Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Trade

I wrote this for the Almost and Inkling Creative Writing Contest put on by the Mythgard Institute last year. It was a flash fiction contest, the requirements for this particular piece being 1) it must involve dragon(s), and 2) it must be 500 words or less. I managed to come in at exactly 500 words (at least according to Google Drive's word count), which brought me some small sense of accomplishment.

I didn't win the popular vote or a literary prize, but I did get a literary honorable mention.

The small girl walked through the broken landscape, picking her steps carefully, lest she injure her bare feet. Her dress was clean but threadbare, her long hair tied back by a scarf. She stopped to sit on an opportune rock. She admired some wildflowers at her feet, tried to catch a ladybug, and saw a chipmunk poke his head out from beneath a rock. She took the time to speak to them all and give them names.
After a time, she continued on her way, slowly up a long slope, away from the trees and houses below, up across the rocks and scree, and into the desolation she could see above. Up there, somewhere, she knew, she would find the Green Great Dragon. From above, her house looked like all the others. She had never come so far up before. Somewhere down there, her mother would soon notice she was gone. Maybe she would return before then.
She walked until she reached the cave, and then she took off the sack she carried on her back, put it down on the ground, and took out of it a small bundle of cloth. Leaving the sack on the threshold, she walked into the cave.
When she saw the dragon, she hesitated. He was so very big, and she felt foolish now, having walked here alone. She stood, caught between going on and going back, when the beast's eyes opened, slowly.
"You are either very brave or very foolish to come here, little one." His voice was so deep, like the sound of the world itself. "I so rarely get visitors, though, and never one so pretty." She was terrified of him, but he had called her pretty, which made her happy.
She found her voice. "You took my father."
This amused him, which was a rare thing. "I take many men. Have you come looking for vengeance?"
The little girl hadn't expected the dragon to understand right away. "No. You did what dragons do. He wasn't nice, and I wanted him to go away. Mummy is sad now, but she'll be happy again."
"Have you come to thank me? That would be most novel." He almost laughed.
She shook her head. "I need his sword back."
This was so absurd that he did laugh, a deep rumbling. He was filled with so many questions that he could only ask, "Why?"
"It was my mother's father's sword. Father took it because he thought he deserved it. I didn't think you'd want to give it back, so I brought a trade." She unwrapped the little cloth bundle to reveal a gold brooch, small but intricately detailed. "I found it on the bank of the river."
The dragon recognized its value immediately, as dragons do. "That could buy you many swords, little one."
She smiled at great creature. "I only want the one, though".

It was hard to carry the heavy blade back down the hill, but she was a brave girl, and strong.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

In Which I Look Back on Recent Years and Decide to Make Changes

I was a student at UC Santa Barbara for something like 7 years. I wasn't a student the whole time, mind you. I think that if I added up all the quarters in which I actually registered for classes, it'd be more like 5. Whether taking classes or not, though, I lived in IV (that's Isla Vista for those who are unaware), I did stuff on campus, and generally tried to act like a student, hoping that no one would somehow deduce that I wasn't able to hack it that quarter. (I did, eventually, graduate. With a degree and everything.)

While I was there, I started dating a particularly nice girl who, with a great deal of time and patience, would help to break me out of some of my more juvenile habits. (Later, she very graciously consented to marry me.) According to her, one of her friends, on being introduced to me, said something like "that's the guy that's always walking around reading."

I was really good at walking around reading. There's a certain degree of skill required to do that at UCSB without being killed by a bicycle. I had honed my skills to the point that I could even cross bike paths, in the middle of the day, without becoming a statistic. And this girl had apparently seen me walking around campus with my nose buried in a book often enough that I had become, to her, Reading Guy. She was amazed that I hadn't been run over. I like to pretend that I don't crave notoriety, but even now, 15 years later, this fills me with an indescribable feeling of joy. I was a Guy, who had a Thing, and my Thing was reading.

In light of this, I was distressed to realize, on December 31, when my wife told me that she had read 35 books in 2013, and was less than 100 pages from finishing the 36th, that I couldn't come up with even 10 books I had read in the last 12 months. I read to the kids every night. Last year we read The Hobbit, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Wind in the Willows,  and I'm sure there are others. I had apparently forgotten to read anything to myself, however. I had paid very close attention to Twitter and Reddit, and had been engaged in some heated contention for control of Culver City on Ingress, but there had been little time for books. I have decided that I need to change that this year.

This isn't one of those "social networks are evil" posts. I still use Twitter, though I did reduce the number of people I follow. I gave up on Facebook quite a while ago. Since I started reading again on New Year's Day, I haven't launched Ingress more than once. I gave myself a challenge on Goodreads of 30 books this year, and I've already read 7. According to Goodreads, I'm 4 books ahead of schedule.