Friday, June 28, 2013

Walking the Plank

“Stand up!” A bandit marched down the steps into the cabin. “You two are coming with me!” He dragged both of them up to the top.

“Just stay quiet; let me handle this,” Ferdinand whispered. John William nodded. He was too frightened to speak. The deck crawled with river pirates and bandits with soured, drunken scowls on their faces.

“Push them overboard! We have no use for them, now!” The bandits cheered as John William and Ferdinand were pushed onto a thick plank of wood sticking out over the side of the boat.

“Wait!” One of the river pirates stepped forward with his chest out. “That boy is the princess’s friend. He could be worth something, Victor!” he bellowed with an extra deep voice. He certainly looked tough enough; with a chiseled face, broad frame, and big muscles. Even his slicked back, pony-tailed hair looked strong to john William. He began to feel a glimmer of hope.

“Nonsense! He is of no use to us.” The stout, vicious looking badger pressed a blade into John William’s back. “Move, boy!” He let out a malicious laugh and glared at Ferdinand. “I love to cook hoppers. They make a tasty stew.” He moved the blade over to Ferdinand’s plump belly and twisted his whiskers between his fingers. “Be careful you don’t want to fall into this blade; it would make a terrible mess.”

 John William inched forward, watching the rushing water beneath him.

“This is the princess’s betrothed! They are to be married when they are old enough!” Ferdinand blurted. He shut his eyes tightly, expecting to be prepped for a rotund river pirate’s stew at any moment. When nothing happened he gave John William a nudge.

John William stared at the hopper with his mouth gaped open. “Yes, yes, she is my, um…,” he stuttered. Ferdinand rolled his eyes.

“Look at him! He’s just a pup! I’ll bet he’s never even tickled a dame’s fancy.” The deck erupted with laughter.

“You see? He will fetch us a fine price; almost as much as the princess, herself!” insisted the river pirate. He bumped Victor off to the side and pulled them off the plank.

“You better be right; or you’ll be the one on this plank… and you can be certain it will be my blade in your back,” Victor sneered, exposing his jagged fangs. “Careful with that defiant tone of yours; it has been a while since I have broken a man’s spirit! I’m about due for a river rat body part; something special… perhaps an insubordinate tongue for my collection.” Victor squeezed the pirate’s jaw, leaving an imprint of his long, dirty claws on his face. “I’m not interested in feeding stowaways or ungrateful scrubs.” 

“Well then, don’t feed them!” One of the bandits shouted.

“Put them to work! They can have my job!” A river pirate sat back with his feet up and played a festive melody on his mandolin. The rest of the ship danced in celebration and sloshed their mugs of rum together.

“What a group of goofs,” Ferdinand mumbled under his breath and rolled his eyes.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bandits of Basswood Sneak Peek - Chapter 1

The Day Everything Changed




John William ran frantically down the long curved road to his house. In the spring of 1918; World War One was in its final stages. German Fokkers and British Camels circled the clouds above like mosquitoes. He covered his head as bullets buzzed around him.

An airplane engulfed in flames spiraled out of the sky and disappeared behind the trees. Bang! A loud crash shook the ground. Dark smoke wafted into the air near his house. “Oh no…,” he gasped, sprinting so fast his lungs throbbed through his chest.

 He turned down the driveway to find his worst fears were true. Fire and smoke bellowed out the windows of his house. Airplane pieces and splintered wood protruded from the top where the roof once was. The intense heat scorched his face. Boom! An explosion shattered the house and propelled John William backwards. Fragments flew everywhere.

He curled up in a ball screaming from the pain of his wrenched and torn heart. His parents were home hiding from the chaos. Nothing could have survived the explosion. He felt empty; the two people he loved most in the world were gone.

The shouting of German solders making their approach silenced him. He stumbled to his feet and ran into the forest on the edge of his house. Through the trees John William saw two German pilots surveying the area. The airplane that crashed into his house was a German Fokker. One walked to the edge of the thick fern and hovered over John William. The pilot stared into the forest. “Hallo!” he shouted. John William bit his lip, praying the cough building in his throat would stay where is was.

“Lass uns gehen!” The other pilot shouted and waved his arm signaling for them to leave. They appeared to be searching for signs of life; but except for John William, no one remained.

John William lay flat on his back with his eyes fixed on the sky. Tears rolled down his face. He had no idea what to do. He was eleven years old and suddenly left with no home and no parents. A car rolled up the driveway. John William squirmed over to the fern and peered through the leaves.

His uncle stepped out of the car and stood with his hand over his mouth. “John! Katherine! John William!” His voice trembled as he walked around the shattered house. John William hunkered behind the fern watching his uncle fall apart.

He was overwhelmed and heart broken; but he had a decision to make. He could go with his uncle, or somehow make his own way. He could not bring himself to go to him. Something in his gut told him to make his own way. He prepared to turn and run. Snap! A twig broke under the pressure of his knee.

“Who’s there?” His uncle walked over to the fern. He looked down and saw John William’s reddish brown curls poking through. “John William? What are you doing?”

“Hi, Uncle, I was just….” John William stood up and gazed at his feet.

His uncle wiped tears and ash from his face. “It doesn’t matter. Thank god you’re alive!” He carefully pulled John William out of the leaves. “Are you okay?”

“I wasn’t home.” John William’s eyes welled up again. “I should have been home.” He buried his face into his uncle’s chest.

“It’s going to be okay, young man. You’ll stay with me.” He gave John William a firm hug and led him to the car. As they pulled away from the house his heart sank. Life as he knew it was over. He wondered if he would ever feel again.




Chapter One




Nearly a year came and went. John William was an empty shell merely going through the motions of life. His uncle tried every day to pull him out of it. “I got you something today.” He pushed a brown leather pack with a padded shoulder strap across the dinner table. John William barely looked up from his plate. His uncle cleared his throat. “Happy Birthday, young man; twelve — that’s a big age.”

“Thanks….” John William muttered while pushing steamed carrots and potatoes around with his fork. “I’m sorry; I suppose I’m not feeling well. I think I need to lie down; may I be excused?”

“Of course....” His uncle leaned back in his chair with a defeated look on his face. John William peeled himself off the seat and dragged his feet to his room. He plopped down on his bed and stared at the ceiling just as he did every other night; not wanting to think because thinking always resulted in heartache. He grew tired of crying all the time.

His bedroom door squeaked open. “Can I come in?” asked his uncle, poking his head inside. John William nodded. His uncle sat next to him and looked around. Pictures of old ruins and maps lined the walls. A set of dirty old digging tools covered his dresser. “I love what you have done with your room.” He smirked and rubbed the tension out of his neck. John William replied with a half smile.

“John William, I don’t pretend to know what you are feeling. I miss your parents, too… very much. It is awful that his has happened. There are days when I still can’t believe it.” He paused and let out a deep sigh. “I know for certain that your dad, my brother would want you to carry on with life. He would want you to do your best and live with purpose because that is precisely what he did; and he did it for you. It would break his heart to see you wasting away.”

A tear slid down John William’s cheek and his deep blue eyes were red and puffy, yet again. His uncle placed the pack he bought him for his birthday on the bed next to him. “Good night, John William.” He stood up and his shoes clacked as he walked out of the room.

John William stared at the pack for a while before finally deciding to open it. Inside were beautiful new tools for digging and drawing maps. The handles had his initials, J.W.D engraved on them.  At the very bottom was an old compass with a note attached….

John William,

I know there is nothing I can do to bring your parents back; but I feel it is my responsibility to bring your smile back. Today is your birthday; please don’t waste another minute of your life feeling empty. Get out there and live, explore, do what you love. It is time to embark on a new adventure. I hope these tools help. I attached the letter to this compass because it was your fathers. I found it at the house after the accident. Use it well and keep your parents in your heart. Happy Birthday, young man.



Uncle Christopher

John William opened the compass. It still had ash on it; aside from that it was in fine working condition. He sunk his head into the pillow thinking about his uncle’s words. A restless energy surged through his body; something he had not felt in a long time.

He tossed and turned all night making a tangled mess of his blankets. When the first ray from the sun poked through his curtains he leaped out of bed and threw on his clothes. He stuffed his tools and compass in his pack and draped it over his shoulders. His bedroom door swung open and out he flew like a tornado blowing through the house.

“Well this certainly is a welcome change.” His uncle paced around the kitchen tossing eggs in a skillet.

“No time to eat, Uncle!” He ran over and squeezed his uncle around the waist.

“Why? Where are you going?”

“I thought I might do some exploring.” John William grinned.

“That’s a splendid idea. Make sure you’re home for dinner,” said his uncle in a stern tone. John William gave him an acknowledging nod and stuffed a piece of toast in his mouth while racing out the front door.






Tuesday, June 11, 2013

John William Meets Hawkeye...

“Now would be a good time to get out of here, John William,” Ferdinand yelled through the chaos. John William scurried toward the exit dodging flying chairs, tables and even bandits light enough to toss. In a table just off to the side sat a possum wearing an eye patch and tattered coat with miscellaneous items pouring out of the pockets. He seemed to be completely oblivious of the tussle going on around him. A familiar leather pack with a padded shoulder strap hung from his chair. “My bag!” John William blurted and made a hard turn toward the table.

“What are you doing, boy? We were so close to the door!” Ferdinand cowered deep into the pocket.

“That is my bag; I’m not leaving without it!” John William approached the table and stared the possum down.

“Who’s there?” The possum squinted through his good eye. He put his paw out, grabbing at the air.

“Over here….” John William waved his arm awkwardly.

“Oh! There you are! Are you here to try your luck?” The possum slid three mugs around on the table.

“What? No, that bag hanging on your chair is mine. I want it back.” John William replied.

“Sorry, finders, keepers… I won it fair and square. You can wager for it if you want,” said the possum, raising his eye patch. “What have you got?”

“Um, I have this pet hopper.” John William pulled Ferdinand out of his pocket.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa; wait just one minute; I am no one’s pet!”

“Ooh, he’s feisty; I like him! Okay, all you have to do is guess which mug the nuts are under.” He lifted the mugs to show the nuts then quickly swirled them around with his hands. “They call me Hawkeye; how about you, fella?”

“Um…J-Jammer, yah… Jammer,” he replied, dizzy from watching the swirling mugs. “That one….” He pointed to the mug in the middle. The possum lifted the mug exposing the nuts underneath.

“Nope! Sorry, Jam-Jam; nothing there,” Hawkeye declared, sitting back with satisfied look on his face.

“Yes there was! I saw the nuts!” John William shouted.

“I saw nothing!”

“Oh, this is nonsense….” Ferdinand jumped out of John William’s pocket and yanked the bag off the seat while they argued. “Jammer, let’s go!”

“Yes, okay! Thanks, Hawkeye….” John William perked up and followed Ferdinand out the door with his bag stuffed in his coat.

“Hey! I want my hopper pet!” Hawkeye stood up and tapped his cane out the door behind them. “Come back here!”

“Keep walking, possums have terrible eye sight. We will lose him easily,” said Ferdinand.

“Hawkeye!” A bandit with a deep, raspy voice marched over to the possum clutching a matted feather. “You told me this empyrean feather would give me magical powers! Now I’m going to have to beat you with my fist!”

Hawkeye placed his hands over his heart and closed his exposed eye. “It’s happening!” He fell flat on his back and threw his legs in the air. “I’m moving toward the light!” His paw twitched. He opened one eye, glanced around, and then quickly shut it again. “Good bye, Azra’s Pith.” He let out one last pitiful groan.

“Pathetic display…,” Ferdinand muttered. “There is no way anyone would believe that… not even a big, oafish bandit.”

The bandit nudged the possum with his boot, and with a defeated shrug of his shoulders sauntered into The Garbage Pail to join the scuffle.