S.G. Browne

The Twelve Days of Bookmas

On the 1st day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 2nd day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
A Tale of Two Cities, and Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 3rd day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities
And Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 4th Day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities
And Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 5th day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
Slaughterhouse-Five!
Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities
And Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 6th day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
The Dark Tower VI
Slaughterhouse-Five!
Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities
And Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 7th day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
The House of the Seven Gables, The Dark Tower VI
Slaughterhouse-Five!
Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities
And Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 8th day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
Eight Men Out, The House of the Seven Gables, The Dark Tower VI
Slaughterhouse-Five!
Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities
And Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 9th day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
Nine Stories by Salinger, Eight Men Out
The House of the Seven Gables, The Dark Tower VI
Slaughterhouse-Five!
Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities
And Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 10th day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
Ten Little Indians, Nine Stories by Salinger, Eight Men Out
The House of the Seven Gables, The Dark Tower VI
Slaughterhouse-Five!
Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities
And Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 11th day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
The Count of Eleven, Ten Little Indians, Nine Stories by Salinger,
Eight Men Out, The House of the Seven Gables, The Dark Tower VI
Slaughterhouse-Five!
Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities
And Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

On the 12th day of Bookmas, my bookstore sent to me:
Twelfth Night by Shakespeare, The Count of Eleven
Ten Little Indians, Nine Stories by Salinger, Eight Men Out
The House of the Seven Gables, The Dark Tower VI
Slaughterhouse-Five!
Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities
And Silverstein’s The Giving Tree

(*Author’s Note: Thanks to everyone who gave me their suggestions for the 8th and 11th days)

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Filed under: Holiday Blogging,Just Blogging,Movies and Books,Random Fiction — S.G. Browne @ 8:45 am

Fiction Friday: Homer’s Reprise Part II

Due to popular demand (okay, due to one person asking me to post the rest of the story), here’s the rest of “Homer’s Reprise” for your reading pleasure. It’s a bit of a blend of Greek mythology with modern day bounty hunters and stars a displaced and disconsolate Odysseus.

If you missed the first part, you can read it by clicking HERE. And now, on with the story…

HOMER’S REPRISE (continued)

“What fate has befallen those that I would protect should fall as well upon me,” Odysseus cried out, waiting for a bolt of lightening to strike him down or a tidal wave to engulf his ship and end his misery, but the gods were not there to hear his plea.

Shoulders slumped, Odysseus returned his attention to the ocean as the merciless sun beat down upon him. Save for the forsaken cliffs that grew smaller off the stern of his ship, the ocean stretched endlessly to the horizon in every direction. For Odysseus, his ship might as well have been his own headstone, for what was the ocean to him now but a graveyard of failure?

Failure. The word pierced his heart as a spear thrown by Achilles. Odysseus ran a hand across the armor of his old friend, the memory of Achilles’s death at the hand of the coward Paris still burning fresh and painful within him. He did not deserve to bear the arms, to stand on this ship with the memories of his friends and crew who had fought so valiantly and died with such honor. They had not known failure. Even in death they had shown the courage of kings. But he, Odysseus, the great Greek warrior and hero, he had disgraced himself, the gods who had put him here, and the men with whom he’d fought in battle. A more fitting judgment would have been to spend eternity pushing a stone up a hill.

Odysseus stared out across the water and let forth a humorless laugh. What was his fate if not like that of the tormented Sisyphus? Was his quest across the globe not as futile? Perhaps the gods had not bestowed an honor upon him after all. Perhaps, instead, they had done nothing more than condemn him to the same eternal damnation as his alleged father.

Odysseus withdrew his sword and studied the blade, its sharp edge gleaming. A single blow across the throat would end his burden, for although his flesh was ageless, it was not immortal, but the dishonor and cowardice of striking himself down would plague his soul for eternity. He could no more take his own life than he could destroy those he had sworn to protect.

In anguish, Odysseus once more looked to the heavens, his arms outstretched.

“Is this my lot, then?” he cried. “Am I bound to an existence no more significant than that of those banished to Tartarus?”

Odysseus waited for a reply, some sign or indication that would let him know he’d been heard, that someone believed in his purpose. As before, he received no answer.

He turned his attention from the godless sky and stared, disheartened, across the ocean’s waves. Once more he ran his fingers across the armor of Achilles, the armor of a hero, and felt the shame of the House of Atreus for the beasts he had allowed to be hunted down and killed.

In a sudden rage he removed the arms and swung them about as he prepared to hurl them into the ocean, a frustrated roar rising from his lungs. Just then, off the port bow, an object reflected in the sunlight, distracting him. The object was at too great a distance for him to determine its nature, though it appeared to be in two pieces, drifting across the water.

His rage momentarily displaced, Odysseus lowered his armor and studied the object, but even with the aid of his telescope he was still too far away to discern any details. As he changed his heading and drew closer, he thought he recognized the enormous sail of a ship. Before he could identify the object further, it suddenly vanished beneath the ocean’s surface.

Odysseus stared out across the empty sea, wondering if he had witnessed the death throes of another ship, though he knew of no beast that inhabited this region of the planet capable of such destruction. He sailed on, drawing closer to where the phantom ship had vanished, looking for some proof that his eyes had not deceived him. He saw no sign that a ship had ever existed.

Had he seen nothing more than an illusion? A reflection not of the sun but of a madness that had grown within him after centuries of solitude? Odysseus thought of Ajax, struck down with madness by Athena, and wondered if he now suffered the same affliction.

As if in answer, something breached the water less than a dozen ships’ lengths away — like an island emerging from the ocean’s floor. Moments later, what he had mistaken for the ship’s sail rose out of the ocean and slapped back down with such force that a spray of salt water rose two mast lengths above the ocean. When the entire object surfaced, Odysseus beheld not a ship but a beast unlike any he had ever known.

Although he had long ago grown familiar with every species of whale that roamed the oceans, Odysseus had never before seen a whale of equal size or magnificence. Nor had he encountered a whale with alabaster flesh to rival the temples of Olympus.

Odysseus watched the white whale, keeping a respectful distance, though like many of the earth’s other great beasts, it seemed to sense that he posed no threat. Encouraged by its acceptance of him, Odysseus kept pace as he marveled at the creature’s magnificence.

Easily twice as long as his ship, the whale appeared large enough to swallow the entire Greek army, with a tail so wide and strong it undoubtedly rivaled Charybdis in its ability to wreak destruction. Odysseus could tell the beast had seen its share of action, for it wore many scars upon its flesh, and he had no doubts that this creature had sent many ships and men to their watery graves, men who would have otherwise cheered in triumph at the dead and bleeding carcass of the prize they had landed — a prize that would sit stuffed and lifeless in a museum instead of roaming the ocean, defending its right to live.

How long had the beast traveled the oceans? Surely not as long as he. But as Odysseus watched the whale submerge beneath the surface and breach again in an explosion of mist, he couldn’t help but empathize with the enormous creature’s loneliness.

Odysseus followed several ship lengths behind, keeping the whale to his port side, watching with wonder its grace and dignity. When the whale changed directions and crossed in front of him, Odysseus discovered that the beast was not alone. Swimming along beside it, staying close for protection, was another white whale, half as big as the first.

Odysseus watched the mother and calf as they submerged then surfaced again, playfully slapping their tails against the water or breaching completely — their enormous bodies landing in the water with the thunder of the gods. He laughed out loud at their antics, invigorated by their appearance, by the realization of their existence, but his elation was tempered by thoughts that collected around the memories of his own son, long since burned upon the funeral pyre.

He could have stayed that way for an eternity, his emotions alternating between joy and grief as he watched the two whales frolic across their own watery stage, but it took only a matter of minutes before their performance drew unwanted attention.

Off the starboard side of his ship, more than a league distant but approaching fast, Odysseus spotted another vessel cutting across the water, drawn by the display, angling directly toward the whales. Through his telescope he could see more than half a dozen men on the deck, as well as several harpoons mounted to the ship’s bow. Below one of the harpoons, a collection of characters spelled out the name of the vessel: Pequod IV.

Odysseus glanced at the whales, then looked heavenward with the trace of a smile before he put on his armor and readied his weapons as he steered a course toward the other ship.

This would be his greatest battle.

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Filed under: Fiction Fridays,Random Fiction — S.G. Browne @ 8:31 am

Fiction Friday: Homer’s Reprise

This week on Fiction Friday, rather than a review of a book I’ve read (since I haven’t read anything new this week that I can blog about) I thought I’d share the first part of a short story I wrote a number of years ago that imagines what Odysseus would be doing if he were alive today.

If you like the first part, I’ll share the rest in future posts…

HOMER’S REPRISE

Odysseus Sucks!

The red, spray-painted graffiti screamed from the sheer cliff that jutted out of the ocean off the ship’s starboard bow. There was a time when anyone who sailed near the cliff would have met with the vengeful wrath of Scylla, a monstrous creature who would reach down from her cave and snatch a crew member from the passing ship with each of her six horrible heads. But that was eons ago. Now the mythical beast sat in a museum in Oslo, stuffed and preserved for display among the likes of Cerberus, Big Foot, a family of Cyclops, and the Loch Ness Monster – all hunted down and killed by the same bounty hunters who had left the taunting message in graffiti on the face of the cliff.

As he sailed past, Odysseus sighed – half in dismay at the loss of Scylla, half in longing for the simpler times, before the gods had ‘blessed’ him with eternal charge of the earth’s great beasts. Battling the Trojans and facing the terrors of the Sirens and Scylla gave him more joy than this endless excursion across the globe, always one step behind those who sought to make him irrelevant. He often wondered if they had already succeeded.

Odysseus turned from the defaced and empty lair of Scylla, from the taunting words and the memory of what had once been – though he found no solace on the opposite side of the strait. On a smaller cliff that rose out of the ocean less than an arrow’s flight away stood the barren corpse of a giant fig tree. Beneath the fig tree had once existed the great and terrible Charybdis, a whirlpool who sucked in the ocean thrice a day and spewed it back out. Pity those ships that sailed too close in an attempt to avoid the reach of Scylla, for they would be reduced to splinters by Charybdis and their entire crew either drowned or battered against the rocks.

Unlike Scylla, Charybdis had not been hunted down, for she was more ethereal than substance and could not be mounted in a trophy case. Yet that did not prevent man from hastening her demise. Years of pollution and oil spills had taken their toll on Charybdis, depositing toxins and wastes in the water until she eventually succumbed. Now she sat silent and impotent, the waves lapping listlessly beneath the barren fig tree.

Odysseus stared up into the heavens, where Zeus had once ruled the planet with the rest of the Olympic gods and offered guidance. But in the countless centuries since the fall of Troy, the Greek gods had been forsaken, turned into myth by men who created and venerated a single God. If that wasn’t preposterous enough, those same men worshiped another man, a mortal, who had once claimed to be the Son of God. Odysseus had no doubts that the man could have been the progeny of a god, as Perseus and Hercules had been fathered by Zeus. Yet they were not worshiped and entire religions had not been built around them.

Odysseus found modern beliefs to be strange indeed. And without Zeus and Poseidon and Athena to guide him, the Greek warrior felt adrift in a world that had passed him by. As he sailed from the cliffs that now served as nothing more than headstones for the creatures that had once dwelled within their shadows, Odysseus gave in to the melancholy that inhabited his soul.

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Filed under: Fiction Fridays,Random Fiction — S.G. Browne @ 9:49 am

Wild Card Wednesday – Play It Again, Sam

Welcome to Wild Card Wednesdays, where there aren’t really any rules as to what I can blog about, though I’ll tend to focus on something to do with writing. Sometimes I’ll blog about what I’m working on.  Sometimes I’ll blog about the business of writing.  Sometimes I’ll ask you what you want me to blog about.  And sometimes, I’m just going to be plain lazy and regurgitate a post for old times sake.  And this is one of those times.

In September of 2008, I posted an entry about my now defunct Tuesday night writers group.  We would start off each workshop with a 5-10 minute writing exercise that would change from meeting to meeting.  Sometimes it would be on a certain subject.  Sometimes it would be a certain setting.  Sometimes it would focus on character development or dialogue or description.

At this workshop, the exercise was to write the opening to a story that incorporated five different elements:

A setting.  An musical instrument.  A profession.  An animal.  And a mythical creature.

I asked each of the other five members in attendance to provide a suggestion for one of the elements above.  Those elements turned out to be:

A hair salon. A sousaphone. A nurse. A gerbil. And a leprechaun.

We all wrote our own story openings using those elements.  Below is what I came up with for my opening scene:

One day at the hair salon, I’m giving a simple cut and wash to my third Thursday three o’clock, when in walks a leprechaun with a sousaphone.

“Mind if I play?” says the leprechaun.

I look at the leprechaun, all three feet of him, staring up at me over the lip of the tuba, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s a bad idea to say “no.”

“Sure, whatever,” I say, figuring it’s better to be safe than sorry.

The woman in the chair, my third Thursday three o’clock, looks at me in the mirror and says, “That’s strange.”

I figure she’s talking about the leprechaun, who’s standing by the hair driers playing the opening notes of “The Girl From Ipanema,” when in walks a nurse with a gerbil on a leash.

And I’m thinking that this looks like trouble…

Next post: Fiction Friday – The History of Love

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Filed under: Random Fiction,Wild Card Wednesdays — S.G. Browne @ 8:30 am

And Now A Word From The Color Green

(Previous color entry: And Now A Word From The Color Red)

Red is hot. She’s totally hot.

Dude, she could, like, sit next to me and hang out, maybe go surfing or to the skate park or shopping at the Natural Food store and everyone would look at us and say, “Whoa,” because we would look so awesomely perfect together.

This one time, these dudes were all, like, up in my face, totally resenting the fact that I was a way better surfer than they were. For some reason people seem to get all envious around me. So I was like,”Hey dudes, chill,” because really I’m all about harmony and peace. I’m a big fan of nature, too.

Anyway, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Red watching me. Totally checking me out. I could tell from the way she was blushing that she was totally impressed with my awesome freshness dealing with those dudes. Plus I’m pretty fertile. So when I strolled up to her and said “What’s up?” and she called me a stoner, I was like, that’s so uncool. But then I figured it was just because she was intimidated by my healing powers. And the fact that I’m, like, totally loaded.

She digs me, she just doesn’t know it, yet.

(Sound of bong water gurgling, followed by a long, satisfied exhalation).

Dude, what was I talking about?

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Filed under: Just Blogging,Random Fiction — Tags: — S.G. Browne @ 2:09 pm