The Day of the Dead was supposed to be a celebration.
However, it appeared that no one had informed the skeleton who was glaring at us from across the void of the empty graveyard. Its bones glittered in the silver moonlight as it raised an arm in warning. Universal gesture: do not come any closer.
“Hey, it worked!” Toby said in astonishment. “It’s walking….it’s um, alive?”
“How could llama blood and ancient herbs mixed inside a dog skull NOT work?” Lucy sneered. “Who thought of that, anyway?”
“I did,” I said. “And I told you – anything would have worked as long as it was mixed inside a skull on this night in this place. I just so happened to have the dog skull and llama blood….”
My friends exchanged a look. The skeleton tipped its head with a questioning attitude then shrugged.
“Skulls have long been used by alchemists in their work of transmutation,” I continued. “That’s why you always see them in pictures. The alchemist uses a skull as a sort of ‘mixing bowl’ when preparing something. Skulls were thought of as reservoirs of life, the seat of the life force of both body and spirit at the highest level. ”
Our skeleton raised a hand to its head and tapped lightly on its temple with an index finger.
“See?” I asked. “Even he agrees!”
“Well, let’s see if he wants to go dancing,” Toby said.
We all looked at our now animated friend in the moonlight. The creature tottered forward on unsteady legs. He didn’t look like much of a dancer.
“There’s a party…..” I told him tentatively. “And I need a date. A spectacular date. I think it’s you. ”
He stepped closer and bent down to the ground behind a tombstone. When he straightened he held a perfect blue flower. With a tiny bow and a great waving of his arms he presented it to me.
“I think he said yes!” Toby said. We all laughed and I tucked the flower behind my ear. It went perfectly with my fairy costume.
The skeleton tapped me on the shoulder and tentatively did a slide shuffle to the right and then to the left. He turned his head and looked at us with that charming ironic smile. Then he broke into a tap dance time step, followed by a flawless line of boot scootin’ boogie and ending with the mashed potato. I could practically hear Monster Mash playing inside his head.
“I think he’s good to go,” Lucy said and stepped forward to hand him the tuxedo we had brought along.
After he was dressed the four of us headed for the cemetery gates.
“This is going to be the best Day of the Dead party ever!” Toby exclaimed.
The skeleton twirled once or twice then grabbed me for a perfect tango pass.
I paused to adjust a top hat on his beautiful skull. “I bet he wins the costume contest,” I said.
“Yeah, ” Lucy agreed. “Especially after he takes off the tuxedo!”
She looked deeply into his eyes. He was seated across the table from her, a sputtering candle chaperoning between them.
“Is this your first time?” she asked kindly.
“How did you know?”
“You look nervous. ”
“I am. I’ve never done this before.”
“It’s alright,” she said. “It’s easy and I’m here to take care of you.”
“Thank you. But I don’t need taking care of.”
“Oh, I know. It’s just that – the first time you don’t know what to expect. And I’ve done this……well a lot.”
“You must think I’m so incredibly naive.”
“Not at all. I think you are sweet. It was kind of you to come at such short notice. ”
“No one ever asked before,” he said with a little embarrassed laugh. “I guess I’m not very suited to this, this, er….performance?”
“Don’t be silly,” she said. “You will be wonderful – I can tell.”
“So – what happens next?” he asked.
“Myra!” a strident voice interrupted them. “What is he saying? I know he’s here, you are obviously talking to someone!”
She turned to the rather large woman sitting to her right. “He is asking what we want to know, Mrs. Hamilton.
“Well!” huffed the other woman. “Clearly we want to know if he can contact my husband! Is this personage a dolt?”
Myra cringed and shot a quick glance across the table to see if Charles was offended. He sat calmly, hands folded in front of him.
“Can you hear her?” she whispered.
“No. Is she talking?”
She tried not to allow the relief to show in her voice. “She is asking if you can contact her husband.”
“And I am supposed to know her husband? Because all dead people know all other dead people?” he said.
She couldn’t help laughing. “I shall inquire.”
“Mrs. Hamilton it will help my Spirit Guide if you could tell us something about your husband,” she said. The other woman smiled.
“Well, he was very handsome……and very successful……and left us all too soon,” she murmured. “Also I’d like to know where he left the will? His children – my step-children – are going to contest my ability to inherit anything and it would be such a help if Ernest could just let me know where the will is. He promised me I would inherit everything, you see.”
“She wants to know where Ernest left the will.”
“Ernest?” Charles asked. “Ernest have a last name?”
“Ernest Hamilton. I’ll just ring him up, shall I?”
“Look, Charles, I don’t know how to tell you to find….”
“The will was never written.” Charles intoned in his best sonorous voice.
“He never wrote a will. He lied to her.”
“How do you know?”
“Trust me. I know. Tell her.”
“There is no will, Mrs. Hamilton. Apparently your husband made that up.”
“I KNEW IT!” the other woman shreiked. “BASTARD!”
A long silence settled on the room.
“How we doing so far?” Charles asked
“Ummmm, good, really good. You’re a natural at this.”
The days of the week lined up like buckets, ready to catch whatever fell in. Most weeks it was nothing much. This week it looked like it could be something else.
My morning started out fairly busy for a Monday – lost dogs, a wandering grandma, husband philanderer….still, nothing out of the ordinary. But by lunch time I figured I needed more sleep, I needed a cold beer, and I needed to hire a secretary. What I had were stiletto heels, crimson red lipstick, and a hat with a stinking cute little black veil. I put them all on and headed for the door. On the way out I grabbed Jerry’s gun.
The new client wanted to meet in the park. Ok by me. He said he’d be on the bench by the duck pond.
I hate ducks. But – probably I could avoid the little bastards. The client wanted to talk romance. Just what I needed on a Monday morning. I wondered why I had only downed one cuppa java as I wandered through the park avoiding ducks and looking for the client. Sure enough he was sitting at the Duck Pond. Or at least someone was.
I wandered over and threw some corn in the water. The little misbegotten freaks converged on it immediately and swallowed half the pond whole in order to consume it all. The guy on the bench laughed.
“You want to sit?” he asked.
I sidled over and sat at the far end of the bench. “You wanted to meet?” I muttered.
“I have a job – for someone who thinks romance stinks,” he said.
“That would be me,” I responded and emptied the bag of corn at my feet.
Big mistake. Dozen of the little bastard ducklings swarmed around me – some of them even stepped on me with their hideous nugatory webbed feet. I kept shuddering and pretending I wasn’t.
“I need someone to do a job. Tonight,” my contact breathed.
“What kind of job?”
“My brother….a dare – you want the job I give you the details.”
I thought about it for a minute. “Yeah, sure,” I said.
“Let’s walk,” he said.
* * * * *
After our conversation I felt relieved. Almost guilty even. This would be too easy. Still, it was what the client wanted to pay for and who am I to judge? I thought the guy was as nuts as a pair of yodeling monkeys but I liked him.
I rolled into the Oxley Hotel lobby at exactly 7:08 as planned. Punched the elevator button for the 5th floor and settled in for the slow rise. At room 503 I knocked briefly and wasn’t surprised when the door drifted open underneath my knuckles. The client and his brother sat stiffly on the sofa. There was blood on the floor in front of them.
I came in gun drawn and a hideous snarl making a mockery of my face. “Who the hell are you two,” I demanded and knocked the brother’s chin with the business end of my gun.
He responded appropriately and I winked at my client. Seemed we were headed down the right path.
“I’m looking for Jon Jacob Joseph Jones,” I declared and dared them to snicker under the ferocity of my eyes. “You know where I could find him?”
“NO,” my client said and motioned towards the door. His glance back to the blood-stained carpet told me something had gone wrong.
“What do you want him for?” the brother asked.
“Murder?” I hazarded a guess. “His.”
The two brothers exchanged a glance. I walked farther into the darkened room and took up a position by the window. The room was lighted only by the incremental flashes of neon from a sign hanging just outside the hotel window. Red, white, green…red, white, green….the lights flashed their message.
“Listen you guys,” I started. “I know why you brought me here. Someone has to take the fall. Because there must have been something deep inside you from the very start that let you do this thing, but there’s always been something deep inside me that would never let me do it, – and would never let me be a party to it.”
The brother turned to my client, “Do you have any idea what she is talking about?” he asked.
“Not a clue.”
The neon flashed. We all turned to look out the window. I decided to try again.
“Tell me about it,” I snarled.
The brother broke first.
“We never planned it!” his voice was as shaky as a glass of gin on a teetotaler’s tray. “The guy shows up and says he’s in love with my girl. Wants to marry her! Tells me to bow out of the picture.”
My client interrupted with a cough. “The guy shows up half an hour early and brings a gun with him,” he says. He gives me a look.
“What do you mean early?” the brother asked. I cut him off.
“So what did you tell the swell? You bow out on your girl?”
“Hell, no! I told him to get lost, that I loved her and if anybody was marrying her it wasn’t going to be him!”
I looked at my client and nodded. “So he bought it,” I said.
“Yeah but, then the guy pulled a gun. We didn’t talk about guns so I told him to put it away.” The client wiped a hand over his face which was sweating like a pig on safari.
“So I jumped him,” the brother said. “Tried to get it away from him.”
“Then I jumped both of them – I didn’t plan for anyone to get hurt,” my client said. “The gun went off – damn fool had even loaded it! He went down, dropped dead on that spot,” he said pointing to the bloodstain.
“Where is he now?” I asked
I opened the closet door and peeked in. He was lying in a fetal position, still clutching the gun with both hands. Dead as a door nail, all right.
I looked back at the brothers. They were arguing in whispers. I guessed the jig was up.
“Either one of you touch the gun?” I asked.
“No – I had him in a stranglehold and genius here tackled both of us.”
“So now what?” my client asked.
“Now we leave.”
“That’s it. It was an accident – no need to be part of it, that just gets messy.”
I started for the hallway. “Leave separately. Unseen by management – don’t walk out through the lobby. And for Christ’s sake don’t tell anybody about this!”
At the door I paused.
“One more piece of advice, gents. Don’t meddle with romance – it never works out.” I looked at the brother. “And if you really love her – marry the dame.”
The stairwell was right around the corner. The window on the landing looked out over the neon sign. Red, white, green.
Seated on the sidewalk in front of the supply shop he had a good view of everyone approaching long before they arrived. He had found that to be a very good thing in his new line of work. Even if the concrete was hard on old bones.
Passers-by made an effort to walk around him – no one wanted to get too close to an old man in worn clothes slumped against the front of the building. He wore a rumpled hat to ward off the solar reflections and caressed a faded backpack every so often as if to make sure it was still there. Next to him lay a dead weasel.
After an hour a well dressed woman crossed the wayfare, weaving between the hovercraft and only once actually touching the surface. The dead weasel sat up and watched her.
She approached the old man and looked both ways before addressing him.
“Do you have it?” she asked.
“Depends on who’s askin’,” he answered.
She sneered just the slightest bit. “I am,” she said.
“The person you have been waiting for.” Her exasperation escaped in a sigh.
The old man studied her silently then glanced down at the weasel sitting beside him.
“Play dead,” he ordered and the weasel dropped dead with a grin.
“Behind you,” he said to the woman, but she took too long to turn and they got her before she could become invisible.
The leader of the pack bent down to face the old man on his level. “What did she say to you?” he demanded.
“The agent – the humanoid we just killed. What did she want?”
“She asked if I had any spare change,” the old man said.
The android stared at him. “Your weasel is dead,” he said.
There was a disturbance farther along in the marketplace and the droids left him in order to deal with it. The dead weasel sat up and chattered at him.
“I told you, learn English or don’t bother,” the old man said and turned to peer into the window of the shop behind him. It was well-lighted, neatly organized and oddly deserted for the weekend before school started.
A small group of children were gathered around the apothecary counter at the back where the robot in charge was rearranging an assortment of poisons. Two middle-aged men were comparing turret grips and photon pipelets underneath a banner — Sale! Thieves Supplies, 33% Off! — and a mother and son stood in the school supply aisle examining pyro cylinders and pulsar navigators. No one looked like a prospective contact from the Undercover Retirement Mage Association.
When the old man looked back out to the street he noticed the weasel had disappeared. A rustling from the backpack gave away its location.
“Git out of there, Jep. I told you we ain’t got any more food until we sell this thing – Hey! Wait jist a mintue you golderned varmint!”
He yanked the weasel out of the backpack by its tail, only just preventing it from sinking its teeth into the large turnip clutched between its paws.
“I told you a million times – this here is a enchanted turnip and we ain’t eaten’ it – we are sellin’ it!”
The weasel spit at him then looked just beyond his shoulder, opened its eyes very wide and dropped dead in his hand. The turnip plunked back into the backpack.
The old man turned in time to see the androids approaching again and rose hastily to his feet.
“Guess it’s time to move on,” he muttered. “Where else in this god-infested galaxy do you suppose someone is willing to buy an enchanted turnip?”
“Life is not fair.” Kobol slammed his fist down on the table. “Who told you that life was fair?!”
“Well, n-n-no one, sir,” Nybres stammered. “But giving them the idea that it could be fair works to k-k-k-keep them in line.”
“Yes, of course” the Director of Entertainment replied. He moved to the head of the conference table, opened his briefcase and began arranging folders into even piles. “But do not make the mistake of believing it yourself, Nybres. Very dangerous thinking. Very dangerous indeed. Especially for a Publicist.”
“No, sir. I mean, y-y-yes sir!”
The air shimmered with invisible sparks as Miss Melchim entered and dropped her Gucci purse carelessly on the table. She surveyed the room then collapsed cat-like into the nearest chair.”Hell of a day,” she muttered under her breath and smiled brightly at the others. “How’s things? And do you think we could make this short – I’ve got a hot stone massage scheduled in an hour.”
Kobol frowned at her. “It will take as long as it takes.”
“No kidding!” Somehow the tinkle of her laughter sounded more scorching than musical. “Well can I at least make the Treasurer’s report first? So I can leave if the meeting goes too long?”
“Because that is not according to Robert’s Rules of Order, Miss Melchim. As I’ve told you at each of the previous 7,309 meetings which we have attended together.” Kobol did not even sigh this time. He did, however, raise his eyes heavenward but quickly covered the action with a cough. “We follow Robert’s Rules of Order – rather religiously, you might say, Miss Melchim.”
She rewarded him with a giggle and a pretty pout. But her best efforts were reserved for Paymen when he appeared next to her. Handsome, suave, and very vain, the Master of Ceremonies was quite certain of himself in nearly every circumstance. Except one.
“We’re not having cupcakes again today are we?” he asked nervously. He wiped spittle from his breast pocket with a carefully manicured fingernail.
Miss Melchim shivered a little at the sight of that nail. It was so…..curved. And sharp. Yes, definitely sharp, she remembered that.
Kobol slammed down a gavel in the form of a goat’s hoof. “Call to order….roll call of those present…yada, yada, yada. Let’s skip the Treasurer’s report and get right to Current Business.”
Miss Melchim huffed.
“As Chairman of this Committee and Entertainment Director for the entire realm I have to bring to your attention that the minions are slacking off lately. There have been only 3 instances of children accidentally falling out of windows higher than six stories this week – and all of them were in New York City. The west coast is not keeping up!”
“B-b-but Sir! There are so fewer tall buildings in LA than there are in Manhattan!” Nybres said.
“Doesn’t matter. We have standards to enforce. Make a note – LA deficient in falling children.”
“Next item: it has come to my attention that one afternoon last week a woman was injured, and her husband was killed, by the family dog. In New Jersey. AND NO ONE WAS WATCHING!”
The Publicist and Master of Ceremonies looked quickly at each other and just as quickly looked away.
“Pray tell me what good it does to have an Entertainment Committee if no one is watching?!”
“Well, we tried,” Paysen said.
“We gave it everything we had, but it wasn’t enough.” Nybres was so upset he didn’t even stutter.
Kobol glared. The tirade came as a whisper.
“For centuries we have used them for our entertainment purposes. They provide…..sport, which sometimes brings a sense of purpose to the realm. Or at least enjoyment. How is it that this week, no one was watching?”
“It’s like this, Sir.” Paysen began. “The sport isn’t as much fun anymore. They just get up and go on.”
A soft crooning warbled its way into their collective consciousness.
Birds flying high, you know how I feel…Sun in the sky…..
“What is that sound?” Kobol sputtered.
…know how I feel…Breeze drifting by….
“It is – er – music, Sir. Singing, I believe.”
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day…
“Who the hell is singing?”
“They are, sir.”
“They are singing?”
….And I’m Feeling Good!
“I remember singing!” Miss Melchim lifted her face and closed her eyes.”It’s a beautiful sound, isn’t it?”
“Close the damned Earth window, Melchim.”
She didn’t move. No one noticed the small tear which sizzled slowly down her cheek.
Well this is hardly what I would call an auspicious start.
I’m participating in the Zero to Hero challenge at WordPress.com and yesterday I wrote a brilliant first post – or so I thought. But now it is gone. Just gone. I was waiting to publish it until after “sleeping on it” and planned to do some revisions this A.M. But it is no longer within the WordPress Universe and I am, let us be honest here, a wee bit frustrated.
I’ve spent well over an hour reading everything I can find about how to restore posts from auto save and how to find all of my revisions, which theoretically are stored for 30 days deep within the bowels of the WordPress Beast. Oh, how my heart leapt with joy at that news!
But……nothing. Not only does my post no longer exist, it seems that it never did exist. There are no revisions to find. In fact — although I have meticulously compared my screen with the “Help” version of the findyourrevisionsheresillygirl page I’ve discovered that MY version of that screen looks EXACTLY like the one pictured on the Help page with the sole difference being THERE IS NO REVISIONS BUTTON!!!
Ok, ok, if I’m being really honest here I have to say I’m a LOT frustrated right now.
And between the writing of the Brilliant first post yesterday and the futile attempt to find it again today, I have lost about three hours of my precious time which could have easily been better spent watching reruns of Juan Pablo trying to get his fifteen minutes of fame without having to risk saying the “L” word much less proposing marriage on national television. But I digress.
I’ve considered putting in a HELP request or spending some more time “searching” for a solution amongst the myriad options on WordPress or the web. But at this point it seems more logical to just let it go.
Even though it really was exactly the kind of first post I wanted to write; a nice little intro with some smile-worthy humor that set the tone I wanted and explained that I’m here to have fun and learn how to blog and I’ll be writing about lifestyle, self-improvement and random things that catch my fancy (Ooooo shiny!) and while this morning I can remember two or three brilliant lines I can’t for the life of me recall how the original post started or what was in the middle or how it ended…and maybe that is because I wrote it late at night and was pretty tired at the time and I’m brand new to WordPress and this blogging stuff and so I can’t be expected to remember exactly what I was doing, much less the way I was slinging words together…and it’s possible that I am mis-remembering that I saved it at all…or maybe I saved it in that one way that doesn’t really save anything…or maybe I just thought I saved it…and if that’s the case then that could mean that it will never be recovered and so to spend any more time searching for something which doesn’t really exist would be silly and besides I am so tired today that…….Hmmmm.
It couldn’t possibly be operator error. Couldn’t. Possibly. Be.
But you could say that I have nailed the “Zero” part of this challenge really well, don’t you think?
(And the first post I wrote was WAY better than this one. Trust me.)