You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, a fantasy adventure novel available at Barnes and Noble Online.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Favorite story themes-

I recall very much enjoying horror movies which had castles and mansions riddled with secret rooms and hidden passages. I still enjoy these in a story. I can recall seeking secret rooms in our house when I was a child, absolutely convinced that there had to be some mysterious places in our ordinary abode.

Crossing magical boundaries is also a favorite theme. Several of my little stories have this theme as an element. I recall several writers who used these mystical transitions, Lovecraft chief among them. I think the prospect was particularly sweet to my young mind, so many years ago. It promised escape from the mundane, high adventure, infinite possibilities.

Powers of magic were also appealing. The prospect of the "little guy" being able to obtain powers to right wrongs and protect the innocent seemed very appealing to me. Even today this appeals to me. In the game World of Warcraft my primary character is but two feet tall, yet a very powerful fire mage.

Perhaps it is the power to overcome obstacles which I found appealing. The power of secret places, allowing resources to be accumulated and created under the eyes of the enemy. The power to move in unconventional ways, circumventing the counter moves of opponents. The power to simply overwhelm enemies with power itself.

Quite appealing to a "little guy" who might be overwhelmed by a big world. Mysterious powers, unknown and unanticipated by worldly opponents. I am not so little, now. Still, the world is greater, and often overwhelming. I might just like to withdraw to my secret lair, beyond a mysterious barrier, where I can learn to master unbelievable powers to overcome all who oppose me.

Yes, quite appealing, indeed.



A short story by Michael R. Lockridge

Dirt flew up in an arc, then down onto a growing pile next to the large hole. Some slid down the side of the pile, and fell back into the hole. A moment later, another bit of dirt flew in a similar arc onto the same pile.

Nearby, a young man sat on the cemetery fence. He munched the apple in his hand, and watched the birth of a grave. A hole that held all of the promises available in this small town. Another bite of the apple. Another shovel full of dirt. Sometime this week, the grave would be needed. The digging was slow, but relentless.

“Whatcha doin’ today, Grease?” Asked someone behind him.

“Hello, Hank.” Said the young man sitting on the fence.

“Howdja know it was me?” Asked Hank.

Grease would not let his alcoholic friend know that his boozy scent was quite distinctive. Friends were hard to come by in Junkietown.

“Just a feeling.” Said Grease. He took one more bite of his apple, and then cast the core away into the bushes. “I am waiting for the bus.”

Hank was carrying a large plastic cup, nearly full of a pungent clear liquid. He must have just come from the “well.” He took a sip, and then offered the cup to his friend on the fence.

Grease accepted the cup. It was none too clean, but he was not concerned about that. The contents would kill anything living on the rim of the cup. Grease just didn’t much like alcohol. He had another drug of choice. Even so, he took a polite sip, and returned the cup.

The two of them continued like this for a time. Together they finished off the contents of Hank’s cup, just as the gravedigger finished the grave.

The digger heaved himself out of the hole. Grabbing his tools, he moved everything down a few feet. After taking a large drink from his water jug, the gravedigger started his next grave.

Hank looked at the bottom of his cup, and then started wandering toward the middle of town. Grease watched the beginnings of the new grave until he heard a diesel engine struggling through the pass into town.
Grease found himself a place near the town hall, where the new residents were dropped off by the Sheriff’s ancient bus. Seven men were disgorged from the ancient transport. They soon stood in a pile of their meager possessions, as the Sheriff’s deputy checked off their names. Without a further word, the deputy got back on the bus, and the door closed. Moments later the taillights disappeared back the way the bus had come.

“Get your stuff and follow me.” Grease said to one of the younger men. The young man glanced around, and then did as instructed. Grease did not even look back as the vultures descended on the property of the new guys. Fresh fish were fair game in Junkietown. Grease felt good just saving one once in a while.

He led the new guy toward his own dormitory building. Inside the main entrance he plucked a key from the room board. The new guy followed, clutching his small bag of personals. Up the stairs and down the hall. Grease put the key in the lock, and pushed the door open. He stood aside and offered the new guy the key.

“They call me Grease.” He said. “I don’t want to call you ‘new guy.’ What’s your name?”

“Dave.” Said the new guy, absently. He stepped into the small room, and looked around. A sickly light filtered in through the dirty window. It revealed a cell-like room, with a built-in bunk. On the bunk was a mattress of dubious quality. A small sink and a toilet huddled in the corner. He threw his small bag onto the bunk, and hugged himself.

“You need a fix.” Grease said. “So do I. Let’s go down and get you on the schedule.”

Dave stepped back out of the room, and closed the door. He started to turn away.

“Lock it.” Said Grease. “Some of these guys will steal anything, just to stay in practice.”

Dave did so, and then the two of them began walking back toward the center of the small town.

They walked through the decaying town center. Grease noticed that the new guy, Dave, did not display much interest in his new surroundings. Grease understood.

“The stuff they give you here is cut clean.” Grease offered. Dave perked up. The subject matter was already on his mind. “It’s government stuff. Your records will indicate the starting dose. After the first week, you can boost that as much as you want.”

Dave looked incredulous.

“They don’t care, man.” Grease went on. “This isn’t methadone, or some magic elixir to help you quit. They gave up on that. One shot at a drug treatment program. I had that. You had that. Failures come here, use freely, and die.”

Dave looked horrified. “So it’s true? What they said was true?”

“Sure, it’s true. Cheaper to just supply the stuff to those who don’t want to quit.”

He watched the new guy out of the corner of his eye. Junk, as much as you want. For free. The only price was living in a dead town, with no way out. Miles from anywhere. Miles from everywhere.

There it was. The realization. The new guy began to smile. Junkie Heaven!

Junkie Hell. Dave would remain the new guy, until he realized the true nature of his new home. Grease could use a new friend, but he would have to see this one over the hump, first.

“Here we are.” Said Grease. He led Dave into a former pharmacy. The irony was lost on the new guy. Hunger was all he knew, right now.

They went to the counter, and Grease introduced Dave to the man working the distribution. The man worked his computer, and then directed the two down to the window at the end of the counter.

They each received a loaded hypodermic, a rubber tie, and an alcohol swab. Grease went to a set of chairs along one wall. Dave followed. In moments each was nodding in one of the chairs. Someone came and collected the used rigs while they nodded.

A bit later, Grease was sitting and watching the new guy. When he seemed together enough, Grease encouraged him to follow out into the street. The obscene sense of well-being flooded Grease. He knew that the new guy felt the same. Still, he needed to learn a few things, get set up for living in Junkietown.

Grease guided the young man around for about an hour. He showed him the Laundromat, which once required coins but was now free. He showed him the commissary, where a few things were provided by the state for the needs of their charges. They visited the park, where winos and junkies hung out between meals and fixes.

He showed him the “well;” the large tank of alcohol made available to anyone who wanted the raw stuff.

“I hate that crap, myself.” Said Grease. “But it’s free.”

He showed him where to eat.

They had lunch, since they were already there and the meal was being set out.

“The food is pretty good.” Said Grease. “May as well make yourself eat, even when you don’t feel like it. No point in getting sucked up around here. You don’t have to choose between food and dope. You can have all you want.” He didn’t think Dave picked up the bitterness in this observation.

After lunch, Grease excused himself.

“Got something I need to do.” He said.
Dave wandered around for a while, then went back to his new dwelling. “Home” was too generous a term. He spent some time cleaning, since he was not dope sick and he wasn’t hungry. Finally, he felt he was finished. He found the shower, down the hall. Once he was cleaned up and dressed, he found he had nothing more to do.

It took him some time to find his new friend. Grease was sitting on a rock, sipping at a plastic cup and looking down a wooded trail.

“What’s that?” Dave asked. He nodded toward the trail.

Grease took another sip.

“That’s the only other way out of town, other than the graveyard.” He answered.

“I though you didn’t like to drink that crap.” Dave said, as he watched Grease stare down the trail.

“I don’t.” Grease answered. “But once in a while I come here, and see if I can talk myself into trying. I keep hoping there’s courage in the cup.”

“Trying what?” Asked Dave.

“The trail.” Grease said. “It’s a two day walk. Two days, no junk. No alcohol. Just walking, trying to stay alive.”

Dave looked down the trail. “Why try?” He asked.

“Some say that there is a treatment center at the end. Another chance at a new, clean life. I come here, sometimes, and wonder if I want it enough to start walking.”

He drained the cup.

“Not today. Come on.” Grease said.

The two began walking back toward the center of Junkietown.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


My wife, Linda, and I are going to Disneyland next week. Depending on a number of factors, I may not get a story published next week, as a result of the trip. Considering the vast numbers of readers, I know the disappointment will be great. It will be a blow to the Western economy, but that is a price we all will have to pay. My wife and I need a break.

Keeping with the overall purpose of this blog, I would like to observe that Disneyland was largely engineered on the concept of stories. The various lands and rides all tell a tale. From what I have read, Walt Disney had movies in mind. That may well be the case, but movies are simply stories told through the medium of film. The analogy holds.

For more on Walt Disney, look here. I think that this biography was well balanced. Disney was viewed favorably, without glossing over some of the negative aspects of his personality.

For me, Disneyland really is The Happiest Place on Earth. After all, even a minor story teller such as myself can't resist a few days living within some very nice tales.

I will be posting again as opportunity presents itself. Not more than a week and a half, I should suppose, and earlier if I can. Keep visiting, as I have an ever growing collection of tiny tales to share.

A House Between

A House Between

A short story by Michael R. Lockridge

Lewis Carroll Todd was a walkin’ man. He was not always given to walking, but walking was pretty much his life, now. There was a time when his wife would tease him about using the car just to go down to the road to check the mail. Probably only fifty yards but he would drive rather than walk. But she didn’t tease him, anymore. She was gone. And that is why Lewis had become a walkin’ man.

He had planned his life carefully. Even in high school Lewis had known himself rather well. He knew he was not an intellectual giant. He was an adequate student. Never much trouble. He was a passable sportsman, even making second-string for football in his junior year. He elected not to play in his senior year.

Lewis knew that he was just an average guy in an average small town. When he finished school, he could go work in one of the local mills. He could work his life away, and retire a worn old man. Oh, there was always college, but high school demanded about as much as his intellect could deliver. College was just not a workable option.

Neither path appealed to him. So, as so many small town boys before him, Lewis found his way down to the Army recruiter’s office. He poured over the catalogs with the tough but personable sergeant who served there. The sergeant seemed to like Lewis, buying him lunch on two occasions and regaling him with tales of military adventure.

Garbyville was too small a town to have an Army testing center. The sergeant put Lewis on the bus to Winston, a high adventure for a small town boy. A night in the big city, two hundred miles from home. Even with the testing, there was time for a little sightseeing before he had to catch the bus back home. Yes, high adventure, indeed.

The test results arrived the following week, just three days after Lewis graduated from high school. Lewis was already pretty sure of his choice of jobs offered by the Army, and the test results confirmed his selection. The recruiting sergeant helped him fill out the paperwork, and Lewis was soon on his way.

It was a twenty-year journey. Lewis saw the world, got promotions, and visited exotic lands. He picked up a souvenir during his second tour in Viet Nam. Two inches of shrapnel removed from his left lower leg gave him a scar to talk about. Not a common injury for a sergeant in charge of a records unit.

His habits were always moderate. He never married. Marriage was hard for Army wives, and he never wanted to inflict the lifestyle on anyone. His few relationships were much like duty stations; he enjoyed them, always knowing they were going to end.

Twenty years passed, and he completed his military career with reasonable distinction. He returned to Garbyville, acquired a comfortable home, and found work with the Post Office. Though the job required a lot of walking, it was not at this time that he became the Walkin’ Man. That came much later.

Now that he was beyond his transient military career, Lewis allowed his heart to open up to the prospects of marriage. Now that he was in his middle years, he new that the prospects of marriage were not great. Even so, he was open to the idea. Sharing the rest of his days with someone appealed to him.

He met Ada on one of his routes. It was just a chance meeting. She happened to be at her mailbox when he made his delivery. Lewis later learned that it took her weeks to “happen” to be there when he arrived. They talked long enough that first day that Lewis had to rush through the rest of his route to finish anywhere near on time.

Lewis courted Ada quite simply. Simple was all that Lewis ever really knew. She was charmed by his simplicity, and appreciated his life of moderation. She had not been widowed all that long, and it took some time for Lewis to win her trust. Shortly after that, however, he won her heart and her hand.

They enjoyed many years together, living their small town lives. More and more Lewis looked forward to finishing his Post Office career. The two pensions would allow for a comfortable retirement. Lewis wanted to travel with the love of his life, discovering the world together.

Ada had no children from her first marriage, and their late union made children a non-issue between her and Lewis. Though they both sometimes felt the lack, for the most part they were content, each with the other. They made a life that was simple and comfortable.

Finally the day came when the Post Office presented Lewis with his gold watch. He had only collected a handful of those combined pension checks when he got the phone call. Ada, who had been visiting her sister in Winston, had fallen asleep at the wheel on her way home. Lewis had not gone with her because her sister got on his nerves. Once again, he was alone.

Lewis started walking to help him with his grief. He found himself wandering his old routes, head down and feet shuffling. He often could not remember beginning his walks. He would come to himself far from home. Sometimes he was not properly dressed. He seemed to shave rarely, and sometimes forgot to bathe. He would shuffle back home and drop off into an exhausted sleep. Often this was the only peace he knew.

With time, he began to heal. He started to take better care of himself, seeing to his bathing and shaving, and dressing better. His walks became more deliberate, and he started to see the things going on around him as he walked. It was during this time of healing that he learned that he had earned the title “The Walkin’ Man” in his little town.

Lewis was surprised to find himself enjoying his walks. He met many people, and made new friends. He often stopped to help someone in their garden, or to wash their car. He came to know little children, shopkeepers, old people, and young people. His life began to take on a new shape and to have meaning once again.

He even began developing a personal style. The Walkin’ Man collected walking shoes, walking sticks, and a variety of curious hats. Children especially liked his cane of white ash, carved to look like a striking cobra. The rhinestone eyes would flash and dance with light as the Walkin’ Man strode along the highways, byways, and quiet streets of Garbyville.

Lewis would wear baseball caps of various teams. Often he would wear the caps celebrating local schools. He had Stetsons, sport caps, and several broad-brimmed hats of straw. Though he rarely wore it, he had a particular favorite. His prized hat was called a Deerstalker, made famous by Sherlock Holmes.

Here, toward the end of his days, Lewis had found a place in life where he seemed to really fit. Though he did not get to do the traveling he had hoped for with his beloved Ada, he was traveling each day in his old hometown.

“One of the best days for walking I have ever seen.” Lewis observed one morning. He was striding along a stretch of country road that was new to him. He could not recall ever having set foot on this particular road, and the newness put an added bounce in his stride. He enjoyed the gritty dirt road, the grass on the verge, and the trees lining the way. Fields stretched to the surrounding hills, and all felt very right.

The sense of rightness was shaken, however, when Lewis realize that he could not recall how he had gotten to this particular stretch of road. He did not recall selecting his Cobra cane for the walk, and was a bit perplexed. The Cobra was generally a cane he used in town. For country walks he generally preferred a sturdy staff, more suitable for side trips into fields and wooded trails.

Also troubling him was his hat. He rarely wore the Deerstalker, yet here it was on his head. A broad brimmed straw hat was more suitable for a country adventure, yet here he was, wearing what was really just a showpiece. Most peculiar.

Still, the day was lovely.

“The trees ” Lewis exclaimed. “They seem so alive So very real.”
Indeed, every leaf, every needle, every bit of bark seemed to stand out, to dance with life and color. Even the hills on the horizon ahead seemed more defined, more present.

Lewis stopped walking. Slowly he turned, taking it all in. As he did so, he noticed something else that seemed peculiar. When he looked ahead, this vibrant sense of life and presence was very pronounced. When he looked back the way he had come, everything appeared diminished, and less defined. The colors near the horizon in that direction seemed to be fading, even as he watched.

Lewis looked ahead, once again. The vibrancy, the life in the scene ahead called to him. He began walking toward this vibrancy, this glory that was calling to him.

He came around a bend, and saw a charming little cottage on his off to one side. It nestled into the hillside, and was surrounded by a picket fence. Growing all over the picket fence were climbing roses. As Lewis drew nearer, he could see a variety of flowers growing on the vine. White ones, red ones, and yellow ones as well. Very lovely. What gave him pause, however, were the blue roses. Blue roses Never before had he seen such a thing.

It was then that Lewis noticed the man standing on the porch. It was a very nice porch, shady and cool, and very inviting. The man stood easy, leaning on one of the pillars. He smiled as Lewis drew near, and gave him a little wave.

“Ahoy, the Walkin’ Man ” he said, as if he were the captain of a ship. Lewis was a bit taken aback. The man skipped down the steps and walked to the gate in the picket fence. “Come, have a cup of tea ” He offered, waving for Lewis to come in.

Lewis paused a moment, considering. The man was very peculiar, but did not seem threatening. A bit larger than average, yet he seemed sprightly. He appeared young, yet had a sense of great years about him. The name Tom Bombadil came to mind, though he new not why.

He stepped forward, and offered his hand.

“Lewis Todd.” He said.

The man shook Lewis’ hand. “And I’m Thomas Ross. Why don’t you mention the ‘Carroll’ when you introduce yourself?”

Lewis paused a moment. Twice this man had expressed knowledge about himself that he had no obvious reason to know. It was very upsetting.

“My parents were a bit pretentious in naming me.” Lewis replied. “I am not a man of great imagination.”

Lewis stood up. “I think I must be going.” He said.

“Oh?” replied Thomas Ross. “I was about to invite you to tea.”

“Thank you, no.” Said Lewis, as he edged down the stairs to the gate. “I think I shall be on my way.”

“Well, if you insist.” Said Mr. Ross. “Nice to have met you.”

“It has been interesting, Mr. Ross.” Said Lewis. He let himself out through the gate, and began walking down the middle of the road. He elected to not look back.

The road continued around the hill, and soon the magic of the day again engaged Lewis’ mind. The bright sunshine, the brilliant definition of the trees and grass, the wonderful sound of his feet on the grit of the road, all set him quickly at ease. Soon, the cottage was out of site, and nearly out of mind.

Almost immediately another chimney presented itself through the trees. Lewis noticed that this next cottage looked remarkably like the one he had just left. The same color, similar picket fence. Similar roses growing on the fence. The similarity included the very unusual blue roses.

Lewis was not entirely surprised to find Thomas Ross standing at the gate.

“Is that offer of tea still open, Mr. Ross?” asked Lewis.

“Absolutely ” Thomas Ross replied. “And please, call me Tom.”

Tom ushered Lewis into the house, and into a very cozy kitchen.

Lewis was very glad to sit down. Standing had become difficult. As he sat by the table, Tom went busily about the preparations for their tea. Once again the image of that sagacious character from Middle Earth came to mind, though Lewis still could not quite say just why.

Finally, tea was ready and on the table. Tom sat down and began to pour.

“Mr. Ross.” Said Lewis. “Tom. Just what happened back there?”

Tom took a sip of his tea. He added a bit of lemon, and then looked long at Lewis.

“What do you last recall, before you came here, Lewis?” he asked.

“Just being at home. Last night. I was troubled a bit by indigestion, and it caused me to sleep poorly.” Replied Lewis. “But what does that have to do with what happened just now?”
“That may come clear in a moment.” Said Tom. “What is the first think you recall this morning?”

“Walking down this road. Being amazed by the wonder of the day.” Said Lewis.

“You don’t recall getting up? Preparing for the day? Setting out on the journey that brought you here?” Tom inquired.

“No. But then, when I first lost my wife, I often came to myself, far from home.” Lewis said. “ I could not always recall what brought me there. So, today was not especially peculiar in that respect.”

Tom nodded. “Yes, I can see that those were hard days for you.”

Lewis took a sip of his tea. He, too, added a bit of lemon. He took another sip, and then waited on his host.

“This place is a bit of a way station.” Said Tom. “Not all roads are easy, nor are all transitions. This is a house between.”

Lewis sat, and waited a bit more.

“There is no going back, Lewis.” Tom continued. “But, unless you are ready, there is not yet a going forward. I have not been ready to go forward for some time, but now I am. At least, I think I am.”

No going back. Slowly, it was dawning on Lewis what it was that this house existed between. He put down his teacup, and sat back.

“Lewis, please come with me into the next room.”

Lewis stood, and quietly followed his host through the doorway.

The room was most unusual. The walls and ceiling were hung with fantastic tapestries. The floor covered by exquisite rugs of intricate design. Every surface seemed to tell a tale in threads of various hues.

Around the room were pedestals, upon which were some interesting objects. One contained a wax tablet and stylus. Another a stone tablet, and tools to work the runes. Each one had some kind of recording device. Near a desk sat the last two in the series. One held a parchment and quill pen. On the other was an ancient manual typewriter with a sheet of paper on the platen.

On the desk was a computer. The monitor was on, and a blank page was displayed.

“Please, sit at the desk, Lewis.” Said Tom. Lewis did so. Tom sat down in a chair that had been placed near the desk.

“I have sat in that chair on so many occasions. So many tales I have recorded there.” Tom said. He sighed. “So many tales.”

Lewis waited. He remained confused, but a strange quiet was settling on him. A sense of rightness. Not quite destiny, but purpose.

“Will you record my tale?” Tom asked.

“Yes, I will.” Said Lewis. He placed his fingers on the keyboard. Though he had never been much of a typist, he felt ready.

Tom began to speak, and Lewis began to write.

When it was done, and Lewis had saved the document, they both stood up. The passage of time seemed not to have affected them, for they both seemed refreshed. Silently, Tom led his guest from the room.

Tom went to a closet near the front door. From it he withdrew a fishing vest, festooned with tied flies. He put this on, and then withdrew from the closet a very fine fly rod. He settled a very comfortable looking hat on his head, sturdy but very old.

“Well, time to give it a try.” He said, and opened the door. Lewis followed him out to the road.

Lewis stood by him, as they both gazed longingly down the road. The day was still bright, still astounding. Rich with life and promise.

He said no more. He shook Lewis’ hand, and then turned and walked away.

Lewis stood in the middle of the road, and watched as Thomas Ross walked out of sight. He waited a time, but he did not hear any footsteps coming up behind him.

“A bit of a way station.” He said, aloud. “A house between.”

He stood a bit longer.

“Some are not yet ready.” He said. With a sigh, he walked back into the house.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

An Essay on Reading, Gaming and Social Responsibility

An Essay on Reading, Gaming, and Social Responsibility

By Michael R. Lockridge

I was writing recently on the similarity between playing video games and reading stories.
It was in response to reading here about blogging Zelda games. I got to thinking on the similarities and differences between the two media, and began to think about the relationships between reading, video gaming, and the social impact of both.

We are accustomed to people reading. People read at home and at work. People read while waiting for a bus, train or airplane. People read while riding on a bus, train or airplane. People read wherever they go. This behavior is common, and generally accepted.

I would suggest that reading has a social acceptability due to its association with learning. Even though much reading is done as recreation, the positive association carries over. Even recreational reading is considered a good thing. Perhaps it is just the huge social contrast between literacy and illiteracy.

Video gaming appears to me to be less socially acceptable than reading. Perhaps it is due, in part, to video games initially being played on televisions. They were thus associated more with watching television than with reading. Watching television is associated with leisure activity, while reading is associated with learning. Video gaming, therefore, appears to be time wasted.

Advances in portable video gaming have brought a closer parallel to reading. The portable units are similar in size to books. As a result, they do not recall the practice of watching television quite so readily to the mind of the observer. However, the acceptability of video gaming still rates far below that of reading.

Generally, for reading to appear excessive, it must strongly affect socialization. The picture of the man of the house retreating into the newspaper is the most graphic representation of this excess. It is iconic, and often portrayed in movies and on television. Apart from this, however, reading is generally associated positively with intellectual productivity.

Excessive video gaming, however, has been portrayed quite negatively. Beyond the assumption of excessive time and energy being invested in leisure, there are extreme cases of gaming presented prominently in the news media. Damage to families, loss of resources, cost to business in loss of productivity. Even death. It is not hard to find such in the news. When such events occur, they gain prominence.

Of course, such losses are not exclusive to video gaming. Gambling has been the legitimate cause of much grief. Even collectible card games have lead to failure to pay rent, or buy sufficient food. Sometimes obsession with games can have tragic affect. I would contend that obsession is the real problem, and that the object of the obsession is secondary.

Over the course of time, reading and gaming will become less distinct as activities. This will be due to the use of the same system for conducting both. The very machine upon which I write this can be used for playing games. I can conduct research on this machine. I can process and store pictures and videos. I can also meld all of these things together into multimedia documents.

As these machines become more portable, we shall use them in more places to conduct all of these activities. Gaming on such a machine will become simply one of the many activities one can conduct anywhere. Novels will be produced while waiting for buses. Critical research will be conducted while at the Laundromat. Time will be wasted, and utilized, playing games everywhere.

We will read more. We will write more. We will play more games. Our cultures will change, and we will change. Some will like it, and others will not.

And we will read all about it in places like this.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Blogging Zelda: Introductions

Blogging Zelda: Introductions

Playing video games can be like reading a story in which you have a degree of participation. Writing about playing a video game takes it to a whole new level. Blogging Zelda is a site worth a visit. Just follow the link in the title.

I have only played through two Zelda games; The Wind Waker, and The Minish Cap. I have played a bit of some of the others, but haven't completed them.

My current game is World of Warcraft. I find playing a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (the class, or type of game this is) a bit more like writing a story, than reading one. A different experience from playing a stand-alone game, which may be less linear than a book, but more story driven than a MMORPG.

The difference between reading and gaming is participation. In games you participate, you take actions. In books you proceed throught a more linear experience. However, in either experience, a story unfolds. There are plots, and sub-plots. Exercise for the mind, and for the imagination.

Is one medium better than the other? Not in my opinion. I believe that both have enriched my life. Provided I am not taking time from other valuable aspects of living, reading and gaming enhance my life.

To be quite honest, I think I have opened a line of thinking here that will occupy me for quite some time. I will have to form some questions worth examining relating to reading, gaming, and the other aspects of human life.

This could prove interesting.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A little distance-

I wrote "The Mind Bug" over a decade ago. I even submitted it for publication in a suitable monthly magazine. I believe that this was my first rejection slip. I was not discouraged by the rejection, but by the enormous competition for space for short stories. The compensation was not sufficient for the effort, at a time in my life when most of my waking hours had to be assigned to getting a reliable income.

So, into the drawer it went. When I finally pulled it out, just a few weeks ago, I realized that my rejection slip was well earned. I pruned and shaped, and reduced the bulk of the writing by about 60%. I think it turned out much better.

Now, it is published. Perhaps not as I had imagined it would be, but in a fashion that is exciting and new.

Hope you like it. Comments are welcome.

The Mind Bug

The Mind Bug

A short story by Michael R. Lockridge

My name is Waldo Zimmermann. Lieutenant Hinson, of the Winston City Police Department, has instructed me to put down in my own words just how I killed Professor James Downey.

I am sure that Officer Hinson thinks I am a genuine crackpot. He told me that he had investigated the scene of Downey’s death, and though the final ruling has not come in, it was a very clear case of suicide. I admit that it is quite true that Downey put the gun to his own head, and equally true that he pulled the trigger. He painted the wall of his study with his brains, and I can’t imagine a better use for them.

I must, however, insist that it was I who killed him.

Please forgive me for the considerable self-analysis on my part. It will be pertinent to this confession. I must prove that I had the motive, the ability, and the opportunity to kill the recently departed Professor. To do so I will necessarily have to delve into the state of my own mind. Indeed, the state of my mind is quite critical.

I am a professor of physics in our own dear Winston State College. I have been a lifelong academician, and am first to admit that my whole life has been limited to school campuses. I am, and always will be, an egghead. An instructor of eggheads in an egghead community.

Let me be honest in assessing myself. I am a short, fat, and balding middle-aged man. I think the outward person simply developed to reflect what I was on the inside. As such, I have never known a woman’s touch. Excluding, of course, one rather traumatic experience at a faculty party some years ago.

I have never been successful with women. I learned to content myself with experiencing them from a distance. I have had to rely on my imagination, with little hope for any reality. In a few words, I have always been sexually repressed.

To be quite honest, I had not really considered this a problem until two years ago. That was when James Downey came to our campus. We ended up sharing a rather small office, and I knew it would be a rather rough relationship from the very beginning.

Where should I begin? Downey had a far too athletic build for a professor of modern literature and creative writing. And what was a professor from the school of the humanities doing sharing an office with me, anyway?

He played a mean game of tennis. Much too physical for me, at any age. He was three years older than myself! And he could play chess! He hardly ever played, but the few times we did I learned that my title on campus was in danger.

Added to all of this was that perpetual tan of his. Artificial? Of course, but still he glowed like some kind of Greek god. Contrasted with his billowing white hair, never out of place, he looked glorious!

His voice was deep and authoritative. He always had the right words to say. Whether addressing a first year student or the loftiest assembly of dignitaries, he always had the right words. Perfect presentation. Everyone loved to listen to him. I loved to listen to him, and I hated him from the very beginning.

Clothes! Whatever I tried to wear, I looked like a walk-on player in a second rate local theater production. He was always properly attired, in the best clothes available in our humble community. How a man living on his salary could afford to dress like he did I shall never know.

Too bad the casket had to be closed. Everyone at the funeral would have been impressed by how well he was dressed!

I could have forgiven the man all of this, but for one thing. Samantha Downey, his wife.

I may have always been sexually repressed, but that does not mean that I never noticed women. I have always liked women. I just could never find my stride with them. Tongue-tied and two left feet. No skills. None.

Samantha. Never before had I experienced the presence of such a woman! She seemed to have been sculpted from the most sensual of flesh. She was full of the fire of life, filled with passions I could not even imagine. Her sensuality was essential. It was her nature. It may never have been innocent, but it was honest.

I felt a fire deep inside myself the first time I met her. It grew every time I saw her. I learned her schedule, just so that I could chance to meet her once in a while. My own schedule shifted to insure I would see her at least several times a week. I felt I would die if I did not get at least a glimpse now and then.

Obsessed. I knew it, and I didn’t care. I had to have her!

But how? I knew that I had no chance of winning her. Impossible! What to do?

I capitalized on my strengths. Months I thought and worked and theorized and experimented. Nanotechnology was my answer. Sub-microscopic robots.

Great wealth could have been mine with the nanobots I created. I sought a greater prize. If I could not have Samantha directly, I would tap the memories and experiences of the man who had her. The nanobots were just a means to that end.

I introduced the nanobots into my associate’s body through his coffee. Several doses of the right proteins, along with a chemical programming code. They came together inside his body and assembled themselves. They then reproduced, and began assembling what I called “The Mind Bug.”

My own nanobots I injected into myself. No need for subterfuge. Since I was going through a similar experience, I could gauge what was going on in his body. If I felt cravings for particular foods, I made sure they were available for him, as well. The cravings indicated minerals being depleted by the nanobots scavenging components from our bodies.

His being an athlete did work to my advantage in this. A real danger was an imbalance in electrolytes. Athletes consume fluids designed to meet this particular need. By stocking our office with these beverages, I insured that both of us would survive the process of assembling the Mind Bugs.

Downey and I became ill around the same time. We weren’t able to come to work for a couple of days. It did not seem peculiar, since we shared an office. We obviously had been exposed to the same “bug.” Yes, a bad pun, but applicable.

Once I was over the worst of the illness, I tested my connection with my computer. I had built up the system to handle a network with two human minds. As it was, I had to come up with a few tricks. Any one of those would make me wealthy, even without the technology of the Mind Bug. Again, that was not my goal.

By the time we were back in the office I had a constant link to my computer’s Mind Bug network. It took some time to learn to navigate another man’s mind, I must say. Minds are nothing like I thought they were, before I started this experiment.

Eventually I was able to tap into the memories and experiences I had longed for. Oh, Samantha! She was more glorious than I had ever imagined! I won’t spoil my experience by relating details. The experience was very satisfying, and worth the effort.

Those were the early experiences, when the two were really in love. However, the narcissism of Professor Downey poisoned a beautiful relationship. She couldn’t love him as he loved himself! He grew dissatisfied, and abusive.

That self-involved man was beating my precious Samantha! There seemed nothing I could do.

Then I recalled that our minds were connected through the Mind Bug! Could I do it? Could I use it to drive him mad? I had to try!

I resolved to destroy his sleep. I used the computer to insure that his sleep would never be deep enough for his mind to recharge and regenerate. I separated myself from this part of the loop, since I did not wish to go mad along with him. I had acquired the memories of my dear Samantha, and more. I now knew her well enough that I experienced some vague hope that I could win her.

After Professor Downey killed himself due to an intense depressive episode, I intended to befriend his widow, and win her!

It seemed so workable.

Downey spiraled down into the depths of depression. He experienced delusions. Twice he hallucinated. I know, for I monitored his decline with maniacal attention. I was in his mind when he was home, alone. I was in his mind when he got out that old revolver he had prized for so many years. I was in his mind when he placed it to his head!

Alas, I was also in his mind when Samantha walked in on him. He was not alone, as he had thought. As I had thought.

There was no hesitation. No shouting, no arguments. He just leveled the gun and shot my dear Samantha! A bullet now broke the heart he had broken. Then another followed. And yet another. Then one for himself.

So, Lieutenant Hinson, I killed James Downey. With his hand, I also killed the only woman I had ever loved.

My fate is in your hands, Lieutenant. Can you make this case? Will you? I don’t really care. I have my memories, even though I had to steal them. If you want me, I will be at home. At home, endlessly strolling down memory lane.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Anime, Animation, and short stories

I am currently viewing the Anime series Fullmetal Alchemist, which I am renting through my Netflix account. I have been viewing Anime for some time, now. I have long appreciated the telling of short stories through animated cartoons, and wanted to familiarize myself with one of the more current modes.

Being over half a century old, I have experienced quite a range of animated fare. I recall my youth being particularly influenced by Fleischer cartoons. Disney was a significant factor, but Fleischer cartoons seemed more commonly available on the new medium, the television. Warner Bros. became more significant over the years, followed by Hanna-Barbera.

Disney had set the standard, both for quality of animation and story content. However, the economics of the industry compelled the plummet toward the H-B form of animation. Unfortunately, the aspiration of Disney was progressively sold out over time.

On the positive side, the art form was kept alive. Massive libraries of cartoon materials were developed. While a great part of this volume is just fluff and filler, there exist some very fine pieces of art as a result of the explorations and experimentation.

Cartoons reflect and even comment on culture. Magilla Gorilla may still run endlessly past the same poorly rendered backgrounds somewhere in history. However, today South Park proudly recognizes that The Simpsons have already done everything cartoonishly possible. Today the President of The United States is lampooned, lambasted, and perversely celebrated in his own cartoon series.

So, cartoons developed with our national character. They also shaped our national character. They embodied our national characters. They provide a means of sharing ourselves with the world.

Other cultures also are part of this exchange. Japan produced the style known as Anime. One of my friends defined Anime as "bad cartoons." This is in reference to commercial cartoons farmed out to Japanese animators, working at low animation standards to produce half-hour commercials for toys and other products. Unfortunately, it is Magilla Gorilla all over again.

It is difficult to get many Americans to sample quality Anime. Spirited Away is a good avenue for entering into the realm of Anime. Though the story is influenced by Japanese story telling culture, it is digestible by Americans. Japan has a rich story telling culture, and given expression through Anime, it is exportable.

What will prove interesting over the next ten years or so is the proliferation of computers and software which can serve any individual in producing animation. They will need to find stories to tell. Generally, short stories. The short story, now practically extinct in the commercial printed marketplace, is finding revival on the Internet. How much more powerful might it become with multitudes of animators telling those stories?

The future of animation is exciting. If I have the pleasure of another half-century, or so, I expect to see many wonderful short stories come to life through animation.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Widgets and other things-

I was doing a bit of writing today. I brought to life another story seed. I am building quite a catalog of titles I can publish over the next few weeks. It is good to get some of these ideas in writing.

My current reading is Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury. I read this book every year. Generally I read it around my birthday, which is in April. This year I was reading a biography of Walt Disney when my birthday came around, so I am a bit late. I will say a bit more about this book in a later post.

I am also reading a book from my writer's library. 20 Master Plots (and How to Build Them), by Ronald B. Tobias. I read it years ago, during another high period of writing in my life. It is proving informative. I hope it also proves useful in improving my writing. If I have learned nothing else at my age, I have learned that I still have plenty to learn.

Today I also explored Widgets. Little bits of code people have created to perform tasks on websites. I added one that I hope will help promote this site. I really want to share these stories. I also added a counter to let me know if I am getting visitors. I hope I do.

On the whole, I am learning a bit about the Internet, and websites. There is a wealth of material out there. I am finding other short story writers, and have been enjoying their work. I am also finding a great many people who have recorded their experience on the web, through whom I am learning quite a bit.

It is a most pleasant challenge, and a great deal of fun.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

I have managed to write two very short stories today. One was completed from a rough draft, though heavily edited. One was produced from notes that were years old. What I called "story seeds." I am coming to terms with my current goal of producing very short stories to fit this blog format. It is challenging, and fun.

My backlog is sufficient to make me confident that I can easily produce a story each week.

The exercise of my writing skills is good for preparing for writing copy as a commercial service. I hope to do this as a source of income following my retirement from law enforcement.

I have been exploring the subject of copywriting on the Internet. I find it fascinating that most of the copywriters I find blogging on the 'net are selling how-to materials targeted at copywriters. That is amusing, and vaguely disturbing.

One short story from my files looks quite good. However, I just cannot see how to prune it to fit my six page target for this blog. With a bit more work, I think it will be a good story. I will just have to find an alternative way to publish that particular story.

As a self-education project I plan to produce a more elaborate website. I might be able to publish, and even market, some short stories there.

Friday, July 6, 2007



A short story by Michael Lockridge

The last few visitors to the San Antonio Zoo wandered past the environment containing a rather lumpy quadruped. The sign by the pathway read, “Warthog.” There were other bits of information relating to the occupant of the environment on similar signs. Only a few people read the information. The creature seemed to gather little more than passing interest from the visitors to the zoo. It was close to closing time.

The lumpy quadruped stood at the edge of his environment, looking placidly up at the visitors across the mote that was intended to contain him. Eventually the visitors were all gone. He waited for a time, waited until most of the zoo employees had also left.

When the time was right, he made his way over to a log near the shelter that had been provided for him within his environment. He ignored his feeding trough, for the time being. The diet would have to be adjusted before he could eat. That would come later.

Using his snout and lips, he manipulated some of the woody protrusions on the log. Moments later, a fuzzy screen appeared above the wooden surface. It shifted and issued a hissing sound.

The creature snorted.

He stepped back, and stood still. His beady eyes went blank.

Jaime Torres pulled his tool belt and an additional bag of tools from his van. He could not recall why he had scheduled a routine electrical maintenance check for so late in the day. His electrical service business was going well enough that he did not have to take these off-hour jobs, but somehow he had been talked into the task.

He closed his van, and locked it. The various exotic scents from the zoo across the street reminded him that this was not the best neighborhood, and so he double-checked the lock.

Jaime stepped back, strapped on his belt, and picked up the tool bag. For a moment he felt disoriented, then a wonderful sense of well-being came over him.

He ran quickly across the street. Looking up and down the street, he saw that nobody was around. He tossed the bag of tools over the perimeter fence that surrounded the zoo. The fence was not particularly high at this point. Jaime jumped up, caught the top, and hoisted himself over the fence.

He picked up his bag of tools, and then moved purposefully through the pathways of the zoo. He came to a single zoo employee standing by a small access door. He did not even acknowledge the young woman, who stared blankly ahead. She opened the door for him, and he went in.

The short tunnel he had entered disgorged him into the Warthog pen. He went silently past the lumpy creature, and quickly opened an access panel in the log by which the beast stood. He plied his tools for about twenty minutes, and then closed the panel.

Jaime returned to his van by the same way he had entered the zoo. When he got there, he put his tool bag on the ground. He then stood for a moment, gathering his thoughts. The sense of well-being slowly left him. He shook his head, and then checked to be sure that he had locked the van. Picking up his tools, he went down a small alley and found an access panel behind one of the businesses.

He went to work, again wondering why he had taken this job. For a moment, the sense of well-being returned. He began to whistle, looking forward to finishing the job and heading back home.

The eyes of the lumpy quadruped cleared, and the creature went once again to the log. He manipulated the protrusions on the log. Again the screen formed above the wooden surface. It resolved into an image. A face very much like his own.

“About time you reported in, Spatula.” The creature in the screen said.

“Nice to see you too, Chief.” The lumpy quadruped responded. It was good to hear a familiar voice. It was good to hear his name.

“What took you so long getting the net up?” Asked the Chief. “Based on preliminary reports, the technology should have been available.”

“It wasn’t parts, Chief.” Spatula replied. “It was service. You remember the experiments with Pootags there on the home world?”

“Ugh. Do I. I was a field worker on one project. Hairy little bipeds, with fabulous hands. Two opposing thumbs on each hand. Long fingers. Should have made great tools.”

“Yeah. But limited psychic links, and the shortest attention span ever recorded in a high-order species.” Said Spatula.

“You think they are hopeless, eh? The humans, not the Pootags.” Asked the Chief.

“Too early to tell. I have months to go on this study.” Spatula replied.

“So, what’s the problem with them? They looked so promising.” Asked the Chief.

“Attention span is a bit of an issue.” Spatula said. “Mostly, though, it is sex.”

“Sex? Why is that a problem?” Asked the Chief.

“They think about it all the time.” Spatula said. He could barely contain his disgust. “All the time. I don’t see how they get anything done.”

“So the prelims were right? They don’t have seasons?” Asked the Chief. He was appalled, and just a little bit titillated.

“Chief, you are disgusting.” Said Spatula.

“What?” Asked the Chief, trying to look innocent.

“Anyway, managing them is hard work. After three weeks of this, I am exhausted. And disgustingly, uh, anxious.” Said Spatula.

“Well, OK. Good work, I guess. Get some rest. Keep me posted.” Chief said, signing off.

The screen vanished.

Spatula concentrated, and moments later the young female zoo employee came in and added some necessary nutrients to the items already in the feeding trough. He sent her away so that she could go home.

“Oh, scharzog! How am I going to be able to put up with thoughts like that?” Said Spatula to himself, after releasing the young human’s mind. “How can these creatures do such things? And she is looking forward to it!”

For a moment Spatula did not think he could eat. Yet he had a full day of observation to make the next day. He had chosen the zoo as a prime observation post, because these strange creatures would come to him. He just looked too much like a Warthog to be able to freely observe out in the wide world. Here, he just had to make a few small psychic tweaks to actually look to zoo patrons like a real Warthog.

He started to munch on the food in his trough. It was really pretty good. Not like home, but not bad for a meal in the field.

“I just hate to think what the folks back home will say when they learn what my name means on this little world.” Said Spatula. He sighed, and finished his meal.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Dynamic Literacy

I remember, nearly half a century ago, my father told me that everything I wanted to know was available in books. I hungered to know so much. What a promise! The only problem was that when he told me this, I had not yet learned to read.

What a motivator! I learned quickly. I started reading voraciously and never looked back.

Today, literacy is changing. Since I love the written word and the very act of reading, I might readily join those who are critical of the new literacy. I do not.

It is my opinion that the dynamics of language and communication are very important. Language is alive, and has to be allowed the freedom to grow.

On the other hand, we all benefit by the efforts of those who try to defend proper usage. Denied such guidance and protection, language could easily deteriorate and lose the power it has to shape cultures. It is my opinion that too much restriction is unprofitable, but some constraint gives structure and definition to language.

Will the new literacy mean the demise of the written word? Probably not. Oral tradition is preserved by the few who dedicate themselves to insuring that some part survives. The written word, in printed form, will also be preserved into the future.

What comes next will prove most exciting. This is just the beginning. Though people will not be literate in traditional modes, the new literacy will be dynamic, powerful, and liberating.

Flash Fiction

Not too long ago, probably less than ten years, I received a book as a gift. The title was Flash Fiction. This referred to the very short stories it contained. Rather like the Haiku of prose. I loved this work, as much for the challenge it presented as the tales themselves.

Now I am exploring work in this medium. An ideal environment for very short stories. As I edit the treasures exhumed from my file drawers, I find I really like the idea of pruning these works to give them a new form. Many of them were bloated, the results of bad habits and a natural affection for words. I am trimming away everything but the essence of each tale. I have been pleasantly surprised at how good they look when I am done.

Thus far, every one has benefited from the reduction. What must I have been thinking?

I should have one ready for publishing within the next two days. I look forward to presenting my nicely polished story for your consideration.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Writing and Depression

In the not too distant past I came to grips with the fact that I am a depressive. Not manic-depressive, nor even a clinically depressed person. Just someone given to depression. It colors one's life, and affects those you love and those you work with.

Now the correctional field is full of elements that can adversely affect a depressive. So it did with me. However, a bit of counseling and some adjustments to my life have aided me in correcting the condition. It is a condition that has to be managed; it cannot be cured.

Part of this management has been just "doing things." Depressives will be inclined to withdraw from life. Fewer and fewer things seem worth doing. Part of the treatment is to get out and do things. Accomplish things. What they are is not so important as the doing.

From the perspective of a depressive, it doesn't make sense. However, I was determined to get better. I started walking for exercise. I also started studying new things. I began preparing for my retirement. I also returned to my writing.

Do I have bad days? Yes. The difference is that now I know I need to do something when the day is bad. Walk. Learn. Write.

If you have found this site, and come to enjoy my little tales, I will be delighted. That, however, is just a bonus. For me, just the doing is a good thing.

Thanks for visiting. I hope you enjoy my little tales as much as I enjoy writing them.

Sunday, July 1, 2007


Today I spent some time preparing my old stories for publication. I have been trimming them down a bit. Cleaning them up, making the writing a bit tighter.

I suppose I need to establish some kind of a personal policy for publication. Is a story a week enough to keep readers interested? Hard to tell, right now, since I don't seem to have any readers.

Can I produce a story each week? I have a small backlog available, now. I can assess the matter as time goes on. At the moment I am confident I can do a story each week. I haven't yet reviewed my old story ideas file.

I have a few pieces in various degrees of completion that might go well as serials. At present I have mixed feelings on that. For one thing, the way the entries stack in the archives would present later story elements first. That would make for hard reading. I haven't found any other way to publish the entries. Hmmm.