Phenomenal

I read that Maya Angelou will appear on the U.S. quarter. That’s pretty cool. This is my favorite poem by her. I think I read it first in my 20s. It is called Phenomenal Woman and talks about an alluring woman verses a physically beautiful woman. Here is the full poem at the Poetry Foundation. A good and introspective read for young women:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48985/phenomenal-woman

Another great one is the poem And Still I Rise. It has a universal quality, referencing the human condition and tenacity of spirit.

https://poets.org/poem/still-i-rise?gclid=Cj0KCQiA8vSOBhCkARIsAGdp6RQLUwmra2CFqmqFVp-VWGU8HX03J8QeF3VrissVOVTsr3pX1M-CdCQaAqo3EALw_wcB

Choose Faith or Choose Fear

It’s a cold, cold night. The winter storm is coming. Tomorrow is supposed to be -35 degrees. I am warm inside the house. I let my dogs out for 5 minutes and then bring them back inside. They whimper because the ice is frigid. It hurts their paws.

The storm is coming.

I could worry about everything. Will my car start? Will I make it through the snow and ice? What about the storms at work? What if someone else gets Covid? What will we do? What about this? What about that?

What if…What if…What if…

2022 is not starting out well. We are stuck in a bad, bad approaching storm. Think about the economy, think about Covid, think about the supply chain shortages, think about this, think about that…..think about all the bad stuff on the news…….get all filled up with anxiety and fear. Get all angry and frustrated and all worked up.

Or…..

choose to stay calm. Choose faith. Not the crazy blinding stupid faith that totally ignores the potential dangers. No the kind of faith that informs the serenity prayer.

Lord, help us to accept the things we cannot change and give us the courage to know the difference between what we can and what we cannot do.

I went to Galilee when I was 21. It was a study abroad for a summer. We took a rickety old metal bus up to the Golan Heights for the day and then on the way back, we stopped at an outside cafe. We got the wild notion to swim in the Sea with our clothes on. I still remember the joy of that moment swimming in the Sea with friends.

It really wasn’t that big, the Sea of Galilee. You could see the other side….much like a big Missouri lake. I wondered then what the disciples were so afraid of when the storms tossed their boat around and the waves threatened to come over the sides. Why did they panic? Jesus was asleep in the boat and they came to him and asked him to save them. Now, I realize that they probably didn’t know how to swim. That would be scary for sure.

Anyway, he got up and told them to have faith and then he calmed the waters to ease their minds.

We’re all kinda stuck in a Galilee boat and we don’t know what to do and we’re worried that this dang disease is gonna drown us. But remember what JFK said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Fear causes anxiety and procrastination and arguing and in-fighting and endless stupid drama which only serves to compound our problems. It causes the blame game and finger pointing. People stop fixing things and looking for solutions. Instead, they just throw shade and throw each other under the bus in an attempt to save their own hide. Every man for himself like we’re on the Titanic and there’s only one lifeboat left.

Admit it. You’ve done this. I’ve done it too. But this time…

Relax. Stay calm. Stay the course.

We’ll get out of this.

The man who wrote the song Amazing Grace was once in a storm too off the coast of England. He tied himself to the boat and he asked for mercy. He came through the storm and gave up his profession of slave trading. He went on to become a prolific preacher and hymn writer and we still sing his songs to this day.

It’s getting colder and colder outside. I could sit here and worry myself to death about the endless possibilities of what could go wrong. Or I could sit here and write something encouraging.

I choose to write.

A Frosty Christmas

We drove to Manchester airport to pick up Mom and Dad for Christmas. We drove northwest through the White Mountains in the thick snow and ice. 2 interstates were closed nearby but we continued slowly onward. Nonetheless, we took the road less traveled to Franconia and the snowy path led uphill to Robert Frost’s home.

Robert Frost is considered the quintessential American bard or poet. He lived from 1874 to 1963. Right before his passing in Boston, he delivered the inaugural poem for JFK.

Robert Frost won 4 Pulitizer Prizes and the Congressional Gold Medal. He was born in San Francisco but moved alot. He lived primarily in New Hampshire and England where he was influenced by Ezra Pound, Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, and Robert Graves. Frost went to Dartmouth and Harvard. He first published in 1915. He published 2 books called North of Boston and A Boy’s Will. His poetry quickly amassed a great following and by 1920, he was known all over America and beyond.

2 Writing Publishing Opportunities

There is a new climate change-focused website that is publishing prose and poetry. It is called XR Creative and can be found at https://www.xrcreative.org. I got a message from the Joplin Writers’ Guild about the new site so I submitted a story called Golden Child about a young boy during the climate crisis. If you want to submit prose or poetry, they are accepting entries. Check it out! Great stories and great opportunity to get published and share your ideas.

Also, I submitted 2 stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul. Remember these fantastic books in the 90s? I had several of them and I still have the Mother edition today. Love these books. I wrote a story about Christmas and one about dogs. The submission deadline for most of the Chicken Soup books is around March or May 2022. The website is super easy to use. Check it out at http://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/submit-your-story.

Be Like Christmas

By J. Speer

Have hope like Ralphie,

Be a friend like Snoopy and Woodstock,

Be wild at heart like the Yeti,

And larger than life like the Abominable Snowman,

Be as persistent as the Nutcracker,

Be as perennial as Frosty,

Protect your family like a Polar Bear,

Ring true like Silver Bells,

Be loyal as a St. Bernard mountain rescue dog,

Get your angel wings by helping others like Clarence Odbody,

Never give up like Susan Walker,

Think fast like Kevin McCallister,

Be a blessing like Tiny Tim,

Dance like a Sugar Plum Fairy,

Be a guardian like Jack Frost,

Be mysterious like Kris Kringle,

Dream like Anna,

Sing boldly like Elsa,

Be brave like Olaf,

Be sweet like Cindy Lou Who,

Bake cookies like Mrs. Claus,

Make everyone smile like Cousin Eddy,

Work hard like Buddy the Elf,

Believe like Scrooge,

Forgive like the Grinch,

Shine like the Christmas Star,

Be generous like Santa,

Give what you can like the Little Drummer Boy,

Lead the way like Rudolph,

and love with your whole heart like Jesus.

A Motivational Group

Since June 2021, a new online business has been helping men and women to excel. It is a regular weekly Zoom meeting with folks from all over the country. It is Wednesday nights at 8:00 pm Central Time. It is $20 a month through this link here:

https://possibilityjunction.org/ampy

Every week, the group members encourage each other in our various projects or life issues to tackle. The instructor is a psychologist as well and teaches things like how to identify and replace negative thoughts, how to focus on contentment and gratitude, and how to build confidence in yourself. It is the best and most affordable group therapy as well as group encouragement you will find out there.

There are members from Washington and Alaska and Kansas and Vermont so far. It is beginning to grow as well as there are plans for a retreat focused on meditation, yoga, and writing. This is a fairly new group focused on progress, self-love, self-motivation.

I encourage you to join. It is worth 20 bucks a month in the friendships you make and the communal advice you receive. It also comes with a daily Facebook Messenger group with daily aspirations and positive duscussion. The class welcomes people from around the world too through the use of Zoom. If you are from Germany or India or Israel or Nigeria, you are welcome. The instruction language is in English, however, but the group is very welcoming.

Give it a try. I am glad I did.

After my class last Wednesday, I felt better so I wrote a story on climate change and a little boy. I submitted it to a publishing group and they agreed to publish it. Sometimes the little push of group encouragement is all you need for personal growth and to keep an optimistic perspective. As Mel Robbins says, we have a prehistoric conditioning in our brains to be seen, heard, and celebrated by the herd or group. This is a group that makes you feel visible and part of a team.

Attitude Determines Altitude

Positive people manifest their future. They are not just lucky. Positive thoughts lead to positive feelings and positive behaviors which can lead to positive outcomes.

In the book Who Moved My Cheese, a scientist studies lab mice going through a maze. The scientist discovered that there were some mice that persisted in going through the maze no matter how many times their cheese was moved. Then, the scientist found that there were other mice that would get stuck in the maze when their cheese got moved. The scientist determined that the magnitude of success was determined by how much time a mouse sat and dwelled on the missing cheese.

What’s the point?

Thoughts determine feelings which lead to behaviors which lead to outcomes. Don’t dwell too much in thoughts and don’t dwell on the negative for too long.

I’ve been reading through my old blog posts and realized there was a strong positivity when I first started writing in 2019 compared to writing in 2021. Three years have come and gone and my writing goals or “cheese” have been moved a lot in that time. It’s probably the same for you.

I guess it’s time for a refresher. It’s time to get back to the basics and remember the reasons we start writing cause that can get lost in the journey as pessimism and comparison can set in.

Early on, my daughter shared this song with me. It’s called You Can Be Anything. I guess it’s a good reminder for bloggers/writers out there to stay on the lighter, more positive and hopeful side of things. Replace the I can’t do this with I can do this. Replace this will never be successful with so what if it isn’t? Most artists and writers are not successful in their lifetime but posthumously. It didn’t stop them from trying to create and it shouldn’t stop you either.

Consider for a moment that one of the most successful artists of all time, Vincent Van Gogh, who’s paintings are worth hundreds of millions now……he was not a successful painter in his lifetime and he was misunderstood and mistreated and died in misfortune. But now look at Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The world is a lot better place with his paintings…..don’t you think?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRYuV2JAj00

The Locket

By J. Speer

Photo by Bruno Castelli on Pexels.com

(This story was written for a dystopian writing challenge. The short story had to be 600 to 2,000 words and involve a silver heart locket.)

Part One


It wasn’t supposed to happen like this…


That was the last thought entering Dawn’s mind as her shocked eyes pulled away from the rearview mirror. In the reflection, she could see the slow pool of blood flowing out from her sister’s abdomen. Liz was crumpled in an unmoving heap on the ground 15 yards behind her. That was as far as Liz had gotten before the robots fired lasers at her fleeing the vehicle.


LIz was dead for certain. Dawn knew this already in her shattered heart. The shadows of drones flew overhead targeting her renegade F390 truck.


Her eyes darted to the glove compartment briefly and then drew back to the gathering robot border patrol guards. Dawn thought of the only weapon she had, an ancient Colt 1911 that had belonged to her father before he was euthanized by the People’s Republic in 2064. This was 17 years prior to this moment….her Dad euthanized at 50 to fertilize soil for the republic crops……euthanized by state mandate like all the other 50 year olds that surrendered their bodies for the greater good. State survival…it was necessary.


The laser sights flickered briefly to show the robots were on to her movements, armed and deadly. Dawn swallowed harshly.


A brief text appeared before her.


“You know what to do.” scrolled the incoming message left to right above her briefly on the digital windshield.
There was another pause as she considered the weight of the silver heart locket on her heaving chest.


“You know what to do.” the message repeated only this time it was followed by a slight command strong enough to stop her beating heart.


“Remember your family back here in Teyhanna.”


A solitary tear fell down Dawn’s right cheek as she continued to stare at the border crossing now filled with reinforcing robotic sentries. No more messages appeared.


Dawn reached quickly for the heart-shaped locket with her left hand. The laser lights flickered again. Four robots forcefully came forward.


“Halt!” They ordered. “You are in violation of ordinance 517.”


She thumbed open the tiny clasp on the locket. Her eyes were glued to the robots coming forward now, fast approaching the vehicle.


She felt the small pill fall into her cupped hand. She remembered what the cartel man had told her. You can’t allow yourself to be captured. If you do fall into their hands, you will wish you were dead anyway. They’ll never let you go. Slavery…prison….fertilizer….worse. You know what to do.


The robots slammed their fists into the hood of her car. Dawn closed her eyes and brought the little pill to her mouth. Then, she swallowed it down. Cyanide. He had said it was cyanide. It will be quick he had said as he had handed her the lockets and walked away from her little brother’s graveside in Teyhanna, the brother that was executed by the same cartel. He had gotten in over his head with the wrong sort of people.


Minutes later, robots yanked open the locked driver side door of the truck. Dawn’s limp, lifeless body fell in a crumpled up heap onto the dry, parched desert ground. When her head hit the ground, her soulless eyes stared towards her sister. A sort-of bluish foam pooled out from Dawn’s breathless lips.

Part Two


One week prior, Dawn was heading out the hatch door of her apartment flat in Drose. She was going to be late for work if she didn’t hurry. She activated her truck from her watch and noticed an emergency alert intercept from her older sister, Liz. Liz – the wise and strategic one who had married into wealth and fortune despite her upbringing…..despite the days of their youth trudging illegally across the desert wasteland between Drose and Teyhanna to reach the promised land. Days without food and barely any water…..days they survived by each holding tight to the hands of their father who kept the little girls safe, alive, and kept them going.


Drose, or rather The People’s Republic of Drose established in 2036 after the nuclear wars and eventual climate change desertification of 3/4 of the Earth’s top soil, depletion of the fresh water sources, and final death, destruction, plague, and general famine of the Great Eradication of 2041 through 2043. It took 3 years for nearly 7 billion people to be wiped off the planet.


Gone.


Drose had survived and so had the badlands of Teyhanna, south of Drose through the searing hot desert. Anything goes in Teyhanna…so they say. It was the wild, wild west of drugs, prostitution, murder, mayhem, black market deals and so on. Teyhanna fueled the abundance of Drose. Drose, for its part, drove the decisions of the overlords of Teyhanna.


Drose, The People’s Republic of Drose, on the otherhand was a model of thinly veiled democracy underlined by totalitarian extremism. There were no families, so to speak, in Drose….not according to the state. Bioparents birthed children who were sent immediately to boarding schools of advanced technology, science, and medicine. Rules were strictly enforced. Slavery and debtor prisons were re-introduced. From the age of 10, all were expected to work together for the greater good of survival and all were expected to help the crop cultivation and soil/water conservation through all means necessary…ALL means necessary.


It was a harsh reality but one much better than life in Teyhanna. Dawn knew this, so she grew up to service the plant industry cultivating seeds in labwork. She was a hard worker…like her father. LIz, on the other hand, due to beauty and charm…caught the attention of one of the higher class. She was not completely like Dawn, a proletariat citizen.
Dawn checked the message. Liz seemed upset which was rarely her outright nature, given that she was quite guarded emotionally.


“John has……I’m sorry to say this, Dawn……John has passed away.” There was a pause on the line. “Mom…she wants us to come home, to come back to Teyhanna for the funeral and to see the family. The funeral is Wednesday.” Another pause on the line followed.


“He was executed by gunshot. Bullet to the head. I’ve decided to go….to go back. I know it’s dangerous. I know this already. I’m going anyways. It’s been years. We need to be there for Mom and the others.”
Liz sighed. “Dawn, I want you to come with me. I need you to come with me.”

Part Three


She could see them from the graveside, the men in black. Everyone was dressed in black at the funeral but they stood out from the rest, these men that had murdered her brother. They had pulled up their entourage of vehicles 100 yards away from the little service among the crowded tombstones of the clustered graveyard. The preacher gave a brief sermon. Others cried tears of hardship and loss feeling the injustice of a life taken violently and too soon.
But Dawn watched the men quietly.


They eventually approached. They offered their condolences to the grieving mother and family. Dawn and Liz looked cautiously at each other as the leader of the group motioned them to follow him to a more distant spot to converse. Knowing this was Teyhanna, knowing the way of life here…..they reluctantly followed. The others from the family were leaving group by group back to their little homes and little lives in the barren, crowded wasteland slums of Teyhanna.
“My condolences to you for the loss of your brother,” he offered in feigned respect. “We had concerns regarding this situation…your brother’s allegiance and fealty to our….operations.”


Dawn felt a rising anger inside herself that she knew not to expose. Without missing a step, the two women fell in line with the overlord’s assistant. He walked a ways in silence and then turned abruptly.


“Our needs have not been met yet,” he said deliberately, cocking his head to one side. “When you return to Drose, you will be required to carry something onward for us….a gift for the magistrate….a package. Do you understand?”
The women said nothing.


“Consider your brother’s debt to the organization cleared when and if you cross the border successfully,” he stated.
He continued to walk and they followed.


“This package will come to you,” he said in a low voice as he motioned to one of his bodyguards holding an assault rifle near the vehicles.


Then he smiled. “You will deliver. Your family here will be counting on you. Understood?”


“It’s simple really. Just deliver the item. If however, you face….opposition…,” his voice trailed. “We will need you to wear these.” He gave the women each a silver plated locket. “There will be no compromising of the course of action. Come, follow me further and we will discuss in more detail.” He motioned once again to his men.


Liz and Dawn continued to listen quite carefully as was to be expected in a violent, notoriously black market place like Teyhanna. A few days later, the package arrived at their mother’s house. Shortly afterwards, the two said their goodbyes and made their way with the package to the border of Drose. Both women had a deeply unsettling feeling of fear but they did exactly as they were told.


They just didn’t anticipate what would soon occur. The package was hidden carefully in the truck undercarriage. But it was not secret enough to avoid exposure to the vehicle imaging scans of those silent, deadly drones overhead.

A Cloistral Comedie

by Janea Speer

Chapter One

In the mid-eve moonlight of midsummer amid the mountains of Moldavia, high in the belfry of a monstrosity of a monastery, sat a family of mice munching the most marvelous Muenster cheese and musing over the daily menials of the monks below. These monks made money by maintaining milk cows, whose milk they sold to Mr. Muscovin, the village manufacturer of such mouthwatering morsels like marzipan macaroons and marmalade madeleines. Mr. Muscovin’s merchandise garnered global attention and appraisement.

The mice mused over the monks’ meal administered earlier, how each enjoyed watching the master chef’s main course served of meatballs marinaded in marchand de vin sauce, mince pie matched with veal marsala, marrow beans, and diced manzano peppers with a smidge of mustard and to complete the magnificent meal……a hardly miniscule selection of peach melba, maple bread pudding, and mint mousse covered in mocha meringue.

On this most momentous of meal occasions, the monks had been joined by Monsignor Mikhail Munson, a man reportedly rumored by some to have risen from modest means, most handsome, and well-mannered. His looks were perhaps a mixture of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern, a heritage that had remained mostly a mystery.

To his minor misfortune, Mikhail had gained the flattering yet recently rather miserable, most earnest and arduous attentions of the middle-aged humble-faced maid. In fact, even this morning, while polishing the marble tiles of the main foyer, the old maid glimpsed upon him once, twice, and three times or more. Her name was Martina and she had freely fallen madly smitten in amour. Once more, Martina was maddeningly determined in her mind to stay that way.

The mice attested that afternoon they saw her make sweets for the Monsignor. She also remembered and reminded the Monsignor of his mid-afternoon meeting. She mussed over the cleaning of his apartment quarters most methodically and that evening, Martina brought marigolds in a pot to his office. The mice mimicked and mocked her most earnest expressions, eagerly betting whether next there would be mums or minature roses and if the roses would be Mr. Lincolns or Matadors.

Despite these measures, Monsignor Munson felt most assuredly that his main focus must always be upon the monastic mission…………and yet……in his innermost thoughts and memories behind the facade of ministerial work, the marriage preparations, the many many baptisms, the myriad of confirmation ceremonies…………..behind this all, one could find a lingering and one might say even somewhat lustful mesmerizing moment………..a memory of musk from a certain town mademoiselle whom, for her part, never missed an opportunity to make a magnificent appearance in his quiet confessional after mass on the first Monday morning of each month.

These magic moments delighted the mice who managed to eagerly eavesdrop on the many woes and wiles, the guilty going-ons, the passionate pleasures of mankind as well each Monday morning after mass. They found this mannerism among these monolithic mammals…….this mournful whispering of wickedness from one human to another behind a closed curtain………the mice found this funny, rather remarkably raconteuring, and interestingly entertaining.

After a human murmured, the Monsignor generally motioned hand movements absent-mindedly. Sometimes, a man mentioned gluttonous and gargantuous meals partaken or perhaps, mean-spirited pranks performed. Sometimes, a woman stammeringly spoke of love lusted and lost only to be replaced next by another less worrisome woman with regretful racy remarks of riches reaped rather repugnantly. Run of the mill rumors and such………these were voyeuristic voyages of fun and fancy for the mildly entertained mice.

The mice often mimicked the mannerisms of the mainstays, the men and women who appeared as always mentioned the same bothersome behaviors with apologetic addiction. The mice would fall into fits of fun at the appearance of Andrei the Alcoholic with his after morning ale induced arse acoustics. There was Felina the forlorn and furry-lipped female fussing and forever fine-tuning her contrite confession or Vladislav the slovenly sleep-deprived schemer of steamy seductions. Vladislav, of his own volition, vied for the vestal, the virginal, and virtuous with a veracity quite vivacious and nearly volatile. Refusal, resistance, rejection, even running away remained out of the range of compassionate comprehension for this irreprehensible rakish rogue. Many a conquest had been conquered and cast aside by the incorrigible cad. His persistance paid off and all passionate pursuits eventually ended in ennui, resistance resultant in reluctant resignation until the next tantalizing target taunted and teased Vladislav. His confessions were concise and seeemingly not nearly contrite nor compassionate to Vlad’s victims. Rather, Monsignor realized this confession was more like a careless celebration of criminality to a confined comrade. The monks, for their part, depending upon their demeanor, were either captivated or captive to concern.

And as always, there was the mysterious mesmerizing mademoiselle, the yen of secret and seductive yearning for Monsignor Mikhail who sat upright most rigidly and abruptly aware upon her arrival, clumsily clearing a cumbersome cough.

If you queried one of the riveted rodentia in the room, he would delightfully detail and descrive the mademoiselle, the maiden, in these terms: hair the color of Camembert, skin silky soft like baked Brie, cheeks colorful as cheddar cheese wheel wax, eyes green as Gorgonzola, elegant eyelashes as brown as Brunost, luscious lips lovely as Port Wine and Pate. She was both breathtaking and quite breathless, speaking softly and sensuously in her eager yet innocent enticement of the Monsignor Mikhail, leaning lightly towards love engagingly and entreatingly. The witty and willing wordplay witnessed by the mice combined with the uncomfortable concealment of obvious obsession amused the mice most avidly who also leaned in, hushed and hungry for humor and hilarity.

Monsignor Munson had a friendly following, a female fan club among the mice. These foppish foolish femme fatales were also quite taken with the tempestuous trampish tales of voracious Vladislav. They often giggled gayfully and grinned at each other while gazing over the ledge of the hole above, eagerly entertained by the events transpiring on the tiled floors below. The scenes seen there played out persistently like a salacious soap opera.

Other monks of the monastery amused the mice as well. The blustery and bold butcher, the cheerful crew of chefs cooking in the kitchen with their agile associates, the apprentices. Then, there was the gaggle of gregorian gardeners who tended turnips and tomatoes. They labored lovingly over leeks, lettuces, lovely lumps of potatoes, parsley, parsnip, corn and cucumbers, broccoli, and butternut squash. The elder exploratory monks also gathered wild woodland items. In the forest, they forraged for fruits, fished the field streams, picked pine nuts, or hunted and harvested mushrooms in the marvelous middays of March through middle May.

Meanwhile, inside the monastery every morning, amid legions of ledgers labored Jurgson, the meticulous mindful manager of money, accounting for all assets, listing and labeling liabilities, examining expenditures, preparing payments for purchases, and as almost always accruing active above-par profits. By each breakfast, this brilliant bookkeeper could be found buried in budgets or balances, busily bearing oversight to this oft overlooked occupation with diligent degree of duty. Jurgson was the journalistic juggernaut, the cornerstone, the cog in the wheel, always writing up, writing down, or writing off……the unsinkable, unflappable, unstoppable, unleveraged, under no conditions under the weather underwriter. Jurgson was the masked master of the monastery, the manager of most everything. Simple and succinctly spoken, Jurgson was the money man. Without his lofty leadership, all labor would be lost, liquidated.

Joyless Jurgson witnessed the whimsical workmanship of the writers in the adjacent wing with a slight sum of sinful inevitable envy. Those monks did meaningful and masterful work manufacturing illustrious illuminations on manuscripts for individuals at an almost indescribably extravegently exuberantly even outrageously over-the-top price. These monks’ detail work was delicate, delightful, and dedicated, earning the ears of the attentive aristocracy. Lords and ladies placed purchase orders frequently for their handsome handiwork, gracious gifts for baptisms and births, communions and christenings, marriages or ministry work.

A portion of these priests penned proverbial pamphlets. Some paperwork prohibited passionate premarital propositions. Others championed the choices of charity, chastity, and Christianity. A cursory consideration of the combined contents would reveal that tithing proved to be the truly treasured topic.

There was here, Theodore, the thoughtful scribbler of scriptural studies. His wealth of writings wittingly reflected the theological thoughts and theories of Thomas Aquinas. His essays were entirely devoted to divinity of the Trinity and tributes to the triumphant Triumvirate.

Clearly, however, his companion, Janus, was best described as a dreamer. He wandered through his days most willingly in wild worlds of wonder and innocent imagination. His half-hearted help was easily distracted by daydreams. Often times, on many an occasion, hidden underneath his handiwork sat a secret story scribbled in stolen ink. Thoughts of thespians and powerful playwrights overpowered his senseless senses…..the spectacle of the stage lingered loftily in his cloudy circuitry. Hindered by his humble guard in appearance alone, he often fled to the fairy world, to the Twilight Realm of regal Titania. He imagined the heroics of Herculus verses Hydra, of pernicious Puck, of Phoenix the firebird, of Pegasus riding the romantic winds on widespread wings. He loved the legends of the Lemures haunting amid hidden Roman ruins. He thought of Turks traveling across treacherous tides journeying to the Jinns, ancients arisen before Adam, earthly entities essenced with enlightenment. He considered the ceaseless castigation of Cain pursued and persecuted by the relentless raven that quote with neverending “nevermore.” He dreamed of dragons amid darkness of distant depths, sea serpents arising from the abyss to shipwreck sailors, and guessed at the gravelly gruff voice of the Gryphon. These forages through fantasies filled the youth’s yonder days beyond the drudgery of duplicating designs delegated to drawing table. If one glimpsed or glanced, perusing into his private paperwork beneath the pile of diligent designs, you would foray into his foremost fascination for the moment, the mythological mysteries of exotic Egypt.

You see…..sadly, our secret Shakespeare, Janis was juggling between dreams and drudgery dutifully due to following his father. The framework of his future had been forecast. As the second son in a series of sufficient senatorial statesmen that were perfectly political polished, the younger brother was bound and buried under the woeful weight of the family reputation. This stoic self-sacrifice was suspiciously expected of the earnest lad who loved the theater thoroughly. His forays into fancy would be repressed most rigidly by a father for whom libidinous lasciviousness among the ladies was legendary.

On the day of poor Janis’ departure to the dreary and dark path of disciplined monstacism, his dear mother, a woman wearily well-hardened to weeping, was witnessed mourning most wimperingly. Her eldest son would follow most fool-hardedly in the father’s footsteps and she feared that the future of her free-spirited Janis would forever be stifled and stymied in stern studies of scripture.

So it was with good motherly guidance and generous gifts of gold that Janis found himself arriving in the artistic arena of the most Medieval monastery of Moldavia. His mother assumed this would be an affiable arangement, this avenue of artistic expression for her most beloved and blessed son of sons. On his first day, amid mounds of illuminated manuscripts, Janis sat stupified by the mastery of it all. Apprenticed quickly, he adhered to the arts and arose most rapidly through the ranks to an illustrious illustrator position. He was mentored by his fellow named Frederick.

Janis found a fast friend in Frederick and another artist, Jorge. Frederick designed with delicate fingers. He labored long and lovingly over each line, adding details at his desk and showing the simple boy how to brandish a feathertip freely. Jorge, on the other hand, was gregarious, good-natured, and given to generous gulps of grape wine tasting resulting in an equally generous waistline. He was generally a jolly fellow unless harried by hangovers which he had half-often. With great gusto, he could call together comrades from cell within cell of the medieval monastery to partake in a mere parlay, a performance of jests, jokes, and jigs. He favored this frolicking fun and frowned with less fondness for the enduring of engaging yet endless activities of artwork.

At this point in the story, I am apt to point out the pivotal protagonist of the play. You may ask, “Is he not mindful Mikhail, the man mired by mysterious amour? And what of wandering and whimsical Janis or dearly dedicated and diligently determined Jurgson? Are not their tender turmoils and lingering longings prompting to purposeful prose? Alas, although arguably they are agreeable additions to this silly story, these characters’ fortunes are not fated to be forecast for tonight.

No, not at all. The one who occupies center-stage quite unceremoniously, the central cortex to this cloistral comedie, is none other than a negligible and not nearly noteworthy, nine year old orphan new today to the most medieval monastery of Moldavia. His name is Nigel.