Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wedding, Terry, baby ouchie, Eric, and teaser

As you know, I haven't made this private yet. That will be a job for next week, when I can make sure to have everyone's e-mails that I want.

We did wedding photography and videography for a very cute Japanese couple. They were a lot of fun and their reception was awesome. Here's some pictures to give you an idea of their personality.
We have been to many a reception, and the "typical" LDS one is so boring! I love it when people have programs. Whether it's the bride & groom or others entertaining, that's what makes a good reception, in my opinion. At least, that's what makes it memorable.

This week, I met my male alter-ego Terry.

I don't think Terry would do very well with the ladies, to be quite blunt. And he's not very strong. But he's a nice chap with a good heart.

Ariah got her very first bruise this week as she has been practicing sitting up all by herself. She wears it well.

It was Eric's b-day Friday... and I didn't get a picture :( I need to stop forgetting. Happy birthday, man. You're a great human being.

I started editing Steve's b-day adventure, but I've got more to do. Here is a 4-5 minute teaser. If your not familiar with the Legend of Zelda games, you will probably be really confused. I plan to add text, transitions, and music. Enjoy.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Bent Sword Chapter 1

It's my turn to post something on the blog. I was going to videotape Teresa and I having a scat duel, but we can't find the the plate for our tripod, so it will have to wait. I not knowing what else to do, Mrs. G suggested I paste a chapter from the novel I'm currently revising for Cedar Fort Publishing. (I got past the query letter and first three chapters screening, but before I send them the full manuscript, I want to make it good.) Though it seems like a cop out to me, she's happy, so I'm happy. You are under no obligation to read this. I probably wouldn't. (Sorry all the auto formatting was lost between copying it from Open Office and pasting it into Blogger.)

By Stephen Gashler

(I drew this in church:)

A Word to the Reader

As nice as proper beginnings are, sometimes our stories begin in chapter ten. That's just how it is. And the explanations never come soon enough.

10. Steffin

The war had all but ended. Heaven thundered, earth shook. Steel littered the earth where fallen heroes took their final slumber, shrouded beneath the thick fog of war. The rivers ran red with the blood of men, green with the blood of goblins. The fallen lay in heaps as numerous as the stars which once filled the sky, now fallen from the heavens.
Yet one soul lived on. Sir Steffin, scarred from head to bear toe, his garments torn, his dirty hair ablaze in the wind, climbed to the highest summit and raised his blood-stained sword. Flesh weary but spirit unconquerable, he directed the heavens as if a divine conductor, and the music -the symphony and choir of heaven – gave peace to a heavy heart. With a swift swipe of his glowing blade, he commanded the mists above to part, and the elements obeyed. Starlight once again fell to the earth.
“Behold the heavens!” he shouted over the rumble of distant thunder. Down below, the starlight illuminated the faces of sleeping men, giving life to their eyes. Limp hands gripped their weapons, weary legs found strength. Soon, the lone man on the hill was joined by Sir Reginald the just, Sir Kenneth the brave, and Sir Griswold the grisly. Following the gaze of their leader, their bearded faces turned to the sky, lips curling. Each starlit face gazed at the same seven bright stars, a constellation they knew well, a glorious sign from God. It was the bent sword, a symbol of light's imminent triumph over darkness.
Standing above the world, the brothers through life and death beheld the grim battlefield. Their eyes locked, but no words could describe the depths of their emotion. Like the sleeping soldiers, hell and earth no longer poised threats. The knights were free. But the story wasn't over. Yet.
Another hole tore above. A heavenly beam revealed a distant structure. At once they recognized their final challenge, no more a nightmare, but real, glowing in the distance, waiting. It was the box of boredom. The stolen dreams of Britain, now trapped and dead, a toxic gas, whirled within the semitransparent structure like a mad beast.
Sir Reginald and Sir Kenneth fell to their knees, feeling their dream being uprooted from their bosoms. Even Sir Steffin leaned on his sword for support. But he would not back down. Not now.
“Long live the king,” he muttered, struggling to make his weary voice heard. He coughed up blood.
The mighty Sir Griswold gripped his leader's shoulders, and their eyes met. No love between man and woman could ever be holier or stronger than the love these men felt for each other. Steffin lowered his brow over his dazzling, war-hardened, blue eyes. Again his blade shone with heavenly light. With Griswold's help, he held it high.
First limping, then jogging, then charging, the holy fellowship rushed toward their destiny, crying as at Jericho.
The war resumed, the powers of darkness stirred. Soon a mighty shadow passed over them. The knights stopped, raised their shields, looked to the sky.
“A two-headed dragon!” cried Sir Reginald.
“No, a seven-headed dragon!” cried Sir Griswold. “With sharp teeth!” Sir Griswold unsheathed his sword, pounded his iron chest. “I’ll take him.” Forking from their path, he pursued the enormous shadow.
The remaining knights slowed their pace as they approached the giant box, which dazzled their chain mail with unearthly light. Again Sir Reginald and Sir Kenneth began to lose their strength, but Sir Steffin held fast. His blade now glowed so brightly that none could gaze at it without shielding their eyes. The light began to fill his entire body. He swung the burning steel in preparation to seal the triumph of their holy quest. As prophesied by the holy oracle, one blow of the righteous blade would vanquish the edifice of evil forever, releasing the stolen dreams and overturning the powers of boredom. The world would never be the same. Holding his sword with both hands over his head, Sir Steffin held his breath. His men held their breaths. The angels held their breaths. The heavenly symphony was a measure away from its climax.
Somewhere on a distant hill, the fair lady Porkatha stood in a white gown, waving her handkerchief in the wind, a token of her devotion for her knight. Always there, watching and falling deeper in love, she eagerly awaited this unparalleled act of manliness, a final sacrament to her honor.
“Wait,” said Sir Reginald.
The great leader blinked a few times, then turned his head. “I beg your pardon?”
Sir Reginald's expression was suddenly far from holy. “It's my turn.”
Sir Steffin reluctantly lowered his sword. “What are you talking about?”
“I think I should get to cut it open.”
The great leader reached beneath his sweaty breastplate, scratching a devil of an itch. “Oh, come on, Regy, don’t be a baby.”
Suddenly a gauntlet hit the ground, and Sir Steffin and Sir Kenneth stepped back in alarm.
“You’re the baby,” said a fuming Sir Reginald. “You always have to be the hero. Well I say it’s my turn.”
“I get to cut it open because I'm the leader of the quest. That's just how it's done.”
“Who made you the leader?”
“The holy oracle. Have you forgotten?”
Sir Kenneth the peacemaker took off a soaking helmet and placed a hand on Sir Steffin's shoulder. “Regy's right, Steffin. You already got to save the princess, duel the goblin king and wear the fleece of handsomeness. You know we all wanted to wear that.”
“Come, men,” said Sir Steffin, gazing with disbelief at the mutinous faces. In the corner of his eye, the glory of his blade waned. “We're a team. Let's not talk of selfishness.” Finding himself cornered against the giant box, a desperate Sir Steffin smiled at the distant sight of Sir Griswold, carrying a severed dragon head. He hollered, “How was it, Grisy?”
“You should have seen me!” Sir Griswold proudly threw the enormous, bloody head against the ground. “He was terrible. He had eleven heads!”
Sir Reginald did not look impressed. “You said seven.”
“Well, there were eight. But he was really awful!”
Sir Steffin and Sir Griswold bounced fists as only the holiest of friends could. Sir Griswold turned to the others with an outstretched fist, but to his surprise, neither man returned the gesture.
Sir Steffin broke the awkward silence. “If it wasn't for Grisy, we wouldn't have made it this far. That's what I call teamwork.”
Sir Reginald folded his arms. “Fine. Then why don't we act like a team and cut the box together?”
Sir Steffin felt the necessity to rub his chin. “You remember what the oracle said: 'Only one pure in heart—' ”
“I'm as pure as you are!”
“I'm sure you are, but my point is that he said one. You're just not the chosen one, Regy. Why can't you understand that?”
A strange and frightening voice, as if from another realm, startled the knights. They looked to the source of the voice, another hole torn into their world. With horror, they beheld a towering whose power obviously surpassed their own, whose authority tugged at the chains of their hearts.
It was Sir Reginald's mother. “Regy, time for dinner!” The knights looked around them as the fabric of their world instantly began to unravel.
Staring at Sir Steffin, Sir Reginald sheathed his sword. “I'm glad. Because I'm tired of this stupid quest, and I quit.” He turned a cold shoulder and briskly went his way out of the dark, thundering world and into an English meadow in the late afternoon. The others had to turn away from the blinding light.
Sir Kenneth also sheathed his sword. “I'm with him.” He followed after Sir Reginald.
The goblins had tried in vain, only Sir Steffin's closest friends managed to place a dagger in his heart. He turned to his remaining comrade. “You're still loyal, aren't you?”
Sir Griswold stared at the ground, digging a little hole with his iron boot. “Steffin...I didn't want to be the one to say this...but we are getting a bit old for this, don't you think?”
“I know, I know, I'm not saying we should forsake our youths or anything like that. I'm just saying...perhaps there's something more noble we should be doing. Like pursuing girls.”
“But what about the princesses of—”
“Real girls.”
An awkward moment.
“Well, I'll see you later,” said Grisy. “We'll play again some time. Promise.”
No longer knights but boys, they bounced their fists again, and Grisy went his way, tearing yet another hole through their dying world.
Steffin looked out at the remnants of the battlefield. No more goblin warriors, no more glory, nothing but a dry wind. On a hill in the distance stood his nemesis, brown robes flapping. He laughed monotonously. Lord Bore always won.
“It's not over yet.” Steffin sheathed his sword, and as the blade disappeared, so did the dark world. Once again he found himself in an empty meadow, alone. The sun sank behind the western mountains. Crows tortured the air. Only the dry wind remained.
It was getting late. Mom would be worrying.
Starting to shiver, he hugged himself close and headed for home. The mountains caught his gaze. They were calling him, whispering.
“Someday,” he promised.

As always, the cottage was hot and stuffy. Squashed between a swarm of siblings, Steffin struggled to free his elbows in order to get to his soup. Staring resentfully at the poisonous, steaming gruel, he managed to produce a spoonful of the vile stuff and bring it to his lips. It was good. Very good. If only it were disgusting, that would be so much more romantic.
He'd heard once that Robin Hood would never eat dinner unless he had performed a good deed for the day. He looked up at his ravenous siblings, lapping up their dinner like dogs. What ungrateful ignoramuses, binging away, untried, undeserving. They would never be great.
Mom bent over the fire, stirring a cauldron of pudding. “Oh, I heard the most wonderful news today. Misses Numkins had her baby.”
Gwendolyn clapped her hands in a disgustingly feminine way. “Is it a boy or a girl?”
“That's what's so wonderful.” Leaving the cauldron, Mom brought a vase of stupid flowers to the table. “Both!”
“She had twins!”
“Oh, how delightful.”
Steffin whispered to young Kraggen, who was playing with his peas, “Babies are for old people.” The little brother laughed.
Dad, with his all-hearing ears and all-seeing eyes, said, “Steffin, be respectful. And stop leaning back on the chair.”
Mother continued. “Anyway, the Numkins are throwing a feast to celebrate on Friday. They've invited all of us. So boys, don't make any other plans for that evening. You'll each need to wash up and wear your nice clothes.”
As an act of defiance toward old people and their nice clothes, Steffin smashed his peas with his fist. Little Kraggen laughed.
Again, there was no escaping Dad. His solemn voice always invoked guilt. “Steffin, please don't play with your food.”
Dad was so boring. Surely the man had dreams once, but Lord Bore had defeated him. Could no one but Steffin see that a dark spirit controlled their lives? No, they were all oblivious. Especially his sisters. They were the dumbest of all.
Gwendolyn twiddled one of her braids. “Mother, I love how you decorated the kitchen. The tulips and the chrysanthemums, they're lovely.”
Little Kraggen piped up. “They look like farts!”
A shower of stew burst from Steffin's mouth, messing on Dad.
Dad's face flushed. “Steffin, look what you've taught him.”
“I never—”
Kraggen smashed his fist onto his peas.
Dad continued. “He looks up to you, and you're a bad example. Go to your room, both of you.”
Steffin defiantly pounded the table. The cottage fell silent, and all heads turned to Steffin, who, amazed at what he had done, looked guiltily at his fist. Could Robin Hood defy Prince John? Steffin met the eyes of Dad, and the answer was clear. He slid back his chair and left the kitchen.

Kraggen joined him upstairs on the bed, where Steffin gazed out the window at the mountains.
“Whatcha lookin' at?” asked the younger brother.
“Nothing.” The mountains were calling him again. Surely, amid magical lands, his fate awaited him on the other side. In fact, part of him was already there. Somehow he knew that his story would not be the beginning but the long-awaited climax of an ancient epic. If only someone would show him his role.
“I'm sorry I got you in trouble,” said Kraggen.
“This family's dumb. I wish I were an orphan.”
“Me too.”
“Mom and Dad don't understand me. No one here understands me.”
“I understand you.”
“No you don't.” Steffin lay down on the cool bed, stretching his arms and legs over the soft quilt. Kraggen did likewise. They gazed at the beams in the ceiling, so precise and stiff. “Have you ever heard of Robin Hood?”
“Who's that?”
“He was the greatest hero there ever was. He lived in the woods with his men. Can you imagine that, living in the woods? All he ever did was have adventures and kill bad guys. I'll bet he was an orphan. He must have been an orphan.”
Floorboards creaked beneath heavy feet. Both boys sat up and tried to look serious. To their relief, it was only big brother Jareth.
“Hey guys, Mom and Dad went for a walk. Wanna play don't touch the floor or you die?”
“No thanks,” said Steffin.
“How about lava monsters?”
“No thanks. I'm tired of games.”
“Me too,” said Kraggen. They were pounding their fists on their palms.
“Honestly, Jareth,” continued Steffin, “don't you think you're getting a little old for such nonsense?”
Jareth, stunned, joined them on the bed. “Steffin, when did you become a grownup?”
“I've always been a grownup. Children just pretend; grownups do the real thing.”
“Then why don't you help Father and I in the shop?”
“No, not like that. I want to do something meaningful like Robin Hood did. Honestly, Jareth, do you really want to spend your whole life making barrels?”
“Why not?”
“Don't you ever want to just forget it all and go on an adventure?”
Jareth consulted the stubble on his chin. “Steffin, the problem with your philosophy is that, as romantic as it is, it's not real. It doesn't do well to build your life on dreams. Everyone has to work and be practical. But we can still have fun.”
Steffin looked out the window again, this time at the bell tower of the church rising above the rooftops. It looked heavenly in the moonlight. How could God be so sadistic as to create a romantic soul and drop him in an unromantic world? But Jareth was right. As nice as dreams were, real people were better.
“Okay, let's play.”
But looking back at the tower, Steffin silently made an appointment with God.

Friar Felix dipped his aged fingers into the holy water, and with a gentle stroke on the newborn forehead, he saved the first Numkins baby from hell. Monks walked up the aisles, singing and filling the stone expanses over them with sublimity.
Among the congregation, Steffin pointed to the monks' robes, whispering to Kraggen, “That's the kind of robe that Lord Bore wears. Boredom has a brownish color to it.”
Monkhood, what a wasted life. So limited, so trapped, so unadventurous. Yet Steffin envied their peace of mind, their security, their holiness.
His mind turning to God, he gazed up at the arched ceiling, at a colorful mural of the Holy Crusades. If a life of manly adventure was just as holy as a life of quiet asceticism, why would anyone choose the latter? Then noticing colorful light in the corner of his eye, he turned to a stained glass window, where stood his favorite bible character of all: Paul. He loved Paul because of his finger. It was a raised finger, illuminated by heavenly light, calling repentance. Surely unseen crowds were oppressing him, but with that single, glorious finger, Paul defied the world. Steffin looked down at his own finger, so bland, no power. Where was the path that led from boyhood to sainthood?
A piercing cry brought his attention back to the baptismal font. Apparently the second Numkins baby wasn't as keen on being saved from hell. It was relieving that not everyone was destined for sainthood, because that would be too much competition. Babies. How nice to have a fresh life before one's self, endless possibilities. The friar was saying to the congregation, “...and said our Lord to Nicodemus, 'Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' ”
Born again; a second chance, a new life. But I've already been baptized. That's too bad. Now the friar was saying, “...except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
Another dazzling light caught Steffin's attention, a window depicting angels. They were looking down, extending hands to men on earth. Something stirred within him. He raised his eyes. At the top of the window was a glorious man with a beard, the Almighty, the Holy Father, calling His children. Calling his sons. Calling...
Steffin. A beam of light shined through the colorful panes, warming his face. By the burning in his bosom, he knew it was a sign. He looked around, but the mass of faces were oblivious to the light. God was speaking to him, only him. He felt peaceful, strong, able to... defy the world. Then, looking back at Paul, at the glorious finger, he understood.
I have a quest.

His family could not know. He hid behind a pillar until they were gone, then hesitantly approached the friar.
The old man was putting out candles when he heard the footsteps. “Steffin,” he said, startled at seeing another soul in the empty chapel. His voice reverberated through stone chambers. Steffin felt very exposed.
This would be difficult. How could an old duffer understand a young heart? Yet Steffin was determined to find the door to heaven. “Hello, Friar. I...I...”
“Come close, son.”
Steffin couldn't look up as he approached. “I want you to teach me the ways of God.”
Friar Felix lifted Steffin's chin. “You've attended church your whole life. What more do you want to know?”
Steffin wiggled free of the friar's finger. “I know of God, but I don't know him.”
The old man folded his arms. “This is a good desire.” He looked at a stained window. “Of the wisest men of the earth, few of them, very few, really know God. But why do you come to me now?”
Steffin put his hands in his pockets. “I feel that heaven has something great in store for me. That I should prepare myself.” Feeling the friar's hand on his shoulder, he looked up.
The old man was smiling, he face beaming with wisdom. “Heaven speaks to us through our hearts. And when we act on our feelings, we will be given more. Steffin, your heart is pure, and I believe that God is speaking to you. You came to the right place.”
“What shall I do?” Steffin's heart began to pound.
“That's easy. First you'll need to learn to read.”
The boy's smiled faded.

In a soft pool of candlelight, a reluctant mind filled with letters. When his head hurt, he closed his eyes and listened to the soothing chants of monks. Though in another language, the serene chants spoke to his soul, a prelude to the holy quest before him. As each ink symbol came to have meaning, he felt more intimate with God. For he had discovered a hidden world, the world of knowledge, which now seemed inseparably connected with heaven. What other hidden worlds were there?
As the months passed, Steffin found himself sinking deeper and deeper into his new cloister. He'd found a new world; who cared about the old one? He opened sacred records, words of prophets, but more importantly, words of chivalry. He felt heaven's golden key unlocking his mind, showing him his destiny, which was somewhere between Camelot and the holy grail. The more he read, the more restless he felt, ready for his own adventure.
Like Sir Reginald's mother, the friar disrupted the hidden world. “What are you reading, son?”
Again the boy felt exposed. For a moment he had mistaken the friar for the Sheriff of Nottingham. “The ballads of Robin Hood.” He couldn't hide the trace of guilt in his voice. Still, he forced himself to look up at the kindly man. “Friar, was it a sin for him to steal from the rich?”
The friar looked grave, searching for words. “The Lord's ways are righteous. He commanded men not to steal. But sometimes, in order to bring about His righteous ways, the spirit of the law must be followed, and the letter must be broken.”
Steffin folded his arms, smiling. “I suppose there could be many times when the spirit takes precedence over the letter.” And suddenly, as if a divine manifestation, he saw himself dressed in disguise, deceiving nations, storming castles, combating foes, stealing that forbidden kiss, all for a righteous cause. “I believe I'm ready for my quest. Do you have a sword I can use?”
From the friar's expression, Steffin surmised that he'd said something wrong Ashamed, he looked down, sensing an oncoming lecture.
“Steffin, get these wicked thoughts out of your head. I have watched you over these past months, and your heart has strayed from where it began. You've spent far more time reading myths and legends than the words of God. Whose glory are you truly seeking?”
Steffin felt as if slapped on the face. “God's, of course.”
The old sage's eyes penetrated Steffin's soul, a very uncomfortable feeling. “Your heart is mostly good. But there is the desire for evil in you. I see it now as clear as day. Steffin, I warn you to beware of yourself. If you seek your own glory, it will destroy you.
“Remember this: a man of God does not appoint himself. He must be called. If heaven truly has something in store for you, then your time will come. As for now, God sent you to the earth as a peasant, not a knight. Live your life for what it is, and stop dreaming of things that cannot be.”
As the peasant walked home that evening, the stars seemed extra dim. He hadn't reached his fifteenth year, and already he felt like an old man. Now it was clear: no ballads would be written about Steffin of Peaville. His test in life was not to overcome impossible odds but to humbly accept mediocrity. The thought made him want to cry.
At home, he rushed past his brothers and sisters, up the ladder, into the bedroom. He had to escape, and only one place offered comfort: the hidden world. He sat down at a desk with a stack of parchment, pen, and ink. With flint and steel he lit a candle, then all concentration went to the blank pages in the pool of light, at the unorganized world, waiting for his touch. The door opened. Sleeping souls awakened. He found his friends. He gave them form, and they gave him hope. The more he dreamed about them, the more real they seemed.

“But they're not real,” said Jareth, sawing wood. “You can't dream things into existence. It takes action.”
An older Steffin pounded an iron rim with a hammer. “I don't care. Life is too boring without fiction.”
Jareth split the piece of wood, then rubbed his weary arm. “You talk as if you've given up hope. Years ago you told me that you planned to leave on a quest. Now it's only your imaginary characters who go on quests. What happened?”
“I realized that I should accept my fate for what it is.”
“How do you know what your fate is?”
“The friar told me. I'm supposed to be a peasant.”
“Hmm. It just doesn't seem like you to give up hope so easily.”
“Well, I asked mom and dad if I could leave on a quest, but they said no.”
“They said it wasn't practical.”
Jareth laughed. “I hate that word.”
“So do I.” Wiping the sweat from his forehead, Steffin set down the hammer and began to bend the rim, straining. “But it's all right. Inspiration, while often so fleeting. I don't need to run away to find myself.”
“But sometimes you still feel the inspiration, don't you?”
Steffin relaxed his muscles and looked out a window. In the clouds, he could almost make out the silhouette of a dragon. “Yes.”
With the days work finished, his dues of drudgery were paid, and Steffin eagerly returned to his manuscript through which he was permitted to live for the few short hours left of the day. He shuffled through a thick stack of parchment until he found where he had left off: in the middle of a swamp at midnight surrounded by skeleton warriors. How would Sir Percivel and Sir Mammoth possibly survive this one? The adventure continued. He wrote until his hand ached, and the wax was gone, sometimes losing all track of time until the cock crowed. His friends seemed so real. Why couldn't they be real?
“Forget the friar,” said Jareth, back at his sawing. Again the day was bright and hot. “Forget mom and dad. Why don't you just go?”
“Go where?” Steffin was staring out the window, at the mountains. Oh yes, he was supposed to be working. He picked up another rim.
“You told me that you felt called by heaven. If that's true, heaven will show you where.”
“Last week I heard a preacher say that God doesn't speak to men anymore.”
“Do you believe that?”
“...No. Still, it was probably just my imagination.”
“What's wrong with that? Perhaps imagination is all you need to start a quest.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well what do you want...for a damsel to send you a letter of distress? For a dragon to stroll into town? Or perhaps you're waiting for the Pope himself to commission you to find the holy grail.”
“Jareth, like any of that would happen.”
“You're not listening to me.” Jareth walked to the window, put his hand against it. “In stories, the adventure usually comes to the hero. It's not fair, really. In real life, if you really want adventure, you need to start it yourself.”
Steffin laughed. “And how would I do that?”
“I don't know. The fairy tale way begins with a villain abducting some broad and thus compelling a hero to do whatever it takes to stop him. But in my opinion, the hero is simply undoing the villain's art. Hardly heroic in my opinion. Rather, I admire the villain. It's his hard work that puts the whole story into motion. He's the one with a dream, and all the stupid hero does is pull it down. Perhaps you could learn a lot from the villains.”
Steffin was angrily bending his rim. “This town is so boring. I should have been an orphan.”
Jareth sighed and began to massage Steffin's shoulders. “Listen to me. You're in control of your destiny. Your story begins when you want it to.”
“Jareth, forget it. I used to think I was the chosen one. I've grown up. My destiny has nothing to do with slaying dragons, because there's no such thing.”
“Perhaps the chosen one is he who first chooses himself.”
Steffin sighed. “If I had an actual purpose...if somewhere, anywhere, there was a real need...”
“What I'm saying is, being a hero is more than destroying something evil. It's about making something good. Somewhere in you, you still have a dream. Follow it, and you'll find your purpose.”

In his refuge of candlelight, to the sound of chirping crickets, Steffin once again stared at his ink creations. He longed to lose himself in his fictional world. He longed for the companionship of the gallant Sir Percivel and Mammoth the friendly giant. “If only you were real,” he whispered. “We would have such grand adventures together.” He checked to make sure that his brothers were still asleep, then turned back to his friends. “But I made you so you can live the life that I cannot.”
Again he tried to write, but his inspiration had run dry. He couldn't lie to himself anymore. “I'm tired of fiction. I want to live.”
And then, as always, there was the window, moonlight pouring out of it, creating square patterns on the floor. He covered the manuscript and put the quill back into the bottle. Walking to the portal to heaven, he saw the glorious constellation, the seven bright stars. Others saw it as a kitchen ladle or part of a bear, but they were wrong. It was the bent sword, the symbol of his life—potentially glorious but whacked out of shape.
Suddenly inspiration, that fleeting force, returned, and this time it hit hard. For a reason he could not explain, his heart began to pound.
“Dear God...what is this I feel?” Yet he understood so clearly, for the stars were telling him. He was to go, and he was to change the world, and he would be endowed with the holy order of Robin Hood. And who could stop him? It was then that he first heard the new melody. He whistled it softly, tried hard to hold on to it.
But when morning came, it was gone. No more stars, no more whisperings from heaven, just a bright sun and a mundane world.
Yet his determination was set. He dressed for traveling and announced at the breakfast table, “Mom, Dad, today I'm leaving on my quest.”
“Oh no you're not,” said dad. And though a debate ensued, that was really the end of the matter. Steffin changed his clothes and went back to work.
But not many days later, the old man would come who would change everything, because that's how every story begins, even for those who don't think they have a story.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Wedding bells and face painting

Zach Watson and Shannon Batty were married for time and all eternity yesterday. We had the opportunity to attend their sealing, and it was a very spiritual experience. They are a beautiful couple.

For their reception, they gave Steve permission to do whatever he wanted. He decided to put together a group of guys to retell their love story through human art.

Eva and Aiden Ledezma represented Zach and Shannon. I missed it, but I heard it was a huge success. Someone got it on tape, so we'll post it (along with Steve's b-day) as soon as we get the chance. If you're not familiar with Japanese human art, this is what it's like:

Miss Ariah turned 6 months old this week! She is healthy and happy and growing too fast.

She is ticklish, but very reluctant to giggle. When she does, it's a very special moment. Her giggles are so sweet.
She still loves to eat her hands. And anything else she can get ahold of. So now that she's rolling, oi.
She has been into sticking out her tongue, and I was lucky to get this shot of it. Cute little baby tongue.

I have been taking a theater/film makeup class at BYU. It's been a lot of fun.

Here's some stage makeup for a middle aged Teresa. Not bad for the first time. Creepy look into the future though.

I had a lot of fun doing this fox. Makeup is awesome.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

ह्यूमन विडियो गमेस

Friday night was Zach Watson's bachelor party at the former Ledezmas' pink mansion. After the usual spiel of some Guitar Hero and an excessive amount of hamburgers, soda and Doritos, I suggested we entertain ourselves with the games my younger brother and I invented in our Pre-Nintendo days (I've often said that one of the best things parents can do for their kids is to refuse to buy them a Nintendo; it forces creativity.) Our first game was Human Frogger. The preliminary version was done by making a narrow lane as outlined by blankets, and then having guys roll back and forth as "logs" while the "frog," has to jump over them. When that game was no longer challenging, we played a version where three guys stood up throughout the lane, closed their eyes and randomly walked back and forth. This time the frog was also granted the gift of bipedal locomotion as he tried to weave through the moving obstacles.

Next we played Mike Tyson's Punch Out. As we didn't have boxing gloves, we had to wrap blankets around our fists. I took on Nefi. After getting a series of "power hits," as awarded by the announcer (Zach), I was able to K.O. Nefi by knocking him down right before the buzzer at the end of the fourth round (we were tied at the end of the third).

We also tried Human Mario. I had the unlucky fate of being a turtle while guys jumped over me...or on me. We didn't take that game very far. We also played a game where one man had to get to the other side of the room while two other guys tried to clobber him first. In so doing, Zach painfully popped his knee out of place, signifying the universal "game over." Of course, as is custom for bachelor parties among my cliques, we also played "Rodney King Beatings," the game in which a blanket is thrown over someone and then he's beaten senseless, and "Get 'Em!" a roulette-like game in which a random member of a circle is beaten senseless. Lest you perceive us as brute beasts, I would impress upon you the sheer civility through which we exchange and receive our loving blows. I can't explain why, but there's something about a bunch of friends hitting each other that inevitably inspires laughter, whether you're the one pummeling or being pummeled.

The next day, Saturday, I was at home, working on my novel, when I was startled by the sudden appearance of a Fairy. She had wings and leafy garland, and she strongly resembled my sister-inlaw, Heather Peavler. She told me that the princess Zelda had been kidnapped by the insidious Gannon and that it was my fate to rescue her. She had brought me a green, leater tunic, which I put on, and then she bade me follow her.

Outside, we were joined by Curtis Wiederhold, who was holding a videocamera and pushing our stroller, from which came baby cooing. The fairy told me to pay no attention to Curtis, so I didn't. We set forth down 300 West on our quest. The fair was really annoying. She kept saying, "Hey!" and "Listen!" even when I was giving her my undivided attention. She really didn't make any sense.

Soon we came to a bridge that led to the Parkway trail. Beneath it, I observed a mysterious old man with a white beard. He strongly resembled my older brother Mike. I met him, and he presented a cardboard sword, saying, "Master using it, and you can have it." He wouldn't say anything else. So I thanked him, and the fairy and I continued over the bridge.

Moments later, we saw a knight charging toward us in plastic armor. He resembled my brother inlaw Lafe Peavler. I tried to reason with the mad chap, but he insisted on killing me, so I had to slay him in self defense. After he dramatically hit the ground, to my surprise, a series of random objects, such as little squashes, flew out from his pocket as propelled by his dying hand. The fairy told me that these were "rupees." So I looted the dead man, and we went on.

Soon we encountered another foe. He was a wormy fellow with an accordian-like exterior, which I learned was called a like-like. Like-likes are bizarre creatures that have a taste for metal shields. Anyway, it was hobbling about like a dumb idiot, and I didn't want to harm it, but like the guard, it insited on dying, so I put it out of its misery. The spirit that fled from its corpse resembled my brother-inlaw Josh Peavler.

I went on to encounter a man on a bench who had nothing more to say than, "I am Error." Error also resembled Lafe Peavler. I also met a strange girl who said, "Play me a song, and I'll talk." She resembled Sarina Wiederhold. I had a recorder, and I played her a tune, but it wasn't the one she wanted to hear. So we went on. Next, while passing under a scary bridge, I suspected danger, and I was right. A terrible warrior that resembled Joseph Cardon jumped down from a wall and brandished a sword that was much larger than my own. But I stunned him with the boomerang I'd looted from my first murder, and soon this fellow was a gonner as well. I tried to take his amazing sword, but the fairy informed me that such an action was illegal. I had been wounded in this battle, and I was glad to soon meet a fairy beneath the bridge, who healed me. Later, I threw my broken cardboard sword into the water, and the fairy gave me a major upgrade, a plastic sword.

Next I encountered a very eccentric mask salesman who resembled Levi Stannard. He was very pushy in selling me a plastic mask that I had no interest in, but I didn't know what else to do with my rupees, so I bought it. And it's a good thing I did, for next on my path was a cloaked girl on a bench whom I would later discover strongly resembled Bria Wiederhold. She wore a similar mask, and I found that she would only talk to me if I put on my mask. Well, like most people in this strange world called Hyrule, she wouldn't actually talk but would activate her single routine, which was to present me with a box, from which I produced a "silver" (Nerf) arrow.

I'll spare you from some of the more tedious details. So to summarize, I encountered the mysterious old man again, who had been hobbling in the distance through the whole quest, creating a very creepy effect. He said, "It is a secret to everybody" and gave me fifty "rupees." I eventually encountered a "Sheik," who resembled Rose Ledezma, who taught me how to play a magical melody on my recorder. I played the melody for the weird girl on the bench, and she then told me that I would find Gannon in the "place I rested my head." I also met Error on the road, who told me where to find a ladder. I think I failed to meet Error's friend, who would tell me this, so Error had to tell me himself. I found the ladder (an industrial ladder), but without possessing the magical bottomless pockets of the heroes in video games, I had to lug the cursed ladder everywhere I went, not to mention all my other cumbersome items, and it wasn't easy.

Eventually I found a "bomb bag" in the branches of a tree, for which the ladder came in handy. At a village comfortably built around the gazeebo behind the Bon Losi Academy, I meet a merchant in a tent who resembled my little neise Jaime. She sold me a shield, a bunch of bombs (water balloons), a red potion and some arrows, all for only one rupee each. But the item I coveted most, a Nerf crossbow, cost a "ducky," which I did not possess.

Next to the shop was a woman who resembled my sister-inlaw Desire Gashler. (By the way, the fairy had been holding an MP3 player this whole time which played appropriate music. The Zelda theme for our usual walking, an intense theme for battles and now a gentle theme for the village.) This woman asked if I wanted to play her game, which was throwing bombs at rocks. I accepted, and it took my nearly twenty bombs, but just before the stock was out, I hit the last rock, and the woman rewarded me with a plastic duck. As you can guess, I left the village with a crossbow added to my very cumbersome inventory. Thank goodness I was able to load some of it into the stroller pushed by the cameraman.

I knew from the clue given by the girl on the bench that Gannon was at my house. So we journeyed back, and many of the strange characters I had met along the way joined me. Carrying the ladder all the way back to my house was no fun. I asked the motley bunch if they'd stand beside me in my great confrontation with Gannon and not pull any of that "the hero must go alone" nonsense, but they declined.

In front of my house, I met a cloaked man in black who resembled Nefi Ledezma. He wanted to fight hand to hand, which we did, and I eventually pinned him and won. Then I ventured into my backyard, where lo, I beheld the terrible Gannon, who resembled Andrew Whittaker, surrounded by all of his terrible minions, with Zelda locked up in the back. Gannon said something villainous, then sent his minions on me. First I battled the swordsmen from beneath the bridge again, then two knights at once, and then the fairy from beneath the bridge who had apparently turned evil. Finally it was just Gannon and I.

The final battle was very intense. His sword was huge, and he whacked me with it many a time. Furthermore, my sword had no effect on him. I realized that I had to first hit him with the "silver arrow," and this was only possible when my fairy would first set Zelda free, thus distracting Gannon. I was able to get a rare shot at him and then whack him with my sword, but he definitely hit me a lot more. It it was a real video game, I would have died many times. But I did have the red potion, which kept me alive. My fairy continued to squirt it into my mouth (it was inside of an old Ketchup bottle), thus giving me the strength to go on. And eventually I prevailed and Gannon exploded. I took the hand of Princess Zelda, who resembled my wife, and all was happy and gay.

This amazing production was all orchestrated by Teresa on behalf of my birthday, all completely behind my back. It was also largely organized by my brother and sister-inlaw Mike and Desire Gashler. I must say that it was one of the funnest activities I've ever been engaged in, and I felt very loved. I was very impressed by Teresa's skill as a creative producer, as this was much more ellaborate than any "surprise theater" event I'd ever organized. To add to this, there was another "surprise party" that evening, though I totally knew this one was coming. I was actually the one to jump into the room and shout "surprise!" to the large crowd. We played improv games and had good fun.

I suppose one purpose of a birthday party is to help the person growing older happily confront his new age. I do confess that I wasn't too thrilled to be twenty-six, as it seemed to inaugurate my final departure from the first quarter century of my life and my youth all together. There's no getting around saying you're an adult when you're twenty-six. And I'll confess, I have a Peter Pan complex. But man, after all that fun and love, for whatever reason, I now feel really good about being a grownup. I guess the fact has been reaffirmed in my mind that I can face a lifetime of being a grownup without ever having to actually grow up.

Speaking of human video games, it was a complete coincidence that this big Zedla affair happened the night after we were playing "Frogger," "Mario," and "Mike Tyson's Punch Out" for Zach's party. In light of all this, a number of us have expressed an interest in creating some sort of theme park that specializes in "quests" like this. What could possibly be more fun? Teresa and I had set a goal to create a theme park in our backyard this summer. Maybe this dream will soon become reality. Amen. (Pictures to follow.)