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    Wednesday, April 30, 2008

    Wizard Part IX



    Part IX

    Since I hadn't been here in so long it was hard to tell if anything had been taken beyond her eye. At first glance the room looked undisturbed. But as I started getting closer to things I realized there would be a quick way to tell if anything had.

    Dust is a wonderful thing, especially if it occurs in a place where no one feels the need to remove it on a regular basis. Pirate Jane obviously had no compulsion to do so. If I had a keener eye I could have read the levels of dust like rings in a tree, but right now all I needed to look for was anywhere the dust was not, or at least where a surface had only been exposed to a few days accumulation.

    Admittedly Mr. Toots and I were stumped after about half an hour gazing around with the shadow inducing bare bulbs over head. Mr. Toots gave up before me and lay on Pirate Jane's chest purring longingly. He didn't hiss when I picked him. I think he knew it was over. As I held him in my arms I knew I couldn't leave him here.

    Back upstairs I put him on his mat and told him to watch the door. He hissed and I smiled. We were going to get along fine. Back downstairs I loaded up on a few things I thought I might need, as well as an old gallon milk jug with something I couldn't make out inside. Written on the outside in marker was "1/4 tsp. for Mr. Toots with food." Jane wasn't going to mind at this point. I still hadn't found what I was looking for when I pulled the Van around to the alley behind the store.

    After I had loaded everything into the van I returned for the last time. I left Jane where she lay, but closed her lids over where her eyes used to be. It was only right. As I shut the door to the cellar, I locked it with the same bit of encryption that was on the storage space, then hit the door with a bit of concealment. By the time someone got around to renting the space, Jane would be gone back into the earth and no one would disturb her.

    I left Mr. Toots for last and he instantly gave into me. With him in one arm, his claws extended just enough to pierce my shirt and remind me he was there, I grabbed his bed thinking it would help in the transition. As I pulled it off the counter, it dragged something underneath, which fell to the floor. It was a book. It was a journal. I moved the cat bed into the hand holding Mr. Toots and bent down to pick it up. I put it on the counter and opened it mid way. My Uncle's writing filled the pages. I was an idiot. It was the least obvious place to hide something. I should have looked here first.

    I didn't have time to hang around and read it so I picked it up and carried it with me. I put Mr. Toots bed on the front passenger seat of the van and then put Mr. Toots on top of the bed. He walked around twice kneading the top with his front paws. He finally lay down facing the driver's seat.

    I got in and stuck the key in the ignition. I reached past him and put the journal in the glove compartment. I looked at Mr. Toots.

    You ready to go old man?

    Mr. Toots hissed and laid his head down, closing his eyes. By the time I reached the city limits of New Orleans Mr. Toots was purring in time to the engine. I headed back toward Panama City, from there I was going home. Back to Tennessee. Back to Knoxville. I had a few things I needed to take care of before I finished my Uncle's business.

    Tuesday, April 29, 2008

    Wizard Part VIII



    Part VIII

    I woke up feeling eighteen again. I hung the Do Not Disturb sign on the door as I shut it gently behind myself. She'd earned her sleep. Normally I'd have felt bad about it, but since I was pretty sure she wouldn't I let it go.

    I pulled the Van out onto the road and merged onto I-10 and headed West toward New Orleans. The sun had just begun to rise and it kept pace with me all the way to Gulfport, Mississippi, where I stopped for breakfast.

    My waitress was a beehive five star and she practiced her own brand of slight of hand. She kept my cup of coffee endless without me ever seeing her pour. It took me a minute to decide between the Uncle Herschel and the Grandpa's Country Fried. In the end I went with Grandpa.

    I got it over easy with biscuits, chicken fried chicken and the hashbrown casserole. As I ate the casserole I lamented the days when they'd served plain hashbrowns without all the extra crap. I used the last half of one of the biscuits to clean my plate and almost died from pleasure as the last bite of biscuit, runny yolk, batter crumbs and butter melted across my tongue.

    I grabbed a bag of horehound candy in the restaurant's general store on the way out. I'd never much cared for the taste, but they'd been my Uncle's favorites. I'd keep in the glove box and learn to like them.

    Two hours later I hit the outskirts of New Orleans. I tapped Pirate Jane's address into the GPS and listened intently as it ran me down the convoluted streets. Eventually I started to remember where I was. I parked the van five blocks from Jane's place walked a few extra just in case.

    The bell over the door rang, just like it always did, but then the store fell into silence. I looked over to where Mr. Toots should be and saw an empty cat bed. I waited for Pirate Jane to tell me to "Fuck Off," but when it didn't come I gently closed the door behind me and locked it, turning the sign to closed.

    I didn't take another step until I had mumbled a reveal spell. Nothing jumped out, so I took a moment to look around. It didn't appear at first that anything other than Mr. Toots had been disturbed. But, that was enough to worry me. It was possible Mr. Toots had passed on, it had been almost an average cats life span since I had been here last and Mr. Toots seemed pretty damn old even then.

    Pirate Jane? It's me. It's...

    Something rubbed against my leg causing me to choke on my sentence. When I looked down, a chill shot right through me. It was Mr. Toots. He was rubbing against my leg. He wasn't hissing. Something was definitely wrong. I reached down to pet him and he backed up and hissed, then started walking toward the curtain. Not quite lassie, but I followed Mr. Toots anyway.

    I found Pirate Jane in the basement cellar. She'd been dead for a few days. If she'd been upstairs I would have smelled her right off, but the cellar was cool and so she hardly smelled any different than normal. What I did notice right away though was that someone had taken her other eye. If what my Uncle had told me was true, then I figured she must have taken sides again.

    Monday, April 28, 2008

    Wizard Part VII



    Part VII

    The interior of the van solves another problem. It's converted to live in. Small but utilitarian, and less dated than the exterior. If anybody planned on looking for me, they'd have to think beyond the norm. No doubt the van would stand out in motel parking lots, but whoever looked for anyone in KOA campgrounds anymore.

    I stuck the key into the ignition and the Van growled, then settled into a gutteral purr. The tank was full and the dash even had an inset GPS NAV system. I pulled out of the storage facility and headed back to the motel. I needed a loose plan, something I could tweak if I needed to.

    I spent the next two hours slowly moving the stuff I'd taken from my Uncle's trailer into the Van. I arranged it as best I could. One of the cabinets became a library and the spice jars got a new home under the small sink. The bed in the back had a series of pull out drawers and I filled these with my cloths. Pulling out the last drawer though I almost hit my head on the roof as I stood up in involuntarily to what was already in it.

    The skull smiled at me like it knew me somehow. It was bleached pure white and looked to have come from some poor bastard who'd been around my age when he'd died. Whatever had killed him hadn't been a headshot. The skull was perfectly symmetrical with no signs of trauma.

    There was no way to tell though whether my Uncle had acquired the skull first or whether it had been picked up as it was now, encased in a perfect sphere of clear acrylic. Well, it wasn't a perfect sphere. It had three smooth holes bored in it's surface just above the crown of the skull. I slipped my thumb, middle finger and ring finger into the holes and dreamed of bowling a perfect game.

    Man, what a way to live on. I put it back into the drawer. I didn't know it at the time, but that bowling ball was going to become a integral part of my life.

    Feeling confident I'd finished everything I could, I hoped in the van and drove around looking for a bar. I needed a drink. I needed to be surrounded by people, people who didn't care who I was. I needed to think long and hard about what I was about to do, even though I knew I was going to go through with it anyway.

    Roosters was a small dive with a gravel and dirt parking lot. There were more motor cycles than cars, so I instantly felt at home. People in these types of places hated strangers, but they usually ignored them if they kept to themselves, which was exactly what I was planning on doing. The other great thing about bars like this was that if something got started, it could be finished without interfearence. That's the thing about tribes, they have a built in code of honor, even if it's the kind of honor no one else can understand. It's insular and integral to the group dynamic. One might even say it's the glue that keeps the whole thing together.

    As I parked the van and hoped out, two bikers came out of Roosters swaying like the front porch was encountering rough seas. They looked at me for a minute, sizing me up, then saw the van. It seemed to overwhelm them with nostalgia, that quickly got the better of them and made them choose poorly.

    Who the fuck are you? Han Solo?

    He looks more like the Princess.

    In there own minds, they'd summoned images of themselves as comedians and laughed.

    I kept my mouth shut and plied my way through them, heading up the stairs. I knew they'd take offense at my lack of interest in their challenge even though I hoped, for their sake, they wouldn't. I almost made it to the door.

    Hey, I'm talking to you Princess.

    I turned around and the one who'd said that came for me. It was probably unfair, I could most likely have taken them in a fight, seeing as how they were both stumble drunk, but I'd run severely low on patience.

    I mumbled under my breath.

    The biker doubled over at the foot of the porch stairs and vomited a steady stream that lasted long enough to make him realize he was throwing up more than he had in his stomach. His friend backed away, scared to help him. Somehow he knew I was responsible though and went for a gun in his waste belt. Before he could draw it I let him have a taste of what I'd given his friend, only this time I chose a different orifice.

    I went into Roosters and let the door shut behind me. Luckily for them they'd suffer nothing more than dehydration and embarrassment. As I sat down at the bar I cocked an ear and took great pleasure in the sound of the motorcycle engines revving. Gravel smacking the outside wall of the bar made everyone look up as the sound of the motorcycles speeding away faded fast.

    In a split second everyone was back to what they'd been doing two seconds before. The bartender came over and I looked squarely in her eyes and ordered a scotch. She paused a second licking her lips then turned around and stretched up to grab the bottle off a shelf that was almost out of her reach. She'd done this on purpose, since there was another bottle already on the counter behind her. I didn't mind though.

    After she poured the scotch I thanked her and took a sip. It rolled down my throat like fire then settled warm and comforting in my stomach. I polished off the rest and while she was giving me a refill I asked her what time she got off work.

    I was too tired to make a plan, even a loose one.

    Wednesday, April 23, 2008

    Wizard Part VI



    Part VI

    I was a little too overwhelmed to dig too deep. There were no obvious messages left here other than it was now mine. I’d have to check the rental status and fix things so I never worried about missing a payment and having the whole thing be auctioned off. I’m sure there were people who knew about the place. They may not have known where it was, but I was sure they knew it existed. You can’t do what my Uncle did without raising a few red flags.

    It was starting to heat up as I stepped back outside. Behind me, the door quietly trundled down on its own. I placed the lock back on and mumbled under my breath to scramble the runes and walked to the rental car. I was pretty sure the old man hadn't been standing across the way when I'd driven up, but now I couldn’t be so sure. He was so still, I might have mistaken him for a discarded coat rack.

    I paused a moment and he came out from the shadows. He was somewhere between 40 and 60 and wore a tattered jean jacket and sported a haircut and beard from the late 70s. As he approached, he held up his hands to let me know that at least for now there wasn't going to be any trouble. I turned fully to him and crooked my head so he knew I was ready to talk.

    Are you the...cough.

    He spit a couple of bugs onto the concrete where they scurried from the light. He looked embarrassed and tried to compose himself. I held up my hand telling him not to speak again then mumbled under my breath.

    It started to grow in him almost immediately and he doubled over. I'd seen it before, but not this bad. He was infested, the poor bastard. It took a few minutes for the purge to end, and even when it was over he spit a few maggots onto me while talking.

    You're the nephew right?

    How'd you know?

    He said you would come, plus that's his locker.

    What do you want?

    He told me if you ever came here without him, I should make sure you got something.

    He reached into his pockets and pulled out a set of keys. He threw them over and I caught 'em. I remembered the key ring. I'd gotten it for him when he'd taken me to the fair. He'd dropped twenty dollars on Skee ball and I'd chose the key ring with my tickets. It was a silver skull with emerald eyes. Most likely it was aluminum and glass, but we didn't talk about that.

    I didn't recognize the keys at first, but then I went flush.

    No way. It's still around?

    OK, so the outburst was a bit childish and the closest I'd come in the last two day to being human. But if it was what I thought it was, it changed everything.

    The man smiled and pointed to the end of the isle, where a rectangular brown tarp sat. It looked like someone had covered two trash bins with an old canvas tent. I hesitated a moment then began to walk. With each step I picked up my stride.

    I'd only seen it once, but the memory of it had resonated throughout the rest of my life. It was like a soft focus photograph in a porn magazine glimpsed when you had no idea what you were looking at. You never knew about how it would affect you until later, when you remembered seeing it, but couldn't describe what it was exactly you had seen.

    I stopped in front of the tarp. My heart was racing. I could hear the old man coming up behind. He'd started accumulating bugs in his throat again.

    I grabbed the corner and pulled, no magic needed, and the tarp fell away. What lay beneath was pristine. It looked the same as the first time I'd seen it. The old man behind me coughed in genuine surprise and I heard him fight swallowing what he eventually spit onto the concrete. I heard it scuttle away.

    Before me stood my Uncle's 1977 Dodge Ram 200 van. It glittered like new in the sun. It had a spoiler on the back top ridge and the rims shone silver in the sun. The mural on its side looked new. He'd actually taken my advice. I was only nine and it was blank the last time I'd seen it, but now it told me how much he'd cared for me. Why he'd never shown me I don't know, but now looking at the mural on the side of the van I didn't care.

    It looked like Ralph McQuarrie himself had painted it; a frozen image from a time long since past. And though I'm sure it didn’t happen, I saw Princess lea wink at me from the left hand corner of the image. If I hadn't have laughed, I probably would have cried. When I turned around to thank the old man he was gone.

    The rental car company sent two agents and met me at the lot. I paid my outstanding bill in cash and watched them take the piece of molded plastic I'd driven for the last two days. If I was going to see Pirate Jane, I sure as hell was going in style.

    Tuesday, April 22, 2008

    Quake Catcher Network

    Unfortunately my laptop is too old, so it doesn't have an accelerometer, and I don't have internets at home, but if you do, someone has to help build an acceptable early warning system before the whole place goes in the drink.

    With scientists now saying there's a 99 percent chance "the big one" will finally hit California sometime during the next 30 years, seismologists are scrambling to come up with new ways to detect and analyze quakes as soon as they happen.

    One team of researchers is now hoping to employ the distributed computing approach to detection and create a giant, low-cost tremor-sensing network that takes advantage of the motion sensors that may already be in your laptop.

    The Quake Catcher Network, while not replacing the slew of sophisticated seismometers are already in place in California, will "fill in the gaps," Paul Davis, a professor of geology at UCLA, told Technology Review.

    In related news of course;

    Southern California stands a much greater chance of a huge temblor in the next 30 years than Northern California, according to a statewide earthquake forecast released Monday.

    The report, which brought together experts from the U.S. Geological Survey, USC's Southern California Earthquake Center and the State Geological Survey, also found that California is virtually certain to experience at least one major temblor by 2028.

    According to the research, the chance of a 6.7 magnitude temblor -- the size of the 1994 Northridge quake -- during this period is 97% in Southern California and 93% in Northern California. The chance of a 7.5 quake -- which shakes at 16 times the intensity of a 6.7 quake -- is 37% in Southern California and 15% in Northern California.

    Sunday, April 20, 2008

    Wizard Part V



    Part V

    The truth is that keys only have one purpose. They exist to unlock doors. Many people believe they can close them too, but that isn't exactly right. Anyone can close a door and lock it. Most doors will lock without using the key, but try and unlock a locked door without the key, or an improvised facsimile. You can't.

    The storage facility was twenty minutes outside of town on a barren lot with nothing around it but highway. The whole thing was automated and the code for the gate worked without a hitch. He'd definitely chosen a good isolated location, but as I drove down the rows of orange doors I wondered why I'd never known about this place. What could be so secret that he wouldn't have told me? Until that key had fallen into my hand I believed that he had no secrets from me, but as I came to a stop in front of the storage unit door, I had a momentary thought that maybe I'd never really known my Uncle at all.

    The lock was well cared for even though it looked rusted shut I could still smell a hint of WD-40. He'd let the outside go, but he'd kept the inside in fine working order. The key slid in smoothly and the lock popped with barely any pressure. Pulling the lock off though I realized it wouldn't be this simple.

    Putting the lock on the ground I stepped back and mumbled a few choice words under my breath. The runes on the door glowed like fire. He'd definitely signed his work. This was one of his. One he'd taught to me and made me practice many times. Evidently he'd been thinking something like this might happen. I started to wonder if I'd been taught, or merely trained.

    I reached up and reworked the runes. They moved under the light touch of my finger tips, allowing me to reorder them. I heard a secondary lock give as soon as the last rune was in place. Then the door began to rise. I liked that. It'd save me a bit of rope burn.

    For a split second I could feel the cool air on my skin as the room exhaled. The rich earthy aroma of sassafras and mistletoe hit me next. Evidently he thought something less than human might try to get in. He used to find it amusing that most people who drank sassafras tea no longer knew why. Somehow, even in the superstitious south, the oral history of the tea had been lost while the recipe to make it and the novelty of drinking it had survived.

    Before I stepped over the threshold I muttered a reveal spell just in case. It seemed that he'd considered the personal seal enough and he was probably right. He'd only ever taught it to one person. He'd also set a salt line just inside the door. It wasn't the normal crude line of poured kosher salt. He'd actually cut thin strips of salt lick and inset them into the concrete floor. As I made a quick survey I realized they made a complete circuit of the room. He'd even taken care of the ceiling.

    Almost as soon as I stepped over the threshold, the door began to close and the fluorescent lights in the ceiling came on. The entire interior was custom. The room went the full width of the building comprising what had probably once been two units; ten by forty with a ten foot ceiling.

    The interior was meticulous. I laughed out loud at the thought of my Uncle, with his beer can silver and stained carpet trailer having the ability to maintain something so pristinely. That's when I realized this was what he used to refer to as his "Fortress of Solitude," his little joke reference to Superman's shining palace of crystal where all of his secrets were hidden.

    A portion of the front was taken up with filing cabinets. It was a bit of relief, this would be where all his case files truly were. Just beyond the cabinets, in the center of the area was a small living room portioned out with a Persian rug. He had decorated it with a reading chair with a lamp, and a small roll-top writing desk. The wall opposite the chair housed a cabinet. It's interior filled with curiosities; a Wunder-Kammer.

    Just beyond the sitting area was a small kitchenette one side and a cot against the wall opposite. At the fare end of the room was a workbench, filled with half finished clockworks and reliquaries. But opposite the workbench was the thing that surprised me the most. A steal lattice front cabinet, lit by interior lights, containing a wide variety of weapons.

    The lock on the front looked identical to the one I'd unlocked outside. So, slipping the key into the lock and turning it, I took a breath and as the lock gave a warm rush went through me. At that moment I realized that I wasn't just here to avenge my Uncle's death. I was here to take his place.

    Thursday, April 17, 2008

    Burn Notice

    On of my favorite underappreciated shows of all of last year is getting a rerun to lead into the second season. This show gave me more joy last year than 2/3 of the other stuff I watched combined.

    USA and USA HD will begin re-airing the first season of Burn Notice. It starts airing tonight at 11:00 PM ET, with a repeat 2:30 AM. Or Sunday at 10 AM. Or later, at midnight.

    Wizard Part IV



    Part IV

    When I was fifteen, my Uncle took me on a road trip. We went west from the panhandle of Florida and stopped when we got to New Orleans. He evidently made the trip every few years or as needed when his "spice" jars ran low. He took me to a small store in the Creole part of town and introduced me to an old woman named Pirate Jane.

    Pirate Jane smoked thick dark cigars and exhaled smoke into your face to punctuate her sentences. She smelled of cat urine and dried leaves and had a high cackle of a laugh. She refused to put a patch over the hole where her left eye had been, so more times than not you stared at the hole instead of her good eye.

    Neither my Uncle nor Pirate Jane indicated how long they had known each other, but it had been long enough that they were comfortable in each other's presence. In the end I made a total of three trips with my Uncle to see Jane. Every-time, the transaction went the same way.

    Entering Jane's small store would cause a bell over the door to ring. Jane would answer this with a loud, "Fuck off," and then Mr. Toots, her cat would raise his head from where he lay on the counter, bear his teeth and hiss at you. Then, if she didn't hear the bell ringing again to indicate that whoever it was had been scared off by the theatricality of it all, she'd cackle and come into the main room through a haze of smoke and curtains.

    Her store was set up like most Apothecaries or Chinese herbalists. There were undreds of small drawers lining the walls from floor to ceiling, each with a label. A scale on the counter sat next to a mortar and pestle. Behind the counter were rows of empty jars of differing sizes, and in this case at the end of the counter was the ever watchful gaze of Mr. Toots.

    Of course what my Uncle was buying was not in the front room, so Pirate Jane would lock the front door and flip the open sign to closed. We would follow her trail of smoke through the back curtain where she'd pull aside a rug. My Uncle would grab the iron ring in the floor and pull open the basement door.

    Descending the stairs into the basement always made me uneasy. The room smelled of earth and decay. The shadows cast by the exposed bulbs would dance across an entirely different set of small draws, lining the walls, each with a label. What was different here were the large Jars inside which floated all manner of things best left to nightmares and fever dreams and the relics which filled a whole wall of shelves.

    Later when I asked my Uncle about what I had seen he told me that both magics shared a common menu of ingredients, but where they diverged, they diverged widely. Pirate Jane was an Apothecary. She sold whatever was needed. Pirate Jane didn't take sides. According to my Uncle the last time she had, she'd lost an eye.

    When I woke, I remembered my dream, and then I remembered why I'd had it. I was heading to see Pirate Jane, just like the letter had told me to. She had something I needed. Something in the basement. Something that diverged from what my Uncle had taught me. Before that though, I had a key that needed to be used.

    Wednesday, April 16, 2008

    Wizard Part III



    Part III

    I sit on the edge of the bed in the hotel room staring at the envelope. The writing on the back is gone now, which means I can read it. If only I could make my hands move to open it. It's not magic keeping me from doing it, it's something else. I'm not sure I want to know what's in here. I guess I'm afraid that it might change what I thought about him, or what I feel about him. It's silly and very real at the same time. I laugh at myself, then finally find the courage to open it.

    The key tumbles into my hand. Pretty standard lock key. I thought it might be for a safety deposit box. I hate when I do that. I hate when I get ahead of myself like that. All it does is confuse the reality. I put it in my pocket.

    The letter is three pages front and back in my Uncle's uniquely small and precisely spaced hand. When I try and read it though it doesn't make much sense. It feels like filler copy in a newspaper layout. I'm an idiot.

    I put the letter down on the table on walk out to the car. I rummage through the spice jars until I find what I am looking for. I should have been prepared. I think he probably knew I wouldn't be.

    It took me too long to figure it out, but it was the first chemical illusion he ever taught me. It was an old trope, invisible writing. It could be done a number of ways, including with Lemon Juice, but that was too easily resolved. He'd used babel root and wrote between the lines. Trite for sure, but the chemical encryption was more difficult to decipher than the obvious placement of the text.

    I hovered over the pages uncertain now that I wanted to read what they had to say. Even dead, my Uncle had me feeling unsure. I used the aluminum tray from my carry out dinner. I set it on the wire frame from the lamp shade, so the flame from the candle licked its underside. As the powdered root burned, I passed the pages over the smoke until the writing relented and showed its face.

    Using the side of a legal pad as a straight edge I crossed out the original writing with a sharpie so I could skip unbroken between what I wanted to read and what I knew was useless. When I was done with all three pages I popped the top on a mini bottle of scotch and sat down for my last lesson.

    My Nephew. My apprentice. My erstwhile son. I am sorry.

    There is a great possibility that I have doomed you. If

    you have found this letter then my past has intercepted

    your present. I ask you now that if you ever felt love

    for me that you will walk away. You will find happiness

    and shed what you knew of me and what I taught you.

    Put this letter down now. burn it and walk away.

    There is nothing but pain from this point on.

    No, really, stop reading now or all you knew will be

    torn apart and you will most likely die a horrible and

    useless death.

    How's your hand?

    Please tell me you didn't leave all of the silver.

    Did you find the book by Crowley, the one he wrote under

    the pseudonym of Madame Ponte de Flore?

    Are you really still reading this?

    That's my boy.

    I knew I could count on you.

    The last page leaves me stunned. I read it twice then drink myself to sleep and dream of Pirate Jane.

    Tuesday, April 15, 2008

    Wizard Part II

    PART I


    Part II

    I'm making a fist now, trying to use the feel of the scar as a mantra of calming, otherwise I'm going to end up killing too many people. As I look down at my Uncle's body I just keep rubbing the scar. The anger in me just keeps building. Every-time I think about the fact that killing him wasn't enough for them.

    The position of my Uncle's body and the runes scrawled on the floor and ceiling are hallmarks of a nasty bit of what my Uncle used to call "tar magic". The fact that his eyes turned violently inward before he died settles it. There's only one reason for the eyes to do that. It's the body's reaction to having its soul removed before death. It tries to look inward to catch a last glimpse of the soul before its gone.

    There's no way I'm going to be able to clean this up. No matter how good of a job I did, there'd still be questions. So before I do what has to be done I make a thorough sweep of the place grabbing everything I'll need. If there were time, I'd trade in the rental car for a truck. Instead I simply have to be more picky than I'd like with what I can carry away.

    The books are first. He had a nice collection. I pick out the rare and one of a kinds. I also grab a few that can't be destroyed, just so they don't look out of place later sitting somehow untouched in what will be left of the place when I'm done. Unfortunately this pretty much fills the trunk.

    In the kitchen I pull the food catcher out of the sink drain and start the hot water running. I pull the pig's blood and other easily obtained, but questionable liquid contents out of the fridge and pour them away. I don't want some local inbred cop thinking my Uncle worshiped Satan or something. The fridge'll probably survive in one form or another. All they need find is a bunch of exploded beer cans and condiments.

    I box up all the old corked stopped glass "spice" bottles from the pantry without pausing to read the labels. I'll sort them out back at the hotel.

    I jump at the sound of the phone ringing. I wait for it to stop and for the answering machine to kick in. Hearing his voice almost makes me lose it, but the beep at the end brings me back. The voice on the other end sounds like an angel in distress. She asks for him to call her back. She has a job. She'll have to find someone else, but it reminds me I still need to grab the files.

    In the hallway leading to the back bedroom, the wall is lined with old war era metal file cabinets. Somewhere in them may lie a clue to what happened, but there's no way I can go through them now. I pull out each drawer in turn until I find the start of the case files. It makes me wish he'd just used a computer.

    I start to pull them out, but stop when I see my name on one. Pulling it out I flip it open. There's nothing in it but an envelope. I can feel a key at the bottom. The envelope is addressed to me and has today's date on it. I look back over at my Uncle and almost ask him a question. How did he know I was coming?

    I start to open it hoping the answer is inside, but when I turn it over there's something written on the back. All it says is "Not Here," so I do what he tells me and stuff it in my back pocket. I also realize I don't need the files now, he's made my job easy, then again he always did.

    Before I leave I break the circle holding him so I can get close. I lean down and whisper in his ear. I tell him I love him and then I tell him what I'm going to do next. For a just a second I think I see him smile.

    I step outside into the muggy Florida afternoon. All the activity had starting me sweating, but now that I'm outside it drips from my pores like tears. I open my scared hand and say a few words under my breath. To this day, it still amazes me every time that green flame appears. I focus and roll it into a ball. When it's about the size of a baseball I let it drift from my hand. It passes easily through the screen door and settles gently on the carpet, where it begins to feed and grow.

    I finally drop a tear as I watch the trailer fade in the rear view mirror. By the time I get to the hotel there won't be anything left but memories. Ten minutes later I see the fire engine coming past. I almost laugh at the thought of them trying to put the fire out with water. I know my Uncle would have too.


    Monday, April 14, 2008

    I discovered my Uncle was a Wizard in the late 70s


    Part 1

    I discovered my Uncle was a Wizard in the late 70s. He lived in a trailer whose floor was strewn with hunks of silver that he conjured from beer cans. He smoked Swisher Sweets, and when he exhaled dragons came from his mouth, circling the room until they were dissipated by the ceiling fan.

    His favorite shirt was dark blue polyester, decorated like a Jackson Pollock. He'd done something to it though. I remember watching a knife break against its surface as someone tried to stab him outside the bait shop where he bought his crickets. Seconds after the blade hit the ground, my Uncle pulled the man close and whispered something in his ear. The man ran away screaming, ripping out large tufts of his own hair.

    I'd come to stay with him for the summer when I was 9. My parents had gone off on a jaunt to Jamaica and decided I was too young to enjoy the trip. Really, they just didn't want me around. We all knew it was true and had all come to accept the fact. I slowed them down.

    I didn't realize what he was until I watched him light his cigar one night with a green flame from the palm of his hand. I had gotten up to get a drink of water and had frozen at the door at the sight of the flame dancing in his hand. He watched me as I walked across the living room and into the kitchen. He knew I'd seen him, and I guess it was then that he decided to let me in on the secret. He didn't say anything that night, but the next morning he woke me up by levitating me off the bed. I pissed myself when I realized what was going on. He broke out laughing hysterically and lost his concentration. I hit the bed and bounced onto the floor.

    After he'd stopped laughing he helped me up and apologized. He promised not to do it again and I believed him. I always believed everything he said, so later when he told me he was a Wizard, I just accepted it as fact. It was the only explanation after what I'd seen.

    Later I would come to the realization that my Uncle wasn't just a Wizard, he was the Rockford of magic. He was a private eye with something up his sleeve. I've never met anyone cooler, or more honest.

    It was a fateful summer and it made me who I am today. While I still can't turn beer cans to silver, I can conjure a green flame in the palm of my hand. That, and I can turn a shirt impenetrable. I've picked up a few hundred other small tricks along the way including one I just learned. One that I'll use as soon as I find the person who killed my Uncle.

    Most of the tricks I learned directly from him during the summers I spent in Florida. After that first summer I just kept going back and he kept letting me. As I grew older, we got to know each other better. I had my first drink with him. I also picked up his other bad habit. Not Swisher Sweets though, something about sugar and smoke makes me want to vomit every-time.

    The flame in the hand conjure was the first one he taught me. That same night I made my second visit to a hospital, my birth being the first. I told the doctor that I'd burnt my hand while trying to light kerosene in it. My Uncle pretended to be angry with me and the doctor gave me a lecture about setting things on fire in my hand, then he rubbed some ointment on the burn and wrapped it.

    That first lesson, my Uncle said, was the principle behind everything he would teach me. The conjuring is the easy part. Controlling what you Conjure was where the skill lay. I never forgot that, and when I think I might I make a fist with my hand, letting the scar at its center remind me.


    Monday, April 07, 2008

    More on this later

    I had an odd thought yesturday outside the bar. I was looking at a rite-aid shopping cart that had somehow found itself a mile or more from its natural habitat. This got me thinking that it would be fascinating to equip all of the shopping carts in a, pick arbitrary number, 20 mile radius with GPS and a unique identifier. They'd collect data for a year and then all of that data would be mapped. Each cart would produce a pattern of travel and overall one could study that pattern to finally understand "The Migratory Pattern of the Urban Shopping Cart".

    It would be quite a site to see in an area like LA where the carts seem to wonder further than in other places. I'd of course need Federal Funding, which I doubt will be difficult to come by.

    Tuesday, April 01, 2008

    Jealuous much?

    I first just want to say that I’m not posting this, not quite comprehensive but almost, list of what I did at work today to make you jealous of my job. Nor, is it out of misguided pride in what I do. It is not boasting, it is simply the truth. Just remember how far you can go if you too get two degrees. It’s OK to swell with pride for me. I get it, and appreciate it. Yeah, that's right, I'm only 37.

    (49) Files Filed
    (2) File Searches
    (9) Pieces of case paperwork filed
    (2) Intakes filed
    (7) Pieces of Admin paperwork filed.
    (5) Files retickled
    Opened file 3351
    Xeroxed and put together (3 copies) of court filing
    Ordered file from Off-site storage
    Went to 3rd floor to get mail
    Talked to Off-site storage Tech support about getting online access password reset.
    Placed Office supply order with Discount Office Supplies
    Placed Office supply order with Quill
    Changed water cooler water bottle.
    Double checked information on new deposit slips and checks ordered from Costco. Put away.
    Glued up (46) new file cards to keep "card Catalogue" up-to-date.
    Filled-out and took bank deposit
    Took mail

    Happy Anniversary me.

    Well, kids it's been two years since I stuffed the Camry to overflowing and drove out here to the West coast. What do I have to show for it? Well, my debts are about the same, I work in a law firm as a file clerk and I sleep on an inflatable mattress. You be the judge. Let's ho[pe the next year brings something more interesting. Maybe a failure of the company overseeing my loans. Mortgages first, student loans second. Here's to the collapse of the banking industry. Trust me, it won't hurt me a bit.

    I hope everyone is well on this April Fools day. No jokes today, it'd just be too depressing.