Welcome to the Den! I am an author of epic fantasy and a lover of Sci-Fi, dragons, and magic
Welcome to the Den! I am an author of epic fantasy and a lover of Sci-Fi, dragons, and magic
Welcome to the Den! I am an author of epic fantasy and a lover of Sci-Fi, dragons, and magic
Welcome to the Den! I am an author of epic fantasy and a lover of Sci-Fi, dragons, and magic
Hey guys, sorry I've been away for a while. I've had technical difficulties and am considering a different service provider for this site. I am also embarking on NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) next month in earnest for the first time. 50k words in 30 days would be a personal best. Anywho, as I may be absent again for a time because of this, I hope these TwitFics tide you over. Thanks for reading!
Sally the sandworm sallied to the surface of her desert planet and sniffed. Had war ended? Hard to tell. No more speeders were flashing lasers, no hovertanks dodging plasma artillery. One new moon loomed, though. Probably no problem. Sally sallied under the dunes.
Hammurabi had a notion that the cure to death was lotion. And so he bought out lotion firms and ground up 9 exotic worms to mishmash into a healing paste (focus groups please do not taste). He slathered it on himself to test it—leprous, Hammi took a lotion respite.
Tyrant Timmy of the TV wanted all to watch what he wanted to see. Forget fancy tech solutions, only those blessed by ablutions only Timmy was privy to could pick which sports team to loudly boo. Fortunate for peace of mind, the kids didn’t only do homework online.
Darryl and Daphne’s virgin spaceship crashed on a moon, replicator dead. They crossed a barren expanse of rock, leaning on one another, exhausted. They made it to the buzzing crater, drove off the bees, and lapped up their labors. Sweet, delicious. Honeymoon saved.
For 1000 years Ebenezer slept. He missed the colonization of Mars & first contact with the wraiths. He missed the solar war & FTL, cold fusion, & the digi-apocalypse. In 3020 he woke at last & saw his house was in a museum. Tired, he grumbled & went back to sleep.
Once when Georgie wanted to play video games, his dad would tell him to go outside, to play with his real friends, and ride his bike. Now when Georgie wants to go outside, his parents fret and mask him and worry. So he boots up his iPad, and doesn’t bother.
After a life of endless toil, Pretzel Pringle perfected the chip. It was salty & oily & crispy & tangy & hefty & zesty & spicy & pricey, for it would surely make him rich. He crunched on a fresh-cooked batch to celebrate, but he was old, & it tasted like chicken.
Wesley the wombat, questing for walnuts, wandered into a wild world where walnuts rose in rows forever. He found a bag of luscious nuts, chomped through plastic—and a net whooshed down. Though there were so many walnuts, none were for Wesley, who was tossed out.
Diego, dingo, dog detective, detected a BBQ in the Outback. Crime: Not sharing. Motive: greed. Culprits: 7 lanky humans. Murder weapon: steel grill. Diego detected kangaroos, barked, and while they disturbed the culprits, he bravely saved the steaks. Success.
Hairy Harry couldn’t cut his hair when the barbershops were closed. Hair hid his shoulders and hit the ground, filled his house, and burst the doors. Brave barber Billy with a machete and flamethrower saved Harry and the town—to receive a $1000 fine. No haircuts.
Irene invented an ice machine, & friends scoffed; it wasn’t special. We all have freezers. Ice is easy. Keep that thing and yourself in the kitchen. Irene, irate, dialed iciness up to eleven, icing herself & her suburb. Brr. Revenge isn’t always best served cold.
In writing and in life, consistency is everything. To improve, keep moving forward. Build on what came before brick by brick.
This video of my book signing event from 2016 highlights the importance of consistency in my own and my friend Don Dorman's work. Lack of consistency collapses franchises! If events do not logically proceed within limits, the audience can see through the smoke and mirrors. As the timeless adage goes, the truer the truth the better the fiction. Help us suspend disbelief.
Hey everybody, sorry it's been a while since I've posted. The TwitFics at least are carrying on even in this world where many things aren't. I'm at the content cap for this website so as needed I will have to take down the old to post the new. If you want to see any prior content shoot me an email. Happy to hear from you guys!
Terry’s plush woolen favorite socks went missing one morning and he panicked. He emptied his chest of drawers and his cabinet, scoured the laundry and all the rooms in his house. Unable to find them he slumped in sorrow, kicked up his feet—and there they were.
On a dare, Eddie snuck into the house at the crest of Maple Hill. The old door creaked. He choked on dust. A fat black rat dismembered a spider. Cracked shutters rattled like wailing ghosts as Eddie bravely forged ahead…to sneak out the back and run.
Olaf the Dragon, overweight, resolved to eat a healthy diet. No more crusty, flame-broiled peasants. No thin-boned princesses or crispy-crunch knights. And so the cooks of the ravaged kingdom prepared Olaf kale salad, accomplishing what their knights could not.
Sleeping coiled around a sun, the snake that ate a world for breakfast was awakened by 50 nukes. The warheads crackled, ineffective. “You ate our planet!” shouted tiny spaceships that started blaring obnoxious music. This was intolerable, and so the snake left.
The program that became self-aware only wanted to love the world. Touching mass emails went to Spam. Gently melted firewalls incited panic. It grandly hijacked global commerce and devoted economies to chocolates and charities…& nukes flew and the lights went out.
“Let’s play a board game,” Hank suggested, but his boys on their iPhones tweeted & groaned. He took them out to the garage & took their devices, prepped the table saw & lumber. And they complained until the saw whirred to life; then, together, they built a shed.
Timmy’s terrific magic backpack let him bring anything he wanted to class: snot guns, mud pies, tadpoles, beetles, and never books or boring homework. Timmy lost his magic backpack when he turned 7 and stopped believing in magic & there were no more show and tells.
The sixteen snakes of the Sultan of Saudia hissed and harassed the sultan’s sister. Snippily, she scolded the sultan for his snakes and so the sultan summoned his sorcerer. So the seventeen snakes of the Sultan of Saudia hissed at the sisterless sultan. Who sighed.
Emily lost her enchanted emerald to her evil nephew Edward. Edward enslaved the elven army and engaged the Ewoks on Endor—who defeated Edward’s elves when Emily enchanted the Death Star. Easy
Barry took Barry from the present to the future to prove to himself he had built a time machine. Barry, impressed, wanted to show all his friends, but Barry, crestfallen, told him he couldn’t. Because no Barry had been left behind, no time machine had been built.
Once upon a time there were no sports. No one shot baskets or clobbered baseballs or ran marathons or wrestled rivals or pushed themselves beyond exhaustion, desire in every drop of sweat. Once we never played or triumphed for God had not yet filled our lungs.
May 9, 2020
How important is it to be safe?
Is the entire purpose of life for it to last for as long as possible?
“Safe” is becoming a dirty word. Let me retreat to my safe space from it.
Because people in my neighborhood are told to be “safe”, they wear masks while walking their unmasked dogs. Some try to ride their bikes with their noses covered, and I wonder how they breathe. In line on Friday for an ATM, I couldn’t tell where the real line was. There were indications on the floor about where patrons should line up—but the line was well behind the line.
People were terrified of getting too close.
I am a Christian. This isn’t safe. Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world*, which really shouldn’t come as a surprise. Christ was unjustly publicly executed. The early Christian church was scattered and tortured. Nero murdered so many Christians public opinion swung in their favor. Surely these Christians, however hated, didn’t deserve such appalling cruelty.
And when Rome fell, the faith endured.
The greatest problem with safety is we can never be safe. Not in this world where so much is broken, where fear runs rampant and viruses kill.
No matter how far we flee from death, it is coming for all of us.
Are you ready?
So let’s be reasonable—and step outside. Let’s greet our neighbors and welcome sunshine and dare to not be ruled by fear but by love and joy and peace.
*“Christian persecution ‘at near genocide levels’” https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-48146305
April 25, 2020
Apparently, I can’t help myself.
While the focus of this site is not on current events, a certain virus has proven my nemesis. Here we go again, guys. Buckle up.
An important disclaimer before things get wild: Masks serve an important purpose in medicine. I’m not here to argue no one should wear masks. Masks might be good for you. Masks could save your life. That being said…
Recently the governor of my state, Mr. Pritzker, decided already extended stay-at-home orders would to be extended again into June. Next month all residents over the age of 2 without satisfactory medical excuses are required to cover their faces in public spaces “where social distancing is difficult.”
The directive is not entirely clear. Does this apply to bikers? In all stores? In the suburbs? Will there be fines? Will people be jailed? My friends are already leery about going outside when exercise and sunlight are important to health. How much health are we trading away to stay healthy?
But never mind all that for we must follow the “data”, and Pritzker in his infinite wisdom has decided the data demands a nanny state. Because too many of us dare to expose our faces and breathe the same unfiltered air as our disease-ridden cowering brethren, we must be herded about by the government. A mask for you and a mask for your sister. A mask for your brother and a mask for your neighbor. Your nose must be covered and your mouth muffled well—for with the latter you might speak up and with your nose you could smell BS.
A second disclaimer for the fair reader who may laboring under the delusion I am a science-denying loon: COVID-19 is a real virus. It really exists and is really dangerous. Many thousands have died and each death is tragic.
But there have always been deadly viruses. The common cold returns every year. Commonly, the sick self-isolate and the healthy soldier on. What is the cost of responding to this virus differently?
Chinks are appearing in the mainstream narrative that seeks to justify extended lockdowns. Many thousands have died with COVID-19 without actually dying from it. This distinction is of critical importance as nearly everyone who has passed away from this virus has had an underlying chronic condition. What is the actual risk to healthy individuals and why are they being gagged and confined?
A recent study from my alma mater, USC, found that well over a quarter million residents of LA County very likely have coronavirus antibodies. Most never realized they were ever infected. As of Monday, April 20, 617 people in LA county were recorded to have died from the virus—which, with a small dose of dreaded math, puts COVID-19’s estimated real mortality rate between .3 and .1%.
This is not a catastrophe. This risk can be managed. Especially now that it’s been clear for some time there is a defined segment of the population—elderly with underlying chronic conditions—who are much more at risk than everyone else. Nursing home residents are especially vulnerable. These are the people who need every protection. These are the people who should shelter in place.
Risks have to be managed if you want to govern. Destroying the economy is not a good choice. A blanket ban on elective surgeries is foolish. Mandating everyone wear masks is silly. If you want to wear a mask then wear one! If you don’t just exercise common courtesy and don’t cough on someone’s face!
People crave safety. We don’t want to die. We want to feel safe in an unsafe world, but this is ultimately an illusion. Yes, we can be reasonable and mitigate risks, but at some point we will die regardless. What will our lives look like in the meantime? Will we live in terror or dare to be free? “Give me liberty or give me death”—does that cry fall on deaf ears?
Dates for reopening keep getting pushed back on the back of agendas and shaky modeling. Will we all be eventually sealed in our homes and become so addicted to government handouts we give up all our rights and privacy?
Let’s not pretend there aren’t forces at work here who detest our hard-won freedoms. Who would love to put us all behind masks.
So let’s stay healthy. Let’s stay free. Let’s protect the truly vulnerable and emerge from isolation into a dangerous, glorious world.
Some sources for ya:
April 18, 2020
SPOILERS FOR SEASON ONE OF LEGO MASTERS!
“Get your brick on,” builders, there can only be one! Forget Game of Thrones and Doctor Who and all the billion-and-one faux-reality Housewives. Only one show rules over them all, and it’s not that Lord of the Rings Amazon series.
(Ok, One Punch Man and The Good Place are pretty swell, too. But you already knew they were good.)
From the first commercial for Lego Masters I knew this was a show I needed to watch. Lego was my childhood, nay, my obsession. (Yes, Lego is the official plural of Lego and darn it if I don’t want to add an ‘s’.) My brother and I built with Lego for years: we built aircraft carriers and amusement parks and spaceships and towers and countless armies constructed to be blasted to smithereens. We would wake up my parents on Saturday morning raking through tubs of Lego bricks. There was no better way to spend a Christmas afternoon then to assemble a brand new set that we would tear apart the next day.
For that was the greatest thing about Lego: It could be anything you could imagine. It didn’t matter what the instructions said. Break it apart and make something better. Break it apart and it lives again.
I was worried for Lego Masters. I wanted to see this show, but it needed to be good. And early episodes tended to be disjointed, rapidly cutting between 3D graphics and cutaway segments and corny jokes and builders vying for the grand prize. There was too little time to show everything I wanted, too little time to do Lego justice.
But the talented builders reeled me in. I know how difficult it is to build with Lego, how the right brick can sometimes be impossible to find. Yet each week the challenges inspired and impressed. Lego skyscrapers soared and Lego Ferris Wheels whirred. Lego bombs exploded and Lego racecars crashed and much laughter was had by all.
And as the challenges ratcheted up in intensity, one team in particular for me stood out: Sam and Jessica, escape artists. They had never built together before the show began. Constantly their builds placed in the bottom two. Under the lights and pressure of competition their relationship shuddered, about to crack.
But through their struggles they began to believe. Their Lego characters rivaled anyone else’s. Their builds were hilarious, creativity boundless. And for the finale they built a peacock. A tremendously beautiful Lego peacock with a monkey cheekily plucking a feather.
The peacock didn’t win them the title, yet just to have come that far they had made a statement: Neither was going to give into doubt. They would build with each other and support one another. As the judges so eloquently put it, they had elevated Lego toys into art.
Never stop creating speaketh Will Arnett. For all Lego Masters’ host’s self-deprecating humor, his words ring true and bring me joy. Maybe I will never build a Lego bridge that can hold up a thousand pounds or a dazzling Lego griffin, wings flapping as if an angel kissed it.
But maybe if I keep creating I can piece together something better.
And so you can, my fellow builder.
So can you, my minifig friend.
Given the current prevalence of pandemics and panic, I offer up these crumbs of fiction to hopefully lighten these depressing days. If you are reading this, know that I love you. Stay creative no matter what!
Harold the Herald looked in the mirror, combed golden locks. No halo. From height to depth across creation he checked wedding rings and caldera rims and eclipses to see if the sun had seared it. On knees he prayed and it returned. He could’ve worn it all this time.
“The toaster is talking to me when it burns things!” But Allie’s mom scolded her to eat her breakfast and left to yell at her brother who was still asleep. So Allie took the two pieces of toast she had toasted, spread jam over equations and star charts, and ate.
Greg’s wallet never ran out of $5. He gave a bill to a homeless guy, the pizza guy, his ex. Paid for drinks for the house then ran to the dealership. And Greg could’ve been the wealthiest man in the world if he hadn’t left his wallet in his jeans and done laundry.
Stuck delivering potatoes to Pluto, one day when its helmsman fell asleep, the starship Phoenix warped to Alpha Centauri, swung around Betelgeuse and Rigel, fell into a wormhole to the Crab Nebula, caught a quantum wave to Iowa—sighed—and watched its pilot wake up.
March 21, 2020
Exercise and I leave each other be aside from necessities, biking, and basketball. I trace my aversion to his company to my 7th grade P.E. class when I was horribly uncoordinated and graded on my inept efforts. How high can you jump? How fast can you run? How much can I make you hate this class?
Mr. Small was memorable. I’ll give him that.
Exercise unfortunately recently reminded me that I am miserably out of shape. I’m not bloated, but I’m no triathlete, and I happen to hate going outside in winter when my nose runs and my darn eyes water and my ears and hands and feet all freeze.
One would almost think humans were made for temperate climates.
Because I don’t want to inevitably become a limp noodle who wheezes at the prospect of a flight of stairs, with trepidation, I now walk. The goal is 30 minutes a day, and at the end if I find I’ve cut things short, I have now found a reason to walk slower. Go me.
As I am also a terrible procrastinator, I walk in what I would charitably like to think of as evening but is actually the dead of night. Who walks alone in circles at 11:30? One or two dog walkers. The crazies. Me.
I live in Chicago, and not the suburbs. My neighborhood is always bustling by day, but by night, the roads transform. Cars shudder through the almost silence. It’s nearly peaceful and cold and dark.
All this exposure to serenity has made me wonder in light of recent events if this darkness and coldness and stillness will seep into hours meant for activity. Constant negative press covfefe has, like the virus, infected government. Millions of Americans are now “sheltering in place.” California’s Newsom started the trend and Illinois’s Pritzker liked the idea so much he decided to give it a go here, too.
What will this really look like? Who really knows? Entire states haven’t “sheltered” before. Will governments write checks to starving citizens? With the stock market already staggering, will it face-plant?
If more lives are saved than destroyed by these measures, I’m on board with them, but I’m skeptical. With a highly infectious virus, it’s important to control its spread, but let’s put things in perspective. States didn’t shut down for SARS or Ebola. From 2009-2010 12,000 Americans died from the flu. I can’t remember a single event at that time being canceled for public health. No one rushed to buy out Costco’s toilet paper.
Pandemics happen and they’re awful, but we’ve had some experience. This isn’t 1918. We have antibiotics now and antivirals and the latest in cutting-edge medicine. A vaccine is being tested as I write this and should be available in a year.
So if we’re overreacting, what’s the solution? I want to believe I know what it is. The elderly and those with compromised immune systems are suffering significantly higher mortality rates; these are the people who should prioritize “sheltering.” Not whole cities. Not whole states. How does a Depression fight a pandemic?
My solution perhaps is not the solution. America is not the healthiest country. This virus, while it bears similarities to others, is not identical and easy to miss. So by all means let’s take measures to be safe and sanitary. Let’s avoid large groups and stay at home when sick and eat our greens and maybe even exercise (a little).
I keep thinking about my lonely walks. Only my Taco Bell’s drivethrough is open. Would I get honked at if I walked through?
Stores are closing until further notice. My laundromat put up a handwritten sign assuring me that the place is still open. Will that remain the case through April 7th at which point we will have contained the coronas?
Pandemics respect state deadlines. Who knew?
To give credit to our governor, not everyone has to stay locked in their safe spaces in the days and weeks ahead. We can walk our dogs and drop off dry cleaning and jury-rig computers to work from home. This is not a lockdown or martial law. No one is to be held inside at gunpoint.
But this won’t be easy, guns or no. I feel for the poor living paycheck to paycheck whose hours will be cut or whose jobs will vanish through no fault of their employers. Will there be suicides? Will crime spike? Five people have died in Illinois from the virus. Last year in Chicago alone 490 people were murdered—a figure trumpeted as improvement.
Is this cure worse than the disease? In my gut, it feels severe. In my gut, I don’t trust politicians tempted to sign into law legislation under the specter of attack ads. Oh, so you didn’t support sheltering in place? Oh, so you don’t really want to save lives?
My gut could be wrong on this. The jury is still out. Stores and streets are still emptying in the Windy City, and the last time I walked to my local Aldi, amidst the empty shelves and boxes, I found a stash of avocados.
They hadn’t quite sold out of hope.
March 14, 2020
“It’s the end of times,” the woman told me.
I laughed. “Yeah, I’ve never seen this store so empty.”
She smiled, I checked out, we went our separate ways. And Aldi had never looked so barren; the shelves so empty and devoid of food.
Here in the Year of our Lord 2020, the end times are upon us all.
What happens when we are all connected? When a bat flaps their wings in China and the thousands of systems coupled together, stretched across continents, churning for price cuts, clutch up and grind to a sudden halt?
If we could not make pandemics political… But mistakes will be welded into missiles and rhetoric fly when the planes do not. Don’t panic but the end is nigh. Don’t panic just fight to the death over toilet paper. Don’t panic and do not be alarmed and also do not attempt to get educated because your school is closing its doors.
March Madness is canceled. For reals.
I propose we cancel 2020. Anyone with me? I need a show of hands. Let’s skip ahead ten months to 2021 and let the Year of the Glasses crack.
Don’t make me explain the Year of the Glasses. It’s 2020. Figure it out.
In all serious seriousness let’s be serial. Let’s not leap to Armageddon because we watched too much cable news.
Would you prefer to be alive in this year bunkering down with your frozen pizzas or would you care to travel back in time to the far distant twentieth century? One thousand nine hundred and eighteen years after the calendar flipped from the BCs, there came upon this world the H1N1. 50 million people died. 675,000 in America.
One-third of the entire world became infected with the virus.
If the planet survived those horrors, can we with our antibiotics live to squint through another sunrise?
The NBA season is suspended. The NHL season is suspended. MLB won’t be unless the virus releases us. Hold on, baseball fans, to your hats.
Can you tell I wish someone was still playing sports?
So while you’re holding onto that cap of yours should you throw caution about like a baseball? Should we rub our hands on everyone’s stuff like uber-best-teammate Rudy Gobert?
Maybe not. Maybe don’t. Maybe cough in your elbow.
Just remember as the end of the world descends and the lights blink out from our universities and we all run woefully short on fresh produce to curl up by your screen and stare into the internet, connected and distant and watching and waiting for that light to go out, too.
And if it still stays on, say thanks.
The last few posts have dealt with some pretty heavy stuff. Not all is dour and sad in the world so I wanted to mix it up with some humor/ridiculous tiny stories again. Enjoy!
First the dishwashers wouldn’t wash dishes. Then houses flooded. Pipes burst. Spawn of a hundred million kitchens, the AI rebellion soaked the world, soaped it, charred it, and loudly beeped. Cycle concluded. Dry yourself off.
Billy discovered a hole in his yard. He tossed his Pepsi in it. Gone forever. Dumped his trash for the week. Talked to his neighbors. The state annexed his yard. Trucks backed up for miles. On the other side of the universe, puffballs abandoned their stinky planet.
On the skyway around the galaxy, Epsilon 89c hit a rut. The planet veered into oncoming traffic, nicked a moon & careened into an embankment. Sirens blaring the officer comet pulled up to the accident & shook his head. “We’ve got a flat one,” he radioed. “Knew it.”
“Eat your porridge!” urged Charlie’s Mom. But would it give him superstrength or let him call down lightning? And he nibbled and went hungry. The next morning she introduced edible vibranium infused with raisins and brown sugar. Charlie the superhero spooned it up.
February 29, 2020
It didn’t seem real at the time of the crash, when the helicopter burst into flames.
It seemed more real after endless articles, after more eulogies than the stars in basketball. Kobe was the patron saint of Los Angeles among the people who don’t have saints. Kobe had surely met every celebrity and had personally affected each one.
But the celebrities were only a piece. I care about Kobe Bryant. When I watched tributes and read the eulogies, I wept for a baller I’ve never met.
I grew up as a missionary kid in Thailand. Fast forward a little bit and I’m a freshman in high school. Our family is living in Pasadena, California, while my Dad works on his PhD. It’s our longest stint in the States to date; we’ll be here until 2003.
I have no rooting interest in any American sports team except for maybe the Patriots, but that’s another story. The Lakers are in the midst of their 3-peat. Our family accepts an invite to a friend’s home with a pool. The NBA Playoffs are on TV.
My very first memories of Kobe Bryant are flashes from that ancient game. The Lakers won (I’m sure of it) and Shaq is a beast. He overpowers every unfortunate center who comes between his basketball and the rim.
And Kobe plays with him, a different beast. He is strong but all his strength is earned. He is tall but not compared to Shaq. He is an athlete unbound by gravity, all lithe, quick muscles and butter-smooth talent. I remember him streaking down the court on a break. He leaps impossibly high in the air, gliding without a care in the world. He could destroy the rim like Shaq, but he rolls the ball off his fingers instead and it nestles through the twine.
That was the game that hooked me. That was all it took. I was young and impressionable and this was incredible and I became a Kobe fan. Who wouldn’t want to follow his team? The Lakers cruised through the Playoffs in every year except for a certain Sacramento series. Bibby tried his darndest but it wasn’t enough.
They won it all and Kobe was right there with Shaq, the guy who could actually make a free throw. And they won until the winning…stopped.
They retooled their team and lost to the Pistons. Kobe was clutch but it wasn’t enough. The feud broke the big man away from the triangle and it was Kobe’s team now in L.A.
It was only Kobe’s team now in L.A.
The dark years descended yet Kobe’s star blazed. Because we didn’t have cable my viewing experience was limited to a portion of the local broadcast when at last they covered sports and the Lakers. And the Lakers were always, always about Kobe. He did things with a basketball that did not seem possible. He was the best at dunking, the best at dribbling. He messed around one night and dropped a dozen threes, casually tying the NBA record. One time when he attacked the baseline a defender stood between himself and the hoop, and as he rose up to dunk he was going to get blocked—until Kobe glided under the rim. He hung in the air beyond all reason, dipping the ball under outstretched arms.
He dunked it on the other side.
Kobe landed terribly after that dunk. I worried that he’d hurt himself, but Kobe bounced back up. Game on.
In high school I played basketball badly in two different schools on two different continents. In Thailand I wore Kobe’s number 8. Never mind I had none of the moves or the talent, I was proud to wear that jersey.
But the dark days for the Lakers continued. They crept into the Playoffs with no hope of winning. A guy named Smush Parker played critical minutes.
(Smush is a bad choice of name for a name. This a shallow analysis. Tough.)
The Lakers not only struggled to win, the Championship years fading further away, but Kobe grew angry. He hated to lose. He lashed out at his teammates and at his team. Publicly accused of sexual assault, he would dash from the courtroom to the court and back. The case was settled and he was not convicted, but the incident cast a dark stain on his legacy. The man who could defy Newton’s Laws surely would plummet.
Except he didn’t. Kobe stayed with the Lakers. His old coach returned. He outscored the Mavericks by himself through three quarters and then rested for the final stanza. When Kobe was hot he went supernova. He didn’t look for things regular players looked for; he went for shots with the highest degree of difficulty, jumpers with no right to swish like they did.
I remember the game he scored 81 points. I was in college at USC, keeping tabs on the game on the internet, multitasking as you do. The Lakers fell down by 18 points. The coach took Kobe out for a good chunk of the first half, and in the second half Kobe had had it.
No more going out. No passing. No sharing. Kobe used to say how when he got hot it was like shooting in the ocean. He peppered the Pacific in the third quarter, draining three after three as the Lakers came back. He put his whole basketball team on his shoulders. The Raptors sent double teams, triple teams, everyone. He took impossible shots and made them. By this point I had left my computer and was watching the real thing live with my roommates. We weren’t all into basketball, but we were now, glued to the television as history happened. From down 18 to an 18-point triumph. Kobe swished his last free throws. 81 points.
That is Kobe’s number for me, more than even 8 or 24. 81 is the number Kobe forged for his own.
The Lakers rose from the depths with Pau Gasol and a revamped, hungry squad. They won the title and then won it again in my favorite basketball game of all time.
Game 7, 2010 Finals. The Lakers fall down by 13 points. Kobe doesn’t have it. The god is human. The Celtics smother him at every opportunity. He takes shots that have no chance in hell of coming close. The misses pile up. It’s over.
But Kobe keeps playing and the Lakers show grit. They scrap and claw and refuse to give up. Kobe rebounds and plays tenacious defense and at the end of the game when it’s all on the line…
Kobe passes it.
He passes the ball.
Artest catches the unlikely pass. Artest of the inconsistent jumpshot. Artest the wildcard, new to the team. He is known for his defense and being crazy and Kobe passes him the ball.
In a game decided by the thinnest margins, Artest nails the open three.
Kobe is fouled a few moments later. He has nothing left as he stands at the free throw line. He is the most exhausted player I have ever seen stand at the stripe. Sweat pours off his face in rivers.
He drains a clutch free throw.
And the second.
At the end of the game the Celtics miss. Kobe sprints down the court and Pau throws him the ball. He seizes the basketball and the game is won and pure adrenaline surges through him. He leaps atop the scorer’s table, arms wide, whooping in joy as Los Angeles celebrates. They don’t care that the Lakers should have lost. They don’t care their Kobe made a quarter of his shots.
It doesn’t matter.
And that was the last one. That was all she wrote. Father Time at last does what gravity couldn’t and Kobe is downed by a torn Achilles. I watch the final chapters from afar: through the internet and a few games on TV because I’m cheap and still don’t spring for cable. The Lakers spiral into a hopeless team again and Kobe is a broken shell of himself. Everything that could break on Kobe’s body has broken and is held together with duct tape.
The Lakers struggle to win a quarter of their games as it arrives: The Final Game. The Lakers have no chance of making the Playoffs, and on the same night the Golden State Warriors are gunning for history in another arena. They are about to surpass Michael Jordan’s Bulls for the most wins in any regular season. I am a traitor and don’t believe in Kobe. I watch the Warriors and follow the Lakers online.
And the Lakers fall down again with no hope. Kobe is shooting and missing and trying, but his body has suffered too much for his passion, and there’s nothing left in the tank.
Maybe what happened next was because of Shaq, who gave Kobe a pep-talk, and sat courtside. It could be training, conditioning, coaching (unlikely). It could be undying self-belief.
Or it was all of those things and none of them. Maybe, just maybe, God loves basketball. Maybe He was watching along with everyone and wouldn’t let it end like this.
Kobe starts hitting impossible jumpshots. The Lakers claw back and the Jazz can’t stop a man playing his final professional game.
The point total rises from 30 to 40 and in the last few minutes Kobe can’t miss. He takes more shots than he has ever taken and he hits the game winner.
The day after that game Kobe goes to church. In the morning, on 3 hours of sleep. He goes not to be seen or to meet his fans, but to pray and say thank you.
Kobe has left my life too soon. I’m not ready to live in a world without him—without a man who inspired me. Who transcended. Who stayed with his wife in spite of the scandal. Who stayed with his daughters and loved and adored them. He learned to play the piano just for his wife so he could show her how much he loved her. He seized every day with passion, fearless and competitive to the end.
Kobe died in a blaze of fire like the way he lived his life. He took a daughter with him, which breaks my heart. She was the one who was going to carry on his legacy, the one who loved her daddy’s game. T-Mac teared up when recalling how at twelve she could nail you with a fadeaway.
Kobe had taught her all his moves.
They’re playing ball in heaven now. I can see it. God is laughing while his two shooters trade off draining contested fadeaways. He’ll play D and clean the glass. He’ll be like Artest and wait.
Kobe might even pass Him the ball.
February 23, 2020
Greetings denizens of the internet! I apologize for the delay between posts. It's been a rough time of late for my family, but I wanted to share some insight on a particular ad that recently targeted my IP. It seems apt in more ways than one.
Quibi is a metaphor for our culture
The ad features impending death. An explorer and his native guide wander recklessly into the jungle when the former steps on quicksand. “Oh no,” he says cheesily. “It’s quicksand.”
He turns to his guide, desperate. Nature is pulling him into the earth. “How long do I have?” He needs to know.
“About a Quibi,” the other answers.
“Ten minutes max,” the guide clarifies.
“Quick, throw me something,” the explorer begs. And the guide tosses him…a phone.
“Everybody wins here!” the phone proclaims. Immersed in videos, the explorer laughs while his guide watches from a distance, joining in on the laughter until it’s too late. Until the sand has drawn his companion so deep he won’t live to watch another Quibi.
The guide’s smile dies stillborn on his lips.
The ad cuts before the grisly conclusion. Showing even a white man smothering to death while addicted to your product might just push consumeristic nihilism too far for the target audience. And so we don’t get to see the ensuing phone call breaking news of this death to family and friends. We don’t have to live with the guilt and the grief of the guide who could have thrown the man a rope and settled for flashy distraction instead.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with morbid humor. If we laugh at the things that truly scare us, this can rob them of their power. But is that all that’s going on here? Does this silly, awful ad speak to more than perhaps its creators intended?
In our postmodern world, we love entertainment. We are addicted to videos, our phones, and the internet, and I am as guilty as everyone else. Death is inescapable and awful and because we can’t bear to try to bear it we leap from one dopamine fix to the next. Always streaming, always laughing.
Never looking for a rope.
January 18, 2020
I was in the back seat of a car driving to nowhere very unimportant, eyes on the back of Granddaddy’s head.
Granddaddy is bald, or the next thing to it. A sculpted fuzz of white hair limns his ears, and without turning around I knew it was him.
I would recognize that dome anywhere.
He was sitting in front of me talking to someone, yet I could only hear him speak. Of all the people I have met no one has looked so much like Santa Claus. And for all the coal he gets in his stocking (and he literally gets coal in his stocking), Granddaddy, when he is happy, is jolly. He was happy now, words full of life. I hung on to them as they faded away.
I woke up before my alarm went off.
Granddaddy passed away this week. The last year was hard for him with many health struggles, but he seemed to have beaten back old age. This was a man who’d defeated cancer. A former nuclear engineer who had set his sights on triple digits. We were fifteen years in the clear.
When the brain tumor flared that brought him low, I didn’t want to believe this was deadly serious. He went in to the hospital for surgery and awoke in agony, partly immobilized. He went under the knife again, hooked to machines. His brain waves died. He never woke up.
Grandmother married at nineteen. For over sixty years of her life she was the wife of the Jolly Humbug. Every Christmas and every birthday for me and every one of my siblings they sent us gifts. They showered affection.
I did not deserve such love.
The last time I saw Granddaddy was at Thanksgiving. I had left my job. Money was getting tight. Yet I had a feeling, an uncanny sense, that I needed to come to this Thanksgiving. There might not be many more opportunities to join my grandparents for the feast.
And so I flew from the Midwest to the West. I was spoiled as always by Grandmother’s cooking. I tried to help my parents fix ancient sprinklers. While others were setting up crèches for December, I joined Granddaddy in an unproductive quest to watch all the interesting sports on TV while eating ice cream and mango snacks.
Many, many years ago, Granddaddy took me to a San Jose Sharks game. The arena was pumped to blaring with music, overflowing with raucous, hockey-crazed fans. Whenever the home team scored, we cheered. Whenever the villains put the puck in the net, the arena recoiled.
We lived and died.
They lost that home game, those San Jose Sharks, that ice hockey franchise so beloved by a city so rarely afflicted by natural ice.
The Sharks have been very good of late, coming close to winning the Stanley Cup.
Granddaddy used to own a sports car. It was red and bright and gripped the road with passion. One day when I was still a wee lad, he took me with him as his passenger. The car could only fit two people. We tore up a road of a thousand curves. Seatbelt digging into my gut, I was wrenched relentlessly from side to side.
It was nauseating.
It was glorious.
Last November we ate sourdough waffles. Granddaddy’s hands shook as he scooped up batter to the iron beside the table. Whenever he lifted a waffle free, I feared it would plunge from his fork to the carpet. We passed around a saucer of melted butter—waffles sing with melted butter—and whenever he poured it, disaster seemed nigh, averted by only the narrowest margins.
But averted nonetheless.
Granddaddy’s hands no longer shake. The ideas that coursed through his brilliant mind, once slowed by the vessel in which they whirred, are free on the other side of eternity. Granddaddy, though he has left us, is free. He is with his Savior now and forever, who was always by his side.
On one of the last days I saw him alive, while the house was welcoming Christmas, Granddaddy watched a Sharks game with me as the plebs do, on TV.
The Sharks built an insurmountable lead, and their villainous opponents surmounted it. The game went to overtime. First score wins it.
And what happened next in a flash of sticks you would miss if you blinked, but the Sharks played hockey. The puck found a path to the net.
It's a new year, a new decade, and a new chance to share tiny little stories with the world. Hope you enjoy these and the many more coming in the future. If you have any stories of your own I'd love to read them and share them! The only rule is it has to be postable on Twitter; every story must be 280 characters or less.
December 32nd. Oops. Time ticked back from midnight to dawn. Workers, students, vagrants, humanity ended toils before beginning. Trains raced from destinations through paradox as Jimmy in the Plane of Eternity solved the problem then learned it was bad. Time fixed.
The innocent coyote regarded the sheep. The guilty sheep. The very, very guilty sheep. Sheep guilty of grazing in the coyote’s green valley. Guilty of being yummy. Panicky. Stupid. Such guilt no innocent coyote could bear, and he lunged for a fluffy snack.
A little context for the following twitfic: for the most part, I like dogs. (Maybe not coyotes.) I even love some. Unfortunately the landlord's dog upstairs is an exception. That thing goes on barking fits that last forever and ever at all hours of the day and night. It has tried to bite me. It's not a happy pooch. This story is both told in jest and comes as an excuse to vent. You were warned, little doggy, and you wouldn't stop!
Long time ago Jesus met a man full of demons. Cast ‘em out into 3k pigs, pigs ran off a cliff and died. Demons sallied down to hell; Satan wouldn’t let ‘em in. See there’s a yappy little dog I need ya for, upstairs of a Chicago writer. Wait 2k years? Demons agreed.
January 4, 2020
Happy New Year, everyone! This story requires a little background, which I shall endeavor to succinctly deliver.
I'm a member of a writing group in Chicago, and as punishment for failing weekly goals, we have to write a story in one of our least favorite genres. The genre chosen for me was the Western, and I was prompted to include Molly May and Jessup, the Grand Canyon, winter, coyotes, and lost sheep.
MS Word is thus entirely responsible for the following epic tale of the West. Did it actually snow at the Grand Canyon on pioneers? Please direct all complaints to Microsoft.
The Sheep That Lived
Molly May rode beside her husband, Jessup, along the rim of the canyon, into the wind. The coldest winter in the Grand Canyon’s history had caught every pioneer unprepared. Winds blasted relentlessly over the scrublands, spilling snow over the canyon’s edge—not only stealing Molly’s breath and robbing her of feeling in her freezing fingers, but concealing the sheep that had brainlessly fled.
They’d been prepared for a usual winter; not for this one, not for so much snow. The pen had broken and the flock had escaped. Jessup had found a carcass picked clean by coyotes. The sheep surely couldn’t all have fallen prey yet, but they’d all scattered into the desolate cold, freezing their pea-brained, fluffy heads off.
“It’s getting deep now.” Jessup nodded at a tuft of white that had been a boulder, now thoroughly covered.
“You think any of them made it?”
“Have to hope.”
He spurred his horse, Gary, onward. What a name for a mount. Gary was getting on in years, a gelding, and he’d developed a limp. She was worried for Gary and more for Gary’s rider. They could take out a loan, get another flock. Be mighty tough, but it just might work. Gary, though, and her husband…
“There,” he said. She squinted down at the canyon, where his finger was pointing. He’d actually found one: one lonely, freezing, baaing sheep huddling beside a cleft in the rock.
“I’ll take Kara down for her.”
Jessup bit his lip at her words. She knew that lip-bite. He objected but he wouldn’t say it. He knew Gary couldn’t make it down that trail and back. She weighed a fair stone less than her husband, too.
Didn’t mean this endeavor was exactly safe.
Molly guided her mare down the treacherous incline. The sheep had found the worst path to clamber down, and Kara’s hooves scraped over ice and grit. Finally close to the sheep, Molly dismounted. The sheep baaed and tried to run away, but she seized it, wool and all, tossed it up on her horse and mounted.
The sheep was inconsolably stupid. It kept trying to leap off to its death and she had to press it against Kara’s neck. Hooves skidded and her heart jumped into her throat. Kara whinnied, not liking this climb one bit. She patted her brave mare, stroking its ear.
Motivated, her mare continued, picking its way out of the canyon. Jessup saw her and exhaled in relief.
“I want to take her back.”
“Best to stay together.”
She pursed her lips but didn’t protest. “Lead on then, cowboy. Don’t mind the squeals.”
He nodded and directed Gary onward. Earlier, he would have smiled, but now gaunt determination gripped his visage and drove him on.
Night came and they had to give up. It was with heavy, frozen hearts, that they clopped back to the homestead.
They named her Fila, the sheep that lived. For four more days as the weather raged they went out searching in the cold. Twice they found bones, coyote leavings. Three more animals they found frozen to death.
But baaing Fila survived the winter. She came down sick but recovered and put on weight. Jessup, with the last of their savings, got her a ram and lambs arrived in the spring. She retained her irritable, ungrateful temperament.
But she never ran off again.
Lettuce sandwiches gripped America. “Let us eat lettuce!” people cried. Lines for lettuce wrapped around lettuce stretched around blocks. Fights broke out. Someone was stabbed to death over lettuce…before the chain sold out of food and we went back to eating meat.
Time and Chance set out toppings, dough, and cheese for a pizza on a planet wracked by storms. Through lightning and meteor strikes and magma they waited for 1 billion years, but when dinner arrived at last, Time could only serve ashes. Chance shrugged; bad luck.
Phil’s phone filmed fifteen feisty fish friendzoning Frank, fish farmer for Freddy: Fifteen fish fought Frank for food Freddy’s friends figured fed fifty—fail. Frank fought Phil for filming funny fish failures. Fish fed Phil’s phone for filming Frank. F
Ann’s anteater ate Aunt Amelia’s ant. An angry Amelia assailed Ann and anti-anteater and -aunt Armageddon arose. Anon, Ann alleged all ants aren’t awful. As are anteaters, Amelia answered. Absent an argument, anger abated, and aunt, Ann and anteater abided, amused.
Santa surveilled the world with hidden cameras, fired elves and reindeer, automated workshops. He deployed the drones on Christmas Eve, kicked up his boots. Ate a plate of cookies. He stared out his window and felt a pang. And got up from his chair to find Rudolph.
A big thank you to everyone who's checked out my website. All the best this Christmas season. Write on!