I emerged from my writing cave after two weeks to find this view waiting for me:
I seriously need to get out more.
WHAT’S PLAYING: The Pierces “Lights On”
Lately, I’ve been frustrated with society in general, and our government in particular, so I decided to tap into my internal Evil Overlord and come up with ways to make things better.
When I Come to Power:
1. People who take up two parking spaces shall have their cars crushed and melted.
If you’re that worried about other people accidentally scratching or dinging your car, then invest in a bicycle or walk. An expensive car does not give you the right to be a dick.
2. People who talk or text during movies shall be forced to watch artsy, foreign films that have no plot, minimal dialogue and lots of weird images without subtitles for six hours. Once again, having a cell phone and people who are willing to communicate with you doesn’t give you the right to fuck with my movie-going experience.
3. Telemarketers shall only be allowed to call people between the hours of 3:00PM and 3:02PM. This also goes for politicians, charities, survey polls, etc., anyone looking for money or time.
Companies that violate this rule shall be fined $100,000, and their CEO’s beat with a bag of oranges.
5. Last, but not least, those who don’t do their jobs, shall not get fucking paid.
Seriously, Congress, enough is enough. Strap on a set and do the right thing.
WHAT’S PLAYING: Erykah Badu “Bag Lady”
This week’s book is The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.
This book came to me at an opportune time. I had just lost my mother and was suffering through yet another bout of pneumonia—the same disease that killed my mom. To tell you the truth, I was in a very bad place. Then one day, a package arrived in the mail. I opened it and found this:
A couple of years ago, I met Neil’s American editor, Jennifer Brehl, at a convention and developed a serious girl-crush on her. Lucky for me, she’s as kind as she is brilliant, and didn’t call security on me. Instead, we struck up a friendship over our shared love of books. When she heard about my troubles, she sent me the book pictured above, along with a copy of his Make Good Art speech. Both books now reside on a very special bookcase that no one but me is allowed to touch.
I am not kidding. Touch it, and I’ll beat you with a bag of oranges.
Gaiman is a master of creating worlds that are just a bit…off. I’ve read this deceptively short and simple book at least eight times, and it never fails to move me. It sinks its hooks into my soul and I’m left helpless, caught between wonder and terror.
And every time, I come away not quite sure where the mundane ends and the fantastic begins.
Favorite Line/Image: “I saw the world I had walked since my birth, and I understood how fragile it was, that the reality I knew was a thin layer of icing on a great dark birthday cake writhing with grubs and nightmares and hunger.”
Bottom Line: Damn you, Neil Gaiman. You made me cry.
Coming up next: NOS4ATU by Joe Hill
Since it is October, I thought I’d share tales of a few monsters from Choctaw lore that never failed to scare the ever-loving-shit-crap out of me when I was a kid.
1. Shampe – A giant, foul-smelling beast that lives in the deepest parts of the woods, some believe the Shampe followed the Choctaw on their long migration from the West. Often described as part vampire, part wendigo, and part Sasquatch, they are nocturnal monsters that can’t stand sunshine or fresh air. These vampire beasts are attracted by the smell of blood and will often stalk hunters carrying fresh kills. They do not have very good vision, but posses a keen sense of smell. They can track any person or animal for miles.
There are two ways to tell if a Shampe is near. One is the foul smell, a scent so terrible that many have died from its odor. The other is the whistling noise they make as they stalk their prey. Once this beast has caught your scent, your only hope is to drop a dead or wounded animal and pray that the smell of fresh blood will draw the Shampe away from your trail. Then run as far and as fast as you can.
2. Hattak Chito “Big Man” – A huge, manlike beast similar to Sasquatch that lives in the swamps or tangled creek bottoms. Covered in coarse grey or brown hair, this creature has long arms and a stooped walk that appears shambling but is deceptively speedy. Legend has it that the Hattak Chito was once a slave to an evil conjurer called Ohoyotubbi “Woman Killer,” who would use the beast to terrorize anyone who angered him. On one occasion, Ohoyotubbi became angry with a farmer that lived near his home on the Little River and sent the manbeast to kill the farmer’s cattle. In retaliation, the farmer and his sons crept to Ohoyotubbi’s home the next night and set it afire, destroying the witchman. Since then, the manbeast has continued to live in the Boklawa area.
He tries to avoid people, but some reported sightings have occurred as late as 1979. It is said in legend that should you meet the manbeast and are frightened, he will run away from you. But, if you meet him and are not afraid, he will become your slave and serve you as he once served Ohoyotubbi.
3. Na Lusa Chito “Big Black Thing” – The ancient Choctaw’s counterpart to Satan or the Devil, the Na Lusa Chito, or soul eater, is the cause of depression. If you allow evil thoughts to enter your mind, the Na Lusa Chito will creep inside you and eat your soul, barring your way to the Happy Land where Choctaws enjoy life after death.
Thus it became a practice that, after an Oklan dies, his name was never again mentioned aloud by any member of his family or any of his friends for fear that the soul eater might discover that he was dead and devour his soul. Also, a wife never refers to her husband by name. In conversation, he is “My Husband,” and perhaps later will become “My Son’s Father.”