Friday, April 29, 2011

TBR no longer

American GodsAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Shadow's life is going downhill fast. In fact, he might as well be on a small bus just cresting iconic Lombard Street in San Francisco; you know the one, it looks like a sidewinder made out of concrete. And his brakes? They don't work so good.
Add in some old-time religion, a travelogue of camp, and a poignant undead love story. Pepper with violence and braise until tender. Mmmm, mythopoeic goodness.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011


We humans exist in that sliver of time dividing past and future, in the space between inexplicably small and inconceivably enormous. Historically, the majority of us have lived in transitional areas where land and sea meet. Our own planet lies in that ideal middle zone between too hot and too cold that allows life to flourish here. Cusps have been good to us.
The visionaries among us try to encompass the vastness that stretches beyond the parabola of our existence- a parabola can be thought of as an ellipse that has one focus at infinity. That’s the human condition in a nut shell, isn’t it? Every single one of us striving for infinity; through our works, through our words, through our progeny.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Blink of an eye

In the photograph, the one who named himself Eddis Dalton did a better job of passing than deGracy; his glamour seduced the celluloid into showing a decently dressed middle-aged man with two eyes and a facial scar. Jamie knew the left eye was an illusion and the scar sealed the lid where it should have been. It would be bad if the fey knew he could see them unglamoured so he was careful not to stare. He wanted to go home to his wife.
deGracy had the the lean build and lucent eyes of a hellhound. He either couldn’t hide them or didn’t bother. Menace rolled off him in a palpable wave that kept the hair at Jaime’s nape pricked uncomfortably. He didn’t blink enough. He didn’t talk much either, leaving that to Dalton. He took deep breaths through his nose and exhaled over his tongue. It would have looked ridiculous if Jaime hadn’t known what was happening; the hellhound had a scent and was keeping it on his palate. He was hunting.
    “Our papers are in order,” the one who called himself Dalton suggested. A dim golden haze expanded from him, like the nimbus around a saint. Jamie kept his head down and waited. How would Detective Vance, a bull-terrier of a man at the best of times, respond to concentrated faery wiles?
    “Oh aye! But we’ve got three dead boys, gents. That means even when papers are in order we stick our noses in. And we’ll keep stickin’em in until we catch this sick bastard what’s killin’ our little ones.”
So much for faery wiles. Jamie carried a blessed cluster of oak, ash and thorn that his mother swore could fend off the bright folk. If he used it to protect Vance and himself, the fey would leave but they would come back later, in secret and in force, to deal with him in the shadows. Painfully. Jamie resolved not to let that stop him if harm seemed imminent. The dead boys deserved any justice he could get for them and Vance was the one heading the investigation.
George O’Flannery, 7, had worked as a shoe-shine boy at the Bay Ridge station. His mangled body was found in the subway tunnel there on March 25th. Teodor ‘Ted’ Slazik, 10, had hawked newspapers down on Broadway. His torso and head were found on the upper deck of the Myrtle Avenue station just after midnight on April 24th. On the evening of May 23rd, Marko Yevgenyevich, 5, had been snatched from his mother’s arms when the lights in their subway car went out. She gave the alarm and roused the car but though witnesses remembered the child, they could not find him. Once the train reached the Atlantic Avenue terminus, it was searched, as was the tunnel leading back to the main line. A horse patrol in Central Park found the boy tied into a ball and hung from the limb of an oak within sight of the Bethesda fountain the next morning.
March 25, April 24, May 23. Every one a full moon. The next was just two days away and the papers were full of headlines about  the killer they called the Subway Slasher and how the police were ‘incompetent’ and ‘baffled’. A bum sleeping near the O’Flannery dump site was bludgeoned to death by an angry mob after the news about little Marko hit. The press mourned the fall of civilization itself. The city was turning ugly and it would only get worse as the heat and humidity of summer set in. The fey must have thought so too because the haze around Dalton thickened and brightened till he looked like a sunspot caught in a coronal flare. Vance staggered under the force of it, knees buckling and Jamie made sure to follow suit.
“Tell us to be on our way and no more of your young need die.” His voice resonated like a deep tolling bell. It rattled in Jamie’s bones, pried at his sense. He, despite clutching furtively at his cluster, desperately wanted to do as Dalton commanded.
“Ruddy....bastard...did it?” Vance gasped out, head hanging like a winded dog and Jamie cringed at his side. Give in, you stupid frog, he wanted to say, they’ll gut us like fish if you keep on!  deGracy rose from his seat and knelt next to the fallen detective. He sniffed the man’s head and growled something. Dalton laughed abruptly.
“Unhandy! Imagine finding a cousin here, so far from home. Well, well, abide.” The hellhound moved back to allow his partner room. Dalton seated himself next to Vance and crossed his legs tailor fashion. He pulled a wish of a knife from thin air, though Jamie had searched them for weapons when they were taken up. The short thin blade was curious, grey, translucent, possibly some sort of glass. Dalton drew it across the palm of his hand, then cupped his fingers to contain the blood that welled there. “Needs must, cousin. As you’re in the way of family, I’ll try to be gentle.”
His voice rose and fell and Jamie swallowed bile as the throb in his bones grew worse. The words wanted to remake him, they wanted to meld him into some other shape, a round one, smooth, with no awareness of fey things. Dalton forced Vance to drink his blood, chanting all the while, and after the impromptu cup was empty, the detective sank back on his haunches, his expression blank.
“Now then, tell me what you know, good kin.”
“What is your name?”
“Olivier... Vance.”
“And what do you know of these deaths?”
“No one... notices the... bodies...even though they are... plain...sight...til after. ” Vance sucked in a deep shuddering breath. “Victims...partially eaten...We...have two days...left.”
“That’s more than I expected,”Dalton remarked.”I will share this with you, since we have bloodties in common. I and my friend here,” the hellhound snorted and Jamie had the sense that he didn’t appreciate being classed as a friend, “are sent to catch your childkiller. We have his scent, we know what he is, and we know when he is. Do you feel that you can leave the resolution in our hands?”
Vance hesitated for a long moment and Jamie wondered if the fey would decide it was easier all around to kill them both. The detective nodded slowly. “Catch...him...kill.”
Dalton clicked his tongue. “Matters become complex. Fey are damnably hard to kill, you know. I can arrange a very long incarceration. And I can strip our killer of his pouvier so that he can’t hunt your city ever again. Would that suit you?”
“suits,” he gasped.
“Excellent! And may I say it was delightful to find family despite such dreadful circumstances. I must remember to tell mother.” He rose to his feet with a boneless grace that didn’t match his glamoured frame. “Once you’re feeling better, would you have your man escort us from the building? We need no more misunderstandings.”
Vance shuddered for a moment, then braced his fists on the stained concrete and lurched upright. He took a deep breath, tugged his coat straight, and bellowed, “Reade! See these gentlemen out!”
Jamie gained his feet clumsily, as if he too were waking from the glamour. He felt the burning stare of the hellhound as a tangible force and forced himself not to react. A glamoured man wouldn’t. He cleared his throat and rocked back on his heels.
“Yes...yessir.” He ducked his head and gestured to the door. “If you’ll... come with me, I’ll check you out with the desk sergeant.”
He held the door for them, darting quick glances as they passed him. The hellhound plainly didn’t like having him at his back but Jamie couldn’t figure a way to move himself ahead of them now. He comforted himself with the fact that it wouldn’t last long. A hall, two flights of stairs, and a vestibule. Two minutes, easy. He checked them out with Kendrick at the main desk and, following the letter of Vance’s directions, escorted them to the wide leaded glass doors of the precinct’s front entrance.
Dalton nearly danced down the steps, resettling his hat at a jaunty angle. Jamie turned to go back in when a hard hand on his wrist pulled him back. He glanced up and was locked in deGracy’s gaze. Jamie stiffened.
“Hellhounds smell the truth, boyo.” His growl was perfectly intelligible of a sudden. He wanted to be understood. ”We smell lies too. Keep our secrets and I won’t have to return here.”
Jamie licked his lips and forced himself to ask, “How will we know when the killer’s caught? The trouble in town won’t go away without someone to take the blame.” Those eyes regarded him coldly, then blinked assent.
“You’ll know. We’ll see to it.” deGracy cuffed him on the back of the head and followed his partner into the gloaming.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mugging in Moscow

    He was dressed all wrong: ten gallon hat, denim duster, cowboy boots, caked in dust as if he’d just staggered out of some spaghetti western, not into a nice quiet neighborhood pub in the heart of Chicago. Rocco took a wondering sip of his bourbon and made no bones about staring at this apparition in the mirror. Between the brim of that astounding hat and the bar’s dim lighting, only the jut of the stranger’s bearded chin was visible.
    “Barkeep!” The stranger growled. Rocco watched Sal make a slow turn, knife in one hand, lime wedge in the other.
    “What can I do for you?” Oh, that voice. She could have made a killing as a phone sex operator.
    “I want a Mugging in Moscow,” he replied, and it wasn’t a growl, Rocco realized. His voice was just that deep.
    Sal dropped the lime into its bowl and licked her thumb meditatively.
    “Not a chance.”
    “Woman, I have drunk quingke jui flavored with the sweat from the testicles of a water buffalo! Strawberry Surprise made with weapons grade capsaicin! I have circumnavigated the globe twice looking for you. So let’s get this over with. Give me the drink.”
    She leaned forward and peered into the shadows where his eyes would be.
    “You found me. Good for you. Got insurance?” She bared her teeth in what might have been called a smile if one were hopelessly naive or blind, which Rocco wasn’t. The stranger  grinned back and slid a wallet out of his breast pocket. He flipped a card onto the bar top and let her study it. She did, not touching.
    “C’mon babe, give me a chance.” Rocco expected blood at that. Sal was famous for her aversion to anonymous pet names but she didn’t react. Rocco glanced between them; maybe not so anonymous?
    She assembled what she needed: a bottle of cinnamon Stoli from the wire rack in front of the mirror, grenadine, two small containers from the cooler, a metal shaker. She muddled a handful of pomegranate seeds in the shaker, added a lavish amount of the vodka, an ounce of grenadine, and then put the shaker aside. When she popped the lid on the second container, Rocco saw small, angry-looking peppers.
    “What are those?” He asked. The stranger removed his hat and set it on the bar in a small cloud of dust.
    “Naja Viper. Hottest pepper in the world.” They both watched as Sal took one, trimmed the stem, and pressed the rest into juicy pulp over the mouth of the shaker. She lidded it, shook, set the thing in a styrofoam cooler, and dug the fire extinguisher out from under the counter. She gave the shaker a ten second blast and set the extinguisher aside. Finally, she strained the drink into a tumbler and slid it to the stranger, silent.
    “I’ll drink this,” he rasped, “and you’ll give me a second chance. And you’ll stop griping about Amarillo.”
    “Deal.” she smiled, “Now drink up.”


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

10 Things I learned thanks to the Internet

Just as in real life, surfing is not for the faint of heart. You can find trash, treasure, horror and hope, all of it with a thick nacre of glistening strange, but there are dangers too. Be wary. Learning can be had but that abyss thing is no joke. Don’t be afraid to click ‘back arrow’. Hell, if things get hairy, aim for the ‘x’. Better offline than scarred for life.

1) We are a culture obsessed by penguins, bears, and zombies. But we don’t appear to care too terribly much about global warming, being green when it’s inconvenient, or fact-checking.

2) In 20 years that tat is probably going to look like the back stretch of Hell’s half acre but that doesn’t stop it from looking completely hot right now.

3) There is Dark Angel/NCIS mash-up slash. *florp*

4) Everybody’s doing it wrong but some of them are doing it wrong on purpose.

5) Gas masks, while occasionally a grim necessity, are not a turn on.

6) Meth addicts think the glass (you know, the glass) looks a bit like a crocodile.

7) Ladies (and Gentlemen): be kind to your nipples for they must last you your entire life.

8) It doesn’t matter how innocuous your search terms are, eventually they will bring you porn.

9) There is not enough bleach in the world. (See #3, #7, and #8)

10) Hamlet was right.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

#24 Blut und Kartoffeln

2 years. 9 months. 24 days. 168,902 potatoes. Possibly 168,903. Many, many potatoes.How he hated them, rough, plain, with filthy skins and tumorous eyes. He dreamed of them in the ground and out, planted and harvested, peeled and cooked. They were ubiquitous, dense and earthy, central to every meal. Too often, because he was still clumsy and unaccustomed, the wickedly sharp knife slipped in his fingers. His rusty blood would stain- that taint again- the naked tubers. They were freckled and pasty as Irishmen. Disgusting.
    He rolled his lip against his teeth, felt the reassuring tug of his tiny little moustache, and refocused on his work. It was enough to comfort him, never mind that it was attached by a patch of spirit gum.  It reminded him of better times. He’d done many things to survive. The inside of his left forearm arm bore a letter ‘H’ and a string of 5 numbers in dark blue ink. He lived and dressed as a servant woman. He permitted the farm foreman what liberties he demanded in exchange for safety. Terrible things, yet the two that stung the most, that truly pained him deep in his soul, were the loss of his moustache- that last symbol of power and majesty- and having to swallow vichyssoise, or mash, or caldo verde, all of them made, however incidentally, with his blood.
    He reminded himself to keep his knees pinched together. The skirt could easily become a chute for the potatoes in his lap if he forgot himself. He cut into the next jacket. 168,903 or 4? He reminded himself that it was like a hero cycle. A true king must suffer, and expiate his weakness before he could confront his enemies and dance on their bones. Ulysses languished for years as a sex slave before he won his freedom. Perhaps he even peeled his share of potatoes. A shame that proper Germanic heroes wouldn’t work here. They didn’t suffer, they merely died. Dying he refused to do so necessity demanded he seek his heroes in other cultures.
    Work boots stomped up the steps and onto the porch. He could feel the vibration through his shoes.
    “Dolores!” It was Guilherme, in from the fields. He dropped the potato to his lap and snatched at the moustache. It tugged hard at his lip, finally parted with a slow stinging zzzzzzzip! and he tucked it into the cuff of his sleeve. He fumbled with the vegetable and hunched over his work.  The door at his back swung open with a long creak and he felt the weight of the foreman’s hand on his shoulder. “There you are. What’s for dinner?”
    “I thought a potato omelet and greens.” He said, pitching his voice higher as Guilherme demanded. He held his breath until the foreman grunted assent and stomped away, probably on his way to the parlor for his pipe. Adolph sighed and finished the potato quickly. Each day was a  triumph of the will, he reminded himself: one day survived, one day conquered. One day closer to his eventual resurrection. He stared blindly at the window-framed view of the Braganca district with its sloping green hills. He would endure.
It was a very long way from Berchtesgaden.