penpusher: (Travel Channel)
It happened very fast. I came home from school and I only had a little bit of homework, and it was a nice day, so I was going to go with Diego to the beach and look for shells and coins that the turistas lost in the sand.

But just as I put my bookbag down, Mama made me change into pants with extra pockets and a t shirt and a sleeved shirt AND a jacket AND a hat! And she made me put on boots.

Hace mucho calor por este,” I told her.

“Where we’re going it won’t be too hot,” she said.

Then we ran away from the beach and towards the middle of town.

Mama told me there would be a day when we would leave here. She said it many times, but it seemed like a dream that would happen maybe when I grew up.

A freight train was stopped near the town square, and as we got there, I could see some people climbing into one of the cars. A man with a straw hat and a scar on his chin helped Mama and me inside.

It was a little dark but I could see there were maybe veinte other people in the car. The man who helped us didn’t get in. Suddenly, the train jerked and we were moving.

Mama breathed a sigh of relief and nodded at me. “We’re on our way!”

For the longest time there was nothing to see except trees, vines and sometimes a train going the other way.

“Everything will be fine, once you get across the border,” Mama said, smiling at me. “Your Tío and your primos will be waiting on the other side.”

“Once WE get across the border,” I said as the train entered a tunnel.

“Yes, darling,” Mama said, pulling me close to her. I squirmed away.

“I’m not a baby anymore, Mama. I’m nine years old. Almost ten.”

“Almost ten,” she said, just to remind me I still wasn’t. “I know you’re not a baby. That’s why we’re making this trip!”

Mama wanted me to focus only on what was ahead, not what was behind us.

In order for us to go, I had to leave all my things. Mama told me this many times before when we talked about it. I didn’t have many things, just some clothing, my soft blue slippers that I liked to wear when I got out of the bathtub that Mama gave me two Christmases ago. My racecar collection, but I did sneak a couple of my favorite cars in the pockets of the pants I was wearing before I left. My fairy tale book, and a few others, including my diary. And of course, Osito.

I tried hard not to think about Osito. He was always waiting for me on the couch where I slept, always ready for un abrazo. He wasn’t very big but he was too big. We couldn’t carry anything, not a suitcase or even a shopping bag. But, Mama promised that once we got across the border, there would be even more wonderful things waiting.

Giving up Osito was the way of proving I wasn’t a baby anymore.

There were other kids riding along with us. A few were younger than me. I wondered if they got to say goodbye to their other relatives and friends, or if they left without even an hasta luego, like Mama and me. There was almost no talking. I could see the faces of the adults were afraid. Mama just kept smiling at me, so I knew everything was okay.

“Maybe they don’t have un Tío waiting for them.” I said to Mama.

“We’re very lucky,” Mama smiled back.

The clack clack sound of the tracks was loud, and I knew we still had a long way to go. When Mama fell asleep, I crawled over to try to say hello to a couple of the other kids. One boy who caught my eye smiled at me. I took out one of the cars, it was the car from “Volver Al Futuro” and his eyes got big! I guess he saw the movie, too! I rolled it over to him. He caught it! Then, he rolled it back.

We were rolling the car back and forth and it was fun, but then the train started slowing down, and his parents pushed him away. He smiled at me. I rolled him the car back. He picked it up as I crawled back to Mama. He was going to throw it back to me, but I shook my head no. He smiled again and his parents put him between them.

We had to be totally quiet as the train came to a stop. I had practiced not moving at all so I was el mejor. It seemed like we were there for a long time.

We made three stops like that on the way and each time everything went fine, except the second to last, when a little baby started crying. His mama took out her breast and put it in his mouth and that kept him quiet. I laughed a little, but Mama told me not to look.

Maybe the train made another stop or two when I went to sleep. But the next thing I knew, it was morning and we were coming into a big rail yard with a lot of other trains around us.

Mama was looking out and around to see where we were. She took an envelope out of her pocket and looked at a map inside. She showed it to me. It was a hand-drawn map sent by Tío Manuel. We had to go North, toward a barb wire fence. Tío would meet us and get us through!

When the train stopped, Mama waited. The other people quickly left, right away. Mama told me to not move and we stayed quiet, right in the car.

A few minutes later we could hear the sound of people running, horrible screaming, and the call of policía.

Mama shook her head and I understood. Those people were caught. They might be going to jail, even the boy with my car.

As their voices went away, Mama hopped down to the ground, then turned around and reached up for me. I hopped back into her arms and for a moment she squeezed me so tight, I thought I would pop!

We started weaving between the train cars, she was in front, making sure there were no other people in our path.

As we got close to a fence, I could see there was a very dangerous looking man standing, and I jumped back, just as the man turned towards us.

Mama grabbed my hand. “That’s your Tío Manuel! Run to him! ¡Arriba!

It was just straight ahead, and I don’t think I’ve ever run faster. But then, from behind me, I heard Mama.

¡Aquí estoy!” She screamed as I got close to the fence. “¡Aquí estoy, Ven a encontrame!

A guard who I didn’t see near the fence moved towards her voice. “¡Ella esta aquí! ¡Ayuda!

I started to scream out “Mama! Mama!” but before I could, Tío put his hand over my mouth and pulled me through the fence. He put me into a sack and the next thing I knew, we were moving fast. I could peek through the top of the sack and see I was in some sort of truck or van that smelled like fruit and dirt, flying away from the train. After awhile, I fell asleep.

Now I am here. In a place I do not know, with people I do not know, with things I do not know. They promised to take me to La Tierra de Disney and that we could see a movie every week. And that I can have three meals every day. And they bought me new toy cars. And I share a bedroom with two other primos. I do not care about these things. I want to go back to Diego and look for shells on the beach. I want to find Osito waiting for me when I get home from school. I want Mama.

//

This story was written for LJ Idol, using the prompt Take a hike
penpusher: (History Channel)
Note: This piece is a segment from a novel I am currently writing. This is, in fact, the first time anyone has seen any segment from it.

The set up: the story’s protagonist has entered an alternate version of Earth and is still in the process of understanding and coming to terms with where he now is.

In order for him to comprehend the facts of this world, he has been brought to an archive and is in the process of viewing a series of newspaper articles, magazine clippings and television news and entertainment programming. At this point, he is viewing a special series of talk shows, collectively called “The Human Summit” which premiered Dick Cavett's late night talk show from ABC studios in New York.

Presented June 3 through 7, 1968, the weeklong series of programs featured interviews, songs, conversations and performances all related to “The Big Issues” as Cavett understated at the beginning of the week: The war, racism, poverty, crime. Guests included Dick Gregory, Harry Belafonte, The Smothers Brothers, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, Dr. Ralph Bunche, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, George Carlin, Julian Bond, Aretha Franklin, Pete Seeger, Richard Pryor, Robert F. Kennedy and on Friday, June Seventh, the concluding night of the series, we pick up.

---

On screen: a title card with a still frame picture of the Mall in Washington DC filled with people. In the upper left corner, taking up a bit of the sky, is the logo for “The Dick Cavett Show.” and in the lower right corner, a figure waving to the assembled multitude. It is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The screen fades back to Cavett, seated in a chair on a darkened set, and he turns to his right.

“I think it’s only appropriate that you introduce our next and final guest.”

The camera focuses on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he nods back at Cavett.

“It is a very special thrill to be able to introduce someone who I consider an important voice in the struggle for equality. She is going to perform a song that is both beautiful and meaningful. So, I would like to present my friend, Miss Joan Baez.”

Under the rumble of applause, the screen crossfaded to Joan, standing on a darkened stage, in a spotlight, a guitar threaded over her shoulder, as she saluted the audience behind a microphone stand with two mikes, one at her mouth and the other positioned in front of the instrument’s soundhole. The applause of the live studio audience faded and Joan leaned in, smiling delightedly.

“I'm honored to have been chosen to be the concluding part of a very important week of programs about issues we must discuss. And I have to say, it’s a special thrill to be introduced by Dr. King under any circumstances,” Joan noted, “but none more than when I am doing a world premiere performance of a song I have dedicated to him and to the Equal Rights movement. And that means it is dedicated to everyone.”

The audience applauded.

“I am joined tonight by the magnificent Edwin Hawkins Singers.”

The lights came up on the group, camera left of Joan, dressed in white smocks over blue tunics, much like a church choir. Choirmaster Edwin Hawkins, in a blue suit that matched the fabric of the tunics, took a bow to applause and acknowledged his group before the shot returned to Joan.

“The song is titled ‘The Lie.’”

Joan began to play her guitar and sang the lyric:

The founding of the nation
Began on the plantation
Everybody knew that this was true
The tobacco and the cotton
But also something rotten
Creates a harmful place for me and you.

The millions of those slaves
In chains for all their days
Forced against their will to work or die.
White owners knew full well
Human property was Hell
And so began the story of “The Lie.”

Protecting all the guilty
Simplicity so filthy
Some people would deny it ever was.
The reason, clear as day
Preserving the white way,
Of everything that hate and evil does.

- CHORUS -

The legacy we reap is what they’ve sown.
Human beings are not meant to own.
But those in charge would never answer why.
We covered up that sin,
So now we must begin
To finally come answer for “The Lie.”


“The Lie” was a decision,
A choice made from derision,
To claim that some were better than the rest.
The shame was a conceit,
A reason to mistreat,
All done to make the claim of being best.

At long last, slavery ended,
And everyone pretended
In a way that wasn’t much more than deceitful...
Jim Crow then ruled the day
Those freed slaves had no say
They were separate, but not at all like equal.

The hatred and the dread
In every guilty head
The worry for revenge they thought would come,
Whites let “The Lie” live on
And made sure they did give on
While handing out not much more than a crumb.


- CHORUS -


Now after all the fights
To win their equal rights,
The laws did change at last to rectify.
But society’s fulfilling
Only after we are willing
To destroy the ugly filth that is “The Lie.”

So strongly held in place
As populations face
Fear and anger aimed at all the others.
The divide that this created
Is what keeps us separated
We all are equal sisters, equal brothers.

It might have just been sad
If all the things done bad
Were simply from some passive rash insistence.
There was a clear agenda
Treat black folks like offenders
Though we know skin color does not make a difference.

Between the black and white,
We have to make this right.
Remove the hate and fear that lies within you.
Each ensuing generation
Will face a racist nation
If we permit “The Lie” to just continue.

Final Chorus:

The legacy we sow is what they’ll reap
The promise that was broken, we must keep
The stakes we face have never been so high
We cannot shy away
For tomorrow, for today,
To bring a final end to this damned lie!



As the sound of the Edwin Hawkins Singers soared to the heavens and Baez struck the final chord on her guitar there was a pause. It was, perhaps no more than two seconds of airtime, but within the space of that complete silence, everything happened. The audience breathed a moment to have taken in what they just heard, the music and the meaning. Cavett and King got to feel the landscape of both the performance and the audience. And Baez had a moment to wonder if the audience liked or hated the song.

But then the explosion of applause followed and cameramen struggled to quickly turn their lenses around as the house lights came up on the audience's wild standing ovation!

Cavett simply stood with Dr. King, both of the men applauding as the audience continued to cheer, Cavett wiping his eye as the show’s final credits rolled.

//

This excerpt of Proxy, North Carolina was specifically prepared for LJ Idol using the prompt No comment
penpusher: (Trump)
It was the Spring of 2015 and Tronald Dump angrily marched through the Art Deco lobby of 30 Frockareller Plaza. His once popular reality television game “The Annoyance” had hit a low for Nielsen ratings and the network expressed their intention to cancel it.

“I’ll get them.” Dump muttered to himself as he pushed his way through the revolving doors onto the crowds of tourists. He could have taken the limo but the warm spring day felt like a stroll back to Dump Tower would clear his head.

A flea market was set up on a side street near the Dalworf hotel and The Tronald, uncharacteristically, was drawn to it. Or maybe it was the attractive raven haired woman, wearing a harem style costume, who was operating a stand in front of a tie-dye tent that drew him over. Their eyes locked and Dump was compelled to approach.

“This is a great, great tent.” Dump nodded, looking around. “May I come inside?”

The woman gave him a look of suspicion. “I don’t think you know who I am.”

“I don’t think you know who *I* am!” he responded.

She backed away; he pursued. Inside the tent he backed her against a table. Then, without a word, still staring into her eyes, reached his fingers between the folds of her pants and started to rub back and forth.

“No. NO!” She cried.

“Don’t worry. I have a very light touch.”

“Ahhhh!” she screamed.

“Hey. There’s something hard down here.”

“STOP!”

Mr. Dump stepped backward and when the woman moved, he could see what he was actually rubbing: the nose of a brass lamp. It resembled the sort of ancient lamp that people in ancient times used to provide light.

Sir, you have rubbed my lamp. I am a genie and I now am duty bound to grant you three wishes.

“Really? That’s terrific,” said The Tronald. “I could use some help getting revenge on some TV people who did something very bad and very stupid.”

“What can I do for this?” she asked dutifully.

“I’d like to..." Dump grimaced, which was his version of a smile. "I'd like to run for President of the United States.” Dump mused aloud. “It would make me world famous which would mean I would be able to make better deals with higher profile people, I would be on a first name basis with a lot of world leaders and that would tremendously help everything I’m working to achieve: making my bank account the biggest and the best in the world.”

In a flash he was in the lobby of Dump Tower, making the announcement that would change his life.

“Today I officially declared my candidacy for President of the United States.”

In the weeks and months that followed, his television persona, his stance and his constant repetition of the few things he did know kept his campaign afloat.

By the following summer, he became the Republican nominee, and all was well.

One evening, after the Republican Convention had concluded, Dump took a dinner with the woman.

“Everything went better than I expected,” cheered Dump, toasting her with a glass of grape juice, since he didn’t drink alcohol. “Now let’s talk about the next wish: getting me out of this campaign, favorably!”

“Mr. Dump, there’s something you should know.” The genie paused and breathed a sigh. “When you make a wish, you are not permitted to wish for something later that will interfere with that wish. It’s called ‘the non-contradictory clause.’”

“There’s nothing non-contradictory here!” scoffed Dump into his Sirloin.

“Your wish was to run for President!” the genie insisted. “Anything that interferes with that element will prevent the wish from coming true! I can't change that.”

Dump frowned, thought about it for a moment then stood up, wiping his mouth on the linen napkin and tossing it at her. “You’ve been no help to me whatsoever.”

“You can always quit the campaign of your own free will!” the genie tried.

“And lose all of the credibility I’ve gained from running?" he called as he walked away. "That’s no help, whatsoever!”

As the campaign progressed, Dump tried to do anything and everything to get people to detest him. He shouted racial slurs about people of other countries. He demonstrated a severe lack of knowledge about the most rudimentary foreign policy decisions. He even secretly leaked his own tape to the press showing him engaging in a conversation about abuses of women he had previously committed with a gossip show host. It got his buddy fired from his tabloid TV job, but had no apparent effect on his popularity.

On Election night, Tronald Dump watched as state after state voted for him to win the nomination, but stayed philosophical. Maybe this will be even better than I thought!

That changed immediately when he learned that he must reveal his tax forms to the American public. He ran to the bathroom to empty the contents of his stomach. But then, he learned he also had to divest himself of his company. He ran back to the bathroom to empty the contents of his bowels.

“No to the taxes! No to the company!” Dump screamed at the RNC honchos that visited his penthouse the Monday after the election.

“Sir, we're sorry. There’s nothing anyone can do.”

Then, a lightbulb.

Dump raced back to the tie-dye tent. “I can’t give up my company. That was the whole point of me running for this stupid office in the first place! And I DEFINITELY can't reveal my tax records!”

The genie nodded. “I’ve got you covered.”

Suddenly, magically, the tax problem and the conflict of interest issues about his business were rendered moot.

President Dump now had a path that was free and clear to do as he pleased. And he started signing executive orders, repealing people’s healthcare insurance, making an oil company CEO Secretary of State and having a grand old time with the Grand Old Party.

But all was not perfect. Hundreds of people began to protest Dump’s actions. Maybe it was thousands of protesters. He didn't count. But no matter the number, being popular was crucial to being successful! It was time to use that final wish to make himself the most beloved Commander in Chief in history!

Tronald Dump, heart light as a feather, raced on heels that flew back to the flea market, but the tent was gone.

Another merchant was slowly taking down his booth. Dump grabbed him by the shoulders.

“Please! What happened to the lady with the tie-dye tent?” Dump begged.

The gent paused, looked Tronald Dump right in the eye and said “She went home to visit her family, but then wasn’t permitted to return to the United States because of a travel ban. When she was forced to go back, she was killed in a terrorist incident.”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!”

//

This story was written for LJ Idol using the prompt: Where I'm from

Also Note: this is Tronald Dump's second LJ Idol appearance. His first occurred during Season 9:

Week [8] - Be Careful What You Wish For
penpusher: (Feet)
Sid and Nancy were having trouble. Not Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, Sidney Allen and his wife Nancy Clark. They met sixteen years ago at a college film seminar, having just seen the biopic about their more famous namesakes, and struck up a quick, hard, penetrating and mutually satisfying friendship in a bathroom stall while their friends hung out waiting to go to the diner for a post-screening snack and talk.

It wasn’t until mid-semester that everyone realized they were emulating the film, minus the heroin, and had sequestered themselves in Sid’s off campus apartment, coming out only for classes, food and fresh tampons and condoms.

Their wedding was right on campus at Bishop Chapel, honeymoon over their Senior Year Spring Break at Lake Havasu. And then nestling in to a decent suburb of Houston, where Sid could attend law school and Nancy could find worthwhile employment, nothing at all like 1977 New York.

Currently, the trouble was sex. Or no sex. At all. In college, all Nancy had to do was face away from Sid and bend at the waist and in seconds, it was happening. Now, when they did happen to be in the same room, they would be working through budgets or reading material for their jobs, her social work cases and his divorce attorney suits. Why couldn’t he see that he was on the path to irreconcilable differences himself, Nancy wondered.

One fateful evening, when Nancy was feeling especially lonely, she broke a rule and fired up Sid’s laptop. She wasn’t exactly “snooping,” and she promised herself if she found something “bad” she would pretend like she never saw it.

Sid didn’t password protect anything on his computer. There wasn’t a “porn” collection. Not even any photos of the three actresses he listed as his “free shots” if he ever met them.

But there was a file folder on the desktop labeled: “Jolie v. Pitt.” That was too tantalizing to ignore.

No, Sid wasn’t working a celebrity case, but in the plaintiff’s list of complaints, there was a link to an unidentified website. Nancy noted the address, shut down Sid’s machine and went to her own laptop to have a look.

A special club for couples and single women. Yes, with photographs and detailed descriptions. And yes, Nancy could feel her libido warming to the words and images.

She hurriedly filled out an application for Sid and her to attend the next “Gathering” as it was called, submitted the fee and the requisite photos of the two of them on a pink sand beach during their excursion to the British Virgin Islands, their last practical time off together almost three years ago.

Nancy was counting the days to the evening of The Gathering, still not even mentioning a word to Sid. She rented him a tuxedo, got a gown on consignment, purchased some new fabulous lingerie and greeted Sid at the door, without the gown, when he got home.

They immediately, eagerly and wordlessly started to make out, but before Sid could get too excited, Nancy backed away, showed him his tux, and went upstairs to dress.

Sid was very curious. A black tie event at an undisclosed location?

The twenty minute GPS directed ride deposited them near the center of a small town at what looked like an old-fashioned bank with Somerset door and columns. Their identification checked at the door against a list before entering.

Once inside, it was a decadent display. A runway where hosts and hostesses would parade, fashion show style, in various states of undress. A lounge with beds for sofas was already getting a light workout by early arrivers. Various people circulated throughout the room taking orders for food, drink or other items.

“What is this place?” Sid smiled suspiciously as they sat on a bed/sofa.

“Why hello, there!” A man in a dinner jacket and his companion, a woman dressed as a belly dancer both plopped down between them. “My name is Jackson and this is Kennedy. Kennedy sat up straight and that’s when Sid noticed he could see right through her sheer top.

Kennedy stared at Sid. “We’ve never seen you here before and we always like to treat the newbies.”

“Greet the newbies.” Jackson corrected. “Treating comes later. So, what brings you here? What are you looking to do?”

“I’m Nancy and this is Sid. I surprised him with this and I was about to explain it when you arrived.”

“Oh!” said Jackson, tracing Nancy’s leg with his eyes. “Let’s show and not tell. May I?”

Jackson got a smile from Nancy and he lifted her leg with his hand and removed her stiletto heel. He paused and sighed, then immediately removed her other shoe.

“Nancy. You have the most beautiful feet I’ve ever seen! Look at those toes Kennedy!” Jackson said, coaxing Nancy into pointing her pedicure straight out.

Sid was delivered a whisky as he watched this stranger wax poetic over his wife’s feet. Somehow though, Nancy was enjoying it. The guy was starting to massage Nancy’s soles and he was getting his face right in front of them for a very close look.

“What do you like Sid?” Kennedy smiled.

“I definitely don’t like feet, that’s for sure.” Sid sniffed as he downed the rest of his whisky in a gulp. “It’s the most disgusting part of the body.”

When Sid glanced back at Nancy, she appeared to be in some sort of ecstatic trance. Then, when he looked down at Jackson, he saw his wife’s toes in his mouth.

“What the hell?!”

“I’m sorry, but Nancy has really gorgeous…”

“Yes, you said she has gorgeous toes. How does that translate into putting them into your mouth?”

Kennedy placed her hand on Sid’s chest. “My goodness. Your heart is beating so fast.”

“What kind of freak massages and sucks the toes of a total stranger?” Sid was irate.

Nancy sat up. “Why are you screaming? We’re just having some harmless fun.”

“You call this fun?!” Sid said, loud enough for a couple of the hosts to approach their area. “Is that why you brought me here? Were you going to indulge your little foot fetish?”

Moments later they were back in their car, riding home in deafening silence. In fact, they didn’t say a word to each other until breakfast. Sid was eating a bowl of cereal alone in the kitchen when Nancy came in to grab a glass of water.

“You know, I just wanted a little excitement,” Nancy said.

“Where did you even find that place? Or was this something you have been doing without me?”

“It was in your Jolie v. Pitt file. A link to their website.”

“You took me to some sex club listed in my client’s complaint?!”

Divorce proceedings began the following Monday.

Jackson comped Nancy to Gatherings for the rest of the year.

//

This story was written for LJ Idol X using the prompt: Heel turn.
penpusher: (Obama For You)
Exactly eight years ago today, I wrote a post talking about the presidency of George W. Bush. He has just taken office two months before I started this journal in 2001. None of us could have predicted what would happen back in January of that year, through the tumultuous eight years that followed.

And now, it's time to do it again: time to look back on the job the White House resident did over the past eight.



President Obama didn't have a strong economy, like his predecessor had, entering the Oval Office. In fact, we were on the brink of both a nationwide and possibly a global depression when he took the oath of office.

So, he didn't get to just kick back and enjoy the first few months of his "honeymoon;" he had some serious business to attend to - and he did. Bailing out Wall Street, rescuing the Auto Industry and stabilizing our economy so that we would avoid a financial abyss. Certainly Republicans don't give proper credit for the decisive action President Obama took to get our situation stabilized in those early days, that set the tone for the rest of his term.

Osama bin Laden. The scourge of the west that never could be captured or killed, finally met his fate under the Obama Administration.

But there were many issues that still remain unresolved. Racism is still a very big issue in our country. Classism likewise has yet to be addressed. And, at least when it comes to our election, sexism was the story.

It's interesting to me how everyone is side-stepping what seems, at least to me, the most obvious and most likely reason Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump. She is a woman and we still have an issue with women being in charge of many things in this land including our government.

Knowing all of the provable facts about The Donald vs. all of the accusations against Hillary, you have to wonder how anyone would feel comfortable voting for a guy with that kind of record. But, if you believe that a woman shouldn't be Commander in Chief, you would vote for a man with twice the flaws.

And that's just the problem... he may actually have twice the flaws. We simply don't know yet because there's so much that he is keeping hidden.

Even as President Obama made his final press conference, a very different experience from Donald Trump's attempt to have a press conference, he tried to keep everyone calm, to reassure us that we are still here, that things aren't the end of the world until they are.

But that echoes the element I suggested that a President does best. Even in my summation of George W. Bush's tenure in Washington DC, I noted his greatest moment was an inspirational action - a perfect pitch from the mound of Yankee Stadium right after the 2001 attacks.

That was the kind of moment that makes you feel pride, it makes you feel connected, it gives you a sense of strength and that maybe we're going to be okay, despite how everything looks. That is where a president can shine the brightest and encourage citizens to take charge of their lives, to get up and do something similar!

And President Obama had many times where he needed to present such moments, usually after some mass shooting in some part of the country for a varying host of reasons. He was the Scoutmaster: helping us along but reminding us that WE, as citizens, needed to actually do the work to make it work, but that we could make it through.

What sort of message will our new leader send?

This is the last and final time I get to use this icon attached to this post. I made this icon specifically because as the President himself had said: I'm everybody's president. He truly thought about all Americans and their situations and circumstances and how to make improvements for people who needed help. He may not have gotten everything he had hoped to accomplish done, but he gave it his best efforts.

But before we conclude, I welcome and invite you to say what you think of President Obama here... good or bad. Talk about his policies, his efforts, his style, his singing voice, whatever!

Please leave a thought about him as we say goodbye, and thanks for doing so!
penpusher: (Ringling Logo)
The things that entertain us, as a collective audience, have changed drastically over time. I personally never attended a Minstrel Show, but I understand they were beloved by many in their day. Radio was a very popular element of people's lives, and I guess there are still some that listen to certain forms of radio broadcasts, but it's definitely not the crucial source it once was...

And even television has flattened and thinned and has been redefined to go to areas beyond the device itself, with websites producing programming, and our collective ability to watch programs on our computers and phones is more than proof of that.

But with all of these changes over time, there was one constant: The Circus. And by "The Circus," I mean THE Circus: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

A Legendary "Combined" show The Ringling Brothers originally had their own circus, P.T. Barnum, the ultimate impresario, had exhibits which he would display and tour and James A. Bailey teamed up with him. Together these three entities would help carry this particular form of entertainment that has been a staple in the American fabric for nearly a century and a half.

Before television, before filmed newsreels even, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus brought audiences into a world they never would have seen, otherwise. Animals from other continents right in front of your nose to watch perform... unique acts that would amaze, from aerialists that did multi somersaults, mid-air, to the big cat tamers that risked their lives in a cage with twenty tigers.

And then, there are the clowns, the heart of the show, there to bring a smile, a tear, and maybe even a thought about humanity as we go.

The term "Sensory Overload" could have been coined for this three ring monstrosity, that demanded you look everywhere at once to see everything going on! It was organized chaos and confounded and delighted millions throughout time.

So, we have heard the news:

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is closing in May.

Perhaps the writing was on the wall as of a couple of years ago, when New York's boutique show, The Big Apple Circus, shut down. A beloved part of the scene for decades with its single ring and intimate setting, even it couldn't withstand a difficult economy and an era where most people simply didn't care as much about the tradition of this kind of entertainment.

When I was a kid, the Ringling show would come to town and camped out at Madison Square Garden for an unbelievable thirteen weeks... practically every school in the tri-state area took a trip to see the show during the spring, getting the requisite box of popcorn, the cotton candy, and the tiny flashlight on a string that you would swing over your head during a show "blackout" as the Ringmaster would announce the next performers.

The Circus is a throwback to the past, an historic relic of the way things were. Most people had no way of seeing animals like zebras or elephants up close until the circus came through town back in the 1940s and 50s

And that is, of course, part of the problem. As people understood the elements of what it meant for animals to live and perform on a traveling show, there was a constant outcry over the conditions for them. No matter your feelings on this issue, the protests that occurred had an impact on the way the show functioned and how it progressed.

And even with improvements that helped to support the care and raising of these wonderful creatures, eventually the call for change meant not just an adjustment in what was appropriate, but a complete overhaul and eventual dismantling of that element of the circus.

Certainly with alternate, but similar forms of entertainment, with zoos and aquariums becoming more common across the country, and with theme parks starting to be available in every state, suddenly the interest in a show like this wasn't quite the same, either... and even the Feld family, who have been the producers of this show for decades, had also been creating other, similar entertainment, like ice shows, that perhaps had, in their way, cut into the profit of the tentpole itself.

Maybe you were a person who attended a Ringling performance every year, going when you were a kid, maybe taking your kids to see it when you had a family. Or maybe you didn't attend, but liked the concept of what a circus meant. There's a sort of mystical, magical element to a show, people working together, traveling the countryside, performing, bringing a smile, a laugh, a thrill, some positive elements to the lives of others before they move on to the next town - the addition of some excitement and color to an otherwise average existence. That's why the concept of "running away with the circus" held so much romance and charm... you could leave your life as it was and become a part of something that made life brighter, brassier, better.

The collective history of what was known as "The Greatest Show on Earth" had its share of tragedy. Jumbo the Elephant, The Hartford Circus Fire and more recently, some of our community were remembering the deadly Ringling Train Derailment of 1994 which was January 13th of that year, twenty-three years ago now.

There was also some positive inspirational elements too, as the film "The Greatest Show on Earth" won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1952. There was the Broadway show Barnum which won a Tony Award for Jim Dale. And now, almost as a final coda, we have a new film, titled "The Greatest Showman" with Hugh Jackman in the role of Phineas Taylor Barnum, due for a Christmas 2017 release.

Personally, Ringling changed my life forever. I might have remained in a stale retail sales job. Being a manager for a department store seemed to be my life's direction until I got the call to go to Clown College. Because of that, I got some wonderful skills which I still use frequently. I got some fascinating jobs over time which took me to some pretty interesting places. And most importantly of all, I got a wonderful collection of friends and I became a part of a family of sorts. There are less than two thousand people who completed Ringling's Clown College course over the nearly thirty year history of that institution, making this a very exclusive group. I'm both pleased and honored to be among those ranks.

Recently, clowns have gotten a worse than usual name because of the actions of a few. But despite bad publicity, various protests and other elements, circuses haven't gone away completely. There are still some out there touring, and even some in residence in particular locations, so we can't quite say the art form is dead, but this is a very big and very notable milestone that is imminent. This is the loss of a part of our collective family tree.

At the end of every performance, the ringmaster of the Ringling show would make a seven word statement to the crowd as they gathered their belongings, their family members, their souvenirs and their memories of what they just witnessed. It was a way of holding the concept of what the show was about to the hearts of those who attended. I can't think of any other way to conclude but by offering them again, now.

"May All Your Days Be Circus Days."
penpusher: (ABC)
As we are on the verge of a new presidential administration in the United States, many people are concerned, even fearful about what the look, the feel, the tenet of this next chapter of the American story will resemble. To me, a television trivia expert, the answer is very clear. It’s…

It's... it's... )
penpusher: (Universal Header)
Eight AM and Wayne stared at his IMDb page. One credit: his appearance in the action adventure film “Plants Are People Too 2,” not the original bio-friendly theatrical tale. His was the straight to video sequel with none of the actors from the first film, except for Dustin Diamond who reprised his role of Dr. Screech.

Wayne didn’t have a scene with Diamond, but saw him on set, when the actor was grabbing a burger at the craft service table. Wayne was too nervous to even say hello, and Diamond brushed past him as he went to get a bottle of beer before rushing back to the safety of his trailer.

Wayne dreamed of a career... )
penpusher: (Dean Wild Hare)
Hey!

This is my first ever cross post from my account at Dreamwidth, my alternate home on the internet. When I first got this Dreamwidth account, I did do a "First Post" on March 24, 2006, in what was my 5th Anniversary of my LJ. Unfortunately, that post was devoured when I transferred the entirety of my LiveJounal to Dreamwidth so that record is gone, but my journal is preserved, which I guess is the important thing.

It doesn't feel like almost 16 years of blogging. Or maybe it does. Or it really hasn't been because I took off months at a time when I wasn't writing here at all. But I do need a place to write, and there really isn't another like LJ er, DW.

I would make the following notes about the transfer.

1. It was extremely easy.

Despite going back through 2001 (and the handful of entries dated prior to that), it was just a couple of clicks to get the transfer set up and running.

2. It was successful.

Though I have heard that some people have dropped entries, my journal was transferred successfully without any issue - a feat that could be because I have a permanent account on LJ and now a paid account on DW. Though I also transferred a couple of free LJ accounts over (with a lot fewer entries, of course) and that seemed to have been fine.

3. All your LJ links remain LJ Links.

If you reference a LiveJournal post in one of your archived entries being transferred to DW, that reference will still point to the LJ link. That means, if you actually want to turn your DW journal into one that is self contained, you would have to go through and change those links manually to connect to the DW post you were referencing.

I expect that the same would be true going from DW to LJ. So that would be inconvenient, for certain... especially for me because I have linked pertinent entries to each other frequently and it would take a lot of patience to comb through all of the archive to adjust them all!

4. LJ user links remain unchanged.

If you have written the name of an LJ user in an entry, and that person had since changed their username, the original name still shows up in the DW post. I think that if you clicked the name, the link goes to a "non existent" user page. Again, this would have to be corrected on a post by post basis, manually.

5. When you edit your entry on DW, it automatically gets updated to your LJ!

I discovered this just now, but I had a typo on my DW entry and I noticed it when I was reading through the LJ version. I corrected it there, then found another on Dreamwidth. When I corrected THAT one, and came back to the LJ version, it was already fixed! Handy Dandy!

Meanwhile, are you on Dreamwidth? if you are, please add me to your journal there... I know a couple of folks like [personal profile] binaryorchid, [personal profile] jazzy_dave and [personal profile] ragdoll have done so already!

And yeah! On DW, to link someone's journal name in an entry, the term is

[user name=username] with the "[ ]" standing in for the "< >," just to get you up to speed on the HTML.

And if you have any other questions about transferring your journal to DW, let me know.
penpusher: (Pen)
2016 is not a year we are soon to forget. The choices that were made this year will have some long ranging effects on what the next several years ahead will be. First The United Kingdom voted to remove itself from the European Union, and then there was the small matter of the United States Presidential Election, who would succeed Barack Obama as the 45th President?

And instead of Mother Nature's frightening elements, it was man-made terrorism that became more commonplace this past year. Driving heavy trucks through crowds in Nice, France and Berlin, Germany. Bombs set off in Brussels, Belgium. Gunning down a nightclub full of people in Orlando, Florida. We really need to take stock of what's going on in the world, that there are those intent on causing mayhem and death. Where is this going? Are we headed into a world of anarchy or will there be some semblance of redemption? With refugees fleeing their homelands, trying to find a safe place to be, the question we sincerely have to ask is: does such a place exist?

Along the way, we lost a lot of really famous folks to boot. In just about every discipline there was a giant or two who fell. From the poet of the Sweet Science, Muhammad Ali to the Poet of Brokenness, Leonard Cohen... From the Creator of a Space Oddity, David Bowie to the last of the Original 7 NASA Astronauts, John Glenn... From First Lady, Nancy Reagan to Identical Cousin, Patty Duke... From "Life in the Fast Lane" co-writer, Glenn Frey to "Little Red Corvette" driver, Prince... From the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro to the head of "Arnie's Army," Arnold Palmer... From Brady matriarch, Florence Henderson to Wonka patriarch, Gene Wilder... From The Beatles' George Martin to Wham!'s George Michael, from Attorney General Janet Reno to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, From Holocaust survivor and author, Elie Weisel to To Kill a Mockingbird scribe, Harper Lee, and the daughter and mother movie icons, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds... to name just a few of the people who aren't joining us in 2017.

Back around LJ, the terrific [livejournal.com profile] low_delta and [livejournal.com profile] cynnerth were visiting NYC and they were nice enough to invite me along for a little get together where they treated me to dinner at Highlands, an authentic Scottish restaurant. Extremely tasty and the Whisky only added to the greatness of it! I got to return the favor, a little, by taking them to Serendipity3 for Frrrozen Hot Chocolates during an unseasonably cool and breezy May evening.

I actually had my busiest travel year since I started this journal in 2001. I got to Dallas in June, where I braved the under construction highways, visited the Texas Book Depository (O.A.A.), Got to see a Rangers game before they move into a newer swankier ballpark and caught a glimpse of the massive UFO that is referred to as AT&T Stadium. I didn't get to live out my "Lidsville" dreams, but I did at least see Six Flags Over Texas from my rental car windshield.

Then in September-October, I got to travel to the West Coast where I met up with several LJ users, including the always wonderful [livejournal.com profile] serendipity when I was in the Bay area, next the joyous and patient [livejournal.com profile] theda when I made my first ever stop in the Pacific Northwest in Seattle, where I suggested we each write an entry on each other's journals, and a person who has since become very much in demand, [livejournal.com profile] marieoroumania while I attended TwitchCon in San Diego. She's one of the top people over at Snopes.com and since my visit has dealt with a lot of "fake news" and personal attacks from people that want to claim Snopes is playing partisan with facts. Wish her all the luck you can for this year!

Meanwhile, I managed to squeeze in 4 more baseball games at four different venues, AT&T Park (not to be confused with the sprawling Texas sports venue) in San Francisco, Safeco Field, where there were 10 Blue Jays fans for every Mariner fan for that game in Seattle, Dodger Stadium, where it was Vin Scully's retirement night, and then Petco Park in San Diego, where it was Dick Enberg's retirement night. I got to attend several TV show tapings including "The Late Late Show with James Corden," "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "The Price Is Right." And I took a writing seminar at UCLA that I feel is really useful to my understanding of creating better and more compelling stories.

Speaking of writing, we're finally coming back to the issue at hand, my entries here in LiveJournal during the past year.

The third most popular entry was titled Terrorism, and Why It Never Works on July 11. Admittedly, this made the list primarily because of a back and forth I had with [livejournal.com profile] herwonderfulday who blasted me for being nonsensical and idealistic and for offering up no solution to what clearly is something that needs a solid response. My point of bringing it up at all (this was in the wake of the Orlando shootings a month earlier and just three days before the Nice truck attack) was in suggesting that terrorism never accomplishes what it hopes to do, so why is it still happening? It's still a question worth asking, maybe now more than ever.

At number 2, it was Twitter Expansion from January 7. Another compare and contrast LiveJournal to a different (and currently more popular) social media site, in this case, twitter. My thinking was that if there was more traffic, if more people are using the service, that would safeguard all of our journals on the internet to cherish and enjoy for as long as the internet is the way to do such stuff. Just as sure as music recordings went from cylinders, to 78s, to LP records, to 8 Tracks and audio cassettes, to CDs to MP3s and to the cloud which hosts everything, it's possible that we won't be working from computer screens and keyboards someday. Will we still be able to access what we want from our past lives via our Online Journals?

And this year's Number One Entry was a special case: it was LJ Idol X - Week [0] - Meeting The New Boss on November 9. Now, normally I exempt all entries that are associated with [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol because I feel that is a somewhat separate entity from the norm. But I allowed this for two reasons. First, this was a "pre Idol" entry, written the week before the competition began, and second, it fit a typical thinkpost, and I probably would have written this with or without Idol.

I often say that thinkpost entries aren't "know-posts." In fact, I really changed my assessment about the key factor in the election after letting some time pass and looking carefully at both the results and the history: Hillary is a woman and she lost states where "women's roles" are not as free as they are in other locations. I welcome a debate if you don't agree, but as far as I can see, the biggest determining element in how the vote went had nothing to do with the alleged "Crooked" acts that Hillary was accused of, or the health crisis that was getting a lot of play during the summer, or even the Russian hack. No. It was the fact that a brilliant woman still isn't good enough to beat the most flawed man we may have seen in any Presidential race in states that swung the election the other way.

In politics, sexism is even stronger and more powerful than racism, or at least that's the conclusion I came to after living with the results for a while. After all, black men were granted the vote in 1870. That's a half-century before the first woman could legally cast a ballot, just as one piece of evidence to demonstrate how women are viewed in this area.

Still, we are underway with 2017! We are going to stay as focused on what we need to do. We are going to work on the elements that will help us accomplish what we want. We are going to be supportive, be kind, be responsive, because we can... and even if we might have to quickly abandon LJ for Dreamwidth, that shouldn't change anything except the URL.

Have your best 2017, ever!!
penpusher: (LJ Broken)
Believe it or not, there currently is some sort of LiveJournal wave of nostalgia taking place. It sort of began on Facebook where someone created a "secret group" to which LJ members were added. And, similar to the old "invite codes," other people started bringing in their friends who had (or have) an account to talk about, read about and think about the elements that they liked about it. What kicked it into overdrive was when Brad Fitzpatrick showed up with the three word comment: "I love this."

Suddenly everyone on FB who had an LJ was ready to chat it up with both Brad and with each other, and even though there were other attempts to relaunch things on this platform a number of times since SixApart moved out, nothing ever quite got it moving with this much gusto.

Why is it happening now? It could be a number of factors... not the least of which is we're getting sick of social media as seen in these other formats. Between the trolling of internet fiends on twitter and the ridiculousness of everybody you know on Facebook, LiveJournal suddenly looks like an oasis from the desert heat of hateful rhetoric, a storm cellar against that vast tornado of twisted words and concepts, fake news and biased views. It could be that there just is a desire to go back to a place that feels more safe, more secure. Or maybe people simply got bored and decided to come back here now.

For the record, the community of note is [livejournal.com profile] 2017revival, where people are posting memes about who they are, what they have done on LJ and what they might be looking for here, again. Active users on the old El Jay? It's starting to happen.

But...

There seems to be a little thorn on this rose, or, maybe more accurately, a worm in your glass of vodka.

LiveJournal has migrated its servers to Moscow.

What exactly does that mean?

The most honest answer is, we don't really know.

We do know that the Russian government has been targeting their citizens who have a Zhe-Zhe (that's how they refer to LJ there) who have been critical of them. But we have been constantly told that the Russian side of LJ and the Western side are two different animals... mirrored, yes, but separate.

Still, the fact that "Russian government officials now have access to the private information of people with these accounts," is definitely a damper on wanting to return here.

But that, in and of itself, might not affect us. After all, this is still a separate part of LJ. Have we been hacked by the Russians already? Have they already made copies of our LiveJournals? Do we need to pack it in?

Actually there is a likely threat. If the Russian government steps in and decides that Zhe-Zhe is simply too incendiary for their tastes, they might just shut the whole thing down, on their side. While that wouldn't affect us immediately, the question would be, wouldn't it affect us eventually? Even if our side of the servers remained running, who is paying for it, how is it being maintained and what happens to it if something happened to it?

And that brings us to the other issue that can't be overlooked... where are the Western LJ administrators?

As this story began to snowball, I decided to take a walk around LJ Land to see what I could find out about the people running it.

Turns out, I couldn't find out anything! I mean, we have people who are working as volunteers, very much like back in the late 90s early oughts, who fix any tech problems with the site for users. But what we don't have are representatives... the people who are the liaisons between the user base and the Board of Directors. Only it's worse because who are the Board of Directors?

Things changed severely when SixApart came in and tried to turn LJ into a profit making venture. Naturally, since they didn't know what blogging was all about, they made a couple of enormous errors and, once they wiped the egg off their faces, decided they didn't want to show their faces again. That's how we got [livejournal.com profile] theljstaff, a nameless account that allowed the administration the ability to make pronouncements, announce changes in policy, and explain issues (or more accurately ignore them) without needing to be targets for the derision of users who neither needed nor wanted what they were selling.

And once that precedent was set, it has remained. Why put up the names of actual people who could be blamed for something going wrong? It's much safer to keep that information hidden.

Of course, now, that's a definite issue, as who do we speak with about any of this, and who would or could clue us in about what's going on? And really, maybe there is a hierarchy of power that is in place. But the fact that I couldn't access it in any reasonable way, not even knowing where to look for even one name of a person who should be able to answer some basic questions about how our servers are in Moscow, is a little unnerving. I don't want to go as far as saying I'm worried, but it doesn't feel all that safe.

To wit, I have migrated the entirety of this journal over to Dreamwidth.org. I'm not certain what I should do about photos that have been stored on my LJ account. I'll probably need to figure out a new housing situation for them also.

I'm at: https://penpusher.dreamwidth.org/

It's an account I set up back during those 6A days, when it seemed like that group were going to turn their capitalist dreams into our blogging nightmares. How wrong we were!
penpusher: (CBS)
I have been a game show contestant on two programs, both of them very different experiences. And I have applied to be a contestant on five others (six if you want to count “Jeopardy!”), which were all very unique and memorable events.

But because of the timing and because of the history of the program, I had to attend a taping of “The Price Is Right” while I was in Los Angeles this past fall. Yesterday, they ran the episode I appeared on, and, spoiler alert: I wasn’t asked by George Gray to “Come On Down!” But I think the experience is worth noting, for the sheer elements of the mechanics.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016 )
penpusher: (SciFi  honoring <lj user=melodymuse>)
Jailee was still assessing the whole Berg affair and taking inventory about her feelings. She was somewhat responsible for the death of another person. Well, yes and no. If he hadn't taken the bait, hadn't tried to break out of the cell he was in, he would still be alive. But wouldn't anyone have tried to escape, Jailee found herself asking her reflection as she got ready to go out at sunset? It's a choice that really was no choice at all.

Jailee couldn't help but feel guilty about it. Yes, Wilfred did contact him when he was asking a lot of probing questions around the markets, and brought him to Oorsfeld specifically to keep an eye on what he intended to do. When it was discovered he was some agent from The State, the options were few. See if he would have been understanding about who Jailee was and what the community here was. And every benefit was extended, every opportunity given for him to renounce his assignment and understand what was happening was something more. Even though he still chose the work of The State over what he could see, even though at times his actions and reactions ran counterpoint to themselves, he left little choice. He needed to go.

So creating a ruse, making him believe he was working with a spy that had infiltrated the group and getting him to list his reports to Wilfred as if he were a superior was just protection, a way of understanding what he intended to share when he got the opportunity to report his findings.

But now, now that Berg was dead, that can only mean that if more agents weren't on the way, there would still be some kind of pressure to find her and attempt to question her about what happened to Berg and possibly threaten her friends at Oorsfeld.

Jailee knew exactly what that meant.

So, tonight was going to be as special and as splashy as she could make it. It was going to be her first Poetry Tsunami!

Something that was popular in history was what was known as a "Poetry Slam," where people would recite how they saw the world through the use of beat and rhyme. Jailee thought to revive this by making it a Poetry Tsunami, something that would have more meaning and maybe even more power. It would be a new wave of creativity, a subversive voice calling out against the establishment.

Jailee wondered if giving her friends a week to write their entries and perform them would be enough. It seemed odd that she even was worried about the fairness of this considering the other circumstances. Still, she was trying to retain a sense of normalcy in a world that seemed more and more threatening. But she couldn't wait longer than this.

Inventory. Jailee went through her room and scoped out anything that could be associated with her or finding keepsakes she wanted to retain. It was time to pack what she wanted to keep and recycle all of the rest.

In a moment of impatience or just understanding the need to travel light, she took everything that wasn't a fixture, instant recycled it all and made her way to work, with only her single case of clothing and a small bag of accessories.

Jailee was eager to set up the stage for the Tsunami. There would be ten readers, a really good number, and there would be prizes for everyone. This wasn't really a competition, it was just a way of sharing thoughts about the world, the community, each other. Jailee had high hopes for a good night.

Focusing lights so that the reader would be illuminated without blinding so they could read their poems took a bit longer, and people began to arrive before Jailee was done. She immediately stopped what she was doing to greet guests one by one. At twenty-one hundred, it was time to begin.

Jailee played the host and introduced each reader in turn.

The shortest piece was a couplet presented by Wilfred himself:

"For this, I must tell the truth,
I'm simply too long in the tooth."

And based on the reaction and the feeling she suddenly had, Jailee got on stage, looked out at the gathered group and stated:

Hi. I'm Jailee.

Ring the bell
Break the spell
all is well
can't you tell

In a place
with a space
you can't face
anyplace

I can't be
you can't see
trouble free
is not for me

There's a stranger
there is danger
But no ranger
to be a changer.

We all must know
how this must go
the common foe
just has to go.

So don't be mad
And don't be sad
this isn't bad
It's all I had

So have some fun
Before it's done
Remember one
Is more than none.

Jailee's bright eyes lit up in the beam, as the crowd reacted with applause, slaps or grunts. She dashed off and programmed a message into the bar system, designed to play at exactly zero hour.

The Poetry Tsunami was, as Jailee hoped, a great success. The fun of writing rhymes to make statements was an immediate hit and people started trying to have conversations with rhymes. Jailee took a look around the room at how the interactions were going and how much fun everyone was having. She told Wilfred that she was going to the back room for a bit, but that wasn't the direction she was headed.

At the zero hour, the recorded message Jailee made automatically played for the patrons.

Each screen lit up with Jailee's face.

Hi, It's Jailee again. I have one more poem to share.

The crowd got silent, anticipating more inspiration for their budding rhyming efforts.

Some of you know I have the ability to dream.
Some of you know just what that can mean.

Last night I had a dream that I can't save
I dreamt a possum swam over my grave.

When I have a dream that I can't understand
It means I need to get out of this land.

The State has tried to rid itself of trouble
And so it's time for me to leave this bubble.

You have all been so good and sweet and kind
That's why I must now leave you all behind.

I wish there was some other. better way...
I hope to come back here, again, someday.

Each screen faded to black.

//

This story was written for LJ Idol X using the prompt: Possum ran over my grave.

Jailee's previous LJ Idol Appearances

Season 9

Week [3]
Week [15]
Week [16]
Week [23]
Week [26]

Season X:

Week [1]
Week [2]
Week [3]
Week [Holiday Break] Part 1
Week [Holiday Break] Part 2 and
Week [Holiday Break] Part 3
penpusher: (SciFi  honoring <lj user=melodymuse>)
Peter stared at the padded ceiling of his padded room.

At least the floor was comfortable. But, of course, when he could have used a blackout and a time jump ahead, to get to a new situation, there were none to be had. He was sitting in this room for, he guessed at least twenty-four hours and counting. Even his brief naps refused to send him into a new place and time.

Berg thought about his current circumstances. He figured that the answer he provided must have been right, or close enough to right that it concerned his captors. Telling the Blue Girl and the Walrus he was under the Great Marston Sea was simply a guess to his location. He had no idea where he was. But he knew that the fall he took was a long one to get to this cell, and it was nearly a lock that he had to be underwater in a circumstance like that.

Where, specifically, under the Marston was the question, and that was something he did not know. He also was out of communication with Sector. That meant it was assured that they didn't know where he was, either, for at least the time period that preceded his most recent memory lapse episode.

What were these blackouts? What caused them? Why was he having them and were others also experiencing time shifts where they don't remember swaths of their lives at a go? What was most disturbing to Berg was that he was, to the outside world, living a life, probably conversing with people, doing things, going places, and he remembered none of it. Even the people at Sector, who were trained to notice anomalies, had no clue that he was experiencing this.

Peter sat up straight and looked as nonchalant as possible as he watched Jailee approach the door of his cell. As long as they believe there are others that know what I know, I should be safe, he thought to himself.

The surprise was that instead of the expected inquisition, asking him about what he knew, who he was working for and what his intentions were all about, Jailee opened a small frame under the door and slid a covered tray through it. The door closed and she walked away, wordlessly.

Peter stood up and watched her leave, walking through a rounded hallway, disappearing beyond the curve of the path.

Then, he realized he was smelling something very familiar. He lifted the steel curtain off of the tray.

Sure enough it was a rare delicacy, that Peter loved: Brothless Burgers! Many foods, especially meat based foods, had some form of gravy, water or sauce. But these did not. They were solid meat on freshly baked bread. Each little burger was a bite sized treasure, and there were so many of them! For a few moments, Berg forgot where he was and just indulged in the wonderful treat.

Later, after his belly was full, he turned back to his mind, to try to make more sense of the circumstances and to review what he had learned, or what he remembered, about Jailee.

He thought that Jailee was a kind of kindred spirit, a different version of himself, Peter remembered. So, perhaps if he put himself in her place, he would know what she was planning.

Peter made sure not to speak aloud. He figured the very first thing they would do was have nanocams positioned around to see, hear and record any word or sound he made.

Now. She knew that he was an adversary. How would he handle that? Well, she did set a trap, the fake "emergency exit" and captured him. But he would be working her over, trying to find out every piece of information available. So far, since the first discussion, there hasn't been a word. Why is that?

Do they already know what they need to know? Are they going to try to score a ransom?

Peter didn't know much about Jailee's monetary circumstances, or whether she was trying to become wealthier to buy her way out of investigations or private situations. Was she just working in that place or was she the owner of it? If she were the owner, how did The State not have some record? Then again, where was this location under the sea?

What about those talking aquatic animals? How did they exist? Did The State know about them? Probably not because they likely would have been destroyed or at least herded for research.

Peter sat in silence playing out the various scenarios in his mind, until a robotic arm came and took the serving tray back through the slot in the door, paused and provided a new tray.

Berg once again lifted the lid, this time to find Bradshaw Stew, a mix of tender cube-cut meats and rice in deep brown gravy with still warm biscuits on the side. The serving looked like it was meant for at least four people but there was no one to share it with, Peter thought as he breathed deep the aroma of the dish before savoring the flavor.

As he was dining, a stray thought came to Peter. What if...

He blinked and suddenly, he was large. he could barely fit into his pants. his shirt was ripped in the front. There were stains of various sorts on all of his clothing. Another time jump. He had been doing nothing but eating, sleeping and going to the bathroom in the sani-corner which auto-rinsed itself clean, for how long, he didn't know. There was no way to measure it. He had no memory of the enjoyment of the meals he ate, aside from the two first ones. But he saw the results. He had put on maybe a hundred kilos?

Berg was disappointed in himself. He never did things like this. Or he never remembered doing things like this. And with no way of exercising, he would not be able to lose this weight easily or with any speed.

Jailee appeared at the window again. The robotic arm retrieved the used food tray and replaced it with a new one as she walked away.

Peter considered not eating it but it smelled so appetizing. It was a pizza covered in bacon and extra cheese.

An hour later, after the pizza was consumed, Berg looked and noticed the tray had slightly propped open the door that the robotic arm used to remove used trays.

The arm itself was slightly extended into the room and its pincers were solid and tight. He managed to use a thumbnail to unscrew them from the arm and work them towards the hinges of the door itself. Working patiently and diligently, Berg made progress, getting first one hinge, then the second hinge detached from the door frame.

Peter had no idea how much time he had, if Jailee would return soon, or if any alarms would be triggered, so he realized he had only one chance. He was able to open the door wide enough for his old self to fit through. That wasn’t good enough. He heaved and pulled and threw the full weight he could behind it and was able to get the opening wide enough for him to squeeze through.

At long last, Peter stood in the hallway where he saw Jailee eyeballing him all this while! Rather than going to the right, as Jailee always did, he would go left.

Peter took no more than five steps before he fell into a hole in the floor and again started sliding downward. He built up some momentum and then splash! He hit water. His muscles atrophied from no exercise and the extra weight he was now carrying caused him to flail around.

The last thing Peter Berg saw was the mouth of a Great White Shark.



//

This story was written for LJ Idol X using the prompt: Kummerspeck.

Jailee's previous LJ Idol Appearances

Season 9

Week [3]
Week [15]
Week [16]
Week [23]
Week [26]

Season X:

Week [1]
Week [2]
Week [3]
Week [Holiday Break] Part 1 and
Week [Holiday Break] Part 2
penpusher: (SciFi  honoring <lj user=melodymuse>)
Even though Peter detested being the center of attention in his workplace, he implicitly knew that he was always the most capable, the most aware, the most intelligent person in the room. It wasn't like he had any control over that. Those were just the facts. But, in a very big way it gave that nickname he hated: Peter "'Ice' Berg" a second and more important meaning. He was always cool in the clutch. He never overreacted.

Except this time. falling off of his chair in a strange barroom setting and meeting the woman he was trying to find wasn't typical of him. But it couldn't be helped. Another episode. Another time jump forward with no warning. Another location change with no understanding of what preceded it. It appeared that Peter lost roughly one hundred and five hours in this one.

Bending his right elbow to bring a second shot to his lips was painful. That's how he landed on the floor. He downed the shot and looked back at one seven six zero two three four. He was in a room filled with sentient sea creatures. This was going to take all of the sang-froid in his arsenal to make this work.

"So tell me, Jailee," Peter began, "How did you wind up here?"

"I might ask you the same question, except I know that you're chums with Wilfred," Jailee said glancing at the walrus on the far side of the room.

"I'd say we were acquainted," Peter squinted.

"Are you feeling alright?" Jailee seemed concerned.

"I'm fine. My question is how are you?"

"I'm not the one who fell." Jailee stated.

"But you're blue..." Peter tried.

Jailee's smile instantly vanished and she walked away, disgusted.

Berg sat there, stewing. What did he say? Surely she knew she was blue already.

Peter had to wonder what he said during the period he didn't remember, the time frame when he befriended a walrus and traveled to this location, wherever it was. He looked for his GPS but it was missing.

One seven six zero two three four busied herself with other customers and other work, not giving Peter a second glance.

Berg was a detective, certainly, but he usually had more clues to work with than this. He sat, thinking, trying to imagine what took place during those gaps.

He must have traveled to that bakery and fish market where he noted Jailee had been. He had to have asked questions. Was this walrus, Wilfred there? Wilfred the Walrus. Surely that was an alias. As he glanced back at his ivory tusked chum, he was in a bit of a struggle with two other creatures that seemed to be looking to move him towards the door.

"The next round is on me!" Peter shouted, and a small cheer came from the room as patrons moved towards the bar.

Jailee immediately started grabbing bottles and pouring drinks. The distraction apparently worked, at least for the moment, as the walrus was abandoned by his assaulters for a free glass. Berg tried to count heads to get a rough idea about what this was going to cost The State, but math was difficult for him.

He looked back and Jailee was gone. A different server was pouring. He spun around, searching the room to find out where she went. He jostled his way past the place where she was and looked for a way out from there. Nothing.

There must be an emergency exit, Peter thought.

That's exactly what the button was labeled when he got to the other side of the bar. he squeezed in past the server, saw a red "X" on the floor that color matched the button, stood right on the "X" and hit the button.

Immediately the floor opened up and he went falling down into the darkness. Though Peter couldn't see it, the walls began to narrow, and as they did, they began to bend the chamber to a horizontal position, slowing the fall and sliding him to a stop in a small, padded room.

when he stood up, the panel that Peter slid through immediately closed. Peter walked to the door. It was locked. Through the reinforced glass window, he could see Jailee.

"Hello, Ice Berg." she said.

"Let us entertain you," said Wilfred who also nodded from the other side of the window.

"Maybe it's time for us to share a little information," Berg said, confidently.

"Maybe it's time for us to shed a little blood." Wilfred grinned.

"Killing me won't do you any good. My operatives know everything I know."

"Good," said Jailee. "Tell me this. Where are you?"

Peter's brain raced as he tried to come up with some kind of answer. They would know he was bluffing if he wasn't able to answer.

Berg stared at his captors and calmly stated "Under the Great Marston Sea."

//

This story was written for LJ Idol X using the prompt: Sang-froid.

Jailee's previous LJ Idol Appearances

Season 9

Week [3]
Week [15]
Week [16]
Week [23]
Week [26]

Season X:

Week [1]
Week [2]
Week [3] and
Week [Holiday Break] Part 1
penpusher: (SciFi  honoring <lj user=melodymuse>)
Peter Berg had a headache. Even in ideal conditions, riding in a submarine was an extremely claustrophobic experience, featured stifling, unventilated air and a pressurized atmosphere that made it difficult to concentrate at best, and impossible to do anything but recline and attempt to breathe as gently as possible to stave off nausea in this particular case.

Whatever required a sub ride, this was important, and if no one was available to accomplish this task in the whole hemisphere he was moving towards, then clearly, he was the man to come over and do it.

Some of his colleagues nicknamed Peter “’Ice’ Berg,” a moniker Berg immediately squelched when used in his presence. Nothing made him angrier than being made into the focus of his work, when, really, the point was to not notice who he was at all. Which also explained why the nickname was so appropriate. “’Ice’ Berg” would quietly sit in the center of it all, allowing you to see just a bit of his process, while underneath he was this massive working machine that could take you out with a single swipe.

But, Peter couldn’t think on a journey where his cranium felt like it could crack wide open from the inside. If he could sit up and approach the bridge, perhaps he could get the Captain to surface the sub so he could get out of the airlock and breathe naturally for a bit. But that would slow the excursion down at least a couple of hours, possibly more, if craft traffic in the area was heavy. Best to just try and focus on breathing and the fact that this would be over soon.

Berg jolted awake in his chair, looking at the screen in front of him.

“Did you get all that?” said the undersecretary for Sector West Continent.

Berg scowled at her. “Of course, I did!” and waved her away.

He checked the screen for the date and time and silently shuddered. Then, he looked again. Another episode. This time, Peter apparently lost thirty-two hours of his life. The recurring questions: What happened during that time? How did he get here? Why did people think he was sentient when he was unconscious or sleeping this whole while? What had he said or done? He thought back, straining his brain and the very last thing he could remember before speaking to that undersecretary was closing his eyes in his quarters on the sub.

The screen said Case #1760234. At least the head wasn’t throbbing any more, Peter thought as he scanned the screen and took the useful information into his dossier.

The subject was a woman named Jailee. She had several questionable situations with The State in her previous history, and at least one of her associates had also had a negative court listing.

Why would they need me for something like this? Peter was about to ask himself when he saw a photo. This woman was blue. Surely, a blue woman wouldn’t be difficult to track down.

As Berg read on, he understood. She tended to only go out at night and she also tended to stay close enough to water to vanish, blend in or speed off silently.

The State had placed her under surveillance before, a case that was dismissed over fifty-thousand hours previous. No movement since then.

Staring at her photo, pulling the image in close on her facial features, Berg recognized a look in her eye. He felt as if somehow, he already knew this woman.

Berg depressed the COM button.

“Get me the names of every person on record to have been in contact with one seven six zero two three four in the past one, no, make it two hundred hours."

“Everyone follows a pattern. Everyone has habits,” Berg nodded at the screen as he explained the strategy.

“You don’t,” came the unexpected reply from not turning the COM back off.

“I do,” Berg snapped back. “You just aren’t looking deeply enough.”

CLICK!

This was the exterior plot, the way that Berg got Sector to allow him free reign to do what he wanted to make the arrest. On the interior, he was trying to examine something he considered much more important. This was focused on understanding what the subject wanted and what methods she might use to get it.

Berg surmised that if he could figure out what she wanted to achieve, what her motivation was, it could lead to something bigger and more important than just her arrest.

Working quickly, the agent looked through the listing of contacted people. It was, unsurprisingly, short. A baker at 400 hours and a fishmonger during that same half hour. She went back to the baker in the ensuing half hour and those were her only contacts in two hundred hours? Only KNOWN contacts, Peter reminded himself.

Berg spun her picture around, three hundred and sixty degrees. If not for the fact that she was blue, she might have been a State Promoter, a person seen on vid screens and posters helping encourage good behavior, sharing, making things great for your fellow citizens.

Berg pinched his nostrils shut as he murmured to himself, who are you, blue girl?

“I’m Jailee.”

“Wha-wha-what?”

Peter slipped off his chair and hit the floor hard.

“You haven’t even had any yet and you’re falling over.” Jailee smiled, reaching for a glass and bottle. She poured a shot and placed it in front of him before moving down the bar to another customer.

Berg looked down the bar at this woman. His quarry. How did he get here? Where was here? At least before, he knew he was in a Sector office. This was what? A darkened bar with people in a lot of fur coats.

Suddenly a tap on the shoulder. Peter turned and a walrus gave him a slow nod and a wink before waddling away.

Peter couldn’t down the drink fast enough.

//

This story was written for LJ Idol X using the prompt: Jantelagen.

Jailee's previous LJ Idol Appearances

Season 9

Week [3]
Week [15]
Week [16]
Week [23]
Week [26]

Season X:

Week [1]
Week [2] and
Week [3]
penpusher: (SciFi  honoring <lj user=melodymuse>)
When Conroy and I surfaced, we were in some sort of enormous cove. I had never seen anything like it and yet it felt so very familiar. There were sparkling rocks all over the walls and smooth surfaces for us to walk across, almost like it was constructed, but it couldn’t have been.

“Where are we,” I asked.

“Oh, this little place,” Conroy shrugged. “It’s Oorsfeld. It’s a kind of an underwater sanctuary.”

“Won’t The State come dismantle it or at least use it for some specified purpose?” I asked.

“Jailee, if The State could have dismantled this, it would have happened long before I found it.”

We walked a little further around the area and I looked at the towering cliffs that reached up.

“Surely, The State can get to this area send some nanocams or other robotic devices to observe or destroy it.”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you,” Conroy stated as we walked through a spacious hallway. “The State is only interested in what you humans are doing. There’s no interest in an area where only we go.”

“We?” I asked, with surprise, “what other creatures are aro - aaaaaaaah!”

Before I even realized it, I fell into a hole in the floor and began quickly sliding down a steep tunnel! Water was starting to fill the further down I slid! I took a last gasp and held it as long as I could but the tunnel was deep and the water rushed into my eyes and nose. I pinched my nostrils and tried to stay relaxed so I wouldn’t use any extra energy. I tried to think of something happy. It wasn’t working.

Just as I thought I was going to die, I flipped, then landed, belly first. It was like the shallows so I jumped up gasping and got sloshed again when Conroy made a splash all over me when he came down.

“Aah! What did you just do to me?!”

“Oh, sorry,” Conroy shrugged. “I meant to tell you to watch your step.”

“You know, humans can’t breathe underwater!”

“I can’t either! This was fun!”

“Yeah? Well, you were prepared for what just happened.” I yelled.

Conroy chuckled as he shook off the excess water, spraying me again, as I quickly turned my back and looked around. We were standing in a room, nearly as expansive as the pavilion area at Belleview and Kipling but much less arranged and not at all maintained. Starting to regain my equilibrium, I noted there was something lovely about the lack of order.

“I always imagined that the world looked like this” I said, staring at the light shimmering through water, the growth of vines along the walls of the area, the warmness of the wet sand on my feet and even some plots of green that weren’t seaweed. Stepping on the soft green patches made me feel something. I felt like I was home.

Conroy jaunted off toward some long, flat surfaced hut and disappeared inside. Of course, I had to follow him.

The passage led to another tunnel, no water this time, that took us to an interior area where a small group of creatures were gathered. Three of them quickly disappeared into another area as we approached. Then, there was a couple who seemed to be engaged in throwing things towards each other on a table. I can’t even! One of them resembled a large round rat with a flattened and expanded tail. The other was also like a rat only thinner and without any tail.

“Constantinople!” shouted the thinner rat. “We wondered where you dashed away to this morning.”

“Who is that?” said the other rat.

I tried to act like talking animals was normal.

“My name is Jailee,” I told them.

“You look almost human. Are you a human?” the thinner one asked.

“He can’t be human. Humans can’t get here. Tell me, how would he have gotten here?” the other one responded, as though I wasn't standing right beside him.

“First of all, I’m a she, and second, I am a human.”

“Constantinople spending time with women,” the larger rat laughed, “I guess anything is possible.”

“Leave Jailee alone!” Conroy called back at them. “She’s a friend of mine, and I brought her,” and he walked behind the counter by the far wall.

“What are you drinking?” he yelled at me.

“I just had a faceful of seawater. I think that’s enough!”

“Jailee, have you never had alcohol?” Conroy brought his front flippers up and rested his head between them.

I knew what alcohol was. And I knew what it was supposed to do. I also knew that The State strictly regulated any substances that changed your perception or could impair your ability to work.

“You must try this,” Conroy said before grabbing the neck of the bottle in his mouth and tipping it towards a glass. He slid it over to me.

“This water looks brown.”

“Oh, it’s not water,” he said. “You have to drink it down as fast as you can, like this.” He mouthed the rim of his glass, balanced the bottom on the edge of his flipper and turned it up.

The first thing I noticed was the smell. It reminded me of when the light watercraft department had a fire and a lot of rubber rafts got burned. But the bigger shock was swallowing it. That’s when it felt like a fire at the back of my throat, running down to my stomach. I thought I was going to regurgitate it but then it would have hurt coming back up.

“Are you sure YOU aren’t trying to poison me?” I sputtered through a gasp for air.

“If I wanted you dead, I would have just left you with your friends. And what did you do to deserve death?”

“I don’t know if you noticed but I don’t look like a lot of people.” I replied, stroking the blue skin on my arm.

“Yes. I understand all too well,” Conroy said, finishing a second glass. “That’s why it’s great to have a place to escape from all of that.”

There was silence for a moment. Even those rats were quiet just then.

“Anyone or anything that is different, is...” I started to say, then just grabbed the bottle and poured a full glass, and drank it right down practically in one gulp. Then I looked upward and stared hard at Conroy.

“I think I just decided something.”

Conroy just looked at me, mouth open as though *he* was the one watching a talking animal for the first time.

“It’s time to challenge the system. It’s time to take on the world.”

“You know, Jailee...”

“This is it. I am not a second-class citizen. And neither are you! And neither are your rat friends!”

The two rats stopped what they were doing and glanced at me.

“She’s had a couple,” said Conroy.

“It’s time to take on authority. But first, I’m taking on the rest of this bottle.”

Conroy slapped my hand with a flipper and waddled away with the drink.

It didn’t matter. I suddenly knew what I had to do, and I was ready to start.

//

This story was written for LJ Idol X using the prompt: Brushback Pitch.

Also, note: This is Jailee's eighth LJ Idol appearance. Her previous appearances include five during Season 9:

Week [3]
Week [15]
Week [16]
Week [23]
Week [26]

and two others during Season X:

Week [1] and
Week [2]
penpusher: (Pen)
Today was the weirdest day of my life. I wanted to say it was the worst but the main point is something seriously devastating happened.

It was supposed to be a day at Summit Trade with Hangnori. We were going there to apply for a special opportunity to get a whole new school wardrobe, everything and some extras, so we went to Belleview and Kipling to meet with the sponsors of the float to try to be the lucky recipients. We had planned this at least two thousand hours before and even arranged a performance for the judges. This was going to be solid and festive and Atlantis.

There were many other girls and even some boys in line when we arrived, and we were there at six hundred hours. We both thought that would be early enough to insure we would get in since that’s like two hours before standard class start. We saw that school of people and thought there was no way we would make it. So we got into line and decided to try anyway. But this is the strange part. A creature came in right after we did. He was the same height as me, but on all fours.

I tried to ignore him, even with the grumbly sound of the breathing and the snorts near my ankles. It was difficult until Killeen joined us a few minutes later. She didn’t realize she was supposed to bring a friend along to apply. Hangnori said we should let her be in our group. And I thought it would disqualify us. All the other groups were two. And our choreography was for two, not three!

I went to the bathroom while Hangnori and Killeen talked about it some more. Then when I returned, they took a break.

That’s when the weirdness happened. The creature behind got really close to my foot and licked my heel. I nearly jumped into space. I turned around and as I was about to crash down on him, he said:

“You know, your friend doesn’t like you.”

“You can talk?” I asked him.

“Yes. And I can listen. And I overheard your friend, the one with the dorsal fin hairstyle, say she hated you to the other one that just showed up.”

“That’s how we joke with each other, so you just didn’t understand and you shouldn’t be listening in on other people.”

“Oh yeah? Tell that to The State," He said, the last two words almost as a whisper. He looked past my leg towards the rest areas. "Well, she said she was going to poison you. She said they would go to a sushi restaurant after this, order you tuna and she would cover it in Mercury.”

“There’s just no way. You’re making this up.”

“Starfish, Do I look like someone who makes up stuff to discuss with random human women?”

“Who are you?” I asked.

“My name is Constantinople Roy” He bowed his head and saluted with a flipper.

“Why did you come here?”

“Up up...” he said.

Hangnori and Killeen returned to the line.

“Look at that thing behind you,” Hangnori said. “What is it doing here? Must have gotten lost on the way to some show aquarium!” she laughed.

“You know he can underst...” boom. A butt to my butt by the butt of his tail interrupted my sentence.

“Wow,” said Killeen. “That was either a nasty reflex or he was trying to stop you from talking.”

The three of us eyed at the creature for a moment and he honked and swung around.

“Maybe we should figure out what to do with the rest of the day,” Hangnori smiled. “Where should we go for lunch, Killeen?”

Killeen stared blankly for a moment, then looked away.

“What was that place you mentioned to me earlier?” Hangnori asked, “Namiko’s?”

Killeen nodded wordlessly.

“That’s a... that’s a sushi restaurant, isn’t it?”

“The Thunnini is to die for!”

“I have to go to the rest room.”

“You just got back before us!” Nangnori said. "You know you're only allowed three restroom breaks per cycle."

“I’m just not feeling quite right.” I said.

I walked as slowly as I could back to the rest area, trying to think what I could do and where I could go. I entered into the privacy hatch. I had no idea what to do, where to go or who to trust. Then the thought drifted in: "Why would someone like Hangnori make friends with a blue girl like me?"

I looked at my reflection in the mirror. Was that all I was, just a means to an end, a chance for a more popular girl in school to get her much deserved wardrobe and I guess mine too?

As I exited the door, there was Hangnori.

“I’ve got a little something for you,” she said then the next thing I knew, I was tied to something slick and slippery, almost flying through the air before plunging into the water. I couldn’t move but I was inside of an air bubble so I could breathe. What was happening?!

Whoosh! The next thing I knew, we were out of the waters of the Great Marston Sea. I was released from the bond and slid down to the ground. It was the creature. He had somehow roped me to his back and carried me away from the area.

“I hope you’re okay. I know this was a shock but I don’t like seeing people get hurt.”

“I’m okay, Constan...?”

“Constantinople Roy,” he nodded.

“Um, would you mind very much if we shortened that to Conroy?”

He blinked and pondered for a second “Yeah, that’s great. But what should I call you?”

“I’m Jailee.”

“Well, it’s nice to meet you Jailee,” Conroy said. “I’ve got a lot of questions for you like why do you have friends that want to kill you?”

“I have a lot of questions for you like, how are you talking?”

“I think this means we need to get to know each other a little better,” he winked as he motioned for me to get on his back and we plunged into the Marston again.

And that’s when I went somewhere I never knew existed.

//

This story was written for LJ Idol X using the prompt: That One Friend


Also, note: This is Jailee's seventh LJ Idol appearance. Her previous appearances include five during Season 9:

Week [3]
Week [15]
Week [16]
Week [23] and
Week [26]

and one other during Season X:

Week [1]
penpusher: (Pen)
Threats are motivators, Lou Bingham thought to himself as he breathed a sigh. The State was a threat, always watching, always suspicious, always expecting the worst. A government was supposed to work for the people, or so he believed. But he was from Arid Zone, an area that was one of the last bastions of both independent thought and dry land in the southwest region.

The girl was a threat too, and a much more direct one. She was smart, as smart as anyone he had ever met in his nearly sixty years. Beautiful, of course, but also very aware. Most people wander through their lives, occasionally having a moment of enjoyment, dejection or possibly even anger! Not this one. She of the blue skin, the bald head, the lithe body, she was full on passion. She nearly killed him for filming her while she slept!

Lou placed his hand to his throat, as if he could heal himself by touch, the place where she nearly choked him with her bare hands. Of course he understood. If she was ever found to be a dreamer, and not just that but a Lucid Dreamer, The State would envelope her as they apparently did with a whole generation of young people with that ability. That is a threat that could motivate homicide.

There was an issue of trust. Neither he nor his female companion completely trusted each other, but they were all that they had. Well, that and The State, who they both knew could never be trusted. Still, the unease between them was something Lou was trying to resolve somehow. He hoped that by restoring her friend, that would prove he was both safe and loyal, even as he didn't understand her intentions and desires.

Threats are motivators, Lou reminded himself. They take you out of your comfort zone. They push you into action, doing something to stop it, or at the very least, avoid it. He wondered if The State knew what he was doing, despite all of his fail-safes. Could they already be aware of everything he knew and were just waiting for the right moment to...

"Conroy?" The girl stood at the incubation door, trying to peek through the opaque glass.

"Just place your hand on the pyramid" Lou called to her.

Jailee closed her eyes, took a breath and put the center of her palm on the tip of the sideways inverted red illuminated pyramid attached to the wall by the door. Her fingers gripped around it. The pyramid turned green and the door began to rise with a shush of cool air and a bit of water vapor.

Once the door had raised, the chamber became illuminated. There, inside a tank, was a baby seal. Jailee leaned in to have a better look.

The seal began flapping its flippers excitedly and seemed to smile at her. She turned away.

"What is this?"

"That's your friend. Or my closest approximation," Lou replied, walking towards the chamber.

"This is a baby."

"Well, for the moment he is. But we can age progress him."

Jailee turned back to the tank and watched Conroy doing aquatic somersaults and for the first time since she last saw him, she started to laugh.

"No," Jailee said, "He's perfect as is."

"Well, he seems to know you!" Lou nodded as he approached the tank. "How else can I help?"

"The person who... put that counter... on him." Jailee trembled.

"The counter that blew him into a million pieces?"

Jailee bit her lip. "We have to find him. All I know is that his name is Sam and he works in Local Sector. Can Conroy help?"

"I'm sort of new at all of this, but I would say it's fifty-fifty that he would remember anything related to any previously experienced trauma."

They both looked at the baby seal splashing at the top of the tank. He poked his head up, placing his front flippers on the shelf of the glass, opened and closed his mouth once, then again, looked directly at her, blinked and said "Hailee!"

She paused, then rushed over to hug him, so neither Lou nor Conroy could see her face.

//

This story was written for LJ Idol X using the prompt - "I need the struggle to feel alive."


Also, note: This is Jailee's sixth LJ Idol appearance. Her five previous appearances occurred during Season 9:

Week [3]
Week [15]
Week [16]
Week [23] and
Week [26]

Two-S-A

Nov. 12th, 2016 01:42 pm
penpusher: (Flag)
Since the results of the 2016 election, a meme has been floating around.





Basically, it’s a thumb your nose moment from conservatives stating that THEY hold the true values of the United States and that their way of thinking and voting is a much more accurate reflection of the way the country should be.

But, is it, really?

As we know, Hillary Clinton won the Popular Vote across the country, meaning that she was voted for by more Americans than her opponent. But, because of the configuration of where those votes were, the Electoral College stated that she did not win, and her opponent would assume the presidency.

There are two points that need to be made about this map to put it into context. The first is that the Electoral College seems to be a problem. But I have a couple of suggestions as to why we have issue with it. The first is that Electoral College vote distribution needed an update to properly reflect the population.

Here’s how it stands right now. The state with the smallest population, Wyoming, with just over a half million citizens, has been assigned three (3) Electoral Votes. South Dakota, a state that also has three (3) Electoral Votes, has a population of more than eight hundred fifty thousand, or roughly 350K more than Wyoming. It seems like it deserves at least one or two more Electoral Votes than Wyoming, doesn’t it? Compare that to California, the state with the most Electoral Votes: 55. With a population of over thirty-eight million (38 M) people, we should expect that Electoral Vote total to be closer to at least 130 and possibly a little more. I mean, if we're going to be fair and base this on where in the country people live, that only makes sense, right? Of course, we would have to change the number to win from two hundred seventy (270) to a higher total as well, but that’s easily done and again, in the name of creating a ballot that truly reflects the will of the people.

But, here’s an additional tweak that really should be brought to bear.

Even though the population determines the number of Electoral Votes any state receives, they get those votes whether their population votes or not.

That shouldn’t be the case.

We know that a bit more than forty-seven (47) percent of the population did not vote in the 2016 election. But their states still receive the same number of Electorates. How does THAT make sense? The number of “popular vote” ballots cast in each state should be reflected by the number of Electoral Votes permitted to vote on behalf of that state in the Electoral College.

Think about it. The point is in REPRESENTATION. If the number of Electoral Votes cast by any state remains the same no matter how many (or how few) people vote, that gives a completely inaccurate tally of the voice of the citizens of this country. Electoral Votes are being placed on behalf of people who did not vote. That is, in my view, the biggest overlooked problem with the Electoral College and the entire process of how it works and why people perceive it as completely unfair.

Tweaking the vote to base it on number of ballots received will also mean that everyone’s vote actually will count, and in a direct correlation way to how the results will be presented. Suddenly, a state like Colorado, with its nine (9) Electoral Votes could out vote Georgia’s fifteen (15), because they turned out the vote with many more ballots cast. Then it becomes a real battle to make sure every state has everyone voting so they can retain their Electoral Votes and will get their fullest representation. And this would have the added benefit of practically preventing voter suppression. In this configuration, no matter who the population of your state votes for, it relies on people who actually vote to determine if you get Electoral Votes.

How would the vote have gone if we weighted the Electoral College balloting based on actual number of voters per state? I’d have to do the math to figure it all out, but no matter what, I know it would be a more equitable result, based on who actually voted, and the results really would produce a case where you could truly say “If you didn’t vote, you can’t complain.”

But there’s another element about this map that I think is just as important and maybe goes a bit deeper into the psychology of our collective consciousness.

The bulk of the midsection of the country is conservative. The bulk of the south is conservative. And the only blue areas in those wide swaths of red are in or near larger cities. We also have more blue in places where liberal thought is welcome, like in Vermont and Washington.

Here’s the thing about that.

When you live in a rural area, the communities are homogeneous. It’s mostly all white people who have a fairly rigid sense of who they are, what they believe, how they think and where they want the country to go.

Meanwhile, in a city, you typically have people of many different sorts all sharing the same geographic space with you, sometimes in the same block, sometimes in the same building as where you live.

You have to be liberal to be in a city because you know and understand that you are sharing your home with a lot of other people who aren’t exactly like you! Everyone wants to have a chance to live the life that they want. So, what people in cities understand is that you have to leave space for everyone to do that. In a rural or even in a suburban area, that kind of thinking doesn’t enter because people who are different typically do not enter.

If the United States were a vehicle, liberals would be the accelerator, pushing to change things, moving us forward, taking us to a place where all of us can be open, free and able to have the American Dream. Conservatives would represent the brake, slowing or stopping any changes, sometimes even shifting us to reverse as far as where we are going collectively.

The problem is also reflected in the responses we have seen from these two camps.

When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, the basic response of conservatives was to close up shop. There was no protest, but there also was no support from that side. In fact, the brakes were in full effect as every program and bill that President Obama put forth was challenged and sometimes gutted to slow or block any progress.

Now, what we have is a case where the conservatives are shouting they have a mandate, that they are the best, and that liberals have to kowtow to what they want. It’s a difficult situation to negotiate, especially since the race, even by our unaltered standards, was basically a dead heat.

So, the problem really is, how do we connect these Two different iterations of the United States?

The answer is, quite simply, through communication.

Well, it's quite so simple, though. Have you ever tried to discuss political issues with a person who has an opposing view? Depending on the topic, it can get quite personal and emotional very quickly. It often dissolves into value judgments, insults and worse.

And yet, that is the ONLY way we can pull ourselves through this. We are going to get a little personal because these are elements of life that are dear to us. This will become a little emotional because we really do care about these points. But, and I know I’ll get some flack from some people about it, that leads us to the following truth:

Liberal thinking MUST rule the country.

See, you can always be conservative for yourself. If you feel like the direction of the country is too progressive for your tastes, that’s fine. You don’t have to change what you’re doing. Stay exactly like you are, as far as your personal life is concerned. But not allowing everyone else to move forward, simply because you don’t want to change, is not fair.

The problem is in thinking that we are trying to offend the sensibilities of people who don’t always agree with these changes. And that’s the thing that city people understand so much better than folks who live in the less populated areas of the USA. If I can put it in an agrarian way, we are constantly re-potting our plant, adjusting to allow growth. We can’t stay stagnant. That benefits no one. We have to continue to move forward.

Ultimately, we are a nation of many different kinds of people. If we are true to the tenets that the Founding Fathers wrote into those documents we cherish, the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States, we have to make space for our citizens, ALL of our citizens to live free, to not fear, to have the same opportunities to help themselves and to help their country. OUR country.

That’s the way to Make America Great Again.

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