Small projects from High School

This is a dump for many small projects. I used the Writing Strands series as a guideline from late 2007 into early (April) 2009. It was these books which piqued my interested in writing in the first place, although I have always loved storytelling. The last story and the poem are supplemental pieces I wrote for my father during this period. These were a lot of fun to write. Also, note that the projects are arranged by date, so if you find the writing is insufferable, you might want to skip ahead a few stories.

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Fable with a Moral

11/02/07

Once upon a time, the country of Amfort discovered two uninhabited islands in the South Pacific. Because these small islands were rich with natural resources, Amfort claimed them, and sent two of her best navel captains, Smith and Jones, to each colonizean island for trade. It was soon discovered, however, that by some quirk in the geography of the islands, they could not be directly reached by satellite telephone signals. Since it would take a great deal of money to run telephone cables under the ocean, it was arranged that the Amfort would send a boat every year or so with new colonists and much-needed supplies. For the first two years, trade and production were smooth, and the colonies did very well. Unfortunately, their mother country soon got entangled in a war and the colonies were isolated from the mainland by enemy lines. Amfort sent one last instructional message, however, instructing the colonies to continue trading with the reliable surrounding countries, be on guard against invasion by neighboring countries, and await another supply boat very soon. When two years had passed with no communication from the mainland and increasing coldness from the other islands, Jones decided that they were being unfairly used.

“Amfort” he said, “was unfair to dominate their trade and estrange them to the other islands. The colonies had charted, colonized, and cultivated these spits of land themselves, following all of the mainland’s requests. It was mean of Amfort to get themselves into a war and desert them, while isolating their colonies from trading with the richer of the surrounding countries.” Jones’ own island was, after all, twenty miles long, and he had seen smaller countries. He thus invited his friend and fellow, Smith to join him and his island in succeeding from Amfort.

Smith, in his obstinacy, refused, claiming loyalty to their mother country, pretending small part in the leadership of the islands, and doubting Jones’ right to do such a thing.

Jones was indignant. “For who was to know whether Amfort had good cause for entangling herself in this war in the first place, that they should be loyal to her in their trade?” he rationalized, “Smith’s sole leadership had led his island thus far so that it hardly mattered which country had founded them. As the authority on the island, he had right to do what seemed good to him.”

The islands were so estranged and separated, and the first of the islands was declared The Republic of the South Pacific. She traded with the rich surrounding countries regardless of their relations with Amfort. Became quite prosperous, she possessed trade relations in sharp contrast with the small stable islands Smith traded with. Now, as the wealth of The Republic of the South Pacific grew, so did her fame, and it soon became known to Amfort that this little colony which she had founded was a major trading hub in its region. But as the famed riches of The Republic of the South Pacific grew, her obliviousness to her surroundings grew with it. Unaware, she became a ripe prize for whomever might seize her first. Many countries deliberated over this, in particular some on her trade route that had seen her prosperity. The Republic of the South Pacific soon struggled against new invaders with little hope.

In the meantime, Amfort had not been idle; in fact, it had been little more than six months since the Republic of the South Pacific was born that Amfort contacted Smith. She had arranged a way to smuggle supples to the islands and had formed a plan for converting to island into an undercover base, which Smith, promoted to a commodore, would oversee. The base would be key to her plan to defeat her enemy.

The country which had moved against the Jones first was one of the most powerful in the area, by coincidence, the very one Amfort was at war with. In addition to that country’s ambitious move, there was another nearby island which had been building up influence in The Republic of the South Pacific for quite a while. When an invasion did come, and war broke from the shores, there was then war between not two parties, but three. The soon war-ravaged little country struggled desperately. The war-torn land suffered greatly until it finally fell into the hands of Amfort’s enemy. The ragged little country was quickly subdued, her ruler deposed, and the island ruled by a strong dictatorship. Jones, the Commander in Chief of the Republic of the South Pacific, soon sat in a cell, utterly defeated and awaiting his execution. But while Jones suffered, Smith was the highly respected governor of Amfort’s chief base in the area.

Fairytale Interview

01/17/08

Ribby

from

The Pie and the Patty Pan”

on the

Safety of the National Food Supply

The “National Inquiry” has of late received some shocking reports on the safety of this country’s food supply. At the heart of these reports lies a vehement disagreement on the safety of a certain pie baked by a feline homemaker, a Mrs. Ribston of a small village near Devonshire. We spoke with Mrs. Ribston at her beautiful home in the hopes of getting to the bottom of this conflict.

Q: Mrs. Ribston, in light of the current crisis, thank you for agreeing to speak with us. Now, I

understand that the night before this controversy broke out, a good friend of yours, a little dog

named Duchess became quite ill over tea at your house.

A: Ill indeed! If she had gotten ill, (I don’t like to say) then it would probably be because of her big

gulps.

Q: Then there is no truth to the rumor that you serve mouse at your house?

A: I should say there is! I serve mouse, but only the finest bred and paw-caught mouse. If anyone dared

to insinuate that my kitchens were inferior, than I would have something to say about that.

Q: But Mrs. Ribston, what did she become ill over? There is no chance that the pie might have been

contaminated?

A: Indeed, no, she had nerves is all, and overreaction. The cheek to insinuate that my good pie had

made her sick. I don’t believe that she ever was ill. She thought she had swallowed her patty pan.

Q: You don’t use patty pans, Mrs. Ribston?

A: Oh, no, not since my Great Aunt Squintina died if a thimble in Christmas plum pudding. I don’t

approve of metal objects in dishes.

Q: What might make her think such a thing, then? You said her patty pan. What did you mean?

A: Well, she thought that she was eating her own pie. While I was gone, she must have crept in like a

common thief and tried to replace my pie with hers. I don’t know why she didn’t find it, but my

upper oven smelled revoltingly of ham and veal for a week.

Q: But you fetched Dr. Maggoty: why not some other accredited doctor?

A: Because he only gives bread pills and I don’t approve of any other medicine, ain’t nat-u-ral. Besides,

he’s a ‘pie and ought to know about such matters.

Q: Well, Mrs. Ribston, thank you for your time, and I do hope that the crisis is resolved quickly.

A: I don’t know that there is one, Ms. Reporter, but I haven’t spoken to Duchess in a week!

Q: Take care. Good day.

A Stereotype Personified

04/07/08

The Girl at The Regency Hotel

A girl in lilac opened the door with a little giggle and her friend followed her, laughing, into the dim interior of the hotel. The girl’s long dress brushed the carpet as she stepped over the floor and stood waiting for her friend. They paused just inside the door, deep in conversation and oblivious to the loud talk in the adjoining dining room and the bellboys setting their luggage down on the faded red rug.

At last the girl’s friend paused, and scolded playfully.

“Daisy, how you talk! That manager’s been waiting five minutes for you and me.”

Daisy rushed over to the counter, forming her red lips into a look of concern.

“Oh, Sir! I didn’t mean to keep you,” she said.

“Oh, it isn’t anything,” the proprietor replied, “I’m obliged, I had time to find my spectacles while I waited.”

Daisy laughed again and shook her flaxen curls. “All the same, I insist on apologizing.”

The manager smiled, “alright then; you’d like a room?”

“Yes, two, please” Eva grinned

“Your names would be….?”

“Miss Daisy Royal”

“And you….?”

“Miss Eva Fine”

“Now if you’d sign the book,” the manager asked, pushing a green gilt book across the wooden counter to Daisy.

“Of course” she said, leaning over the book.

She had a pretty face as she bent over then; her face was adorned with a little saucy nose that she had lifted high when she laughed the moment before. A little silver locket brushed the page of the book. She was done in a minute.

“Alright then,” the manager said.

Eva leaned over the book.

Daisy turned and smiled at him. “Manager, I should like to send a telegraph.”

“Alrigh’.” He said producing a pad of paper from his vest.

“William Darling, general delivery Fort Worth; Arrived hotel. Stop. waiting until you arrive. Stop. love ever. Stop. Daisy.”

The manager replaced the paper in his pocket. “Thank you very much, ma’am, I’ll be getting your keys and seeing things fit.” He left the desk and went through a door to the hall.

“This is a beautiful hotel.” said Daisy, absently.

“Almost as beautiful as your telegraph, if he gets it on time.” Eva smiled.

“Do stop,” Daisy replied, “You can’t wait until our wedding either.”

As the girls talked, a tall man left his corner in the dining room and leaned against the door frame, his thin face turned to the lobby and dim with the glare of the lamps in the dining room behind him.

“Daisy” Eva whispered urgently, jerking her head.

Daisy looked up, and her eyes like forget-me-nots widened.

“Come along, Eva, let’s see what’s keeping that manager” Daisy said loudly.

“Daisy,” said the man leaning against the doorway. “You haven’t seen me in a while.”

“No,” said Daisy, quickly, “I haven’t ever.”

“Well, then,” said the man, “I’d like to see you for a while. I understand that you’re going to need someone to manage the money from your aunt’s estate.”

“You were misinformed” Daisy replied curtly. “My husband will be managing her estate when she dies.”

“Well, then–” The man said stepping forward.

“Hey now!” said the manager from the doorway. “Who are you? Leave the lady alone. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

The man strode toward the door. “Only if I let him, Daisy–”

“Will’s a wrestler, I’ll have you know!” Eva shouted after him.

“Now then, he won’t come back,” said the manager when the door was closed,

“Miss Royal, your room will be B4 on the second floor. And your room,” the manager said to Eva, “is B8 on the second floor. Boy! Lady’s bags to B4 and B8!” He rang a bell.

“Thank you!” said Daisy gliding up the stairs, each step almost a skip, her pretty face radiating all the relief and happiness known to man.

Internal Turmoil

04/08/08

A Gallant in Distress

Raynold brushed the branches from his face and held tight to his horse. Although the vines continued to scrape his face, he looked forward and spurred his horse on faster.

“Elain de Heiflain is waiting for me.” he told himself, “Oh to have the wings of a hawk to fly faster than I can run!”

He would destroy his horse this way, but he did not care. He loved the girl so much that he had lost all reason. This man was the closest to the ideal of the noble knight that any may come. He was of King Aurthur’s table, and he loved his lady. She would sail with the tide, at noon and he had promised to be there unless he died first. His horse flew up a hill, so high and bare that nothing was growing there. He glanced at the sun. It was growing high and hot and Raynold had little shadow. In the distance he heard the cries of birds. When he leaned to spur his horse on, he paused and pulled the horse to a halt.

“That is not the cry of any bird. It is the cry of a woman…..And the war cries of men.” He looked over. To the east five miles/leagues, smoke rose from the dense wood against the pale blue sky. A village was under attack. Raynold stopped on the trail, his forehead furrowed, his heart torn in two.

“I can make it to them in time to rescue them, but it would be noon. She would think I hated her” He glanced in the direction he had been riding, “I may not make it anyway. But it would breach a promise to leave her there. I do not owe these troubled people anything. But I did make an oath in chivalry. It would be a breach in word either way. But Elain is expecting me, they are not.” Glancing over to the smoke he sighed. “She will leave before I see her.”

“Is it my quarrel. Not all will die. Some will, though. Elain will not die.” It was now that he must decide. “She will be unhappy to death. So will I. That is selfish. I could find her someday. Would she want me? They will not be able to want me.”

He felt his heart would be torn into two as he turned back in the direction he had come. But, though he didn’t know, he was relieved to have decided. He almost turned back once, but his horse already had full momentum. Elain de Heiflain left at noon that day, unescorted, but the cries ceased.

Argument

05/09/08

That Magnificent Shirt

“I dislike this color!” Leanne fumed, slapping her arms down.

“I think it looks quite lovely,” said Abagail from her corner..

“Put down the stupid book!” Leanne said stomping the floor.

Abagail looked over her glasses “like it.”

“Well, I don’t! Why don’t you wear it!”

“I happen to have a perfectly lovely shirt which fits me only.”

“But you could wear this just as well as I could!”

“Perhaps.” Abagail replied, pushing Leanne away. “But the shirt I have happens to belong to me. You won’t be able to weasel it away from me, thanks.”

“Pleeeasse. You get all the best stuff just because you’re older!”

“It isn’t just because I’m older and you know it,” responded Abagail, pricked. She swung her legs off the bed, where she had been sitting. “It’s the right of possession. The shirt is just my color and you’ll mess it up. Besides, I found it.”

“This shirt is your color too.” Leanne protested, folding her arms.

“No it isn’t.” Abagail replied loudly, “I might have been forced to wear that color many times when I was small, but I hate the atrocity. You’re younger and your skin is just right.”

Leanne sighed oppressively, “I wish I didn’t have to listen to you.”

“You never do.”

“You get first dibs on everything! Cindy, tell her she’s being selfish!”

Cindy stood in the doorway, a look of regret (for entering the room) on her face.

“Umm, I dunno. Why?”

“She thinks that I ought to wear her shirt.” Abagail said tiredly, holding out the offending shirt “She wants to wear mine.”

“I didn’t say that!”

Cindy looked over The Shirt with a critical eye. “No,” she said firmly, “Leanne ought to wear this, definitely.”

“See.” said Abagail, relieved.

“But I’ve got nothing to wear it with.” Leanne moaned plaintively, flinging her limp arms into the air.

“Oh, that. What about this?” Cindy asked, holding out a skirt.

“Yay! Thank you!” said Leanne happily.

Abagail stared at the skirt. “But….but…that’s my skirt,” she whined.

Dialog

05/20/2008

“Beach!” the young man yanked the bell pull “Er—Beach, I need you.”

The elderly butler came into the room. “I am here, Mr. Warwick,” he said, folding his hands.

“Thank you, Beach. Good of you.” Warwick strode quickly around the room wringing his hands. “Well, I was on the train coming here from my stay in Bath, and I was reading The Mad Adventures of Father Brown when I got off. When I came out of the tunnel, I realised that I had left my luggage on the steamer.”

“I am sorry, Sir,” the butler nodded.

“That’s not the worst. Miss Angelina Worcester has invited me to stay at her parents’ house this weekend and I’ve got no time….” Mr. Warwick paused, ran his hands through his hair and fell into a chair.

“My heartiest congratulations, Sir,” the butler said, moving to pickup the photographs that had fallen off an end table as Mr. Warwick sat down. “If I may be permitted to say, Miss Worcester is a sensible girl.”

“But I can’t go meet her confounded parents if I left all my dinner wear on the train.” He protested, slapping his knees violently.

“I believe I might be able to procure some.” the butler said.

Mr. Warwick sat up straight, “You don’t mean I left a suit here, do you?”

“Unfortunately not, sir.” The butler clasped his hands behind his back. But if I were to telephone the station at the end of the line, sir, the proprietors might be persuaded to hold your bag until you sent someone to fetch it.”

Warwick leaned back in his chair, “Beach,” he looked up at his butler. “that might work!”

“I’m glad to hear it, Sir. I will call immediately.”

Mr. Warwick nodded and crossed his legs. He uncrossed them. “Beach?”

The butler set down the telephone. “Yes, sir?”

“You’re a stupendous, brick, you know that?”

“Thank you, Sir,” replied the butler as he picked up the telephone.

Both Sides of the Story

06/04/2008

The Results of an Investigation

into

The Cause of the Current Land Ownership Crisis

Extended to

The Continental Congress

1795

Gentlemen of the Congress, in light of the current disputes over land, I felt it important that the causes behind the crisis were revealed. As a member of the firm Cheney, Watson, and Johnson, I am privy to many of the cases brought to me both by the confused Native Indians and by the distressed settlers. I had decided to research the issue to see what might be done about it. I present this research to the Continental Congress in the hopes that it will aid you in understanding the conflict and making an auspicious decision.

For many years, the Indians have not been accustomed to possess land as individuals. Although the Indians do not believe that they own the land, they retain it. Any semblance of ownership comes from the need to hunt without exhausting an area and the necessity to separate Indian nations and preserve peace. Tribal grounds are also a “home land”, if you will. It is as the roads are to the citizens of a city. It is as the ancestral house is to the child of a family. The Indians feel a right to the land, if not one of ownership.

An incident which well illustrates this attitude took place several months ago on the plains of Kansas. An Indian tribe broke it’s summer camp, leaving the maize fields intact and still fruitful. When some of the settlers in the area inquired of friendly Indians why they did this the Indian replied that they had everything they needed for the winter and that it would be a hard winter for the animals. They had just as much right to the corn.

Please take into consideration the effects of your decision on the Indians. Their philosophy not only benefits the game in the area, but it sustains the land as well, preserving the land for the homesteaders.

For many years the settlers have practiced the land usage that was handed down to them by our European fathers. They buy land at what they feel is a fair price and build a house and do what they feel is best for their land. This philosophy is an aid to the legal system as it is immediately apparent what rights the owner of the plot has.

Although perhaps a simple system, the principles of usage find their way back to ancient feudalism. A Farmer Brown of Northfield, Massachusetts had an a herd of cattle. His neighbor, a former city-dweller, was not accustomed to the smell of the cows. He complained without avail. Finally, during the night, he butchered five of his neighbor’s calves. Farmer Brown easily obtained restitution after the hides of the five calves were discovered. His neighbor was soon pacified, however, when he discovered he might buy cow manure from Farmer Brown to fertilize his orchard.

Congressmen, this system benefits the land, as the farmers will benefit or suffer by their own treatment of the land. It is an elegant system with easily and bloodlessly solvable ownership disputes. Please respect the heritage of the settlers.

The Indians have lived in this land for a long time and are used to one form of land usage based upon the principle that they should not harm what is not theirs. It has worked.

The homesteaders have bought land and worked upon it to the best of their abilities, and their own farms are awash in vegetation.

The Indians and the settlers have the opportunity to learn from each other about patience, ownership and conservation. In each of the societies the native system has been shown to work. I ask you not to disregard this, but to encourage the usage of both systems and promote understanding between the groups as to the other’s views.

I thank you, congressmen, for your consideration of my report in the issue. This is an important issue in the relationship between Europe and the natives of this grand new land. I am assured that your decision will be wise and discerning.

Dialog Between a Student and Teacher

10/27/2008

In the Right Place

The class was silent when I had finished my lecture. The clock tapped onward softly. I stood, and pulling open the drawer on my right, took out the sheaf of papers. The scribble of pencils ceased.

“I’ve graded your tests. You may take them when I call your name.” I paused, “Robert Alden, Bela Bartok, Edmund Barton, Richard Barton, Margery Carver, John Cage, Samuel Clemens…” My students retrieved their papers “…Yoo Yunghou, Joshua Zachary.”

I paused.

“I have noticed that several of you have been writing brief, direct answers. Two sentences won’t stand up in court. You need to argue your case using examples from the law. I know the answers to the questions, but I don’t know that you do. You’ll need to convince me. As for directness—”

I cleared my throat.

“actually, I like direct answers, and I know the history of the development of law. You don’t need to tell me that. I want to know which laws apply.”

Half the class looked away, and another fourth of it rolled their eyes.

“If you will look at your assignments, some of you will see the results of short, indirect answers. This week, I want several long paragraphs on each question.”

Several students looked up.

“The assignment is Chapter 7, Questions 7-4 through 7-9. Any questions?”

“Yes, Annette?”

“I didn’t get my paper back, Professor Trent.”

“See me after class. Anyone else? Class dismissed.”

Annette came and stood to the left of my desk.

“I turned my paper in.”

“Alright, let me look.”

I yanked open the desk drawer where I had been keeping the assignments. It was empty. My bag was on the floor beside the desk. I unzipped it.

“Please tell me you haven’t lost it.”

“I haven’t lost anybody’s assignment.”

I leafed through the papers in my bag. The students hadn’t been particularly attentive. Grading had been a mess. I didn’t need this.

My bag was empty.

“You didn’t leave it at home”

I considered: the kitchen table had been clear when I left.

“I’m sorry, Annette, I don’t think you turned it in.”

“You can’t give me credit?”

“If you can find it before I leave, I can give you partial credit.”

“I can’t believe this. I’ve got a perfect record in this class so far, and now you’re ruining my chances of getting into Stanford.”

“Annette, look in your bag.”

“It isn’t there.” she retorted.

“Well, when did you turn it in?”

“Last week. You were sitting at your desk grading, and I just set it down on the pile and left.”

I was sitting there last week, I remembered, grading papers. I had left both my right and left desk drawers open.

“On the pile in my right drawer?”

“Yes!”

I slid my right drawer open again. It was completely empty.

My left drawer contained the answer key. I shook it. It was locked.

“Annette, I’m sorry, but I can’t give you any credit.”

“This violates my rights as a female to fair treatment. This is discrimination.”

I fought the urge to smile.

“I’m going to tell the Dean, and if discrimination doesn’t do it (he being male) I’m slapping you with neglect of your duties to grade and return each student’s paper—You see,” she smiled maliciously, “I did read the chapter”

She’d do it too, but only if the Dean believed her.

“Annette, just give me a day to look for it, alright?”

“That’s more like it.” She turned to get her things.

I got down on my hands and knees to search under the desk. The floor was clear. I rechecked my bag. Nothing.

I thought back. I had been grading papers that day. I had gotten up to get my bag; just then my car alarm had gone off. Dropping my bag, I had rushed out to the parking lot. The alarm was sensitive and the occasional student set it off by accident. I had returned, and finished grading several more papers. I had put the grading key back in the left drawer, and locked it. I slid all the drawers open again except… “Annette!”

She spun around at the door. “You found it?”

“Wait a minute.” I pulled out my keys and, unlocked the drawer. There, on top of the answer key, was her paper.

“You want me to grade it now?”

“If you would.”

I took out the key, and studied her paper. Three sentence answers. All correct. Strangely correct “…Annette? What are the six types of torts?”

“Tort of injury to person, to possession….uh, why?”

“Just curious. What qualifies as Neglegence per se?”

“A prof who doesn’ t grade his papers on time.”

“Wrong. The fault was not mine. I told the class to return their papers to the pile on my desk. Through negligence of your duties as a student to return your paper in the correct manner when I was here, my reputation was threatened and my trousers, i.e. my property, were damaged from crawling around on the floor to find your paper.”

“That was your fault.”

“I beg to differ. By the way, when one copies the first line of each of the answers from a key, it is wise to change the wording of the sentence.”

“You can’t prove that.”

“When I consider the results of a re-take I may be able to. Don’t argue with a law professor, Annette, it’s most unwise.”

How to

4/23/09

Pitching a Tent

Shelter is just as important as food in the wilderness, if not more. A shelter minimizes wind, rain, and cold. The most innovative of campers are able to construct a shelter from only a plastic tarp, a coil of rope and perhaps a pole or two, or simply a pile of brush. Most people, however, choose to set up a commercial tent because they are neat and stable.

The most important element in setting up a tent is the right place. A flat, smooth area free of rocks and tree roots should be cleared of sticks, pine cones, and other objects. If the spot is not clear of humps in the ground or is tilted, sleeping will be very uncomfortable. If there is pinestraw on the ground, it might be best left there to cushion the ground.

After this, a large piece of plastic sheeting, called a tarp, is spread on the ground. The tarp will prevent the tent to be pitched on top of it from any seeping rainwater.

The tent has two sides: the tough plastic-cloth bottom and the nylon top with a curving zipper. Lay out the tent entirely on the tarp (in case of rain). It should be unrolled so that the nylon top is upward. The nylon part will never be smooth, but try to unfold the tent completely.

Four metal stakes, or long sticks made to hold the tent to the ground, come with the tent. Arrange the edges of the tarp so that the corners of the tent just almost protrude onto the dirt. There is a loop at each corner. Put the stakes through the loops into the ground. The stakes should be put into the ground at a forty-five degrees with the point facing the tent. This will prevent the tent from coming loose in the wind. Make sure the tent is stretched out nice and taut when you do this. The floor of the tent will be smoother and more comfortable.

A set of long folding poles come with the tent. The poles are made of fiberglass tubes through which a long string of elastic runs. When the joints are straightened to match, the poles will “snap together” On the tent, two long tubes of nylon should run perpendicular to each other. Thread the poles through these, making sure that the poles stay within or re-enter the tubes o if there are any openings or breaks in the tubes. consecutive tubes. The poles should now form an “X”.

There is a pocket at the base of each corner of the tent. Fit one end of each pole into these pockets. This makes it easier to set up the tent. Taking the opposite end of one of the poles, bend the pole up until it is possible to jam each remaining end into a pocket. At times, this is quite difficult. Repeat the process with the other pole The tent should now be shaped like an ant hill.

The tent comes with a diamond-shaped rain fly. The rain fly is a covering for the vent on the top of the tent. The rain fly is only used on especially hot or rainy days, or when the weather is uncertain. The rain fly has a long elastic cord at each corner with a hook on the end. This hook connects to a plastic ring halfway down each corner of the tent. The hooks attach to the rings.

The process of setting up a tent has become second nature to most boy scouts, many of whom are able to set up camp within ten minutes. The existence of the tent is important to this. Without a tent, they would be forced to search long for just the right place to improvise a shelter. All in all, a tent provides relatively tidy, dry, reliable, and comfortable conditions, leaving campers free to enjoy the wilderness.

***

A Humorous Essay

11/27/07

Christmas Tradition

A Holiday at the Aldredge’s

Christmas has an interesting history. A good many of the people who now celebrate it do not even believe in what the holiday originally stood for. Some people are even depressed by the season. There is no good reason for this; many of the problems we now associate with Christmas have nothing to do with the meaning of the holiday but with nonessential traditions. Some of our traditions are even humorous. To illustrate, I present the story of the Aldredges for your consideration:

The “holiday season,” approached. Though the ambiguity of the phrase might obscure it from some people’s understanding, it was locally known that the phrase had been changed after the politicians, fearing offense, had banned the word “Christmas.” The phrase was here, then, at least, understood and loved by all. Joy was in the air. The season loomed, and as soon as the Halloween candy had been devoured (on November 3, at precisely 1:14 A.M.) the season took hold and cheer was spread whether or not the participants actually believed in what they were celebrating.

Recognizing one of the lucrative opportunities that so often comes from majority feeling, the commercial world also took a firm hold of it and exploited the “Holiday Season” for all it was worth. Fearing familiarity might breed contempt, however, the marketers had to start inventing new symbols to go with it. Take our hero, Mr. Aldredge, stuck with the task of inventing new symbols so that the shopping season might be prolonged.

“Look! It’s an elf!” our advertiser declared one hot and sunny morn in Florida, “Doesn’t it look Holiday-ish?”

His young assistant popped up beside him, “Are you an LOTR fan too, Mr. Aldredge? Only sixteen days until the movie opens!”

In their excitement, the retail industry took the risk and assumed that half of the world would be eager to start their holiday shopping by late August. This introduced new problems: how they would have enough advertising space for each holiday. The issue was resolved at last in the October edition of the sales flier when, Santa, urging peace on earth, was found positioned beside a witch who proclaimed 10.5% off caffeinated gum.

“Of course,” the marketers pondered, “Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa did have to be cut out, but who celebrated those holidays anyway? The only ones people actually celebrate involve lots of candy.”

The holiday season was kicked off by the general immersion of the populace in the peace and plenty of madhouse Thanksgiving sales. After Mr. C. E. Aldredge, our advertiser, had taken his loot home, he engaged in wrapping it in shoddily made paper. This merry and ever so awkward job done, Mr. Aldredge discarded all evidence of brightly colored paper and proceeded to make his dwelling festive. This process included covering the outside of his house with ropes of fragile and defective LED lights and the strewing of all vacant indoor surfaces with candles and many readily flammable decorations. Mr. Aldredge, however, was not worried about the possibility that he might loose his doodads to a fire, because he would be so tired of them that he would be throwing them out himself at the end of three months anyway. Even so, doodads were an important holiday staple. Doodads, then, clustered his end tables like gum to an electrical pole. Mr. Aldredge also got a tree to live in his house for a month and bestow its liberal and daily grants of brittle brown needles to the carpet. Theories suggest that merrymakers wish to show the tree kindness in a form similar to the May Day pole. Mr. Aldredge, however, had a different conjecture.

“Trees” he declared, “belong with other trees—in a tree clump—not near a fire. The only reason that humans garb this shrub with glass ornaments and strings of lights is that they are miserable with decorating and want another living thing to look as out of place as they feel.”

“But, why then,” his daughter protested, “do we have a tree?”

“Then,” Mr. Aldredge continued gloomily, “it got to be a tradition.”

One may easily wonder why Mr. Aldredge chose to follow this tradition. The answer to this query might well be found in the fact that he had spent all night on a roof stringing the lights and regretting his wish that it would snow, before proceeding to decorate the tree. Thus he vented his misery on an inoffensive evergreen.

“Other people,” Mr. Aldredge added, looking down his long nose, “hang glass ornaments on their tree to prove they have the guts to do so with small children in the house.”

Another interesting place where Christmas cheer has taken firm hold is on the subject of travel. Like many other people, Mr. Aldredge followed the holiday tradition of traveling long distances to be with his relatives for the holidays. The problem with this tradition is that many people do travel during the holidays to see their families. Sharing this similarity may make the world all the closer, in some eyes. These people are mistaken. This similarity just makes things worse. It is only when you reflect that every other person in an airport line and on the roads behind you has the exact same problem, that you begin to see a sort of irony.

One way that radio stations attempt to remedy this situation is to make long periods in a car enjoyable by playing Let It Snow to comfort those poor travelers who had wished it would not. Rest stops are also obliging in this way. They have given themselves over to the spirit of Christmas by playing Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer non-stop. On the rare occasions when this is not the reason for their song, they still have Christmas spirit: they wanted to give their DJs a nice holiday break.

Despite the conditions on the roads, Mr. C. E. Aldredge and his entourage arrived at the home of his relatives, where people he knew well were experiencing singular occurrences. People who seldom went near the kitchen at other times suddenly realized that they could make a gourmet Christmas meal or at least bake fancy cookies. Mr. Aldredge intervened just in time to prevent some children from dousing the ambitious (who were making some rather unfortunate fudge) with a fire extinguisher.

“The house is on fire!” the eldest piped up, “Can’t we see?”

“No! It’s just incense.” he reassured them.

To distract the children from the smoke billowing out of the kitchen, Mr. Aldredge indoctrinated them with the legend of Santa, the obese, eccentric, omniscient, and immortal millionaire who has both delusions of being a chimney sweep and a secret anti-radar base located somewhere near the North Pole. This man has invented an ultra-light anti-radar sled pulled by gravity-resistant reindeer. This sled is filled with the compacted toys of nearly every child on earth, excepting the ones who are evil and do not believe in him. (‘These toys” Mr. Aldredge explained, “are made by elves!”)

It is not certain whether these legends are true and bad children even exist, of course, because the legend does not work if you do not believe it, and those children who do believe it act nice whenever someone can see them. For even though Santa can always see them, it somehow does not count when their parents are not watching.

The unfortunate occurrence of the fudge was played down by the fact that one of the guests lived in the Caribbean and didn’t know how cold it gets in Canada. As such, being left with nothing more than a sweater to master the sub-zero temperature outside, she huddled over the heat of the blackened fudge and thus made its creation a worthwhile endeavor. There was also a slight row which began when one of the mothers discovered that a now well-contented teen-ager had admirably packed all his clothing for a month into a toiletries case. Unfortunately, he had also left it at the airport after accidentally dropping it over a balcony whilst juggling it.

The house was, of course, sparkling clean (barring the kitchen), by the time the Aldredges arrived. It remained so until Christmas morning. On Christmas morning, gifts were opened in such a chaotic manner that the floor was trashed with brightly colored wrapping paper and pieces of tape were so ground into the carpet so that no one was be able to pull them off. Not until becoming charred by the aromatherapy candles that were also left on the floor did the tape detach from the carpet. Even the host did not mind the damage too much because their house was always trashed until February anyway with the remains of those awful tacky doodads.

There was a brief interval of silence after the gifts had been revealed. Some of the children broke it by requesting to start triggering explosions.

“Not until Aunty makes the pudding,” the eldest explained patiently.

This was eventually followed by Mr. Aldredge’s detonation of some enormously loud explosives, marking the celebration of peace and joy by illegal activities.

After that, eventually, everyone sat down to dinner. In the well contented silence that followed immediately afterwards the meal, a small child’s emphatic voice was audible, “This is so much fun! Let’s do it again next year! More pie?”

Christmas has a lot of discord surrounding it. It has been exploited by the commercial industry until the reasons we celebrate it are not those for which it was meant to be celebrated. Many politicians do not think it ought to be called Christmas because that is not why people celebrate it any more and the name offends them. Other people think that the holiday is too stressful anyway and it ought to be abolished. Traditions in celebration are all well and good, but when it is the only reason we celebrate the holiday, it becomes a mockery. Celebrate it for the right reasons and problems with holiday stress will fix themselves.

A Sonnet

03/22/08

The Dawn

Now for the coming of each growing day

Spreading out all its clear and youthful light

For every radiant light ivory ray

Which shutteth out both dark and glowing night

For sweet melodic singing of the bird

Cool wind that rustles away over trees

Begs my elated heart just to be heard

But must be seen before the mind believes

For early morning shining in new dawn

Horizon’s rising ruddy glow of flame

For dew drops glittering upon the lawn

Which vanish as silently as they came

The skies, the birds, the trees, new flaming sun

For these I’m glad; a joyful fresh day’s come

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