>Steam Ice Water, Ch 1

>”Hey, Jason!”

“What is it Kyle,” Jason sighs. When Kyle wants something it’s normally something stupid.

“I just found this USB powered, foam rocket launcher…”

“Don’t you already have one of those?”

“Ya, but this one has a built-in web cam.” Oh boy. “Now I can see where I’m shooting!”

“Hey! Bone heads!” Perfect timing. The boss usually has perfect timing. “You two need to start running those front models.”

Jason grabs some papers and a CD. “Here you go boss. I ran the models this morning.” The boss looks impressed, while Kyle looks emarrassed. “You might want to get those to Christy.” “Oh, ya,” the boss questions, “Why is that?”

Kyle drops in, “’cause Christy knows what she’s doing.”

An awkward silence follows.

Jason speaks up, “I noticed some odd storm formations. She’ll be able to run some comparisons with past models. Hopefully she can tell us what this winter is gonna be like.”

“Good work, Jason.” The boss smiles at Jason, and glares at Kyle. Kyle doesn’t do too much during the winter time. Mostly he is assigned remedial tasks. During the summer, Kyle runs a group of storm chasers.

Jason, on the other hand, is really into weather of any kind. He mostly studies history of weather, but lately has been programming computer models. They have a few systems for running complex models and Jason was the only one who understood what the corporate trainer came to teach them. So, Jason was moved up to “programmer” and Christy was hired to keep track of the history aspect.

“Alright… so you coming out later tonight,” Kyle asks? “The whole gang is going out there.”

“I don’t think I’m goin’ down tonight.” Kyle sighs. Jason plants his face in the computer, “I’m just gonna run some more models.”

“Dude, stop, you are wasting your life away in front of that computer screen.”

Kyle looks at Jason. He is acting a little strange. It must be the odd weather they’ve been having this winter. Wait a minute! “Dude, you are not still stuck on that Siw crap, are you?”

Jason doesn’t reply.

“Aw, dude, man,” Kyle wipes his hand over his face. “You have got to stop wasting your time with those old stories.”

“I’m not wasting my time, and their not stories! This is my family’s history.”

“Jase, you don’t know your family’s history. You’d have to know who your parents are to know your family’s history.”

Jason slams some trash into his trash can. “Get away from me,” he moans.

“Look, Jase,” Kyle begins, but he doesn’t know how to finish. The only thing he can think to say now is, “Christy’s comin’ out tonight… if you change your mind.”

Christy’s coming out tonight? Perhaps the “family history” would have to wait.

to be continued…

>A Million Pictures Speaks a Life

>”Dad, over here!”


“I see you. Don’t fall off.”

“I’m not gonna fall of-” THUD!

“Corey! Are you ok?”

Corey just sits there laughing. The fall off the playset didn’t phase him one bit. After all, sand isn’t the worst thing a kid can fall on.

“Dad! Watch this now.” Corey climbs up the chains of the swings and flips backwards, landing square on his feet. He gets a tingling on the back of his heel. Suddenly he lets out a scream, “AHHH-OW!” He stepped on one of his matchbox cars.

“What happened,” dad asks? Squirming and holding his foot Corey replys, “I stepped on a car.” “A car? How can a car fit into the sandbox?” “Da-ad,” Corey corrects him, “it’s just a toy car.” They share a giggle and Corey bounces back into action. “Get this one now!”


Normally he’s doesn’t call out for his dad’s attention. But today Corey is acting quite rambunctious. He is a very active kid. Usually he doesn’t pay any attention to his dad or the camera. His dad follows him around everywhere with his cameras. He’ll squeeze in many different places in order to get a good shot. Corey just ignores him most of the time. Today he is just very happy.

“Let’s go look at them now.” “We can look at them here,” dad refers to the camera. “Nooooo. I want to put them on the computer.” Corey pulls his dad inside. Dad continues to snap pictures as they walk to the computer.

“I wanna do it, I wanna do it.” Dad walks Corey through the upload process: plug the camera into the compter. Open the picture program. Choose import. Name the folder where the photos will be saved. “Let’s call it crrrazy day.” “If that’s what you want to call it, Corey.” Then, Corey just stares at the screen as the thumbnails flash one after the other and the progress bar fills.

“It’s done!”

Corey and his dad browse through the photos. “Slow down, Corey. How can you look at the photos if you’re going so fast?” Corey blazes through the photos. One after the other he glances at it and hits next. He keeps going and going and then freezes. In a somber tone he mumbles, “mom.”

One of the pictures taken while the two were walking in the house shows Corey standing in front of the glass patio door. Reflecting in the glass is a picture, haning on a wall in the house, of Corey’s mother. She floats behind Corey in the glass. Corey’s eyes well up. Dad places a hand on Corey’s shoulder. Then he slowly reaches down to grab the mouse. He moves the pointer over the thumbnails at the bottom of the screen and clicks on one of them. The picture that comes up is one of Corey. He just flipped off the swing chains and is floating in the air. His clothes and hair are puffed up around him. He has a big smile on his face and his eyes are focused on the sand beneath him. He is in a perpetual state of bliss.

“This is what mom wants you do to.”

“Back flip?”

The two share a giggle. Then dad asks, “how about we go take some pictures with the high speed camera?” This camera can take multiple still pictures in a row, at a hundred pictures in a second. It can also take high speed video clips, only seconds long, but again with hundreds of frames in one second.

“Come on, Corey. Let’s set up the water wall,” dad taunts. The corner of Corey’s mouth begins to turn upward. His dad reiterates, “it’s a wall… made of water… that you can jump through…” Corey smiles and jumps from the chair. “Alright, lets go.”


“Corey and his dad are outside again, taking pictures, again.” “Leave them alone, Mary.” Scott and Mary, the next door neighbors, have a boy around Corey’s age. Mary is a little uneasy about Mark, Corey’s dad. He is always taking Corey’s picture. He just follows him around everywhere taking pictures. He also takes pictures of any friends who might be playing with Corey.


Mary walks to the door. She opens the door to find Corey standing there innocently enough.

“Hello. Can Trevor come outside and play?”

Mary stares into Corey’s soft, blue eyes. She can’t bring herself to deny Corey of one of his best friends just because she doesn’t like his father. “Sure he can,” she says reluctantly, “Just let me go get him.”

Mary calls down Trevor and reminds him, “now remember, Trevor, there are ok pictures and there are bad picture-” “Mary,” Scott interjects, “let the boy go and play!”

Trevor runs outside with Corey over to Corey’s driveway. They are playing with some small, remote controlled cars. They run them over “rough terrain” and ramp them over little matchbox cars. All the while, Mark continues to snap pictures. He positions himself a ways behind Trevor and gets down on the ground. He looks at the viewfinder and sets up his picture. Corey is getting ready to ramp a car through Trevor’s legs. As the car passes, Trevor bends over to watch the car travel the jump. The resulting picture is a small car in mid air; Trevor, upside down and wide eyed; and Corey, the driver, in the background cheering. “That is an awesome picture,” yells Mark.

“That’s a bad picture.”

Mark looks up and sees Corey running over to look. Trevor just stands there with an insulted, and somewhat scared look on his face. “What,” asks Mark? “No, it’s really cool,” Corey says. Trevor just stands there, defensively. Mark has an idea of what Trevor is thinking and trys to calm the situation. “Ok, I’ll delete it then,” he says. “Noooo,” Corey calls disappointingly. “There,” says Mark, “it’s gone.” He turns the camera so Trevor can see the screen. It says, “Deleted.”

Just then, Kylie runs over yelling, “hi Trevor, hi Corey!” Corey and Trevor just look at each other with wrinkled noses. Kylie is a little girl a year or so younger than Corey who lives across the street. She says again, in a flowery tone, “hi Corey.” Needless to say Kylie has a small crush on Corey. She walks in between Corey and Trevor and gives Corey a small kiss on the cheek. Mark snaps every second and narrates it as well. “Aw, that’s cute.” “Daa-ad,” Corey jeers.

Trevor just looks at Mark, as if to say, “I’m keeping an eye on you.”

The kids continue to play as Mark sneaks inside. He hooks up the camera and uploads his pictures. Then he prints one out. He walks back outside, with the picture rolled up in his hand. “Kids, stay in the driveway. I’ll be right back.” “Where are you going,” questions Corey? Trevor stops and watches Mark carefully. “I’m going to go talk to Trevor’s parents.” Mark opens the white gate and walks over to Mary and Scott’s house. Trevor walks towards the gate, but stops as it shuts. “Look at this Trevor,” Corey shouts. But Trevor isn’t interested in the cars anymore.


“Scott, could you get that?”

“Coming,” Scott yells. He walks to the back door and sees Mark. “Hey, Mark. Come on in.” Mary hears that it was Mark at the door and dashes back down the steps. “Well, hey Mark. How are you?” “I’m fine,” Mark replies.

They stand in silence for a few seconds. Scott breaks the silence, “so, what can we do for you?”

“Well,” Mark begins cautiously, “I just took this picture.” He hands the picture he printed to Mary. It is the picture he told Trevor he erased. Mary and Scott examine the picture. Scott comments, “huh, that’s pretty neat.” Mary looks at him. “Ya, that’s a good picture. Is this for us?” “Ya,” Mark says, “you can have that one.” “Well, thanks,” says Scott.

Mark just stands there and rubs his hand through his hair. Mary, the intuitive one, asks Mark, “is there something on your mind?”

Scott turns around and looks back at Mark. Mary looks at Scott and then back at Mark. Mark slowly brings up his question.

“Trevor doesn’t like that picture.”

“What do you mean,” Mary says?

Mark doesn’t know how to go on. He’s not really good at talking about stuff like this. So he just bluntly says it.

“Right after I took the picture I said it made a good photo…” Mary and Scott listen intently. “Then Trevor looks at me and says, ‘that’s a bad picture.'”

Scott gives Mary a dead stare.

Mark continues, “I think that Trevor thinks I might have tried to take…,” Mark almost chokes on his words, “I think he thinks I tried to take a picture of his butt or something.”

Scott is sending a stare at Mary as if to say, “you better fix this,” but she just buttons her lip.

“I really wasn’t trying to take a picture of his butt. They were just playing and I saw an opportunity for a good picture so I just took it and I didn’t mean to scare him or anything and I’m really sorry, and if you want I can delete the picture.”

Scott interrupts Mark saying, “Mary, do you care to tell him, or should I?”

Mark stops. He is now more confused than he was about how to bring up this subject. Mary just stumbles on her words. So, Scott free’s the secret.

“Mary is worried that you might be-” “Lonely,” Mary interjects! She waves around the picture and continues, “I was worried that you are spending too much time trying to hold onto your son that you’re not living a healthy life.” Mark doesn’t believe her. “There’s nothing wrong with this picture,” she says, “and we’ll talk with Trevor about it.”

Just then Trevor runs into the room and dashes straight to his mom.

“Mom, I’m sorry. I didn’t want him to take that picture but he already did and I thought he deleted it…” Trevor begins to cry as his mother calms him down. Scott rolls his eyes and begins to appologize to Mark.

“Look, Mark,” he explains, “Mary is very overprotective. She thought she was being cautious.” They walk to the back door. “I tried to get her to stop.”

Mark is distraught and astounded. “You guys told him I take ‘bad pictures’ of people?” “Now look, Mark,” Scott tries to explain again, “no one thinks that-” “Except Trevor!” “Look,” Scott tries a third time. Mark interrupts.

“Do you even know why I take pictures,” yells Mark! The whole room gets quiet. Trevor, Mary, and Scott turn to him. “I take pictures of my son because that’s all I’ll have.” Mark pauses and corrects himself, “that’s all I have… now.” Scott and Mary catch the grammar switch, but Trevor is oblivious. Mark didn’t want to tell anyone… and he’s still not going to. He sighs, turns towards the door and stops.

“I’m not a monster,” he says solemly, “I just want something to help me remember this time.”


“It’s been a whole week, Scott,” Mary whines. “Where do you think they are?” Scott teases, “well, after what you’ve done I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s bought a new house.” As they are talking Trevor walks down the steps. “Mom? Has Corey come home yet?” “No, honey,” she says. Trevor hangs his head low and sighs. He really wants to go play with his best friend.

“Trevor,” Scott says softly, “I don’t think Corey is going to come home.” Mary and Trevor both look at Scott. He hands Mary the newspaper and calls Trevor over. Trevor climbs up on his dad’s lap.

“Corey had to go somewhere.”

Mary glances over the page Scott had open. It’s the obituaries? At first she thinks something might have happened to Mark. Then she stumbles upon a picture of Corey. Corey? Alarmed and concerned she reads through the article.

“Where did Corey have to go, dad?”

Scott, who is usually a straight-forward kind of guy, can’t bring himself to tell his son the truth.

“Trevor,” Scott begins, ” you know how we take pictures at the family reunion?”


“Well, we take those pictures so we can remember the good times we had until the next reunion. And you know how Corey’s dad always took a bunch of pictures?”

“Ya…” Mary, finished with the article, walks over to the table and sits down.

“Well, Corey’s dad took all those pictures because Corey has to go somewhere. His dad wants to remember all the good times they had together.”

Trevor looks at his mom who smiles softly, in a comforting manner. Trevor looks back at his dad and asks, “So, Corey and his dad will see each other someday, then?”

Scott and Mary look at each other. Trevor slides off his dad’s lap and walks into the other room. Mary feels bad about treating Mark so poorly. Trevor walks back in the room with a piece of paper. He sits back on his dad’s lap. He’s holding the picture that Mark snapped of the car jump. Trevor looks at the picture and runs his finger along the path of the car. A tear streaks down his cheek.

“I like this picture.”

>The Tale of a Pure Heart


ONCE UPON A TIME NOT TO LONG AGO, there was a young boy who lived in a small town, not to far from where you might live. He was a rotten little child who thought of no one but himself and always had to get his way. He didn’t like Christmas very much, mostly because he had to wait too long to get his presents. He, let’s call him Tyler, wasn’t much of a people person either. And spending time with the less fortunate-forget it! So when his mom and dad and a few others went out to the homeless shelters, or to the orphanages, he just sat in the car with his Game Boy and waited for them to get done.

ONE NIGHT, HIS MOM AND DAD and their friends were going to a Christmas party for the kids at a local orphanage. He was near furious. They didn’t know when they would be back, so he had to go along with them. He tried to talk them into calling a babysitter, but they were sick of him being stubborn, selfish, and rude so they made him go with them. His dad promised him that if he didn’t at least pretend he was having fun there would be no Christmas. Tyler had no choice but to go, and this time he couldn’t just sit in the car. This would be a whole evening of pain and agony for him. In hopes of nullifying his pain, he decided to slip his Game Boy into his pocket as backup.

WHEN THEY GOT THERE, Tyler’s mom and dad had him help set up, and while he was setting up the chairs and Christmas decorations he had to endure an unending evening of compliments such as “What a nice young man,” and things like, “You’re awfully nice to come down and help.” He responded to all of their compliments the same way: by giving the most sarcastic smile you’ve ever seen, and saying in the most discourteous way he could, “Why thank you!” But his night of endless torture had only just begun. Next, he would have to spend the rest of the night dealing with 31 little brats that had never seen a gaming system in their life.

SO FINALLY THE KIDS WERE BROUGHT IN. Their ages ranged from 4 to 12 years old, but most of them were about 7 or 8. As they walked in, they were surprised to see the feast awaiting them. It was as if they had never seen that much food in their lives. They all sat down, quickly but politely, and proceeded to say prayer; before anyone touched the food. They then went around the table, and one by one said what they were most thankful for. Tyler couldn’t believe it! They had all of the food in the country in front of them because of him and his mom and dad, but they all had the nerve to thank God! He just figured that it was the hunger talking.

FINALLY, THEY WERE READY TO EAT. With the help of Tyler’s mom and dad and their friends, they passed the dishes up and down the table, each person taking no more than what he or she was going to eat. And after they were done they all went into the next room to find no one other than Santa. He had his big red bag and was ready to take orders. Tyler was ready to burst out laughing. Couldn’t they tell that Santa was just his dad with a pillow in his shirt? As he watched some more, he noticed something he didn’t see before. Every single kid that sat on Santa’s lap went away with a present. As each kid opened up his or her present, Tyler noticed that they didn’t quite care what it was they got. It was just the fact that they got something from someone who, ”just maybe,” he thought, cared about them enough to get them anything. Suddenly, Tyler became sick to his stomach. He didn’t know why. Figuring his mom might take him home he decided to go tell her. When he told her she replied, “It’s called caring.” Tyler didn’t understand what she meant so he decided to go lay down and play his Game Boy.

WHILE HE WAS PLAYING, A BOY CAME OVER TO WATCH HIM. Tyler asked him what he wanted, real snotty-like, and the boy replied in a nice, soft manner, “Your mom told me that I could come play with you.” “Well, I don’t have anything for you to play with so go play somewhere else,” he replied. Then the boy looked at him curiously and asked, “Can I play with your game?” Tyler looked up to tell him to go away again when he saw his mom glaring at him from across the room, so he handed it over. Then Tyler’s mom introduced them to each other. “Tyler, this is Brice,” she began. “He’s 10, only a year younger than you are. Now you two play nice,” she said, with emphasis on the nice part for Tyler. As she walked away, Brice gave Tyler back his Game Boy saying it was busted. Alarmed, Tyler looked at it finding it was only out of batteries.

SO NOW THE TWO BOYS WERE LEFT WITH NOTHING TO DO BUT TALK, an uneasy situation for Tyler. So he started out by asking Brice what Santa brought him. He replied in a pleasant tone of voice “I got a little toy airplane.” Tyler noticed Brice did not have anything in his hands and asked where the plane was. “I let Stephen play with it. He really likes planes,” Brice said as he pointed to Stephen, and young little boy sitting near the corner of the room. Tyler looked over and saw the small boy with two planes, chasing one with the other. Tyler became confused, so he went over to get something to drink and asked his mom what she thought. Not even the least bit surprised, she told him that Brice has always given his toy to another little kid. Tyler was now beyond the point of confusion and went straight to bedazzlement. Why would you give your toys away? He went back over to the kid to ask him some more questions.

FIRST HE ASKED HIM WHY HE GAVE HIS PRESENTS AWAY. The boy replied, “I gave my plane to Stephen because he can’t have a dog fight with only one plane.” “So you’re going to get it back from him later, right,” Tyler questioned? Brice was surprised to hear anyone asking such dumb questions. “I don’t expect to get the toy back, and I don’t really care if I ever get to see it again,” Brice started to explain, “I just want to see Stephen and everyone else here as happy as they can be.” Tyler looked at him with awe. “It just makes me feel better to see the others happy, instead of getting a cool toy for Christmas.” Tyler couldn’t believe what he was hearing. How could it possibly be better to give all your presents away, rather than to get those really neat things? That was a question that Tyler toiled with the whole way home, and all night long.

THE NEXT MORNING WAS THE DAY THAT TYLER HAD BEEN WAITING FOR ALL YEAR, Christmas! He woke up, pulled his mom and dad out of bed, and ran downstairs. His mom and dad went into the kitchen to get themselves some hot tea. While they were wasting their time in the kitchen, Tyler was heading straight for the tree. When he got to the living room door where the Christmas tree stood, he stopped in awe at all the presents he had this year…even though they had bought all those gifts for the orphans… He then began to think about what Brice had told him the day before. He pushed that out of his mind and ran for the first present. His mom and dad came in and sat on the couch so they could watch their little “bundle of joy.”

TYLER OPENED THE FIRST PRESENT, which was wrapped in paper that had tons of little Santa’s and Elves on it. It was a remote control car that could be used in the snow and rain, or it could be driven through puddles and over rocks. It had a real working horn, and a double life, already fully charged battery pack. It was exactly what Tyler had wanted. Yet as suddenly as he found it, Tyler lost all the joy that came from opening that present. He started to feel strange and could hear the words Brice had said, which shocked Tyler and kept him up all night. His parents were expecting to hear him complain that it wasn’t the right one or some nonsense like that. Tyler simply turned around slowly and asked his parents, “Mom… dad… can we do something different this year?”

AT THE ORPHANAGE, while all the kids were sitting at their Christmas breakfast, the door bell rang. This was very strange to have anyone come at this time of day, and on Christmas especially. The lady that owned the place opened the door and heard a frightening “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” It was Tyler and his mom and dad. They had brought all of Tyler’s Christmas presents to the orphanage to give them to the kids. All of the kids were crowding around as Tyler and his mom and dad handed them out one by one, until every kid had one… every kid except Brice. Tyler walked over to him with a big box in his hands. He sat the box down and said with the most joy he ever had, “You were right. It does feel better to give instead of receiving.” He then told Brice that the present was his, and he was not allowed to give this one away. “This present is yours,” Tyler explained, “because you have a gift I won’t find in a million years. These kids are having the most wonderful Christmas because you have a pure heart.”

TYLER CONTINUED TO SPREAD JOY as he revealed to Brice what his Christmas present was this year. It is the one thing that Tyler knows he really, really wants. It is the perfect present; one that will need constant attention, yet one from which Tyler hopes to learn so much. This perfect present isn’t exactly that easy to come by, which is why Tyler knows he will take care of it. Brice doesn’t mean to be rude, but he really wants to know what in the world could be so special. Tyler looks at him and says, “you.” Brice is shocked beyond words and the whole orphanage gathers around to hear the good news. Tyler’s mom and dad have decided to adopt Brice.

The End

>OAR #1

>Rock, rock, rock, rock…

Back and forth… back and forth…

Is there anything as calming as sitting in a rocking chair and listening to classical music. Well, rock and punk songs played by an orchestra… same thing…

There can only be one thing more soothing: sitting in the middle of a lake listening to classi- instrumental music. As it mixes with the ambience of mother earth it creates a stillness in my mind that transports me to a comforting world. A place where my mind is still and my heart is calm. A place where the battlefield I live in is no longer filled with the dull structures of the city. Rather, there is nothing but the water. At the edge of the water is the fields of green. At the ends of the fields, filled with fruits and nuts of many kinds, there is the Everforest. Beyond that…well, beyond that doesn’t exist. It is only me and the fish and the birds and the breeze, along with the occasional grape. This world is so real as I sit in my chair, I hardly remember what time it is.


“Open the door, Tama!”

“All that racket is ruining my music, ya know…”

“Come’on, open up would ya. We got another, uh, quest for you.”

The snickering is almost unbearable to listen to. Their hands should be cut from their arms. But not now. ‘Quests’ usually have great rewards.

Tama rocks himself out of the chair to meet his potential clients at the door, but they get tired of waiting. The door flies open with the lock dashing across the room.


“Listen, Tama, we ain’t got all day,” the man shouts over the music! “We have important places to be-” “Ya, and at important times!” The man is interrupted by an accompanying associate, who gets an elbow in the stomach for his two cents worth. “Don’t hit him,” Tama warns in a calm voice, “I don’t like violence.”

“Ooooh, be careful,” the third man chimes in, “He might start beating you with his little paddle.”

They all have a good laugh, which is cut short. As if he was dancing to the music, Tama pulls out his weapon and strikes each man in the head before they know he even moved.




“It’s called an oar, pea brain.” Tama has them on the ground and demands, “what is the quest?”

“Maybe we don’t want to give it to you anymore-” Before he can finish his sentence the man finds himself stripped of his trousers. With the quest papers in the pocket, Tama has what he needs.


“Tell him this may be my last quest. I’m setting out for… greener pastures soon. If he has anything else he needs done, he better get to me quickly.”

“Tell him yourself,” the third mumbles under his bruised cranial bone.

“What did you say?”

“He said nothing!” The first intervenes, “When you’re done bring the prize to the house and he’ll pay like always! Let’s get outta here!” The three men run off into the lightened night of the dark city. They will return to the house of their master, and he will be displeased with Tama’s decision. But it should be easy enough to get the prize and claim the reward. He actually needs this last job. After all, the map to Camden lies hidden in the master’s library. Tama would have to visit eventually. Might as well be invited, rather than sneak in and get caught. The master doesn’t like such surprises. Now to see what our quest is.

Tama returns to his chair and begins to rock. He increases the volume of his music and returns to his solitude on the lake. He then reaches into the pocket of the man’s pants and pulls out the envelope.

He stops the chair.

He turns off the music.

He must concentrate on this letter, for it is not like the rest. This is a letter to Tama… from his mother! His mother died many years ago in a tragic boating accident. She burned to death for sure. Either that, or she was swallowed by the dark realm of the ocean deep. What mattered right now is her letter. As Tama reads on he finds that this letter is written to him as a warning. He is warned to break from the master as soon as he can. Tama jokes the letter to be a mind reader, for that’s what he has been planning. But wait-

A mind reader, probably not, but mysterious none-the-less… this letter is dated AFTER the day his parents boat burst into flames and he was cast out into the ocean by the blast of the fuel tanks, with only his oar to keep him afloat. This letter was written after his mother’s death! Which means…

Tama grabs his hooded sweatshirt. He slips on his gloves. He tightens his belt, and lastly, his oar. That oar is his only protection in this world. It was there the day he was orphaned and has not let him down since. This would be the only protection he would have from the master, who would not be the least bit thrilled by Tama’s intrusion. But wait-better to be prepared than to burst in with questions unanswered. He decides to read the rest of the letter.

“My dear little Tama,” it begins, “I am writing this letter to beg you to get out of the hands of the master as quickly as you can. The master is a horrible man who will use you to your death. He does not love as we do. He has been stripped of his compassion by an evil sorcerer. You must run from him and hide until he has found a new soul, whose hope and love he will diminish as I’m sure he has done to you.”

How could she know that Tama is in the master’s service? He was but 9 when the master took him in… better continue.

“I know you won’t believe me at first, but you need to understand that there are things in this world that are happening. They happen so the evil ones can feast off the souls of the poor in spirit. You must always love and you will be loved in return.”

Now it’s just not making any sense! “Why would my mother write to me from the beyond just to teach me about The Golden Rule,” Tama thinks to himself? He lightly continues his reading as if there is nothing to find of any interest.

“Love others,” here it comes, “as you wish to be loved,” and there it is- “STOP THAT!”

“WHAT THE-!” Tama jumps back, oar in hand as if to slice the letter in two! Is it talking to him? He pokes it with the oar and can hear a faint call… coming from the letter…?

“Tama… Tama, do not be afraid… it’s really me, Tama…”

He is ready to give the paper what-for when the letter jumps at him and yells, “Tama Moab Elkennard! You put that oar away this instant or there will be no extra cocoa in your milk!”

Tama puts the oar down, sits on his chair, folds his hands in his lap, and thinks to himself, “what am I doing?”

“Who are you,” Tama demands, “and how do you know I like extra cocoa in my milk?”

…but there is no answer. The letter has grown quiet. It’s only movement comes from the breeze flowing in through the open window. Tama slowly approaches the letter. With caution, he picks it up and begins to read it again.

“Hello again Tama. Your quest for this night is a simple one. You will sneak into the Yourney Estate and take back what is rightfully mine, as usual. It is a rare diamond which has a vein of blue running down the middle.”

What is this? The letter has changed!? How could this be? Tama finishes the letter, talking to it as he goes. “That won’t be easy,” he says out loud. “No kidding, pea brain!” he scoffs at the letter. But the letter does not return even a whisper. Maybe it was his imagination. He pinches himself to see if he’s dreaming. He can feel it, but he’s never been one to care much to react to a pinch. So he picks up his oar and -WHACK- knocks himself on the floor. If he wasn’t asleep, he very well may be now.

He places some ice on his head, grabs his gear, and sets off for the Yourney Estate. What has taken place this night, so far, Tama puts in the back of his mind. His mother’s apparent appearance will have to be investigated later. For tonight, there is a blue viened diamond waiting to be rescued; about 40 men who haven’t had the snot beat out of them in years; and a reward with Tama’s name on it… that will hopefully come with the map he seaks, and maybe a clue as to his mother’s real demise.

to be continued . . . .