blew and he learned some summer comfort. From his rock, he looked out on the world, and it was all rolling waves of mud. The waves washed over the rock, dirtying him and his home, but the rain would wash it away. The mud would roll, and the rain would fall, and in this way, hours or days passed. The sky was too overcast to tell, and he had not yet learned about time.

As he was becoming used to this boredom, fidgety but accepting, he noticed the rain letting up, and eventually the waves subsided. The sky broke open and sun streamed through, and his eyes hurt to behold it, and he squinted and covered himself with his arm. His skin warmed and began to itch as the mud on him began to dry and flake.

He scraped fleks off him and wondered at what would come next. More hours passed, and the sun fell again behind clouds, and a certain foreboding darkness crept across the overcast sky. There, in the damp and primal darkness, the toll of his first day and night crept into him, and the eldest did his best to clean the dried mud from the rock and laid down to sleep.

He woke to the sunrise the next day, the first weak beams of the sun’s very top hitting his eyes. The clouds had vanished, and his eyes adjusted to the ever increasing brightness of the quickly rising sun, and suddenly it was day, and everyone around him brown reached out to blue until the met far off in the distance. The eldest felt both a sense of anxiety and a modicum of pleasure at the open expanse of the world about him.

As the day crept on, he stood and stretched and moved about his little rock, but he felt too wary to leave it. Restlessness eventually set him, and he felt the ground around the rock, and was pleased that though it was moist, it was no longer liquid. He pushed his fingers in and then picked up a handful at a time and squeezed, and it pressed through his fingers and fell back into place. He stepped a foot out into it and sunk down to his ankle, but then it held his weight. Anxiety again got the better of him, and he retreated to his rock again.

He slept some in the afternoon, and when he awoke his body began to cramp and make discomfiting noises. He stood and stretched again and tested the ground, but this did not alleviate the feeling. Then he noticed one little upshoot from the ground just a little bit away, a white flower dry in the afternoon sun. He sank to his hands and knees, and crawled towards it suspiciously, and when he reached it, he snuck a petal from its flower and put it in his mouth, and chewed and swallowed. He liked the taste, and he liked the feeling of having chewed it and having swallowed, and he plucked another petal and ate it, and another, until all that was left was a little green stalk with a small yellow bulb. More skeptical of the remants, he licked the yellow bulb, but its taste was unpleasant and bitter, and he left that part of the plant alone.

His body no longer moaned or ached, and he walked quickly back to his rock. He noticed the sun now in the position where it had broken through the clouds, and he wondered whether the world would darken again today as it had the day before, and he sat down to watch and see.

No clouds formed, and the sun sank down, and the eldest saw the first sunset rival the first sunrise. The sky flamed white, then burned orange, and then the sky darkened to purple and to black, and everywhere its darkness was broken by winking pinpoints of light. He marvelled and wanted to keep marvelling, but again, when the sun had set down at last and all was dark, the toll of the day took him again, and he slept.

He woke later the next day, with the sun already ascended and climbing the sky blue and unbroken. He smiled at the certain sadness that he could not see the stars forever but steeled himself to wait for night again, when the bright sun would sink and the stars would wink.

The eldest stood and stretched, and gasped when he noticed that where yesterday there had only been an expanse of ground and sky broken by the single flower, today there stood a field of the white flowers, stretching as far as he could see and shimmering like stars with morning dew.

He stepped off his rock down into the field, and he plucked a flower’s stem and held it up in front of his face, and he smiled at it. He plucked its petals with his teeth and ate them, and he tossed the stem aside and grabbed another. As he moved through the field, he ankles chilled with the flowers’ wetness, and underneath the sun he had an urge to feel that wetness all over, and he fell to the ground and rolled in the flower bed, and as he rolled a sweet scent flew into the air. Once he was covered in dew, he rolled to his back and flung out his arms, and he sighed and breathed deeply the flowers’ smell, and he smiled and lay there until his front was dry.

Then he heard a grunt and a rustle nearby, the unmistakeable sound of breath happening to somebody else’s rhythm.

He shoved himself up and over onto his hands and feet, his body tight and ready to move. Then he heard the rustle again and snort again, and he looked to his left and saw an animal. He wondered at whether it would be dangerous to him. It had noticed him, too, and also looked at him warily. Then it resumed its snuffling and grazing.

Those are mine, a thought shot through his mind.

There’s plenty, another thought answered.

They might not be there tomorrow, the eldest thought to himself, thinking about the differences between his days so far.

He relaxed and pulled his legs under him and sat looking at the animal. It had four stubby legs and couldn’t walk as he did. It also had protrusions from its mouth that looked hard and sharp, and he knew they might be dangerous if the animal charged or caught him with a swipe of its head.

The eldest plucked another flower and ate the petals, discarding the stem. He watched the animal root about and wondered how many flowers the animal would eat, and how many he himself should eat. He saw then that the animal had trampled several flowers, crushing them back into the ground and bruising the petals, at which he felt a hint of sadness.

The eldest watched the boar until nearly sunset, when it turned and wandered away through the field. He had a desire to follow it, but also he did not want to leave this place he had come to know, for who knew what might come tomorrow, or what might be beyond, just out of sight. So he watched until it was gone, and then he watched the sun until it was gone, and from his flat rock, he spied the stars and they pierced the oncoming darkness. Hey lay on his back with his hands behind his head, and sighed at the beauty, and slept.

He awoke before sunrise to the sound of a loud pop. The stars were gone but the sky was dark, a deep and rolling gray, and rain was falling again. Panicked, the eldest looked for flowers to collect and save, but they were all gone, replaced by the waves of mud which surrounded him again.

A muffled shout reached him over the dull drum of the rain, and he turned in its direction and saw an arm flailing out from the mud. It slapped the surface hard, and the hand closed on the wet earth, and it sunk beneath.

The eldest sprung from his rock into the waist-deep mire and trod his way over to where he’d seen the arm, and there was a soft, squelchy sound, and the arm rose again from the earth. The eldest grabbed at it, but it was slimy with mud and slipped through his hands, and plodded back into the mud again, sinking below the surface.

He took another step closer to where the arm emerged and slipped, feeling his knees crash into another body thrashing around beneath. Legs kicked him softly and then arms grabbed him about the ankles, and he would have been pulled underneath if the earth beneath his feet had not held firm. The hands grasped desperately, crawling up his front, and a man broke the surface and sucked several deep breaths of air. He grabbed the eldest’s shoulders and pull himself to his feet and then immediately began to cry. He sobbed and moaned against the eldest’s chest, and the eldest stood in silence, shock, and awe.

After a moment he regained himself, and he pulled the new man over towards his rock, and when he found the lip he pushed him onto it and crawled up himself. The man curled his knees up to his chest and continued to suck in air and to weep, and the eldest could think of nothing to do but pat him on the shoulder. He felt and instinct to make soothing noises as well, but he did not, instead just maintaining constant contact.

The rain washed them clean, and the mud washed lightly over the rock with its waves, and finally cried himself to sleep. The eldest wondered, decided that the sun would not rise today in the rain, and laid down himself and wept.

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Sunday writing 20150802 (#BayWriteClub): A (second) fantastical start, cont’d: The tower of babble

The aggressor called out: “Go into the fields, and grab the first stone you see larger than your fist, and bring it back here. Together, we shall build a mighty thing, a home that will not leak in rain or bluster in the wind! Together we shall make something permanent, something to keep, something that’s ours!”

The tribe cheered, and each person went about their labor, going out into the fields like they might have been gathering fruit in some other place. The eldest watched long as the tribe performed their work, watched as the stones collected, building a very shallow square. One, under further specific instruction from the aggressor, brought up sand from the nearby river and coated the stones in it, using his hands and a stick to build a level foundation upon which more rocks could be stacked.

The aggressor approached the eldest with a look of satisfaction. “You see? We have no need of caves here,” he said, “nor of manna. We shall care for ourselves.”

“But why?” asked the eldest. “What is the need for this?”

“Need?” scoffed the aggressor. “What need is there in your home? What need is there in eating?”

The eldest suddenly felt very sad and a little tired. “We must have shelter. We must have food. The sentiment must does not apply to what you’re doing here.”

“The sentiment must has no meaning here.” The aggressor looked away from the eldest with impatience, preferring to scan his laborers. “What we do here will be good for us all. We can travel with a little more security, knowing that there’s a stable home for us to reach. We can live in comfort, knowing that our shelter is better than whatever we stumbled across and managed to hold for the night. We will make the world for us rather than find our way in the world. You’ll see: There will be comfort, and we will share it with the world.”

Here was the crux, then. The eldest could sense it: his one opportunity to stop this gruesome folly. He started: “Yes, but—”

“No more!” the aggressor commanded. “I will have my house, I will have my people. We will do this. Begone from here if you cannot stand it.” And with that, the aggressor turned his back.

Confusion fell on the eldest then. He felt his mind darken, and everything that the aggressor had said became so much buzzing. In fear, he tenderly reach out his hand and placed it on the aggressor’s shoulder, but the aggressor grabbed the elder’s hand fiercely and with a sudden movement had twisted his arm around so that he fell to the ground on his stomach, and the aggressor mounted his back, screaming, twisting his arm violently so that a sharp strain bolted from his elbow up through his neck. The eldest screamed and tried to buck, but the aggressor was on him and twisting and was not satisfied until he heard a pop, and the pain changed from lightning to a fierce stabbing in his shoulder joint, and the eldest cried and went limp. The aggressor looked on him for a moment with a look of sheer disgust, and he leaned down face to face with the eldest, whispered some noises at him, and then tossed the limp arm to the side and shoved against the eldest to stand up. He then shouted at some members of his tribe who were closest, and pointed at the eldest and made some more noises, but the eldest could not comprehend him.

The tribesmembers didn’t seem to understand the aggressor any more, either. They stopped gathering to stand gawking at him, and a few looked at each other and mumbled. It began to dawn on them within a few seconds that the words they had spoken to each other before now failed them. No sound from any mouth made any sense, and panic set in.

But the aggressor, in his panic, only became more irate, and he barked to the closest member and pointed at the eldest and made a quick movement of his hand that could have been a motion to throw something away. When the member made no motion to move but remained frozen in place, the aggressor went to him and grabbed him by the shoulders and shoved him towards the eldest, and he herded another two in this fashion. He urged them with his movements and with him hands to get the eldest to his feet and to march him away from their building. And so the eldest found himself outcast, standing on the outskirts of the aggressor’s fields, struck dumb.

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Sunday writing 20150726 (#BayWriteClub): A (second) fantastical start

Mud. Mud and its earthy fragrance was all I knew for the first minute of life. I breathed in deep, relishing breath. I had never experienced it before. Nobody had, and mine was the first body.

The caked on dirt kept my eyes closed, but I could breathe and smell, and I filled my lungs with that primal scent. Mud may still exist and have its certain reek, but even when I bend my face into swamps, I cannot find again that first sweet smell of my own life there in Earth’s vital soup.

“Man,” a voice above me said. Even my ears opened before my eyes.

“And what is man good for?” a second voice asked. “Small, no claws, dull teeth: They’re no good as predators and no good as prey.”

The first voice answered, “They’re something new I’m trying. Sometimes hedging your bets guarantees a loss, and I’ve already maxed out the crueler and the protective traits on others. Now I’m trying wits.”

“Wits?” the second voice asked with a bite of contempt. “Wits will win no contests and cost these creatures all.”

A chime sounded, and the heat I had been born into dissipated, and the mud collapsed in on me, and I first felt the sensation of drowning, mud caking my throat. I panicked and began to kick wildly, and a heel broke the surface — I knew, because I could feel it go colder. Then I knew where to scramble, and first my right hand, and then my head and shoulder broke the surface, and I tried to climb out, but my weight pulled all of me back under. Different parts of me broke free and then resubmerged, and a frantic, instinctive fear told me I was going to drown and to die. To think, I had only been alive a moment and already knew to fear death.

I flailed more, rolling onto my back one more time, and as I did my right elbow and arm broke free, and I drove my elbow onto a rock. Pain shocked my whole right side, but panic drove me over again, and my left arm grasped upon it and pulled me finally from my birthplace. My breathing was fast, and all I could see was a blinding white, and I was afraid, but within a moment I had fallen asleep.

I woke up in rain. The water had washed the mud from me and shriveled my skin, but the wind didn’t blow and the rain was warm, so I actually felt refreshed. From my rock, I looked out on the world, and it was all rolling waves of mud, and they washed over the rock, resoiling me, and the rain would wash it away, and the mud would roll, and the rain would fall, and I sat like that for hours.

I had nowhere to go. I was the first, and no homes existed before me, and I saw only rolling gray clouds and rolling brown waves. But when the rain stopped, I stepped off my rock and found that the mud wasn’t deep at all, only covering my ankles. The gray sky split to a wondrous and bright blue, and the water receded.

I stayed on my rock and wouldn’t leave it. The sun rose and fell, the wind blew and turned bitter in the night, and my hunger turned as bitter. Creatures came and went, and I felt fear of some with their claws and their teeth, but none attacked me, and eventually they all left. I wept, and I felt fear and its several flavors, and I wept. My body groaned against this stagnation, but still I wouldn’t budge.

After some count of days the mud turned to dirt, and the manna sprouted, and I was saved.

My rock just happened to be here when I was born here. And I’ve never left it; it was my safety that night, and I feel like it keeps me to this day.

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Sunday writing 20150714 (#BayWriteClub): A fantastical start


  1. Engage a sense of fun.


“I’m just saying violence doesn’t solve everything.”

“How can you say that! You’re a mercenary?”


“You solve with violence for a living!”

“Yeah, well—”

“Yeah, well! What you eat for breakfast, who your friends are, who you fuck, all solved through violence.”

“Well, there are factors.”


“Yeah, like, I didn’t go up to you one day, and punch you in the face, and magically we were friends.”

“Well, wait—”

“Ugh, fine! Bad example. Well, look: Just because your and my story begins and ends with violence doesn’t mean all stories are framed in violence. I mean, most people live their day to day without a need for killing.”

“Nobody, not even the boringest banker, lives their day without killing. They’re just too removed from it to remember.”

“No, that’s not—”

“Yeah, think about it. The banker can’t have meat with his meals but for the animal that died. He can’t work in a building with an address but for the veteran who defended his street. He can’t—”

“Yeah, but he doesn’t—”

“But he does. Whether he himself wields the knife or he pays a man to do it. Separation by abstraction is not actual separation.”

“‘Separation by abstraction’? Have you been talking to that priest again?”

“It’s just—It’s just what we’re talking about.”

“What you’re talking about. What I’m talking about is how most issues aren’t settled by violence.”

“Right, and I’m saying they are.”

“I think you’re the one that’s going too abstract here. Think about a man buying a potato at market. I mean, he could just take the potato and run. A man could probably feed his family just by disrespecting the system. In fact, everybody at the market could just take and run, and there’d be too much chaos for any vendor or guard to stop any particular thief. But that’s not how markets work.”

“The threat of violence maintains order.”

“Market detail is boring as hell! Order at the markets isn’t maintained by guards. With or without them, the majority of the market would take place exactly as it does. Guards deter pickpockets, they don’t create normal business.”

“Ah, but I think you’re wrong. I think it’s exactly the maintenance of peace that prompts normal business, and peace is maintained through violence and an ongoing threat of violence.”

“No, see, we’re employed when the peace is broken. The peace is broken by force and repaired by force, but peace is maintained by agreement and adherence to that agreement.”

“Ah, whatever whatever, John. Gah, you’re going to talk at me about this all morning, and we’re never going to get anywhere.”

“Hey, now,” John replied, sounding a little wounded, “you’re not adhering to the rules of engagement.”

“What rules? We’re just talking,” Charles answered.

“Yeah, we were, but you’re stopping.”

“Stopping isn’t allowed in the rules? We have to talk til we drop, til we die, til the violence of time settles our lives? Or even past then, and we have to wait for our throats to rot?”

“Well, when you put it that—”

But Charles stood before John could really get into his wounded character, which he could maintain for hours for any perceived grievance. “Let’s stop this. We have a big day ahead of us,” Charles said. He helped John to his feet off the sandy rock where he’d been resting.

“A big day?” John asked.

“Did you forget where we are?”

“We’re sieging Nissand. But there’s no reason to suspect today will be any different than yesterday.”

“Yes, John. Today’s a good day for a fight. A great day! A day for violence to settle some things.”

“A good day for a fight doesn’t mean there will be a fight,” John argued, but he smiled. “Did you—?”

“Yes, I prayed,” Charles said. “I threw the dice, I read the cards, I sat in silence and wonder.”

“I still feel that’s out of character for you.”

“Act in faith, and fiercely.”

“That’s your motto.”

“Yes. And through that the motto, I came to feel it in my bones: Today is a day for glory and for victory.”

John tensed his mouth in thought. “Will we survive the day?”

“Roll for it. See what we get.”

“Oh, don’t make me. That’s so silly.”

Charles punched him in the elbow. “Roll! It’s tradition.”

John sighed and pulled a small six-sided dice from his belt. He hefted and rolled it in his hand for a moment, blew on it for luck, and threw it in the hard-packed and dry sand-dirt at his feet. It landed corner-down and popped up into the air, rolling and bouncing for a moment before settling: Four.

“High and even,” Charles read. “A good roll. And same as me—”

“Of course it’s the same,” John muttered.

“—and looks as though we just might make it.”

“What are the odds on matching rolls again?”

“Well, one in thirty-six, a priest told me once.”

“One in thirty-six for every time we’ve done it?”

“Well, I each time it’s one in thirty-six, but if we’re going to add them all up, I suppose it’s more over time. But as you’ve seen, for us it’s guaranteed.”

“We should take bets,” John replied hesitantly. “How long have we had matching results?”

“As long as you’ve doubted that they should be matching.”

“And how many snake-eyes have we survived?”

Charles rolled his eyes. “Just the one. But today is not that day. Today is a day of glory!”

“Maybe they’ll surrender, and the conflict will resolve without violence.”

“Threat of violence is violence enough. And I read it in the cards: Some blood will shed today.

A few hours later, Charles looked with satisfaction at the battlefield that lay between them and the high walls of the city. Lunch had passed and the sun was burning high in the sky before the army–of which Fortune’s Favored were a fraction (but a significant fraction)–began to muster. The new guys in Charles’s company had complained when he began forming them before the army-wide call went out, but the veterans got them in line, and the whole company felt a sense of satisfaction when his prediction came true. Though they were professional soldiers, Charles’s prediction of good survivability for the troop in combat today kept spirits very high: the veterans knew that no battle had never proved Charles wrong.

He knew the city Nissand’s citizens must feel desperate. Their resources were cut off, and Mellon’s call to war and swift reaction to Nissand’s solitary refusal both took Nissand by surprise, and beyond that no individual city could be prepared for war with ten of their closest neighbors.

With no real preparation and no hope for relief, the city’s only options were to fight off an army many times its size or to surrender. Politics had cut off surrender as an option: To give in would cost the Governor Balm his office, and possibly his life. The unknown of many more lives Mellon might demand before allowing the Nissand back into the fold kept the rest of the city’s wealthy families in line.

“Men!” Charles barked. “The enemy is surrounded, likely underfed and definitely underslept, and there’s little to no chance they want to fight us. Keep this in mind if forced to confront or even kill your neighbors.

“Do not break formation! Do not pursue those who give flight. We have only to break the will of the city’s rulers, and this siege will end. We do not need to steal the city’s pride, only break their will.”

“Hurrah!” his men answered.

Mellon’s needs–the larger war on the horizon, across the straight with the wine merchants and goat fuckers–had paid for Fortune’s Favored to grow in size thirty percent. New farm boys and slaves filled his ranks and were the most likely to break ranks, which could not be allowed. After the gods, a shield wall was the most guaranteed means of victory, and any loose brick could compromise the wall’s stability. For this, he had mixed his new recruits throughout the wall, both to give them elders to look to for strength and inspiration, and to make any failures as distributed as possible.

“John,” Charles said, turning to his right, “what’s your guess about whether violence will be needed today?”

“Some, but not a lot, as you say,” John answered. His face was grim under his helmet. “Bronze on bronze, wall on wall may make this the most difficult battle we’ll face during the war.”

“I doubt today will be so hard, or for the long war we’ll be so lucky,” Charles said grimly.

“I’m sure you did a reading. Is that what it said?”

“I only asked for today.” Charles held his head high. “The auspices are good. Some trick will break the leaders’ will.”

“Some trick?” John asked.

“Yes, of which we were not informed. We will play our part and hold the line, and nothing more.”

Charles sat his horse and his men stood in silence in front of him, all baking in their armor under the bright afternoon sun, some hiding their skin under the shadow of their tall shields. The squads nearest them around them muttered and chattered some, but the army waited patiently in formation. Then a crack and groan silenced the field. The city’s gate was opening.

One phalanx and another left the city under the watchful eye of wall-striding archers and the curious onlookers camped out on any of the city’s closest spires. Mellon’s army and Charles’ men listened to the armored footsteps of the soldiers marching out and making their own formations under the wall. Before long, all the foot soldiers had formed rank, each with a mounted commander behind them to bellow orders and lead the charge. If only they hadn’t waited so long to leave their walls, they might have been with Mellon already, and his army would have already marched to real war.

Mellon himself and a team of the other city leaders trotted their horses out to the safe zone closest to the defending army. Charles felt it significant that city leaders other than Mellon were here: they had not marched with their armies and must have been summoned for this particular moment. Was the outcome here already decided, and all today was just raiment and show?

Mellon bellowed from on horseback, “We are not here to fight a sister city. We are here to collect men for the honor of us all. You are not here to fight a sister city. You are here to protect the wealthy among you who were too slow to answer my call. Lay down arms, and come join your brothers, and we shall go to glorious war.”

A man who must have been governor, for who else would have the authority to answer Mellon’s call, shouted out a reply that Charles could barely make out, “We are here to defend our city. We are sad to see that our regional neighbors are our attacked. Leave us in peace and go have your war elsewhere.”

“We have not stayed for weeks to leave empty handed,” Mellon called back. “You who have resisted for weeks will not see victory but through me.”

“If you must have war, then you shall have it. Nissand will not submit.”

Mellon answered softly, but his voice rolled across the plains like thunder and may have even been heard on the wall: “The gods hear my prayer.” Then he bellowed again, “This city will not fall and need not submit. It is only you who do heed your neighbors. May the gods smite you, traitor.”

“Traitor?” Balm called back in shock. “I rule my city as I see fit–”

But he broke off, and Balm’s little figure disappeared off the ramparts, and figures along the wall began moving around in an indecipherable commotion. A murmur of confusion ran through Mellon’s army, and Charles heard some of his own men curse and mutter coward and other choice terms.

“Quiet!” Charles ordered. His men responded, but he felt the tension all around. He felt his horse’s spirit go tense like it did just before battle. Charles patted its neck.

In the distance, he saw the spears of Nissand’s army waver and lower. A murmur of voices carried across the plain, their confusion apparent. Over the next few moments, the voices grew louder, punctuated by shouts and one solitary wail that silenced all. Then one shout rang out– “Retreat into the city!”–and the phalanxes turned face and went back through the gate.

“Mellon!” the same voice called out. “Come to the city, and we’ll meet as friends. Our gate is open to you, your captains, and as much of your host as we can fit.”

“Ja-eel,” Mellon answered, “what has happened?”

“Come, friend,” Ja-eel called. “You and your prayer have won.”

“Trickery,” John scoffed, amused. “Your cards never fail.”

“And some bloodshed,” Charles reminded him.

“Men!” Mellon bellowed back at his army. “Advance to the wall!”

A quick ripple of sound filled the plain as soldiers lift their shields from the ground and settled in for an armed march. They passed Mellon and his entourage, covering the few hundred yards to stand at the foot of the gate in a few moments. Charles hung back behind his men to see whether the archers on the wall might loose in some treachery, but no arrows flew, and quick enough Charles could see their pained and anxious expressions.

“Saigan!” Mellon called from behind. “Enter.”

Saigan, beloved hero of Sinai, called at his men and commanded them to enter the city with shields held at battle-mobile height. They entered the gate, and he followed ahorse.

For a heartbeat, no new sound came from the city but renewed murmuring. The Saigan called out, “It’s safe! We may enter.”

“Advance!” Mellon commanded, and his army moved in. On the other side of the gate were piles of thousands spears, swords, shields, and bows. Soldiers stood two-deep along the city’s main roadway. As Mellon’s army filed into the city, shields and spears held high, they had to file themselves along the same lines, standing within breathing distance of the soldiers that this morning had been their enemy. Charles, Saigan, and the other horsed leaders stayed in the middle of the column, riding towards the city’s main plaza. There, the famous sea-god Nemanes’ fountain spouted, and one citizen stood astide the fountain’s rim. More disarmed city soldiers stood two-deep around the perimiter of the forum, and citizens and solders not included in the display crowded the plaza’s other street and burst from surrounding windows and roofs.

“Hello!” the citizen called to the horsed captains. “Please, fill the plaza with your men and let Mellon through. If our city was ever at war with you, then we surrender.”

The captains and soldiers did fill the plaza and then some, leaving Mellon’s armed soldiers to line the entry street with Nissand’s disarmed soldiers. In this fashion, Mellon and the other city leaders entered Nissand and paraded through the streets to the plaza.

“Ja-eel,” Mellon said, approaching the fountain. “What happened here today?”

“Murder,” Ja-eel answered. A gasp ran through Mellon’s men. “Governor Balm was shot by an archer during your parley.”

“Dishonorable,” Mellon replied.

“A most unfortunate way to die,” added Henna, city leader of Lennos.

“A revolt was almost inevitable,” Ja-eel said. “The city did not support Governor Balm in his delay, and the siege affected the city’s morale.”

“Defiance will not be allowed!” Mellon shouted angrily. “Not from the city’s leaders, not from the lowliest urchin. This archer may think he has done me a favor, but I will show him my gratitude through swift justice.”

A look of shock flitted across Ja-eel’s face, and the group suffered a moment of silence. “He died in the execution. He tried to flee in the confusion and fell from the wall to his death. His mangled body is still at its foot.”

“The gods justice arrives on winged feet where I can only ride a horse. Relationships forged in law rule us all. That is our convenant as a free region, and our promise to meet the gods’ expection.”

“Yes,” Ja-eel responded.

“Good. We shall not linger.” Mellon turned to shout down the long street to the gate. “Nissandi men, re-arm! Find pleasure tonight, and say your goodbyes. Tomorrow, we begin our march to where roads end, and when they begin again, we will find our enemy. Tonight, we feast!”

A cheer went up through the men, and Charles cheered with them. A sweet victory, a parade and feast, all without taking a risk with the new recruits. Mellon and the other city leaders dismounted and approached Ja-eel, each shaking his hand in turn. As the shouting died down, Charles commanded his men: “Enjoy the feast, but return to camp tonight. Find comfort where you can, but maintain order above all.”

“Hurrah!” his men answered, and with that he dismounted, handing his horse off to one of the new recruits with the short order to take the wall to the stable nearest the gate.

Charles clapped John on the shoulder with a squeeze and said, “Well, have you ever been inside the walls of Nissand before?”



Why does Ja-eel get to lead the city after the governor’s murder? (Should his name even be Ja-eel?)

What’s the name of the region the cities belong to? (Did Greeks think of themselves as “Greeks”? Did they have a cross-city regional name?) Why is this even a Greco-Roman hybrid?

Charles and John’s names are stupid considering all other characters. Rethink all character names given setting and cultural context.

Charles should be a commander in a city’s army, not a mercenary group. Why would there be mercenaries anyway?

The city name Nissand annoys me for some reason.

Yo, where all da women at?

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Sunday writing 20150607: The Love Lecture

“Love is a state of balance,” I say to the nearly empty lecture hall. “A person can hate a thing he loves; there’s no contradiction in both loving and hating a thing. Man was made, I think, to experience both pleasure and pain, fear and amusement, intense like and intense dislike. Without a balancing of polarities, nothing would ever be known.

“I think the whole of human experience fits inside a perfect circle, and all emotions are its diameters. The two points at the outside of the circle are the two possible extremes, and the center is nothing–zen-like, right?–but we’re never there, neither filling to the edge nor fully balanced in the center. Our selves are each some blob made out of the measures of our placements for each category, mapping our experience of the infinite possibilities of our emotions.

“I can’t accept the notion that humans only have several basic emotions and that all non-basic emotions are just mixes of the basics. We experience life in polarities, not in vectors, and saying all rage is “anger” is like saying morose just means sad: the statement itself may be technically true, but some technical truths abuse the Truth.

“That’s why the semantics here are important. It matters that love is not an emotion. Love is a state, and it weathers emotions, or it bears them. In fact, love is the circle and contains within it all the polar possibilities of our experience. The more capacity we have for love, the larger our circle grows, the more extreme our emotional possibilities. The absence of emotion is death; curtailment of emotion is to live like the dead. That’s why I can’t accept Buddhism.”

“What do you mean,” she called out from the peanut gallery, “that you can’t accept Buddhism?”

“I mean–” I started. I paused and took a breath, pacing behind the podium before reapproaching.

“I mean: If Buddhism were about experiencing all that life has to offer and realizing the emotions are just emotions and there’s a greater existence we can have separate from them, then great. I mean, that’s life, and that’s live, to participate in everything life has to offer and still maintain a balance, that from minute to minute life just happens, and there’s nothing particularly binding about any of it but us and our narratives and our dreams.

“But that’s not the Buddhism we’re studying in class. Buddhism is about minimizing suffering, and I can’t accept that. Suffering is part of the human experience, and we can’t just dismiss it and say that all we want is pleasure. If we live without suffering, we live without pleasure, too, and that’s not balance, that’s nothing. To live life without active participation, to passively wait for all interference to leave and to call the void balance is to turn our back on part of life. And, and maybe even to reject God himself.

“I mean that there is no pleasure without pain. There are no smiles without tears. We have no peace without strife. To minimize suffering is to minimize all, and to minimize all is to reject life even to the point of death.”

She called out: “You’re a dualist!” I think she was smirking, but I was too busy formulating to see.

“I–no,” I stammered, hesitating, considering. Augustine was a dualist. Fantasy writers are dualists. I believe in more than light and dark, good and evil, life versus death. “There are twos and threes to this thing: There is what you can be and what you are, and what you can be has poles and what you are is a point between them. In the ideal, there’s two. In practicality, there’s three.”

“Dualism,” she answered.

“All numbers can be reduced to multiplications of twos and threes. When you break the world down to its most basic parts, it reflects this basic truth. It is divided into multiplications of two and three.”

“But you said all things are three!”

“We don’t experience all that life has to offer all at once. There are factors that we’re missing in every day.”

Now I know she was smirking: “Are we denying God in all the thing we miss?”

“I–” I started again, but stopped, considering. “I believe so. Life requires both balance and participation.”

“Yes,” she answered.

“We must pursue both all that life has to offer and a balance.”

“Yes,” she said.

“Negation and suppression are rejections of life and God.”

“Yes,” she whispered.

“Balance and participation are worship of God.”

Yes, I felt her agreement. She stood and began shuffling out of her aisle seat and moved towards the stage.

I continued: “All that matters in life is that we’re on the circle and that we exist as averages on each line. We can’t help but do that except through avoidance and rejection. To participate in one’s own life is to live in worship. To avoid aspects of one’s own life is to live outside of God’s promise, which is to live without the act of worship.

“The more we grow in God, the more capable of participating in our own experiences we become, the larger our circle grows, the more effort required but the more experienced we must are at finding balance, at finding God’s peace.”

Face to face on the stage, she said, “Yes,” and cupped my cheek in her hand. She led me from the room, and we continued our adventure.

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Writing group 20150531

Patrick Ball. Cursed be his name and his children.

No, that’s wrong. He’s fine. Cursed be Christina and all of her name.

No, that’s wrong. I’m inept. Like so many other times, I missed all the red flags. Well, I didn’t miss them so much as purposefully ignore them. Well, I didn’t so much ignore them as watch them as we zoomed by them. I breathed deep. I trusted. I whiffed at love. I missed it all.

Patrick. How deeply in trouble were we by the time we met Patrick?

In many ways, Patrick reminded me of myself but better, classier. I had quit Tae Kwon Doe in my youth and stopped wrestling after my knee accident, gaining weight up to the 280 pound lard asses I used to have made fun of in my youth, forgetting that I had been fat before wrestling, too. Patrick was a third-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Doe, never one to back down from anything as far as I know.

I drank sometimes and casually. Patrick was a vodka conesseur. After having drunk a bottle of wine myself in my own apartment at my own party (Halloween 2004), I left my party and found my way over to Patrick’s apartment where I drank vodka with him and Christina into the wee hours of the night. Then we went to iHop, where I spent at least 10 minutes vomiting in their awful toilet in their awful bathroom. Not my shiniest moment.

I read Terry Goodkind through book #6. Patrick had read Terry Goodkind and had informed opinions about King’s Dark Tower trilogy and had read more besides. I’m not sure that’s a point in his favor, but we’ll call it that for now.

Built like a little truck with cropped blonde hair, he reminded me of myself, and I liked him. Christina liked him, too. We had met him in Japanese class, and I had seen him around my apartment complex (LL Sams) and befriended him, and he and Christina became fast friends, and everything was in line for him to join our group. But then Christina asked me to back off and let her have him as her own friend instead of being our friend, and I agreed. Why did I agree to that?

“You’re socially agressive,” she told me one day. “All my friends are your friends now.”

I asked, “Aren’t they our friends, and isn’t that a good thing? Shouldn’t we all belong?”

“But they used to be my friends,” she insisted. “Prachi used to be my friend, and you didn’t even like her, and she didn’t like you. And whatever happened to Katie? I used to be friends with Katie.” (Christina and Prachi had lived together sophomore year; Prachi had disliked Mani, who openly and purposefully offended her on their first meeting [Mani being Mani.].)

“Katie doesn’t like me, but I don’t have any problem with her. You can invite her around if you want.”

“There is no being around me without being around you.”

I didn’t know what to say. (Now that I’m wondering, where were Patrick’s friends? Why did we only meet him and never anyone new from him?)

“Just back off, okay?” she finished. “Let me have Patrick to be my friend, not your friend, not our friend.”

“Okay,” I said. Why did I agree to that?

This would have been in September sometime, with Halloween to follow. Then sometime maybe in December I knew the end was at hand, and I fucked her one last time on his couch. And we broke up. And I broke; all spring I was broken. (Where in all this was that shaming walk with Kalli? It must have been before the breakup; I remember Patrick being thoroughly uncomfortable and offering to back off if that’s what I wanted. Was he sincere or coy? Was it all well-planned, or was loving Christina a gift that appeared in his lap one day?) (Where in all this Christina moving in with him? I think it must have been by October; why did Christina have to move in the middle of the semester? And where Brody, attached to her previous apartment?)

Christmas came and went, and sometime around February I remember staying up all night crying over Terry Goodkind. The book was awful and totally incapable of causing any reaction in me, but the pain of missing Christina had ripped me up, and my stomach hurt until I cried. I had been writing her poems, but now I began writing her essays like our old days. I wrote one based on Third Eye Blind’s “Good For You”, which is how I saw Christina, rattling chaotically through my mind. I left it at the door of her and Patrick’s apartment. She met me down on the stairs in between our buildings, and I cried and bawled and would have kissed her feet if she hadn’t told me that I needed to be not so pathetic. I stopped crying but still sniffled, and I asked her if there was any chance of getting back together, and she said no. (When in that time did she and Patrick get together officially? I don’t know.)

As soon as Christina and I were broken up, Allison made herself available. I visited her apartment with Aaron one day, and while he was off in the bathroom, she confessed her deep attraction to me. I rebuffed her, both because she was Aaron’s girlfriend and because Christina and my separation was still too raw. (Christina and I were married in the eyes of God, weren’t we? We negotiated the morality of our sex, said our vows, and I entered her gently. Wouldn’t God protect us? Isn’t there either love or not love? Isn’t love–true love, not just lust–immortal? Isn’t immortal love what we were supposed to have together?) I left Allison rejected, and she admitted to Aaron what she had done, and I lost his friendship for years (and abandoned hers until the next August, when she called me one day and asked me if she would visit Dallas whether I would fuck her, and c’mon, you don’t say no to an offer like that).

As soon school restarted after Christmas break, Sarah made herself available. I rebuffed her, not just because of Christina or because Steve but also because she was still friends with Courtney and Andrea. But she stayed by my side all semester, and friends and strangers asked us how long we’d been together and when we’d marry, and I kept asking her if she’d visit Europe with me after my graduation, and the night before I left she finally said yes, and my sister got so sick of our flirtations (if they were there at all) that she ditched, and then we started fucking–me and Sarah, in Europe, before Allison–and we kept going for the rest of the trip, and when we got back all our friends asked if we were together and she said yes and I said no, and that did us in for a year until I went down to Waco to help Justin move out of college and Sarah and I rekindled and re-began fucking and I got jealous of her going out to clubs and nailed her down in a relationship and didn’t dump her like I should have when I moved to Boston and I lived in years of jealousy of her out at clubs and drunk with her friends and years of misery once she moved up to Boston to be with me. She suffered her auto-immune disorder, and I suffered a layoff and bankruptcy, and then one day soon I left. That’s the story of me and Sarah writ short.

But that spring semester I pined. I watched her longingly from afar and cried at her feet. I lived deep in shame about my dumping her and deep in anxiety about whether we would find our immortality again. We talked in the bath house, and we talked in her and Patrick’s apartment. (Where in that timeline did she tell me that she wouldn’t be my Beatrice? After we broke up and before winter break, I think.)

I think that she had cheated on me with Billy that first Christmas break, but during that summer in Oxford I did cheat on her. I fell for Julie, her too of glowing white skin and straight brown hair and philosophical tossings and romantic pinings. I spent almost my whole summer with Julie and under Justin’s careful and socially ambitious scrutiny: “Why do you spend some much time with her? Let’s meet other people on the trip, too,” he pleaded, but I only had time for July and Justin. I engaged in social obligation to interact with whoever he brought along for our plans, which prompted my only interactions with Kelly (to Dublin) and Alan (for a night of drinking in Trafalgar Square).

Also, too, with Katie (Dunlap) on that same trip. One night in Oxford, Justin, Kiran, Katie, Haley, and I went to a bar. We met a Texas oil tycoon who bought us who reminded him of home pitchers of Long Island Ice Teas, and I must have drunk a pitcher myself. I stumbled back with the rest to Christchurch College, and I left Kiran and Justin at Justin’s room near the gate even after Kiran asked to walk me back to my room, I think to protect me from Katie, who–to be fair to her–did get my back to my room unmolested. After I closed the door, she returned and knocked, and when I opened it, she launched at me, kissing and hugging and fondling me, and I got her to my little bed and opened her pants and put my fingers inside her, easily gliding in her hot wetness. But somewhere along the way I lost steam, and rather than engaging in drunken (at least on my part) sex with Katie (as I had previously with Sydney, ending in chlamydia [Did I remember that in my drunken stupor?], you fool), I asked her instead whether she wouldn’t want to make this real, and whether she wouldn’t prefer for me to be sober and we could do this thing for real, and she agreed and left me for the night (as far as I remember), and the rest of the trip she would sit on my lap and we would kiss lightly and I might fondle her, but never did we hook up, but even on the plane ride back I was promising to break up with Christina and make me and Katie a real thing, but when I disembarked the plane, there was Christina, and I hugged her and loved her and kissed her all in front of Justin’s father (in fact, where in this was Katie? We came back on the same flight, and Christina met me at the baggage claim….) (The passion with which I met Christina feels indistinguishable from the passion with which I meet my wife in my most dire need, and that’s an awful feeling, to know that despite emotional health and maturity, my desire is only my desire is only my desire.)

(And speaking of drunken sex, there, too, was Emily. Junior year: I remember her visiting me at Rivercrest. [How did we meet, me and fat Emily, the education major? After her, I agree wholeheartedly with the stereotype that education majors are all horny freaks, making female teacher / male student sex scandals not at all surprising; they were so popular around my knowing Emily.] She came to my apartment and wanted to get drunk together and fuck, but I rebutted that if you couldn’t do something sober you would do drunk, you probably shouldn’t be doing that thing, and she agreed and came over and sober we fucked. Later, at her apartment [near Christina’s, across the intersection, I remember], she tried to introduce toys, and the hippocracy of this in the face of her Christianity [Did we meet at a chruch? Or did I just hear her talk about her Christianity often?] was too deep a turn off for me, and I had to leave her unsatisfied, and we never fucked again. A constant refrain for those Texas Christian girls: I didn’t mind premarital sex, but if you do, then don’t come fuck with me. Outside of the mysticism of my adoration for Christina, I’m not and never have been particularly religious, and I don’t want my conflict for your moral state to cloud the clarity of my moral state. I want to be a good man; I just don’t know how somtimes.

The wanting to be a good man colored why I participated so painfully in the relationship with Christina and also my choice of majors and the subjects I took seriously, like Christianity. Christina asked me once early in sophomore year whether I was in a relationship with her because it was convenient or whether I would fight for her if we didn’t share courses or otherwise didn’t have convenient reasons to be together. I told her I would fight for her, of course, but then we broke up before winter break, and I think we did break up because being in a relationship while so far apart would be inconvenient and we did get back together on returning from winter break, so I mean, really…. And I spent a lot of my time during this year and next wondering about whether a man was better for struggling and overcoming or never having struggled in the first place. [Who makes the better drug counselor: the recovered addict, or the psychologist who studied but never felt addiction?] And I decided in these years that I would never write for profit, which seemed moral, but I am selling my life hour by hour, and I don’t know how to measure the moral difference between selling hours as raw ore or hours as refined writing. And I decided in these years to change from CSI to GTX, but I don’t have any proof after the fact that a liberally educated man is actually capable of being a better man than a computer scientist. And in these years I spent too much and made too little, I too deeply engaged in too small suffering and too lightly valued my joys, and I expirimented too broadly with too many things that left too many marks. [Remember Jennie and the sophomore year rape and the junior year casual sex and the kicking out of Mani and the spring break that began his whole engagement story and all its heartache. Remember Sydney and the chlamydia. Remember being on the phone with single Christina during a break in the night shift at Walmart singing her 3 Doors Down lyrics while suffering the burning urine of that disease. Remember the actual arrogance that superceded the casual accusations of your and BIC members known arrogance. Remember the cheating and the broken promises and the heartache you brought on yourself. Remember that, you who to presumed to be good. Remember what a little shit you were.

([Remember, too, the wild flowers. Remember, too, the art. Remember, too, the friends. Remember, too, the pride of your schooling, and help you gave as a teacher’s assistant, and the swooning you prompted as a Student Advocate. Remember Kate’s broad shoulders in that dress she wore that night, and remember how proud she felt to know you. Remember your strengths as well as your shortcomings. Remember your successes as well as your anxieties. Remember it all, you fool.])


I was arrested at the Bellmead Wal-Mart my freshman year. Colt and I would drive up there at night, usually after 9 or 10pm, and we would grab drinks out of the fridges in the back and hang out drinking them in the closed McDonalds and then walk the store aisles looking for goodies. We made off with hundreds, I think, in valuables, including a graphite pool stick (which I used) and a cordless phone (which we didn’t). The cordless phone had been the display model not properly secured, and we had gotten it home before we realised that it didn’t have a power supply, so we had returned the next night to get a generic charger. I put the charger down the front of my pants, and Colt had some other items–I think maybe a video game CD and some music CDs–in his pockets, and we even bought something, but not the power supply in my pants, and that set off the theft detectors.

Let me tell you that if you’re ever in this situation–leaving a store where you’ve stolen something and the system goes off–walk, don’t run, to your car. Don’t stop, don’t turn around, don’t look confused on guilty, don’t return into the store to see if you can be of help. Colt followed this advice and made off with his merchandise. I didn’t and got pulled into the manager’s office and waited around for the police to show up, and when they did they put me in handcuffs and took me to jail for the night.

It wasn’t super scary: I sat alone in a solitary cell for a while, and then they moved me over to the general holding cell with nine or ten other men. I picked a bench against the wall and covered myself in the scratchy potato sack blanket they’d given me, and I woke up in the morning a little while before it was my time to “see the judge”, and I wondered about whether they’d let me out in time to get to class and how I’d make it back to Baylor from the jail.

Colt attended class that morning while I stood in front of a TV with a satellite link to the Bellmead judge, and he asked me casually whether I pleaded guilty, not guilty, or no contest to the class C misdemeanor of theft under $50, and I pleaded guilty, and he said, “Fine,” and gave me back all my pocket stuff and let me go. End of experience. I called Colt, and he came and picked me up, and we laughed about it, and life went on with no consequence. #crimingwhilewhite

This was probably in or around the time that I was getting to know Jennie and stealing her away from her long distance relationship with Jimmy, whose friendship had begun to wane while I was at Baylor and he was still in Dallas. I didn’t tell Jennie (or anyone else until much later) about the incident, and nothing ever came of it. Jennie came to visit me in Texas and that first day we met gave me head in the grass around that Frisco pond, which as far as I was concerned made her the greatest girlfriend in the world. We stopped at a Victoria’s Secret on the way back to her parents’ house in some richy suburb just like Plano north of Fort Worth, and very similarly to my first experience, I blushed and couldn’t look at any of the merchandise; she grabbed my hand and lead me around the store asking me about this and this and this, and then she tried the items on and we went to her parents’ home and she wore them and pulled a muscle in her back while we fucked, which I thought was both funny and pretty mortifying, since she had to keep referencing the pain and make up a story about how she’d done it once her parents came home.

I visited Jennie for her prom (I bought my plane ticket on a credit card! How exciting!) and met her highschool friends, one of whom (Stacy) was hotter than she was and I flirted with on and off throughout the evening, and the other of whom was more overtly sexual (like Sarah’s Big Bean) and whom I avoided throughout the night. She had remained in California with family friends when her parents had moved to Fort Worth for her father’s job (radio tower engineer), and though those adults had put me in a separate room, I spent most nights with Jennie. I remember I went down on her for what must have been fifteen minutes, and I thought I’d never get her off, but eventually we got there, and my cheeks were sore all the next day, and I later learned more specifically what I was supposed to be doing and never had to perform for that long again. I also remember learning for the first time about California’s drastic weather changes between day and night: we had gone to an ocean-side cliff near her house to watch the sunset, and one minute it was 80 and I was dressed comfortably, and the next it was 60 and I was sorely underdressed, and I shivered all the way back to the car. (This, b-t-dubs, is why Californian men where sweatshirts and shorts, and sandals and socks.)

It was in this context, of Jennie’s sexual maturity and knowledge outstripping my own, that the rape occurred. I had been losing interest in her for the whole month she had attended Baylor, and one night I didn’t answer her call, and she came to my home anyway, and opened my door anyway, and I didn’t respond to her being in my apartment, and she fucked me anyway, and she came and I didn’t, and she left anyway. And we broke up.

It was in this context that she proposed that double-date, and in this context that I casted about for others to join us, and in this context that I didn’t care much about how Christina’s presence or our interest in each other offended her: early sophomore year.

Later, early junior year sometime, she would reach out to my via AIM, and I would agree that lonely horniness was the worst, she would come over and we would begin our non-serious sexual fling, and in this context that she would begin dating Mani and stop fucking me, and in this context that I would ask them not to fuck in my bed (literally anywhere else is fine, like Steve and Sarah, just not in my bed, OK?) and they would fuck in my bed and I would kick Mani out and tell him as long as he’s coming to see her and not me he can stay in a fucking hotel, OK? And in this context that Mani and I would bro-fest to Padre for spring break and he would ask for my blessing to propose to her, to which I deferred and accepted rather than agreed, and in this context that they would get engaged shortly thereafter. And in this context that that BIC religion (world cultures IV?) professor would say, “Let’s get the gossip out of the way: hands up those who got engaged over spring break,” and half the room raised their hands and I didn’t, and a few colleagues in the room gasped and asked that I didn’t propose to Christina, and I shrugged and said it wasn’t for us yet. And in this context that Justin moved in at the beginning of summer and the Greek intensive happened and Christina’s uber-jealousy of my attention happened and the cheating events of Baylor in Oxford happened and my joy at returning to Christina after such a long break happened and I reinvested in what I knew in my head but not in my heart was a pretty bad relationship. And in this context that Christina and my winter trip to New York so we could find our places in the world fell apart even though I had already bought the tickets, and so I called the airline (American?) asking for a refund but only getting transfer value, and in this context got my ticket to Europe for post-graduation and eventually the idea to visit McKay in New York (fall 2005? spring 2006?) and shop my resume around at publishing houses (utter failure, of course), and in this context that I visited NYU’s evening for their masters in publishing program (marketing focused) and visited Boston to see Emerson’s masters in publishing program (editorial focused), and in this context that I decided to go to Emerson, in which context I got accepted to Emerson’s graduate certificate (rather than master’s) program, in which context I got confused about whether I wanted the masters in publishing program or the MFA, in which context I took a year off to decide and experienced the absolute despair of listless life and a World of Warcraft addiction and opted for the MFA, in which context I’m here to write at all. Ah, life.

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