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.

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?”
“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:

Facebook: dontravis
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As always, thanks for being readers.


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

Gonna leave the links to me and my writing below:

Facebook: dontravis
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As always, thanks for being readers.


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

Thursday, April 13, 2017


I’m pretty sure I told you about DSP Publications bringing out reprints of THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT and THE BISTI BUSINESS. I also believe I told you that the third (and as yet unpublished) book in the BJ Vinson Mystery Series, THE CITY OF ROCKS, is due out from DSPP on July 14. What I haven’t told you as yet (hot off the presses) is that they’ve agreed to publish the fourth novel, THE LOVELY PINES. There is no publication date on that book yet.

Now I would like to introduce you to the fifth novel in the BJ Vinson series, which bears the working title of ABADDON'S LOCUSTS. The following are the Prologue and the first couple of pages of Chapter 1.
By Don Travis

Albuquerque, New Mexico
          The two men gazed at the naked, sleeping youth sprawled across the mattress. The older, who had streaks of silver at his temples, handed over a number of large denomination bills to a young Hispanic almost as handsome as the boy on the bed but with a harder cast to his features.
          “Fucking beautiful.” Now fully clothed, Silver Wings exuded the authority of a player, a someone who counted. “Are you sure he’s eighteen?”
          “Just turned eighteen last week. He is that rare creature who is as beautiful as a woman and as macho as a man. He performed adequately, no?”
          “More than adequately.” Silver Wings rubbed his eyes as if remembering. “He was fantastic. Must have worn himself out. Does he usually go comatose afterward?”
          “Ah, that’s the drug. You see, he feels he gets a bigger charge if he uses something to enhance the moment. But you benefit as well, no?” He eyed his companion. “You can have him for twenty-five thousand. Exclusively yours for as long as you want.”
          Interest flickered and died. “Tempting. But my household isn’t set up for that kind of arrangement. I prefer to call you when I feel the need. Even if that means sharing him.”
          Hispano regarded the other man through large, brown eyes. “Sorry, but if you don’t take him, we’re moving him south.”
          “South? To Mexico, you mean. Juarez?” That wouldn’t be too bad. It was a short flight to El Paso.
          “Initially, but there’s a potentate in the Middle East who went ape shit over the kid’s photos. He wants him. And for a lot more than twenty-five, I can tell you. I only offered you that price because you’re a good customer.”
          “Middle East, huh?” Silver Wings licked his lips. “Can you put that transfer off for a few days while I see if I can work something out?”
          “Two days. Then I gotta move him.”
          “Give me a week. I’d have to reorder my life, you know. And I’d like to visit him a couple of times. Usual fee, of course. That ought to give you reason enough to hold him here.”
          “I can give you your week, but no more. I have people to answer to, you know.”
          “Thank you. I’d like him again tomorrow night, but it will have to be late. I have a dinner meeting.”
          “At your convenience. Just give me a call.”
          Silver Wings left the motel reluctantly. What would happen in that room now those two were alone? He felt a twinge of interest despite his exhaustion. Oh, how he’d like to witness a coupling between those two. He wrinkled his nose. Perhaps he’d request that tomorrow. It would cost more.
          But it was only money.

Chapter 1

Monday, August 9, 2010, Albuquerque, New Mexico
          I parked my car in the detached garage at 5229 Post Oak Drive NE and sat for a moment trying to figure out what I’d just heard on the radio. Something called “Alejandro” by someone proclaiming herself to be Lady Gaga. A devoted classical music fan, I’d failed to reset the station after Paul and I went for a rare game of weekend golf at the North Valley Country Club. I guess I qualify as a snob because what I’d just listened to was more of an assault to my senses than music. At least the music I was accustomed to.
          After climbing out of the car, I shut the garage door. Paul wasn’t home yet, and I wanted to leave room for his Dodge Charger on the driveway. As I turned away from the door, a frail voice reached my ears.
          “Yoo-hoo! BJ!”
          I glanced up to spot the late afternoon sun catching in Mrs. Gertrude Wardlow’s helmet of blue-white hair as she waved to me. The widow had lived in the white brick across the street for as long as I could remember, and I’d grown up in this house my father built. She and her husband Herb had been with the Drug Enforcement Agency from the time it formed in 1973 until their retirement. Herb had since gone on to his reward—which turned out to be an urn on his wife’s mantelpiece. I walked down the driveway and met her in the middle of the street.
          “I’m so glad I caught you,” she said, resting a blue-veined hand on her breast. “A young man on a motorcycle has been driving up and down the street. He’s stopped at your place twice. Rang the bell and then drove off.”
          No doubt she was recalling the time three years ago when two thugs on a motorcycle attempted to gun me down. When she’d yelled to distract their murderous attention, they responded by shooting up the front of her house, scattering Herb all over the front room carpet. What we were able to scrape up of her late husband now rested in a new urn, although I’m certain a part of him exited the place in a vacuum cleaner bag.
          I smiled and touched her shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’m not involved in any gang disputes at the moment. Not that I know of, at any rate.”
          She covered her lips with the fingers of her left hand. “Oh, I’d forgotten about that. I merely thought you should be aware someone was trying to contact you.”
          “Thank you, Mrs. W. I’ll be on the lookout.”
          After exchanging pleasantries for a moment, we parted. As I mounted the stairs to the front porch, I saw no evidence of a note, so the mysterious biker hadn’t left a message. That meant he would probably return.
          I rushed inside and soon forgot the matter as I started heating one of Paul’s casseroles. I burned toast; he prepared gourmet meals. We planned on staying home tonight and watching an episode of a new gumshoe TV program called The Glades. Matt Passmore, the guy who played the detective, was a way-cool customer who Paul claimed should be my role model. I’d no sooner set the dish to heating than I heard a rumble on the street outside. A moment later the doorbell rang.

Did that catch your interest? It’s still abirthing, but I think I’ll be a worthy successor to THE LOVELY PINES.

Gonna leave the links to me and my writing and plus the DSP Publications buy links. Let me know what you think of the opening to the new book.

Facebook: dontravis
Twitter: @dontravis3

As always, thanks for being readers.

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

Thursday, April 6, 2017


Last week’s story about fishing and hauling in quite a catch didn’t seem to spark much interest. Let’s see if this week’s does any better. It’s still about water, which makes me wonder why I’m fixated on it. Maybe it’s just because one memory ticks off another. Yeah, let’s go with that one.
Courtesy of
            “Go on, Chuck. Jump,”A dare hung in Bert’s voice.
After peering over the scary forty-foot cliff at the pool of green seawater constantly roiled by waves breaking over ugly, jagged rocks, I backed away before my falling stomach dragged me along with it. “No way.”
“They say old man Peterson down at the scuba shop will give us five dollars if we do.”
“Uh-uh. Not for five dollars. Not for five million. Not if my life depended on it.”
“You’re scared, aren’t you?”
“Dadblamed straight!”
“Scared like a girl.”
“Like a sane person.”
Some of the older guys did it all the time. You know, eighteen- or nineteen-year-olds who were stronger and could jump farther.  Bert and I were just fourteen. If a guy just hopped off the cliff edge, he’d end up a gruesome smear on the rocks at the base.
He bent over the edge and studied the pool below. My stomach, which came back when I wasn’t watching, dropped down the precipice again… and I wasn’t anywhere near the edge. I felt sweat on my upper lip, but that coulda been the hot July day. We were both barefoot and in khaki walking shorts.
He straightened. “I’m gonna do it. Five dollars will buy me the new tire I need for my bike.”
“You jump over that cliff, and you won’t need a tire. Old man Peterson will have to donate the five dollars to your funeral.” Bert paced off a stretch of ground. That’s when I took him seriously. “Man, you don’t wanna do that.”
Before I had time to figure what was happening, he started running hard right straight for the edge of the cliff.
I yelled “No!” before taking off after him.
And then he ran out of ground and was sailing in the air. Forgetting my terror of heights, I made it to the edge in time to see him hit the water. Looked like he’d cleared the rocks okay. Son of a gun, maybe he did it. I waited and watched. Waited and watched. He didn’t come up.
“Hey, man, what’s up?”
I turned to see Dicky, the third member of our gang, walk up holding three melting double-dip ice cream cones. He worked in his old man’s malt shop, which was why he was late.
“It’s Bert. He went over the edge.”
“No shit? Man I didn’t believe he’d do it. He okay?”
“He hasn’t come up.”
Then it hit me. My buddy hadn’t surfaced. He was down there in the water.
I raced back from the edge, yelling for Dicky to go for help.
“What you gonna do?”
I didn’t answer. I just took off running toward the edge of the cliff. When I got there, I shut my eyes as tight as they would go and felt myself floating like a bird. Except I wasn’t a bird. I didn’t have wings, although I was flapping my arms like a pair. I had time to scream like a banshee and smell the briny sea air and hear the roar of the surf before I hit the water without any air in my lungs. As I plunged to the bottom of the pool, something scraped me painfully on the back. When my bare feet hit a tumble of big rocks, I pushed off and clawed to the surface before my lungs burned up from lack of oxygen. As soon as I broke the water, I grabbed a couple of lungs full of air and upended, heading back to the bottom.
Bert wasn’t hard to find. He was off to my left weakly flailing away, his right foot caught between some rocks. I swam over to him and grabbed his head. Planting my lips hard on his, I emptied my lungs into him. Didn’t know if it would do any good, but I did it anyway. Then I fought my way back to the surface to load up with air before heading down again.
Bert was in a bad way by the time I managed to move one of the two rocks gripping his ankle enough for him to slip free. But he didn’t do anything except just float away. I grabbed him under the arms and headed upward. I gasped for air when we broke the surface, but Bert didn’t seem to do anything. Keeping his head out of the water the best I could as waves crashed over us, I made for a stretch of beach between the rocks.
I was plumb exhausted by the time I dragged both of us out of the water. I put a lifeless Bert on his belly and started pumping on his back. Not sure, but I think I was crying when he suddenly belched a lot of water and stuff onto the damp sand.
That was good, but I didn’t know what to do next. So I just kept on pumping until somebody pulled me off. Mr. Halverson from the grocery store, I think. Then the beach was full of people. My dad was there, and Bert’s, too.
My father grabbed my arms. “Hold still, son. You’ve got a piece of rock sticking out of your back.”

They patched me up down at the local clinic and shot me full of stuff for germs and microbes and tetanus gremlins. That hurt more than taking out the sliver of rock. Guess I’d just barely cleared the big ones that made a gruesome mess outa you.
Even when they finished with me, I wouldn’t leave until I saw Bert. And I couldn’t do that because they were still working on him. The nurse said he’d mangled his foot pretty good trying to jerk free of the two rocks imprisoning him.
My dad, who’s not a patient man, sat silently beside me in the clinic’s waiting room until a doctor came out and escorted us to my friend. But when I caught sight of him lying pale and weak on the bed, I froze up. We stared at one another until my dad gave me a gentle nudge toward the side of the bed.
Bert looked me fully in the eye and sort of wheezed. “Not if your life… depended on it. You said you wouldn’t….”
Then the world turned right side up again. “I know. But it wasn’t my life. It was yours.”

Hope you found this one more interesting.

Gonna leave the links to me and my writing and plus the DSP Publications buy links I included last week.

Facebook: dontravis
Twitter: @dontravis3

As always, thanks for being readers.

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

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