Okay. Let's try this again.
Alynn woke up to the church bell ringing to Prime, the six-o'clock prayer service. The wooden pew was hard underneath her. Her arm was asleep from using it as a pillow, and her ears were cold. But she'd slept well. Of course she'd slept well; the priest, Father Columba, had invited the McNeils to share his dinner the night before. The soup was thin and the bread didn't have butter, but it was more food than Alynn was used to, and she had enjoyed it.
The ringing of the bell paused, and when it began again, the sound was uneven and even skipped a peal or two. Alynn knew why when Father Columba climbed down the ladder that led to the belfry before helping Tarin down.
"Lynder! Father Columba let me ring the bell!" he cried, running to his sister's arms. Alynn hugged him and made his tousled hair look presentable.
"That's grand," Alynn said. "Did you thank him?"
"Thank you, Father Columba."
"You're welcome, lad," the priest said. "Now, Alynn, would you make us some oatmeal? Tarin can help you."
"Of course, Father." Alynn gathered the plaid she'd used as a blanket, gathered it over her shoulder, and belted it around her waist. Then, taking her brother's hand, she went for the small refectory where they'd eaten the night before.
Rowan was nowhere to be found. Alynn wasn't surprised. He was probably out trying to find a job, or the hovel with the cheapest rent and the leakiest roof and the draftiest walls. Alynn didn't know where he would get his breakfast from, but his absence at the breakfast table was nothing unusual.
After Prime was chanted, the meal was eaten, and the dishes were washed, Alynn approached Father Columba. "What else would you have us do, Father?" she asked.
"In exchange for staying here, I mean."
Father Columba laughed. "Am I an innkeeper, that I should charge for hospitality? Keep your brother out of trouble. You can go explore the town, or stay here--try not to bother me too much, now--"
"Of course. Thank you, Father."
Alynn, however, was unused to having free reign. She slept a bit more while Tarin played with his beloved wooden ox and cart, and then she mended the rip Tarin had sustained in his trousers the day before. When Rowan finally came home, wet with a cold rain and still without a job, every bench in the small church had been wiped clean.
"Are we going wassailing tonight, Da?" Tarin begged, soap on his chin and dirt on his nose. "I want cookies!"
Rowan sighed. "Not tonight, my heart."
Tarin's eyes grew wide, and he hugged Rowan's leg. "Please, Da? I'll give you some of my cookies." When there was no answer, Tarin hugged tighter. "Pleeeease?"
"Yay!" Tarin bounced away to help Alynn and Father Columba make a pot of soup.
After dinner, armed with candles and Rowan's timpan and a legion of songs, Alynn and Tarin went door to door, singing. Sometimes they were invited in for a drink. Sometimes they were given bread or cookies, and some of the wealthier houses gave them coins. Tarin's eyes grew wide as an owl's when he was given a whole penny, and he jumped up and down thanking the generous homeowners.
And when Alynn went to bed that night, full of bread and cookies and milk with even more saved for the next day, she prayed a special prayer of thanks.
Oh, crap. Did Monday's short story not work? I hate technical difficulties. I'll repost it Monday...after I rewrite the entire blasted thing, since I wrote it at work...
Anyway. Christmas is less than a week away. You, like most other people on the planet, are busy. You're going to Christmas parties where you pretend to enjoy talking to people even though you'd much rather be at home watching the live-action Grinch movie in your pajamas. You're helping your kids memorize lines for their school Christmas play. And all of a sudden, you realize you've forgotten to get Christmas presents for a particular bookworm in your life.
Fear not! Here are some gifts that every bookworm will absolutely love.
"What do you mean?" you're probably asking. "They're a bookworm. I'll just get them a book and call it a day." Oh, nope. Not so fast. See, most people have particular tastes in books. I like historical fiction novels--depending on what time period they're set in. I like action novels and thrillers, assuming there isn't graphic violence or too much profanity involved. I like a good mystery, but not one that involves ghosts. In fact, half the time, I don't know if I'll like a book or not until I pick it up and rifle through it.
If you know your reader well--say, if they're your child or spouse--you can probably pick something out for them. Maybe. But even then, you're best going with one of these other options.
Best option? Gift cards. Oh, we readers love gift cards. An excuse to go to a bookstore and touch the soft covers of books and thumb through the pages and ogle at collector's editions! Your favorite bookworm will absolutely adore a gift card.
If you decide against a gift card or want to keep your gift under $20, reading accessories are always appreciated. I just bought myself a clip-on reading lamp so I can read in the car when it's dark (and I'm not driving). Bookmarks, shirts that say "Need More Books," or merchandise from a favorite series are always appreciated. Or even stickers with quotes from a favorite book. I have a sticker on my laptop right now that says "Courage, dear heart," which is taken from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
You still want to get them an actual book? See if there's a particular author they like. I'll read anything by C.S. Lewis, for example, although I still need to struggle through That Hideous Strength. What about classics, you ask? Be careful. Mark Twain said that a "classic" book is something you wish you had read. Past tense. It's like saying that Illinois is a good place to be from, after you're safe and secure in nice, sunny Texas.
However, a few of the classics are actually enjoyable to read. I'm currently reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, and I'm enjoying it. I've laughed aloud multiple times. The Sherlock Holmes books are safe bets, usually. Don't bother getting The Scarlet Letter or Moby Dick or anything by Shakespeare unless you know your reader friend is into stuff like that.
And what about your writer friends--like yours truly? Hopping on www.amazon.com and getting yourself, or a friend, a copy of Where I Stand or Where the Clouds Catch Fire
School is over...for now. I've taken the past few days--well, mornings, anyway, since I still have to work--and I've done absolutely nothing. And it is glorious. Oh, and I have my associate's degree as of this past Friday, and my nineteenth birthday party was Saturday, so I've had a busy weekend. Yet another reason to do nothing all morning.
One of the things I love to do when I'm doing nothing is to watch Star Trek. To be honest, I only started watching The Next Generation because Captain Picard looks like Lukas McCamden. But I was quick to realize it's a good show. The captain and Data the android are two of my favorite characters, and Q has got to be one of my favorite villains out of all of cinematic history. Right up there with Maligant from Twelfth Night (or Twelfth Knight...it was some sort of Arthurian romance movie).
But longtime fans of Star Trek have posed some interesting questions, one of which I will attempt to answer today. That question being, how do people on the Enterprise use the bathroom?
I've read some interesting theories on the internet. One of them states there's a toilet that pops out of the wall, and twenty-fourth-century people don't care so much about privacy. Someone else suggested the use of transporter technology. This makes sense. After all, medical technology has increased to the point that headaches and common colds have been abolished. Why not eliminate the need to use the restroom?
Here's where my two cents' worth comes in.
In the world of entertainment--books, movies, TV shows, you name it--most people just don't use the bathroom. It interrupts the flow of the story, and besides, it's sort of crass. Children under the age of four and animals are the only beings allowed to relieve themselves. And bathroom breaks aren't the only things authors and screenwriters have eliminated. Lots of common, everyday activities--like randomly sneezing, hiccupping, or asking someone to repeat themselves--is ignored. And that's the part that bugs me a little.
I don't know why we do this. I suppose authors and screenwriters have different reasons for ignoring these simple things most of us do every day without realizing it. Book authors are told by basically every writing-advice source available to eliminate everything not necessary to the plot or to character development. There went random sneezes and coughs and hiccups. But screenwriters probably have a different reason--hiccups and sneezes are hard for an actor to convincingly fake.
Coughs are another thing altogether. For some reason, the collective human consciousness associates coughing with two things: choking (on water, food, your own saliva, you name it) and dying of some fatal respiratory disease. It's almost like Chekov's gun--if a character is shown coughing, they'd better be dead or close to it by the climax.
Oh, and as far as the bathrooms in Star Trek go? Someone in Season 1 mentions some crew members being trapped in a bathroom when an inorganic life form takes over the Enterprise. So I guess that puts everyone's theories to rest.
What are some other things books tend to overlook? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to check us out on Amazon!
Alynn’s eyes refused to stay open.
She wanted to pay attention to the sermon. She wanted to prove to everyone in this strange new church that she was a proper, respectful, reverent girl. But she hadn’t eaten since yesterday’s breakfast, and St. Patrick’s Church was wonderfully dry and warm, and the rain pattering on the slate roof was so calming that she kept dozing off.
Fortunately, Mass was designed to keep people awake. Stand for the hymn. Kneel for the prayer. Sit for the Scripture reading. Stand, kneel, sit, over and over again.
This priest was long-winded when he prayed, and so Alynn fell asleep on her knees. Her father Rowan apparently noticed, because she woke up sitting on the bench. Her little brother Tarin sat next to her, but Rowan was nowhere to be found. Alynn finally saw him at the front of the now-empty church, talking to the priest. Probably asking if they could spend the night.
“I’m hungry,” Tarin said.
“We’re all hungry,” Alynn said. Her voice was unusually tired, and it made Tarin look up at her. His eyes were round and almost frightened. Alynn made herself smile at him. “You know, perchance if we had some good luck, we’d get a decent dinner tonight. Where can we find ourselves some good luck?”
Tarin beamed. “Right here! Right here!” he said, grabbing at his red hair. Everyone in Ireland knew it was good luck to rub a redhead’s hair, and nowhere in Ireland could be found hair redder than Tarin’s.
Alynn ruffled his hair. “There we go. Now let’s pray, just for good measure.”
Tarin knelt on the church’s dirt floor. “Dear Saint Mary, please pray that we’d get a good yummy dinner tonight. I want soup and bread and cheese and ham, but no seaweed, because ‘tis yucky. And then I want a good glass of milk, just like Mum used to make. Amen.”
“Amen,” Alynn agreed through the lump in her throat. It had been almost a year since the Viking had taken her mother Caitriona. Since then, the tasks of raising Tarin and keeping house had belonged to Alynn. She did what she could, but she knew that, at just nine years old, she couldn’t be doing a very good job.
Before Alynn could stop him, Tarin was up and running down the aisle towards his father. “Da,” he cried, “Da, I prayed that we’d have a good dinner tonight.”
“Good job, lad.” Rowan smiled, though he didn’t mean it. He never smiled like he meant it anymore. “There’s two weeks to Christmas. Perchance we could go wassailing soon. Would you like that? What do you think, Lynder?”
“He can go. I won’t.”
The priest gave a compassionate smile. “My child, wouldn’t you enjoy spreading the joy of Christmas with others?” he asked.
“I just want to go home and sleep.”
“’Tis because she’s hungry,” Tarin said. “She always gets tired when she’s fierce hungry.”
“We can’t have that,” said the priest. “Suppose you dine with me tonight, daughter—you and your family—and we’ll see if you aren’t ready to go wassailing tomorrow.”
“It worked!” shouted Tarin. “Praying worked!”
Alynn smiled. Her prayers usually went unheard, and perhaps this was a coincidence. But miracle or not, she was grateful.
Whew, what a week! And it's not over yet! Finals are over, thank God, but tomorrow I'm graduating with my associate's degree, and Saturday I'm playing on worship team AND celebrating my nineteenth birthday...which, by the way, if you want to get me a present, I just want an Amazon review on Where the Clouds Catch Fire or Where I Stand. Or both, honestly.
Anyway, I figured that, since I'm nearly finished with two decades of life, I've learned a few things. A few things that, hopefully, some of you will benefit from. So here we go--19 things I've learned by the age of 19.
In the highest branches of a fictional tree lives a whole bunch of gods, many of whom have long and hard-to-pronounce names. Two of them are the twin sons of Odin and Frigga. One of them is Balder, and the other one's name includes a letter that doesn't exist in English, so let's just call him Hodur.
The twins are as different as night and day. Balder is beautiful and innocent and as pure as the morning sunlight. Hodur, on the other hand, is dark-complexioned and blind. But still, they're both good boys, although Balder is obviously his parents' favorite. In fact, most of the gods who live in the fictional tree really like Balder.
One night, Balder has a bad dream and, like any good son does, he goes to his dad and talks to him about it. Odin realizes that Balder's dream is about the future--about Balder's own death, actually--so he sends one of the gods down to the lowest branches, where Loki's daughter Hella is in charge of everyone who didn't die in battle.
The messenger looks around and notices that all the dead people are busy. It looks like they're preparing for an important visitor. Finally, he finds Hella and asks, "What's up with that dream Balder had?"
The messenger goes back to the highest branches of the fictional tree and tells Odin that they're screwed. So Frigga, being the great mom she is, goes around and asks all the trees, sticks, sword, all that stuff, for their pledge to never hurt Balder. And all of those inanimate objects agree. So Balder is now effectively invincible, and everyone loves shooting him with arrows because they bounce right off him and everyone gets a good laugh out of the deal.
Now, most of the gods still really like Balder. But not Loki. He's jealous. So he disguises himself as an old lady and goes to a dinner party that Frigga's hosting.
"It's so cool that you got every inanimate object in the fictional tree to agree to never hurt Balder," he says.
Frigga smiles. "Oh, yes. All except for that little plant that grows under a specific tree. It's so little, it would never hurt him anyway."
"What's it called?"
Loki smiles, leaves the party early, and makes an arrow out of the mistletoe. Then, at the next party Frigga throws, Loki again goes disguised as an old lady. He goes to Hodur, the blind brother, and places a bow loaded with the special arrow in his hands. "Let's play a game," he says. "I'll help you aim so you can shoot your brother just like everyone else does."
So Hodur shoots Balder and kills him, much to the panic of everyone.
It doesn't take long before everyone realizes Loki is behind everything. So they punish him and, slowly, everyone in the highest branches of the fictional tree became happy again.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.