1.27.2009 | By: Alisa Callos

How Doth the Little Crocodile


In honor of Lewis Carroll's Birthday today, I couldn't help posting my favorite poem by him. As a child I thrilled to the pictures it painted and shivered in horror for the poor little fishies.



How doth the little crocodile

Improve his shining tail,

And pour the waters of the Nile

On every golden scale!



How cheerfully he seems to grin

How neatly spreads his claws,

And welcomes little fishes in,

With gently smiling jaws!
1.24.2009 | By: Alisa Callos

The Spirit

Todays Sunday Scribblings prompt reminded me of the very first scene I ever wrote for 'The Novel'. Here is some more of Ian's life. It takes place three years earlier.

Scotland, Summer 1744

Ian Cameron slowly ran his try plane down the rough wooden board that would soon make up the frame of the Currach he was making for his younger brother. The Crannghail would be covered with the cured seal hide his mother and older sister were making and would provide Brian with a sturdy fishing boat.

Working quietly on the rocky shore of Loch Duich, the summer sun burning overhead, he welcomed the monotony that brought a hypnotic peace to his troubled mind. He had only a month before he left to go back to Edinburgh to finish school and much to get done and settle. His thoughts drifted lazily as he worked. He was eager to finish his classes, debate again with his tutors, see his friends and get back to the city. At the same time, he was anxious to leave his mother, sister and brother well provided for and safe…a difficult if not impossible task.

Ian stopped working and looked up at the water of the Loch. Today its deep blue was sparkled with sunlight. The hills across the loch were a deep hazy green. He heard a dog bark and looked down the shore. A young woman was walking barefooted toward him along the water’s edge, the dog gamboling into the water and racing back to her. The heat from the rocks shimmered up into the air distorting her image. As he watched, she stooped to pick something from among the rocks. She was dressed in a simple white gown with lace at the collar and hem. Absent-mindedly he continued to smooth the wooden frame his mind half-distracted by the girl, and half by the growing heat of the noonday sun. He wondered why she was alone. Where were her folk? These were dangerous times to be out without an escort. She continued to walk closer, stopping at intervals to look at something, or throw a stick for the dog to chase.

Suddenly, she was standing in front of him. Not four feet away. Mouth agape he crossed himself quickly for he saw that she was no ordinary girl. Light shimmered and shifted around her and she seemed almost transparent. He might have thought himself dreaming but for the fact that she spoke.

“What are you doing?” She asked in an oddly accented voice.

“Are you a spirit?” he answered vaguely wondering if he had been out in the sun too long.

“Humm?” She cocked her head to one side, a frown on her forehead. Dark chocolate colored hair fell over her shoulder.

“Are you a spirit?” he asked again, this time in English for she obviously didn’t understand Gaelic.

“No, are you?” She asked quickly giving him an oddly questioning look. “What are you making?”

Ian did not know if he should answer the questions of a Faery girl. He picked up his try plane and continued to smooth the wood. The girl came a little closer and continued to watch him work as she dug her bare toes into the sand. After a time she spoke again.

“I found a couple of interesting fossils on the beach just down the way. You can have one if you want.” She reached out a hand and laid a small rock in the shape of a snail on the frame in front of him. “I think they’re bivalves.” She paused placing the other rock in the pocket of her dress and then asked again, “What are you making?”

Not wanting to seem rude, he answered. “A Currach…it’s a boat for my brother.” Stunned that he was having a conversation with a spirit-faery-angel he surreptitiously pinched himself to see if he was awake. It hurt, so he was.

“It’s not very big.” Bright hazel eyes took in the small frame. “Don’t you think it’ll sink in a storm?”

“He won’t be using it in a storm.” He said, miffed she dared disparage his project. He wondered if he aught tread carefully as faeries were well known to have capricious tempers.

“Hummph…” she looked skeptical. “Well, it’s pretty small. It wouldn’t hold up in a storm and he would die… it happens all the time.” She paused looking out across the water. “That’s how my parents died.”

Ian just stared at her. She talked strange. Who knew that spirit-faery-angels had parents who died? He watched as she took a step closer and ran her hand over the freshly smoothed wood. He cleared his throat.

“Sorry about your Mum and Dad.” He said.

“It’s OK.” She looked up and shrugged. “I don’t usually mind. This wood is beautiful. I’m sure it will be a perfectly wonderful boat. “Stepping back she dusted her hands on the edge of her gown. “When will it be done?” The raucous cry of a gull momentarily distracted his attention.

“Ian, time to go lad.” a voice called from behind him. Ian turned to see his Uncle James jump down from the steep bank that lined the shore by where he sat.

“Coming.” He called. He turned back to answer her question and say goodbye but the girl had vanished.

“Taken to talking to yourself have ye lad?” said his Uncle coming forward with a smile. “Ye know what they say…”

“Did you see her Uncle? Which way did she go? The girl. The girl I was talking to.”

“There was no one here but you laddie—actin’ strange.” His Uncle reached out a hand clapping his nephew on the shoulder. “Come on. Ye’d best come along out of the sun now. And don’t be telling yer Mum about yer hallucinations as she’s got enough to worry about just now.”

Reluctantly Ian stood. He picked up the small rock sitting on the Crannghail and tucking it quickly into his Sporran, grabbed his kilt. As he turned to follow the older man he asked, “Uncle, what’s a fossil?”
1.23.2009 | By: Alisa Callos

Childhood



Purple bunny, his fur matted and well loved lay abandoned in the corner of her room. Memories flooded back as I remembered how many times she would’nt go to sleep without him. Naps I’d stolen in to steal him for a bath in the washing machine and her joy when he came out of the dryer smelling clean and new. How she’d loved him. Slowly I reached down, picked him up, and set him on the windowsill. So fleeting, I thought, are the days of childhood.


Written in response to the prompt Toy. The One- Minute Writer.
1.17.2009 | By: Alisa Callos

An Investigative Pilgrimage or A Story in Comments

This story started at my friend Sunshine’s blog Word of the Day where every day she posts a new vocabulary word for readers to use in a sentence. Somehow, in the course of growing our vocabulary, Sunshine, BJ and I developed some characters and a story grew organically from the comments. I see this as a pilgrimage of sorts—the writing—how a story comes to be with characters created and set in a world to begin their own journey.

I bring you into this story as the King of England has sent our heroine, Princess Amelia, to a kibbutz in Palestine. She is looking for a missing ambassador. Word of the Day words are underlined and due to the nature of ‘commenting’, each sentence, while advancing the story line, has it’s character names spelled out in full. A few minor changes were made for story consistency. All historical misrepresentations are solely the fault of this author.

While at the kibbutz, Princess Amelia met with General Akim Baeder. Dressed in a bright red military uniform and seemingly oblivious to the squalor around him, he was the most narcissistic person she had ever met.

When questioning General Baeder about his knowledge of the missing ambassador, Princess Amelia made an oblique reference to her ongoing investigation of a certain blackmailer.

General Baeder’s information about the missing ambassador had thus far proved useless. Not wanting to let down the King, Princess Amelia arranged a ride to Jerusalem with a passing caravan of Bedouin tribesman. They would escort her to the English embassy for the paltry sum of 6 shillings.

Riding on a camel with a band of Bedouin tribesman didn’t exactly qualify as high class travel, but to Princess Amelia it was high adventure indeed.

As they rambled through the Judean countryside, Princess Amelia reflected that life on the back of a camel had certain disadvantages—getting down for bathroom breaks for example.

Arriving in Jerusalem by way of the Zion Gate, Princess Amelia wondered if the Jews thought it sacrilegious that Muslims had built the al-Aqsa Mosque upon Temple Mount.

Jerusalem was crowded and dirty. Princess Amelia knew she needed to find a clean place to stay so she headed for the embassy to get a recommendation. She knew she had the tacit approval of the king for her investigation but she was concerned that embassy personal would look askance at the fact that she was an unescorted woman.

Her fears unfounded, Princess Amelia heaved a sigh of relief. She had been met at the embassy by a jovial junior staff member with the unbefitting name of Regulus Campbell. Reggie—to his friends—directed her to a lovely hotel where she now found herself ensconced in the ultimate comfort—a bath.

Arising the next morning, Princess Amelia found herself possessed by the most curious sense of wanderlust. Jerusalem spread before her like a jewel in the desert and she longed to explore every nook and cranny. Unfortunately, there was the missing ambassador to find. Slowly she turned from her balcony and went to call her maid.

Just as she was about to ring for her maid, Princess Amelia heard a knock on her door. Clutching her wrap close she went to see who could be calling at this time of day. Upon opening the door, she was astonished and befuddled as a tall stranger stumbled into her room and collapsed upon her unmade bed. He looked deathly ill, his skin an alarming xanthous color, and he moaned piteously as he clutched his abdomen.

For a moment, Princess Amelia stood in shock looking at the stranger on her bed. “Good sir,” she said. “You are obviously very ill. Allow me to call a physician who can help you to your room.”
“No!” He groaned, clutching his belly. “You must help me. I’ve heard of your investigative skills and I need your help to catch the yegg whom I have been chasing for three months.”

Princess Amelia always pursued her investigations with zealous enthusiasm and the thought of a new challenge filled her with giddy delight.

Princess Amelia quickly rang for her maid who summoned a physician for the ill man whose name was Paulus Akbar. Between moans, Father Paulus told of his work as a monk searching for stolen objects and explained how abstinence, fasting, and prayer had let him to her door.

A beleaguered looking doctor dressed in a shabby waistcoat and jacket arrived just as Father Paulus was telling Princess Amelia of the theft of his monasteries sacred reliquary. It was a devastating loss for his order as it contained a fragment of the true cross of Christ.

Despite her enthusiasm for a new investigation, and after assessing the situation, Princess Amelia spoke with candor to Father Paulus. She told him that no investigation could take place until he was well and that in the meantime, she still had a missing ambassador to find.

The task of finding a missing ambassador would daunt even the stoutest of hearts but Princess Amelia felt only excitement as she left the hotel for the embassy that morning.

Walking through the markets of Jerusalem, Princess Amelia was amazed at the variety of goods offered for sale. The smell of freshly baked bread enticed her to the stall of a man dressed in an eclectic array of clothes. He wore powder blue breeches with a bright purple waistcoat. A Bedouin style overcoat, sandals, and turban completed his ensemble.

Her first meeting at the embassy was with Regulus Campbell. Unlike the man in the market, Princess Amelia could see that Reggie was a fastidious stylist. Dressed impeccably in breeches, waistcoat, and jacket, he was the very vision of fashion.

Walking towards the embassy drawing room, Princess Amelia delightedly accepted Reggie’s invitation to luncheon. Missing breakfast that morning due to Father Paulus’ precipitous arrival, and a brisk walk through the market had served to give her a gargantuan appetite.

Over Lunch, Princess Amelia told Reggie of her hapless investigation into the disappearance of Ambassador Hastings.

Princess Amelia also told Reggie of Father Paulus and his fear that the thief he was chasing was an iconoclast intent upon destroying priceless relics and works of art.

After a satisfying luncheon, Princess Amelia and Reggie wandered into the salon. Deep into a discussion of possible leads, Amelia confided her desire to jettison the many clues she was pursuing and start the investigation anew.

By now Princess Amelia was desperate for a break in her investigation. She missed her home in England and while Jerusalem held the promise of many adventures, she was anxious to return to the problem of Lady Chadwick and her blackmailing husband. She queried Reggie as to possible actions she could take that would provide the kinetic event needed to break open the case and lead to the discovery of Ambassador Hastings.

Regulus Campbell, while interested in her investigation, had a rather laissez-faire attitude and Princess Amelia realized that he was not going to be as much help as she had hoped. Beginning to despair she would ever find Ambassador Hastings she left the embassy to return to her hotel. As she walked down the wide stone steps to the street, a group of ragged urchins hollering and shouting in Arabic encircled her. The leader, a lad of about eight years with bright black eyes, surreptitiously pressed a scrap of paper into her hand before he and his gang ran down the street and were lost in the crowd.

Puzzled, Princess Amelia reflexively clutched the note tight in her hand as she gazed down the street after the urchins. Glancing down, she slowly unfolded the dirty paper and brought it close beneath her glasses squinting at the tiny print. “If you wish to find your ambassador,” the note said, “see Father Mark at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre after mass tomorrow.” Ecstatic and hoping this would prove the break she needed; Princess Amelia silently sent a prayer of thanks to the magnanimous soul who had sent her the note.

To be continued at Word of the Day
1.06.2009 | By: Alisa Callos

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Here’s hoping you all had a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year. I’ve been offline for a couple of weeks playing with the kids, having an awesome birthday and generally just having a great time in the snow. We’ve been skiing and sledding, we’ve made snow trails and had snowball fights. I received a pair of snowshoes for my birthday and we hiked up the mountain behind our house and sledded down the BIG hill. Tromping around I began to wonder if I didn’t do my snow dance a little too long a few weeks ago. It seems every other day has brought a new storm and we’ve now had about 65 inches of snow in the past three weeks. (So you don’t have to do the math…that almost 5 and a half feet!!!)
As I write this it is snowing again with another 4 inches forecast for this afternoon. I’ve spent the past 3 days raking snow from the roofs of our house and outbuildings—a very good exercise routine. As you can see, the snow on top of my bird feeder is now taller than the feeder—a fact I find slightly comical.
Today Sami went skiing with Papa while Zach and I stayed home to finish getting snow off the roof of our house. We had a grand time and here is a video I couldn’t resist posting. Also, a picture of Zach on a pile of snow so high he can touch the roof. We love the snow as it provides the many wonderful activities we enjoy, but we are beginning to wonder if it isn’t a bit too much of a good thing.

video