Even most of TBL's closest friends did not know this until now: aside from all the story writing and blogging, TBL also keeps a journal. A traditional, handwritten journal. A diary, if you will. And while most of the contents are extremely private, TBL would like to share with all of you a few recent entries.
Do pardon the diarists' shorthand--they were not originally written for public consumption, and TBL does not bother with trivialities like grammar and prepositions when writing solely for herself. Proper names of people and companies have been redacted because they are nobody else's business.
First entry in weeks. Will shortly lose lack-of-time excuse as have been laid off. Do not expect to work between Wednesday (first day unemployed) and new year.
Announcement of layoff (19.Oct) followed by three weeks solid depression. Cleanliness of apartment has yet to completely recover. Will shortly have time to rectify that, as well.
Looking for new job downtown. Being there would go long way toward making up for recent events.
Hope to finish revisions of Catch Me in December, since will have all that time. Ask A____ for advice how to find right agent?
Severance package quite good. Jobless December not worrisome. Trying to view time off to write as gift. When else might have chance at whole month off? But still hoping to win Hot Lotto.
Have been reading up on Buddhism. Idea of "right thought" and seeing things as they really are very appealing. Also concept of mindfulness, opposite societal worship of multitasking. Meditation very difficult, though--brain not wired for stillness.
Knitting lots lately. Also reading and watching movies. Distractions sans interactions.
Tomorrow last day at job. Have résumé in for 3 positions--1 @ K____, 2 @ C____. REALLY want job at C____. Excellent benefits, everyone who works there seems to love the place.
Not sure how to make it through tomorrow with dignity intact. Have been known to cry at commercials.
J____ coming to pick me up, bless her--will not have to face teary bus ride clutching box of lost-job detritus. Have better friends than deserve.
One foot in front of other. No day lasts forever. Got through divorce, will get through this.
Last day @ G____. Plan to hand off key card and bolt before could cry foiled by sudden appearance of half of team. Somehow managed to joke around with them several minutes before making exit. Cried in car. Professional dignity intact, passenger seat slightly damp.
Spent evening watching DVDs with J____ & printing out résumé for job fair tomorrow. Résumé paper should go out, find job for me, given exorbitant cost.
Am now officially unemployed. Yet, still got up before crack of dawn, because job fair* at 8:30. Insult, meet injury.
Got all tarted up in best professional-style outfit, went to ass-end of Bloomington to beg for employment. ("Tarted up" prob. not best phrase; actually looked like Republican convention delegate. Very disturbing.)
Turns out, rumor that are more jobs like mine than people like me in need of jobs is true. IT recruiter from S____ tried to get me to give him all my résumés so I could not hand out elsewhere. IT recruiter from P____ wanted to know if could interview this week. Both companies, unfortunately, in locations that suck, also known as outer ring suburbs. IT recruiter from T____ downtown asked ton of questions, scribbled notes all over résumé and mentioned specific job trying to fill. HR types with W____ and U____ downtown made interested noises but unsure what openings were in IT. Left résumé, will be forwarded to IT types.
Really want to work downtown. If find job there, will be magically transformed into super-cool single girl about town. (Realistically, will prob. continue as awkward, knitting spinster with cats, but firmly believe that rich fantasy life is good thing, esp. in troubled times.)
Cat suddenly behaving very strangely, perhaps in odd feline attempt to cheer up the biped.
* Not sure why called "job fair". "Fair" implies bright lights, food on stick, atmosphere of gaiety, possibly beer. Job fair had none of above. Also, facial muscles sore from excess of fake smiling. Should be "job gauntlet" or perhaps "employment roulette".
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Even most of TBL's closest friends did not know this until now: aside from all the story writing and blogging, TBL also keeps a journal. A traditional, handwritten journal. A diary, if you will. And while most of the contents are extremely private, TBL would like to share with all of you a few recent entries.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
This morning, I was half a block from my bus stop when the bus went whizzing merrily through the intersection.
I was not late. It was early.
With a few choice words on the probable ancestry of bus drivers who can't stick to the schedule, I struck out for the nearest coffeeshop to wait out the half hour until the next bus came along. On the way I passed beneath the overhanging branches a tree festooned with leaves faded to a glorious shade of chartreuse. The sidewalk beneath was carpeted in those leaves, rustling as I walked over them.
A breeze kicked up just then and knocked a bushel of them free from the branches. I stopped and stood there laughing like a crazy person while the leaves whirled around me. I wasn't slumped in a bus seat on my way to my rapidly-disappearing job. I wasn't trying to coax resume-worthy phrases out of my sleepy brain or calculating for the hundredth time just how long my severance package could be expected to support me.
No, I was standing on the sidewalk on a quiet street being pelted by windblown leaves on a crisp autumn morning when all the colors of the world were just beginning to turn winter-bright. Half an hour that normally belongs to my obligations suddenly belonged to me, the unexpected gift of an early bus.
The breeze died and the leaves settled around my feet and I continued on to the coffeeshop. When I asked for a jacket for my cup the guy behind the counter and I spent a minute laughing over all the funny things he'd had customers call those little rings of cardboard. My favorite was "mittens".
Then I sat and drank my coffee and read my book and watched the dry red and brown maple leaves skitter across the road outside. When the next bus came, I got on it and I went to work, where most of the cubicles are empty now and everything I do comes with a countdown clock attached.
But when I close my eyes, I can see brilliant green leaves swirling in the wind.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Well, dear readers, TBL's amazing run of luck has continued with the announcement on Wednesday that her job is being "eliminated" at the end of November.
You may have seen The Company on the news that evening; the story started "Massive layoffs today at a Bloomington mortgage company..." Yes, indeedy, the job TBL has had for the last eleven years was part of that sad tale.
Therefore, TBL will be taking some time away from the blog to sob quietly in a corner, with occasional breaks to gnaw on the couch cushions and/or construct tinfoil hats. After that, the job hunting. Needless to say, blogging will probably be rather more spotty than usual for the foreseeable future. Either that, or you will be hearing from TBL much more than you'd prefer. Hard to say, really.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Mere days after wishing for, in essence, a coffeehouse with beer, TBL unwittingly wandered into just such a place!
Common Roots Cafe, on the northwest corner of 26th & Lyndale, has soups, salads, sandwiches, bagels, pastries, other breakfasty things, coffee drinks and...beer and wine! Oh, but it gets better, dear readers.
They use local ingredients, compost their food waste (there's a special bin for customers to tip their own uneaten portions into), and serve Peace Coffee, which is a line of fair trade organic coffees from a company based right here in Minneapolis. The tap beers were all local brews when I was there--two from the new Surly Brewery in Brooklyn Center, an organic ale from Flat Earth in St. Paul, and do-gooder beer Finnegan's from St. Paul mega-brewer Summit. All the wines listed on their online menu are regional and/or fair trade. The lighting is good and the furnishings simple. Alas, no couches. And last but not least, the menu is vegetarian-friendly.
Helpful reader Douglas suggests, in the comments to the original post, Arcadia Cafe on Franklin and Nicollet as another place where one can get a drink or two without having to navigate the bar scene. TBL has not been there yet.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
We have the flu. I don't know if this particular strain has an official name, but if it does, it must be something like "Martian Death Flu". You may have had it yourself. The main symptom is that you wish you had another setting on your electric blanket, up past "HIGH", that said "ELECTROCUTION". Another symptom is that you cease brushing your teeth, because (a) your teeth hurt, and (b) you lack the strength. Midway through the brushing process, you'd have to lie down in front of the sink to rest for a couple of hours, and rivulets of toothpaste foam would dribble sideways out of your mouth, eventually hardening into crusty little toothpaste stalagmites that would bond your head permanently to the bathroom floor, which is how the police would find you.It's going around. That first early-October bout of flu, which hits before the shot can take hold, if not before the shot has even been administered. And this year, it's a bad one. TBL knows. TBL has got it. TBL would very much like to curl up and die, but having taken Tuesday off work to nip this thing in the bud (and that worked ever so well...) she must stagger onward until the weekend.
You know the kind of flu I'm talking about.
-- Dave Barry, "Molecular Homicide"
If you've got/had it, you already know that this is a keep-you-up-all-night flu. If you haven't had it yet, be warned. Of course, when battling the Martian Death Flu, sleep is your best weapon. And because TBL cares about you, dear readers, she is going to share with you her secret homemade sleepin' potions, which she has found to be nearly as effective as codeine without the need for any pesky prescriptions, and also tastier than over-the-counter medicines.
(do not, TBL repeats, do not mix these with anything you're not supposed to take with alcohol)
Get into your pyjamas first. You are ill and exhausted, and therefore will not be awake long enough after you take these to change clothes.
In a standard sized coffee mug, put 2-3 tablespoons honey (more if your throat is sore and/or you have a sweet tooth), a smidgen of cardamom, a generous squirt of lemon juice (optional), and a dash of cinnamon. Or, have a cinnamon stick on hand to stir the final product with.
Fill 3/4 full with boiling water, stir until honey is dissolved. Add one jigger (1.5 oz) Irish whiskey (Scotch fans could use that, TBL supposes. That would be MacNyquil.). Stir again. Drink while hot. Collapse into bed.
Drowsy Monk (cold)
Add 2 oz Benedictine to 6 oz orange juice. Stir. Ignore funny color. Drink. Sleep.
It should go without saying that you need to stay well-hydrated whilst ill, and more so if using alcohol to induce sleep! TBL does not recommend any alcohol consumption whilst sick if you can sleep without it, but if you can't it's definitely the lesser of two evils.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
The fridge here at Casa Liberales normally contains a small supply of beer, usually an ale of some description. Bell's Oberon and Finnegan's Irish Amber are the current favorites. But you know, sometimes a girl just wants a nice stout. Or perhaps a porter. A lambic, even, on very rare occasions. Rather than laying in a whole six-pack, parts of which might still be cluttering up the beer drawer (What, it's supposed to be for produce? Who knew?) six months later, I usually just stroll on down to the local bar.
Let me tell you, going to a bar alone is strange. Especially on a Friday or Saturday when it's really crowded. I know people do it, but what I don't get is how they can just sit there at the bar without anything to do.
It's likely a side effect of growing up an only child in a house full of books smack in the middle of 50-odd partially tamed acres ideal for playing knights-and-dragons or wizards-and-invading-hordes in, but I require constant intellectual stimulation. I am more than capable of providing said stimulation for myself, but I can't just sit somewhere. I have to be reading or writing or watching (good) TV. Or engaged in conversation, of course.
Then again, I'm not one of these hail-fellow-well-met sorts who can wander into the local watering hole and befriend half the bar in a quarter of an hour or less. Actually, with the exception of those very rare people with whom I feel instantly comfortable, I can barely string together a coherent sentence when talking to strangers. And "people watching" in a bar is only interesting for the first five minutes.
So when I go to the bar on my own, I take a book. Boy, do I get some funny looks. Especially on the weekends. Also, reading by the light of that dinky little candle on the table? Not easy. Once, someone actually stopped by my table and asked, "Why don't you go to a coffeeshop and read?"
I said, "I didn't want coffee. I wanted a beer." And I went back to reading.
But you know, if someone opened a bar with a coffeehouse feel (lights up, free wi-fi, pastries available, etc.) I would LOVE that. The quiet and sense of space and maybe a few puffy couches, now with beer!
I would miss out on the drunken proclamations of the trendy young things at the next table, but you can't have it all.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
- woke her from her nap (also known as "daylight")
- stuffed her into a small crate
- carried her from her home out into the big scary world
- took her WAY too close (approximately 20 feet) to traffic
- handed her over to strangers who:
- stuck a thermometer somewhere she did not find amusing
- drew her blood...twice
- held her over a sterile basin and squeezed
- stuffed her back into the crate
- took her back out into the big scary world
- woke her up from her restorative post-trauma nap to squirt antibiotics down her throat
On the other hand, I'll get paid again long before she stops having Clavamox squirted down her throat twice daily...
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
TBL was going to do a postmortem of the Twins season here tonight, but she is instead dealing with a sick cat. The highs and lows (oh, so many lows) of the 2007 Twins season will, never fear, be picked apart in due course. There may also (bonus material!) be some sobbing about vet bills and being tired of eating ramen.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Being on the winning end of a sweep is a glorious thing, made even more so by the preceding weeks of The Minnesota Twins Present: A Keystone Cops Revival.
It sure didn't look like Young Master Garza was going to get his first (ever) win at the Dome last night when the first batter of the game tagged pitch #5 waaaaaay into the right field seats. But he pulled himself together and pitched 6 1/3 innings without giving up any more earned runs (there was an unearned run in the seventh). He also got four whole runs of support from his teammates, the most he's gotten all season long. TBL is belatedly realizing that the Curse of Radke has not landed solely on poor Johan...
Also, Morneau got hits in this series. Yes--multiple hits! Okay...two. But still, the hitting!
And last but not least, and also serendipitously on National Talk Like A Pirate Day, TBL finally got to meet up Jen of Lipgloss & Baseball for a game and a long chat. Turns out, we were separated at birth. (Something you've been meaning to tell me, FPC?) Be very afraid, Minnesota--there are two of us. Muahahahahaha.
And now, Twins haikus:
Firmly entrenched in
Third place, watching the hated
White Sox rot in fifth
I don't really mind
No October ball; just send
The Yankees home too
Next up: Friday night, Johan "Will This Season Never End?" Santana vs. Mark "Twin Killer" Buehrle and the despicable Chicago Whine Sox. TBL's laying in the good whiskey for this one.
Monday, September 17, 2007
On Friday evening, whilst watching the fiasco unfolding on the field before her, TBL sent a text message to FPC who, as a long-suffering Cubs fan, would surely understand.
It's one thing when your team sucks. But when your team sucks AND the umpires suck, there forms a great swirling vortex of suck from which nothing can escape.And after the next two games (Baseball 2.0--now without egregious umpire interference!) it occurred to TBL that "great swirling vortex of suck" was a pretty apt description of the season as a whole. (And should any of you think TBL is being too harsh, bear in mind that the highlights of the season thus far have been a five-game winning streak in late August and a doubleheader stomping of the dreadfully bad White Sox in July.)
It also turns out that TBL's decision not to reserve a bundle of bucks for playoff tickets was the right one.
The Twins have been eliminated from the Central Division race, and the only way they could win the wild card would be to win every game for the rest of the season, while Detroit, New York, Seattle, Toronto and Oakland all lost every game remaining to them. Which, considering that Oakland and Seattle are playing a series against each other starting today, is utterly impossible.
Okay. No playoffs. How about a winning season, TBL? What would that take, you wonder?
Allow TBL to break that down for you.
The Twins have 13 games remaining on the schedule. They are currently 5 games below .500. If they go on a 5-game winning streak starting tonight (and wouldn't that be delightful?), they would hit .500 on Saturday, with 8 games left to play. Winning four of the eight, naturally, would give them a season record of .500, while even one more win would allow them to squeak into the "winning season" category.
In other words, they have to win 9 of 13 (play at a .693 clip) to break even, or 10 of 13 (.769) to climb past .500.
In those 13 games the Twins (72-77, .483) face the Rangers (70-79, .470), the White Sox (64-85, .430), Detroit (83-67, .553) and Boston (90-60, .600). And while there is a slim chance the Twins could sweep both Texas and Chicago, TBL is pretty well convinced that Detroit and Boston are going to kick their butts so thoroughly there won't be much left of the team but a faint smear on the Green Monster when all's said and done.
But perhaps they will surprise us. Goodness knows they've been a surprise to TBL most of the season.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Terry Ryan, executive vice president and general manager of the Minnesota Twins, will announce Thursday afternoon that he is stepping down at the end of this season.
Ryan, 52, will stay with the organization, WCCO's Mike Max has learned. The Twins won the American League Central last season, but they're two games under .500 this season and out of the playoff chase.
Ryan has long been highly regarded throughout baseball for his work in crafting a contender with a limited payroll. The Twins have received several awards for Organization of the Year this decade, but Ryan began to take some heat this year for the signings of some unproductive veterans and failures to lock up some of the team's stars to long-term contracts.
This is unexpected.
Perhaps not entirely unwelcome, given recent events, but definitely unexpected. Although the finaly paragraph in this segment of article may offer a hint as to why recent events have occurred...
But the last two years haven't been as kind to Ryan. The Twins stumbled out of the gate last season when Ryan gambled on veterans Tony Batista and Rondell White to supplement a shaky lineup. It wasn't until he relented and put in younger players that the Twins made their stunning run to another division title.Was Krivsky the brain behind the throne? The man has made some good, and some other very interesting trades for the Reds in the last two years.
And this year, Ryan took a chance on rickety veterans Sidney Ponson and Ramon Ortiz to bolster a rotation that lost Brad Radke to retirement and Liriano to injury. But both Ponson and Ortiz flamed out early in the season.
Ryan also has failed to get long-term extensions done for ace Johan Santana, Hunter and reigning MVP Morneau, putting the future success of the Twins in question as they get ready to move into a new stadium a few years down the road.
Assistant general manager Wayne Krivsky, who was long lauded for his behind-the-scenes work as Ryan's right-hand man, left before last season to take over as Cincinnati's general manager.
The big question, though--who's the new GM?
According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Johan Santana wants himself a six-year contract:
Whether the Twins trade two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana this winter could depend on whether they are willing to give him six years or more on a contract extension rather than the five they're expected to offer.Here's a wild-n-crazy idea.
GIVE IT TO HIM.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
(hack, cough, sputter)
Gads, the blog was dusty! Pardonez-TBL for one moment, she missed a spot...there. Much better.
Well. Here we are again. TBL confesses to neglecting the blog partly because the Twins continue their pursuit of blah-ness. (Although, the series in Baltimore? Delightful!) But the largest share of the blame, TBL is afraid, must be laid square at the doorstep of fellow blogger Crazy Aunt Purl.
CAP is a funny, funny lady, and TBL reads her often because when one is of an age that no longer begins with "2" and suddenly finds oneself divorced and living on one's own with several cats and a yarn stash that has grown large enough to devour the neighbor children, it is lovely to know (or at least read) someone in much the same situation who can make it all seem hysterically funny.
And CAP, in the course of being very funny about things like the relative coolness factor of thirty-something spinsters with cats who knit a lot (you called?), got me addicted to a TV show on BBC America called 'How Clean Is Your House?'. Basically, these two women travel Britain going to houses that are so messy they're a health hazard, cleaning them up, showing the residents all the bugs, vermin and dangerous microorganisms they've been living with, and sharing handy chemical-free cleaning tips. Then they come back a few weeks later to see if the residents are keeping the place clean or sliding back into old habits.
Since CAP's post about the show was so amusing, TBL set the DVR for an episode. And made the mistake of watching it during dinner. Then TBL jumped up and cleaned her kitchen counters.
Long story short, BBCA airs two hours of 'How Clean is Your House?' every weekday. TBL gets home from work, makes some dinner, watches two hours of Kim and Aggie setting their "filthy beggars" to rights, and then sets to on the much more manageable problems here at Casa Liberales. And while TBL will never be as, er...exacting as Kim and Aggie, in the last two weeks she has dusted every surface in her home, scrubbed every inch of her kitchen and bathroom surfaces and floors, cleaned out and scrubbed the fridge, vacuumed twice-weekly, polished her silver, organized her closets and cupboards and even shoehorned her yarn stash into a manageable space. Furthermore, she has created a cleaning schedule and posted it on her fridge where it confronts her every day when she makes dinner. TBL has become tidy, dear readers.
That thumping sound you just heard was Fourth Pew, Center fainting from the shock.
Did you know that housework burns about 200 calories an hour? TBL's favorite jeans are looking scandalously good on her these days, if she does say so herself. All that TV-watching and frenzied cleaning, however, have not left much time for the blogging. And that is why Crazy Aunt Purl is to blame.
There has, however, been gobs of time to knit! (Well, what do you do while you're watching television? Never tell TBL you just sit there.) In what may prove to be the greatest barrier yet to managing the yarn stash, one of the knitters at TBL's Thursday evening stitch-n-bitch, as opposed to the Sunday morning stitch-n-bitch, has taught TBL the secret to acquiring incredibly cheap yarn. Those of you on a yarn diet should skip the next few paragraphs.
Go to a thrift store (and there are plenty around the Twin Cities). Yard sales can also be good. Browse the sweaters: start at large and work your way down the sizes--bigger sweater = more yarn! Also, for some reason, TBL has noticed that sweaters in very large sizes are more likely to be hideously designed but made out of lovely yarn. Check the seams--do not buy serged seams. Pick the sweater apart at home. Unraveling is the best part! Loop the yarn (which now looks like ramen noodles) into loose skeins. Wash gently to take the kinks out and dispel that lovely thrift-store aroma. Dry. Wind into skeins. Add to stash.
TBL loves this because not only is it so very in keeping with her environmenty and recycley tendencies (aka "hippieness"), but it's cheap yarn. Gobs and gobs of yarn for pennies a gram! You begin, dear readers, to see why stash size is a matter of concern.
TBL has acquired five sweaters ranging from $3.99 to $9.99. She has unraveled three so far. One, a lovely worsted weight coral and red twist in a silk/nylon/wool blend, yielded over 800 yards. A worsted self-striping jewel toned wool/mohair blend yielded about 1000 yards. An acrylic in shades of green gave 850 yards. (Many yarn snobs will not bother to recycle acrylic yarn. However, TBL is ever so slightly allergic to wool, in much the same way as she is ever so slightly fond of baseball. She finds cashmere scratchy.)
For yardage, measure out ten yards and weigh on a kitchen scale. Weigh total recycled yarn. Calculate approximate yardage thus: (sample weight in grams/10) * total weight in grams.
The silk/nylon/wool blend is being worked up into a clapotis stole. The acrylic is earmarked for a scarf. The self-striping wool/mohair will probably be a shawl someday, likely for Shiela's Shawls. The sweaters waiting to be unraveled are a variegated DK wool in crayon colors which will probably end up as a pile of hats and mittens for all the nephews and the niece, circa 2009, and a men's XXXL in sock-weight maroon tweed cotton.
One day soon--pictures!
Back on the baseball front, however, things are not so tidy and TBL is not having so much fun. There has been a great deal of talk about whether the Twins can retain the services of Johan Santana, and judging by what Santana himself has had to say lately, it does not seem promising.
Allow TBL to refresh your memory:
"I'm not surprised," Santana was quoted when asked about the lack of another trade. "That's exactly how they are. That's why we've never going to go beyond where we've gone."
And the ace said that it might jeopardize his future with the franchise.
"You always talk about future, future, future," Santana told the paper. "But if you only worry about the future, then I guess a lot of us won't be a part of it."
"Why waste time when you're talking about something that's always going to be like that? It's never going to be beyond this point. It doesn't make any sense for me to be here, you know?"
Santana wouldn't elaborate on his comments Wednesday, saying that he had said all he wanted to say a day earlier. But the two-time Cy Young Award winner did confirm that his statements were indeed how he felt.
"I was just being honest," Santana said.
This team can build for the future all it wants, but without Santana things don't look so good. Yes, there's Francisco Liriano, but he just had Tommy John surgery. It's going to be a couple of years before we have a good idea of what his future holds.Obviously, one can't go back in time and make a big trade to boost the club and keep Santana happy. But there's an offseason coming up--how about getting something done at the winter meetings, TR? Show us, and Johan, that the organization is committed to building for the immedate rather than the distant future.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
...the Twins traded Ramon Ortiz to the Rockies for AAA third baseman/middle infielder Matt Macri, whom they've had their eye on for quite some time--they drafted him out of high school in the 17th round in 2001 but failed to sign him. The Rockies got him in the 5th round of the 2004 draft out of college.
TBL sez: This isn't exactly the trade for a third baseman so many of us were agitating for a month ago. That said, Ortiz wasn't getting any work here, and Rochester has got to be desperately short of players by now, the way the big club has been looting them.
...Jason Bartlett may be headed to the DL after straining his left hamstring in yesterday's game.
TBL sez: %$#*!
...Jason Kubel's strained right oblique, originally thought to be minor, may land him on the DL, too.
TBL sez: [sound of cranium making contact with desk surface]
...former Twin Jose Offerman lost his freakin' mind after being hit by a pitch in a minor league game, taking his bat to the pitcher and the catcher, dealing the former a broken finger and the latter a season-ending concussion.
TBL sez: Well, that won't get you back to the majors, dumbass. (Also, kind of puts J.C. Romero and Kyle Lohse in perspective, doesn't it?)
...lefty Glen Perkins, on the DL since late May with a shoulder strain, is pitching a rehab assignment for the GCL Twins and, if all goes well, could rejoin the Twins in about two weeks.
TBL sez: Can TBL get a "hallelujah"?
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
While TBL is normally the most mild-mannered of fans (you may cease snickering at your leisure), recent events have gotten her a wee bit hot under the collar. In fact, TBL was in something of a temper when she sat at her escritoire earlier this evening and penned the following missives.
c/o Minnesota Twins
It's not "just running into good pitching". It's not "a rough patch". It's a team full of asses in desperate need of a good kicking, and guess whose job it is to wear the steel-toed boots?
P.S. In case the hint passed unnoticed, it's your job.
c/o Minnesota Twins
Darling boys. You know how TBL adores you. You know that vast swathes of her life revolve around you. So TBL wants you to remember that she has your best interests at heart and listen very, very carefully. Are you listening? Good.
Not only do you suck, you are wholly responsible for your own sucking. You are the cause of the sucking, the perpetrators of the sucking, and the only ones who can end the sucking.
By blaming it on luck or the Castillo trade or Santana's infamous rant you are not only aiding and abetting the sucking, you are amplifying it. Not to belabor the obvious, but this merry-go-round of stranded runners, errors, bunt attempts worthy of Charlie Chaplin and baserunning that reminds TBL rather painfully of her own brief Little League career requires no amplification.
Pull your heads out of your collective posterior and play some damn baseball, you nodcocks.
Third Base Line Readers
c/o These Here Innernets
All Over the Darn Place
TBL has carefully assembled this brief collection of baseball-related quotations, appropriate to the circumstances at hand, for your amusement in this bleak hour.
"I get tired of hearing my ballplayers bellyache all the time. They should go sit in the pressbox sometimes and watch themselves play."
--Padres president Buzzie Bavasi
"We had so many people coming in and out they didn't bother to sew their names on the backs of uniforms. They just put them there with Velcro."
--Pirates player Andy Van Slyke
"A man once told me to walk with the Lord. I'd rather walk with the bases loaded."
--Oriole player Ken Singleton
"I told [the manager] I wasn't tired. He told me, 'No, but the outfielders sure are.' "
--Rangers pitcher Jim Kern
"The fans like to see home runs, and we have assembled a pitching staff for their enjoyment."
--Twins executive Clark Griffith
Monday, August 06, 2007
After letting the trading deadline and the $2 million salary savings from moving Luis Castillo to the Mets pass without further comment, the Twins have made a flurry of roster moves in the last few days.
On Friday, with the Twins searching for a roster spot for Michael Cuddyer to occupy when he came off the DL, the Arizona Diamondbacks claimed Jeff Cirillo off waivers. TBL has yet to find a story stating (or even hinting) why Cirillo was out on the waiver wire in the first place. If any dear readers out there possess such information, do please send it this way.
The Twins did not contest the claim, and Cuddyer rejoined the club. Then, on Sunday, Lew Ford was sent down to Rochester to make room for LHP Carmen Cali, plumping the pitching staff up to 12 members after a period of heavy use of the bullpen. Naturally, after this decisive action, Sunday's starter went eight shutout innings. One wonders if Ford appreciates the irony.
Speaking of Sunday's starter--eight innings, four hits, two walks, no runs. The more TBL sees of Baker and Garza, the more she mourns the losses Ponson compiled for us.
And last but not least, I came across this quote over the weekend. Nick Punto, if you're out there, this one's for you:
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Darling readers, I am fresh out of funny today.
Last night, the I-35 bridge over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis collapsed during rush hour. I was not there; I rarely traveled that bridge. To the best of my knowledge, no one of my acquaintance was there. The first I heard of it was an announcement over the PA at the Metrodome, informing us of the tragedy and asking us all to stay for the game, so as not to add traffic to an already chaotic situation on downtown roads.
I have not been directly affected, except...
Except, I live here. Minneapolis is my home, and disaster has struck it. My life, my community, my plans for the future all have "Minneapolis, Minnesota" writ large across them, and this terrible thing has happened here.
We know that a 2001 inspection revealed "fatigue cracking" in the bridge supports, but concluded that it was still sound and did not require immediate intervention. We know that in 2005 a federal report labeled the bridge "structurally deficient", but that this designation is somewhat vague and, more to the point, applies to thousands upon thousands of bridges nationwide which haven't exactly been falling down in droves. Bridges can be classified structurally deficient due to any number of problems, many of which are not a source of immediate danger.
We do not know what the problems with the I-35 bridge were, or how serious they were deemed. We do not know whose responsibility it was to monitor the bridge, or whether they followed proper procedures. We do not know if this was at all predictable. We want to know. We want to be angry and to punish, because then we will feel as if we are doing something, creating something out of this twisted mass of steel, concrete and horror.
Let us leave aside blame for now. There will be plenty to go around when we know why this happened. That may be months or even years in the future. Regardless of how long it takes, why open new wounds which may be undeserved? Sorrow and gratitude is the harder road, but the better.
There is a good deal to be sorrowful for. For the dead and their families, first and foremost. For the physical and mental trauma of the surviving victims, next. For our own sense of safety and trust in public works. For the city, reeling and confused today, with years of disorder and band-aid traffic solutions ahead. For all the things which will be neglected or downsized or ended for lack of a piece of the hundreds of millions of dollars it will take to rebuild.
There is also a good deal to be grateful for. Due to resurfacing, the 8-lane bridge was down to two. Imagine how many more cars might have been on it otherwise. The most-occupied vehicle involved in the collapse--a school bus carrying around 60 people--was not the site of any death or even serious injuries. The train traveling under the bridge at the time was carrying freight, not passengers. The Twin Cities boast three Level One trauma centers. (Many cities, even larger cities than this, have only one. Some have none.) The best possible emergency care for the victims was not only available, it was abundant. And let us not forget the citizens and rescue workers who rushed headlong into chaos and saved lives while risking their own.
We do not know why this happened. We may not know for years. We will all, I expect, flinch a little when passing under or over a bridge for a while. There will be memorial services, public announcements, political wrangling and fiercely-argued theories from the mundane to the boggling in the days ahead. There will be a flurry of bridge inspections, and alarming news reports on the results. Finances and partisanship willing, repairs will be undertaken. Minneapolis will knit itself back together. Memories, anguish and even blame will fade.
Someday, there will be a new bridge for I-35. And someday later still, we will drive over the new bridge and casually say, "Remember when...?"
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Normally, three in a row would not be very impressive. But, considering what came just prior (a five game losing streak), TBL just has to say:
Holy winning streak, Batman!
Win the Third came on the backs of Scott "May I Stay, Please?" Baker (8 IP, 7 K, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB) pitching a gem, Joe "Sorry About Going 0-for-Cleveland" Mauer (3 RBI) accounting for all Twins runs and Jason "Who, Me?" Tyner (3-for-4, 2 R) hitting like a madman in the unfamiliar role of leadoff hitter (more on that, later).
Win the Second was due largely to an excellent pitching performance by Matt "I'd Like To Stay, Too" Garza (6 IP, 11 K, 5 H, 3 BB, 1 ER) and three errors by a surprisingly helpful Cleveland squad.
Win the First, you may recall, featured a return to form for Johan "En Fuego Again" Santana and the first major-league home run by Jason "Woo-Hoo!" Tyner, snapping his streak of 1,120 at-bats without a longball, which was the longest active-player streak in the ML until it snapped.
Now, if you've been living in a cave you may be wondering why Jason Tyner was batting leadoff last night. Never fear, subterranean friends, TBL will fill you in.
Yesterday, the Twins traded second baseman and perennial leadoff man Luis Castillo to the Mets for a double-A catcher and an A outfielder. And that, in a nutshell, is how Tyner got the leadoff job last night.
But, TBL, you may ask, don't the Twins have more of a leadoff hitter type somewhere on the roster?
Apparently not, dear readers. Apparently not. There's Bartlett, of course, but it's been proven time and again that when you're waiting for this organization to give Barty a little love, you'll be waiting until just shy of Doomsday. Punto would be a candidate, if this were last season. He'll have to hit something this season to see the first half of the order, however, much less leadoff. The new kid's too untried, Mauer's too slow (ditto Cirillo), Hunter's too free-swinging, and everyone else is either a power hitter, a bench player or on the DL.
And what, you may then inquire, does this trade mean for the Twins, TBL?
That depends, dear readers. That depends.
It depends on what does or does not happen before 3:00 this afternoon. Either the Twins will take the 2 million bucks they're saving on Castillo's salary for the rest of this season and use it as part of an action to acquire someone really good to boost the club in the second half and (oh please oh please oh please) next season as well.
Or, they'll do nothing.
(There is, one supposes, the third option of using that money to make a really lousy trade for, say, Jason Giambi or someone equally appalling, but TBL prefers to cling to the belief that the Twins haven't sunk that far until events prove otherwise.)
If they use the salary savings and make a big splashy wonderful trade, then the Castillo trade means that the Twins were willing to tighten their belts and make a sincere and difficult sacrifice in order to better the team.
If they do nothing, it means they've given up and Pohlad needed two million bucks to buy himself something almost as pleasant as a playoff run.
Clock's ticking, my dears.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
...and the award for Best Impersonation of a Sad Sack of Crap goes to...
...the Minnesota Twins, in the sixth inning of yesterday's game! Wooo!
Let's take another look at this stunning performance:
Carlos Silva pitching:
~ Frank Thomas walked.
~ Matt Stairs reached on fielder's choice to second, Thomas out at second.
~ Aaron Hill safe at first on 3rd baseman Rodriguez's fielding error, Stairs to second.
~ Gregg Zaun doubled to deep right, Stairs scored, Hill to third.
~ John McDonald tripled to center, Hill and Zaun scored.
Dennys Reyes relieved Carlos Silva.
Dennys Reyes pitching:
~ Troy Glaus singled to left center, McDonald scored.
~ Lyle Overbay walked, Glaus to second.
Juan Rincón relieved Dennys Reyes.
Juan Rincón pitching:
~ Alex Rios singled to left, Glaus scored, Overbay to second.
~ Vernon Wells walked, Overbay to third, Rios to second.
~ Frank Thomas singled to right, Overbay and Rios scored, Wells to third.
~ Matt Stairs doubled to deep left center, Wells scored, Thomas to third.
Matt Guerrier relieved Juan Rincón.
Matt Guerrier pitching:
~ Aaron Hill grounded out to shortstop.
~ Gregg Zaun homered to right, Thomas and Stairs scored.
~ John McDonald lined out to right.
End of Inning (11 Runs, 7 Hits, 1 Error)
(play-by-play from CBSSportsline.com)
TBL sez: It's a good thing this wasn't televised, else TBL might have clawed her own eyes out.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
What can one say about the Twins lately? They're not good enough to inspire, nor bad enough to be comedic. They're just rather...blah. Which may be a good word for the season as a whole, really.
As TBL can take only so much blah without going stark raving mad, she's found other things to occupy her attention lately. (She is still as passionately devoted to the Twins as ever, but sometimes one just needs a wee break, especially in the midst of the blahs.)
Obviously, there was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which was brilliant and TBL loved it and is now in deepest mourning for the end of the most amazing fantasy series in her lifetime.
Being a frequent walker and bus rider, TBL is never without her mp3 player. Said player is, as usual, tuned to the Levellers. Today's playlist features "Exodus", "Falling From the Tree", "Just the One (EP version)", "Make U Happy", "Liberty Song", "Tranquil Blue", "Another Man's Cause" and "Men-An-Tol".
TBL normally does not watch movies very often, but has been on a rare DVD surge lately. In the last couple of weeks she has watched:
- Pride and Prejudice, the 1995 BBC version, which is TBL's favorite movie of all time and which she makes a point of viewing at least thrice yearly despite its being six hours long.
- Pride and Prejudice, the new version with Kiera Knightley, which TBL had not seen before, and which failed to impress due to taking far too many liberties with the book. It was, however, visually stunning.
- Emma, with Gwynneth Paltrow. A good and very funny short take on a lengthy novel. TBL is still hunting for a copy the miniseries version with Kate Beckinsale.
- Sense and Sensibility, the one with Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant. Another old favorite. Yes, TBL does like her Jane Austen...
- The Cater Street Hangman, an entertaining version of a well-loved book.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They're all so TINY in that one! TBL is inspired to greet this coming Halloween as Professor McGonagall.
- Nicholas Nickelby, with Charlie Hunnam and Anne Hathaway, which was very well done and frequently hysterical. Nathan Lane plays Crummles--'nuff said!
- Nanny McPhee. TBL adores it. Who can resist a movie with both Emma Thompson AND Colin Firth?
- An Inconvenient Truth. Even better the second time!
The past year has not been so good for the writing, but TBL has finally gotten back on that horse. She is actively working on revisions to novel #1, recently completed chapter 4 of novel #2 and a short story which was run as a serial right here on Third Base Line, and is tinkering with chapter 2 of novel #3 whilst pondering another short story. (If anyone would like to volunteer to do TBL's housework and/or laundry, do send an email.)
And, in what miniscule bits of time remain for reading, we find TBL's nose planted in "The Assault on Reason" by Al Gore.
Silva faces off against Litsch today at 11:37 a.m. (and just how in blazes did they come up with that time?!) , attempting to wrest one game of the series from Toronto's clutches. TBL will be tuning in from work and devoutly hoping for something above and beyond blah.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Friday, July 20, 2007
While a 2006-esque comeback run is quite possible, mathematically speaking, TBL is just not seeing the playoff fire in this 2007 Twins team. Even when they're winning, they just don't seem like they're prepared to do it consistently. Last year, when they won, they exuded the well-earned satisfaction of a group which has finally begun to succeed at its chosen task. This year, they simply give the appearance of being pleasantly surprised. (This, one might note, does not inspire confidence.)
Intangibles aside, what's the formula for getting to October? Feast on the bad teams, do well against the decent teams, hold your own against the good teams, and have a winning record within your division.
Though who's good, who's indifferent, and who's awful isn't exactly carved in stone yet, either, we know who's in which category now, and how the Twins have done against them so far. Let's review:
The Awful (< .450):
|Tampa Bay||37-57, .394||3||4||.429|
|San Francisco||39-54, .419||--||--|
|Kansas City||41-53, .436||2||3||.400|
Feasting? TBL thinks not.
The Indifferent (.450 - .550):
|Chicago White Sox||43-51, .457||7||5||.583|
|St. Louis||43-49, .467||--||--||--|
|New York Yankees||48-45, .516||2||5||.286|
|Chicago Cubs||50-44, .532||--||--||--|
Doing well? Quite.
The Good (> .550):
|New York Mets||53-42, .558||2||1||.667|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||54-42, .563||--||--||--|
|San Diego||53-41, .564||--||--||--|
|Los Angeles Angels||56-38, .596||1||2||.333|
Holding their own? Not so much.
|Kansas City||41-53, .436||2||3||.400|
|Chicago White Sox||43-51, .457||7||5||.583|
Winning in the division? Not even close.
The Twins have one of the four elements in the playoff formula, 95 games into the season. TBL just doesn't see it happening this year, folks. Which isn't to say the season is a lost cause. Much may yet be accomplished, the development of key young players being numero uno on that list.
But if you've been saving up for playoff tickets, you might want to start pondering what else you'd like to treat yourself to. TBL is considering Lasik. Or perhaps a spring training jaunt. Decisions, decisions...
Probables - Angels (56-38) at Twins (49-46)
6/20, 7:10 pm:
John Lackey, RHP (12-5, 2.98) vs Carlos Silva, RHP (7-10, 4.55)
Lackey is one of the best out there. A bad day for him is still a rough day for opposing batters. Silva is coming off of a very good outing against the A's but has been shaky overall in the last few weeks.
6/21, 6:10 pm:
Jered Weaver, RHP (6-5, 3.36) vs Boof Bonser, RHP (5-6, 4.68)
Weaver seems to have hit his stride after an injury-plagued first half. Bonser was healthy but largely unimpressive in the first half; lately, though, he has had several promising outings.
6/22: 1:10 pm:
Joe Saunders, LHP (3-0, 2.97) vs Matt Garza, RHP (1-1, 0.00)
Saunders hasn't yet pitched a full season's worth of starts in the big leagues, but he's lefthanded and breathing, which usually spells trouble for these Twins. Add to that the fact that he's been quite good in brief callups for the Angels this year, and Sunday's game should be a challenge for Minnesota hitters. Matt Garza has yet to give up an earned run in ML action this season--his one loss was on an unearned run earlier this week.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Saturday, July 14, 2007
So the very next day Tallow made that long swim upstream again. He spoke with Pelean for several hours, and revealed more than he realized. When he got back to the palace, he was happy to report that the dragon had agreed to the meeting.
At midmorning on the appointed day, Queen Lilias stood on the bridge where she had lost her jewel, Sir Brennan at her right hand and Mistral at her left, as promised. Knights and nobles and townsfolk crowded the shore to watch this unusual assembly. They saw the dragon coming, a flash of silver in the water, moments before his head broke the surface, rising above the railing.
He looked at the three on the bridge. "You I recognize," he said to Sir Brennan.
"You I do not," he said to Mistral.
"And you must be the queen," he said to Lilias.
"You must be Pelean," Queen Lilias said. "Thank you for coming."
The dragon tilted his head and studied her for a moment. "You'll be wanting this," he said, holding out a webbed paw the size of a serving platter, the jewel in its center.
She caught her breath at the sight of it, but clenched her hands at her sides and did not reach for it. "You are kind, sir, to someone who has not been kind to you."
"You did not know me," Pelean said. "And I can see that you are very young. The young may make mistakes which would be unforgivable in the old."
"No, I did not know you. I did not even know you existed, much less how long and well you had served my kingdom. Yet you were just outside my door all the while. So I wonder—of how many other things, which I ought properly to be aware, am I ignorant?"
"I cannot answer that for you," the dragon said.
The queen smiled. "Of course you cannot. But when you swam away with my jewel, I was forced to look at the world outside my palace. I wish that my first impulse had not been to send men armed with swords and my blessing out into that world to do harm on my behalf."
The dragon said nothing, but inclined his head to show that he understood.
"You are right to say that I want the jewel. But Tallow is right to say that you have earned it. He said you told him that it is the color of the ocean where you were born." She put her hands on the railing and leaned closer. "Do you miss it? Do you want to go back?"
Pelean frowned and thought very hard. "No," he said slowly after a moment. "I love this stream. I do not miss the ocean itself. But when I think of it, I think of my family. And when I see the color of it, trapped within this jewel, I remember them a little better."
"Ah," she breathed. "I understand, Pelean, I do. The jewel belonged to my mother, who died several years ago. I find it difficult sometimes to remember her face or her voice, but when I wear the jewel that was her favorite, it all comes back to me and I feel a little less lonely."
"How can you be lonely?" Pelean wondered. "You are surrounded by people."
"You are surrounded by fish," she said. "But they are not dragons. I am surrounded by people, but they are not queens."
"Oh," he said. "I see."
"I think you do." She turned to Sir Brennan. "Where was Pelean brought from, again?"
"From Gidaleon, by the sea, Your Majesty. A gift from their king to your great-grandfather," the knight replied. His curiosity had led him into the royal records over the last few days, and he had shared what he found with the queen.
She spoke to the dragon again. "If I were to send someone to Gidaleon to find a companion for you, would that please you? Would that be thanks enough for all the time and work you have spent on us? Or is there something else we might do to show our gratitude?"
"I would like nothing better than to have a companion of my own kind," he admitted. "But I would not have another suffer the captivity I endured in my youth."
Queen Lilias nodded. "Of course." She considered the problem for a moment. "What if they wanted to come here? I could send Tallow to try and persuade them. You have no reason to trust me yet, but you would trust him to deal with them honestly, would you not?"
The long column of Pelean's throat worked as he swallowed back some strong emotion. "Even the attempt would be thanks enough, Your Majesty."
"Then it shall be done, if Tallow agrees," she promised.
"I believe he shall," Sir Brennan added. "The boy has an adventurous spirit."
Pelean nodded. Carefully he set the jewel on the railing in front of her. "I may yet see another of my kind again. I could even go back to the ocean if I wished it. You cannot swim south and find your mother. Your memories are more precious than mine."
"Thank you," she said, her fingers closing about the stone. "For everything."
Tallow eagerly agreed to go to Gidaleon, and within a week he set out with Sir Brennan, two strong knights and the wizard's apprentice. The adventures they had along the way are too long a tale to tell here. Suffice it to say that he returned several months later and several inches taller, in the company of not one but three water dragons who wished to live in sweet waters running through a kingdom at peace, far from the brackish sea with its sharks and krakens.
The blue one was called Mirren, the green one, Rushing, and the gold, Donnet. They brought not only themselves but also greetings from Pelean's parents and sister, who had wondered for a hundred years what had become of him, and wept with joy when Tallow told them he was alive and thriving. When Pelean received the message, his own eyes grew rather more watery than usual.
Queen Lilias personally welcomed them all, throwing a great feast on the bank of the stream and scandalizing her advisors by moving freely among her people and speaking with them. The land folk were at first frightened of the dragons, but when they saw how warmly the queen welcomed them and how fond of them Tallow and his companions were, most people gave them a chance and found them quite friendly.
During the party, Sir Brennan found a moment to speak privately with the queen. "Young Tallow is looking for a career," he said. "I have a suggestion."
Queen Lilias listened and agreed that it was an excellent notion. Tallow was given a special tutor, a wise and learned old shifter who had lived among every sort of creature you can imagine, and a few which I daresay you cannot. With his teacher he read a mountain of books and ventured far and wide through the land learning those things which books cannot truly tell. He accompanied diplomats on their delicate missions across the length and breadth of Faerie and spent many an hour in Queen Lilias's court, learning how she preferred that things be done.
When he was older and taller, had absorbed everything his tutor could teach him and knew enough magic from the wizard and enough swordplay from the knights to defend himself, Queen Lilias named him her Special Ambassador to Magical Creatures. If anyone was more pleased with this state of affairs than she, it was her husband the king.
It had, after all, been his idea.
© 2007 by the author. All rights reserved.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Sir Brennan was sitting by the willow where Tallow had left his clothes when the boy stepped out of the water into the last faint light of sunset. He offered a towel.
"I was starting to worry," he said. "You were gone a long time. Did you learn anything?"
"Yes," Tallow said, swiping the towel across himself carelessly and struggling to get his still-damp legs into his trousers. "Lots of things." He looked up at the knight, who frowned at the boy's troubled expression. "I need to speak to the queen. Can you take me to her?"
"Tell me whatever it is, and I will make sure she hears it."
The boy shook his head. "I promised I would tell her myself. Can you help me do that?"
Sir Brennan paused. "Who did you make this promise to, Tallow?"
"To the dragon. I didn't go looking for him!" he added in a rush, before the captain could interrupt. "He found me. And we talked, and all of this has been a terrible mistake, and I have to talk to the queen because I promised and because I don't think anyone else can make it better. Please."
Sir Brennan rubbed a hand across his face. "I'm going to be demoted to stableboy," he muttered to himself. He stood and handed Tallow his shirt. "Get dressed. We might be able to catch her before she retires."
He escorted Tallow through the palace and into the queen's audience chamber. As they crossed that long, elegant room filled with nobles who lifted their brows and wrinkled their perfect noses at the sight of him, Tallow felt very small and scruffy, and very frightened as well.
They stood to one side as an earl gave the queen a long speech about why he thought his lands were being taxed more than his neighbor's. When he was done, the queen's advisors began arguing; half seemed to be for the earl and half against him. Queen Lilias sighed and looked out the window until they were done.
"Lord Jenner," she said when she could be heard, "while it is true that I have never seen your lands, I have more than once dined at your home here in town. And I think that if your lands were half so poor as you make them sound, that home would not be half so grand, or half so lavishly furnished.
"It was, however," she continued dryly, "a valiant attempt to defraud the royal treasury. I admire your courage."
The earl started to object, and she held up a hand to forestall him. "If you are unhappy with the profits your lands yield, I suggest you go oversee them personally. For at least a year," she said mildly.
"But, Your Majesty—" Lord Jenner began.
"I strongly suggest it," she added, not at all mildly. With a great deal of bowing and apologetic muttering, Lord Jenner left the court.
"My word," murmured Sir Brennan, sounding both surprised and approving. The queen's advisors stood there looking stunned and uncomfortable. No one else seemed to want to come forward.
"Our turn, I think," the captain whispered to Tallow, and brought him before the queen. If she was startled to be presented with a slightly damp common child, she was too well bred to show it. Sir Brennan bowed, and Tallow awkwardly imitated him.
"Your Majesty," Sir Brennan said. "This is Tallow. He works here in the palace. He is a shifter, and I asked him to go into the stream as a fish to gather information about the dragon. I had hoped to find a way to reclaim your jewel without anyone being injured," he admitted. "Tallow has learned something which he says he can only tell you."
"Then I must hear it," she agreed, and turned her emerald eyes to the boy and nodded encouragingly. "You may speak."
"Captain Sir Brennan told me not to go near the dragon," Tallow began, quaking in his shoes but determined not to get anyone except himself in trouble. "But while I was in the stream, I heard that the dragon wasn't in his cave. I snuck into it, and the dragon caught me snooping around. There's been a mistake, Your Majesty. He didn't know you had lost the jewel—he thought you dropped it into the stream for him, as a gift. He didn't understand why the knights attacked. They frightened him."
The queen looked at Sir Brennan, and Sir Brennan looked at his shoes. "My fault, I'm afraid," the queen said gently. "I sent them."
Tallow twisted his hands together in front of him. "He gave the jewel to me to bring back to you," he said, his voice hardly above a whisper. "I had it in my hand, but I left it there with him. Now I am the reason you don't have it, and I am the one you must punish for its loss. Not him." Behind him, Sir Brennan closed his eyes in chagrin and began contemplating his probable future as Faerie's oldest and most noble stableboy.
"Why did you let him keep it when he was willing to give it back?" the young queen asked curiously.
He had expected to be instantly taken away for punishment, or perhaps simply tossed out of the kingdom. Surprise make him stumble over his answer.
"I—I thought he deserved it, Your Majesty," he stammered. Her eyebrows rose, but she still seemed more curious than angry.
"And why did you think that?"
So he told her, about the wasps' nests and the trash and the tiny, sparkling fish who could not bear the winter. He spoke of lurking eels and tree limbs fallen in storms and a century of lonely work, for love of a place and a people who ignored him.
"He thought you were giving him the jewel," Tallow repeated at the end. "He did not know you had lost it. He thought you were thanking him. And I…I thought he should be thanked. So I did."
He drew a deep breath and stood up straighter, looking at Sir Brennan to remind himself to be brave. "I should not have thanked him with something that was not mine to give. I did not think of that until afterward, but I was wrong and I will take my punishment, Your Majesty."
Her advisors buzzed around her like wasps, jostling each other in their eagerness to speak, but Queen Lilias did not listen to them. She was thinking of tiny opalescent fish glimmering as they passed through a sunbeam, of clear sweet waters and a hundred years alone. She turned to her personal guard, a craggy-faced troll who spoke rarely and then said only brief and sensible things.
"Get rid of them, Mistral," she said softly. "I am sick to death of their racket. You and Sir Brennan and the boy will stay. The rest must go."
When a large, armed troll wants you to leave, you leave. The advisors and nobles protested loudly, but they went all the same. As Mistral shut the great double doors against the last of them, the queen rose from her throne and stepped down from the dais on which it stood. Tallow felt as if he should bow again when she came closer, so he did.
"If you don't mind, Your Majesty, I'd like to know what my punishment will be," he said. "The waiting is awful."
The queen smiled at him then. "How could I punish you for generosity? And indeed, I am no worse off now than I was an hour ago. Perhaps," she mused, "your kindness has even created an opportunity that was not there before. Tell me about this dragon," she said, drifting toward the windows.
"His name is Pelean, and he was very nice to me. He didn't have to be, either, since I snuck into his home to steal from him."
"The dragon has a name?" she asked, surprised.
"Of course he does. Doesn't everyone?"
She set her fingertips on the windowsill and looked out over the rolling hills of her kingdom. "Does everyone? Do I? Sometimes I forget that I was ever called anything but 'Your Majesty'," she murmured.
Sir Brennan looked at her then, startled, and for the very first time saw not a royal being who formed the epicenter of all his duty, but a real person who might wonder and doubt and struggle as he did. Tallow looked at the floor, ashamed to realize that he did not know her name.
She turned away from the window. "Do you think he might speak to you again, this Pelean?"
Tallow nodded. "Yes, I think so. Actually...he's expecting me."
"Then I will ask a favor of you, Tallow. Will you go to him tomorrow, and ask him to meet me a week from today, at the bridge where I lost the jewel? I will personally guarantee his safety, and I do not expect him to bring the jewel. I only wish to speak with him myself."
Sir Brennan frowned. "Your Majesty, the creature may be dangerous."
"Then you will stand at my right hand, and Mistral will stand at my left," Queen Lilias said, not the least bit troubled by his warning. "But if he will come I will speak with him."
© 2007 by the author. All rights reserved.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
For a moment Tallow honestly believed that his heart would burst from sheer terror.
"I...um...I..." he stammered, whirling about to face a huge shadow.
"At a loss for words?" it said. "Let me get a look at you, not-fish." It spoke another word, one Tallow had never heard before and was fairly certain he couldn't pronounce, and little lights flared to life in the water around them, illuminating the cave, its owner, and Tallow.
It was twice the size of a knight's charger, silvery white with smoke-grey eyes and very long, very sharp teeth. Long and sharp as well were the claws on its four wide, webbed feet and the barbs that ridged its whiplike tail. Tallow felt very small and tasty.
"You're a wizard," he blurted.
"All dragons are wizards. You don't think anything breathes fire naturally, do you?"
"Er, no, I guess not. Now that you mention it."
The dragon flexed its gills. "What are you, not-fish? You smell like land folk."
Tallow changed himself into a water-dragon, which helped him feel less appetizing, though he was still less than a tenth the size of the beast whose lair he had invaded. "I am land folk. My name is Tallow."
"Ah. A shape-changer. I knew one like you once, not long after I came here. She used to visit me, but she got old, as land folk will do, and in time she came no more." He sighed, then turned his attention to Tallow. "My name is Pelean."
"Pleased to meet you, Pelean," he offered politely. "You weren't born here?" He thought it was a very good idea to keep the dragon talking. It is hard to snack and talk at the same time, after all.
"Dear me, no. I was captured by land folk and brought here. I wasn't much longer than you. Just a little thing, I was."
"How old are you now?"
"Oh, somewhere around a hundred years." He swished his tail through the water. "Old by your reckoning. But I feel young. I think my kind live much longer than yours."
"You don't know how long you might live?" Now Tallow was genuinely curious.
"How would I know? I haven't seen any like me since I was a sprig. I hardly remember them. But speaking of sprigs, what brings you here?"
Tallow decided to be honest. It was the least he could do, he thought, in return for not being eaten. "I was looking for the queen's lost jewel."
Pelean grew very still. "She...lost it?".
"Is it..." The dragon sighed. "Is it blue?" He sounded like he already knew the answer.
Tallow nodded again. "Yes. As blue as the sky."
"Oh." Pelean drooped and seemed to shrink. "I thought she had given it to me. Is that why men with swords tried to kill me? They thought I had stolen it?"
"Yes," he said, as kindly as he could. "I'm sorry. They aren't bad people. We all just...assumed..." He trailed off awkwardly.
"You assumed I was a brute like the plains dragons, or a thief like the mountain dragons? Or maybe both?" Pelean asked shrewdly.
Tallow gave a miserable nod, and the dragon's tail angrily churned the water, his voice rising with his indignation, "Well, that's very nice, isn't it? I get taken away from my family, hauled over land in a miserable little tub, dumped in this stream all alone and told to protect it. But I do it anyway.
"For a hundred years I've picked land folk's trash out of the water, killed biting eels and lizards that would be happy enough to take a nibble of you when you splash around in the summer, moved fallen trees from the stream so the land wouldn't flood, knocked wasps' nests out of the trees along the bank so you and your kind could enjoy the water in peace, and you all finally bother to notice me because of a jewel?!" he thundered, and Tallow cringed away from him.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, and he meant it. "I'm so sorry."
All the anger left the dragon as quickly as it had come. He hung his head. "I thought she gave it to me to thank me. It is the color of the ocean where I was born. I thought...oh, it does not matter what I thought. She did not give it, and it is not mine."
He darted into a nook on the far side of the cave and emerged with the jewel held gently between two claws. He gave it to Tallow, who handled it carefully with his unfamiliar webbed fingers. He had never seen it before, had never gotten that close to the queen. It was so very beautiful that he suddenly understood why everyone wanted it so much.
"Take it to her," Pelean said sadly. "With my apologies for the misunderstanding."
"Why do you do all that work when no one ever pays any attention?" Tallow blurted.
"If I do not, who will?" His tail twitched restlessly. "Besides, it is only the land-folk who do not notice. The fish and frogs do. They aren't very good company, but they are grateful."
"Those little tiny fish...they said they lived here in the winters?"
"Yes. Their ancestors were washed up here from the south in a storm many years ago. They wouldn't survive the winters this far north, so they come to my cave. I keep the water warm in there for my own comfort, and they are too small to get in the way," the dragon explained dissmissively.
Tallow suspected that the eager chatter of the little fish would 'get in the way' long before the winters ended. Pelean looked at the jewel in Tallow's hand, then jerked his gaze away.
"You'd better get back with that before dark, or else you might lose it. Come," he said abruptly, and swam toward the entrance. Tallow carefully tucked the jewel into his cheek so he could swim and followed.
They emerged into the long shadows of late afternoon. Tallow watched the long ribbon of water snaking toward the palace, which looked like a little toy house from this distance. He had a long swim home.
"You said someone like me used to visit you. May I come back, sometime?" he asked.
The dragon smiled, which was rather unsettling in light of all those wickedly pointy teeth. "I should like that a great deal. The fish are friendly and affectionate, but just between us? Their conversation leaves something to be desired."
"I'll come back soon," he promised, and set off toward home. As he reached the first bend in the stream, he looked back, and saw Pelean still bobbing in the water in front of the cave. He looked at the distant royal city, the dragon, and the long stretch of water which was only the most obvious thing separating the two.
Pelean watched curiously as Tallow swam back to him and spat the jewel out into his hand. He held it out to the dragon.
"If she knew what you did, I'm sure she would have thanked you. So keep it. It can be what you thought it was." He thrust the jewel toward the dragon.
Pelean hesitated. "But she does not know that I thought it was her thanks to me."
"She will. As soon as I get back to the city, I will tell her myself."
Gingerly the dragon plucked the jewel from his hand. "If you are sure..."
"I'm sure," Tallow said, and swam away before he could change his mind. A mile downstream hegrimaced and shook his head.
"I'm sure I'm in big trouble," he groaned.
© 2007 by the author. All rights reserved.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Tallow left his clothes beneath a willow that grew along the stream's bank. He slipped into the water and became a fish, swimming a few lazy laps around a large, flat stone to accustom himself to fishiness before he set out upstream in search of others. He thought he was in luck when he saw a school of tiny milk-white fish no bigger than a fingertip, who glimmered with other colors when the light hit them, as opals do. They were coming toward him very quickly. Perhaps too quickly.
"EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEL!" they shrieked in chorus as they flashed around him. Only when they were past could he see what pursued them—a bulge-eyed, sickly yellow eel with a row of cruel teeth lining its gaping mouth.
"Aaa!" he yelped, turning tail and swimming after the rapidly disappearing school. Spying a cluster of water lilies he dashed among them, and was relieved to see the eel glide by a second later, still pursuing its smaller prey. A few moments later he heard a great thrashing and splashing in the distance and thought rather sadly that it must have caught up with the little fishes.
Exploring among the stems while he waited for the eel to finish its meal and move on, Tallow found a catfish sheltering from the heat of the day in the shade beneath the lilies' pads. When he asked about the dragon, the catfish twitched its whiskers and burbled, "Hrrrm, yes…lives in the cave. Scares away the alligators, whenever they come up from the south to nose around. Don't like alligators, m'self. They eat catfish, y'know."
"I've never seen an alligator," Tallow remarked.
"Hrrrm, 'course y'haven't. Dragon chases 'em off, doesn't he?"
"If you say so. Have you, ah, seen the dragon lately?"
"Not for a moon or more. Hrrrm. Big stream."
"Oh. Well, thank you," Tallow said politely before swimming away. A little farther upstream he came across some frogs splashing about among the reeds. He turned himself into a frog and hopped toward them.
"Excuse me," he said, "Could any of you tell me about the dragon?"
A big old frog cocked its head at him and croaked, "What precisely did you wish to know, young sir?"
"Oh, ah…just what sort of dragon he is, you know. Friendly or not, that sort of thing?"
The frog bobbed his head. "You must be new to the area, my good frog. Saw him swimming about and gave yourself a bit of a scare, did you? He does look rather fearsome, I suppose, with those teeth and claws. But you may rest easy on that score. You are not his idea of a meal."
Tallow was feeling rather baffled. "I thought dragons were, well…vicious?"
The frog chortled. "Land dragons are, to be sure. All that fire-breathing and whatnot, eh? Nasty creatures, land dragons. Water dragons, on t'other hand, are much more civilized."
"Oh. Yes. That must be where I got confused. Er, thank you for your help," he said, and hopped off until he was out of sight and could turn back into a fish. He swam around in the shallows for a while, thinking. He had expected to find that every creature in the stream was terrified out of its wits at the mere mention of the dragon, but the catfish and the frog seemed to like the great beast. It was all very curious. He decided to swim on, and see who else he might meet.
He came around a curve in the stream and found himself in the middle of the school of little fish who, much to his surprise, did not seem any the worse for wear. He looked around quickly, but saw no sign of the eel.
When he inquired after the dragon they became very exited, swimming around him in a circle, all of them seeming to speak at once.
"Dragon? Dragon-friend? Big dragon! Eel-biter! Bird-chaser! Snow-killer!"
"The dragon...is your friend?"
"Yesyesyesyesyes!" they clamored. "Warm cave! Winter-home!"
"You live in his cave in the winter?"
"Yesyesyes!" They swam in ever-tighter circles around him, their enthusiasm churning up a bubbling wake.
"Have you seen the blue jewel he has?"
"Jewel? What is jewel?" Their circling slowed.
"Um…a smooth blue rock. Very pretty."
"Nononono. No blue rock."
"Well, what about him? Have you seen him today?" he ventured.
"OHyesyesyesyesyes! Eel-slayer! Sun high! Going south!"
Well, he thought, that explained what had happened to the eel. Tallow glanced up. The sun was still high in the sky, only now beginning to drop toward the horizon. If the dragon had left its cave heading south near midday, it might be gone for a while yet. He could just nip into the cave and have a look around for the jewel. He had only promised Sir Brennan that he wouldn't go near the dragon. If the dragon wasn't in the cave, where was the harm?
"Thank you. Thank you very much!" he said, and swam upstream as fast as he could. If he could find the jewel he would be a hero, and maybe Sir Brennan would reconsider and make him a knight after all. But even with that thought to sustain him he was exhausted by the time he had travelled the several miles to the cave entrance. There he stopped and looked around and carefully tasted the water before darting inside.
It was black inside, black as pitch, black as death. That was his first thought. But slowly his eyes relaxed and picked out a faint glow on the walls. Some sort of moss or lichen was growing there, emitting a very faint light. He made himself wait until he was sure his sight would not improve any further, then he began swimming about the cave. It was very large, larger than the vast kitchens in the palace.
If I were a dragon, where would I put a stolen jewel? he wondered as he began poking about in the nooks and crannies along the walls, and among the oddly pleasing arrangements of river stones that dotted the chamber floor.He was nosing about in a pile of reeds and lilypads which he suspected was the dragon's bed when he felt a stirring in the water.
Behind him, a deep voice rumbled, "Hello, little fish that is not a fish. What brings you to my home?"
© 2007 by the author. All rights reserved.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
"BOY!" bellowed the cook in charge of pastries, a surly ogre who could make a pie crust so light only the fruit filling kept it from floating off into the wilderness. Tallow, who had been carefully cracking eggs into a bowl, jumped and dropped the egg he had been holding. He faced the furious cook with yolk spattered over his shoes.
"Sir?" Tallow squeaked.
"Don't know what you've done, but it must be bad," the ogre rumbled. "Captain of Knights himself wants to see you. Now. His office."
"I haven't done anything!"
"Humph. Tell it to the Captain, if that's your story. Off with you, now! Don't keep him waiting!" The cook shooed Tallow out of the kitchens.
The fields where the knights honed their skills lay just behind the palace, next to the stables and a stately blue stone building where the unmarried knights made their homes in peacetime, and where all knights would live should the kingdom be at war. Just inside the front door was a small office with a large window overlooking the jousting field, and inside the office was Sir Brennan.
He sat at his desk signing orders for supplies like wooden practice swords and new saddles. Knights destroy an astonishing number of things on a daily basis as they prepare to destroy other people should the need arise, so Sir Brennan spent nearly as much time with a pen in his hand as he did with a sword. (In addition to war, illness and death, Faerie also suffers the curse of paperwork. They do not, however, have celebrities or fast food, and are much happier for it.) When the kitchen-boy appeared in the doorway, he was glad to set down the pen and put the papers aside for a while.
"Sir Brennan, Captain, sir," Tallow babbled. "You wanted to see me? Has something happened? I didn't do anything, I swear!"
"I didn't think you had," the captain replied. He smiled reassuringly and beckoned the boy forward. "Come in, come in. You are not in any trouble."
Tallow inched forward and Sir Brennan stood, striding around the boy to shut the door. He turned and looked down at Tallow, who craned his neck to look up at the captain.
Nobles are tall, as a rule—tall and slender, supple and unbreakable as reeds. They have fine, even features, pointed ears, pleasing voices and eyes like gemstones in the moonlight. If you were to meet them, you would probably call them elves. I would advise you not to do so aloud, however. They would be insulted and might turn you into something slimy and unpleasant. In Faerie they are called nobles, or fair folk, and that is all.
Sir Brennan was tall, even for a noble. His hair was the color of ripe wheat, his face browned by the sun. His eyes were the color of garnets, his hands scarred from a thousand small training injuries. He was one of the younger knights, but he was captain because the queen believed—and she was not alone in this—that he was the bravest of them all. Tallow believed it, too. He had been a tiny child when it all happened, but the story was already legend in Sanmeara.
Sir Brennan was only seventeen that summer. He had been a knight for less than a year when the king and queen returned from a diplomatic visit to a neighboring kingdom, bringing with them the Captain of Knights, four other knights, and, though they did not yet know it, the fever that would kill them.
One of the knights was the first to fall ill, then another, then the king, the captain, the queen and finally the other two knights. Two servants who tended the royal couple became sick within days, as did the royal physician. The king ordered himself and all the others who were ill to be removed from the palace, to prevent the fever from spreading farther. It was the last order he would ever give; he died hours after being moved.
One of the knights died the next day, followed by both the royal physician and a servant in the night. The physicians and healers who had been caring for the sick fled in fear of their own lives. One of the two knights guarding the doors to the sick-house helped the doctors leave and slipped away himself when no one was looking.
There are as many kinds of bravery as there are kinds of honor, or duty, or love. It is one thing to face an enemy with a sword, another to face an enemy hanging invisible in the very air you breathe.
Standing guard at the front, unaware of the exodus which had taken place through the back door, young Sir Brennan did not at first respond to the cries for water that reached his ears through the open windows. The healers would take care of them, he thought. But the pleas continued and, his suspicions raised, he entered that house of illness and death to find no one but the sick.
The physicians and healers would not return, and no others could be persuaded to take their places. New guards were found for the doors, but only Sir Brennan was willing to enter the house. For the next week he tended the sick as best he could, giving them water and broth and putting cold cloths on their heated brows. The Captain of Knights died, as did one of his remaining men.
One of the healers who had fled was brought back after contracting the fever. He lived, as did the only other knight and the servant. The queen closed her eyes late one afternoon and never opened them again. She had asked him to make sure her daughter received the jewel if she should die, so Sir Brennan personally took it from about her neck and put it in a kettle of boiling water for an hour before having it sent back to the palace for the little princess.
When it became clear that the danger had passed, he left the sick-house expecting to be hated for having allowed the queen to die. Instead, he was surprised to find himself hailed as a hero.
Lilias was only ten and had been queen for less than a week when she rewarded his bravery by making him Captain of Knights. In the five years since, she had never had cause to regret it. Most days, he did not regret it, either. He hoped he would not come to regret this day.
He lowered himself into a crouch so the poor child wouldn't snap his neck from bending it back so far. "Tallow, isn't it? I have seen you at our drills."
"I keep out of the way, Captain, sir," Tallow defended himself.
"Yes, you do. But I thought that if you enjoy watching us so much, maybe you would be willing to help us? We need a shifter to do something that none of us can."
"Anything, sir!" His eyes were as wide as saucers.
Sir Brennan laughed. "Always know what you are being asked before you agree. That is something a knight told me when I was only a squire." He glanced out the window, toward the palace. "You have heard about the queen's lost jewel, I assume?"
"Yes, Captain, sir. The water-dragon took it, and now it's hiding in a cave because it's afraid of you."
"Hmm. I wonder if it is. There are many things I wonder about that dragon, Tallow, but I can't find out for myself."
"Why not?" Tallow wondered, amazed that brave Sir Brennan might find anything impossible.
"Because I cannot talk to the other creatures that live in the stream, and ask them about the dragon," Sir Brennan confided.
"But I can!" Tallow exclaimed.
"Yes, you can. Would you be willing to help me? I only want you to find out about the dragon—what its habits are, whether it is afraid of anything, maybe even where it keeps the jewel."
"If I find out where the jewel is, maybe I can go there as a fish and steal it back!"
"No!" Sir Brennan said sharply, and the boy jumped. He forced himself to speak more kindly. "I need information, in order to discover how best to handle this dragon. I do not want anyone, not you, not me, not my men, going anywhere near that creature until we understand it better."
Always in his thoughts was the queen's desire that no one be hurt in seeking her jewel. That was why she had called off the search, but Sir Brennan still hoped to find a way to get it back.
Tallow thought about that. "That makes sense. I guess I was just hoping for something more exciting than talking to fish," he confessed.
"I will tell you a secret." He leaned forward and dropped his voice to a whisper. "Most of the time, beign a knight is just doing drills and polishing your armor. Talking to fish sounds pretty interesting to me."
"Can you let me be a knight?" Tallow asked. "You're the Captain, can't you just say it's so?"
Sir Brennan shook his head. "No. I'm sorry, but you are not one of us. There are many common folk in the army," he offered, "and even a few in the palace guard. If it's a military career you have in mind, I can help you into either of those."
"I'm not sure what I want to do if I can't be a knight," he admitted. "But I know I don't want to work in the kitchens."
"Help me now, and you will not have to go back. We can put you to work in the stables while you decide what you want to do," Sir Brennan offered.
Tallow smiled. "Deal."
© 2007 by the author. All rights reserved.