Thursday, January 8, 2015


Here's the latest thing I'm working on ! -- a short story called "Humanesques."

It was always obsidian black in our cages, so we couldn’t see Dr. Bluespire, his lovely assistant Veronique—or even ourselves.  What we looked like.
You can feel yourself—textures: scaly or feathery.  But…it’s not the same.
I think they must’ve used night-vision goggles.  Geraldo developed infra-red vision, and me: a kind of sonar.  So, I guess darkness was part of The Experiment.  (Of course, everything was part of The Experiment.)
We didn’t care that much what we looked like—because we were naïve.  Most of our energy was spent on trying to get out of our cages.
“But you can’t leave,” said Bluespire, half-mockingly, half-hypnotically.  “They won’t accept you, like I do.  They’ll come at you with torches and pitchforks.”
“Whose fault is that?” said Geraldo.
            I tried to be nice that time.  “What if we say ‘Pretty please, with sugar on top.’?  And we’ll come right back, in an hour.”  (As if I’d never tried that.)
            Geraldo ate Dr. Bluespire, first chance he got. 
            I asked “What if he’s poison?”  We were trained to be paranoid.  “Or just a wax figure, or an innocent doppelgänger?”
            “It didn’t taste like wax,” said Geraldo.  “And: no one’s innocent.”
            But I took of Dr. Bluespire’s last bit of advice to heart.  I lived in the sewers, where no one would see me.  I could be fine, living off eating rats and frogs, eels, human feces…
Geraldo had more refined tastes.  He was a creature of the air.
            I guess it’s natural we separated.  But we could keep in touch—a kind of mental telepathy.  Or haunting each other, from far away.  We were brothers.  Knew each other, inside and out.
“So, what are you gonna do with your life?” Geraldo asked me—over some distance.
“I’m not sure,” I said.  “What are you gonna do?”
“Wreak havoc,” he said.  “Get vengeance on DARPA, the faceless corporations—everyone who was responsible, for what they did to us.  Perhaps the whole race of humankind.”
            I’m glad he went first.  (And I always wanted to consider myself human.  Humanesque.) 
            “Well, then,” I said.  “I guess I’ll save lives, protect the weak and innocent.  Widows and orphans…Truth, justice, and the American way!” 
Veronique used to read to us: comic books, Charles Dickens…And sometimes we’d play good cop, bad cop in the old days—just like Dr. Bluespire and Veronique played with us.  Veronique was good cop, of course.  (Sometimes we played doctor.)  It was all part of The Experiment.
            The first time I met Geraldo on the surface—in downtown Necropolis…The first time I tried to interfere in Geraldo’s work: he killed me dead.  (I wasn’t ready.)
Geraldo was a creature of the air.  He could breathe fire.  My slimy skin was impervious to fire.  Still, it hurt my feelings
            When that didn’t work, Geraldo ate me—in one gulp.  Just like he ate Dr. Bluespire and Veronique.  But I was stronger than them.  I could punch my way out of his mouth and run far away—take refuge in the sewers.
            So, I didn’t die from loss of blood—but a broken-heart.  Geraldo was my brother.  How could he do that to me?  (When we were all alone, otherwise.)  I was truly without a friend in the world—or so I thought. 
I could feel my life draining away, and I let it.  Didn’t eat or drink anything, for more energy... [To be continued.]

My Utopian Future Synopsis [from 9 / 17 / 14]

Here's a synopsis for my #UtopianFutureNovel !  Starting to send out queries.


General Josef Faber is going stir-crazy after ten years of living on Roanoke, the first colony on Mars.  (They’ve lost contact with earth.  The last supply pod never came.)  During a war-games scrimmage, Faber kills the Magistrate, so he can abandon his post and return to earth. 

The other colonists realize it’s no accident—especially the Magistrate’s daughter Myrna.  She’s obviously furious at Faber, but he takes her along (unconscious, in suspended animation) because she’s pretty.  Faber thinks he’ll be emperor and she’ll be empress of—what he imagines to be—the new, post-Apocalyptic, desert wasteland of an earth.

When the colonists left, in 2089, a war was ramping up—looked like Axis versus Allies (the U.S. and E.U. versus China and Russia).  But it turned into a World Civil War, the poor rising up against the rich.  There is wide-scale destruction, including most modes of transportation.  All they have left are Spools: a sort of teleportation, body-sharing program, downloading / uploading consciousness, to see how the other half lives, walk a mile in their shoes…

Otherwise, the survivors are forced to—and decide to—live simply.  At first, in make-shift shelters.  Then, they build phalanxes, ghost-towns—museums you can live in—to remember history (and not repeat it).  There is a hidden phalanx, Hell, and an Egyptian mystery cult called Animus—working to replace the animals, who’ve died off (from radiation).
Faber wants to find Helios, the International Space people, to be debriefed—and demand to know why the supply pod never came…but never gets there.  It’s secluded. 

There is no central government, but Faber meets up with a remnant of the World Governing Body’s transition committee, Pierre Cardin the XIIIth and Casilda (former UN Secretary-General) in the Caribbean, New Venice.  Cardin is a philosopher—and they have a huge hybrid tree (jacaranda-mangrove) he calls the Tree of Life and Wisdom.

They offer Faber a consort, Aubrey—really a spy to keep an eye on him (and an initiate into the mystery religion, Animus).  They send him someplace he’ll be more comfortable: the Wild West.  He ends up going crazy and shooting up a Saloon—but the characters are robot simulacrum.  (So, they anticipated trouble.)

Aubrey pities Faber, but Myrna thinks they’re not taking the threat of him seriously.  Myrna turns Gummo—Faber’s right-hand-man and pilot—against Faber.  She gets Gummo to help her, and spools into Aubrey’s body, to take the law into her own hands and kill Faber—but only ends up getting Aubrey killed, when she switches back.  (Faber actually feels bad because he liked Aubrey.)

The world does seem perfect, but there’s a slight glitch.  The Boorstein Box (or “Puddle-Jumper” engine), which sped up travel-time from earth to Mars by creating little worm-holes—contracting space in front of the ship, so it’s sucked through—is causing distortions in the space-time continuum.  That’s why the supply pod never arrived on Mars.
Helios is working on a solution.  Myrna wants to steal a ship from them—maybe return to Mars, to get away from Faber, in case he takes over the world.  (Some gondoliers shuttle Myrna back-and-forth between New Venice and Helios.)

Alexander Boorstein, the inventor, used to work for Helios—and the World Governing Body—but has gone mad.  He’s a ghost of his former self from his experiments, torn between different planes of time.  He uses Faber as a puppet, promises to send him to the past—when Faber thinks things were better.  He was a famous astronaut, on top of the world and military hierarchy...  (Plus, to see his fiancée, whom Aubrey looks like—not a coincidence.)  Faber finds a few subversives who agree with him, living in the Capitol Building in D.C., a mix of former senators and hoboes.

Boorstein tells the subversives Faber will lead their revolution.  In the meantime, he gives Faber instructions to find a Boorstein Box in New Venice—and use it as half-time machine and half-weapon of mass destruction.  Faber lays waste to New Venice, kills most of its inhabitants, looking for the Boorstein Box.

A gondolier, Juan-Carlos, shuttles Myrna and Gummo to Helios.  On the way, Gummo complains that they didn’t have a back-up plan if Aubrey failed at her mission (keeping an eye on and neutralizing Faber, if he got out of hand).  Juan-Carlos, really a leader of Animus, chides them and says Aubrey didn’t fail.  She got closer to Faber than anyone.  Also, that she might still be alive—because they’re working on resurrecting animals—and a Spool, downloading / uploading consciousness, is halfway there.

Myrna gets a ship from Helios and is all set to escape back to Mars, but Gummo spools into a body in New Venice, to try and stop Faber.  He dies.  Myrna feels bad (because she used Gummo).  She spools into Gummo’s body and is close to death—when Faber finds the Boorstein Box and turns it on.  It seems like all is lost—until Aubrey returns from the dead (from a trap-door beneath the Tree of Life and Wisdom). 

Faber still pushes the button, and it goes off like a bomb—but Myrna is unharmed, inside the right radius.  Faber and Aubrey disappear into the past.

p.s. I'm running for Nevada State Senate ! [from 7 / 18 / 14]

I put up a bunch of junk about that on Facebook--or I used to:

If you really want to be a pal [or a doll, whatever], you could donate to my campaign !

I think I will have to form some committee: "Friends-of-Joe."

Anyhow, in the meantime... I filled out a questionnaire the other day for the Henderson Chamber of Commerce.  (If they want to endorse me.  Probably not, because I believe in a little corporate tax -- and a little ["graduated"] minimum wage increase.)

So...out of curiosity: here are some of my views !

(I edited my answers slightly here, for clarity--and length; they had a word limit.)

Q. Would you like to see a Minimum Wage increase ?
A. Well...Sure, of course, I would love to.  (I'd like to see the _Federal_ minimum wage increased.)
_BUT_ as it is now...I'm not sure it's feasible for Nevada.  I don't want to hurt small businesses. 
I can say this from experience.  I'm really an educator, but work part-time for a small-business: ESI Security in Reno.  (They have anywhere between 300 to 400 employees.  It goes up and down.)
But I have a solution: I'd like to see a “graduated” or “gradated” minimum wage increase.  That small companies can be exempt--but larger corporations, like Wal-Mart, who can afford to pay higher wages, should.
Q. What do you think of  SJR15 ? – which, essentially, taxes the mining companies more.
A. I support it.
It's like we're living in Africa, and these are blood diamonds.  If they are becoming enriched from the state's natural resources...I don't think it's too much to ask for them to share a little with the rest of Nevadans.
Again: this is one way to get money for Education--and other things we could use.
I have one idea: think we need to re-vamp the state's water works.  That we shouldn't be watering our lawns with -- or taking showers in-- potable drinking water.  Need to be more efficient.
Q. What are your thoughts on education ?
# 1. K-12 and Higher Ed needs more money.
So... We have to get that somewhere.  I like the idea of A. some corporate tax, B. taxing the mining industries.
# 2. I like Washoe County's shift in being more career-oriented.  (Having high schools focus on things like agriculture...)
I think we need mandatory classes in creativity / problem-solving.  I say this as an educator.  (Six years teaching English at UNR and TMCC.)
It affects businesses / corporations, too.  Here's a little link--to an article, "The Creativity Crisis."
p.s.  One note: I don't like charter schools--think they steal money away from public schools.
And I’m a fan of teachers’ unions, of course.
Q. What do you think of the “Business Margin Tax” ?  (Ballot Question 3.)
Do you support it, in its current form ?
A. I wish I could write "Maybe."
I think we need some sort of corporate tax.  (The state can no longer rely on casino revenues.)
One issue I have: it might not ensure that the money would go straight to education--which I think it should do.
Q. What are your thoughts on Health Care ?
# 1. Obviously, farming out the health-care exchange to Xerox didn't work.
So--like a lot of other states: it makes sense to use the federal one.
I pray for the day when we will all have Universal Health Care, a single-payer system.  I think if you eliminated the middle-man of insurance companies, you'd save billions.
I come by that opinion honestly enough.  Went on a Mormon / LDS mission to Sweden.  They have it there, and it works fine.
But:  I think it’ll be 5 or 10 years—and will have to come top-down.  (Don’t think we can go it alone, forging ahead ourselves, like Vermont.)  In the meantime, I think we could emulate California’s system a little more.  They seem pretty efficient.
And, really--even if you're dealing with say, uninsured homeless and poor people…Most doctors themselves agree: the state would save more money in the long run, providing pre-emptive, preventative care—versus having to wait until last-ditch, death-bed care.
# 2. I think it's ridiculous, that there isn't some system of having patient histories on an "intranet"--so they can be shared from one doctor to another.

"Who Could That Be At This Hour?" An Unfortunate Review [from 1 / 16 / 14]

Just read Lemony Snickett's "Who Could That be at This Hour" ? (I should be doing other stuff, but...) Lemme see if I can nail down why I don't like it:

1. Too much mysterious suspense and foreshadowing. Not enough real stuff happening now, in the present book. 2. Just his style... I get a little sick of him defining vocab. "Reticent, which in this instance means..." [and he actually gets wrong]

I remember--trying to read Unfortunate Events, and hearing him on the radio: getting sick of his fake-depressing schtick.  (Not as much in this book, but...sure, still a little.)

3. Maybe the stakes aren't high enough. (I know can't save the world every time; but all that work--of a whole book--for some stupid trinket...we probably won't find out why important until book 5 or 6.)

So, that's the critic--and professional jealousy--in me. Sometimes a little bit fun / funny / interesting... I could add: I like that the town is called "Stained-by-the-Sea" and fueled by Octopus Ink.  That's great.

And I got sucked into it.  Wanna find out what happens in end...but, then, kind of maddening--b/c, again, with mystery vs. action--not satisfactory enough. I don't think.  Doesn't reveal enough here and now.  Ending is always: "Sorry.  Gotta wait, go read my other book--if you really wanna find out."

Like only solution: get mad or stop caring.  (Don't want to read a whole nother book, to find out what he should've told me already.)

I guess this is kind of a rant, huh ?  Okay, I'm done.

Me against Amazon and Twilight the keyword ! [from 11 / 13 / 13]

Wanna hear a funny story ?

I wrote a little book -- like in one month, just for fun, called "The House of the Midnight Sun." 

Kind of Twilight fan fiction (from Edgar's perspective)  -- or satire.  A tiny bit funny.

Starring Stephanie Meier instead of Bella.  She ends up being the bad guy.

But... really takes on a life of its own, stops caring about all that.


I got an email from Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing people, saying:

"During a quality assurance review of your catalog, we found that the search keywords for the following book(s) are misleading to our customers:
The House of the Midnight Sun (ID: B00D476Q1S) - contains search keyword(s):twilight
Search keywords that are not accurate descriptors of your book’s central storyline or are 
completely unrelated to its content may be misleading to our customers and are unacceptable.
 Misleading search keywords, such as reference to other authors or titles, result in 
confusion for customers as to why your work is included in search results.  

We ask that you remove all misleading keywords, including but not limited to those above, 
for all of your catalog’s affected books and re-submit the books for publishing within 
5 business days. If your books have not been corrected by that time, they will be removed 
from sale in the Kindle Store."
It's like "It's not misleading. That's the whole point. It's connected. It's Fan Fiction."

And Stephanie Meyer can't copyright a keyword.  Satire's protected under Das 1st Amendment.

And besides: only like five people have read that book of mine (not including my own mother--she hasn't).
(p.s. I don't think it's her lawyers meddling against me.  Is it possible some fan bought it, thinking it to be Midnight Sun?  Then, they deserve it.)  Probably just a few people clicking "NO" after  "Was this helpful?

Anyhow... Here's the email I wrote back to them [trying to be nice]:

"Hi !
My name is Joe Hunt, author of The House of the Midnight Sun, ID # B00D476Q1S.
I got an email saying I have a misleading keyword -- that I would like to appeal.
Remember, Stephanie Meyer was going to write Twilight from Edward's perspective, and call it "Midnight Sun" ? 
So, that's kind of what I did.  I wrote a book from _Edgar_ 's perspective.  The female character is actually named Stephanie Meyer instead of Bella.
So it's FAN  FICTION  or RPF  [Real Person Fiction--but not really].  It's SATIRE.  It's supposed to be funny.  But, actually kind of serious.  I think it's pretty well-written.  Takes on a life of its own.  Becomes its own story.
And I titled it "House of the Midnight Sun"--like "House of the Rising Sun."  (The song.)
So, I really do want that word "twilight" in there.  It plays off of her books, but then takes on a life of its own.  So I don't want to delete it.  Please.  I like it in the keywords.  It fits.  It's not misleading.  Totally connected.
Have you read my book ?
But: Satire is okay, right ?  Covered by copyright.  Imitation, the sincerest form of flattery.
Stephanie Meyer can't copyright the word "Twilight," can she ?
Anyhow...I'm trying to ask you nicely.  Hopefully, this can be worked out.
I'm asking you nicely.  Okay / Sincerely !
Joe Hunt"

Anyhow !  Watch this thing blow up in my face. 


Update: Hey, p.s. I won ! Justice is served.

Or...I just nicely explained. They looked over it a little deeper, and realize: it's fine.

It's really harmless. Not really a satire, making fun of Twilight, but...goes off in its own direction, to tell some other crazy story.

Shakespeare's Sister, J.K. Rowlings' Hillbilly Cousin... [from 11 / 9 / 13]

Sometimes I feel like Shakespeare's sister. Have you heard that theory ? That: what if he had one, equally genius ? Wouldn't've had the same opportunities, or been as successful--b/c of her gender.

There actually is a real-life example: Mozart's sister, Nannerl, also played piano--but they didn't promote as much, married her off fairly young...

So, _me_: I feel like J.K. Rowling's hillbilly cousin (or something). That, you know: I'm pretty proud of my work lately...think it would make a good movie--but: it's slightly hard to claw your way into people's literary hearts.

You know: J.K. Rowling herself did a little experiment--with Cuckoo's Calling, under a fake name...and, sure enough: flew below the radar--until it was revealed: she wrote it.

Nobel Prize Prediction, 2013 ! [11/ 7 / 13]

The Nobel Prize in Literature: TBA this Thursday ! Who do you think will win ?

The New York Times article [link below] mentions Haruki Murakami--who[m] I really like. (Reading Norwegian Wood right now.  Read 3 others--my favorite: Hard-Boiled Wonderland.)

_But_ ... I'm gonna predict the poet Adonis ! To represent, for Syria. (And he's great, a ton of fun.)

Sometimes they say: the prize in Lit. can be act like a 2nd peace prize.,0,7700231.story

 p.s. I swear: I didn't actually read the whole article, and put Adonis anyway--then I saw: he shows up at the end.  (But I've seen his name on the short list, other years--so that's why I bought a book of his.)

And...back in the day--getting an MFA in UMass--I was trying to be a little expert on the Nobel Prize, like as a shadow thesis.  (Vs. just writing a bunch of poems.)

Remember, I went on a Mormon mission to Sweden, too--got back and thought: "Should be able to do something useful with this language."  (Tried a tiny bit of translation--and liked it.)

I actually put together a little anthology of Nobel Prize-winning poetry, b/c it doesn't exist, and it should.  (People would buy it.)  Not totally finished, but: sent to FSG a while ago.  Haven't heard back.


Part II !

Someone--Cassandra Jones--wondered: "Margaret Atwood?"--so I'll say a few words.  You do see a few Americans on lists every now and then: Phillip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates.  I like Thomas Pynchon, altho. he's kind of thick, hard to read.  But...

I don't think so.  Wouldn't put my money on it.  Think they a little Anti-American.  Two years ago, one of the main people... [Horace Engdahl, maybe?--the guy that actually announces them] came out and said--paraphrasing, basically: "No one in America is writing anything of international importance.  Like they're regionalists."

And they were catching flak for a while: too many English or European winners.  So, they are playing catch-up a little.  (They've admitted it.)  A Chinese winner last year...

Okay, sincerely, good enough.Nobe

Where I got the idea for Hoboe Orphan Novel [from 11 / 7 / 13]

# 0. Actually, maybe can't pinpoint exactly when came together--but a few dominoes !

A. I was just sitting around one day, thinking--w/ Harry Potter, Series of Unfortunate Events, etc.--"Why are they always stupid orphans?"

Then thought, "I should write my own.  Have, like, a...Home for Magical Hoboe Orphans."  B/c:

1. Of course, has to be magical, too.
2. Who would have orphans more than hoboes ?
3. Hoboes, in the abstract are funny--like on the Simpsons.  (But I know: not in real life.  Not making fun of anyone--you'll see.)

B. A long time ago, in high school... [I never liked UFO's.]...Thought up the phrase: "God put me here on earth, to be a Scarecrow-to-the-Aliens."  I liked the concept.

C. I think sometimes: "The trouble with writing Fantasy is: if a bunch of crazy stuff going on, how do you explain its effect on the real world?"
I like my stuff to co-exist with the real world.

So, eventually thought of a marble world super-imposed on the real world.  That way, a war could happen in secret--not freak out the norms.  (I like stuff super-imposed on other stuff.)

D. Then: I like the idea... "If this crazy war is going on...What if it's all a charade?  That the soldiers or agents don't even know they're being used."

So, needed to take a step back--some kind of puppet master, pulling strings.

E. And if there is such a character as "The Scarecrow-to-the-Aliens," what would he / she look like ?

Thought it would be fun if what they're doing: kind of secret.  People don't know exactly what they're doing.

I've been to a butterfly pavilion before. They're pretty cool.

& I like the idea of voodoo dolls.  Holding some little object--and it really affects a person.  So, why not butterflies ?

Anyhow / Sincerely !

A dream: "How Gregor Mendel Got His Powers." [from 4 / 6 / 13]

I dreamed the way Gregor Mendel got his powers was by throwing himself through the castle's plate-glass windows (in a rain-storm).  Then, when he hit bottom: a man with a Ram's head explained his life's mission to him.

Then, also: I was a teacher, teaching this, showing a book on the overhead.  Then supposed to ask three questions: 1. What thing like this could happen to you?  (How might you die?)   2. Who would appear to you?  3. What would your mission in life be ?

Then, the funny thing, too: that Gregor Mendel doesn't really have powers.  He's the guy who studied pea pods [genetics, dominant & recessive).  But I'm writing a novel right now--about Hoboes with super-powers.  So, that makes sense.

The Saga of our Cat--Almost [from 3 / 20 / 13].

Five minutes or so before moving to California forever, neighbor-kids from across the street came over and said "Hi.  My Mom said we could..."  (I thought going to say "play over here."  Jump on the trampoline.)  But: "you could have our cat."

We were like "Huh."  Kind of shocked; it was so sudden.  (We've never had a discussion with the parents.)  We don't have any animals.  In the end, we were like "No.  Maybe someday--but that's not the way to do things."

So, then, they left--and abandoned the cat.  Saw it around, in our back-yard (probably eating the mulch-pile in the garden).  So, we were like "Okay."  Let it in, gave it some milk or tuna, whatever.  We all fell in love with it!  Decided to name it Django (like the boy-child I never had).  Sarah's idea.  (It was Henry, before.)

Then, a day or two later: some people come back to load up more stuff.  The cat walks out the door, as we leave to go somewhere.  I think I hear the guy whistling--maybe to the cat.  (It's slightly awkward / embarrassing, to be seen with someone else's abandoned cat.)

Then, we come home--and it's gone forever!  The guy must've taken it with him, after all.  So, we're kind of sad.  I mean: I guess we can go get another one--the old-fashioned way.  But it's not the same.

The Home for Magical H.O.B.O.E. Orphans [from 2 / 18 / 13].

I started a new novel -- about Magical Hoboe Orphans. 

"Like to hear it?  Here it go."--as they used to say on "In Living Color."

            The King of the Hoboes wielded a shadow army.  The Queen of the Harpies had an opposing army, locked in endless stalemate—like two sides of a chess-board of Whack-a-moles.  Whenever a soldier was struck down, another rose to take his place.
            And neither side could lose a pawn without the Scarecrow-to-the-Aliens noticing.  Although the fighting took place—not just in cover of darkness, but—in the Unseen World, she felt the ripple effects.
            In an alleyway between two bowling alleys, a double-agent (carrying a message) was accosted by two Harpies.  He almost had a hard time, keeping the two sides straight—what he’d told or done for both, but he knew he was outnumbered.
            The lead, a female Succubus, said “How do you sleep at night, Slicker, being a double-agent?”
            The other, the muscle Incubus, said “Yeah.  Seems like you’d get zero shut-eye, pulling two shifts.”
            “It’s not like that,” Slicker tried to explain (but his heart wasn’t in it—he knew it was over).  “Maybe I’m a triple agent.”
            “I don’t think so,” said the Incubus (appropriately named Blockhead).
            “Have to save time somewhere, by not shining your shoes, I guess.  Start cutting corners…”  The lady Maleficent was leaning against a wall, eyeing her fingernails.
            Slicker was trying to think quickly.  He had a suicide capsule in his right hand, but couldn’t conceive what to do with the message.  He’d forgotten the standard-issue self-destruct attachment.  He really had been cutting corners.
             “I’ll be taking that,” said Blockhead.  “Suicide’s too good for you.”  He smashed Slicker’s head through the wall.  (Slicker truly saw birds circling his head.)  Then pulled him back, kicked the hole bigger, then threw Slicker’s whole body through it.  They followed after.
            Maleficent took a deep breath.  “I love the smell of fresh bowling alley,” she said.  Leaned over and grabbed Slicker’s hat.  She knew right where to look, hidden behind the band.  (He usually had a fake flower there—an explosive device—but not tonight.)  She started reading it right in front of him.  That seemed like a fate worse than death for Slicker. 
            It took her two seconds to crack the code.  “A-ha.  The Buddhist temple.  Why didn’t I think of that?  An excellent hiding place.”  She relayed the information to her walkie-talkie.  “Then…I guess you’ve out-lived your usefulness.”
            “Maybe you need to take your medicine after all.”  Blockhead stuffed the capsule in his mouth.  Then tossed him down the lane.  “A perfect strike.”  And turned to leave.
             “Maybe not,” said Maleficent, pausing.  Maybe he’d managed to spit out the capsule, and was still struggling to his feet.  (He should’ve pretended to be dead.)
            “I’ve gotta warn them,” he was thinking, although he could hardly think, for the pain.  He realized he wasn’t bleeding.  Where there should have been cuts and bruises looked almost corroded, rusted over—a bluish white marble—and that’s how he knew he was done for.  “I’m just a cartoon,” he thinks (and pictures himself playing a harp on a cloud).
            “There’s one pin-head left standing,” said Maleficent.  “A seven-ten split.”  She plucked up a bowling ball.  Held it in her hands for a moment, like a cannon-ball.  Kissed it.  Then, it might as well have been a pumpkin—finding its way to its new owner: a headless horseman.
            The Scarecrow-to-the-Aliens almost couldn’t watch.           
            She saw the scene exactly as it happened, but if you were watching her…it looked like she was strolling, entranced, through the Butterfly Pavilion.  But it was really an armillary sphere, scale model of her known universe.  The butterflies didn’t represent every human alive: just the ones she has to keep an eye on—Hoboe and Harpy agents.
            They wheel around her, bob and weave, in some choreography, held up by strings or clockwork gears (only she can decipher).  She is not exactly the puppet-master, but is at the center—like the sun.  The butterfly model of Slicker alights on her fingertip and ignites, then burns out.  She sighs, but is more troubled than that. 
            What really worries her is the infestation of moths, almost indistinguishable from butterflies.  She doesn’t know where they came from—overturning the balance of a two-sided chess-board into Chinese checkers—but is dying to find out, before the world implodes.
            She has one hope.  The Scarecrow-to-the-Aliens removes from her pocket two new paper-doll cut-outs.  She drew them herself: one for Felix Cube and one for Cameo (like voodoo dolls).  She folds them in half, together—then releases them into the wild, whispering “Godspeed.”  The paper, making contact with air, instantly blends into butterfly wings.  She watches their progress until it takes too much effort.  She loses them in the swarm.
Chapter 1: Introductions
            Felix Cube was born and raised in the Home for Magical Hoboe Orphans.
            There, they are told: “You were not abandoned for lack of love.  And your parents are not run-of-the-mill poor and destitute.  They have sacrificed themselves to lives and deaths of danger, fighting both real and allegorical monsters, keeping the world safe for truth, justice, and you.”
            Still, this seemed to Felix like small consolation.  He felt a loneliness he could not describe (you’d need a foreign word like ennui or saudade, that he didn’t know)—until he crossed paths with Cameo Rothschild.
            She was laid in a bed next to his, her first night.  She leaned over and whispered to Felix: “I don’t belong here, you know.  My mother is not a Magical Hoboe.”
            “Okay,” he whispered back (only pretending to sleep).
            “She is the archangel Ariel.  And that is the gift she bestowed upon me: that I can see things as they truly are.
            That was half the fun of being a Magical Hoboe Orphan: you had to figure out your own talents and gifts, bestowed upon you as a fated birthright.
            “Like this ceiling,” said Cameo, for example.  “It isn’t made out of wood and darkness, but stained glass.  Like the Sistine Chapel.”  (She didn’t know everything.)  “Can you see it?—a scene of my mother driven into the wilderness, chased by the six-headed dragon!”
            Felix Cube’s talent—what he’d figured out so far: was that he could draw really well.  (Before Cameo got there, the highest he could dream was being a police sketch artist.)  The next day, with permission from the Magistrate, he painted the scene as Cameo described it.
            That is how they became fast friends—and more than that.  Their fates were intertwined and sealed.  Also, when it wasn’t dark, Felix could see two things: that Cameo was bed-ridden (paralyzed or something), and always wore a ballerina outfit, complete with tutu.  “Why do you always wear that?” he asked her—the more polite of two questions he could think of.
            But she was not ready to talk about that yet.  “You have to wear something,” she said, “or you’d be naked.  Plus: as a disguise.” 
            Then, she said—turning to the other ten children (the crowd gathered around): “And to answer your question: this is my blessing and curse.  If it were not so, that I was weighted down…”—she pulled up her sheets, to reveal some ankle bracelets—“and stuck in this bed, nothing would stop me from floating away.”
Chapter 2: Tea  Parties
            In the old days, Felix Cube would spend his mornings painting a portrait of the Magistrate, Rudolph.  These portraits lined the hallway leading to his office.
            “There are few professions more noble than that of police sketch artist,” Rudolph would say.  “You are instrumental in catching the criminal…without getting your hands dirty—with blood.  I’ve seen enough blood for all of us.  Sure, a little charcoal, maybe…”
            So, it threw off Rudolph’s schedule, made him a little sad—when Cameo appeared on the scene.  But he understood.
            Felix Cube would carry Cameo outside for a picnic or tea party, under the lilac trees.  Rudolph would watch and say “Be careful with her.” 
            Grimace carried out her whole bed, to lay her in.  He wanted to carry Cameo herself because he was the strongest, and almost a giant, at seven feet tall—though only fifteen.  But Cameo was light as a feather, so Felix could do it.
            Felix and Cameo weren’t alone, at their tea parties.  Cameo was like a magnet, for the other children. 
            The two twins especially fell in love with her—became like her ladies-in-waiting.  They looked like miniature Marilyn Monroe’s, at eight years old, with platinum blonde hair, but were named Hop and Scotch.  The interesting thing about them was: they never showed emotion—until Cameo came.
            The thing they liked to do best was wiggle Cameo’s toes and say stuff like:
            “This alligator was a monster.
            This alligator played nice.
            This alligator breathed fire.
            This alligator breathed ice.
            This alligator was kicked out of paradise.”
            Part of her magnetism was Cameo Rothschild told them all stories (like a Wendy to the Lost Boys).  She’d seen more of the outside world, not being cooped up in a home-for-orphans all her life.
            It was understood, that when you turned sixteen, you left the home and were apprenticed to the King of the Hoboes.  “But it’s not an apprenticeship,” Cameo told them.  “It’s like being sold into slavery—or to gypsies.”
            “How awful,” said Hop.
            “And do you know what you really do?” Cameo asked.  Of course, you made use of your talents, somehow—they knew that.  “They make you fight each other.  Like cock-fights or dog-fights!  Or mixed martial arts.”
            The Magistrate, Rudolph, was a noble man, but he wasn’t above eavesdropping.  Unless he had a weakness for tea—or was drawn to Cameo like a magnet, too.  “Hm,” he only said to himself.  Stroked his chin.  And made a lot of phone-calls.
Chapter 3: What  They  Are  Up  Against
            During one of their picnics—Felix was painting Cameo in a pose and costume of Cleopatra—Cameo Rothschild whispered to her four new friends: “This is all very nice.  I’m not making fun of your company, or the quality of tea.  But we have to get out of here.  We gotta get to the Museum of Supernatural History.”  (It was normally called The Museum of Natural History.)
            “Piece a cake,” said Grimace.
            “Yeah, we been there before,” said Felix.  “On a field trip.”
            “We are allowed out sometimes,” said Hop. 
             “And the gate’s not locked,” said Scotch.  “It’s only like a mile away.  We could walk there.”
            “Right,” said Cameo.  “Sometimes the most Herculean feat appears easy.  That’s what They want you to think!  But remember: that is my talent—to see things as they truly are.”  They remembered. 
            “Who is this ‘They’ you’re talking about?” Felix asked.
            “Right.  I haven’t explained them so far—not to scare you.  But if I tell you, you must promise not to tell a soul.  Knowing it could be your death warrant.  And I’ll understand, if you won’t join me on my quest.”
            All of them promised.  None of them said the most obvious thing: that if they were going to the Museum…Cameo couldn’t even walk.  Grimace was thinking he would carry her.  Felix was thinking they could break off the wheels from their scooters and nail them to the feet of her bed.
            “They are called different things,” Cameo kept going.  “Treasure-hunters, Head-hunters, Scavengers—or Tourists.  Some call them aliens or alien invaders, space invaders—but no one knows where they come from.  Some think from other worlds.  Some from the future or past, in time machines or magical time machine shoes…”
            “Time machine shoes?” Grimace asked.
            “My mother knows all about them,” said Cameo.
            “Your mother, the archangel?” Felix said.  (The twins wanted to know more about that.)
            “What my mother really is…” said Cameo, “is ‘A Scarecrow to the Aliens.’  It is her task, to scare them away.  To make sure the Scavengers don’t stay long, or tell their friends to come here.”
            “Wow,” said Hop and Scotch in unison.
            “And she’s good at her job,” Cameo continued.  “But there’s a spy who betrayed her!  Her cover has been blown.  She’s been compromised.  That’s why I was sent here, because she’s in danger.  But that’s why we have to get to the Museum—to save her.  She’s also the curator of the Museum.”
            “Wow, she has like three jobs,” said Grimace.  “I bet she gets a lot of money.”
            Felix finally came right out and said it.  “So, but if what you’re saying is true…How can we help her?  We’re just kids.  And…you know…You can’t even walk real good.”
            “You let me worry about that,” said Cameo. 
Chapter 4: Disbelief
            Cameo Rothschild turned to the twins.  “I understand, before I got here, you couldn’t feel emotion.”  They nodded, embarrassed.  “Okay, so that means there’s power there.  When you wiggle my toes, I feel some movement.  So…I need you to cry some tears on my legs.  I’m thinking that will fix ‘em up.”
            The twins looked at each other, quizzically.  Felix Cube looked at Grimace the same way.  “And Grimace, I’m going to need you—to fight—because you’re strong.”
            Then, Felix thought to himself, like What can I do?  Reading his mind, Cameo said “Don’t worry, Felix.  You’re my good luck charm.”
            “Okay,” he said.  “Well, I feel a little bad—I’m not as big and strong as Grimace.”  Her whole story sounded crazy to him.  They all played along with it.  But still…he could still feel bad.  “All I can do is draw,” he said.
            “Are you kidding?” said Cameo.  “Drawing is the most useful skill there is.  How about paint some racing stripes down my legs?  That’d help.”
            He felt a little dumb—like she was a teacher, giving him busy work, just to make him feel good—but went to get his paints.
            While Felix was away, Cameo said “Now, how can I get you to cry sincere tears?  I don’t want to scar you for life, but…”  Then she snapped her fingers.  “I got it.  Do you know what happened to your parents?”
            That did the trick, turned on the water works.  Cameo cradled Hop and Scotch, but maneuvered them so their heads and tears fell on her legs.  (She pulled up her Cleopatra dress, to absorb them.)  “There, there,” she said, patting their heads like little puppy dogs.  “I’m sorry I said anything…but it’s business.  You’ll feel better after a good cry.”
            Grimace was looking around, like he hoped no one else was watching—or maybe should go get the Magistrate.  (It is interesting, Rudolph didn’t interfere in what Cameo was doing.)
            The twins were almost done crying by the time Felix came back with his paint bucket, five minutes later. 
            “What did you do?” said Felix, not sure who he was asking—Grimace or Cameo.
            “Nothing,” said Grimace.  He got them a Kleenex.  (He did consider it part of his job, to look after them—because they were so small and he was so big.)
            “It’s okay,” said Cameo.  “It’s under control.  Now, for the finishing touches.  Felix.  Paint me some nice stripes—blue and red, if you would.  Blue for courage, red for blood.”  Felix did as he was told. 
            “Now,” she said as he was going, “I know you don’t believe my story.  That’s okay.  It doesn’t’ hurt my feelings.”
            “No, we do,” said Hop.
            “You will believe it when you see what I’ve seen.  It’s a little tough—because some of this stuff is invisible, but…” 
            “Finished,” said Felix.
            “Good,” said Cameo.  Then she stood up.  Hop and Scotch gasped.
            “Is it possible she was faking the whole time?” Grimace whispered to Felix.
            “I don’t know,” he whispered.  (She’d been lying in bed for a week.)
            “Okay, let’s go,” said Cameo.
            “Right now?” Grimace asked.  “Don’t we…need to pack a lunch, or bring some weapons or something?”
            “That’s a valid question…” said Cameo. 
            “Or tell Rudolph where we’re going?” said Scotch.
            “My mother used to say I could get by on my good looks,” said Cameo.  “Plus I’ve got my good luck charm, Felix, here.”
            That’s the second time she’s said that, Felix thought to himself—like it was suspicious.
            “Let’s just step out the front gate, and see how far we get,” said Cameo.  “I’m curious to find out, myself.  Sort of…test the waters.”
            “I guess there’s no harm in that,” said Grimace.  Again, they didn’t quite believe Cameo, or know what to make of her story so far.
            They looked both ways (then a full circle—no sign of the Magistrate).  Then, unlatched the huge gate and walked out.
            The first cannonball tore Felix’s hand clean off.

On the Nature of Candy: Why I don't like it as much as I used to [1 / 19 / 13].

I used to love candy ! -- but, as I get older: some of it (Pez) tastes like _powder_.  Jelly beans and gummy bears taste like _plastic_.

And no candy can beat raspberries / blueberries by Mother Nature... (or a watermelon)

But I still love chocolate !  (But, like, has to be: Symphony or Cadbury.)

And p.s. I don't think  b/c losing sense of smell, either.  (Probably mostly b/c more health conscious, and if stop eating something, your body stops craving it.)

But, if I'm going to the movies--that's a different story.  Can sit there, chomp and chomp.  (Same thing: if I'm eating pizza, then I want root beer, but otherwise: don't care about soda pop.)

I haven't liked brownies or cake for a long time, either.  Still cheese-cake and maple-bars (once in a while).

Mostly, I mean to say: funny, how your tastes change, huh ?

Back to normal--after grad school application [from 1 / 15 / 13].

I finished [turned in] my application to grad. school !  Phew, finally.

Now I can get back to my regular life...blogging, on Facebook, for example.  (Feel like I've been gone a while.)

So, to catch up--a few things:

A. I'm now a subscriber to The New Yorker !  (Thank you, Brian Crane !)  It makes me feel like a real adult.  Or classy.  Now, if I had a subscription to National Geographic...I could open up a dentist's office.

B. I, for one, am glad Lance Armstrong went to see Oprah.  Really, good for him.  It's kind of sad--if it's true--but...That's what you do.  Oprah takes the place of God (or the pope) and forgives you.  That's a good thing.  (I mean that honestly / sincerely.)  Live strong !

C. It is interesting the French are making incursions into Mali.  Usually, that seems like our job -- going it alone, the Bush Doctrine way.  So, good for them.  I hope it works out.  (Again: honestly / sincerely.)

D. Got a cd, Father John's "Fear Fun"--never heard of--from bro. Hyrum Hunt.  Didn't know what to expect..but it's fantastic !  (You're probably already familiar with it.)

So...Ah...That's enough for now.

Recipe for "Fruit Mash." [from 12 / 9 / 12].

Someone asked me to share a favorite recipe.  So here it is !  Fruit Mash -- or "Crazy Joe's Gourmet Fruit Mash."

Ingredients: you need soft fruits -- not hard fruits, like Pineapple  or regular apple !

Banana, kiwi fruit, strawberries, peaches and grapes [maybe]... Follow your heart !

All you do is: wash your hands really good.  Then mash it up !  Like it's putty in your hands.  Or kneading dough...

Not to the consistency (or color) of apple sauce ! You still want to see what some of the fruit is.  Want some texture.

Then, you eat it ! (with a spoon or your fingers).   Bon appetit !  Lots of Vitamin C.

Re: Cloud Atlas -- and an excerpt from my novel Jaws of the Vortex [12 / 9 / 12].

One more comment on Cloud Alas before I forget !

Saw it in article "Worst Film of 2012" somewhere.  I think that's cruel.

But, so: I didn't like their version of English language-we-could-be-speaking-in-the-future.

It's an interesting experiment, to conjecture something like that.  Guesswork: some corruption, abbreviation, new words, whatever.  (You'd need a linguist.)

But I thought it sounded dumb.  (Interesting to try, would have to--sound dumb--of necessity, I think.)  Especially, kept saying "the true true" or "true truth."  Bleh.

p.s. I haven't read the book, so I should have.  (Someone buy it for me for Christmas.)

Maybe also b/c I don't like Tom Hanks that much.  I don't know why, but can't take him seriously, as a serious actor. 

So, my overall thoughts on that movie, in general: I liked it !  B/c it is pretty big and epic, daring.  (And that's the same reason people not like it.  So big and epic, might fall on face a little.)

And could add slightly, to be topical.... Maybe that is what I'm going for a little, with my book, The Jaws of the Vortex -- being really big and epic.  Creating some new world(s) a little (like they always say with Potter).

And I've heard people make fun of Cloud Atlas b/c it tries to be really deep / philosophical -- but as deep as it gets, only "We're all connected."  (I think a reviewer, Huffington Post.)

On one hand, I think " is hard to be deep and philosophical.  Only so many combinations of words and thoughts we can make, in any given direction."

And again: I do try in my book to be a little philosophical.  One of my favorite parts, in the Underworld.  The guide Whitlock trying to explain how he doesn't even believe in an Afterlife, even though he's there and dead.

Thinks it's like "the Dreams of the Dead."  More like Plato's Cave.  A shadow of a puppet.  I could include an excerpt below !  "One of the great metaphors: sailing on a river of the Underworld.

And it's fun b/c I'm having him say that--gets a tiny bit deep...but he also could be wrong.  Ryan, the main character / narrator gets some second opinion later, and has his own thoughts.  But he's just a teenager.

Anyhow, fun (& challenging) for me to write -- b/c some days I could go either way.  Of course, want to / need to believe in an afterlife -- why not? -- but who knows exactly, until it's too late.  But, then, strange to think underground -- like a dinosaur in that movie "Journey to the Center of the Earth."

Anyhow... Here's an excerpt -- see what I mean, if you want one.  (I really was just going to write about Cloud Atlas, but then...couldn't resist.  And if supposed to be my blog: okay.)


    “So…You still awake?” Whitlock asked me.
    “Yes,” I said.  I wanted to say “No thanks to you.”  (That he told me I couldn’t really sleep, or that he’d filled my head with so many thoughts—or scared me, with Justin.) 
    But, then, I’m the one who started up conversation again.  “This is pretty weird,” I said—like I was trying to philosophize my way through everything.  “One day, going along like a regular kid.  Then, all of a sudden, I’m down here and…I know you said maybe curable—and still have some color left.  But…I feel like I’ve fallen off the face of the earth.  For all intensive purposes.”
     “Intents and purposes,” Whitlock corrected me.
“Yeah.  But pretty random.”
    He turned on me, at this.  “No,” he said.  “Do not say that.”—like he was afraid, superstitious against it.  “I do not believe there are no coincidences, period.  In life, perhaps, some—but fewer down here.  I do believe in Fate now, if nothing else.  Some instrument—or attraction…some call ‘The Powers.’ Not for my own self.  I think it is easier to see in others’ lives.  But…from my supporting role, I know something is going on.  I told you I auditioned a few people for the role you and Aquila are playing...”
    (It was funny he used those words—as if, like the performers in the rooms.  But I knew they weren’t performers.)  I remember the Swamp King—the last time I saw him—said something, like he only needed to kill one of us.  I told Whitlock that.
    “She does have exceptional abilities,” said Whitlock.  “There is something about her…I could tell you: I have heard rumors—there is some race against time…Some mumbo-jumbo I don’t believe in—but to conscript mortals for…something.  Some ritual.”  (This was the first I’d heard of that, and it sounded important, but Whitlock didn’t provide much detail—because he didn’t care.) 
    “Wait.  Is that one reason my Dad—” I said.
    “No.  They’re looking for females, actually,” he said.  “As if a virgin sacrifice.  It’s not that, but…just to say: not a coincidence—but a cross-purpose.  The lot fell to me…to rise up to the surface for air, and meet your acquaintance.  So here we are.”
    “Okay,” I said…And there was so much to think about.  But the next thing I fastened on was the phrase “The Powers.”  Or Fate.  “Hey, Whitlock…” I said.  “Is there such a thing as a god then?  I mean…of the Underworld—but a regular one, too?”  (I know he’d mentioned the Six Kings already.)
    Whitlock shrugged a little—some gesture.  “This might be one of those times, that ‘If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.’”  That took me a second.  “It’s an understandable question,” he continued, “—worth asking once.  I no longer consider it an important question.  I’ve never seen such a figure.  If one exists, and ever did make some appearances…he’s lying pretty low.  You would think we’d be closer to the source—the horse’s mouth.  Now that we’re on the other side, so to speak.  But it’s still up in the air.  People believing either way.  There are rumors of…some activity—actionable intelligence.  Angel sightings…but you can’t believe everything you hear.”
    “Okay,” I said.
    “When I said The Powers, I meant…not a physical—anthropomorphic—manifestation, but more a force like gravity.  Or: certain outcomes are inevitable.  But…you know…” he continued.  “Whatever you wanna think about that is directly correlated to what you think about this place in general.” 
    I thought we’d gone over that already.  “How do you mean?” I said.
    “And not to burst your bubble, either, but…speaking of gods…Personally, I think there’s less than meets the eye—to this place.
    “What do you mean?” I said.
    “I don’t think this is really the Afterlife.”
    “But…I thought you said…What else would it be?  I mean…how can we be dead—and be talking, here—and not believe in an Afterlife?”
    “I admit: this would be the hardest thing to understand.  I know—to all practical appearances—it looks like your stereotypical Hades or Sheol…”
    “But not the white tunnel,” I interrupted.  I’d been meaning to bring that up eventually.  (In the beginning, I wondered if this was where bad people go—but realized it’d be an insult.)  “And…am I supposed to feel enlightened?”
    “Right,” he said.  “Better luck next time.  So, we can see the glass ceiling…The real world through it.  But are we really underground?  If and when you get back up there, find a believer and ask them: Where is Heaven and/or Hell?  There’s no good answer.  It is interesting, that we still labor under the default, antiquated notion—tradition—of Heaven in the clouds…Another planet would make more sense, with the aid of worm-holes.  And the other place underfoot—just because we bury in the ground.  But it’s geographically impossible.  Both…are equally preposterous.”
    “Yeah,” I said.  “I never saw the movie, but the trailer for Journey to the Center of the Earth.”
    “Exactly,” he said.  “It’s rock.”                       
    “You’re not going to find any dinosaurs,” I said.
    “So where are we?” he said.  “What is this?  I think these are the Dreams of the Dead.”
    “You think this is a dream?” I said.  “It feels pretty real to me.”
    “As an illustration,” he said.  “I don’t suppose you’ve ever seen someone die by the guillotine.”
    “No,” I said.
    “The French chopping block.  I saw it once…down here, but I imagine it’s the same principle.  The same effect, and imagery.  Do you know: the disembodied head can still speak for up to five minutes?  So...”
    I saw where he was going with that.  “We’ve been here longer than five minutes,” I said.
    “The timing is relative,” he said, “or immaterial—although…there is a shelf life.  But the concept is the same.  Longer, perhaps, because the—combined—will-power is stronger.  Man wants to believe in an afterlife so badly, he wills one into existence.  We’ve all imagined up—generated together—an elaborate façade.  Then projected ourselves into it.  A product of superstition…and the collective unconscious Carl Jung spoke of.”
    “But…I don’t get it,” I said.  “Even if I’m dreaming, and you’re dreaming…we wouldn’t be in the same dream.”
    “I don’t know everything,” he said.  “Maybe we’re hooked up to a grid.  Like the ground is irradiated.  I mean, not with radium…but something—suffused with…Or we’re on the same frequency.  Maybe the soul does live on after death, but it’s trapped in the body, six feet under, for eternity.  But, then, the mind of the soul can dream this big collective dream, because the imagination is so powerful.  But not too bold—to dream one’s self alive again.  But what can be expected: from storybooks, cinema, and the bully pulpit.  I mentioned the uncanny resemblance to certain works of art—”
    “Unless…Dante had like a time machine,” I said.  “What you’re pretty crazy, too.  It seems like the simpler thing would be more correct,” I said.  (I’d heard something like that before.)
    “That’s Occam’s razor,” said Whitlock, “—approximately.  There is actually a man here named Occam.  We might run into him.  But why is it simpler?  Just because people believe it?—and you’re used to it.  Really, it’s a huge, elaborate construct.  I believe it is more like Plato’s Cave.  Are you familiar with that?”
    I shook my head.
    “Like we’re watching the shadows of a puppet show.  Not even the puppet show itself.  I do not expect you to understand this all at once.  And they are not my theories.  They were explained to me…But this place is not real, or the final resting place of the soul.  They’re not even souls—the figurines you see.  Just residue.  The desires left in the nervous system and endings.  The contact points between the soul and bones, cobbled together…”
    “What about what you said earlier—about lightning?” I said.
    “Oh, the Blixtfödd?” he said.  “They’re more deluded than most.  There is unanimous—vast—recognition—that not all who die come here.  Not the requisite number.  If there are seven billion alive...Remember: sometimes you can go miles without seeing anyone…Or: they don’t stay here forever.  The Residue has a shelf-life.”
    He sounded like he knew everything, but he vacillated somewhat.  “There is some supposition—some feel a draining away, or past us: the real movement of the real soul, elsewhere.  Most of this is unknowable.  But I have a real example.”
    (I don’t know what I was thinking—that I thought I could get any sleep.)
    “I knew a gentleman who died before his loved one.  He waited for her under the cemetery, Rose Hills.  He thought she would float down to him, follow the same route.  He waited years.  He went so far as to consult with different agents, provocateurs, to hasten her death.  Ensure she appeared where he was.  Even seeking favors from different kings—in exchange for services, information.  He was a bright man—only faltered, lost his head, out of emotion.”
    “Did she ever come?” I asked.
    “No.  Never.  So whether she was…immortalized, consigned elsewhere, or ceased to exist: that’s what I mean—my point.  It’s not so simple.  He had even fashioned a Siphon, wherewith he could see her at death’s door, or past it…but he never saw her again.  And because of his…restlessness, he’d gotten himself in trouble, made too many promises to too many people.  Like he’d sold his soul.”
    “Is there a market for that?” I asked.
    Later, I wondered why he didn’t just tell me the name—in case it was important later.  Or  Was he talking about himself?
    “Perhaps we shouldn’t dwell too long on this,” said Whitlock.  “It could drive you crazy.  I said in the beginning: not to get bogged down in metaphysics.”
    I wasn’t an automatic fan of Whitlock’s speech or his theories.  Made the whole thing—and life in general—seem kind of pointless.
     “But…if it’s true as you say,” I said—my last defense, “why should we care?—or try at all?  Why do you keep going?—doing what you’re doing.  If none of this matters…”
    That actually shut him up.  (And one thing: the question mark on his face—which I’d gotten used to and forgotten about—actually glowed a little, I couldn’t help noticing.)  Then, eventually, he said “Touché.  I am…at a loss, to explain my own actions, at times.  I could, but…”
    Maybe I let him off easy—but I had another question.  “And I thought you said I wasn’t Residue?  I have more than my soul.  And either way…You said I could still get back?  And what about my Dad?…You said he was spirited alive.”
    (Later, I also wondered: are those people in the Asylum ghosts?  How would that fit in, with “dreams of the dead”?  Just at the moment, I was thinking of myself.)
    So he said a few things: “All is perhaps not black and white.  It is possible my theories aren’t iron-clad, air-tight…”  (Maybe I’d broken down his confidence—or through his defenses.)  “In any case, I do believe you may return—if nothing else, then as a ghost.  Then you could fix things yourself.  Just have to find your body, wherever it is.  Maybe stuffed in a broom closet…”
    That was one of his lowest points.  The conversation was over.
    I think I tried to say something nice, and innocent, backtrack a little…Then, I went back to work—trying, pretending to sleep.  But our conversation probably took the whole night.  So it’s hard to tell if I got any shut-eye, where time went faster.  To simulate sleep.