Glacial Bedrock

It was a cold windy fall day and the rain kept pouring down. The tall fir tree in the front yard had yellowing branches and not for the first time, Clarissa wondered about its health. Looking out her front window and watching the branches dance wildly in the wind, Clarissa realized that if that tree fell, it would, in all likelihood, come crashing into her home.

The fir tree was over 50 feet tall, standing on very little soil atop glacial bedrock. Clarissa lived on an island which was really just a big slab of glacial bedrock with a little top soil on it. Instead of having roots going down deep into the earth to support them, the island trees had roots forced to grow horizontally just a few feet below the surface of the yard. And this tree was just one of many in Clarissa’s yard as well as the island at large.

Now that fall had arrived, the season for falling trees was upon this small island and every wind storm now would bring at least branches if not entire trees toppling down. Clarissa watched and worried, but hopefully today was not the day that the fallen tree would be hers. Thankfully she had put in an automatic generator for her home so that when the inevitable happened throughout the fall and winter season, when a tree toppled a power line, Clarissa and her pets would still be warm and safe, that is, she thought, unless the tree crashes into her home.

So once again, Clarissa watched the tree swaying, wondering if the yellow branches were natural or a sign of disease. She told herself that first thing tomorrow she’d find someone who knew, someone who could answer her questions about the health of the tree, because without a doubt a sick tree needed to be taken down carefully and safely and not just left to topple on its own. How Clarissa wished that she could talk to trees so she could ask it if it felt alright! But for now, she had no choice but to watch and wait.

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The Tomb

The guardian spirits were worried. After centuries of watching over the tombs of 50 of Ramesses II’s sons, now suddenly there was a threat. Humans had combed the Valley of the Kings for centuries, finding lots of tombs, robbing, pillaging, and plundering, sometimes in the name of archaeological research and sometimes just for wealth, but defiling tombs either way.

But the resting spot for Ramesses II’s sons had gone undetected, except for one brief incursion in 1150BC, but otherwise, the tombs were safe. That is they were safe until now. Now the Egyptian authorities thought that there should be a parking lot added to encourage more tourism in the area. After all, the Valley of the Kings was a very popular attraction.

The guardian spirits had to find some way to protect these tombs, but how. A conference was called and ideas were suggested. “How about haunting the area,” proposed one spirit.

“No,” another chimed in. “That will just bring out all the psychics and ghost hunters and there will be even more people swarming over the area.”

The deliberations went on for hours. “We are charged with protecting these mummies,” announced the chief spirit, “and now that the parking lot is going in, we have to do something to prevent the absolute destruction of the tombs by ravaging bull dozers. There aren’t a lot of options open to us. And as unpleasant an alternative as it is, I think we must allow an archaeologist to find them. True, they will be opened and studied and ransacked in a different way, but if we pick the right archaeologist, the tombs and their mummies will at least remain in tact.”

The guardian spirits reluctantly agreed. The area was just too close to King Tut’s tomb and so the secrets of Tomb 5 needed to be revealed. The spirits started visiting the dreams of Dr. Kent Weeks, an archaeologist at the American University of Cairo, planting thoughts that the area deserved one last search before the parking lot was begun. They showed him visions in his dreams of hidden tombs behind a door hidden by thousands of years of debris.

Dr. Weeks headed from Cairo to the Valley of the Kings and began exploring in earnest. He told no one about his dreams as even he thought that they were ridiculous, but as he sifted through the ruble he felt guided by the images in his dreams. Soon he found the door, pried it open, and discovered the beginnings of a long corridor.

It was the find of a lifetime! Dr. Weeks told reporters, “I can’t believe it! There are at least 50 tombs belonging to Ramesses II’s sons, hidden since it was first ransacked in 1150BC, but then long since forgotten. This is a huge find and it will take years for us to sift through all the archaeological evidence. To think that this was nearly lost completely to a parking lot!”

The guardian spirits continued to watch over these tombs, and they used Dr. Weeks’s dreams to influence him so that the mummies were treated with respect. It wasn’t an ideal outcome, but the spirits felt that they had done their best to honor the memory of the pharaoh’s sons.

Hazardous Downpour

The rain turned into a torrential downpour just as Peter, his wife Lucy, and their four children were heading out for lunch. “Drat,” said Peter. “What do you think, Lucy? Can the kids manage this?”

Lucy answered, “They have to learn sometime, so now is as good a time as any. We will just have to keep them between us.”

“Right,” said Peter. “Ok, kids, this will be challenging, but it will be fine. Darcy and Ellen, you are the oldest so I need you in the front and back to protect Tess and Bonnie. Darcy, you take the front and Ellen, the rear. Your mom and I will be on each side of you all.”

“We’ll keep them safe, Dad, we promise,” chimed Darcy and Ellen.

“Ok, then,” said Peter. “On the count of three let’s all move out from under this fern frond and head directly across the yard to that giant mushroom. We can shelter under it as we graze on the smaller mushrooms!”

“Sounds great,” chorused the rest of the family, and so the Peter Slime slug family headed out for lunch.

The Tutor

Miranda was a tutor for high school students. She loved working one on one with adolescents and there is no greater high, she thought, than watching the light bulb go off in the mind and eyes of a student. Today Miranda worked with two very different students and each was a real joy. First there was Ralph, very bright and quick with math, but doing it on his own without a classroom environment. Miranda watched as Ralph looked over the marked papers she had returned to him. “Any questions, Ralph,” Miranda asked.

“You said this proof was brilliant–I want to go back and look at that and see why you liked it,” said Ralph.

“Sure thing,” answered Miranda. “There are frequently multiple approaches that can be taken to solve a geometry problem and that is what makes them such fun, or so I think.”

“Yeah, I like that also,” answered Ralph, “but this seemed very easy. What was different about my approach?”

“You took it beyond what you had to do,” answered Miranda. “You didn’t just quote the theorem you’d been given in this chapter. You actually proved the theorem in your solution, and believe me, not many would do that!”

Ralph beamed! He really liked working with Miranda because she had a way of always making you feel good about yourself. “Ok,” said Ralph, “but what about this one–did I goof?”

Miranda smiled as she prepared her answer. “You didn’t goof really, but you made an assumption which turns out to be true, but which you did intuitively, making a major shall we call it ‘leap of faith.’ In geometry you need to take it step by step and even though you know something is true, you have to prove it step by step using the building blocks you have. Once something is proven, then it becomes another building block to be used down the line.”

Ralph nodded, and then looked more closely at the corrections Miranda had put in. All of a sudden his face lit up and he said, “Got it! I needed two more steps in here, didn’t I.”

Miranda congratulated him just as the bell rang for lunch and off Ralph went, happy and excited.

Later in the day Miranda tutored Steve, and while Steve and Ralph had a lot in common, both high school juniors, both really sweet boys, both really smart, Steve was a writer and a poet, and he struggled with math. It wasn’t that he didn’t work at it. He did, in fact he worked very hard, but he just couldn’t grasp the abstract concepts of math for more than a few seconds at a time. But today, when Steve arrived, he exclaimed, “Hey, guess what! I got 100% on my matrices math quiz! I like matrices!”

Miranda grinned and said “Way to go, Steve! That is fantastic!”

The two of them then settled down to work on today’s homework and sure enough, as long as things stayed with matrices and numbers, Steve got everything perfect. When it moved into solving for variables, Steve was lost again. But Miranda refused to let that get him down.

“Steve, you can do this. What steps do we set up to solve an equation? What do you do first?” Miranda asked.

Pretty soon Steve answered, “I get this a little. I think I understand. Let’s try another just to be sure.”

By the end of the session Steve left, confident, and feeling good about what he had learned. As he went through the door he commented, “Sure is more fun when it actually comes together and makes sense!”

Miranda smiled and answered, “Yes, it is, for sure! And you have come a long way since your freshman year! Good work! See you next week.”

Miranda was tired after her long day, but her encounters with Ralph and Steve made it all worthwhile.

Garden Gnome

A gnome lived in the corner of Margie’s garden but Margie didn’t realize that. Margie was a very practical down-to-earth no nonsense kind of woman and she would never imagine creatures from another realm even in her dreams. Her five year old daughter Samantha tried to tell her mother about the gnome whose name was Horace. Samantha loved Horace and she spent many happy hours out in the garden with him. But when she tried to talk to her mother about him all her mother said was, “You have such a wonderful imagination. Now I need to get these weeds pulled so go and play.”

Samantha thought it was very sad that her mother couldn’t see Horace. “Why can’t she see you, Horace? Do you have some kind of magic so only I can see you?”

Horace answered, “No, anyone could see me, but the fact is that very few adults do. Something happens to humans once they get into school and start getting educated so they can get good jobs and live in the real world.”

Samantha said, “Well, that is not going to happen to me! I love you Horace! We will always be friends.”

Horace smiled and nodded but in his heart he worried. But as the days went on, Samantha continued to play with Horace, and they were both happy. Samantha said, “I’m not talking about you to Mommy anymore. She just doesn’t believe in you and I don’t want to worry her.”

Horace said, “That is probably a good idea!”

Years went by. Samantha went off to school, but every day she would come into the garden to tell Horace all about everything. Horace found out that there was a bully in Samantha’s class in second grade. Horace learned about field trips and Girl Scout troops. Samantha told him about her struggles with math and even brought her homework out into the garden thinking Horace could help. He was pretty good with arithmetic, but when Samantha got to high school and ran into something called Algebra, Horace was at a loss.

Samantha shared all her secrets with Horace and the two were very happy in their own private world. Samantha didn’t tell even her closest friends about Horace because she knew instinctively that they would laugh and the magic would be broken. Eventually, Samantha graduated from high school and prepared to head off to college. She wanted to study creative writing because she was a poet. Horace loved nothing better than to have Samantha sit beside him on the garden bench and read her poems to him. But now he was worried again. The magic had lasted much longer than Horace ever thought possible, but would she still be able to see him after college? Horace worried.

But thankfully Horace worried needlessly. Samantha was a poet and for poets, creatures like Horace are every day occurrences. Samantha came back from the larger world to report on other gnomes and even faeries that she had met, and then Horace stopped worrying and just enjoyed his friend for life.

Panic

Elsie panicked in the middle of the night. Her back had flared up, the old sacroiliac joint, and she was now in immense pain. She was afraid to move but couldn’t stay as she was and on top of that she had to use the bathroom. Elsie, nearly 66 years old, single, living with only dogs and cats, was terrified. What if she couldn’t move? What would happen? Slowly and very carefully Elsie inched her legs over the edge of the bed and just as carefully, with one dog watching and wondering what she was up to, Elsie managed to get out of the bed and to the bathroom. Where are my walking sticks when I need them, she wondered, but she knew, they were in storage and she kept forgetting to ask someone to get them out of storage. Elsie realized that she didn’t know anyone she could call in a situation such as this and it certainly didn’t warrant a 911 call, so very carefully Elsie eased herself back into bed. Now would be the time to learn to sleep on my back, Elsie thought to herself, but no such luck. She couldn’t sleep on either side because of bad shoulders (getting old it rough!), and so she worked her way around to her stomach. At this point one cat decided to help by curling up in the small of Elsie’s back. Wouldn’t you know it, she thought! Why couldn’t he go higher or lower, but even though it wasn’t the most comfortable place for him, she appreciated his presence as it made her feel less alone. Elsie finally dozed off and gradually, very gradually the pain subsided just a bit. By morning she knew she could get out of bed if only she took her time. And she knew she would be seeing her chiropractor in the afternoon so surely things would get better. Elsie loved the independence and the space she had because she lived alone, but she realized yet again, with the terrors of the night before were still fresh in her mind, that there was a price to pay for that independence.

The Headache

A headache came to life as Dorothy slept and it was determined not to let go of its grip. Dorothy woke up and could barely get out of bed. “Hah,” said the headache, “this is real power!” Dorothy struggled through the morning routine, hoping the shower would help, but the headache was entranced with its power and wouldn’t budge. Dorothy got her morning tea and breakfast, as the headache hammered on, thrilled to have such control over her. Dorothy fed her animals and then tried to write. “Here,” thought the headache, “I will really bring things to a halt.” Dorothy could think of nothing to write and the headache chuckled with glee.

Soon Dorothy’s electrician came to fix things at her home, and Dorothy was able to remember some of the things, but not all. Thank heavens she had made a list in the garage so the headache was unsuccessful at making a hash of the whole process, and the electrician was able to do about half the list, promising to be back next Monday.

Dorothy then resumed her work at her desk, but again the headache demanded her attention and the story faltered. All of a sudden Dorothy thought of a weird idea. Why not write a story with the headache as a main character. That would fix this nasty headache–if it thought it could stop Dorothy, well it was wrong. Dorothy got her story written and then moved on to quilting. With the machine going and some lovely waltzes playing from her iTunes list, Dorothy was content, in spite of the headache.

By day’s end it was a draw. No one can win in such a battle as this. The headache dominated Dorothy’s day, but Dorothy managed even so.

Dragon Banishment

Saphira lay basking in the sun on the hot sand at the edge of the lagoon. She stretched her purple iridescent wings and watched how they glowed in the sunlight. Her brilliant green eyes took in the entire expanse of the lagoon and she thought how lovely it was to have such a spot all to herself.

Saphira began to doze, enjoying the peace and solitude when she heard someone calling her name. “Saphira, are you down here?” came the voice. Saphira sat up with a start and called back, “Hey, Emily, are you finally home?”

Emily was Saphira’s dragon rider and they had been together ever since Saphira’s hatching over twelve years ago when Emily was just thirteen. Saphira thought back to that moment, cracking out of a hard egg, shaking out her very wet wings, staggering around the hot chamber lined with 12 and 13 yr. olds, and suddenly spotting Emily. It had been love at first sight and now twelve years later the two were still very close.

Emily came running down to the lagoon. “I missed you so much,” she cried. “I don’t know why you couldn’t come with me, but the king wanted only the riders. It just wasn’t fair,” she continued as she stroked Saphira’s long neck.

Saphira said, “How did it go? I understand that the king is being pressured to outlaw dragons.”

Emily became very still. She wanted just the right words to explain what happened. “All the dragon riders vouched for their dragons and told the king that no dragon was responsible for the stealing of Baron Geldsmith’s cattle, but the Baron wouldn’t listen. He got all the other nobles to agree with him and King Jacob was really powerless. He needs his nobles to help him defend his kingdom.”

“But,” Saphira cried, “He needs his dragons and dragon riders as well! We patrol the borders of the kingdom to insure that no one crosses without proper authorization.”

“I know,” said Emily, “and believe me all of the dragon riders presented some very strong arguments, but when the nobles threatened to remove all funding for the throne, King Jacob caved in to their demands. All dragons are to be banished from the kingdom and if spotted, they may be shot on sight.”

“No,” cried Saphira! “Our kind has defended this land from the beginnings of time. How can King Jacob let this happen?”

“Well, don’t panic yet,” said Emily. All the dragon riders have banded together and we won’t let anything happen to any of the dragons. We think that Baron Geldsmith is up to something and that he is in a plot to overthrown the throne and put himself on it. And we think he has aligned himself with our enemies and is getting support from them. Obviously, if he is entertaining nobles from Havenshold, he couldn’t allow the dragon patrols. That’s what the dragon riders think, anyway, but we have to have proof.”

“How are we going to get that proof if the dragons are banished,” asked Saphira.

Emily replied, “Well, it won’t be easy, but we are meeting at Crag’s Head up in the mountains on the border of Havenshold, and we will take turns patrolling. If we stay high enough, we probably won’t be spotted. And we have some camouflage wing covers so that even if we are seen, the nobles won’t be able to identify which dragon or which dragon rider it is.”

“Ok,” said Saphira. “That part sounds possible, maybe, dangerous but possible, but will that be enough. The Baron is no fool and he has obviously thought this through very carefully and he has managed to gain the allegiance of the other nobles as well. What about that?”

“Yeah, we thought of that also,” replied Emily. “We need to get spies into the Baron’s castle and we also need to talk with some of the nobles on their own to find out what sort of pressure the Baron brought on them all. In fact, the dragon riders met with King Jacob after the nobles left, supposedly to get our orders for the banishment, and we told him our suspicions. He had the same worries but is powerless at the moment. However, he gave us his blessings to find out what is going on. He even gave us the name of the head of his personal bodyguards who does have spies in all the major castles. It will be tough, but we are determined!”

“So what’s next?” asked Saphira.

“We need to get back up to the cave and pack. As soon as it is dark we will fly out heading to Crag’s Head by a circuitous route, just in case the nobles have watchers out. Once we have all gotten to safety, then we will plan our next phase.”
TO BE CONTINUED!

Fateful Day

It was a cool autumn day. The deciduous trees were turning yellows and oranges. Rain started pouring down as the wind picked up, causing the firs and pines to dance, waving their branches back and forth as if they were arms. The spinners in the yard were doing their own dances. Temperatures began to drop.

Rachel, sitting inside her home, watched the changes through her picture window. Suddenly Rachel remembered another picture window long ago that she had looked out of from the back of a couch. It was the most horrible day in Rachel’s life. The day had started well enough.

It was the summer before Rachel’s fifth birthday and she and her sister Bonnie, who was not quite two years old, were playing in the living room of their mother’s old sorority house. The house was a large one with lots of bedrooms, and Rachel and her family had come from their home in Louisiana for a summer vacation so her mother could attend a sorority reunion. Since classes had not yet started at UCLA, the sorority house was empty, allowing the returning sorority sisters and their families to stay there for the week of the reunion.

The evening before the fateful day there had been a big party. Rachel and Bonnie had been put to bed early and slept through the party. The next morning they were playing downstairs as usual, making houses out of blankets, giggling and having a good time. Pretty soon however, their father came in to say that their mom was sick and they were making too much noise so she couldn’t sleep. He said maybe they should go out for the day. Rachel thought that was a great idea and begged for the beach so they could build sand castles.

Rachel, Bonnie and their dad had a wonderful day at the beach staying until late in the afternoon. They returned to the sorority house, but as they approached they saw a lot of fire trucks and people standing around staring. The sorority house was on fire. Rachel’s father slammed on the breaks, grabbed Bonnie and hollered to Rachel to hurry, and put them in the house across the street from the sorority house before charging toward the burning house.

Rachel raced to the living room where there was a couch in front of a large picture window. Climbing onto the couch and looking out the window, she could see her father running around checking with the onlookers searching for her mother, but she wasn’t there. Rachel just knew instinctively that her mother was still inside, and her father must have realized that also because he was fighting his way through the crowds and into the sorority house where Rachel realized her mother was sleeping. She watched the fire fighters trying to stop her father, but he was determined. Pushing and shoving he made his way through the front door. Rachel was very scared. The house was burning fast with flames everywhere.

Soon her father came staggering out of the burning house alone. His hands were badly burned and the medics treated him. Rachel doesn’t remember anything after that, but in her mind she still can see the flames dancing against the sky on that hot August day. Picture windows, especially when things are waving outside, easily bring back that fateful day so long ago.

Morning Shower

All of a sudden the water came pouring down in a torrential release. Trying to hang on, I thought I could ride the waves of water, but that was not going to happen. Soon I was being washed over the side of the board I was lying on. Fortunately it was a short drop and I was on wet but solid ground. The water still poured over me at times, but it was not life threatening anymore and in fact it was rather nice to feel the warmth of the water. Then, after about fifteen minutes, the water stopped and I discovered I was resting under a fern frond. I’ll have to try that again, thought the slug! Morning showers are fun!