Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Bleeding Tree

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This is the Dragon's Blood tree. The Dragon's Blood tree "bleeds" when it is cut. Well, not really, but it's red sap certainly looks like blood. People throughout history have used this unusual sap, or dragon's blood, for many things ranging from dyes and medicines to glue, breath fresheners and alchemy.
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The tree is rare and can be found on some small islands in the Indian Ocean, particularly on Socotra Island. The inhabitants there use the dragon's blood sort of as a panacea to cure many and most medical problems.
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But even without the benefits of it's unique "blood," this tree would still be a beautiful addition to any landscape.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Mexican Walking Fish


 
This is the Axolotl or “Mexican Walking Fish.” They can be found in the waters of Mexico and in some Asian pet stores. Unfortunately, they are on the brink of extinction.

This adorable salamander can regenerate almost any part of its body, including some parts of its brain. It rarely grows longer than a foot, and it keeps its “teenage” body its entire adult life. Imagine that!

It’s so cute. It’s no wonder that it’s always smiling.

Monday, October 7, 2013



I just got in the proof of my new book. I'm really beginning to get excited. It won't be long now.

Monday, September 30, 2013



One of the best parts of being a writer is all of the fun things you get to try in the name of research. When my characters, Molly and Jake, go rappelling for the first time, I know exactly how they feel. :)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Run for Freedom: The Life and Times of Lemuel Xandiver - Part 9



Lem forced himself not to panic. After living with dragons for over a month, he knew better than to make any sudden moves. A drop of nervous sweat traced its way down from his forehead and dripped off his chin. He felt a chill as the night air fanned his face. Glancing around slowly, Lem wracked his brain trying to think of a plan, but he came up with nothing. His mind was empty except for the vision of those red and black eyes so intently focused on him.

The largest of the beasts slowly began to creep forward. Then, following their leader, the others advanced. That’s when Lem noticed it. One of the dragons walked with a limp. Lem knew that limp. He knew that dragon. It was the first one Lem had ever met, the one from the school yard. The question was did the dragon know Lem. He had spent some time with the creature in the hidden village but not much. Not much at all. He tried to remember its name. It started with an “A.” Ahote, that was it!

“Ahote,” Lem called to the dragon. “Here, Ahote.” The dragons stopped, and Ahote cocked his head and looked curiously at Lem. Lem slowly reached into his pouch and pulled out some of the thick jerky he had packed to eat on the trip. He held it out to the dragon. “Do you want something to eat?” With his focus on the injured pet, Lem almost didn’t see the alpha dragon until it was too late. Apparently, he wanted the jerky too and was willing to take Lem’s hand off to get it. Lem quickly threw the meat to the side when the big beast pounced on it. He reached back in his pouch and grabbed the rest of the treat tossing it as far from himself as he could. They all rushed after it, and Lem got up and took off in the other direction. He realized he was lucky that they had lived with people long enough to prefer prepared food to human flesh, but he knew that if he didn’t hurry away, he might just be next on the menu.

Lem tore through the forest without even bothering to try and cover his tracks. He knew that his only chance of escape was speed. When he originally made his plan, he had hoped that his absence wouldn’t be discovered until the next morning, but with the guard hearing him leave, he suspected that time was not on his side. Luckily, the moonlight was bright enough that he could see his way. He only had to stop once to remove his makeshift kneepads as they slid down his legs. Stuffing them in his pouch, he kept running.

Lem clutched at the pain in his side as he stumbled along. He felt like someone had stuck a knife in him, but he didn’t dare stop. He didn’t have much night left. Once the sun rose, it would be much easier for the guards to track him, so he had to put as much distance between them as he could. It would have been so easy to give up. His life in the village hadn’t been bad after all. Everyone had been very friendly with him, and his side and head did hurt so. Maybe he could risk sitting down for just a few minutes. Besides, he was so tired. A short nap couldn’t hurt. He had been up all night. As Lem’s body began to grow heavier and heavier, he almost gave in to the temptation but, fighting against the very persuasive voices in his head, he staggered on.

Just when he felt that he couldn’t go any further, Lem saw a strange blue glow through the trees. At first, he thought his exhaustion was causing him to hallucinate, or he had collapsed and was experiencing some strange dream. He pinched himself, and still the blue glow remained. His natural curiosity was piqued, and the wonder of it shot through his body giving him new energy.  As he made his way closer to the strange glow, the trees thinned and he began to hear the sound of waves rushing against the shore. The blue light grew more intense, and he could see that it came from the water. It formed what appeared to be a ring outlining the shore, a ring made of small glowing, moving pieces. Lem hurried forward taking a nervous glance behind. He realized it wasn’t wise to stand on the exposed beach, but he just had to see what this was.

Moving closer, he recognized the small creatures. They were squid, glow-in-the-dark squid. He’d never seen anything like this before. It was beautiful. A thick line of them ran down the length of the beach as far as he could see illuminating the night in a blue ethereal glow. Exhausted, sore, injured, and hungry, Lem stood there soaking in the beauty of the scene.

He didn’t hear the silent footsteps come up behind him, but somehow he suddenly felt that he wasn’t alone. Lem sighed. So, they’d found him. He was almost too tired to care. Tearing his eyes from the wonderful sight in front of him, he slowly turned around and saw Running Wolf standing there staring out at the sea. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Trees

 

I love trees. They stand like silent sentinels surrounding, hovering, watching, guarding. Reclining on my deck looking up at their majestic faces at twilight I can feel their presence and personalities like old friends.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Free Drawing Results



AND THE WINNER IS (drum roll please) Jerry Woolfolk! Congratulations, Jerry. You've just won a $50 gift card to the bookstore of your choice. I'll be contacting you to see which bookstore you prefer, so be thinking about it.
A big thank you to everyone who participated in the drawing. I'll be having another one soon, so stay tuned to my Facebook page, Alice Elizabeth Cook, for more details.
Another thank you to Zeynep Harkness for helping me out and drawing the winning name.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Free Drawing


To celebrate getting 101 likes on my Facebook page (Alice Elizabeth Cook), I'm having a drawing for a $50 gift card to the bookstore of your choice. To enter the drawing, like my Facebook page and share this on yours. Good luck! :)

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Escape Attempt: The Life and Times of Lemuel Xandiver - Part 8


Lem closed the door to his hut as if he were going to bed, but instead, he began his preparations to leave. He changed into the clothes he had been wearing when he found the underground village and folded up the extra shirt and pants that Running Wolf had given him. Taking two cords that he had  saved for this purpose, Lem tied the shirt and pants to his knees as improvised kneepads. He clipped his small flashlight to his belt, slung his pouch with some dried food it in around his neck and tied his shoelaces together draping his shoes around his pack. Standing up, he took a deep breath. He was ready.

Lem walked to the door of his hut and cracked it open just wide enough to peer out into the darkness. He couldn’t see them, but he knew they were there. Even at night the warriors stood guard blocking each exit. It would be tricky getting past one of them, but first, he had to make it across the wide cavern without causing any sound or attracting any notice.

Concentrating on each step, Lem inched his way along the path that he knew well from weeks of study. He had never moved so slowly in his life, so painfully slowly. His muscles ached under the strain, but he didn’t dare go any faster. With each step, he felt out the ground in front of him before he placed his foot. Then he lowered his toes first and gently his heel followed. He had tried just walking on his tip toes to start with, but after almost losing his balance a few times, he changed his tactics.

Inch by inch, Lem made his way to the other side of the village. Once he reached the archway and the huge boulders that covered the floor underneath, he sank to his knees and crawled over them one by one, feeling his way carefully. It was in anticipation of this that he had made his kneepads, and they served him well.

The journey which would normally only take a few minutes, felt hours long. Only when his outstretched hands finally hit the rock of the cave wall near where he had entered all those days ago did he allow himself to take a moment to rest, but even then, he hardly dared to move. Up above his head somewhere on the ledge by the tunnel entrance stood a guard.

This would be so much easier, he thought contemplating his next move, if I could just somehow climb up the side of the rock. Hmm, some animals can do that, can’t they? I wonder if those skills could be transferred to humans. Probably not. After all, humans don’t have the sticky hands and feet that some animals do. Lem let his mind wonder over the possibilities. But, what if there were some way to imitate that characteristic in people? Wow, the possibilities could be endless. Hmm. A soft noise brought his distracted mind back to task. That’s a thought for another time, He told himself. Right now, I’ve got to focus.

Bending down ever so slowly, Lem picked up a handful of dirt and small stones. Gripping it tightly, he began inching his way around the cavern wall to the steps that led up to the ledge. Breathing as quietly as he could and taking one cautious step at a time, he slowly made his way to the top counting the steps as he went. Once he reached the ledge, he knew that only a few feet away stood the guard. He froze. He hadn’t heard a sound, but he got the feeling that the warrior knew someone was there. It might just be his overactive imagination, but he couldn’t take the chance. He would wait a moment before moving again.

There he stood in the pitch darkness only inches away from being caught. The sound of his breathing seemed to pound in his ears, so he opened his mouth hoping that would help. The air seemed to crackle with tension. Lem thought he heard the whisper of light cloth moving and instantly started to panic. The guard only had to reach out his hand, and he would feel him. He had to do something. Not moving his feet, Lem slowly and quietly bent his knees to squat closer to the ground. He waited a few seconds and then carefully bracing one hand on the ground, while not letting go of the dirt and rocks he had picked up earlier, he picked up his leg with the other hand, so he could more easily and more quietly move, and in this way, he shuffled over to the opposite side of the ledge, his leg muscles screaming under the strain. He was glad for the darkness at this point. He could only imagine how ridiculous he looked. He felt like a frog. Hmm, some frogs could stick to the sides of walls, couldn’t they? Focus, focus. He told himself roughly.

Once he felt the edge of the rock platform, he froze again and listened and waited. After what seemed like an eternity, his nerves couldn’t take any more. The adrenaline rushed through his veins, and he began to fear that his breathing was getting louder. He had to make his move. He took the dirt and small stones and measured out the distance in his mind. He would have to throw them, so they would land at the bottom of the steps. If the guard had detected his presence, that distance might be believable. He would also have to throw them low, so they wouldn’t make much noise when they landed. Anything loud would be too obvious, but the warrior might believe a soft sound was someone trying to sneak by. Concentrating on the direction and distance, Lem threw. It was perfect. The small stones, muffled by the soft dirt, made only the lightest clatter, but it was enough. Lem felt more than heard the guard leave his post.

He didn’t waste any time. As quietly as he had been moving but with a new sense of urgency, Lem made his way down the tunnel. Fortunately, he remembered this passage well. It ran pretty smoothly and straight. With his hand feeling the wall as he went, he was able to move a little more quickly. However, in his newfound haste, he forgot to be cautious. When he came to the end of the passage where it opened up into the small room, Lem squeezed through the tiny opening and immediately hit his head on a low-hanging jagged edge.

Momentarily stunned by the pain, he sucked in his breath and reached up to feel the quickly forming bump. His hand felt something wet and sticky, and he knew he was bleeding. When a wave of dizziness hit him, he sat down on the rough ground to catch his breath. Feeling his head again, he tried to determine the extent of his injury. The last thing he needed to do was leave a blood trail. He untied the spare pants he had been using as a knee pad and wound them around his throbbing head.

Rising to his feet slowly and shakily, he continued his journey, but this time, he held his hands out in front of him in addition to feeling along the ground with his feet. Eventually, the ceiling of the tunnel began to get lower, and he had to scoot along on his elbows. Daring a little light, he pulled out his flashlight, and covered the end with one of his pants legs that hung down by his face. The dimmed light was barely enough for him to see immediately in front of himself, but it still helped. Just when his battered and bruised body felt like it couldn’t take any more, he saw the moonlight streaming in at the end of the tunnel and knew he was almost out.

Crawling through the small opening, Lem wiggled out into the soft glow of light in the forest and sank to his knees in relief. He was out! He had made it!

Suddenly, his joy was interrupted by a low snarl from his right. Looking over, Lem’s blood froze. There glaring at him hostilely, stood five dragons. With teeth bared, they began to circle around him. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Top 5 Things to Do When You Get Bored


1.       Conduct a sociological experiment

Materials needed
1.      video-recording device
2.       tree or pole
3.       $10 bill
4.       Stepladder
5.       tape

Procedure
Find a tree or pole in a well-traveled (walked) area. Find a time when traffic is slow. Using your stepladder, tape the $10 bill to the tree or pole where it will be seen but where it is just out of reach of the average person. Then hide with your camera and wait. Video the people as they walk by and see how many try to reach the bill and how many just ignore it. After the experiment, draw conclusions based on your observations, write a paper and publish it in a journal.

2.       Plan a formal dinner for you and your friends at McDonald's

Materials needed
1.       white tablecloth
2.       candles & candle holders
3.       cloth napkins
4.       silverware & china
5.       permission from McDonald's
6.       Information on napkin folding and dinnerware placement
7.       Place cards with your friends’ names on them

Procedure
Arrive a few minutes early to pick out the perfect table. Spread the table cloth, lay out the silverware and fold the napkins into the shape of an animal or flower. Set the candles up in the center of the table and light them. Put the place cards at the appropriate seats. Wait for your friends to arrive. Have everyone order their food, and enjoy.

3.       Record you and your friends critiquing an old/obscure television show or movie in the manner of Mystery Science Theater

Materials needed
1.       an old/obscure television show or movie
2.       a recording device
3.       friends

Procedure
Pop some popcorn, set up the recording device, get comfortable, play the show/movie, and begin making brilliant, insightful and hilarious comments.

4.       Make home-made butter

Materials needed
1. whipping cream (can be normal or heavy but should not be cold)
2. a jar
3. a measuring cup (not necessarily needed)
4. strong arms, able to do a lot of shaking
5. 10-20 minutes

Procedure
Measure out 1 cup of whipping cream for each ½ cup of butter that you want to make. Once you have your desired amount, pour it into the jar. (Your jar should be no more than 1/3 full.) Close the lid tightly. Shake hard. Keep shaking. Still more shaking. You should see the cream begin to separate into butter and buttermilk. The cream will begin to get “heavy,” become firm and turn yellow. You have butter at this point. You can stop here and have a good soft spread or keep shaking for a harder spread. Dazzle your family by serving your efforts at the next family meal.

5.    Make a maze/obstacle course out of silly string and race with your friends to see who can get through it the fastest

Alternative idea: Set two mazes up in the woods to protect each team’s flag. Use a blue chalk line instead of silly string. The other team must steal their opponant’s flag without getting any of the blue chalk on them.

Materials
1.    Silly string
2.    Space
3.    Trees, tables, poles, etc. to act as a foundation or outline for your maze
4.    “Mission Impossible” or “Eye of the Tiger” music
5.    Timer

Procedure

Go crazy with the silly string while setting up your maze. Play music. Take turns going through the maze as quickly as possible. Time each person. Determine a winner. Go out to eat to celebrate your mad new spy skills.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Verdict: The Life and Times of Lemuel Xandiver - Part 6


“The boy’s fate is for the council to decide, Red Bear” said a gray-haired man stepping up out of the hut behind him.

Red Bear growled and pushed past as the old man motioned for them to enter the hut. The angry native stomped across the bridge and out of sight.

Lem walked through the doorway and looked nervously at all of the stern faces sitting around the center fire. He stopped just inside, not sure what he was supposed to do. Running Wolf walked up behind him and led him to a pile of furs on the floor. Lem slowly sank down onto the unusual seat. The gray-haired man walked around the fire and sat down cross-legged in the only other empty spot.

“I am Standing Elk, the chief of the underland tribe. Your presence here causes us great trouble, offlander.”

Lem looked away embarrassed. His curiosity had led him into a great many problems in the past, but never anything like this before. He didn’t know what to say.

“I’m sorry.”

“Perhaps,” replied Standing Elk, “but that does not change the facts. The facts are these: our underland tribe has remained a secret for over one hundred years. During that time, we have not had to face the trials from the offlanders that our brothers who chose to stay on the surface have endured. We will not easily give up the freedom that we enjoy here. Therefore, we will not take any risks that our location might be found. “

“Um, ok,” Lem stammered. “I won’t tell anyone. I promise.”

“No, you will not,” Standing Elk sighed sadly.

Lem began to panic. Were they going to kill him after all? “Wh…what do you mean?”

“I am sorry, but we cannot allow you to leave here. Do not worry. We will not go as far as Red Bear suggested, but you will not set foot up on the surface again.”

“B…but, but, wait. That’s not fair. I have to go back. My mom and dad… You can’t do this!” Lem grew angrier and angrier as the reality of what Standing Elk meant began to sink in.

“I am sorry, but that is my final word. Running Wolf will find you a place to live and help you get settled in. You are his responsibility now.”

Lem glanced over at Running Wolf still shocked at what the chief had said. Running Wolf didn’t look pleased.

“But my parents,” Lem all but shouted as an idea occurred to him. “They’ll look for me. They’ll get the whole town involved. You don’t know them. Won’t it be dangerous to have everyone searching the forest? They might find you anyway.” Lem smiled triumphantly.

“We will ensure that the search takes place on the far side of the island. There will be no danger to us. Running Wolf.” Standing Elk looked at the native boy sitting next to Lem and nodded dismissingly.

Running Wolf nodded back and stood up. “Come.” He looked down at Lem who was still sitting there dumbfounded.

“But…”

“Come!” Running Wolf repeated sternly. He grabbed Lem’s arm and pulled him to his feet.

“B...but…” Lem stuttered as Running Wolf pulled him out of the hut. He couldn’t believe it. He was a prisoner! He’d never see his family again. His eyes scanned the cavern walls as Running Wolf pulled him back across the bridge and down the path. He’d have to escape. That’s all there was to it. But as he looked around, he realized that would be all but impossible. Guards stood at each entrance. He knew that he’d never be able to get past them.


It began to grow difficult for him to breathe, and his chest felt unusually heavy. Lem feared he might have a panic attack. He forced himself to calm down. They can’t keep me here, he thought. My parents will find me. Or if they don’t, I’ll be able to escape. I can do this! They can’t watch me all the time. It won’t be easy, but I will. I will get out of here! I will!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Riddles to Test Your Intelligence



For all of you know-it-alls out there, let’s see just how much you really do know. These riddles will begin easy and get harder as you go. If you can figure out all five without looking at the answers first, you officially have my permission to introduce yourself as a genius.

Let’s begin with some easy ones.

1.       This is as light as a feather, yet nobody can hold it for long. What is it?
2.       I’m the start of nothing and the end of the sun. I’m also part of the number one. What am I?
3.       How could a cowboy ride into town on Friday, stay for two days, and then ride out on Friday?

Now a little more difficult.

4.       When you have me, you have a great desire to share me. But if you share me, you no longer have me. What am I?

And now for the hardest one of all. Sit up straight. Stretch really well and loosen up your muscles. Take a deep breath. Are you ready? Here goes.

5.       A pregnant lady named her children: Dominique, Regis, Michelle, Fawn, Sophie and Lara. What will she name her next child? Jessica, Katie, Abby or Tilly?
































Answers:
1.       Your breath
2.       The letter n
3.       His horse is named Friday.
4.       A secret

5.       Tilly. She seems to follow the scale: Do, Re, Me, Fa, So, La, and then Ti.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Running Wolf's Favorite Poem



There is an eagle in me and a spotted bird hurrying corn to grow.
The eagle flies to the mountains of my dreams,
flies to the corners of my distant hopes.
But the spotted bird stands among the cornstalks telling me to hoe.
My hands are the tools of my soul.
They make the drum,
the bow,
the flute,
and stretch the skin of the deer.
They work the earth and care for the sheep and plant the corn.
They greet my homeland each morning that I awake.


Author unknown

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Hidden Village: The Life and Times of Lemuel Xandiver - Part 5



 Surrounded by stern-faced natives all with arrows notched and pointed at him, Lem began to think that maybe he should have listened to Running Wolf and left the dragon alone.

Nervously, he watched them. For what seemed like an eternity, no one moved. Then, one of the men jumped down to a lower ledge on Lem’s left and started to speak in a language he didn’t understand. Lem watched the man feeling confused. Surely they must realize he didn’t speak their language. Suddenly, a voice behind him made him jump as it replied in the same language. Lem turned to see Running Wolf standing there, eyebrows drawn together and lips pursed angrily.

“You should not have come,” he growled at Lem. “The hidden village is forbidden to all offlanders.”

“What will they do to me?”

“I do not know. None has ever dared to intrude before.” Running Wolf sighed. Even though he was angry at Lem, he couldn’t help also being impressed. When he said that no offlander had intruded before, what he really meant was none had ever been able to find them. But he was also upset. He had been assigned the task of watching Lem ever since the first time he had entered the forest. He would definitely get in trouble for this.

“Come. We must go see Big Elk. The council will decide your fate.” Running Wolf jumped down to a lower ledge to the right that Lem hadn’t seen before and hurried off without looking back.

Lem only paused for a moment. He knew that if he followed the young native, he would undoubtedly face some punishment for his actions, but this hidden world was too tempting to leave. Anyway, he reasoned to himself, it wasn’t as if he could escape. He didn’t have any illusions that he would be able to get away from them if he tried.

Lem looked over the edge of the platform he stood on and cautiously climbed down to the one below it hurrying to catch up to Running Wolf.

They walked down a pathway beside the stream, through the rocky cavern. Lem couldn’t see the guards anymore, but he knew they were still there, watching him.

Up ahead, the ground rose higher, and a large archway loomed over the path. As they walked nearer, their road became rockier. They had to climb over the large boulders that had fallen away, or been knocked out, to create the opening. At one point, Lem even had to scramble up a large stone on his hands and knees. Watching his feet the whole way, he didn’t notice what lay on the other side of the archway until he made it to the top of the hill and stood directly underneath it.

On the other side, the whole scene changed. Gardens grew high up on the ledges soaking up the sunlight that streamed in from the various holes in the ceiling. Huts, that appeared to be made from some sort of thick bark, lined the walls of the cavern and another tall waterfall ran down from high above on the far side to feed a stream that met the other one in the middle. More trees and flowers dotted the floor and ledges in the unusual village.

Lem gazed around in wonder. It was beautiful, and the people milling about working on their everyday tasks seemed to be happy, especially the children who hovered nearby, curious about the intruder.

But the most surprising sight of all was the dragons. Lem counted seven that he could see. Some of them slept quietly in the shadows, but others ran around with the children or lay down next to the huts.

“Tame dragons?” Lem mumbled in surprise.

“Yes,” answered Running Wolf a little reluctantly. “But they can still be dangerous to strangers or when they feel threatened. You would be wise to avoid them.”

“Is that the one that come to the school?” Lem asked excitedly pointing to a dragon with an unhealed would on its leg. The dragon sat in front of a hut with a little boy who watched Lem’s progression curiously.

Running Wolf frowned but didn’t say anything. He just kept moving ahead. Lem tore his eyes from the dragon and looked at the path in front of them hurrying to catch back up. Their destination seemed to be a large round hut set on a rock platform in the middle of the cavern. The stream split in two and circled the platform coming together again on the other side. A small bridge led over the stream to the hut.

As they crossed the bridge, the door swung open and a tall native man, who appeared to be in his mid-twenties, stormed out. Through the open door, Lem could see a circle of older men sitting on the floor around a fire inside.

“So this is the intruder,” growled the newcomer glaring at Lem. He leaned down and stared Lem straight in the eyes. “You know our secret now,” he hissed. “I hope you realize that this means we cannot let you live. You must die. And I will take great pleasure in the being the one to kill you.” His lip cured up in a snarl and a maniacal gleam lit up his eyes at the thought.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Secret Cave: The Life and Times of Lemuel Xandiver


Lem walked to his P.E. class with a familiar sense of dread. He’d never liked P.E. which shouldn’t be surprising since he often tripped over his own feet just walking. Running, though, running was something he could do. It’s surprising how good a person can get at running when that person has a habit of annoying other people.

Yesterday, their P.E. teacher, Coach Ketter, had told them that they would play dodge ball today. He really hated dodge ball. It hurt. And now that he had made a group of enemies at this new school, it hurt a lot.

Lem ran through a list of excuses in his mind as he slowly trudged toward the gym. Inwardly, he felt along his body. Did anything hurt? Even a little? For a brief moment, he thought he might have felt a slight pressure in his head. That was good. He could say he had a headache. It kind of ached. Well, he could feel it at least. That could easily grow into a headache, couldn’t it?

As he contemplated the exact definition of “ache,” he walked past the science room and looked in longingly. Now, that was a class he liked. He’d gladly trade gym for three or four extra science classes. Glancing through the door into the back of the room, he stopped suddenly and took a quick step back. There they stood. The native boys he had seen on his first day.

Almost two weeks had passed since Lem had followed the dragon into the woods. Even though he hadn’t seen Running Wolf again since then, he still nervously felt like he was being watched every time he even went close to the tree line on the school property. But he hadn’t tried during school hours. He hadn’t dared after the lecture he received from missing class that first day.

Today felt different. P.E. was his last class of the day. He wouldn’t mind skipping it. Running Wolf and his friends had a science class, so he didn’t have to worry about them. He just had to think of a good excuse to convince Mr. Ketter to let him leave.   

Butterflies fluttered in his stomach as he walked down the hallway with renewed vigor. Excitement at the possibility and nervousness at the danger fought within him until he almost felt sick. He might have to go throw up before he left, but at least he had his excuse now.

As he entered the gym, he stopped smiling and tried for a believably sick expression as he approached his teacher.

“Coach Ketter, I don’t feel good. My stomach feels weird. Can I be excused from class today?” Lem tried to control his voice, pitiful enough to earn sympathy but not so pitiful that it sounded fake.

Coach Ketter looked at Lem carefully. He didn’t believe for a moment that the boy was sick. It didn’t take a genius to realize that Lem hated P.E., but he felt sorry for him. Coach Ketter knew Lem would get clobbered in dodge ball. For some reason he seemed to be the one all the others went after. He sighed.

“Ok, you may be excused, but I expect to see you back tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir!” Lem said a little too enthusiastically.

Coach Ketter raised his eyebrows knowingly. Lem clutched his stomach and said, “Thank you,” in as sickly a tone as he could manage and exited quickly before his teacher could change his mind.

He hurried to the bathroom and waited for the bell to ring. He didn’t want to run the risk of being seen and having to abort his mission. When it seemed that the coast was clear, Lem snuck onto the hall and rushed toward the side door avoiding the hallway with the science room. Once outside, he hurried into the woods.

It took him a little while to locate the spot where he’d lost the dragon, and when he did get there, he had to dig around in the bushes to find the hole where the dragon had disappeared.  Grabbing the small flashlight that he had carried hooked to his belt every day since he’d first followed the dragon here, he carefully aimed it down into the hole leaning back a little in case the dragon was inside. He’d expected to find a small burrow or other type of dragon lair. What he didn’t expect to see was a tunnel that appeared to grow wider the further in it went. His light didn’t shine far enough for him to get a good look, but he felt pretty sure that this was a cave that opened up further in.

Sitting back on his heels, he took a moment to think. If he was wrong, and this was a dragon’s burrow, he would be an idiot to crawl inside it. But he hadn’t seen any dragons, and he was pretty sure it had opened up. He’d read a lot about animals, and he remembered reading that komodo dragons would sometimes dig “shallow” burrows. This wasn’t shallow. But, then again, this dragon looked different than any picture of a komodo dragon that he had ever seen, and he had watched the thing disappear down into this hole. Arrggg! His curiosity almost felt overwhelming, but his sense of self-preservation wouldn’t be ignored.

A rustle behind him made him turn his head sharply just in time to see a squirrel run up a tree. He let out a sigh of relief. He’d thought for a second that Running Wolf had followed him. That decided it. He might never get an opportunity like this again. He had to check it out. If he didn’t, he’d never forgive himself.

Lem looked around on the forest floor and picked up a thick stick. It would be difficult to carry this down the hole with him, and it probably wouldn’t do much good against a dragon, but he wasn’t about to go down there without some sort of weapon.

Pushing the stick in front of him with one hand and holding his flashlight in front of him with the other, Lem crawled awkwardly into the hole scooting along on his elbows for several yards until the passage opened up enough for him to stand. As he walked along, the walls seemed to be closing in making his path narrower and narrower. Disappointment began to rise in Lem when it seemed like the passage came to a dead end.

“No!” he complained loudly. Exasperated, he looked around frantically shining his flashlight in every direction, but he could see nothing except shadows. Refusing to give up so soon, Lem walked up to a wall and began examining every crevice determined to circle the entire space. About three quarters of the way around, he found a crevice that was more than a crevice. The opening couldn’t be seen from where he had been standing, but it could clearly be seen from the opposite angle. It was wide enough for him to walk into even though it was a bit tight in places.

With renewed excitement, Lem pushed through the narrow passageway. To his surprise, the cave tunnel began to get brighter as he walked. Before long, he didn’t even need his flashlight. He quickly turned it off and clipped it back on his belt. Not only did the path get brighter, it also grew wider. He had to continually remind himself to be cautious to stop himself from running. Finally, he turned a corner in the tunnel and stopped to stare in wonder. The passage opened up into a huge cavern. Small holes sprinkled around the top let in sunlight, and trees and other plant life dotted the floor and clung to the walls everywhere. A large waterfall fell down into a stream that flowed through the length of the cavern.

Lem stood on a ledge overlooking the beautiful scene and gazed at it in wonder. But his wonder quickly turned to fear as an arrow swooshed by his face and stuck in the wall right next to his ear. Looking around in alarm, he saw seven island natives standing on ledges high above. All of them had arrows pointed directly at him. He gasped in alarm tightly clutching the stick he still carried. Well, he’d done it now. His curiosity had finally killed him. Lem lifted a shaking hand to wave.

“Um, hi?” he said smiling nervously.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Into the Woods: The Life and Times of Lemuel Xandiver - Part 3


Lem walked through the woods as quietly as he could, but even to him, his footsteps seemed to pound through the underbrush like an elephant tromping through a bed of broken glass. The dragon kept looking back at him and hurrying on as fast as its injured body would allow. Lem knew that he was on dangerous ground. Komodo dragons were deadly in the best of times, and this one was injured, but his curiosity kept him going.

They walked quite a ways from the school through the woods, and Lem almost lost his reptilian prey a few times as the trees thickened and the ground began to rise. They were coming closer to the mountains.
Lem thought he saw the dragon disappear into a hole in the ground and hurried forward to get a better look.  He hid behind a tree close to where the dragon had disappeared and peered around to make sure it wasn’t just hiding in the underbrush. He certainly didn’t want to accidently step on the injured animal. Looking into the dense bushes intently, Lem almost jumped out of his skin when the native boy from the school jumped out of the tree and landed right in front of him.

“You almost gave me a heart attack,” Lem gasped accusingly. He looked nervously at the boy who just stood there with his arms crossed. “My name’s Lem. I’m new in town. I, uh, saw you up at the school.”

The native boy just looked at him for a second. Finally, he responded, “I’m called Running Wolf.” He seemed to relax a little as he leaned back against a nearby tree. He still had his arms crossed in front of him, but he didn’t seem quite as threatening as he had.

“You are not supposed to be here, you know,” he said with a lifting of his eyebrows. “You would get in much trouble if the school officials knew.”

“I know I’m skipping class,” Lem admitted, “but this is the first time I’ve ever seen a dragon before. I had to follow it.”

“Yes, you will get in trouble for skipping class, but it is more than that. These woods are considered the personal property of one of the most powerful men on the island. He would not look kindly on you for trespassing.”

Lem hadn’t thought about that. “Oh, well, where does he live? I could go ask him if he’d mind.”

“No! He does not like kids.” Running Wolf replied almost a little too quickly.

Lem looked at him curiously. It almost seemed like the other boy was hiding something.

“Besides,” Running Wolf continued, “only a fool would go after an injured dragon. He could still easily kill you and will if you get too close.”

Lem considered at him carefully. Something didn’t seem quite right. Running Wolf’s posture seemed too casual, almost posed, and the muscles standing out on his crossed arms indicated more of a stressed nature than the calm one he seemed to be trying to convey. He was hiding something.

As soon as Lem made this realization, he decided to change tactics. If there was something here that Running Wolf wanted to hide, then Lem’s curious nature insisted that he discover it. He was pretty sure that the dragon had gone into a hole or hidden cave nearby, but he was also pretty sure that this was about more than the dragon.

He couldn’t do anything now with Running Wolf on guard, and he didn’t want to raise his suspicions, so Lem relaxed his shoulders and let out a big sigh. He smiled.

“You’re right. I don’t know what I was thinking. I’ve just never seen a dragon before, so I guess I got carried away.” He chuckled. “There’s no telling what trouble I might have gotten myself into if you hadn’t come along. I guess we should get back, huh. I’m probably already in enough trouble.” Lem turned and began walking back toward the school.

“Thanks for following me and making me see reason. I really appreciate it. My curiosity can get the better of me sometimes.” He chuckled and looked behind him at Running Wolf, but the boy wasn’t there.

Lem stopped and looked hurriedly around.  Running Wolf was nowhere to be seen. He had simply disappeared without a sound. Lem hesitated for just a second to consider going back to look for the hole, but then he thought better of it. Running Wolf had followed him all the way from the school without him knowing it. He was obviously good at the whole stealth thing. Lem didn’t want to run the risk of the native seeing him now.

He would go back to the school and act like everything was normal then, after a week or so, he’d go back. He would find out where the dragon went and what Running Wolf had been so worried he’d see. His curiosity could wait that long, surely. One week, and he’d be back.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Follow the Dragon: The Life and Times of Lemuel Xandiver - Part 2




A real dragon? Surely not. Really?!? thought Lem as he ran over to the group of boys. Joining the group, he had to stand on his toes and crane his neck to see through the crowd. Sure enough, it was a dragon. Well, a komodo dragon. At least, Lem assumed it was a komodo dragon. What other kind could it be, really? But it didn’t look exactly like he thought komodo dragons were supposed to look. Its neck was longer and more serpentine looking. Its legs were longer, too. It seemed to be injured, though. It had a deep gash on one of its back legs.

He stared at it in fascination. Suddenly, one of the boys yelled, “kill it.” Shocked, Lem blurted out, “Why!?!” before he could stop himself. No one had heard him though. The yells from the group drowned him out. Frustrated, he didn’t know what to do. This was it. His first impression. He could go along with them and make friends, or he could try to stop them and doom himself instantly.

Nothing stupid, he thought.  He watched as someone grabbed a large rock and threw it at the poor dragon. The rock hit its leg with a loud crack, and the dragon hissed and drew back. The circle of boys around the dragon widened a little as they stepped back in fear. Dragons were dangerous. Some of the boys ran around picking up the rocks that lay littered about. Lem didn’t understand. Why did they want to kill it? He was fascinated by it. A real dragon. Another rock hit the poor creature. It looked really mad now. The circle widened even more as it lunged forward in anger, but the boys stood firm and held up their rocks in defense. They weren’t going to let this fun escape.

His head felt like it would burst with questions. Were there more dragons? Where did it come from? Why did it look different from the pictures he had seen? Why had it come so near the school? He wanted to stop them. He wanted them to let it go, so he could follow it and see where it went. He looked around at the boys nervously. He couldn’t say anything. He had to make a good first impression. Didn’t he?

The dragon made another pitiful cry of pain. He looked down at the poor creature. It looked like one of its legs was broken, and it had several wounds that bled profusely. That’s when he decided. This wasn’t about scientific curiosity anymore. This was about doing the right thing.

“Stop!” he yelled out loudly. The cries of the excited boys made it impossible for them to hear him. He started pushing his way between the two standing in front of him. In the middle of the circle, he stood between the dragon and the boy who seemed to be the leader of the group (allowing a lot of room between him and the angry dragon).

“Stop!” he yelled again.
“Who are you?” the boy asked harshly.
“I’m Lem Xandiver. I’m new here.” Actually, his full name was Rupert Lemuel Xandiver, but he didn’t feel like they needed to know that.
“And just why should we stop, Lem Xandiver? Are you a dragon lover or something?”
“Well, I don’t know,” Lem replied a little unsure. “I’ve never seen a dragon before today, but I’ll not let you torture this poor thing. It’s not right.”
“It’s not right, is it?” the boy said with a rough laugh. He looked around at all the other boys, and they laughed too. The big boy had a rock in his hand, and he stood there throwing it up and catching it, looking menacingly at Lem. He looked like he was going to throw the rock at him. Lem really got scared when his laugh took on a sinister quality. When the other boys in the group began imitating their leader, Lem thought he was really in for it.

Suddenly, one of the teachers came out of the school door and rang the bell for class to begin. The boy threw his rock down on the ground viciously and snarled, “saved by the bell, Lem. At least, this time.” He pointed at him threateningly. “I’m going to be watching you.”

The other boys threw down their rocks with varying attempts to emulate their leader’s nasty look as they followed him into the building. Lem watched them leave and noticed one of the natives standing alone by the tree staring at him. Lem couldn’t tell what he was thinking behind his expressionless face, and it made him feel even more nervous. He forgot everything, though, at a sound from on the ground. The dragon was limping back into the woods. Lem took one quick look at the school building. The teacher had gone back inside, and there were only a few students (not counting the native by the tree) still in sight meandering toward the building. He knew he would get in trouble if he didn’t follow. He didn’t have any doubt that the boys he’d just met would make sure his teacher noticed his absence. But he couldn’t resist. This could be his only chance to ever see a dragon. He had to follow it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Don't Do Anything Stupid!: The Life and Times of Lemuel Xandiver - Part 1




It was his first day in a new school. Most people would be nervous but not Lem. He was excited. He hadn’t had too many friends in his old school, you see, and this was his chance to start over.

Nothing stupid, nothing stupid, nothing stupid, he kept repeating to himself as he walked up the sidewalk toward the large impressive building at the end of the street. It looked more like a British manor house than a school, but that made it all the more exciting for Lem. He loved anything out of the ordinary.

Lem also had a very curious mind. That curiosity is just what seemed to be the root of all of his trouble at his old school. He was always going where he shouldn’t go, and he was always asking “why?” whenever anything struck him as odd or interesting. He drove his mom and dad absolutely crazy with his questions. Many of his teachers at his old school hadn’t liked it either. Don’t get me wrong, they encouraged his questions at first. They all commented on what a bright boy he was. In the beginning. But sometimes, he would ask questions that they couldn’t answer or questions that weren’t exactly politically correct. This began to make some of his teachers, and other adults in the community a little nervous. No longer was he a “bright boy.” He began to be more often referred to as a smart aleck.

Teachers began to give him fewer opportunities to ask questions in class. Parents started not wanting their kids to hang around him. It didn’t take long for him to become a social pariah. His classmates just avoided him at first, then they started whispering behind his back, then whispering about him when he was in earshot. Finally, some of them started just being mean. A few of the teachers understood and tried to help him out, but this tended to only make things worse. Let’s just say, he was quite excited the day his dad come home and announced that his company was moving them to Button Island. His dad was going to be in charge of setting up a windmill power system there, so they would probably be staying for a while.

Now, here he was with a new island, a new town, a new school, and a new opportunity to make a good first impression. Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t say anything stupid. Don’t ask too many questions. Just blend in.

 As he got closer to the building, he could see the schoolyard full of people sitting and talking, waiting for the bell to ring. Glancing around, his eyes stopped on three boys over to the left sitting cross legged under a tree. Their clothes didn’t stand out as any different from what everyone else had on, but that was where the similarity ended. Long black hair framed their bronzed faces, and their stern expressions and intense stares unnerved him a little. They seemed to be looking at nothing and at everything all at the same time. They must be island natives. He had been warned about them. In fact, one of the sailors on the ship that brought his family to the island had told him to watch out for them.

“It’s best if ye avoid them wholly,” he said, “but if ye have to do dealing with them, ye should be doing it quickly.”
“Why?” Lem had asked.
“Because they be a mean and vicious people. They’d rather kill ye than talk to ye.”
“Why?”
“I guess it be cause we’s came in and crowded them outta mosta their island. I spose they’s do have a reason for being angry,” the old sailor admitted grudgingly. “But that be many years go. Tain’t good to hang onna grudge so long. Sides, twasn’t none of us who done it. But I spose they’s still angry.”
“Why?”
“Well, they still got a rough time of it, seeing as they’s stuck on the far side of the island now, but they’s got a good village there. Sides, I don’t reckon they’d even want to live in town with alla us.”

The man’s voice rose with each sentence, and his face had begun to turn red. Lem saw the signs of impatience. He knew them well, but he just couldn’t stop himself. He really wanted to know.

“Why?” he asked. But that was just too much. The sailor threw up his hands in exasperation.

“I don’t know!” he yelled. “Go below and stop your jabbering.  Why? Why? Why? Ye’s worsen old Ben Tillley’s parrot.” He walked away grumbling and avoided Lem for the rest of the voyage. Lem gritted his teeth and gave himself a stern talking to.

No questions! No pestering people! Nothing stupid! A good first impression, that’s what I have to concentrate on.

Seeing the natives now, though, he wished he had found out more about them. These three certainly looked intimidating. He couldn’t help but remember what the sailor had said.
“They’d rather kill ye than talk to ye.”

Now, Lem was a smart boy, and he knew about prejudices, so he didn’t completely believe that, but looking at those still, expressionless faces, he decided that he wouldn’t risk it. He forced his feet to keep moving into the schoolyard and looked away from the intimidating sight under the tree.

That’s when a yell from one of the other boys caught his attention. It had come from a group clustered at the right of the school building over by the woods. They seemed to all be looking at something on the ground. Curious as always, Lem found his feet moving toward them. Another boy came running up to the group and yelled, “Whatcha got, Burt?”

One of the boys, Burt, apparently, turned and hollered back, “It’s a dragon.”

A Dragon? thought Lem excitedly as he ran over to see. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Aliens Invade Florence, AL at 4:44 a.m. Monday, April 29th



It’s true! I saw them myself. Well, not them exactly, but I saw a projection and their space ship. Well, not a spaceship exactly. It looked more like a short bus. But it was definitely alien. I could tell because it had white lights coming out of the many windows on the sides and white lights shining out on the front and back. It made a strange noise, too.

There I was, minding my own business, fast asleep dreaming about playing a practical joke on one of my friends when I suddenly heard a men’s choir sing a long sustained low “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” It got louder and louder until I woke up and realized that it wasn’t a dream. That was when I saw lights shining in through my bedroom curtains, and I jumped up to look out the window. For those of you who don’t know where I live, my house is set back off the road just a little bit (about half an acre), and that space is populated by a thick assortment of trees. Now, I know that some of you might say I didn’t have a clear view, but I know what I saw. It was an alien short bus with tall window. Surrounded by that white light and making a sound that I’ve never hear any machine make before, it had to be alien. Besides, it looked just like something off of an old 80’s scifi movie, so you know it had to be real.

Intrigued at this strange phenomenon, I was determined to find out exactly what it was. I hurried into the living room in order to watch its progress down the street. I followed it by rushing to the front door window, then the kitchen front window, then the kitchen side window, then back to the French door. I wasn’t going to let it out of my sight. I watched it as it turned and wound around the curved road behind my house and then back again, travelling at a slow steady pace. It finally stopped at the end of a street (right in the middle of the one that goes in front of my house and the one that goes behind it). I couldn’t see it anymore at this point, but I could still hear it. I continued to watch out my kitchen window for a while. The fact that I had to lean uncomfortably over the faucet to see out barely registered.

So, here I am, at 4:44 in the morning (I looked at the clock at this point.) standing in a dark kitchen with a faucet pressing into my gut, starring out my window straining to hear that strange “Ahhhhhh,” just to satisfy my curiosity. As I waited for something else to happen, I realized that this would be a great opening to a Dr. Who episode. (The one with David Tennant, of course.) I had to laugh at the ridiculousness of that idea. After all, he wasn’t real.

As I stared out the window looking for my alien transport and letting my mind wonder, I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, that it seemed like a light had suddenly gone out over to the right by my shed. Frustrated that I had missed something, I kept watching that spot, and the shed suddenly lit up again. I followed the beam and saw that it came from the road. I rushed back to the front window and searched for the source of the light. What I saw confirmed my belief that it was aliens. There was a huge face made out of orange light staring at me from the road. I could see it clearly through the trees. Then, just as I began to wonder, the light went out and the face disappeared. I continued to gaze at that spot, and sure enough, it came back a few seconds later. (Thirty seconds to be exact. I counted.) It appeared and disappeared several times, staying on for an indeterminate amount of time and going off for about thirty seconds. But one thing was always the same. That face. That strange, huge, orange alien face. He didn’t move; he didn’t speak; he just stared.

So, there you have it. My experience with an alien sighting. It was an experience I will always remember. (Well, for a while at least. I don’t really have a great memory.)

Oh, I should probably mention a couple of other things just as a warning. The alien craft seemed to have stopped at the utility department. That could only mean that they are attracted to the power supply. I know that’s the reason because a little later I noticed that the orange Mercury vapor light on the street where the face appeared was blinking on and off at thirty-secondish intervals.

Maybe I should run to the store and pick up some bread and milk. You know, just in case.

Monday, April 15, 2013

5 Riddles to Test Your Intelligence


 
 
After being around certain people, who will remain nameless, who seem to think that they know everything, I got to thinking. With the "I'm ok, you're ok" mentality that seems to permeate society nowadays, it is entirely possible that they really don't understand just how intellectually challenged they really are. So, I’ve decided to put together 5 common riddles for people to use to test themselves. If you don't get at least 4 of these correct, without checking the answers first, then you should probably be very careful when stating an opinion.

 Answers will be shown below.

 1. What is as light as a feather, but even the world's strongest man couldn't hold it for more than a minute?

2. There was a green house. Inside the green house there was a white house. Inside the white house there was a red house. Inside the red house there were lots of babies. What is it?

3. What can travel around the world while staying in a corner?

4. Who makes it, has no need of it.
Who buys it, has no use for it.
Who uses it can neither see nor feel it.
What is it?

5. What is greater than God,
more evil than the devil,
the poor have it,
the rich need it,
and if you eat it, you'll die?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answers:

1. His breath

2. A Watermelon

3. A Stamp

4. A Coffin

5. Nothing