Thursday, March 01, 2018

2018 Status Updates

Jan. 2018

The chief danger of a famous place is not the danger of it, but the degree in which it can only disappoint you.

You told me you were a poet, but you haven’t written any poems?”
I have no desire to sully my poetry by reducing it to mere words.”

“I told you the world could only disappoint you.”
“But you were wrong. The world never disappointed me. Not a single rainbow or storm. Only people. Only you.”

From a WIP:
There is pain like a distant lover. I taste smoke in the back of my mouth. Two people are walking - no. One person, and their shadow wrapping about flesh, armour against the world. The armour cracks, fracturing light like the inside of a rotten tree. I move across the road.
I am damaging people. Not meaning to. We change, but we never do it alone. Dragging others into our wounds before our hearts.
I shake my head. Not sure how many of the thoughts are mine. Are any mine? No one answers. That’s good. Good.
My shadow giggles. I ignore it.

“I told you the world could only disappoint you.”
“But you were wrong. The world never disappointed me. Not a single rainbow or storm. Only people. Only you.”

the bus won’t move and you are the metaphor i can no longer afford digging for spare change even two pennies for your eyes and two bits for everything between us

From WIP:
I breathe out. In. Money never tastes good. No matter who has it there is always nothing sweet to it. All offerings are burnt. What happens when we mistaken the offering for the altar? Economics.

The security guard stood watch over the parking lot to ensure it remained empty. Her friends and family did not understand her job and she prayed to all the gods she no longer believed in that no one would ever have cause to understand it.

From WIP:
How do you say you’re sorry for destroying someone’s life when you also destroyed your own?

From WIP:
The school planted land mines to deal with recalcitrant students. In the long history of warfare between students and administration, this would come to be looked on with horrified admiration by those whose job was to try, by any means necessary, to turn children into functioning human beings.

The law passed turned out to be sadly simple:
people could only go on marches during March.

The monster, lamenting:
I made you a dream of a perfect day. And you swore it was a nightmare despite everything I tried.

“Everything made sense. That was when I realized it all had to be a lie.”

Once upon a time, there was a man who tried to make the dark woods safe for travel by making short cuts through it. The gods of the wood, angered by this temerity, turned him into a wolf that ate everyone who tried to use those paths. And they made sure he remained himself the entire time because the gods are nothing if not cruel.

“You think you can defeat me?” The monster roared.
“Most certainly not,” the child replied. “But my mother taught me how to use the bells of summer and to dance down the moon.”
The monster fell back and away, both power and prisoner to its own story. “You cannot destroy me.”
“There is a river south of here. It is old and mighty. And now flows a path it did not centuries ago. It is possible to destroy in small ways that do not feel like destruction.”
The child smiled, a baring of teeth. “This is your only warning: do not come this way again.”

“But we aren’t trapped in a fairy tale,” I sneered. “I don’t see a single fairy in it.”
Eyes glinted like broken stained glass windows as the creature smiled. “Not even your little bother?”
“What?” Ralphie squeaked, his face red with broken secrets.
And that was when I began to learn what a monster really was.

Feb 2018

“Even for an hour a day, I could pretend I was not me.”
“I am sorry,” the copy-editor said as the author wept, “but that pretense was always a lie.”

Once upon a time there was a grandmother who wasn’t a witch despite having no children at all.

They had no idea what to expect. The war was over, the monster vanquished beneath the seas. The hero had died, the land been wrecked to ruin. But nothing stopped them. Nothing could.
The tourists always arrived, even when they could not leave their hazmat suits.

He shrugged. “Stories have power. The way they’re told has power. Humans manage to still fear each other when there’s a sizable minority of preternaturals to really hate and fear. Vampires remained hidden, so the stories about us making us kin to rock stars, angels, celebrities. Unattainable, powerful alien. Werewolves and the like are little more than beasts, all demons are monsters.
“And, too, a lot of it is played for comedy. If a witch could do all the things stories claimed, no one would have ever tried to burn one at a stake. People have to remind themselves that monsters exist, but as important are the ways they defang us.”

“You don’t understand. Our jury needs more jaysome.”
“… I don’t know what that is.”
“If you did, I am not certain you could remain a judge.”

It shouldn’t have to be like this. But your front door insists I have to log into Facebook before I can enter your house. As if I can recall any password other than your name.

I was never afraid but everyone believed I should be. If that is not weakness, what is?

"I just realized that I can't be the main character of this novel. I don't have a tragic backstory at all."

Home has been billed as an experiment in primitive culture. Probably because that sounds better than Hell.

The most amazing thing about the dance was how they all thought it was about them.
“This I tell you, only for free: there are more in this world who wish you harm than not.”
“But I am the Champion destined to defeat the ancient forces of the Dark -.”
“Quite so. Have you ever met anyone who liked destiny? A lot of people - understand the world as it is. They don’t want change. Not on any term you would offer it.”
“…. but -. I am going to save them?”
“Have you been saved? How did you like it, eh? Stuck in your craw, didn’t it? To need another so badly. To be in debt so deep that you can never pay it back, no matter what you do?”
The Champion wept then, and stumbled away from the ancient Witch. Who smiled and reached with thought and will. To tell the Darkness that was her only child that the Champion was broken.
They broke so easily these days.

The end of the world was a minor thing; the end of our world all that was major.

The best part about playing D&D at level two:
Me: *does ill-advised idea getting into a mess of enemies so other PCs can reach scene, gambling on dodging and decent AC to survive.*
*fails to survive*
*character fails first death saving throw. I roll a 1 for the next one*
…. my character is only alive because I made a halfling :)

“He has scars that tell a story we have never heard.”

“I cannot count on one hand the number of hopes I have lost, nor name how many dreams I have seen wither and rot. I swore Home would not be like them. Home will be free if I must unmake everything to ensure that comes to pass!”
“Everything means more than you think it does. It has always been so.”

Once upon a time there was a story that did not begin with once upon a time, and the people in it never knew they were part of a story. Not until it was far too late to escape.

“You can’t buy me,” I protested, but the painting was considered valueless without the painter and I had rent to pay.

Sometimes the hardest thing is to be a secret that everyone pretends they do not know.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Lessons Of Jaysome

The problem with being a magician is that it is often not a problem at all. The universe bends to meet your needs, the magic a bonus on top of that. For those who need money, The Bank provides it. Or the fae, in my case, because there are debts and balances and no one, especially not the fae, want to see what Jay would do to get money if he didn’t have an unlimited credit card.

There are perks to being ‘Honcho’ to an eleven year old from Outside the universe who could unbind everything if he tried to. The small, nondescript office I’m standing outside is the flip side of that. Even to magicians, the house seems like a normal home converted into a few offices. I can see it is really a thick stone tower connected to one of the fae castles at the edge of the universe. It remains an office even so.

A door appears and opens before I can touch a wall. The fae that comes out looks human enough; I can see through fae glamours put on places, but fae can still hide themselves if they try. This one is.

“Hello. I am here about Jay.” I pause while the fae visibly pales. “His credit card.”

“Your pardon?”

“I’d like to know what he is spending his money on over the past two days. Please. And how the credit cards work.”

“You did not ask before?”

“They are an arrangement Charlie and Jay made. But I am asking now.”

The fae blinks, eyes unfocusing for a moment. Then tells me. I thank them and walk away, reach out. Magic. Need. Will. Desire. And the bindings Jay has with me. I take one step, another, and the third has me half across the city to where Jay walks out of an apartment building with a huge grin.

“Hi, Honcho!”

“Kiddo. What are you up to?”

“I’m doing jaysome!”

“Instead of just being jaysome?”

“Uh-huh! Did you know that food stamps aren’t just stamping food in stores when you leave but! people need them for food?!”

“Ah. Yes.”

“And lots of people need food and a Jay eats a lot Honcho!”

“I do know that,” I say dryly. “But you can’t buy it for people on your fae credit card, Jay.”


“Sometimes there are recessions where a lot of money is lost; money that would have existed if not for a recession goes on the those cards. And using up too much money would cause another.”

Jay blinks, mouths the word recession. Feels bindings. Begins to understand. “Oh,” he says, in a very small voice.

“But every time you eat, you pay for food. That money goes to people who spend it, help themselves, each other.” I reach out and poke his belly. The growl that responds has more teeth to it than he does when he’s a jaysaurus. “And you have to look after yourself, and eat for all of you.”

“Oh!” He grins, slams into me with a hug. “I’ll do a supper now,” he says happily, vanishing in the middle of the sidewalk. Almost no one notices, simply because people do not vanish in the middle of the street.

I call Charlie to warn her Jay is liable to be at the hotel room for food soon. And then reach, through the bindings I have with Jay, and gently – oh, so gently – mute his understanding of recession. Because if Jay understood how economics worked, I am certain he would do things only he could do. And he would live with them, because he was jaysome. But others might not.

I let out a low breath after. Some days – some days all I want to do is let Jay fix the world. And every logical reason why he shouldn’t grows less and less with each year that passes. It is the duty of magicians to protect the universe against threats from Outside, and there is perhaps no greater threat than kindness without understanding.

But even so. Even so.

Monday, February 12, 2018

DARE to be Jaysome

Charlie almost kicks the door in on the magician’s motel room. And it has lots of wards, cuz Honcho is really good at them, but Charlie is really good at being Charlie too!

He walks out of the motel room in his robe for sleeping even if it’s way past sleeping and yawns. “Charlie. I was up late trying to fix –.”

“This.” Charlie shoves the gift at him like it’s not a gift at all. “What is it?”

“But I told you –,” I explainify.

“Jay.” Charlie says my name in a way that makes me kinda hide for a bit!

Honcho considers the gift. “Well, it looks like Jay was given a dog biscuit. Which turned into something else.”

“He told me it is LSD.”


“Jay. On LSD. That warrants more than an ‘oh’ magician!”

“Kiddo.” I appear beside Honcho, who looks at me like a magician and pokes bindings and everything! “How are you?”

“I’m not sure? Cuz I got LSD from Dogmeat, who is a DOG and that’s close to LSD you know!”

Honcho pauses. “Ah. Continue?”

“And I had it and everything cuz Charlie said jaysome was a drug and coffee isn’t and sugar isn’t if it is and I’m really confused and I found out that lots of stuff is in nature like belladona and poppies, which are also –.”

“LSD isn’t found in nature, Jay.”

“But it comes from bread, and you can use morning glory seeds and ergot and –.”

“So you made some and took it?”

“I think so, but I wanted to be sure so I gave some to Charlie and she brought it to you and kicked your door a lot!”

“I did notice that.”

“And! she hadn’t even tried it yet.” And I totally sulk like a Jay.

“Magician,” Charlie says carefully.

“I imagine it is LSD.” Honcho shrugs. “But this is Jay, who is tough like a Jay. That includes poisons, and things that aren’t poison at all. Which means it did nothing?”

“I saw less bindings than normal for a second, and that was it!”

Charlie stares at the biscuit, then at me. “And you figured it would be safe for me to take this?”

“I figured it was a lot more boring that jaysome, and you’re used to jaysome,” and I offer a hugey grin as Honcho starts laughing.

“That – that is – right.” Charlie lets out a sigh. “That is a very good point, but it might be safest if you never do drugs again. Please,” she adds, and there is even a binding in that!

“I won’t at all when I’m eleven,” I say firmly, cuz I can’t bind my future-me’s like that too much.

“Good,” Charlie says, and then crumples all the LSD in her hand and says we’re going to have a normal adventure now, and I might have to apologize to people?!

Which is pretty weird cuz I didn’t do anything at all!

Back To Basics

The world takes its time waking up on a Saturday morning. People grumble their way out of bed or fling themselves into the day in a despairing attempt to not lose all of two precious days off from work. I am not in either group even if I was up early. The air is cold as I continue to walk through the town, snow and rain teasing each other with promises in the air. The local coffee shop didn’t open until seven and I was the first in line; I’ve been back to refill my coffee twice, walked the streets of the town once in that time.

On the surface of it, there is nothing here for me. No creatures from Outside trying to enter the universe, no monsters hunting down tender food, no magicians not yet come into their nature or understanding. But there is no place that does not need a magician. Sometimes the weight of that truth almost buckles my knees.

There should be other wandering magicians. But there are not, perhaps because the story of me has grown too deeply in the past five years, and in the time before that as well. Fifteen years as a magician leaves a mark on the world deeper than I like to think about. I have faced impossible odds in my time. I’d like to think everyone does, but the stories of mine don’t need to grow with their telling. Sometimes I won because I was clever, or knew one thing my foes did not. Other times I had the right allies, or I was stupid enough to do things I should never do.

But a wandering magician is for wandering. For helping places without magicians to call their own. Everything else isn’t important next to that. I didn’t pay attention to the name of this town as we entered it, but I have come to know it. Angers surge under calm waters, everyone drowning in things they think they understand. Pressures grinding together like cultural tectonic plates. I work magic as I walk. Shifting pain, moving hurts, lessening griefs. Not balance, but change.

To be a magician is to walk a world of small miracles and gentle secrets. To be a protection for the world, yes, but that is being a magician. The magic is about need and desire. I shift needs, meet desires, gently hint toward other paths for people to take. No one will know I’ve been here, no one have any reason to suspect magic is real at all. My coffee refills itself without my having to return to the shop. I give the coffee to an older man who needs it, return anyway.

Two children are reading news of the wider world on their phone, trying to hide fear from each other. I turn their fear into a ward about myself, weakening it enough for them to see through the other a little bit. A few jokes become something else, their voices shaking. The least I can do is stop people from being islands. There is nothing save pain along that path, though it took me years to understand that. And, too, there is pain along every path. But sometimes not as much when one has others to share the journey with.

I leave a generous tip as I walk out. There are homes scattered out past the edge of town, and I hitch a ride toward them. A small conversation with an older man suspicious of me without knowing why. I fix the suspension in his car when he lets me out, thank him and walk away. Some things can’t he helped with magic, especially if they can. I walk and meet desires with needs, meshing places and people together until my coffee grows cold.

It’s a couple of miles back to the town, and I wander through the woods toward it. Helping the forest directly, giving aid to some animals, keeping company with a slumbering elemental for a time. There are things I have to do, futures growing up ahead of me like inevitabilities but sometimes going back to basics is the most important thing one can do. I relax, and the magic does what it needs to and for a time I can pretend I am anything other than another magician doing what I can to make the world a better place in my small ways.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Dog Days Of Jaysome

“Magician.” I walk into our hotel suite. “Jay isn’t in his room and he didn’t answer his phone.”

“I know,” The wandering magician says calmly.

“Then where?”

“Last I knew, he was being a wolf?”

“A spirit animal for @madworlddiary. Because Jay.”

“There are consequences for acts of jaysome.” He sighs. “He’s in the pound.”

“And you’re not getting Jay out?”

“He has to start learning, Charlie.”

“That might not be the best place to teach Jay.”

“And any place is?”



I enter the pound before it is open for the day, stilling alarms with a faint trace of magic.

Jay isn’t in a cage. There isn’t a cage that can hold a Jay, even if he’s being a JayWolf. He has used bindings and opened every lock, changed back into his human form and is just talking to animals. There is nothing Jay can’t talk to, sometimes because it simply never occurs to him that he couldn’t. And most reply, not wanting to disappoint him.

“Honcho.” He doesn’t look back at me. There is slightly less enthusiasm than when he normally says my name as he turns to me, all eleven, from far Outside the universe and looking both baffled and hurt. “You did a binding so I couldn’t leave this place last night.”

“Kiddo. You got captured.”

“I was having an adventure!”

“Yes. And sometimes they lead to different sorts of adventures.”

“But but all these animals don’t have families and finding some for all of them is pretty hard and –.” He hiccups. “Why?”

For a moment, I think he understands: why I’ve been forcing him to understand the consquences of his actions and power, why he’s been having to fix up his own oopses and accidents.

“Why what?” I ask, and it takes everything I have for my voice to be even. Some day I will hurt him more than I ever want to hurt anyone; I don’t want it to be today.

Jay scratches his head. “Why lock them up when they’re just having adventures too?”

“Sometimes adventures can’t overlap with the adventures others have, Jay. And sometimes people are just very confusled and trying to help the best they can.”

“I try and help a lot!”

“Yes. Yes, you do. And you being safe in the pound overnight was a trying to help you. We can’t take them with us.”

“But we have a really big hotel room,” he protests.

“Yes. And are leaving for another town today. But I asked the fae, and they’ll work some glamours and do what they can.”

No one wants to disappoint Jay. No one wants to be the one to break that hopeful, helping innocence even if the power behind it is beyond anything they understand.

He beams, following me outside and I pretend I don’t notice the bags of treats that appear in every cage.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

The Garden of Peace

I’m almost at the grocery store when it stops raining. There were probably other clues. The world is littered with omens hiding in amens. (I wrote something kin to that last night, the idea having stuck with me.) I ponder a scene for The Empty Book about how every amen is really an ‘aw, men’ with various inflections and how Sara would present that to Brodie. I’ve lost myself in the peace of making fiction for a moment, but the moment passes when the sidewalk turns into dirt.

I stop. Blink. There is no parking lot ahead of me, the shopping bag in my pocket almost laughable. I am in a field of plants taller than I am. Sunflowers are walking around on pebbled paths. Wheat sky scrapers fill the air to my left. I don’t recognize most of what is here.

“A garden full of weeds.” I pitch the words to carry. Wait.

“Nope! Gardens only have flowers,” and Jay is in front of me, glaring up. All 11 and so jaysome with it.

“I thought that might get your attention. Jay. I’m getting groceries. I’m writing part of a story later. I don’t have time for – for this?”

“Everyone has time to be more jaysome. J is J, you know!”

Creating fictional characters is one thing. Having them try and help your own life is something else. “Where are we?”

“This is the garden of peace, where the flowers you pick are inside you and it took a lot of time to find!” He grins, huge and beaming, and every flower turns toward the feel of it.

I can feel sunlight and warmth, the gentle sounds of rain and earth. There is peace here: not a thing to be attained, but a tranquillity that simply is. Everything moves in harmony, every pattern a binding. Only no one else is here.

“Jay. Why did it take a long time to find?” I say slowly.

“Oh, it was really far away from Charlie and Honcho and even you and I had to move through lots of universes to find it. But this place is all about jaysome and you can be extra extra jaysome here!”

I sigh. “Jay. I am jaysome enough in my own life, I think –.”

“Nopes! Because you wrote stuff last night about a dad hurting his son a lot!”

“... that is fiction, Jay. It’s not real.”

“But I’m fiction too, only I’m the real kind!”

“So every fiction I write should be jaysome?”

“Uh-huh! Since otherwise it might lead to people being not-jaysome, and that would be really bad-face!”

“But we have to embrace our nonjaysomeness, or how else do we find our jaysome?”

“By being jaysome,” Jay says, letting out a definitely hugey sigh. “Man. This is going to take a lot more than the garden, won’t it?”

“I – no, this is fine,” I say.

“We can go into the centre of the garden.” And the world ripples. There is a door. It is hungry and cold, and not a thing that is part of a garden of peace at all.

Even Jay pauses at the door.

“What is beyond that?” I ask.

“Oh! There is a glass marble in the middle of the garden and! if it is rubbed in a certain way it causes a happy memory to be remembered! So you can run it and keep jaysome!”

“And this door protects it?”



“It is also maybe protected by three Jayseltosche’s but! if they give it up it’ll work jaysomely!”

I take a deep breath. “There is only one Jay. And if these are – piece of you in the future, you don’t want to meet them.”

“But that’s an adventure! Wow! You really only like fake surprises, don’t you?!” Jay demands.

“No. But I know real ones aren’t always the kind of surprises one wants to have.”

There is a sound on the other side of the door. Movement. Voices. Power. Dark matter itself will be one of the parts of Jay in this room. Himself when he is older another. I don’t know what the third will be, but I know it is something Jay won’t be able to understand. Being jaysome is what he is.

“They are guarding a memory, Jay. And they need it more than you need this adventure, and far more than I need a false peace.” I am not the wandering magician. I am nothing like Honcho, but I’ve written his adventures long enough to mimic what he would say.

“But but but!”

“Jay. These are Jayseltosche’s, which isn’t the same as Jay at all. None of them are eleven, and you would be too much jaysome for them. You are their Achilles Heel, and you’d only hurt them. Jaysome can hurt too, even if you never intend it.”

“I know.”

And he does know that. I don’t when when he learned. I take a deep breath, move away from the door.

“Jay. This stone, this marble. It’s not going to help.”

“But if you remember lots of happy things you’ll be more jaysome!”

“Your story won’t change. I am writing it. I know how it ends.”

“But but I’m helping you be more jaysome!”

“Oh, you are. Believe me. But your story is a stone thrown in a lake, Jay. For every bounce, it still has the same trajectory. And nothing that ends can be without sadness.”

Jay says nothing. He begins to circle me, looking at me, into me, through me.

“There will be ripples, when the stone lands. Adventures and wonders and so much jaysome,” I say quickly, stumbling over the words. “But there is still an ending, Jay.”

“Nope.” And he says that with a certainty that causes even the marble to crack. I can hear that from outside, because the door is open a crack. Somehow I missed that earlier.

“You’re the third Jayseltosche.” Jay does not move. “If you were really Jay, there is no way you’d have avoided the adventure of entering the room. Where is Jay?”

“Away from here. You are right about him. He would destroy even a garden of peace, because jaysome is more than peace can ever be.”

“I know. I was being careful not to wonder about that. The stone won’t help.”

“You will destroy me. And you are not sorry?”

Sometimes Achilles Heel isn’t as worrying as his Hell. “Change isn’t always destruction. Stagnation isn’t jaysome,” I say, as gently as I dare to.

And I am somewhere else. A garden, this one breathtaking in colour and scope and Jay is bouncing through it and grinning from ear to ear. The garden is everything the door was not, and that’s all I want to say about it.

“Look look look! I found some fakesurprise, and cruxy and mox and some feverfewm and admiraljane and an ellenya rhyming vine and bet you’re totally hanging on in quiet –.”

“I get the idea,” I say before Jay can find every single person he follows on tumblr.

“The fake surprise is really funny since sometimes it has real ones?!”

“Well, every story has jaysome hiding inside it. Or it wouldn’t be a story at all?”

And Jay grins at that in delight, snags my hand and returns me home.

Sometimes one has to be meta in order to survive.

I have no idea if I did a good thing today. Or a bad one.

I suspect I’ll never know, no matter how many stories I write to try and understand.

The Achilles heel of the author, that stories always go places where even we cannot follow. But I think I can find some peace with that, and continue to get groceries.

Jay does not return with another adventure to help me be more jaysome.

I think that means I am safe, which I realize isn’t a jaysome thing to be.


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Writing The Gloaming ...

This story came from a weird place in my head. I've sat on it for most of a month, mostly writing notes, revising the setting and so forth. The basic building blocks of the world began with pondering why gods wouldn't be in a pantheon and then coming up with an answer. One that immediately made me go: 'Oh, yeah, this is probably unpublishable via any traditional means' ... and then seeing that as something of a challenge. The world has grown from that, in odd ways. It's less an exploration of magic and more one of monsters. (Similar to Ghoulish Happenings but with a better-defined world. I love the characters in that story, but the world and character relations never fit properly. Some day I need to work on it again. Definitely.)

This is also one of the few times a setting came into my head well before the characters did. Normally I start at character and work outward from that; this story worked toward them in terms of interesting things I could do with the idea, and character relations. And finding myself going 'no, that won't...' and realizing the 'no' meant I had to write that instead.

So there is an entire school dedicated to, well, schooling for preternatural students. Which also means a cast of 40+ characters between students, teachers, security and family Stuff happening outside the confines of the school. The trick in saying 'oh, the supernatural has always been around and real' and marrying that to the real world has been an interesting challenge and a lot of the reasons are buried deep in the world building. The revelation behind that is going to throw Crane - and Exen - for a  loop in a lot of fun ways.

There are antagonists, actually planned and considered in-depth early on, which is a change for me. The fun will be seeing how it all plays out and if I can actually pull this off :)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

departed the wicker squall

(Written in memory of Michael Flores, who not only let Jay guest star in a few stories but dared to get Jay drunk. Our serial story will never see completion now, and I'm going to miss his words a lot)

“I sent a message last night that I won’t get a reply to and it was a really good one you know!”

I turn. Jay is walking beside me, and no one notices his arrival because it doesn’t occur to him that they would. I’m used to that, but there is something different in his tone.

“You won’t?” I ask.

Jay shoves his phone up into my face. I read a post. Another. Oh.

“The Cult of Aeon incident, with Mikey. I remember that,” I say, because I’m never going to forget the person who got Jay drunk. Jay hasn’t been able to hide his nature quite as well recently: that was part of it, I think. Sometimes even adventures are more than they seem.

“The cult is hiding. I went looking,” Jay says as he puts his phone away. I suspect it is best for this cult that Jay couldn’t find them. “And! you didn’t like him, Charlie!”

“Jay. He got you drunk. No one should have done that. No one should have been able to get away with it.”

“And and and I said we’d meet him again cuz ‘Michael is a vessel’ and now we won’t because he’s gone and –” there is a hitch to his breath – “and I want to know why you did it!”

The last words are screamed with all the fury of a boy of eleven who isn’t eleven at all. I’ve seen Jay obliterate monsters with such a scream, destroy every binding that holds a hotel room together. Other things I try not to think about, and never to dream of. This time they’re only words, their fury only – only! – hurt.

“Jay.” I hug him, tightly. He could escape. He doesn’t, trembling against me. “That was nothing I did.”

“But he’th gone, Charlie,” Jay lisps.

A small part of me almost wants to laugh. In Jay’s mind, I am the scariest person he knows. Even in grief, his logic is jaysome.

He hasn’t lisped in years. “People go to places where they can’t come back from. Adventures even a Jay can’t have with them,” I say.

“I wanted to. Honcho says it would be a bad idea.” He sniffs.

I imagine ‘bad idea’ were hardly the words the wandering magician used. “And it would be a very bad binding to – bring someone back from those adventures,” I say. Normally I’d like to think Jay wouldn’t think of that, but he’s had adventures in Mikey’s stories before. And grief isn’t something he is good with.

As if anyone of us are. As though grief could be something one gets good at.

I let go gently. Jay sniffs again. “It’s not right or fair and and I’m not allowed to fix it?!”

“There are fixes that always cause more dangers,” I say. “The universe is –.”

“I know all about that. And we’re going to have words about that someday,” he says firmly.

I have no idea what ‘we’ is he talking about. I decide it’s safer not to know.

“I bet he is busy saurusing and being a T-Rex in a tiara just like White Jesus was!”

I stare at Jay longer than usual. I’d like to pretend this is Jay just being his literal self, but Mikey did successfully get Jay drunk and somehow avoided dealing with me after, properly. “I bet he is. And sometimes people need their own jaysome adventures, but the memory of you is part of them too.”

“Oh. Okay.” Jay is quiet a few moments. “It still doesn’t – it isn’t –.”

“I know,” I say as gently as I dare. “There is time to be sad, and time to be other than sad. And all of which is jaysome, even the sadness.”

“Oh!” Jay gapes at that. “I didn’t – oooh,” he says.

I brace myself, but nothing terrible happens. Yet.

“Thankth, Charlie,” he says with a huge grin, then vanishes.

I text the wandering magician, to make sure Jay went and joined him. Then I check Mikey’s blog, and walk into a bar. Jay isn’t allowed to drink, so I have one for him. In memory, for memory. Because adventures never end the way anyone intends, but that changes nothing at all that matters.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Jay of a kind

As a rule, trying to kill a magician before six in the morning is unwise. Not that it is ever wise, but trying to attack a magician BC –before-coffee – means we tend to act without thinking. The would-be killer is curled up in the doorway sobbing as my shadow untangles from his own. The hotel room door is a complete loss and I can hear Charlie shouting at someone in her room. Nothing from Jay’s room, even though the door has been broken open.

I step over the man with the machine gun and cheap suit, glancing about the hotel room. The killer who had intended to shoot Jay comes out of the bathroom, levelling a machine gun at my chest.

I hold his gaze with my own. Any competent magician learns to hide what they are, but also when to let it be visible. The gun hits the ground, his face as pale as the countertop.

“.. stupid,” Charlie is snarling from her room. “Do you even grasp what Jay would do if you shot me?”

I leave her to keep lecturing the would-be killer, gesture to the island and walk toward it. The man follows me. Big, poorly made suit, hat, gun.

“I am the wandering magician, and it’s been years since anyone actually tried to kill me with a gun. Which doesn’t mean your friend didn’t run into my wards, and your other friend met the god inside Charlie. And Charlie. I think it might be for the best if you explain why you are here.”

The man gulps loudly. He’s dangerous, but only in crude ways, and has some idea of what I could do to him.

“Jay. The boy with you. He was in a poker game last night. He cheated; boss wanted a lesson sent to cheaters.”

I snort. “Jay does many things, but he definitely wouldn’t cheat at cards. Cheating isn’t jaysome, after all.”

“It was a poker game. He used Pokemon cards.”

“And won, of course.” I shake my head. “Jay is eleven: if someone let him into the poker game, that’s not my fault. He won because it wouldn’t even occur to him that he wouldn’t win.” I reach through the bindings I have with Jay, a question getting a happy answer. “He also gave the money out to a dozen homeless people he ran into. Because Jay.”

“We were told to teach him a lesson.”

“You can start by calling a company about the doors and helping fix them. Fixing mistakes is an important lesson for Jay to learn. You made a mistake. You own it. You fix it.”

“But –.” The man stops dead as Jay appears in the middle of the room with a tray from Starbucks. “I got coffee for you and Charlie, Honcho, and – do I need to get more coffees?! Because I can!” The pride behind the smile causes the man to somehow turn even paler than when we’d held gazes.

“We – uh – we came to the wrong house for a party, so we’re fixing some doors. Coffee would be nice?” he says.

“Okay!” Jay vanishes again.

The hired killer Charlie lectured bolts out of her room into the bathroom, throwing up violently as Charlie comes out and goes to her coffee.

“I explained what Jay would do if I got shot. In detail. Idiots,” she says.

“They won’t stay that way. Jay is bringing them coffee,” I say as I undo the wards on the one in my bedroom. He wisely elects to stay in the room for now. “We’ll take Jay out for breakfast and give them time to fix the hotel room and explain things to their boss.”

The pale man nods frantically, saying nothing.

“What happened?” Charlie asks, resigned.

“Jay. Poker game. Pokemon cards.”

“Oh, good. It took hours to fix the time he played Go Fish and War with a tarot deck.” Charlie shudders a little at the memory as I get my own coffee.

Jay returns with coffees for all three hired guns, each one just the way they like it.

They, wisely, say nothing at all as we head out to breakfast with Jay. Which will also be an adventure.

Friday, January 19, 2018

After The Job Interview

The woman who walks into the office has eyes like drowned stones glittering with fire. I make a sound and the fire flicks out.

“I – I am sorry? If you came here for help? We are closed? We are closed. Everyone has gone home.”

“I know. Jay told us he was going to apply for a job. And he really doesn’t understand what a collections agency does.”

“He thought we collected debts. And freed people from them.” I whimper.

I had thought his smile was everything.

Then I got to witness his disappointment.

He said our job wasn’t – he said it wasn’t jaysome.

I don’t realize I said the last words aloud. I don’t even realize I am crying until she lets go of me.

“I am sorry. Jay is –.” she pauses. “Jay. He is like a force of nature that never knows it is one.”

“Everyone quit. En masse I stayed because the manager has to. Because someone has to explain this to – to head office.” My voice cracks.

“Ah. Tell them it was an Act of Jay. Someone will know what it means.”

“An act of – that was a god?”

Her smile is a strangeness. “Nothing so small at that, I’m afraid. Even gods can’t be kind like Jay can.”

“You know him. How – how do you survive him?”

She blinks. “Pardon me?”

“He – that smile. That joy. The –.” words fail me.

“Jay would be very disappointed to know he hurt us. Or anyone at all, unless he really means it. If he meant harm to you, you would know that since this business wouldn’t be here anymore. You can leave. And should: a new job will show up for you, because Jay.” And she turns, heading to the door.

“Wait. Where are you going?”

“To make sure Jay doesn’t do this to every debt collection office.”

And she says that as casually as she said the boy could destroy the business.

“I don’t understand.”

“I’d be worried if you did. Consider it the most dangerous job interview you’ll ever conduct and be content with that.”

The woman closes the door behind her. I get my coat and head to the door. The phone rings. I imagine it is head office. I stare at it. At all the empty desks. I walk outside. It takes everything I have not to run, but I walk and leave a life behind.

And hope, desperately, that I never meet Jay again and once more see sadness in his eyes at how I make a living in this world that contains so much less jaysome than he believes it does.