The Tribe That Lost A Piece Of Their Soul And Discovered A World

Here’s a little Christmas present for you all –  it’s one of my favourites of all the things I’ve written “for kids”.  But really, it’s for everyone who understands…

William Bowmore Wise liked to travel, and he liked to take pictures.

He especially liked to take pictures with his very expensive and very clever mobile phone that had a very clever camera built into it. He had a big camera too, but his phone was easier to carry around.

William B. Wise lived in a big city in Australia, but he really liked to travel.

Fortunately he was quite rich, so he could afford to visit a lot of interesting places.

William liked taking pictures of people who had less than he did because he thought they were interesting. He wasn’t being smug or unkind. He just didn’t quite understand them.

He’d always been quite rich and didn’t know what it was like to have to make his own clothes or bake his own bread. He couldn’t imagine what it must be like to grow his own food or catch his own fish or build his own house.

William didn’t even really understand what it was like to have to work hard to have enough money to buy food or a place to live.

He took pictures of people working and building and fishing and farming because they were things that to him were different and unusual.

When William took pictures of people, he didn’t think of them as people. It was like they were just things. Things to take pictures of, just like bridges and buildings and sunflowers and sunsets.

*

The Williwilli people were a very small, very ancient tribe who lived in Central Australia.

There weren’t many of them any more. They didn’t have a home. They hadn’t had a home for thousands of years.

dscf3840The Williwilli people were nomads. They wandered from place to place, and built rough shelters to sleep in for just as long as they stayed in one place.

Sometimes they would hunt, sometimes they would fish, and sometimes they would gather the fruits and plants that grew in what other people called the Outback.

The Williwilli people knew a little about things like cars and cameras and computers. They’d seen them when they happened to be at a place where there were tourists visiting.

They knew about such things, but they weren’t very interested in them.

Those were things that the Williwilli people had never had, so they never missed having them. They were quite content with their lives and the way that they lived them.

But one thing that none of the Williwilli people liked was to have their picture taken.

They really really believed that if someone took a picture of you then they took a piece of your soul. That was the thing inside you that made You who you were, and if someone took a piece of it then you would be less You.

*

Continue reading The Tribe That Lost A Piece Of Their Soul And Discovered A World

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The Clicking Thing

200 years ago Mary Shelley wrote a wonderful novel called Frankenstein.  There was a competition to celebrate the anniversary.  The challenge was to write 1000 words or so on “The relationship between creator and creation.”  Here’s what I did.  (I set up this post on what would have been my Dad’s 96th birthday.  I know he’d have gotten a kick out of it.)

A remarkable inventor was Professor Thaddeus Plumpton-Green,

The man who was responsible for a most unique machine.

It turned out to be one of the best the world had ever seen.

 

He wasn’t very popular with other scientific brains.

They thought him odd, old-fashioned, and not up with modern gains

And in return he thought them trapped in unimaginative chains.

 

How things should work was what the Prof and his colleagues most would clash on.

Electronic new technology and computers may be fashion

But he didn’t care – gears and springs and clockwork were his passion.

 

He worked with cogs and wheels and springs and widgets made of tin.

Rack and pinion joints, and spools, and wire he’d coil around a pin

And the hammering of metal sheets that created quite a din.

 

The sound of his constructions could be as loud as you’d predict

So he lived and worked outside of town where the noise rules weren’t so strict,

And in that lab he called his home, he built the Thing that clicked.

 

Although he lived all by himself he seldom felt alone.

So much went on inside his head – a heavy traffic zone

But the Thing that clicked was company, in a way he’d never known.

 

Of course it could do more than click, if given half a chance.

It could nod and bow, and smile and wave. It could walk and run and prance.

When it was moved a special way the Thing would even dance.

 

That delighted old Prof P, who’d dance when on his own

To foxtrot records, classic jazz, on his wind-up gramophone.

If he tripped, or didn’t keep in time, the Thing would never moan.

 

Its clicking fitted with the jazz, in rhythm with the beat.

A dance partner who did not complain was, for clumsy Prof, a treat

For the Thing, it didn’t feel a thing if he trampled on its feet!

 

Once he told his Thing a joke and it gave him back a wink. It

Startled Plumpton-Green. He loved his animated trinket

But to call it ‘life’ was just too much – best not overthink it!

He hadn’t made a monster, of that he was quite certain.

The Thing was all of clockwork with no feelings to be hurting,

But Plumpton-Green still fretted as he peeped out round his curtain.

 

He went into town as he sometimes did to buy food, supplies and tools

When he saw some children as they walked to playgrounds or to schools.

“If they like my Thing I’m safe,” he thought, “For the young are no-one’s fools!”

 

Back in his lab he made more Things – just a few at first to share.

No monsters these, but playmates, each made with skill and care.

“If these kids like them I’ll make more for children everywhere!”

 

He took the new Things into town and gave them out for free

They clicked as they ran and danced and played and filled young hearts with glee

And parents seemed quite satisfied with his safety guarantee.

 

As children played with their clicking Things two men in suits walked by.

The fun the children clearly had caught one shrewd man’s cold eye.

He nudged his pal, said: “The next big thing! Let’s get rich, you and I!”

 

The men in suits were already rich from selling other stuff

But the funny thing with money is for some, there’s never enough.

When Professor P. said, “Not for sale!” they left him in a huff.

 

They found a boy who swapped his Thing for a computer game and sweets.

The lazy lad would rather play inside than on the streets

And the company of friends was less important than his treats.

 

So the men in suits had got their Thing and hardly spent a penny.

They had plenty cash, and grand ideas, but morals? Hardly any.

“If a few of these are such big hits, what dough we’ll make with many!”

 

“We can make more faster, cheaper, better too when we understand the trick!”

So their smart guys took the Thing apart to see what made it tick.

They even found the little bit that had given it its click.

 

They built a grand new factory with machines all big and fine,

Even automated polishers to give a brilliant shine

To New Improved Things by the thousand, off a huge production line.

 

Professor Plumpton read a press release of what the men in suits would do.

They’d flood the market with new Things, click-free, and cheaper, too.

He sighed and patted Thing the First and said, “At least I’ve still got you.”

 

But the New Improved Things didn’t sell – no-one wanted them as toys.

“What’s wrong with them? What’s wrong with you?” the men asked girls and boys.

The answer came, “They’re not the same. We liked the clicking noise!”

 

The men in suits were horrified at what the children spoke.

The factory, sales plan, marketing had all gone up in smoke.

Their production line of monsters left the men in suits quite broke.

 

The men in suits sold all their Things to the sheikh of a far-off land

Who used them as cheap labour to construct his buildings grand.

But alas, they didn’t last for long as their gears were clogged with sand.

 

Tastes change quickly nowadays and novelty wears thin.

Even those few Things that clicked were soon no longer ‘in’.

But the Prof back in his lab still wore his quiet contented grin.

 

For he still had his Thing the First to proudly call his own.

They’d stay up late and dance to jazz on the trusty gramophone,

As years went by old Plumpton-Green never had to be alone.

 

When the old Professor passed away, the Thing it couldn’t cry.

It didn’t have the means for tears, however it may try.

It hadn’t been designed to weep or mourn or even sigh.

 

It held his body to its breast and danced a gentle sway.

The music stopped, the Thing still moved in a tender, loving way

Until the gears at last wound down, and the last click died away.

 

 

BEWARE OF THE CAT

Here’s a story from John B. Stewart’s early days as a wielder of Dubious Magic.  He still has to learn to think before he speaks.

It was a crisp clear Sunday morning in the Canberra suburb of Waramanga. Minor public servant and unacknowledged wizard John B. Stewart strolled out into the back yard of his cottage. Holding a cup of coffee, he was simply basking in the sunlight.

He knew his recently-arrived housemate Darren had gone out into the yard a few minutes earlier, but was surprised to see the young man sitting on an upturned bin, busily trying to hose something odious from the sole of his gym boot.

After they’d exchanged genial “Good morning” greetings John B. gestured towards his friend’s foot.

“That doesn’t look like something Kat’s responsible for,” he observed.

Kat was a large white Persian – the other member of the little household.

Darren grinned ruefully. “You’d worry if it was. No, this was left by some big dog.”

Stewart wrinkled a lip in annoyance and said, “It’ll be that damned Alsation from two doors up. It wanders up and down the street looking for any yard it can use for a toilet except its own.”

“Well trained, then,” said Darren, rubbing his sole on the grass.

“I wish the bloody dog would learn to stay out of our place,” was John B.’s irritated response.

Darren looked at him quizzically for a moment. Before he could construct the cautious question he had in mind, the final member of the household sauntered out of the open back door.

Kat walked past both men, giving a little mmreh of apparent greeting as he went by. The Persian went off along the path at the side of the house in the general direction of the driveway where Stewart parked his battered old Hillman.

“Where’s he off to, I wonder?” mused the youth.

“Routine inspection of his domain?” suggested the man who’d been best friends with the cat for years.

Both men grinned.

Suddenly there was a loud, violent outburst of caterwauling and deep-throated barking and growling from the front of the cottage. Kat came bolting down the path at high speed. (That in itself was a shock – the big feline was rarely observed to move at anything above an amble.) Shortly behind lumbered a large German Shepherd, literally snapping at the cat’s tail.

Kat looked almost to run vertically up the trunk of a pine tree in the back corner of the yard and disappear into the thick foliage several feet up. The dog stood on its hind legs, front paws up scrabbling on the bark of the tree, barking loudly.

John B. was just about to run down toward the tree with a view to getting the dog away, possibly through the agency of a swift kick to its rear. He’d risk being bitten to save Kat.

But Kat didn’t need saving. The big cat suddenly plummeted from a substantial height, claws extended, dropping full weight onto the dog’s muzzle. Two razor sharp claws carved deep slices in the soft black nose

The sound the Alsation made was more like a scream than a yelp. It turned and ran full pelt back up the driveway, never to venture into this yard again!

Immediately after impact Kat had jumped from the dog’s face and now ambled back up the yard as his usual sedate pace, the only sign of emotion being his tail whipping from side to side a few times.

Both men stood looking more or less thunderstruck. Darren looked especially awed. John B. had told him about his ‘wishes-come-true’ magic, but this was the first time he’d seen it in unpredictable action. He was impressed – by both of his new housemates.

John B., for his part, knelt to pat the broad white head of the Persian who sat beside him, meticulously cleaning his claws.

“I’m very glad you’re on my side, old friend,” he said, and meant it.

The Weird Warrior

As a young man, White Bear fought with the Dakota Sioux at Pryor Creek.
As a young man, White Bear fought with the Dakota Sioux at Pryor Creek.

This story is based on true events, recounted in Joseph Medicine Crow’s book “From The Heart Of The Crow Country”. Both Crow and Sioux survivors of the 1861 Battle of Pryor Creek agreed on many of the details, including those of the more mysterious incidents. Some could be regarded as significant coincidences, while others defy even that explanation. I’ve embroidered the history with some of my own ideas around ‘magic’.

The Sioux tribes of what would one day be called Dakota had gathered. The wagons and guns of the white men were pressing them westward.

Men seeking gold and a “new life” had poured towards the Rocky Mountains, wiping out the buffalo herds and desecrating the sacred Black Hills in their search for the yellow metal. The tribes had fought but the numbers were overwhelming.

This new vast land they had reached was still rich with game, and still free from the encroaching whites.

It was the country of the Scared Raven people – the Absarokee. You might call them the Crows, and the land Montana. The Absarokee were known to be strong, but also known to be few in number.

A Dakota chief addressed the assembled council of war chiefs and warriors.

“Let us take one whole year to make plans against the Raven People. They are not many, but they are shrewd and tricky in battle. The time has come that we must destroy them, but first we must make time to make our plans.”

Continue reading The Weird Warrior

Tears

I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve cried more than I would have liked in the last couple of days.

I’ve lost a dear friend in John Bos, who I’d share a drink and a laugh with. We’d help each other out without question or pause. I had the pleasure of actually getting him to appear on stage, just once. He wouldn’t memorise lines, but he did dance, more than willingly, with the woman he loved.

And I’ve lost a mentor, inspiration and yes, even a friend in Sir Terry Pratchett. The privilege of adapting his books for stage was wonderful – even better was the joy of watching his genuine laugh-out-loud delight when I wrote something new for him and he saw it performed for the first time.

I’m not crying for John or Terry. They’re both out of their pain and suffering, gone on to whatever is next in their journeys. I’ve wept for me. Selfishly, for my loss – for the conversations not had, the laughs not shared.

That’s what grieving is. My life is a richer thing for having been touched by both men. Thank you, guys. Be seeing you.

Renoir, Terry Pratchett, Discworld, fantasy writers
Renoir (L) and Sir Terry Pratchett discussing characters

Happily Ever After

“There’s no such thing as living happily ever after!”

said a mother to her children.

“You shouldn’t read silly stories that tell you such untruths!”

“Bad things happen to good people!”

“You’ll be disappointed!”

“Promises get broken, and things end!”

All of that is true, of course.

But remember this, my friends:

Living happily is not the same as being happy all the time.

Sometimes you will be hurt.

Sometimes people will upset you, or let you down.

Even your friends and the people you care about.

But there is always someone who loves you.

They may be right beside you.

Or they may live in your memory and your heart.

Or you may not have met them yet.

But they’re there.

There is still beauty in the world.

Beautiful places, beautiful things, beautiful people.

Look out for them.

Find them, and cherish them.

Remember the things that have been good.

Believe that there will always be more.

Live happily.  Ever after.

One step at a time…

I apologise if you’ve missed me!

It’s been a challenging few weeks since the last post.

Some significant Unwellness, then what can be best described as a mojo deficiency.

Thanks go out to my darling bride Meredith, my housemate Stevie, my doctor Jess, and a bunch of good people at Lismore Hospital.

I’m back now, taking it gently, but importantly back in front of my keyboard and writing again.

Best piece of advice I’ve heard lately:

  • Follow
  • One
  • Course
  • Until
  • Successful!!

My Own Little World

A writer has the luxury of creating their own reality to play in.

If you like mine, check the Market Place page to find how to explore it further.  

 .o0o.

 If I could build my own little world, what would it be like?

The temperature would average around 17 degrees C. Some days would be warmer, but I’d be lying on a beach enjoying a sea breeze so that’d be okay.

Sometimes it would be a whole lot colder, with snow on the ground and the Merry Dancers lighting up the sky. But rugged up inside a good coat and warm lined boots, that would be alright too.

There’d be beaches and mountains and forests. Small towns with just enough shops, bars and restaurants to be interesting, not overwhelming.

Lots of birds and animals. All of them living undisturbed. Allowed to do what they do – live, die, hunt, graze – without anyone saying “Oh that’s awful” or “Not on my land”.

Sparrows, songbirds, and soaring eagles. Rabbits, rhinos and rattlesnakes. All in their place, wherever their place may be.

The sea full of dolphins, whales, turtles and rays. Sharks even. Dazzling coloured fish like living rainbows, swarming around reefs unspoiled by greedy developers and governments.

And people. I’m not so solitary as to live in a world with no other people. Not just people I already know, otherwise how would I ever make new friends and learn new things?

The people living in my little world wouldn’t all be like each other, or even necessarily like each other. But they’d respect each other – their similarities and their differences. Even if they chose not to live alongside one another, peace would reign between them.

People would die because you have to have balance: light and dark, light and death. But that death would be peaceful, and happen in the time and manner of a person’s own choosing.

In my own little world magic works. It just is. I don’t need to have scientists and mathematicians and philosophers account for every detail, every action and reaction.

Stuff happens. I accept it. I believe in the fundamental rightness of it. It doesn’t need my understanding to keep happening – it just needs me to not interfere.

It’s a nice little world.

I think we had one a bit like it, once.

The MAGIC SATCHEL

I don’t have kids, but I recall fondly stories I read and was told as a child.

Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Aesop’s fables resonated for me.  So here I am, attempting to conjure up a little of that magic myself.  If you’re a parent, please let me know – is this something you’d read to your kids?  

For fiction for an older market, check out the Market Place page for a link to buy “The Wizard of Waramanga” from amazon.com

Gavin and Glenys lived in a nice little house in a nice little small town.

It really was quite a small house, and it was a bit old, but it was well looked after and had everything they needed. It felt very safe and comfortable. They both really rather loved their little old house, though neither of them really said so much.

They both had good jobs in the nearby city, and they both worked hard.

One evening after a long day at work they looked at each other and said, “We need a holiday!”

So they booked a flight to Marrakesh, because it sounded far away and exciting and a bit magical.

And so it was – very exciting and just a bit magical.

They visited beautiful gardens right on the edge of the desert. They saw grand old buildings with walls and floors decorated with gorgeous tiles in every colour you can imagine. And they went to the great big marketplace called the souk.

Gavin and Glenys were very excited by the souk. There was so much to see, and to buy! There were clothes, and shoes, and jewellery, and lamps, and carpets and furniture and mirrors and… and… well, lots of things!

The men who owned the market stalls would ask a high price for their goods, and Glenys would laugh and say, “Oh, you funny man!” before offering a much lower price.

And the men who ran the stalls would laugh and suggest a better price, and they would suggest prices to each other until either they agreed or Gavin and Glenys would shrug, smile and walk away.

Continue reading The MAGIC SATCHEL