His Lordship

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I’m Jason L. Secrest, an aspiring author and impoverished college student. Sometimes I blog. When I’m being real about real world things that other people also believe are real I post at wiseyetharmless.bogspot.com. Then there are the moments that I’m also being real, but in regards to a different real world where there is a real annoying talking demon in my basement and where my non-fake butler/valet/gentleman’s-gentleman knows Jujutsu. In those moment’s I’m Jason L. Secrest, Lord of the Manor, and I blog directly to you from my mansion study at whathowadsworth.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

*ahem*: Big News with a side of Apology. Also, you've been demoted.

Dear friends, fans, and (most of all) the split second search-engine visitors who come and go in the blink of an eye.
I owe all of you an apology for my long and unexplained neglect of this blog. I do, of course, have a number of ready-made simpering and apologetic excuses to offer (by request only). Most of them have something to do with Beezle. The rest of them have to do with college finals and the weeks leading in to them.

The one interesting and possibly satisfying comment I have to proffer in regard to my extended hiatus is this:

I am writing a book.

I ask you now to take a moment to revive those of our frailer followers who are choking on their shock. When that is done, please allow the sniggering of the others to abate.

I am very serious. The blog has been enjoyable to write, but has very little following. I attribute this not to my whimsical update schedule, but to the hard fact that adults are boring and lack good taste. Therefore, I have decided to direct a set of memoirs from my younger years to your children. Upon completion, they will dramatize my life as a young boy and my first experiences within the walls of the mansion house.

Some of you will cry out that I have been false with you. You will point to a post in which I mentioned that I purchased the Mansion recently disillusioned Lord. Your great minds will deduce that I could not have enjoyed the Mansion House in my childhood.

Of course, you are correct. Had I only just recently learned of the Mansion House I could not have known it as a child. However I have not, nor shall I ever, lie to you. The truth is this: several months ago I discovered one of my Uncle Nicholas's old experimental devices in an unused room. Against my better instincts I mucked about with the thing and it exploded in a ball of fire and magical energy. My eyebrows were only slightly singed, but my memories were fuddled a bit.

Fortunately the effects seem to be less than permanent. Today, for example, I remembered that the reason for the small venomous snakes in a secret compartment in one of my desk drawers. They are not, as I had previously supposed, decorative; but they guard a small treasure trove of foreign dark chocolates from young boys who live in dumpsters. Will was both eating them and trading them to Beezle for favors. Needless to say they were diminishing quickly. Perhaps if I am lucky tomorrow I will remember the secret to rescuing my choice candies from the clutches of the over zealous serpents. (The direct route is not the correct one. I've tried it already, at great cost and with little success.)

I hope that now, knowing what you know, it will not surprise you if there are a few inconsistencies between things I said before and things that I remember now, or even between things which I reveal today, and alter a bit in the future. As far as I can tell, that's what memoirs are for in the first place.

In closing, I promise that I am not saying goodbye to the blog. I shall do my best to keep it current with whatever new events I deem worthy and I may even supply short snippets of my novel. Know though, that your lovely young ones come first now. The rest of you have officially become afterthoughts.

Congratulations,

Lord Secrest

PS - Beezle and I have reached an agreement through the miraculous power of mediation, courtesy of Wadsworth. I won't bore you with the details right now, but know that less is rotten in the state of Denmark, and more is quiet on the home front. Beezle has the internet again. If you are wondering why he hasn't posted anything caustic recently, it is because he probably considers The Mansion House beneath his current attention. Perhaps when he gets bored with youtube clips of "Big Bang Theory" maybe he'll work up the energy to be snide with me online. Until then I'm content enough with our arrangement.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Like (but not quite) a Thief in the Night

So... Bezel still hasn't relented and neither have I, but there have been other developments (as those of you who read the comments know).  Nathan, a good friend turned saboteur, recently invaded the home of my sweet and elderly neighbors, the Jorgensons. (I'm not sure how - maybe he was posing as some sort of repairman or something.) He did this so that he could install a wireless router in their home and trade the password to Beezle, who now values an internet connection as much or more than he values souls.

I assume that their transaction occurred on the night that I caught Nathan giddily trotting up the stairs from the basement at three in the morning. Though he was bright and chipper, I was sluggish and groggy. The evening went something like this:

"Nathan?"

"Oh, hi! There you are. I was just... looking for you."

"In the Basement? What time is it? What are you doing in my house?" (It should have occurred to me at this point that the alarms had never gone off. I wish that I'd asked about that. I wonder if he payed Will to turn them off.)

"It's time too... play Starcraft! I couldn't sleep, and we all know that you don't sleep, so I came to see if you wanted to play."

I yawned and said, "Why would I be sleeping right now?"

Nathan rolled his eyes and said, "Don't even give me that crap. You don't ever go to bed, at least not when normal people do. Don't even try to deny it, we all know that you hate your body and stay up all night playing games, 'cause you're definitely not writing. I haven't seen any new 'Amar' from you since I made you write last Saturday.

I rubbed the back of my hands across my eyes and managed, "Why didn't you just try to get me on g-chat?"

"Because, it is fact that you never log off when you're done at the computer and nobody in the entire freaking world can ever find you when they want to. Did you get your phone yet?"

"No... it's on it's way though," I slurred.

"Your stupid phone company takes longer than one of my Grandma's rants on Obama and government conspiracies. Do you know how long those are? They are freaking long. Anyway, you look like you're too tired to be any good at all tonight. We'd just get raped. Hard. So... go to bed, and I'm going home. Also, I'm taking this pie that Wadsworth left on table. Don't even try to say 'no' because you mooch from me and Bec all the time." (It's true. Nathan and Rebecca Major kept food in my mouth before I had Wadsworth. Now they and Derek's family take turns feeding me me on Wadsworth's days off.)

I gestured my assent and turned to stumble up the staircase toward my bedroom, and Nathan went after the pie. From the landing I heard the front door rumble open a few seconds later and Nathan yelled up at me, "And don't forget to write tomorrow. You haven't written for at least a week, retard. At least update 'Mansion House.'"

That was the end of the exchange, and until these recent comments on 'Riverman Johnson' I didn't think anything more of it. Now, we know "the rest of the story," or at least some of it anyways.

At first I was troubled when I realized that Beezle had another way to get at the internet.  My thought was that if Nathan became Beezle's internet provider, I would lose my one and only bargaining chip. Now though, I see that the nature of things has in truth turned to my advantage. You see, Nathan didn't take three important facts into consideration:

Fact 1: Beezle is in my basement. There's something about concrete and earth that impedes even the hardiest of signals.

Fact 2: Beezle's lair messes with traditional physics. Die hard Mansion House followers may remember that when I entered my basement for the first time, I was immediately taken by the sheer volume of the place, and realized that it couldn't possibly fit inside the mansion. The chandeliers were sitting exactly where my study and front parlor should have been. It's got something to do with inter-dimensional space-time physics or something. I don't understand it, but there it is.

Fact 3: As a direct result of fact one and fact 2, Beezle's wireless internet is comparable to bad dial up. It's worse than my family's internet connection was in the 90's when my dad's 386 would take over a minute to upload a page on a good day.

Beezle has been accustomed to the luxury of my cat5 connection, and he's not taking this reduction in speed well. In his words, "WITH THIS... IMPOSSIBLY SLOW CONNECTION, BROWSING THE INTERNET HAS BECOME A SPECIAL KIND OF HELL."

That's how I know i'm making progress with Beezle. He admits now, that it's not enough. Two days ago he couldn't stop trying to convince himself vocally that what he had was enough. You'd think that it would be the same for him as if there was no internet. It's not. He's so addicted that he can't help but sit there and wait for each page to load. I can tell when there's a spike in his download speeds because I can literally hear him scoot forward in anticipation. It might be that with the powers of the internet so close to Beezle, and yet, so far away, I may be able to reach an acceptable treaty with him.

The best part is that I've noticed a decline in the strange negative coincidences in my life. This could be because Beezle is so drawn to suffer through surfing that he doesn't have time to attack me. However, it might just be that he's switched targets... last week Nathan's phone died at an inopportune moment. Because of this, and other odd circumstances, he and his wife spent the entire evening trying to find each other instead of relaxing in their house. That could just be coincidence. I sincerely hope that it is. Otherwise, thank you Nathan. You've always been the kind of friend that was willing to take one for the team. (Rebecca, I sincerely apologize.)

-Lord Secrest

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Riverman Johnson

It is with great sadness that I announce that the epic struggles between Beezle and I, now commonly referred to as The Mansion House Wars, have not ended. They are getting worse, and I’m not coping as well as I would like to. The new semester is starting too, with all of the stresses of a new school year; but I am also finding that there is a measure of relief that comes with it. You see, I spend many more hours at the university than I do in my study. I like my study, but I’d like it more without Beezle’s constant interruptions.
I usually take the bus to school; I have many reasons for doing so.  First and foremost is parking. There is no special parking for owners of Mansions believe it or not, and generally speaking, those without assigned or privileged parking can expect to take longer to find a spot than they spend in class.  The second reason that I bus is that I save money. Last month I saved enough to pay Stan for his work on the grounds, and to eat out a few times. Finally, I like to ride the bus because of the environment. I can read on the bus. I can doze on the bus. I can watch quirky people, and eves drop on their phone conversations. (Please don’t think ill of me, but listening to people talk on the phone in public is a great way to stimulate the old grey matter for the invention of characters, plots, and settings. Knowing this, I stick to texting.)
On my way home yesterday, I wound my way to the back of the bus, stepped over the top of a beaten looking pack, and sat down. The seat next to me was vacant, so I dropped a sheaf of papers on it between me and a ragged looking man, presumably the owner of the pack. “Hey,” he said, looking out the window.
“Hello,” I responded cheerfully. He looked like the type of man who talks non-stop on a bus, and I was in a mood to listen, so I waited for him to continue. He didn’t. He only stared out the window. I shrugged and pulled out a book to read.
Without warning he leaned in close, overpowering me with his potent body odor, grinned, and said, “Hi, I’m Johnson!”
“Um… Hello,” I choked out. He leaned back again, and I caught my breath as tactfully as possible.
“I’m going north,” said Johnson. “I was going to go south, until I changed my mind.”
“Ah,” I said, “And what are you going to do when you get where you’re going?”
“I’m going to get some beer.”
“Oh?” I asked. I don’t drink, but I’m fairly certain  that there is beer to be found at every gas station in any direction so I probed a little further, “And what will you do then?”
“I’m going to drink some beer.” Johnson nodded profoundly.
I mirrored him seriously and said, “I see.”
“Then,” Johnson added, “I’m going to buy a two hundred dollar bike for thirty dollars.”
“That sounds like a great plan,” I said, “This is a nice time of year to spend some time on a bike.”
“Yep. And it’s good, because my last bike got stolen.”
“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Yeah! And would you believe they stole my bible too?”
“Oh, that’s terrible. I think I could get you another, if you need one.”
“Nah, I got another one, but it makes me mad.  They stole my dumbbells, and my bike, and my Bible and my nudie magazines! I just got some new ones today.”
“Well, that’s too bad,” I said (I was thinking mostly about the new purchase when I said it), “but I’m glad that you got another Bible. Where are you living?”
“Down on the river. I don’t like the homeless shelters here. I said some pretty rude things to them because they deserved it and they put me on suspension. I haven’t had a shower for three months! Can you believe that?”
 I nodded emphatically with overwhelming belief. “Yes, that’s really too bad. So, where on the river are you living?”
Johnson’s leaned in, bringing his three month old ambiance with him, and scowled, “I don’t tell people that.”
I put my hands in the air nervously and said, “I don’t blame you, after all that you’ve had to deal with.”
He leaned back again and said, “Yup. But the next time they come I’ll be ready for them. I went to the pawn shop and bought a sword and some Chinese Stars. They weren’t very sharp, but I’ve got them so sharp now that I can chop your head off, well maybe not all the way off, but most of the way. I’m gonna get a pellet gun too.”
The bus stopped, and Johnson stood up. As he walked forward he kept talking, and the further he went the louder he raised his voice so that I could still hear him, “Believe me, you don’t want a pellet in your ass! My cousin shot my ass with a pellet gun once and the pellet got stuck in there, I had to go to the -”
The doors closed, and I chucked, before offering a silent prayer that Riverman Johnson be safe from harm and theft. As an afterthought I prayed for the people that got too close to his possessions. I got off at the next stop walked leisurely to the Mansion and Promptly threw my stack of papers down on my desk. I withdrew to the smoking lounge and put my feet up for a few minutes. (I don't smoke, but honestly,  a non-smoked-in smoking room is a really cool room. Mine is furnished with overstuffed beige couches, chairs, a fireplace, a bar that I keep stalked with smoothy ingrediants, and several stuffed and mounted heads that once belonged to big-game animals that I never hunted. Sometimes I even put on a smoking jacket because those are also pretty fantastic.)  
I would have enjoyed the casual, restive silence but death metal was blasting through the vents. Honestly, I don’t think that Beezle likes it either. He just likes that I don’t like it. Before the Mansion House Wars he seemed to lean more towards classic rock and show tunes. (One time I was pleasantly surprised to walk in on him singing “Portobello Road” from Bed Knobs and Broomsticks. The pleasant ended when he started substituting torture instruments, pickled organs, and other gruesome items for the usual wares of the famed street market. I have to hand it to him though; he’s got a pretty spectacular voice.)
After a short break I shuffled back into my study, put in some earphones and started on my homework. I finished it, and tossed my folder of school papers to the side so that I could do my writing (This is “finish a book” month for Nathan, Derek, and I.) Instead, I was startled to discover the image of a busty and scantily clad woman gazing lewdly at me from my desk. She lounged seductively over a magazine stamped with the emblem of the Playboy Bunny. There was something else under it. I gingerly shifted the Playboy and found a Hustler. With a groan I realized that they must have been under my papers on the bus. I had unwittingly stolen Riverman Johnson’s replacement “nudie” magazines. I gingerly hefted them. I wasn’t sure what to do with them, but there was no way that they were staying on my desk.
I reached for my trashcan but then I remembered that as far as garbage is concerned, all roads lead to my dumpster – the magical home of a developing teenager. Not a good plan.  My cheeks were growing hot and my heart rate was rapidly climbing. I didn’t want to leave these out, and I didn’t want to conceal them anywhere, for fear that someone might find them and get the wrong idea.
Then I thought about Riverman Johnson, and remembered my prayer for those that touched his possessions. When I offered it I had no idea that it might touch this close to home. I prayed it again with twice the fervency. What if he suspected me? He might confront me loudly on the bus. I could already hear it, “YOU STOLE MY NUDIE MAGAZINES!” I flushed harder and tried to think. "Maybe," I thought, "I can avoid a scene if I just put them in my bag and hand them back discreetly tomorrow." Then I realized that such an action would necessitate bringing pornography to and from a campus where it is strictly prohibited upon pain of expulsion until Riverman Johonson decided to go North instead of South again. 
"Maybe, I thought, "It would just be better to find a safe place to burn these and then hand him a ten dollar bill discreetly." Was there such a thing as discreet with Riverman Johnson? Would he make less of a deal about it if he got the original merchandise? I swiveled in my chair and hovered the magazines over my backpack, trying to make a decision.
 “Pardon me, Sir, but -“
“I jumped and shouted, throwing the magazines across the room. One of them landed, open to the centerfold I might add, at the highly polished feet of Wadsworth. He glanced down, then quickly up at me. His eyes riddled me with accusation, but his tone remained polite and respectful as ever as he said, “Please excuse the interruption, Sir. I did not wish to infringe on your… personal time. My intentions were to announce my return, but I have just remembered an important item of business that I have neglected. Perhaps it is for the best; my absence will give you time to conclude your indulgences.”
“No, Wadsworth, I’m not –“
William appeared next to Wadsworth holding a McDonalds soft-drink and said, “Hey, I heard a scream, is everything – is that a Playboy?” Without looking, and with great speed, Wadsworth flipped the offensive material shut (cover side down) with the toe of his shoe.
I was finding it difficult to breath. I leaned back in my chair, covered my face with my hands and groaned, “It’s not what you think!”
“Well,” drawled Will, “I think it’s a Playboy Magazine. Am I wrong? Is it Penthouse? Hustler?” He sucked at the straw of his drink, getting mostly air.
                “I HAVE RECENTLY LEARNED OF A WONDERFULL GAME CALLED TWENTY QUESTIONS. MAY WE PLAY IT?”
                I feebly wondered how I’d missed the moment when the blaring music had shut off, and Beezle had tuned in.
                “Look,” I said, issuing a silent command for my cheeks to lose their blush, “These aren’t mine! I accidently stole them from a homeless man -”
                “IS IT JUST ME, OR DOES THAT SEEM BOTH IMPLAUSIBLE AND CRUEL?”
“- and I was trying to figure out how to get rid of them before something like this happened.”
                “Why didn’t you just throw them away?” asked Will, and he took another air filled pull at his straw. I narrowed my eyes at him, but Wadsworth did better. He shot his hand out to pinch the air, on the way he clipped Will’s head with force.
                “Owe!” said Will, putting his hand to his head, “What was that for?”
                “I apologize, young Master William. I spied a small insect, and thought to escort it from the building.”
                Sure enough, there was a fly squirming in Wadsworth’s fingers. Will’s expression said that he didn’t know whether to be annoyed or in awe. I settled on both satisfaction and awe and said, “Take Will with you. When you’re done, come back and help me get rid of these things.”
                “Very good, Sir,” said Wadsworth, but Will protested, “Hey! Who’s gonna watch him. We’re just going to leave him in here by himself with those?
                “THAT’S A VALID POINT. STUFF THE FILTH DOWN THE VENTS IN THE FLOOR, JUST TO BE CERTAIN.”
                Wadsworth scooped the magazines up and held them under his arm saying, “If you don’t mind, Sir, I shall remove you from suspicion.”
                “Please,” I said, waving him away, “get them out of my study.”
                He marched out with Will and I flopped back in my chair.
                “WHO KEEPS TABS ON THE BUTLER?”
                “Some people don’t need to be watched, Beezle.”
                “NOT ACCORDING TO JUVENAL, OR ALAN MOORE FOR THAT MATTER.”
                I glared at the vent and changed the topic, "How did you mange to pull this one off anyhow?"
                “SURELY YOU DON'T SUSPECT TO PASS THE BLAME FOR THEFT FROM THE HOMELESS TO ME? PERHAPS YOU SHOULD TAKE A LITTLE BIT OF RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS. YOU MIGHT START WITH ADMITTING TO THE CHARACTER FLAWS AND JEALOUSIES THAT LED TO THE REVOCATION OF MY INTERNET PRIVILEGES.”
                “Jealousies?”I roared, "What could I possibly be jealous of? Devious nature? Unabashed destruction of lives? Living damnation?"
                “YES, AMONG OTHER THINGS, THOUGH I'M SURPRISED THAT YOU FORGOT TO MENTION RAW POWER, DEVILISH CHARM, AND IMPOSSIBLY GOOD LOOKS"
                I stood, prepared to ream Beezle throughly, but at that moment Wadsworth returned, and said, "Arguing only tends to encourage him, Sir, I would advise against it." I wanted to ignore him, but I knew he was right, so I riped the cover off the vent and stuffed a jacket inside. I slumped back down in my chair and sighed before explaining the complexity of the situation to Wasdsworth. He listened carefully before saying, “Perhaps it would be best if I return these directly to Mr. Johnson, sparing your Lordship both an embarrassing encounter and the burden of storing these… distasteful publications.”
“How? He wouldn’t tell me where he lived.”
“I have seen his place of residence in my morning walks along the river.”
“If you could do that, it would be fantastic, Wadsworth.”
“Then I shall deliver them shortly.”
“I can come with you.”
“Alas, Sir, I regret that you may not accompany me. It would be dishonest for me to reveal the location of Mr. Johnson’s residence after he has purposfully withheld that knowledge from you.”
“Right. Well then. Cary on Wadsworth, and be careful please. He has a sword that he claims is sharp enough to decapitate you half-way.”
“I shall be cautious, Sir. Will that be all?”
“Before you go, I’d like you to tell me one thing. How did you get a fly to line up so well with Will’s head?”
“I regret to inform you sir, that the fly was a deception.” Wadsworth retrieved something small from his pocket and placed it in my hand. It was a rubber fly.
“But it was wriggling and buzzing between your fingers.”
“The ‘ACME Ninja Fly’ comes equipped with an electronic device that activates when the wings are pressed together.”
I picked the fly up by the wings, holding them firmly together. It sprung to life, buzzing angrily and fighting to get away.
I smiled and said, “This is great! Where did you get it?
“It was a gift from my niece.“
And so it was, that between light conversation and the ensuing light refreshments that Wadsworth again saved my bacon. If I had any money to spare I’d offer him a raise.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Demonic Control Systems

Yesterday was Sunday; so let’s review with a short pop quiz on the good book. No cheating now…
           1.) Complete this proverb: "It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling _____ in a wide house." 

           2.) The number of the beast is:

All right. Pencils down. You may grade your own work. The answers are “Beezle” and “404”. Don’t object, I can prove it.
A few years ago, I worked at a place that helped Troubled Teens to work out their lives. (“Troubled Teens is capitalized because when teens are involved, everything gets emphasis). Specifically, I worked in the boys’ home. I loved it and I built some deep relationships with the guys. However, anytime the words Troubled and Testosterone can be put in the same sentence look out. Now, I’m a great guy (can I say that? I’m humble too..) and I’m easy to get along with, but sometimes I’m also a push over, and I was getting pushed over from time to time. I didn’t mind so much, but it wasn’t helping our clients to get to the places that they needed to go.
What I lacked was better training. The company had some scheduled but it was weeks away. One of my coworkers, an ex-marine, noticed my severe need and pulled me aside for some one on one coaching in the art of De-escalation (military style).
I won’t go over every step of the De-escalation model, but I’ll give you the essence. In a tense situation people escalate. They back themselves into corners and don’t see any way out except for to fight out. De-escalation is the art and science of giving people a way to choose to walk out of their corners unharmed. Just as importantly, it is to be able to skillfully escalate your response without escalating the situation when those people choose NOT to walk away.  Fortunately, these concepts can also be applied to Demons. Take the following scenario:
It’s a beautiful summer day; perfect for hiking. You happen to know that there are plenty of nasty bugs outside, so you smother yourself in your DEET packed death spray. You yourself will die a year earlier because of it, but for now you are safe from West Nile Virus and Malaria.  At least, you think you are until you find yourself slapping yourself silly within moments of walking out side. Upon closer inspection you discover that you are drenched in sugar water. This is because Beezle has recently illegally downloaded and watched “The Parent Trap.”
You happen to be a pro at De-escalation, so you casually walk down to the basement and say, “Hey, Beezle, will you do me a favor and stop pirating shows? Particularly, will you experiment on me with the things you watch? Thanks. I appreciate it.” Here, you’ve given Beezle a chance to back down; a way to choose to behave. All you’ve done is make a polite request for compliance. The ball is in Beezle’s court.
That night, you have full feature nightmares about a dungeon and a cassette tape that delivers instructions to you. You must either crawl through burning coals or lose your leg. The dream doesn’t end until in a cruel twist of fate, both events occur. Surprise, surprise, Beezle pirated several seasons of “Saw.”
You collect yourself and walk calmly to the basement. “Beezle,” you say, as you admire the wing’s that he’s grown in tribute to Fantasia’s Bald Mountain, “If you ever do this kind of thing again, I’m taking your internet connection away.” Now, Beezle has a clear set of choices. He can escalate the situation, knowing the consequences, or he can choose to comply. If you’d just yanked the chord on the first or second offence, you have nothing left to leverage him with and he has fewer chances to comply. You win temporarily. He wins for the rest of the year while he puts dead mice in your light fixtures and partially developed eggs in your fridge. He doesn’t care. You’ve already taken the thing he loves most, and unlike Troubled Teens, you lack the power to restrain him. The key is to gradually escalate so that Beezle can choose to de-escalate the situation through compliance.
So, that’s what you do if you’re a pro. Unfortunately, I am not a pro. At least, not at the mansion I’m not. Granted, I was pretty ticked about the Swimming Pool Incident, but losing my cool won the battle, lost the war, and enraged the beast that lives in my basement.
The week that I cut the cord to the basement was a hard one for Beezle. It started hard for him. That Monday I woke to a blood curdling scream. I leapt from my bed with a start, gracefully bounded through my bedroom door and the hallway, hurdled over a couch, and skipped three steps at a time on the stairway to the basement. In my mind, there exactly one reason for a scream like that to emanate from Beezle’s domain. He must have successfully purchased, and be in the process of extracting, a soul. (I should mention, by the way, that there is a strict ban on human sacrifice in my home. If Beezle wants to do that kind of thing he’ll have to find another landlord.)
What I found shocked me beyond description. Beezle was curled in a corner of the room, cowering with an expression of horror on his face. He was pale, and his usually arrogant and condescending eyes betrayed fear. Confused, I looked frantically around the room. Nothing seemed out of place except for Beezle’s bone throne.
“What?” I asked, “What is it?”
Beezle’s voice was calm, contradicting his demeanor, “I have finally been found. It is only a matter of time, now, before terror rains down upon us.”
“Who?”
Beezle looked at me meaningfully and his tone chilled my blood as he said, “the Four-Hundred-and-Four Terrors”
My breath caught in my throat, but I managed, “The what?”
“The Void, The Darkness, Shorn. The deeper darker being which I once betrayed. I believe we have discussed him before.”
I’ll be frank. I nearly wet myself. Beezle is the most powerful, morbid, and frightening thing I’ve encountered; and he has been hiding like a small child from this other greater and fouler tempered entity for millennia. Over the beating of my heart I could barely hear myself ask, “What makes you think it’s coming?”
Beezle gestured dejectedly toward his computer monitor and said, “He has discovered my activities, halted them, and marked me.”
 I fearfully approached the screen and read, “404 – CONTENT NOT FOUND”
I laughed loudly in relief, causing Beezle to have an angry outburst wherein he described the numerous horrors that were about to befall my house and all within. None of them were family friendly, and I don’t dare attempt to describe them. In fact, I’m doing my best to suppress them. Until then I’ll be sleeping with the light on.
It took most of the day to convince Beezle that four-O-four errors are a standard non threatening part of internet life. He spent the rest of the day grumbling about symbolism and signs and all sorts of apocalyptic things. I was just relieved that the apocalypse wasn’t happening actively in my basement.
He eventually regained composure, but he still had nervous energy built up and I think he resented that I had seen him in his moment of weakness. I assume that these were the factors that led to what Wadsworth is now calling the Swimming Pool Incident, which deserves (and will be given) its own post. I didn’t say a word. I just cut the cord and that was that. I let Wadsworth explain the new “server not found” errors. I waited for complaints and obnoxious magical retaliations to flood through the vents shortly thereafter. Normally, I would have braced myself, but on that day I truly I didn’t care.
Vengeance never came. Instead, Beezle gave me the cold shoulder. Everything has been silent and almost peaceful – almost, in that the silence is violently tense. For days I crept around corners, tortured by the thought that Beezle might finally vent his wrath with some fearfully murderous surprise. Nothing happened for a full week. Then, just as I was starting to relax, things started happening. It’s like my Karma went bad or my Yin and Yang fell out of balance. I can’t pin anything directly on Beezle, but I know it’s him. He’s making surgical strikes against my peace of mind and well being.
My phone was the first thing to go. Will and I took a hike a few days ago with a friend of mine named Derek. We were fishing a stream that on one side had a quick current but that on the other had a few nice little pools. There was a nice little log spanning the length of one of the pools and we decided to go sit on it. We forded the stream, leaving most of our gear, backpacks included, sitting on the bank. Everything was fine and pleasant until a little snake poked it’s head out of a whole in the log, stuck out it’s tongue, and retreated. A fierce flash storm appeared out of nowhere. By the time we got back to the far bank, our backpacks were soaked, and my phone was fried. I’m on my parents’ family plan and my service provider is a small homegrown company that’s housed several hours away. Therefore, I’m phoneless for a while.
Shortly after my phone problem, Wadsworth got an urgent message from a friend or relative, calling him away for a few weeks. I can manage myself for a while, but I’m not good at taking random ingredients that happen to be lying about and making something edible out of them. My grocery budget is gone till the end of the month, so I’m scrambling to keep on top of things. I’m getting hungry and so is Will. I can tell, because he’s also getting extra attitude. I’m also suffering Wadswoth’s absence in other ways. He kept me organized. I’m starting to miss appointments and lose things.
Then there was today. I drove a few miles down the road to a church meeting, and when I was done the truck wouldn’t start. As luck would have it, everyone else had already gone. Also as luck would have it, a friend at church had asked me to deliver an important document to a neighbor before said neighbor left for the airport. I couldn’t call anybody – my phone is still dead and all of the numbers of people I would call are stored therein. I tried hitching a ride but only person who noticed my thumb was a teenage girl that looked at me like I was jack the ripper. After that, I just ran until I almost had a stroke. The neighbor was angry at the delay, but tried not to show it. Several hours later I caught Nathan on G-Chat. He picked me up and let me call AAA roadside service on his phone. Triple A is magic, by the way. They have the power to counteract demonic curses – for how long I don’t know, but it was at least long enough to get home.
Something else is coming up. I can feel it. So, what do I do? How do I get Beezle to settle down without giving up my authority? I can’t just give him back the internet without telling him between the lines that he can make me bend to his will if he misbehaves badly enough.  Any suggestions are welcome and wanted. I’m so desperate that I’m allowing anonymous comments. So, lay them on me…

~

DIRECTORS CUT: I wrote a long explanation of the de-escalation model and axed it in favor of a more condensed version. However, de-escalation is pretty cool, so I'm dropping it in here. If you don't care, then just skip to the comments.
DISCLAIMER: I'M NOT A PRO, I'M NOT A SHRINK, I'M NOT A MILITARY MAN - I can barely remember what the military man said, so take the following with a grain of salt, and if you intend to ever ever ever apply it, be sure to consult someone who knows what they're talking about. I just think it's a cool approach to a situation where you have both the need and the authority to calm a situation down - like if Beezle breaks into your house and holds your kids hostage...

The best way for me to explain this is with an example:
It’s 10:00 PM; time for bed. You make a loud announcement declaring that bedtime be observed. A TT (Troubled Teen) named Timmy is lingering on the sofa he shows no indication that he acknowledges the existence of either bedtime or you. He’s pushing the limits to see how far he can step out of line and be “OK.” A mental boxing match has just started and Timmy is testing your defenses with soft jabs. You quickly don your De-escalation Gloves and maneuver.
If you’re a rooky you glare at Timmy, raise your voice and spit out, “Timmy, get your but in bed now.” (You probably wanted to say “ass” but you’re in my scenario; so you don’t get to.) What you’ve just said is, “I am your Lord and Master. Obey or die.” It’s a challenge and Timmy can’t back down now without losing face, or self respect, or cool points, or whatever happens to be in that day. Instead, he’ll try to make you feel stupid about being so intense. The situation will escalate and no matter how it ends, it won’t be pretty.
If you’re a pro, you glance up and casually state, “Hey Tim, it’s ten, will you go to bed please?” or maybe you verbally “presuppose” that he’s going to do what you asked and say, “Hey bud, on your way to bed will you ______”. Maybe you do something equally casual and non threatening that says, “Will you please make going to bed be your decision?” You’re giving control to him. He can either choose to escalate the situation further, or to back down without injury. If he continues to ignore you then you change the request for compliance to a firm, yet calm and non threatening, instruction: “Tim, go to bed.” If that is ignored then you make a statement of imminent consequence. “If you don’t go to bed, X consequences will be applied.” If Tim continues to choose to escalate the situation, you apply the consequences.
Here we can count and see that Timmy has had four chances to choose to comply without injury. Every time that he escalates he knows that he is making the situation worse for himself. In other words, it’s harder for him to resist authority than it is for him to comply with it.
If Timmy is stubborn and keeps pushing you just calmly continue a two part cycle: make statements of imminent consequences. If he won’t comply apply the consequences. These consequences are always preplanned, immediate, and gradually intensified toward some ultimate consequence, depending on the situation.
If you started with “Tim, go to bed or you will be restrained and placed under constant surveillance,” then Tim get’s one chance to back down. If Tim repeats this kind of behavior often, then he becomes desensitized to the most intense consequences that you apply. He no longer cares if he escalates the situation because he’s been there before.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dumpster Diving

From my first night in the mansion I have known that it has various secrets. Some I’ve discovered with little effort (Beezle made his presence known speedily), while I have probed at others with very little success. On rare occasions I stumble into something unexpected and surprising. Whether I am pleased by such surprises has been widely varied. For example, I recently stumbled upon a secret compartment containing a sum of money large enough for me to pay my tuition for one semester (have I mentioned that I’m a poor college student?). On another occasion, I discovered carnivorous toilet. I barely escaped with my life and gained a new resolve to pay better attention to phrases like, “Perhaps this restroom is best avoided, Sir.”

This week I made an entirely new discovery, and I’m not certain what to make of it. It’s got to do with the dumpster. You see, I was thinking about my recent troubles with William. I chronicled them for you last week, but let me briefly refresh your memories.

I took issue with Will’s evening bathroom habits. He took issue with my existence as an authoritative figure in his life. Changing the topic, he requested that a door be added to the dumpster to improve his access. I suggested that he take a room in the mansion. He took offence and left me wondering what was so compelling about living in a dumpster. I ended my thoughts by asking you, my readers, for your thoughts.
Nathan Major, a good friend and associate suggested, “When life gives you a kid in a dumpster, buy a new dumpster.” Beezle heartily agreed and promoted swift action on my part.

I appreciated the humor from Nathan, and ignored the sincerity from Beezle, and went on with life a little less stressed for a few days. However, I kept thinking about the conversation and Will and the things he’s dealing with as a teenager. I was a teenager a short time ago… I’d never go back to it – not if you paid me, not for the world. I remember having some weird notions and strange feelings about things; and how nice it was when somebody who knew better would just nod their head and go along with me for a little while.

I remembered Will’s birthday too, so I started making some phone calls to welders to see about getting a door on that dumpster. The first guy said, “you want what?” and wouldn’t quit laughing long enough to talk business. The next one was serious enough, but he also said that “it is a violation of state and federal law to modify a dumpster in a fashion inconsistent with its original design and/or intended purpose.”

Finally I ran across Stan of “Stan’s Odd Jobs and Custom Welding.” I asked for an estimate on cutting a door into the side of a dumpster and braced myself for another disappointment. After a long silence he drawled, “Wellllll, I guess I’ve been asked to do stranger things. I’ll jus’ come down ‘n’ take a look right now, if that’s ok wi’choo” (“wi’choo” translates from redneck to “with you” in standardized English).

Stan’s base of operations is close and I had just enough time to shove Will out the door on a fake errand and wheel the dumpster into the garage before Stan knocked on the door. I let Wadsworth get it, but I stood back in the hallway and watched the exchange (I enjoy watching Wadsworth work, it’s inspiring.)

Stan is average in height but stocky.  He has a dark tan, a wind worn face, and sandy brown hair that usually stick out in every direction. He had it covered it with a well used cap, but it didn’t help much.
When Wadsworth answered the door I watched Stan remove his cap respectfully and say, “This the place that wants a door in the dumpster?”

“Yes, Sir, Lord Secrest is expecting you.”

“And you don’t want me to do nothin’ in the basement, right?”

“No, Sir. That will not be necessary.”

“Good, ‘cause I’ve been here before. You know you got a monster or somethin’ down there? ‘Boilzees’ or ‘Beezus’ or somethin’? Worst customer I ever had.”

“IT’S BEEZLE, YOU TWIT, AND I DEMAND A REPLACEMENT OR A FULL REFUND FOR THE IRONWORKS YOU INSTALLED TWO YEARS AGO – YOUR ARTISTIC RENDERING OF ‘IMPALED SACRIFICES’ ISN’T NEARLY AS SATISFYING AS I ONCE FOUND IT.” boomed the vent in the great hall.

Stan jumped and his eyes widened. He whispered behind his hand, “Does he do that all the time?”

Wadsworth nodded and said, “Frequently, Sir, yes.”

Stan licked his lips and raised his voice, “Now, Mr. Beezus, you agreed in writing that I don’t replace nothin’ ‘less I put it in wrong or it broke.”

A loud snap cracked out from the vent, and Beezle said, “OH DEAR, SOMETHING SEEMS TO HAVE DETACHED FROM ‘IMPALED SACRIFICES.’ THE POORY INSTALLED IRONWORK HAS GONE AWRY.”

Stan scowled. “Also, I inspect carefully for signs of intentional vandalism.”

“OH. DAMN.”

After a short silence Wadsworth said, “I trust that your business with Bezel has concluded. May I show you to the garage.”

Stan nodded, and I spoke up, “Thank you, Wadsworth, I can take it from here.”

“Very good, Sir.”

While I walked with Stan, his eyes wandered everywhere and he did a half turn every time he took a step. He caught sight of a particularly dazzling chandelier and let out a low whistle followed by, “What’s a place like this cost anyways?”

“Not much, surprisingly,” I said, “But that’s probably got something to do with the tenants.” I pointed to the basement. Stan nodded severely.

“YES,” Beezle piped up, “BETWEEN THE DUMPSTER-DIVER AND THE WOULD-BE SOCIALITE AUTHOR, THE ESTATE IS TRULY GOING DOWNHILL.”

“The little son-of-a-gun’s got a mouth on him don’t he? He’s worse than my sister. ”

“YOU PROBABLY FORGET HER NAME TOO, DON’T YOU?”

Stan shrugged, and we kept moving.

In the garage he spied the the dumpster up and said, “Well, let’s see what we got here… looks pretty standard.” He opened the lid and peered inside, “Metal’s in good condition; don’t see any corrosion at all. Should make for a pretty clean job. I think I can get ‘er done pretty quick. I think I’d charge you, oh…” he named a price, and I frowned at it.

“Stan,” I said, “This may surprise you, considering that I’m living in a mansion, but I not so well to do. I was basically given the place. Can we work out something a little cheaper?”

Stan scratched at the scruff on his chin and gazed at the dumpster. He folded his arms and worked his tongue around in his moth for a while. Finally, he looked back at me and asked, “You got yourself a Gardner?”

I shook my head. “Had one for a while, but I could afford to keep him on. Will’s been mowing the grass and Wadsworth handles the flowers.”

 “Well, I’ll tell you what: I’m lookin’ to pick up an extra job or two. You let me handle your grounds and call me first on any maintenance you need done an’ I’ll throw in the dumpster for free.”

 “I appreciate what you’re trying to do, Stan,” I said, “but I doubt I can offer you enough money to make it worth your time.”

Stan thought for a little longer and said,“Well, how about a cook? You got one of those?”

“Wadsworth does most of the cooking around here.”

“He any good?”

“I’ve never eaten better.”

Stan grinned widely, “Well I can’t cook to save my life. You have your Man rustle somethin’ up for me a couple time times a week and I’ll do your grounds for next to nothin’.”

I grinned, “I think we’ve got a deal.”

We shook on it, and he set up his equipment to work on the dumpster. Then he lifted the lid and said, “This’ll work best if I crawl inside. That way I can make the door flush with the edge of the floor.” He scrambled in. He let out a low whistle again and shouted, “Holy Moses! Wasn’t expecting that! This is some dumpster mister.”

Puzzled, I looked inside the dumpster. Stan was looking around him with the same look of bedazzlement that he’d displayed inside the mansion, but I didn’t see anything special: there were a few old suits, old news papers, yesterdays light refreshments, and that was about it. Everything looked standard.

“What’s so special about it?” I asked.

“Well Gee Wilikers; you ever been in this thing?”

“No.”

“Then I think maybe you should get in here. This thing’ll shock you better’n a cattle prod.”

I heaved myself over the edge and in the process started saying, “Now, what’s so –,“ I had planned to say “special,” but I was stunned speechless. I found myself standing in a ten foot by ten foot by ten foot room. The d├ęcor was as just as grand as in the mansion. A chandelier hung from the ceiling. The walls and floors were polished, white, and sparkling. I wasn’t sure if they were stone or metal or some sort of wonderful mixture. The room was fully furnished with a large wardrobe, an unmade bed, a messy desk, several tables and stands of various types, and a set of ornate furniture. The newspapers that as viewed from above had been ripped and strewn about were now precisely folded, stacked, and organized by date on a short round end table in the corner. Yesterday’s refreshments sat invitingly on a silver platter on a cherry wood coffee table. I turned around in a daze to find that the wall behind only remained vertical till just below my shoulders, after that it took a sharp me angled upward until it met with the ceiling. A large window was set in at exactly the same height that the dumpster lid would be, in fact I could see the hinges on the upper sill. On exactly the opposite wall was a softly glowing silver door with an engraved golden handle. I walked to the door and reached out to finger the handle.

Stan grabbed at my hand and growled, “You got bolts for brains? Who knows but that it opens into that monster's fireplace? When I installed that ironwork, I saw more’n one door just like it, an all of ‘em were in nasty places, so you just keep your hands to yourself until I’m out’a this dumpster.”

I stepped back quickly, thinking shakily of the twenty foot flames I’d seen in Beezle’s suite. I walked to the window, put my hands on the seal and looked out. Will was standing in the garage and he looked angry.

To make a long story short, Will was fairly upset about the invasion of his privacy. The phrase that best sums up his side of the conversation was, “I asked you to put a door in, not have a party in my bedroom.” I however, am proud to say that I remained relatively calm, and after many apologies from both me and Stan he finally let it drop. He was also very pleased with the door. Stan welded installed in from the outside by cutting a hole and installing a latch. Will let us check it out from the inside. Inside the dumpster the door formed as intricately carved oak set into a crystalline archway. Stan kept walking inside the dumpster and back out again inspecting his work. He’d swing the door from side to side on other side and more than once I heard him mutter, “How the hell did I do that?”

Will still won't tell me what the silver door is for, but if I ever find out, I'll fill you in.

-Jason L. Secrest

Monday, August 2, 2010

Starlight and Dumpsters

I've had an exceptional weekend. I couldn't have asked for better on my twenty-fifth birthday. I spent plenty of time with friends on during the week and went to my parents place for the weekend. There's been lots of food and games and companionship. There was also the boat.

My dad has a sporty sleek red and white boat. He got it a few years ago so that he could share one of his favorite activities from when he was a kid with us. The first time couple times out, I hated waterskiing - I just couldn't get up. All water skiing did for me was to flush out my sinuses with copious volumes of water. However, now that I've got the technique down I love it. Dad knows that, and the morning after I got home, he had my siblings and I up at seven. By seven thirty we were on our way to the lake.

I was groaning about the time - I'm not too much of a morning person, but my pops is wise about water. When we launched the boat the water was slightly rough, but not bad. By the time we propelled to the other side of the reservoir the water was a calm glassy mirror. I've never seen such perfect water before, and it stayed that way for as many hours as I had strength. We did everything - skiing, wakeboarding, slalom skiing, coasting around the lake soaking up the sun; everything.

Well, I'm not in great physical condition and it wiped me out. We'd planned to go spelunking in the afternoon, but I was so exhausted that we changed our plan to accommodate naps and a movie. I slept well that night, but I was plenty sore the next day. The night after, when I arrived back at the mansion, I was even worse. I was stiff and walked with a strange kind of half limp. Everything hurt. My legs, my arms, my neck, my gluteous maximus, and everything else was screaming for a Tylenol.

Wadsworth welcomed me home with warm yet stately salutations and promptly drew a bath for me. He suggested a cold one with ice as the "most effective remedy for the soreness of overtaxed muscles," but I'm too wimpy for that kind of thing so we went with a hot one. I napped for the rest of the afternoon. That turned out to be a poor choice, as I was exceptionally restless that night. Since I couldn't sleep I decided to go outside and enjoy the stars, and maybe stretch out my legs a little bit.

I lingered in the garden for a while, breathing the fragrant air in deeply; but the trees obscure much of the night sky, so I ventured out a little further. The nearby mountain range cut a black jagged path through the stars at the horizon. There are very few lights in my neck of the woods aside from the ones in the mansion house, and it was a cloudless night, so the rest of the stars were perfect and brilliant. I stuffed my hands into my back pockets and leaned as far backwards as I could without falling over. My back objected stiffly, but the stretching helped. Finally I lay down on the perfectly manicured lawn and put my hands behind my head and contemplated the eternities.

My meditations were interrupted shortly by a metallic banging sound from the back of the house. I figured it was Will, thrashing around in his "bedroom." Just like Beezle, he came with the house, and I've never quite understood why he sleeps in that thing. I don't challenge it though - he's an adolescent, and those can be wonderfully emotional, illogical, and unfathomable things.

Things went quiet for a while. Then there was more banging, followed again by silence. After not too long the motion sensors on the back patio blinked on, hurting my eyes. I shield them, and listened quietly to the dumpster lid rising the rattling of the metal as Will climbed out and the slam of the lid falling back into position. Will yawned and padded toward me across the cement of the pool.

I'm not sure how he didn't see me in the blinding 240 lumens of the floodlights, but he didn't. I was content to just lie in wait. I won't do that again. He walked within a foot of me, stopped, and started to relieve himself. I leaped up with a cry of surprise and alarm. He leaped to the side with the same frightened shout. Fortunately, I escaped the situation unsullied. 

We hurriedly turned away from each other. While he finished his business I asked, "Do you make it a habit to pee on my lawn?"

"I guess."

"You know there's a restroom in the house right?"

"This is closer. Besides, it's nice out here at night. I like the feel of the grass on my feet."

"Uh huh. Well, as nice as that is, I'm not so keen on the idea."

"Why do you care?" Will's voice cracked. It's been doing that a lot recently, "You didn't even know about it till just now."

"Because," I said, doing my best to keep my cool, "I sometimes like to lie in this grass. I don't like the thought of putting my back into your personal cesspool. So please, empty your bladder inside from now on."

"Fine. Whatever."

Will padded angrily back to the dumpster and opened the lid. As the lid closed back down on him he said something but I didn't quite understand it between the muffled sound and the echoes. I wanted to tell him to come out if he wanted to talk to me, but thinking that it was better to pick my battles (like what was a restroom and what was not), I lifted the lid and poked my head inside.

"What?" I said, "I couldn't hear you?"

He glared at me with one of the special teenage faces. It's the one that silently says all of the above, "Why are you such an idot? Why can't you just leave me alone? Nobody understands me, because like you they are all stupid. I hate your guts." I thought about just slamming the lid on him and letting him come talk to me when he wasn't being melodramatic. Instead, I decided to cut him some slack. It was late, we were both tired, he sleeps in a dumpster, and he no longer had the privileged of wiggling his tows in the lawn while he watered it.

"I said," he drawled, "'can we put a door on here?' I hate crawling into and out of it."

"I'm not sure. I'd have to call a welder about it. What if you just take one of the bedrooms? The mansion has plenty of them."

"No," he muttered, "I like this better."

"Why?" I'm afraid I let some frustration creep into my voice. He detected it, and read volumes into it.


"I just do! Never mind. Why did I even bother asking? Shut the lid please."

I took a deep breath, said 'Goodnight' and shut it. I went back to my bedroom and fell asleep trying to figure out what was appealing about sleeping in trash. I haven't had a chance to talk to Will since. He's definitely avoiding me. I've decided to go ahead and call a welder, but in the meantime I'm still stumped. What's so great about the dumpster? Any thoughts? If you come up with something brilliant, plausible, or even ludicrous with merit comment below. I've got to figure out how this kid ticks.

Friday, July 23, 2010

What Bears say when no one is listening.

Before I share the events of the day I wanted to think out loud about something that's bothering me. Those of you who use an RSS reader may not have noticed the comments in my last post. It's alright, you don't need to go look at them. Suffice it to say that Beezle discovered my Blog. I'm not sure how I ought to feel about that...

Assuming extreme optimism, I have one more reader, someone actually posted comments, and I've written something that an ancient evil felt strongly enough about to sit up and take notice - even actively oppose. (I should mention that he found one of my comments on a friend's site wherein I put in a plug for my own blog, and posted a reply publicly denouncing me.)

The thing is, it's really hard to feel optimistic when you feel violated; and I feel violated. I had one form of expression that Beezle did not yet have access to. That made it pure and holy and a great place to vent about him. Beezle found it and did his best to defile it. Something tells me that he's not going to stop. At any rate, I suppose I'll just do my best to ignore him. The last thing I'm going to do is acknowledge him or do anything that might count as "feeding the trolls" (except posting these inflammatory remarks of course). If I'm lucky he'll get bored and find something else to do with his time.

Anyways, I wanted to tell you about something else.

I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when Duncan stopped by for a visit. He doesn't like to come very often. The neighbors get nervous and call Wildlife services. (Duncan is, by the way, a rather large and gruff old grizzly bear.)

It's hard to convince the rangers that Duncan is smarter than the average bear and relatively gentle with people. (Will would argue, he's been on the receiving end of more than a few swats.) Generally, Duncan will get exasperated and tell them politely but frankly to "get the hell away" from him and tend to their own business. Generally after that they feel the need to find a shrink that can tell them that they didn't hear a grizzly bear talk.

By the way, I apologize to those with delicate ears. Duncan is a teddy bear on the inside; but as I mentioned previously, he gruff and cantankerous and fairly free with his 'hell's and 'damn's. I am, however, pleased to inform you that that is as colorful as he gets; and really, to be fair, he tries to keep it to a minimal when in my home.

To get around the park services issues we've tried a few things: cages and costume parties and the like. Once we passed him off as a circus bear - my idea, not his - and when the neighbors heard about it they all sent their kids over to see "Duncan the Wonder-bear". We had to hurry and improvise. I happened to have a clown nose, and we found some tennis balls for him to juggle, and we pulled off an impromptu performance. They loved it. Duncan swore to me afterwards that if I ever pulled that kind of stunt again, he'd eat one of the spectators. Truth be told, he loved the attention, and he loves kids, but that doesn't fit his image, so he complains and I grin for him by proxy.

When I greeted Duncan in the main hallway I said, "You should have told me you were coming. I'd have invited Susan."

Susan is a neighbor kid - seven years old, real cute. She likes to come around every couple of days, bash her eyelashes and ask, "did Wadsworth make cookies today?" Of course, he never has, but he throws together a batch and sets out the tea set for her and her dolly. She also happens to be one of Duncan's favorites.

"Why?" Duncan rumbled as he ambled in, "So she can tug at my fur and poke at my snout when I'm trying to nap? No thank-you."

"Oh, and here I thought that maybe you'd come looking for a small hand to scratch behind your ear."

"Pah!" Duncan said, and he eased down on to the shag carpet, "she's just a little snack waiting to happen."

"You say that every time you see her, but I haven't seen any missing children reports yet."

"I'm just waiting for her to fatten up a little bit. She's all ribs. Not even worth the trouble - yet. Maybe you had better call her over for cookies. Speed up the process."

I grinned. I knew from the start that he wasn't here for my company, so I picked up the phone and dialed. "Hello," I said, when the other side picked up, "Mrs. Lovegood?  Yes. It's Jason Secrest, down the road... Very well, thanks. Yes, everything is dandy. Listen, Wadsworth is making some cookies, and don't know what goes through his head, but he always makes too many. I don't suppose we could borrow Susan and Miss MarySueBee to make a few disappear? Oh, I always get that wrong... How does she say it? Marry-Soup-Bee? Got it. Thanks, you're a life saver. We'll call you when she gets here.  Uh huh. Bye."

From the Lovegood's house, it's a five minute walk to the Mansion, but for short legs and eyes that catch on every butterfly and daffodil it's fifteen in reality. I tugged on the chord that rings Wadsworth in and asked him if he could whip something up and pull out the tea set. He smiled magnanimous and said that he could.

In the meantime, Duncan and I chatted. He told me about his most recent headaches with "Meg the Heg" the resident semi-evil witch that's under his protective jurousdiction, and I told him that i was putting down solar flare for a little while to work on another project.

He snorted and said, "Let me guess, 'you're stuck?'"

I grinned sheepishly and said, "Yeah, I've got this other idea that's really nagging at me and -"

"Huh - you'll never finish a damn thing in your life. It's guys like you that make society crumble - generation 'get me a sandwich mom, and by the way, I'm living in your basement until one of us dies.' If you go a day without your Nintendo, you crack."

"Now wait a minute -" I started to counter, but the doorbell went off, and that was the end of that. Duncan smiled coyly. Talking to bears is strictly off limits when I have company.

Wadsworth got the door, and I phoned Mrs. Lovegood to tell her that her Susan had arrived safely. I almost didn't get the phone down fast enough for Mrs. Lovegood to miss hearing her daughter exclaim, "MR. DUNCAN IS HERE!"

Susan was wearing an enormous ladies hat with a long green feather when she entered, but her bouncing threw it to the floor when she dashed to the bear. She threw out her arms and hugged his great shaggy head. Miss Soupbee dangled by a threadbare doll-arm from one delicate hand, and the other was unintentional jabbing at one of Duncan's tightly closed eyes. I wished I had a camera.

The rest of the day was pleasant. Will shuffled in for long enough to make a tall stack of cookies in his hands and shuffle back out. Beezle was quiet, presumably pirating movies. Susan ignored the tea set, choosing to snuggle up against Duncan's side with her plate of cookies and chatter to him about the things that seven year olds save especially for their favorite bears. Duncan never moved an inch. He just lay there and lazily rolled his eyes to look at her now and again. If it weren't for that, you might have thought he was stuffed. Ever so slowly, a contented smile grew across his muzzle and as the hot afternoon grew into evening, Susan fell asleep on his forearm. He lifted his head and gazed down at her before putting it back down and closing his eyes.

I left them like that until Mrs. Lovegood called to request her daughter back. The ringing of the phone woke Susan up. She sat up slowly with her long blonde hair sticking out in every direction. Wisps of it covered her face. She pulled it back and stretched and said, "Mr. Seacwest?"

"Yes, Susan?"

"Did you know that Mr. Duncan can talk?"

"Oh?" I said. The surprise and interest in my voice were very real.

"Yes. He talks when nobody is here."

"And what does he say when he talks?"

Susan looked at him quietly for a minute. I listened to the soft wheeze of his slow breath, and watched her pat his ribs. Without looking back at me she stated as a mater-of-fact, "He says he loves me."

"You know," I said, "You're absolutely right."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Carry On

I've done my best to limit this particular blog to my dealings with the inhabitants of the mansion house. Today I'm talking about something I read. It may be slightly less entertaining, but I thought it appropriate considering that I talk so much about working towards that chromium-plated goal of full blown authorship.

It's been a strange night for me. Everything has been still and silent. There were no shenanigans from Beezle to start with, but the night also had that kind of strange quiet that makes the ticking of the clock boom in your ears. In the loud silence found it difficult to sleep, so I read a post in a good friend's blog wherein he discusses book covers. (By the way, Nathan's always got something interesting to say. Check out http://nathanmajor.blogspot.com/)

I started thumbing through my bookshelf looking for a book with a great cover to link to his post. Instead, I found a favorite book with a cover that would never entice me to read the book. I was saddened, and nostalgically picked it up again. I read the whole thing in one sitting, like I always do. I think it must be my favorite book. The book is called, "Carry On, Mr. Bowditch." It was first published in 1955 as a book for young readers. The book is a dramatized biography of the life of Nathanial Bowditch.

The book starts when Nat is six and goes over all the major events of his life. From the first couple pages you really latch on to this kid, and you're rooting for him. Every step of the way he's held back from accomplishing anything he really wants in life but he never gives up. That's compounded with multiple deaths of loved ones, fear for his family's well being, and the occasional dangerous situation. He struggles for every break he gets, and he really becomes something in the end for it; When I was a kid he was my hero, and I wanted to be just like him. I still do.

Besides loving the man and his story, I've gained new appreciation for the author since I've started taking writing more seriously. The writing is clearly targeted to younger readers, but it's compelling to me as an adult. At the beginning of the book when Nat is a kid, the writing makes you feel like you're in the mind of a kid, and slowly as he gets older, the writing adapts gracefully so that you steal feel like you're in the mind of an adolescent and then of an experienced adult. You never notice a transition. THAT IS REALLY INCREDIBLY HARD TO DO. The learning curve is perfect. I know nothing about ships, but without being blatant, the book taught me enough about ships to understand what was happening and make it natural. The author, Jean Lee Latham, is talented at displaying human behavior and the way it changes, in both the protagonist and the side characters. She has a way of presenting the human spirit as noble and dignified. I never leave the book uninspired. The kicker is, that she does all of this in 250 pages. It's a quick read. Go read it. It's the best book ever.

One day I'll write something like that. First I have to learn to get to the point. Good luck me.

I think I'll go see what Wadsworth is whipping up in the kitchen. All this inspiration is making me hungry.

-Jason

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Advertising and Anthropomorphic Personifications

I am in a particularly cheerful mood today. That is to say, I was this morning. I think much of it came from Beezle, or at least Beezle's vocal absence. Ever since he got connected to his "Internets" he has been extraordinarily quiet. It's something like giving a child a new video game on the day that you'd like him to do anything but bother you - at least that's how I deal with Will when I have the money with the exception that I get to play the game first.

Because of the silence from the ventilation system I've been able to get a lot done with my writing. I like to write to music. Usually I listen to my writing playlist on iTunes, but recently iTunes has been angry with me, so instead I’ve been listening to George Winston Radio on Pandora. It's mellow, and since it's mostly piano there aren't lyrics or sudden changes in the mood of the music. It makes for non distractive inspiration, at least until I get interrupted by commercials.  


Most of the time I'm able to ignore the advertising, but today the cosmos had it out for me... maybe it had to do with balance or karma or the ying-yang or something. Beezle wasn't preventing me from working, so something else had to get on my nerves. Today it was McDonalds. I am not exaggerating when I say that I was subjugated to four of their commercials in the space of one hour.  Three times I was ambushed by an a distracted woman who has trouble making her own decisions, but can easily add a coke to her BigMac for a dollar, or maybe to her chicken nuggets, har har. The other one I can’t remember, but it was just as obnoxious.  


Some people might have got the hankering for a BigMac after all the not so subliminal messaging, but not me. Fat Six Dollar Burgers from Carl's Junior can entice me, yes; but Six Dollar NastyMacs just won’t cut it. The redundant pitches were distracting, getting on my nerves, and dropping my word count, so I took off my headphones and made due with silence. Five minutes later, to my great frustration I heard a little ratta-tat-tat on my study door. Extra distractions weren't what I was looking for, but I saved,swiveled around in my chair and sighed, "Come in."  


It was Will. He was wearing slacks and an orange patterned vest that had been mine a month ago. It was loud and ostentatious and the opposite of posh. However, I liked it. Wadsworth did not, and he'd somehow managed to manipulate it from my grasp. Seeing it on Will was slightly gratifying to my ego. The vest was big on Will, but so was everything he wore - probably because he lives in my dumpster and resupplies his wardrobe with items that leave mine.  
"Yes, Will," I said, doing my best display my annoyance at being interrupted, "what do you need?"  


Will placed his hands in his back pockets and leaned back a little. "Well, Sir," he said, "I just wanted to know if you're hungry."  


"No, not particularly,” I said, “Should I be?"  


"Well... I was just thinking about how much you probably want to go buy a BigMac or something.”  

I closed my eyes slowly and left them shut, "Will,” I said, “I'm trying to write. Why is it that you suddenly think that I need to pound down a greasy hamburger with wilting lettuce and a paper thin tomato on a deflated sesame seed bun? By the way, if you haven't guessed yet, I'm not a huge fan of Ronald McDonald's signature entree."  
Will bit his lip, "Yeah, he said, I know."  


"Then why are you in here bothering me?"  


"I thought that after you bought it you might decide to throw it away."  


"Why would I buy a burger just so that I can throw it away?"  


Will cast his eyes to the floor and mumbled, "I don't know… just 'cause."  
I'm afraid that I'm a little slow, and it took a few seconds of glowering at Will to mental connections. When I finally caught on, I said, "Are YOU hungry Will?"  
He smiled hopefully, "Yeah."  


"Well, I'm not going to McDonalds. I'm busy. Go ask Wadsworth to get something for you. Besides, his cooking tastes better and won't make you die from an early heart attack."  


A whine started creeping in at the edges of Will's voice. "It's not the same."  


"Yes, we just established that. It's better. Now please, I have worked to do."  


"Fine." Will stomped off toward the kitchen leaving my door open. I covered my face with my hands and sighed. Then I swiveled back around to my keyboard and put my fingers on the keys. The moment they touched the plastic, the knocker on the door boomed out three slow rapports. That had to be Death. No one else had the talent to knock so ominously. I balled my hands in frustration before pushing away from the Desk and calling out, "Don't bother, Wadsworth. I'll get it." I wasn't likely to get anything done as long as Death were here, so I resigned to just give up for an hour. I exited my study and walked down the main hall to the door. Opening my door I found death hovering stoically above my porch with nothing but darkness under his cowl and his sickle in hand.  


I opened with the customary greeting that I reserved just for him, "Business, or pleasure?" (It's important to me, that I get that out in the open, you wouldn't believe how tense it is to sit through lunch, not knowing if after the small talk you'll be invited to permanently change residency to the underworld.")  


"Pleasure," Death boomed. His voice is resonating, crisp and deep. I keep trying to convince him to give voice acting a shot, but he remains uninterested.  


"I've been working hard this afternoon,” Death began, “and would enjoy resting and sharing conversation for a short time.” He hesitated before adding, “I would find one of Wadsworth’s rolls most invigorating, if they are available.”

I gestured for Death to come in, but without much enthusiasm. He noticed, and I’m somewhat embarrassed about that now. He regarded me and didn’t move, rather he said,”I know that you are a busy man and I do not wish to impose if you are working, have you already had your break today?"  


I cocked back my head and and screamed at the cosmos and the fates and whoever else had taken up promoting with my least favorite food chain, "Fine! You win! I'm going to McDonalds! Just leave me alone!"

You wouldn’t think it, but Death has expressions. They are subtle and hard to perceive, but I’ve been acquainted with him for a long time. At the moment, he’s head was slightly cocked and it was as if he was furrowing his brow.

“This seems like a bad time,” he said, “I will harvest more souls and come back later.”

“No. I said, now is just peachy. We are going to McDonalds and we are going to like it. WILL, get out here! We’re going to the magically toxic land of the golden arches.”

“Wouldn’t you rather eat a roll? It would taste better and contribute to, rather than detract from, your overall health.”

“Don’t you know,” I said, “ ‘It’s just not the same.’ ”

If you say so. It will be your funeral.”

And yours. Get in the truck.”

And so it happened that the local home of the BigMac was first visited by Death. Do not fear for him. He has no arteries to clog.