A literary journal by the Westfarthing Inklings
[Issue # 12 ~ April 2014]
SPECIAL POETRY ISSUE!
letter from the editor
Last month our President, Mr. Ransom, asked you all to submit a poem written by yourselves in observance of National Poetry Month. And this evening, after much hard work, we get to see what everyone came up with…
– G.K.C., Editor
jokes & riddles room
STRANGER THAN FICTION (The Stella Awards – Part II)
(submitted by the Editor)
[Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Combine that fact with the greed of humanity and our exuberant propensity to run into accidents and blame them on anyone but ourselves, and you get these absurd lawsuits that have been filed in real courts over the past decade.]
#1. Wanda Hudson, 44, of Mobile, Ala. After Hudson lost her home to foreclosure, she moved her belongings to a storage unit. She says she was inside her unit one night "looking for some papers" when the storage yard manager found the door to her unit ajar -- and locked it. She denies that she was sleeping inside, but incredibly did not call for help or bang on the door to be let out! She was not found for 63 days and barely survived; the formerly "plump" 150-pound woman lived on food she just happened to have in the unit, and was a mere 83 pounds when she was found. She sued the storage yard for $10 million claiming negligence. A jury found Hudson nearly 100 percent responsible for her own predicament -- but still awarded her $100,000.
#2. Rhonda Nichols. She says a wild bird "attacked" her outside a home improvement store in Fairview Heights, Ill., causing head injuries. That's right: outside the store. Yet Nichols still held the Lowe's store responsible for "allowing" wild birds to fly around free in the air. She never reported the incident to the store, but still sued for "at least" $100,000 in damages. In January 2006, the case was thrown out of court.
#3: Doug Baker, 45, of Portland, Ore. When Baker took in a stray dog, he said "People thought I was crazy" to spend $4,000 in vet bills to bring the injured mutt back to health. But $4,000 was nothing: he couldn't even take his girlfriend out to dinner without getting a dog-sitter to watch him. When the skittish dog escaped the sitter, Baker didn't just put an ad in the paper, he bought display ads so he could include a photo. His business collapsed, since he devoted full time to the search for the dog. He didn't propose to his girlfriend because he wanted the dog to deliver the ring to her. He hired four "animal psychics" to give him clues to the animal's whereabouts, and hired a witch to cast spells. And, he said, he cried every day. Two months into the search, he went looking for the dog where it got lost -- and quickly found it. After finding the dog, he sued the dog sitter, demanding $20,000 for the cost of his search, $30,000 for the income he lost by letting his business collapse, $10,000 for "the temporary loss of the special value" of the dog, and $100,000 in "emotional damages" --$160,000 total.
MUMFORD ON BLUE – Chapter 8
(by Gandalf Kipling Chesterton)
“Where did you come from?” asked a little girl. She was standing in front of a small group of wide-eyed children. Her dark hair was tangled and her eyes were cavernous, and she carried a lamp in her hand.
The man stood contemplating them for a moment, his hand on the bridle of a mud-speckled grey horse. Then, without warning, he did something unexpected. He threw his head back and laughed.
“Over the hills,” he said. “And far away!”
Guilliam slammed a fist into the stone wall of their room. “Perfect!” he said. “Send away the only visitor we’ve had in half a century. Absolutely brilliant tactical maneuver, your Excellency. You are to be congratulated on your foresight.”
He stood still for a moment, his eyes staring into the dark, and then banged his head against wall in a kind of frenzy. “No, we don’t need any aid here, my good sir,” he said bitterly, in a wild fashion. “We’ve got this covered, thank you very much. Many thanks, warrior from the courts of the King in Karlyle, but no thanks.”
Catartha was looking for the children, and distraught at finding no sign of them in the room, but there was something strange and uncharacteristic about Guilliam’s feverish outburst, and it made her afraid. She put a tremulous hand on his shoulder, but could find no words to insert into the loaded silence. He closed his fingers over her hand, and she was startled to find them cold and clammy. “I’m sorry,” he said in a whisper. “I’m sorry.”
Aerdan had been standing in the hall when they entered the room. He had said nothing on the walk back up the passages, and seemed to be warring with himself, plunged into turmoil and second-guessing. Now he came in, carrying the light, and the anxiety on his face was being overtaken by an expression of confident disdain.
“If by warrior you mean a senile madman–” he began.
Guilliam cut him off. “For goodness sake, Aerdan. There’s no need to be flinging hyperboles around like black eels. If you mean to say he’s a bit eccentric, no one can argue with you, since we’ve none of us been given even the slightest opportunity to prove you wrong. But as to his being an old man, come now. If he’s an old man, you’re far past your prime. Be fair, Aerdan.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ve grown dull with waiting for a myth, and you’re seeing what you hope for, and not what is there.” Aerdan stood in the doorway, speaking derisively.
“Catartha,” Guilliam said, a hint of desperation in his voice. “What did you see? Is all this darkness and disappointment driving me mad? Wasn’t he young and strong?”
Catartha felt trapped. In part, because the boys were behaving so wildly, and the constant bitterness of the quarrel, day in and day out, was wearing her down. But in addition to the unrest in the room, she was troubled by something else: she couldn’t honestly tell whether the stranger had been young or old, for she did not know. He had seemed to her to be everything at once, an unfathomable personality.
“I—don’t know,” she faltered. “I couldn’t see him well—in the dim light.”
“You’re afraid!” Gulliam cried.
“Come on, Catartha,” Aerdan put a gentle hand on her shoulder, but spoke fiercely. “The truth is the thing that we all need. I know you don’t want to hurt Guilliam, but can’t you see it will hurt him more to keep him in a fairytale?”
Catartha shrunk away from him and buried her face in her hands, “Oh,” whispered painfully, “I don’t know.”
The boys stood glowering at each other over her head. Guilliam’s face was ashen and blank, Aerdan’s contorted with anger. In the tension and excitement of the past week, he had been vicious – he knew it – and absorbed with care. But there was only one thing in his sadly limited world that he loved more than Catartha, and that thing was the consciousness of his love for her.
To love someone makes a man humble, for the beloved fills up his vision, and he cannot fix his mind on anything else. But for a man to know he loves someone, and to think on it, can make a man arrogant.
So it was with Aerdan, who cherished the idea of his love for his sister, and sometimes cherished it so much he forgot to love her. It was this idea that set his eyes blazing at Guilliam and locked the room in strife. And into the strife of the room, someone came walking.
He came in with Gavin’s bony legs dangling over his shoulders. Eachan’s small fingers were hidden in one of his hands, and Yaela’s in the other. “Cartha, look!” the little girl said. “Look at who found us! A man from over the hills and far away!”
THE HIGHLANDER’S QUEST – Part 11
(by Irene Adler)
It was midnight, three days since Lindsey had been taken. The men of the McKeith, Macdougal, and Lennon families, from the eldest Uncle all the way down to Malcolm, were hidden in the darkness of Rutherglen. The plans had all been made and finalised, with the help of some contacts of Will's from the town. Blair, Irving, Ham and Fergus had already taken up positions beneath the high window into Lindsey's cell. Uncle Hamish, Tam, Malcolm, Ewan and Uncle Archie were near the gate, with their eyes on the six guards that stood outside, while Uncle Angus, Uncle Graham and Kenneth stood ready to secure the courtyard as soon as the gate opened. Will and Ivor stood under the shadow of the walls, waiting for the signal. They waited a quarter of an hour, then saw Blair's rope in the air. Sounds of a scuffle came from the gate area. Will took a rapier from it place at his side. His pistols were loaded and secured in his belt, but the sword would come in handy while surprise was still needed.
"Shall we?" Will whispered to Ivor, who also had his sword in hand.
"After ye, Cousin," Ivor replied.
Will held the sword between his teeth, and took hold of the large uneven stones of the wall. Ivor followed him as he slowly made his way up the wall. As they neared the top, they could see Blair on a rope, climbing hand over hand to Lindsey's window. Just above Will's head was the top of the wall. He placed a hand on it, and pulled himself higher. Heavy footsteps sounded nearer then he would've liked. They stopped just a foot or two from him, on the other side of the wall. A swift stinging sensation swept across his knuckles, then drops of something wet and dark in coloring streamed down his arm. Pain shot through his right arm, all the way to his fingertips. He gripped the wall harder than ever with his left hand and pulled himself over the wall, almost hitting the dragoon. He took the sword from his mouth, but soon realized that he couldn't close his hand around it. Will ducked under a blow and switched the sword to his left hand. When he looked up, Ivor was over the wall and had finished off the dragoon. Will slid past him and dispatched the second dragoon running toward them.
"Open the gate," Will said to Ivor, who swung down from the battlement and dropped to the ground.
Two more dragoons remained on the wall. Will had more trouble than usual to finish them off, but managed, finally. He swung down to the courtyard in the same manner as Ivor, and met Uncle Angus as he entered. Kenneth, Malcolm, Uncle Hamish and the others followed close behind. Tam, Ewan, Uncle Graham, Ivor and Malcolm separated off from the others and climbed up to the battlements to deal with the remaining exterior guards. The door into the main entryway of the halls opened from the inside, and Ham appeared around it.
"Uncle Angus! Lindsey's missing! Her cell was empty when we got there. Blair sent me tae tell you tae come as quick as ever ye can. They must hae been takin' on't entire garrison when I got out."
"Aye, Ham," Uncle Angus answered. "They may well be. Hamish!"
Uncle Hamish stepped around Uncle Archie, up to Uncle Angus.
"We'll take all still with us but Will and Kenneth, and lend a hand. Will, ye'll be looking for Lindsey."
"Uncle, I can go by meself. Ye'll need every last spare man."
"Will-" Uncle Angus began.
Will broke in: "I'll tell Uncle Graham and t'others tae follow ye up when they've done."
Without another word, he ran off before his uncles could argue. He saw them turn and enter the main hall. After calling up to Uncle Graham, he turned and ran up to the stables, entering quietly, and gently closing the door behind him. The darkness hid him from the sight of any who might be still in the stable. There he sat and waited for a few minutes. Finally, a door opened and two figures entered. One, he felt sure was a dragoon, but the other he couldn't make out. It was draped in a cloak, with nothing but an arm showing from beneath it. The dragoon had it by the arm and appeared to be pulling it to the other end of the stable. Will drew his dirk and threw it by the blade at the dragoon. It stuck into the wall just in front of the dragoon. The dragoon stood, stunned a moment, then drew his sword and turned to the shadows that concealed Will. Will sprang out of the shadows, kicked the dragoon's legs from under him, and drew back to strike off his head.
"Will, wait!" Lindsey's voice rang clearly in his ears. Will lowered his sword.
"Aye, Will. I'm alright. Don't kill Charles, please."
Charles started to get up, but Will put his foot on Charles' chest and forced him down again.
"Charles?" Will asked Lindsey, pinning Charles by his shirt to the floor with his sword. Will stepped over him toward Lindsey. "Since when di' ye take tae calling dragoons by their first name?"
"Since one helped me escape," Lindsey replied, matter-of-factly. "He's Lieutenant Charles Blakley."
Will glanced back over his shoulder at Charles.
"Indeed. And can we trust Lieutenant Charles Blakley, do ye think?"
"Aye, Will, I think sae...For now."
Will shrugged and pulled his sword out and pulled Charles up to his feet.
"Will," Lindsey said, pulling his dirk from the stable wall. "Yer aim is off..."
"Me left aim is the same as it's always been.
"Left?" Lindsey asked.
"Me right is a bit incapable at the moment."
Will demonstrated, placing his sword in his right hand and watching it fall to the ground. He picked it up and showed Lindsey the back of his right hand, sliced across and spattered with the blood that had covered it only ten minutes before. Lindsey nodded and handed him back his dirk.
"Where are the others?" she asked.
"Where we thought ye were, I suppose.”
"Then shouldn't we be off in that direction?"
Charles had listened to the conversation in silence up to this moment. But now he found his voice:
"I would think that, due to the fact that the situation is rather intense, both I and your brother would be too deeply engaged to protect you."
Will smirked and turned toward the door to the main hall. Lindsey entered close behind Will. Charles followed them and stood in the doorway.
"Lindsey and I never pass up any opportunity to lend a hand to our kin," Will said, while adding another dirk to his belt.
Lindsey took a short sword from a rack on the wall, along with a dagger and belt, which she secured around her waist. A brace of pistols was added to this, and a pair of dirks in either boot.
"Ready?" Will asked.
"Aye, when ye ere," Lindsey answered.
Charles shrugged and followed as Will and Lindsey dashed up the stairs. The sound of conflict grew louder as they neared the hall. They turned a sudden corner, came under the archway, and viewed a sickening sight...
THE PRINCESS & THE HEDGE-PIG [by Edith Nesbit]
PART II (submitted by Sarah Nebrot)
The cellars, which were really extraordinarily fine, were secretly decorated by the King's confidential man and the Queen's confidential maid and a few of their confidential friends whom they knew they could really trust. You would never have thought they were cellars when the decorations were finished. The walls were hung with white satin and white velvet, with wreaths of white roses, and the stone floors were covered with freshly cut turf with white daisies, brisk and neat, growing in it.
The invitations were duly delivered by the baker's boy. On them was written in plain blue ink.
'THE ROYAL BAKERIES
1 loaf 3d. An early remittance will oblige."
And when the people held the letter to the fire, as they were whisperingly instructed to do by the baker's boy, they read in faint brown writing:
'King Ozymandias and Queen Eliza invite you to the christening of their daughter Princess Ozyliza at three on Wednesday in the palace cellars.
'P.S.-- We are obliged to be very secret and careful because of wicked fairies, so please come disguised as a tradesman with a bill, calling for the last time before it leaves your hands.'
You will understand by this that the King and Queen were not as well off as they could wish; so that tradesmen calling at the palace with that sort of message was the last thing likely to excite remark. But as most of the King's people were not very well off either, this was merely a bond between the King and his people. They could sympathize with each other, and understand each other's trouble in a way impossible to most kings and most nations.
You can imagine the excitement in the families of the people who were invited to the christening party, and the interest they felt in their costumes. The Lord Chief Justice disguised himself as a shoemaker; he still had his ole blue brief-bag by him, and a brief-bag and a boot-bag are very much alike. The Commander-in-Chief dressed as a dog's meat man and wheeled a barrow. The Prime Minister appeared as a tailor; this required no change of dress and only a slight change of expression. And the other courtiers all disguised themselves perfectly. So did the good fairies, who had, of course, been invited first of all. Benevola, Queen of the Good Fairies, disguised herself as a moonbeam, which can go into any palace and no questions asked. Serena, the next in command, dressed as a butterfly, and all the other fairies had disguises equally pretty and tasteful.
The Queen looked most kind and beautiful, the King very handsome and manly, and all the guests agreed that the new princess was the most beautiful baby they had ever seen in all their born days.
Everybody brought the most charming christening presents concealed beneath their disguises. The fairies gave the usual gifts, beauty, grace, intelligence, charm, and so on.
Everything seemed to be going better than well. But of course you know it wasn't. The Lord High Admiral had not been able to get a cook's dress large enough to completely cover his uniform; a bit of an epaulette peeped out, and the wicked fairy, Malevola, had spotted it as he went past her to the palace back door, near which she had sitting disguised as a dog without a collar hiding from the police, and enjoying what she took to be the trouble the royal household were having with their tradesmen.
Malevola almost jumped out of her dog-skin when she saw the glitter of that epaulette.
'Hullo?' she said, and sniffed quite like a dog. 'I must look into this,' said she, and disguising herself as a toad, she crept unseen into the pipe by which the copper emptied itself into the palace moat--for of course there was a copper in one of the palace cellars as there always is in cellars in the North Country.
Now this copper had been a great trial to the decoraters. If there is anything you don't like about your house, you can either try to conceal it or 'make a feature of it'. And as concealment of the copper was impossible, it was decided to 'make it feature' by covering it with green moss and planting a tree in it, a little apple tree all in bloom. It had been very much admired.
Malevola, hastily altering her disguise to that of a mole, dug her way through the earth that the copper was full of, got to the top and put out a sharp nose just as Benevola was saying in that soft voice that Malevola always thought so affected:
'The Princess shall love and be loved all her life long.'
'So she shall,' said the wicked fairy, assuming her own shape amid the screams of the audience. 'Be quiet, you silly cuckoo,' she said to the Lord Chamberlain, whose screams were especially piercing, 'or I'll give you a christening present too.'
Instantly there was a dreadful silence. Only Queen Eliza, who caught up the baby at Malevola's first word, said feebly:
'Oh, don't dear Malevola.'
And the King said, 'It isn't exactly a party, don't you know. Quite informal. Just a few friends dropped in, eh, what?'
'So I perceive,' said Malevola, laughing that dreadful laugh of hers which makes other people feel as though they would never be able to laugh any more. 'Well, I've dropped in too. Let's have a look at the child.'
The poor Queen dared not refuse. She tottered forward with the baby in her arms.
'Humph!' said Malevola, 'your precious daughter will have grace and beauty and all the rest of that tuppenny-halfpenny rubbish those niminy-piminy minxes have given her. But she will be turned out of her kingdom. She will have to face her enemies without a single human being to stand by her, and she will never come into her own again until she finds--' Malevola hesitated. She could not think of anything sufficiently unlikely--'until she finds,' she repeated...
'A thousand spears to follow her to battle,' said a new voice, 'a thousand spears devoted to her and her alone.'
A very young fairy fluttered down from the little apple tree where she had been hiding among the pink and white blossom.
'I am very young, I know,' she said apologetically, 'and I've only just finished my last course of Fairy History. So I know that if a fairy stops more than half a second in a curse she can't go on, and someone else may finish it for her. That is so, Your Majesty, isn't it?' she said, appealing to Benevola. And the Queen of the Fairies said Yes, that was the law, only it was such an old one most people had forgotten it.
'You think yourself very clever,' said Malevola, 'but as a matter of fact you're simply silly. That's the very thing I've provided against. She can't have anyone to stand by her in battle, so she'll lose her kingdom and everyone will be killed, and I shall come to the funeral. It will be enormous,' she added, rubbing her hands at the joyous thought.
'If you've quite finished,' said the King politely, 'and if you're quite sure you won't take any refreshment, may I wish you a very good afternoon?' He held the door open himself, and Malevola went out chuckling. The whole of the party then burst into tears.
'Never mind,' said the King at last, wiping his eyes with the tail of his ermine. 'It's a long way off and perhaps it won't happen at all.'
But of course it did.
To be continued...
The following compositions were written and submitted by our own dear Inklings in honor of National Poetry month.
UNTITLED OBITUARY FOR A KITE
(by Rosie Cotton)
One bright day, after the night
I decided to fly my kite.
I thought it quite alright, you see,
To fly my kite beside a tree,
But how foolish of me
To think of flying it by a tree!
But solely on account of me,
It is stuck up in a tree.
And to this day,
I see it sway,
And remember to keep all kites away.
THE RUSSIAN WINTER OF 1812
(by Aline Kercadiou)
[Author’s Note: In 1812, the proud French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte attempted to take Russia in a six-month long campaign that stretched throughout at least four harsh winter months. Throughout the bitter campaign that followed, Bonaparte lost approximately 380,000 men. Some estimate the casualties as closer to 450,000. These deaths were not caused by bombs, machine guns or missiles, nor even to bayonets and inaccurate single-shot muskets, but exposure to sickness and freezing temperatures. Upon completing some rough calculations of my own, I discovered that just the casualties of this campaign would constitute a square battle unit of 670x670. More men were lost in the campaign on Russia than either Britain or America put into the field during the entire Revolutionary War or during the War of 1812, better known as the French and Indian War, going on at the same time in America. In the entire invasion of Russia, Bonaparte only crossed blades with the Russian army a few times. The tragic loss of life was due mainly to natural causes.]
Open your mind and close your eyes,
And follow me if you can,
To a land where the snow never melts,
Where the lonely tragedy began.
Imagine the boots on a frozen plain,
The wind a howling whirl,
Their banners flying through the storm,
And through the gale unfurled.
The wind whips through their tattered ranks
And leaves its icy grasp
Upon the hearts and souls of each,
As through the plains they pass.
Long have they traveled upon the road,
And longer still have they to go,
Through wind and rain and hail and sleet,
On paths of freezing ice and snow.
Troubles mark their slow progression
And thousands will fall before the end,
For an icy rage in the hand of Winter
Is a fearsome foe to offend.
The cheerful rays of a summer sun
Have long since fled this land
There is no hope of victory,
But the troops go marching on.
The snow stretches across the fields
But melts with the coming rain
Churning the paths to a treacherous mire
Slowing the fated campaign.
Along the road lie the bodies of men
Half-covered with ice and snow
And horses lay prostrate and rigid,
Under the silent shadow.
The march is cruel and terrible
Men fall and fail to rise,
“Winter is with the Russians!”
That is their final cry.
Indeed, what other reason can there be?
To explain this woeful tale,
For if Winter were with the Frenchman,
Then her sons would not have failed.
UNTITLED CATASTROPHIC BIKING NARRATIVE
(by Darcy Lewis)
One bright day, I was riding along,
Whistling a tune and singing a song,
When suddenly I hit a huge bump,
Which made me and my bike kerplunk.
I hit my head, so that it bled,
Plus I had ripped my jeans.
Also, my bike was no pretty sight,
As you would see.
My wheel was twisted,
And I was unassisted,
So, dear, what could I do?
LIMERICK PERTAINING TO CELERY
(by Gandalf Kipling Chesterton)
A boy, hating celery (he was quite sure)
Cried, “Oh, the sad day that I listened to her!”
He explained with a wince,
“I tried it once, since
My sister said it was a caterpillar.”
THE EARTH SPEAKS
(by Peggy Carter)
Quiet, but not silent,
Nay, the sounds of the ages surround me
Sounds of long ago and sounds waiting to be heard
Music of kings' courts and the music of the bird
The wind blows words that only angels understand
But we'll find out, yes, we will
We'll unriddle the mystery
Buried in the sand.
Quiet, but not silent,
Oh, how much that I have learned!
Father, let me not forget it!
Let me pass it to the world,
Let me pass it to the world.
The sounds of the ages surround me.
(by Irene Adler)
Silver waters through forest flow
In their travel to the sea.
Sun beats down and gives it glow
Wind still softly whispers “flee!”
Bubbling, boiling, rise and fall,
Swiftly flowing, all the while
Slipping past, without recall
Either roaring, or docile.
Follow the river, if you can.
Leave behind the home.
Take the path that leads to sand,
And see the river turned to foam.
EDMUND VOTES YES [after Prince Caspian]
(by Gandalf Kipling Chesterton)
She said it in three words, “Look, look, look!
The mane and the golden fur!
Over the gorge on the mountainside—”
The others were not so sure.
We were so footsore and so worn,
chasing our muddled maps.
And maybe she had been right, but maybe
she had been wrong, perhaps.
Twice on the nays I have staked my claim;
the stories were much too rich.
But the wardrobe opened upon the wood
and the queen was a wicked witch.
So if all of my days have narrowed to this,
a way that I cannot guess,
and you see the lion upon the road,
“Yes, little sister, yes!”
(by Elwin Stanhope Ransom)
We were running by the river
All beneath a starry sky
We were running for the sunrise
While the river rushed on by.
And she asked me, “What does love mean?”
And I laughed and kissed her hair
Love is in the running river
Love is in the holy air.
We were dancing by the water
All beneath a midnight moon
We were dancing in the darkness
To a wild woodland tune.
And she asked me, “What does love mean?”
And I kissed her hand and cried
Love is in the dancing water
Love is in the starry sky.
We were laughing in the shadows
All beneath a summer night
We were laughing on the hillside
As we watched the dying light.
Then she asked me, “What does love mean?”
And I simply turned away
Love is sleeping on the hillside
Love is waking up the Day.
Then the sunset came between us
And it washed the sky with blood
And I knew that it was over
And I knew that it was good.
Then she asked me, “What does love mean?”
But I cried for her to wait,
And the world crashed down around me
When they carried her away.