It’s an unmistakable sound, a cross between sticks clattering together and overly excited feet flapping against concrete, and I rarely get to enjoy it.  Enjoy it I do, though.  For it brings with it memories of warm summer nights huddled beneath the overhang of the open garage, lightning bursting in the distance, rollerblading against my better judgement on slippery sidewalks nestled between groves on my college campus, and the feeling of cold sand between my toes as I played volleyball with the capturer of my heart, she who would be Queen.

I could sit for hours on end and just listen to the rain, and I have done exactly that when offered the chance.  I hear the first smattering and clattering of drops and my heart sours while the best of my memories flood my thoughts.  I close my eyes and see the flashes of blinding light bouncing off the slick desert floor, with the dark looming backdrop of the mountains.  My cheeks flush from the rush of wind and stinging droplets crashing against my face as I defy logic and sanity to zip along the debris ridden walkways.  My lips smile and release a laugh as I dive for a wayward ball, wet clumps of beach sand kicking up and tangling with my hands, my legs, my hair.  Honestly, who plays volleyball in the rain?

Honestly, who doesn’t play volleyball in the rain?  Who doesn’t go rollerblading or running or walking in a tempest?  Who doesn’t sit and watch thunderstorms march slowly across the horizon?  Who doesn’t splash in puddles?  Who doesn’t wake with a smile in the middle of the night as drops start pinging against their windows?  Who doesn’t look at the forecast every week hoping to see that this is the week, this one right here, where we are finally going to get some weather to be excited about?  Who doesn’t love rain?  Who?

Ah, rain.  Sweet, cooling, wonderful restorative mana from the heavens, how I love your song.  You are a symphony of sounds, a chorus of voices, a speaker of tongues.  You play and my heart and soul listen.  In Mr. Brown Can Moo, Dr. Seuss corrals the sounds as “dibble dibble dop, dibble dibble dop dop dop,” and who am I to argue with him.

our unending duality

The stars were shining in defiance of the coming storm.  Though no clouds yet darkened the horizon, the storm was building out of sight.  The gunfire piercing the night and echoing still in his thoughts were proof of its inevitable march across the sky.  Rain and thunder had always accompanied, mirrored, the tempest on the ground before and he had long ago lost hope that their relationship would change.  When shots rent the night, the following day would be miserable with weather.

Hitching his coat around his neck, he stepped free of his porch and across the dusty driveway to stand at his property line.  His gaze was drawn east to catch the first of the morning’s warmth pressing against the heavens.  Soon the world would spin enough to pry the fiery orb from its nightly slumber, but it would only shine for a few hours before clouds overtook it.

The thunder would roll forward first, signaling its slow approach.  The crash and tremble would echo in his small valley and his thoughts would return to the previous night.  Then the sky would soften and the rain would patter and splatter turning his driveway into a river of mud.  The torrent would pound against everything in its path until it was satisfied its lesson had finally, and brutally, been imparted.

The students were never paying attention though and the violence would continue.  He understood the duality of his kind even as he pondered the same and watched night give way to dawn.  The edge of the world bruised and then blued.  The sun came into view and the light shimmered in the clear air and reflected off the ground, heavy with dew.  It was beautiful and hopeful but he could trust neither.

The gunfire echoed in his memory again and the first peel of thunder reached across the world as the clouds began to form.  Small at first, they stretched high into the atmosphere before spreading horizontally to blot out the sun.  The day crackled with energy.  The storm sizzled with retribution.

He stepped away from his property line and retreated to the partial safety of his porch.  The danger was real, no less than it had been the night before, but that didn’t mean he could shirk his responsibilities.  It was day and that meant work must be done, despite the risks and the coming downpour.  It wasn’t yet time to get started, though.  The sun was still shining.

So, he watched the storm build and he waited for it to arrive.  Once the first fat drops splashed into the dust he would step into the open again and begin.  He would track down those who had called down the storm and he would silence them forever.  One day, he hoped to keep the storms from raging at all.  One day, he knew someone would come looking for him.

And the cycle would continue for someone else, to wake to the ringing shots and wait for the resultant storm.


playful and haunting

A symphony plays across the heavens, at times beautiful, at times tragic.  Tears of sadness and joy fall unchecked to soak into the listening earth.  The audience is so enthralled they don’t mind or even notice.

The notes rise and fall, intertwined, and caressing those lucky enough to witness the masterpiece.  The bass sweeps over the land in waves of pressure.  The treble dances along, playful and haunting.  The clefs work together and against each other producing a cacophony of discordant and harmonious tones.

As the end nears, the music reaches a deafening crescendo, forcing the world to pay attention, humbling those closest to the orchestra.  The fierce instruments roar with life and death.  The drenched land trembles and then throws its arms wide in jubilation as the final note fades to the horizon.

Silence follows, thick and heavy, crushing the world under its weight.

Then lightning flashes trying to forever capture the final moments of the performance and thunder claps with exuberance, demanding an encore that will never come.


Not sure what to say about this one.  I saw the Inspiration Monday prompt and this is what came to me when I placed my fingers on the keyboard.  What are you inspired to write with the below prompts?

Inspiration Monday logo

The Rules

There are none. Read the prompts, get inspired, write something. No word count minimum or maximum. You don’t have to include the exact prompt in your piece, and you can interpret the prompt(s) any way you like.


No really; I need rules!

Okay; write 200-500 words on the prompt of your choice. You may either use the prompt as the title of your piece or work it into the body of your piece. You must complete it before 6 pm CST on the Monday following this post.

The Prompts:






My NaNoWriMo 12

Since I wasn’t sleeping, and my ears were overly attentive due to what they hadn’t heard earlier, I picked up on the sound of boots scraping and sliding across the rocks coming up the trail with plenty of time to get myself out of my sleeping bag and get some clothes on before the nighttime travelers entered my camp.  It wasn’t super late and it wasn’t unheard of for people to be hiking in the dark, especially on days where a good portion of the light filled hours had been marginalized by a ferocious mountain storm, but I was in such a random location I couldn’t but wonder what kind of packers I was going to find on my hands. 

 To get to my location, from the direction they were coming from, they either had a very short day, completely bypassed the better sites they were probably supposed to have stopped at, or had a really long day in preparation for tackling the pass the following day.  For some reason I highly doubted it was the latter and figured these hikers, plural because I could distinctly hear at least two different sets of feet slipping across the rocky trail, were novices. 

 Well, it’s not like I was sleeping anyway.

 I had just switched on my flashlight to go through the process of unzipping the tent and putting back on my muddy hiking boots when the call of a man’s voice rang out above the roar of the nearby Kings River.


 “Good evening,” I called back while simultaneously unzipping the tent flap and reaching out to do the same to the rain fly.  When they were both open I shown the light from the flashlight out towards the ground a few feet in front of my tent to provide some light on the situation without running the risk of flashing the light in their eyes.  I couldn’t see them yet as they hadn’t come around to my side of the tent.

 “Any objection if we set up camp next to you?”

 Ah, backpacker etiquette.  With the nagging feeling that these were not seasoned packer still nagging at me I was shocked that they asked.  “No objection at all.  If you can find the space you need you are more than welcome to it.”  With that, I set the flashlight on the floor of the tent next to me and started to untwist the top of the trash bag that held my boots.

 “Thankee, thankee.” 

 The man’s response was followed immediately by almost two simultaneous sighs of relief and the distinct sound of two backpacks being dropped to the ground.  A couple grunts followed that as the men joined their packs on the ground to take a well earned, in their minds, moment of respite before setting up their camp.  Mind you, I wasn’t judging, we were all beginners at some point and, if it turned out they weren’t novices, we’ve all had days we miscalculated how far we had to go or had to change our plans as circumstances dictated.

 Even the most veteran of backpackers has no control over the weather, injuries, sickness, and blisters.  I included blisters on that list because even when you do everything right to protect your feet sometimes those little bas$%@&s pop up anyway.  But each thing on that list has contributed to me calling short a hike or having to change plans at least once.  It happens.

 So, no, I wasn’t judging.  However, I was surprised to have to be sharing my campsite for the second night in a row.  I was also a little annoyed that I was going to have to put my muddy boots back on.  I understood that was completely my choice and I could have just left them to get situated on their own but I knew I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep without at least some sort of cursory introduction to the newcomers.  Backpackers are generally good people but you never really know for sure…

 I wrinkled my nose at my boots as I laced them up.  They didn’t smell bad.  I just wasn’t happy with them.  Then, with a groan, I pushed myself out of my small tent, grabbed my flashlight off the floor, and closed the rain fly in case it started raining again while I was getting acquainted with my new camp buddies.  A quick glance skyward, and the lack of any stars, indicated that it was smart of me to be wary.  It could start raining again at any time. 

 The wrinkled nose turned into a slight frown as I thought that perhaps walking around for a bit more might knock some of the mud off.  I know that seems contradictory, frowning at something that should be a good thing, but if the shoes got cleaner I wouldn’t want to put them back in the trash bag but they still wouldn’t be clean enough to join me unshielded in the tent.  It would be another dilemma. 

 Mysteries and dilemmas were really starting to piss me off.

 I stamped my feet a few time and watched as the mud flew off to disappear into the murkiness of the ground.  Then angled the beam of my flashlight a few feet in front of me and walked around me tent to go and say a proper “hello.”

 They were still on the ground, their backs leaned against their packs, and their packs leaned against some oversized boulders, when I got close enough to them for my light to illuminate their faces.  They looked absolutely exhausted.  “Rough day?”

 “You can say that again,” the older of the two replied.  “The rain didn’t do us any favors.” 

 The speaker shoved himself off the ground, wobbled on his feet briefly as he struggled for balance and compsure and then took a step towards me and extended his hand.

 “I’m Frank, and that’s my son Jordan.”  He indicated who he was referencing with a nod of his head in his son’s direction.  Not that there was anyone else there he could have been talking about.  Still, it was good to have clarification because he might have been talking about an invisible, 6-foot tall, rabbit who has occasionally gone by the name Harvey.

 I took the offered hand and shook it.  “It’s good to meet you, Frank and Jordan.”  With the shake completed I waived in greeting to his son.  “I’m Anton.  The rain messed with my plans for the day too.  In truth, the rain has messed up a bunch of my plans in the last week.”

 Frank shook his head in agreement, as if he knew exactly what I was talking about.  I doubted he did.  Jordan didn’t return my wave and, though his eyes were open, looked like he was already asleep.  Poor kid.

 Frank appeared to be in his forties or so, maybe early fifties, though part of that could have just been from the state of exhaustion he was in.  He was a little bit on the heavier side, and shorter, but not quite stocky.  Jordan looked like he was a teenager but on the upper end of that spectrum and, while his current station didn’t support it, he seemed to be in better shape than his father. 

 Frank didn’t immediately move off to start unpacking so I figured he wasn’t quite ready and was hoping for a distraction to keep him away from that chore for a bit longer.  Internally I marveled at his ability to be calm despite the hour and not be in a rush to get his tent set up while it wasn’t raining.  No matter how tired I was I would find the energy to set up my tent, if the roles were reversed, before I took the time to do anything else. 

 I’ve had to set up my tent in torrential downpours before.  Trust me when I say that it isn’t fun.  Everything gets wet and then you lose your dry and warm sanctuary to retreat to get out of the rain.  It is miserable.  But, I did my best to hide those feelings from Frank.  Not that it mattered.  I doubted he could really see my face in the small amount of light cast by my flashlight.

 “Where did you guys come up from today?”  He was looking for a distraction.  Asking that staple question was the easiest way to provide one.

 “Well, we were camped at Lake Marjorie last night and we were hoping to make it over Mather today but we got a really slow start this morning.  I let Jordan get some extra sleep to recover from the strain of going over Pinchot Pass the day before.  Plus,” he said with a knowing smile and a wink, “we were hoping the rain would let up before we had to hit the trail.”

 I nodded as if I agreed with and thought he had made the decision anybody would have made.  I felt bad for encouraging that sort of behavior but I also felt it was one of those mistakes people needed to learn from on their own.  I could tell him that he should have gotten an early start regardless of the conditions because inclement weather always slowed things down and because he would what extra time built into his day so he could summit the pass when it was safest, but, hopefully, he had just learned that lesson.  Instead I just said, “Wow, you had a really long day planned for yourselves today.”

 “Where did you start your day, Anton?”

 “I spent last night at the Palisade Lakes.”

 He cut me off before I could elaborate, “You went over Mather today?”

 I shrugged my shoulders.  “I waited until the electrical storm moved down the canyon and then hoofed it up to the pass when I felt it was safe.”

 “Woooeeee,” he exclaimed, slapping his thigh in the process.  “I knew we had a long day planned today but once I saw that lightning this morning I decided we wouldn’t be doing Mather today.  We have an extra day built in to our trip so if we don’t make up the miles we missed today on a different day, we can just give up the rest day to cover the extra ground.  But I couldn’t have imagined going up there with all that lightning popping about.  Dang.  My hat’s off to you, sir.”

 Thankfully, he didn’t actually have a hat to take off.  That would have just been weird.

 “No, no, I didn’t do anything worthy of praise or out of the ordinary really.  I know there’s no way to really know what these mountains are going to brew up and throw at you next, but I’ve spent enough time out here that I like to think I can figure it out on occasion.  You’ll get there too.”

 He shook his head, overly exaggerated, in the negative.  “I very much doubt that.  I thought this trip would be a good chance to connect with my son, man to man sort of, but it’s taken a real toll on both of us.  I don’t think we are cut out for this hobby.  We are probably calling it quits after we get safely back home.”

 “You might surprise yourself,” I interjected.  “These mountains can really grow on you.  You may hate every step of the way but when you get home you’ll end up missing them.  You’ll know it’s crazy, and you can’t believe you are doing it, but you’ll find yourself coming back year after year.”

 Half mumbled, barely audible, Jordan scoffed, “I doubt that.”

 Neither of us paid him any mind.

 “We shall see, we shall see.  I can see that you are serious, and I believe that has happened to others, but I just can’t see it happening to me.”  

 Then Frank looked up, seemingly noticing that the clouds were still hanging above us, dark and foreboding, and said, “I guess I should see about getting set up for the night.  Come on Jordan we’ve got some work to do.”

 “Do you need any help?”  Please say no, please say no, please say no…

 “Thank you, Anton, but we’ve got this part covered.”

 “Okay.  I’ll be over here if you need anything.  Good night.”

 “Thankee, sir, and a good night to you as well.”  Then Frank turned his attention square on his son, “Get up and let’s get this done.”

 At that point, I retreated back to a rocky section over by my tent so I would be out of their way.  I found a flat rock to use as a temporary seat, sat down, switched off my flashlight and attempted to enjoy the evening.  I thought about climbing back into my tent, but if they did end up wanting my help with something I didn’t want to have to drag myself back out again.

 After a full minute, much longer that I thought it would have been, Frank switched on his own flashlight and began unbuckling and unstrapping his backpack to get their tent out.  A moment later a second light switched on as Jordan showed up at his side to help out.  I found myself wondering how they had managed to make it as far as they had without their flashlights more accessible.  No wonder it took them as long as it did to make it up only this far.

 Not that they had an easy day, because they didn’t, but they also didn’t make it anywhere near as far as they had planned on making it.  Once again, not judging, just making an observation.

 Just like the observations I was making as the two of them attempted to set up their tent and then get their stove lit to cook dinner.  Snippets of their conversations carried across the camp to wear I was sitting without being drowned out by the crushing sound of the river.

 “That doesn’t go there.”

 “I don’t think you are doing that right.”

 “What are you talking about?”

 “What a disaster.”

 I wondered if they had noticed that I didn’t get back into my tent.  I figured the answer was no.

 Eventually they got the tent set up, cooked something and polished it off, and then finally disappeared into their tent.  Their lights bounded around for awhile after that as they continued to get things situated on the inside but I could no longer hear anything they said, if they spoke at all.

 After their lights winked out I stepped over to my tent and got it.  I decided the only real option was to throw the shoes back into the trash bag and so that is what I did.  Then I took off the extra layers I’d thrown on to combat the cool night air and climbed back into my sleeping bag.  I closed my eyes and waited for sleep to reach out for me, and while I waited, I smiled and said under my breath, “People are silly, silly creatures.”


Word Count: 2,505
Total Word Count: 25,186

Story progress:  Hooray for some comedic relief.  I’m not entirely happy with how the interactions with Frank and Jordan went.  I was hoping add a bit more humor to the whole situation but that didn’t seem to come out while I was typing it up… not to worry, the intent is there, and I can always add some extra funny to it during editing.  Crossed the halfway point, 25K words.  Hooray for that as well.

My NaNoWriMo 10

The wind howled down the canyon, a banshee wailing and moaning, whipping the giant trees back and forth.  I was pelted with pine needles ripped from their branches as equally as I was pelted by the slashing rain.  If the temperature dropped much more that rain could easily turn into sleet but since the day should be getting warmer I didn’t think I needed to worry about that too much.

 “At least it isn’t hailing.”  It’s the little things in life.  “Yet…”

 Several hours had passed since leaving the camp next to Palisade Lakes and I hadn’t made it very far.  The conditions had deteriorated with the wind picking up speed and the rain falling harder and harder.  The trail had become a raging torrent as water from the higher elevations rushed down it.  The sections that weren’t under water were muddy and slippery, making every step treacherous. 

 Plus, the trail had gotten exponentially steeper the further away from the lakes I climbed.  So, on top of the weather I was also fighting a losing battle against gravity while working on thinner and thinner oxygen.  Conditions were not ideal.

 Knowing that the trail was going to be in poor shape and that climbing up to Mather Pass was going to take a lot of out me, I had waited for as long as possible to consume my granola bar.  The time had come, though, and I withdrew it from my pocket, while seeking temporary shelter under a dense canopy of tangled branches, and proceeded to make it disappear.  I didn’t savor it.  I didn’t enjoy it.  I solely craved its hidden energy.

 When it was gone, I left my temporary shelter, my little place of sanctuary and respite, and re-entered the storm.  I really had hoped that the worst of the weather was behind me.  After enduring what I’d already been through it was only natural to assume and hope that things would be good for the rest of the trip.  I didn’t fully believe in karma, but as I liked the idea of it, I wondered what I had done to bring that sort of treatment upon myself.

 “It must have been a doozy.”

 I trekked on.  And up.  And on and up some more until I reached the last stand of trees I could see before the long unsheltered climb to the pass.  The electrical storm hadn’t been nearly as bad as some of the previous ones, but it was still up there and I didn’t want to attempt the pass until it moved on.  Rain and hail were fine.  Even snow would be okay.  But I did not want to make the mistake of being the tallest thing up among the clouds with all that electricity bouncing around.

 I found as secluded and sheltered a spot as I could, swung my pack off my back and rested it up against a tree, and then I rested my back against it to wait until the lightning had moved to a different valley, preferably, or, at least, until it moved a few miles further away. 

 I waited.

 Then, I waited some more.

 When I was done with that, I kept on waiting.

 At first, I entertained myself by watching the rain filter through the trees and by counting the time lapse between each brilliant flash of lightning and the ground shaking thunder that followed.  When I tired of that game I pulled a deck of cards out of my backpack and played a handheld version of solitaire.  That didn’t last very long as the moisture in the air started to “melt” the cards and I had to put them away before they were destroyed.  I was going to grab a book and spend some time reading but decided it would probably face the same fate as the playing cards so I opted against it.

 Instead, I decided to pull out my lunch supplies and eat a bit early.  There was nothing like some canned ham, crackers, and dried apples to really pick up my mood on a miserable rainy day in the backcountry.  In truth, it worked.  Part of that was just because it replaced the nutrients and calories I had burned off that morning, and part of that was just because I really liked it.

 What’s that old adage?  “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”  Well, there you go.  Some canned ham and crackers and I’m all yours.  Yes, I really am that simple.

 As I ate, the rain seemed to start to let off a bit.  It was still coming down consistently but the drops were getting lighter and smaller.  The storm was moving on.  I wasn’t really counting the gap anymore but the time between lightning flash and thunder peel was increasing.  From my vantage point I could even see the lightning strikes, cloud to cloud and cloud to ground, moving down the valley away from the pass.

 By the time I had finished eating, put away my lunch mess, and repacked my backpack the rain had stopped completely.  I forced myself to wait a full twenty minutes after my last bite before I hit the trail again.  It was an agonizing twenty minutes.  I was worried about the storm turning around.  I was worried about having enough time to make the pass and get down to a decent camp on the other side before it got dark.  I was worried that I was once again summiting a pass in less than ideal conditions by myself.

 After the twenty minutes had come and gone, I hit the trail with renewed energy and vigor.  I still had to be careful with every foot placement as the rocks were still slick with rain and the trail was a muddy mess but not having the driving rain pounding down on my head made it all seem so much easier.  I had the extra spring back in my step that I had been missing all day. 

 My renewed energy didn’t last too long, though, as the terrain took its toll on me.  The muddy trail turned into loose rocks and hard granite slabs where it felt like a giant slip and slide and every step forward resulted in sliding back an equal distance.  My knees screamed at me.  My hips burned in protest.  My shoulders cried out for relief.  My leg muscles argued with me every step of the way until finally going numb from the exertion. 

 “They won’t be numb tonight though,” I grunted as I hauled myself up another set of granite stair steps cut into the canyon wall.  I often wondered if the trail crews that had constructed the staircases in the Sierra were comprised of giants due to the extreme height of some of the steps.  Under normal circumstances they were difficult.  With a heavy backpack on your back they became painful.  In the conditions I faced I marveled that I was able to overcome them at all.

 “Yet another reason why backpacking in the Sierra is not for the faint of heart.” 

 I finally reached the top of Mather Pass and while I normally would have dropped my pack, enjoyed the panoramic views and rested for a few minutes, I didn’t do any of those things.  I didn’t want to take the time.  I didn’t want to waste the energy or the daylight.  In any case, I was no longer in a good enough mood to enjoy the views anyway.

 I knew that all I needed to do was drop down into the Upper Basin area and there would be plenty of places to get fresh water and therefore plenty of places I could camp if I needed to.  But, I really wanted to make it to where the trail intersected the South Fork of the Kings River because there would be two things that would make the evening more bearable: better tree coverage for sheltering purposes and the potential for a fire if the weather permitted.  The spot I was thinking of was only a few miles away, and in good weather wouldn’t have been a problem at all to reach.

 However, as painful and tiring as uphill is, in wet conditions downhill can be far worse.  Every step can literally turn into a slip and slide that sends you plummeting down the trail or, worse case scenario, off the trail into a chasm.  There are plenty of places where a misplaced step can send you tumbling hundreds and even thousands of feet. 

 In my youth, my invisible and indefatigable youth, I hated switchbacks.  They seemed like a giant waste of time and energy.  Why would I want to hike back and forth up and down the side of a mountain when it would be quicker and shorter just to hike straight up the side?  In the wisdom, and humility, that comes with age I had completely flip-flopped on the matter.  Switchbacks were life savers.   They kept you from picking up too much speed going downhill and they kept the angle of descent a little less anguishingly painful on your knees.

 Well, that’s how it was for me, anyway.  I know there are some seasoned packers out there that never outgrew the opinions from our younger years.  They still saw switchbacks are more of guidelines on where the trail should be rather than feeling obliged to stick with them all the time.  “There more of a set of guidelines than actual rules,” I said in my best Geoffrey Rush impression from The Pirates of the Caribbean.

 “Oh, what I’d give for some rum right now.”

 I didn’t actually want it right then, but it would have been nice to have it tucked away in my pack somewhere (in a bear canister) to enjoy while sitting around the fire.  It would certainly help the fire warm me up.  Alas, I had none.

 Over the years I have contemplated various ways of packing in one form of alcohol or another.  But, eventually I have always decided against it.  Beer, liquor and wine all violate my first rule of packing: they work against staying properly hydrated.  It was a shame though, because it sure sounded good.

 The weather stayed clear on my entire descent.  I made it through the Upper Basin area without any problems and was making good enough time that I continued down to the spot I had hoped to make it to along the Kings River.  Once there, I set up camp, including the rain fly on the tent and putting my backpack back into its trash bag, and set about getting dinner started so I could get some warm food into me.

 There would be no fishing.  There would be no fire.  I didn’t have the energy or time for either.  And, after I finished eating it began to rain again anyway so I quickly secured my hastily assembled camp and then dove into the dry comfort of my tent.  I did remember to grab my book out of my backpack before scrambling to safety so I would have something to pass the time until I either feel asleep or the cloud burst ceased.

 I hoped it would only be a short lived squall and I’d be able to stretch my legs and walk around a bit before returning to my tent to sleep for the night.  But, based on the recent days, I wouldn’t have placed any bets on that hope.  And I am a betting man.


Word Count: 1,919
Total Word Count: 20,682

Story progress:  While this chapter is sort of a return to “filler,” I was fairly happy with how it turned out.  I’m trying to really lay a ground work for the extreme conditions faced while traversing through the backcountry and think I’m doing an okay job of that at least.  Passed the 20K word mark so that is fun.  I wonder what is going to happen in the next 30K?