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    Saturday, May 31, 2008

    Thursday, May 29, 2008

    Wizard Part XV



    Part XV

    I picked up as many of the remains as I could and dropped them into a nice black contractor's bag. As I did, I tried to find anything I could use to identify who this poor rat bastard had been. I came up with nothing, no wallet. The Old Man was fast asleep, currled into a ball in my easy chair. He'd come back in a few minutes after he'd left the living room and acted like nothing had happened.

    I used a small dust broom and pan to get as many of the big bits up as I could. I carried the trash bag into the basement. The basement was unfinished with little more than a washer and dryer, but what it did have was an old coal furnace that I'd never removed. When I'd first bought the place, the coal chute had shuttered out a few lumps when I'd opened the door. I'd had the furnace checked out, but never used it. It was still study enough to contain a good bit of heat.

    I chucked the bag in and mumbled under my breath. The green ball of flamed formed in my hand and I shut the door behind it. The temperature was too intense to really make a smell, everything was ash before it even had a chance to give away my secrets.

    Back upstairs I got a bucket and some good wood floor soap. If I didn't get the floor clean and the moisture up, the boards would warp. I used two rolls of paper towels and knew there'd be at least one more trip to the furnace. I could already feel the radiant heat seeping from the basement.

    I wished I could wrinkle my nose and have the place flash back to spick and span, but that was only on TV. I'd never met anyone who could cast a cleaning spell. Magic had no practical domestic uses. What I could do though was knock off a bit of trickery to make all the blood splatters glow bright as phosphorous, at least that way I could make sure I got them all. It didn't just work on blood though, it was an old protein trick.

    I cracked a beer two hours later and wiped the sweat from my forehead with my shirt sleeve. I'd had to open the upstairs windows the vent the excess heat. I'd also opened every window I had that wasn't facing the street and covered with plastic. I mumbled a small alarm spell and went as sat on the sofa. The Old Man was still in dream land and purred with the small guttural consistency of tectonic plates shifting.

    This little escapade had cost me time, and an audience with Em, but I'm sure she was laughing about it. Truth be told though I'd learned a thing or two. One, Pirate Jane was a crafty old bird and number two, the Old Man was something to be reckoned with.

    I was definitely going to have to rig something to make sure this didn't happen again. That'd have to be tomorrow though, because I could feel the sandman as he went down the street putting out the lights. My house was coming up fast. Putting the beer down I bid the Old Man a good night and gave him a quick scratch between the ears. I dropped the wards across the from door and flipped a switch on the banister leading upstairs.

    As I climbed up to bed, I heard the mechanism of the house coming to life. Nothing was getting in now. This house was tighter than the gates to hell. The last cogs clicked and the water in the underground piping ran at a consistent rate, surrounding the house with moving water. It was the most beautiful white noise anyone could ask for. As I fell into bed I remembered everything that had happened over the last week and all of the pain and anger I'd endured. I remembered the promise I'd made to myself and to my Uncle.

    Just before sleep finally took me, I mumbled under my breath and watched as my Uncle appeared before me in a bright green hologram. He smiled and I smiled back. Then, just before I drifted off, I told him I loved him, and even though it shouldn't have been possible, the hologram smiled and told me it was sorry.

    I woke the next morning to a rumbling on my chest. The Old Man had shifted places during the night and had come to rest on top of me. I opened my eyes and he stared at me. He gave a soft yowl then got up and stretched. He was hungry, and he damn well sure expected me to feed him.

    The Lady's Murder

    ©2008 Eliza Frye.

    While I'm falling behind on many things, including new installments of The Wizard story, you should find yourselves something else to do, like going over and looking at this very enjoyable web story. somehow she manages a painted page a day and I can barely seem to pull off 800 words twice a week. It's only 12 pages in so far, but I think worth a look.



    The remake of THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN makes its first mistake less than 30 seconds in. Since it was already decided to turn it into a 4 hour mini series, a new opening sequence had to be found. Instead of letting us see the town, and emotionally connect to the victims and more importantly the survivors, that is soon to be affected by the organism piggy backing on the satellite, we get a horn-dog kid in the back of a pick-up trying to get into the pants of his girlfriend with the opening line from STAR TREK. Yeah, "where no man has gone before?" Only if your lucky kid.

    I'm now two minutes in and they have, surprisingly, waited long enough for it to cool, but have also loaded the crashed satellite into the bed of the pick-up truck to take it into town. At this point Darwinism kicks in and I'm only watching because I am drunk. There was a reason the Oscilloscope was used in the original movie version. It's called tension, something that seems now lost along with action and adventure in the minds of the current crop of remake filmmakers, who shall from this day forward be known as douchebags.

    OK, three minutes in and "Big Scoop" has been moved and they are following the signal, which somehow did not alert them sooner to let them know that "Big Scoop" had already been moved before they arrived. I'm pretty sure that at this point, more money should be spent on the tracking device used to locate "Big Scoop."

    Seven minutes ten second in and I want someone to explain to me what the difference between this and anything "Made For Sci-Fi."

    Sad. Just Sad. I'll watch it to see what wasting my life is like, but I won't continue to document it. That'd be even more sad then me wasting hours of my life watching it.

    OK, I lied, sixteen minutes and fifty-five seconds in, all I can say is, "Thank God everyone has their e-papers."

    Sunday, May 25, 2008

    REVIEW: Indy IV



    First, lets check off all of things that they got right.

    Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones - CHECK
    Fedora - CHECK
    Whip - CHECK
    Exceptional REVEAL of INDY in first 5 minutes, with fedora - CHECK
    Exceptional use of whip by Indy - CHECK
    Evil foreign Government soldiers - CHECK
    Evil hot woman - CHECK
    Archaeological mystery - CHECK
    Riddles in obscure languages - CHECK
    Indy in scenes as Professor – CHECK
    Map with superimposed plane and red dots and lines denoting travel – CHECK
    Indy reacting to snake - CHECK
    Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood - CHECK
    Hidden Temple - CHECK
    Car chase where Indy commandeers a tuck by punching then throwing driver and navigator out of the cab - CHECK
    Motorcycle chase scene - CHECK
    Use of RPG - CHECK
    SFX: Impossibly loud gun fire - CHECK
    SFX: Indy hitting bad guy - CHECK
    SFX: Indy getting hit by bad guy - CHECK
    John Williams - CHECK

    Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull may be a lot of things, but it isn't an Indiana Jones film. At least it isn't an Indiana Jones film like the ones I grew up with. It feels like what happens these days in Hollywood. Someone thought the Old Indy films were ripe for a remake and so they did.

    They got the music right, John Williams is back on board. They got the costumes right and the director has a feel reminiscent of a young Speilberg. They have the master sound FX reel of Indy both taking a punch and giving one, and of the singular sounds of gun fire that can only exist in an Indy film. The problem is that they left the truth and the heart of the original films somewhere.

    In trying to figure out how this happened, so let us suppose. Go with me here, suspend your disbelief for just a minute.

    First they start by hiring some of the best screenwriters around like Frank Darabont, M. Night Shyamalan and even Tom Stoppard. Tom Stoppard, this is looking good. But something isn't right, so they scrap all that and get someone they're comfortable with, David Koepp. He must turn around his drafts quicker.

    Having not read any early drafts, I couldn't say what is left of them in this film. But obviously they weren't good enough. They were probably too smart. Unsure what to do now, and I'm only guessing here, they go back and watch the first three movies, which they've heard about and even discussed at parties, but have never seen. Then for some inexplicable reason they watch all of Spielberg's work and all of Lucas' work and get the great idea to lift bits, under the illusion of homage I'm sure, of all their films and a few American classics and put them into a food processor and leave it on puree a little too long.

    OK, they don't take from all their films, just CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and AMERICAN GRAFFITI, with a little too much of both. They then add bits of WEST SIDE STORY and THE DEFIANT ONE and one TV show, THE X-FILES. They pour all of this out on a sheet pan and then sprinkle the whole thing with back story from THE YOUNG INDIANA JONES CHRONICLES to make sure it all holds together, and let it set, probably a box set in about 8 months. Then they replace the Nazis with the Commies, which is fine, except while the Commies were bad, they never had anything on the Nazis.

    At the end of the film, I wondered why they didn't just bring Hitler back from the dead, or maybe just his brain. I guess that would have been in bad taste, or too over the top. They drop in the FBI, but surprisingly no cross dressing Hoover, and make sure we get a trite history lesson about the red scare and what a stand-up guy IKE was. Oh yeah, and the Commies are led by a female mentalist who can't actually read minds, or at least doesn't in the film. Really, after everything else, she can't actually read minds? Ok, if you say so. I guess that is hard to believe.

    Finally script in hand, and here I imagine the first draft looks like a William S Burroughs' cut up novel and is mostly held together with scotch tape. They convince Karen Allen and Harrison Ford to come out of retirement, wait Ford wasn't retired yet, and bring in one of the hottest young "actors", Shia LeBeouf, to bring in the bubble-gum contingent. Just look at his work in TRANSFORMERS, River Phoenix has nothing on him. They scrap Sean Connery, or he scraps them, and settle for a photograph of him that gets more screen time than necessary, thinking that if we at least get to see a picture of him we feel better about the whole thing. They unfortunately can't get Denholm Elliot, he has left us, but he still gets a painting, a photograph and a statue, all of which actually feels right. To replace him, they hire Jim Broadbent to step in as a character we've never met who makes a sacrifice for Indy we can hardly swallow. They scrap Sala for a character that first appeared with Indy in the YOUNG INDIANA JONES CHRONICLES, which was actually a very good show, and hire Ray Winstone to play him.

    They then have the gall to ask the audience not to just suspend their disbelief, but actually make you leave it at the door, but don't worry they keep it for you in sterile cups and you get it back when you leave.

    We open with an AMERICAN GRAFFITI vs. Establishment scene as a car full of fun loving hot rodders convince the lead car of a military caravan to "drag" with them. But soon the fun ends as the caravan has to pull into Area 51, a laughably guarded Area 51. I think there were six total guards in charge of taking care of the entire warehouse from the first film that's full of thousands of dangerous trinkets such as the 'ol Arch of the Covenant. I guess if there were too many guards, people might get suspicious that was was there was worth guarding huh?

    We get Indy pulled from a trunk and get his reveal in a nice shadow as he puts on his hat. Then of course it's time to get to business and make Indy show us where the trinket the Evil Commies are looking for is in the warehouse. They know it's there, but they need him to find it. Funny, since he never saw the warehouse at the end of the first movie, but they think he did.

    What they are looking for is a crate that contains something so magnetic that it'll pull gun powder through the air to its location, but doesn't affect any other metal until it's uncovered. Later it'll attract non attractable metals such as gold. Anyway, gunpowder and shotgun shell load, which is pretty big gauge BTW, are all we need anyway. Well, Indy finds the crate, and soon there is whip action, gunfire and explosions.

    Luckily for Indy, we have a Jet car on rails, which evidently couldn't get enough funding to get its own warehouse, so I guess the 1957 equivalent of DARPA just rented part of the secret storage warehouse for it. We have a nuclear test town, which has all the TV sets turned on, and an impossible scenario of Indy surviving a nuclear blast. I don't care what anyone says, the refrigerator might have been good for a bit, being lead lined, but he's too close when he's standing on the hill watching the cloud to survive. Luckily they get him nicely scrubbed off. How they got the radioactive ash out of his lungs I don't know. I think I might know how Indy dies in the end.

    Then we're off to Peru, after a quick interrogation and a meeting between Indy and the young defiant one Shia. Oh, and then there's a motorcycle through the campus ground chase sequence with an anti Communist protest and a wise mentor moment with the students as Indy gets back on the bike that's crashed in the library.

    Truth is, up to this point I could almost get behind it even with the nuclear blast, but somewhere around this time I was just sure that a young Air Force cadet with the last name of Mulder was going to show up. In a way, I kind of wish he had. Well actually I thought he'd show up at Area 51 as Indy is being interrogated by the FBI, but I was willing to see him show up later at the soda shop where he meets Shia.

    In Peru, Indy and his young padawan dodge poison darts, which come from a menacing group of weirdos who live in a cemetery for reasons unknown. Luckily for our heroes, they decide to leave them alone once two of them are taken out. Then there is gunfire, and capture, and Oh yeah, a crystal skull that looks like it could be a carving resembling a once ancient tribe that bound their skulls to elongate them, but you don't ever buy that. Oh, the crystal skull really looks quite stupid. It makes the glowing rocks of TEMPLE OF DOOM seem like the personal rocks of Jesus.

    Of course the Commies get it and them and they are reunited with John Hurt, doing a crazy. Novel. We also get Karen Allen back at this point, looking a little more worse for ware than Indy and the final reveal of Shia being the proverbial seed of Indy. A new Junior, how precious.

    From here we get a spectacularly unbelievable car chase and then three waterfalls, luckily the car was one of the Soviet boat cars, so that was good. By this point I think Indy had commandeered four or five trucks over the course of the movie with his patented Hit them, kick them out of the moving vehicle, take the wheel technique. Usually one or two of these is sufficient. There's also an homage to the great swashbucklers of ages past as Shia sword fights the Commie mentalist, while his legs are split between two moving vehicles and he's being pounded in the junk by some sort of junk pounding flora.

    Wow, at this point I'm getting tired of recapping and I'm barely doing that. So, Car Chase followed by waterfall, followed by waterfall, followed by waterfall, followed by revelation, followed by discovery, followed by great discovery, followed by outlandish shark jumping reveal, followed by stupid maneuver, followed by narrow escape, followed by unbelievably stupid inter-dimensional flying saucer, followed by sitting.

    Luckily the beings aren't aliens. At least they knew that would be going too far so they made them "trans dimensional beings" who traveled here through an inter-dimensional device shaped like a flying saucer. Whew. That was close, I was afraid it was going to be aliens.

    It ends with Indy, Marian, Ox and Shia (Mutt) sitting on top of a rock ridge watching a new lake form where the inter-dimensional flying saucer had once been. The film ends with everyone sitting down, and why not, they were tired, and so was I. Oh wait, there's more, the wedding, which was also a bit strong to swallow. There was a horrifying moment when Shia picks up Indy's hat and you get this prickly sickness in your gut that someone's already signed a contract for something that'll make you puke, but then Ford grabs the hat before he can put it on his head and eventually the nausea goes away.

    Wait, what? Spielberg and Lucas made this? Really? Oh well, there goes the excuse I guess.

    Truth is, even I'm willing to admit that this character and the first three movies meant a lot to me. And maybe I've never been comfortable combining classic old world mythology with aliens. I'm sure the 12 year olds seeing Indy for the first time will love it, and maybe I'm a little too old to care this much about a fictitious character, but that's just the way it is.

    Yeah, I know I left out the ants, which are not realistic. At least the Rats, Bugs and Snakes in the first three were real. Sure there are colonies of ants that have been known to eat sheep and on more than one occasion a sleeping man, but they are not that big and they won't drag your yummy corpse into their giant Hill. I start to wonder if they chose ants for their hive style of living? The Inter-dimensional aliens were a hive mind species. Were they the equivalent of man eating ants from where they come from? Their temples sure did look like ant hills. And wait, what about the gophers? Yeah, what about the gophers?

    Saturday, May 24, 2008

    Wizard Part XIV



    Part XIV

    I eased onto the back porch, which was no larger than five feet wide and ten feet across, through the screen door and let it shut smoothly behind me as silently as possible. The truth is, this was one of the few aspects of the house that made no sense to me. It could barely fit a Parisian cafe table and two chairs, but it came with the house. Looking through the door that led to a small hallway that connected to the kitchen. I waited until I was sure nothing was moving beyond it.

    I could hear every sound the knob made as my hand forced it to do its job painstakingly slowly. I was counting on Mr. Toots to be distracted by viscera. When the door finally cracked, I made a mental note to buy some WD-40 for the hinges, then slipped inside.

    The Jug of tonic I'd taken from Pirate Jane's was next to the litter box. I grabbed it and popped the cap, letting it bounce on the floor. I wasn't sure exactly what was going on, but I was pretty sure Pirate Jane had written the instruction on the jug so she wouldn't forget. I didn't have time to ruminate on exactly what Mr. Toots was, or why Pirate Jane had him, but after everything I was pretty sure I knew how he'd lived this long.

    Easing into the kitchen I almost went sprawling as my shoe lost friction gliding across a puddle of blood. I could hear something satisfying itself with food in the living room. The loud crunches had given way to more of a lapping sound and a deep guttural purr that would have made a pit bull piss itself.

    Just beyond the portable island in the center of the kitchen I saw a possible remedy to my problem. An arm lay sprawled on the floor. The ball of the Humerus beckoned from the top of the shirt sleeve. For a second I flashed to the cantina sequence from Star Wars. Hopefully Mr. Toots liked Walrus Man.

    I put the jug down for a second so I could remove the shirt. I was left with a nice length of arm that I could use as a bludgeon if I needed too. I held the arm by the wrist and turned it palm up so the elbow joint wouldn't flop. I took the jug and poured more than a quarter tablespoon onto the shoulder joint.

    I held the arm in front of me and walked down the small hallway that ran beside the stair case. I tipped left into the living room and had to fight my brain from singing Rocky Top. "Half Bear the other half cat..." stuck in my head as I looked at Mr. Toots.

    Rocky Top was practically a hymn in these parts and whether you liked it or not, and I hated it, you knew it almost instinctually by the time you were five or so. Truth is it wouldn't surprise me if someone were to tell me it's actually in the hymnals of some churches around here. But right now I really didn't need the lyrics taking up what little space I had for problem solving.

    I stepped forward and the floorboards underneath ratted me out. Mr. Toots brought his head up from his meal and hissed. This time I almost wet myself. It was at that moment, as the smell of warm raw meat hit me in the face with the breath of the hiss that I knew I could never call him Mr. Toots again. The moniker of Old Man I'd given him was what was going to stick.

    It's a bit hard to describe exactly how he looked, or what exactly he was. His dynamic true form was about three feet tall and four or five feet long. His hair was thick and bristly and all I could think of was he looked like what might be the side effect of a wild boar raping a bobcat.

    He prowled left to face me. We stared at each other for a minute sizing one another up.

    You left a wing Old Man.

    I tossed the arm to him before he could think about pouncing on me. He caught it in his paws and then settled to the floor to give it a good gnaw. His purr changed to a low happy thing, but I could still feel the vibrations of it deep inside me.

    The thing about transformative magic is that it generally defies the laws of science. That's what makes it magic and not physics. Where the mass of him went, I couldn't say, but about five minutes after he started on the arm he was back down to kitty size and looked like he should have.

    He licked his paws and slowly padded toward me making me realize I'd not moved the entire time. My lower back screamed and my knee popped as I bent down to rub him behind the ears. He rubbed against my knee then padded out of the room, leaving me to clean up.

    Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    Wizard Part XIII



    Part XIII

    What're you doing Em?

    She hesitated. At that moment I could hear the current of the river like a song rushing against the shore. It lapped the bank like a thousand desperate tongues reaching for a grain of rice.

    I don't know.

    I pushed forward and mumbled under my breath. My right forearm went translucent from my hand to my elbow and I reached for Emily. She reached out and our fingers locked. Knowing I'd only have an instant I pulled as hard as I could. Emily flew into the bushes lining the shore and I lost my footing, driving my right leg into the current, just beyond the bank of the river. The water was was cold as death and filled my tennis shoe making my toes spasm. I managed to pull my leg out again and stood panting on the bank, waiting for Em to stand up.

    Dammit Em, this isn't a fucking game.

    My heart tried to pry itself out of my chest as Emily began to laugh. Then, in her usual style, she drank up the moment as though no one was affected by it but her.

    I've never gotten so close. The rush of it all was quite amazing.

    She almost stopped laughing when she looked at me. I know what she saw on my face. I was pissed.

    Oh Aubrey, where is your sence of adventure?

    What Adventure?

    While Emily basked in her new death rush, I shook my arm trying to make the feeling come back. The translucence faded slowly and I breathed a sigh of relief when finally the whole arm coalesced again and I was able to feel my fingers rubbing against the palm of my hand. It wasn't a trick I cared to do, and I'd known more than one person who'd lost a piece of themselves performing it.

    My anger didn't subside until Emily and I were back at her house. The architecture had changed over time, but the essence of the house was still intact. The interior wasn't much and I never was able to figure out what exactly the house had been kept around for.

    Emily had reverted to her age of death. She did that when she was done playing around. I knew she was thankful for me pulling her back. I even suspected she realized she'd gone too far this time.

    I need to know what the word on the wire is Em. I need to know if my Uncles been felt.

    He hasn't.

    She didn't even hesitate in saying it.

    But I'll tell you something.


    That cat of yours has found a few new play toys. I just felt one of them shuffle off.

    Shit. Mr. Toots. Wait, what the hell could Mr. Toots do?

    I left Emily at a full run. I told her I'd be back, but I couldn't doubt her ability to feel the truth of things, at least on the island. It was almost a mile to my place and the entire time I was running, I couldn't help but feel like whatever was happening was my fault. Too much too soon. I wasn't in control of the situation.

    I vaulted the fence to the access road and then slammed myself against the small back garage at the edge of my property. Going in fast with no plan was stupid at best and fatal at worst. I caught my breath and tried to figure out what was happening.

    Inside the house, I could see the shadow of a man backing away from what had to be the ceiling lights in the living room. Something large and nasty blocked the light and I heard a scream. Across the street the lights went on in the neighbor's house. I pushed away from the wall of the garage and walked toward them.

    My neighbor Mrs. Caldwell came out of her house looking a freight. Her robe was wrapped tight against her dense body. Her hair was up in curls. I met her half way.

    Mrs. Caldwell, I am so sorry. I didn't realize the TV was that loud.

    She looked at me suspiciously and then pulled her robe tighter.

    That didn't sound like a TV to me.

    I know, Carl is over and we were catching up one one of those Horror films. I got spooked and thought someone was outside. Turns out I'm just easily frightened.

    Luckily for me there weren't anymore outbursts from the house. Mrs. Caldwell did a few more quick looks toward the house and gave me the evil eye.

    Those films aren't good for the soul.

    I think you're probably right. They spook me pretty good, and I'm a grown man. I'm sorry, it won't happen again.

    Mrs. Caldwell made one more sideways glance toward the house then relented to my rakish charm.

    Honestly. Some of us have to get our beauty sleep.

    I'm sure some do, but if I may say, all you're doin' is banking it for later.

    That broke a sheepish smile across her face and she chortled a little under her breath.

    Good night Aubrey.

    Halfway across her lawn she turned back.

    You won't let it happen again will you? Scared me half to death.

    No ma'am. I promise you it won't happen again.

    Her door clicked shut just in time. Something large, prowled across the light and then I heard the sound of bones cracking drift lightly from my house.

    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    Wizard Part XII



    Part XII

    It had started the day after I'd left to see my Uncle. It seemed to me that while I had been flying overhead, whoever had killed my Uncle had hit the road and made a beeline for me. Serendipity maybe, pure dumb luck more likely. At least I hoped it was the same people. It'd save me a hell of a lot of bother if it was.

    According to Carl they'd drive by slowly at night looking for any sign someone was living here. Carl said he kept the lights off at night except for the TV and then pointed to the windows of the living room, where I hadn't noticed that he'd hung black trash-bags over the wood slat blinds so the light wouldn't leak out.

    I winced a bit inside when I realized he'd used duct tape to do it. That was definitely going to remove the finish. I'd have to stain them again.

    Now that the van was in the driveway, I could readily assume I'd be having visitors. I pulled a couple hundreds from the draw of the desk in the study and handed it to Carl. I told him to get a hotel room until the whole thing blew over.

    It took two more beers and me having to listen to Carl apologize a few more times before I could convince him I'd be fine. After he left I annoyed Mr. Toots by rubbing him on the head then went out into the back yard.

    One of the other reasons I liked this house, beyond the hardwood floors and trim was the fact that the back yard butted up against the School for the Deaf. All that lay between my property and theirs was a narrow access road. I liked the fact that even though my yard ended and their lawn began, that almost all I could see was a nice hill of green grass. This view wouldn't change any time soon.

    Back inside I laid a map of the Island on the kitchen table. I doused the lights and lit four candles I'd placed on the north, south, east and west corners. It was adjusted to true north. The first time I'd done this trick I'd forgotten to align the map with true north and I'd spent a week walking in the wrong direction. Ever since then I used a compass. My internal sense of direction was for shit. I can't say why, or what started it or made it stick, but ever since I was about nine I thought whatever direction I was facing was north. The first day I learned to use a compass I almost fell in love with it.

    The map and candles set, I opened the drawer next to the sink and pulled out a small silk bag. Inside were twelve chicken bones I'd won in a game of poker off the Carolina coast. I don't so much remember the card game as the man I won it from. His name was Black Earl, and these were his prize divining bones. Lord knows how long it took him to fix 'em the way he did, or where he learned, but these bones were as solid as anything I'd ever seen.

    I mumbled under my breath and rolled the bones from my hand. They lay on the map a second then began to right themselves. Slowly, the smoke from the candles moved inward, drifting to the map and coalescing into human forms like tin soldiers on a field. It seemed that there were five death runners on the island tonight, but only one was Emily. It took me a second as I scanned the group. Picking her out wasn't too hard. She wasn't at the house, but by the river. She always was a bit of risk taker.

    A half a mile from the house I remembered that I hadn't fed Mr. Toots in almost a day. While he hadn't complained or begged for food I felt bad just the same. He was relying on me now, I had to get that thorough my head. It'd been a long time since any body, or anything had relied on me for something so basic as food.

    Emily was watching the lights from downtown Knoxville dance on the water. She'd crept close, but not so close she couldn't pull back if the wind kicked up a surge. Even a bit of the river water would rip her right off the land and carry her where she belonged. She heard me coming and turned to watch me as I made the last few meters to the water's edge. Her face went from fifty-six to twenty-five in half a second.

    Aubrey, it's good to see you again. What brings you to the river?

    I need to know Em, I need to know where my Uncle is. I need to find who killed him, and you're the only Death Runner I can trust.

    Emily smiled and moved toward the river a step.

    Sunday, May 18, 2008

    Wizard Part XI




    Oh shit man, you OK?

    My friend Carl was leaning over me. He'd been eating corn nuts.

    I sat up, which was all I could do and felt the back of my head. The skin wasn't broken; his sap was a beavertail.

    What the hell are you doing walking around smacking people on the back of the head with a beaver tail Carl?

    You just got back, you don't know what's been going on around here. The Island's gettin' edgy.

    The Island wasn't really an island. But, it had probably felt that way when Emily Dickinson's favorite cousin Perez had built a home across the Tennessee River from the burgeoning bustle of downtown Knoxville. His place still sat on the grounds of the Deaf School, and I'd chatted with Emily on more than one occasion. She still hung around the place. I'm not sure why. Maybe she split her time between here and The Homestead in Amherst. Her biographers would roll over in their graves if they knew she preferred it here. Most of them never knew she had visited.

    I'd relocated here because of the river. It's always good to have a large body of moving water on at least one side of you at all times. If I had my way I's live on a real island. Moving water has a way of keeping dead things form gettin' too close. I actually have my suspicions that it's the very reason Emily likes it here too. It's not easy if you choose to stay behind when your time comes. Death doesn't work that way, but 'ol Emily was a pro at keeping ahead of the Reapers.

    Carl eventually helped me up and into the house. Mr. Toots came on his own accord. I had Carl get the litter box from the van and put it in the downstairs bathroom.

    You still haven't givien me a good reason for sappin' me.

    I thought you were one of the guys whose been hanging out watching your place. I thought one of them had gotten ballsy all of a sudden.

    They've been watching my place?


    Wait, how do you know? You live ten miles from here.

    Actually, the old woman threw me out. I came over to see if you'd let me stay here for a while. When I didn't find you here. I just sort of...

    ...moved in.


    I had a soft spot for Carl. He was one of those people who worked hard all of their lives and never got a break. I'm not saying his drinking didn't have something to do with that, but he never missed a day of work and he was one of the most honest people I'd ever met. Plus his old lady was a real hard ass. She was the kind of woman that'd make a man work two jobs just so she didn't have to work at all.

    I don't know what Carl saw in her, she catted around right in front of him. One time he told me she'd made him bring Ice Tea and sandwiches to her and some guy she'd picked up that night after they were done messin' up the sheets. When I'd pressed him about it he just looked away embarrassed and defeated and told me that marriage was a oath, and that meant his word. Carl never went back on his word.

    Mr. Toots settled in on my favorite chair, so I took the sofa with Carl and a couple of beers. I told him most of what had happened. He looked glum for a bit, he'd known how much I'd cared for my uncle. When I was done it was his turn.

    Thursday, May 15, 2008

    Upfronts: FOX

    Surgically removed from [TV Squad].

    FOX announced its plans for the 2008-2009 season today. Here are the highlights:

    Returning: The Moment of Truth, So You Think You Can Dance, The Simpsons, Family Guy, American Dad, American Idol, America's Most Wanted, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, Bones, Cops, Don't Forget the Lyrics!, Hell's Kitchen, House, King of the Hill, Kitchen Nightmares, MADtv, The Moment of Truth, Prison Break, Talkshow with Spike Feresten, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, 'Til Death

    Out: Back To You, Canterbury's Law, K-Ville, Nashville, New Amsterdam, Next Great American Band, Return of Jezebel James, Unhitched

    New: When Women Rule the World, The Cleveland Show, Dollhouse (Midseason), Fringe, Do Not Disturb (formerly The Inn), Secret Millionaire (Midseason)

    Upfronts: TNT / TBS

    Picked out the choice bits. You can read the whole release over at [AICN] where I jacked it from.

    I've been keeping an eye on LEVERAGE because of John Rogers, who you can read about over at his blog Kung Fu Monkey. He was one of the valiant agents that threw himself onto Global Frequency.

    TNT unveiled development plans for several new, scripted dramas:

    DELTA BLUES (working title) tells the tale of an outstanding but unusual Memphis cop: an Elvis impersonator who lives at home with his mother. DELTA BLUES comes to TNT from Warner Horizon Television and SmokeHouse and is executive-produced by George Clooney (Michael Clayton), Grant Heslov (Good Night, and Good Luck), Abby Wolf-Weiss, Liz Garcia and Josh Horto. The series is written by Garcia and Horto.

    MORSE CODE (working title) is a crime drama about a young war hero/Drug Enforcement Administration officer who works in his hometown of Boston. The pilot is from Warner Horizon Television and is expected to star Donnie Wahlberg (Boomtown). It will be produced by Wahlberg, Jon Avnet (Boomtown, The Starter Wife) and Walon Green (Law & Order, ER), with Green writing and Avnet anticipated to direct.

    UNTITLED JOEL SURNOW PROJECT is a fast-paced, gritty drama about the life of an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The pilot is being executive-produced and written by Joel Surnow (co-creator of 24) and Todd Robinson.

    ANGEL CITY (working title) features six cops in three cars during one shift, in the spirit of such classic dramas as Adam-12 and Hill Street Blues. The show, conceived by Los Angeles police officer Will Beall, will be written by Beall and Barry Schindel (Law & Order) and directed by Steve Schill (Dexter). ANGEL CITY comes to TNT from Mandalay Television.

    TOUGH TRADE is a dramatic but humorous look at the Nashville music scene. The show, which focuses on a family of country stars who live like the lyrics to a country song, comes to TNT from Lionsgate Television. It is written by novelist Chris Offutt and executive-produced by Offutt, Sean Furst and Bryan Furst.

    UNTITLED ROB ULIN PROJECT is a quirky yet authentic family drama in the mold of Little Miss Sunshine. It is executive-produced by Rob Ulin (Roseanne, Malcolm in the Middle).
    As previously announced, TNT has greenlit three new series that will debut later this year or in early 2009:

    RAISING THE BAR is a new legal drama series from Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, NYPD Blue). The series comes to TNT from ABC Studios and stars Mark-Paul Gosselaar (NYPD Blue), Gloria Reuben (ER) and Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle).

    LEVERAGE is an action-packed drama series starring Oscar winner Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People, Nero Wolfe) and executive-produced by Dean Devlin (Independence Day, TNT's The Librarian movie franchise) and John Rogers (Transformers). The series comes to TNT from Electric Entertainment.

    TRUTH IN ADVERTISING stars Eric McCormack (Will & Grace) and Tom Cavanagh (Ed). The series comes to TNT from Warner Horizon Television. It is executive-produced by Greer Shephard, Michael M. Robin, Hunt Baldwin and John Coveny (all of TNT's The Closer) and written by Baldwin and Coveny.

    TBS announced development plans for three new, scripted comedy series:

    UNTITLED WILLIAM H. MACY/STEVEN SCHACHTER PROJECT is a single-camera, half-hour comedy series that comes to TBS from Sony Pictures Television. It is written and executive-produced by William H. Macy (Fargo, TNT's Door to Door) and Steven Schachter (Door to Door). Schachter will direct the pilot, while Macy will star.

    UNTITLED HERVEY/SIMMONS PROJECT is a primetime, scripted comedy pilot, executive-produced by Russell Simmons (co-founder of Def Jam Recordings), Stan Lathan (The Steve Harvey Show) and Winifred Hervey (The Steve Harvey Show). The series stars Joey "Run" Simmons (of Run-DMC), who also serves as a producer, and is written by Hervey.

    NATIONAL BANANA ALREADY IN PROGRESS (working title) is a late-night comedy sketch show being executive-produced by Jerry Zucker (Airplane!, My Best Friend's Wedding).

    Wednesday, May 14, 2008

    Upfronts: CW

    Dirty filthy thieving me [TV Squad]

    The CW released its 2008-09 prime-time schedule tonight, and here's the rundown:

    Returning: Reaper, Smallville, Supernatural, Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, America's Next Top Model, Everybody Hates Chris, The Game

    Out: Aliens in America, Life is Wild, Girlfriends

    New: 90210, Surviving the Filthy Rich, Stylista

    Tuesday, May 13, 2008

    Upfronts: ABC

    Shamelessly lifted once again from [TV Squad]

    Returning: Boston Legal, Brothers & Sisters, Desperate Housewives, Dirty Sexy Money, Eli Stone, Grey's Anatomy, Lost (Midseason), Private Practice, Pushing Daisies, Ugly Betty, According to Jim (Midseason), Samantha Who?, America's Funniest Home Videos, The Bachelor (Midseason), Dancing With The Stars, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Supernanny, Wife Swap, Saturday Night College Football, Primetime: What Would You Do?

    Out: October Road, Notes from the Underbelly, Men in Trees, Big Shots, Carpoolers, Cashmere Mafia, Cavemen, Miss/Guided, Women's Murder Club, Oprah's Big Give

    New: Life on Mars, The Goode Family (Midseason), Scrubs (Midseason), Opportunity Knocks, Untitled Ashton Kutcher/Tyra Banks Project (Midseason)

    [NOTE: I'm starting to notice a pattern of not that many new shows.]

    Monday, May 12, 2008

    Upfronts: NBC

    Literally ripped word for word from [TV Squad]

    New shows: My Own Worst Enemy, with Christian Slater as a spy and co-starring Saffron Burrows (Monday at 10); Momma's Boys, a Ryan Seacrest-produced reality show where moms try to find mates for their sons (ugh); the island adventure series Crusoe (Friday at 8); the Molly Shannon sitcom Kath & Kim (Tuesday at 9:30); Celebrity Circus; and the remake of Knight Rider (Wednesday at 8). The new drama The Philanthropist (with David Eick as showrunner) will air in the My Own Worst Enemy's time slot in the winter. Two other dramas will also debut in the winter: Kings (with Ian McShane) and Merlin, as will the reality show America's Toughest Jobs.

    Returning: 30 Rock, Medium, The Office, Celebrity Apprentice, Life, Chuck, Heroes, Dateline, Deal Or No Deal, My Name Is Earl, America's Got Talent, Last Comic Standing, Nashville Star, The Biggest Loser, American Gladiators, SNL, ER, Law and Order, and Law and Order: SVU.

    Gone: Scrubs (probably moving to ABC), Bionic Woman, Las Vegas, Amnesia, 1 vs. 100, Journeyman, My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad, Clash of the Choirs, The Singing Bee.

    Also: There will be a spinoff of The Office, which will air after the Super Bowl (along with an episode of The Office). Friday Night Lights has been renewed for 13 episodes. The episodes will first air on DirecTV in the fall, and then air on NBC in the winter. Also: in the summer of 2009, the network will debut the new reality shows Shark Taggers, The Chopping Block, as well as The Listener, a drama.

    Super Secret

    I didn't get any writing done this weekend. Instead I did a super secret job for a friend of mine, and got paid. It involved a print of a film I can not name and a director I can not name. It involved a car and some driving, as well as a bit of worry that my car might explode from the leaking and smoking radiator. It involved a private screening room in a posh part of town. It involved babysitting a print that everyone wants to see, but no one gets to, well I got to. It involved meeting a few famous people, and them meeting me. Unfortunately that is all I can say lest I am carted off and my entrails dined upon by cannibalistic PAs. So, sorry dear reader but no new Wizard for today.

    Thursday, May 08, 2008

    More Wizard on the way

    Look for new installments soon. Working on van conversion.

    Wednesday, May 07, 2008

    From the phone

    I am overcome with a deep unending sense of joyfulness.

    Monday, May 05, 2008

    From the phone

    Wizard Part X



    Part X

    Back at the storage facility I took time to think about what I needed and what I didn't. I wouldn't be back down for a while and if I miscalculated it could spell trouble. So, as Mr. Toots wandered around familiarizing himself with the new interior, I took time to go over what I had.

    I also took a minute to plug in my laptop and go online. I'd never really used my wireless modem account, but now I was glad I had it. I made sure I'd paid all of my bills and checked my e-mail for the first time in a week. Nothing earth shattering. I rolled some funds from one account to another and made sure nothing would bounce. I e-mailed the storage company and switched whatever payment scheme there had been to my credit card. It'd do for now.

    I'd put everything I thought I'd need in a black duffle back I'd found in the storage room. I hoisted it over one shoulder. I felt bad waking Mr. Toots. He'd found a warm spot on the desk under the lamp. My hands were full when I approached the door. It went up without me doing a thing. I'm sure my Uncle had rigged the motion sensors for just an occasion such as this. Not the cat, but being laden down with things.

    I had to put the bag and the cat down outside to rework the runes, but Mr. Toots knew where we were going. He sauntered over to the van and waited for me to open the passenger door. Somehow he jumped up into the seat. He was curled and purring before I even shut the door. I threw the duffle in the back and got behind the wheel.

    I shot up 231 heading for Dothan, Alabama. I racked my brain trying to remember where the best boiled peanuts would be on the way north. It was the right time of the year for peaches too.

    The trip would take about ten hours. Mr. Toots was asleep so there was no one to talk to. I turned on the radio and finally found an AM station with news of the Apocalypse. I could never really say why I loved listening to AM radio evangelists, but it was a road trip habit. It had something to do with their delivery. They spoke with passion and conviction about something so muddled and convoluted it had a truth of its own. My favorite part was how they would shift gears every ten to fifteen minutes and ask for donations. What the hell did they need donations for? The world was coming to an end.

    I finally found some good boiled peanuts two hours into the drive. Something had changed in the last twenty years or so. It was almost impossible to find plain ones anymore. All of the signs now said CAJUN or RED HOT. The only spice I wanted on mine was salt. Nothing like sucking a boiled peanut out of its shell with a couple of drops of its briny embryonic boil.

    Mr. Toots didn't seem to care for them, so I pulled into a grocery store and bought a couple of cans of cat food and a couple cans of solid white albacore tuna in water just in case he turned out to be snobbish. He'd probably grown old on left over gumbo and Creole butter shrimp. It turned out I was right. He turned his nose at the cat food but got damn near apoplectic when I cracked the tuna. I plopped it into a bowl and grabbed the jug. I added my best approximation of a quarter teaspoon of his special tonic from the jug. He'd lived this long, who was I to take his tonic away.

    An hour later I realized I'd thought of everything but one thing. The smell of Mr. Toots taking a toot drifted into my nostril and started burning my hairs.

    Dammit 'Ol Man, the least you could have done was warn me. Whew, you sure you ain't dead?

    Mr. Toots hissed and lay his head down. I found his little gift at our next stop and promptly pulled into the next pet store I could find. I bought a hid-a-way number with charcoal filters and placed it in the back of the van as far as I could.

    We made it Knoxville just after 11:00 PM. I pulled up my driveway about ten minutes later. Getting out of the van I took a minute to breathe the air. It was fresh and smelled of home.

    If I hadn't had my eyes closed I probably would have seen the bastard that'd hit me in the back of the head with a black jack. Everything went dark. The last thing I smelled was Sassafras and wormwood.