Friday, March 31, 2006

A little bird

My walk to and from work recently has been disrupted by the construction of the new Northgate library and community center. The city decided to completely replace the sidewalk for several blocks. They finally poured the section in front of the library a couple days ago. Here's what it looked like Tuesday afternoon:

sidewalk

The construction crew is gone because they work from seven to four, or something like that.

Yesterday afternoon, walking home, they'd removed enough construction debris so I could walk down the new pavement (without fear of sinking in). And what did I see below my feet? A little bird:

bird

A glass block inset into the concrete with what looked like a metal can for a light beneath. Don't ask me how they plan to change the bulb. There were many of these, every twenty-five feet for the entire front of the library and community center. Every block looked hand-painted, but they all had the exact same picture. They really should have had the artist come up with at least three. Can you imagine a little kid excitedly running from one to another, hoping to see all the different pretty birds and then discovering that they're all identical? Hm... Maybe this says something about Seattle.

Green Desert - Chapter 7.3.2 - Zhíno


A bright light lit up the horizon ahead of me. One of the moons rising, the bigger one. But no. Twin cones cut through the air above the desert brush. Headlights. A road. I was near a road. I crouched down behind a thick bush. A car engine whined.

Okay. Now what? Wave down a car? I glanced down. Wearing nothing but handcuff bracelets and a bunch of dirt?

“Think, you idiot, think.” I’d been kidnapped. Simple. Sort of true. I just had to act frightened.

I stood up and started running towards the headlights. “Help! Help! Please help me!”

I got close and the lights blinded me. But I approached at an angle and I quickly saw this wasn’t a highway. It was a dirt road, partially overgrown.

And that was a police car.

“Aw, fuck.”

A policeman, tall and blond, stood up from behind the cruiser, his hands on the trunk. He tilted his head sideways, surprised to see me.

I took a step backwards.

“Hold it right there.”

The engine cranked up, spraying sand with the back tires.

The patrolman slapped the trunk. “Stop! Stop!”

The engine returned to idle.

I stepped back again.

The patrolman pulled out his gun and I dove behind a bush. He fired. The bang rattled in my head as I scrambled on all fours, searching for better cover.

Green Desert - Chapter 7.3.1 - Bhanar


Pain? No pain. I wasn’t shot. The two men kept scuffling in the darkness, cursing each other with half-words. The sweet smell of dirt hit my nose.

Maybe I should take cover. I ducked behind a nearby tree. “Stop fighting! Let’s get Zhíno!”

They must’ve heard me, because they quieted down except for heavy breathing.

“Get up, asshole.” Umo. “And give me your gun.”

“What, no!”

I stepped out, gun drawn and pointed at the dim form still on the ground. “Give him your gun, Lango.”

You can fuck off.”

Umo blurred and I heard a hard thud. Lango cried out and coughed a gurgle.

“Don’t kill him, Umo.”

“I didn’t use my gun, Your Majesty.”

“Thank you. Do you have . . . handcuffs?”

Umo stood up, grunting. “No, why?”

How were they going to take Zhíno into custody without handcuffs? “For Lango.”

The little bastard groaned. Umo stepped past him and held out something to me. “Lango’s gun, Your Majesty.”

I already had one gun and zero holsters. “You keep it.”

Umo tucked it away. “Very well, Your Majesty.” He turned back down the path, pausing only to kick Lango in the ribs.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Happy Zhaké Day!

02-Rainier

O wise and powerful Zhaké! Most wonderful God of Rivers! Bringer of life and all that is good! Most supreme and best mountain in the world! How ya doing?

Green Desert - Chapter 7.2.5 - Fírí


“I think that’s the police.” I handed the beers to the flannel guys and walked to the door. They looked nervous. I was nervous. The cops would find the boxes. They’d arrest me for being an idiot.

I finished my juice with a long swig, set it on the cheap entry table, and opened the door. The mustached detective stood politely waiting. He frowned at seeing me, glanced at my glace of juice. “Is Vata Kılímí home?”

“I don’t think so. She disappeared the same time you left. You have a warrant now, right? You don’t need a homeowner if you have a warrant.”

He glanced over my shoulder and cleared his throat. “Speaking of homeownership, what are you doing here, drinking the Kılímos’ orange juice?”

“Um. . . Your deputy ditched me here, ran off to the gully. Do you want to come in?” I stepped out of his way.

“Might as well. Now where’s this chapel you were talking about?” He entered the house but stopped after two steps, staring at the flannel guys. “You invited guests over?”

I closed the door and it slammed shut. “No. I don’t even know their names. They’re trying to find their friends.” With beers in their hands, sitting in comfy armchairs. “The chapel is this way.”

“What are your names?” The old man stood still, glaring at the two flannel guys.

“Sévo Soípo,” said the darker-haired one.

“Zhíno Raíngozé,” said the lighter-haired one.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What do flags mean?



In Southern California, some high school students took down the US flag and raised the Mexican flag above an upsidedown US flag. Where do you think their allegiances lie? They couldn't possibly consider themselves Mexicans and not Americans, could they? They'd never do anything to hurt the US, would they?

Bear in mind that these are high school kids. Do you think they came up with this mindset on their own? Or perhaps their parents, the radio stations, everyone they look up to has a similar mindset.

And all this protesting just because eleven million people broke the law. That's hardly noteworthy. Everybody breaks the law. There's no need to yell and scream and kick these eleven million out of our country. Oh wait. Are the protesters for the law-breakers?

Green Desert - Chapter 7.2.4 - Zhíno


The dirt tumbled away under my feet and hands, sliding me down with it unless I kept scrambling upwards. So I kept climbing, digging at the soil, so dirty I felt like a worm.

In the distance, a gunshot sounded.

I kept clawing the dirt, slowly gaining height. Whatever they were shooting at, it wasn’t me. And that’s all that mattered.

My left hand snatched at air and I slipped down the hill before I caught the ground, my legs still churning. The top. I reached out and grabbed the sand and pulled and kicked and slithered up onto the flat ground.

I rolled over onto my back, breathing hard. Deep breaths. Stars twinkled down at me. They looked the same as at home, on Earth. Same constellations. Except that bright star in the west. I rolled over and pushed myself to my knees. No, that star didn’t fit at all.

Earth. That was Earth. That was home, a tiny blue-white light in the evening sky. But Earth wasn’t my home anymore. I came to Rívorí to start a new life. And I’d promptly fucked it up. So what else is new?

I stood up and started walking west, towards Earth, towards my old home. Never again would I see Rívorí’s orange pinprick in the night sky. I was here now and there was no going back.

Without the gully trees, the starlight was bright enough to see by. If either moon rose, it’d be like daylight out there.

Green Desert - Chapter 7.2.3 - Bhanar


“What agency do you work for?”

Under the trees, I could only see movement ahead of me, no detail discernable. Their white shirts barely stood out as dark gray against the blackness.

“‘Agency,’ Your Majesty?”

Did I have the wrong Sarıman word? “Department? Bureau? . . . Office?”

They kept moving forwards, taking a long time to answer. Finally, Umo coughed and replied, “The National Bureau of Investigation.”
“That’s what I thought.” But why didn’t he want to tell me, his emperor? Umo wouldn’t hide anything from me, would he? “What are you investigating Zhíno for? The murder of the policeman is investigated by the State Patrol.”

It had to be top secret. National security. Nothing else would warrant shooting at a police helicopter. Unless they knew that the sheriff’s department was in on it, whatever Zhíno was doing. Whatever it was, they weren’t answering. Just walking.

“Well?”

“Sorry, Your Royal Majesty. Smuggling.”

“Smuggling what?”

In front of me, Lango changed his motion and then rustling and grunts and his white shirt dropped to the ground, landing hard. I didn’t see Umo anywhere, but the scuffling and breathing and all that at my feet must have been both of them wrestling.

A gun fired.

Green Desert - Chapter 7.2.2 - Fírí


“Do you want to come in? I’m sorry I haven’t seen your friends, but the least I can do is offer you something to drink.” Something of the Kılímos’, of course. Hell, these guys could ransack the place and steal the hag’s jewels for all I cared.

The lighter-haired one nodded. “That’s very kind of you, ma’am.” He came towards me and I stepped aside to let him in.

So many “ma’ams” in one day. I must look like shit.

The darker-haired one adjusted his flannel shirt and followed his friend.

As I closed the door, I asked, “If you’re not cops, what line of work are you in?”

They both looked everywhere in the room except at me. “We’re businessmen.”

Dressed like that? If they were businessmen, Zhíno was a CEO. Jeans and tshirts just weren’t office wear.

“Please, have a seat.” I gestured to the sofa and chairs before noticing that the sofa still had sheets and a blanket on it. Bhanar’s duffel bag lay unzipped on the coffee table, tighty-whiteys clearly visible.

The two men headed for the armchairs.

I limped into the kitchen. “What type of business?”

“Importing and distribution. How about yourself?”

I opened the fridge and grabbed two cans of beer. Importing sounded entirely too vague. I grabbed my orange juice on the way back to the living room.

Someone knocked on the front door.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Immigration Quiz

Which country's government do you trust more: Mexico or the U.S.?

Which country's government would you want to control the border: Mexico or the U.S.?

Which country's government currently controls the border: Mexico or the U.S.?

Green Desert - Chapter 7.2.1 - Zhíno


They were following me. When I’d stopped to cut through my handcuff chain with the piece of mangled helicopter blade I’d been carrying, I heard them. Maybe a couple hundred meters back. But further now. I didn’t hear them anymore.

But that didn’t mean they weren’t there. When Gogzhuè’s goon shot down the chopper, I knew they were out for blood. My blood. And anybody who got in the way.

The gully had widened out, which meant the walls were probably shorter. I’d been running the same direction so long, it was time to give them the slip. In the darkness, hopefully they’d waltz right by. If I had any fucking luck, that was.

I veered down near the creek, noisy in the night. Why was the night so quiet? Shouldn’t there be animals and shit? When I got down on the rocks, I doubled back, making sure not to step on soil and leave a print.

I considered crossing the creek, but that was water only Vítí could love, it was so cold. So I turned north, away from the creek, and aimed to cross my earlier path at a backwards angle.

I didn’t even see my tracks, but I must’ve crossed them because I found the gully wall. A steep slope of loose dirt, higher than I could see in the dark. There was no fucking way I’d be able to get up that without leaving a trail any dipshit could follow. But not in the dark, hopefully. I started climbing.

Green Desert - Chapter 7.1.6 - Bhanar


I slipped on Umo’s black-leather shoes and laced them up. A bit big, but maybe that was because I didn’t have socks. “Thank you.” I stood up. “Let’s go.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.” He turned and started down the path. Twilight was pushing full night. I could barely see rocks on the ground. I had no clue how Umo could see Zhíno’s footprints.

I waved Lango to go ahead of me. He hesitated, muttered something, and went. I followed at a safe distance.

If it was Lango who shot down the police helicopter, that meant that at least Zhíno didn’t have a gun. Small favors and all that.

A slight breeze blew up the gully, through the trees and shrubs, cold on my bare legs. “Maybe we can leave Zhíno out here. He is naked. He will freeze to death.”

Lango snorted. “I’m going to fucking kill him.”

“Don’t you dare,” Umo snapped.

I tripped on a tree root and stumbled. Neither agent looked back.

They were so eager to get Zhíno, but not to kill him. Their goal was to capture him. Good. Whatever prompted Lango to shoot at the sheriff’s helicopter, Umo was still following procedure. He wouldn’t kill Zhíno. He’d let a judge decide the bastard’s fate.

Unless they were talking about me just then. . .

Monday, March 27, 2006

Gather 'round the Tostitos this Easter!

That was the ad on my shopping cart yesterday. If it's not the most bizarre ad I've ever seen, it's right up there. Just that phrase and a platter of mini-nachos.

Yesterday afternoon, a KOMO 4 News van parked on the street near my building. And a second newsvan, but this one without any markings. They both raised their towers high into the sky. A KOMO reporter showed up in an suv, but left again. Then the KOMO van took down its tower and drove off. The unmarked van kept its antenna up, taller than my building, pointing south towards downtown.

When I came back in the evening, a Q13 newsvan was parked there, a huge satellite dish on its roof. They had the huge light and the camera and the reporter all going. By ten o'clock, though, they'd turned off the light, so I guess their piece didn't need to be live during the news.

So, what do you think they were doing there? From KOMO's lack of hurry, I'd guessed it was a human-interest story. But when Q13 showed up. . . It turns out that the killer in the Capitol Hill shooting this weekend lived in the apartments across the street. . . . Great. . .

Green Desert - Chapter 7.1.5 - Fírí


“I’m coming,” I called. The carpet was pleasantly soft on my sore heel. But then I stepped off the thick carpet and onto the tile entryway, and the pleasure was gone.

Okay. Cops. Be nice, courteous. Get them to leave quickly.

I flicked the nearby lightswitch, assuming it was the porch light, and pulled open the door.

Not cops. Two squinting men in ratty, red-plaid flannels over tshirts and jeans. One of them held his hand up, shielding his eyes from the porch light. Still squinting, he said, “Good evening, ma’am. We’re looking for our friends. Perhaps you’ve seen them? Their car is parked across the road. One is about two meters tall, the other a bit shorter. Both wearing suits.”

“And ties,” added the other guy.

“Thank you, yes, and ties.”

They both looked at me expectantly. Very friendly. I felt I could trust them. But I had no earthly idea what they were talking about. “Sorry. Haven’t seen them.”

Their faces fell. The one with slightly darker hair rubbed his chin and leaned forwards. “Do you mind if we have a look around the place?”

I frowned slightly. “You’re not cops, are you? You’d need a––”


“Not cops, no.” They both smiled brightly as if I’d told a joke. “Heavens no.”


Green Desert - Chapter 7.1.4 - Bhanar


“Stop it, you two!” I stepped over to the two agents and towered over them. “Lango is correct. We need to find Zhíno.”

They stopped struggling and stared up at me. Even though it was dark out, I could clearly see anger on Lango’s face but awe on Umo’s. Here was his emperor, taking control.

“Lango, drop the gun. Umo, let him go.”

Neither of them moved.

“I do not care who shot the helicopter.” Although I really did. Why would Lango do it? He might have killed someone. “Calm down. Let go.”

“Yes, Your Royal Majesty.” Umo released Lango and leaned back.
The smaller man scrambled away, turning back like an animal, watching us, his guard up.

“Let’s find Zhíno. Okay?”

Lango straightened up slowly. “Okay.” He holstered his gun.

I’d have to keep an eye on him. And when we handed Zhíno to the cops, I’d give them Lango too. I was sure Umo would help me. “Let’s go.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.” Umo stood and brushed himself off. “Do you want my shoes?”

What? “No. No thanks.”

He turned away quickly, but I was pretty sure I saw a hurt expression on his face.

“Wait. Okay.”

Umo turned back, a joyful smile showing. “Thank you, Your Majesty.” He knelt down and started untying.

Friday, March 24, 2006

El Norte Blanco sucks at bowling

. . . but at least I won the costume contest!

UPDATE:


Green Desert - Chapter 7.1.3 - Fírí


Ketchup, peanut butter, mayonnaise, ranch dressing, raspberry vinaigrette, lemon juice, olive spread, strawberry jam, apple butter, squeeze butter. And that was just the top shelf of the fridge door. The rest of the refrigerator was packed just as full. I couldn’t even see the back two thirds. Not that I’d eat something from back there; it was probably years old.

I grabbed the olive spread and a pitcher of orange juice and closed the fridge. I tried all the cupboards before I found the bread and crackers. Plenty of canned food, that was for sure. I took the crackers––sesame––and a glass from another cupboard and sat myself down at the bloodstained table.

The crackers and olive spread tasted delicious, like the most wonderful meal I’d ever eaten. A long draught of juice and I began to feel alive again, even though it was from concentrate.


After about ten crackers piled high with spread, and one and a half glasses of orange juice, a knock echoed through the house. I set down a half-eaten cracker. The front door. The police were here.

Should I answer? I had nothing in here to hide––nothing in the house at all, actually. But it’s not like it was my door to answer. Not my food, either. I finished the cracker.

They knocked again.

But who knew where Vata had gone to. I might as well get the cops in and out of here as quick as possible, before they started nosing around outside, near the pickup. I stood up.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

smells like sun

Even though it was overcast when I woke up this morning, I knew it would be a sunny day, just by looking at it. I could even see the mountain, white on white in the distance, so it was just high clouds, bound to burn off in an hour of direct sunlight.

Walking to work, it just smelled like it was going to be a warm, sunny day, despite the fact it was still in the mid-40s. It smelled like the kind of day, if I were in the mountains in July, that I'd be thinking of which lake to go swimming in that afternoon. It smelled like it'd be a scorcher.

Sadly, it's not July and I'm not in the mountains. I'm in my office with a view of the mall. But it's looking more and more like a sunny day.

Green Desert - Chapter 7.1.2 - Bhanar


Umo didn’t continue, but just stood there. The creek gurgled off to my left.

“Who did? Who shot at the helicopter?”

The tall, dark-haired agent shook his head slowly, his gaze still averted. “I’m. . .” He didn’t know. “I’m sorry, Your Royal Majesty, but––”

“Let’s go get Zhudıro.” Lango shouldered past me. “Before it gets completely dark out here.” He started past Umo but the taller man grabbed his arm. Lango tried to throw Umo’s hand loose, but he held tight, turning the greasy agent around to face me. Lango glared at me as he failed to free himself again.

“I’m sorry, Your Royal Majesty, but it was Lango.”

“No!” Lango hit Umo’s arm and spun.

Umo grabbed him with both hands, holding tight. Lango kept struggling, but the bigger man held tighter.

Lango? But why would a federal agent want to shoot down a sheriff’s helicopter? Turf war?

Lango slipped free almost and Umo tackled him, both landing on their knees. “Let go!” “Drop it, shithead!” Only then did I see that Lango had his gun in his hand, Umo gripping his wrist. What the hell was going on? I pulled my gun from my shorts, but didn’t point it.

The two men wrestled in a stalemate, still fighting but hardly moving. Partners trying to kill each other.

Green Desert - Chapter 7.1.1 - Fírí


With the last of my strength, I chucked the final box into the back of the pickup. It landed tilted on top of other boxes which crushed slightly. My knees gave out and I dropped to the gravel. I landed hard on my butt and sat there, hunched over, waiting for my body to recover. My arms hung limply in my lap.

But I did it. The evidence was out of the house. I wasn’t going to prison.

My stomach growled.

When had I last eaten? Breakfast. Which was at noon, but still. Hashbrowns and orange juice. Ages ago. It was no wonder I was out of energy. I’d only eaten three hundred calories all day.
My stomach growled again.

“Okay, okay. I’m going.” I grabbed the truck’s back bumper and pulled and pushed my weary body upright. With a sigh and wobbly legs, I entered the dark garage and headed for the back corner where I remembered the kitchen door.

My eyes adjusted to the dark and I spotted the steps before I kicked them. The garage door automatic closer button glowed red at me. I pushed it. Very loud clanking and whirring lowered the door, turning the garage from dim to black. I fumbled for the doorknob, caught it, turned it, and pushed open the door.

The green kitchen, the bloody linoleum, the bloody bit of pants leg on the wood table. The fridge.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

long day today. . .

Is it 5:00 yet?

Green Desert - Chapter 6

(back to Chapter 5)

6.1.1 - Fírí
6.1.2 - Bhanar
6.1.3 - Fírí
6.1.4 - Bhanar
6.1.5 - Fírí
6.1.6 - Bhanar
6.2.1 - Irézí
6.2.2 - Fírí
6.2.3 - Bhanar
6.2.4 - Irézí
6.2.5 - Fírí
6.3.1 - Séara
6.3.2 - Bhanar
6.3.3 - Irézí
6.3.4 - Fírí
6.3.5 - Séara
6.3.6 - Bhanar
6.4.1 - Irézí
6.4.2 - Fírí
6.4.3 - Séara
6.4.4 - Bhanar
6.4.5 - Irézí
6.5.1 - Sétıpímo
6.5.2 - Fírí
6.5.3 - Séara
6.5.4 - Bhanar
6.5.5 - Irézí
6.5.6 - Sétıpímo
6.6.1 - Vata
6.6.2 - Fírí
6.6.3 - Séara
6.6.4 - Bhanar
6.6.5 - Irézí

On to Chapter 7!

Green Desert - Chapter 6.6.5 - Irézí


Why did Taíséma have to ask so many questions? She should just be saying, “That’s great! Wow!” and leaving it at that. Not interrogating me.

“Taíséma, I do not know the answer to that question.” I could feel my smile drooping. “I have not yet had a chance to interview a police officer.”

The policeman in the shadows behind Nıléké stirred and started walking towards me. Was he going to give me an interview? I slapped on smile twelve. The policeman was young, with dark hair, kind of short, and walking right past me.

“Hey!” I spun around. “Do you have a minute?”

He looked at me with a frown. “Where is everybody?”

“They went inside. Do you know the whereabouts––”

But he had already turned away, stepped over to the helicopter. “Séara?”

I turned back to the camera with a knowledgeable smile. “As you can see––”

“We’re off the air,” Míro cut in.

“What?” But I. . .

“They took it back to the studio. Sorry.”

“The fucking bitches! My big moment and they just cut me off!”

Nıléké switched off the light and I was blind.

“I bet Taíséma put them up to it. That old hag was––”

“Hey, could you turn that light back on? I think this guy’s still alive.”

Green Desert - Chapter 6.6.4 - Bhanar


“Did either of you see what happened back there? Why did the helicopter crash?” Gunshots, of course. But who? And why?

Umo ducked under a branch, holding it up with one hand. He lifted it for me to pass under. “Well, Your Royal Majesty, there was so much dirt kicked up that I didn’t really see what happened.” He dropped the branch to let Lango fend for himself, then started tracking Zhíno’s footprints again.

So he didn’t know any more than I did.

“But,” he continued, “I heard two gunshots, both from the same direction. Both from the same gun.” He hopped up on a small boulder, peering forward into the dusk. “They sounded identical, Your Majesty. Somebody wanted that helicopter down.” He stepped down and continued forward.

I crawled up on the rock, careful of my bare toes. “But surely it’s impossible to shoot down a helicopter with two bullets.”

“I’m sorry, Your Royal Majesty, but that is exactly what I believe happened.”

I jumped down onto the grassy soil. “Well, yeah. Me too.” I glanced up at the purple sky through the black branches. “But how did Zhíno get a gun?”

Umo stopped. Slowly, he turned to face me, but his eyes remained pointed at my feet. “I’m sorry, Your Royal Majesty, but I do not believe it was Zhíno Zhudıro who shot at the helicopter.”

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

God of Rivers

I forgot to mention this yesterday, but better late than never. There are some calendars out there that incorrectly have the Holy Day of Zhaké as yesterday. In fact, the river god's holy day isn't until next Thursday. Kinko's misread my "30" for a "20" and I didn't notice in the proofread.

If you erroneously celebrated His day yesterday, don't worry. I'm sure He won't mind. Just go down to the river on March 30 and everything will be just fine.

Green Desert - Chapter 6.6.3 - Séara


Míkoízo shook his head dumbly. “I didn’t. . .”

I swung my feet through the sideways door and perched there, pointing my finger at the pilot. “You killed her! Why didn’t you tell me she was back here?”

I dropped down onto the side wall of the helicopter. In the darkness, I misjudged the landing and fell forwards. I threw my hands out to catch myself and one landed on sand and the other on something soft and warm.

The pilot sputtered. “We can still save Sharıgo. Please, let’s go back out.”

I pushed myself up and looked at where I’d landed. A body. Another deputy. But his head. . . His head wasn’t there. Just the top edge of the open doorway dug down into the sand, pinning his neck, crushing his skull.

Bile climbed up my throat and I let it come, pushing the vomit out of my gut, onto the sand, onto the helicopter wall under my knees. All my tension, guilt, everything––I purged it all, retching again and again and letting it all go.

At last I was empty. Eyes closed, I sank back on my heels, wiped my sleeve across my mouth and chin.

Míkoízo gently placed a hand on my shoulder, gave a comforting squeeze.

But I was fine. My brain floated in clouds, my whole body insubstantial.

“We’re back here,” the pilot called.

Green Desert - Chapter 6.6.2 - Fírí


I sighed and dropped to one knee beside the two heavy boxes. It was getting kind of dark in the garage, but I still had plenty of light for what I was doing.

What was I doing?

“Surviving,” I muttered and heaved a box up onto my knee. It wobbled and I held it steady, preparing for my next move.

I really needed to get to a gym. I knew some girls back home who wouldn’t have even thought twice about this weight. Pé‘í, for one. But exercise was just too much work. And for what?

For lifting heavy boxes.

With a groan, I lifted the ammo box up onto my shoulder. Now for the hard part––standing up. Ready, one, two, up! My jello legs squealed from pain, overuse, weakness, and stubbornness, but I got to my feet.

I hurried across the garage and driveway, ignoring my left heel’s complaints, and dropped the box into the back of Bhanar’s truck. I leaned heavily on the vehicle, panting. These boxes stood out horribly in among Bhanar’s stuff. Nobody would be fooled. The boxes probably wouldn’t even stay on the truck if he took a corner. Except they were so damn heavy. I shoved the ammo box in better and wobbled back to the garage.

The boxes might stand out, but I didn’t have any other options. They had to be where the cops couldn’t look.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Last Hours of Winter

We only have a few hours left of winter (or summer if you're down south of the equator). At 10:26 a.m. Pacific Time, the sun will pass over the equator from south to north, and we get to keep it till late September.

Today marks the day when the northward movement of the sun begins to slow. . . . Or does that sound a little too pessimistic? Oh well. I could take the derivatives of sines and cosines forever.

Green Desert - Chapter 6.6.1 - Vata


I walked across the soft soil, back towards the secret door, bloody bucket in my hand. Forever. This was taking forever. I’d grow old and die before I finished this.

Heh. I already was old.

I pushed open the big stucco door and shuffled down the dirt corridor. Flaming braziers lit my way. We had no electric light in the chapel. It wouldn’t be right. It would dishonor Névazhíno.

Within the circle of braziers, beside the altar, lay the body of our cow, Népí, minus her head, shoulders, and forelegs. I entered the ring of light and set the pail beside the large bulk of dead flesh.

This dishonored Névazhíno. He’d spurned my prayer and this sacrifice, as I knew He would. I shouldn’t have done it, but I was just so worried for Pí‘oro. Was he all right?

I lifted the knife from the altar. Blood dripped down the blade as I squatted, my free hand on Népí’s soft, tan hide.

If I didn’t dispose of her body before Sétıpímo returned, I had no chance of disguising this room’s purpose. I had to hurry.

The knife slid into the skin handle-deep, between two ribs. I tugged it downward, slicing the flesh in fits and starts.

“Névazhíno, give me strength.”

But I knew He wouldn’t listen. He would never listen to me again. I had wasted one His precious creatures. I had taken a life without purpose.

Friday, March 17, 2006

More Mars!

A very cool website courtesy of the folks at Google: Mars. Sure, they may trample on free speech to cozy up to China, but at least they can make pretty pictures available to all.

You can click on spacecraft up at the top and it will pinpoint all the robots that have crashed and/or landed on the ruddy planet. See if you can find where the Polar Lander died.

The main map is false-color topographical, but you can also select "visible" (black and white) and "infrared," which someone will have to explain to me, but it's actually the one I recognize the best. Zoom in on the crater of Olympus Mons. (Do a search for Olympus.) Volcanic craters upon volcanic craters.

Bowling & B-ball

Caffeine definitely keeps you awake better than alcohol. Bowling league last night, in which my second-game score has quite frequently dropped below 100 due to fatigue. But instead of beer, I drank Dr Pepper and Mountain Dew. I rolled a 135 and a 140. Yay! . . . But neither score counted on our scoresheet because two men on my team bowled better than me both games. Oh well. At least I can roll the ball in a straight line. (-:

And just as our game was wrapping up, I saw San Diego State get beat by Indiana in the final seconds. Boo! And just before I left home to drive to the bowling alley, I saw Wilmington fail to break the tie in the final seconds. George Washington ended up winning that game in overtime. Boo! But Texas A&M beat Syracuse, so I at least got one upset right.

I guessed three, four occurred, and I only got one right. Do I count that as 1 of 4, 1 of 3, or 1 of 6?

I didn't pick any upsets in today's games, so go whiteshirts!

Green Desert - Chapter 6.5.6 - Sétıpímo


The television cut away to the studio as the two reporters proved they had no information or intelligence. I turned to face Ríko. “I have a search warrant that I need you to sign.” I pulled the paper out of my coat pocket and unfolded it. “It’s for the Kılímo residence. Vata was giving me weird vibes. And Zhudıro’s girlfriend was yelling rape and some strange accusations.”

The judge frowned and held out his hand. I gave him the form and he put it on his desk under the lamp. He leaned close, grunted a couple times as he read it. “’Serious suspicions of illegal activity,’ eh?” He grabbed a pen. “You didn’t want to put ‘weird vibes’ in the official record, did you?” He signed it fluidly and handed it back to me, smiling. “Be nice to the old girl. It’s been a hectic couple of days for her. Don’t mess up her house unless you have to.”

“Ríko, it’s me.” I grinned. “Don’t worry.”

His eyes narrowed in a smile. He growled, “Get out of here, you old fool.”

I headed for the hallway door, light on my feet. Finally I was going to be useful again.

“Remember, Sétıpímo, you’re not as young as you used to be.”

Over my shoulder, I replied, “Don’t remind me.”

The judge followed me to the front door. “Hopefully your next visit won’t be for business.”

“It won’t, trust me. Keep the cards ready.” I swung open the door and stepped out into the warm evening air.

Green Desert - Chapter 6.5.5 - Irézí


In my earpiece, I heard my own voice describing the awful scene. I sounded scared, out of breath, out of my depth, unsure of myself, and nasal.

Míro’s voice cut over. “Back to live in two.”

I smiled heartfelt sorrow. “So as you can see, this has been a tragic day for our men and women in uniform. Truly a tragic day for us all.”

Behind Nıléké and the camera’s light, someone stepped towards us, dark in the shadows.

Taíséma’s voice screeched in my ear. “Truly it has been, yes.”
The man behind Nıléké wore all black––another cop. Where had he come from?

Taíséma asked, “Have you seen any sign of the fugitive cop-killer, Zhíno Zhudıro, yet?”

I smiled condescendingly without trying. “You must remember, Taíséma, that Zhudıro has not yet been tried in a court of law. He is merely a wanted suspect, not a certified cop-killer.” “But he’s. . .” she blustered, “he’s the only suspect they have and even his own girlfriend says he did it.”

Hell, his girlfriend probably was lying. Who knew her motives? I tilted my head and smiled in admonishment. “Innocent until proven guilty, my dear.”

“But have you seen him?” she spat.

I returned to smile two. “Unfortunately, no. The suspect disappeared from the crash site before I arrived.”

“But he was in custody at that time?”

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Basketball?

Twelve hours of televised basketball starting now! Your local CBS affiliate. Maybe I should come down with a cold. . .

Well, okay. It's not a solid twelve hours. There's a two-hour gap so they can show The Price Is Right and Judge Joe Brown.

These first two nights of the NCAA tournament are some of the best television of the year. Sixteen games Thursday, sixteen games Friday. Four games at a time, slightly staggered so you can watch the ending to every single one of them. And CBS changes the channel for you. It's marvelous.

And there's always the score updates at the bottom of the screen, where you see how your team is doing even though they're not showing it at that moment. And they're within one. Yay! And five seconds later, the score comes up again and they're down by six. Boo! And the clock stopped. Penalty? Time out? What's going on? Multiply by four and again by eight and you're right there with me.

Green Desert - Chapter 6.5.4 - Bhanar


Above us, I thought I heard a horse whicker. But I was just hearing things. Fírí had taken the horse. Séara said so. I shook my head to clear it. “Let’s go after him, then.” I turned downstream, looking for footprints along the gully floor.

Umo caught up with me, moving silently. “Here, Your Majesty. Take my jacket.” He held it out to me, eyes averted as we walked.

“Thank you.” I slipped the sports jacket on. Black wool, fine threads, big on me even though Umo didn’t look that wide-shouldered.

“There, Your Majesty.” Umo pointed at a spot of bare earth. A partial footprint, toes clearly visible. I let Umo lead, walking slightly hunched as he tracked his prey.

Lango tromped along behind us, oblivious to any sense of the hunt. “Come on, let’s hurry up and find that bastard and kill him.”

What did Lango have against Zhíno? Had Mr. Scruffy-beard shot at him, too? These guys obviously were not strangers to Zhíno. They must’ve been hunting him down when they came out here. That’s why Zhíno hid behind Séara.

Umo crossed the creek, stepping lightly on protruding rocks. I followed, nearly losing my balance as one rock tipped. I hopped to the far bank just as Lango splashed into the creek behind me.

“Fucking. . .” Lango’s curses quickly turned to muttering.

Federal agents, then. One suave, one clumsy. I could deal with that.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Prognostications

Yay! Monmouth won! Now they can be all tired and lose to Villanova on Friday.

For Thursday's games, I'm picking a few upsets. Texas A&M over Syracuse is my 12 beating a 5 pick. Gotta have one of those. I also think UNC-Wilmington can beat George Washington, but that's an 8-9 game, so not really a limb there. My big cinderella team is San Diego State. Not because they'll beat 6-seed Indiana tomorrow, but because they'll beat 3-seed Gonzaga on Saturday.

Oh, and Texas is gonna win the whole shebang. Go 'Horns!

And for those of you who are UW fans, the Badgers are going to lose to Arizona in the first round. . . . Oh, are some of you Washington fans? Well, don't worry. The Huskies will make it to the Sweet 16, only to get knocked off by the UConn Huskies. Won't that be a fun game? The entire arena will be chanting "GO HUSKIES!"

In case you forgot:

Today is Wednesday.

Green Desert - Chapter 6.5.3 - Séara


“Míkoízo, what are you doing?”

He put his knee up on the side of Sharıgo’s seat. “The others.” And he pulled himself between the two sideways seats.

What others? Others in the helicopter? Why hadn’t he mentioned them before?

Míkoízo disappeared into the back of the helicopter just as someone flicked on a bright light. It suddenly seemed very dark out. I glanced toward the glare and saw Irézí Sıvíhí’s outline, her back to me. Her cameraman, of course. We were going to be on the news. Death and destruction with your dinner.

I jumped up into the cockpit. Maybe we’d be able to help the others, unlike poor Sharıgo. I grabbed the seats and pulled myself between them, kicking off the dashboard.

Through the small doorway, I saw movement. I crawled forward and stuck my head through. Just Míkoízo moved, standing up slowly, his back to me.

Standing up from beside a prone body. Her forehead glistened in the dim light, blood oozing from a giant wound. Deputy Sérıgí Sívıposoma.

“Is she. . .” My throat caught. Anyone but Sérıgí. Why’d it have to be her?

Míkoízo twisted to look at me over his shoulder. He shook his head. Sérıgí was dead. If I had just known she was back here, I could’ve helped he. I could’ve saved her. “Why didn’t you tell me she was back here?” I breathed hard, glaring at Míkoízo. “You let her die!”

Green Desert - Chapter 6.5.2 - Fírí


I paused, my gaze drawn to my shoe and sock atop the police cruiser. I had an idea. I grabbed the sock and looped it around my foot, under my heel, and tied the ends together. I stood and smiled. Padding for my hurting heel. It didn’t fall off as I walked to the garage.

The top box was a long one, probably with five or eight rifles in it. Bending my knees a little, I lifted it up to my shoulder with a grunt. The guns rattled and clanked against each other. I hoped none of them were loaded. I might just shoot myself.

This box was lighter than the first one. I hauled it to the pickup without too much pain and slid it in right behind the cab.

Three more boxes of rifles later, though, my arms and legs didn’t think it was easy anymore. The sock had worn thin so the gravel bit me just as sharp as ever. Night was falling and it seemed like the last two small boxes would take me till sunrise. I pushed against one with my good foot. They were heavy––ammunition, explosives, handguns. But mostly ammunition. Gogzhuè was preparing for war, it seemed. But against who? How many people would he kill once he got these guns? Then again, how many people would he kill if he didn’t get these guns?

His goons would hunt Zhíno down. His goons would hunt me down, no matter if I fled to Zhuphío or beyond. I didn’t need to worry about the cops. If I didn’t get these guns to Gogzhuè, I was a dead woman. He’d probably kill me for being a day late, but I had to pray he was in a good mood.

Green Desert - Chapter 6.5.1 - Sétıpímo


My finger was on the doorbell to ring it a second time with Judge Rapımaré opened the door.

His wrinkled face lit up with surprise upon seeing me. “Sétıpímo!” His gravelly voice matched his buzzcut hair, as if he belonged on a battlefield rather than in a courtroom. But this was his house and I was calling at dinnertime. “What brings you by? A social call, I hope. Or something to do with the cop killer?” He stepped aside, holding the door open. “Won’t you come in.”


“Thank you, Ríko.” I entered the well-lit, high-ceiling entryway. A television talked in the study down the hall.


“They’ve just shown the crashed helicopter on the news.” Ríko led me down the hall. “They don’t know what happened. Do you?”


“No.” My knowledge was fourth-hand, through the dispatcher and Laparıpasamé and the news crew. And the brass wouldn’t let me go help. Too old to be useful. Dead deputies. Injured deputies. And I was too old to help.


In one corner of the dark, book-lined study, a fifty-centimeter television tuned to Channel Six proclaimed Breaking News. Irézí Sıvíhí blathered nonsense with that stupid grin on her face. Behind her, our helicopter lay on its side, someone crawling inside it. I stepped closer. The fuzzy image turned its head and I saw a familiar face: Deputy Nulıpésha.


I sighed in relief. At least she was alive.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Lunar Eclipse, but not for me

There'll be a lunar eclipse tonight/this afternoon. While not as dramatic as a solar eclipse, they're still fun to see. The moon will slowly turn red and dark, then slowly come back to normal. It takes over an hour usually.

Today's eclipse is centered at 23:36 GMT, which means if you're in England, you should stick your head outside sometime between 11 p.m. and midnight. For those of you in the Pacific time zone, however, this will take place between 3 and 4 p.m., before the moon actually rises. It might rise in time for you Central viewers (5 to 6 p.m.), but it will be right on the eastern horizon. Too bad I'm not in Boston or something.

Green Desert - Chapter 6.4.5 - Irézí


“Okay,” I replied. Fifty seconds to get my act together. Smile seven––pensive excitement. I twisted away from the helicopter, the dead copilot, and gazed to the horizon. Smile, dammit.

I wiped my cheek and my hand came away with makeup and dirt. Oh great. I was going to look fucking horrible on live television. Smeared makeup, dirt and dust, hair a mess, sweaty clothes. “Damn it, Pétíso, damn it.”

A bright light hit me in the side of my face. I squinted into it, my eyes slowly adjusting. Nıléké and his camera, ready to roll. Smile.

“Ten seconds.”

I ran a hand through my hair, blinked my eyes together a few times, moved my jaw around. This was it. This was my chance.

“Five, four, three. . .”

I raised my microphone. Smile seven pasted itself on my face. “Good evening. This is Irézí Sıvíhí reporting from the desert outside of Tuhanı, where a sheriff’s department helicopter that came to arrest Zhíno Zhudıro, the suspect in the brutal slaying of Patrolman Vakıgédé, has crashed, killing one on the ground and one of the pilots. You can see it right here behind me.”

I gestured toward the aircraft, my eyes fixed upon the cold gaze of the camera lens. Nıléké moved the camera slightly, showing the wreckage better.

“I saw it go down with my own eyes just a few minutes ago. Roll the footage, please.”

Green Desert - Chapter 6.4.4 - Bhanar


Umo dove into the bushes, following Zhíno’s footprints.

“Careful!” I said. We didn’t want to disturb the trail accidentally.

Lango slipped between the branches, flailing against their grasp. I glanced over to the path and mentally shrugged before heading toward the easy way down the hill.

A yelp sounded from Lango’s direction as I picked my way down the steep slope, glad I could see my foot placements and glad I had those two men to do the hard part for me.

Where had they come from, anyway? Umo had been surprised to see me, so at least they weren’t searching for me. They got here right before the reporter and cameraman, so maybe they just outran them, having left at the same time. Were they just bystanders who stopped to see the news crew? Not with those guns, they weren’t.

I reached the bottom of the gully, now growing dark as the sun sank low in the northwest. Just the highest treetops had light on them, blazing orange-yellow against the deep blue sky.

Oh crap. Was I going to have to spend the night out here? It got cold at night in the desert, and I just wore shorts. Oh well, at least Umo would gladly give me his jacket if I asked.

The tall, dark, and handsome man emerged from the brush, eyes to the ground. He slowly looked up at me. “He went downstream, Your Majesty.”

Green Desert - Chapter 6.4.3 - Séara


I helped Míkoízo untangle himself. He groaned something unintelligible and coughed. “Yeah, I think so.”

Irézí Sıvíhí walked past us for a better look at the injured copilot, intrigued by pain and misery.

Míkoízo sat up with a grunt and looked down at his body, felt his knee. “Yeah, I’m okay.” His eyes shot past me. Sémıtagaré. He whispered, “Sharıgo,” and scrambled to his feet. His face tensed up with sadness and anger.

“Should we touch him?” I asked.

Míkoízo ignored me and stalked over to his injured friend, kneeling down just outside the front window. The newsgirl just stood and watched. I brushed past her and crouched beside Míkoízo. Sémıtagaré hadn’t changed in the past minutes––except the amount of blood in the sand.

“Yeah,” said the reporter. “Yeah, I’m here.”

Míkoízo stretched out his hand to the copilot’s face, gently touched it.

“Sorry,” blurted Irézí.

Míkoízo whispered, “Sharıgo, can you hear me?” He stroked his copilot’s cheek. “Can you move your feet?”

I moved closer to the pilot. “He’s not waking up. Can we call for help on the radio?”

The dark-skinned pilot peered close at Sharıgo’s bent neck. “How could they help us? This was our only helicopter.” He stood, staring deep into the helicopter, past the cockpit, through a doorway, back to where they would’ve carried Zhudıro, all locked up. Had the suspect managed to get a gun and shoot down the helicopter?

Míkoízo stepped onto the window frame, reaching for his chair.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Beer on tap

Have you ever wished you had beer on tap at your apartment? Your sink's tap? A woman in Norway got just that when the bar downstairs mixed up some pipes. "We thought we were in heaven," she said. But then she tasted the beer and it was flat and odd-tasting.

Just imagine what the bar patrons thought when they got their extremely watery beer. . .

The woman seems sanguine, even though she couldn't clean her dishes properly and the beer was bad. "If it happens again, I'm going to order Baileys."

Go Hawks!

The Monmouth Hawks, of course. They're going to totally whip Hampton in Tuesday's play-in game, just you wait.

Green Desert - Chapter 6.4.2 - Fírí


I heaved the ammo box onto the back of Bhanar’s pickup. My arms cried out in joy, despite their agony. My left heel screamed with sharp pain, and my big toe sung harmony just so I wouldn’t forget its mangled self.

I let the blue metal of the truck support me. How the hell was I going to do this? Maybe if I had two good feet still, but not now. My forehead slipped from my hands and hit the hard, warm truck. I needed someone to help me. But anybody I asked––the Channel Six guy?––would ask questions, wonder what’s in the boxes.

Zhíno. Only Zhíno could help me. Only Zhíno wouldn’t turn me into the cops.

“Shit.”

How was I ever going to be rid of that bastard?

A tear slipped off my nose and dripped to the peeling blue paint. No crying. I sniffled and my nose filled with an acrid rusty odor that stood me upright. I wiped my face with both hands and starred at the darkening eastern sky. A few wispy clouds––the same orangish color as this godawful desert––floated starkly on the sorrowful, indigo firmament.

No crying. Zhíno wasn’t coming. Zhíno wasn’t going to help me. Zhíno was in police custody. Or dead in the crash. I had to do this myself or it wasn’t going to happen.

I shoved the ammo box against a sideways coffee table and turned back for the garage.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Apples

Today is Johnny Appleseed Day, so go plant an apple tree! Or at least eat an apple or two. But not the seeds. Those taste gross.

Do you believe in Johnny Appleseed? Was there really a man traveling around our country planting appleseeds? There must've been someone, something to spark the myth. Must've.

Green Desert - Chapter 6.4.1 - Irézí


I shouldered past the kid in shorts and circled the crashed aircraft. The woman deputy stood on the frame, holding up the blood-covered pilot. He suddenly fell, knocking the woman over, flying through the air with a gurgled yelp, and landed with a sickening thud right in front of me.

He groaned––a deep sob of death––and slumped down even lower to the dirt. The woman deputy stared at me. I smiled––number one, pleased-to-meet-you. She shot me daggers and jumped to the pilot’s side.
“Míkoízo, are you okay?” She rolled him over onto his back, a hand on his shoulder.

Past her, still in the helicopter, the copilot hung sideways from his seat, his neck bent against the crimson ground at an unnatural angle. Dead. Surely dead, or else the woman would be helping him.
I stepped around the two living cops, my eyes fixed on the dead man’s slack face. Besides the blood, he looked at peace, restful. Like somehow having his spine snapped didn’t hurt at all.

As the two cops blocked my view, my earpiece burped with static. “Irézí, are you still there?” Míro, back in the van. I should be talking. I should be reporting.

I circled for a better view. “Yeah.” I held up the microphone. “Yeah, I’m still here. Sorry.” The blood coursed through the sand, expanding its territory. “I just. . .”

“I’ve patched together some of Nıléké’s clips and what you’ve said. We’re going to go live in fifty seconds. I’ll cue you. Okay?”

Green Desert - Chapter 6.3.6 - Bhanar


We walked around the helicopter only to find ourselves face-to-face with a good-looking woman with stylish, rumpled clothes and a microphone. A reporter. How in Pétíso’s hell had a reporter gotten here so quick?

She nodded at Umo and walked right past us. She was shorter than Séara, with a fancy haircut much the worse for wear. Sweaty makeup streaked her face.

Umo and the other guy waited for me. What was his name, anyway? “What is your name?”

The greasy one pointed a thumb at his chest. “Me?” He scowled. “Lango.” Lango the non-royalist-who-hangs-out-with-royalists.

I resumed walking, headed towards where I last saw that bastard Zhíno. A cameraman trotted at us, following the reporter. He paid us even less attention than she had. We had no injuries, after all.


I stopped near Pí‘oro’s body, but didn’t look down. “I last saw Zhíno over there.”


“Hiding behind the deputy, yes, Your Majesty.”


A guy dressed that suave should not be acting subservient. Lango muttered something that I couldn’t fully hear.


Umo snapped, “Shut up, idiot.” He saw my gaze and held up a hand. “Apologies, Your Royal Majesty. My friend is a bit stressed at the moment.”


“Whatever.”


I walked over to where Zhíno had been. A lot of disturbed sand, but those might be recent footprints there.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Paperless Society

Rather than reduce/eliminate the use of paper in the workplace and in government, technology has simply made it easier for companies and governments to use mass quantities of paper.

How difficult were carbon copies? Or blueprint machines? I loved the smell of ammonia. But now we just hit "20 copies" and "print" and voila! Another tree harvested, pulped, etc.

I guess the moral of the story is buy Weyerhaeuser.

Mars

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is fast approaching the orangish planet. Only a couple hours left till the orbit insertion maneuver. 1 p.m. PST. You can get the most up-to-date info from the JPL website.

Back at college, I attended a landing party for the Mars Polar Lander. NASA is in Houston right by Rice (thanks, in part, to an oil company, btw), so it was an official event with NASA tv projected on the lecture hall screen and representatives from the agency in attendence.

The landing was in December, during our charrette for studio (final days before semester projects are due), and I skipped out for several hours while my classmates were stressing out and furiously working on their drawings and models. Hey, I'd planned ahead. Got an A that semester, if I recall correctly.

The party served Mars bars and Tang. They had plenty of handouts about the mission, Mars, NASA, etc. I got a pin that says "Mars or Bust."

The Mars Polar Lander entered the atmosphere and was never heard from again. Whoops. And this was just a couple months after the Mars Climate Orbiter fried while aerobraking thanks to a Newton/pound misunderstanding.

So here's hoping that the MRO can do what the MCO and MPL couldn't. Keep your fingers crossed!

UPDATE: Yay! It survived!

Green Desert - Chapter 6.3.5 - Séara


Míkoízo opened his eyes and blinked at me. “Séara, are they okay?”

I heard more people behind me, but didn’t spare them a glance.
Bhanar could handle them for me. “No one on the ground was hurt.” I paused, looked down at the unconscious copilot. “Sémıtagaré is hurt. I think his neck might be broken. He’s alive though.”

Míkoízo coughed, covering his mouth with a bloody hand. “And the others?”

He was delusional. Not listening. Not thinking straight. I needed to get him upright, out of that harness. I put a foot on the window frame to brace myself. Little bits of glass broke loose around my boot. I reached up and placed my hands on Míkoízo’s shoulders, supporting him somewhat.

“Unbuckle your harness.”

He nodded, his eyes glazed. “Right.” Apparently neither of his arms were broken, because he grabbed the seat with one hand and his harness buckle with the other. Like a seatbelt, but with two crossing shoulder straps. He unclipped it and one shoulder strap fell down at me, just missing my head, but Míkoízo didn’t budge. A second buckle. He braced himself with a foot on the dashboard and unclipped the buckle.

He tumbled down on top of me, pushing me into the copilot’s knees. Glass shattered. The helicopter shook. Míkoízo landed with a thud on the sand. Shards of window tinkled around me as I stood up.


Míkoízo lay sprawled in a heap right at the feet of Irézí Sıvíhí of the Channel Six News.

Green Desert - Chapter 6.3.4 - Fírí


I tried the cardoor, but it was locked. I could see the toggle was down on the driver’s door, too. No chance of calling off the search warrant.

I had to hide the guns. I glanced over at the Channel Six guy, but he was halfway back to his van. Good. I didn’t want to have to explain anything.

I set my left shoe and sock atop the police car and limped across the gravel to the garage. Six large cardboard boxes stacked against the wall. The long ones had the automatic rifles. The square ones had ammo and handguns and explosives. Or were those the ones with the drugs and gardening supplies? No point in checking. I’d have to retape them. And it was illegal either way.

But what to do with them?

I turned around, searching. No point moving them elsewhere in the garage. Out back in the animal yard? No, they’d search there, too. I continued to slowly spin and my eyes settled on Bhanar’s pickup. Perfect. Boxes filled the back. A few more wouldn’t make a difference. And the cops couldn’t search it because it wasn’t the Kılímos’.

I grabbed the top box––one of the smaller ones, but at least thirty kilograms. Ammunition. Had to be. I lurched back a step, balancing awkwardly. How the hell had I moved these so quickly before? Crazy adrenaline rush, I guess.

I turned and hobbled toward the truck. My arms were dying. I couldn’t see where I placed my feet. Pain shot up from my bare heel.

Green Desert - Chapter 6.3.3 - Irézí


More of the people were standing up, going to the helicopter, but still one body lay motionless. I ran toward him.

“There is definitely one casualty. An older man.” I stopped several meters away. He lay on his back, coated in dust, bloody cloths bunched on his fat gut, a piece of metal lodged in his brain. Dead. I swallowed hard.

“It appears he was hit by at least two pieces of flying shrapnel. He tried to perform first aid on his stomach wound, but the piece in his head killed him suddenly.” His pale face shone under the ochre sand. Ghostly in the shadows of the trees.

I had no smile for this.

I turned away from the body, avoiding the camera’s gaze. Nıléké zoomed for a closeup of the dead man. My throat spasmed. My stomach convulsed. But I clenched my jaw, held my throat tight. I couldn’t puke now. I had work to do.

The helicopter lay on its side, its tail twisted upwards, its landing runners bent and mangled. More death awaited me. I started forwards.

When I was fifteen meters away, three men appeared before me––two in suits and ties, one in nothing but shorts. The two “businessmen” from earlier. The taller of them nodded a greeting. The young man in shorts just stared, his mouth slightly open.

I nodded and kept striding towards them, towards the terrible view into the bloody cockpit.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Carpet!

Last night, I spent a couple hours doing touch-up painting and then it was time to pull back the plastic. And what did I find underneath? Carpet!

10-Carpet

And tile, too!

I still have to replace the lightswitch/outlet coverplates, put the blinds back on the sliding glass door, move all the furniture back into location, and probably touch-up paint some spots I haven't noticed yet (I actually painted part of the ceiling after I took away the plastic last night and part of the closet door this morning!), but here's what my place looks like from the entry door:

11-Entry

More photos!

It's photo day here at I'm Awake, apparently.

Here's one of the view at the turnaround point on my Mt. Si hike Sunday.
06-Si

The sun finally came out yesterday around 5:00. I snapped some pics on my walk home. A new library is under construction between there and here, and this week they've decided to rip out the sidewalk for a block in either direction. I'm assuming they're going to replace it, but then again, maybe not.

07-Sidewalk

Cherry blossoms! Spring is here! That's why it's 35 degrees out. . . And quite, quite windy.

09-Cherry

Last Thursday

I don't know if you noticed or not, but I didn't post last Thursday. That was because I caught a 6:45 a.m. flight to San Jose, California, and didn't get back to Seattle till 9:40 p.m. or so. Business trip. But since I finally finished painting, here are some photos from the flight.

For starters, clouds over Washington or Oregon. Somewhere.
00-Columbia

Once in California, the clouds thinned out and I could easily see the ground. And the ocean. This next photo is the north end of the San Andreas Fault rift zone. The peninsula in the foreground is moving north (to the left).
01-Tomales

In this one, you can see the southern end of that same valley (the bay in the photo), still just north of San Francisco.
02-Bolinas

And here's a famous bridge (I forget the name) from really far away.
03-GoldenGate

At the southern end of San Francisco Bay, salt evaporation ponds flank the sloughs and rivers flowing north into the bay.
04-Alviso

05-SanJose

Welcome to California!

Green Desert - Chatper 6.3.2 - Bhanar


I raced around the helicopter to find Séara staring at the pilots from up close.

“Are they alive?”

“The pilot is.” She dropped to a crouch and reached through the broken cockpit window.

The pilot’s closed eyes pierced me, burned a hole into my soul.
“The copilot, too.”

I released a long breath. I didn’t need any more death around me, even if none of it was my fault.

The pilot moaned. Séara jerked her gaze up at him. He suddenly raised his right arm to his face, wiped blood off his dark-brown skin.

“Míkoízo, are you okay?” The brunette didn’t seem to even notice my presence anymore. Only her fellow deputies mattered.

The pilot opened his eyes. “Séara, are they okay?”

Feet pounded the sand behind me. I turned and saw Umo and the other guy staring past me. But Umo quickly yanked off his sunglasses and said, “Your Majesty, how can we help?”

He was serious about this royalty crap. Maybe I could use that. Boss him around a bit.

The skinnier guy with greasy hair shifted from one foot to the other, grimacing at the blood behind me. Or maybe it was a smile.

Séara didn’t want my help. That was clear.

“Zhíno escaped. Let’s go find him.”

Both suited men smiled.