Page the Second


A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Through the Dog

I have a Daffy Duck thumb drive I use all the time. The head comes off to reveal the drive. Last night that head went missing. I looked ALL OVER for it.

Then it occurred to me that Sir Riles Barksalot has been sampling some pretty inedible things lately...plastic eggs, jelly beans (edible but not doggy food), ear buds, bits of his plastic bowl, baseball guts, composted banana mummies, and a bunch of things we don't catch.

It was possible he put his cute little paws up on my desk and swiped the duck head. So last night it was too dark to see. But this morning, I found the little rubber duck head in the back yard, covered in spitty grass and bite marks. It had been in the dog but not through him. Whew! Extremely relieved not to have to dig through doggy doo doo to make sure he passed it.

That said, Sir Riles is passing jelly beans. His poop looks like a snake full of mice. I'm not going to eat a single jelly bean this Easter.

Monday, March 28, 2016


I've been writing poems for next month--for the days on which I can't (or don't) write. I'll be away in Ireland for part of that time and can't wait to show you pictures.

But for today, in honor of Easter, I wanted to put out a small chunk of MARIN AT THE WELL
I stood there on that wind-blasted hill with Martha and the other Marys. Martha had her arms around Jesus' mother, so I had no idea what to do with my hands. It was like they weren't even attached to my body anymore. And then the Romans started hammering in the nails and suddenly I felt my hands again. I felt every single pound of that mallet. The agony arced through my body as Jesus cried out. Why? Why did they have to be so cruel? What had that most blessed of all Men ever done to them, besides change everything about their world?

Martha gave a little scream every time the hammer thudded down. She felt it too.

And Mary, His mother.

I couldn't imagine how she could stand there without passing out. Did she know her Son would rise again the third day? I inched closer and whispered, “Remember what He said?”

She sniffed and turned her head to look me in the eyes. Hers swam with pain. “Which thing?”

“That He'd rise again the third day. I think it was something about building the temple.”

“That's what He meant? That he would—?”

I nodded, a tiny bit cheered by the look of hope that now shared space in her eyes with the fear and anguish.

“Bless you, Mary. You are like one of my own daughters. I know He loves you and your sister.”

I nodded again, unable to speak around the giant stone in my throat.

Then they lifted Him up and the cross thudded into the waiting hole with a sickening, stomach-jarring crunch. My knees buckled and I fell hard on them. The blood drained from my head as darkness closed in. I shook myself, not wanting to let the storm have me. And then wishing I had.

I stared up at my dying Friend. He was so much more than just my Best Friend. He hung there on those cruel nails, every minute pulling further through his tendons and muscles. The agony leaked out of every pore and yanked his body taut and limp by turns. The rank smell of death permeated the very rocks on that hill, filling my nose and mind with hopelessness and regret.

Although I knew the main suffering had already happened up in Gethsemane, I was right there on Golgotha. It was more immediate—more etched into my heart and soul. I couldn't help but think that so many of the things I'd carelessly done had put Him there; all those times I'd picked on Sister Minton; every time I'd turned down doing service projects in Mutual because I thought they were lame and boring; all the times I'd yelled at my mom or bailed on chores or grumbled about my dad. I'd been so selfish. Everything had revolved around what was fun for me, or who was cute, or who I wanted to flame. A lump the size of a melon filled my throat and would hardly let me breathe.

I'm so sorry, I wanted to say before it was too late. So extremely sorry for the way I've acted. Please forgive me and let me start again. I know it's big. I feel as though there's a gargantuan stone in my chest where everything bad I've ever done just sits, weighing me down. I don't want it anymore, but I also don't want to have to dump it on You. I don't want to hurt You. And I have no right to ask, but could You take it and fill that hole with something else?

Jesus didn't say anything, but I saw Him gazing in my direction. Infinite kindness shone from His eyes, those wonderful, light-filled windows, those all-knowing orbs etched forever in my mind. Strangely, I felt comfort wrap around me a little, which made me cry harder. He was the one who needed comforting, not me. I still had to pay as much as I could for everything I'd done.

He understood.

It started to rain. The clouds had drawn together like curtains over Jesus' last hours on Golgotha. I looked up through the falling droplets, not caring about the chill I felt through my soon sodden robes. I saw Him look at me, the misery etching his face. But in that moment, despite his pain-wracked body, he gave me the slightest of smiles. I knew that smile was for me, me—Marin. I felt that gaze embedding forgiveness and love and understanding and a strange sort of joy deep inside my soul. Oh how I wanted to pull that cross down and carefully yank out the nails. I wanted to take Him in my arms and rock Him like a baby.

But I couldn't.

Everything must happen the way it was supposed to.

Jesus would give up His life willingly, though He could have stricken any of the soldiers dead and escaped. And somehow we'd all make our way to Joseph's lonely garden tomb.

I looked over at Mary the Magdalene and Jesus' mother, kneeling to my right with James supporting her. Heartbreak showed in every line of His mother's face, but also a calm watchfulness. She knew her child and His divine legacy. She knew His Father. Jesus had said He would rise in three days. She knew it was true. And now I, too, felt it down in the middle of my soul.
 Jesus cleared his parched throat and called down to James to take care of His mother. I knew we'd all do that. I would, if I stayed. 

I glanced over at Marco, standing with the other soldiers. His glance snagged on mine. He, too, was in agony. He'd had to stand there holding the nails as the other soldiers drove them in. His face had scrunched up with every beat of the hammer. I saw him look down at the nails in his hand. He nearly quit right then. I saw him start to go for the buckles that secured his breastplate. He looked up at me and I shook my head slightly, trying to make my eyes project the fear I felt for him. If the other soldiers saw him, they'd report him and he'd hang too. Or something. Those Romans really got into their punishments. 

In the middle of worrying for Marco, and for Jesus, I stopped, my sight honing in on Marco's handful of nails. 

Why had God sent us there? 

Why were Marco di Cortino and Marin Peregrin standing on the hill of Golgotha? I couldn't quite get it, but there had to be a reason. I had to stop letting grief and anger keep me from finding the answer to that suddenly very important question.

Octavius Portus, Marcus' new centurion, stood off to the side for a moment surveying the situation. I watched him size Marco up and down. A lift of his lip warned me Marco hadn't fared well. “Legio Marcus, the prisoner wants for drink. Since you seem to be His cupbearer, give him sup.”

Marco's jaw muscles clenched as he wet a sponge in the vinegar, stuck the sponge on his pilum, and held it up to Jesus' lips. I gagged. Jesus took one taste and refused it.

Martha whispered, “Vinegar is a kindness. It dulls the pain a little.” 

I nodded, not so disgusted for Marco, who, stone-faced, took up his spear and stood guard with his back to the cross. Octavius backed away and turned his eye on someone else.

The Romans had gotten up a dice game for Jesus' robe. They laughed and joked and teased Marco about being tense, but he wouldn't play. His jaw tightened as he fingered his gladius. Only I could tell that he wanted to throw it down with a clang, and bolt. I couldn't even offer Jesus a decent drink of water. The soldiers wouldn't let us up there. I couldn't bear to watch as the shudders took Him.

A couple of the chief priests trudged up the hill and stood there for a moment. “He saved others. Himself He cannot save,” one of them said to the other, his mocking voice loud above the wind. The other priest laughed and pointed, whispering something in his friend's ear. 

The mocker laughed. “If He be King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross and we will believe Him.”

The other sneered. “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him. For He said, 'I am the Son of God.'”

“If you are Christ,” the thief on Jesus' left said, his voice thin and whiny. I could barely hear it. “Save Yourself and us.”

I missed the other thief's words and Christ's to him. The moaning storm had picked up, whipping our robes and veils, winding them around us as if we stood in the center of a vortex. The Hill smelled of old blood, sweat, and a hint of ozone. 

And death. 

How many other poor innocent people had they dragged up there to gasp out their final breaths? I felt their souls huddled around me, waiting, as I did.

I barely heard His voice above the keening of the wind. “It is finished,” He said. I would have died to hear His stories just one more time, told in that infinitely gentle voice that soothed away the fears. But no more.

When the gale slammed against us, plastering my veil to my face, and sheet lightning tore through the sky, I knew what had happened. I could feel the thunder crashing, right up through the ground and into my gut. It made us jump and Martha stumbled into me. I caught her and we tried to keep our footing, but couldn't. We fell to our knees. Pebbles skittered down from the hill, which was in motion. Earthquakes shook the hills of Galilea.

The King of the World had gone home.
© 2016 by H. Linn Murphy

Friday, March 25, 2016


I like a rockin' good space opera as much as the next bloke...maybe more. Heck, I've written my own. This one didn't disappoint, in spite of its plot hole-riddled thesis.
Jasper T. Scott has written a sci fi series which starts (I believe) with DARK SPACE. There could be a prequel I don't know about.

If you don't want the spoilers, jump to the black section...:o)

Mr. Scott is obviously read by loads of people, as his thousands of reviews can attest to. I think we can thank a general willingness to suspend disbelief and actual science for that success (ie Star Wars, which this book resembles on many points). I have to say I enjoyed it in spite of the plot holes.

The book opens with the 'hero' (or in this case anti-hero) Ethan Ortane getting nabbed by a crime boss named Brondi. At first we think it's just because Ethan owes the man money. Later we find it's because Ortane has habitually flaunted the law as a drug mule and gone to prison for it. Brondi knows he's got a patsy handmade for his project. Apparently during that time Ortane had time to become a 5A ranked pilot (apparently rather passable), which stands him in extremely good stead.

Using Ethan's pretty co-pilot (about whom Ethan professes to care little since she's half his age) as a means to flog him into it, Brondi forces Ortane to don a disguise and wreck the troop ship Valiant, killing the 50,000 personnel aboard. To ensure success, he infects Ethan with a virulent phage.

To Ethan's stark credit, he was only going to scuttle the ship, allowing the crew to escape to safety. Except the phage took it all out of his hands. Brondi then swoops in for the kill, his plan all along. He intends to make himself supreme ruler of the last remaining shreds of humankind.

Ortane finally wakes up to what Brondi's doing and throws in with the enemy in a stellar display of tactics and flying. In the interim, he nearly gets all of his mates killed (including his female wingman, who hates him). He has, however, caught the eye of the Supreme Commander, who has inexplicably survived the phage without even a hazmat suit on. The SC reveals that he actually has seen through Ortane's disguise and has a few secrets of his own. They trot off together to mount a defence of the ragtag survivors, despite Ethan's having wasted almost the entire fleet single-handedly.

Grease factor of the main character: high (Jasper missed the lovable part IMHO, but I kind of like him inexplicably)
Space mechanics and Ordinance: great for a plane, laughable for a space vessel
Guts: manageable
Sex: zero
Venting suit survival: one 
Zero suit survival: two
Bad Language: thinly disguised
Character of it's main character: missing in action
Reasons for his behaviour: insufficient to sustain that kind of loss of life
Plot holes: like driving down our road in the Spring
Humanity of number one: meh
Possibilities if he can see the Wizard and get a heart: fair
Believability that he could have gotten to be such a good pilot running drugs and gotten a military rating, no less: low
Believability that he could sleep well after offing 50,000 of the people keeping the overwhelming alien threat at bay: laughable
Possibility that humans wouldn't have immediately jumped on the whole alien cloaking device: Pa-lease.
Possibility of actually staying out of at least a court martial for the aforementioned slaying and resultant mass destruction of troop property and multiple ships: pitiable
Plot twists: decent

In spite of all that, I enjoyed the story.

I'm giving it four firing reticles after suspending plenty of disbelief. I'd read the next one on sheer hope that Mr. Ortane gets a heart and a compass. Come Patsy.

You can purchase DARK SPACE and it's brothers on Amazon here. Happy flying!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Savior, Ransomer, Builder, Brother, Guide

I have been thinking about Christ and His sacrifice on this windy spring day. The irises and hibiscus and orange blossoms are blooming, filling the air with a heady sweetness and the humming of thousands of bees. Soon the orange blossoms will fall and the fruit will begin to burgeon in green little nubs. The aloes are sending up their fiery spears to entice the hummingbirds and bees.

I don't think it's a mistake that as the new lambs dot the meadows and buds of spring fill the trees with emerald lusciousness, Christ gave His life and was resurrected, to come forth trailing clouds of glory.  After all, it is the perfect time to celebrate renewal and the gift we have to rise from the grave and take up our lives once more.

I believe Christ built this world under the direction of God the Father. When better to celebrate His great gift to us of this world than in the springtime when all is bright and beautiful and bursting with new life?

I also find it interesting that Christ tells us in Isaiah 49:16:

Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

He writes our names on His palms, right next to the nail holes. How significant. How poignant that He remembers each of us and what he paid for all our hurts and ills and heartaches, and unfairnesses, and sins.

How can I not be utterly thankful? How can I not fall at His feet and thank Him with all I am and have, for blazing the trail back to Our Father in Heaven? And how can I not open my mouth to offer the same possibilities to my brothers and sisters?

Come see the stone which has been rolled away from the door. Come fall at His feet with me, and leave your burdens there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Dog Magic

I took the dog out this morning. We were going to meet a friend and walk with her and her two babies. So in preparation, I wanted to tire the dog out sufficiently that he wouldn't pull and trip people and make life miserable. He really wants to RUN. He wants to fly down the trail, something I have a hard time doing with junk knees.

So we took the ball and I tried to outsmart him to get it away from him to throw it. Mostly he teases me by coming nearby, dropping it from his laughing mouth, and pouncing on it the second I start in his general direction. I have to be really quick to stomp on it, or swipe it away while he's looking at something else.

The whole "Look, there's a rabbit!" ploy doesn't work one bit.

I'd throw the ball out there and Riley would streak after it like greased lightning, his tongue flopping out with a doggy laugh, the drool floating out behind him in a long string.

Then would come that magical moment:

As the dog slammed into the catch, he'd raise a cloud of dew drops against the sunrise. The two, dog and ball, awash in a spume of rainbow-spangled mist. I could feel his pure, unadulterated joy as his teeth clamped down on his bouncy target.

And later, when he lost that ball, you'd think he'd be a little upset, but he wasn't. He just loved being out there, free, running with the wind flapping through his ears, peeing on every likely-looking weed, tree, or cactus.

We went back later to look for that or any other rogue balls, but found none. Still, we had a blast bushwhacking through the weeds, just a girl and her dog.

Friday, March 11, 2016

MUDLARKS Has Risen From the Mud

I just finished edits on MUDLARKS. It's a lovely Dickens-style book with lots of action. It's ready for Beta readers. Any takers?
That said, I haven't even gotten a single word back from my other Beta readers for MARIN AT THE WELL. The Beta reader for THE DAY IT RAINED GLASS seems to have other things to do as well. Have they all pricked their fingers and gone to sleep for a hundred years?

I should be overjoyed tonight but I'm kind of bummed on a bunch of levels.

Tomorrow is the Tucson Book Festival and I've known about it for a year but I didn't pay attention to the deadlines for getting booths. I've never even been to it because I'm always out of town for it or something. Tomorrow I have a Rel. Soc. birthday party right in the middle of it. I'm hoping that going to that instead will bless my writing efforts since my number one audience will be there and not at the Book Festival.

Not that any of them will buy anything. For our ward, the old saw, "A prophet is never a prophet in his own country," is true. Someone else is always the artist or the musician or the author. Not one of them has ever bought one of my books. That I know of. If they have, they've said nothing. It's a good thing I don't write for the fame of it.

I guess tomorrow, after a lovely night of dreaming, I'll pop back up like the proverbial cork.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Smidgen of MUDLARKS

Welp. That felt good. It always feels great to help someone. I'm going to put a snippet of MUDLARKS on. For your information, Joss has gotten himself into a tight spot in more ways than one. Sam the Sweep is forcing him to steal the Duchess of Wellington's diamond necklace while pretending to work for another chimney sweep.
The practice of setting a fire under him is a well-documented ploy, resulting in several well-known phrases we still use today. (Hopefully the practice of lighting a fire under the Climbing Boy has ceased.) I may add the info I learned about sweeps and climbing boys a little later. Until then:

Joss groaned inwardly as he climbed the ladder. Sam the Sweep was too drunk on his own reputation for good luck. His cheerfulness worked like the sooty grit, grinding into Joss's soul. Any time, now, Joss thought, I'll get just a bit bigger and never have to be a Climbing Boy again, for I'll be too big to fit down the chimneys. No more skin as black as the Foul Pits, no more of Sam's devilish hot-foot remedies for stuck or reluctant boys, and no more worrying that I'll suffocate to death, lodged in a chimney.
He crawled along the roof tree until he reached the first large stack. The Duke of Wellington is rich as Croesus. His fireplaces must be cavernous indeed. He leaned over and called down the flue, “Halloo there,” in Robbie Tidewell's voice.
There was a muffled answer, and then a louder, “Tis 'bout time ye were coming down. Shake a leg, Robbie, ye lazy lout.”
“Mam gave me a meat pie. I'm that full,” Joss shouted down.
“T'will be yer last iffen ye don't 'urry.” The voice was gruff with aggravation, making Joss think the man would probably pull Sam's trick if he didn't hurry. A lit fire hurried a Climbing Boy up nicely, so they said. It also often killed that boy. Joss nearly flew down the chimney, stopping only a little to scrub at some clinker, which showered down, making it appear he was working like a whirlwind.
Just as Joss feared, the chimney opened up as big as a vestibule with very few footholds. In fact, he had to jump down the last few yards.
“Took yer own sweet time, Robbie. Sweep the rest of the soot and clinker into your bag an' I'll go start on the next room. Ye'll sleep warm tonight in this lot. Coals are still warm.”
Joss refused to sleep in a bag of soot, no matter how warm the coals. But he smiled and began to sweep up the piles of clinker and dust. As soon as the other man was out the door, Joss flashed the piles into his bag and left it while he took off his sweep's slippers. Clean feet would leave no prints. He had to be careful not to leave prints of any kind. Prints would get them turned off without a character, which would, in return, cause bad luck for the household.
Never had he seen such breathtaking opulence, even as a viscount's son. The walls and carpets were crimson and gold medallions and lined with paintings and sculptures. The air was redolent of beeswax and polish and the scent of banks of flowers. Joss took only an instant to appreciate it, before he began his search for the Duchess Kitty's rooms. He avoided the next room in the corridor and hopped ahead.
At last, when he had despaired of finding it, he came to the Duchess' rooms. So spacious and elegant.
And there, just as Sam had somehow known, lay the necklace.
Joss held his breath, not wanting to disturb that glinting piece, that marvel of coruscating rainbows and shimmering beauty. He had no words with which to describe it, even to himself.
For just a second he paused to admire the fifteen large cabochons and the center pendant the size of a hen's egg.
Then he sucked in a great gout of air and snatched the carelessly tossed bauble, stowing it, not in his pocket where any searcher might look, but down his britches.
He schooled his face into a semblance of calm, although his heart pounded like a rabbit's as it runs from a fox. He could not run, only go as quickly as he normally ran in large houses or they'd think it amiss. He'd forgotten how many rooms he'd passed, galleries and drawing rooms and the great banquet hall where Wellington had held his Waterloo banquet. The heady aroma of the flowers made him lightheaded as he tried to remember which room he had come through.
And there it was. Only now the sweep occupied it, the steam boiling from his ears as he waited impatiently for “Robbie.”
“Sorry, Sir. I 'ad to use the necessary,” he croaked, trying desperately to calm his thudding heart.
“Git on wi' it. We 'ave more chimneys to do than ye can shake a stick at.” The man glared at him, almost as if he could see the shapes of the stones through the thin fabric of “Robbie's” trouser leg.
Joss wordlessly took up his bag and began climbing back up the chimney. There had been no time to secrete the gems in his bag of clinker. That went out with the sweep, at any rate. How exposed he felt.
The climb was quick work until he got to the narrower portion. Suddenly the flue seemed alarmingly small, cutting off Joss's breath in a rare fit of claustrophobia.
He felt the necklace begin to slip.
Joss closed his eyes, praying the strand would stay where he'd stashed it.
Every upward movement he made, the necklace slid further down.
Joss could not stop climbing, or the sweep would light a fire beneath him.
Or the jewels would fall.
Another inch.
He could feel the necklace dipping below his knee, the gems cutting into the skin of his knee.
The sweep looked up at him.
Joss knew it because the man's voice came sharply to his ears. “Ye are the slowest brat on earth. P'raps a bit o' warmth to light yer way and get yer blood a-pumpin'.”
Joss bent his leg a tiny bit, hopping to stop the gems from slipping, and the sweep from seeing the gleam of them as Joss climbed.
The bricks of the fireplace started to heat.
He had to move.
Smoke seethed around him, causing his eyes to burn. I swear I'll kill the man, Joss vowed to himself.
He reached down, the journey extremely slow.
At last Joss could reach the protuberance which had his trousers caught.
Agonizingly slowly, he freed the fabric and snaked his arm back up to grab for the next hold.
The necklace slipped, plunging downward into the Stygian, smoky darkness.
© 2016 by H. Linn Murphy