Wednesday, December 30, 2009

43 Cranes and my thoughts on "hearing aids"

"It is said" that if you make a thousand of these you will get your wish.

My hope: That children in present need of rescue can be both found and helped.

My goal: Sell these, as ornaments, to my neighbors. Raise $1000, which I will donate to those who are trying to make my hope a reality.

~eigh­teen lives flashed in that in­stant through my mind—nine that had been, and nine that could have been . . .


It always makes me sad to hear of someone, a real someone, who lost years of his or her life to the enslavement of pain and fear. Often it is an adult telling the story of him or herself as a child, and I am sad because it is years too late to do anything for that childhood.

But there are children today for whom it is not too late for someone to hear. It can be tricky, though--this is why we hear too many of these stories from adults long after the fact. So I've been thinking about "hearing aids;" key pieces of adult education that will help us hear a child's need for help.

Some aids I've found:

  • Static reducers--Cut out the pre-conceptions: that family members can't be abusers, that church members can't be abusers, etc.
  • Signal amplifiers--"Children will often 'shut down' and refuse to tell you more if you respond emotionally or negatively." Learn how to strengthen a child who confides in you; don't run the risk of stifling his or her voice.
  • Language aids--An abused child may be pre-verbal, not very verbal or confused by overwhelming fear and anger. Learn to hear an SOS in whatever form it manifests.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

13 Cranes and one fuzzy plan

I'm going to make a thousand of these. I will be making them for Child Abuse Awareness Month, coming up in the U.S. in April.

An origami crane is a symbol. My thought on symbols is they can be whatever you want them to be, so I'm going to go with Hope. As I am folding cranes, I will hope that children in present need of rescue can be both found and helped.

In my culture there is a belief that if you fold a thousand cranes you will get what you want. One brave little girl with leukemia is the most famous example of this belief. Some women also fold a thousand cranes (or try to) before marriage.

I WANT a $1,000 philanthropy budget so I can donate to organizations that are trying to make my hope a reality. Now for the fuzzy part of my plan:

I am going to make my paper cranes into um, Hope Ornaments, by some method I am still working out. (I think it will involve eyelet pins and acrylic non-toxic paper glue) Then I will sell my ornaments door-to-door for $1 each to make my Hope stash.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Don't let the ugly block out the beauty, he said

I've been thinking about my belief system, recently, and how I cope with one of its dichotomies.

I believe there is a lot of great good in the world, and that I should enjoy it. I believe I should be conscious of light and beauty, should let it give me joy and that doing otherwise would be ungrateful.

I believe there is a lot of unacceptable evil in the world. I believe I should be conscious of this and that willfully ignoring it would be irresponsible.

These two beliefs still clash frequently. I will be looking forward to a day of beautiful football, when something will remind me that there are many who "look forward" with fear and dread only. And then I'm not sure how I should feel.

I don't think I should live out my life in a constant sympathetic depression. That just doesn't feel productive . . .

Ah-ha. That's my coping mechanism. Whenever I hear about a problem (a problem I actually care about; there are many that don't move me) my tendency is to immediately wonder: Who is doing what about this?

Then I google it.

I always find something, and it always gives me hope and inspires me to, at the least, really want to act myself.

I like productive. I like hope. I like concrete and tangible. I like the idea of progress. I like the Chinese(?) proverb: "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." Seriously, would it be better for me to go into perpetual mourning over all the darkness in the world, or look for the people with the candles, light one myself and then try to pass on the flame?

Anyway, that's what I've been thinking about. I'm going to try to enjoy everything enjoyable with enthusiasm and zero guilt. I also don't intend to ignore problems or accept evil. But along with consciousness of problems and real evil, I'm going to focus on who is giving me hope by doing productive, tangible things to progress our world. And I'm going to remember (and remind people, sorry) that we all can (and I believe should) help with human progress. (Unless you're an alien or something, though Kal-EL believes he should help his adoptive planet . . . )

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Looking for reviewers of "Roci and the skycat." Will give you "Cory's" e-book free as well

I'm looking for reviewers for Roci and the skycat, the free e-book prequel to For Cory's Sake. I am offering a limited-time coupon for Cory's e-book, meaning the first reviewers of "skycat" will get both books free.

Reviewers will need a Smashwords account (free) but it is not necessary to own an e-reader to read their e-books, which can be read in a word processor or web browser. My recommendation is HTML reading in a web browser, with line spacing set higher than "single" and font, font size and colors however you want them. (I recommend this option because you can determine all these details for yourself)

I set the coupon code to be good through my birthday, 12.04.09. (skycat is short; I can read it in less than an hour) Leave a comment, or @ or DM me on Twitter by then, telling of your review or intent to review, and I'll get the code to you.

Please retweet: RT@ForCorysSake Looking for reviewers for free "skycat" e-story. Will give you Cory's e-book free as well #smashwords

Welcome, and thank you for coming to the party

Jeffrey Bentler: Welcome, and thank you for coming to the launch party of For Cory's Sake the e-book and its FREE companion, Roci and the skycat. As promised

Terrence Bentler:
u promised

Jeffrey Bentler: As I promised, randomly, off the top of my head, we have music


Weston Bentler: (The author imagines they're playing '80s hits, but you can imagine anything you want)

Jeffrey Bentler: and a poll. Kerry, explain the poll

Kerry: The author donates her royalties to organizations and programs that are important to her, that she thinks should have more resources to do what they do. Since books can be a slow way to make money

Robert Bentler: (but it's all she knows how to do)

Kerry: she will probably have to prioritize. The poll is for you to register your opinion, if you'd like. She'd like to know.

Jerry Bentler: (Royalties for copies purchased direct from Smashwords are 3.01 USD out of 3.95 USD. The author might keep the penny, for convenience and her expenses)

Jeffrey Bentler: Weston will now present the offerings, and then sister Kerry will present some technical info for those who, like the author, knew nothing about e-reading until like now

Weston Bentler: There are two "offerings." Roci and the skycat is a free mini e-book

Jeffrey Bentler: it's small but not fluffy--like a pet rock instead of like a bunny.

Weston Bentler: Roci and the skycat looks at "Roci" ages 6-10 and his reality, imaginings and character. For Cory's Sake tells the story of our struggle for Cory's freedom.

Jeffrey Bentler: it's real interesting!

Kerry Bentler: The e-books are readable on Kindle, Sony, Palm readers, iPod Stanza and other readers which support .mobi, .lrf, .pdb or .epub formats. If you don't have an e-reader (and neither does the author), the books are also readable in your word processor or web browser. I RECOMMEND

Jeffrey Bentler: listen up

Kerry Bentler: I recommend reading the books in HTML format in a web browser, if you don't have a designated reader. The formatting is preserved, you can select your own font, font size and line spacing, and you can jump around easily if, for instance, Jeffrey starts to ramble.

Jeffrey Bentler: lol. Again, thank you for coming and we hope you'll at least get Roci and the skycat for yourself (or another person who likes reading about imaginative kids and/or big blue-grey speaking cats . . .

Me: And a big thank-you to those who came because of my birthday tweeting . . .

Sunday, November 15, 2009

NaNoWriMo'09, Words 9462-10,146

Roci was one of the big boys now. He grew into a position of power on the playground, with authority to direct games, enforce rules and arbitrate disputes. In the workforce, he was promoted to the coveted position of lawn mower.

He saw the cat very infrequently now. Sometimes, when walking the mower along the grass border, Roci would see a flash of blue-grey out of the corner of his eye, and would feel a memory tickle. But the job would hold his attention—and he would keep on walking and pushing, and go indoors when the job was done.

On the playground, Roci learned that little kids could be very trying to his new maturity. He found they could be very hard to reason with—sometimes he thought they must have very small brains.

Roci made a unilateral rules decision near the very beginning of one early morning game. A small boy decided he didn't like Roci's call, somehow, and began to shriek at him incoherently. His unintelligible argument then devolved, logically, into a refrain of, "You're stupid! You're so stupid! You're so stupid!"

Roci took the disrespect for as long as he thought he could; then closed his fist, cocked his elbow back and released a hard punch full into the smaller boy's face. The boy hit the ground, and Roci looked suddenly and guiltily towards the tall grass.

Roci took the hard whipping from Muri, without a word, and then went looking in the tall grass for the cat. When Roci found him, the cat turned slowly around and showed his back to Roci.

I'm sorry, Roci told the cat. I'm sorry. Muri whipped me really bad; and Muri doesn't even usually whip people. I got punished really good.

The cat did not turn around.

He was acting really dumb, said Roci. He was acting really really dumb.

You're dumb, said the cat.

Roci sat down, behind the cat. He desperately wanted to explain himself to the cat. Something had been building in him for months—it had been growing in him and scaring him and he had to tell the cat about it, now.

Roci was verbally advanced—had anyone cared about talent in slaves, they might have called him verbally gifted. For the purpose of telling the cat about himself, Roci gathered all his words and began to align select ones with his formerly confused thoughts and feelings.

Violence, Roci told the cat—it's like a shadow covering the whole world in my stories, now; it fills the whole world here. Someone is always getting hurt—every day, out here; and every time, in my head. I can't ever stop thinking about it, any more. And a great dark nothing grows in me, and I feel like I have to put something big and strong there or the empty will swallow me . . .

The cat turned around.

It is hard, he confirmed to Roci, to control how you feel; it is hard not to think about bad things that are so big. But you can always control what you do, Roci; and then you will always control who you are. I expect you to not hurt others, Roci. I want you to be good. I will have to leave if you are not good.


Because you will no longer want me. You will mock me. You will think I am stupid. You will be angry at me and hate me because you will hate everything. You will have set yourself against the good in the world and will see all of it as your enemy, including me. It will be hard to find happiness after that—you might never find it after that. But if you are good it will sometimes find you. It will surprise you at times—like a star glinting suddenly out of a deeply clouded sky. And that is what I want for you, Roci. I want you to always be ready to see light.

I love you, Roci told the cat.

I love you too, said the cat.

* * *

Saturday, November 14, 2009

NaNoWriMo'09, Words 8713-9461

Roci grew older. He began to spend a little less time with the cat and more in his own world with the other children.

Roci grew older. Over the months, the cat heard him transition from fanciful fairy tales to increasingly realistic stories about more modern heroes or Roci's rounded-out "family members". He would still come to the cat when particularly interesting stories would reach critical mass, and his head could contain them alone no longer.

Roci's plotting improved, aided by the cat—though he was still willing to compromise his plotting to satisfy his world-view. Never compromised were his beliefs regarding: beauty or hopefulness or the need for adversity and sacrifice.

Roci still ran to the cat for relief from trauma. This happened less often as Roci became one of the "older boys," outgrew Ugly and learned how to not get beatings. So the cat had not seen Roci for more than a week, and was hunting far out in a field when the shrieking began.

The shrieking was not Roci's—the cat knew his boy's voice, and also Roci didn't shriek any more. The cries were strangely uniform—each one of the same pitch, duration and small time interval between each. The shrieks whipped angrily through the air, one after another.

The cat froze for a few seconds, and then ran—towards the children's barracks. He ran up the tree and leapt off its branch. He hesitated at the inner border of the grass, looking towards the barracks. The shrieks pierced the air, consistently and incessantly.

It was two hours before midnight in a town that turned in early, and the cat could see lights turning on in houses very far away. A few minutes later, the cat saw a guard approaching the children's field, an angry energy in his posture and stride. The guard entered the field and strode swiftly across it to the barracks.

Now the shrieks began to build in strength and increase in quickness, accompanied now by many other cries of frightened children and desperate adults. The cat began to pace and whine.

Long seconds passed. The primary noise built and built and built, until it seemed strong enough to any moment blow out the stars and overcome the world. The cat began to paw at the ground; and then suddenly, all sound stopped.

The guard exited the children's barracks with a full plastic garbage bag. He carried his bag across the children's field, out, and quickly out of sight around the factory.

The cat lay down. He felt profoundly exhausted, frazzled and despairing. He would wait for Roci where he was.

Roci came to the cat in the early morning—he could not have eaten breakfast yet. Roci's eyes were swollen and his face was gaunt. The cat rushed to Roci and pressed against him side-to-side.

The guard killed somebody, Roci told the cat.

The cat listened hard though he did not want to.

He was only a baby, said Roci despairingly. He hardly even talked, yet. That's why he was shrieking—he was mad, and it was the only way he could tell the world how angry he was.

Roci was rocking back and forth. The guardians tried to make him stop, he said—they tried everything. They knew the owner's neighbors would complain at him, and the guard would come . . .

Roci was sobbing beneath his words. He continued, The guard wouldn't stop. I tried to yell, "Stop!" but Muri put his hand over my mouth.

Niti was screaming at everybody to shut up. I closed my eyes, but I could still hear.

He was only a baby, said Roci. And the guard wouldn't stop until the baby stopped screaming. And the baby wouldn't stop until he was dead.

Roci had no more words, now. The cat leaned into Roci as his boy rocked him. The cat had no words either.

But an idea was bothering Roci, and after waking up with the cat three hours later, Roci told him about it:

Tobi, says Roci, says that the Borrynzians even make more boy slaves than girl slaves because they know they kill more boys. The boys make more trouble than the girl slaves. They make more boy slaves so if they are too much trouble they can just kill them.

That's wrong, said Roci, that's not right. It's not right to make somebody just to kill him when he's too much trouble later.

The cat agreed, silently.

* * *

Author's Note 1: To preemptively answer a possible question, the second-to-last sentence is not an attempt to ulteriorly express an opinion on the abortion issue. I am not commenting on that issue at all--there is no underlying statement there.

Author's Note 2:
I sure wish this segment were a fantasy, meaning the opposite of reality . . .

Friday, November 13, 2009

NaNoWriMo'09, Words 7861-8232

You are like a hero, stated Roci.

I am a cat, said the cat.

When I said, "Stay away!" because they were setting traps for you; because you scratched the guard; you did not stay away.

Roci, said the cat, with some condescension—I have passed through more dangers in my life than even you can imagine. I am smarter than a trap; and so I do not fear them. I am not afraid of traps; and so I am not brave.

Roci thought about that thought, for a while.

Besides, continued the cat, I cannot free you. I cannot stop anything bad from happening to you. I am a cat, and I do cat things, because I want to. I like you; and I want you to be happy; and I do what a cat can to help you be as happy as you can.

I'm alright happy. Sometimes I am very not; but right now I am happy alright.

I think, said Roci, in a low confidential voice—I think there still are heroes out there. Niti says that's stupid. She says why would there be—no one cares about us. She says there's no reason why anyone out there should care about us.

I think there's reasons. I think if I was out there I would care about us. I think I would see the little boy and think—he looks so not happy. Then I think I would think—why is he so not happy? I know I would try to know, and when I knew I think I would try to do things about it. I think I would at least try to say—why does he have to be there? Why can anyone hit him who wants to? Why can anyone do anything they wants to to him? Why can't he do anything for him, or things get so worse?

I think I would think that, and say that, and do as much as I could. I think there must be people out there who can think, and say, and do like that too.

I know you are right, said the cat. I do know that you are most right.

* * *

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

NaNoWriMo'09, Words 8233-8712

William Bentler was a father of seven, and a writer. This was how, and the order in which, he identified himself.

William was writing. Half-an-hour ago, after wiping up toothpaste spray and soapy water from the kiddy sink and mirror, and making sure the lights were out in most of his house, he had entered his study to do his second job. He had spent about twenty-five minutes thinking and five minutes writing. William was thinking when a door slam interrupted the process.

A few seconds later, the study door swung open.

"Hi, Dad!" shouted Jeffrey, who had not yet developed an indoor voice.

"Not sleepy, Jeffrey?"

"No. And Terrence kicked me out again."

"Were you teasing him, again?" asked William, looking seriously at Jeffrey.

"No, I wasn't! But I wasn't sleepy, and I was talking a little."

William smiled at Jeffrey's "a little." "Well," he said, "you'd better stay here until you are sleepy, then." Jeffrey hopped nimbly up onto the study's second chair, and began to spin it. William looked at his free, uninhibited, confident child, thought about what he had just been thinking about, and felt sad.

"Are you writing?" inquired Jeffrey.


"Are you scared?"


"When are you going to publish?"

"When I finish. I've only just begun this one."

"What are you writing about?"

"I'm writing another story about Roci."

"Can you tell me?"

William hesitated. "This one is—this one is very sad, Jeffrey. I don't want to make you sad, tonight."

"I'm not a coward," stated Jeffrey.

"Of course you're not," said William, puzzled. "Why would you be a coward?"

"Kerry says nobody reads your articles because they're cowards. She says they don't want to know what's going on, because they'd rather be happy and stupid than knowing and sad. I want to know what's going on. I want to know about Roci."

William made a mental note to himself, to talk to his daughter about the wisdom of badmouthing humanity to a seven-year-old.

"If I don't know, I can't do anything about it," persisted Jeffrey.

"Why don't you tell me what you already know about Roci," suggested William.

"All right," said Jeffrey. "I know . . . "

Two hours later, after carrying a sleeping Jeffrey to his room and checking once more for lights, William returned to his story. It was indeed a very sad story, and William was tired, and suddenly found himself crying a little. William had a vivid imagination; and he was seeing his son and his story's representative Coryan child side-by-side as he worked. He saw light, joy and freedom on one side; darkness, fear and helplessness on the other. He saw that only an accident of birth separated the children, and from there he easily saw Jeffrey in the Coryan child's place, and wept harder and typed faster, far into the night.

* * *

NaNoWriMo'09, Words 6668-7860

Do you know what a hero is? Roci asked the cat.

It is not really a cat idea, said the cat.

Cory used to have heroes. Muri tells stories about them, and then I make them better. Do you want to hear one?

Very much, said the cat.

Do you see that mountain wall, over there? It looks like a wall, and you can see there's a big shadow, behind it. That is where the mountain elves live. They live in a great valley. There is a stream in the valley—it comes from way up in the mountain where there is nothing growing there but rock. The stream comes from great crystals that grow up there; and then they melt down down down into magic water. The mountain elves drink from the water to make them strong and healthy.

The valley has trees, with big round yellow fruit on the branches. The fruit shines, like small suns. The elves climb the trees, then pick the fruit and eat it. It has sweet juice that dribbles down their chins. They eat the fruit to make them happy.

The mountain elves have a 'heritance. The 'heritance is in a cave in the back of the valley. Leaves on long vines hide the door pretty good, so it looks just like part of the valley!

The 'heritance is treasure. It is all different colors—purple and red and blue and yellow and green and black and white and all sorts of different colors. Some are shiny and bright like stars. Some are deep and makes you stare in like a pool of water at night. The treasure fills the cave, in the back. It is the elves 'heritance.

The treasure is what makes the story serious. Even though the treasure is in the cave. Even though the cave is covered with leaves, so it looks like the valley. Some people are always looking for things like that. Some people are never satisfied.

Outsiders found the valley one day. They found the elves. Some way they found the treasure. They decided they wanted the treasure, and would take the elves too—why not? The story is very serious now—because of the treasure, and greediness.

But the elves have a dragon . . .

The elves have a dragon?

Yes. The dragon protects the valley. The dragon is red, and skinny, and long like the tree. She has great sharp teeth, and she flies. When she flies her long body wiggles like this, [Roci made a snaking forward motion with his hand] very slow and pretty. She is very pretty.

The dragon is a girl?

Yes, because otherwise if she dies there are no more dragons. Babies come from girls.

I did know that, said the cat. So the dragon is the hero?

I don't really think so. Dragons are born for to protect the elves and the treasure. They only have one thought in the mind. It's like they have to do it and just do it because that's what dragons do.

I think to be a hero you have to decide to do the thing. And it should be a very hard thing. Doing hard things on purpose is brave. When you are brave you are a hero.

But she is very loyal, and protects the treasure good, and it was sad when she died. She died because—because—I'm not sure why she died, but she had to, because that's 'versity. It's 'versity for the elves, because now they are helpless. 'versity makes a story more serious. Life is not too happy anymore, but the people must keep trying, and make it better.

But the dragon did leave an egg. That made them hopeful! The egg was very pretty. It was as big as my head, and red; with freckles in it like tiny stars and suns. If they could stay alright long enough, pretty soon there would be another dragon, and then they would be alright.

But it was getting very cold, up in the mountains. It is very cold up in the mountains. Eggs need to be very warm or they crack. When an egg cracks it is dead, and will never be anything, ever.

The elves have a friend. He used to be an Outsider, but he decided he liked the elves. He decided to stay with the elves. He decided to help the elves.

When the Outsider heard the mama dragon was dead, he ran to the cave. He picked up the egg and put it in his lap and hugged it between his arms and his [Roci pounded his chest].

The Outsider stayed all night in the cave with the egg. It was very cold in the cave, and the Outsider shivered, very bad. He thought he would never stop shaking. His hands and his toes were very cold, all the time. But he put his head down, and held his teeth together strong and waited.

Why not take the egg to a house? inquired the cat.

Because the elves do not live in houses. They don't get cold because they are magic, because they have a strong furnace inside, like you.

Another objection crept into the cat's mind, but he held his tongue. Roci answered it with his next comment, anyway.

It is important to have sakkyrifices. That is how you know somebody's a hero. They have to give something very hard to get something more better. They make the story more 'portant and gooder. He is a hero because it's cold, and it's hard, but he wants the elves' baby dragon to live; so he stays with it.

So he stays with the egg, though it's so very very cold in the cave. He stays with the egg for days and days. Suddenly, he feels the egg—shake a little; it makes a little jump in his arms. Then there is a taptaptap, like the baby dragon is knocking, saying, "I'm coming out; I'm coming out; I'm coming out!"

The Outsider looks at the egg with eyes so big, in wonder. The baby dragon goes taptaptap, taptaptap, taptaptap. Then her head bursts through the shell of the egg, and looks at the Outsider. The baby dragon's eyes are very pretty. They are blue like the sky, and she looks almost like she's smiling at the Outsider. The Outsider smiles back, very pleased.

The outsider carries the dragon in his arms outside the cave. His feet hurts very much, but he walks slow and steady. His hands hurt very much, but he holds the dragon high to show the elves it is alright. The elves clap and cheer. He hurts inside, all over; but he shouts to the valley, "You have a dragon, again!"

He raises the dragon high once more. It rises from his hands and begins to circle the valley, very slow and pretty. She gives them a hopeful feeling.

Then the hero goes to his home, to rest. He is very tired but is happy.

So the hero has a house, then? asked the cat.

Yes. He is a man. Men have houses.

* * *

NaNoWriMo'09, Words 6043-6667

The window was wide, offering a panoramic view of the space behind it. The Coryan leaders stood in a line before the large window.

The Borrynzians had pointed out a planet, out deep in the space behind the large window. The planet looked small, but the Borrynzians said it was of a similar size to Cory.

"Fire," said the Borrynzian captain, quietly. The gunner pushed the button initiating the firing sequence.

The Coryans saw a bright white light shoot out into the void. The light disappeared. For a few seconds, the Coryans saw only the smooth, small-looking planet; and the stationary stars.

Suddenly, the planet cracked. Fissures opened up between panels, as between pieces of shell in a well-cracked hard-boiled egg. The broken pieces began to separate; and then they were flying apart, seemingly propelled by flailing thick tongues of fire.

"Turn around," said the Borrynzian captain. The ship slowly swung 180 degrees around, and began to move off through space.

The Coryan leaders stood stunned and silent. The ship had been in motion for some time when it was suddenly jarred from the starboard side. The Coryan leaders stepped out suddenly to the port side, to keep their balances, lurching and leaning a little until the ship stabilized.

"We didn't move out fast enough," said the Borrynzian captain.

The Coryan prime minister looked at the captain. His face was pale and his eyes anguished.

"What do you want?" The words only barely came out.

"Cory and everything on it," said the captain.

"Or—or that?"

"Yes. Or that."

"Why?" cried out the prime minister.

"Because," answered the captain. "Because we can."

* * *

Robert Bentler was angrier than he had ever been; angrier than he had ever before thought possible for himself. Robert Bentler was a vastly wealthy man. He had created his wealth himself, over eighteen years starting when he was eighteen years old. He had created his wealth with the power of intelligence backed by the force of a strong personality.

He had become accustomed to people hearing him when he spoke. He had become accustomed to his carefully chosen words carrying weight.

Now he was stymied, and was unconsciously clenching and unclenching his fist against his powerlessness. He truly did want to strike the insolent, heedless man before him. The man was mocking him, gloating and leering at every one of his questions, protestations and demands.

"How is this possible?" said Bentler. "In this day—how is this possible?"

"We have a monopoly of knowledge," answered the Borrynzian ambassador. "A certain essential piece of knowledge. We decided to press our advantage. Can you stop us?"

"You can't stop us. You have no allies. The other Utthrian nations have not spoken a word. They will not speak a word against us. They assume the Great Bomb did not coalesce out of thin air. They assume we have other, less great but still fearsome bombs. Do you think otherwise?"

"What will you do if we resist? The Urtthrians who live—who have lived, some of us our entire lives, on Cory. It is our planet too."

"Hardly. A few individuals, scattered across the planet? If you protest, we will ignore you. If you resist with violence, we will imprison you; and then who will hear you champion your Cory?"

"I want to see the footage," demanded Bentler, again.

"No again," said the ambassador. "It is proprietary. You are smarter than the Coryans—you might figure something out. Doesn't your company do tech?"

"Not this," said Bentler. "Not this perverted, low, manipulation of powers."

"Words," said the ambassador. "Not much good against a Great Bomb. Does it sadden you to know they're all you have to defend your planet with?"

* * *

NaNoWriMo'09, Words 5164-6042

The lights were out in the children's barracks, and had been for three hours, now. The cat was hunting in an alley between the electric fence and the working slaves' barracks. He had seen a rat, or thought he had. He knew he had seen motion—a shadow moving quickly across the dirt near the barracks wall. Now the cat was crouched down, facing the wall; his chest brushing the dirt, his rear a little higher than his shoulders and his tail a-twitch.

A door, not a rat, squeaked. The cat lay down flatter upon the dirt, his eyes and his pupils wide and his ears pricked. A few heartbeats later, he craned his neck around and looked over his right shoulder. A guard was moving towards the east entrance to the children's field. The cat followed the guard with his head; as the guard entered the field, crossed the field and entered the children's barracks.

A few more heartbeats and suddenly a feeling of dread overcame the cat. He did not know what it was; in all his years he had never experienced such a sudden and dark inner void. It brought him to his feet, and he began to pace in tentative and then semi-frantic circles, whining quietly.

Suddenly, the cat jumped into a run. He ran to and up his tree and across the overhanging branch. He leapt from the branch without any slowing of speed, and landed farther into the field than ever before.

Now the cat paused. He had never before approached the barracks. He paced a few more circles in hesitation, and then suddenly broke again into a run. He charged the barracks wall, then began to pace along it near the door the guard had entered.

The cat knew when the guard began his approach to his exit. The cat posed himself and waited; his chest brushing the dirt, his rear slightly higher than his shoulders and his tail a-twitch. When the guard's feet passed over the threshold of the door, the cat raked one set of claws swiftly and deep into the back of the guard's right leg, then raced off along the barracks wall towards the mountains.

The cat waited for Roci in the tall grass nearest the mountains. Roci did not come out after breakfast. He could not be seen running and playing with the other children. He did not come out after lunch. The dinner horn blew, and the children stopped playing and went into the barracks.

Roci came out after dinner. He walked hesitantly across the field, looking this way and that. He pushed himself into the middle of the band of grass, so that there was grass all around him when he stopped.

The cat thought Roci looked like one of the ghost boys the cat would see at times in the moonlight. The paleness, the deadness—the cat looked for the light in Roci's eyes, the sun shining through his face; and felt a churning inside as his searching found only blankness.

But the cat was a cat, and his face was settled and calm as he asked, What happened?

Ugly came last night, answered Roci. The words were spoken very faintly, but the cat was good at hearing what he must.

Is the guard Ugly?


Roci was speaking so very faintly. The cat was listening very carefully, hoping to understand why his boy felt so bleak.

Is he very ugly, then?


The cat saw the lights turn out in the barracks.

Will you get in trouble if you are not back for bedtime?

No; Niti was very nice to me today. She knows I didn't want to do anything today; and she didn't make me. She brought me extra food, but I couldn't eat it. Roci suddenly began to cry. The cat, still, could not know why. As a cat he had fought, and he had killed; but he knew nothing of the particular violence that had poisoned his boy.

But he had a child sick with grief, and he had to try to help without understanding. The cat leaned into the boy, who leaned back into him. They sat together as the moon came up and the chill came down; the cat warming the boy with his stronger inner furnace, and his concern.

Roci had one strong thought he had to finally share with the cat. The cat felt the sinking fear as Roci shared his thought, but listened without perceptible reaction.

Tobi, said Roci, says he's going to kill Ugly. He says he's going to bash his head in. Niti gets very scared when Tobi says that. She says he musn't; that horrible things will happen to us all if he does. She says the guards own us; and that's why they can do whatever they want, and we can do nothing about it. She says if we owned ourselves we could fight, but they own us, so we can't.

Muri says it's not right—he says we should own ourselves. He says every person should own his own self. It used to be like that, but we can't get us back, because we can't fight. If we fight, we will lose us forever . . .

* * *

Monday, November 9, 2009

NaNoWriMo'09, Words 4602-5163

It was the smell of frying pancakes that woke Niti that morning. It was an energizing smell to Niti, and she was bright-eyed when she entered her Mama's kitchen a quarter of an hour later. A few minutes later, a large stack of cakes was on her plate. Niti's family lived on a berry farm, where her parents worked. The workers were given a bountiful berry allowance, and Mama had cooked the berries right into the cakes, and was pouring her award-winning syrup all over Niti's stack. Niti was big for a Coryan girl. She ate well and finished her stack in a few minutes.

"Where's my backpack?" she said to Mama.

"You're not going to school today," said Mama.

"Why not?"

"We're waiting for something," said Mama, "and we're going to wait here—together. Come, let's sit on the couch."

"Can we watch television?"

"No, we're not going to watch television."

Niti sat on the couch next to Mama. She was surprised when Mama suddenly wrapped both her arms around Niti and squeezed her towards her.

Niti and Mama sat close and silent until Papa entered with Niti's baby brother. Papa fed the baby, then came with him to the couch and sat down right next to Niti.

"Why are we just sitting?" asked Niti of Papa. Papa sighed.

"Our Coryan leaders must make a great and frightening decision," said Papa. "We will wait for it here, together."

"What must they decide?"

"Do you know what freedom is, Niti?"


"Freedom means if I want to leave the berry farm and work in the jam factory, I probably can. If I want to try the city, I can. I control my own self and my own life; what I do and a lot of what happens to me. And so do you."

Papa's voice broke. "The Coryan leaders must now choose between life, with no freedom; or all of us being no more."

"No more?"

"Being gone. All of us. Forever."

"Where would we go?"

"I mean we would stop. Our lives would stop, all of them. They would all be ended."

"How?" asked Niti, breathlessly.

"There has been a Great Threat. A people on Urtthri have the power to end our world. They have shown their great power to our leaders. The leaders told us, and asked what do we want?"

Papa sighed. "I said I would choose life. Your Mama said differently. We are waiting to know what the leaders will choose."

Niti sat silent, absorbing the news.

Mama said, "Niti, if you go on, but not free, remember that you will always control one thing." Mama tapped Niti on the head. "This," said Mama. "You will always control this—what's in here."

"And we want you to put one thing in there right now," said Papa. "We want you to put in it that we love you. We want you to lock it up and keep it for as long as you live. Will you do that right now?"

"Yes," said Niti. She felt like crying.

"Remember," said Papa. "Remember hard." Niti nodded, and leaned hard into Papa's side. She accidentally leaned against her brother's foot as well. The baby squawked.

Sixty-two years later, Niti lay on her cot, her eyes wide open. "I can't remember," she whispered. "I can't remember my baby brother's name."

* * *

Author's Note: Um, this scene came out so naturally, and felt so vivid, that i'm half-afraid I must have seen part of it in a movie, or something. And yet I can't remember seeing any of it in a movie, or anything. Anyway, let me know if I stole any specifics. The general apocalyptic theme has of course been done before--I just hope my version is my version . . .

NaNoWriMo'09, Words 4123-4601

That's a family, Roci told the cat.

Roci and the cat sat in the grass near the tall tree. Their necks were tilted back back back and their faces were tilted upwards as they watched the family in the tree. A mother bird was feeding her gaping babies in a nest at the base of a branch.

The Mama bird and Papa bird built the house out of little pieces, Roci told the cat. It took them forever! Then they sat on their babies so they wouldn't get cold. Grown birds are warm like you—they have much hair. But baby birds are naked like people with no clothes. Now the Mama and Papa bird feed them every day. Soon they will be fluffy; then they will be half-grown, and will fly away. I've seen them grow before.

The cat had also seen birds nest before. He had been watching this particular one from the beginning. But he had known Roci was watching it too, for a different reason than the cat, and had left it alone. There were many other birds out in the world; he did not need the caged boy's.

You don't have a family, stated Roci. No, confirmed the cat.

I don't, said Roci. I have guardians. Niti's a guardian, and she said don't get used to it. She could disappear any day now because only old people get to be guardians, and old people die. And anyway I will definitely be taken away when I am ten. I don't know how old I am and Niti doesn't know either, but she says I still have more years.

She says her only jobs is to feed me, clean me and get me ready for the harsh, harsh world. She says that's why she beats me, and the guards surely beat people much worse. I know—I hear them from the factory. Even grown people scream when the guards beat them.

Niti used to have a family, when she was a little girl before the Bomb. But she said there's no point wanting for what you just can't have. She said look at Bradley, the owner's son. The owner hits Bradley and makes him cry—and is that what I want? I don't know. The owner takes Bradley places too, and they come back happy and laughing. I don't know.

I have a family—they are in my head. I have older brothers who help me against the big boys. I have a Mama and a Papa. I don't know if they beat me. I don't want them to, but should they?

The cat opined that since Roci's Mama and Papa were in his head, if he didn't want them to beat him they shouldn't have to. Roci thought that made good sense.

Coryans used to have families, said Roci. Niti had one.

* * *

NaNoWriMo'09, Words 3705-4122

Two weeks before the inaugural baseball game, Coryans began to pour into Central City. The Jake and jake crew set up in a large square, which was cordoned off for the week before the game and entry tickets issued by lottery for each day. The entire planet tuned in to Jake and jake's broadcasts every morning, and anticipation had built to a fever pitch by the time game day rolled around.

For the three hours before game time, 100,000 Coryans entered the converted football venue through its dozens of entrances. Coryan fathers carried Coryan babies wearing tiny baseball caps and logoed shirts. Coryan boys and girls brought their brand-new gloves, and stood in line for autographs; and later for ice cream and soft drinks, chips and nuts.

A rumbling soundtrack played as the PA announcer called out the names of coaches and players. The teams stood on the baseline for the jet flyover and accompanying raucous applause; then one team broke for the field and the other for their dugout—and the game was on. The teams were the Dodgers, wearing white; and the Blue Wave, wearing blue. The Coryans didn't know what a dodger was, but accepted it that that was the name of the baseball team.

The first hit (after the first out) was a line drive smoked behind the pitcher and past second base, falling in shallow center field. The next play was a double play. The shortstop picked and flipped in one smooth motion; the second baseman caught and shot in another. The ball thwacked into the first baseman's glove, the umpire pumped his fist authoritatively, the Coryans gasped in amazement; and the Dodgers ran off the field while the Wave ran on.

Twenty-three Coryans acquired foul ball souvenirs that night. One got a home run—hit in the bottom of the fifth by a Dodger. The lone long ball plated three runs. The Dodgers won the game 5-3.

Urtthrian Baseball won a planet of fans. The entire planet had tuned in to the action. Jake and jake were down-to-cory and relatable. The game was explained graphically during its breaks. The rhythms and spatial aspects of the game appealed to Coryan sensibilities. The punctuation of the offense, the speed and grace of the defense—many Coryans fell asleep that night hearing and seeing these things in their heads. Others would see their laughing wife or husband; their glowing children; their alert and interested and then suddenly and snuggily zonked-out baby. They knew they would be back.

* * *

NaNoWriMo'09, Words 2869-3704

"This is such an honor," said jacoby. "Such an honor."

Big Jake did not respond. He was gazing at the screen on his computer notebook. Occasionally, a wistful expression would cross his face, evidently triggered by something on his screen.

Jake and jake in the Afternoon was a popular Urtthrian sports talk show. Jake, jake (called by his full given name in written works, for differentiation) and their production team were holding an important meeting, in preparation for the great honor.

"Play it again," said jacoby to his producer. "I want to hear it again."

"What are you doing?" he demanded of big Jake, who still had not responded or looked up.

jacoby remotely turned up the sound on Jake's computer. The soundtrack to American Football Classics swelled through the room. jacoby affected an exasperated groan.

"It's so sad," said Jake. "So sad."

"It is," said jacoby. "I miss it too. But that's in the past. We have a chance to be part of the future here—the future; and you're missing it."

Jake swung his head around and back, as if following a particularly stunning automobile that had just passed his.

"I missed it?" he jested. "Where did it go?"

"Ha-ha-ha," said jacoby. "Ha. Will someone get him up to speed here?"

Let's get up to speed too.

National distinctions did not survive the move to Urtthoo from Earth. These distinctions had already grown weak, and in the planetary transition people of all Earth nationalities were thrown and shaken together, and then grew where they were planted. Individuals continued to cherish aspects of their Earth culture, especially as manifested in the visual and culinary arts; but they were no longer surrounded by those who shared the same heritage.

Nations eventually did re-form on Urtthoo and again on Urtthri. But they were formed for administrative purposes, and no longer featured cultural homogeneity.

Sports and the arts made seamless moves to both planets, mostly. Symphony halls and stadiums; arenas and museums; aquatic centers and aquariums; courses, courts and galleries sprang up and mostly flourished.

By the time humanity left Earth, basketball and baseball had joined football ("soccer") as fully global team sports. Each sport established successful leagues on each planet.

American football tried.

Wealthy former Americans formed an American football league on Urtthoo. They time-shared fields with baseball and world football. They were never able to fill their rented stands, though, and in their half- to 3/100ths-full venues they could never recapture the pageantry and grandeur, the passion and awe of American football in America.

American football struggled for life on Urtthoo and did not survive the move to Urtthri. All that was left were digital video archives and less than ten million people who could appreciate the beauty in these relics.

"It's so sad," said Big Jake. "So much beauty—gone. An extinct sport."

When the Urtthrians found the Coryans, they were delighted to learn the Coryans already played a ball-kicking sport. The ball was smaller, not paneled and uni-colored, and there was no net and no head moves; but otherwise it was football.

The Urtthrian Basketball League immediately saw an opportunity in the newly discovered planet. Basketball invaded Cory before the Urtthrian financial or technological sectors. The UBL's developmental league was moved to Cory. Free buses would take the Coryans to D-league arenas, where they would watch the tall Urtthrians run, spin, jump and send each other flying. The average full-grown Coryan male was no bigger than the average early adolescent Urtthrian male, so the UBL lowered the hoop by 1/10th and then established adult training camps and youth outreach programs on Cory. The outreach was wildly successful. Coryans paid to see games now; there was a television contract; and in every neighborhood Coryan adults and children could be seen dribbling, shuffling their feet, running, spinning, jumping and sending each other flying.

Urtthrian Baseball had cautiously watched the efforts of the UBL, and was now ready to make its own move into Cory. Two UBA teams had been drafted for an exhibition in Cory's Central City. Jake and jake had been tabbed to call the historic game.

"Play it again," said jacoby to his producer.

The producer pushed a button, and a portion of a phone call played back to the production team.

" . . . and we would like Jake and jake to call the game! They have a real down-to-earth, relatable style, and we think the Coryans will love them. You could do your show before a live walk-in crowd throughout the week leading up. We'll be bringing a shipload of Hall of Famers plus you'll have the personnel of both teams at your disposal—enough for months'-worth of interviews . . . "

"Down-to-earth style," laughed jacoby.

"Down-to-cory anyway," said Jake.

"Later on in the conversation he called us Ambassadors of Sport. Ambassadors of Sport—I could get used to that."

"It is a great honor," agreed Jake.

* * *

Author's Note:For the record, I love American football and would miss it very much too . . .