Thursday, May 30, 2019

Book Snippet 2 - Terran Beer

Last June I posted a snippet from a book I was working on about Tole.  Since then I have three in progress and working them into a coherent timeline is about to rupture a vessel in my brain. I realize that my posts of late have been sparse, but life is life. Sometimes I just have to roll with what's in front of me.

The working title of this book is Retribution, and I'm hoping it will give the character some closure on the death of his wife that set him on his current path. Maybe it'll even give Tole some small bit of character growth.  He is a force of nature when it comes to killing, so I'm not hoping for much.

Oh and the terrible movie Tole refers to is Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man which actually IS one of my favorites and my wife DOES roll her eyes at it every time I watch it.

Anyway, hope you like it.

-Tole

 I learned the truth in the old saying “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy” a long time ago. Consequently I only plan things very loosely. I’ve found that most times a quick mind and an unexpected improvisation are much more effective than a well thought out plan. Usually I have a plan to get in and a couple of plans to get out but everything in between that has to be fluid to have any shot at success. Sometimes even the redundant exit strategies go to shit if the target or his minions are as adaptable as I am. Done that dance more than once.

So how to find the information I’ll need. Since I’ve put down about four of their membership since that first encounter, I can’t very well just walk into their head office and ask to see her file. Something tells me they might not be willing to share. That just means I’ll have to either take the information I want by force or by being a sneaky bastard. More than likely it will end up being a mix of the two. I’ll try to be sneaky, end up getting caught, beat the information out of someone, and end up killing my way out. Feels good to have a plan…such as it is.

I spend some time sitting on my bed looking at the medallion. It’s about two inches across and has two crossed daggers engraved in the center. There is Goran writing in a circle around the edge. I never learned the language so it could say anything. That might be a good place to start. Learn about my target. Standard step one shit right there. Only problem is that the hunter sect, guild, club, what-the-fuck-ever this group calls itself is a pretty secretive bunch of assholes, and I’m willing to bet there’s not a Goran to English translator on the internet. Not a big deal. Recon doesn’t require direct engagement. Who knows? I may find a way to come at them sideways and save some bloodshed.

Yeah right.

I decided that the best course of action was to just treat this like I was casing a mark for a job. Stick to what I know how to do.  Just this time the mark was information instead of some mother’s son. So what’s the first thing?  Track down somebody who knows something about the mark.  I spend another beer and a half trying to think of the best place to start and then it hits me.  I know someone who uses the services those scaly bastards perform.  The orcs of Orta’ahn will sometimes hire them to help find an enemy who is in hiding.  Cowards don’t deserve to be killed at the hands of an orc warrior so there’s no honor lost by using an outside party to hunt them down.

I finish the last of my beer and set the glass on the bar.  I have preparations to make.  A person doesn’t just open a portal into an orc village if a person enjoys living.  I need to send some things through first to let Valsh know I’m coming and to make sure I haven’t made the list of those whose head has a pike waiting for it. Time for a visit to Terra because Valsh’s favorite tribute is brewed in only one place that I have found…Shiner, Texas.  Personally, I prefer a good dark from this little place in Ireland, but I’m not about to argue with a six foot eight inch, four hundred twenty five pound wall of meat that was built to kill and is more than adept at battle magic.

I head up to my room to change into some Texas appropriate clothing and equip myself for the journey.  Wrangler jeans, some boots called ropers, a t-shirt with the Come and Take It flag from the Battle of Gonzales on the front, and a baseball cap with the logo for Ford Motor Company.  I also stuff about $1,500 in American currency in a wallet that also contains my license to carry a concealed firearm.  Follow that with the 9mm pistol and two extra magazines in a holster at my back, a boot knife in my left boot, and a small little .380 semi-auto with two extra magazines in the right. Now I’m feeling like the Texan I was born and a little smile crawls across my face as I turn to open the portal that will lead me back to where this whole pile of misery began, Terra, or as it’s known locally, Earth.

Earth is the only place I can go from The Bar that doesn’t require something to link the magic to the place. It’s MY place, so the magic kind of defaults there if I don’t point it somewhere else. Now where on Earth I go to is a completely different story.  Intent plays into that part of the equation.  I intended to step out of my portal in Shiner, Texas.  I mean if you’re going to get some beer from a specific brewery why not just go to the source right?  Right.  I reach out my hand to touch the runes on my door that will change where it opens to from The Bar to my chosen destination.  Just before I activate the last rune my memory cabinet catches my eye and I glance in its direction and sigh. “I’m gonna take care of this babe,” I mutter under my breath and activate the last rune.  I open the door and step through and find myself standing on the hill where Bobby and I buried my wife. Not just on the hill, but on the hill standing right next to her grave.

I haven’t been back here since the day I buried her.  Just never really saw the need. Guess my subconscious decided it did because here I stand.  I take a knee and put my hand on the spot where my wife is spending eternity. The grass here is soft.  That’s good.

“Hey babe,” I start, “I know I haven’t been back since I put you here. Feels weird even now, but I’m here.  There’s a few things I need to say. I’m not the man I was. The part of me that made me a decent human being died when you did.  Everything I was up until that point was all because of you.  You made me want to be a good man. I’m going to finish what I started with that scaly bastard five years ago.  It’s time for his entire line to burn. It’s time for me to take away their world the way they took away mine, in blood and violence.  I’ll get it  done or I’ll be in a hole next to you.  I swear it.”

When I lift up my hand, the ground where is was is hot and the grass is dead and blackened.  In the center of that palm-shaped black spot is a small, dirty silver box with a blue gem in the lid. I recognize it. It used to sit on my wife’s dressing table.  I have no idea where it came from, but I’m not leaving out here.  I pick it up and look it over.  I never noticed before but it has some odd writing scribed around the stone. The stone!  Holy shit it’s got a very dim little light in the center of it.  Definitely not leaving it here. Into my front pants pocket it goes. Time to move on and get this trip to Earth done.

Oh fuck me.  This hill is about 390 miles from Shiner. Dammit. I could go back to The Bar and try again, but as jumbled up as my head is right now I’d probably end up in Siberia or some shit.  Guess I’ll have to travel the old fashioned way. Luckily it’s only about a six or seven mile walk into town from here.  Should still be some folks around who remember me.  Small towns in Texas don’t change much over decades so five years should be nothing.

I stop at a truck stop that’s about half-way from my land to my old town to get something to drink.  I don’t know if this is common knowledge or not but it gets by gods hot in Texas.  I check the calendar on the register as I’m paying for some junk food and a couple of bottles of water.  August? Well that explains that.  I don’t care how fit you think you are.  I don’t care how tough you think you are.  Walking on a paved road in Texas in the middle of August is gonna kick your ass.  Period. End of discussion. The End.

The cashier is smiling and making bedrooms eyes at me as I hand her the cash for my food.  “Just passing through?” she asks.

“Yeah.  On my way south,” I reply.   She’s pretty enough.  Too bad that life in this part of the world is gonna wear her down and in about ten years and three kids she’s not gonna be pretty anymore.  It’s just the nature of life in this part of the state.  Low income, easy access to drugs, and men that are generally flaming assholes just wreak havoc on these lovely creatures. Oh well, shit happens. Five years is a long time to go without the company of a beautiful woman, and I’m starting to give serious thought to seeing if she’s serious about her implied offer when shit goes, inevitably, sideways.

“EVERYBODY GET THE FUCK DOWN NOW!”

Everybody hits the floor but me. Great. This is exactly what I don’t need right now.  I do NOT have time to get wrapped up in some fucking robbery bullshit. I slowly turn around to face a very pale, very sweaty man with a gun about 2 inches from my forehead.

“I SAID GET THE FUCK DOWN!”

Suddenly I reminded of one of the “awful” movies I used to love so much that my wife would just shake her head at. 

This is just like that scene when…oh I am so playing this out.

I turn around and look him dead in the eyes and in an awful Mickey Rourke impersonation say,” If I had a nickel for every time some piece of shit pointed a gun at me, I’d be a rich man.” I am a rich man, but this fuck doesn’t know that.

He blinks and that’s all the space I need.  Right hand to the inside of his wrist and left hand to the slide of the pistol and lean the opposite way the barrel will travel. He did manage to squeeze the trigger but the shot goes wide and so do his eyes when he realizes he’s no longer holding his advantage in his hand. I right myself landing a good solid backfist to his ear with my left hand as I do.  Follow that with a shot to the solar plexus and I walk out of the place leaving him on the floor in a puddle of puke. I am not sticking around for the cops to get here.  

I look back at the cashier and say, “When the cops ask, you don’t know which way I went. Ok?”

“Sure thing,” she says with a kind of tremble to her voice that lets me know she just realized the kind of man she was flirting with. Maybe it’ll wake her up enough to get the hell outta this place.  Maybe not.  Don’t really care either way.

I step back onto the highway and head out finish the last four miles into town. Son of a BITCH it’s HOT!

That’s when providence finally lifted up its grimy little face and smiled on me. About a mile outside of town there’s a beer store that I had totally forgotten was there.  It’s right on the county line because the county I’m in doesn’t allow alcohol sales, but the county across this little road 50 feet away does.  The original owners made a goddam fortune selling to bootleggers back in the day.  The guy that owns it now drinks most of his profits, but hey life’s a bitch.

I walk in and wave at him. He looks at me like he’s looking at a ghost.  Oh right, five years and a gruesome mass murder ago was the last anyone in this town saw of me. “Hey Mike,” I say.  He just blinks. “I need a three cases of Shiner.  You got that much?”  I follow my question with a hundred bucks on the counter.

“Uh...yeah...sure,” he says. “I’ll have to go get it from the back.  You want it cold?”

“Nah. Storeroom chilled is fine.”  Hell, it’s probably ninety in his storeroom but orcs don’t like cold beer anyways.

He brings me my beer, takes the money, and turns to the register.  I tell him to keep the change and scoop up my purchase.  Once I’m outside, I walk around to the side of the building and activate my portal home.  I step through it into my room and shut it behind me.


“Well,” I say to the empty space, “that was interesting.”

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Answers of a Sort

It is amazing to me how much a small imbalance can throw off everything. I finally got in to see my doctor and after some discussion he decided to run a few tests. I got a chest x-ray to look at the old ticker, an EKG, and a bunch of blood drawn.

First, EKG was normal. YAY!

Next chest x-ray was normal. Also YAY!

Then came the blood work...a lot of it was normal and the things that weren't, combined with the symptoms I've been experiencing, all point to anemia. This I can deal with. So next we start looking for the cause which means more blood work and a couple of other tests.

The fun part of it is that my white and red cell counts were normal.  So I have plenty of cells.  The problem is that they are TINY which is called Microcytic Anemia. This is caused by iron deficiency. Hopefully this just means I need to eat better. 

I have found a couple of studies that have found a link to extended use of proton pump inhibitors(PPI), like pepcid, to a reduced ability for the body to absorb iron. This makes sense since iron absorption takes place in the gut and, for the more difficult to absorb plant based iron, digestive juices are a necessary component to facilitate iron absorption. PPI's inhibit digestive juice production, so it stands to reason there would be a link. Since I am on a daily dose of Omeprazole, which is a common PPI, this is also something I will be discussing with my doctor.

In the meantime, I'm exhausted, muddle headed, and suffering the worst fucking leg cramps I've ever had in my life. No where to go but up. Right?

Also as far as my list of "Shit I Have to Do" is concerned, I am presenting the budget to the finance committee today. My wife graduated Saturday. My car is working reasonably well. All that's really looking over me is finishing the new bedroom we've added to the house. I see light at the end of the tunnel...here's hoping it's not just another oncoming train.

-Tole

Pickup Progress

So I spent last weekend out at my friend's house and shop.  When we moved my truck, it would just flat fall on its face and die. I knew ...