Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Haanta Series Venerates Robin Williams

I am so distraught that I could think of nothing but writing him a letter. A somber goodbye to a personal hero:

O Captain! My Captain!

Shock was the first emotion to feel upon hearing of your passing, and I think I would have preferred to remain in such a state of such dumbfounded ignorance rather than bare all the agony of the sequel. Hearing that you are now gone from us is one thing, but accepting it is entirely another, and while everyone will and everyone must come to accept your passing in time, no one is relieved by this notion. You were a light of blithesome ardour that illumined a world of inexplicable atrocity. The murk of what is reality was cast aside by your contagious comedy: your hardy guffaws, your mirthful smiles, your good humour and easy character wore away anything akin to fretfulness and agitation, and your radiance as an actor and a comedian was but a glow in comparison to your resplendence as a human being. Your friendliness, your openness, your kindness, your consideration as an individual is irreplaceable, and while your admirers are spread out all over the world, we are united in our adoration of you. We admired you with the same devotion, the same passionate quality that you expressed in your art, and there will be no one more beloved for his dedication to his ability than you can be.         

I hardly know what I write; I cannot really under the weight of so much sadness-- I am horribly inconsolable. Grief and dejection and the like is such a monstrous business. There is a sense of indebtedness I feel when thinking of how much you have given me though we never got the chance to meet. You were the voice of my childhood, the laughter of my adolescence, the sensibility of my later life. Your films, your roles, your improvisations have shaped all of our lives in some way or other, and will continue to do so even though you’ve gone from us. Children will hear the soothing tones of your voice, see your nurturing expressions, and they will come to love you as we do. Your legacy will be the world’s inheritance, and the laughter you left us with will be the birthright of a new generation. In this idea there is comfort, for in knowing that you’ve conferred on us a sundry of performances-- all of them wondrous, from a joyful genie to a doting father—we will never be without you.

This world, it seems, could offer you no consolation from the various agonies which tormented you. Addiction and depression could not leave you in peace, and it is my sincerest wish that wherever you are now, be you hovering in the vast expanse of the universe or remaining close by, that you have been granted the liberation and relief you hoped to achieve by leaving us. Time is a great mender of many things, and while delighting in everything you left us will soften our misery eventually, it can never undo the pang of having lost you so abruptly. We honour you as an artist, a true beacon of exultation in a world that is sometimes so discouraging. The world is diminished by your absence, but your presence made this place ever so much more marvelous.  

Exult O shores, and ring O bells!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Story for the Day: The Glaoustre Dairy Bakery

Glaoustre, a small municipality in the south of Frewyn, is known for its superior dairy production, so much so that everything in the main town belongs to the famous Royal Dairy and its adjoining abbey, but the pride of Glaoustre is perhaps the famed Glaoustre Dairy Bakery, which boasts of producing hundreds of different baked goods, every single one of them containing dairy in some way. Everything therein from the head baker to the cream cheese cupcakes are well-known and impossible to resist. Even Breigh Donnegal as master dairyman cannot deny himself a visit:

Her gaze fell everywhere, looking first at the men sitting on the tavern terrace, rapt in ardent rumination, their backs bent and their heads bowed as they studied their game boards with furrowed brows; flat caps, fashioned from swatches of varied twill, sitting like dollops over the noses of napping workers, vibrating with the incessant rise and fall of their owner’s chests; looking then at the children galloping after one another, chasing down the fritter carts with their copper coins held high, all of them clamouring against one another to achieve the head of the line; and her gaze settled on the bakers alternating the display in their bow-window, changing out the old exhibition to suit the approaching faire, bringing out fine cream cheeses and soft rounds dotted over with blue mould, hanging braided breads from the casement, and resting a few cakes, sitting in high wrought complacence, on tiered treys. She paused to watch the baker and her assistant arrange the cupcakes, each one different from the last, being placed in order of colour and size. She stepped unconsciously toward the window and craned her neck to gain a clearer look of the braided raisin breads being wreathed round the front pane, whereupon Breigh stopped and turned toward the window to see what was so intriguing to her.
                “Sure look good,” said Breigh quietly, eyeing the cakes. He stooped, spied the hanging breads, smiled at Aibheann, and turned back. “Fresh too. I can smell that through the window.” He inhaled. “Aw, no,” he moaned, turning away and trying not to smile.
                Aibheann grew concerned. “What is it?”
                Breigh gave her a serious look. “I smell cinnamon.”
                “Is that a bad thing?”
                “Aye, sure is for me. Anythin’ with cinnamon don’t last in the house.” His brow furrowed, and he averted his eyes. “Now I’ve seen it…” He sighed and his shoulders withered. “…Chune.”
                Aibheann raised a hand, stifling a laugh, and apologized.
                “It’s none yer fault, girl.” Breigh’s eyes darted about and he pined, rueful and disappointed. “Shouldna looked. Now that smell’s gonna follow me.” He hummed and deliberated. “Sure wouldn’t mind gettin’ some if you wouldn’t mind the sharin’.”
                “Sharin’?” Aibheann asked, somewhat alarmed.
                “Aye, knew you wouldn’t wanna share.” Here was a sagacious grin. “Gotta have everythin’ to yourself. Well, guess we’ll just have to get somethin’ for each of us.”
                Breigh smirked and winked at her, and before Aibheann could ask what he was about or catch at his meaning, Breigh was gone, moving toward the bakery and passing the threshold with his usual fluent alacrity, taking his long strides on silent feet. The bell atop the door peeled as Breigh entered, the tinkling and plangent sounds drowned out Aibheann’s timid tones as she begged him not to buy anything for her. He turned momentarily back to her, catching her anxious entreaties from the corner of his eye, and though his playful grin betrayed his having heard her, he feigned ignorance and continued into the shop, closing the door behind him and standing directly in front of it, to bar her from entering after him and trying to stop any attempts at a purchase. Aibheann’s heart sunk under many vexatious sensations: to spend his wages on her, and on something which she deemed unnecessary, when he had already done so much for her—it was too much kindness. If there were such a thing as excessive thoughtfulness, she conceived, he must be guilty of it, and she approached the bow window, where she saw Breigh pointing to the cakes and pretending not to notice her ardent shakes of the head by speaking with the baker’s assistant.
                “Aye, yer ahfther spoilin’ that girl now somethin’ rottin, are ye?” said the assistant, speaking to Breigh and nodding toward the window.
                Breigh’s lips pursed in a smile. “Well, you hung the cinnamon braids. You know I’m comin’ in if you hang ‘em.”
                “Aye, sure they summon you, but yer not pointin’ to the braids, Maesther Breigh.”
                Breigh’s colour heightened. “No harm in cake,” he murmured, scratching the back of his head and looking demure.
                “No, sure, there ain’t no harm to it, Maesther Breigh,” the assistant replied, taking a large box from the wall and beginning to fold it. “Just enjoy seein’ yis happy, like. Don’t think ye’ve bought cake s’much since ye las’ seen yer mam.”
                “Aye, well,” said Breigh, with a nervous laugh, “never an occasion for eating cake by myself.”
                The assistant scoffed. “Sure, I’m not hearin’ this. There’s always occasion for the cinnamon bread, like, but there’s no occasion for cake? Ye hearin’ that, Mifeadh?”  calling back to the baker behind the counter. “Needs no occasion for bread but needs it for cake. Me own ears ache to death from what they’re hearin’!”   
                 Upon hearing such an untoward declaration, the baker leaned over the counter and planted her fists firmly on her wide hips. “Ach, shure, b’y,” said she impressively. “There do be always the occasion for cake.”
                “What’s this occasion then?” asked Breigh.
                Mifeadh raised a brow. “Because.”
                Breigh waited for more of a justification, but when there was only a humph and a determined glare, he could not but be amused.
                “Sure’n that’s good enough reason,” Mifeadh demanded, folding her arms. “Good enough for me, good enough for you. Cake don’t need nothin’ after the because. Cake’ll be what it is. Flowers don’t need nothin’ to be flowers. They do be sproutin’ outta the ground and no one asks ‘em questions, but cake—cake does gotta have a reason. The reason for cake does be itself and that’s that. That sister o’ yers sure’d tell you the same, b’y.”
                Breigh would have agreed and affirmed that everything and nothing at all would tempt Martje to a slice, but he only gave the baker a knowing smile and allowed the roguish glint in his eye to convey all the derisive remarks he would ever make on that subject. He only smiled and tried not to appear too self-satisfied.  
 “Sel,” Mifeadh bellowed, “give the b’y a good lot o’ those cheese cakes there—the small-uns-- and some o’ those cupcakes for the gerl, and don’t ye mind it, b’y,” holding up a hand when Breigh produced a few coppers with which to pay her. “Ye do keep me in good dairy, sure, and we do make a well-livin’ from those what know they don’t need no reason for cake. Sel, ye just give that box here to me and I’ll tie it up—don’t be takin’ his coppers. Master Breigh o’ the Royal Glaoustre Dairy’s money does no good here, I be tellin’ ye that. Ye think o’ puttin’ that coin on the counter, b’y, and I’ll put ye over into the oven to bake ye the while.”
Breigh could not argue with so forthcoming and determined a woman; he had learned well from his time spent in his mother’s house that women of stout feelings and resolute characters should never be denied their command: their offices were those of mothers and sisters, the house their providence, the family their pride, their home all the peace that their efforts could promise. A woman so attached to the domesticities of life as his mother and sister were must never have her governance questioned,  her ascendancy over her children a happy and glorious reign, her management of the oven and stores unmitigated, her supremacy of the farm unchallenged. The terrible flout and ferocious glare he was receiving from across the counter confirmed his notions of privilege, and Breigh was silent and subrisive.
 “Occasion for cake,” the baker muttered, mechanically wrapping a ribbon around the box her assistant had given her. “Shise—of all the nonsense I heard talkin’—t’is Gods’ Day, b’y,” in a louder accent, “that do be a reason if ye need a-one. Celebratin’ the Wyn Abhaille- sure’n that’s more than enough reason. The Gods be smilin’ on ye, and yer asking why for cake. Tsk! Sure’n the Gods gave ye reason enough to be celebratin’ -- that new gerl ye got what’s waitin’ for ye outside. That do be more than enough reason for cake for every meal o’ every day.” She lay the box on the counter, adjusted the ribbons and curled their ends with a flourish, and pushed it toward Breigh. “There, b’y, and ye best ye don’t be mindin’ what Sel says about spoilin’. Ye spoil that gerl till she’s fermented.”
Breigh succumbed to quiet guffaws and laughed heartily into a raised hand.
“The both o’ yis’ll be havin’ cake till yer blue and mouldy,” said the baker, with a firm pout. “Gods’ know the both o’ yis need a spoilin’. Here, Sel’ll give ye the raisin bread too, ‘cause ye’ll be needin’ it come breakfast. And Ye’ll be comin’ back for some o’ that ginger and spice bread th’ morra, b’y, or I’ll be sendin’ Sel to the dairy after ye. Take that bread, there’ll be no gainsayin’.”
“No gainsayin’ in it,” said Breigh, accepting the bread being given him. “if there’s cinnamon in it, you’ll have to pry it from me to get it back.” He took the box from the counter and tucked it beneath his arm as he moved to go, and he nodded his thanks to the baker and her assistant.  

Friday, August 1, 2014

Story for the Day: Vanilla

One does not get ice cream and only have vanilla:

Very well, captain,” Bartleby interposed, his mouth littered with smatterings of cream and daubs of chocolate. “You have yours, now let the knight have his. Go on, sir knight,” ushering him over with a wave of his cone. “Speak for what you want.”
Uncertain as to what he should ask for, Damson peered into the cart, and after much deliberation said, “I believe I will have vanilla, if you please, sir.”
Bartleby’s face floddered. “I think you mean chocolate, sir knight.”
Damson's Distress cover WIP by Twisk
There was a pause. Damson’s brow furrowed, and Bartleby licked his ice cream.
“Do forgive me, sir,” the knight began, “but I believe I did say vanilla.”
“You did but you were mistaken. You meant chocolate.”
“…Did I, sir?  But I do wish to begin modestly for my first trial, and chocolate is so very rich--”
“Preposterous, sir knight,” the old man scoffed. If a man wishes to eat ice cream properly, he does it right or he does nothing.”
“And vanilla is wrong, sir?”
“Vanilla is always wrong when there is anything else other than vanilla to have.”
“Forgive me, sir. I did not know a flavour could be incorrect.”
 “Vanilla is an insipid monstrosity—literally, in fact—it is nothing without being dressed and is made to be titivated.”
“Rather like old passulated men who must ornament themselves with fine robes and tasseled hats to be considered appealing,” said Danaco, scraping his geleti off his shovel and grinning to himself.
“There is nothing wrong with a tasseled hat, captain,” Bartleby contended, “nothing at all. There is everything right with it—as is everything right with choosing chocolate. Go on, sir knight, a chocolate for you.”
“Excuse me, sir, but I cannot be so harsh on vanilla as you can. I do like vanilla, sir. It is a flavour that goes well with many things.”
“And chocolate is one of them, sir knight. And more importantly-- if I do say so, and I do say it--  chocolate dwarfs the dullness of the vanilla entirely and therefore makes it more palatable. Hang your vanilla. Nobody on a first trial should have vanilla. Nobody—and therefore nobody is having vanilla. Least of all you. Choose something else-- so long as it be chocolate.”
“I believe I shall have the chocolate, sir.”
“Excellent choice, sir knight.”
The vendor, who was smiling throughout the whole of this speech, shook his head and began to dig for the chocolate with his scooper.
“Chocolate, when speaking of ice cream, sir knight,” said Danaco, “is rather a cult to some—Bartleby namely. Science besides, it is the only religion which Bartleby shall follow.”
“I do not believe in vanilla,” said Bartleby, humphing and shrugging his shoulder. “And neither will you, sir knight, once you are properly introduced. There is your scoop—give him another. He will want more. That’s it. Thank you—there is your ice cream, sir knight. Now, what will you have by way of a dressing?”
“I do not want any dressing, sir.”
A sudden silence besieged the party: the birds hopping about the boughs screed and scattered, the tree crickets stilled their stridulations, the thrum from the markets in the distance dimmed. Somewhere across the expanse of evening, a kite cried and broke across the skies. A leaf tumbled down and rippled against the surface of the pool, the purl of which rang out with uncommon force. Rannig ceased his strident mastications, gawped at the knight, and stepped back, while Danaco’s straight brows curved to their height, his express struck by the extremity of his surprise, his arm remaining in mid-ascent, his wooden utensil tucked tightly between his fingers. Vathyn gasped and looked blank, shifting behind the giant and hiding her own undressed ice cream in a thrill of consternation, and Bartleby, horrified by the knight’s declaration, simmered in indignation impending and indulged in violent stares.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Story for the Day: The Ice Cream Cart

Every young person who hears the tinkling sounds of an ice cream cart must run toward it with joyous abandon. Every old person who hears the same sound does the same, even if only the running takes place in the mind. Bartleby still has all his faculties, and therefore the ice cream vendor is in very great danger of being attacked by a juvenile geriatric.

Bartleby crept toward the pool with a soundless step, canting his head and looking as though he were listening for something. A short silence, and then his head lurched to the left, his ears perking, his nose twitching, his eyes ablaze with maniacal glee. “Do you hear it, sir knight?” the old man whispered, in a feverish hush, his fingers curling against his palms, his stance scheming as he tiptoed across the cobblestones.Damson listened and surveyed the plaza. “I confess I hear nothing, sir-”
“Shh!” Bartleby sibilated. He slowly pointed to his ear, stared into the distance with a feral aspect, and slunk low to the ground. “You are not listening hard enough.”
Damson closed his eyes and concentrated. His fists tightened, he grimaced and cringed, and listened for some semblance of a familiar sound: the chirrups of warblers in the chestnut tree, the psithurism of the soft wind browsing the boughs, the brontide of callers from the markets in the far distance were all he could hear. There must be something else that I am meant to hear which I am not hearing, he conceived. I must not be attending hard enough. He held his breath and listened with all the fervency his attention could command. He squinted and trembled, tried to hear beyond the sounds that were already in his perlieu, his fists shook in concentration, but the more he listened, the more he was certain of hearing nothing else. Do you hear anything beyond the birds and the trees, sir giant? Damson thought, trying things Rannig’s way.
Rannig twiddled his thumbs and seemed unconcerned. Ye mean can I hear what Bartleby’s wants ye to hear?
The knight’s eyes flickered to the side momentarily. Yes. Yes, I believe so. “But,” continuing aloud, “might I know what I am meant to hear?”
“The bell…” Bartleby breathed, his eyes ablaze with raging exultation. “The bell, sir knight…Its tinkling sounds marks his coming…”
“But whose coming, sir?”
Bartleby could not hear; he was too busy skulking toward the entrance to the plaza, and then, as though something had summoned him, Bartleby righted, his featured besieged by militant fancy, and with a cry of “He’s here!” the old man scampered off, racing down the cobblestone path, laughing deliriously as he went, his silouhette just distinguishable as he quit the plaza with uncommon haste.
“By my armour,” Damson exclaimed, watching Bartleby’s outline vanish, “I have never seen the old man move so quickly.”
“You have never seen him chase an ice cream cart, my darling knight,” said Danaco, smiling. “it is rather like watching the racing hounds being loosed from the gate.”
“An ice cream cart, sir? But how can it be, sir? I heard nothing that sounded like a bell.”
 “Your ears are not attuned to hear the plangent and dulcet tones, promising to bring Bartleby funds of exultation.”
“Did you hear a bell, sir giant?”
“I sure heard Bartleby thinkin’ about hearin’ it,” Rannig admitted.
Damson removed his gauntlet and plugged his ear with his small finger. “I must be losing my auditory senses,” said he, twisting his pinky back and forth. He pulled his finger out and grimaced at it, but the sound of feet scuffling and hardy applause drew his attention toward the plaza entrance. He raised his hand to his brow and tapered his gaze, and mounting the horizon he descried the outline of the old man, kicking up his legs and clicking his ankles together in hysterical exultation, and the outline of a push cart following close behind. “I cannot believe it,” Damson exclaimed, taking his hand from his brow. “Is it true, sir, that he heard the bell from the cart all the way over here, sir? Can it really be true?”
Danaco grinned and looked arch.
“By my gauntlets, that is an astonishing talent the old man has.”
“Cultivated over years of practice, sir knight. Dogs learn to listen for the calls of their masters, and the old git learns to hear the sweet sounds of one whom he keeps nearest his heart. Like the cooing of a dove which calls to its lover from across a grove, Bartleby flocks toward his fated mistress from across the continent with all due alacrity. He is rather spry when he wants to be. Only look how he gambols.” Danaco shook his head. “The poor man who must unite Bartleby with his greatest love—he must want some of his wares after such a journey.”
 The ice cream vendor, fatigued and sorefooted, trudged along the cobblestones with a bent back and a heavy tread, his feet grinding against the stones, forcing himself to push his cart closer and closer to the plaza, ebbing ever nearer with every strained step, the bell attached to the cart clanging gently at is swayed, and Bartleby, frolicking before it, leaping and throwing up his hands in jubilation, exclaiming, “The ice cream cart is here!” ushered him toward the party with all the elation that his gladdened heart could afford. The vendor wheeled his cart toward the pool and stopped beneath the chestnut tree, where he stood heaving for breath and wiping away the perspiration decorating his brow, whilst Bartleby pranced around the cart in eager anticipation. When would he open the hatch? When would he unleash his wares? When would he begin serving and stacking and decorating? were the questions which inundated the old man’s mind as the cart came to a halt.
“’Aven’t seen you in a whyle, sir,” the vendor panted, flicking the sweat from the back of his hand. “Thought you was ill or worse.”
“Ill, sir?” said Danaco, approaching the cart. “Bartleby Crulge is never ill when there is ice cream to be got.”    
Bartleby hovered over the cart and slottered, staring down at the cart, imagining all the delicious flavours ready to burst on him.
“An’ you, cap’n?” said the vendor, readying his scooper. “’Ow you keepin’?”
“Does the vendor know you, sir?” said Damson, with some surprise.
“Of course he does, my good knight,” the captain replied. “Who do you think secured all his trade routes from Lucentia through Sesterna? Ice is hard to come by in Marridon this time of the year. Marridon’s mountain ranges hardly have glacial peaks. All the ice needed to make ice cream during a Marridonian summer must come from elsewhere. Lucentia gets her ice from the mountains along its southeastern borders, and Sesterna the same, and even Frewyn’s southwestern mountains are heigh enough to have some snow on them all year round. Ice cream is a true delicacy in the summers in Marridon, and the ice must be got and safely conveyed somehow.”
“My bissniss is still in bissniss ‘cause o’ ‘im,” said the vendor, unfastening the latch to his stores. “Lost all my ice one summah due to trade blockade. When I told ‘im I was gonna go belly-up ‘cause, the cap’n stepped in an’ offered a ‘and.”
“You think it was generosity that spurred me on, but do not you know that if I had not helped you, sir, Bartleby should have died very shortly after.”
The old man was hopping back and forth and staring into the opened hatch, rubbing his hands in fiendish glee as the vendor scraped the layer of ice protecting his wares aside. “I want chocolate!” he cried, taking a few silver from his pocket and thrusting hand toward the vendor. “And I want a cone, please. And two scoops. And double chocolate—is there double chocolate? –I would like double chocolate, please. With chocolate shavings and chocolate whipped cream—there is nothing I like so much as chocolate whipped cream with chocolate shavings—you do have some, don’t you?”
“I getcha, professah’,” the vendor sighed, smiling at Danaco as he reached down into his cart. “Two o’ the double chocolate jus’ for you.” He retracted his hand, and from his cart produced two immense orbs of chocolate ice cream with a darker and richer chocolate ribboned throughout. He reached for his stack of cones and crushed the ice cream against the top, creating a neat skirt around the rim. He opened a smaller hatch to the side and plunged the cone downward, and when he brought his arm back, the ice cream was bedecked in chocolate shavings. “’Ere’s your whipped cream,” said the vendor, taking a spoonful of darkened cream from a small bowel nestled in ice chips below him. He shook the cream from the spoon with a flourish, topped it with more shavings, and when the cone was fully clothed, he handed it to Bartleby. “There it is, professah.”
The silver coin was thrown into the vendor’s coin basket, and before the coin could rest with a clink, Bartleby snatched the cone and plunged into it with violent agitation. “Ice cream!” he cried, in an ecstacy. He hummed in rapture, licking the skirt of the cone with shameless delight. “I have not had ice cream—mmf, delicious—in far too long. Go on, Vathyn, my dear, and get what you like—mmf, I love chocolate whipped cream, absolutely love it—there is money enough for everyone to have something—everyone take what they like--mmm, sensational.”
           Bartleby stepped to the side and made violent love to his ice cream under the shade of the chestnut tree, slooming and slottering in rapturous pleasance, his mouth caressing the frozen cream, his tongue painting the skirt of the cone, declaring in the midst of his mellifluous bliss that there was “nothing like an ice cream-- nothing at all!” and consumed the whipped cream with an exuberant hum.