Magical Life

This is the second story I submitted for the Los Angeles County Library Summer Contest. It didn’t win. I think I like it more than the one that did win, but I have always been a sucker for magic. So, what do you think?

…..

I’ve held fire in my hand, captivated by its beauty and validated by its power. I’ve felt it sear my flesh in agonizing waves of triumph. I’ve swelled with maniacal pride as the flames, enthralled by my command, tasted the air in licks and lashes. I’ve smiled in purest pleasure as I unleashed it upon my enemies to watch them dance away to ash.

That was all before, in what I have come to feel was my previous life.

It is as if I have lived two very different lives. First, I was a power-hungry wizard intent upon destroying all who dared to stand in my way of becoming the greatest to ever live. My thirst for new spells and artifacts was unquenchable. My hunger for power insatiable. I feasted on all I could find and honed myself and my craft until I was the finest sorcerer in the land.

When I was at the pinnacle of my talent, witches and wizards challenged me to duels to try to dethrone me. These were dealt with, not always easily but dealt with nonetheless. Others, too insecure in their craft or timid in their pursuit of knowledge, came to try to learn from me instead. These I turned away. I would not freely give away what had cost me my life to obtain.

I was feared and respected. I was invincible and immortal. I was everything I had ever wanted to be. And, yet, then I was shown that I had only really become everything I had thought that I wanted to be. My dream had been incomplete. There was something else, something more, that I ended up wanting even more.

She arrived on my doorstep, the friend of a friend, and, in those days, I had few enough of the latter to turn any away. She was no magician but she had her own magic to be sure. She was a temptress.

She didn’t mean to be. But she was. Every bit. And I was every bit tempted as well. In short order, the temptress turned into a companion, and a companion to a lover, and a lover to a wife.

Then came a family, one child and then a second, and those responsibilities trumped my other desires. In those early days, the magic was never far from my thoughts, of course. Having tasted its power before, I would never be rid of the want and the need for more. But my love for my wife and our children was equally strong, and putting their needs above my own was easy.

There is, I found, a certain magic to a child’s laugh and the way they bounce with joy when being held. I also found a certain magic in giving myself to another person completely, just as I had given myself to my craft. And there is a certain magic in helping someone become greater than they were before.

I hadn’t understood that, obviously, when I’d turned away all those magicians. Helping them would have helped myself as well. I had missed those opportunities. I did not, and do not, miss the chances I have to raise my children up.

…..

It has been wonderful to watch them grow into magic on their own. Both children are blessed with the gift to some degree. How much will not be determined for many years, as is normal. For now, I am delighted by their wide-eyed retelling of the minor things they accomplish through their will or accidentally through their rampant emotional outbursts. Children will be children, and with magical children that means that tantrums can be rather extraordinary and rather destructive, to their delight.

Preventing what I could and undoing the damages I couldn’t contain in time, have kept me well enough versed in my own craft. Plus, I have found it comforting on occasion to read through my scrolls and tomes to keep the magic fresh in my mind and blood, even if I’m not using it nearly as much as I once was or to anywhere near the same purpose. The thrill of use remains unchanged. If anything, the thrill has intensified because I am using it for those I love.

As for my enemies, those who were still alive before I became a family man, they have been around here and there over the years. Early on, some, emboldened by my absence, took strides to supplant me to become recognized as the greatest to ever live and practice the art of magic. I have noted their progress and, should they grow powerful enough and, perhaps, paranoid enough to think they must challenge me to really get what they are after, I will deal with them. Or someone else will.

My stepping aside created a vacuum in which the lesser magicians have scrambled for control and, in their jealous and hungry squabbles, have mostly just caused their own demise. They fight amongst themselves and plot and plan for their own gains without ever really achieving anything great. Perhaps the younger generations no longer have the stomach for what must really be done, what must really be sacrificed for the craft. I do not know, nor do I care as long as they leave my family alone.

Thankfully, none have been foolish enough to move against me directly in all these years. They either figure I am retired, or no longer a threat, or both. Perhaps I am retired in a way. I certainly no longer crave the power of new spells with the jealous fervor that once gripped my waking moments and my most vibrant dreams. The hours and days I once spent researching, obtaining, studying and perfecting new spells is now spent nurturing my loved ones. My dreams involve lifting my children to their greatest heights.

For the most part.

The odd dream still fills me with the sense of fulfillment that comes with the mastery of a spell and the dance that follows, almost always circling back to flickering flames weaving through my fingertips and reaching out from my upraised palm. I smile as I watch the oranges and reds waltz across my flesh before turning my hand upon a deserving foe. My breathing goes ragged with excitement. My eyes fly wide with anticipation. And then… And then I invariably wake.

My breathing quickly returns to normal, and my eyes are usually only half open as I struggle from the depths of the dream. No fire encircles either of my hands. The smile, however, remains, for my wife is still beside me and, in the quiet darkness, I can hear the sleepy stirrings of my children. Everything is as it should be. Everything is as I want it to be.


American Pie

A couple months ago I submitted two different short stories to the Los Angeles Public Library Summer Writing Contest.

I’m very pleased to announce that one of those stories, an allusion packed piece about life and music, was one of the winners of the contest. You can read my story here:

https://lapubliclibrary.short-edition.com/story/1m/american-pie

I’ll post the second story in a couple days. In a lot of ways, I actually liked it more.

So, my faithful kingdomites, give American Pie a read and let me know what you think. Does it resonate with you? How many song references can you spot? How was your summer in these crazy times?

Sharp

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I was drawn to the sharpness of these leaves, the tiny points that will scratch the unsuspecting, the unwary.

Life is so interesting sometimes…

Come find rest in the shade of my leafy branches but don’t get too close. I’m here for you but only to a point. This is a common theme in nature, supporting others while protecting self.

I’ll leave it to you to draw any parallels to our current lives in quarantine.

perspective

They are protesting again.”

                “Who?  The humans?”

“Yes, sir.”

                “Do I need to know or can the local council deal with it?”

“I wouldn’t have bothered you at all if you didn’t need to know.”

                “Fine.  What is it this time?”

“It appears they do not care for the improvements we made to one of their buildings.”

                “They are protesting over a building?  That sounds absurd even by their standards.  Which building?”

“It is our Hall of Honors.”

                “The building we put up to give respect to the warriors lost on both sides when we conquered this world?  It honors their fallen as well as our own.  What do they find so offensive about it?”

“Honestly, sir, I think it has less to do about what we’ve done with it specifically and more to do with what it used to be.”

                “Which is?”

“It was called the Vatican.”

                “I’m not understanding why you think this was worth bothering me with.”

“Sorry, I’ll get to the point.  It was some sort of religious place, one of their bigger ones, known around the world even by those who didn’t worship there.  The protestors feel that it should have been preserved for them.”

                “Fine, yes, I get that.  Why do I need to concern myself with it.”

“If left unchecked, based on a study of their histories, this protest could turn into something larger.  They used to take their religions very seriously.  Most of their bloodiest wars were fought with one or another at the heart of the conflict.  It has been many long years, especially by human standards, since the largest of these wars but, as we know, history has a way of coming around again and again, and why take the chance when we can squash this nonsense now.  There is no sense in delaying a response only for this minor protest to have turned into some kind of unifying thing across the historic nations.”

                “Hmm.  I see your point.  What is the consensus?  To return the building to what it was before?  That seems too weak of a move.  That might galvanize them further, would it not?  Raze the sight and put up some sort of plaque to ‘honor’ what once stood there?  A place they could visit if they so wished without being the same beacon as it once was?”

“Actually, sir, we were thinking of just killing these protestors to dissuade the idea of protest at all.”

                “Harsh.  But, yes.  Silence these and that will teach the rest to remain silent.  I agree.  Proceed.”

“It shall be done.”

…..

The other day I saw a picture of three individuals giving the middle finger to Mount Rushmore.  I would have been appalled… as recently as last year.  I have recently learned, however, that Mt. Rushmore was carved out of a place known as Six Grandfathers.  It wasn’t just some rock out in the Black Hills.  It was a special rock on special land that was first stolen and then desecrated.

Some might argue that is just the way things had to be in the name of progress.  I’m not sure I can swallow this argument as I once did and I tried to think of an equivalent transgression going on now, to try and put it in some sort of context.  This example isn’t perfect, of course.  I’m not sure anything could be.

I’m not sure what the solution is, either.  There likely isn’t one, unfortunately.  Not one that all parties could agree on in any case.  So,  I’m not sure why I wrote this or felt it necessary to share it…  Perhaps just to challenge everyone to think of what came before and what, as things always do, might come again.

Some important reading: https://indiancountrytoday.com/archive/native-history-construction-of-mount-rushmore-begins-nNaLMzte1kKPJmtJoLoFZA

 

 

On being thirty-nine

Dear Jester,

I’d say that’s a funny way to start a letter to myself but we all know that it fits.

What an adventure it has been, yes?  Thirty-nine years full of adventures.  Far too many to list out here so perhaps we should just focus on the last little bit.  Perhaps, perhaps.  Though I doubt I can say much now that doesn’t relate to something that came before.  We all know that fits as well.

It’s an interesting thing to reflect on the passage of time, to admire the triumphs over the adventures that went sideways and to bask in the remaining glow of those that went better than expected.  I’ve done far more than I thought I would by this age and far less at the same time.  That’s part of the hypocrisy that is at my core.  Hypocrisy isn’t exactly the right word but it harkens to something I think about a lot.

When I was young I assumed there would be a point when I would stop being a child and would be an adult.  It would be a clear delineation.  One or the other.  And I keep waiting for that to happen.  Yet, here I am at thirty-nine and it hasn’t happened yet so now I have to assume it never will.  Which then makes me wonder about all the generations that came before.  Did they go through life always feeling like both?  Young at heart but wise with age? That’s not quite either but it is close enough for now, especially since this letter is for me and I know what I mean even if I can’t articulate it.

The logical answer is that yes, of course, they felt the same.  But logic isn’t always the easiest thing for me to accept.  And by that I mean, that I grew up on stories with clear distinctions with well defined endings, where the heroes were either children or adults, and have thus romanticized that.  And I feel like neither and both at the same time and that can leave me feeling out of sorts, like something is wrong with me.

Again, logically, I know that nothing is wrong with me and I need to be kinder to myself.  That’s true for all sorts of things.  I have expectations that are likely impossible to live up to and thus constantly disappointing myself even though nobody else holds me to those same standards and expectations.  Knowing this does little to curb the sting of failures and regrets.

That’s not entirely accurate anyway.  I’m hard on myself on some things and super forgiving on others… all part of the hypocrisy that is me…  Not the right word but close enough.  And I know it doesn’t really matter.

I know a couple other things too.  I have a beautiful and brilliant wife and two, going on three, children.  And know that all I really need to be happy in this crazy world is two things: my beloved mountains and family.  I’m blessed with both.

And that’s nothing to scoff off after thirty-nine years.  Or after any amount of time, really.

So, dear Jester, be kind to yourself.  Be patient.  Remember that you know what you need to be happy and let the rest slide to the side.  As best you can.  Some days you’ll do it well.  Some days you won’t.  So it goes.

Now go hug your kids and wife and tell them that you love them, including the tiny one still hidden away, and then dream of the wild places, the high places, the valleys and rivers, and snow-capped peaks that call to you.  You’ll be back among them soon enough.

You’ve got this,

Matticus