Thursday, May 25, 2017

Don Travis: The Art of the Hook

Don Travis: The Art of the Hook: Courtesy of Pixabay Every scam artist in the world understands the value of “the hook.” And everyone worth his or her salt knows the ar...

The Art of the Hook

Courtesy of Pixabay
Every scam artist in the world understands the value of “the hook.” And everyone worth his or her salt knows the art of throwing one. The hook is designed to snag the mark’s attention, make him thirst to know more, and to draw him into the scheme so the crook can steal his money.

Every writer, whether composing fiction or non-fiction, must do the same. The hook catches the reader’s attention, makes him want to know more, and—of course—buy a copy of the book.

To be effective, the hook must come early in the piece—just as it must come early in the scam. Otherwise, the reader will lose interest and toss the book aside.

In my The Zozobra Incident, the hook is a white Impala coming down La Bajada south of Santa Fe with a blue Mustang convertible closing on it fast to force the Chevy off the road. The Bisti Business opens with a red-tailed hawk diverting the attention of two men arguing in the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, allowing one to slip behind the other and strangle him with a belt. The City of Rocks starts with a man stealing a specific duck from among a flock of hundreds. In The Lovely Pines, we see a silent figure emerge from a pine forest to force a hasp on a winery door and disappear inside, uncaring whether or not he tripped an alarm. The initial scene in my Abaddon’s Locusts shows two men looking at a naked, sleeping youth on a bed as they frankly discuss buying and selling him.

Donald T. Morgan’s The Eagle’s Claw opens with a dream sequence during which we understand something weird—possibly supernatural—is going on.

Mark Wildyr’s Cut Hand opens with: But for improvident fate, angry, boiling clouds would have unleashed nature’s cold fury upon this Yankee river valley the day he buried his ma and pa. Do we want to know more?

Local author Babs Langner’s new book, Murder in the Mall gives us but a single line: A witch entered the food court at the Cottonwood Mall. Who could possibly put that one down?

J. S Bodin’s new book, Orchid of the Night, begins with: Officer Andy Gomez fell to his knees. Uncontrollable heaves racked his entire being, his vomit landing on the moldy soggy carpet beneath him. Oh my Lord! What’s going on?

Mary Quinalty’s Mountaintop Milagro tells us: Devastated, I drove down the tree-lined boulevard toward my house. Albuquerque’s dust-laden desert wind pushed me along at what felt like gale force. How would I break my news?

Michele Buchanan makes us want to know more with her opening of Scota’s Harp: Students’ backpacks cluttered aisles as people scrambled for seats in the sold-out auditorium. Wow! A show featuring a rock star or a lecture? Surely not a lecture.

Steve Brewer lures us in with Jackie Nolan saw the smoke from miles away, a thick black column italicized by the ceaseless New Mexico wind, the opening for his latest novel, Homesick Blues.

I have cited only a few local authors, but check the books of all the big names, as well. Somewhere, early in the story you’ll find a hook. To be honest, we’re scammers, too. After all, aren’t we trying to pry something precious out of our readers? The price of a book? Absolutely. But also something much more valuable: their time and attention.

*****
That’s it until next week. Feel free to let me know what you think of the piece.

The following are some links to me and my writing and to DSP Publications (my publisher):

Blog: dontravis.com
Facebook: dontravis
Twitter: @dontravis3

As always, thank for being a reader.

Don


New blogs are posted at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Freyr’s Toothache – A Fantasy (Finale)

I intended to end the Freyr fantasy last week, but some of you asked what happened to Nordus and Olaf once they discovered how to get rid of Lord Freyr’s divine toothache. So I decided to provide a finale today. Sorry if it runs a bit long, but….

*****
FREYR’S TOOTHACHE
A Fantasy

          Even as Nordus—now free of the toothache—stared down at the sturdy Norseman, Olaf’s hand flew to his mouth and a cry of pain escaped his lips. It took but a moment for Nordus to realize his toothache had not disappeared. It had merely been transferred to another… as Freyr had predicted. It took a bit longer for something foreign to swell within his breast. Nordus almost failed to recognize it. Regret. Sorrow that this likeable young man had inherited his pain. Unaccustomed to such selflessness, Nordus hovered over Olaf helplessly.
          “Your...toothache,” the boy moaned. “I have your toothache.”
          “Oh, my love,” Nordus cried. “What can I do?”
          “Pull it! Pry the cursed tooth from my head.”
          “That will not do,” Nordus answered slowly. “This is not a usual toothache.”
          Holding his jaw, Olaf squinted up at him. “Nay! It’s a fierce one.”
          “It is more. It is a curse…a spell,” Nordus blurted. Then, anxious to be of comfort, he dropped to his knees beside the Norseman. “Mayhap we can take your mind from it. When I kissed you, I forgot about the ache. Kiss me, and perhaps it will do the same for you.”
          Seeming fearful, Olaf uncertainly drew closer and planted his lips on Nordus’s. A moment later, he drew back with a smile.
          “Ah,” Nordus said, “you are cured. Ow!” He slapped his cheek as a pain suddenly stabbed him. Freyr’s Toothache! It was back. The wily God of Fertility had outsmarted him, ensuring that Nordus would not abandon his master for a handsome piece of mortal flesh.


           Nordus endured horrible pain and a deepening love for his handsome mortal for an entire fortnight. The two smitten youths passed the divine toothache back and forth, each accepting the agony out of love for the other.
          In time, Nordus realized he had to reveal all to the man who willingly shared his agony. They could not continue as things were. When he could speak again, he slowly and patiently explained the entire situation to his lover. Then he sat and shivered in fear as Olaf withdrew to his forge without saying a word.
          As Olaf moved around in the other room, Nordus felt the darkness close about him…not the dark of night, but the dark of his soul as he traced the events that had brought him here. He had schemed to gain the favor of Freyr. He traded himself in exchange for a handsome face and a beautiful body. And what had physical perfection gained him? The jealousy of Thor, which gave him these ears. His outrageous conduct provoked Freyr into banishing him and giving him this infernal ache of the tooth.
          He sat up straight and sucked in air, which added to the pain to his mouth. But that had brought him here to Midgard…here to Thurmingen…here to Olaf.
          He started at the sound of Olaf’s voice. He hadn’t heard him enter the room.
          “Can you eat?” He set a platter of food on a small table beside the bed.
          “Nay. I have no hunger.”
          “Nor I. But we must eat. We need sustenance for what we must do.”
          Nordus looked at him sharply. His heart thudded…with hope. “And what is that?”
          “Freyr wants you back in Asgard. So that is where you must go. And I will go with you.”
          Nordus jerked around to look at Olaf. He saw a handsome young man with a look of determination on his features. “Nay. This is your home.”
          Olaf’s face fell. “You…you do not wish me to accompany you?”
          “Not at the cost of your home and your forge.”
          Olaf gave a sad smile. “Mean things when compared with your loss.”
          “I-I’m not certain you can accompany me.”
          “I don’t care what happens, Nordus. I will not be parted from you until Hel calls me to Niflheim.”
          “But that may be the result,” he protested. “And her hall, Elvidnir, lives up to its name in full measure. It means Misery, you know.”
          “Then I will wait at the foot of the Rainbow Bridge until you return for me.”
          “You are determined upon this course?”
          “I am as certain of this as I am that I love you.”
          “And I, you.”


          The following morning, as they stepped out onto the road and embarked on their journey—with Nordus bearing the burden of the toothache—he was uncertain of the proper pathway to the Shining Plain of Asgard.
          When he voiced this doubt, Olaf proclaimed in mortal innocence, “Simply return the way you came.”
          “Were it that easy. Things are visible from the firmament that are imperceptible here below But I will try harder to find the way. And you will pass into Asgard with me.”
          “How shall I sneak past Heimdall? They say he never sleeps. He can see in the dark and hear sheep’s wool growing.”
          Nordus drew himself to full height. “We will not sneak over the Rainbow Bridge. We will walk onto The Shining Plain as if we belong.”
          “You may belong there, but I am a mere mortal,” Olaf sighed.
          “Freyr will not deny me,” Nordus declared proudly, wondering if perhaps the ache in his head were not rendering him silly.


          Nordus woke at dawn on the second day of their journey, disturbed by the sound of a fleet ship parting the waves. That could not be; the sea lay far to the east. And then he understood. Freyr had sent for him.
          Filled with excitement, he shook his companion awake. Olaf, groggy from fitful rest because of the toothache he nursed that night, was slow to rouse. By the time he rubbed the sleep from his eyes, a majestic ship appeared on the horizon and bore down upon them rapidly, the crewmen’s long oars biting into the wind.
          “Magic!” the young mortal cried.
          “Aye. A god’s magic, Olaf. That is Freyr’s ship, Skidbladnir, made for him by my own people to sail the seas, the land, the very air above the gard.”
          “It is huge.” Olaf gasped.
          “And yet he stores it in his knapsack when it is not in use.”
          “Magic!” the Norseman repeated in awe.
          Nordus wondered who Freyr sent for him? Loki, the trickster god? One of the Valkyries, the women who determined which warriors fell in battle? He hoped not.
          The two young men stood straddle-legged, arms on hips, as the great craft drifted to a halt beside   them, hovering in the air above the ground, bobbing gently as if riding the ocean’s waves. One pale face appeared at the rail. A second. And then a third.
          Nordus’s heart thudded. Freyr’s messengers were the Norms, the three fates—supernatural women who determined the direction of a man’s life. He muttered as much to Olaf, who swallowed his terror and remained steadfastly at Nordus’s side, a measure of his love.
          “Hail, Nordus of Alfheim,” a raspy voice called. It was Urd, Fate.
          “Has there been a mistake?” Skuld, Necessity, inquired. “He has not the appearance of a Light Elf. In fact, he looks quite delicious. Including those magnificent ears.”
          “Stop playing the fool!” snapped Verdandi, Being. “You well know Freyr transformed him. That’s what got the beauty into trouble in the first place.”
          Nordus ignored the byplay. They were always fussing among themselves. He concentrated on the eldest sister, Urd. “Has my Lord Freyr sent for me?”
          “In a manner. He dispatched us to see if you have recovered your senses. Are you rid of Freyr’s ache?”
          “For the moment,” Nordus answered, glancing at the handsome youth beside him.
          “Then you are ready to return to the bosom of your master. Good.”
          “Only if Olaf accompanies me.”
          “Impossible,” hissed Skuld. “You know better than that. This handsome handful is mortal. He belongs here in Midgard.”
          “It is not for you to say,” Nordus cried indignantly. “I am ready to return to my lord, but he comes with me. I demand it.”
          “You demand it?” Verdandi laughed. “You, a Light Elf, make demands of your divine master?”
          “Nay, Nordus,” Uld shook her head. “Freyr permits but two choices. Come to his bed or return to Alfheim. But he gives you the right to decide your own fate. Unless,” she added archly, “you cannot make up your head. Then it becomes our decision.”
          “But if I return to Alfheim, I will once again be an elf,” he protested.
          “Just so,” Skuld smirked. “And it would be criminal to cast off such beauty as you possess. Criminal.”
          Olaf nervously cleared his throat and overcame his fear. “Wherever he goes, I, Olaf of Thurmingen, go as well. This I swear.”
          “Take care of what you swear, you beautiful man.” Verdandi gazed down upon the two of them. “Are you certain you wish to go to the Land of the Elves?”
          “I will accompany my love anywhere he goes in whatever form required,” Olaf announced stubbornly.
          “You may go, but only as an elf, fair Olaf. We would not want you stomping the little dears with those big feet, now would we?” The Norm called Being laughed.
          “Then I will be an elf,” Olaf declared, struggling to sound as if he meant his words. “Provided,” he added, “you rid me of this accursed toothache.”
          “So be it. Climb aboard so we may get underway,” Urd ordered.” Tis a long trek, even for this fine vessel.”
          Nordus laid a hand on Olaf’s arm. “Think on it. Are you certain you wish to be transformed? You are a handsome man without the artifice of the gods… as was required for me.”
          “I cannot believe you were much different in your other form. And if you are willing to give up your present stature for me, can I do less for you?”
          “Then it will be so,” Nordus said with a tremble in his voice. No one had ever sacrificed so much for him. Nor he for another, come to think on it.
          As they climbed aboard Skidbladnir, each of the Norms struck Olaf smartly on the right cheek. Startled, the young human rubbed his jaw.
          “It’s gone!” he declared. “Freyr’s Toothache is gone. Oh, Nordus, now I can love you without distraction.”
          “You can love me any way you wish,” Skuld simpered before her sisters drew her away.
          In the privacy of their cabin, the two weary young men dropped into a deep sleep. It was morn before they woke. Nordus opened his eyes to find Olaf sitting beside him, staring down the long expanse of a gigantic mattress. The bed, Nordus knew, had not grown; they had shrunk.
          He turned to his lover. Elf he might now be, but Olaf had lost none of his fair beauty. The limbs were straight and layered with firm muscle. The nose was snubbed, the mouth and ears, well formed. And his eyes yet held the wondrous blue of the sky.
          Nordus glanced at his own body, still straight and slender. He understood from his companion’s adoring gaze his features remained comely. Freyr had been generous. Tiny they were, reaching but to the knee of the men they once had been, but the great God of Weather and Fertility had allowed them to retain their beauty.
          The two handsome, shapely elves fell upon one another to prove all of their parts were in good working order. Absent the divine toothache, they functioned better than ever.

*****
And there you have it… the price of true love: Sacrifice. Which they happily made and reaped its rewards. Hope you’ll let me know what you think of the long story.

The following are some links to me and my writing and to DSP Publications:

Blog: dontravis.com
Facebook: dontravis
Twitter: @dontravis3

As always, thank for being a reader.

Don


New blogs are posted at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Freyr's Toothache -- A Fantasy (Part 3)

I hope ou enjoyed Part 2 of the story. Last week, Northus, banished from Asgard, the realm of the gods, to mortal Midgard with a raging, divinely inspired toothache, made two failed attempts to pass his fearsome toothache to humans. Aware that he has only three such opportunities, what will he do now?
*****
FREYR'S TOOTHACHE
A fantasy

It was near unto dark before Nordus cautiously approached what appeared to be a small village. Realizing that hunger and thirst vied with his near-constant ache for attention, he determined to make contact with someone.  A broad-shouldered man of pleasing form and features at the edge of a small thatched hut claimed his attention. Brawny arms, a waist as narrow as his own, and strong thighs sent a ripple of excitement down his back. The youth noticed his glance and flushed with an enchanting shyness. Nordus met the blue eyes with astonishment. This man was as fair as he, yet was a common mortal. And Freyr claimed to have given him unmatched beauty.
Pulling his attention away from the distraction of this fair, beardless Norseman, Nordus winced from the ache in his molar as he spoke up boldly. “I have traveled far and am thirsty. May a stranger beg a drink of cool water?”
The youth’s intelligent eyes swept him. “It will be my pleasure to provide it. Are you in discomfort?”
Nordus’s hand flew to his inflamed jaw. By Thor’s wrinkled stones, he had intended to hide his condition. “Tis but a twinge of the tooth. My name is Nordus, and I travel from a land far removed, a stranger in your midst.”
“Welcome then, stranger. I answer to Olaf. Olaf of Thurmingen.”
“Nordus of Alfheim,” he responded carelessly and extended his hand. ‘Ods balls! Was it Olaf’s beauty or the beastly toothache that rendered him a dolt? He must steal a kiss from this big youth and return to where he belonged before his brain was completely addled. Since touching had not rid him of his fearsome ache, surely a kiss was required. But such a man as this might object to the familiarity.
If the yellow-haired Norseman made the connection to the Land of the Light Elves, it did not show in his clear eyes. He merely offered refreshment, explaining as he had no goodwife, Nordus would have to suffer a meal of his own preparation.
“Gladly.” With his cap firmly in place atop his head, Nordus gave a broad smile only slightly twisted by pain. After being served a platter of steamng food, he ate, careful to chew on the left side of his mouth. Nonetheless, the accursed tooth flared fearfully, reminding him of his task. He glanced at his host; not an onerous chore.
He learned a little of the handsome Olaf as they sat before the small hut. The young man’s father, the village smith, had recently passed into the arms of Hel, daughter of Loki, Goddess of the Underworld. Olaf, an apprentice, succeeded his father as blacksmith. No wonder his lithe frame bore an overlay of hard muscle.
As darkness totally claimed the land, Olaf thoughtfully offered shelter for the night. Nordus seized on the invitation. Failing all else, he could place his lips to the Norseman’s as he slept, although he was wary of this comely mortal’s reaction to his ears. Well, he would keep them hidden. Maybe Olaf wouldn’t think him strange when he went abed with his cap firmly on his head.
Nordus found no fault with the inside of the small hut. Were it not for the confounded tooth swelling his jaw and filling his head with pain, Nordus could have found contentment in such a place.
The idea astounded him. It was nowhere as rich or grand as Freyr’s apartments in Odin’s magnificent Hall. Yet it was sufficient. That was a new idea…perhaps occasioned by the intensity of his discomfort.
“Come along.” The young man led the way into another room where bubbling kettles of water hung on hooks in the fireplace. “A wash up before taking to the bed, perhaps?”
Nordus assumed he would be left in private to complete his ablutions, but Olaf poured two large basins of water, laid out matching sets of towels and soap, and then proceeded to strip his jerkin over his curly-locked head. Nordus quickly stripped off his shirt, and in his haste, unwittingly pulled away his cap.
The moment froze…or so it seemed.  Nordus’s eyes sought out Olaf’s gaze, which was fixed on his naked ears. Expecting expressions of horror and condemnation, his hands flew to his ears. “They’re malformed, but I assure you, they’re not the mark—”
“Malformed? Nay, they are magnificent. I’ve never seen ears like them before. They fit your face and form. I…I find them attractive,” the Norseman said.
Nordus’s smile became a grimace as the toothache struck again. He clapped his cheek with a hand, bringing an expression of concern from Olaf, who suggested he could remove it if Nordus wished.
“I think not. I am loath to pull it. There must be some other way of easing its anger.” He looked Olaf’s pink lips. Perhaps he should just walk over and boldly claim what he needed.
They finished bathing in silence and drew on fresh clothing. Nordus wore some of Olaf’s woolens while his own soaked in a pot of boiling water. Then Olaf went about preparing a concoction his mother used for toothaches. When it was done, the Norseman held out a small bowl filled with an oily paste and bade him apply it to the tooth. Nordus smeared the troublesome molar with the potion and then stood waiting.
“What say you?” Olaf asked.
Nordus’s hand, still greasy from the medicine flew to his jaw. The tooth gave a fearsome ache, as if in retaliation for the dosing. “Ow! Ow! By the god’s balls it hurts.”
Olaf expressed regret as he prepared to take to his bed. Nordus took encouragement from this. The sooner his host fell into sleep, the quicker he could snatch a kiss and disappear into the night, returning to be back among the gods, currying favor from his lord and master, dressed in silks and dining on delicacies this Norseman did not even know existed.
Olaf showed him to a straw mattress laid in the room holding his own bed. The ache settled into a steady throbbing, so perhaps he could get some rest before he performed the theft of the kiss. But as Nordus lay his head back on the bedding, the tooth stabbed him so sharply it brought him abruptly upright. Nordus knew he could wait no longer.
“I… I forgot myself,” Nordus said. “I had intended to render a small reward for your kindness.”
“Unnecessary,” Olaf scoffed. “I did not offer hospitality out of a desire for gain.”
“My reward is less venal…more personal.” Nordus rose and crossed the scant distance between them. “Much more personal,” he added, lowering his head to meet the open, astonished lips of the comely mortal.
Olaf responded, and Nordus laid aside his aches and pains in the sweetness of the moment. Then he drew away and lifted his arms triumphantly. It was done! The cursed ache was gone! Now, Freyr. Now you can bring me home.
He halted and exchanged stares with the handsome youth, no longer certain he wanted to return to Asgard. But would Freyr allow him the freedom to remain?
 *****
Success! But will success bring contentment or will Freyr demand his return? And if he permits Nordus to remain, will he be permitted to retain his present looks or will once again be a light Elf? Perhaps down the road, we’ll learn the answers.






Feel free to contact me with your comments.


As always, thanks for being readers.

Don

New blogs are posted at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.



Thursday, May 4, 2017

Freyr’s Toothache – A Fantasy (Part 2)

I hope you enjoyed part 1 of the story. Last week, Thor the Thunder God became jealous of Nordus, a former dwarf transformed into a beautiful youth by his master, Freyr, the God of Weather and Fertility. Freyr attempted to allay Thor’s jealousy by giving Nordus ears shaped like Jewel Box oyster shells, but he did it so well the youth was even more handsome. So what happens next?

*****
FREYR’S TOOTHACHE
A Fantasy

              Although aware his outrageous strutting and flirting nettled his divine master, Nordus was helpless to control himself. In all honesty, he didn’t even attempt to do so. Perhaps it was his nature. Or mayhap it was a way of getting even with Freyr for toying with his physical perfection. No matter the reason, he flirted and taunted everyone shamelessly, cutting a scandalous swath through the huge hall.
             But when Odin showed uncommon interest in Nordus’s long legs and trim behind, Freyr had had enough. Enraged, he roared a jealous oath, cursing Nordus with a stabbing pain in one of his molars and banishing him from the realm. Nordus was sure his lord regretted those hateful words. Nonetheless, the damage was done. Nursing a divinely inflicted toothache of terrible intensity, he fled the great Hall hunched over in pain like the creature he once had been.
It was clear Freyr rued his curse, but the mighty lord was too proud to renounce his decision. To the sorrow of both, the youth trudged out of Asgard, the Realm of the Gods, across Bifrost, the Bridge of Rainbows, down into mortal Midgard, exiled until he rid himself of the toothache.
In a moment of weakness, Freyr had confided Nordus would be granted three opportunities to transfer his malady to another, but refused to explain how to accomplish the deed or whether Heimdall, the Watcher of the Bridge, would readmit him afterward.
Midgard, the world of the lowly mortals, was not new to Nordus. Alfheim, his original home, was tucked away in some far corner of it.


Now Nordus angrily roiled the frigid surface of the small pool in the rocks with a gracefully tapered finger and turned his attention to the road and the icicle-draped limbs of the surrounding evergreens. Freyr could have sent him to some warm place where the wearing of a simple shift would be comfortable and reveal his fine muscles and smooth skin to the locals. Nay. Freyr knew he would take too much pleasure in that.
At least, his Lord draped him in a warm, forest-green doublet. A soft, brown, brimless hat—a cap really—adorned his head and provided some warmth for his ears. Calf-high boots of the same color and material as the cap graced his shapely feet. Fortunately, the sun had sufficient strength to cast a modicum of warmth over Norseland, allowing him to disdain the heavy winter clothing of furs. Passing strangers could still suffer pangs of envy by discerning his fine physique beneath these light woolens.
No traffic moved along the road as he pondered, as best he could amid the roaring ache in his head, how to proceed. He was warned that pulling the tooth would merely transfer the pain to another. He had only three chances to gift some hapless mortal with Freyr’s curse, yet he had not been told how to accomplish this task. Reason dictated it would require touching a mortal for the pain to pass from his tortured jaw. But first, he had to find one to touch.
With a sigh and a groan, he rose and set off down the road. Before the sun made a quarter of its journey across the sky he spotted two buxom maids in long woolen skirts and plain coats. As they approached chatting and laughing, he noted one carried a long loaf of bread; the other, a round of cheese.
Ah, here was his chance. Which one should he afflict? Why, the nearest one, of course. His tooth stabbed his jaw, almost ruining the blinding smile he leashed upon the approaching girls. They ceased talking and covered demure smiles with broad, work-hardened hands.
“Good day, good ladies,” Nordus said, stepping forth in his most manly gait.
The two lasses halted and tittered a greeting.
“I am Nordus,” he swept off his hat in the gracious bow of a gallant. “I—”
Ungodly screeching interrupted his eloquent address. The two girls fled in panic, dropping both bread and cheese. Mystified, he whirled around, alert to danger. Seeing nothing, he picked up the food they had dropped. Puzzled but famished, he carefully gnawed hunks of bread and cheese despite his sore jaw. Perhaps this was Freyr’s way of seeing he had sustenance. The bread was freshly baked; the cheese, adequately aged. He would have appreciated both much better had each bite not enhanced his pain. As he gnawed painfully, it dawned on him that Freyr had not had the good sense to rid him of his jewel box oyster shell ears. Still, they did not merit the reaction those two had given them.
The height of the day had passed by the time he encountered another on the road. At first, it appeared to be a bundle of filthy rags moving on thin, spindly legs. As the apparition neared, it turned into an old man with a load of poorly tanned skins upon his back. The stench caused Nordus’s fine, thin nostrils to quiver, but the fierce ache in his tooth drew him onward.
“A fine day, is it not, my good man?” he said in nasal tones. He drew breath through his mouth against the odor.
As the ancient, bent peasant lifted his tired gaze from the dirt, Nordus realized this was the perfect mortal to accept Freyr’s Toothache. The wizened old man likely would not recognize a foreign ache among the lifetime accumulation of his own ills.
“Eh, what say?” the creature croaked.
Deciding to flatter the old sod, he walked up and removed his cap. “I said—”
The old man’s eyes went round in terror. He threw up soiled, crabbed hands to make the sign against the evil eye, and bellowed. “Leave me be. I’m an old man.”
“What say you? Why, I’m….” Speechless, Nordus watched the terrified man turn to flee. “Wait! I merely….”
The old man stumbled and fell. Nordus ran after him, and after momentarily hesitating to place hands on such filth, pulled him to his feet. For good measure, he made certain his fingers made contact with the one of the old man’s blackened, calloused hands. The peasant jerked away, howled in fear, and threw off his load of hides to stagger away down the road. No matter, Nordus had accomplished his mission. He had made physical contact with the old man.
He washed his fingers in the snow, hoping he had not been contaminated. After cleansing his digits, he stood tall and drew a deep breath, grateful the ordeal was past.
Then he screeched like an owl as the traitorous tooth ached and throbbed anew. Furious at the failure, he threw his cap to the ground and stomped on it. He kicked the old man’s load of hides, scattering them all over the road and howled like a banshee. Freyr’s Toothache was still with him.

*****
Well, the former elf has made two unsuccessful attempts to rid himself of Freyr’s toothache. He has only one opportunity left? Will he be successful? We’ll learn his fate next week.

Feel free to contact me with your comments.



Links to me and my writing and the DSP Publications:

Blog: dontravis.com
Email: dontravis21gmail.com
Facebook: dontravis
Twitter: @dontravis3


As always, thanks for being readers.

Don

New blogs are posted at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.



Thursday, April 27, 2017

Freyr’s Toothache – A Fantasy (Part 1)

How about a short story this week. But it’s not really that short, so will have to do it in three parts. Hope you find it interesting.

*****
FREYR’S TOOTHACHE
A Fantasy

Miserable with pain and sick from dismay, Nordus huddled atop a flat rock and gazed morosely into a silver pool of ice-skimmed water. His reflection in the calm surface disturbed him more than the fierce ache in his tooth. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair. When he, a Light Elf of Alfheim, had accompanied Lord Freyr into exile as a hostage to the Aesir, the mighty God of Weather and Fertility gratefully transformed him into a beautiful youth of fair proportions and fairer features. Now a fierce toothache horribly marred his handsome jaw.
His downfall had been swift. Head spinning, he reviewed all that had happened to him recently. It had been that obnoxious Thor’s fault.


Nordus had been an imp all of his life, and be they divine or magical or merely mortal, no one could see beyond the wee torso and stunted limbs of his kind. As a dwarf, he was an object of curiosity and suspicion; only natural then he should show off his newfound loveliness by flouncing around the throne room of Odin’s Hlidskialf Hall, the high seat of the Allfather in Valaskjalf. Thor grew jealous and demanded that Freyr change Nordus’s appearance so he was no longer more handsome than he, the Thunder God. Odin’s own son.

So Freyr had commanded Nordus into his presence. “Mayhap we have a problem,” his lord had said. Freyr never stood on ceremony with him. He spoke plainly instead of indulging in god-speak like so many other tiresome deities. “You’ve made Thor jealous, and that won’t do. To allay his spite, I have decided to alter your appearance. Now don't go puckish, it will be but a small change.”  His lord regarded him thoughtfully. “We could give you a tail.”
Nordus’s mouth dropped open. His hands clutched the hem of his doublet. Surely not that. His behind was the envy of everyone in the hall…of both genders. “But, sir—”
Freyr waved his hand impatiently. “Of course, that won’t do. Perhaps wings. Not large, ungainly things for soaring, but maybe small ones. Quite insignificant wings, really.”
Well aware Freyr admired his lean, supple back; Nordus half-turned to give his lord a glimpse. “But you like my back just as it is.”
“Yes, so that won’t do, either.” The god’s scowl cleared. “Your eyes. That’s it. Your eyes. I’ll give you cat’s eyes.” He chuckled. “They’ll glow in the dark, making you easier to find in bed. How about that?”
“My Lord, you claim my violet eyes are my best feature.”
“So I do. Well, I won’t put up with a snout or paws or any such nonsense.” His master straightened on his gilded throne. “Your ears.” Freyr held up a hand to forestall protest. “Yes, yes, I know. They are the model for all ears. A paragon of eardom. I outdid myself when I created them, but we must do something. After all, I am hostage to the mighty Odin, and I must appease him somehow. Yes, it will be your ears.”
“No donkey ears,” Nordus cried. “Please. You wouldn’t want them flapping around.”
“Of course not. Nor a horse’s; nor a pig’s. A shell, I think. Yes, we’ll mold them into the shape of a seashell.”
“Not a Conch, I beg of you. Nor a Scallop. And Mollusks…ugh.”
“Don’t distress yourself. We’ll find something appropriate.” Freyr clapped his hands and an array of seashells appeared between them. “So choose one, and let us be done with it.”
His heart pittering in his chest, Nordus studied the display. He lifted one shell after another, finding fault with each until he picked up one with a rounded bottom that gracefully curved to a pleasing, off-center point.
“Ah, the Jewel Box Oyster. Well, chosen, Nordus. The Jewel Box it shall be.”
Freyr bade him approach and laid his hands on Nordus, cupping his elegant, small-lobed protrusions. A sudden burning sensation made the former dwarf wince. He experienced a sensation of growth, of change.
“Now let’s see,” the god said, taking his hands away. “No, that won’t do. They’re not big enough.”
“Not big enough?”
Freyr slapped his hands away. “I can do better than that. Hold still. Your fidgeting is distracting. Hold still, I say.”
So Nordus fearfully submitted once again. His master took hold of his ears and worked with them, tugging here and pushing there. Finally, he turned Nordus’s face first one way and then the other. “Yes. Yes, that’s the way I want them. Quite attractive, really. I think you’ll like them.”
Freyr clapped his hands again, and a mirror appeared. Fearfully, Nordus lifted his eyes to regard his new image. They were quite large ears—at least compared to those he’d had before. Yet they lay close to the head so as not to be offensive. They certainly gave him a different look. He twisted sideways and examined the left one. His master had made the pinna a soft pink. Yes, these were quite satisfactory. They may even make him more attractive… as if that were possible.
Judging from his reception in the Hall, his altered appearance was well received. Everyone was taken with his new ears. If anything, he was more seductive than before. That, of course, did not sit well with Thor, who was outraged.
“I submit, O Mighty Odin,”—his lord Freyr said when confronted—“I heard your son’s objections and addressed them forthwith. It was my duty to do so as a guest in your hall.”
“And so you have, Lord Freyr.” Odin’s voice was always a subdued roar.
“Bah!” scoffed Thor. “The boy’s more fetching than ever.”
“Lord Thor,” Freyr said in a calm voice. “Are those ears similar to your own. To anyone’s in the hall?”
“Nay.”
“Are they more fetching than your own?”
Thor glowered. “Nay.”
Freyr turned to his host. “Then I consider the matter settled.”
“As do I.” Odin fixed his odious son with a baleful glare. “The matter is resolved.”
At that moment, the seeds of Nordus’s downfall were sown. So relieved, so enthralled was he by his increased popularity, he threw himself into the gaiety and notoriety of the Hall with greater enthusiasm than ever.

*****
Nordus seems to be doing just fine. So what in the world could cause his downfall? Tune in next week.

Feel free to contact me  with your comments.

Links to me and my writing and the DSP Publications:

Blog: dontravis.com
Email: dontravis21gmail.com
Facebook: dontravis
Twitter: @dontravis3


As always, thanks for being readers.

Don

New blogs are posted at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.



Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Word Picture of My Hometown, Circa 1949 (A Reprint)

I've been thinking back on my childhood in Oklahoma more than usual lately and came across a blog I did about the town of my birth, childhood, and teens. I'd like to re-post it below:

Courtesy of Wikimedia
*****

Broken Bow was a lumber and farming town situated in the rolling hills and green forests of the "Little Dixie" Baptist bible belt of southeastern Oklahoma.  The town sat nine miles west of Eagletown, an important Indian trading community on the Arkansas border back when the two states were known as Indian Territory. Eagletown, now reduced to no more than a nondescript service station, huddled beside the highway as busy travelers whizzed past without noticing.

Broken Bow began life as an Indian village called Con Chito. Over the generations, it waxed and waned and died and revived until two brothers by the name of Dierks incorporated the community in 1911, naming it after their hometown in Nebraska.

The town of roughly 2,500 souls fastened itself to the narrow blacktop highway coming in from Arkansas and the railroad tracks paralleling the road. Most commercial businesses clustered along the two paved downtown streets running north from the highway and a couple of graveled roads pacing them on the east and on the west. The Dierks Lumber Company sawmill, the town's largest employer, lay on the other side of the railroad tracks where the highway turned south and ran twelve miles through open farm country to Idabel, the McCurtain County seat, and beyond to the rich river bottoms. From there, it crossed into Texas after another twenty miles.

Broken Bow was the kind of place where no one knew his own address. A family lived three blocks east of the feed store and one block south, second house on the left, or some such descriptive direction. There weren't even street signs when I was a child. Nor was there postal delivery, except for rural routes. Town mail was collected from rented boxes or the free general delivery window at the post office.

Generations of children measured their growth by running down the sidewalk on Main Street and jumping to touch the rafters of the wooden overhang protecting pedestrians from the blazing sun or heavy rain squalls. The drug store on the uphill corner of this block-long shaded section boasted a soda fountain, making it a magnet for the younger set.

The town's most popular Saturday night pastime was parking head-in to the curb along the main drag as near the drug store as possible. Entire families sat in cars and trucks to indulge in some serious people watching until it was time for the picture show half a block down on the other side of the street. It was a good way to keep up with budding teenage romances and the state of the neighbors' marital relationships. Sartorial splendor was considered anything beyond a gingham house dress and bib overalls.

The Broken Bow High Savages annually engaged the Idabel Warriors in the "Little River Rumble," one of the oldest football rivalries in the state. Back then, the schools were segregated, of course, and remained that way until 1964. In fact, although were were in the midst of the Choctaw Nation, I don't recall attending class with any Natives except two boys a few years behind me. However, the school secretary was a Native American... a Hopi from distant New Mexico. For what it's worth, the first year that two black players were permitted on the team, Broken Bow High won the championship in their division.

I fondly remember the town as an easy-going, not-much-happening place where my grandmother and I rocked on the porch in the early summer evenings, while my grandfather sliced open a plump, red-meat watermelon. The setting sun caught in the topmost branches of the chinaberry tree in the front yard and played among leaves ruffled by a gentle breeze. Often, as heat waves slowly dissipated on the asphalt highway and the delicate scent of roses and hydrangeas and morning glories flooded the porch, we'd hear a family on the far side of the railroad tracks harmonizing familiar gospel songs. Sometimes we joined right in. I've always wondered if they heard us as clearly as we heard them.

*****
Ah, those were the days. At least, that's the way I view them from today's perspective. In truth, they were as stressful and troublesome as those I sometimes experience today. The problems were just appropriate to the time. I hope this re-post provoked thoughts of your own times past.

Be happy to hear from you at dontravis21@gmail.com.

Gonna leave the links to me and my writing below:

: dontravis.com
Email: dontravis21gmail.com
Facebook: dontravis
Twitter: @dontravis3


As always, thanks for being readers.

Don

New blogs are posted at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.